Sunday, December 31, 2017

My Top Ten Books of 2017

It is so hard to believe that 2017 is behind us and tomorrow will be the start of a new year.  So with this year coming to a close, I did not want to forget to post my list of favorite books from 2017.  Some of these I have reviewed, but I also wanted to include a couple of books that fall into the classic literature genre.  These are books that have always been favorite, but are texts I have rediscovered this year.  If you need a reading list for the new year, I highly recommend each of these books.

Happy reading and Happy New Year! 

A Lady in Disguise
by Sandra Byrd 

After the mysterious death of her father, Miss Gillian Young takes a new job as the principal costume designer at the renowned Drury Lane Theatre Royal. But while she remembers her father as a kind, well-respected man of the Police Force, clues she uncovers indicate he’d been living a double life: a haunting photograph of a young woman; train stubs for secret trips just before his death; and a receipt for a large sum of money. Are these items evidence of her father’s guilty secrets? His longtime police partner thinks so.

Then Gillian meets the dashing Viscount Thomas Lockwood. Their attraction is instant and inescapable. As their romantic involvement grows, Gillian begins to suspect even Lockwood’s motives. Does Lord Lockwood truly love her? Or is his interest a front for the desire to own her newly inherited property? And what should she make of her friend’s suggestion that Lockwood or men like him were involved in the murder of her father?

Soon Gillian is convinced that her father has left evidence somewhere that can prove his innocence and reveal the guilty party. But someone wants to stop her from discovering it. The closer she comes to uncovering it, the more menacing her opposition grows. With her life on the line, Gillian takes on an ingenious disguise and takes on the role of a lifetime to reveal the true killer—before it’s too late both for her and for those that she loves.

A Stolen Heart
by Amanda Cabot 

From afar, Cimarron Creek seems like an idyllic town tucked in the Texas Hill Country. But when former schoolteacher Lydia Crawford steps onto its dusty streets in 1880, she finds a town with a deep-seated resentment of Northerners--like her. Lydia won't let that get her down, though. All will be well when she's reunited with her fiancé. But when she discovers he has disappeared--and that he left behind a pregnant wife--Lydia is at a loss about what to do next. The handsome sheriff urges her to trust him, but can she trust anyone in this town where secrets are as prevalent as bluebonnets in spring?

Bestselling author Amanda Cabot invites readers back into Texas's storied past to experience love and adventure against a backdrop of tension and mystery in this first book in a brand-new series.

The Captain's Daugher
by Jennifer Delamere

When a series of circumstances beyond her control leave Rosalyn Bernay alone and penniless in London, she chances upon a job backstage at a theater which is presenting the most popular show in London. A talented musician and singer, she feels immediately at home and soon becomes enthralled with the idea of pursuing a career on the stage.

An injury during a skirmish in India has forced Nate Moran out of the army until he recovers. Filling his time at a stable of horses for hire in London, he has also spent the past two months working nights as a stagehand, filling in for his injured brother. Although he’s glad he can help his family through a tough time, he is counting the days until he can rejoin his regiment. London holds bitter memories for him that he is anxious to escape. But then he meets the beautiful woman who has found a new lease on life in the very place Nate can’t wait to leave behind.

The Case of the Clobbered Cad 
by Debra E. Marvin 

Heather Munro’s youthful devotion to The Girl Detective led to a passion for digging around in history. Now pursuing her Master's Degree in Celtic Studies, Heather must balance exploring Edinburgh with her determination to excel in her all–male classes at the University. Unfortunately, on her first night working in the Archives room, she discovers the dead body of a visiting professor, the same would-be lothario she’d hoped never to see again.

As clues come to light, it’s clear someone hopes to frame Heather for the murder. Besides her quirky landlady, whom can she trust? How can she clear her name? The police and the American Consul have plenty of suspects, but only two seem to have both motive and opportunity: Heather and the quiet Scottish historian she longs to trust.

