Book Reviews, Fiction

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage by Julie Klassen | Book Review

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?

As with the first book of this series, I could not wait to dive into Julie Klassen’s latest and go back to Ivy Hill! As she always does, Klassen once again captured my attention fully, with each and every character.

While the first book isn’t completely necessary to read this one, I admit, it makes it so much more enjoyable. It would be easy to think that a book with some many people, especially three women, could get lost or overwhelming, but nope. It only gives you more characters to love. Much like Jane Austen’s characters draw you in, so does each one in these.

There’s romance, there’s scandal (what Austen-inspired novel doesn’t have that right? :), the unexpected and the resolutions you so thoroughly enjoy. I’m purposely not going into each character, as I want the readers to go in without too much from me. But trust me when I say that each character has their own journey you root for and not all is as it seems. The only bad thing about this novel, is that I have to wait for the final in the series releasing late 2018. So rude…

What series do you wish BBC would pick up and make into a mini series? I really need this one to be brought to life.

(Thank you to Bethany House for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

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Book Reviews, Fiction

Perennials by Julie Cantrell | Book Review

Eva Sutherland—known to all as Lovey—grew up safe and secure in Oxford, Mississippi, surrounded by a rich literary history and her mother’s stunning flower gardens. But a shed fire, and the injuries it caused, changed everything. Her older sister, Bitsy, blamed Lovey for the irreparable damage. Bitsy became the homecoming queen and the perfect Southern belle who could do no wrong. All the while, Lovey served as the family scapegoat, always bearing the brunt when Bitsy threw blame her way.

At eighteen, suffocating in her sister’s shadow, Lovey turned down a marriage proposal and fled to Arizona. Free from Bitsy’s vicious lies, she became a successful advertising executive and a weekend yoga instructor, carving a satisfying life for herself. But at forty-five, Lovey is feeling more alone than ever and questioning the choices that led her here.

When her father calls insisting she come home three weeks early for her parents’ 50th anniversary, Lovey is at her wits’ end. She’s about to close the biggest contract of her career, and there’s a lot on the line. But despite the risks, her father’s words, “Family First,” draw her back to the red-dirt roads of Mississippi.

Lovey is drawn in to a secret project—a memory garden her father has planned as an anniversary surprise. As she helps create this sacred space, Lovey begins to rediscover her roots, learning how to live perennially in spite of life’s many trials and tragedies.

Years ago, Lovey chose to leave her family and the South far behind. But now that she’s returned, she’s realizing things at home were not always what they seemed.

I always appreciate a novel that deals with difficult and hard topics. One such topic that often fits both of those descriptions? Family. And that’s exactly what Cantrell tackled with her latest release. While there were many pieces of this novel I enjoyed (her writing, her story building, her ode to classic authors and flowers), I have to confess, this wasn’t a favorite of mine. Bitsy was so terrible y’all (I promise that’s not a spoiler, it’s in the description). I know that was the point, but I haven’t not liked a character like that in a while. As the book went on, there were some reckonings and healings, but it was a hard come around for me.

Even though I was incredibly frustrated with Bitsy’s narrative (and how everyone, but Lovey responded), I was reminded that sadly, this type of situation is reality for many families. I love Cantrell’s writing though and look forward to what’s next! If you love novels set in the south, this one might be worth checking out.

(Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Fiction

The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas | Book Review

Judd Markley is a hardworking coal miner who rarely thinks much past tomorrow until he loses his brother–and nearly his own life–in a mine cave-in. Vowing never to enter the darkness of a mine again, he leaves all he knows in West Virginia to escape to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It’s 1954, the seaside community is thriving, and Judd soon hires on with a timber company.

Larkin Heyward’s life in Myrtle Beach is uncomplicated, mostly doing volunteer work and dancing at the Pavilion. But she dreams of one day doing more–maybe moving to the hollers of Kentucky to help the poor children of Appalachia. But she’s never even met someone who’s lived there–until she encounters Judd, the newest employee at her father’s timber company.

Drawn together in the wake of a devastating hurricane, Judd and Larkin each seek answers to what tomorrow will bring. As opposition rises against following their divergent dreams, they realize that it may take a miracle for them to be together.

Sarah Loudin Thomas has written a well researched historical and very romantic story. There’s no doubt about that. If you enjoy romance set in interesting places and times, I think you should check this one out. It’s definitely a love story for the hopeless romantics.

But, I can’t say it was my favorite of her novels. You see, this one isn’t like her previous novels and series, where the heroines each had unique qualities and characteristics. I LOVED that about them. It was such a different take on a historical fiction novel (with the thread of romance as well), and it added a creative layer to the story and the different relationships of the characters. I was hoping for something like that again. I know it’s not always fair to judge novels that way, but I’m human internet :).

So while this isn’t my favorite from Thomas, if you love all things romance, be sure to give this one a chance.

(Thank you to Bethany House for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Fiction

Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano | Book Review

When Aurelie Harcourt’s father dies in debtor’s prison, he leaves her just two things: his wealthy family, whom she has never met, and his famous pen name, Nathaniel Droll. Her new family greets her with apathy and even resentment. Only the quiet houseguest, Silas Rotherham, welcomes her company.

When Aurelie decides to complete her father’s unfinished serial novel, writing the family into the story as unflattering characters, she must keep her identity as Nathaniel Droll hidden while searching for the truth about her mother’s disappearance–and perhaps even her father’s death.

What a debut! It’s been awhile since I’ve been incredibly impressed with a debut! Mystery, intrigue, more mystery, romance and a totally captivating story.

This was one of those reads I had to finish in one sitting. It was haunting, unique and not all characters turned out as you thought. There were a couple pieces I wanted to know more about at the end, but even with that, I so enjoyed this journey.

I also loved that many characters were not exactly as they first appeared. With each new layer peeled back, Politano revealed deeper levels and deeper reasons for a character’s behavior. Misunderstandings, revelations, and faith all make up this entertaining and fantastic debut!

Have you had the chance to read this debut?

(Thank you to Revell for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Fiction

A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden | Book Review

Another book by Elizabeth Camden means another excellent read! What makes her such a strong writer, is her ability to remain fitting and true to the time period she chooses, but also makes the plot intriguing and gives you a heroine you can root for.

Lucy Drake’s mastery of Morse code has made her a valuable asset to the American news agencies as a telegrapher. But the sudden arrival of Sir Colin Beckwith at rival British news agency Reuters puts her hard-earned livelihood at risk. Newly arrived from London, Colin is talented, handsome, and insufferably charming.

Despite their rivalry, Lucy realizes Colin’s connections could be just what her family needs to turn the tide of their long legal battle over the fortune they were swindled out of forty years ago. When she negotiates an unlikely alliance with him, neither of them realizes how far the web of treachery they’re wading into will take them.

I enjoyed the relationship between Colin and Lucy. There were some frustrations (which again, were very fitting for the time period), but I thought Camden did an excellent job with that part of the story.

I really liked Lucy (and Colin too!). But Lucy, there was a realness to her that’s sometimes missing in heroines. She was hardworking, committed, loyal, and brave. I thought her development was honest and encouraging. Plus her relationship with her brother? Loved it!

And the story had me intrigued the whole time – I was curious with each new piece revealed and enjoyed the satisfying ending. Once again, the unique piece of history Camden focused on was fascinating and I love learning new bits of history, especially with my background of journalism.

What characteristics make you like a heroine?

(Thank you to Bethany House for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Fiction

The Space Between the Words by Michèle Phoenix | Book Review

“Enduring with courage, resisting with wisdom, and pressing on in faith.”

“There were seconds, when I woke, when the world felt unshrouded. Then memory returned.”

When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she can think of is fleeing the site of the horror she survived. But Patrick, the steadfast friend who hasn’t left her side, urges her to reconsider her decision. Worn down by his insistence, she reluctantly agrees to follow through with the trip they’d planned before the tragedy.

“The pages found you,” Patrick whispered.
“Now you need to figure out what they’re trying to say.”

During a stop at a country flea market, Jessica finds a faded document concealed in an antique. As new friends help her to translate the archaic French, they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard, a young woman who lived centuries before—her faith condemned, her life endangered, her community decimated by the Huguenot persecution.

“I write for our descendants, for those who will not understand the cost of our survival.”

Determined to learn the Baillard family’s fate, Jessica retraces their flight from France to England, spurred on by a need she doesn’t understand.

Could this stranger who lived three hundred years before hold the key to Jessica’s survival?

Books dealing with recent horrific and tragic events will never be an easy read. It’s a painful revisit and a reminder of the broken world we live in. Phoenix’s story of loss, pain and the path to healing though, not only had me fully engaged, I was reminded that life is beautiful and precious. I enjoyed the modern day story, but also really enjoyed the historic piece of this novel. It was a piece of history I didn’t know and glad I now do.

