July 31, 2017
So, yes, I do realize that summer is been here for weeks and weeks (believe me, I only have to step outside into that yucky humidity to realize it!) and that everybody and their neighbor already did one of these lists. But I'm just behind the times, okay? :) Actually, many moons ago on Instagram, a friend suggested that I should write a summer reading list and I totally meant to get it written long before now. Alas! So, here I am finally. (Hope you enjoy it, April! :)
Just to clarify some things officially (because I know I've ranted over these sorts of lists before), these are a few of my very favorite stories. Ones that I reread multiple times a year (meaning that I skim through all my favorite scenes again usually), and ones that I have been known to recommend to lots of people when they ask for recs. You may or may not agree with my list, so these books are NOT "have to" reads, they are Kara's favorites. :D
(But you know, if you happen to try one or three and really like them, then you're welcome. ;)
On with the list, how about it....
1. The Q by Beth Brower ~ historical fiction that is fabulously written and has one of my very favorite characters ever!
2. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater ~ fantastical setting that feels very vivid and atmospheric, plus characters I fell in love with.
3. Barefoot Summer by Denise Hunter ~ a swoony romance that builds very naturally, as well as characters learning about forgiveness of others and of self.
4. The Maya Davis series :: Cool Beans, Latte Daze, Double Shot by Erynn Mangum ~ one of my favorite friends-to-lovers romances with lots of laughter, coffee, and chocolate!
5. Can't Help Falling by Kara Isaac ~ C.S. Lewis' Narnia references!!! Enough said. ;)
6. The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof ~ EXCELLENT historical fiction! I cannot recommend this story too many times!
7. The Savannah series :: Savannah From Savannah, Savannah Comes Undone, Savannah By the Sea by Denise Hildreth ~ because Savannah is awesome, friends. The character and the city!
8. My Hands Came Away Red by Lisa McKay ~ a story that will grab your heart, break it to pieces, and put it all back together albeit changed for the better.
9. The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery ~ I think everyone needs to meet Valancy at least once!
10. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen ~ it will make you dream of being at the beach even if you're in the dead of winter! Besides which, the lessons learned are bittersweet at times and the slow building romance is super adorable. The quintessential beach read! (in my opinion. ;)
What would be on your mid-summer reading list?
July 30, 2017
Once, in my father's bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later—no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget—we will return. ~ Carlos Ruiz Zafón
July 27, 2017
Hello, my lovelies! I am so, so happy to share a wonderful story with y'all today. :) I had the immense privilege of actually meeting Julie Lessman in person last summer and let me just say that she is a delight! I'd had her books on my radar for quite some time, but it wasn't until hearing her speak about the personal ties this particular series is based around that I knew I had to read her stories. And I have been anything but disappointed! They just have a way of wrapping around my heart. :) So let's get to the fun stuff, shall we?
I was uncertain what I would think about Cat, herself, when I started this book. Considering how much I loved Shannon, her twin in Love Everlasting, and how much Shannon loves Cat, I had a hunch she'd probably grow on me and oh how she did! Cat is so very lovable, yet she has no idea how much. Because of lies she's believing about herself, she ends up making a few bad choices which could've led her somewhere terrible. Yet it's that very lovableness about her that keeps her family and friends from giving up! And it's her inherent "Cat"-ness that made me wish I could be her friend in real life, the fact that she keeps choosing the hard road, yet deep inside she hasn't really forgotten hope. She thinks she has, she thinks she's gone off the deep end and is drowning, but she hasn't. Not really. Hope is still clinging fiercely, no matter how she tries to deny it.
