Twelve Weeks Til Christmas: The Christmas Table by Donna VanLiere

WHOO HOO – it’s that time of year! It’s time to celebrate the holidays with my annual Twelve Weeks ‘Til Christmas reading countdown. Each week I will highlight a new holiday themed book that I think you might enjoy reading during the festive season.

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The Christmas Table by Donna VanLiere is one of many in a long line of Christmas themed books she has written over the years. I’ve read a few here and there not realizing that it was, more or less, a series. It is, however, one of those series that features a different person in each book so that you can read them as a stand alone feature. Some of the characters will be familiar if you have read her other books and some are newly introduced. Regardless, it is an endearing story featuring a dual timeline, the 1970s and 2012, a kitchen table and recipes that have been lovingly  written for someone’s daughter. How the two timeline’s merge and the importance of the table is beautifully told and intertwined. I loved the story, thought it was wonderfully and carefully written and enjoyed the recipes at the end of the tale.

I was not forewarned that VanLiere’s books are Christian based and I think it is important to know this. There are many people who celebrate the holidays, Christmas, or who are religious but do not believe the same way as others. In this particular book it wasn’t so overt that I felt uncomfortable, but I do wish these types of books were marked accordingly. That said, I did like the book and do recommend it for your holiday reading.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley for my copy of #TheChristmasTable.

What You Wish For by Katherine Center

What You Wish For is a feel good, make you happy book written Katherine Center, author of Things You Save in a Fire. Unfortunately, it didn’t make me feel good or happy but, rather, bored and underwhelmed. Please note that I am very aware that I am the fish swimming against the current and that every female reader who I know has “loved” this book. You can read their reviews if you’d like.

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Sam is a pleaser, you know the kind, the gal who wants everyone to happy all of the time and goes out of her way to make sure that you always have a smile on your face. The beginning of the story tells of her love of her job as a librarian in Galveston, TX (have you been to Galveston lately?) the perfect couple she is living with, her nerdy friend with math joke t-shirts, and her beautiful school where everything is perfect – the kids, the library where she works, just simply everything until the principal of the school and one half of the perfect couple mentioned above dies at the anniversary party Sam has planned. Whew. But, hey, no problem because Sam never allows anything to get her down and she will cheerfully take care of everyone, including the new principal who is who her old, once fun boyfriend who is now a curmedgeon set on “destroying” her beloved school. I will just stop here and say…. enough.

Here’s the thing. I have read hundreds of books since COVID19 began infecting the world. I understand that many readers want happy, go-lucky, cheerful books to keep their mind off of reality. This book, with one glaring exception, will hit the mark for you. It is, literally, made for television happy. But that is not what I needed or still need. I’m sick of overly happy, cheesy women (and men) who walk around with smiles on their faces when there is nothing to be happy about right now. I’m not a stick in the mud or bitter but I cannot do fake and insipid either. The fact is that library funding – school and local – is shrinking. Schools, especially in Texas, are not coping with the demands of the 21st century learning curves. They have taken science out of their science classes and facts out of their history classes so I’m a little cynical when I read about this perfect school set in a city where I know it’s a fallacy and all we need to do is make the principal remember how much fun he used to be. Right. But it’s fiction, you say. Sure, or maybe it should listed in the fantasy section. Regardless, I’m not going to write a review that says RAH RAH when I tried twice to read this book and couldn’t finish it either time. I read silly books. I read fun books. I didn’t find this to be either. Whether you read or enjoy it is totally up to you.

The House of Deep Water by Jeni McFarland

The House of Deep Water is a slow churning, atmospheric story of three women and the family that surrounds them as they come crashing together under one roof in the small midwestern town of River Bend.

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Jeni McFarland covers topics that many today are coping with: abuse – spousal and familial, racial tensions, small town poverty, and isolationism. She tells the story of these women deftly, with a stoicism that sets apart the midwestern people, gives them the appearance of being hard when, in fact, they are hurting like everyone else. The story flows slowly along much like the river does through the town but it never falters. The House of Deep Water is not a cozy, feel good women’s tale but one of reality about the hardships many women – and men – face in today’s society. If you are looking for a really good read that will keep your attention and make you more aware at the end than you were at the beginning, then this is the book for you this summer!

Blog Tour – Sunrise on Half Moon Bay by Robyn Carr

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I admit that I joined the Robyn Carr fan party late having only just started reading her this year, but I’m so glad that I discovered her writing at last! Like many, I started watching the Virgin River series and then went back to read the books. Now I’m branching out to her other collections and, wow, there are many! Sunrise on Half Moon Bay is Carr’s latest book published this month and it is fantastic. I stopped reading one of her other books so that I could read this one because I love the area of Half Moon Bay, California. The book was calling to me!

