Sunday, September 20, 2020

Reviewing: Jingle All the Way by Debbie Macomber

 ...from the publisher...

Love can transform even the best-laid plans in this heartfelt Christmas novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber.

Trapped in the middle of five siblings, Everly Lancaster always had big dreams. Now a top real-estate executive, Everly finds her work is her life, leaving no space for anything (or anyone) else. Sensing her stress, Everly’s boss insists she take December off. At first, a month away seems crazy—how will the company survive without her? But Everly’s mother convinces her otherwise. She deserves a vacation—plus, when she returns, she’ll have no excuse to skip family Christmas like she did last year.

But after her vengeful assistant books a guided cruise in the Amazon instead of the luxury beach vacation she expected, Everly is horrified to realize that she’s about to spend the next two weeks trapped—with no Wi-Fi!—in the rain forest. Not even Asher Adams, the ship’s charming naturalist, can convince Everly that the trip will be unforgettable. Slowly but surely, she realizes he is right: the sights are spectacular. And with each passing day, Everly’s relationship with Asher deepens, forcing her to take a long, hard look at her priorities.

Everly and Asher begin to see magic in the possibility of a life together. But as the cruise nears its end, and Everly’s family Christmas approaches, both must decide if love is worth the risk. A merry surprise may be in store in Debbie Macomber’s newest holiday delight.

...my thoughts... 

This was a new take on the ultimate Christmas vacation story and Debbie Macomber didn't disappoint with Jingle All the Way.  I laughed out loud several times as the comedy unfolded and it began on page one.  From the assistant who never should have been an assistant to the business partner who was out of sync with his business Everly clearly needed a break more than she even knew. Even if you do not work in a high powered career, there is someone is this story you can identify with.  

One takeaway from this story of a vacation gone awry is that sometimes, a fresh look at life is a good thing before it passes on by. Everly and Asher are a good example of two people who are so busy with their goals they nearly missed the golden opportunity of a lifetime.  Deadlines are important, even Wi-Fi is important, but just like everything else, there is a time and place even for those parts of our lives.

I admired Everly for the way she met every challenge on her cruise.  Her expectations for the cruise she reluctantly took were so different than the ship she boarded, yet she proved to be the ultimate good sport. If you are looking for a new kind of Christmas story, look no further than Jingle All the Way! 

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Reviewing:The Christmas Swap by Melody Carlson

...from the publisher...

All Emma Daley wants this holiday season is a white Christmas. But the young teacher and struggling musician sure can't find that in sunny Arizona. Luckily, there's someone living in a perfect mountain home in the Colorado Rockies looking to make a vacation trade this year.


Tyler Prescott is an in-demand songwriter and talented musician who put his own singing career on hold to write songs for celebrity acts to perform. When his mother convinces him to do a vacation trade for Christmas, he never imagined one of the houseguests would be so sweet--or so strikingly pretty. Naturally, he decides to stick around, and, to get better acquainted, he poses as the house's caretaker. But when Emma's friend Gillian discovers his true identity and sets her sights on him, things
get . . . messy.

Fan favorite Melody Carlson is back with another delightful Christmas tale to warm your heart on those cold winter evenings.

...my thoughts...

Forget the Christmas movies!   Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good story as much as everyone else and that is why I recommend getting a copy of The Christmas Swap by Melody Carlson. You will not be disappointed in how this lighthearted story gives a glimpse into characters so different from each other you wonder how they ever became friends.  The whole idea of a Christmas Swap seemed good at first until traditions caught up with both families. It was entertaining to read how one very spoiled family from Arizona managed the cold mountain air in Colorado.  Toss in a handsome hero who wasn't supposed to even be there and you have the makings of one good romantic comedy, commercial free with time to savor. 

Reading Melody Carlson's annual Christmas novel is something I look forward to every year.  I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good Christmas book while getting ready for the season.  

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Reviewing: The Stone Wall by Beverly Lewis

...from the publisher...

Anna is eager to begin a new chapter in her life as a Lancaster County tour guide in the picturesque area where her Plain grandmother once stayed. Anna wishes she could talk with her grandmother about those long-ago days, but the elderly woman suffers from Alzheimer's, and beyond a vague hint about an old stone wall, much about that time is a mystery. Thankfully, Martin Nolt, a handsome Mennonite, takes the young Beachy Amish woman under his wing for her training, familiarizing her with the many local highlights, including Peaceful Meadows Horse Retreat, which serves children with special needs. The retreat's mission so inspires Anna that she returns to volunteer, and she quickly strikes up a friendship with Gabe Allgyer, the young Amish widower who manages it. 

As Anna grows closer to both Martin and Gabe, she finds herself faced with a difficult choice--one in potential conflict with the expectations of her parents. Will Anna find true love and the truth about her grandmother's past in Lancaster County? Or will she find only heartbreak?

