Showing posts with label Susan May Warren. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Susan May Warren. Show all posts

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Favorite Books of 2017: Novellas and Collections


You all know how much I love novellas, so of course I had to share my favorites that must not be missed! Here are my top 10 novellas and collections that I rated 5 stars in 2017. (The last book isn't technically a novella but it is the compilation of the novel and novella in hardback... aaaaaand it's my favorite book of all time- Merry Christmas to me!)




http://www.amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.comhttp://www.barnesandnoble.comhttp://www.goodreads.com

Love, love, love this series! I read one right after the other and then re-read my favorite parts from all three again when I was done. In all the books, there are deep emotions simmering beneath the surface in the characters, brought to light by the highly dangerous circumstances they find themselves in, resulting in explosive sparks! There is a blend of vulnerability and strength that is appealing. I think we all feel flawed and vulnerable in some way, but want to believe that we will have the strength to not only persevere but succeed when trials come. I kept reliving the stories of all three books in my mind for days afterward.



Heidi Reads... Valentine's Day Collection (Timeless Romance Anthology) by Janette Rallison, Heather B. Moore, Jenny Proctor, Annette Lyon, Heather Tullis, Sarah M. Eden

http://www.amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.comhttp://www.goodreads.com

After reading some deep historical novels, this novella collection of light contemporary romances was just what I needed! It made me smile, giggle, and get swoony (I've recently decided this is the best way to describe that butterflies/toe curling feeling when the romantic moments are really touching). I'm always impressed that the stories in the Timeless Romance Anthologies are so creative and varied. Here's what I thought of my favorites in the Valentine's Day Collection...

A BRUSH WITH THE LAW by Janette Rallison
So. Funny. This is the one that made me giggle and think, "Girl, what are you thinking?!" Bethany has a great sense of humor to deal with the mishaps that keep her in the sights of a local policeman.

EVERY OCCASION by Heather B. Moore 
The chemistry is hot in this one! Maurie has a good perspective on life and her dysfunctional childhood, but that doesn't make returning home less painful. Grant was the one light in her youth but he has a confession of his own to make... great tension and backstories to make the characters vulnerable with each other.

HOLD YOUR BREATH by Jenny Proctor 
I haven't read anything by Jenny Proctor before but this definitely won't be the last! I loved the determination of Kayla to stick to her plan of no dating while training for the Olympics, and Nate's equal resolve to not let her get away. They had fantastic chemistry and charming banter.

HEY, HELEN! by Sarah M. Eden   
One of my favorites of the collection, the secret love angle was so romantic and it was perfectly balanced with humor from Helen's column and compassion as she helps Neil take a difficult stand with some family issues. A strong story to end the anthology with, I finished with a big sigh of satisfaction :)



Heidi Reads... A Holiday in Bath by Julie Daines, Caroline Warfield, Jaima Fixsen

http://www.amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.comhttp://www.barnesandnoble.comhttp://www.goodreads.com

I loved this novella collection! Each story was set in Bath, England during the Regency era, and it was so fun to learn historical details about that location. The first story by Julie Daines was full of drama, intrigue, and emotional turmoil (without being melodramatic). The friendship and affection that develop between the vulnerable Marianne and protective Mr. Northam balances out the darker parts of the story, and I loved how everything wrapped up. The second story by Caroline Warfield was a delight, and since I haven't read anything by this author before I'm looking forward to seeking out her other books. Lucy's sweet and compassionate nature make her a perfect match for the charming Edmund who is looking to turn his life in a direction different from his parents' expectations. The last story by Jaima Fixsen has plenty of kissing as the title implies, and while I liked the characters, their relationship seemed too based on physical attraction. It was still a fun story and finished the collection off nicely.



