Friday, December 30, 2016

Top 16 of 2016

TOP 16 OF 2016

I always do a Top pick of the books I have read throughout the year to match the year. The further we get into the century though I may have to change that. Maybe I'll change it up once it is 2021. That way I can get to the Top 20 of 2020! So here you go, my Top 16 picks of 2016:
The last book in this series. I was sad to see it end, but the wrap-up was great!
I thought this was a return to the "old Dee Henderson" way of writing. Looking forward to the next book in the series.
I really liked the beginning of this new series. 
Irene Hannon always writes great novels and I definitely enjoyed this Men of Valor series.
I loved this series! It took me long enough to get to it, but once I started reading I read the whole series!

I love anything written by Karen Witemeyer
I love this series and this was a great finale!
Susan Sleeman is definitely one of my favorite authors. And really how can I not love her since she quotes me on the cover of this book! 
I got to meet Keli Gwyn on my vacation out in CA this year. She is a delight! I love her books!
The sequel to Haunting Joy was wonderful! If Lena writes it, I'm going to read it!
This one hit close to home as it is about a group of senior citizens. I'm getting closer to that age! I loved this story and it introduces us to the town of Finley which is featured in the Forever Finley series(see # 3)
I love the First Responders series and the Love Inspired Suspense line is one of my favorites. And of course Susan Sleeman!
I loved this story! It was heart-wrenching, it made me cry and it made me laugh. An excellent YA novel
This came out in monthly installments and I absolutely loved the town of Finley and all of the things about the Amos and Finley legend. Each monthly installment had it's own cover, and this is the whole compilation all in one book.
Julie Lessman y'all! She absolutely has to be on my list every year and she didn't disappoint with this novel!
The first in the River of Time California du-ology. I loved it!

The final book in The River of Time series? Maybe? Love, love loved it!

Yes, I have 2 number 1 picks! I loved them both equally and so I couldn't choose which one I wanted as number 1. I highly recommend all of the authors on my list. I loved every one of the books that I read on my 2016 list. This is why it is hard for me to narrow my choice down to Top 10. I didn't make my 2016 reading goal on Goodreads this year, but I sure enjoyed all of the books that I read. Looking forward to see what the world of reading brings me this coming year of 2017.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

For Fun: My Life According to Literature 2016

Kara over at Flowers of Quiet Happiness posted this on her blog and I thought it looked fun so I'm going to try it. My post for Top 16 of 2016 comes out tomorrow so I thought this was a good wrap up for the year. Using the books that I have read in 2016:

Describe yourself: MILES LEFT YET(Holly Schindler)

How do you feel today: A HOME OF HER OWN(Keli Gwyn)I would love a home of my own, at the moment we are a houseful of 7 with 3 dogs and a cat. Our daughter and her family moved in in October after they sold their house. They have been waiting to close on a piece of property with a mobile home on it. That happens today. We have enjoyed this time with them and still love them!

Describe where you currently live: A CASTLE IN THE SKY(Miranda Atchley)

If you could go anywhere, you would go to: FOUR WINDS(Lisa T. Bergren)

Your favorite form of transportation: PONY EXPRESS HERO (Rhonda Gibson)

Your best friend is: NO OTHER WILL DO (Karen Witemeyer)

You and your friends are: THE NEWSMAKERS (Lis Wiehl)

What's the weather like: CHRISTMAS CONSPIRACY (Susan Sleeman) It has been unseasonably warm. But next week the big arctic blast arrives...or so they say.

You fear: THE CANDIDATE(Lis Wiehl) I guess we have picked our person and I don't really fear him, I fear for our country because we have turned our back on God.

What's the best advice you have to give: A GLIMMER OF HOPE(Julie Lessman)

Thought for the day: BREATHE(Lisa T. Bergren)

How would you like to die: ONLY THE HEART KNOWS (Lena Goldinch)

Your soul's present condition: LOVE EVERLASTING (Julie Lessman) Jesus is my love everlasting. My hope for you today is that you too will find that everlasting love that only HE can offer you.

So, how fun was that? I enjoyed reviewing all of the books I read and finding just the right one to go with each question. If you decide to do this post a comment with a link to your blog, I would love to read it! 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Only The Heart Knows by Lena Goldfinch

Mandy isn’t happy when her mother tells her that in order to find a husband she is going to need to move to Denver with her Aunt and Uncle. Mandy’s mother thinks that Mandy has belittled all of the men in Cross Creek through the years and must find new prospects out of the area.

