#historical fiction, 12 Weeks 'Til Christmas, Holiday-Christmas, Uncategorized

Two Weeks ‘Til Christmas!!

When I started the Twelve Weeks ‘Til Christmas countdown ten weeks ago, it actually seemed as though the holidays were so far away. Now, we are down to TWO weeks, 14 days, until the big celebration. Today, since it’s a Top Whatever Tuesday, I thought I would recap some of my favorite holiday books of 2018.

First and foremost, my very favorite holiday book this year was A Treasury of African-American Christmas Stories. You can read my review HERE. If you haven’t read this compilation yet, I highly encourage you to give it a try. The stories within are some of the best I’ve ever read – as in – ever!

Obviously, over the past few months I’ve read a LOT of holiday books so that I could do this countdown. Some were typical, a few never made it to the blog and one or two I couldn’t even bring myself to finish. The ones shown below, however, definitely were the highlight of the season.

The favorite among you, my blog readers, was Mutts and Mistletoe and I have to admit it was a favorite of mine as well. The story was adorable but the dogs absolutely stole the show! I also just found out that the author, Natalie Cox, has another “mutt” based holiday book, Not Just For Christmas, so I definitely have to find and read that one too!

I previously had read The Fairy in the Kettle and fell in love with writing and the incredible artwork. I was thrilled to discover that there was a Christmas follow-up story: The Fairy in the Kettle’s Christmas Wish. If you have any younger kids in your life, I highly recommend this book above all others. It’s beautifully written and the storyline is marvelous!

I was super excited to discover some new authors through their holiday work, one of whom is Sue Moorcroft. Her writing style is just great and exactly the type of writing that I love to read. I’ve already ordered more of her books and next week will have a review of one of her previous holiday tales.

In the historical genre, I fell head over heels in love with two of the writers in The Christmas Heirloom. The story of a brooch that is passed down from mother to daughter for centuries absolutely stole my heart! And, I think it is safe to say that after three years and three books, Rebecca Boxall’s holiday reads will be on my Must-Read list and I hope they will be on yours as well. I read Christmas on the Coast in January of this year and followed up with her newest, The Christmas Forest, a few weeks ago.

However, aside from the African-American stories, my favorite book this holiday season was Moonlight on the Thames by Lauren Westwood. I simply adored the characters in the story, the setting, but mostly, how they overcame their past to find love once again. I truly enjoy reading about the healing powers of love and the joy of this season.

I hope, if you haven’t read these yet, that you will give at least one or two of them a try. I know you will enjoy them as much as I did.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! 

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#historical fiction, 12 Weeks 'Til Christmas, Holiday-Christmas

The Christmas Heirloom

Over the past few weeks we have been preparing @TheWisteriaHouse for the holidays. There are a lot of rooms and many trees to decorate but it’s worth it when all is finished and the house is glowing. One of my favorite parts of decorating, especially the trees, is looking back through all of the past treasures from years gone by. I have inherited antique and vintage ornaments that have been passed down from generation to generation.

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There also are all of the newer additions that bring back memories of Christmas past. It was while I was reminiscing that I came across The Christmas Heirloom, four short novellas based on a Luckenbooth brooch that has been passed down from mother to daughter through the centuries. It was the perfect holiday read!

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Briefly, there are four complete novellas centered around the heirloom brooch. In the first, Legacy of Love, we are at the beginning of the brooch’s story. Sarah is a companion to a dowager Countess who is dying. It is Sarah’s wish to bring her as much happiness as possible during her final days. Sarah’s story, as she entertains others on the piano and with her very frank talk, is endearing. As she falls for the dowager’s grandson, it would appear that there is no hope of a “happily ever after” ending: a son of a nobleman with a mere companion, but the dowager has other ideas and it is her wish that the two of them find love and happiness together. Her final Christmas gift is bestowing her well-loved Luckenbooth to Sarah. The story is as beautiful as it is uplifting and I enjoyed it tremendously.

The second story, Gift of the Heart, takes us to Texas where Sarah’s granddaughter, Ruth, has moved to start over after the death of her husband. All that Sarah wishes for is a good life for her daughter. It’s just after the Civil War and there are many poor, out of work people throughout the south but Sarah has found a job in a resort town as a cook at a café. It is there that she fortuitously meets the resort’s owner, a recluse who rarely goes out due to a crippling injury. However, this pair bonds over their love for Ruth’s daughter and soon that bond turns to love. This is a heartwarming tale of romance and hope and one that I’m sure will delight readers who love romance, faith and hope, especially during the holidays.

