Ибо так возлюбил Бог мир, что отдал Сына Своего Единородного, дабы всякий верующий в Него, не погиб, но имел хизнь вечную.
While I receive many books in exchange for review, I am never required to leave a positive review. All thoughts and opinions are my very own.

Monday, December 26, 2022

My Top 5 Reads of 2022!

 It's that time of year again! The one where I try and come up with a short list of this year's favorites, even though there are so many amazing ones! Remember, these are books that I read for the first time this year. Repeat reads are lovely, but disqualified. (Looking at you, Love Comes Softly!) I'll start with honorable mentions and then move up from there!

Honorable Mentions, in no particular order: Ever Constant by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse, Wishtress by Nadine Brandes, The Heart of the Mountains by Pepper Basham, The Right Kind of Fool by Sarah Loudin Thomas, To Treasure an Heiress by Roseanna M. White, and The Mistletoe Countess by Pepper Basham.

These all deserve to be the favorite, honestly, but I read a ton of great books this year. Don't worry. It's also breaking my heart that they can't all be number one.

Without further ado, the top five fiction reads of 2022.

In fifth place, the breathtaking sequel to last year's top read, it's The Bride of Blackfriars Lane by Michelle Griep. I love the mix of Sherlock and Dickens vibes, coupled with stunning characters and a story that I just couldn't put down! Anyone who has read book one will be thrilled to see the continuing adventures of our favorite quick witted couple.

In fourth, book two in a series that I read completely backwards. I met the characters in Drawn by the Current and just had to know them better. Cue me binge reading Shadows of the White City by Jocelyn Green. I adored the theme of adoption and watching the characters work out their disagreements just hit that special part of my heart. This story broke my heart and soothed it all at once. An absolute must read for fans of historical fiction.

I went through a dry season where I couldn't read anything for quite a while. A Gem of Truth by Kimberley Woodhouse knocked me out of that painful spot. I honestly can't even begin to describe how this book was used in my life when I needed it most. For all those people that knock on fiction, just know that sometimes fiction is just the right medicine for a tired and weary soul. For helping me in the toughest of spots, this beauty earns a place on the podium and in my heart.

For most of the year, I thought this next book would be my number one. I read it twice and bawled like a baby both times. A Portrait of Loyalty by Roseanna M. White really took me by surprise, not that it should've since I love her work. I was deeply attached to every character. I was compelled by the story and immediately wished to have the experience of reading it for the first time all over again. While I adore all of her books, this might possibly be my favorite. It's also notable for being the last time we get to enter the world started in The Lost Heiress. This was the first book I read in 2022, and I couldn't have chosen better if I'd tried. What a deserving recipient of the silver medal.

And taking home the gold today, the book that made me feel like I might be okay with teaching high school, it's The Wonderland Trials by Sara Ella. I've read it two and a half times this year, and I'm making all of my ninth and tenth grade students read it as well. (They adore it as well, and alternate between rooting for Chess and wanting to slap him.) The reimagined Wonderland captured my heart like you wouldn't believe. Alice, Charlotte, Chess, Madi, Blanche Lapin (whose name delights me to no end, and I'm sure my French students are tired of hearing about it), and Dinah are such a part of me now. I absolutely am on tenterhooks waiting for book two. The allegorical nature of the work adds a little something special, too. I honestly can't say enough good things about this book. If you haven't read it, do so soon. I promise it will make a special place in your life. 

And a special shoutout to my top nonfiction read of the year, Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot. If you haven't read the story of Jim Elliot told through Elisabeth's eyes, you're missing out. There's something so powerful and inspiring in this missionary journey. 

So, what were your favorite reads this year? Do we have any overlaps? Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Countdown to Christmas Review: The Mistletoe Countess by Pepper Basham

It's time to start a Christmas countdown with reviews of novels and novellas that are sure to put you in the Christmas spirit!

Will the magic of Christmas bring these two newlyweds closer together, or will the ghosts of the past lead them into a destructive discovery from which not even a Dickens’s Christmas can save them?

Mistletoe is beautiful and dangerous, much like the woman from Lord Frederick’s Percy’s past, so when he turns over a new leaf and arranges to marry for his estate, instead of his heart, he never expects the wrong bride to be the right choice. Gracelynn Ferguson never expected to take her elder sister’s place as a Christmas bride, but when she’s thrust into the choice, she will trust in her faithful novels and overactive imagination to help her not only win Frederick’s heart but also to solve the murder mystery of Havensbrook Hall before the ghosts from Frederick’s past ruin her fairytale future. 

