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.

Romance

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?

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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?

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I’d Love to Meet

Who wouldn’t love to meet some of their favorite writers? As an aspiring author, I dream of taking those meetings a step further and turning them into brain-picking sessions. I want to uncover their secrets and discover the tools that have served them so well in creating some of my favorite stories.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a non-exhaustive list — you don’t want to be here all day, do you? — of some of those authors I’d love to meet in person.

 

1. Catherine West

If you spend any time around me or follow my blog, you’ve probably heard me mention Catherine West on multiple occasions. That’s because I’m completely captivated by her writing style. Her books pretty much check all the boxes my writing profs, mentor, critique partners, etc. tirelessly try to ingrain in me on how to create powerful stories. By the way, her latest novel releases TODAY! Congrats, Cathy! (Review)

 

2. Ronie Kendig

As someone who writes mystery/suspense, a fight scene or two is bound to appear in my WIP (work in progress). However, try as I might, my hero and villain make the three stooges look like fighting experts. (Trust me, that’s NOT the vibe I’m going for!) Ronie Kendig, fight-scene-writer extraordinaire, has not one, not two, or even three, but FOUR military suspense series under her belt, as well as a serial novel, a romantic suspense story, and more. I would love nothing more than to learn from her knowledge so I can turn my Moe, Larry, and Curly into Jason Bourne and Ethan Hunt. (Review)

 

3. Carla Laureano

I met James MacDonald in 2013. I am still swooning! I love the hero in my WIP, but I want my readers to as well. If the mention of his name still makes them sigh four years later, even better. So yes, I’d like to follow Laureano around until I can figure out her secret. (Review)

 

4. Lisa Gardner

For a hero to truly shine, he needs a worthy opponent, not simply a caricature intended to make him look good. Gardner creates some of the best — albeit bone-chilling — villains I’ve found in fiction. Their complexity, goals, and motivations rival the protagonists’ in strength, making them come to life a little too well. You really don’t want the electricity to go out while immersed in a Gardner novel. (Review)

 

5. Dani Pettrey

As my bookcase attests, my favorite genre is romantic suspense. Pettrey masterfully delivers both emotions. One second I’m pinned to the edge of the seat as someone targets the protagonists, but the next I’m grinning ear to ear as the hero and heroine finally admit their feelings. Of course, two seconds later Pettrey tips the balance again and I return to biting my nails. Her entire book turns into a seesaw of emotions that keep me flipping pages desperate to know what will happen next. (Review)

 

6. Pepper Basham

Humor is not my strong suit. Ask me to write suspense or romance, but please don’t ask me to make a scene funny. It will fall flat on its face. Basham’s unique sense of humor shines through her stories. Not a single page goes by where I don’t laugh at least once. I’m hoping that, if I could hang out with her, maybe a bit of that humor would rub off on me. (Review)

 

7. Liz Johnson

Though a new-to-me author last year, Johnson penned one of my favorite 2016/7 series the Prince Edward Island Dreams. I’d treasure the opportunity to quiz her on all things romance and exotic locations. (Review)

 

8. Sarah Sundin

Historical fiction has never been one of my go-to genres. Yet ever since I read With Every Letter, not only am I first in line to read every new Sundin novel, they have consistently been favorites. I don’t just like her stories, I LOVE them. I’m curious how she does that so I can hopefully accomplish the same with my own writing. (Review)

 

9. Jane Austen

From here on out, I’ve listed authors I won’t be meeting in this lifetime. However, how could I not include my all-time favorite author — the one who gave me Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Emma…and some of the most swoon-worthy heroes in all of history.

 

10. Elizabeth Gaskell

John Thornton. Enough said!

 

 

 

 

 

11. L. M. Montgomery

I tried to stop at 10. I really did! But I couldn’t close this list without mentioning Lucy Maud. After all, she’s the mastermind behind my first book crush — Gilbert Blythe.

 

What authors do you dream of meeting?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Just One More Page

Just one more page. How many times have you said those words? I have more times than I can count. And somehow, that one page turns into five, five into ten, ten into fifty, and before I know it I’m hitting a hundred “one more pages” and the clock encroaches on the hours reserved for bats and owls.

For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, I’m looking at six books I have read recently that have made the hours slip away as I neglected responsibilities and forfeited sleep.

1) The Memory of You by Catherine West (My review)

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 Mitchell shows up, Tanner sees his future about to be crushed. Natalie intends to close the gates, unless he can 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.

2) When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin

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?

3) Rescue Me by Susan May Warren

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.

