Book Review – Gilt Hollow

SUMMARY

Shortly after the death of her father, Willow Lamott also loses her lifetime best friend Ashton Keller. Although Ashton has been convicted as a killer and locked up in juvie for four years, Willow continues to stand by him and defend him to a town which is eager to believe the worst of their founder’s grandson.

When Ashton is released early, he returns to Gilt Hollow determined to prove his innocence and exact revenge if not justice. Ashton, who was convicted on the testimony of former friends, believes he has been abandoned by everyone who loved him including his best friend Willow and treats her with contempt. Willow resents and is angered by his attitude towards her, wondering if she has been wrong about her faith in Ashton all along.

Ashton’s quest for vengeance and Willow’s weakness for the boy she grew up loving, eventually draws them together in a reluctant partnership to find out the truth of the night that ruined both their lives.

REVIEW

I’ll be honest. I chose to read Gilt Hollow because the cover grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go. Although, the Young Adult genre is one I am slowly exploring and learning to love, it is not generally my first choice for reading material. This book also fits well within the genre of romantic suspense which I delve into occasionally, but not often.

Still Gilt Hollow is a book that I couldn’t put down!  One thing I do love in fiction is a gothic mystery and this definitely had the atmosphere of one, despite being a contemporary tale. From the rundown, somewhat eerie Victorian mansion abandoned by Ashton’s family when they also abandoned him, to the malevolent, anonymous actions threatening Ashton and Willow,  this story definitely has a spooky feel about it.

Gilt Hollow is a quirky, artsy town, which I really enjoyed visiting despite the darker undertones and secrets brewing beneath its surface. Having grown up in the Bible Belt it’s hard for me to imagine a place where yarn-bombing trees, dreadlocks and hippie culture would be the norm. Besides her staunch defense of Ashton, Willow stands out in her school because she is more traditional in nature, with a classic preppy style and a serious, studious personality.

Usually in stories like this the misunderstood, potentially dangerous boy or girl is from the wrong side of the tracks. I liked how the author did the unexpected by making Ashton the scion of a wealthy family with deep roots in the community who is nurtured by and bonds with Willow’s average American family.

Despite both of them feeling abandoned and rejected by each other, I loved how Willow and Ashton’s former bond and understanding of each other brings them back together. In some ways, their story breaks my heart because they each suffered from the dual tragedies of her father’s death and Ashton’s conviction, neither of which they had any control over. When they needed each other the most, they were torn apart.

I also experienced anger at how Ashton was convicted and the way the town treated both of them considering they were fourteen at the time of the initial events.  This anger allowed me to understand and empathize with Ashton’s desire for revenge, even if I didn’t agree with it.

Overall, this is a book that transported me to another world and also stirred a lot of emotions in me. These are a few of the markers of what I believe makes a good story and this is one which will haunt me for a while. After I finished this book, I realized that it is written by an author I have heard of before, but never read. After finishing Gilt Hollow, I will be checking out Lorie Langdon’s much lauded co-authored Doon series.

For images which inspired this novel check out the author’s Pinterest page. And don’t pass up the chance to read this unusual story!

 

Book Review -Engaged in Trouble

SUMMARY

When former girl band member Paisley Sutton receives news that she has inherited a wedding planning business back in her hometown of Sugar Creek, Arkansas, she leaves L.A. thinking to complete the terms of her late aunt’s will so she can sell Enchanted Events to finance her musical comeback.

Only neither the business nor her hometown are quite the charmless, out of date places she remembers. Instead she returns, to a surprisingly modern, thriving company and a revitalized Sugar Creek. Both begin to challenge her plans and perceptions, as do the people she had left behind. Paisley begins to feel the tug on her heartstrings, thanks to her adventurous ex-CIA grandmother, good friend and cousin Emma and her new next door neighbor and old crush, Beau Hudson.

When bridezilla Sasha, who is engaged to Paisley’s ex-fiance, winds up dead in the middle of an appointment with Paisley and in Enchanted Events’ building, Paisley becomes the prime suspect. All clues seem to point to her as the murderer and the police are looking for evidence to lock her up. So Paisley decides to investigate the crime for herself with a little help from her grandmother Sylvia and Sylvia’s close friend Frannie. Will they discover the truth before it is too late? With a bride who made enemies of everyone, is there anyone who didn’t have a motive to kill her? Will Paisley and Beau become more than just neighbors?

MY THOUGHTS

Y’all. Can’t nobody write like Jenny B Jones. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading any of her books, you are in for a real treat! I have a list of must-read authors in various genres, but Jones is in a class by herself. One of the hallmarks of her writing is her unique and quirky characters as well as the humor and southern charm woven into every story. Her heroines are always sassy and smart, often finding themselves in embarrassing and even ridiculous situations. They tend toward humor as a way of coping with their crazy lives. Jones’ heroines usually use sarcasm as a love language. The hero and heroine often engage in clever verbal sparring that leaves the reader feeling like a spectator at a tennis match as they watch that verbal ball passed back and forth, wondering who will be the victor of the match. But to counter that, Jones always shows the tender, vulnerable underbellies of her heroines, often showing their inner strength and commitment to those they love despite trying circumstances. And I haven’t even mentioned the endearing, sometimes outrageous secondary characters which you really just wish you could meet in person and adopt as your own.

Engaged in Trouble has all the hallmarks of Jones’ usual style. I loved Sylvia, Paisley’s one of a kind grandmother who tells random, unbelievable stories of her time with the CIA and uses her still up to date spy skills on Paisley’s behalf. Who wouldn’t love an elderly woman who has more verve, personality and energy than a bouncy high school cheerleader and who treats everything like a matter of national security and life and death? It doesn’t hurt that Sylvia and her friend Frannie are shameless in just being themselves and are trying to recruit Paisley into their spy world and their Sexy Book Club.

Paisley herself is a walking disaster as it seems that everything she touches seems to explode into chaos. But, she doesn’t give up. She keep trying, she keeps putting herself out there despite rejection, suspicion, and the judgment of others, as she tries to solve the mystery of who killed bridezilla.

Paisley’s relationship with Beau is a smaller part of the overall story, but one which intrigues me. Especially since this book is the first of a series. Like a fisherman, Jones lets out just enough of their story line to hook me and reel me in. I can’t wait to learn more about both of them, particularly the quiet, suffering former soldier who is struggling with his PTSD, but still has enough care and concern to make sure Paisley is safe and yet emboldened.

In many ways this first book reminds me a bit of Jones’ The Charmed Life series. Her YA series about a privileged teenager who is forced to leave Manhattan to live with her mother in a small Oklahoma community and gets involved in solving various local mysteries. Since that is one of my favorite series, it makes me very happy to read echoes of that in Engaged in Trouble.

So, to keep from rambling on and on, I will say, as I expected to, I really loved this book. It showcases all the best characteristics of a Jenny B Jones story, all of which make it very special. If you want to read something unique and fun with a little bit of romance, a little bit of mystery and a whole lot of humor and character, then you can’t go wrong with this or any other of Jones’ books.

Book Review -The Bird and the Sword

SUMMARY

In the beginning, when the world was created, there was the Spinner, the Teller, the Healer and the Changer. Each endowed with a special ability. However, these gifts came at great cost and eventually became corrupted so that the people became afraid of the gifted, hunting them down, until for their own survival and safety those with the special abilities learned to hide them well.

Little Lark has inherited her own mother’s gift of telling and on the day the king and his son arrive, her mother sacrifices her own life for the sake of Lark’s to hide her secret. But before she dies, she not only prophesies to the king of “the loss of his own soul and his son to the sky”, but commands Lark to “swallow her words” and warns her husband that his own life is tied to Lark’s.

Years pass from that day and Lark remains mute, never uttering a word, yet despite the fact that her mouth can’t speak, her words still have great power. How much, she is yet to discover. A chance encounter leads her to be taken from her home by the new king as a pampered prisoner. Little do they know how connected their lives already are. These two must learn to work together to defeat an evil enemy and uncover truth which will set themselves and the whole kingdom free.

REVIEW

I’m not generally a reader of fantasy novels and The Bird and The Sword is combined with fairy tale elements also. But I have always had a special love for words and the power behind them in a way that I can’t explain, so when I finally found a story that explored this concept, of course I had to read it.

In a way, this reminds me of a Tolkien story, although I would label it Tolkien-lite. It’s a fantasy world with special gifts and creatures and yet not so unfamiliar as to be foreign. Like Tolkien, Amy Harmon’s fantasy world is allegorical for greater truths. Although, spiritual principles are not  preached or even mentioned, the story begins with a biblical verse, “for the word is quick and powerful, sharper than any two edged sword…” which sets the tone for everything which is to come. I loved how this verse was woven into the story in subtle, various ways, revealing truth and always bringing me back from a fantastical world to the main point.

I have had Amy Harmon on my radar for a while, have read excellent and glowing reviews of all of her novels, but this was my first experience with her. Although I believe this is her only fantasy novel to date, if her other stories are anything like this, I would say the praise for her writing is well deserved. Like Lark, she herself is a teller, a weaver of words, creating real and endearing characters, creating worlds with words while never straying from the foundation of truth she reveals. For me, there is something special about discovering a kindred spirit who seems to share my wonder, fascination and love for words which live and breathe and share eternity with mortals.

So, needless to say, I have my next Amy Harmon novel already queued up on my Kindle and will expect to be an avid fan.

Book Review -Love’s Shadow by Nichole Van

I discovered Nichole Van around two years ago when she self-published her debut book Intertwine (which is currently available for Kindle for only .99). I instantly fell in love and now eagerly await each new release.

Love’s Shadow is the latest and second book of four in her Brothers Maledetti series. This series follows triplet brothers named after famous Englishman of literature, who have supernatural capabilities. They descend from a long line of first born sons whose abilities have  turned out to be much more of a curse than a blessing.  Love’s Shadow tells the story of the middle brother, Branwell (can you guess whose namesake he is?)

Branwell has been in love with his brother’s ex-girlfriend from first sight years ago. Unbeknownst, to him she is also in love with him but due to their loyalty to the brother/ex-boyfriend neither one of them will act upon their feelings, leaving both of them believing their affection is unrequited. But when Lucy’s niece disappears on her watch and she comes under suspicion, Branwell steps in to help, hoping his and his brothers “gifts” will give them an advantage in finding the little girl.

REVIEW

I first met Branwell in Gladly Beyond which gave me a glimpse into the toll his special abilities take on even the minute details of his daily life. This is explained in greater detail in Love’s Shadow which led me to an understanding of the precautions he is forced to take. Lucy and Branwell’s romance is unique because of their great compassion and willingness to sacrifice their desires for the love of others. The Maledetti family is one that anyone would love to be a part of thanks to the special bond among the brothers and the rest of their family (mother, sister, grandmother) which is beautiful and sincere.

I hate to say Nichole Van improves with each book, because I love them all so much I cannot say which one is best. All her stories are light and frothy romances with great moments of humor woven in. Her heroes are swoony and her heroines, likeable and spunky. Because I am a fan of both historical and contemporary fiction I appreciate how she weaves them together in each of her stories in a believable way (well, if you can believe in time-travel and/or supernatural transference). Many books which contain the supernatural tend to feel somewhat heavy and dark, but this is what I would call supernatural-lite, as it simply adds a fantastical element without feeling threatening. I also appreciate that her stories are clean, with no objectionable material in them adhering to the values of an old-fashioned romance.

As usual, now that I have finished this story, I can’t wait for the next one.

Visit the author’s Pinterest page for visuals from the book.

Book Review -The Tox Files

If you have never read any of author Ronie Kendig’s books, then you are in for a real treat. She has coined the phrase Rapid-Fire Fiction and it sure is. Kendig writes military action and international intrigue stories and if you pick up one of her titles, then you better plan to clear your schedule because you won’t be able to stop until you reach the end.

ABOUT THE SERIES

The Tox Files is the newest series from this talented author and I believe it is her best yet! So far, the prequel novella The Warrior’s Seal (which is available for free on Kindle) and the first full length novel of this series Conspiracy of Silence have been released with the second title A Crown of Souls set for an October 2017 release.

Although you needn’t read the prequel in order to understand the plot of Conspiracy of Silence, I would recommend that you do so, because it introduces you to the main players and gives some background details which will only enhance your understanding throughout the series.

In both books, Cole “Tox” Russell and his team of black ops commandos are charged with highly sensitive missions to not only protect high level government officials, but they also find themselves tracking  down information and hidden secrets behind Middle Eastern and biblical relics which  are tied to plagues and directly impact their mission.

THE WARRIOR’S SEAL

The Warrior’s Seal introduces us to Tox, so nicknamed because he is toxic to anyone who dares to get close to him, and his team; Cell the tech guru, Maangi the medic, Chiiji, Tox’s Nigerian conscience and Ram his second in command. While on the hunt for the Mace of Subjugation and also for those who kidnapped the American president and First Lady their mission crosses with that of Ram’s sister Tzivia and Dr. Cathey, archaeologists whose knowledge of the stolen artifact is crucial. They eventually find themselves in Syria trying to rescue the president and stop an ancient, deadly plague from being released on the world.

I’m pretty picky when it comes to novellas as I don’t usually feel the shorter length allows much in the way of character or plot development.  However, this book is an exception to that rule using the entire 130 pages very effectively. Despite its’ brevity I really felt like I had read a full length novel not only because of the plot and characters development but also due to the high paced intensity in which it is told.

CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE

Conspiracy of Silence continues the story of Tox and his team. Due to the fallout from their past mission we find them living separate lives believing their leader dead and Tox wrestling with his perceived failures and the compromises he has made to protect the people he loves.

However, when a new threat emerges and the President’s Chief of Staff forces his hand, Tox must reach out to his old teammates to help him find and eliminate a deadly assassin who is part of a larger global conspiracy.

Despite the distrust and doubt that the team members still harbor towards their former Sergeant they agree to help. Once again, Tzivia and Dr. Cathey play important roles in the new mission. Tzivia’s archaeological dig in Saudi Arabia uncovers proof of a biblical Jewish encampment and also several censers mentioned in the Bible, directly referenced in Numbers 16. Hidden along with these is a leaf of the Aleppo Codex, the oldest “complete” Hebrew Bible in existence. When her site is invaded and the censers stolen, again a worldwide plague threatens to erupt. Adding to the mystery and the conspiracy of silence by Jewish leaders sworn to protect the remaining leafs of the Codex is whether markings of the text by a Templar Knight renders the whole book void.

Also, adding to the complexity of Tox’s mission are old family ties. His brother Galen just happens to be the current President and their relationship has been stormy ever since Galen stole his brother’s girlfriend and made her his wife. His brother’s sister-in-law was a young girl when her sister Brooke dated Tox, but after witnessing Brooke’s treatment of him, Haven swore to herself that she would love Cole Russell forever. When he appears back on the scene after being presumed dead and she finally gets the opportunity to clear Tox’s name, she uses it as leverage to be included on the mission as a deception expert. Although Cole agrees to this, he is unaware of her identity because he hasn’t seen Haven since she was a child and she now goes by another name.

REVIEW

While the plots are highly intense, quick paced and complex it is also the intricate web of relationships between the various characters in this series which keep the reader intrigued and on the edge of their seat. The high volume of players named throughout both stories sometimes make it hard to follow with who is who. Beyond that, the characters are written as fully human so although the reader is aware of who the heroes are, they are not typical, being fully flawed. Additionally some of the characters are morally ambiguous so it is not easy to tell who is friend and who is foe.

I love how the author weaves in pieces of history by including references to the Knights Templar, one in particular whose mission seems to mirror that of Cole Russell’s. Tying in biblical history and The Aleppo Codex also adds to the historical depth of the missions for the team. The author even shares references in her notes at the end of Conspiracy of Silence which encourage and allow the reader to do their own research on this historically important artifact.

Kendig’s apparent knowledge of the Middle East and the ins and outs of our government and military are impressive and certainly make her stories come alive. The way this knowledge is woven into the book is so thorough yet subtle and really places the reader on the missions along with the characters.

Although I don’t read many books in this particular genre I would still say that Kendig, as an author, is in a class by herself.

Book Review -Dead Reckoning

Dead Reckoning is the rewrite of a debut book originally published in 2010 by Ronie Kendig. It received good reviews at the time, but from what I can tell, it is garnering even better reviews since it has been rewritten.

This is not the first novel of Kendig’s which I have read and just like her other books, it is a wild ride which keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time. The story follows Shiloh Blake who finds herself caught up in an international intrigue after a hit squad attacks her underwater archaeology group. She then goes on the run and the hunt to determine why they were attacked and who is behind it, while also trying to stay alive and determining who she can trust, including undercover CIA agent Reece Jaxon.

Although, in the beginning Shiloh seems like your average twenty-something, as the book progresses you find she has a pretty specific skill set, which adds mystery to her backstory.  I really enjoyed the interaction between Shiloh and Reece, who each have broken and traumatic pasts which makes the journey they experience to develop trust between each other very interesting.

Another relationship which fascinated me is the one between Shiloh and her father. When the story begins, they have had no contact with each other for years due to a gulf of guilt and anger between them from a dysfunctional history. I can understand and justify Shiloh’s feelings towards her father whose job cost her so much, and yet it is her father’s job and training which has given her the skills and confidence she needs to survive. And even though she is unaware, it is Shiloh’s father working behind the scenes enabling her to stay safe and track down the truth.

Kendig does a good job of showing the intricate world of international spies and terrorists and the precarious balance they all live in. She is also successful in making you second guess each character and their motives as even the minor characters all have a link to the conspiracy that unfolds.

Although I have a few quibbles with this book, I definitely recommend this improved version of Dead Reckoning. Like all of Kendig’s books, it has everything, action, suspense, romance, tension and an interesting resolution. It is a clean read except for some scenes of violence. You can currently purchase the Kindle version for $3.99 at Amazon.  If you would like to sample this author  without committing to a purchase she currently has two novellas available for free. Operation Zulu Redemption:Overkill is the first in her series about an all female special ops team. The Warrior’s Seal is the prequel to her newest series The Tox Files. Many of her earlier novels are available for under $4.00.  I would also highly encourage you to check out the author’s other books about military heroes, all of which I have read and loved and think you will too.

 

Book Review -In the Light of the Garden

When Charity Baxter’s grandfather dies, she inherits his estate on a small island in Florida, but she loses the one person who loved her unconditionally. Charity moves in to the massive mansion on the coast which holds her best memories but also one which traumatized her and has haunted her for years. Soon, this self-described socially awkward potter finds herself developing a friendship with her equally troubled and grieving neighbor and sharing her home with a runaway teen and her great-uncle whose secrets just may answer some questions about the memories which continue to torment her. Add-in the friendly island residents whose requests for unique pottery pieces with her grandfather’s special ingredient draw Charity out of her shell and into a mystery, a couple of visits from her narcissistic mother and Charity’s own love-hate relationship with the magical weeping willow tree in her backyard and you have one compelling and unique story.

MY THOUGHTS

At its heart, In the Light of the Garden is about relationships, those that shape us, those which challenge us and those which encourage and strengthen us. Every single one of the characters in this book are dealing with the outcome of choices they have made which affect their closest relationships. Many of the relationships described have high amounts of dysfunction, which makes this story and its numerous threads feel true to life.  The journey that Charity and each of the supporting characters take, help them to see the truth and to take responsibility for their own choices which contribute to the dysfunction.

But ultimately this is a story about forgiveness. About reconciliation and redemption. Even in the midst of the shame, guilt and despair that each character experiences, there is hope. This is the golden epiphany which each person eventually experiences. Not just the forgiveness they grant to those who hurt them, but the vital importance of forgiving one’s self. The unique twist to this revelation is the part that the weeping tree plays in helping each character release the darkness in their hearts so that they can move into the light of freedom.

I have read several books by author Heather Burch and always come away impressed and moved. Each of her novels contains fleshed out characters, some likeable, others not so much, but all of them relatable.  Burch puts her characters in situations and takes them on spiritual journeys which slowly reveals truth to the reader while also making them feel like a fellow passenger on said journey. In the Light of the Garden is no exception. If you like stories that are real and emotional, sometimes sad but always with hope, then I highly recommend this one.

Most Anticipated Books of 2017

As an avid reader I have an exorbitantly large TBR pile of books which have already been released that I plan to read. I think this list is now in the hundreds, but I don’t let that stop me from also having a list of as yet unreleased books which I desperately want to add to that pile.

Here is my partial list for 2017:

The Ascension of Larks by Rachel Linden -This debut book by a new author has a contemporary story that sounds interesting. Plus, I love the cover.

True to You by Becky Wade -Wade is one of my must-read contemporary authors. She writes clean romances and this one with a genealogist heroine sounds right up my alley.

High As the Heavens by Kate Breslin -Breslin wrote one of my favorite stories ever (For Such a Time). So, I’m excited to read her latest about a nurse in occupied territory set during WWI.

Bread of Angels by Tessa Afshar -Afshar is my favorite biblical fiction author and this story about Lydia from the New Testament is sure to be another thoughtful and moving tale which helps me see the familiar Bible story in a whole new light.

Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge -I mean, its a modern retelling of Sense and Sensibility set in Austin, Texas. What’s not to love?

Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green -I love historical fiction. Period. This one will introduce me to Louisiana in the 1720’s which is a time and place I can’t wait to discover.

Home by Ginny Yttrup -Yttrup writes woman’s fiction which deals with issues we all struggle with, but always with hope. Another must-read author for me.

Still Life by Dani Pettrey -The second book in the Chesapeake Valor series which will continue with the stories of three childhood buddies. Parker and his two best friends continue to search for clues to the disappearance of a fourth member of their circle as well as the murder of a family member.

Moonbow Night by Laura Frantz -Frantz is my favorite author of historical fiction and I will read anything and everything she writes.

A Name Unknown by Roseanna M White – the beginning of a new series by another author I adore. This one also happens to contain a genealogy story line. If you can’t tell, I’m fascinated with genealogy so this should be good.

To the Farthest Shores by Elizabeth Camden -goodness, I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but this is another must-read author for me who writes historical fiction with strong female characters.

The Memory of You by Catherine West -I love West’s well written character studies of ordinary people confronting life’s challenges and their own failings.

By Your Side by Kasie West -I fell in love with Kasie West’s contemporary YA stories. They are fun, light reads.

Firstborn by Tosca Lee -The sequel to The Progeny, an addictive tale about the descendants of a female serial killer, which I could not put down. I am so excited for the conclusion to this edge of your seat thriller.

Rebel Tide by Lara Hays -I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of the finale in the Oceanswept trilogy. It looks like it might end up being more than that as the author intends to release Rebel Tide in two parts. I cannot wait to read the rest of this YA pirate story.

New Releases by:

Susan May Warren -Warren is a prolific author and I have read and loved the majority of her books. These are books two and three in Montana Rescue series.

Jody Hedlund -I have never read a Hedlund book I didn’t like. Of course it helps that she writes in my favorite genre, historical fiction.

Julianne Donaldson -originally her newest book and first contemporary, Lost in Scotland, was supposed to be release at the end of 2016. Now, I’m just hoping it will be available in 2017.

Nichole Van -writes sparkling time-travel romances which I devour as soon as they are available. I can’t wait for the next book in her latest series about triplet brothers with supernatural abilities in the Brothers Maldetti.

Tamara Leigh -Medieval romances are my favorite sub-genre within historical fiction and Leigh is one of the best authors in this field. Word is that she is working on an additional novel about a favorite supporting character in her Age of Faith series!

Book Year in Review

This has been a very busy year for me as a reader.

Although my Goodreads account says otherwise, according to my personal count I read around one hundred books. One hundred! While I claim to be a voracious reader I even shocked myself with that number. This is even more surprising when I realized that I also watched about the same number of films. I obviously had more free time than I realized.

So without further ado and in no particular order, here are my top ten favorites this year:

The Lady and the Lionheart -This is not only my favorite read this year, but is going on my top ten favorite books that I’ve ever read. The compelling and redemptive story of a tender hearted lion tamer and the sweet nurse with a tragic past who helps him care for an orphaned infant is one which has haunted me in a good way even months after I finished the book. I’m not the only one who loves their story. It’s getting rave reviews, so do yourself a favor and buy it.

The Progeny -Tosca Lee has always written fascinating stories and this one about gifted descendants of one of the most allegedly prolific female serial killers in history is a real thriller. It’s mystery and fast pace ensured I couldn’t put it down and I can’t wait for the sequel. I love how Tosca has a way of writing about notorious historical figures and making you see them from a different perspective.

The Price of Privilege Series -Yes, it is more than one book, but it is only one story.  Julia Elliston finds herself thrust into a totally unfamiliar world of wealth and politics, woefully unprepared and uncertain who to trust. Her journey and the people who influence her life are the closest allegory to the Biblical story arc that I have ever read. Every detail, no matter how small, matters and all the individual threads are finally woven together in the end creating an explosive and heart rending ending. I have recommended this series to everyone I know.

The Girl From the Train-This is the first of South African Irma Joubert’s novels to be translated to English. This book follows a WWII orphan and her savior across Europe and into South Africa. I love reading stories set in different countries and have never read one like this.

 

The End of the World-Amy Matayo is one of my must read authors and her novel about two  foster kids whose relationship over the years helps sustain them was difficult to read and yet extremely impacting. This one made me uncomfortable, but it is a necessary discomfort.

 

Rochester, A Memoir -For the Jane Eyre lovers out there, this is the familiar story from Rochester’s point of view. I appreciated seeing some of the things that annoyed me about him from his perspective. It gave me a better understanding of his character.

 

Undertow & Oceanswept -These two are part of a YA Trilogy about a privileged young woman who is captured by pirates and falls for one of her captors. I couldn’t help getting addicted to this feisty character and am waiting impatiently for the conclusion of the series.

 

Journey’s End -This is one I picked up on a whim, not expecting much and was surprised how much I liked it. A poor English girl, moves to America with the intent of revenging herself against the rich father she believes abandoned her.

 

Flowers from the Storm -I try to limit my reading of general market romances. But I loved the unusual premise of a mathematically brilliant duke who ends up in an insane asylum and the prim, Quaker woman who helps restore him to sanity. This was originally published in 1992 and is very well known so I’m pretty late to the party.

 

A Chance for Sunny Skies -This rom-com which follows an overweight woman who decides to change her life after a near death experience was a nice surprise.

 

 

The Captive Heart – Okay, I cheated, but I couldn’t leave out this story of an indentured Englishwoman who finds herself married to a backwoods stranger who may or may not have murdered his first wife.

Runners Up: The Waylaid Heart, Gladly Beyond, The Glass Mermaid, The Wood’s Edge, Mistress of Tall Acre, Attachments, Told You Twice, All Who Dream, I’ll Be Yours, When Fall Fades, Love’s Shadow, A Twist of Faith, Baron of Blackwood, Lady Undaunted, Three Wishes and the list goes on.

In addition to discovering new stories this year, I also read books by at least forty authors who are new to me. I have listed a few of my favorite new discoveries.

  1. Becky Doughty -She has been my favorite author discovery this year. I liked her YA series The Fallout, and was charmed by her sisters series The Gustafson Girls.
  2. Eva Ibbotson -Her books were contemporary at the time she wrote them, but are historical fiction at this point. Most of her adult stories revolve around once wealthy emigres from Austria who find themselves adjusting to new lives in England thanks to WWII.
  3. Kara Isaac -Contemporary author from New Zealand whose books are themed around famous classic authors (Tolkien, C.S. Lewis).
  4. Irma Joubert -wrote one of the books on my top ten list. South African author whose books are slowly being translated to English.
  5. Kristi Hunter -debut author who has a Regency historical fiction series.
  6. Lara Hays -another author whose books made my top ten list. I am currently stalking this YA author on social media for news of her next release.
  7. Rainbow Rowell -I know she’s been around a while, but I just discovered this writer of quirky contemporary tales.
  8. Susanna Kearsley -another author with many books already under her belt. I love how she mixes historical and contemporary timelines and adds supernatural elements.
  9. Eryn Scott -After reading A Chance for Sunny Skies (on the list above) I have bought and read most  of her other books. Sunny Skies is still my favorite.
  10. Penny Reid -writes contemporary romances with the most fascinating unexpected characters. I devoured her backlog of books and particularly fell in love with Beauty and the Mustache (who doesn’t love a male hero who writes poetry and is still a manly man?!) Warning: These books are not clean reads.
  11. Julianna Deering -I’m not the only reader who likes her lighthearted mystery series set in 1930’s England. For fans of classic film, think The Thin Man.
  12. Liz Johnson -Any lovers of Anne of Green Gables out there? You will like this author’s contemporary romance series set in Prince Edward Island which is equally charming.

Honorable Mentions: Amanda Dykes, Crystal Walton, Heidi Ashworth, Rachel McMillian, Caroline Lee, Poppy Lawless