Friday, December 16, 2022

Merry Christmas - and a Blogging Break

Hi all,

Thanks for being with me this year!  My sweet pup Daisy and I are going to take a break for a few weeks. I'll be back mid-January to blog again. In the meantime, wishing you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and good things ahead in 2023!


(and Daisy too, of course!)

Book Review - All the Lost Places by Amanda Dykes

My Review

In 1907 Daniel Goodman is living in an abandoned rail car in California, trying to save his mother's home, when he has an opportunity to travel to Venice to translate a mysterious book. This novel, told in dual storylines, flashes back to the story of Sebastien Trovato in 1807 Venice.

I wanted to read this novel because the storyline involving a rare book and Italy in two time periods was appealing.  I also love historical fiction.

This is a beautiful novel with the quality of a fairy tale. The author has a real gift with descriptions that set the scene, like this description of Daniel's makeshift neighborhood:

When the city began to switch from railcars to cable cars, it became a graveyard of railcars too. It seemed fitting that I take up residence in this land of the obsolete. Not to mention, the rent was low— or free, rather. As good as a palace, and I wasn’t the only one to think so. Others had moved in too. An odd grid of makeshift streets formed; paint and curtains went up as windows glowed, vanquishing the air of abandonment. “The Sunset,” they started to call the neighborhood, and even in that there was truth. For we, the ragtag band of outcasts that had landed here, were gripping the tailcoats of fast-fleeing life" (eBook position 187).

This is an intricate, complex story, dense with characters and settings - not a fast read but a richly rewarding one. Daniel was an especially sympathetic character as he worked so hard to overcome his past.

I recommend All the Lost Places for fans of historical fiction, and especially for anyone interested in Venice.

Book Synopsis

When all of Venice is unmasked, one man’s identity remains a mystery . . .

When a baby is discovered floating in a basket along the quiet canals of Venice, a guild of artisans takes him in and raises him as a son, skilled in each of their trades. Although the boy, Sebastien Trovato, has wrestled with questions of his origins, it isn’t until a woman washes ashore on his lagoon island that answers begin to emerge. In hunting down his story, Sebastien must make a choice that could alter not just his own future, but also that of the beloved floating city.

Daniel Goodman is given a fresh start in life as the century turns. Hoping to redeem a past laden with regrets, he is sent on an assignment from California to Venice to procure and translate a rare book. There, he discovers a city of colliding hope and decay, much like his own life, and a mystery wrapped in the pages of that filigree-covered volume. With the help of Vittoria, a bookshop keeper, Daniel finds himself in a web of shadows, secrets, and discoveries carefully kept within the stones and canals of the ancient city . . . and in the mystery of the man whose story the book does not finish: Sebastien Trovato.




Author Bio

Amanda Dykes’s debut novel, Whose Waves These Are, is the winner of the prestigious 2020 Christy Award Book of the Year, a Booklist 2019 Top Ten Romance debut, and the winner of an INSPY Award. She’s also the author of Yours Is the Night and Set the Stars Alight, a 2021 Christy Award finalist.




Friday, December 9, 2022

Book Review - The Sweetheart Fix by Miranda Liasson

My Review

Juliet Montgomery works as a couples counselor in Blossom Glen, Indiana. She is excited about her work, but clients are put off by her own personal track record - which includes three (or two point five, according to Juliet!) messy public break ups.  When Juliet goes to appeal a parking ticket, she gets pulled in to help settle a dispute over a tree.  This all happens at Mayor Jack Monroe's office.  He offers Juliet a part-time job settling conflicts for the Mayor's office.  Juliet and Jack are as different as night and day, but sparks fly every time they are together.

I wanted to read this novel because I love small town settings, and this sounded like a cozy, enjoyable read.  I had not read Miranda Liasson before (my mistake -- now I have to catch up with her books!).  This is the second book in the Blossom Glen series but it reads as a standalone.  I have not read the first book and had no problem jumping in and enjoying this book.

Juliet is a great book protagonist - smart, sassy, and good hearted. She wants so much to overcome her past romantic foibles in the town's eyes.  Jack is an appealing book boyfriend, and the book comes alive every time they are in a scene together.

This was such an fun book. It is well written, with lively characters and a charming small town that is almost another character in the book.  I can easily see this novel as a Hallmark movie.  It would be perfect!

I recommend The Sweetheart Fix for fans of women's fiction, small town romance, and comforting, upbeat books -- perfect for a weekend read!

Book Synopsis

Juliet Montgomery absolutely loves her small town of Blossom Glen, Indiana, and everyone loves her. Except for the fact that she’s a couples counselor who suffered a very public breakup that no one can forget. And now her boss asks her to take a step back…which is exactly when the town’s good-lookin’ and unusually gruff mayor offers her an unexpected job.

Jack Monroe absolutely loves being the mayor of his small town. Except when he actually has to talk to people. Can’t he just fix the community problems in peace? Like right now, he’s mediating the silliest dispute two neighbors could possibly have. When the town sweetheart steps up and solves everyone’s problems in five minutes flat, Jack realizes what this town really needs…is a therapist.

Juliet is able to soothe anyone–other than the surly mayor, it seems. But there’s a reason they say opposites attract, because all of their verbal sparring leads to some serious attraction. Only, just like with fireworks, the view might appear beautiful–but she’s already had one public explosion that’s nearly ruined everything…how can she risk her heart again?

Each book in the Blossom Glen series is STANDALONE:
* The Sweetheart Deal
* The Sweetheart Fix

Author Bio

Miranda Liasson is a RWA Golden Heart winner and an Amazon bestselling author whose heartwarming and humorous small-town romances have won accolades such as the National Readers’ Choice Award and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence and have been Harlequin Junkie and Night Owl Reviews Top Picks. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and three kids in a charming old neighborhood which is the inspiration for many of the homes in her books.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Book Review - The Sisters of Sea View by Julie Klassen

My Review

The Sisters of Sea View is the story of four sisters.  In 1819, the sisters find themselves in difficult financial straits after their father unexpectedly passed away. They settle with their mother, who also has weakened health, in their seaside residence and start to take in boarders.  Their lives are changed in the process.  There is Sarah, who organizes everything, and who is drawn to a handsome widower who is a single father. Emily is the creative sister.  Viola has a scar that makes her self conscious but finds some new perspective as she takes on a job reading to a wounded veteran.  And the youngest, Georgiana, is always looking for fun and an adventure.

I wanted to read this novel because the storyline sounded unique and appealing.  I had not read Julie Klassen before, although I love historical fiction and had heard very good things about her books.

This was a delightful read!  At first it seemed like the Sea View guest house would be a refuge for older invalids.  When it turned out to be a place that people of all ages (including handsome male guests!) visited, it became more interesting.

The story is beautifully told.  I love the way the author paints pictures with her words.  The descriptions are so vivid that I could visualize Sea View, the sisters, and their guests as I read.

The dialogue is charming and natural and has a Jane Austen quality.  (Huge compliment!)

I thoroughly enjoyed The Sisters of Sea View and recommend it highly to other fans of historical fiction. This is the first book in a series, and I will be looking forward to future reads On Devonshire Shores.

Book Synopsis

Some guests have come for a holiday, others for hidden reasons of their own . . .

When their father’s death leaves them impoverished, Sarah Summers and her genteel sisters fear they will be forced to sell the house and separate to earn livelihoods as governesses or companions. Determined to stay together, Sarah convinces them to open their seaside home to guests to make ends meet and provide for their ailing mother. Instead of the elderly invalids they expect to receive, however, they find themselves hosting eligible gentlemen. Sarah is soon torn between a growing attraction to a mysterious Scottish widower and duty to her family.

Viola Summers wears a veil to cover her scar. When forced to choose between helping in her family’s new guest house and earning money to hire a maid to do her share, she chooses the latter. She reluctantly agrees to read to some of Sidmouth’s many invalids, preferring the company of a few elders with failing eyesight to the fashionable guests staying in their home. But when her first client turns out to be a wounded officer in his thirties, Viola soon wishes she had chosen differently. Her new situation exposes her scars–both visible and those hidden deep within–and her cloistered heart will never be the same.

Join the Summers sisters on the Devonshire coast, where they discover the power of friendship, loyalty, love, and new beginnings.

Author Bio

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. Her books have sold over a million copies, and she is a three-time recipient of the Christy Award for Historical Romance. The Secret of Pembrooke Park was honored with the Minnesota Book Award for Genre Fiction. Julie has also won the Midwest Book Award and Christian Retailing’s BEST Award and has been a finalist in the RITA and Carol Awards. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.



Friday, November 18, 2022

Book Review and Giveaway - Death on a Deadline (A Homefront News Mystery) by Joyce St. Anthony

My Review

Death on a Deadline is the second book in the Homefront News Mystery series.  Irene Ingram is working as editor of her small town newspaper during World War II.  There is a town fair and war bond drive, and a B-list actor who shows up for the bond drive ends up murdered.  Irene works to solve the mystery.