 I was looking for a book to put me in the Christmas spirit and spotted this one at the bookstore. I HAD to have it, and it was the perfect purchase! I was chuckling out loud before I even finished the first chapter. Grace's character absolutely waltzed right off of the page and into my heart. I felt that she was a kindred spirit of equal caliber to Anne Shirley. She's certainly one of the most dynamic leading ladies you'll ever see! Frederick was the perfect amount of smoldering hero, too. Usually, I don't care for the male POV that much, but I actually loved his as well. The mysterious air of the whole story was spell-binding and I read late into the night just to see what happened next. Aunt Lavenia is also one of the funniest ladies ever. I want to read more about her! My one complaint, if you want to call it that, is that the romance had a lot more... steam... than the typical books I read. Not in any way a dealbreaker. In fact, I always love a Pepper book, but this was definitely high up there on my list! (in my top 2 Pepper books) What a perfect way to start off the Christmas book season. 

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Review: The Premonition at Withers Farm by Jaime Jo Wright

In 1910 Michigan, Perliett Van Hilton is a self-proclaimed rural healer, leaving the local doctor convinced she practices quackery. It doesn't help that her mother is a spiritualist who regularly offers her services to connect the living with their dearly departed. But when Perliett is targeted by a superstitious killer, she must rely on both the local doctor and an intriguing newcomer for assistance.

In the present day, Molly Wasziak's life has not gone the way she dreamed. Facing depression after several miscarriages, Molly is adapting to her husband's purchase of a peculiar old farm. A search for a family tree pulls Molly deep into a century-old murder case and a web of deception, all made more mysterious by the disturbing shadows and sounds inside the farmhouse.

Perliett fights for her life, and Molly seeks renewed purpose for hers as she uncovers the records of the dead. Will their voices be heard, or will time forever silence their truths?

 This book is the perfect fall vibe! It has corn, it has spooks, it has a bunch of weird stuff that makes it hard to sleep at night. I mean, it's got it all. At first, I was a little suspicious of where we were going with the spiritism and all that jazz, but she NAILED it and the ending was superb. As always with a dual timeline, I started off enjoying the past story best, but by the end was totally into the contemporary storyline. The two tangled together in a way I did not see coming, and, as per usual with Jaime Jo Wright, I had absolutely no clue who was the bad guy until the end of the story. I am so good at guessing antagonists in suspense (I'm pretty sure I have at least a silver medal in the sport) but she gets me every time. There were even a couple other plot twists that I did not see coming but that I cannot speak of because it will be a spoiler, but they got me good. Perliett was a fun character to follow around and her annoyance with George was hilarious. Molly is such a touching, heart-breaking character that you'll just love to know.

Haunting at Bonaventure Circus is still my all-time top favorite book by her, but if you don't mind spooky vibes, you should grab a copy of Premonition and try to solve the murders.

Have you read it? Comment below and let me know if you caught the villains?

I was a part of Jaime Jo's launch team and received a free copy of the book. However, all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Review: A Gem of Truth by Kimberley Woodhouse

Escaping her shattered past is much more difficult than she imagined.

Julia Schultz has a reputation for being a storyteller, or as others see it, a liar. But with her dark and painful past, stories are all that have kept her company throughout her life. Longing for a fresh start and a second chance to earn real trust, Julia takes a job as a Harvey Girl at the El Tovar Hotel, where she's challenged to be her true self.

Learning the trade of a master jeweler is hard work, but Christopher Miller takes pride in running his family's small shop and earning the respect of the people around him. But when he discovers that he has six weeks to buy his building from his landlord before it is sold, he must find a way to save his grandfather's legacy.

United by the discovery of a legendary treasure, Chris and Julia find hope in each other. But when Julia's past catches up with her, doubt creeps into Chris's heart. Can he really trust her and her stories? 

At first, I was having a hard time getting into this one, but I soon realized I was not liking reading on my phone because I was in a mood. (Sometimes you just need to be able to hold it, am I right?) As soon as I got the print copy, I was able to devour it like it out to be devoured. The characters in this book are very dear to me, and it's so hard to explain. Ruth is my absolute favorite and I was going to pitch a fit if she didn't get done right by, but no worries. No fits here! I'll be honest here. Ever since coming back for the school year, I've been feeling so dry and shallow inside. This book touched me and I think healed me more than I ever expected or anticipated. I was in tears for most of the last hundred pages. I identified with Julia's struggles (well... not so much the lying... but the rest) and there were so many things that I wanted to happen in this book that absolutely did! I love it more than book one and I'm moving it to my favorites shelf post-haste. Happy Release Day to the book that was a balm to my heart just when I needed it most.

While I did receive a review copy, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Have you read it yet? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Have a lovely day!

