Sunday, December 30, 2012

Top Ten Books of 2012

So, this year's list wasn't too difficult for me to narrow down considering I've only managed to read about 60 books this year (setting up a new Etsy business stole a LOT of my reading time), but honestly, some of these books are some of the BEST I've ever read!  I tried to venture a little farther outside my comfort zone of historical fiction this year to read more contemporary, suspense, and YA books, and it definitely paid off.  Also, a couple of these are not 2012 releases, but I figure that's probably ok.  :o) 

Out of the 60 books I read, 15 were 5-Star reads.  For each of the ones I've included on the list, there's a little snippet from my book review, as well as the link to complete review if you'd like more information about each title.

Going from #10 to #1, here are my Top Ten books of 2012:

Echoes of Titanic was a great blend of mystery and history that had me glued to the pages for two solid days.

I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a Regency novel more than I enjoyed this one.

An Uncommon Grace was a very intriguing story that was both entertaining and satisfying.

Jenny has managed to write a witty, sassy, yet quite painful, novel that had me on an emotional roller coaster that I didn't want to end.

There are so many layers to the story and characters that as you go deeper and deeper, it is impossible to not be affected in some way.

Few authors capture the raw tension and depth of emotion that Katie Ganshert has in her debut novel, Wildflowers from Winter.

Siri's portrayal of a young 17-year-old debutante hoping to catch the hand of uber-rich Franklin de Vries was both entertaining as well as heartbreaking.

I loved the redemptive theme and the unfailing love of God that was present in every chapter. But if the truth be told, I really, really loved the romance.

I have been so impressed with all of Sandra's books over the years, but historical fiction is where her talents shine the brightest.

When I had no choice at times but to place my bookmark inside this haunting novel, my heart just ached to be back within its pages.


Honorable Mentions


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Book Review: She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell/5 Stars

About the book:

For a young society woman seeking a favorable marriage in the late 1890s, so much depends on her social season debut. Clara Carter has been given one goal: secure the affections of the city's most eligible bachelor. Debuting means plenty of work -- there are corsets to be fitted, dances to master, manners to perfect. Her training soon pays off, however, as celebrity's spotlight turns Clara into a society-page darling.

Yet Clara wonders if this is the life she really wants, especially when she learns her best friend has also set her sights on Franklin De Vries. When a man appears who seems to love her simply for who she is, and gossip backlash turns ugly, Clara realizes it's not just her heart at stake -- the future of her family depends on how she plays the game.

My thoughts:

I have always fancifully wished myself in some other era other than my own - preferably one with gorgeous fashion, busy social events, and an enviable last name - but after reading Siri Mitchell's tale of Guilded Era New York with it's tight corsets and marrow shovels, I think my wishing days are over.  Siri's portrayal of a young 17-year-old debutante hoping to catch the hand of uber-rich Franklin de Vries was both entertaining as well as heartbreaking.  Truly, this novel overflowed with opulence and finery, but the cost such beauty exacted was far too high.  Sadly, our culture has not changed over the years in spite of the fact that women no longer wear lacing corsets, but we are still surrounded by the noise and imagery of whether we are "pretty enough."  I applaud Siri for tackling such a difficult subject matter amidst the backdrop of the Guilded Era, but I shouldn't be surprised.  She has become one of the best authors in Christian historical fiction, and I always appreciate that I gain a bit of history paired with an exciting tale in every one of her novels.

5 Stars

Southern?  No
Sass?  No

**Many thanks to Bethany House for providing a copy for review.

**For more information about Siri and her novels, please visit

**To read my review of A Heart Most Worthy (also by Siri Mitchell), click here.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Book Review: McKenzie by Penny Zeller/4 Stars

About the book:

"Desperate times call for desperate measures" is the reasoning that prompts McKenzie Worthington, a young lady of Boston's high society, to respond to an ad for a mail-order bride for a man in the Montana Territory. McKenzie is desperate, after all, to save her beloved younger sister, Kaydie, from her evil, abusive husband, who robs banks for a living. And so, it is with reckless determination that McKenzie runs away from the comforts of home and hearth to head West and meet her new husband-whom she'll divorce, of course, after she rescues her sister.

"Desperate times call for desperate measures" is the reasoning that also prompts Zachary Sawyer, a rugged rancher after God's own heart, to post an ad for a mail-order bride in various newspapers across the country. Managing a ranch and caring for his adoptive son, Davey, has become more than one man can handle alone, and Zach prays for God to send him a wife with whom to build a life and share his dreams.

When McKenzie arrives at Zach's ranch, she immediately puts her plan in motion, searching for her sister and doing all she can to keep her new husband from forming an attachment. But his persistent kindness and significant self-sacrifices begin to change her heart-and ruin her plans. God has a way of working things out to the good of those who love Him, though, as McKenzie and Kaydie will soon see

My thoughts:

Most fans of romance will enjoy this first novel in the Montana Skies series about a Bostonian woman that travels out West as a mail-order bride, yet has an ulterior motive.

The title character of this book, McKenzie, answers an ad for a mail-order bride willing to travel to Montana Territory. The only thing is, she's really not all that interested in becoming a wife, much less to a complete stranger, but she is, however, in search of her sister who is trapped in an abusive marriage and also lives in Montana Territory. Her husband-to-be, Zach Sawyer, believes that God has sent McKenzie to him, and devotes himself fully to this new relationship even though McKenzie keeps him at arm's length. He eventually discovers her reasons for uprooting herself from a cultured lifestyle in Boston, and his initial joy of having her as his wife dissolves into feelings of disbelief.