I wanted to read this mystery because I read the first book in this series and absolutely loved it.  I enjoyed the WWII home front setting of both books, and found the little 1940's details charming and fascinating.  

Irene is a talented amateur detective, with strong observational skills from her work as a journalist.  I enjoyed seeing her mystery solving process.

I also like her family and friends, and the small town of Progress (which is practically another character in the book!).

I recommended Death on a Deadline and this series to a friend just before I started this review, and I will continue recommending this series -- especially to anyone who enjoys historical mysteries and a 1940's home front setting.

Book Synopsis 

Editor-in-chief Irene Ingram pencils in her newest mystery in Joyce St. Anthony’s second captivating Homefront News mystery, perfect for fans of Anne Perry and Rhys Bowen.

As World War II rages in Europe and the Pacific, the small town of Progress is doing its part for the soldiers in the field with a war bond drive at the annual county fair. Town gossip Ava Dempsey rumors that Clark Gable will be among the participating stars. Instead of Gable, the headliner is Freddie Harrison, a B-movie star. When Freddie turns up dead in the dunk tank, Irene Ingram, editor-in-chief of The Progress Herald, starts chasing the real headline.

There are plenty of suspects and little evidence. Ava’s sister Angel, who was married to the dead actor, is the most obvious. The couple had argued about his affair with the young starlet Belinda Fox, and Angel was the last person to see Freddie alive.

Irene discovers there’s more than one person who might have wanted Freddie dead. As Irene draws on her well-honed reporter’s instincts to find the killer—nothing is what it seems in Progress, and now her own deadline could be right around the corner.


Author Bio

Joyce St. Anthony was a police secretary for ten years and more than once envisioned the demise of certain co-workers, but settled on writing as a way to keep herself out of jail. In addition to the Homefront News Mysteries, she is the author of the Brewing Trouble Mysteries and the upcoming Cider House Mysteries written under her own name, Joyce Tremel. She lives in the beautiful Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania with her husband.

Author Links –

Purchase Links – AmazonB&NKoboPenguin Random House


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Friday, November 11, 2022

Book Review - Beneath His Silence by Hannah Linder

My Review

Ella Pemberton travels to Wyckhorn Manor and presents herself as a governess so she can be part of the household and find out what happened to her beloved sister, who was married to Henry, Lord Sedgewick before she died mysteriously.

I wanted to read this novel because the setting and gothic overtones intrigued me.  This was a wonderfully gothic book with a manor that becomes almost a character in the story:

Ella tugged the ribbons loose until the bonnet shifted to her back. She wasn’t certain what she had hoped to find, or what measure of comfort she might have gained from the mere sight of Wyckhorn Manor. But whatever she had longed for, she was rewarded with nothing. The sight only emptied her. Far in the distance , high upon the cliffside, the manor faced the open sea. It was tall and lofty, a likeness of Lord Sedgewick himself. A strange and rugged beauty, a pinnacle of power— yet dark and forlorn, as if death had made a home in both the house and the man"  (eBook location 325)

Ella becomes attached immediately to Peter, Lord Sedgewick's young son.  She finds herself suspicious of Henry (Lord Sedgewick) but also drawn to him. 

The mysteries of the house make her curious to learn more: a painting of a woman with a cold and distant expression, a bedroom with a presence that seems to move over the bedclothes as she watches.

Beneath His Silence is so well written, rich with period detail and layered characterizations.  It is surprising to me that this is a debut novel!  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to other fans of historical fiction, especially for anyone who enjoys a gothic setting with some suspense.  I look forward to future novels by Hannah Linder.

Book Synopsis

Will Seeking Justice Lead to Her Own Demise?
A Gothic-Style Regency Romance from a Promising Young Author
Second daughter of a baron—and a little on the mischievous side—Ella Pemberton is no governess. But the pretense is a necessity if she ever wishes to get inside of Wyckhorn Manor and attain the truth. Exposing the man who killed her sister is all that matters.
Lord Sedgewick knows there’s blood on his hands. Lies have been conceived, then more lies, but the price of truth would be too great. All he has left now is his son—and his hatred. Yet as the charming governess invades his home, his safe cocoon of bitterness begins to tear away.
Could Ella, despite the lingering questions of his guilt, fall in love with such a man? Or is she falling prey to him—just as her dead sister?

Author Bio

Hannah Linder resides in the beautiful mountains of central West Virginia. Represented by Books & Such, she writes Regency romantic suspense novels. She is a double 2021 Selah Award winner, a 2022 Selah Award finalist, and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Hannah is a Graphic Design Associates Degree graduate who specializes in professional book cover design. She designs for both traditional publishing houses and individual authors, including New York Times, USA Today, and international bestsellers. She is also a local photographer and a self-portrait photographer. When Hannah is not writing, she enjoys playing her instruments--piano, guitar, and ukulele--songwriting, painting still life, walking in the rain, and sitting on the front porch of her 1800s farmhouse.


Friday, November 4, 2022

Book Review and Giveaway - A Book Club to Die For (A Beloved Bookroom) by Dorothy St. James

My Review

Trudell (Tru) Beckett is invited to speak at a local book club, only to find that the group's star member has been murdered in the kitchen. The book club has been hosted by the mother of Tru's boyfriend, and she is immediately under suspicion.  Tru goes to work to find the killer.

I wanted to read A Book Club to Die For because I have read and enjoyed the other books in this series. They take place at a small South Carolina library that is all digital -- no print edition books at all. As a result, Tru has made a secret book room in the library basement, where patrons can check out print editions of beloved old books.

This was once again a fun read. I like the unconventional library setting and of course the secret book room!  And Dewey, Tru's kitty, is always a fun addition to the book.

Tru does a great job of solving a puzzling murder case, inspired as always by her love of mystery books.  I enjoy Tru as an amateur detective.  I also like the Tru and Jace storyline.

I recommend A Book Club to Die For and the Beloved Bookroom series for fans of cozy mysteries - and especially for anyone who enjoys a library setting.

Book Synopsis

When a member of an exclusive book club is checked out, spunky librarian Trudell Becket must sort fact from fiction to solve the murder. 

The Cypress Arete Society is one of the town’s oldest and most exclusive clubs. When assistant librarian Trudell Becket is invited to speak to the group about the library, its modernization, and her efforts to bring printed books to the reading public, her friend Flossie invites herself along. Flossie has been on the book club’s waiting list for five years, and she’s determined to find out why she’s never received an invitation to join. 

But not long after Tru and Flossie arrive for the meeting, they’re shocked to find the club’s president, Rebecca White, dead in the kitchen. Rebecca was a former TV actress and local celebrity, but was not known for being patient or pleasant. She’d been particularly unkind to the book club’s host for the evening, who also happens to be the mother of Detective Jace Bailey, Tru’s boyfriend. And Rebecca had made it clear that she didn’t think Flossie was book club material. 

With her boyfriend and one of her best friends wrapped up in a murder, Tru has to work fast to figure out who cut Rebecca’s story short before the killer takes another victim out of circulation….

Author Bio

Dorothy St. James is a former Folly Beach beach bum. She now lives in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, with her family, slightly (OK, terribly) needy dogs, and the friendliest cat you’ll ever meet. Author of a dozen novels, Dorothy enjoys writing both cozy mysteries and romance.

Follow Dorothy Online:





Purchase Links – AmazonPenguin Random HouseB&NKoboIndieBound 



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Friday, October 28, 2022

Book Review - Godmersham Park by Gill Hornby

My Review

Godmersham Park is a historical novel set in the early 1800's. It tells the story of Anne Sharp, a governess who went to work for the Austen family (Jane Austen's nieces and nephews) and became close to Jane Austen.

I wanted to read this novel because I love Jane Austen's books.  I had not heard of Anne Sharp before, and was fascinated to learn that she was a real person and this book is inspired by fact.

Anne Sharp is introduced as a woman who is suddenly in reduced financial circumstances and found herself seeking governess work.  She traveled from London to the countryside, to Godmersham Park, a beautiful estate. The estate is owned by Edward Austen (brother of Jane Austen) and his wife Elizabeth. They have a large family, and Anne is put in charge of the education of their eldest daughter, Fanny.

Anne struggles with her place in this new life - not part of the family or society, but also not a servant.  She is somewhere between, and that is an uncomfortable place. She has a bright, lively mind and loves to read and write (plays).  She also has frail health, with frequent, debilitating headaches.

As Anne settles in, growing attached to her young charge Fanny, her life changes when she meets two more Austens.  Henry is the charming young brother of the family. He has an immediate spark with Anne, but his attentions are unwanted because she feels they will damage her position with the family.  She eventually (later in the book) meets Jane Austen, and they become immediate friends.  Her attachment to both Henry and Jane effect her life - and her position as governess.

The story started a bit slowly for me but as Anne settled in at Godmersham Park, I found myself reading more quickly because I was eager to see what would happen next.  It became even more interesting as Henry, and especially as Jane, were introduced. 

I loved the depiction of Jane Austen in this book - bright and sensitive, but also lively and full of good humor. The scenes between Jane and Anne were the highlight of the novel for me.

Godmersham Park was a fascinating read, and I recommend it highly for fans of historical fiction -- and especially for anyone interested in the life of Jane Austen.

Book Synopsis

A richly imagined novel inspired by the true story of Anne Sharp, a governess who became very close with Jane Austen and her family by the #1 International bestselling-author of Miss Austen.

On January 21, 1804, Anne Sharpe arrives at Godmersham Park in Kent to take up the position of governess. At thirty-one years old, she has no previous experience of either teaching or fine country houses. Her mother has died, and she has nowhere else to go. Anne is left with no choice. For her new charge—twelve-year-old Fanny Austen—Anne's arrival is all novelty and excitement.

The governess role is a uniquely awkward one. Anne is neither one of the servants, nor one of the family, and to balance a position between the "upstairs" and "downstairs" members of the household is a diplomatic chess game. One wrong move may result in instant dismissal. Anne knows that she must never let down her guard.

When Mr. Edward Austen's family comes to stay, Anne forms an immediate attachment to Jane. They write plays together and enjoy long discussions. However, in the process, Anne reveals herself as not merely pretty, charming, and competent; she is clever too. Even her sleepy, complacent, mistress can hardly fail to notice.

Meanwhile Jane's brother, Henry, begins to take an unusually strong interest in the lovely young governess. And from now on, Anne's days at Godmersham Park are numbered.



Author Bio

Gill Hornby is the author of the novels Miss Austen, The Hive, and All Together Now, as well as The Story of Jane Austen, a biography of Austen for young readers. She lives in Kintbury, England, with her husband and their four children. 



Friday, October 21, 2022

Book Review and Giveaway - The Belle of Belgrave Square by Mimi Matthews

My Review

The Belle of Belgrave Square is set in 1862 England. Julia Wychwood is considered to be nearing spinsterhood at 23 and unmarried.  Captain Jasper Blunt is seeking a wife with a fortune to help restore his ramshackle estate and take care of his three children.  He is magnetic but brooding, with a dangerous reputation. Julia and Jasper meet and sparks fly. Her father, a controlling invalid, intervenes. Julia decides to take matters into her own hands and make her own decisions.  Then the adventure truly begins, with a mysterious estate, a locked room in a tower, and mysteries and secrets abounding!

I wanted to read this novel because I have loved all the Mimi Matthews books I've read. I love her amazing attention to period detail, down to the language of the storytelling. (It often requires looking up some arcane older words - but I love that!)

I am glad that I finished this novel today -- because it was taking up all my waking hours! I could not put it down. I stayed up late reading, I read every time I had a break in the day ... it is such a wonderfully engrossing story.

There is a lot of Beauty and the Beast in this novel. Julia is a renowed beauty and Jasper is brooding, with a scar across his mouth from a battle in the Crimean War. Their relationship is initially a marriage of convenience, but their love story unfolds slowly after that, as Jasper courts Julia and secrets are revealed in surprising ways.  In the Author's Notes, Mimi Matthews also references inspiration from The Law and the Lady (Wilkie Collins) and The Blue Castle (Lucy Maud Montgomery, so I now want to read those novels too.

I loved the mysterious setting of this novel;  Goldfinch Hall is almost another character in the book. I also loved the mystery storyline that is intertwined with the romance.

And the romance! Jasper is the most swoonworthy romantic lead I've enountered in ages. I absolutely loved the love story in this book.

This is a novel for true book lovers -- there is so much about a love of reading (considered dangerous for young ladies in this time period), the writing process, and a fabulous old library.

I have already started recommending The Belle of Belgrave Square to my friends. It's sure to be high on my top 10 list this year, and it is a must read for fans of historical fiction -- especially for anyone who loves Victorian settings.  Five stars - highest rating from me.

Book Synopsis

A London heiress rides out to the wilds of the English countryside to honor a marriage of convenience with a mysterious and reclusive stranger.

Tall, dark, and dour, the notorious Captain Jasper Blunt was once hailed a military hero, but tales abound of his bastard children and his haunted estate in Yorkshire. What he requires now is a rich wife to ornament his isolated ruin, and he has his sights set on the enchanting Julia Wychwood.

For Julia, an incurable romantic cursed with a crippling social anxiety, navigating a London ballroom is absolute torture. The only time Julia feels any degree of confidence is when she’s on her horse. Unfortunately, a young lady can’t spend the whole of her life in the saddle, so Julia makes an impetuous decision to take her future by the reins—she proposes to Captain Blunt.

In exchange for her dowry and her hand, Jasper must promise to grant her freedom to do as she pleases. To ride—and to read—as much as she likes without masculine interference. He readily agrees to her conditions, with one provision of his own: Julia is forbidden from going into the tower rooms of his estate and snooping around his affairs. But the more she learns of the beastly former hero, the more intrigued she becomes… 


Author Bio

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, and Kirkus, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a retired Andalusian dressage horse, a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats.


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Friday, October 14, 2022

Book Review - Rebuilding Beautiful by Kayla Stoecklein

My Review

Rebuilding Beautiful: Welcome What Is, Dare to Dream Again, and Step Bravely Into What Could Be is Kayla Stoecklein's story of how she rebuilt her life after her husband's suicide. There are elements of the memoir here but this book is also an inspirational guide to moving forward after loss.

I wanted to read this book because I have had a difficult personal loss this past year and Rebuilding Beautiful looked like an inspiring read. It is.

I really like the way the author organized the book in short themed chapters like Cultivating Community, A New Narrative, I'm So Proud of You for Trying, Habits of Self-Compassion, and Defiant Joy.

The writing is fresh and real.  The author illustrates each chapter with stories from her own life. She also gives practical suggestions (i.e. in the Cultivating Community chapter) and sometimes addresses the reader directly for truths.

I recommend Rebuilding Beautiful for anyone who is rebuilding their life after a loss of any type. I found it reassuring, comforting, and thought provoking. I think you will too.

Book Synopsis

Speaker and author Kayla Stoecklein delivers an inspiring message of how she came face-to-face with crushing personal loss and discovered how to rebuild a beautiful life. 

Kayla Stoecklein became an unexpected widow in August 2018 when her husband, Andrew, the pastor of their large church in California, died by suicide. With three young boys also grieving and a heart full of pain, it became her mission to bring hope and help to others who have faced unexpected hardships. Rebuilding Beautiful shows people that they not only have a purpose, but that they can build a beautiful life once again.

In Rebuilding Beautiful,Kayla shares the life experiences that have turned into lessons, including

  • acknowledging the pain;
  • making the choice to start healing;
  • finding courage in uncertainty;
  • embracing God’s constant presence; and
  • exploring a new path and falling in love with life all over again.

Sometimes, the journey from agony to awe takes time. Rebuilding Beautiful is the perfect roadmap for anyone who’s on the path from heartache to a life that is a new kind of beautiful.

Author Bio

Speaker and author Kayla Stoecklein delivers an inspiring message of how she came face-to-face with crushing personal loss and discovered how to rebuild a beautiful life. 

Kayla Stoecklein became an unexpected widow in August 2018 when her husband, Andrew, the pastor of their large church in California, died by suicide. With three young boys also grieving and a heart full of pain, it became her mission to bring hope and help to others who have faced unexpected hardships. Rebuilding Beautiful shows people that they not only have a purpose, but that they can build a beautiful life once again.

In Rebuilding Beautiful, Kayla shares the life experiences that have turned into lessons, including

  • acknowledging the pain;
  • making the choice to start healing;
  • finding courage in uncertainty;
  • embracing God’s constant presence; and
  • exploring a new path and falling in love with life all over again.

Sometimes, the journey from agony to awe takes time. Rebuilding Beautiful is the perfect roadmap for anyone who’s on the path from heartache to a life that is a new kind of beautiful.




Thursday, October 13, 2022

Book Review - A Quilt for Christmas by Melody Carlson

My Review

After her husband dies, Vera Swanson moves to a new town to be close to her daughter and grandchildren. When her daughter's family moves away, Vera finds herself alone in a new place with the holidays just ahead.  When her neighbor's four year old child, Fiona, knocks on the door, Vera's life changes. Vera helps Fiona and also takes on her challenge to make a special Christmas quilt for Fiona's mother. Vera doesn't know anyone in town, so she puts up signs looking for quilters - and finds herself surrounded by some new friends.

I wanted to read A Quilt for Christmas because I have enjoyed Melody Carlson's other Christmas books. (I try to read the new book each year!) This book was no exception.

This is a short book (novella length) and a cozy read for a long afternoon or a quiet weekend. I found Vera a very likable and sympathetic protagonist.  She is lonely and she wants to make friends and help others - and by the act of opening the door (literally and figuratively) to little Fiona Albright, she does just that.