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Review: The Bride of Blackfriars Lane by Michelle Griep

Detective Jackson Forge can hardly wait to marry the street-sly swindler who’s turned his life upside down. Kit Turner is equally excited to wed the handsome detective, and what better way to show her love than providing him with a gift any man of the law would love? She determines to bring to justice the men who years ago maimed his brother—despite Jackson’s warning to leave the past in the past. As she digs into the mystery of what happened, she unwittingly tumbles into her own history and endangers her future happiness with Jackson. 

There are books and characters that grab your heart and just stick with you for ages. Jackson and Kit and Graybone and Frankie are just those sorts of characters. I loved seeing the relationships forge new paths and grow deeper in this second installment from this series (which I hope and pray continues for many more books. Two is not enough. I'll be satisfied with no fewer than ten...) While the incorrigible Kit is running around solving mysteries and keeping her ex-crew out of scrapes, Jackson is chasing even more mysteries, and they just can't get on the same page. The characters grow so much during this stunning show of London's squirmiest places, and the story is sure to capture you and take you back in time in the most intriguing way possible. The unique style here is captivating and if you love a fun mystery with plenty of romantic notions and hijinks, or if you're a fan of Sherlock Holmes and other detective stories, you'll love Blackfriars Lane and the folks who live there, although I beg of you to read book one first, so that you can enjoy the interactions between characters to the fullest. Pre-order this novel soon! You won't be disappointed. I've read it straight through with hardly a break for air, so you must know it's a keeper.

I was sent a free copy of this book to review, but of course, the opinions are my own.

Friday, August 5, 2022

CelebrateLit Tour: Review: The Wonderland Trials by Sara Ella


About the Book

Book: The Wonderland Trials

Author: Sara Ella

Genre: YA Dystopian Fantasy / Alice in Wonderland retelling

Release date: July 12, 2022

Solve the clues. Face your fears. Survive the Trials.

All Alice Liddell wants is to escape her Normal life in Oxford and find the parents who abandoned her ten years ago. But she gets more than she bargained for when her older sister Charlotte is arrested for having the infamous Wonder Gene—the key to unlocking the curious Wonderland Reality.

Soon, Alice receives a rather cryptic invitation to play for Team Heart in this year’s annual—and often deadly—Wonderland Trials. Now she has less than twenty-four hours to find her way into Wonderland where nothing is impossible . . . or what it seems.

The stakes are raised when she discovers players go missing during the Trials each year. Will she and her team solve the clues and find the missing players? Or will betrayal and distrust win, leaving Alice alone in a world of her own? Follow the White Rabbit into this topsy-turvy fantasy where players become prey, a sip of the wrong tea might as well be poison, and a queen’s ways do not always lead one where they ought to go.


Okay, full disclosure, I am fully obsessed with this book. I mean, like top five of 2022 obsessed. Made an entire set of Alice in Wonderland earrings for myself obsessed. The storytelling in this book is masterful. Dystopia is not my usual genre at all, but this book. It makes me glad to teach high school English this year, because we are definitely using this for a novel study. Not only is the main character incredibly written to the point where I just want to drink some tea with her (well, maybe she can have coffee...) but the worldbuilding is beyond fascinating. I want to just live in this book and reread it again and again and soak in every detail and layer of the story. The inability to know whom to trust keeps you guessing all throughout the story, and that last twist was just a knife to the heart! I also loved the way that Sara Ella incorporated so many elements of the original is her own unique way, as well as slipping in Easter eggs from the animated film just to delight our souls. This book is everything you could ever want from an Alice retelling, and I cannot wait for that sequel to drop, because there is some serious Jabberwock battling to see!

Yes, this book was sent to me for review, but I promise as always this is my honest opinion. Read to the end for a giveaway opportunity, and make sure to leave a comment here!

Click here to get your copy!

About the Author

Once upon a time, Sara Ella dreamed she would marry a prince and live in a castle. Now she spends her days homeschooling her three Jedi in training, braving the Arizona summers, and reminding her superhero husband that it’s almost Christmas (even if it’s only January). When she’s not writing, Sara might be found behind her camera lens or planning her next adventure in the great wide somewhere. She is a Hufflepuff who finds joy in the simplicity of sipping a lavender white mocha and singing Disney tunes in the car. Sara is the author of the Unblemished trilogy and Coral, a reimagining of The Little Mermaid that focuses on mental health. Her latest journey into the world of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland feels like coming full circle after her time spent chasing the White Rabbit around Walt Disney World. Sara loves fairy tales and Jesus, and she still believes “Happily Ever After is Never Far Away.” Connect with her online at SaraElla.com or find her on Instagram at @saraellawrites.


