Friday, November 9, 2018

Literary Friday: On Magnolia Lane

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  It has been storming and raining all week, plus I'm nursing a bad cold.  Luckily for me I was able to read Denise Hunter's latest novel from her Blue Ridge Series, On Magnolia Lane.  So far I am absolutely loving this series!

According to Goodreads:

From the bestselling author of The Convenient Groom (now a beloved Hallmark Original movie) comes the final book in Hunter’s Blue Ridge Romance series.

Pastor Jack McReady has secretly carried a torch for Daisy for two long years. She’s a member of his congregation, after all, and she’ll never see him as more than a trusted counselor. Jack’s best friend Noah has taken every opportunity to encourage his lovesick friend, but when Noah catches wind that Daisy has joined an online dating site, he takes matters into his own hands and orchestrates a meet-cute of the most unconventional kind.

Owner of the local flower shop, Daisy Pendleton is content with her small-town life, but she’d sure like someone to share it with. After several disastrous first dates, she’s about to give up—and then she finds a seemingly wonderful man online. Daisy gets to know TJ through a series of messages but finds herself spending more time with Pastor Jack outside of the church at the same time. What she doesn’t know is that her online prospect and Jack are one and the same. 

Just as Daisy’s love life starts to look promising, a mysterious woman appears in town. Daisy is faced with a revelation about her family that turns her world upside down, and she looks to both TJ and Jack for help.

Jack must find a way to reveal himself as her online suitor without breaking her heart and losing her trust. As Daisy faces Jack’s betrayal, she’ll have to learn to extend grace to herself, her family, and the man she’s grown to love.

My Review

This book has the cutest love story!  I love Pastor Jack's character: He's patient, kind, athletic, and easy on the eyes.  He's had a crush on Daisy for at least two years, and she's totally oblivious to his feelings for her.  What makes it even more humorous is that she is a constant fixture in his office seeking counseling.  That's what's so sweet about their romance: He knows everything about her, warts and all!  

All of Jack's friends have noticed that he's crushing on Daisy, so they begin to plot in order to nudge them together.  Jack's friend Noah sets-up an account for Jack on a dating website under a false name.  When "TJ" and Daisy meet online, they are definitely compatible and enjoy conversing with each other.  Daisy is definitely smitten with TJ, but at the same time she starts going on rock climbing dates with Jack.  She becomes torn between the two, and she wants to meet TJ in person.

If Daisy's love life isn't enough, she discovers a devastating family secret from a woman visiting from North Carolina.  She is perplexed on how to proceed with her family, so of course she seeks the advice of Pastor Jack.  I love books about family secrets!  This story has a lot to ponder, including how we sometimes put our parents on a pedestal where no one but God belongs.  It also addresses forgiveness, overcoming obstacles, and the comfort in learning how God sees us rather than how the world sees us.

I highly recommend On Magnolia Lane and this entire series, especially if you enjoy Christian fiction.

Below are the first two books in the series.  I've read both, and I reviewed Sweetbriar Cottage.

Read my review HERE.

I also enjoyed Honeysuckle Dreams.

Denise Hunter

Aren't the Blue Ridge Series book covers gorgeous?

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Disclosure:  I received an ARC from the publisher Thomas Nelson via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.  Thank you!

What are you reading this weekend?

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Friday, November 2, 2018

Literary Friday: The Clockmaker's Daughter and The Witch Elm

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!

During Halloween week, I read two books that I thought would be appropriate for the holiday:
The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton, and
The Witch Elm by Tana French.

One of the books was fantastic with a complicated yet genius plot, and the other one was, um, "meh!"

According to Goodreads:

A rich, spellbinding new novel from the author of The Lake House—the story of a love affair and a mysterious murder that cast their shadow across generations, set in England from the 1860's until the present day.

My real name, no one remembers.
The truth about that summer, no one else knows.

In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins.

Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist’s sketchbook containing the drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.

Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?

Told by multiple voices across time, The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a story of murder, mystery, and thievery, of art, love and loss. And flowing through its pages like a river, is the voice of a woman who stands outside time, whose name has been forgotten by history, but who has watched it all unfold: Birdie Bell, the clockmaker’s daughter. 

My Review:

First of all I must disclose that Kate Morton is one of my favorite writers of all time.  I was so looking forward to reading The Clockmaker's Daughter because it's a Victorian ghost story set (primarily) in the present.  Birdie Bell, the clockmaker's daughter and a ghost, tells much of the story through her point of view.  She slowly reveals her background, love story, and then the story of the "visitors" to Birchwood Manor with whom she's made a "connection."  Elodie also has a tragic background, and she has a connection to Birdie Bell that is slowly revealed in the narrative.  

The plot of this novel is very complicated.  Reader, you must pay attention or you will miss a seemingly unimportant plot point only to realize later that it's an important cog in the mechanism of the story.  The major vignettes are set during the Victorian era (early and then late), shortly after World War I, during World War II, the 1980's, and the present.  The way that Morton interweaves the stories and reveals the connections between disparate characters is sheer genius.  

