Novelly Upon a Time by Sarah Monzon

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Novelly Upon a Time by Sarah Monzon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

When reviewers complain about the inauthentic feel of the romance in Harper Jones’s latest novel, Harper’s editor suggests that the author go out and get some actual romantic experience. Harper isn’t too keen on doing so, especially not with the guy who constantly infuriated her back in high school, Kyo Tanaka, in Novelly Upon a Time by author Sarah Monzon.

Skipping the book blurb beforehand, I jumped right into this novella, enjoying Harper’s voice from the get-go.

Now, the enemy phase of enemies-to-lovers scenarios can wear on me if “the lady [or gent] doth protest too much,” if a romantic character seems to be overplaying their disgust. Also, considering the real-life societal climate around, timing may have been a key reason why certain jokes in the book concerning Pearl Harbor, forceful arrest by police, and Nazis didn’t strike me as funny.

I actually started breathing easier as the story became more serious, particularly during Harper’s reflections on Japanese internment in the US and her unsettling feeling that “we seemed not to learn from our historical mistakes and were headed once again in the same direction.” Not at all a happy thought, but a sentiment shared by this reader.

Don’t get me wrong—I did smile and even laugh aloud at times during the read, and nothing beats a writerly heroine who rides a bike and takes public transportation. I do wish Kyo could have had a little more time to be present onstage, and though it’s a romance, the romantic relationship doesn’t seem to own the story’s climax so much as it leads up to it, or shares it with another relationship.

Nevertheless, lots of folks who can appreciate a good mix of light and heavy in a short and sweet romance should enjoy this one.


This novella is a part of the Book Nerds and Boyfriends Collection.


The Bewildered Bride by Vanessa Riley

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.

The Bewildered Bride by Vanessa Riley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

After an elopement and brief marriage, Ruth and Adam are attacked by highwaymen, the bride and groom each thinking afterward that the other is dead. Four years later, Ruth is considering a possible marriage of convenience to another man, especially for the benefit of her young son. Adam returns after years of impressment to find Ruth alive, but the danger around them and secrets between them begin to mount in The Bewildered Bride by author Vanessa Riley.

I appreciate authors who can amaze me in little ways. It doesn’t necessarily have to be big, blaring plot twists, but remarkable turns of phrase and gripping imagery can go a long way. This author’s style keeps me on my toes.

Now, I’ll admit the unpredictable rhythm in parts of this novel made the emotional flow a bit difficult to follow at times, so I couldn’t always make heads or tails of the characters. But the hero and heroine are interesting people who work well together for this story. Their romantic chemistry and physical relationship are prominent and intense but nothing R-rated.

I particularly empathized with some of Ruth’s frustrations over personal injustices and relished a moment leading to the climax where she truly stands up. However, I had to suspend my disbelief to go along with one of the major plot points that doesn’t quite add up.

Although I’ve not read any of the other novels in this series yet, this book stands alone just fine, and I couldn’t resist it—not with that divinely grape, stunning book cover. And I “flew” through the entire read in a day. Quite a rare occurrence for me and novels of this length.


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Winners: Favorite Reads and Favorite Covers 2018 Giveaways (and Some Free Reads!)

I want to thank everyone who entered 2018’s Favorite Reads and Favorite Covers giveaways!

I’m pleased to announce that lindamoffitt02 won a copy of High Treason by DiAnn Mills, Shamekka won a copy of White Picket Fences: Turning toward Love in a World Divided by Privilege by Amy Julia Becker, Abby won a copy of No Less Days by Amanda G. Stevens, Vivian won a copy of Murder at the Flamingo by Rachel McMillan, Shamekka won a copy of Thief of Corinth by Tessa Afshar, and Sharon won a copy of Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock. (Whew!) Congrats!



Be sure to check out all of this year’s Favorite Reads and Favorite Covers to add some books to your reading list.
And don’t forget to pick up free copies of this 2018 Noteworthy Read and Favorite Covers from this year and last.



Also, the Movement of Crowns series got a new set of covers this year! You can pick up the first book free. Check out the books at Amazon, or visit this page for links to more stores.

The spin-off from the Crowns series, Eubeltic Descent, is here (free to read with Kindle Unlimited!), or you can click here to get it in paperback.


The Stronghold by Lisa Carter

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Stronghold by Lisa Cox Carter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Teenaged girls have been disappearing from Apache reservations—a danger that hits far too close to home for tribal cop Pilar To-Clanny. She’ll have to go after a ruthless killer. And she’s not looking forward to partnering with a painful part of her past, in the form of Special Agent Alex Torres in The Stronghold by author Lisa Carter.

This book was anything but easy reading for me. Quite frankly, I needed a story that could connect with a singular area of my anger, much of it in relation to issues in real life that this romantic suspense novel tackles.

Indeed, it’s a heavy read that braves rough and dark terrain. Poverty. Post-traumatic stress disorder. Self-harm. Manipulation. Racism. Rape, and a culture of sexual violence. Serial murder. FEAR. It’s not a story to be read for thrills but for its illustration of dynamic light cutting through grave darkness.

Now, I often say I don’t have to think a book is perfect to find it amazing. Some of the digs, arguments, and characters’ reactions become redundant in this book, and action beats in the dialogue fall into predictable patterns at times. Many of the paragraph breaks are jarring and unnecessary when the dialogue isn’t switching between speakers. I wouldn’t have forgotten that Alex is good-looking and Pilar is Apache even if those points weren’t repeated so often. And a few matters at the height of the novel play out in ways that aren’t entirely convincing.

Still, this author writes with depth, realism, and flashes of pithy lyricism, weaving an intricate plot that pierces so that it can heal. ChristFic fans who appreciate gritty and relevant stories of faith would do well to check this one out.


Note to my blog readers: this novel contains some moments of gruesome violence and a bit of innuendo. While the crimes of rape and violence toward minors take place “off screen,” related references and resulting effects on the characters could be triggers for certain readers.