Monday, December 31, 2012

The Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt - Holiday Review

The Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt
Genre: Fiction, Christian

     Grace receives a letter from "the beyond", several actually. Her recently deceased Grandmother, knowing that she wasn't long on this world, had arranged for a package of letters to be mailed to Grace at Christmas. The family had a holiday tradition of having a treasure hunt in the woods surrounding their home, and the grandmother plots one last expansive treasure hunt which extends across several continents. Each letter points Grace to the next destination and an important lesson along her journey.

     This story is very Christian in nature, with lots of religious rhetoric bordering on preaching, but otherwise very interesting. This story provides a lesson that sometimes things are not what they seem and maybe one should ignore anger and/or pride long enough to at least hear all of the details.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Christmas Miracle - Saturday Short Review

A Christmas Miracle
by Willow Cross
Non-Fiction

     A very short holiday feel good story that was based on a true story. A young single mother of four whose difficulty paying the bills is only surpassed by her inability to collect child support from her ex-husband.

     Author Willow Cross adds a nice touch by dedicating this book to all families that struggle to find a little wiggle room in the monthly budget to allow for children's Christmas presents. In today's economy we have probably all experienced this and if you have not then God bless you and I hope you never know such a predicament.

A Marriage Carol - Saturday Short Review

A Marriage Carol
by Chris Fabry & Gary Chapman
Genre: Romance

     This book was incredibly surprising for a short story. Written by a marriage counselor, its main plot was to show Marlee that her marriage was worthy of saving. This point is brought home in the classic Dickensian style of using visions of the past, present, and possible future so that the soon to be divorced woman thinks twice about her future ex-husband and remembers when times were good and their lives were filled with laughter and passion.

     The authors use a wonderful analogy which I found myself quoting to my daughter just the day after reading it: choices are like snowflakes. Snowflakes build one on top of each other to form a drift. Depending on the position of each snowflake the drift would vary. Sometimes choice A may have been seemingly inconsequential in the story of your life, but you never would have made it to point B without it.

     Very deep philosophical theories for a short Christmas romance. Not exactly light hearted holiday fare but definitely a must read.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Night They Nicked St. Nick - Pick of the Month Review

The Night They Nicked St. Nick
by Carl Ashmore
Genre: Suspense

     Throw some logs on the fire, round up the kids, and read this out loud for the entire family will enjoy it.

     Santa has been kidnapped by a big wig toy manufacturer who has been on the naughty list his entire life. People will have to buy his over priced, cheaply made toys if Santa is no longer around to deliver his quality handmade elf masterpieces. That is his theory at any rate.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Forever Christmas - Holiday Review

Forever Christmas
by Christine Lynxwiler
Genre: Romance

     Kristianna Harrington was unlucky at love. Engaged several times but never married, she was jokingly referred to as a runaway bride in the close knit community that she lived in. She was content to run her Christmas shop in Jungle Bells, Arkansas. With her best friend getting married and a large corporation petitioning to change the name of the entirely Christmas themed town, Kristianna has her hands full.

     A nice feel good holiday story from author Christine Lynxwiler. There is a morale to this story too, change is hard but sometimes it is necessary. Also, if you think about a challenge long and hard enough often a compromise can be found that is fair and benefits all parties involved. This was a well written romance and well worth the read.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

House on Hope Street - Featured Review

House on Hope Street
by Danielle Steel
Genre: Romance

     Liz and Jack Sutherland had been happily married for 18 years. They started their own law firm which became prosperous. Liz's world fell apart when tragedy strikes and takes Jack away from her on Christmas morning. Liz must learn to continue on in the face of grief and manage the family and business by herself.

     This story is about rising to the challenges fate throws at us. When Liz thinks she can't go on any longer, she must look within herself to find the strength to plod on through life. The message to always have hope and believe in miracles is prevalient. Plot borders dangerously on sappy and while I can't really point to any one thing in this book that was bad, it definitely isn't one of my favorite books by Steel.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas - Top Ten Tuesday

     I would like to wish you the Merriest of Christmases from my family to yours. In honor of the holiday, instead of a top ten, it's the twelve days of Christmas quotes.

