Top Ten Tuesday: Best Reads of 2018…So Far

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday has us looking back at the first six months of 2018 and remembering our favorite reads so far.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows: I almost didn’t read this book. Honestly, I shudder when I think of how close I came to not experiencing this tale. When it comes to personal reading preferences, this book had several strikes against it — a historical fiction novel written entirely in the form of letters. I am so glad I ventured out of my preferred genres and style because I not only discovered what is so far my favorite read of 2018, but a top read period. It also allowed me to meet Dawsey Adams AKA Eli’s dream man in so many ways.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate: Talk about heart-wrenching! Wingate runs her readers’ emotions through the ringer while still managing to insert beauty amidst the suffering. Though a work of fiction, the novel also taught me about real-life, historical events. I love it when a story does that!

100 Days to Brave by Annie F. Downs: The only non-fiction in this list, this devotional is probably my favorite to date. I loved the bite-sized, motivating entries that encouraged me to rewire my brain and start being more intentional about stepping out of my comfort zone and doing things despite fear.

The Esther Paradigm by Sarah Monzon: One word — Karim! Goodness does that man know the words to a woman’s heart. WARNING: Reading this story will make a person want to trade in their air-conditioned home and car for a tent and camel.

Love in Three Quarter Time by Rachel McMillan: A story that can so thoroughly transport me to another place and culture that I’m jarred to discover I never left my chair is a win in my book.

Dead Drift by Dani Pettrey: I’ve only been waiting since 2016 to find out why Luke vanished and who killed Griffin’s sister. The agony has ended, I finally know, and now my nails can grow back again. (Psst, isn’t Luke a handsome fellow?)

What have been your favorite reads of 2018 so far?


Top Ten Tuesday: 5 Books I Hated (or Disliked) but am Glad I Read.

In this week’s Top Ten Tuesday we explore books we disliked/hated but are glad we read — even if only for bragging rights. However, I could only come up with five, since I usually don’t finish a novel I hate or am not happy if forced to finish it.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy: In high school, I decided to tackle this mammoth of a book. No, nobody made me. It wasn’t required reading. I just wanted to. I’m not going to lie, the endless pages recounting the war proved challenging to wade through, but I became immersed in the parts surrounding Natasha, her friends and family, and of course, Prince Andrei. (Spoiler alert ahead!) However, when I made it to the end of all 1420+ pages only for her to ditch Prince Andrei and go off with Pierre, I was spitting mad. So angry, in fact, that I have yet to forgive Natasha or the author to this day. #TeamAndrei

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: Unlike the previous classic, this one was required reading for a college class. I despised every minute of it. Tragic Russian literature is not my thing. Though I am glad I can say I read it, I hope I never have to look at it again.

Some stories take more than one reading to truly appreciate, as is the case with the ones listed below. They are actually favorites now.

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell: Richard Armitage. Best movie kiss ever! Needless to say, I ran out to find the book right after watching the BBC production. But after making my way through all 500+ pages and not encountering a single kiss, let alone the one of epic proportions portrayed in the movie, I was livid. A few years and countless re-watchings of the BBC period drama later, I decided to read it again. This time, prepared for the kissless story that lay ahead, I discovered I enjoyed the story and count it as one of my favorites because in the end, Mr. Thornton is still Mr. Thornton!

The Magic of the Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel: Be it my age, priorities in life at the time, or who knows what, the first time I read it, I was less than impressed. the tale just didn’t do it for me. However, I LOVE the Hallmark movie based on it. It’s one of, if not my all-time, favorites. So years later, I decided to re-read it, that time with very different results. I became engrossed with Livvy and Ray’s story, devouring it one sitting.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte: The first time I read it, I loathed the main characters. I found Gilbert Markham to be immature, shallow, obsessive, and even controlling. Helen Graham seemed vain and foolish (at least in her earlier years). By the end of the tale, Helen’s constancy and morals, made her grow on me. Though nowhere near as high on my list as North and South or The Magic of the Ordinary Days, a second reading some time later did have me pulling it from my figurative hate shelf to re-shelve it on the like one.

What books have you read that you hated/disliked but are glad you read?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Meant To Read In 2017

No matter how many books I read, the list of ones I don’t get to is even longer. For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday post, I will share ten books I wanted to read in 2017, but didn’t. Thankfully, I still can in 2018.

