Cathy’s Top Ten of 2017

This year has had its ups and downs for me personally, but no matter what happened, I was blessed with some pretty awesome books written by some very awesome authors.   I’ve long thought that books are like friends, they are always there for you.  Having said that, I’d like to introduce you to some of them:

 

Number 10:

The sound of rain

This is the first book that I’ve read by Sarah Loudin Thomas, but it will definitely will not be the last.

The Sound of Rain

Number 9:

The Writing Desk

The Writing desk is my all time favorite book by Rachel Hauck.

The Writing Desk

Number 8:

On Eagles' Wings

I love Lynette Bonner’s witty dialog!  If you haven’t read her books, I highly recommend them.

On Eagles Wings

Number 7:

The Hideaway photo

I couldn’t believe that this was a debut novel!  Ms. Denton is an author that I’m excited about and I can’t wait to read her next book.

The Hideaway

Number 6:

Some Small Majic

I have become a huge fan of Billy Coffee. The characters he creates. coupled with his writing style evoke feelings that I found surprising.

Some Small Magic

Number 5:

Ascention of Larks

This is a new to me author that I’m glad I had an opportunity to read.  I thoroughly enjoyed this authors work.

Ascension of Larks

Number 4:

Abiding Mercy photo

As a long time fan of Ruth Reid, I wasn’t too surprised that I would love this book!  I’m pretty anxious to read the next book in this series.

Abiding Mercy

Number 3:

underthe same sky

This was another debut novel that totally surprised me.  Cynthia Roemer’s writing style is incredible and I cannot wait to read her next book. I loved this one so much, that I bought a copy of it for my sister for Christmas this year.

Under This Same Sky

Number 2:

Beneath Copper Falls

Colleen Coble has been a favorite a mine for the past couple of years.  I look forward to her work because I know I’m in for  suspenseful and heart pounding treat.

Beneath Copper Falls

 

Number One:

A Plain leaving

Leslie Gould writes a dual storyline that fascinates me!  In this one, I loved her characters in the present day as much as I loved her characters from the past.  She is a natural at pulling the reader in from the very beginning of her novels.

A Plain Leaving

 

Well, those are my Top Ten of 2017.  I wish everyone a New Year of Peace, Health, Laughter and good books!

 

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Kristi’s Top 10 of 2017

Can you believe another year is in the books?  (Pun intended there!)  At the beginning of the year I set a goal on Goodreads of 100 books.  I wasn’t sure if I could do it but in 2016 I read 93 so what’s 7 more I thought.  A few days into the year I began to doubt my ability to reach my goal.  I didn’t want to adjust it though because that is admitting defeat.  And when it comes to books….I’m not a quitter.  So onward I read and ended up reaching my goal and even surpassing it by 8 books!

 

Now comes the daunting task of picking my 10 favorite books from those 108.  This wasn’t an easy thing to do but here they are starting with number 10.  Click on the number to read my review.

No 10:

house-of-silence

This was my first 5-star read of the year and a book I would love to read again.  I enjoy books that mix real life historical figures with fictional characters.  After reading this book I wanted to know more about Mary Todd Lincoln.  This was my first book by this author and I want to read more of her works.

 

No 9:

On Eagles' Wings

Lynnette Bonner is a fairly new-to-me author and after reading her first book I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this one.  The cover is lovely and the story inside is nicely told.  Lynnette Bonner is now an author who is on my “must read” list.  I’m anxiously awaiting the next book in the series.

 

No 8:

my-not-so-perfect-life

I had heard quite a bit about Sophie Kinsella’s books but hadn’t had the chance to read one.  Scrolling through Netgalley one day I came across her newest title and decided to request it.  Once my request was accepted I downloaded the book and began reading.  I didn’t find this book all that “chic-lit-y” and really enjoyed the story.  The author does a great job of telling a story of how people portray their lives as being perfect when they aren’t.  This was an enjoyable read and now I want to read more by Sophie Kinsella.  In fact, I have her upcoming title waiting for me on my Kindle.  I hope I’m not disappointed after liking this book so much.

 

No 7:

a plain leaving

In a genre that can at times be stale, Leslie Gould has written a fresh new story with a dual  timeline.  Having gotten used to Leslie writing dual storylines with Mindy Starns Clark I wasn’t sure what to expect of her going it on her own.  I wasn’t disappointed and found this story interesting and couldn’t pull myself away from it.  This was a story that I could fully immerse myself in and get lost.  I can’t wait for the next book in this series.

 

No 6:

the crooked path

I love books that you can really get into and watch the characters grow.  Irma Joubert delivers just that.  I was first intoduced to this author a couple years ago and was entranced by the story she told.  I was lucky enough to get this book through the Fiction Guild and bumped it to the top of my tbr tower. (It’s way too tall to call a pile.)  I set down to read this book for a little bit and ended up reading half of it.  Joubert has a way of drawing you into the story being told and forgetting everything going on around you.  I wish more of her books were translated into English because I would read them all.  She is a fantastic storyteller.

 

No 5:

rule of law

Jade Harrington is back and just as on top of her game as ever!  I think I went through some serious withdrawals after reading Don’t Speak, the first book in the series and also the debut novel from J. L. Brown.  I had high expectations for this book and was glad to find that the author satisfied them all.  I hope there’s a lot more Jade Harrington to come.

 

No 4:

under this same sky

This debut novel from Cynthia Roemer reads like a book from a seasoned author.  In fact, I likened her writing to that of Janette Oke.  This book was so well written and the characters were well devloped which made this an easy read.  I’m anxiously awaiting the next bookin the series which will be released in May 2018.  This book is must read!

 

No 3:

the writing desk:

Rachel Hauck was quickly becoming a must-read author for me and with this book cemented a place on this list.  This book, with it’s dual timeline story, pulled me in and wouldn’t let me go.  This is a book for my reread list.  If you get the chance to read this book grab it.  You won’t be disappointed.

 

No 2:

With You Always

When I open a Jody Hedlund book I know I’m about to be swept away in a story rich in detail and realistic characters.  This book was so good I didn’t want to put it down.  When I had to I felt lost because I wanted to be with these characters.  This was one of two books that I have a 6 heart rating too.  Those are special books that in my opinion are worth more than just 5 stars.  I am impatiently waiting for the next book in the series.

 

No 1:

Abiding Mercy

Ruth Reid has quickly become one of my favorite Amish fiction authors.  Why?  Pick up this book and you will quickly find out.  Her stories are original, fresh, and well told.  This was my first ever 6 heart read.  I didn’t feel like 5 stars was enough appreciation for this book so I made up a new rating and decided to give it hearts instead of stars.  Since this was my first 6 heart read it’s also my number 1 read of 2017.

 

Tomorrow starts a new year and for me a new book.  I haven’t yet decided what my Goodreads reading goal will be for 2018. (Maybe it will just be 10 then I won’t have to narrow the list down so much…lol)   I do know that there are a lot of good reads I’m waiting to get my hands on. Any of my top 10 yours too?  What are some of your favorite reads from 2017?  Comment and let me know.

Happy New Year and as always…Happy Reading!!!!

kristi signature

 

 

 

 

 

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage by Julie Klassen (review by Kristi)

the ladies of ivy cottage

About the bookReturn to Ivy Hill in The Ladies of Ivy Cottage as friendships deepen, romances blossom, and mysteries unfold.

Living with the two Miss Groves in Ivy Cottage, impoverished gentlewoman Rachel Ashford is determined to earn her own livelihood . . . somehow. When the village women encourage her to open a subscription library with the many books she has inherited or acquired through donations, Rachel discovers two mysteries hidden among them. A man who once broke her heart helps her search for clues, but will both find more than they bargained for?

Rachel’s friend and hostess, Mercy Grove, has given up thoughts of suitors and fills her days managing her girls’ school. So when several men take an interest in Ivy Cottage, she assumes pretty Miss Ashford is the cause. Exactly what–or who–has captured each man’s attention? The truth may surprise them all.

Meanwhile, life has improved at the coaching inn and Jane Bell is ready to put grief behind her. Now if only the man she misses would return–but where is he?

As the women of Ivy Hill search for answers about the past and hope for the future, might they find love along the way?

Publication Date:  December 5, 2017

Publisher:  Bethany House Publishers

 

My review: I love books about books and libraries so when I came across this book and discovered one of the characters opens a circulating library I was giddy with excitement. But this book isn’t just about Rachel Ashford and her library. It’s about all the ladies we met in the first installment of the series and the men in their lives.

Even though I had read the first book in the series I found myself having to have a bit of time to reacquaint myself with the characters. There are several and I wish there was a “who’s who” list at the front. I admit I had a bit of a hard time keeping them all sorted out at first but once I got into the book and my memory was jogged it was like revisiting old friends. My favorite character in this book is Rachel, and not just because she opens a library. Even though I did envy her a bit for that. I really enjoyed the dynamic of the relationship between Rachel and Sir Timothy. I appreciated the way the author kept me guessing as to what was going to happen with these two characters. The way she built up the uncertainty of their relationship made it that much more enjoyable to read.

The pace of this story is steady which I found to be nice. This book isn’t just about Rachel and her library and relationship with Sir Timothy but it also includes storylines of other characters. The author switches from character to character in a way that flows nicely and leaves you wondering what it going to happen next. The lives of all the characters intertwine in a way that is realistic to friendship and life in a small village. I think the author portrayed the life of women of various ages and stages of their lives in a way that fit the time period. Even though the women in this book are somewhat independent they still were under the watchful eyes of family and others.

If you like Regency-era romances that include a bit of a mystery with storyline twists and turns this book is one you will truly enjoy. There is a little something for everyone in this book including a swoon-worthy moment if you’re into that kind of thing. Even though this is the second book in the series I think it could be read as a standalone. If you’d like to get to know the characters backstories then definitely read the first book before delving into this one. Happy reading!!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and was not required to write a review. All opinions are mine.

 

About the author:    Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her books, The Silent Governess, The Girl in the Gatehouse, and The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. She has also won the Midwest Book Award, the Minnesota Book Award, and Christian Retailing’s BEST Award, and been a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards and ACFW’s Carol Awards.

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Holding the Fort (The Fort Reno, Book 1) by Regina Jennings (review by Cathy)

Holding the Fort

Book Blurb:

When dance hall singer Louisa Bell visits Fort Reno to see her brother, she is mistaken for the governess that the harried Major Daniel Adams is waiting for. Between his rowdy troops and his two daughters, he has more responsibility than he can handle alone. Eager for the opportunity, Louisa sets out to show the widower that she is a perfect fit.

 

My review (5-stars)

Louisa Bell, a former dance hall singer at the Cat-Eye Saloon is mistaken for the governess that Major Daniel Adams is expecting, in this fast paced and fun read.

Louisa keeps up the pretense even though she knows it’s wrong, but she needs to see her brother and she needs a place to live.   Daniel is suspicious of Louisa, but agrees to give her a chance because his mother-in- law is insisting that she will take his two daughters away from Fort Reno to raise them herself.

I love that Louisa is a flawed character that strives to be a better person.  She can’t change her past, but she can work on making a better future for herself.    I adored  Daniel for his humor, for being a good father to his two daughters and for giving a Louisa a chance.   I’m excited to see what Ms. Jennings has for her readers in the next book in the series.

If you are looking for a book that has a wonderful storyline with warm characters that will make you laugh, you will want to read this one.

I received a copy from the publisher and have given my honest opinion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Crooked Path by Irma Joubert (review by Kristi)

the crooked path

About the bookAs retired physician Lettie Louw looks back upon her life, she recounts her coming of age in WWII-era South Africa in this compelling story of delayed love, loss, and reconciliation.

Lettie Louw is the daughter of the town physician in their South African village. She spends her childhood in the warm African days playing with her friends and being adored by her doting parents. When she becomes a teenager, she experiences her first taste of unrequited romantic love in the form of her best friend’s older brother, De Wet Fourie. When De Wet pursues the beautiful and wealthy Annabelle, Lettie’s dreams are crushed, and she moves to Johannesburg to pursue her studies in medicine.

Life in Johannesburg feels strange to Lettie, and the world around her is in profound upheaval as the Second World War rages. Her feelings for De Wet never waver, and Lettie is heartbroken when he marries another of her childhood friends. Lettie soon meets Marco Romanelli, an Italian immigrant, and they marry and raise two daughters, as the racial and political tensions in South Africa swirl about them.

Lettie never forgets her first love, even as the ravages of time, war, and illness play upon her life and the lives of those she loves. In their later years, Lettie and De Wet are thrown into one another’s company again, and they are given another chance at a life together.

Publication date:  November 7, 2017

Publisher:  Thomas Nelson

 

My reviewAfter reading The Girl From the Train I knew I wanted to read more from this author. I was happy to get this book and start reading it. Little did I know it was going to take me on a journey that I probably wasn’t prepared for but glad I got to experience. This story will have you feeling sad, tired, and angry. It will also have you feeling happy, optimistic, and relieved. Simply put, this book will make you feel.

While Lettie is the main character in the book there is a host of others. Each is a complex character who is relevant to the overall story and has their own story to tell. While we meet Lettie while she is an awkward young girl we get to see her bloom into a confident and attractive adult. Lettie is one of those characters that is impossible to not like because she is so realistically created and there is a bit of Lettie in all of us.

Meeting Marco was a bit difficult. Reading about his life during the war and the sacrifices he made for the girl he loved and her family was a wonderful example of what true love is. I must admit that reading about his time as a prisoner in the camps was hard and I think for the first time I was able to understand what it was like for those that found themselves in these horrible conditions.

I love this author’s writing style. Her descriptions made me feel as if I were there along with the characters and her way of telling a story is just excellent. She knows how to pull readers in and keep them interested in the story until the end. Even though this book is 400 pages I found it to be a quick read. Once I started reading I couldn’t put the book down.

The Crooked Path is a story of growing up, friendship, love, and heartache. It is a well-written story that fans of historical fiction are sure to love. This book is the third in the trilogy but is a true standalone. In fact, I didn’t know the book was part of a series until I was finished with it. I definitely recommend this book!

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher and was not required to write a review. All opinions are mine.

 

About the authorInternational bestselling author Irma Joubert was a history teacher for 35 years before she began writing. Her stories are known for their deep insight into personal relationships and rich historical detail. She’s the author of eight novels and a regular fixture on bestseller lists in The Netherlands and in her native South Africa. She is the winner of the 2010 ATKV Prize for Romance Novels.

 

Christmas at Carnton by Tamera Alexander (review by Kristi)

Christmas at Carnton

About the bookRecently widowed, Aletta Prescott struggles to hold life together for herself and her six-year old son. With the bank threatening to evict them, she discovers an advertisement for the Women’s Relief Society auction and applies for a position—only to discover it’s been filled. Then a chance meeting with a wounded soldier offers another opportunity– and friendship. But can Aletta trust this man?

Captain Jake Winston, a revered Confederate sharpshooter, suffered a head wound at the Battle of Chickamauga. When doctors deliver their diagnosis, Jake fears losing not only his greatest skill but his very identity. As he heals, Jake is ordered to assist with a local Women’s Relief Society auction. He respectfully objects. Kowtowing to a bunch of “crinolines” isn’t his idea of soldiering. But orders are orders, and he soon discovers this group of ladies—one, in particular—is far more than he bargained for.

Set against the backdrop of the real history of Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee, Christmas at Carnton is a story of hope renewed and faith restored at Christmas.

Publication Date:  October 3, 2017

Publisher:  Thomas Nelson

 

My reviewI have to start by saying this is one of the prettiest book covers I’ve ever seen. I love the candles in the windows. I always think candles in windows look so warm, inviting and homey and that’s exactly what this book is. A story that is as easy to slip into as your favorite pair of slippers. To me, this is a perfect story.

The characters in this book are so genuine and impossible not to like. Aletta, Jake, Andrew, Tempy, and Mrs. McGavock felt like old friends to me. I couldn’t pick a favorite because I liked them all. Each had their own distinct personality that drew me to them. I can’t wait to read more about them in future books.

I enjoyed the story told in this book. While the tone of the story is somewhat sad there are enough light and humorous parts that it didn’t bring my mood down to read it. I liked how the author included the topic of slavery in a way that was thought-provoking while not being too much or overpowering the story. Hearing Tempy discuss being bought in such a matter of fact way made me stop and think of what it must have been like to be a slave and have no power over one’s own life. Through the author’s eyes in the telling of this story, it was easy to grasp the hardships of war and the toll it took on families and the soldiers themselves. All of this was done in a way that added to the depth of the story and was never distracting. The author brought history alive in such a way that I would now like to visit the real Carnton home.

This was a really nice story and one that I took my time reading. Even though I was anxious to see how it ended, I wanted to fully enjoy the story at a slow pace. This is the first book in a new series from this author and I am impatiently awaiting the next book. I want to read more about these characters and their lives. This is a book for the keeper shelf and one I highly recommend.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher and was not required to write a review. All opinions are mine.

About the authorTamera Alexander is a USA Today bestselling author and one of today’s most popular writers in the inspirational historical fiction genre. She and her husband live in Nashville, Tennessee, not far from the Southern mansions that serve as the backdrop for six of her award-winning novels.

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My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah by Angie Dicken (review by Kristi)

Utah

About the bookSchoolteacher Leanna McKee plans on leaving the coal mining town of Castle Gate, Utah, and never looking back. Good riddance to coal dust, rugged men, and the fatal mine that took her husband’s life.

Until the widow meets a widower who awakens her heart…and she finds herself inexplicably falling for miner Alex Pappas which stirs up a whole heap of trouble.

Alex’s Greek parents have arranged a more traditional match for him.  When the schoolteacher’s association with the Greek family begins to anger the American miners, they threaten Alex and his family. Leanna has received an offer to teach elsewhere and feels she has no choice but to leave Castle Rock. . .though she will be leaving her heart behind.

Publication Date:  November 1, 2017

Publisher:  Barbour Books

 

My reviewThis book was simply a chore for me to read. Yes, a chore. It took me five days to read the entire book and it three of those days to make it through the first sixty pages. I struggled to finish the book and had to force myself. If I wouldn’t have been reading this as a reviewer I would have simply quit reading and never thought twice about it. But when I agree to review a book I make sure I read the entire book to give a fair rating and review. As much I as tried to like the book I couldn’t.

This story started out really slow for me and I kept hoping the pace would pick up a bit. Unfortunately, it didn’t. It remained slow with the best parts taking place in Salt Lake City when Leanna was away from Alex. I enjoyed Leanna and Bethany’s interactions and wanted more of the story to involve these two characters. The storyline really didn’t seem to go anywhere fast and there was a lot of repetition making the story seem even slower and longer.

The chemistry between Leanna and Alex just wasn’t as developed as I thought it should be. It was almost nonexistent at times. I really didn’t care for these two characters together. Other than Bethany there weren’t any characters I really enjoyed. Believe me, I tried to find more to like but it just didn’t happen.

Some people may enjoy this story. Looking at the reviews that others left it seemed an enjoyable read for most. For me however, it just wasn’t my cup of tea and is not a book I can recommend.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.