     On the first day of Christmas Maya Angelou said to me, “I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.”

     On the second day of Christmas J.K. Rowling said to me, “One can never have enough socks," said Dumbledore. "Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn't get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.” (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

     On the third day of Christmas George Carlin said to me, “The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.”

Monday, December 24, 2012

Scrooge and Marley - Review

Scrooge and Marley
by Karl F. Hollenbach
Genre: Fiction

     A modern day sequel written by a great fan of Charles Dicken's original story A Christmas Carol finds Scrooge still carrying the Christmas Sprit in his heart.

     It is fairly difficult to give a synopsis of this story without giving too much of the plot away. Many of the original characters return in this follow up story - from Bob Cratchett, nephew Fred, and even a humorous reference to Tiny Tim's elevated station in life in the future.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

1225 Christmas Tree Lane - Serial Sunday Review

1225 Christmas Tree Lane
by Debbie Macomber
#12 in Cedar Cove Series
Genre: Romance

     This is the final book in the Cedar Cove series and I had mixed feelings about reading it. I'd already had enough of an intoduction to the community to know that I would like to read all of this series some day. By reading this last book now, it would be a lot like reading the last page of a story before finishing the entire novel. And this book probably is a bit of a spoiler to the series. I can only guess this fact, for I do not know for sure, but many of the residents of Cedar Cove share the stories of how they met and fell in love with their spouses. It is a charming book packed with a lot of romantic stories that revolve around a divorced woman, her two college aged daughters, and her ex-husband who has come to share the holiday festivities with them.

     These books will definitely warm your heart with the Christmas Spirit and endear you to the tiny town of Cedar Cove. Macomber has written several other series and Christmas books. Her writing is definitely worth checking out!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mistletoe Mischief - Saturday Short Review

Mistletoe Mischief
by Stacey Joy Netzel
Genre: Romance

     Doesn't matter if it is December or Christmas in July, one cannot ignore the tradition of mistletoe. Here Santa claims that it is a RULE that you have to kiss under the mistletoe, not just a tradition. Eric and Marissa were already feeling the spark of chemistry and weren't too hard to convince to imbibe in a holiday kiss and the relationship grows from there.

     This is a very cute and funny story that is sure to entertain any fan of romantic stories.

Holiday Rush - Saturday Short Review

Holiday Rush
by Lisa Scott
Genre: Romance

     On one hand, as a romance, this really wasn't very well developed. There is a physical attraction and *boom* they are kissing and dating and what not. I know, I know, I hate the whole "He loves me, he loves me not" scenario and I need to make up my mind right? While I do find that flip flopping back and forth annoying, I also realize that there needs to be some conflict to overcome to make a good romance. I just get tired of it always being the same conflict. This story, however, is not without merit.

     There is a wonderful subplot ... or maybe it is even the main plot since the romance plot is basically non-existant ... that really defines the meaning of the Christmas Spirit. It isn't about who got the best Black Friday deal or who gave the most expensive present - it is about making memories. Whether you are making your own family memories or helping someone else by giving them a little hope that there is Christmas magic and even when life gives you a bum steer there can still be joy and happiness in life.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Cricket on the Hearth - Pick of the Month Review

The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens The Cricket on the Hearth
by Charles Dickens
Genres: Fiction, Classic

     While several different sources described this classic tale as a Christmas story, I don't see it. The story takes place in January and never mentions Christmas. It does however have several aspects that are similar to A Christmas Carol.

     Many people find Dickens hard to read, or his sometimes flowery prose difficult to grasp. Many might be alarmed with the fact that Dickens spends several pages describing a kettle whistling. While this could be found to be tedious and pointless, I found it quite enthralling. With such an explicit and complete description, he actually managed to give this inanimate object a personality, as only Dickens can.