As we move to the third story, A Shot at Love, I began to feel a slight shift in the narrative. Because each story is written by different authors, it is only natural that the stories reflect those author’s unique writing styles. Fleeta, an unusual name for a rather unusual woman, was orphaned at a young age. Told repeatedly that her mother died of a “broken heart” after Fleeta’s father was killed, Fleeta has no use for love or romance preferring, instead, to spend her days hunting and shooting and occasionally doing wood carvings. When she meets Hank, a fellow gun enthusiast, her thoughts begin to shift. Could she actually fall in love with Hank? This was a very well written story and I easily empathized with these West Virginia characters. I am, however, extremely anti-gun and hunting and the story revolves primarily around both. Despite that, the story was written well enough that I did enjoy following the brooch’s tale down to Fleeta, a woman so clearly not a jewelry type gal.

The final story was one that I, personally, didn’t care for. It is now contemporary times and the brooch was “lost” in the attic until it was discovered by Maddy, a young woman who is gathering items for a garage sale where the proceeds will be used for the family in need whom she is helping. Her partner in the holiday shopping is the widow of Maddy’s best friend and the man she has been secretly in love with for years. Their story is a beautiful one and, of course, they find love in the end. There were multiple reasons that I didn’t connect with this last story. I’m an historian and the fact that the heirloom meant so little to Maddy’s mother, who was quite flippant about it, made me cringe. We had followed the brooch from mother to daughter for years and here was a woman who didn’t care at all. It broke my heart. Also, each of these stories are faith based. It’s been years since I’ve read what is now considered “Christian Lit,” but at one time it was the only type of literature that I did read. The first three stories had faith and hope at the core of their story lines. This message was beautifully incorporated into the story and was a reflection of these women’s lives. By the fourth, however, it became the focal point of the story and was not just about faith but was based on the doctrine of this particular writer. Faith is nearly universal, regardless of your religious ideological beliefs. Doctrine is not. It is specific, not just to Christianity, but to unique beliefs within that Christian faith. Had I not been so involved with the brooch and its story, I would have skipped this last story completely.

Overall, the first three stories are worth purchasing and reading the book. They were incredibly well written and utterly enchanting. If it had just been these stories, I would have given the book a 5 star rating and I still highly recommend the book.

Thank you to #Netgalley and #BethanyHousePublishers for my copy of this beautiful Christmas tale.

 

12 Weeks 'Til Christmas, Holiday-Christmas, RomCom

The Christmas Forest #RebeccaBoxall

SIX WEEKS UNTIL CHRISTMAS!!

The countdown continues with the Twelve Books of Christmas started in October. We now are down to SIX, just SIX, weeks until the big day!!  I absolutely love all of the terrific holiday books that are out there this year and I hope you are too! Last year, which really was the first year that I actually read a lot of holiday books, I came across author Rebecca Boxall. I fell in love with her 2017 book, Christmas on the Coast, and immediately had to go back and read her previous year’s offerings, Christmas at the Vicarage and Home for Winter. All of these were well told, beautiful stories set during the holidays but heartwarming tales for all year. This year, Boxall is back with her newest novella, The Christmas Forest.

Enid lives in a charming coastal town next door to her sister, Bess, in matching “Christmas” cottages where they have lived, side by side, since their parent’s tragic death. Enid has Asperger’s Syndrome which interferes with a person’s ability to “socialize” in a neuro-typical manner but, otherwise, they generally are quite brilliant and nearly always talented in some fashion or another. Through a holiday card exchange, Enid has met Fred who lives in Australia. Fred also has recently lost her mother, for whom he was the sole care-giver as she battled Multiple Sclerosis. Through writing and talking on the phone, the two have formed a bond that they believe is ready for the next step – Enid travelling to Australia to meet Fred in person. However, it is extremely difficult for someone with Asperger’s to trust – people, airplanes, strangers in general – and it is even more difficult for them to be “trapped” in a plane. But Enid believes that she is ready – until everything goes to hell in a hand-basket at the airport! Will these two ever be able to overcome the obstacles to be together?

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I admit that I loved the story from start to finish and, because it is a novella, that only took an afternoon! While the writing itself is not as taut as with her previous novels, I found the characters to more than make up for that. Perhaps it is because I am part of a  family that has lived with MS and other auto-immune diseases and have a son with Asperger’s, I totally and completely related to Enid and a young boy, Dan, as well as Fred, who cared for his mother. They charmed me with their humor, had me crying with their set-backs and made me grin like a Cheshire cat in the end. And that is exactly what a good cozy novel is supposed to do! I loved this story and I hope will too!

I was thrilled to receive an advanced copy of The Christmas Forest from #Netgalley, especially since I have been anxiously waiting for this book since last Christmas! Thanks also to #RebeccaBoxall and @AmazonPublishingUK !

12 Weeks 'Til Christmas, Holiday-Christmas, RomCom

SEVEN WEEKS ‘TIL CHRISTMAS!

While it seems so far away, when you are counting down the weeks by reading holiday books, you suddenly realize that there are more holiday books on the bookshelf than there are weeks left to read them! YIKES!! Perhaps a book a day would help alleviate the panic attacks. 🙂

cover148567-mediumThis appears to be the week for “café” books. If holiday stories aren’t set in cafes, then they are set in bookstores. Regardless of the setting, however, The Christmas Café at Seashell Cove is a delightful, humorous holiday tale. Seashell Cove is a series by Karen Clarke that features a different resident in each book, although past and future featured characters all make at least a cameo appearance in the current storyline.

Tilly is a free spirit who loves to work wherever her heart leads. Currently she is doing interior design work but she refuses to take it too seriously or even call it a “job.” She likes getting paid to do what she loves without the strings of a “business” attached. This Christmas, however, her friends and the café owners, are putting a great deal of pressure on her to turn the new addition to the café into something spectacular, each wanting to use the grand opening holiday celebration as a very special occasion to reveal big surprises. In addition, there is a new man in town with a young son who may, or may not, hire Tilly to redecorate his new home. The man, Seth, unfortunately comes with a very overbearing mother who has ideas of her own.

There are all of the usual holiday read must-haves: a bit of intrigue, encouraging friends, a colorful character or two and, most importantly, romance with missed cues and crossed signals that can keep the reading enjoyable and interesting. The folks of Seashell Cove always are a delight to catch up with and Tilly’s character is one of the best and most interesting to date.

If you are a fan of cozy books – mystery or romance – and like a good holiday tale that is not too over-the-top Christmassy, then The Christmas Café at Seashell Cove is a must read for you. Once you’ve read this one, I encourage you to catch up with the other folks from Seashell Cove. You will be glad that you did.

Much appreciation to #Netgalley, @Bookouture, and the author, @KarenClarke123 for my copy of this humorous tale!

 

12 Weeks 'Til Christmas, Holiday-Christmas, RomCom

Dear Santa @NancyNaigle

Happy Publication Day to @NancyNaigle and her endearing holiday tale, #DearSanta!

It’s Two for Tuesday and I’m thrilled that it’s also exactly TEN WEEKS until Christmas so that I can share with you another wonderful Christmas book, perfect for this season!

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We all have written that proverbial “Dear Santa” letter at least sometime in our lives. It’s a letter where children pour out their hearts to Santa and ask, okay beg, for all of their wishes to come true on Christmas morning. In Dear Santa, a very adult Angela, through the encouragement of her adorable niece, writes such a letter using an online app. It is Angela’s last hope for her failing business.

Angela’s only goal in life was to successfully run her family’s business, a Christmas store set in an old lighthouse that had been in her family for three generations. She was raised by the side of her grandmother, Grace, who had carried on the business started by her mother, Mackey. Yep, that’s right, Mackey. (I have to tell you that I never have read a book that included a female Mackey who has the same spelling as mine, so already you know that I am hooked on this story, right?) However, Angela’s rather old fashioned values of not connecting to social media, rarely used advertising and her staunch ideas about selling high end merchandise rather than affordable kitsch, have led to the downfall of her business. The final nail in the store’s coffin comes when a chain store marketing cheap goods, a lot of flair and advertising and hoopla, move in across the street from her. In her angst, Angela agrees to write to “Santa” for help. Little does she realize that the “Santa” on the other side of the app is the owner of the new mega-store. The result is classic romance: enemies by day, confidants by night via the “Dear Santa” app.

Dear Santa is a classic holiday romance with the couple hating each other and then, through a series of holiday “miracles” realizing how much they love each other. In this case, the story line reminded me a bit of the sweet movie, “You’ve Got Mail,” starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. I loved that movie and I absolutely adored this book! The writing is very well done, never too over-the-top and the characters are beautifully developed. Because I own a small business in a small town and see how my fellow townspeople struggle to walk the fine line between quality, quantity, nostalgia and the ever changing way that we do business in the 21st century, this book – Angela specifically – truly resonated with me. I could feel her heartbreak as well as her hope. Admittedly, I didn’t care for Angela’s sister or even Geoff, the mega store owner, at least until about mid-way of the book, but again, that was part of the story and the strong emotions that I felt were the result of very good writing on Naigle’s part.

You already know that I love holiday tales and, if you’re like me and holiday reading is your thing, then I am sure you will love this book as much as I did.

You can find the book today at your local retailers, Amazon and, hopefully, your local library! Enjoy!

My thanks to #Netgalley, #StMartinsPress – about whom I never can praise highly enough – and @NancyNaigle for my copy of this endearing book!

12 Weeks 'Til Christmas, Cozy Mysteries, Holiday-Christmas

And Then There Were Ten, #AChristmasGift @SueMoorcroft

The Countdown Continues with Ten Weeks to Christmas…

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I seriously cannot believe it is just TEN WEEKS until the big day. It’s a good thing that I celebrate the entire holiday season or I would be in a panic. Wait! I already am in a panic! No, no, not really. The fact that I’m decorating trees in secret, in my closet, so they will be ready to go the day after Halloween means nothing. Nah….  One thing that does not wait, however, is my passion for holiday reading and Sue Moorcroft has given us another outstanding Christmas book this year: A Christmas Gift!

Georgine loves Christmas. As the artistic director for a private arts school, she is in charge of the annual Christmas pageant. Regardless of anything else going on in her life, each Christmas she completely immerses herself in the organization of the holiday production. Over the past year, she has encountered financial problems as her former boyfriend left her with a mountain of debt – and the collectors that go with it. Also compounding the problem is her sister who has barged back into her life, bringing her financial woes as well. Having been raised quite wealthy in a family that eventually lost everything, Georgine is terrified of being financially destitute. Georgine also cares for her elderly father who has had a stroke. Thrown into this mixed bag of emotions is “Joe,” whom her boss has given to her as an assistant for the play. Joe feels familiar to Georgine but she is unable to place where she has known him from in her past. Who “Joe” is will turn Georgine’s world upside down along with much hilarity, angst, sadness and joy.

A Christmas Gift is exactly the type of holiday book that I love. Of course there is a bit of romance, lots of crossed signals, and ultimately a happy ending. However, Moorcroft’s style of writing also lends itself to explore deeper undercurrents that we all face. With Georgine and Joe, we see how extreme poverty can manifest itself throughout a lifetime, how fleeting wealth can be and how tenuous relationships are, whether they with the opposite sex, parent-child, or sibling relationships – they all take a lot of work to maintain. Moorcroft deftly handles each of these topics and allows the reader to look beyond the surface of the “happy holiday” stereotype.

I loved A Christmas Gift and, if you like holiday stories, I think you will enjoy it as well. Let me know if you’ve read this book or any of Moorcroft’s other books. Are you reading holiday tales yet? Share them with me – I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks to #Netgalley, @AvonBooksUK and @SueMoorcroft for my copy of this delightful tale.

 

 

 

12 Weeks 'Til Christmas, Children's Reads, Holiday-Christmas

The Fairy in the Kettle’s Christmas Wish by Pauline Tait @PTait_author

You may recall my raving review of The Fairy in the Kettle and, if not, you can read it HERE. It is, by far, one of the most wonderful children’s books that I ever have read or reviewed. Now, the author is back with a Christmas edition of the Fairies: The Fairy in the Kettle’s Christmas Wish. 

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Leona the Fairy and all of her forest friends are back with Leona looking forward to decorating her tea kettle for the holidays. Of course she wants it to be the most beautifully decorated home and the best Christmas ever. However, like so many of us during the holidays, Leona runs into some problems. Will she be able to get everything done before Christmas and, more importantly, will all of her forest friends make it there in time to celebrate together.

Once again, Pauline Tait has given us a wonderful story of true friendship along with page after page of enrapturing illustrations. The story is enchanting, mesmerizing and delightfully told. I know that I get a little excited about children’s books, I admit it, but this one deserves all of the praise that I can give – and more! I cannot imagine any child, pre-school to early elementary (or adults with a child like heart,) who would not adore this delightful book. I only wish that I could give it TEN magical holiday stars instead of mere five.

You can find The Fairy in the Kettle’s Christmas Wish at Amazon. All of my thanks to #Netgalley, #PaulineTait and @BooksGoSocial for my copy of the wonderful holiday tale.

 

12 Weeks 'Til Christmas, Holiday-Christmas, RomCom

Mutts and Mistletoe by #NatalieCox

If you are a dog lover, then Mutts and Mistletoe is must read book for you! Even if you aren’t a dog lover, you will enjoy this delightful holiday book!

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The holidays – which for me begin on October 1 – are the only time of the year that I actually read and enjoy cozy mysteries and romance books. I think it has something to do with being raised on holiday classics which morphed into Hallmark Holiday movies. I like feeling nostalgic and magical and in love this time of year. If given the opportunity to read a fun holiday story, I will jump at the chance. Mutts and Mistletoe was such an opportunity!

Charlie’s life has hit the rocks – her boyfriend just ran off with his trainer, her mother has fled to Australia with her new husband and, in a neighbor’s freak explosion, her apartment ceiling caved in on her leaving her injured and homeless just in time for the holidays. She reluctantly agrees to spend time recuperating at her cousin’s home in the middle of nowhere where her cousin runs an upscale doggy day-care. Charlie is not a dog fan and is even less of a fan of the country veterinarian with whom she gets off on the wrong foot. When Charlie’s cousin makes the sudden decision to travel to the Arctic Circle to be with her online lover, Charlie is left in charge of the pooches, including her cousin’s very pregnant, very spoiled pet, Peggy. Mayhem ensues as Charlie learns about dogs, their owners. There is a burglary gone wrong, holiday pet races that include a very well trained reindeer and a duck and so much more leading up the big event – Christmas Day.

The beginning of the book was a close deal breaker for me. I’m not sure what it was about the first chapter or so, but I disliked Charlie and her lifestyle so immensely that I, quite nearly, stopped reading the book. However, once the dogs were introduced into the story, it all turned around. It is very obvious that the author, Natalie Cox, loves dogs and understands their non-verbal communication perfectly. The detail of their personalities, quirks, beauty and relationships was so spot on that I found myself laughing hysterically, crying and nodding my head in agreement throughout. Poor Peggy, the pregnant pooch, was the star of the book without a doubt! Just as they transformed Charlie into a completely different person, they won over my heart and mind regarding the book. By the end, it became one of my very favorite holiday reads of this season.

I highly recommend Mutts and Mistletoes to all of those who have furbabies of their own, to those who love holiday tales and readers who enjoy light romance stories. This one is a winner!

Thank you to #Edelweiss, #PenguinRandomHouse and Natalie Cox for the opportunity to read this heart-warming tale which now is on sale at your favorite retailer.

12 Weeks 'Til Christmas, Holiday-Christmas

A Treasury of African American Christmas Stories

Each year before the holidays I go on a search for eclectic holiday stories that will delight and surprise me. This year I was fortunate to receive Bettye Collier Thomas’ book, A Treasury fo African American Christmas Stories.

IT’S ONLY ELEVEN WEEKS UNTIL CHRISTMAS

This is a compilation of the best stories from Thomas’s previous two books by the same name, Vol.1 and 2. What I discovered as I was really, simply was amazing! These are stories written by African American authors and activists that reflect their life and times. Some of the authors are unknown to most, others – like Langston Hughes – will be familiar to many. A few of the stories are retellings of familiar holiday tales but with an African American theme rather than the anglicized, white-washed version that many of us have heard or read. However, what I found most interesting were those stories that combined the holiday theme with those of anti-slavery or civil rights messages. These stories were fascinating. In fact, the traditional religious nativity story is one of oppression, deliverance and hope. Who better than African Americans, the most oppressed people in America’s history, to tell and embrace this story?

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Reading all of the stories in this collection was interesting, educational but, most of all, insightful to the hope that we all must embrace, especially during the holiday season.

If you only read one holiday book this year, I highly recommend that be this one.

12 Weeks 'Til Christmas, Children's Reads, Holiday-Christmas

12 Weeks ‘Til Christmas/ Miracle on 34th Street – a Picture Book

imageedit_2_4957071024Can you believe it is only TWELVE weeks until Christmas 2018!? Well, since I have been counting down the weeks since last Christmas, I can! I love the holidays and what I love most is holiday reading! From now until Christmas, I will be reviewing holiday books every Tuesday.

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One of my favorite Christmas movies is “Miracle on 34th Street” starring Natalie Wood. At the time that the movie was made, Valentine Davies also penned a short novella to accompany the film release. There have been several adaptations of the movie and book but no other book has been released by the Davies estate – until now.

Miracle on 34th Street is a picture book for kids of all ages. The story is accurately re-told for the enjoyment of children. The writing, while simple, is not childishly over-handed and the prose flows brilliantly throughout the book. The illustrations by James Newman Gray are exquisite. Their detail and vivid colors are sure to capture the eye of many young readers.

Most importantly, this new rendition fully captures the hope, magic and joy of the original movie. This is a must-have book for your holiday library collection.

Thank you to #Netgalley, #SourcebooksJabberwocky and the Davies Estate for this marvelous holiday tale.