Through the years Mandy has often felt put down by the boys she has grown up with. After all, boys don’t like a girl who is taller than them and can out-perform them.

Adam has inherited his uncle’s ranch. He’s needed a lot of advice to learn how to run the ranch since he was a banker by trade. So Adam has taken to anonymously writing to Ask Mack of the current newspaper in the area. Ask Mack is an advice column for men on ranching and nothing else.

Adam is attracted to Mandy and vice-versa, but they both have some insecurities and one is holding a secret that may not settle too well with the other. Can they set aside their misconceptions and misunderstandings and both find they were meant for each other?

Only The Heart Knows; it was a sweet romantic read. I enjoyed reading as both characters developed and matured and found their way. There were a couple of scenes that had me laughing out loud as well as more serious tones that delved deeper into insecurities that the characters had. Mandy and Adam were perfect for each other and the story had a very satisfying Happily Ever After that left me with a smile on my face.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Intermission by Serena Chase

Madeleine Faith (Faith to her family) wants to become a Broadway actress. Being a part of a family that looks down on the "artsy" is making it rather difficult for her to achieve that dream. When she meets Noah Spencer there is an instant connection between the two. Noah is 3 years older than her and set to go to London to study at The London Academy of Musical Theatre. That is, IF he gets accepted.

Faith's parents have never accepted the fact that Faith desires to study music. Faith feels that she can do no right in their eyes. Living in her two older siblings shadow Faith refuses to give up her dreams.

Playing Leisl and Rolf in a community production of The Sound of Music only brings Noah and Faith closer together. After the production they wish to date, but Faith's parents will have none of that. Especially Faith's mother. She won't even hear of meeting Noah. She does everything in her power to keep Faith and Noah apart. Will Noah and Faith be able to hold on or will they drift apart?

I absolutely loved this story! I love "young love" stories anyway, but add in all of the hurdles that Noah and Madeleine Faith had to face only added to the special-ness of this book. So many emotions were felt throughout the reading of this story. I felt like I was part of the story. Faith's heartache was so heart-wrenching and yet her ability to hold on was admirable and caused a big smile to come across this readers face. Faith's mom is totally over the top crazy! I found myself wanting to jump into the story and defend Faith! I wanted to go rescue Faith. So many things kept me turning the pages and totally engrossed in what was happening between Faith and Noah. This is the perfect YA novel that features young love, family angst, faith and triumph. At the risk of gushing, I will just say once more, I absolutely loved this story and highly recommend it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Four Winds by Lisa T. Bergren

Four Winds picks up where Three Wishes left off. It seems that Zara Ruiz is now permanently stuck in 1840 with Javier de la Ventura and his family. Just as she is becoming aware of her love for Javier she is kidnapped by pirates! Javier will stop at nothing to get Zara back and Zara will stop at nothing to become free. Will this experience show Zara and Javier that their love is not meant to be and that Zara must return to her own time?

From the very beginning of the book the reader is taken on a fast-paced adventure! I was transported to 1840 along with Zara and felt her struggles. I love her character. She is strong, young and vibrant. And Javier? Oh my! They are perfect for each other. I love the passion that they both have, not just for each other(although there is plenty of that!), but their passion for life, their passion to preserve their faith and their family and their land. It was fun to be taken to another era where danger and chivalry abounded! I'm definitely part of the River Tribe fandom!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

One Fateful Christmas Eve by Holly Schindler

Mallory is an editor for Bib Books, a metaphysical publishing house. But her dream job is working for one of the Big 5 publishing houses. This Christmas Eve she has an opportunity to land that job. It seems that fate, which Mallory doesn't believe in, has other ideas for her though.

Graham Kendall's book is the first book that Bib has had on the best-seller list. He and Mallory have worked hard to make it there. Mallory has worked at keeping their relationship professional even though there is something about Graham that seems to touch a part of her heart.

From the moment Mallory leaves work on Christmas Eve it seems that fate is against her. Or so it seems to Mallory. Through a series of mishaps and disasters Mallory finally sees what has been right in front of her all along.

One Fateful Christmas Eve was a sweet Christmas read and I enjoyed it very much. I loved the lessons that Mallory learned throughout her evening. I enjoyed her eyes slowly being opened to the idea that people are more than what they wear or what their circumstances are. If you are looking for a quick, thought provoking, sweet read for Christmas then definitely check this one out!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Forever Finley Finale by Holly Schindler

The final two stories are in this installment of the Forever Finley Short Story Cycle. The first story is Pale November. In it Patricia Steele has just found out some terrible news. It seems to Mark though that nobody is interested in what is happening to Patricia. Has all that Mark has done to help promote the legend of Amos and Finley been for nothing? Not only is Mark feeling the change that is coming to Finley, others are feeling it too. There is a sense of doom coming to the town of Finley and those that sense its coming don't know what to do about it.