We’ll never escape terrible events while we’re on earth. It’s a hard reality, but I’m thankful of the hope I have that this isn’t it. Dealing with grief, how our minds respond, to the healing we need and the time it takes, this novel will remind you to never waste a moment and when life deals us a heavy blow, all hope is not lost.

(Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Author Interviews

4 Questions With Bestselling Author Deeanne Gist

(This interview is part of my 4 Questions Project, where I get the chance to chat with authors and tell stories of people, life, and adventure. Be sure to check out previous interviews here!)

Guys.

Look who is on the blog today. Look! Yep, the very same I always mention is absolutely hilarious and how I love all her books. The bestselling author herself, Deeanne Gist! Do you know how exciting it is for me to be able to host my favorite authors on this little corner of the web? All I’m saying is I’ve been known to dance around the room from excitement. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did and be sure to pick up one of her books stat!

Deeanne Gist — known to her family, friends, and fans as Dee — has rocketed up the bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere with her very original, very fun historical & contemporary love stories. Add to this four RITA nominations, two consecutive Christy Awards, rave reviews, and a growing loyal fan base, and you’ve got one recipe for success.

You can connect with Deeanne on at her website, Twitter or Facebook!

1. What is something about your life right now that you would never imagined 5 years ago?
In the last five years we’ve seen 2 kids get married, 2 graduate college, and 1 move to the other side of the country to pursue a career in music. In that time, as Greg and I became empty nesters, our sweet border collie suddenly moved way up in the pecking order. He’s not *quite* top dog, but he’s close. Never did I dream we’d let him on the furniture with us, on our bed, in our hotel rooms, and hardly ever out of our sight. Our kids are all shaking their heads at this sad state of affairs.

2. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
Oh, goodness. There are too many to count, much less narrow down to one. So many words I’ve let spill out that I’d love to recapture. So many decisions I’ve made that I so wish I’d never fallen through on. So many falls I took that could have so been avoided. One thing? Hardly.

3. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
I remember looking out the window above the kitchen sink while washing up some dishes. The day was glorious and the girls were playing hula-hoop on the deck and the boys were eating popsicles while they watched Greg work on a fort he was building for them. I remember resting my hands against the sink and thinking, “You know, life just doesn’t get any better than this.”

Before
After

4. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
I hope the next generation never forgets that though they are connected to “friends” all over the globe with a touch of their fingers, that it is still extremely important to have friends they spend time with, play with, and share with–live and in person. No amount of texting, tweeting, or facebooking can ever replace the rewards which come from those face-to-face, day-to-day relationships.

Thank you so much Deeanne! Such a pleasure to host you at Books and Beverages!

Author Interviews

4 Questions With Bestselling Author Kim Vogel Sawyer

I’ll be honest, I haven’t dived into one of Kim Vogel Sawyer’s books yet, but I promise that is going to change asap! I have no doubt I’ll fall in love with her stories as everyone recommends her books! I have Waiting For Summer’s Return hollerin’ at me every time I turn on my kindle, so soon friends, soon.

She also blogs over at Writes of Passage, which is a blog of all awesome historical fiction authors, so like I said, I know she’s legit. I’m so excited for her to join us!

Kim Vogel Sawyer is the bestselling author of more than 20 novels and has won numerous awards for her gentle stories of hope. In her spare time, she enjoys drama, quilting, and calligraphy. Kim and her husband, Don, reside in central Kansas and have three daughters and nine grandchildren. Learn more at http://www.kimvogelsawyer.com.

1. What is something about your life right now that you would never imagined 5 years ago?
Running a Bed and Breakfast Inn! Such an opportunity we have to share our 1905 railroad hotel with travelers. It’s beyond anything either my husband or I envisioned. :o)

2. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
Raising my children. I wish I’d played more and stressed less…the way I do with my grandchildren.

3. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
Outside of becoming a Christian, a wife, a mother, or a grandmother…receiving the call from Bethany House about their wish to purchase my first novel. Getting to call my Dad and say, “Daddy, I’m going to be published!” gave me tremendous joy.

4. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
Nothing of this world will bring long-lasting joy or fulfillment except a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. If you’re seeking satisfaction in early relationships, “things,” fame, or recognition, you’ll never be complete. Seek Him, and everything else will fall into place.

Thank you so much Kim! Always a pleasure to connect with authors! Have y’all read any of Kim’s work? What should I add to the list? Be sure to check out her latest, Sweet Sanctuary!

Author Interviews

4 Questions With New York Times Bestseller Tosca Lee

She’s an incredible and engaging storyteller who brings to life whatever subject she chooses to write on. Poignant, fascinating, impactful and engaging are a few more words to describe the work Lee creates. And she’s a New York Times bestseller, so guess what? It isn’t me just being nice ;)! So excited to have her on the blog today!