It's that hope that Chase sees in her that makes certain he never gives up on her. But his journey isn't over yet either, he has his own lessons to learn. (Which made me happy that we get to see things from his perspective as well! I loved being able to spend some time in his head, especially when he was around Cat.) Watching these two characters stumble their way around each other, trying to deny their attraction, failing miserably at that (because the entire world can see it! These two have crazy chemistry, folks. Seriously! ;), and building a true friendship in spite of it all, it just warmed my heart. Even as Chase struggles to keep his attraction settled so that he can focus on Cat's heart, my own heart absolutely swooned at how well he cared for her. The rapport between them, the way they trust each other no matter what, simply the way Chase was constantly building her up and refusing to let Cat dwell on the negatives, I loved every bit of it! But seriously, you can't convince me that Cat's family didn't have ulterior motives when it came to throwing she and Chase together in the beginning. They may have said that it was all due to their worry for Cat, but I just can't imagine they didn't want the relationship to blossom for more reasons than that! ;D
One of the aspects of the novel that I particularly enjoyed, about as much as the swoony romance itself, is the idea of forgiveness and how, sometimes, we can harbor bitterness and anger and be totally unaware of it. So much truth that the characters learned spoke to my own heart! And isn't that what a story should do? Entertain the reader, for sure, but go so much deeper and help us to perchance begin to understand ourselves? Kudos to Ms. Lessman for delving into her own heart in order to bring an entire series about HOPE that inspires those like me! :) And also for bringing back memories of my own trip to Savannah and how much I love that historic district. Reading this story just made me want to go back all the more! So be sure to check this one out, friends. I really think you won't be disappointed! :)
**I received a complimentary copy via Singing Librarian Books. All opinions expressed are my own.
She cried her heart out for a solid ten minutes until her heaves thickened and slowed, the front of his shirt near sopping. He rubbed her arms. “Feel better?” His lips tipped when she allowed a few jerky nods against his chest, and fishing out a wad of tissues, he nudged them into her hands. “Here. My shirt is soaking wet, kiddo, and I’m a little worried it’s not all saltwater.”
“It’s not,” she said with a soggy smile, promptly blowing her nose several times. She blotted a handful of fresh tissues against the wet spot on his shirt. “One of the pitfalls of being a pastor, I suppose.”
“Or a good friend,” he said softly, wondering if she had any inkling how attracted he was to her. He hoped not because Cat was the type of woman who would use that to her advantage, and he couldn’t afford that. He’d worked too hard at keeping his distance.
A lesson learned the hard way.
“Hey,” he said with a duck of his head, compassion warm in his eyes, “wanna talk about it?”
With a soft moan, she flopped back against the console seat like a ragdoll. Resting her head, she stared up at a section of the headliner that was just beginning to buckle on the roof of his car, arms limp at her sides. “What’s there to talk about? My lifeline is gone, so I have to learn to go it alone, I guess, without Shannon there every minute of every day.”
“Hey, you still have Davey and your mom and Ben, with Jack and Lacey right next door,” he said, hoping to remind her how lucky she was to have the family she had.
A groan ground from her lips. “Oh, super. A twenty-six-year-old spinster in the same house with mommy, daddy, and little brother. One, I might add, who has to wear earplugs at night so she can’t hear what’s going on in her newlywed mother’s room.” A shiver rumbled her shoulders. “No, thanks. And Jack and Lacey are just as bad when they come over, always playing kissy-face.” Her nose lifted in a scrunch. “Face it, Rev, I might as well be alone.”
“Not alone,” he said carefully, pausing long enough to make a point. “There is another lifeline, you know.”
A low groan slipped past her lips as one eyelid edged up. “You’re not going to start talking to me about God, are you?”
He grinned as he reached toward the cup holders beneath the dash, handing her coffee over before he took a sip of his own. “I’m a pastor, Catfish, what do you think?”
She sat up and snatched the cup with a stubborn bent to her chin. “Well, I’m not on speaking terms with God right now, so you can just shelve the sermon till Sunday.”
His smile faded as he studied a profile that could have been etched in stone. “How ’bout shouting terms then? He’ll take whatever He can get, Catherine,” he said quietly, “because His love for you never changes no matter what you say or how you say it.”
“Ha! Sure not willing to test a lightning bolt on that one, Rev, not with a God who’s burned me before.” She took a quick glug of her coffee, gaze hard and fixed straight ahead.
