Dear Mr. Knightley | Katherine Reay

“All the furnishings are comfortable with a hint of bold. Exactly how I want to be.”

Apparently I have a thing for letters. Two of my all-time favorites (Dracula and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society) are both written in letters and/or journals. So you can imagine my delight in having the opportunity to read the fabulous debut by Katherine Reay, written in that very same way. Dear Mr. Knightley is hands down one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. I’d give it 6 stars if I could.

If you enjoy contemporary fiction, Jane Austen, creativity, ice cream, hugs, or puppies, you need to read this book. Perhaps a few of those things have nothing to do with this story, but I wanted to make sure everyone was included. I promise you’ll absolutely adore this one.

How do I love Dear Mr. Knightley? Let me count the ways…
1. The cover people. THE COVER.
2. It deals with foster care and adoption, so you’d be right in saying I cried.
3. All the references made me happy.


Samantha Moore has always hidden behind the words of others—namely, her favorite characters in literature. Now, she will learn to write her own story—by giving that story to a complete stranger.

Sam is, to say the least, bookish. An English major of the highest order, her diet has always been Austen, Dickens, and Shakespeare. The problem is, both her prose and conversation tend to be more Elizabeth Bennet than Samantha Moore.

But life for the twenty-three-year-old orphan is about to get stranger than fiction. An anonymous, Dickensian benefactor (calling himself Mr. Knightley) offers to put Sam through Northwestern University’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism. There is only one catch: Sam must write frequent letters to the mysterious donor, detailing her progress.

As Sam’s dark memory mingles with that of eligible novelist Alex Powell, her letters to Mr. Knightley become increasingly confessional. While Alex draws Sam into a world of warmth and literature that feels like it’s straight out of a book, old secrets are drawn to light. And as Sam learns to love and trust Alex and herself, she learns once again how quickly trust can be broken.

Reminding us all that our own true character is not meant to be hidden, Reay’s debut novel follows one young woman’s journey as she sheds her protective persona and embraces the person she was meant to become.

All the references to classical literature, from Great Expectations to Austen to Narnia, could have indeed snobified the novel (you’re welcome for that new word), but Reay uses them with such talent and creativity, you understand Sam and the characters on a deeper level because of them.

What did I love most about this book? Sam’s transformation. Of course you eventually find out who our dear Mr. Knightley is, but that’s not the driving force of the novel or why you keep turning page after page. You keep reading simply because you can’t stop.

(Thank you Litfuse and Thomas Nelson for the advanced readers copy. I received a copy for my honest opinion)

Oh wait! There’s more!!

Debut author Katherine Reay is celebrating the release of her delightful novel, Dear Mr. Knightley, with a Kindle Fire HDX giveaway, a fun Favorite Austen Moments Pinterest contest, and an Austen-themed Facebook Party.


Beloved | Robin Lee Hatcher

Stories of forgiveness and redemption always get me.There’s something so beautiful about the power of redemption and how forgiveness can change a person. Those make some of the greatest stories and movies. I dare you not to cry in any of those scenes! I’m helpless against them.

It’s in this same theme that Robin Lee Hatcher sets the third installment of the Where the Heart Lives series. Beloved follows Diana, the youngest of the siblings in the series.

Diana Brennan came west on the orphan train and was given a home with a loving couple who cherished and spoiled her. At 17, she fell hard for Tyson Applegate, the son of a wealthy mine owner. After a whirlwind courtship and marriage, Tyson took off for adventures around the world, including fighting with the Rough Riders in Cuba. Receiving no word of him for seven years, Diana’s infatuation with her dashing husband died an ugly death, and she is ready to move past the old pain and marry again, just as soon as Tyson is declared legally dead.

But when her husband returns, supposedly a changed man, he wants to reunite with his wife and run for the senate. While Diana suspects the election is his real reason for wanting her by his side, she agrees to maintain his home and to campaign with him, but when it is over, win or lose, she wants her freedom. He agrees with one condition—-she must give him a chance to change her mind about him.


I really enjoyed the first, Belonging, and I feel the same way about this one. It was a sweet story, that, as I mentioned, displays how wonderful forgiveness can be. Diana is sweet and compassionate and Tyson is honest and real. Hatcher also does a fine job showing that while a person can change, it doesn’t mean the consequences disappear. But some things are worth going to battle for. Plus there’s secondary characters you’ll really like too (and can I count animals as secondary characters?? :) )

If you’ve enjoyed this series so far, you’ll definitely like this one. Beloved can work as a stand alone as well, so if you haven’t read the first two, there’s still plenty to enjoy with this one!

Be sure to check out the lovely opportunities below to win some radness!

Robin Lee Hatcher is celebrating the release of her latest novel, Beloved, with an iPad Mini giveaway!


One winner will receive:

  • An iPad Mini
  • Beloved by Robin Lee Hatcher

Don’t miss out! The giveaway ends on November 15th. Winner will be announced November 16th at Robin’s blog. Don’t miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to stop by Robin’s blog on the 16th to see if you won. (Or, better yet, subscribe to her blog and have the winner announcement delivered to your inbox!)!

(Thank you Litfuse and Zondervan for the Advanced Reader Copy! I was provided a copy in exchange for my honest opinion).


Rebellious Heart Book Giveaway!

I think the best way to start the week is with a fabulous giveaway!! I am soooo excited to read Rebellious Heart! Why?

A. Jody Hedlund. Enough said.

B. I’m starting the second book in my Presidential series, meaning – John Adams is next, so if I start dressing all colonial…my bad! Just kidding, I won’t be dressing up colonial, but if I start spouting random facts from the revolutionary war, then at least you know why.

So to kick off the release coming September 15th, I get to be part of the Rebellious Heart 20 Book Giveaway!!

That means one thing, and one thing only: I’m giving away a signed copy!!

As Hedlund wrote on her website, Rebellious Heart follows in the same vein as The Preacher’s Bride and The Doctor’s Lady in that it’s also inspired by a famous couple from history. The story is set in Colonial America and inspired by the beautiful courtship of John and Abigail Adams.

Oh my word, I can’t wait (especially since I’ve heard so much about how amazing their relationship was).


In 1763 Massachusetts, Susanna Smith has grown up with everything she’s ever wanted, except one thing: an education.

Because she’s a female, higher learning has been closed to her, but her quick mind and quicker tongue never back down from a challenge. She’s determined to put her status to good use, reaching out to the poor and deprived. And she knows when she marries well, she will be able to continue her work with the less fortunate.

Ben Ross grew up a farmer’s son and has nothing to his name but his Harvard education. A poor country lawyer, he doesn’t see how he’ll be able to fulfill his promise to make his father proud of him. When family friends introduce him to the Smith family, he’s drawn to quick-witted Susanna but knows her family expects her to marry well. When Susanna’s decision to help an innocent woman no matter the cost crosses with Ben’s growing disillusionment with their British rulers, the two find themselves bound together in what quickly becomes a very dangerous fight for justice.

And since I’m feeling all historical and such, here’s a look at a piece of paper Adams signed that was kind of a big deal for Americans ;) .


In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

I mean, WHO WRITES LIKE THIS? I love it, I do.

And now for a bit of contest fun! I like to make things easy, so to enter all you have to do is leave a comment on this post! If you want to earn extra entries, here’s a few easy ways (just leave a comment each time you do).

  • Share on Twitter and/or Facebook. Feel free to use this tweet: Want to win a signed copy of @JodyHedlund’s Rebellious Heart?! You can win one here: via @jamielynne82
  • Follow Books and Beverages, and/or Facebook

Be sure to leave a comment! Leave one by 8/30/13 at 11:59 (CST).

Also, don’t miss out on connecting with Jody because, well, she’s awesome!

So what’s the verdict on me entering my own contest? What? It might be illegal? Details, details. Friends, I kid. I promise I didn’t make up an email and enter.

8/30/13 – UPDATE!! We have ourselves a winner! Congrats to Preston Leigh! Don’t forget to grab a copy of Rebellious Heart!

4 Questions with New York Times Bestselling Author Seth Casteel

Y’ to the all. Where do I start with how excited I am about this 4 Questions Interview?? I mean for.real. Especially since Seth Casteel’s first book (and Bestseller) combines three things I could never live without.

1. Photography
2. Books
3. Puppies!!! (I call all dogs puppies no matter the age, just roll with it)

The genius and creativity behind Underwater Dogs makes me smile every single time I see one of the images. You should really follow him on Facebook and Twitter. It’ll make your day. And remind me of how much I want a dog (don’t tell my Maxie though).

Seth Casteel is an award-winning photographer with a passion for working with animals. His series of underwater dog photographs have brought him worldwide attention, entertaining and bewildering millions of animal lovers. As an established member of the animal rescue community, Seth has been recognized by TIME Magazine, The Today Show, and The Humane Society of the United States for his efforts, and his underwater dog photographs have been featured in The New York Times, on Animal Planet, and in hundreds of other outlets.

He is based in Los Angeles and Chicago and is the proud “dad” to two dogs, Nala the mini-labradoodle and Fritz, the Norwich Terrier.


1. What is something about your life right now that you would never imagined 5 years ago?
That images of dogs jumping into swimming pools would bring smiles to millions of faces around the world.

2. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?

3. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
Adopting my dog, Nala.

4. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
Dogs inspire us!

And just when I thought I couldn’t die from any more dog cuteness, Casteel recently announced he’ll be releasing Underwater Puppies!! Until then, who wants to win a copy of this National bestseller? I’m just saying, I might “accidentally” order two and then just have to keep one for myself. Free shipping people! Free shipping! Thank you again so much Seth!!


All you have to do is leave a comment on this post! If you want to earn extra entries, here’s a few easy ways (just leave a comment each time you do)

Be sure to leave a comment! Leave one by 5/10/13 at 11:59 (CST).

Thank you again Seth!

Check out the Caravan Blog Tour for So Shines the Night!

I’m really excited about So Shines the Night! I’ve read one of Tracy L. Highley’s novels and really enjoyed it, so when I found out about this new one taking place in ancient Ephesus, I knew I’d have to grab a copy! For the release, check out the awesome contest, blog tour and some questions Tracy answered about this new novel!

Tracy L. Higley started her first novel at the age of eight and has been hooked on writing ever since. She has authored nine novels, including Garden of Madness and Isle of Shadows. Tracy is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Ancient History and has traveled through Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Italy, researching her novels and falling into adventures. See her travel journals and more at The travel photos are especially awesome!


1. You have gone on so many amazing travels. What was one of your favorite things about visiting Ephesus?
I think it was the sense of being somewhere “where Paul walked.” Sitting in the theater, looking down over the Harbor Street where he was likely kept prisoner at times, I had this amazing moment of “I can’t believe I’m here” – the kind of moment that gives you chills and makes you feel connected to something larger than yourself.

2. What is something new you learned while doing research for So Shines the Night?
That’s a tough one, because there were so many things! The whole city of Ephesus is such an interesting study. Because the river that fed into the harbor carried so much silt with it, the harbor eventually became too clogged for ships and the people basically abandoned the city. This rarely happens in the ancient world – most ancient cities, like Rome, are a mix of ancient, medieval and modern and you have to travel around to the pockets of ancient monuments that are left. In Ephesus, all you have is the ancient city, so it has this frozen-in-time feeling like Pompeii, which I loved.

3. What made you interested in writing ancient history fiction?
I’m not sure! It evolved in my mind, and I suppose it was the tie-in to biblical history, to the time period which informed my faith and held so many stories I already knew and loved. But I’ve never been content to look at Scripture through the single historical lens of the Judea. I’ve always wanted to see the Old and New Testament periods through the eyes of the world outside the Jewish people, from the pagan perspective.

4. What was the inspiration for So Shines The Night?
The 19th chapter of Acts was just too delicious to pass up!

5. What’s one thing on your bucket list (even if you don’t have an official “list”)?
I think I might like to skydive someday. I’ve never admitted that before! (And now I’m terrified.) // I say do it Tracy! One of the greatest experiences of my life!


Here’s more about the book:
In a city teetering at the brink of anarchy, Daria finds hope among people of The Way.

She escaped a past of danger and found respite in beautiful Ephesus, a trading center on the Aegean coast, serving as tutor to Lucas, the wealthy merchant who rescued her.

But the darkness she fled has caught up with her.

The high priests of Artemis once controlled the city, but a group of sorcerers are gaining power. And a strange group who call themselves followers of The Way further threaten the equilibrium. As Daria investigates Lucas’s exploits into the darker side of the city, her life is endangered, and she takes refuge in the strange group of believers. She’s drawn to Paul and his friends, even as she wrestles with their teachings.

When authorities imprison Lucas for a brutal crime, Daria wonders if even Paul’s God can save him. Then she uncovers a shocking secret that could change everything—Lucas’s fate, her position in his household, and the outcome of the tension between pagans and Christians. But only if she survives long enough to divulge what she knows.

Be sure to grab a copy and don’t forget to enter the contest to win a gift card!! It’s easy and takes about 13 seconds :) , just go here. Good luck!!

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