Book Review: The Christmas Wish

Title: The Christmas Wish

Author: Tilly Tennant

Format: Kindle

Published: 2018

 

DROP EVERYTHING!  STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING!  Go and read this book now!  *Disclaimer: not for people who hate heartwarming, funny, feel good holiday romance novels.  This has become my FAVORITE holiday read ever; to the point where I may even re-read this!  (I know that’s a shock, I NEVER re-read my books!)

The story starts out with Esme who decides to break it off for good with her boyfriend and goes to her grandmother’s house for some solace.  She has neglected her friends and family while she was dating her tool of a boyfriend and has an estranged relationship with her parents.  Her grandmother is the only person she knows that will take her in with no questions asked.

They bond and her grandmother is hell bent on her repairing her relationship with her parents.  Shortly before Christmas, she passes away.  Esme discovers her grandmother bought a paid for a trip to Lapland, a place in Iceland she has always wanted to go but her husband would never take her.  As Esme goes through her grandmother’s belongings she discovers tickets to Lapland that her grandfather had bought but passed away before he could take his wife.  Esme is torn at what to do with the trip and, as any down and out woman does, goes back to her tool of a boyfriend.

She tries to convince her boyfriend to go on the trip with her but all he wants her to do is to get the money back for it and spend it on something else.  Esme decides to be bold, sneaks out of the house while her boyfriend is at work, and does what her grandmother would have wanted her to do; she goes on the trip by herself.

She meets up with 3 other solo travelers; Zach, Hortense, and Brian.  Hortense and Brian end up hooking up and that leaves Zach and Esme, as friends.  Esme starts to grow fond of Zach but he is keeping his guard up high and she cannot figure out why.  Don’t even get me started on his mood swings, they’re intense.  As she takes this trip, she starts to realize there is more to life than she will ever see with her boyfriend and she needs to start living her life.

I cannot say anything else without giving key parts of the book away so, go read it!  The detail in this book around Lapland just painted a vivid picture in my mind.  I know how a very high desire to visit Lapland in person and one day visit these places Tennant describes in this book.  The attention to detail is unreal and really makes this book stand out.  I truly felt like I was everywhere described in this book.

This is a 5-star book.  Yes, 5 stars!  I wanted to be in Lapland.  I was rooting so hard for all of the characters in this book.  They all faced some difficult things in their lives and all were able to see past those times.  This made my heart smile, and my face, and even made me tear up a little and laugh out loud.  The penmanship Tennant has is just stellar and remarkable.  This truly goes beyond your typical holiday novel and is a genuine, solid read.  Does it involve romance?  Yes, but, this book offers so much more than that!  Tune in next week for advance copy review of An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen.

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Book Review: Restoring Christmas

Title: Restoring Christmas

Author: Kate Kasch

Format: Kindle through Voracious Readers Only

Published: 2018

 

Thank you to Voracious Readers Only for letting me get my hands on this lovely holiday read!  I enjoyed every single minute of this book and I’m looking at you Hallmark to turn this in to a movie next year!  Fair warning right now, if you don’t like the typical Hallmark Christmas movies then pass over this review because you won’t like this book.  If you’re a sucker for a predictable holiday romance, this book is for you.

The story starts out innocent enough, we meet two sisters, Gretchen, an aspiring photographer who works at a bar, and Adrienne, a workaholic at Morgan Lynch.  They both have not spoken to each other and years and when they both receive a red letter at their door steps, they realize they have to.

Their parents died 4 years ago, right before Christmas, in a car accident.  The tragedy did not sit well with the girls and Adrienne took off, leaving her world behind as she knew it.  She moved to New York City and began a new life.  Gretchen also moved to New York City, trying to make a life for herself, always hoping to make it big.  They both never let the house go and as it turns out, never paid taxes on the house in a year and it was going to be sold unless they came up with $25,000 by the end of the year.