...my thoughts...

The Stone Wall is a wonderful blend of past and present stories between a young woman and her beloved grandmother.  I liked the parallel of their lives as Anna sets off for Strasburg and her grandmother, who was growing more withdrawn into Alzheimer's perks up and speaks briefly of her time there in her youth. Things seemed to fall into place for a once heartbroken Anna, and I cheered her on as she was open to try so many new and enjoyable things she never considered at home.  Her yearning for a new start in a new place while discovering God's will unfolds in such a wonderful way as she deepens her faith.  As with all of Beverly Lewis' books, the characters are people you wouldn't mind sitting down with for a good cup of coffee.  The book is easy to read but will warm your heart as your learn more about Peaceful Meadows Horse Retreat and the youthful romance between Anna's grandmother and a handsome young Old Order Amish man.  

I recommend this book to those who enjoy good Amish fiction but looking for something a little different this time: a romantic story that includes a young, progressive Beachy Amish woman, a Mennonite man and....an Old Order Amish man.  A bit of a twist I say, to keep it interesting!  Many thanks for an advanced reader copy of this book by Bethany House Fiction and Netgalley.com for an honest, but independent review.


Friday, August 21, 2020

Reviewing: Minding Miss Manners In An Era of Fake Etiquette

...from the publisher.... 

From the most trusted name in advice comes a fresh, contemporary guide to modern manners dilemmas.

Minding Miss Manners: In an Era of Fake Etiquette is a modern guide to modern manners. Facing

down the miscreants purveying false etiquette rules (no, you may not wait a year to send a thank-you note for a gift and yes, in an age of social-media-encouraged over-familiarity you can politely refuse to answer nosy questions), Miss Manners guides you through these turbulent times with her timeless wisdom and archly acid wit.

 ...my thoughts...

Minding Miss Manners is a refreshing trip back to a time when we minded our P's and Q's and learned our manners at home.  If someone had any doubts they need only consult Emily Post's wisdom to avoid any unnecessary faux pas.   I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the audio publication of this book, narrated by Miss Manners' own daughter, Jacobina Martin.  As I listened, I realized this was the same "voice" I read every time I have read the beloved Miss Manners column.  

The dilemmas of wedding etiquette were particularly of interest in a society that has created a very expensive, trendy industry that gives one pause to ponder whether it would be easier to simply elope.  There seems to be so many expectations today for everyone from the bride to the guest.  

In a world where people feel we need more kindness, manners could help solve some sticky situations.  Yes, we do live in a modern world but good manners never go out of style. From raiding a cookie jar to that R.S.V.P. you neglected to send for an important event, what we do speaks volumes to what we say sometimes.  I recommend this book for a little bit of fun and reminders to the "gentle reader" who wants to brush up on those good manners.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Reviewing: Line by LIne by Jennifer Delamere

...from the publisher...

Alice McNeil resolved at a young age to travel through life unencumbered by love or marriage, free to make her own decisions. A seasoned telegrapher, she's recently acquired a coveted position at an important trading firm, but when the company's ambitious junior director returns to London, things begin to change in ways Alice could never have imagined.

For Douglas Shaw, years of hard work and ingenuity enabled him to escape a life of grinding poverty. He's also determined to marry into high society--a step that will ensure he never returns to the conditions of his past.

He and Alice form a friendly relationship based on mutual respect, but anything deeper is not in their plans. However, when Alice accidentally raises the ire of a jealous and vindictive coworker who's intent on ruining her life, Alice and Douglas are forced to confront what is truly important in their lives. Will their growing bond give them the courage to risk finding a better way?

 ...my thoughts...

Alice was a true modern woman who thought she could have it all by working at a special career and being fully independent.  All was gong well until she happened on the "spinster book" and began to implement some of the suggestions therein.  Alas, the best laid plans can backfire.  Douglas, too, had a glimpse of the book and began to doubt his goal of marrying well and furthering his career.  The two collided, so to speak and as the story unfolded, this reader began to look at all the players and see just how amusing human nature can be when tampered with in the name of success.  

I enjoyed this book and learned a bit about the early days of the telegraph industry in the bargain.  It seemed to make the world smaller when deals could be struck by the mere stroke of a telegraph key.  Good characters made this book fun to read and although I did shake my head a time or two at the foibles of Alice and Douglas, I can say without spoiling the ending that people often struggle when pursuing the wrong goals.  It is when one leaps out in faith that pieces fall into perspective.   I recommend this book for those who are looking for lighthearted reading!

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Turning Home: A Poignant New Novel by Janice Kay Johnson

 ...from the publisher...