4) Right Behind You by Lisa Gardner (My review)

Thirteen-year-old Sharlah Nash knows that the first time her brother killed eight years ago, he did it to save their lives.

Now retired FBI profiler Pierce Quincy and his wife Rainie Conner have offered Sharlah a new life of safety. She desperately wants to believe this is her shot at happily ever after.

Then two people are murdered in their local convenience store and Sharlah’s brother is identified as the killer.

Telly Ray Nash is on the hunt for Sharlah and as the death count rises it becomes clear that nothing and no one, including Pierce and Rainie, will stop him getting to her.

Now, Sharlah has one chance to take control.

She can run for her life… or turn and face the danger right behind her.

5) Conspiracy of Silence by Ronie Kendig (My review)

Four years after a tragic mission decimated his career and his team, Cole “Tox” Russell is persona non grata to the United States. And that’s fine–he just wants to be left alone. But when a dormant, centuries-old disease is unleashed, Tox is lured back into action.

Partnered with FBI agent Kasey Cortes, Tox has to pull together a team to begin a globe-spanning search for answers–and a cure. As their quest leads them from continent to continent, it slowly becomes clear they’re not just fighting a plague–but battling against an ancient secret society whose true goals remain hidden.

With time running out and opposition growing on every side, the key to everything may rest in an antique codex, the Crown of Jerusalem–but will Tox and his team be able to trust each other enough to break this century-spanning conspiracy of silence?

6) Second Impressions* by Pepper Basham

He likes streamline. She prefers embellishments. His forte is business. Hers is atmosphere. Will they realize each has what the other needs most to create the perfect romance with a touch of Jane Austen flair?

*Second Impressions is part of the Love at First Laugh novella compilation. I have not read the other stories yet, but they are in my TBR (to be read) pile.

 

What stories keep you pleading for just one more page?

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Places to Find Love

Love can flourish anytime, anywhere. But everyone knows, especially readers, that the right setting can go a long way toward welding two hearts together. For today’s Top Ten Tuesday, I asked friends and fellow readers to help me compile a list of romantic settings.

scotlandfive-days-in-skye

 

1) Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano — With a the rugged, blue-eyed Scotsman (who can cook no less!) vying for her heart against the backdrop of the Scottish landscape, Andrea never really stood a chance. Love was inevitable.pei

the-red-door-innWhere-Two-Hearts-Meet

 

2) The Red Door Inn and Where Two Hearts Meet by Liz Johnson — A quaint little inn, beautiful sandy beaches, the home of Anne of Green Gables, how can one not fall in love on Prince Edward Island? chapel-springsdancingwithfireflies

 

3) Dancing with Fireflies by Denise Hunter — In the Chapel Springs series, I probably fell as much in love with the small, fictional river town as I did its characters. Though Daniel Dawson takes the cake, three years later and I still get butterflies — err … fireflies? — in my stomach.

vineyard

the-memory-of-you

 

4) The Memory of You by Catherine West — Something can be said for moonlit strolls in a vineyard. Not only do they cleanse the soul, they also spark the embers of love. lighthouseUndaunted-Hope

 

5) Undaunted Hope by Jody Hedlund — Hedlund’s Beacon of Hope series show that lighthouses not only guide ships home, they are also a great place to fall in love.blue-ridge-mountains

the-story-keepera-twist-of-faith-pepper-basham

6) The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate — Drawn back to the place she thought she’d left for good, Jennia-Beth was bound to find herself and love in the breathtaking beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

A Twist of Faith by Pepper Basham — My fair lady has never sounded better than when retold with an Appalachian twist. No wonder, Adelina fell in love with the rugged mountains and the cattle farmer who taught her how to appreciate them. (Psst, It’s free for the Kindle right now, so don’t miss out!)chocolate-shopsweetmisfortune

 

7) Sweet Misfortune by Kevin Alan Milne — There’s something about chocolate that seems to bring out the romantic in everyone. So what better place to find love than in a chocolate shop?alaska

alaskan-courage8) The Alaskan Courage series by Dani Pettrey — Alaska? Who would have thought? Yet, Pettrey’s characters prove that romance can be found even in the coldest places. (Submerged, #1 in the series, is currently free for the Kindle!)

untitledbon-appetit

 

9) Bon Appetit by Sandra Byrd — They don’t call Paris the city of love for nothing, and Lexi finds out why when she travels to France to fulfill her life dream of becoming a pastry chef.glenbrooke

secrets

 

10) Secrets by Robin Jones Gunn — Sometimes a small town is the best place to find healing … and love.

 

 

What romantic places would you add to this list?

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