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Sunrise on Half Moon Bay is a tale of two sisters born twenty years apart. I thought my own kids, born five years apart, had a lot of years between them but twenty is an entire generation! Needless to say, the sisters had very little, if anything, in common. Addie, the younger sister, dropped out of university to care for their ailing parents while Justine, a successful lawyer, covered the expenses. It was the best arrangement for all concerned but now that their parents are gone, the future has changed dramatically for both sisters. With a future filled with uncertainty and change, the two will need to find a way to come together to solve both of their problems and, perhaps, to find love along the way.

I have found that Carr is a master at creating characters that the reader will care about and relate to. Both sisters, although light years away from my own lifestyle or concerns, still resonated with me. The challenges they were facing were those that many of us will face at some point in our lives. I also found the secondary characters to be a tad bit more interesting than the sisters themselves and I hope that in future books we will see them again.

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay is well written women’s fiction and perfect for Carr’s fans as well as new readers to this genre, especially those who are new to Carr after watching Virgin River.

Carr_Robyn_11_ColRobyn Carr is an award-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than sixty novels, including highly praised women’s fiction such as Four Friends and The View From Alameda Island and the critically acclaimed Virgin River, Thunder Point and Sullivan’s Crossing series. Virgin River is now a Netflix Original series. Robyn lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Visit her website at www.RobynCarr.com.

 

 

 

 

One Perfect Summer by Brenda Novak

Imagine swabbing your cheek for 23andme and discovering that you have two half sisters that you never knew existed. That is what happened to Serenity when she took a DNA test for research for book she was writing. One sister had grown up in foster care, one was the only daughter of a single mother and Serenity was part of an intact family with both parents and more siblings. The sisters aren’t sure how they fit together but decide to spend a few weeks together getting to know one another, hoping that during that time they will also discover something in their past that they have in common. Little did the sisters know that the weeks would turn into a summer that would change their lives forever.

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I’ve never read a book by Brenda Novak and the pace and style took time for me to get used to. I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be “chick lit” or “light romance’ or exactly which genre I was reading until, finally, I stopped worrying about it and just enjoyed the story. The sisters were similar enough, despite their upbringing, to become good friends and an encouragement to one another through a very difficult series of revelations. There were hints of romance throughout which kept the story interesting and light. There also was the underlying mystery of how the three girls had the same father by such totally different mothers.

There were times I felt the book had some believability issues, such as a hospital sending home an amputee without follow up rehab, therapy or the ability to use cutlery in his “good hand.,” but despite these moments, the over-arcing storyline was enjoyable and would make for a nice summer read.

The Sea Glass Cottage @RaeAnneThayne Harlequin Blog Tour

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I am so excited to be part of the Harlequin Blog Tour for The Sea Glass Cottage by RaeAnne Thayne. I’m a recent convert to Thayne’s books and I’m discovering how wonderful each and every one of them is.

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First let me say that this cover is stunning! The inviting feel that it evokes is exactly how I felt about the book. In fact, I loved the cover so much that I’m in the process of landscaping my back walkway to look just like this one! 🙂

If you are a fan of Thayne, then you will be familiar with some of the characters and certainly the community of Cape Sanctuary. Here we find Olivia, a serious and successful programmer who moved away from Cape Sanctuary years before. Her past there holds tragedy and painful memories but when her mother is hospitalized, she drops everything and rushes home to care for her mother. Here Olivia will encounter her past, reunite with her best friend and cope with her some-what obnoxious niece, the daughter of her sister whose life and death were tragic. Throughout the book we discover secrets held by Olivia, her mother, niece and even her sister. The Sea Glass Cottage is a book about healing, understanding, and forgiveness, as well as recognizing the strengths each of us hold within ourselves. The book, the story and the characters are beautifully written, engaging and entrancing from beginning to its satisfying conclusion. It is a story you will not want to miss. Yes, it is part of a series but, as someone who hasn’t read the rest of this series, I can assure you that it works very well as a stand-alone.

The Sea Glass Cottage was published earlier in March, 2020 and can be found at any of the links listed below.

Publisher: HQN Books

Buy Links: 

Harlequin 

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble 

Books-A-Million

Target

Walmart

Google

iBooks

Kobo

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New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne finds inspiration in the beautiful northern Utah mountains where she lives with her family. Her books have won numerous honors, including six RITA Award nominations from Romance Writers of America and Career Achievement and Romance Pioneer awards from RT Book Reviews. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.raeannethayne.com.

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @RaeAnneThayne

Facebook: AuthorRaeAnneThayne

Instagram: @RaeAnneThayne

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/116118.RaeAnne_Thayne

Thank you to Samantha and Harlequin for my copy of this beautiful story!

 

The Girls With No Names @serenaburdick

I finally understood what my fortune meant….I was bone and skin and earth and sky. Death was not literal, Time was infinite, my Existence..eternal.

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Set in the early 1900s, a time of great change and social reforms, The Girls With No Names is the story of young girls, some wealthy and other travelers or from among the working poor. It is a brilliant example of all that was wonderful and horrific about “the gilded age.”