The other women in the quilting circle are also interesting - Tasha is a happy, fun-loving young artist;  Beverly is a friendly empty nester; and Eleanor is a grouchy retired therapist who is living with her adult son.  In the course of the book Vera (and the reader!) gets to know them all and learns their stories.  One of the ladies even has a sweet romance over the holidays.

I recommend A Quilt for Christmas for anyone who is looking for a cozy Christmas story.   This gentle and uplifting book would make a great Hallmark movie!

Book Synopsis

Cuddle up with this cozy story of giving and forgiving--with a little bit of romance

Christmas should be celebrated with family, but for Vera Swanson, that's not an option this year. Widowed and recently relocated, she is lonely in her condo-for-one--until little Fiona Albright knocks on her door needing help.

With her mother seriously ill and her father out of town, Fiona enlists Vera's aid, and when she finds out her new neighbor is a quilter, she has a special request--a Christmas quilt for Mama.

Vera will have to get a ragtag group of women together to fulfill the request. Between free-spirited artist Tasha, chatty empty nester Beverly, retired therapist Eleanor, and herself, Vera has hopes that Christmas for the Albright family will be merry, after all. And she may even find herself a new family of friends along the way.

Author Bio

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of more than 250 books with sales of more than 7.5 million, including many bestselling Christmas novellas, young adult titles, and contemporary romances. She received a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award, her novel All Summer Long was made into a Hallmark movie, and the film version of The Happy Camper is soon to be released. She and her husband live in central Oregon. Learn more at


Friday, October 7, 2022

Book Review - The Highlander's Holiday Wife by Vanessa Kelly

My Review

The Highlander's Holiday Wife is the fifth book in the Clan Kendrick series. This is the story of Lady Samantha Penwith, who is looking for her husband's murderer -- when she unexpectedly meets Doctor Braden Kendrick on her quest.

I wanted to read this novel because I have enjoyed the earlier books in this series. The holiday setting was an extra bonus.

I think this may be my favorite book in the Clan Kendrick series.  I really like Samantha, who is so bright, independent, and determined. The sub-plot of her looking out for her late husband's much younger sister, who is deaf, was lovely and well written. And Samantha and Braden!  Braden is a wonderful book boyfriend - smart, strong, pragmatic, and infinitely kind.

I enjoyed the blend of romance and the mystery of what happened to Samantha's husband.  The author did a wonderful job of balancing the two storylines - and they certainly kept me up late reading to see what would happen next!

I recommend The Highlander's Holiday Wife, and the other books in this series (must be read in order!) to fans of historical romance, especially with a Scottish setting.

Book Synopsis

Meet the most level-headed of the Clan Kendrick brothers and the independent woman who steals his heart in the fifth installment of USA Today bestselling author Vanessa Kelly’s intoxicating series set in Regency Scotland…

Filled with saucy wit, surprising twists, and unforgettable lovers, the latest novel in USA Today bestselling author Vanessa Kelly’s captivating historical romance series puts the most level-headed Kendrick at the center of a passionate and perilous adventure…

It’s Christmastime in Edinburgh, but Lady Samantha Penwith’s secret mission takes no holiday: the Highlands-born lass vows to find the assailants who murdered her beloved husband, founder of a charitable school for orphaned boys. On her latest undercover excursion, she closes in on a pair of armed attackers and interrupts another assault, then disappears into the darkness, leaving the lone victim mystified—and lucky to be alive…

Braden Kendrick may be the sensible brother, yet the dedicated doctor routinely ignores the dangers of his late-night calls to the city’s slums. But when a fleet-footed rescuer saves his life, he’s determined to uncover the stranger’s identity. And once he does, he’ll find himself facing his own past loss for the first time—and more than willing to risk his heart again, just in time to make the Clan Kendrick’s Christmas celebrations more festive than ever…

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Author Bio

Vanessa Kelly is a USA Today Bestselling, award-winning author who was named by Booklist, the review journal of the American Library Association, as one of the “New Stars of Historical Romance.” Her Regency and Scottish-set historical romances have been nominated in a number of contests, and she has won multiple awards, including the prestigious Maggie Medallion for Best Historical Romance. Her books have been published in eleven languages.

Vanessa’s first Clan Kendrick book, The Highlander Who Protected Me, was a USA Today, Barnes & Noble, and BookScan bestseller. The subsequent Clan Kendrick books have all been BookScan bestsellers, and several hit the top 50 on the Barnes & Noble mass-market bestseller list. Her previous series, The Renegade Royals, was a national bestseller, as was The Improper Princesses Series. My Fair Princess was named a Goodreads Romance of the Month and is a USA Today and BookScan bestseller.

