Thursday, November 15, 2018

Review: "On Magnolia Lane" by Denise Hunter

Whenever I hear that Denise Hunter has a new novel releasing, my first thought is, "How quickly can I get my hands on it?" So of course when I heard about On Magnolia Lane, I had to read it!

From the bestselling author of The Convenient Groom (now a beloved Hallmark Original movie) comes the final book in Hunter’s Blue Ridge Romance series.

Pastor Jack McReady has secretly carried a torch for Daisy for two long years. She’s a member of his congregation, after all, and she’ll never see him as more than a trusted counselor. Jack’s best friend Noah has taken every opportunity to encourage his lovesick friend, but when Noah catches wind that Daisy has joined an online dating site, he takes matters into his own hands and orchestrates a meet-cute of the most unconventional kind.

Owner of the local flower shop, Daisy Pendleton is content with her small-town life, but she’d sure like someone to share it with. After several disastrous first dates, she’s about to give up—and then she finds a seemingly wonderful man online. Daisy gets to know TJ through a series of messages but finds herself spending more time with Pastor Jack outside of the church at the same time. What she doesn’t know is that her online prospect and Jack are one and the same.

Just as Daisy’s love life starts to look promising, a mysterious woman appears in town. Daisy is faced with a revelation about her family that turns her world upside down, and she looks to both TJ and Jack for help.

Jack must find a way to reveal himself as her online suitor without breaking her heart and losing her trust. As Daisy faces Jack’s betrayal, she’ll have to learn to extend grace to herself, her family, and the man she’s grown to love.

On Magnolia Lane is the story of Pastor Jack and Daisy, one of his parishioners. Jack has had feelings for Daisy for a long time, but several things have kept him from pursuing her: his lack of confidence regarding women, the fact that she's in his congregation, and their age difference (which is never actually stated but can't be more than 10 years), to name a few. But after he "meets" Daisy through an online dating app and she actually seems interested in his alter ego TJ, he begins to hope. (Hello, You've Got Mail!)

Besides her complicated feelings for both Pastor Jack and TJ, Daisy is also dealing with a rocky relationship with her mother, a mystery woman who calls into question everything Daisy believed about her childhood, and an upcoming benefit for an organization close to her heart.

I'll be honest: I actually cared more about the other things going on in Daisy's life than I did about her relationship with Jack. It's kind of funny, as Jack is wonderful ... but I really just didn't see Daisy and Jack together, even though I knew from the outset that was where the book was headed. I guess I felt the chemistry was lacking, and, while Jack's feelings for Daisy were perfectly clear, Daisy's feelings for Jack seemed to come out of nowhere (and she was just so dense when it came to seeing Jack's interest).

So, what did I like? I loved the subplot with Julia, the mysterious woman who arrived in town and upended Daisy's world. I really enjoyed the secondary romance between Daisy's mom and the bashful Mr. Francis. And I loved all of the bits of the story from Jack's point of view.

On Magnolia Lane is a good book, better than so many others I've read. I just didn't feel like it quite lived up to the standard of Hunter's other books. (It also really made me anxious to reread Seaside Letters, which has a similar You've Got Mail vibe. It was one of the first Hunter books I read, and I remember loving it.) 3-1/2 stars.

Buy the book.
Follow the blog tour.
Read my reviews of Hunter's Sweetbriar Cottage (3-1/2 stars), Blue Ridge Sunrise (4-1/2 stars), and Honeysuckle Dreams (5 stars); the Summer Harbor books Falling like Snowflakes (5 stars), The Goodbye Bride (5 stars), and Just a Kiss (5 stars); the Chapel Springs books Barefoot Summer (5 stars), A December Bride (4.5 stars), Dancing with Fireflies (5 stars), The Wishing Season (5 stars), and Married 'til Monday (4.5 stars); Big Sky novels A Cowboy's Touch, The Accidental Bride (3-1/2 stars), and The Trouble with Cowboys (4-1/2 stars); and The Convenient Groom (5 stars).

Denise Hunter is the award-winning author of more than 30 novels, including The Convenient Groom and A December Bride, which have been made into Hallmark movies.

Denise writes heartwarming, small-town romances. Her readers enjoy the vicarious thrill of falling in love and the promise of a happily-ever-after sigh as they savor the final pages of her books. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through TLC Book Tours. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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, November 13, 2018

Review: Ellie Claire Art Journals

Here's something different and fun! Just in time for Christmas, I got three art journals to review. Each is geared toward a different type of person, but all are fun!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Review: "Wait for Me" by Susan May Warren

Susan May Warren has a way of creating series with characters that end up feeling like friends and family. After I finished the Christiansen family series, I was hesitant yet eager to pick up the Montana Rescue series—how could I possibly love the new characters as much as I loved the Christiansens?