Not only was I fascinated by Birdie and Edward Radcliffe's love story,  I also enjoyed how a family story told to Elodie by her late mother has a connection to Birchwood Manor; family stories have always intrigued me!  If you enjoy historical fiction and romances, complicated, well-drawn characters, intricate plots, intrigue, suspense, and English countryside settings, then you will love this wonderful novel.  The Clockmaker's Daughter will definitely make my Best Three Books of 2018 List.

According to Goodreads:

Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who's dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life: he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family's ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden - and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.

The Witch Elm asks what we become, and what we're capable of, when we no longer know who we are.

My Review:

I was so looking forward to this stand alone from Tana French.  I love her Dublin Murder Squad Series (I highly recommend the series), and I couldn't wait to read The Witch Elm.  I even pre-ordered an autographed copy of the book.  Unfortunately I was very disappointed in this novel for several reasons.  The first one is petty, I'll admit, but I have to wonder why throughout the book the tree is called the wych elm, yet the title is The Witch Elm.  Hmmm...

Toby is not a very sympathetic character.  His whole family is a dysfunctional mess: they're entitled, selfish, secretive, violent, and evil.  When Toby and his cousins were kids, their parents couldn't wait  until summer to travel and leave them with their uncle in the family ancestral home.  This book is a super illustration of what happens to young people without appropriate adult supervision because Uncle Hugo did not supervise the kids.

There's a sadistic plot twist late in the book I wasn't expecting, and I almost DNF'd the book right then and there, but I decided to persevere and finish because surely SURELY Tana French wouldn't let her readers down; there MUST be an incredibly GRAND ending, right!?!  RIGHT!?!?!?  

I'm let down.  

In other bookish news...
Stay tuned for an announcement next week about the launch of The Sketchy Reader Book Club beginning January 2019!

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Friday, October 26, 2018

Literary Friday: The Lost for Words Bookshop

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Last week I read one of the best books I've read so far this year: The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland.  Rarely do I read a book that stays with me for days after completing it.  This book has done just that, and Loveday's story and character touched my very soul!

According to Goodreads:

The Lost for Words Bookshop is a compelling, irresistible, and heart-rending novel, perfect for fans of The Storied Life of AJ Fikry and The Little Paris Bookshop.

Loveday Cardew prefers books to people. If you look carefully, you might glimpse the first lines of the novels she loves most tattooed on her skin. But there are some things Loveday will never, ever show you. Into her hiding place - the bookstore where she works - come a poet, a lover, and three suspicious deliveries. Someone has found out about her mysterious past. Will Loveday survive her own heartbreaking secrets? 

My Review:

Yes, this novel is perfect for fans of The Storied Life of AJ Fikry and The Little Paris Bookshop.  I loved both of those novels, too!

The Lost for Words Bookshop is definitely character-driven.  Loveday Cardew's story will touch, break, and uplift your heart.  Told from Loveday's point of view, I felt like I got to know her well.  She's an only child with a tragic childhood she'd rather forget.  She's built tons of fortifications around her heart, so much so that she's been unaware of those who've loved and protected her while she was in the British foster care system.   Loveday begins working at the Lost for Words Bookshop when she's an older teen.  Archie, the bookstore's owner, is a bigger than life character with quite the storied past.  He's gregarious, loquacious, and loves to tell stories about his many escapades.  Archie is like a surrogate father to Loveday, and I enjoyed reading about their repartee and "system" in dealing with customers.  

Although she clearly prefers books to people and isn't very trusting, she starts dating a jerk named Rob, a doctoral student studying the Italian Renaissance.  Unfortunately he's mentally ill and self-medicates.  He uses his illness to get away with very bad behavior, probably because he's also a narcissist.  But when he commits his first abusive act she does not take anything off of him, bully for her!  Then when sweet poet and close-up magician Nathan enters her life, I was holding my breath because I didn't want her to mistreat him just because of her past experiences with Rob the Jerk!  Loveday is a bit of a closet poet herself, and Nathan hosts an open mic poetry night at the local pub.  She accepts his invitation to attend, and she eventually shares her poetry.

Stephanie Butland eases the reader into Loveday's past.  Her spirit, tenacity, and transformation are miraculous given her background, and the entire narrative mesmerized me. I couldn't put this book down, and I was so sad when it ended.  Sidenote:  I love her given name!  It's sometimes a surname, but also a given name usually only in Cornwall.  Her name suits her!

Like I said in the introduction, this book will always stay with me.  It has definitely made my top ten for books that touched my heart and soul.  I highly recommend it!  I checked this one out from my local library because I noticed it and thought I'd like it because I enjoy reading stories about bookshops and libraries.  I will be ordering a copy for our home library this week because I know I will want to read this book again and again!

Below is an affiliate link for purchasing The Lost for Words Bookshop via IndieBound.

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I hope y'all have a great weekend!  We're off to another horse show in Tuscaloosa!

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill