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.

A Heartfelt Christmas Promise @nancynaigle

Rating: 5 out of 5.

It’s beginning to look a lot like…. Too soon!?! There is a cold snap in the air today in the midwest and it has been the perfect time to cozy up with a warm cup of coffee and read; Nancy Naigle’s newest holiday tale was the perfect choice! Happy Pub Day to A Heartfelt Christmas Promise!

I absolutely adore holiday stories and read them throughout the year. There are some that are strictly “holiday themed” but so many others are really wonderful feel-good books that make you happy just reading them. A Heartfelt Christmas Promise, while absolutely revolving around the holidays – it begins with Thanksgiving and goes through Christmas – is, at its roots, a beautiful love story and I LOVED this story!

READ AN EXCERPT HERE

Vanessa is the consummate over achieving business woman who excels at all that she sets her mind to accomplish. She hasn’t made time for friends or romance and rarely has time for family. When a new project in Paris comes up at work, she is positive she will be sent to Paris for the holidays. Her boss, unfortunately has other plans. Vanessa is sent to a small mountain town that makes fruitcake to shut down the company in order to put in a warehouse. Yes, I know this sounds like so many Hallmark Movies and I thought it was going to exactly like that. I was WRONG! I won’t divulge how it is different but, please, believe me when I say that it is. Vanessa is not your sappy woman who gets all emotional upon arrival; she sees a solution and she goes about accomplishing her goals – goals that will benefit everyone. Of course there is a snafu – it wouldn’t be a holiday story without one – but in the end it all works out! Sniffle Sniffle…. yeah, I cried.

There are so many things to love (!) about A Heartfelt Christmas Promise. First and foremost, Vanessa is intelligent and never makes excuses for being a strong, independent woman nor does she shy away from being a caring one! Second, this book includes so many age groups from Buck and Anna who are older, to Vanessa who is younger, to Misty who is a teen. Each of these people were depicted as able, smart, capable adults. It is so rare to read books that don’t make older adults or teens out to be stereotypical and this was very appreciated! Third, there are horses and puppies. Oh, hello!? Naigle did such a great job at depicting the Percheron horses that I swear I could hear their thundering hoofbeats going down my cobblestone street!!

Beautiful, aren’t they?

We have llamas pulling our sleigh here in my hometown so I cannot complain but can you imagine these beauties pulling Santa!? WOW! The horses play an integral part of the story and add so much character to the overall book!

What more can I say!? I LOVED A Heartfelt Christmas Promise! Whether you are an early reader of holiday books or just thinking about later, this one definitely should be on to-read list for the holidays!

Thanks to #Netgalley, #nancynaigle and #StMartinsGriffin for my copy of this marvelous book!

Healthy Happy Wishes to you ALL and to all a good night…..

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The holidays are magical times regardless of how you celebrate or what you believe. In light of that, I have a tiny little review of a magical little holiday book that I read, A Slice of Christmas Magic by A.G. Mayes. cover165403-medium

This is the second book in the series; the first is A Slice of Magic. This time the holidays are here and the same nemesis as before is back to wreak holiday mayhem. While Aunt Erma is once again in charge of her magical pie shop, nothing is quite normal in Hocus Hills. In addition to all other mischief, Susie’s “one that got away” has shown up in town creating a love triangle that is sweet and spicy.

A Slice of Christmas Magic is a short, fun holiday read that will put a smile on your face through the season.

I’m reading tonight by the fire, waiting for Santa to make his appearance and I’m wishing you all a very happy, healthy holiday!

 

Counting Down to Christmas #ChristmasInVermont #ChristmasAngels #PostcardsatChristmas

Last year I started reviewing holiday books in October. This year, it appears, I nearly missed the holidays completely. No worries, I’ll start the catch-up right now!

I love holiday books. It’s one of the few times of the year that I read romances or cozies. There’s just something about sitting by the fire that makes these genres more appealing to me. These three books, Christmas In Vermont, Christmas Angels and Postcards at Christmas, all were marvelous reads for the season.

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I love stories about chances, serendipity, synchronicity – call it what you will – the idea that two people are meant to be together and that fate will make it happen. It’s naive, I know, but it’s wonderful to imagine. Christmas in Vermont is all about second chances and fate.

When Emma goes into a pawn shop on Christmas Eve to sell the bracelet that her ex gave her, she discovers an engraved watch that she once gave to Fletcher, the “one who got away.” Sentimentally, Emma purchases the watch for old time’s sake. Her friend decides it is a sign that the two, Emma and Fletcher, are meant to be together and she arranges it so that the two of them are at the same place in Vermont at the same time. Of course there a moments of rekindled love, mishaps and miscommunication but in the end will their old feelings be enough to carry this couple into a future together? Well, you have to read Christmas in Vermont to find out! And you will want to read this gem this holiday season! Anita Hughes is a master story-teller in this genre and weaves a marvelous tale here. Definitely all the stars from me!