Well, you've probably guessed by now that the PEAK Rescue team has stolen my heart. I've loved every book in the series, and Wait for Me is no exception. Wait for Me finally wraps up Pete & Jess's story, as well as tying up the loose ends regarding PEAK founder Ian's niece Esme/Shae (who disappeared in the prequel novella If Ever I Would Leave You). And it's wonderful.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Review: "The Secret Language of Cats" by Susanne Schötz

As you know if you've been following my blog for very long, I have three adorable cats ... at least I think they're adorable 😉. Isis (unfortunately named, I know), Skaara, and Hammond have been part of my family for nearly 6-1/2 years.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Follow Me on Instagram!

Practically ever since I joined Instagram nearly five years ago, I've been a big fan. My account was basically personal stuff—family, cats, vacations, etc. But every so often, I would post something blog-related—a bookstagram photo here, a review post there.

Review: "An Hour Unspent" by Roseanna M. White

After penning two really enjoyable entries in the Shadows Over England series, Roseanna M. White is back to conclude the series with Barclay's story ... and it's the story that I've been waiting for!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Review: "A Sparkle of Silver" by Liz Johnson

Over the last couple of years, I've had the privilege of reading Liz Johnson's Prince Edward Island Dreams series. (Seriously, so good.) So when I heard about her new novel, A Sparkle of Silver, I had to get my hands on it!

Friday, November 2, 2018

First Line Fridays: "Wait for Me"

Happy Friday! As I sit here on Thursday night prepping this post, I've just returned home from choir practice (for our Christmas cantata), I'm sipping on a glass of apple cider, and I have a Hallmark Christmas movie on in the background. I love this season so much!!! (What I don't love so much is the cold. It's still pretty mild here—it dips into the upper 20's and lower 30's at night and gets to about 60 during the day—but I dread the day that it remains cold.)

Today, I'm spotlighting a book I've been anticipating for a long time—Susan May Warren's Wait for Me.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Review + Giveaway: "Holy Roar" by Chris Tomlin

It's time for another music review and giveaway! Chris Tomlin is one of America's favorite worship leaders, and I was able to preview his new album. I also have a copy to give away, so be sure to click keep reading for info about that!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Book or Movie? "Coming Home for Christmas"

Now that Hallmark Channel's Countdown to Christmas is back, it's time to restart my "Book or Movie" series! This first post is actually about a movie that premiered on Hallmark Channel during the 2017 holiday season, but I didn't get it written then. I just rewatched the movie today, so I decided it was time to get this review written 😊.

File this under "I don't know when else to tell you so I'm doing it here": I've decided to do mini review/hot takes of all the new Christmas movies I watch this year on my Instagram stories. So follow me here, and then let me know if you agree with my takes on the movies!

Review: "Shelter of the Most High" by Connilyn Cossette

I don't read a lot of biblical fiction, but there are a few authors I can't pass up. One of them is Connilyn Cossette; I loved the first book in her Cities of Refuge series, and I was eager to continue the story with Shelter of the Most High.

Friday, October 26, 2018

First Line Fridays: "A Sparkle of Silver"

It's finally Friday! I have a big work event tonight, so the weekend won't really start until about 9:30 p.m., but ... once I get home, I'll be able to turn on a Christmas movie! I just love Hallmark Channel's Countdown to Christmas 😃. While some of the films are, yes, horribly cheesy, I still watch them all, and I always find a few that I love. I made a couple lists of favorites a few years ago (here and here), but I'm thinking it's time for an update.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Review: "#Starstruck" by Sariah Wilson

Here's the thing: it's becoming more and more difficult to tell which books will be clean and which ones won't. I've started some books that looked (and sounded) like they'd be heat-level sweet that turned out to be filled with swearing and sex. Then there are books like #Starstruck that look like they might be erotica but are actually clean. It's so hard to tell, even when you read reviews, which I always do. (I'm not taking about Christian books here, just ones in the general market.)

#Starstruck isn't a book I'd normally pick up, but it was available thru Prime reading, and the reviews made it sound fairly clean. I decided to give it a shot.

Monday, October 22, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (10-22-18)

Happy Monday! I wasn't so sure at the beginning of the day if it would be a happy Monday. Remember that cracked tooth I talked about a few weeks ago? Well, it broke/chipped on Friday. So I went to my dentist this morning with visions of dollar signs in my head, fearful that I'd need a crown. He took one look and said he could fix it with a filling. Just over $100, as opposed to upwards of $1,000? I'll take the filling, thank you very much! I'm such a fan of my dentist! (Dr. Maas in Fullerton, for any of you locals.)