More from Sara

Welcome to Wonderland!

When I started this journey down the rabbit hole, I had no idea where it would lead me. From switching publishers to signing a book contract during a pandemic, this writing journey has certainly been an adventure for the books!

As with every story I write, life handed me a few trials along the way with this one. I didn’t know how it would end until a few weeks before deadline. With that time crunch came an epiphany that altered a good portion of the plot—an idea that had me scrambling to rewrite entire scenes right up until the final hours before I turned the story in to my editor. It was difficult, but the book is better for it—I am better for it.

It could be said that an author shapes the story, but I personally believe it’s equally true that the story shapes the author. Every book I have written has changed me in some way. With The Wonderland Trials, I can pinpoint three takeaways that helped me grow in ways I never expected.

I learned to not take life so seriously.

We all have to do the adulting thing. We have bills to pay and homes to clean and deadlines to meet. But in the midst of all that chaos and craziness is a time to laugh. To play. To make a mess on the living room floor building Legos with my toddler or take a walk to the park.

I found myself often rushing through time with friends because I had to write or work or check more boxes off my task list. But feeling stressed and cutting friend and family time short didn’t accomplish anything. It didn’t get my book written faster. I’m not saying to put things off that need to be done—it’s important to be responsible. I am saying I learned that I have to balance work and play, and most importantly, I need to be present for those in my life.

It’s not only okay to sit back and relax now and again, it’s necessary. I need to let go of the constant to-do list and invest my time in things that bring me joy. That way, when it’s time to sit down and pound the keys, I’m filled and inspired, rather than tired and anxious.

I learned to see the beauty in found family.

They say you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. I disagree. As a girl who was raised by a stepdad who has loved me unconditionally as his own from the time I was two, I think there is something truly special about family that you find and make your own.

There have been times I’ve felt jealous of my friends who still have their biological parents around. I lost my mom in 2012 and my birth dad in 2020. I have maybe a handful of blood relatives left. I love them to bits, and I’m so grateful for them! But my family extends beyond the boundaries of blood. When I really think about it, I have family coming out of my ears and then some.

I have besties who became my soul sisters and women who stepped in as moms and grandmas. I have big brothers who would protect me with their lives and nieces and nephews I get to spoil on holidays and birthdays. As Alice says in The Wonderland Trials, “​​Sometimes family isn’t the one you’re born with. It’s the one you find. Or the ones who find you.”

I learned to believe in the impossible.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m the pessimist in my family. I try to see every worst-case scenario when making a decision. I ask all the what-ifs in the book. I’m like MJ in the Spider-Man movies— “If you expect disappointment, then you can never really get disappointed.”

My husband, on the other hand, has the faith of a child. When I’m lacking in faith, he’s there to remind me of all God can do. And God almost always surprises me with how He goes about doing those things. In a world with drive-thrus, mobile bank deposits, food deliveries, and every other form of instant service we can think of, the call to be patient and wait on the Lord is often forgotten.

I want answers now. I want my family member to be healed now. I want the baby we’ve been waiting over a year to adopt now. God can do the impossible, right? So why doesn’t He hurry up and do it already?

Because God is not a vending machine. And just because He chooses not to perform the miracle I want when and how I want it, that doesn’t mean he isn’t working. In fact, it’s the waiting period when God tends to do His best work on me.

More often than not, I am the impossible one, the impossible heart that needs changing. The stubborn clay that needs molding. The cracked tea cup that needs to be fixed and filled with rivers of gold. What I see as impossible to fix or change, God sees as an opportunity to help me grow. So I’ll keep believing in the impossible. After all, God took me, an impossibly helpless sinner, and made me into something new.


Thank you for taking time to read my thoughts and for giving this little book a chance. Happy reading, Wonders! The impossible awaits!



Sara Ella


To celebrate her tour, Sara is giving away the grand prize package of a signed Limited Edition Hardcover of The Wonderland Trials, $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card, and $15 Starbucks Gift Card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.


Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, July 30

Rachael’s Inkwell, July 30

A Reader’s Brain, July 31

For Him and My Family, July 31

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, August 1

Texas Book-aholic, August 2

Where Faith and Books Meet, August 3

Inklings and notions, August 3

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, August 4

deb’s Book Review, August 5

Live. Love. Read., August 5 (You are here!)

Locks, Hooks and Books, August 6

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, August 7

Mary Hake, August 7

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, August 8

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, August 8

Library Lady’s Kid Lit, August 9

Tell Tale Book Reviews, August 10

Melissa’s Bookshelf, August 10

Wishful Endings, August 11

Blogging With Carol, August 12

Rebecca Tews, August 12