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Color me a sucker for Hallmark holiday movies and Nancy Naigle’s book, Christmas Angels was like reading the script for just that! It ticked every box for me: Restoration of an Inn – check. Romantic man to help with the restoration – check. Small town pitching in – check. Christmas! Check Check Check.  I loved it all!

Liz has very fond memories of her grandparent’s inn and always wanted to own an one just like it. Each night she pores over real estate listings hoping to find something just like theirs when one night she sees an ad for what appears to be their very inn for auction. Putting in a bid, sight unseen, Liz wins the inn. However, upon arrival, she discovers she should have seen the place before bidding. Not to have her enthusiasm dampened, she finds Matt to help her rebuild/restore the inn to its former glory. What she doesn’t realize is that Matt also put in a bid on the inn. Will these two rivals find harmony and love at the inn? Will the small town people welcome her into their fold? Welllll, it IS a Christmas love story but it is also one that you will enjoy reading from start to finish, knowing there is a happy ending

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Did I save my favorite for last!? They ALL were my favorite! But Postcards at Christmas was written a bit differently so I saved it for last.

Postcards at Christmas is a sequel to another book by Clark, one I have not read but definitely intend to. It is more of a novella and can be easily read in one very quick sitting. However, with all of that said, there is a lot of drama in this little story! Cara and Simeon are planning a wedding when Simeon has a very debilitating bike accident. How or even, will they put their lives back together is the crux of this story. It is beautifully written, warm, tragic and wonderful. If you only read one story between and Christmas, make it this one. You will be glad you did.

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Thanks for reading about these heartwarming holiday stories. I’ll be back with MORE reviews for my favorite seasonal stories. In the meantime, have yourself a merry little holiday and BE SAFE!

Thanks to @StMartinsPress, #Netgalley and the authors, @NancyNaigle @anitahughes and @imogenclark for allowing me the opportunity read, treasure and review these books.

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.

 

Murder With All the Trimmings by Shawn Reilly Simmons

Murder With All the Trimmings is quick, fun, holiday cozy mystery.

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I want to reiterate that, for my reviews, a 5 or 6 is not a bad book, it merely is in the middle ground for all of the books of that genre that I have read.

The story revolves around a murder that occurs in a Broadway theatre. There is confusion over the actual identity of victim, who was a dancer with a troupe similar to the Rockettes. The cop who is investigating the murder is also the boyfriend of the main character who happened to discover the body. She is the chef for her dearest friend who is filming a documentary on the theatre and the troupe.

Everything about this book was interesting – the setting of the old theatre, the dancers, the holiday season and the life of a famous chef. However, none of it actually ever clicked for me, I never connected to the story’s characters. I’m unsure if it the manner in which they were drawn, or if I’m simply not into the lifestyles of the rich and famous. I suspect that there many other readers who will find this to be a very enjoyable, delightful read. I, however, was left wanting more.

My advanced copy was furnished by #Edelweiss and #HenryPress

 

 

It’s Publication Day – A Gift from the Comfort Food Café by Debbie Johnson

If you are searching for warm and fuzzy, feel good book that is perfect for the holidays and all year through, then look no further than A Gift From the Comfort Food Café.

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The book begins with the backstory of Katie, a single mum to an adorable toddler, Sean. We find Katie when she is just seven years old and “running away for the first time.” We soon learn that her home life is filled with abusive parents who care more about destroying one another than they do about caring for their young daughter. Over the continuing years, Katie continues to “run away,” first to her grandmother’s home, then to college and head first into a bad relationship, to new towns until, finally, she lands in Budbury – a quaint village filled with wonderfully quirky and loving residents who embrace Katie wholeheartedly, despite the fact that Katie is slow to embrace them in return. However, as the holidays approach – the worst time of the year for Katie – she decides to take small steps toward allowing others into her life, including the very nice Van, whom her son adores.

A Gift From the Comfort Food Cafe belongs to a series revolving around the cast of characters from Budbury who gather together at the Comfort Food Café. I had no idea I was stepping into a world that was ongoing but this book stands alone quite well. The only reason I even mention the series is because reading this book will make you want to know more about the village of Budbury and all of those who live within.

This particular story is wonderful. It has just the right amount of tension, the perfect amount of “cosy,” and a dash of the holidays to make it a wonderful read! I admit that the very beginning of the book had me scratching my head as we were given Katie’s backstory, but soon it flowed beautifully and the rest of the book was marvelous! The people are just quirky enough to make them interesting but not over-the-top so that they are unbelievable. Again – it was all “just right.”

This felt more like women’s fiction than a true holiday tale but in a good way. I highly encourage you to visit the village of Budbury this season. You will be glad that you did!

Thank you to @HarperImpulse, #Netgalley, @Dead-yJohnson and for my copy of this delightful book. On sale October 18, 2018.   (review published 10-18-18)

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!

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.

 

 

 

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.