     While I was disappointed that this had nothing to do with the holidays, it was still a nice fel good story. Not exactly a romance but plenty of love contained within the pages - not only from several couples but also a father's love for his daughter that can be greatly admired.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Victorian Christmas - Review

A Victorian Christmas (Anthology)
by Chatherine Palmer
Genres: Romance, Christian,
   Historical Romance

     A Collection of four novellas that take place during the Christmas season within Victorian times. While the stories were fairly enjoyable they are also chock full of biblical quotes and Christian rhetoric that dangerously borders towards preachy.

     Arranged marriages were common during Victorian times and it seemed strange to me the entire concept of marrying a complete stranger, so hard to imagine in modern times. Yet all of the couples miraculously find true love within the pre-arranged nuptuals. Maybe they knew what they were doing after all, but then again, it IS fiction.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham - Featured Review

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham Skipping Christmas
by John Grisham
Genre: Humor

     Nora and Luther Krank are facing the first Christmas without their daughter home for the holidays. Tired of the commercialism, crowds, and general moodiness associated with Christmas, Luthe comes up with a plan. Instead of spending a small fortune on the cards, baking, presents, and whatnot he spends the money on a Carribean cruise to relax in the heat instead of slushing through snow during the holiday season. The drawback is the fact that their flight doesn't leave until Christmas night so they still have to endure the expectations of the community.

     The Kranks live in a small tight knit neighborhood. Everyone's nose is stuck into everyone else's business. Nora bears the worst of the peer pressure from shop keepers and friends when it becomes general knowledge that they are skipping Christmas this year and not even hosting their annual Christmas Eve party. Skipping Christmas shows the best and the worst of small communities. While the neighbors are almost of nightmare quality when trying to convince Luther to decorate his house so their street can win the decorating contest for the 3rd year running, they also band together and rise above and beyond expectations when help is needed.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Simple Amish Christmas - Review

A Simple Amish Christmas by Vanettea Chapman A Simple Amish Christmas
by Vanetta Chapman
Genre: Romance

     Annie was raised Amish but had spent the past 3 years with her aunt among the English. As Christmas decorations fill the stores after Thanksgiving, Annie finds herself missing the simple Amish Christmas traditions of her childhood.

     Due to an unfortunate accident Annie returns home to care for her father who has been seriously injured. Unbeknownst to her parents, she had attained a nursing degree and had been working in the local hospital while staying with her aunt. As her father recovers and it becomes general knowledge that Annie has had medical training, she becomes in high demand within the Amish community to help take care of her neighbors' assorted illnesses and injuries.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Cedar Cove Christmas - Serial Sunday Review

A Cedar Cove Christmas by Debbie Macomber A Cedar Cove Christmas
by Debbie Macomber
#8.5 in Cedar Cove series
Genre: Romance

     Mary Jo heads to Cedar Cove in search of the father of her unborn baby and the family that he claims to be visiting. She is hoping to arrive ahead of her three loving but meddlesome brothers to avoid an unwanted hostile confrontation.

     I found this story quite whimsical as it mirrored the biblical story of Jesus' birth without bearing any religious messages at all. I don't want to give too much away but you really have to read it and experience it for yourself. An incredibly fun and festive read for this holiday season! I highly recommend it to anyone whether, or not, you have read any of the previous books in the series.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas in High Heels - Saturday Short Review

Christmas in High Heels by Gemma Halliday Christmas in High Heels
by Gemma Halliday
#3.5 in series
Genre: Fiction

     I can only assume that this is a little side story to Halliday's High Heel stories. Fans of the series my enjoy this short peek at the romantic plans that Maddie and Ramiez have for a quiet Christmas Eve alone together at home. As I've never read any of the books of this series, I must admit that I found it a bit pointless.