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Review: "A Shoe Addict's Christmas" by Beth Harbison

Over the last year, I've really enjoyed reading book that are being made into Hallmark movies. This year's Countdown to Christmas features many movies based on novels, but my local library only has two: A Shoe Addict's Christmas and The Second Sister. My hold on A Shoe Addict's Christmas came in first, so here we go ...

Friday, October 19, 2018

First Line Fridays: "Shelter of the Most High"

Happy Friday! Since it's fall, I thought my First Line Fridays graphic needed a little update—the old one looked very summerish. This one should last me through both fall and winter 😊.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Review: "Enchanting Nicholette" by Dawn Crandall

After Dawn Crandall's The Cautious Maiden released two years ago, I assumed The Everstone Chronicles had reached their end. But then Crandall announced that Enchanting Nicholette would continue the story, so of course I had to read it 🙂.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Review: "Hidden Peril" by Irene Hannon

I'm a big fan of Irene Hannon's Hope Harbor series, which reminds me of Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove. I knew that Hannon also wrote romantic suspense, but I'd never read any of hers ... until now. I had no idea what I was missing!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Review: "Rose in Three Quarter Time" by Rachel McMillan

A few weeks ago, my Twitter feed started blowing up with mentions of Rose in Three Quarter Time. I didn't really know much about it, but when I looked it up and saw that it 1) only cost 99¢ and 2) featured a marriage of convenience (my favorite trope ever), I decided to get it.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Review: "A Tale of Two Hearts" by Michelle Griep

After recently reading 12 Days at Blakely Manor, I couldn't wait to continue the Once upon a Dickens Christmas series with A Tale of Two Hearts!

Friday, October 5, 2018

First Line Fridays: "A Tale of Two Hearts"

Happy Friday! It's been a long week, thanks in part to the marathon Cubs game on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning ... which ended (finally!) after 13 innings. It didn't go the way I wanted and ended the Cubs' season. And, while I wish they could've gone all the way (or at least beyond the Wild Card), I'm also kind of relieved ... because I'll be getting WAY more sleep this October than I did the last two Octobers! I've also enjoyed watching some stress-free baseball over the last couple of days, and I'm struck once again just how strange it is that I like baseball. I love the Cubs, but I actually enjoy baseball even when the Cubs aren't involved. I guess people really can change 🤣.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Review: "The Christmas Heirloom" by Karen Witemeyer, Kristi Ann Hunter, Sarah Loudin Thomas, & Becky Wade

I love a good Christmas novella. I love Becky Wade's writing. So when the two combine, well, that's magic 😃.

The Christmas Heirloom: Four Holiday Novellas of Love through the Generations is a collection of novellas, written by four popular inspy fiction writers, spanning from the 1820s through today. All are loosely connected to the others, and all are delightful.

Monday, October 1, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (10-1-18)

It's Monday again ... and it's been a Monday, if you know what I mean. My day started out at the dentist, where I learned what I feared: I have a cracked tooth. It's apparently not terrible yet, so we can take a watch and wait approach, but eventually I'll need a crown. Joy.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Review: "Little Women" (2018)

Little Women has long been one of my favorite stories. I don't think I've ever actually read the whole book, but I've loved several movie adaptations. When I heard about this new modern adaptation, I was intrigued but nervous ... after all, the dreadful The March Sisters at Christmas was a modernization, and after I saw it, I called it "the worst movie I've seen this [Christmas] season."

I needn't have worried—this is how you adapt a classic for a modern audience!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Written by Favorite Authors that I Still Haven't Read

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is all about books by favorite authors that I haven't read yet. For this list, I'm not counting any yet-to-be-released books (even though I do have some advanced reading copies in my possession); these are all previously published books that I haven't gotten to yet.

I've decided to organize these by author, as several favorite authors have multiple books in their backlists that I haven't read yet. I'm sure I'm forgetting something/someone, too ... these are just the first 10 books that came to mind.

Monday, September 24, 2018

2018 Tackle Your TBR Read-a-thon: Wrap Up

Another Tackle Your TBR Read-a-thon is over! Statistically, I did better this year than last year, as I read 50% of the books on my list! I also read exactly the same number of books as I did last year ... I was just more realistic in my goals this time around!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Review: "12 Days at Bleakly Manor" by Michelle Griep

Fans of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None and the movie Clue will find much to enjoy in 12 Days at Bleakly Manor.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Review: "The Orphan's Wish" by Melanie Dickerson

Ah, Hagenheim. I absolutely love every chance I get to visit Melanie Dickerson's medieval kingdom! When I learned that her latest Fairy Tale Romance would be about Aladdin, well, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. You see, Aladdin is my favorite Disney movie, so I already knew I loved the basic story—I just didn't know how Dickerson would adapt it!

Friday, September 21, 2018

First Line Fridays: "Lies We Tell Ourselves"

It's finally Friday!!! Unfortunately, I don't have much of a weekend—I'm subbing in my school's girls dorm on Saturday, and I have to spend my afternoon on Sunday helping the student council decorate for Homecoming. (Ah, the joys of being an activity sponsor.) And I really need to mow my lawn somewhere in there ...

This week, I'm sharing the first line of the novel I just finished reading: Amy Matayo's Lies We Tell Ourselves. It's a fantastic book that I highly recommend!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Review: "Lies We Tell Ourselves" by Amy Matayo

I've been on the Amy Matayo train for a while now—Lies We Tell Ourselves is her tenth book, and I've read roughly half of them. One thing I love about her books is that you never know what you're going to get! Maybe the book will be dark and serious (The Whys Have It), maybe it will be light and funny (The Thirteenth Chance), or maybe it will fall somewhere in between (Christmas at Gate 18). What's a given, though, is that the book will be totally engaging!

Lies We Tell Ourselves is no different—it's a book that captures you from the beginning and doesn't let go until long after you've turned the final page.

Monday, September 17, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (9-17-18)

Happy Monday! When I woke up this morning, my very first thought was, "What day is it? Why is my alarm going off?" It really felt like today should be Saturday or Sunday ... but certainly not Monday! That's because my weekend was unusual: my mom, sister, and I drove down to the Kansas State Fair on Saturday and drove back home yesterday.

2018 Tackle Your TBR Read-a-thon: Kick-off

It's time again for the annual Tackle Your TBR Read-a-thon! I enjoyed participating last year (even though I bit off more than I could chew), and I've been looking forward to this year's event.

Because this year's read-a-thon is just a week (instead of two), I'm scaling back my goals to something that's hopefully manageable!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Review + Giveaway: "Unbroken: Path to Redemption"

Remember the story of Louis Zamperini? If you've read the book Unbroken, you probably know the whole story. But if you've only seen the movie? Well, that ended with a large portion of Zamperini's story yet untold! Unbroken: Path to Redemption picks up where Unbroken left off, and as soon as I heard about it, I knew I wanted to know (as Paul Harvey would say) "the rest of the story."

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Review: "Formula of Deception" by Carrie Stuart Parks

I used to love reading thrillers; Mary Higgins Clark was a favorite of mine as a teen, and in more recent years I've enjoyed books by Ted Dekker, Lis Wiehl, and Creston Mapes. But somewhere along the way, I got tired of thrillers. They're often dark, and I don't particularly like feeling tense while I'm reading. So I transitioned into romantic suspense—usually heavier on the romance, lighter on the suspense—with novels by Dani Pettrey, Terri Blackstock, and Lynette Eason.

Then I started hearing about Carrie Stuart Parks. Formula of Deception didn't sound like romantic suspense to me, but it did sound interesting, so I decided to give it a shot. I'm very glad I did!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Hidden Gems on My Bookshelf

Happy Tuesday! If you read my It's Monday! post yesterday, you know that I wasn't sure if Monday would truly be happy ... from a baseball point of view. And it wasn't. The Cubs and Brewers are at it again tonight, and I'm hoping for a much better outcome!

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic is "Hidden Gems," and I'm taking this topic and making it my own. So today I'm highlighting ten books I pulled from my bookshelf that should be really good, but I haven't read them yet! But I'll tell you why I think I'd like them 😃. All the books are several years old, and I only remember one of them being heavily promoted when it released (which is why I bought it), but I haven't heard anything about it in a long time.

Monday, September 10, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (9-10-18)

Happy Monday! Well, it may be a happy Monday ... we'll know in about an hour. September baseball is not for the feint of heart, that's for sure! The Cubs bullpen is a hot mess right now, and I cringe every time certain pitchers take the mound. (Perhaps this is early panicking on my part—after all the Cubs still hold the best record in the National League. But those pesky Brewers are right on their tails ...) Anyway, on to the books, shall we?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

What's Val Reading? (August 2018)

Happy September! It's beginning to feel like fall, and I am here. for. it.

Let the record show that Val sent this to me on August that fact that it's being published on September 9 is no one's fault but my own! Here's what she read last month.