Vanessa also writes USA Today Bestselling books with her husband, under the pen name of V.K. Sykes.

You can find Vanessa at or at For all of Vanessa’s latest news and contests–and to receive a free story–please sign up for her newsletter on her website.

When she’s not dreaming of plots for her next Regency novel, Vanessa is writing USA Today Bestselling books with her husband, under the pen name of V.K. Sykes.

You can find Vanessa at or at For all of Vanessa’s latest news and contests–and to receive a free story–please sign up for her newsletter on her website.

Clan Kendrick Facebook Group | Facebook Author Page | Pinterest | Instagram | Goodreads



Friday, September 30, 2022

Book Review and Giveaway - The Other Side of Certain by Amy Willoughby-Burle

My Review

The Other Side of Certain is a historical novel set during the Depression. It is the story of Mattie Mobley, a young woman from a privileged background who dreamed of being a teacher - so she traveled from Asheville to a very rural part of Kentucky to start a one room school and become a Pack Horse Librarian. There is a mystery in Certain, Kentucky involving an abandoned church (now a library) and a widower who is exiled outside of town with his children. She is determined to learn the story ... especially after she meets the widower.

I wanted to read this novel because I was intrigued by the Depression era setting. I also loved the idea of Pack Horse Librarians!

This is just a lovely read.  I found myself immediately transported to another time and place by the author's storytelling, and felt like I was discovering the town of Certain just as Mattie was. I was very intrigued by the church-turned-school and the mystery of the broken church window there.

Daniel, the exiled widower, is a fascinating character and I loved his slowly unfolding connection with Mattie.

The author is a wonderful descriptive storyteller. I loved details like:

Back in the church, I discovered that the pews did serve as bookshelves. Volumes of literature of all types were categorized along the rows, spine out or flat down for magazines and other things. “That’s clever,” I said, pointing to a bookend made from a license plate folded at a ninety-degree angle. I could see them all through the rows. “We make do,” Ava said, coming to stand beside me. “People send all sorts of things as donations. Nothing goes to waste.  When you don’t have much, much care is given to everything" (eBook location 195).

I highly recommend The Other Side of Certain to fans of historical fiction, and especially to anyone who is interested in 1930's America. This is the first in a new series, Love for Certain, and I look forward to reading more of this series in the future.

Book Synopsis

For the love of love…and books

Mattie Mobley planned to be a teacher, but when times grew tough during America’s Great Depression, and there were no teaching positions in her hometown of Asheville, NC, Mattie found work starting a school and helping the Pack Horse Librarians just over the mountains in the rural town of Certain, Kentucky. She’s not certain at all that this is a good situation, but she’s determined, and honestly, a little desperate. Of all the things that Mattie does have—money, comforts, a good name, she doesn’t have what matters most—friends, love, and a purpose of her own.

Daniel, “The Grizzly Bear,” Barrett had a lovely life for a little while. Overcoming his family’s bad name and worse reputation, he made a life for himself in Certain. He was married with children and a figure of respect in his church, but desperate times called for desperate measures and a terrible tragedy was the result. Now exiled with his children along the wily run of the Hell for Certain Creek, Daniel has gotten used to being the town pariah again. It’s in his blood after all. Right? Maybe not, but he’ll need the powerful influence of love not only to change his own mind about himself but to convince his estranged extended family and the whole town as well.

Can one librarian with a saddlebag full of books make people see the difference between fact and fiction? Mattie loves a good story, and this may be her best one yet. Fiction tells the best truths and the best truth of all is love.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Author Bio

Amy Willoughby-Burle grew up in the small coastal town of Kure Beach, NC, and now lives in Asheville, NC with her husband and four children. She teaches creative writing and works as a freelance editor when not working on her own fiction. She is also the director of Wildacres Writers Workshop. She is the author of the novels The Lemonade Year and The Year of Thorns and Honey. Her award-winning short fiction has been published in numerous journals and in her collection, Out Across the Nowhere. Her fiction focuses on the importance of family and friends and centers on the themes of forgiveness, second chances, and finding beauty in the world around us. She likes to write about the wonder and mystery of everyday life.

Visit her online at You can also Amy on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.


Enter to win this fun prize package including:

Tote Bag
Journal & Pens
$25 Amazon Gift Card
Paperback copy of The Other Side of Certain

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on October 14th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

The Other Side of Certain