They go back to their hometown in Connecticut and see the disarray the house has become.  They get the idea to decorate their home back up for the holidays and try to win the grand prize of $25,000 and keep the house.  Being back in their hometown, Adrienne re-encounters her ex-boyfriend, whom she just up and left without saying goodbye to 4 years ago.  He ends up coming to her rescue with a friend to help them get the house back into tip top shape.

The girls start to get help from the community and realize what an impact their parents had.  They feel guilty for ever parting ways and start to mend their relationship.  We also get to see a relationship bloom with Gretchen and Adrienne’s ex-boyfriend’s best friend.  Will sparks fly between Adrienne and her ex?  Mind you, she has a current boyfriend.

Without ruining too much (and again, this book IS predictable) I was a little disappointed in the end.  I was rooting for Adrienne and I did not feel I got enough out of it for her.  Gretchen hit the jackpot, which, good for her, she’s struggled for a few years, but, ugh, I was just hoping for more for Adrienne!

This is a 4-star book from me, provided again, you love the super cheesy holiday books.  It is a heartwarming story to see 2 estranged sisters come back together for a good ause.  Their parents would be so proud.  If you’re looking for a feel good story with a touch of romance, this book is for you, read it now!  Tune in next week for yet another holiday book review of The Christmas Wish by Tilly Tennant.

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Book Review: Christmas Glitter

Title: Christmas Glitter

Author: Ann B. Harrison

Format: Kindle

Published: 2017

 

In July, my mother got me addicted to Hallmark Christmas movies.  I decided this holiday season I would read some cheesy, Hallmarky novels and enjoy myself.  What I learned is that it is impossible for me to read a holiday romance novel in more than 1 sitting, it just doesn’t work.  I end up staying up until the book is finished, which is ok with me!

Let’s get one thing straight, yes, this book is absolutely predictable, just like every single Christmas Hallmark movie ever made.  The story is just plain adorable and had me sucked in.  This is also part of a series so guess what I’ll be reading in my near future!

This is the story about the super hunky soccer player, Adam, who moves back to his hometown to help his parents while his father recovers a heart attack and a woman, Dakota, who owns a fancy upscale, unique jewelry business.  Dakota recently suffered an injury in a car accident and can no longer craft how she used to and came to this small town to try and reinvent herself, while swearing off men.

Adam and Dakota meet when she goes to pick up the keys to her rental home.  Adam is stepping in for his father with his real estate business and instantly there is a connection.  They continue to bond over trying to save a dance hall in the town and Dakota steps up and leads fundraising efforts.

Dakota and Adam are doing everything they can to remain friends.  Dakota has to remind herself that he’s going to be leaving soon and going back to the world of soccer, so she is trying not to get too attached.  Everyone around them can see they are perfect together, so why do they keep denying it?

There are some grammatical errors in this book that make you stop and re-read what you just read to try and make sense of it.  Aside from that, this book is for you if you love and adore Christmas Hallmark movies.  In fact, Hallmark, this book needs to be made into a movie STAT!

This is a 4-star book from me, provided you love the super cheesy holiday romance.  If you are not into that at all, just skip over this book or pass it along to your Hallmark loving friend!  It is such a cute, sweet story and now I need to read the other books in this series to see what happens with the others in the story!  Tune in next week for yet another holiday book review of Restoring Christmas by Kate Kasch.

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Book Review – The Christmas Cat

Book Title: THE CHRISTMAS CAT
Author: MELODY CARLSON
Format: HARDCOVER
Published: 2014

Note: This is a mainstream/chick lit/Christmas/novella/thing so there’s a good chance I can’t review this well without spoilers of some sort.

 

The Christmas Cat is a story about a guy, Garrison Brown, who has found himself back in the states without a job after his missionary stint ended.  It’s almost Christmas, and he gets a phone call – about the only thing that can make his life worse.  His beloved grandmother has died, and he’s the only one left to go through her estate.  He heads to Vancouver where he finds out that she’s leaving multiple cats, which he’s allergic to, and has to rehome under really specific circumstances: somebody who *owns* a home in the neighborhood and has been there several years, several checkup visits required, etc.

One of the first people he meets, he takes a fancy to, except she doesn’t meet Granny’s criteria for a cat, and he ends up upsetting her because of it.  She acts like a total bitch when he tells her she can’t have one.  A lot of the book deals with that repeatedly.

He also reconnects with the neighbor, his grandmother’s best friend, and ends up putting her grandson to work on the house while he gets it ready to sell and he makes friends with a lot of the neighbors, because you know, he’s homing half a dozen cats.

This book was a ridiculously fast read.  I started it on the plane from Nashville to Cleveland, which is an hour flight, and was almost done with it when I landed.  The book is entirely predictable and in some ways clichee or trite.  And repetitive.  Like we know right away that he got a disease from a third world country and he talks about it a lot.  “If I hadn’t gotten sick…”  “They won’t let me back because I got sick…”  “…forgot my pills and got sick…” etc.

Also, of course it’s a cat book, and he’s allergic to cats.  And he loves her, but, oh, no, he can’t.  Etc.

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing per sey.  I mean, I don’t ever go “OOOOH, Christmas Novella!!!”  and expect that I won’t have the book figured out before the end of the first page.  So if you just want a gushy feel good story that makes you warm like a cup of hot cocoa [Note: I apologise for writing that.  I even gagged when I did…], then this is totally your story.

The stuff that did make me mad, though…  She wanted a cat and he had a will that said he couldn’t let her have one.  So she treated him like crap for a while.  Like who does that?  Also, one of the cats sort of gets passively abused, which REALLY FUCKING PISSED ME OFF.  Like this is supposed to be a feel good story about a guy and his gramma’s cats, and I have to deal with the fact that you’re abusing a fucking cat in the middle of it.  (The people took the cat because there was a rumor of money and then they let it walk outside and disappear.)

But, even with its predictability, I was okay with it, again because I expected such a thing going in.  And I was willing to give it a good rating until the end.  The book just kinda stopped.  Like, sure we can totally assume the outcome of the group home he kept talking about all book, but would it have killed the author to finish the gift wrapping that she’d started for most of the last chapter?  It’s a Christmas book, I wanted it neat with a bow.  I mean, give us a cheesy Christmas newsletter as an epilogue or something.  ANYTHING.

So…  I mean, it’s predictable but since you expect that, it’s okay.  I’m totally taking off a point for the ending though.  3/5

 

So three out of five stars for this one.

Book Review: Spirit of Steamboat

Title: Spirit of Steamboat: A Walt Longmire Story
Author: Craig Johnson
Published: 2013
Format: Hardback

Longtime followers of the blog may have noticed that I haven’t posted in a while. I’m a little ashamed to say that the reason I haven’t posted is that I haven’t *read* in a while. No, really. I haven’t read a book in something like nine months, and I haven’t written more than 3k since December.
And I’ve been itching to, I really have, but life has gotten in the way and I just haven’t managed a book that has held my interest into chapter two.
So, one Friday, I got off early from work (woot!) and decided to take myself on the best kind of date – the library. So I started in adult fiction and I walked the stacks slowly, running my hands down the books, touching the spines, picking stuff up and putting it back down. I took the aisles out of order, coming in in the middle, heading back and forth, dismayed at the fact that they were actually taking shelves out of my library because of a lack of books on them.
That has something to do with this book, I promise.
So anyway, the first row I went down was H-J, and this was one of the first books I touched. I liked that it was small, novella-ish. I had decided that if nothing could hold my attention that a smaller book had a better chance. The dark, teal green of the cover stood out amidst a sea of much more boring black and white and uninspiring.
Until I turned to the front cover, I hadn’t realized that it had anything to do with the TV show – a plethora (okay, two, but they’re big and the book is small) of library stickers covered up half the spine. And I haven’t watched the TV show, so I read the first paragraph of the flap and decided that I could read this without knowing that.
So in the story, Sherriff Longmire is reading Dickens on Christmas Eve (because that is the most overdone Christmas trope ever in books), and somebody shows up in his office that he’s sure he’s never seen before but is adamant that she needs to see the old sheriff and that she knows them all.
So Walt takes her to the old guy and she starts her tale of how they know her, which is pretty much the rest of the book.  [NOTE:  This story takes place at Christmas, but it is most certainly not a Christmas story.]

So, because this was the first piece of fiction that I have held attention to in *nine months* I really wanted to give this book a full five page rating, but I just can’t.
For starters, the book is shelved as a mystery – there’s a sticker from the library that says it and everything – and really the only mystery in the whole thing is who the chick is and we figure that out pretty quick. Even the acknowledgement page says that this is a “weird little book that was supposed to be a short story… and is not a mystery per say, but a thriller with mysterious elements.” And while I’m not necessarily taking off points for expecting a mystery, that’s mostly because the author told me that on the very first page.
Second of all, there was a bit of an issue with the present day/flash back thing. Like when the flashback was over, the story pretty much was, too…there was nothing at all to wrap it up at the end. So either he could have just told the story of the rescue and not flashed back or he could have put a little more meat on the story. I felt that *all* the present day stuff was rushed to get to the 1988 flight.
That said, the 1988 flight part was *fabulous* I could just about feel the snow and having come from somewhere that got blizzards, just reading about it made me cold. That’s a sign of a good author. There was the right amount of suspense and detail, the right balance of slang and explaining things for the reader, and I didn’t feel out of place trying to read about pilots and doctors and whatever else.
And the old Asian woman in the story isn’t a bad stereotype. She’s written as kind and sympathetic.

So, there are a few things that needed help, which I think are an unfortunate product of this starting as a really short story and ending up at this length, but with a little tweaking this story could be perfect.
I loved the author’s writing style, and as such have another book of his waiting for me to pick it up at the library as I type this.
I will give this book a very sold – and very happy – 4 out of 5 pages.

Books Review – The Christmas Scrapbook & The Mitford Snowman

NOTE: In honor of the holidays, I thought I’d do a couple holiday stories, so it’s a bonus twofer review day! I know that these are competing series, but hey, why not?


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TITLE: The Christmas Scrapbook
AUTHOR: Philip Gulley
FORMAT: Hardback
PUBLISHED: 2005

Okay, so I needed a Christmas book for the reading challenge, and I found this on the shelf.  It was short, so I grabbed it.  I’m not big on Christmas stories in general, and I’ve already read Skipping Christmas and Ester’s Gift, and a couple other short ones.  Thus, this one it was…

The book is apparently a stand-alone companion book to the popular Home to Harmony series of books.  I haven’t read them, but I had no problem following along with who everyone was.

In this story, the MC is Pastor Sam, determined this year to get a better gift than the almost two-decades of crap he’s managed before, so he’s off making her a scrapbook. Misunderstandings happen.  Hilarity ensues.  Or something. [Side note.  If you’re the type of husband that can’t manage something better than a friggin’ pelican to hold your kitchen sponge, you are doing this husband thing wrong.  He’s supposedly been married 17 years.  I don’t know why either one of them put up with the other.]

Look, I’m sure these are supposed to be cute and wholesome and whatever – and this felt like a rejected Andy Griffith Show story line.  But unlike Andy, Sam’s just annoying.  And the busybodies all over town are just … annoying.  And I know I said that about Sam, but let’s just say that if this beauty parlor had the only shampoo in existence, I’d never wash my hair again instead of having to deal with these twits.  Apparently being a total gossip is a “good Christian” quality.

And the wife…  So, this is a minister and his wife.  When Sam has somewhere to be Wednesday nights and a bad lie to cover it up, why does she automatically assume he’s cheating on her?  I’m not saying clergy can’t cheat, but I’d like to think they operate under a higher morality clause than the rest of us.  And I’d like to think that even if they were acting all suspicious, a minister’s wife would assume just about anything else before cheating.

Honestly, this book did less than anything for me.  Maybe people who love this series will think this is a cute story, but I think that it could have seriously used about 1000 more words to flesh some things out instead of weak transitions and the glossing over of stuff.  For instance, at one point somebody twists an ankle.  And since the response to that is more important than the actual ankle being twisted, it was reduced to about half a sentence.  That could have at least been an exciting paragraph.  But no.

In the end, I suggest reading this to put yourself to sleep.  If you like your fiction so saccharine sweet (with an undercoat of hen chatter) that you get diabetes, maybe you’re the target audience, but I know that I certainly am not.  2/5.

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TITLE: The Mitford Snowman
AUTHOR: Jan Karon
FORMAT: Hardback Large Print
PUBLISHED: 2001

For those not in the know, Jan Karon has a series of books that take place in the little town of Mitford, and center around a sleepy southern town and a priest.  I haven’t read any of the novels, but I did review the other Christmas book about a year ago.

So this one.  The Mitford Snowman is a simple – and very short – story that starts with a couple guys sitting around talking and then it starts snowing.  Next thing everyone knows, an impromptu snowman building contest starts up, and everyone up and down the street gets involved.

It’s cute, and it’s simple, and I think it’s pretty much what it should be.

With that said, it’s short.  Like 1800 words.  Which isn’t necessarily bad for a gift book at Christmas, but I have several issues with this version.  Like I said, I got the large print one, which came out from Wheeler Publishing.  Unfortunately, this version has all black and white illustrations, and the short internet search I did about this book shows that the interior is actual in color in the regular print version, so I was sad to miss out on that.  Also, because Large Print somehow costs oh-so-much-extra to print, the cover price on this is $26.95.  Yes, $27 for 1800 words and some should-be-in-color illustrations in black and white.

And because it’s Large Print, it felt like I was reading a Children’s book.  There were something like 45 words per page.

So I was seriously disappointed with this version.

Bottom line.  For the story itself, I totally think its worth the read.  But the Large Print book isn’t worth it at all. I don’t want to even give this version of this book a rating.  But I must, so I’d give it a 3/5, mostly because the story is good.  The price with the B&W is a total ripoff.  That said, I’d give the regular version a 4/5, so if you can get your hands on that one, read it instead.  But if you have a friend that’s really into the Mitford books, this would be a great Christmas gift with a nice box of tea.

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Either book satisfies the Christmas Book portion of the challenge.
Book 6/52.  (And yes, I know these reviews published out of order.)

Book Review – Esther’s Gift by Jan Karon

Title: Esther’s Gift
Author: Jan Karon
Format: Hardcover (gift book)
Written/Published: 2004

So anyone who’s a fan of the Mitford series is familiar with Jan Karon.  This little book is a stand-alone short story, theme: Christmas.  By very loose estimate, this is somewhere around 2k.

The story starts out with Esther agonizing over the cost of paper lace doilies to go under the orange marmalade cakes she gives out at Christmas.  Then her husband tells her to figure out how much these cakes cost her to make.  Then she agonizes over that.

That’s pretty much it.  She spends a bit of time deciding who’s worth it, a little bit more time talking badly about everyone she’d want to give a cake to,  and gets wishy washy about it.

So here’s the thing.  My philosophy about the holidays (or life in general) is that if they matter to you, money doesn’t.  Plain and simple.  So the whole story was a little… off to me.  Because, really, Mitford is a series of sleepy-vanilla stories, and this one was just obnoxious.  “I make these cakes every year and you aren’t worth my time…”

And, because every story then has a resolution, this one pole vaulted straight to it.  I could have done with a few more paragraphs between nobody getting a cake and then the end.  (Honestly, I could have done with about 1000 more words in the story overall…)

Bottom line.  The story was cutesy, and the included recipe at the end sounds yummy.  Read it if it’s hanging around, but don’t go out of your way to find it unless you’re a serious fan of the series.

Three out of Five Pages.

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