Wednesday, September 28, 2016

"the thirteenth chance" by amy matayo

If you're looking for an engaging, romantic, funny read, The Thirteenth Chance is perfect for you!

Baseball star Will Vandergriff knows any number of women who would happily pretend to be his girlfriend. In a last-ditch effort to restore his good standing with his team’s higher-ups, he enlists the help of his neurotic, goody-goody neighbor. Schoolteacher Olivia Pratt might be a bit quirky and a bit of a loner, but she’s a lot more inviting than she knows. Will hopes that bringing her to his next game might revamp his reckless reputation and help get his career back on track. The only problem? The plan works a little too well. Not only do the higher-ups love Olivia, but Will plays his best game yet. Suddenly his losing streak is a thing of the past, and Olivia is his new good-luck charm. Will feels anything but lucky.

After years of keeping the world at bay, Olivia Pratt is pulling off the ultimate performance—not only reluctantly posing as Will’s girlfriend but also insisting that she’s oblivious to his major-league appeal. But she can only lie to herself for so long. Being by Will’s side feels good. Really good. Maybe it’s finally time to make a pitch for everything she really wants—and to find out just how exhilarating love can be.

The Thirteenth Chance gave me one of the most enjoyable reading experiences I've had in a long time—and as someone who reads nearly constantly, that's saying something!

Here's the thing: The Thirteenth Chance is not deep or insightful. But it's FUN. And sometimes, that's exactly what you need. I stayed up far past my bedtime two nights in a row to read this gem of a novel. Am I paying for it even as I type this? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

I love the way the novel is written—in first person present tense, alternating between Olivia and Will. Done poorly, present tense novels drive me crazy. But here, Matayo used the point of view perfectly.

Olivia is an odd duck; I'm not sure if I've ever read a book with a more neurotic protagonist. But she is also incredibly likable, and I so wanted her to find her happily ever after with Will. Will is not the type of man I would normally root for in a novel—he's the type of man I would normally root against. He's a bad boy—a player. He's one of those guys who knows he's good looking. But something changes when he meets Olivia, and I cheered him on as he both became a better man and fell in love.

If The Thirteenth Chance simply featured a great romance, it would be a very enjoyable book. But what makes it really stand out is the humor. So many times, I'll pick up a book marketed as a romantic comedy and not chuckle once while I'm reading it. But I laughed out loud many times while reading this novel! My biggest laugh came Olivia discovered one of Will's secrets—I can't tell you more than that because I don't want to spoil anything; trust me when I say it's hilarious!

I read so many books that I rarely go back to any for a second read through, but I can definitely see myself reading The Thirteenth Chance again. It's seriously (seriously!) so fun! 5 stars.

Buy the book.
Read my reviews of Matayo's The Wedding Game (4 stars), In Tune with Love (4-1/2 stars), and A Painted Summer (4-1/2 stars).

Author Amy Matayo is an excellent speaker, mathematician, seamstress, chef...and liar. She's decent at writing books but not much else. Then again, the book thing makes her marginally cool and a whole lot intimidating. 

Not really. Not even her kids are afraid of her.

She graduated with barely passing grades from John Brown University with a degree in Journalism. But she's proud of that degree and all the ways she hasn't put it to good use. 

She laughs often, cries easily, feels deeply, and loves hard. She lives in Arkansas with her husband and four kids and is working on her next novel.

Keep up with her: website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

top ten tuesday: books i want to read this fall

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is Books On My Fall TBR List. I have about 80 million books on my TBR list (OK, so that's a small exaggeration!), many of which are books I got from an author or publisher to review. So for this list, I've decided to go with books I already own but don't need to review ... which means I may or may not get to them!

Keep Holding On by Melissa Tagg. I've been anticipating this installment of Tagg's Walker Family series ever since I finished the previous book!

The Waves Break Gray by Sibella Giorello. I may have had a minor freak out when I realized the world was finally getting another Raleigh Harmon novel!

Oh, the Weather Outside Is Frightful by Susan May Warren. Currently, this novella is only available in the Candy Cane Kisses anthology, but it was 99 cents for eight novellas. Even if I never read the others, I think it was a pretty good deal!

Told You So by Kristen Heitzmann. This book made my list of those I intended to read in 2015 and didn't. I keep hearing great things about it, and hopefully I'll get to it soon.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. Modern Mrs. Darcy recommended this one, and I picked it up super cheap on a Kindle deal. I've read a couple pages, and it looks like it'll be a super fast and entertaining read.

Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham. I preordered this as soon as I finished reading The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, which I loved. I'm honestly not sure why I haven't read it yet—I guess it's a case of "so many books, so little time."

A Twist of Faith by Pepper Basham. Several bloggers I follow have raved about A Twist of Faith, and I'm sure I'll love it ... once I finally get to it!

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I love World War II novels, but I have to be in the right mood for them. The next time that mood strikes, I'll be pulling out The Nightingale.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer. I've had this on my list of books to read for a long time. My sister recently read it and highly recommended it. I think it's time to read it for myself!

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. Moriarty is one of those authors whose name keeps coming up, yet I've never read any of her books. What Alice Forgot sounds super intriguing!

Which book should I read first? What books do you hope to read this fall? Let me know in the comments, and if you leave a link to your list, I'll be sure to visit!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, September 26, 2016

it's monday! what are you reading?

Time for another look at what I read over the last week. Once again, it was a slow reading week, and I only finished one book—but it was a good one!

What I read last week:

Together at the Table by Hillary Manton Lodge. This book ended up being my favorite in the Two Blue Doors trilogy, and that's saying something, as the first two books were wonderful! (5 stars)

What I'm reading now:

A Tapestry of Secrets by Sarah Loudin Thomas. I made lots of headway in this book last week, and it's getting really good!

Just a Kiss by Denise Hunter. Oh my goodness, I'm loving this final book in Denise Hunter's Summer Harbor series. I only have about a third left.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Yes, I'm still reading it, slowly but surely.

What I'll read next:

When Love Arrives by Johnnie Alexander. I need to have a review posted by the end of the month, so I'll be reading it before I finish the books on my "currently reading" list!

Have you read any of these books? What books are you reading right now? Let me know in the comments, and check out other posts from the linkup.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, September 25, 2016

"together at the table" by hillary manton lodge

Last year, I read Hillary Manton Lodge's A Table by the Window and Reservations for Two. I was completely entranced by these stories of of love, family, and food. Once I started the final book, Together at the Table, I had a hard time putting it down!

Three months ago, Juliette D’Alisa’s world changed.

In a bittersweet series of events, her mother’s health took a turn for the worse. Juliette and her brother opened their restaurant together to rave reviews, but her romance with Memphis immunologist Neil McLaren ended in anger and tears.

As autumn sweeps into the Pacific Northwest, Juliette feels that she’s finally on the cusp of equilibrium. The restaurant continues to thrive, and her family is closer than ever. She and sous-chef Adrien are seeing each other, both in and out of the kitchen. Just when she thinks her world might stop spinning, a trip to the waterfront lands a familiar face into her path.

Rather than dwell on her personal life, Juliette throws herself into work and research. After reading her grandmother’s letters from war-torn Paris, she still wants to know the full story –  and she’ll travel across countries and oceans to find it.

But even Juliette can’t outrun the man who stole her heart. As she finally uncovers the truth about her family history, what will it mean for her own chances at lasting love?

First of all, know this: you absolutely should not read Together at the Table if you have not first read A Table by the Window and Reservations for Two. These are not books that stand alone; they are a trilogy that should be read in order.

Together at the Table picks up a few months after the events of Reservations for Two. Juliette has broken up with her long-distance boyfriend Neil and has settled into a casual relationship with Adrien, the sous-chef at the restaurant Juliette runs with her brother Nico. However, when Neil shows up in Portland unexpectedly, Juliette realizes that her love life is far from settled. On the family history front, Juliette has learned the truth about her grandmother's first husband, but she still doesn't know what happened to Alice, her mother's secret twin.

When I read Reservations for Two, I was impressed by the love triangle—I had no idea if Juliette should end up with Adrien or Neil. Well, I felt no indecisiveness about her love life in Together at the Table; I instantly knew which man I wanted her to be with, and I'm glad that the author agreed with me!

The book is divided into two sections; what surprised me most about the book is that the romantic drama was completely settled in Part I. Part II is entirely about Juliette and her family's trip to Provence, to the chateau Juliette's grandmother grew up in. It's in this section that Juliette discovers what exactly happened to her grandmother during and after World War II (including her grandmother's very sweet romance with the man Juliette always believed was her biological grandfather), and the truth about Alice is revealed.