Tosca Lee is a New York Times best-selling novelist whose works include the critically acclaimed Demon: A Memoir, Havah: The Story of Eve, and The Books of Mortals series (Forbidden, Mortal, Sovereign) with best-selling author Ted Dekker. Iscariot, Tosca’s highly-anticipated novel about the infamous betrayer of Christ was recently released. She is best known for her exploration of maligned characters, lyrical prose and meticulous research. Tosca received her B.A. in English and International Relations from Smith College and has also studied at Oxford University. A former first runner-up to Mrs. United States and lifelong world adventure-traveler, Tosca makes her home in the Midwest.

1. What is something about your life right now that you would never imagined 5 years ago?
That I’d be doing what I love (writing stories) for a living and have the words “New York Times Bestseller” in front of my name. How crazy is that??

2. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
You know, I would have finished my last semester of college. I graduated a semester early just because I could, and because I somehow thought that was better, but it’s such a special time in life with friends that you never get back–if I could do it all over, I’d enjoy those few extra months before venturing into the real world. 🙂

3. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
This may sound cheesy, but they’re all happy in some way. I love going to eat brunch with my friends. Or going to ballet (after being quite serious about becoming a ballerina as a teen, I now do it just for fun and the spiritual practice of returning to the barre). Making dinner, or meeting my readers out on the road–that is a real highlight. But I choose to be happy every moment that I think of it!

4. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
That we all get to make choices, but we don’t need to take them so seriously. There are a few really important ones–about faith, about our life partners–that are big ones. But in general we need to lighten up. Choose to be happy. Don’t be a victim. Do what you love. Make no excuses. Love extravagantly and without condition. Be love to all you meet.

Thanks so much Tosca for joining the blog today! You can connect with Tosca through Facebook, Twitter and her website!

 

Author Interviews

4 Questions With Award-Winning Author Jocelyn Green

Unless you just met me 12 seconds ago, my love for history is a pretty well known fact. Two of my favorite eras include WWII and the Civil War. So if an author covers either one of those topics, I’m in for the win.

And y’all Jocelyn Green knows a thing or two about writing, military and the Civil War! I really enjoyed Green’s first book, Wedded to War, in Heroines Behind the Lines series and the second just came out! She also writes non-fiction, encouraging army wives across the globe. So pretty much she’s awesome. I’m so glad to have her here on the blog with 4 Questions!

Award-winning author Jocelyn Green inspires faith and courage in her readers through both fiction and nonfiction. A former military wife herself, she offers encouragement and hope to military wives worldwide through her Faith Deployed ministry. Her novels, inspired by real heroines on America’s home front, are marked by their historical integrity and gritty inspiration.

Jocelyn graduated from Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, with a B.A. in English, concentration in writing. She is an active member of the Evangelical Press Association, Christian Authors Network, the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, American Christian Fiction Writers, and the Military Writers Society of America.

She loves Mexican food, Broadway musicals, Toblerone chocolate bars, the color red, and reading on her patio. Jocelyn lives with her husband Rob and two small children in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Visit her at http://www.jocelyngreen.com.

1. What is something about your life right now that you would never imagined 5 years ago?
Well, five years ago, I didn’t have my first book published yet. (Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives was my first and released in November 2008.) So I would never have imagined that in five years, I would have written or co-authored four nonfiction titles, a devotional Bible, and two novels, with three more contracted and scheduled to release in the next 18 months.

2. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
I imagine that every author, when rereading a book she/he has published, can point to a passage and think of a better way to write it after it’s been printed. But as far as genuine life regrets, or publishing journey regrets, I wouldn’t change anything. There are some lessons you have to learn the hard way, or through hard work, so I don’t wish that my past was different.

3. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
My two happiest days of my life were the days my children were born. Of course my wedding day was a joyous occasion too, but there are so many details and people to please on one’s wedding day. When our babies were born, it was just a much more intimate joy that I shared with my husband—and it was centered not on me, but on the miracle of new life.

4. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
The value of true, flesh-and-blood community, and how to joyfully serve others. We live in such a me-first society, and it’s easy for each of us to be the stars of our own lives. Facebook has changed the meaning of the word “friend” and Twitter tells us we deserve to have “followers.” I use social media too, and I value it as a tool, but it’s no substitute for genuine friendships. I want the next generation to know how to get beyond themselves and reach out to others in need.