So exciting to be closing in on the finale of Amos and Finley's story! I loved Pale November! It seems that the town has forgotten the hope that believing in Amos and Finley's story used to produce. Mark seems especially disgruntled by this. He is determined to revive the town spirit once again and show Patricia that people in Finley care about what happens to each other. I love that message of everyone coming together to support someone in need. Amos and Finley are still trying to unite in the afterlife, but in Pale November you can feel them coming closer together. We also see in Pale November that miracles still do happen and that Finley is still working her magic.

The last story in the series, December Bells, had so many "feels" in it for me!!! Certain people in Finley are hearing noises. For each one it is different, but the feeling that the noises bring is the same...something bad is going to happen soon! It is just a few short weeks to Natalie and Damien's wedding. Will the town be able to put everything together for their wedding? And what about Finley's lace shawl that Natalie wanted to wear for her wedding? Will it ever be found? And will Amos and Finley ever be reunited in the afterlife? We find out all of the answers by the end of the story, and believe me I sighed a happy/sappy sigh when it was all over! The perfect ending for the perfect magical couple. I absolutely loved the whole Short Story Cycle.

While I enjoyed reading one story per month throughout the year, The Forever Finley short stories now are available all in one book in either paperback or for your Kindle. You can purchase it from Amazon.

If you enjoy stories set in small towns, if you enjoy magical/mystical stories, if you enjoy a romance that goes beyond this lifetime, if you enjoy stories of people helping out their neighbors, then step into the town of Finley and be carried away by the legend of Amos and his love Finley.

Check out my reviews of the other installments of this book:

Come December
January Thaw
Forget February
Dearest March
April's Promise
Mayday Mayday Mayday
Chasing June
A Hundred Julys
Under The August Moon
Song For September
October Omen


Miles Left Yet where the town of Finley is introduced.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Cowboy Christmas Homecoming by Various Authors

Last Chance Christmas by Julie Lessman

Grace O'Malley is in Last Chance, California hoping to start a new life. Hoping that her old friend will welcome her in her home Grace arrives unannounced and in for a surprise.

Newly widowed Pastor Colton McCabe is in need of some serious help. When Grace arrives on his doorstep he takes it as the miracle it is and gives Grace a home in exchange for her caring for his motherless children and his aunt who is none too happy to have Grace in her home.

If Colton knew when Grace arrived that she had no experience running a household he may have changed his mind. But Grace loves his children even if she burns every meal! Grace is eager to leave her past behind and find love with Colton, but Colton has a promise to fulfill for his first wife and doesn't think he can love another woman.

Last Chance Christmas is the first novella in this collection. And the author is one of my favorites! So of course it made me excited to read it. In true Julie Lessman style there is drama abounding in this novella. There is even a bit of danger which caused me some heart palpitations! With a bit of humor to lighten the mood and the "Happily Ever After" that I crave in all my reading, Last Chance Christmas was a wonderful beginning to this Four Historical Novellas read.

A Cowboy For Christmas by Ruth Logan Herne

A fire has ripped through the community that June Harper and many other poor people were living. Widowed, June must now provide for herself and two young daughters. Joining with two other women June goes to work on a local farm picking potatoes. When she is assaulted by the foreman June stands up to him and brings the plight of her homeless community to the attention of the boss of the farm she is working on.

Hugh Stackman may have turned his back on God long ago, but he still has a heart and responsibility to his fellow neighbors. Hugh and his brother Jacob come up with a plan to provide for June and the rest of the homeless community through the winter while their town and businesses are being rebuilt.

Hugh and June are attracted to each other from the start, but June has already been married to a man that had no faith and she refuses to be involved with another. Hugh cannot put on a false faith just to please June, will he be able to surrender his bitterness and anger to a God he feels let him down?

I thought this was a sweet story. Of course being a novella the attraction between June and Hugh happens quickly. I loved how Hugh jumped right in to help those less fortunate than himself. Even though his heart was hardened towards God, throughout the story we could see that his heart wasn't hardened towards people. I loved June's ability to stand firm in her faith even when her heart was breaking. Great addition to this novella compilation!

Longhorn Christmas by Mary Connealy

Netty is on her own raising her son Jeremiah and trying to eke out a living by capturing wild longhorns and selling them to provide for her and her son.