Heidi Reads... My Dearest Love by Sarah M. Eden

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What a sweet love story! I fell in love with the O'Connor family living in the tenements of New York City. Instead of allowing the harsh circumstances pull them apart, their bond keeps them strong and supportive of each other. Ian is a man confident in his skills, yet adorable with his uncertainty and vulnerability when it comes to a certain lass. Biddy is completely alone but her mother's words to keep making the best of things helps motivate her to work hard in the loud factory. This is my favorite kind of romance, where we get to see the two develop a friendship that progresses into love. Ian's brothers Patrick and Tavish have great personalities and I hope we get to read more about them in the future. The ending is bittersweet which brought out more emotion and curiosity about where the family's journey will take them.



Heidi Reads... Falling for a Duke (Timeless Regency Collection) by Rebecca Connolly, Nichole Van, Janelle Daniels

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Such a great collection! Each story captured my interest and held it with interesting characters, unique plots, and great settings. I especially loved the creative way the author incorporated the past with the present in VINGT-ET-UN | TWENTY-ONE. The story starts with Eliza and Liam resenting each other, but as we learn of their former friendship layer by layer and see them come together again in spite of the obstacles, the emotions heighten and I could not stop reading! I KISSED A DUKE was pretty fun and I liked seeing Madeline learn to stand on her own in a demanding and unforgiving society. ON THE DUKE’S ERRAND had an amazing setting in Scotland and it was interesting to learn about the conflicts there and how David did his best to get to know the people and their circumstances. He and Ceana had great chemistry and worked together well with his charm and her fiery personality.



Heidi Reads... The Heart Only Grows by Michele Paige Holmes

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Be still my heart! How I loved this sweet story of two orphans that brought together two lonely people to form a family. I've always been fascinated by the history of the orphan train, and since we have adopted our two daughters, it's a topic that is close to my heart. I love characters like Addie, she is a woman who has suffered hardship, but it has made her more compassionate and an advocate for the orphans. Miles' sorrow is understandable, and I loved how Addie accepted what he was able to offer- and not offer- with gratitude. I also loved that he was quick to look beyond himself to the family now in his care and couldn't help but respond. A wonderful novella with characters that are easy to connect to, great pacing, and a full story arc- just the kind of reading that makes me cozy up and sigh with happiness :)



Heidi Reads... Christmas Grace by Jennifer Moore, Krista Lynn Jensen, Chalon Linton, Anita Stansfield

http://www.amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.comhttps://deseretbook.com/p/christmas-grace-5191770?autocomplete=true&variant_id=157250-ebookhttp://www.goodreads.com

I absolutely loved this collection of heartfelt holiday stories set in Regency England! Each one had a perfectly sweet romance full of the hesitation and anticipation of unexpected love. I felt like it was easy to get to know the characters quickly and connect with them and whatever their struggle or heartache was. I loved watching the happy endings unfold for each of the couples in the stories and I loved the cozy feeling that the snowy Christmas setting brought. I honestly couldn't pick a favorite because I loved them all so well- that must be a good sign :)



Heidi Reads... A Season of Love by Carla Kelly

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The writing of Carla Kelly is so refreshing, I always look forward to reading a story by her. And this one has five stories! The characters are ones that are easy to like, and I quickly connected with them and their feelings through the various struggles or trials they are enduring. I appreciate that they are strong people with admirable traits, and most of the conflict comes from exterior sources. Overall the stories are sweet, but they still contain the author's trademark grittiness and realistic world view including the lower classes of British society. I also love the wry humor that subtly brings a lighter note to the narrative without diminishing the emotions and deeper themes.



 Heidi Reads... Happily Ever After: Six Fairy Tale Romances (A Timeless Romance Anthology) by Jessica Day George, Julie Wright, Sarah M. Eden, Julie Daines, Heather B. Moore, Annette Lyon

http://www.amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.comhttp://www.barnesandnoble.comhttp://www.goodreads.com

I absolutely love a good fairy tale retelling, and this collection is full of them! Every one of the stories is creative while still being recognizable. The authors did a wonderful job of pulling me into the story quickly and keeping me guessing as to how things would resolve. I thoroughly enjoyed all the stories, but my favorites were The Miller's Daughter (based on Rumpelstiltskin), Black Fern (based on Beauty and the Beast), and Scarlet (based on Little Red Riding Hood). Something about the relationships in those particular stories resonated with me, the settings were easy to envision, and the tension or anticipation was palpable.




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As much as I adore my well-read paperback version of Edenbrooke and it's lovely cover, this gorgeous hardcover comes with the companion novella Heir to Edenbrooke.

Edenbrooke:
Words cannot express how much I adore this book. It's always the first book I recommend! I totally relate to Marianne, her insecurities and strengths, and Phillip is the perfect hero in my mind. The romantic tension is Off. The. Hook. I literally can't count how many times I've read it (especially my favorite parts).

Heir to Edenbrooke:
I absolutely adore Edenbrooke, and to have a novella from the hero's perspective is a dream come true :) I loved the insights it gives into Phillip's life before he meets Marianne, and it helped me more understand him and his actions in Edenbrooke. Of course I wish there was more of him and Marianne together from his point of view, but I think it's pretty perfect for what it is. My imagination can fill in the rest ;)



Do you enjoy reading novellas? 
What are some of your favorites?


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Favorite Books of 2017: Contemporary Romance


I had a hard time narrowing this list down, but here it is- my top 10 contemporary fiction books that I gave 5 stars in 2017, along with my reviews- why I thought these books were AMAZING!


Love's Shadow by Nichole Van

Heidi Reads... Love's Shadow by Nichole Van

http://www.amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.comhttp://www.barnesandnoble.comhttps://www.bookdepository.com/Loves-Shadow-Nichole-Van/9780996893626?ref=grid-view&qid=1515474443907&sr=1-1http://www.goodreads.com

The first book in the series, Gladly Beyond, was pretty amazing and made my list for favorites of 2016. This second book did not disappoint and I loved it just as much! Full of emotion, heartache, love, and hope, it brings out all the feels and I shed a few tears while reading. I loved the connection between Bran and Lucy, despite both of them thinking they harbored an unrequited love for each other. There are so many fun quirky details that really make their relationship come to life. The paranormal aspect of the plot isn't too over the top and is based in the family's history, so the modern setting wasn't too much of a contrast for the things Lucy and the D'Angelo family are experiencing, perhaps because it's set in Italy. The supernatural gift/curse that the brothers have form a bond between them and the dynamics are complicated and fascinating. I already can't wait to read more!!!


Paige's Turn by Jennifer Peel

Heidi Reads... Paige's Turn by Jennifer Peel

http://www.amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.comhttp://www.goodreads.com

This is a pretty special book. I loved Paige's character, especially her unique blend of grace and moxie. As confident as we are as adults, there's something about returning to a hometown that makes us remember or relive those feelings of vulnerability associated with our youth. I also feel this way on the rare occasion when I get together with friends from high school. My life now is so separate from my life then, I wonder if people who grow up in the same place and with the same people avoid this experience. Anyway, back to the book! Paige is compelled by the death of her aunt to return and follow Mitzi's wishes that she run the bookstore and reconnect with Sam, her former crush and current landscaper. The notes she leaves Paige are hilarious and heartwarming, making her a definite presence and influence in the book. There are a variety of community and family members that are vividly portrayed and I loved my experience spending time with Paige as she navigates the minefields of gossip, misunderstandings, and jealousy. She has cathartic and healing experiences and even some vindication when her confidence and success is accepted as her true self instead of being seen as the person she once was. A lovely journey with fun, drama, angst, and of course romance!


Rescue Me by Susan May Warren

Heidi Reads... Rescue Me by Susan May Warren

http://www.amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.comhttp://www.barnesandnoble.comhttps://www.bookdepository.com/Loves-Shadow-Nichole-Van/9780996893626?ref=grid-view&qid=1515474443907&sr=1-1http://www.goodreads.com

I can hardly believe it, but I just might have loved this second book in the Montana Rescue series even more than the first!!! (And that's saying a lot...) The action is way ramped up throughout the entire book, and I was literally biting my fingernails at times. (It was like watching a movie in my head!) I love the author's method of including two romances in the story- the main one between Sam and Willow, and also one between team members Jess and Pete, Sam's younger brother. The characters are strong, yet flawed, and all their journeys- physical and emotional- are compelling and human. I think that's why I connected with this story- each character has some major hang-ups, but it made them easier to relate to as they struggled and tried their best to do what they felt was right. The romances were both very "will they/won't they" and kept me turning pages and invested in the outcome. 


True to You by Becky Wade

Heidi Reads... True to You by Becky Wade

http://www.amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.comhttp://www.barnesandnoble.comhttp://www.bookdepository.comhttp://www.goodreads.com

True to You is oh-so-good! It totally made me cry... and that's a good thing. By the end of the book I felt so much compassion for John and his struggle to accept and overcome some pretty tough things. As a mother who adopted her children, I completely related to the theme of adoption and was fascinated by Nora and John's search for his biological parents. The contrasts between Nora and John were stark, but their differences complemented each other and the chemistry between them was awesome. I loved the emotional journey they went on as they learned to trust God and rely on Him for peace and resolution. Nora's sisters were a fun and integral presence and I can't wait to read their stories!


Right Next to Me by Rachel Ward

Heidi Reads... Right Next to Me by Rachel Ward

http://www.amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.comhttp://www.barnesandnoble.comhttps://deseretbook.com/p/right-next-to-me?variant_id=153207-paperbackhttp://www.bookdepository.comhttp://www.goodreads.com

Right Next to Me was a pleasure to read! It alternated between two times of transition in Sydney's life, and the comparison was intriguing. In her early high school days she struggles through her parents' divorce and takes on more responsibility in her family, which influences her later priorities when she graduates high school and begins college. The sweet beginnings of her relationship with Gavin show how hard it is to let go when they take separate paths. I loved her friendship with James and it's pretty much obvious to everyone except Sydney how they belong together. The author was skillful in showing (instead of telling) the supportive nature of their relationship and how much they enjoyed each other's company. It was easy to connect to the characters' emotions and the angst they are feeling as their relationship dynamic becomes more complex. A great young adult novel about growing up, navigating difficult circumstances, and the importance of friendship and forgiveness.  


The Promise of a Letter by Kathleen Fuller

Heidi Reads... The Promise of a Letter by Kathleen Fuller

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I absolutely loved Leanna! She is a unique character that owns her eccentricities and enjoys her independence. I admired her confidence, yet in this story her confidence is deeply shaken when her life is turned upside down in more than one unforeseen way. The manner in which she deals with her new circumstances and new friendship with Roman shows her compassion and ability to forgive. I enjoyed seeing Roman's journey as he is searching for his place and purpose despite being the black sheep of the family. We also see the struggles of Roman's brother Daniel and his wife Barbara which are heartbreaking but also full of hope and God's grace. Even though Roman and Daniel's grandmother has passed away, she is a major influence in the book and the lives of these men as she encourages them via letter to reconcile and support each other. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and connecting with the characters!


A New Shade of Summer by Nicole Deese

Heidi Reads... A New Shade of Summer by Nicole Deese

http://www.amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.comhttp://www.barnesandnoble.comhttp://www.bookdepository.comhttp://www.goodreads.com

After Davis was let down by Willa in the previous book of the series, I was so hoping that the author would give him his own story of finding love. And she did! And it is fabulous! I love how different Callie is and exactly what Davis and Brandon need. Her personality shines right off the page and yet has complexity woven in. Her connection to Brandon's artistic side draws him out which makes Davis take notice, in more ways than one. I loved how she was able to perceive people and their strengths, and communicate that to others. There are so many awesome nuggets in this book, but I want you to discover them for yourself! The chemistry between Davis and Callie is palpable and I loved how their romance budded naturally. Because Callie is so carefree in many aspects of her life, is seems that she is also free of fear, but her perceptions of herself and her innate characteristics are shaded by her father's choices and his words of legacy to her. Davis also has fears but he is an example to Callie in overcoming them by processing feelings of grief and anger through turning to God, allowing him to live life to the fullest. This book is full of light and humor, depth and compassion. 


Hometown Girl by Courtney Walsh

Heidi Reads... Hometown Girl by Courtney Walsh

http://www.amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.comhttp://www.barnesandnoble.comhttp://www.bookdepository.comhttp://www.goodreads.com

I just love this author's writing style! She has a way of drawing me into the lives of people who are struggling against the darkness and as their stories weave together the light emerges and hope shines brightly on its way to a happy ending- which really seems more like a new beginning. The contrasts and similarities between Beth and Molly as sisters really stood out to me, and it was interesting to see the characteristics they embraced and which ones they left behind as they were influenced by their parents and the people around them. I loved that they both rediscovered qualities about themselves that they believed didn't apply anymore. It's reassuring that it's never too late to decide to change and pursue a new focus in life. Beth and Drew are both holding on to painful secrets, and the process of loosening up around each other shakes the secrets out of dark corners where they can now be released... although Drew required a little more shaking ;) It was nice to see how they supported each other and yet had a realistic dynamic based on their very defined personalities. They had fabulous chemistry, and that first kiss- wow. I admit I read that scene a few times over (fans self). It was gratifying to see how the long time mystery unfolded and also watch the community band together to work hard for a new Fairwind Farm.


Once Again in Christmas Falls by Becky Monson

Heidi Reads... Once Again in Christmas Falls by Becky Monson

http://www.amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.comhttp://www.barnesandnoble.comhttp://www.bookdepository.comhttp://www.goodreads.com

This was my favorite book of the Return to Christmas Falls series, bar none. I absolutely loved the "childhood friends reunited" angle to the romance, especially when each character is so easy to like! London was so fun and interesting, and the author really delved into what made her tick and how her transformation affected her. Andy is lovable and charming and of course unrequited love gets me every time! They had such great chemistry together and even when the inevitable conflict came, I was rooting for them the whole time. I felt connected to the emotions of London and Andy which is one of my favorite things about reading a well-written book. This is one I'll definitely re-read and since it's the first book I've read by the author it made me add all her other books to my list! (This would be fine to read as a stand-alone even though it's in the middle of the series).


The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

Heidi Reads... The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

http://www.amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.comhttp://www.barnesandnoble.comhttp://www.bookdepository.comhttp://www.goodreads.com

At first I wondered if this book would be similar to others that have the characters dressing up and playacting in Regency form, but I needn't have worried- while there is a bit of that, it is taken to a higher level by Katherine Reay's unique writing style. This is a book that you just *feel*. While there is a great focus on the complex dynamics of the relationships Mary has with Isabel and Nathan, I loved that it delved just as deeply into her struggles with her job as an engineer and the part of her identity that is tied up in it. I loved her father and the influence he is on her life and creativity, he is such a great addition to the story and made it richer. I could relate to Mary's mixed feelings of resentment and love that she has for Isabel. There's something about growing up with a longtime friend that gives you so many experiences of good, bad, and in between that it's almost like family in how it shapes your personality. It was fascinating to see how Mary becomes more aware of Isabel's struggles and the way that she deals with the fallout of secrets that come to light. The simmering attraction between Nathan and Mary was delicious because the reader can tell how much they like the other but they are unaware of each other's interest... until they slowly become more brave in expressing that interest. It's not without conflict of course, and the anticipation while they worked things out was killing me- I just LOVED it!!!


Have you read any of these books? 
What are some of your favorites?