Little Dorrit 
by Charles Dickens 

When Arthur Clennam returns to England after many years abroad, he takes a kindly interest in Amy Dorrit, his mother's seamstress, and in the affairs of Amy's father, William Dorrit, a man of shabby grandeur, long imprisoned for debt in Marshalsea prison. As Arthur soon discovers, the dark shadow of the prison stretches far beyond its walls to affect the lives of many, from the kindly Mr Panks, the reluctant rent-collector of Bleeding Heart Yard, and the tipsily garrulous Flora Finching, to Merdle, an unscrupulous financier, and the bureaucratic Barnacles in the Circumlocution Office. A masterly evocation of the state and psychology of imprisonment, Little Dorrit is one of the supreme works of Dickens's maturity.

Stephen Wall's introduction examines Dickens's transformation of childhood memories of his father's incarceration in the Marshalsea debtors' prison. This revised edition includes expanded notes, appendices and suggestion for further reading by Helen Small, a chronology of Dickens's life and works, and original illustrations.

Charles Dickens is one of the best-loved novelists in the English language, whose 200th anniversary was celebrated in 2012. His most famous books, including Oliver TwistGreat ExpectationsA Tale of Two CitiesDavid Copperfield and The Pickwick Papers, have been adapted for stage and screen and read by millions.

The Elusive Miss Ellison 
by Carolyn Miller 

Pride, prejudice and forgiveness...
Hampton Hall's new owner has the villagers of St. Hampton Heath all aflutter--all except Lavinia Ellison. The reverend's daughter cares for those who are poor and sick, and the seventh Earl of Hawkesbury definitely does not meet that criteria. His refusal to take his responsibilities seriously, or even darken the door of the church, leave her convinced he is as arrogant and reckless as his brother--his brother who stole the most important person in Lavinia's world.

Nicholas Stamford is shadowed by guilt: his own, his brother's, the legacy of war. A perfunctory visit to this dreary part of Gloucestershire wasn't supposed to engage his heart, or his mind. Challenged by Miss Ellison's fascinating blend of Bluestocking opinions, hoydenish behavior, and angelic voice, he finds the impossible becoming possible--he begins to care. But Lavinia's aloof manner, society's opposition and his ancestral obligations prove most frustrating, until scandal forces them to get along.

Can Lavinia and Nicholas look beyond painful pasts and present prejudice to see their future? And what will happen when Lavinia learns a family secret that alters everything she's ever known?

Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection: Nine Stories of Poverty and Opulence During the Gilded Age 
by Michelle Griep, Erica Vetsch, Susanne Dietze, Anne Love, 
Gabrielle Meyer, Natalie Monk, Jennifer Uhlarik, 
Jaime Jo Wright, Kathleen Y'Barbo

Journey along in nine historical romances with those who lives are transformed by the opulence, growth, and great changes taking place in America s Gilded Age. Nine couples meet during these exhilarating times and work to build a future together through fighting for social reform, celebrating new opportunities for leisure activities, taking advantage of economic growth and new inventions, and more. Watch as these romances develop and legacies of faith and love are formed.

Whispers in the Reading Room 
by Shelley Gray 

Lydia’s job at the library is her world—until a mysterious patron catches her eye . . . and perhaps her heart.

Just months after the closure of the Chicago World’s Fair, librarian Lydia Bancroft finds herself fascinated by a mysterious dark-haired and dark-eyed patron. He has never given her his name; he actually never speaks to a single person. All she knows about him is that he loves books as much as she does.

Only when he rescues her in the lobby of the Hartman Hotel does she discover that his name is Sebastian Marks. She also discovers that he lives at the top of the prestigious hotel and that most everyone in Chicago is intrigued by him.

Lydia and Sebastian form a fragile friendship, but when she discovers that Mr. Marks isn’t merely a very wealthy gentleman, but also the proprietor of an infamous saloon and gambling club, she is shocked.

Lydia insists on visiting the club one fateful night and suddenly is a suspect to a murder. She must determine who she can trust, who is innocent, and if Sebastian Marks—the man so many people fear—is actually everything her heart believes him to be.