(1) If I’m Found (If I Run #2) by Terri Blackstock

Casey Cox is still on the run, fleeing prosecution for a murder she didn’t commit. Dylan Roberts—her most relentless pursuer—is still on her trail, but his secret emails insist that he knows the truth and wants to help her. He’s let her escape before when he had her in his grasp, but trust doesn’t come easily.

As Casey works to collect evidence about the real murderers, she stumbles on another unbearable injustice: an abused child and a suicidal man who’s also been falsely accused. Casey risks her own safety to right this wrong and protect the little girl from her tormentors. But doing so is risky and just may result in her capture—and if she’s captured, she has no doubt she’ll be murdered before she ever steps foot in a jail.

(2) Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize that the truth is much darker. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together—in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions—and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or redemption.

(3) The Esther Paradigm by Sarah Monzon

Hannah Pratt dreams of starting a school for the Bedouin clan she grew up with as a missionary kid, and finally her hopes are coming true. But shortly after she returns to the desert from her college years in the U.S., she discovers her parents have received threats from their Muslim neighbors. As the danger escalates, Hannah finds she’s in the middle of a battle no one seems to understand. She must decide to what lengths she’ll go to stay faithful to the mission to which God has called her. Even if it costs her everything.

As sheikh, Karim Al-Amir feels the weight of responsibility as the leader of his people. When a mysterious illness ravishes the clan’s flocks and threatens to destroy their centuries-old way of life, locals believe the American doctors and their daughter, his childhood friend, Hannah, are to blame. Karim must do something to keep them safe—even if the only solution can be found within marriage vows.

In a society where the line is drawn between us and them, Christianity is outlawed, and foreigners are mistrusted, will their union heal wounds or inflict the final fatal blow?

(4) Out of Darkness by Erynn Newman

Bride and a widow in the same day, Elisabeth’s prayers are about to be answered . . . if the CIA, international arms dealers, and her best friend don’t stand in the way.

Elisabeth Allen gave her heart to Jesus as a little girl and to Drew Marek as a teenager. When their wedding day finally arrives, it’s the happiest day of her life—until a bomb transforms her dream come true into a living nightmare.

As Best Man at the wedding, Gabriel Di Salvo promises Drew—his best friend and CIA partner—he’ll look after Elisabeth, but he never dreams it will become necessary so soon. As Elisabeth struggles to put the pieces of her life back together without Drew, Gabe becomes her rock, and as they share their grief and begin to heal, their friendship gradually deepens into something more.

Three years later, Gabe and Elisabeth are planning a future together when he receives a shocking call from the one man who can upend his happiness: Drew. Suspecting someone at the CIA is behind his abduction, Drew refuses to come home. Instead, he asks Gabe to bring Elisabeth to him. Now Gabe just has to figure out how to let her go.

Drew and Elisabeth race across Europe, dodging international arms dealers and attempting to reclaim what was stolen from them. But years of captivity and torture have left their mark on Drew. He is no longer the same boy Elisabeth fell in love with, but he is still Elisabeth’s husband, and she is determined to build something new and not allow her relationship with Gabe to come between them.

When their enemies close in and the threat of a terrorist attack escalates, Gabe may be the only person they can trust. Drew, Elisabeth, and Gabe are thrown into a fight for their lives—one that will test their loyalties to God, country . . . and each other.

(5) A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander

Despite her training as a master violinist, Rebekah Carrington was denied entry into the Nashville Philharmonic by young conductor Nathaniel Whitcomb, who bowed to public opinion. Now, with a reluctant muse and a recurring pain in his head, he needs her help to finish his symphony. But how can he win back her trust when he’s robbed her of her dream?

(6) Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter

When Noah and Josephine Mitchell discover their divorce was never actually finalized, their lives are turned upside down.

Following his divorce, Noah gave up his dream job, settling at a remote horse ranch in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia, putting much-needed distance between himself and the former love of his life. But then Noah gets a letter from the IRS claiming he and Josephine are still married. When he confronts Josephine for the first time in months, they discover that she missed the final step in filing the paperwork and they are, in fact, still married.

Josephine is no happier about the news than Noah. Maybe the failed marriage—and okay, the botched divorce—was her fault, but her heart was shattered right alongside his, more than he would ever believe. The sooner they put this marriage behind them, the better for both of their sakes.

But when Josephine delivers the final paperwork to his ranch, the two become stranded in his cottage during the worst spring snowstorm in a decade. Being trapped with Josephine is a test of Noah’s endurance. He wrestles with resentment and an unmistakable pull to his wife—still beautiful, still brave, and still more intriguing than any woman he’s ever known.

As they find themselves confronted with each other and their shared past, old wounds surface and tempers flare. But when they are forced out into the storm, they must rely on each other in a way they never have before. Josephine finally opens up about her tragic past, and Noah realizes she’s never been loved unconditionally by anyone—including him. Will Noah accept the challenge to pursue Josephine’s heart? And can she finally find the courage to trust Noah?

(7) The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck

Tenley Roth’s first book was a runaway bestseller. Now that her second book is due, she’s locked in fear. Can she repeat her earlier success or is she a fraud who has run out of inspiration?

With pressure mounting from her publisher, Tenley is weighted with writer’s block. But when her estranged mother calls asking Tenley to help her through chemotherapy, she packs up for Florida where she meets handsome furniture designer Jonas Sullivan and discovers the story her heart’s been missing.

A century earlier, another woman wrote at the same desk with hopes and fears of her own. Born during the Gilded Age, Birdie Shehorn is the daughter of the old money Knickerbockers. Under the strict control of her mother, her every move is decided ahead of time, even whom she’ll marry. But Birdie has dreams she doesn’t know how to realize. She wants to tell stories, write novels, make an impact on the world. When she discovers her mother has taken extreme measures to manipulate her future, she must choose between submission and security or forging a brand new way all on her own.

Tenley and Birdie are from two very different worlds, but fate has bound them together in a way time cannot erase.

(8) The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright

Kaine Prescott is no stranger to death. When her husband died two years ago, her pleas for further investigation into his suspicious death fell on deaf ears. In desperate need of a fresh start, Kaine purchases an old house sight unseen in her grandfather’s Wisconsin hometown. But one look at the eerie, abandoned house immediately leaves her questioning her rash decision. And when the house’s dark history comes back with a vengeance, Kaine is forced to face the terrifying realization she has nowhere left to hide.
A century earlier, the house on Foster Hill holds nothing but painful memories for Ivy Thorpe. When an unidentified woman is found dead on the property, Ivy is compelled to discover her identity. Ivy’s search leads her into dangerous waters and, even as she works together with a man from her past, can she unravel the mystery before any other lives–
including her own–are lost?

(9) Never Forget (Beacons of Hope #5) by Jody Hedlund

Rose Island Lighthouse, Rhode Island
June 1880

Will she betray his trust to stay on the island she loves?

Abbie Watson is content to spend her days clamming, crabbing, and tending Rose Island Lighthouse. Her grandpa is the head light keeper, but his senility may lead to their eviction. Since leaving the island would kill her beloved Gramps, Abbie will do anything to keep him in the one place he knows and loves.

Wealthy Nathaniel Winthrop III’s wild living has gained him a reputation as the ‘bad boy’ among the elite social circles of Newport. After a blow to the head in a yachting accident washes him up on Rose Island, Nathaniel has no memories of his past.

Abbie tends the wounded stranger in her home only to realize he assumes they’re married. Although she knows she needs to correct Nathaniel’s mistake, his presence calms Gramps and provides a way to prevent eviction from the lighthouse.

The longer the charade continues, the harder it gets for Abbie to tell Nathaniel the truth, more so as she begins to fall in love. Everyone she’s ever loved has abandoned her. Will Nathaniel leave her too, once he discovers he’s not really her husband?

(10) The Engagement Plot by Krista Phillips

Six months ago, William stole Hanna’s heart and shattered it in front of millions of people on a reality TV dating show. And now the big-wig CEO is back on Hanna’s home turf in Minnesota and wants her to forgive him? Fat chance of that. But life is swirling around faster than snow in a blizzard, and despite her objections, teaming up with William seems like the only option to rescue her reputation.

William has never regretted anything more than the day he gave that ill-fated interview for the reality show, The Price of Love. But while he can’t change the past, he’s determined to fix the future. He just needs to convince Hanna to forgive him—and pretend to be engaged with him. Simple, right?

When the media erupts with even worse accusations, teaming up and pretending to be engaged seems to be the only way to salvage their reputations.  Despite the media frenzy that swirls around them, an attraction neither of them can fight off begins to surface. Could this love run deeper than a scandal, or will old wounds tear them apart once and for all?  When all seems lost, it’s only with help from above that Hanna and Will may find their happily-ever-after.

What book(s) did you mean to read in 2017 but didn’t?

Top Ten Tuesday: Best 2017 Reads So Far

Can you believe we’re already six months into 2017? I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but here, summer has kicked in with a vengeance.

For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday post, I will share my favorite reads for the first half of 2017.


On Love’s Gentle Shore by Liz Johnson

The book in one word: Hopeful

Fifteen years after she left Prince Edward Island, Natalie O’Ryan had no plans to return. But when her fiancé, music producer Russell Jacobs, books their wedding in her hometown and schedules a summer at Rose’s Red Door Inn, she sets out to put the finishing touches on the perfect wedding. But she can’t possibly prepare for a run-in with Justin Kane–the best friend she left behind all those years ago after promising to stay.

Justin’s never forgotten Natalie or the music career he always dreamed of pursuing. He’d been prepared to follow her off the island until his dad died and he was left to run the family dairy farm. He’s done the best he can with the life that was thrust upon him–but with Natalie back in the picture, he begins to realize just how much joy he’s been missing.

After Natalie’s reception venue falls through, she must scramble to find an alternative, and the only option seems to be a barn on Justin’s property. As they work together to get the dilapidated building ready for the party, Natalie and Justin discover the groundwork for forgiveness–and that there may be more than an old friendship between them.

Rescue Me by Susan May Warren

The book in one word: Exhilarating

When Deputy Sam Brooks commits to something, nothing can sway him–not just on the job as liaison between the Mercy Falls sheriff’s department and PEAK Rescue, but in his private life. He’s the one who stuck around to take care of his mother after his father’s accidental death. And he’s the one–perhaps the only one–who believes Sierra Rose is the perfect girl for him. Safe, practical, and organized, she’s nothing like her hippie, impulsive, bleeding heart sister, Willow.

Willow, however, has been in love with Sam Brooks for as long as she can remember. But she wants her sister to have a happy ending. Besides, Willow has other things to focus on–namely, nabbing the job as youth pastor for her small-town church. Best thing for her to do is to purge Sam from her heart.

Neither can predict the events that will bring them together in a fight for their lives in the forbidding wilderness of Glacier National Park. Stranded, injured, and with the winter weather closing in, Sam and Willow will have to work together to save a crew of terrified teenagers. As they fight to survive, they might just discover a new hope for love.

Mystery & Suspense

If I Run by Terri Blackstock

The book in one word: Unputdownable

Casey knows the truth. But it won’t set her free.

Casey Cox’s DNA is all over the crime scene. There’s no use talking to police; they’ve failed her abysmally before. She has to flee before she’s arrested . . . or worse. The truth doesn’t matter anymore.

But what is the truthThat’s the question haunting Dylan Roberts, the war-weary veteran hired to find Casey. PTSD has marked him damaged goods, but bringing Casey back can redeem him. Though the crime scene seems to tell the whole story, details of the murder aren’t adding up.

Casey Cox doesn’t fit the profile of a killer. But are Dylan’s skewed perceptions keeping him from being objective? If she isn’t guilty, why did she run?

Unraveling her past and the evidence that condemns her will take more time than he has, but as Dylan’s damaged soul intersects with hers, he is faced with two choices: the girl who occupies his every thought is a psychopathic killer . . . or a selfless hero. And the truth could be the most deadly weapon yet.

Women’s Fiction

The Memory of You by Catherine West

The book in one word: Haunting

Thirteen years ago, Natalie lost a part of herself when her twin sister died. Will traveling back to the family winery finally put the memory to rest, or will it completely destroy her?

When Natalie Mitchell learns her beloved grandfather has had a heart attack, she’s forced to return to their family-owned winery in Sonoma, something she never intended to do. She’s avoided her grandparents’ sprawling home and all its memories since the summer her sister died—the awful summer Natalie’s nightmares began. But the winery is failing, and Natalie’s father wants her to shut it down. As the majority shareholder, she has the power to do so.

And Natalie never says no to her father.

