Book Review – AN EX FOR CHRISTMAS (Love Unexpectedly) by Lauren Layne

AN EX FOR CHRISTMAS (Love Unexpectedly #5) by Lauren Layne

AN EX FOR CHRISTMAS (Love Unexpectedly #5) by Lauren Layne

Synopsis
She’s making a list—and checking it twice. But is there a nice guy among all her naughty exes? The New York Times bestselling author of Blurred Lines returns with a charming friends-to-lovers rom-com.

When a psychic tells spunky, superstitious Kelly Byrne that she’s already met her true love, she becomes obsessed with the idea of tracking him down before Christmas. Kelly immediately writes up an “Ex List” and starts contacting old boyfriends to figure out which one is the one. When her college sweetheart rolls into town, Kelly convinces herself that they’re meant to be. The trouble is, sparks are flying with someone she’s never given a chance: her best friend, Mark.

Mark Blakely has watched the guys on Kelly’s list break her heart, and he’s not looking forward to watching them do it all over again. Mark’s always been there for her, but the timing’s never worked out for their relationship to be something more. Now, just as Mark is ready to move on, the sexual tension between them is suddenly off the charts. With Christmas morning around the corner, he just hopes Kelly will wake up and realize that everything she wants has been right in front of her all along.

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My Review
Still on my friends-to-lovers kick, I couldn’t wait to get into this light-hearted romantic comedy. Add Lauren Layne as the author, a little bit of snow, and some holiday magic, and I was all in. Layne is known for her quirky characters and Kelly is no exception. A school teacher in a private New York academy, she lives and dies by the Magic 8 Ball, allowing it to guide her choices. So it’s not surprising that Kelly would take the prophecy of a subway psychic to heart. When Kelly discovers that the love her life is someone she’s already met, she makes a list of all of her exes to figure out which is “the one.” Things go hilariously wrong with each one, only frustrating Kelly. She can’t figure out how the psychic could possibly be wrong, so she works her way through one ex after another, with disastrous results.

Enter Mark. He’s been her best friend for the better part of a decade. Old high school friends who have never risked that friendship with something as temporary as sex. Not to mention the fact that Kelly is so not like any of the super hot girls Mark usually dates. So when she starts to have deeper feelings for Mark, she only amps up her search for the right ex before she acts on those feelings.

Plot
The plot is somewhat predictable, but it’s so adorably told, it doesn’t really matter. Much of the story centers around Kelly’s search for her perfect ex, but her long-term friendship with Mark is a strong subplot until it becomes front and center. Underlying it all is Kelly’s superstitious nature that drives most of the conflict.

Characters
Lauren Layne’s writing shines when it comes to her characters. Kelly is delightful as an elementary school teacher who relies on fate to chart her course in life. While this could easily come off as cartoonish, Kelly has more depth to her than that, making this aspect of her personality realistic. Mark is utterly believable as the long-suffering best friend. A man of few words, he lets his actions speak for him. The supporting characters are light, with Kelly’s exes getting most of the roles.

What I Loved About SAVING IT
1. Friends to Lovers.
 One of my favorite tropes.

2. Kelly. Her smart, spunky brand of quirky is a breath of fresh air.

3. Mark. He takes the strong, silent type to a new level of hot.

4. Christmas. I love all the holiday elements incorporated into this story. Everything from snow to decorations and a Christmas parade make the setting an essential part of the story.

5. Surprise Ending. So while I was pretty sure I knew how things were going to end, I didn’t know how it was going to get there, and the sweet surprise at the end was perfect.

Bottom Line
An adorably fun contemporary romance with the perfect amount of heat and humor.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: AN EX FOR CHRISTMAS
Series: Love Unexpectedly #5
Author: Lauren Layne
Publisher: Loveswept
Release Date: November 7, 2017
Pages: 204
Genre: Adult Contemporary Holiday Romance
Rating:
 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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Author Lauren Layne

Author Lauren Layne

About the Author
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR

Prior to becoming an author, Lauren lived in Seattle with a cushy job in e-commerce/web-marketing. On a whim, she quit her job and moved to NYC to pursue a writing career. A year later, she had an agent and two publishing contracts.

She now lives in midtown Manhattan where she writes full time, although has been known to be lured away from the computer by a well-made cocktail.

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Where to Find Lauren Layne
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | TumblrAmazon

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Review – What Once Was Perfect (Wardham Series) by Zoe York

What Once Was Perfect (Wardham #1) by Zoe York

What Once Was Perfect (Wardham #1) by Zoe York

Synopsis
She shuttered her heart and walked away…

Heading home always stirs up mixed emotions for Laney Calhoun. Twelve years ago she left for graduate school, broken-hearted. She’s found professional success, but positive personal relationships have proved elusive. Running into her ex-boyfriend fans flames she thought long extinguished, and causes a renewed interest in love. Not with Kyle, of course. Never again. But as sparks fly and items of clothing disappear, she scrambles to keep her emotions in check.

…Now he has a second chance to get it right.

Kyle Nixon let Laney slip away once. Their chemistry together is undeniable, but steamy sex is not enough to convince her to let him back into her heart. Even if she did trust him again, her career as a paediatric surgeon is five hundred kilometers away from the hometown that he loves, and the life he once chose over her.

Come home to Wardham. Come home to love.

My Review
I’m a sucker for long-lost love stories, so I  had high hopes when I started What Once Was Perfect. My biggest issue is that most of the elements of these types of stories were missing. The couple made up almost instantly without much conflict at all. The romance was sweet with plenty of steamy sex scenes, but I never doubted these two would end up together. When Delaney Calhoun goes home for Christmas, she runs into her ex, Kyle Nixon, for the first time since her father’s funeral. They both realize their raw attraction is still present and are rather quick to act upon it. When Laney needs to return to Chicago after the holidays, the two will have to figure out how a long-distance relationship could work this time around rather than break them up again.

Plot
The pacing moves okay, but there is a lack of significant conflict. Instead, the story moves with some obvious unresolved sexual tension, clearing up of some misunderstandings, and lots of steamy bedroom scenes. It’s clear immediately these two still love each other and the only real unknown is how they’re resolve a long-distance relationship. But they’re not teens anymore, so I was confident the responsible adults in them would figure it out.

Characters
The two main characters, Laney and Kyle, are both likeable and well-rounded. It’s clear that miscommunication and misunderstandings got in their way all those years ago, but they recognize it now. There is solid character growth and introspection that is realistic and a natural culmination of the events.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. Lack of meaningful conflict.
 My personal preference is for stories laced with conflict, even sweet romances. I would have like a less easy path to HEA.

What I Enjoyed About What Once Was Perfect
1. The characters.
 They were well developed, interesting, and likeable.
2. Character growth. Both Laney and Kyle need to look inside and confront their own part in their past breakup in order to move beyond it.
3. Sexual tension. These two had it in spades and it worked well.
4. The setting. A picturesque small Canadian town at Christmas was the perfect setting for Laney and Kyle’s story. The author brought the scenes alive in all their white and wondrous glory.
5. Compromise. I love that the ending didn’t come together all nice and neat and that both needed to compromise on what they thought they wanted to get what they really needed.

Bottom Line
What Once Was Perfect is a sweet holiday romance about enduring love and second chances.

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About the Book
Title: What Once was Perfect
Series: Wardham #1
Author: Zoe York
Release Date: June 14, 2013
Pages: 147
Genre: Contemporary Holiday Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author Zoe York

Author Zoe York

About the Author
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Zoe York is a busy working mom of two young boys, wife to a very understanding soldier, and creator of modern, sexy, small town contemporary romances. Her debut novel, What Once Was Perfect, started the popular Wardham series, and her first military romance, Fall Out, was released as part of the international bestselling SEALs of Summer super bundle.

She lives in London, Ontario and is currently chugging Americanos, wiping sticky fingers, and dreaming of heroes in and out of uniform.

Where to Find Zoe York
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram.

 

Month in Review – November 2015

Since I decided to give NaNoWriMo another go this year, I didn’t get as much reading done as I normally would. Still, sixteen hours in a car, travelling to Northern California and back, provided some much-needed reading time last week. Here are the books I reviewed in November:

Return Once More by Trisha Leigh

Return Once More (The Historians #1) by Trisha Leigh

Return Once More (The Historians #1) by Trisha Leigh

4 Stars

About the Book
Title
: Return Once More
Series: The Historians #1
Author: Trisha Leigh
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark
Pages: 289
Category: Young Adult SciFi/Time Travel/Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes and Noble | Bloomsbury

Synopsis
If you could learn the identity of your one true love—even though you will never meet— would you?

Years have passed since refugees from a ruined earth took to space, eventually settling a new system of planets. Science has not only made the leaps necessary to allow time travel, but the process engineered a strange side effect—predicting your one true love.

If you could save your one true love from an untimely death, would you be able to resist?

Sixteen-year-old Kaia Vespasian is an apprentice to the Historians—a group charged with using time travel to document the triumphs and failures of the past—and she can’t resist a peek at her long-dead soul mate in Ancient Egypt. Before she knows it, she’s broken every rule in the book, and the consequences of getting caught could destroymore than just her new romance.

Or would you have the strength to watch him die?

But when Kaia notices a fellow classmate snooping around in a time where he doesn’t belong, she suspects he has a secret of his own—and the conspiracy she uncovers could threaten the entire universe. If her experience has taught her anything, to changing history means facing the consequences. The Historians trained her to observe and record the past, but Kaia never guessed she might have to protect it— in a race across time to save her only chance at a future.

Bottom Line
Return Once More is an engaging time travel scifi romance with an intricate plot and intriguing characters.

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Rival Love (Rival Love Series) by Natalie Decker

Rival Love (Rival Love #1) by Natalie Decker

Rival Love (Rival Love #1) by Natalie Decker

4 Stars

Title: Rival Love
Series:
Rival Love #1
Author: 
Natalie Decker
Publisher:
 Swoon Romance
Release Date: 
August 26, 2014
Pages:
286
Genre: 
Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 
4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis
Skylar Fletcher is a proud Harris Academy Bulldog! She has everything she’s ever wanted: a perfect boyfriend, great friends, and her dream college waiting for her in the fall. But nothing lasts forever. Skylar’s world shatters when her mom decides it’s time to move and drags Skylar, kicking and screaming, into Bobcat territory.

At Delmont High School, home of the Bobcats, Skylar has no friends and is often bullied. To make matters worse, her home life sucks thanks to all-star quarterback Caleb Morgan, nephew of her mom’s live-in boyfriend.

At first, Skylar and Caleb want nothing to do with one another. But they soon discover they’re not that different after all–and each is harboring a secret attraction to the other. But can a Bulldog and a Bobcat ever really be more than friends? And are Skylar and Caleb willing to risk everything to find out?

Rival Love is a debut young adult contemporary romance from Natalie Decker.

Bottom Line
Rival Love is an contemporary teen romance with themes of bullying, belonging, and finding love and acceptance for who you are.

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Never Trust a Happy Song by Natalie Bina

Never Trust a Happy Song by Natalie Bina

Never Trust a Happy Song by Natalie Bina

3.5 Stars

Title: Never Trust a Happy Song
Author: 
Natalie Bina
Release Date: March 14, 2015
Pages: 180
Genre: 
Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis
When Cassidy Diamond is admitted to a prestigious summer program at Stanford University, she looks forward to being surrounded by people just like herself: smart, studious, and antisocial.

But when Cassidy is assigned to stay with the Harper family and meets their vivacious and uninhibited daughter Grace, the two girls clash at first sight.

Cassidy is determined to not let Grace distract her from her studies, while Grace wants to show Cassidy that maybe her grades aren’t all she has going for her, and that life might be about more than building the perfect resume.

Bottom Line
Never Trust a Happy Song is a realistic contemporary teen story about learning to let go in order to find yourself.

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The Revolution of Ivy (Book of Ivy Series) by Amy Engel

The Revolution of Ivy (Book of Ivy #2) by Amy Engel

The Revolution of Ivy (Book of Ivy #2) by Amy Engel

5 Stars

Title: The Revolution of Ivy
Series: The Book of Ivy #2
Author: Amy Engel
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: November 3, 2015
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboGoogle Books

Synopsis
**WARNING: Contains spoilers if you haven’t read book one**

Ivy Westfall is beyond the fence and she is alone. Abandoned by her family and separated from Bishop Lattimer, Ivy must find a way to survive on her own in a land filled with countless dangers, both human and natural. She has traded a more civilized type of cruelty–forced marriages and murder plots–for the bare-knuckled brutality required to survive outside Westfall’s borders.

But there is hope beyond the fence, as well. And when Bishop reappears in Ivy’s life, she must decide if returning to Westfall to take a final stand for what she believes is right is worth losing everything she’s fought for.

 Bottom Line
The Revolution of Ivy moves away from familiar territory, raising the stakes, and finishing the series on a high note.

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Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

2 Stars

Title: Get Yourself Organized for Christmas
Author: Kathi Lipp
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Pages: 144
Genre: Organizing/Holidays
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonBarnes & Noble

Synopsis
Have you lost your Christmas joy? Does the thought of jam-packed malls, maxed-out credit cards, overcrowded supermarkets, and endless to-do lists give you the feeling that maybe Scrooge was on to something?

In Get Yourself Organized for Christmas, Kathi Lipp provides easy-to-follow steps to reduce the stress of the holiday season, including tactics for how to

put together a holiday binder you’ll use year after year determine a budget that won’t break the bank gather your elf supplies get your gift list together (including ideas for various ages and relationships) collect your recipes and prep your kitchen

By putting into practice Kathi’s tricks and tips, you’ll finally be able to fully enjoy this most wonderful time of the year.

Bottom Line
A good book for someone who is really disorganized. If you’re looking for something revolutionary, it’s not here.

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Abby and the Cute One (Backstage Pass) by Erin Butler

Abby and the Cute One (Backstage Pass #5) by Erin Butler

Abby and the Cute One (Backstage Pass #5) by Erin Butler

4 Stars

Title: Abby and the Cute One
Series: Backstage Pass #5
Author: Erin Butler
Publisher: Entangled Crush
Release Date: November 16, 2015
Pages: 172
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
He’s cute. He’s famous. And he could ruin everything…

Every member of Seconds to Juliet has a girlfriend-except for Nathan Strong. Now the band’s manager is leaning hard on “The Cute One” to play the role of the band’s heartthrob. With the band’s sales in decline, it’s up to Nathan to keep the fans’ fantasy alive.

The plan is to stage a fake relationship and a fake breakup, and then let the fans fight to be the one to mend Nathan’s broken heart. Just one problem. There’s another girl in the picture-one Nathan can’t stay away from. In private, Nathan’s stealing kisses with the band’s new opening act, Abby Curtis.

If they’re caught, no one wins. Abby will be fired, and the band might not recover the success they need to survive. But even with the pressure mounting, Nathan and Abby can’t stop themselves from stealing one more touch, one more kiss. And it’s only a matter of time before it all falls apart.

This Entangled Teen Crush book is as forbidden as the secret romance it contains! It has hot kisses, graphic language, and extreme misbehaving. DO NOT GET CAUGHT WITH THIS BOOK…unless you want everyone to know you believe in true love.

Bottom Line
Abby and the Cute One is a lighthearted contemporary romance that’s as adorable as the characters themselves.

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Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project) by Karri Thompson

Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project #1) by Karri Thompson

Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project #1) by Karri Thompson

4 Stars

Title: Mirror X
Series: The Van Winkle Project #1
Author: 
Kerri Thompson
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: June 30, 2014
Pages: 360
Genre: 
Young Adult SciFi/Dystopian Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
I was born more than a thousand years ago. Put into a cryogenic tube at age seventeen, forgotten during a holocaust that decimated the world, I’ve finally been awakened to a more serene and peaceful future.

But things at the hospital are new and strange. And it’s starting to scare me.

Everyone is young. Everyone is banded and tracked. And everyone is keeping secrets.

The cute geneticist Michael Bennett might be the only good thing in this crazy new world where “life is precious” but no one seems free to live it. The problem is, I don’t think he’s being totally honest with me, either.

When I’m told only I can save the human race from extinction, it’s clear my freeze didn’t avoid a dreadful fate. It only delayed the horror…

Bottom Line
Mirror X is an interesting scifi/dystopian adventure with some unique aspects. I’m interested to see where this series goes.

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Writing Deep Scenes: Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Writing Deep Scenes - Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Writing Deep Scenes – Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld

3 Stars

Title: Writing Deep Scenes: Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme
Authors: Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books
Publication Date: October 2, 2015
Pages: 248
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
Take a Deep Dive into Plot and Scene and Improve Your Writing

Whether you’re planning your first novel or have already written a first draft, you need to master the concepts of plot and scene to truly realize your story’s potential. “Writing Deep Scenes” teaches you how to write strong, layered, and engaging scenes–the secret to memorable, page-turning plots. It’s filled with practical tools for building layers and nuance into your scenes, employing the right scene types at the right junctures, and developing a profound understanding of how plot and scene intertwine.

Inside you’ll learn: How scenes are comprised of three key layers: action, emotion, and theme.How to recognize each layer and weave them seamlessly into a scene.How to develop an intricate relationship between the action and emotion in every scene.How thematic imagery embedded in scenes increases a story’s tension and contributes to the story’s meaning.Using contemporary examples from a variety of genres, “Writing Deep Scenes” provides an effective method for plotting at the scene level. Use these techniques and enrich your fiction and memoirs with page-turning suspense and pathos, and explore new depths in every story you write.

Bottom Line
Writing Deep Scenes presents solid techniques for developing your plot and creating layered scenes, but the terminology takes a little getting used to.

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Book Review – Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

Synopsis
Have you lost your Christmas joy? Does the thought of jam-packed malls, maxed-out credit cards, overcrowded supermarkets, and endless to-do lists give you the feeling that maybe Scrooge was on to something?

In Get Yourself Organized for Christmas, Kathi Lipp provides easy-to-follow steps to reduce the stress of the holiday season, including tactics for how to

put together a holiday binder you’ll use year after year determine a budget that won’t break the bank gather your elf supplies get your gift list together (including ideas for various ages and relationships) collect your recipes and prep your kitchen

By putting into practice Kathi’s tricks and tips, you’ll finally be able to fully enjoy this most wonderful time of the year.

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My Review
Based on the title and subtitle I was expecting more. When I spotted this on NetGalley, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and start organizing the heck out of my holiday. I was even happier when I started reading it and realized I was already ahead of the game simply by reading it in October. But my happiness dwindled and fizzled out around the fourth chapter. Author Kathi Lipp has some good ideas, but nothing earth shattering or revolutionary. Her primary tool is a three-ring binder with pockets and sheet protectors for organizing. In today’s digital age, it seemed a little old school, particularly since each chapter contains a section on decluttering. The first step in decluttering is going digital in my opinion. So I decided to keep a digital binder using Microsoft OneNote.

But the more I got into the book, the less I even did that. Things like organizing recipes in the binder seemed silly. I have a Pinterest board for those already. Same for gift ideas. I don’t need to rip out pages of magazines and stuff them in my binder if every catalog has a website now and ideas can easily be pinned to private boards. It’s also nothing I haven’t already been doing for years. I think the subtitle is right — they are simple steps. As in the very basic things most people are probably already doing anyway unless their incredibly disorganized and barely able to get out of the house most mornings.

That said, the part of the book that really spoke to me was the first few chapters where she recommends making a list of what’s really important. Asking your family for the things they cherish the most and doing away with the rest. We implemented that and have our list. We don’t need 76 different types of Christmas cookies. Each member picked one favorite and that’s what we’re going with.

Most of the rest of the book I could do without and ended up skimming some of it. I rarely write bad reviews because normally if I don’t connect with a book, I don’t finish it, and then I don’t feel like I can write a review on a book I didn’t finish. But with this book, I did end up reading the whole thing because I wanted to see what other great ideas I could find. In this case, less than half a book’s worth.

Bottom Line
A good book for someone who is really disorganized. If you’re looking for something revolutionary, it’s not here.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influences my review.

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About the Book
Title: Get Yourself Organized for Christmas
Author: Kathi Lipp
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Pages: 144
Genre: Organizing/Holidays
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonBarnes & Noble

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Author Kathi Lipp

Author Kathi Lipp

About the Author
Kathi Lipp helps women renovate their life with projects for the soul. She is a national speaker and author who inspires thousands each year to take beneficial action steps in their personal, marital, and spiritual lives. Her wit and wisdom will give you new ways to:
•Avoid settling for less than God’s loving plan for your life.
•Develop new levels of warmth and tenderness with your spouse.
•Return fun and flirting to your marriage.
•Boost your confidence to follow God-given dreams and goals.
•Create an environment of encouragement in your friendships

Kathi is the author of The Husband Project: 21 Days to Loving Your Man on Purpose and with a Plan and The Marriage Project: 21 Days to Bring Back the Love, Bring Back the Laughter, Bring Back the Lingerie (coming December 2009)with two more books under contract . In addition, her articles have appeared in Today’s Christian Woman, Bay Area Parent, Focus on the Family, Discipleship Journal, and Christian Parenting Today.

Church leaders and women’s ministry directors rely on Kathi to help women move from living out of obligation to enjoying godly passion.

Kathi and her husband, Roger, are parents of four kids and live in San Jose, California. They are members of Church on the Hill where Roger is the programming director of the worship arts ministry.

Where to Find Kathi Lipp
GoodreadsWebsite
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