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Piecing It All Together by Leslie Gould Is Rich, Entertaining and Heartwarming

...from the publisher...
When Savannah Mast's fiance dumps her a week before their wedding, she flees California for the safety of her Amish grandmother's farm near Nappanee, Indiana. She's not planning on staying long but becomes unexpectedly entangled in the search for a missing Amish girl. She can't leave--especially not when her childhood friend Tommy Miller is implicated as a suspect.
When Savannah accompanies her grandmother to Plain Patterns, a nearby quilt shop, the owner and local historian, Jane Berger, relates a tale about another woman's disappearance back in the 1800s that has curious echoes to today.

Inspired by the story, Savannah does all she can to find the Amish girl and clear Tommy's name. But when her former fiance shows up, begging her to return to California and marry him after all, she must choose between accepting the security of what he has to offer or continuing the complicated legacy of her family's faith.

...my thoughts... 
The title Piecing It All Together is so fitting for this story as it pieces the past along with the present as though each piece was part of a whole.  Savannah Mast's heart was broken but when she landed in Nappanee, her upset world was only the beginning of the whirlwind she found at her grandmother's.  Like most quilt shops, Plain Patterns was a haven for the women in the community to learn the comings and goings of the small town. The events, which for a sleepy Amish community run at a fast clip, unfold events in Savannah's own life that put more than her broken heart into perspective. She was drawn to the circle of quilters, especially Jane, who possessed the amazing gift of sharing stories of her ancestors who settled the area long before the town was born.

I enjoyed this book. To write the journey of one woman is one thing, but to write two women's stories is another matter and to do it well, takes the talents of a writer like Leslie Gould.  I found myself favoring Emma's story over Savannah's, only to realize both women's stories were so good.  Each woman had compelling events in her life that makes her stronger. It is interesting to see how the past, however far removed, can be relevant to our stories today.  Well written, with very interesting characters, Piecing It All Together is not your average book of Amish fiction.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House for an advance reader copy of this book.  All opinions are truly my own.


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Friday, July 17, 2020

Reviewing:The Mockingbird's Song by Wanda Brunstetter

from the publisher...
The Mockingbird's Song by [Wanda E. Brunstetter]Sylvia has been nearly paralyzed with grief and anxiety since the tragic death of her husband, father, and brother in a traffic accident. She tries to help in the family’s greenhouse while caring for her two young children, but she prefers not to have to deal with customers. Her mother’s own grief causes her to hover over her children and grandchildren, and Sylvia seeks a diversion. She takes up birdwatching and soon meets an Amish man who teaches her about local birds. But Sylvia’s mother doesn’t trust Dennis Weaver, and as the relationship sours, mysterious attacks on the greenhouse start up again.

my thoughts...
I've been waiting for Wanda Burnstetter's second Amish Greenhouse Mystery, The Mockingbird's Song, and it was worth the wait. This book focuses on Sylvia, and the grief she is mired in after the devastating loss of not only her husband but also her father and brother.  There is no timeline on grief.  As the anniversary of the accident approaches, she is still content to keep close to her mother's home, her haven from the outside world.  The home she shared with her husband is closed up and remains the same as the day of the accident.

It was a complete surprise to all when she allowed newcomer Dennis Weaver the option to rent her house and set up his horse training business on the grounds.  Change is in the air for both Sylvia and Dennis, two people who needed a fresh start in life.

The mystery of the Amish Greenhouse remains unsolved but the random acts of vandalism hit closer to home each time.  As this book concludes, one has to wonder if it is the neighbor who mistrusts the Amish, rambunctious teens on rumspringa, or the owners of the new bigger Englisch greenhouse? Or someone else entirely?  I enjoyed The Mockingbird's Song, possibly because once again we see a glimpse into human nature.  The good, the surprising and some that could use a little improvement.  whether the reader is Englisch or Amish, we are more alike than we think.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Add Debbie Macomber's A Walk Along the Beach to Your Summer Reading List

...from the publisher...
The Lakey sisters are perfect opposites. After their mother died and their father was lost in grief, Willa had no choice but to raise her sister, Harper, and their brother, Lucas. Then, as an adult, she put her own life on hold to nurse Harper through a terrifying illness. Now that Harper is better and the sisters are living as roommates, Willa has realized her dream of running her own bakery and coffee shop, bringing her special brand of caretaking to the whole Oceanside community.
Harper, on the other hand, is always on the go. Overcoming a terrible illness has given her a new lease on life, and she does not intend to waste it. When Harper announces her plan to summit Mount Rainier, Willa fears she may be pushing herself too far. Harper, for her part, urges Willa to stop worrying and do something outside of her comfort zone—like taking a chance on love with a handsome new customer.

Sean O’Malley is as charming as he is intriguing—a freelance photographer whose assignments take him to the ends of the earth. Soon Willa’s falling for him in a way that is both exciting and terrifying. But life has taught Willa to hedge her bets, and she wonders whether the potential heartache is worth the risk. 