Luella and Effie Tildon are children from a wealthier family. Their lives are spent in school, wandering the land around their home and obeying the strict rules set forth by their parents. They know that if they don’t obey these rules they will be sent to the House of Mercy, a work house wayward girls. The institution was meant to be home for young women without support or who were unmarried and pregnant. What it became was a place for men to send women and girls who didn’t conform to the “rules.” A house of horror, hunger, torture and worse, the House of Mercy was used as a cautionary reminder for all females to obey. When Luella discovers a secret her father is hiding, she begins to rebel against him to the point that, when she disappears, Effie immediately assumes Luella has been banished to the House of Mercy. Effie, who has a debilitating heart condition, decides she will find a way to get sent to the house so that Luella will not be alone. What transpires is a horror show for the young girl and for all of the girls held captive within those walls.

Serena Burdick has woven together a story of the rich and the poor, of the Suffragette movement, of work houses run by “the church”, of an age that glorified the male while subjugating women. The stories of these young women is one of friendship, love, bravery and hope. It is, by far, one of the most remarkable stories I have read and, sadly, it is based on the true stories of the House of Mercy in Innwood Park.

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The Girls With No Names is a cautionary reminder about how new and how fleeting our rights as women actually are or could be, a wake up call for women around the world.

#Netgalley, #Harlequin-ParkRow and @SerenaBurkick – thank you!

 

The Helios Disaster by Linda Bostrom Knausgaard

The Helios Disaster, written by Linda Bostrom Knausgaard, is an amazingly beautiful work of prose. Please do not go into it expecting your run of the mill fiction narrative for it is far more than that.

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Told in two parts, this is the story of Anna who bursts from her father’s head in full armor, we quickly discover that the birth scream is from her father who is being rushed off to an asylum for schizophrenia. Anna, first taken in by a neighbor, eventually ends up with social services and asks if it is hell. The story continues with Anna who eventually ends up in an asylum herself. This is both a retelling of the birth of Athena and a sad commentary on those with any mental illness. It is, at once, heartbreaking and achingly beautiful. A mere 128 pages, it is very worth reading.

Romantic Two for Tuesday: Husband Material and Been There, Married That

Happy Tuesday! I had hoped to bring you two delicious romances for the Tuesday of Valentine’s Week. Strangely enough, neither of these books were what I was expecting, one for the better and one, well… not so much.

Been There, Married That by Gigi Levangie, promised to be a humorous look at a celebrity marriage gone wrong. I truly thought it would be a funny take on a woman who was rebuilding her life after a celebrity marriage. What I got, instead, was a book about nothing. The characters were flat, there really wasn’t a plot other than a lot (a LOT) of attempts at humor. In fact, that appears to have been the goal of the author – to see how many laughs she could get, many of which fell very flat. I love a good Rom-Com but this was neither a Romance or a Comedy. It was like watching a really bad movie where there is one pratfall too many. Basically, I skimmed three-fourths of the book to finish. So, no romance or recommendation here for Been There, Married That.

On the flip side, I had small expectations for Husband Material. But then I read the first page, and the second, and found I couldn’t stop until I was completely finished with the book. I honestly don’t want to say too much about the plot because I want you to be as surprised as I was. The main character wants you to believe this is simply her search for the perfect husband. What we discover instead is that she is much less detached and aloof than she appears and her heart is in need of serious mending. Husband Material had me laughing, crying and cheering and then I wanted MORE. It is a wonderful book that is far more than a romance. It is wonderful story of resilience and strength. I highly recommend Husband Material for all who love an exceptionally written story.

Have you read either of these books? What did you think of them? Was I totally off the mark with Been There, Married That? Let me know….

The Neighbours by Nicola Gill: Happy Pub Day!

In this era of “ageism” it is wonderful to see a book about two women with roughly two decades of difference in their ages come together in a celebration of friendship.

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Ginny is a thirty-something woman who is struggling with her place in life. She feels unfilled in her job but has no idea how to get a different and better one. When she walks in on her live-in boyfriend shagging her boss – in Cassie’s own apartment – she is forced into looking at life from a different, jobless perspective. She is good at what she does – marketing and PR – but she isn’t always on her game when it comes to job interviews.

Her neighbor, Cassie, is a fifty-something, well known actress who, sadly, has sabotaged her career over time with her boorish behavior, uncensored mouth and worse. She desperately needs an agent or PR consultant to help her get her life back in gear but no one will touch her, not even with a ten foot pole!

Cassie talks Ginny into helping and soon the two realize, well, they have absolutely nothing in common and barely can tolerate one another. As they work together, however, they realize that one doesn’t always have to have similarity as a foundation upon which to build a great friendship. Both of these women learn from one another, help each other turn their weaknesses into strength and, ultimately, they form a beautiful friendship.

The Neighbours is a humorous, witty look at relationships of all types and illustrates how each of us have something to offer to one another, despite our differences. And yes, in today’s world where differences are highlighted and maligned, it is a joy to see how our lack of sameness can be a strength. This is a wonderful, well written story of friendship that is perfect for readers of all genres.

Many thanks to #Netgalley, #AvonBooksUK, #AvonBooks for my copy of The Neighbours on sale today!