     The excerpt following the story was longer than the story itself. There wasn't even enough to the plot to kick start my curiosity enough to want to read more - something that I'm horribly compulsive about.

Magic at Macy's - Saturday Short Review

Magic at Macys by Liv Morris Magic at Macy's
by Liv Morris
Genre: Romance

     A very short story about a woman away from her family for the first time during the holiday while attending Yale. She decides to spend a day window shopping in New York City and bumps into the super hot and sexy hunk she has admired from afar - mainly because she is too tongue tied to ever talk to him.

     There are actually two stories contained between the covers, one told from the woman's perspective, the other from the man's. It is quite interesting to literally have both sides of the story.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Married by Christmas - Pick of the Month Review

Married by Chrismas
by Scarlett Bailey
Genre: Romance

     Anna Carter is a serious control freak. She has lists of lists and is only happy when she is knee deep in color-coordinated post-it notes and highlighters. But it turns out that there is a deep seated reason for this compulsion to try to have a back up plan for every possible contingency that life can throw at her, until the unthinkable happens. A scenario that Anna could never have seen coming pops up less than two weeks before her fairy tale Christmas wedding that she has been planning since she was nine years old.

     Personally I found the incredibly needy, clingy and self-reproaching female character very tiring, at first. But as the story dove into her past and the motivations behind her obsessive tendencies, I really couldn't help but feel sympathy for her. With a very crappy childhood, she had hoped to ensure a bright future by carefully planning everything out, step by step.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gingerbread Cookie Murder - Review

Gingerbread Cookie Murder by Joanna Fluke, Laura evine, and Leslie Meier Gingerbread Cookie Murder
by Joanna Fluke
    Laura Levine
    Leslie Meier
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Cookbook

     This is a collection of three fairly short stories, all somehow related to gingerbread. Laura from A Goddess of Frugality, had sent me this book several years ago for Christmas. Since I have read it fairly recently, I remembered enough of the plots that I can't really judge how easy it was to guess the solution to the crimes committed in each story.

     The characters were entertaining and not at all tiresome. Flawless editing made it a joy to read. While none of the stories were enchanting enough for me to email or text anyone telling them "OMG, you HAVE to read this!" it still makes for festive yuletide reading, especially for those who prefer mysteries to romances, as good suspenseful holiday fare is hard to find. Holiday romance seems to be plentiful - in books at any rate.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Santa's Twin by Dean Koontz - Featured Review

Sant's Twin by Dean Koontz Santa's Twin
by Dean Koontz
Genre: Children

     This became a traditional Christmas Eve read shortly after my mom gave it to me. We read it every year. Last year was the first year that my neice had joined us on Christmas Eve and even at the age of 24, she enjoyed it as much as my 12 year old did.

     The story is written in the form of a humorous poem that tells of two brave sisters who defeat Santa's berzerk twin and go to the North Pole to rescue Santa and save Christmas. Talk about sibling rivalry, I guess it would be hard to be Santa's brother.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Furthermore is Released Today! Review, Giveaway, and Excerpts

     Happy release day! Furthermore is here and we are all so excited to share it with you. Buy now for Kindle, Nook, and Paperback.

Furthermore
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Dystopia

     A first date, a lottery, treachery and deceit. Sometimes fate has other plans. Sometimes there’s more to tell.

     In Furthermore, seventeen original stories take you on a journey through worlds here and beyond. From the depths of the earth to the embrace of the sea, your favorite series continue. Prequels, alternative views, and new scenes give readers a chance to experience more than originally told. Including stories from Rebekah Campbell, David Estes, Amber Garr, Karen Amanda Hooper, Stephanie Judice, and Leigh Michael.

     The best part? In honor of those who lost the battle and those who continue to fight, all proceeds from this anthology will be donated to cancer research and support.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Claus: Legend of the Fat Man - Review

Claus: Legend of the Fat Man
by Tony Bertauski
Genre: Fiction

     While this sounds like it would contain a historical look at how assorted holiday traditions came to be, this would be an incorrect assumption.

     In the early 1800's Nicolas Santa and his wife and son are determined to be the first people to travel to the North Pole. Nicolas is kidnapped by Jack Frost while the remainder of his family is rescued and kept safe by a rebel colony of elves.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

5-B Poppy Lane - Serial Sunday Review

5-B Poppy Lane by Debbie Macomber 5-B Poppy Lane
by Debbie Macomber
#5.5 in Cedar Cove series
Gebre: Romance

     I chose Macomber's Cedar Cove series this month as it was the closest that I could find for a series with a Christmas theme. As I do not own all of the books of this series, nor does my library, I'm going to break from tradition and review only some of the series. As I have stated previously, I'm not fond of starting the series in the middle of it, but I am glad that I did not bypass the opportunity of reading these books as they are highly enjoyable.

     This installment of the series is quite short but really packs a whallop as it actually contains three love stories. A young couple is visiting the woman's grandmother as she recounts her story of her first love and their activities in the French Resistance during World War II , subsequently meeting her second love and the struggle she'd overcome of falling in love with a soldier, the same difficulty that the granddaughter is having an issue with.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Twelve Crimes of Christmas - Saturday Short Review

The Twelve Crimes of Christmas The Twelve Crimes of Christmas
Edited by Waugh, Greenburg, and Asimov
Genre: Mystery

     Christmas stories are not always romances and here is a prime example of a collection of holiday tales for mystery buffs. Twelve short stories from award winning writers such as Isaac Asimov, Ellery Queen, Dorothy L. Sayers, Rex Stout, and Alice Scanlan Reach.

     Plots include the ghost of a Christmas past, a body hung by the chimney with care, a locked room murder, and a theft seemingly perpetrated under the watchful eyes of many guards. While several stories were fairly easy to figure out, others have more intricate plot twists that keep the reader's mind churning.

Friday, December 7, 2012

My Only Wish - Pick of the Month

My Only Wish by Anna Robbins My Only Wish
by Anna Robbins
Genre: Romance

     Abby, deciding to be a little bit whimsical and maybe quite a bit desperate, writes a letter to Santa asking for someone to love and share her holiday with. She puts the letter into a bottle and throws into the ocean. It is later found by the multi-millionaire owner of a private investigation firm. Intrigued by her letter, Dylan tracks her down and arranges a seemingly chance meeting. He turns out to be everything that Abby had wished for.

     A little sappy, but also kind of cute and funny. One thing that was very refreshing was the lack of jealousy, it can really get annoying when the female character become petty and self-doubting just because the object of her interest dares to talk to another female.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Trading Christmas / The Forgetful Bride - Review

Trading Christmas by Debbie Maconber Trading Christmas / The Forgetful Bride
by Debbie Macomber
Genre: Romance

     Trading Christmas is a cute story that reminds me of a movie that I can't quite recall the title of where a woman trades homes to stay in a charming cottage in the English countryside. Two strangers decide to trade homes for the holidays. Emily wants to surprise her Harvard student daughter and spend Christmas in Boston. Charles has a nearing deadline on a book that he is writing and wishes to escape his meddling mother, Christmas, and all the hoopla. What follows is a hilarious train wreck that teaches that surprises aren't always a good thing and have a tendency to back fire. The situations are comical as family and friends visit the houses to find someone that they were not expecting and do not know at all.

     In The Forgetful Bride, I was beginning to wonder if Cait really did suffer from a head injury as Joe kept claiming. I wasn't at all sure if maybe the whole story was some coma induced hallucination or that Cait still was the 8 year old in the prologue and dreaming about her future. I was looking for any reason to explain why Cait was as emotionally crippled as an 8 year old. Her unrequited obsession with her boss is just creepy and I half expected her to follow him home or build a shrine to him in her home. Not at all impressed with this story ... love Joe but he deserves better!