Review: "A Daring Venture" by Elizabeth Camden

I absolutely loved A Dangerous Legacy, the first book in Elizabeth Camden's Empire State series, when I read it last year. So of course I jumped at the chance to read the sequel, A Daring Venture!

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Review: "Hidden Among the Stars" by Melanie Dobson

In the last several years, split time (time-slip, dual timeline) novels have become quite popular. When done well, the combination of contemporary fiction with historical feels like it's the best of both worlds! One author who writes excellent split time fiction is Melanie Dobson, so I was quite eager to get my hands on her new book, Hidden Among the Stars.

Friday, September 7, 2018

First Line Fridays: "Hidden Among the Stars"

Happy Friday! Why do holiday weeks feel so much longer than other weeks? I didn't have to work on Monday ... and Tuesday through Thursday felt interminably long. So I'm thrilled to be approaching the weekend!

This week, I'm spotlighting my current read, Melanie Dobson's Hidden Among the Stars. This is a split-time novel set in Nazi-occupied Austria and present day America.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Review: "Dark Matter" by Blake Crouch

I remember hearing about Dark Matter when it released ... at the time, I'd just started watching a TV show called Dark Matter (see my thoughts on the show here), and I made the (erroneous) assumption that the two were connected. Well, they're both sci-fi ... and that's where the similarities end!

About a month ago, Dark Matter was deeply discounted on Kindle. After asking my sister if I'd like it (she said yes), I pulled the trigger. Flash forward to my trip to San Francisco last month. On my first flight, I was looking for something to read, and, shock of all shocks, I wasn't feeling YA or inspy romance. So I started Dark Matter and got swept into a really intriguing story.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: TV Shows I've Binge Watched

Oh, how I love when a Top Ten Tuesday post is about television! I'm a bit of a TV junkie ... my earliest memory of being addicted to a TV show was when I was about five years old, and I would rush home from supper to turn on The Cosby Show. (My parents were dorm parents at a boarding school, so we ate in the cafeteria.) This topic, Bingeworthy TV shows, makes me very happy!

Monday, September 3, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (9-3-18)

Happy Monday! And, for those of you in the United States, Happy Labor Day! Labor Day has always been one of my favorite holidays, not for the meaning behind it (I'll be honest: I don't know the history behind Labor Day) but for the day off it represents. When I was younger, my family always went camping with a couple other families over Labor Day Weekend, and it was such fun! Now, I just love that it's an extra day off after the first few weeks of school 😊.

Friday, August 31, 2018

First Line Fridays: "A Worthy Rebel"

Hallelujah, it's Friday! And Monday is Labor Day for those of us in the States, so it's a three-day weekend! Considering I just was on vacation last week (to San Francisco—see more here), I probably shouldn't be quite so excited, but I'm thrilled to have Monday off!

I'm hoping to make great progress painting my parents' kitchen cabinets ... a project my mom and I have been working on (and off and on) since April. And the first Husker football game of the season is on Saturday! Plus, there's always baseball (Go Cubs Go!). I'm also hoping to get some reading done.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Review: "A Worthy Rebel" by Jody Hedlund

I realize I'm like a broken record when it comes to Jody Hedlund's medieval YA romances, but it's true: THIS is the type of book our teens should be reading!

Monday, August 27, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (8-27-18)

Happy Monday! This blog was absolutely silent over the last week ... because I was on vacation! My college roommate Jodi and her husband invited me along on a trip to San Francisco. We were only there for two full days (three nights), but it was so fun!

Going into the trip, there was only one thing I absolutely "had" to do (besides reconnecting with Jodi): find the Full House house! Turns out, it was just a couple blocks from our Airbnb.

Monday, August 20, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (8-20-18)

Happy Monday! It almost feels like I should be wishing you a Happy Fall, too ... it's 66°, cloudy, and windy, and it certainly feels like fall. (Crazy—in a few months, 66° will feel like a heat wave!)

School started last Tuesday, which made for a crazy week, and I hardly read a thing. I should have lots of reading opportunities over the next few days, so hopefully my list will be longer next week!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Review: "A Rumored Fortune" by Joanna Davidson Politano

Last fall, I read Joanna Davidson Politano's debut novel, Lady Jayne Disappears. I loved it so much that it made my yearly top ten list. So it was with great anticipation that I picked up her sophomore novel, A Rumored Fortune.

Friday, August 17, 2018

First Line Fridays: "A Rumored Fortune"

Happy Friday! We've made it through the first week of school! (Well, almost. I have to go back to school at 8:30 for a Student Council event—I'm the sponsor, and we're showing a movie outdoors after the sports scrimmages.)