Secret Garden 
by Frances Hodgsen Burnett 

When orphaned Mary Lennox comes to live at her uncle's great house on the Yorkshire Moors, she finds it full of secrets. The mansion has nearly one hundred rooms, and her uncle keeps himself locked up. And at night, she hears the sound of crying down one of the long corridors.

The gardens surrounding the large property are Mary's only escape. Then, Mary discovers a secret garden, surrounded by walls and locked with a missing key. One day, with the help of two unexpected companions, she discovers a way in. Is everything in the garden dead, or can Mary bring it back to life?

Winnie the Pooh 
by A.A. Milne 

In 1926, the world was introduced to a portly little bear named Winnie-the-Pooh. Along with his young friend, Christopher Robin, Pooh delighted readers from the very beginning. His often befuddled perceptions and adorable insights won the hearts of everyone around him, including his close group of friends. From the energetic Tigger to the dismal Eeyore, A. A. Milne created a charming bunch, both entertaining and inspirational. These simple creatures often reflected a small piece of all of us: humble, silly, wise, cautious, creative, and full of life. Remember when Piglet did a very grand thing, or Eeyore's almost-forgotten birthday?

Gorgeous watercolor illustrations from Ernest H. Shepard appear in all their glory. With beautiful colors and simple lines, these images hold their own as classics. The tales, filled with superb story lines and lessons, will continue to capture the hearts of new generations.

What are some of your favorite books from 2016?  Let me know in the comments below.  
Happy reading!  

Friday, December 29, 2017

First Line Fridays

As promised, here is another Christmas story.  :)  How many of you are still watching Christmas movies and have your Christmas decorations up?  I know I can raise my hand for both of those categories.  :)  Christmas music will still be playing from my speakers on January 31st too--I do love this time of the year, and I always wish it could last longer. 

What did you enjoy most about this Christmas season?  For me, there are so many things to pick from, but I would probably pick celebrating my grandparents' birthdays.  I hope every day of December was wonderful this year and that each of you had a lovely Christmas holiday!  Happy New Year! 

  Grab the book nearest to you and leave a comment with the first line!

Today I am going to post a line from: 

  A Yorkshire Christmas 
by Kate Hewitt 

And the first line is...

"How to Have a Perfect Christmas.  Claire Lindell's mouth twisted cynically as she read the heading of the article in the airline magazine."

Happy reading, happy Friday, and Happy New Year!  

Let me know your first line in the comments & then head over to Hoarding Books  to see who else is participating! 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

12 Days at Bleakly Manor - My Review

If you have not had the opportunity to read a Christmas book this month, I highly recommend checking this story out.  The title alone caught my eye, because the words "Dickens Christmas" are penned underneath a beautiful manor that is dusted with snow.  Yet I was also intrigued by the mysterious synopsis.  How can danger and peril be attached to such a lovely setting--and at Christmas time?  The conflicts that arise within the pages of this text will definitely surprise the reader, and will leave a person longing for the next book in the series.

Curious invitations are sent out to a random set of people--including Clara Chapman and Benjamin Lane.  Once Clara enters the manor, she wonders why such an odd group of individuals are spending Christmas together.  Since she has nothing to offer anyone, she does not understand why someone would bother to invite her.  Her life has taken turns she never wanted to entertain, and Clara feels she is at the bottom of everything, because she knows she is one step away from poverty.

Benjamin has spent his days in prison--falsely accused.  He is determined to find out and understand why he was charged, because he does not even know the details surrounding his case.  Strangely, instead of being taken to his punishment, he is summoned to a manor in the country.  Things grow even more difficult when he realizes Clara Chapman is among the crowd.  Anger, resentment, and confusion hit him almost instantly, and he wonders how he will endure the next twelve days. 

The journey these people take is quite incredible and there are many surprises in store for the reader.  Grace and forgiveness mark the path for some while understanding and defeat lie in store for others.  Considering one's own personal gain governs the choices many characters make, which will help the reader ponder what the Christmas season should be about--giving instead of receiving.

Happy reading and Merry Christmas!  

"I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review." 