Tanner Collins, the vintner on Maoilios, is trying to salvage a bad season and put the Mitchell family’s winery back in business. When Natalie shows up, Tanner sees his future about to be crushed. He knows Natalie intends to close the gates, and he’s determined to convince her otherwise. But the Natalie he remembers from childhood is long gone, and he’s not so sure he likes the woman she’s become. Still, the haunted look she wears hints at secrets he wants to unearth. He soon discovers that on the night her sister died, the real Natalie died too. And Tanner must do whatever it takes to resurrect her.

But finding freedom from the past means facing it. For both of them.

Historical Fiction

When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin

The book in one word: Sweet (Though the heroine would probably prefer useful or practical.)

When fun-loving glamour girl Quintessa Beaumont learns the Navy has established the WAVES program for women, she enlists, determined to throw off her frivolous ways and contribute to the war effort. No-nonsense and hoping to make admiral, Lt. Dan Avery has been using his skills to fight German U-boats. The last thing he wants to see on his radar is a girl like Tess. For her part, Tess works hard to prove her worth in the Anti-Submarine Warfare Unit in Boston–both to her commanding officers and to the man with whom she is smitten. When Dan is assigned to a new escort carrier at the peak of the Battle of the Atlantic, he’s torn between his lifelong career goals and his desire to help Tess root out a possible spy on shore. The Germans put up quite a fight, but he wages a deeper battle within his heart. Could Tess be the one for him?

With precision and pizazz, fan favorite Sarah Sundin carries readers through the rough waters of love in a time when every action might have unforeseen world-changing consequences.

Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz

The book in one word: Gripping

Morrow Little is haunted by the memory of the day her family was torn apart by raiding Shawnee warriors. Now that she is nearly a grown woman and her father is ailing, she must make difficult choices about the future. Several men–ranging from the undesired to the unthinkable–vie for her attentions, but she finds herself inexplicably drawn to a forbidden love that both terrifies and intrigues her. Can she betray the memory of her lost loved ones–and garner suspicion from her friends–by pursuing a life with him? Or should she seal her own misery by marrying a man she doesn’t love?

This sweeping tale of romance and forgiveness will envelop readers as it takes them from a Kentucky fort through the vast wilderness to the west in search of true love.

What are your favorite 2017 reads so far?


Top Ten Tuesday: Book Turn Offs

In this week’s Top Ten Tuesday we explore things that turn us off to a book. I’ve compiled a list of ten things that either make me run in the opposite direction or have me thinking long and hard before picking up the book.

1. Horror — I enjoy a good suspense novel. I even like a story that props me at the edge of my seat, my heart pounding in my chest. That being said, if a book crosses into horror territory, I’m out of there faster than a ten-year old at a haunted house.

2. Sex — Sex happens — in and out of marriage, among teens, old people, and every age in between. That doesn’t mean I need or want to read about it. Some things are better left to the reader’s imagination.

3. Gore — Speaking of things that are better left to the imagination — graphic gore and violence. Does the cop shoot the rapist? Does the serial killer stab another victim? Does the banker who’s lost it all dive from a skyscraper? The author can reveal how and why without showing every itty-bitty detail. I don’t want to know where each speck of blood fell or what organs spilled out of the body.  

4. Bad language — It’s not that I don’t ever read a book with colorful language. A few authors I enjoy, who pen adrenaline-pumping suspense, sadly come at the expense of strong vocabulary. So I do my best to gloss over those words. However, if an author utilizes excessive bad language and it serves little purpose other than shock value, I’ll pass.

5. Sci-fi and 6. Fantasy — I know people who rave about these genres, but for some reason the fan boat passed me. With more books out there than I can possibly read in ten lifetimes, I’ll stick to genres that captivate me.

7. Sad endings — Tragic and painful things can happen in the book as long as I get my happy ending. Maybe it’s not realistic, but if I want sad, I have real life for that. When it comes to stories I want things to turn out okay.

8. Time travel — I’ve tried it in books, movies, and TV shows, but I just can’t get into it. Perhaps I can’t suspend belief long enough to immerse myself into the story, or maybe it’s because time travel often falls under the sci-fi and fantasy genres. Whatever the reason, the effect remains the same.

9. Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves, Angels, Demons, etc. — Books with these characters seem to be all the rage right now, but it’s one fad I just don’t get.

10. Biblical retellings — I’m not opposed to Biblical retellings, but I’m extremely picky. I understand that the Bible doesn’t provide all the details and I’m all for artistic license, but few things irk me more than when the author changes known facts.

What turns you off to reading a book?