She swiveled to face him, mouth gaping. “How? A God who allows my father—a man devoted to Him, no less—to abandon his family, then turns right around and does it all over again with cancer?” She issued a grunt. “Sorry, but that doesn’t inspire a whole lot of trust in me.”
“The affair was your father’s choice, Cat, not God’s,” he said quietly.
She scorched him with a glare. “But He didn’t stop him!” she screamed, the cup quivering in her hand. “Anymore than He stopped Lacey from stabbing me in the back when she’d been my best friend, or Kyle from dumping me in college because I was too blinkin’ pure. I did nothing wrong!” she shouted, “and He’s supposed to be God, all powerful, all loving! He could have stopped Dad, but He didn’t! Yes, the burden of sin was on Dad’s shoulders, but tell me, Chase, what did Mom, Jack, Shan, and I do to deserve having our hearts and lives ripped apart at the seams? All we ever did was honor God, loving Him and trusting Him like Dad always taught us to do.”
She straightened slowly, shoulders squaring almost imperceptibly while that formidable chin rose, as defiant as the gleam of anger in her eyes. “But your so-called loving God did nothing, so tell me, Chase, please, because I really want to know. What good is a God who hangs His own out to dry?” Turning away, she held the cup with both hands, body trembling while rivulets of tears slithered her face.
So that was the crux of her pain, then. Chase exhaled a quiet sigh. He thought so. It had been Jack’s beef with God when Chase had confronted him last year and now apparently Cat’s too. The root of rebellion shackled to their greatest fear.
That God didn’t really love them at all.
Author of The Daughters of Boston, Winds of Change, and Heart of San Francisco series, Julie was named American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and has garnered 18 Romance Writers of America and other awards. Voted #1 Romance Author of the year in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards, Julie was also named on Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction and Borders Best Fiction list.
Julie’s most recent novel, Isle of Hope was voted on Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2015, and Surprised by Love appeared on Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2014. Her independent novel A Light in the Window is an International Digital Awards winner, a 2013 Readers' Crown Award winner, and a 2013 Book Buyers Best Award winner. Julie has also written a self-help workbook for writers entitled Romance-ology 101: Writing Romantic Tension for the Sweet and Inspirational Markets. You can contact Julie through her website and read excerpts from each of her books at www.julielessman.com.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
July 23--Singing Librarian Books
July 24--Faithfully Bookish
July 25--Remembrancy | Reading Is My SuperPower
July 26--Paulette's Papers | Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen
July 27--Flowers of Quiet Happiness | Faery Tales Are Real
July 28--The Green Mockingbird
July 29--Radiant Light | Cafinated Reads
July 26, 2017
A Look at What I've Been Reading This Year
I saw this tag over at Feminist Fairy Tale Reviews, who saw it at Quinn's Book Nook, so obviously the idea isn't mine. But I thought it looked like a fun way to look back over the books I've read so far in 2017, so here I am! :)
1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2017
Oh boy, I have to pick only one? How about two? For differing reasons, both stories absolutely delighted me! :)
2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2017
When I looked back, I realized I've really only read one sequel this year, so it clearly has to be the winner. But it totally deserves it because I rather enjoyed reading it! :)
3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to
I am absolutely determined to get to this book before the end of the year! Surely I can, right? ;)
4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year
That's a no-brainer, for sure. I CANNOT WAIT FOR KATHERINE'S NEXT BOOK!!!!
I was really, really hoping I'd like this one and was severely disappointed that I wasn't impressed. :(
6. Biggest surprise
I'm not the biggest fan of mysteries, so I was completely unprepared to fall in love with this story!
7. Favorite new author. (Debut or new to you)
I was completely blown away by how very, very much I LOVED this book! SO good.
8. Newest fictional crush
Josh or John? I don't know. They both make my heart *happy dance*. :D
9. Newest favorite character
I really think Nora and Lane are my kindred spirits. I connected with so much of what both ladies experienced!
10. Book that made you cry
It isn't so much that the story is sad, there was simply a moment where my heart understood exactly what was written and the tears just flowed. A comforting thought, not a sad one.
11. Book that made you happy
Did I mention exactly how much I LOVED Lane??
12. Favorite book to film adaptation you saw this year
Beauty and the Beast isn't really a book, precisely, but I'm going to count it anyway. Because I loved this movie!! :)
13. Favorite review you’ve written this year
Oh goodness! That's a tough one. But I think I'm going with Life After, simply because that was the first book I've ever read that gave me such a huge emotional response which required I immediately sit down and write my review after finishing the story!
14. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)
I've had my eye on several editions of this book, but when I saw this one I knew I didn't need to look further. It's a keeper! :)
15. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?
I have this one for review, so I NEED to get to it really soon!
July 14, 2017
drinking hot tea
trees rustling in the wind
convos with friends
long and tight hugs
dreaming of trips to come
warm smiles from strangers
long roads with mountains
bright and cheerful flowers
text messages from friends
the sound of turning pages
hearing "I love you"
lyrics that understand
the quiet of nature
hearing someone laugh
holding a newborn
knowing that someone misses you
discovering words for feelings
receiving a letter/card in the mail
eating watermelon outside
reminiscing with friends
black and white photographs
knowing it's Friday! :)
July 13, 2017
Hello, my lovelies! Long time no talk. I'm still here! Though I'm sure you've been in doubt. Completely understandable! Life has been....interesting for me this year and it seems so many things I love have gotten pushed to the side. And I don't like it. I keep hoping to restart blogging, as well as a few other things, but something always seems to happen to prevent it. So. Whether I'm here for a while or just a couple posts....I'm not certain. But I'm going to try and begin posting a little more regularly again! Hope with me, how about it? :)
Meanwhile, on to the mini reviews...
The opportunity to review this one came up and it intrigued me. It's a story very much out of my usual comfort zone, but that can be a good thing! So I said "Why not?", and here I am, striving for words to describe my feelings. It's an interesting premise for sure! I absolutely must commend Ms. Coble for creating this very Gothic atmosphere, for one thing. I could feel the same unease and confusion about everything that Alanna was feeling. I wasn't certain what was going on exactly and I knew it didn't feel quite right. So kudos to her for affecting my emotions so vividly! It was enough to keep me turning the pages to find out how it all would end.
Yet I have to admit to not quite enjoying the entire story at the same time. Alanna bugged me several times, with how she'd react to things. And overall, the weirdness of the plot just wasn't something I found very pleasing. It was simply a bit too odd for my liking, I suppose. I've never been a huge fan of Gothic-type stories, but I was hoping this one would be an exception. Sadly, not. But if you enjoy those sorts of stories yourself, this may just be right up your alley! Especially if eerie and atmospheric mysteries fascinate you. :)
**I received a complimentary copy via Netgalley. All opinions expressed are my own.
I have to hand it to Ms. Connealy. She was able to convince this non-western-reader to read a western and thoroughly enjoy myself! :) And how she did it was her brand of humor. I laughed so many times during this story! (Probably even during moments that aren't supposed to be funny exactly, but so many lines just tickled my funny bone. :) My favorite bits are watching Justin and Angie dance around their attraction. They slowly began opening up to each other and the sweetness of their interactions just made my heart swoon.
The mystery aspects are sufficiently mysterious and the cast of characters are simply wonderful (except for the villains, naturally ;). I loved the Boden family as a whole! They rank high on my list of favorite families now because the way they love and care for each other is so completely heart-warming. I also have to say that, as I haven't read book one yet, I was glad Ms. Connealy offered up just enough information that I wasn't entirely lost. Especially since I got the feeling things in the beginning pretty much pick up where No Way Up left off. So while I think there were a few times it would have been helpful to read the books in order, it's okay if you don't. Which I'm grateful for because now I'm ready for book one and book three! :)
**I received a complimentary copy via Bethany House. All opinions expressed are my own.
July 12, 2017
I admit to not quite being sure I liked Laila in book one, but I was intrigued by her. She's one tough cookie, this lady! :) Watching as she struggles to figure out how lovable she truly is and to be able to forgive herself, as well as Chad, is a beautiful redemption. It's a hard road to get there, but once she arrives...ah my heart! It broke so many times during this story, but by the final pages it was mended whole again. And Chad. So many times I wanted to shake him! But as he grew stronger in his faith walk, so, too, did my appreciation for him. Neither he nor Laila have it easy, but they refused to give in completely and became wonderful examples of hope!
The title of the book truly describes what happens during the story. For all the hard and yucky things these characters have to endure, their friends, and ultimately their Father above, refuse to let them surrender! And hope is reborn again and again, much like our real lives. That's what I love most about Ms. Gray's stories, I think. The rawness of the emotions felt, the very real heartbreak that exists and is so easily related to. The layers upon layers in the characters, who never seem to fit into just one box of personality, precisely how we human beings are. We're complicated! And her characters show it. She writes about serious things, things we've either experienced or possibly know someone who has. She takes her readers to difficult places, yet never lets us forget that love never gives up. That grace and mercy and forgiveness are actually possible, no matter how impossible they may seem!
And she ends it all with hope of the good yet to come in the characters lives long after the final pages are closed. The reader only has to trust where she intends the journey to go. And it's worth it, friends. Believe me. :)
**I received a complimentary copy from the author via Netgalley. All opinions expressed are my own.
You can try and fight, and maybe even sometimes succeed, but without faith, you cannot call it freedom. It's simply bondage on hold.
Grief so crippling that on days like today, she began to doubt whether she'd ever truly be whole again.
She wanted from him the same thing he expected from Laila. Forgiveness. Something so simple, yet so impossibly hard.
She'd been fighting all this time to stay in control. But maybe that was the problem. Maybe it was time to give all of herself to a God who had never rejected or abandoned her.
July 11, 2017
First, let's talk about Mallory. I cannot even imagine going through a tenth of what this girl has endured! The sheer terror of her life before the story begins permeates everything in her present day. Which is only to be expected, because I don't think one just "gets over" that sort of thing. Human trafficking is a terrible and awful evil, but I absolutely loved her determination to survive despite it all. She is so fiercely driven to live, as well as make sure no one else experiences what she did. To face all the emotions and "stuff" she has to in order to become hope for someone else? That takes a tremendous lot of strength, of which Mallory has in spades. Can you tell I liked her? I really, really wanted to jump in her story (at the very end, of course, after all the action, because hello, I'm a wimp! ;), hug her tight, and give her someone else to lean on. Not that Tennyson isn't enough for her though. Because wow, that man!
Tennyson is certainly hero material. I loved how he knew just the right amount of caring and encouragement that Mallory needed. Plus he's just really good at keeping an eye on her. For more reasons than one. He's not perfect, but goodness is he ever perfect for her! For all the tension due to the constant threats, Ms. Barritt also created some serious chemistry between these two people, I swooned fairly often as they grew closer. Her ability to keep both the romantic tension and the whodunit balanced is so well done! Definitely a big reason I'm a fan of her writing. :)
There's simply no way to sit down with this story and not devour it all in one sitting. I read much too late in the night (jumping at all the creaking noises in my house, so....not recommended for late night reads if you're a scaredy-cat like me! ;), and closed the final pages with a happy sigh. A thrill ride from start to finish, I remain a huge fan of Ms. Barritt's after this story! And happily anticipate her next one, whenever it comes out...
**I received a complimentary copy from the author via Netgalley. All opinions expressed are my own.
Like water, love had the power to sustain life or to devastate it.
Darkness can blind you, but one flicker of light drives away the night and changes everything. The smallest flame can help us see what we couldn't see before.
Someone once told me you can't be a victor and a victim at the same time. I choose to be a victor.
No matter how painful, it's only after you face the truth that you can find healing.