Truly, the plot alone was worth the read since it's been a long while since I read a mail-order bride story, and this one came with an intriguing twist. McKenzie's snobbish nature early on turned me off, and her family wasn't particularly likeable, either. (In hindsight, I suppose that could be considered a good thing because by book's end, McKenzie had found a place in my heart.) Zach, on the other hand, was a complete and utter dream all the way through, and his young son, Davey, was as sweet as cherry pie. :)

On the flip side, I grew tired of the overdone Christian message throughout the novel. Most of the time, authors subtly include references to Scripture, but in my experience, it's atypical to see Scriptures used in their full context in the middle of a novel. If it had appeared once or twice, I would've thought nothing of it, but after multiple occurrences, I started to skim. Don't get me wrong...I have no problem with the inclusion of Scripture in Christian fiction, but in this case, it felt a little excessive and hindered the flow of the character's conversations in which it was used.

In spite of the preachiness of this novel, I was fully invested in the story, and sincerely wanted Zach and McKenzie's marriage to succeed. Also, there were a handful of great life lessons and nuggets of advice shared between Asa and Zach that were great additions to the story. The ending of this book set the stage nicely for the next book where I'll have the opportunity to get to know Kaydie as well as a certain confirmed bachelor who has already piqued my interest. :)

4 Stars

Southern?  No
Sass?  No

**Many thanks to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

**For more information about Penny Zeller, please visit

Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Review: Wreath by Judy Christie/4 Stars

About the book:

What do you do when you’re too young to be on your own but have no one to turn to? 

Sixteen-year-old Wreath Willis makes a list: Find a place to live. Buy cheap food. Finish high school. Get a job. Go to college. Now she’s finishing high school by day and squatting in a junkyard by night, flying below the authorities’ radar while she makes a few awkward friends and searches for an illusory “good life.” But when a teacher grows too suspicious, Wreath is afraid she’ll have to move on before she graduates. Could it be this was a good life?

My thoughts: 

Sometimes, there's nothing greater for a reader than finding a new book that just resonates deep within. Such was the case with me and my last read - Wreath. I can't explain what it was exactly that drew me back to this book over and over again, but I knew I would not be satisfied until I completed it. :o)

One thing that impressed me was that this did not feel like a young adult novel at all, perhaps because the main character had no choice but to grow up rather quickly after the sudden death of her mother. My heart ached that Wreath spent her days either going to the local park for a shower, eating nothing but peanut butter and crackers because her money supply was so thin, and that her home was the despised local junkyard. But oh, what perseverance! In spite of incredible obstacles, her determination to finish high school and hold down a job at the same time proved that this fictitious character was better than most kids I know in real life!

Wreath's biggest obstacle, though, was trust, and wow...did she have a lot to overcome there. I couldn't imagine living a life being afraid to trust in those around me--those who have shown they care about my well-being. It took a very long time, almost the span of the entire book, before she realized that she didn't need to run from those friends that she grew to love.

The ending was a little abrupt for my taste, but I'll admit that I'd love to take a return trip to Landry and catch up with Wreath and her friends. As this was my first experience with Judy Christie's work, I have no doubt that I'll pick up another of her novels down the road.

Highly recommended!

4 Stars

Southern?  Yes
Sass?  No

**Many thanks to Barbour Books through NetGalley for providing a copy for review.

**For more information about Judy and her books, please visit


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Book Review: Dawn Comes Early by Margaret Brownley/4 Stars

About the book: 

Looking for a woman of good character and pleasant disposition willing to learn the ranching business in Arizona territory. Must be SINGLE and prepared to remain so now and forever more. Will be given ownership of ranch. --Eleanor Walker

Disgraced dime novelist Kate Tenney fled the city that banned her latest book for a fresh start at a cattle ranch in the Arizona Territory. She hopes ranching turns out to be as romantic as she portrayed it in her novels.

But what awaits her is a much harder life. There is no room for mistakes on a working cattle ranch in 1895, and Kate is ill-prepared for her new life. She quickly learns that dawn comes early . . . every day. But she is tenacious.

Having been abandoned by a string of men, Kate has no intention of ever marrying. But she didn't expect to meet Luke Adams either. Luke awakens feelings inside Kate she doesn't recognize, and his steady presence is a constant distraction. She has only written about love in the past, never known it herself. But her feelings for Luke stand in the way of all she has to gain if she is chosen as the heir.

Perhaps God brought Kate to the barrenness of the desert to give new life to her jaded heart.

My thoughts:

Lately, my reading time has been "catch as catch can" with no continuity whatsoever, so to say I was very pleased that I picked up Dawn Comes Early would be a great understatement!  This was my first experience with one of Margaret's books, and I already know I will be coming back for more.  Her writing style was so different from other historical fiction authors in that, her characters were so entertaining and full of life and spunk, and frankly, just plain unique.  I loved them!  The storyline in itself was unusual because I was fully expecting a romance, but when the back cover said the heroine must be "prepared to stay single now and forevermore"...I knew the author had something up her sleeve.  :o)

With one tiny exception of a lull around the 200-page mark, Dawn Comes Early provided me with a wonderful reading experience that will prompt me to recommend it to several friends.  I'm anxious to see what happens next!

4 Stars

Southern?  No
Sassy?  Yes

**Many thanks to Nancy Berland PR for providing a copy for review.

**For more information on Margaret and her books, please visit