Life has more challenges in store for them all. But both sisters will discover that even in the darkest moments, family is everything.

...my thoughts...
Gorgeous cover, delightful scenery and Debbie Macomber...three things to entice a reader to check out the story between the covers.  I enjoyed this book for many reasons, not the least of which is how family dynamics come into play.  This could be any family who has had grief come uninvited to the table.  Willa quickly cast off the role of big sister to Harper when their mother died.  Their father was unavailable and their brother left home to join the service.  Willa quickly stepped up to fill the gaps to be everyone and everything to her sister.  Harper, having survived a devastating illness, took charge of her health and broke some hearts along the way.  Now, she feels, it is time for Willa to take a look at relaxing enough to find love. After all, her sister gave up so much to take care of her and it was past time for Willa to really live.

Sean O'Malley caught Harper's eye as being a perfect match for Willa.  Unable to think of herself beyond running her business, Willa has no designs on Sean.  Harper is an incorrigible matchmaker, and the rest, as they say, is history.  Except, life has a way of tossing a curve ball and the story has a few balls that are tossed in the air to make things interesting. 

There are many ways this story could have gone.  The characters are in no way one dimensional.  I laughed and I cried when I read this book.  When it gets down to it, if a book has just part of a character the reader can identify with, it is a good study of human nature.  This is a love story, yet not just romantic love, although it is definitely a romance, but the love of family is central to the theme and it is very refreshing. A Walk Along The Beach will fill your heart as it entertains you.  I heartily recommend this book.  I received an advanced reader copy for an honest review, but all opinions are mine.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

A Bride of Convenience A Wonderful Story by Jody Hedlund About The Bride Ships from England

...from the publisher...
Unemployed mill worker Zoe Hart jumps at the opportunity to emigrate to British Columbia in 1863 to find a better life and be reunited with her brother, who fled from home after being accused of a crime.

Pastor to miners in the mountains, Abe Merivale discovers an abandoned baby during a routine visit to Victoria and joins efforts with Zoe, one of the newly arrived bride-ship women, to care for the infant. While there, he's devastated by the news from his fiancee in England that she's marrying another man.

With mounting pressure to find the baby a home, Zoe accepts a proposal from a miner of questionable character after he promises to help her locate her brother. Intent on protecting Zoe and frustrated by his failed engagement, Abe offers his own hand as groom. After a hasty wedding, they soon realize their marriage of convenience is not so convenient after all.

...my thoughts...
After 114 days the Robert Lowe arrived in Victoria Britsh Columbia on January 12, 1863. Thirty-eight brides were on board, all unemployed cotton mill workers. A sharp contrast from the Tynemouth, the first Columbia Mission Society brideship, which combined an equal number of wealthy middle-class gentlewomen and poor laborers.  The miners who were anxious for the brides to arrive wouldn't mind a bit to marry any one of the women on board.

Zoe Hart was beyond ready to land.  She was glad to be shut of the oppressive life she left behind in Manchester and eager to begin her search for her long lost twin brother Zeke. Zeke left a few years before under a cloud that no longer existed. The opportunity was tremendous to have a fresh start.  I liked Zoe's character from the start.

 "Heard Captain Verney saying there's hundreds of fellas on the shore"...
"All I need is one," Zoe Chimed in. The right one."
"Handsome?"
"Aye a handsome fella and a good kisser."

Her personality was entertaining and all the time caring for others.  My heart went out to her several times in the book but she is one woman who is true to herself and those she meets.  If she could take care of every child on their own or others in need she would have.  If her husband viewed her as just a convenience, so be it. Her goodness was a breath of fresh air in her new home town of Yale and she fast became a favorite.

Abe Merivale wasn't looking for a bride and with nearly two more years left for his position as a missionary with the Church of England, it wasn't feasible.  He would go home, marry Lizzy and one day become a bishop.  It was all laid out for him.  Until, he met Zoe.  Zoe, who wanted to rock the boat and keep Violet, an orphaned native baby.  Nothing would stand in her way, and Abe, in an absent minded misunderstanding moment, married her.

Jody Hedlund, in her wonderful style, has created a story that has a few bends in the road to this marriage.  Zoe was so unexpected in her role as the wife of a clergyman.  It shows that life is so unexpected and often the best laid plans are best set aside so that one can hear God's own plans, which are often the best of what could be imagined.  I recommend A Bride of Convenience for all who love historical Christian fiction.  Once again, the research is impeccable and this era of settling the west is very intriguing.  The brave women who traveled from England down around South America and  up the Pacific truly have a place in our history.

To check out my reviews of Jody's Bride Ships Series check out my blog posts:

A Reluctant Bride 

The Runaway Bride