Not only is the plot of Together at the Table incredibly compelling, but the book also includes some very tempting recipes. I even made one—the pumpkin-custard pie—and it was phenomenal.

Together at the Table is a wonderful conclusion to the Two Blue Doors series, and I highly recommend it! 5 stars.

Buy the book.
Read my reviews of A Table by the Window (5 stars) and Reservations for Two (5 stars).

Hillary Manton Lodge is the author of Plain Jayne, a Carol Award Finalist, and Simply Sara, an ECPA bestselling book. A graduate of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism, Hillary discovered the world of cuisine during her internship at Northwest Palate magazine. A storyteller at heart, in her free time she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, watching foreign films, and exploring new walking trails. She and her husband live in Portland, Oregon.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Blogging for Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links on this page are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase a product, I will receive a commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, September 24, 2016

stacking the shelves (9-24-16)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly linkup hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It's all about the new books accumulated over the week.

Kindle Freebies:

I got a passel of freebies this week (because, as I said last week, I have trouble refusing a free book), so I'm only listing the ones I actually might read someday.

Note that these ebooks were free when I got them, but prices fluctuate frequently, so be sure to check to see if they're still free before you click "buy now."

You're the Cream in My Coffee by Jennifer Lamont Leo

Bridge of Faith by Catherine West

The Syndicate by Sophie Davis

Catch of a Lifetime by Yvonne Lehman

Brentwood's Ward by Michelle Griep

If Ever I Would Leave You by Susan May Warren
Yes, I already owned this book, but the Kindle version is now available free, so I got it. You can see my 4-star review here.

Books for Review:

When Love Arrives by Johnnie Alexander
This is the sequel to Where She Belongs, a novel I read and enjoyed earlier this year. I'm looking forward to returning to the world of Misty Willow.

Books I Purchased:

The Waves Break Gray by Sibella Giorello
I've been waiting for this book for years. Literally. It's the sixth book in the Raleigh Harmon Mystery Series, and I'm so excited to read it!

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
I've heard a lot of good things about this book, so I snapped it up when the Kindle version was on sale earlier this week.

Have you read or will you read any of these books? Let me know in the comments! 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, September 23, 2016

"love finds you in sunset beach, hawaii" by robin jones gunn

Well, this is an oldie! I was just going through my drafts folder and found this review—finished but never posted! I wrote it in July of 2013, in the middle of buying my house, which probably explains why I forgot to post.

Whatever happened to Sierra? If you grew up reading Robin Jones Gunn's Christy Miller and Sierra Jensen series, you may be wondering. Well, here's your answer ...

Sierra came to Sunset Beach for relaxation--not for world-class surfing and certainly not for romance! When a wealthy friend offers Sierra Jensen a vacation at an oceanfront beach house, she envisions a quiet retreat where she can plan her next move. Instead, she arrives at the start of the noisy surfing competitions and is surprised to learn that her friend had an ulterior motive--namely, introducing Sierra to Jordan Bryce, the tenant staying below them. Jordan is a photographer whose lens and attention are focused on the surfers, and he is not willing to let anyone get in his way of landing the next cover shot for Surf Days magazine. Sierra and Jordan came to Sunset Beach looking for different things. But as the surf pounds the North Shore, will they discover something better than either of them had imagined? 

When I look back on this book, I'm torn. Normally, I fly through anything Robin Jones Gunn writes. I read the Christy Miller series as a teen and borrowed my little sister's Sierra Jensen books after I was really far too old to be reading them. Gunn's Glenbroke series remains one of my favorite romance series, and the Katie Weldon series was spectacular. So naturally, I was thrilled to get my hands on Love Finds You in Sunset Beach, Hawaii. Two years ago. But when I started reading the novel, I wasn't entranced like I anticipated, and I ended up putting it down.

I finally decided to give it another shot, and I read the whole thing in one afternoon. While I enjoyed the story, it seemed to drag on far too long. It was one of those cases where a simple conversation could clear up a misunderstanding and would have saved at least two days' worth of agony. I also didn't quite buy the romance, but maybe that's just me ...

While this wasn't exactly the return to Sierra's story I was hoping for, I am glad that I read it, simply because it gave some closure. 3 stars.

Buy the book.

Robin Jones Gunn is the much loved author of over 85 books. With nearly 5 million copies of her titles sold worldwide, her popular Christy Miller series now continues in Christy & Todd: The Married Years. Her novels and non-fiction works have received multiple awards and are a favorite with book clubs and study groups. Robin and her husband have a grown son and daughter and live in Hawaii.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book myself and reviewed it by choice. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, September 22, 2016

"live on forever" by the afters + giveaway

The Afters are back with Live on Forever, an album that's sure to get you tapping your toes!

Track List:
1. Shadows
2. Battles
3. Sunrise
4. Time of My Life
5. Wake Up My Heart
6. Live on Forever
7. Eyes of a Believer
8. Survivors
9. Legends
10. When You're with Me

It’s easy to assume stories of trial and triumph are just for the Bible or the history books. But miracles still happen, even when adversity hits hardest. Just ask Josh Havens, guitarist and lead vocalist of The Afters. He relates how the band’s latest effort, Live on Forever, began during a season of tragedy. 

Just as the band regrouped to record, Havens witnessed the wife of a close friend contract cancer. Drummer Jordan Mohilowski (who produced the new album) had a brief health scare, and a close companion in his church—part of the worship team—was hit and killed by an impaired driver. She was a young woman, Havens says, who had unlimited potential.

But Live on Forever–the band’s fifth with the Fair Trade label-still took shape as a celebration of faithfulness, protection and promise—one that shimmers with strong rhythms, undeniable energy and compelling pop hooks. The album finds Havens in strong, soaring voice as he invites listeners to find shelter and strength in God. “If any theme has emerged, it would be ‘inspiration and motivation,’” Havens says. 

Havens himself felt a deep need to hold on after another loss struck: The band’s longtime soundman, Anthony Martinez, saw his newborn daughter die in infancy. 

Ask Havens to pick out a song that sums up the spirit of the album, and he chooses “Battles.” “It was the last song we wrote and the fastest we wrote,” he says. “We don’t typically write songs fast; we’ll change lyrics and melodies and craft our songs carefully. But ‘Battles’ poured out, the music and lyrics, in one day. It’s about standing up against fear and knowing God is always with us,” Havens explains. “It’s one of the takeaways we hope people get: ‘Don’t give up to fear.

Havens shares how, half a world away from his home in Phoenix, he caught a small glimpse of heaven’s reassurance. The place: downtown Amsterdam. The occasion: a dinner between shows with band members and spouses—including soundman Martinez and his wife. For their baby daughter, the Martinez couple had chosen an unusual moniker with an unusual spelling: Pieper. Against all odds, it also happened to be exactly how the intimate restaurant they dined at spelled its name. Still, no one was prepared for what happened at the end of the meal. “We were talking about baby Pieper, and as we got up to leave, we noticed that the only thing on the walls—the only thing—was a framed document, an award for hospitality. And the date on the award—the only date in the place—was Pieper’s birthday. Her mother just started bawling.” Havens sums up the reassurance all took home that night: “We thought, ‘This is where God’s angels fly: right in the middle of the loss.’ God gives us little glimpses to show us he’s here.”

“We worked on this record for almost two years and over those two years, it was a real season of loss,” Havens recalls. “But in the end, Live on Forever is about moving us to trust God, to stand up against fear. It’s an ‘ante up’ record, an anthem for people’s lives: ‘God you are with me in all this. I’m not alone.’”

Prior to this album, I knew only two things about The Afters: they put out the fabulous "Light Up the Sky" and the cheesy, catchy, and now horribly dated "MySpace Girl." (Go watch the "MySpace Girl" video right now. Seriously.) Those two songs are very different, so I wasn't sure what to expect with Live on Forever.

What I found was a delightful mix of toe tappers, ballads, anthems, and love songs. Some songs are directed toward God ("Wake Up My Heart"), others are meant to encourage believers ("Eyes of a Believer"), and the final song is a beautiful love ballad ("When You're with Me"). This is the kind of album I can listen to the whole way through without getting bored—because the songs don't all sound the same. My favorite songs are "Wake Up My Heart," "Survivors," and "Battles," but all the songs are good. Give the album a listen—you won't be disappointed. 4-1/2 stars.

Not only did I get to enjoy this great CD, but I also have a copy to give away! Enter through the Rafflecopter below.

Giveaway rules: Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification. Contest is open in the US and CANADA only. Winner will be selected at random using and will have 48 hours to respond to email notification, or another winner will be chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

../Library/Containers/ the album: iTunes, Amazon, Google Play
Listen on Spotify.

Connect with The Afters

Website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

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