Roy came back from war to find his family and farm gone. The girl he was engaged to moved on to greener pastures so Roy is now wandering not sure what he is looking for.

Roy comes upon Netty just in time to save her from one of the longhorns she is trying to round up. Roy agrees to stay and help Netty gather up longhorns until Christmas. The problem is that Roy is a wandering man and Netty just might capture his heart.

I enjoyed Longhorn Christmas. There were several scenes that had me laughing out loud. I loved Netty teaching her son Jeremiah about the Nativity, and I especially enjoyed how Netty and Roy seemed to be the perfect match to help each other heal and start a new life.

Connie's Christmas Prayer by Anna Schmidt

Connie and her mother have moved to Arizona Territory when Connie's father dies and leaves them in debt. Connie's mother is now the owner of the local diner and Connie works with her to help make ends meet. Connie's one desire is to be able to move back to St. Louis her former home.

Isaac knows the moment he lays eyes on Connie that she is "the one" for him. He now has to persuade Connie. He enlists the help of Connie's mother who is all for the match. Can Isaac hope to win Connie's heart and change her desire to return to St. Louis?

Connie's Christmas Prayer is the last story in Cowboy Christmas Homecoming. I thought it was a sweet addition and enjoyed reading it.I liked the characters of Connie and Isaac. I enjoyed how independent Connie was even though she didn't seem to know exactly what she wanted in her life. I also liked Isaac's character in how he was decisive and intuitive and went after what he wanted. A cute story.

I enjoyed all of the stories in Cowboy Christmas Homecoming and look forward to reading other stories by these authors.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Haunting Joy 2 by Lena Goldfinch

Joy is very startled when another ghost makes his appearance known to her. This time the ghost is a boy named Kyle. He doesn't remember how he died. There are other differences as well that unsettle Joy. For one thing it seems that Kyle is able to communicate better with Joy than Beth(her former haunting) was.

Joy is all set to get Kyle to the afterlife and quit being haunted. But it isn't so easy to figure out what has kept Kyle tied to this earth.

One of the first things I loved about this book was that even though Kyle is dead the story isn't a downer. There are definite amusing parts that had me laughing out loud. Now, don't get me wrong, there are some poignant moments that also had me in tears. I loved that even though Joy got exasperated with Kyle she was still willing to help him figure out why he was still here even though he had died. I also loved all of the teen angst that Joy was going through in her life. Almost 18 and still no cell phone, are her and Nick a couple or not, when will her parents quit nagging her about cleaning her room, and most importantly of all, which college will she choose to go to? All in all Haunting Joy 2 was a sweet haunting that I definitely enjoyed reading(two times in a row!). If you haven't read Haunting Joy I definitely recommend remedying that, it is well worth the read!

Check out my review of Haunting Joy

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Christmas Conspiracy by Susan Sleeman

First Response Commander Jake Marsh is on the scene to help childcare owner Rachael Long when a masked man breaks into the daycare and tries to kidnap one of Rachael's children. Determined to keep the man from taking the child and also determined to identify the man, Rachael rips off his mask! Now Rachael is in danger and Jake is determined to do all he can to keep her safe.

Both Rachael and Jake have lost people in their lives that have left them feeling guilty and unworthy to be loved again. Both have thrown their energy into their work. Now that Jake is protecting Rachael they both feel the attraction that they instantly have for one another, but neither one is ready to open their heart to love.

Christmas Conspiracy is the last book in the First Responders series and it definitely kept this reader on the edge of my seat! Christmas Conspiracy starts off with heart-pounding action and that action continues throughout the whole story. I love Jake's character. He is protective and tender with Rachael and willing to give up his life in order to keep her safe. We are able to catch up with the rest of the team and see how the other relationships have developed. Although I am sad that the series is over I have enjoyed each of the team members stories. If you are a romantic suspense fan like I am then don't miss out on this fantastic series!

My Reviews of the First Responders Series:
Silent Night Standoff
Explosive Alliance
High-Caliber Holiday
Emergency Response
Silent Sabotage

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Redeeming Grace by Ward Tanneberg

Image result for redeeming grace by ward tanneberg

Seven years ago Grace Grafton experienced the worst night of her life. Set to graduate from college Grace and two of her friends are having a weekend away. When offered the chance to spend an evening with one of the richest men in the world and several of his friends, no strings attached, the girls are excited and ready for the adventure. What happens while with these men will change Grace's life forever.

Now 7 years later, Grace's old life is about to catch up with her. The only problem is that not only is Grace in danger, but those she loves most have been kidnapped. The men that have taken her loved ones will stop at nothing to ensure Grace's silence. Will Grace be able to save her fiancé and his children while taking down the most powerful men in America before it's too late?

I thought this was a good story although it was rather long, 597 pages long to be exact! That would be my only complaint about this book. I thought that the story line moved along at a good pace, but there were several elements of the story that I think could have been removed to shorten the book. I think that the author managed to keep the reader engaged in Grace's plight and had enough action to keep the reader turning the pages in order to find out what happened next. I found that I was invested in what happened in the characters lives even though at one point I was getting confused because too many other characters got introduced. Everything was tidily wrapped up and left me with a sense of peace about the future of the characters. If you don't mind a long book and you enjoy a good suspense then I definitely recommend this one for you.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Guest Post by Amanda Flower

Buy a mystery and help feed a community!

By Amanda Flower


Six years, twenty published books. It’s a staggering statistic for any author, and it’s still hard to believe that it’s mine. I’m living my version of a fairy tale. I’ve been lucky. I’ve been blessed. I’ve worked incredibly hard. But I wouldn’t be where I am without the kindness of others. My agent, my family, my friends, my editors, and my readers have all been on this incredible journey with me, and in honor of all those people, in honor of you, I’m giving back to a local food pantry with the release of my twentieth novel, Prose and Cons. I hope you will join me!


Pre-order or purchase any edition of Prose and Cons, the second novel in the Magical Bookshop Mystery Series, between now and Tuesday, December 20, 2016, and I will donate $1 for every book sold to a local food pantry, The Landing, located in Akron, Ohio.


My brother and sister-in-law, Andrew and Nicole Flower, manage the Landing in the basement of Akron Christian Reformed Church with a group of dedicated volunteers. The food pantry feeds over sixty families in its neighborhood on $200 a week.



The Learned Owl will donate $1 to the Landing food pantry for every copy of Prose and Cons it sells before or at my book signing there on December 10th in addition to the $1 that I will donating to the Landing for every copy of Prose and Cons sold by any bookseller by December 20th. For those of you who cannot make the signing, the Learned Owl is also selling PERSONALIZED AND SIGNED copies on the novel. They can ship anywhere.

Image result for prose and cons by amanda flower 




Buy a mystery and help feed a community! And as always thank you for reading! I hope Prose and Cons brings a smile to your face.


Enter to win one of four $25 gift cards to Barnes and Nobel or Amazon. Winner’s choice. Visit to enter!



Amanda Flower, a national bestselling and Agatha Award winning mystery author, started her writing career in elementary school when she read a story she wrote to her sixth grade class and had the class in stitches with her description of being stuck on the top of a Ferris wheel. She knew at that moment she’d found her calling of making people laugh with her words. She also writes mysteries as USA Today bestselling author Isabella Alan. In addition to being an author, Amanda is librarian in Northeast Ohio.

Follow Amanda on Social Media at: Facebook Twitter Instagram

Julie's review of PROSE AND CONS:

Violet is in the middle of another murder! This time one of the women in the Red Inkers group is found dead on the back stairs of Charming Books. Violet’s shop neighbor Sadie is a suspect in the murder, and Violet is determined to prove that Sadie is not the murderer.
With suspects coming out of the woodwork Violet investigates during the busiest time of Cascade Springs year. The Food and Wine Festival is going on in the little village and provides an entertaining backdrop for this murder mystery.

Violet finds herself getting into several scrapes that Chief David Rainwater is not happy about. There are hints of something developing between the two, but Violet isn’t ready to go there yet. Being the caretaker of the magical tree in the bookstore causes Violet to pause and think before entering a relationship with the chief. He’s already asking questions about the tree. Plus Violet’s old flame Mayor Nathan Morton is still holding out hope for a rekindling of their relationship.

Prose and Cons is a fast read that kept me entertained throughout the entire reading. I kept thinking, “I’ll read one more chapter” and then I’d get to the end of the chapter and have to continue just to see what happened next. The mystery was solid and the murderer was definitely a surprise. Charming Books’ mascots Emerson the cat and Faulkner the crow were entertaining as always! Their antics had me laughing several times while reading. I love that the bookstore helps Violet and her grandmother place books into the hands of readers and also helps Violet solve the mystery (I loved the references to Edgar Allen Poe that were used), and I also love that Violet is embracing her role as caretaker. I look forward to the next installment of the Magical Bookshop Mystery series as there are still several things that need to be resolved in Violet’s life and I can’t wait to see how the bookstore helps her out.