When Clara Chapman receives an intriguing invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home, she is hesitant yet compelled to attend—for if she remains the duration of the twelve-day celebration, she is promised a sum of one thousand pounds. That’s enough money to bring her brother back from America and reinstate their stolen family fortune. But is she walking into danger? It appears so, especially when she comes face to face with one of the other guests—her former fiancĂ©, Benjamin Lane.

Imprisoned unjustly, Ben wants revenge on whoever stole his honor. When he’s given the chance to gain his freedom, he jumps at it—and is faced with the anger of the woman he stood up at the altar.

Brought together under mysterious circumstances for the Twelve Days of Christmas, Clara and Ben discover that what they've been striving for isn't what ultimately matters. What matters most is what Christmas is all about . . . love.

I hear voices. Loud. Incessant. And very real. Which basically gives me two options: choke back massive amounts of Prozac or write fiction. I've been writing since I discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. I seek to glorify God in all that I write--except for that graffiti phase I went through as teenager.

Find out more about Michelle Griep at:

Seeds of Hope - My Review

I love the cover of this book!  I know you cannot judge a book by its cover, but the beauty of the outside matches the inside story as well.  The word hope is the perfect word for this title, and its message is truly the theme running throughout the pages of this text.  Hope and grace are reflected in the daily decisions of the Amish that live in this town, because they are in tune to the needs of others. 

Miriam Troyer can be found helping her family, tending to her siblings, and even carrying a meal to a neighbor who is an elderly gentleman.  Of course, it does not hurt that she has a crush on his grandson.  Unfortunately, though, he is from the English world, and Miriam rarely sees him.  Yet she grew up getting to know him all the while becoming more and more attached to him.  Throughout their conversations as children, Mark Byler always held her interest.  She never tired of his company, because he was so different from the other Amish boys, and now his grandfather needs his help.  Miriam wonders what Mark will do, and she wishes she could listen in on the conversations between Mark and his grandfather—will Mark stay to help his family or will he leave and return to his life as an attorney? 

Mark Byler has a pretty pleasant life.  Money and winning cases make up his days as a lawyer in a prestigious firm.  Nothing seems to be going wrong until he receives a short letter from his grandfather.  There are not many details on the page inside the envelope but Mark worries he might be ill.  After Mark takes the time to drive to his grandfather’s home, he is welcomed with grand news, which completely derails his world.  How could he even consider what is being asked of him?  His own life back in the city calls to him, yet unforeseen events shatter what he had originally planned, and then an old friend comes back into his life.  Will he make a decision that will change his life forever, or will he follow the safe route? 

This is an excellent story, and I recommend checking it out.  I enjoyed the flow of the book and how the reader really gets to know each character.  By the end of the novel, they seem more like friends than fictional characters, because the author details their lives in such a purposeful, realistic manner.  If you have not read Amish fiction before, this book is a great place to start.  Happy reading! 

This review is my honest opinion. Thanks to Litfuse for my copy. 

by Barbara Cameron 
Amish Fiction
Gilead Publishing
Harvest of Hope: Book 1
Miriam Troyer has had a secret crush on Mark Byler since she was a teenager, but she knows they can never have a relationship: Mark is a big-city attorney and an Englischer. Her Amish community is too far removed from all he knows---and she loves her quiet way of life.

Mark has always loved his visits to his grandfather's farm, but he's convinced the Amish life isn't for him. There's so much of the world to see and experience, and the excitement of his successful law practice can't be matched by the slow pace of life found back home in the country.

But when things go wrong and his associates at the firm distance themselves from him to try to save their careers, Mark finds himself back at his grandfather's farm. Could life in this simple world be worth living after all? Especially when the teenager he remembers has grown into a woman who could be his future. Suddenly these two people whose lives seem so far apart may get a chance to really see each other for the first time.

Barbara Cameron has a heart for writing about the spiritual values and simple joys of the Amish. She is the best-selling author of more than 40 fiction and nonfiction books and three nationally televised movies, and the winner of the first Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award. Her books have been nominated for Carol Awards and the Inspirational Reader's Choice Award from RWA's Faith, Hope, and Love chapter. Barbara resides in
Jacksonville, Florida.

Learn more at: