Book Review: A Christmas Flower by Bryan Mooney

Miracles are like snowflakes—no two are alike, but each one is precious and beautiful. This Christmas, Dr. Beth Harding could use a few miracles. The hospital she runs in River Dale, New Hampshire, is being shut down, unless she can convince the Scrooge-like board to save it. At least her closest friend, firefighter Logan Mitchell, is home for the holidays to offer a broad shoulder to lean on.

In California, Logan is a smoke jumper, but jumping into a romance with his best friend scares him more than any forest fire. After losing his parents at sixteen, Logan was taken in by Beth’s family. As kids, they were like brother and sister. Now they’re grown up, and sparks keep flying between them. If only Beth wasn’t already engaged. Maybe with a Christmas miracle or two, Beth can keep those hospital doors open—and two dear friends can finally allow their one true love to blossom.

From Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley. Some Spoilers below.

On some level, Logan has always been in love with Beth, but it’s only since her mother died earlier in the year that he’s begun to realise his true feelings. He works out as a fire jumper in California and it gives him the best thrill in his life. When he hears that his old boss has been injured in a blaze, and with the California fire season over, he returns home to check on things. With budget cuts, the local fire brigade is short on staff, so Logan is persuaded to take on some cover. The budget cuts also mean that the accountants plan to close the hospital that Beth’s mother set up – and to do it by New Year.

Naturally Beth is upset with this, and with staff shortages, she covers rounds, and realises that she misses the patient contact. Her sister Clare has announced that she wont be home for Christmas, as she will be staying with her boyfriend-of-the-month (roger) who seems to be controlling, and doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Meanwhile, Beth’s fiance (Rory) is under pressure from his company to make sure that Beth is signed up to join their pharmaceutical company, since her reputation is strong.  He is also told, in no uncertain terms, that he needs to get married to her, in order to progress his career. These pressures, plus the fact that he’s an ill mannered, tight git, means that when he turns up in River Dale just before Christmas, things dont go smoothly.

Positives: it’s a nice, clean romance; decent descriptions of what it’s like to be working in a Firehouse and a hospital; Logan and Beth are fleshed out well; there’s a nice spin on the Michael and Mary subplot.

Negatives: Clare could have been fleshed out a little more – there was potential when Logan goes to visit her and meets the boyfriend, but then she doesn’t really make another appearance until the end; the same could be said about Rory – there’s so much pressure on him to have Beth join the company and the pair to get married, he puts a lot into Drake’s presentation, but after Beth turns him down……he disappears….unless I missed something, he doesn’t even hang around to plead his cause; the arsonist that doesn’t get caught or set any more fires after 2 firefighters land in the hospital

So a bit of a curate’s egg – good in parts, missed potential in other areas.

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Book Review: Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber

 

 

Merry Smith is pretty busy these days. She’s taking care of her family, baking cookies, decorating for the holidays, and hoping to stay out of the crosshairs of her stressed and by-the-book boss at the consulting firm where she temps. Her own social life is the last thing she has in mind, much less a man. Without her knowledge, Merry’s well-meaning mom and brother create an online dating profile for her—minus her photo—and the matches start rolling in. Initially, Merry is incredulous, but she reluctantly decides to give it a whirl.

Soon Merry finds herself chatting with a charming stranger, a man with similar interests and an unmistakably kind soul. Their online exchanges become the brightest part of her day. But meeting face-to-face is altogether different, and her special friend is the last person Merry expects—or desires. Still, sometimes hearts can see what our eyes cannot. In this satisfying seasonal tale, unanticipated love is only a click away.

Ebook from Netgalley in exchange for a review.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Debbie Macomber (and the day after I finished this one, I got the offer of another one from a friend in London! yay!).

Anyway, Merry is temping for a company, as she saves up enough money to go back to college. She lives with her parents and her younger brother Patrick, who (as someone born with Down’s Syndrome) has an alternative view on life, that can often be more positive and simpler than Merry would care to give credit for.  As she’s not planning to stick around after Christmas, she’s not kicked up a fuss when the HR department gets her nameplate wrong and rechristens her “Mary”. In fact, it makes things a little easier, when it turns out she gets into trouble with her “by the rules” boss, who then turns out to be her online date.

Told mainlyfrom Merry’s point of view, we also hear a little from Jayson’s point of view, especially what makes him sign up to the dating website in the first place. We get to see Merry’s interaction with her brother and mother, but I got little about her father, and nothing about Jayson’s father or uncle, except for a reference about how Jayson had fallen out with his father.

In talking to Merry online, Jayson begins to realise that there’s more to life than work and the mandated overtime that’s been put in place for the report he needs ahead of Christmas. Such as baking cookies for the neighbours; allowing people to put Christmas decorations up; and that perhaps aggressively enforcing the “no eating at your desk” rule, whilst making people work overtime could have been addressed differently.  Finally Jayson’s friend Cooper persuades him to pay attention to both Merry and Mary, especially after Merry has decided not to meet him In Real Life. Similar to the film “Shop around the Corner”, Jayson finds that taking the time out to talk to a real person can be as enjoyable as anything, if you’ve found the right person.

Whilst some of Macomber’s books can be a little predictable, it’s the telling that makes them enjoyable, and the little details she adds in that make people keep coming back. This is a great read in the run up to Christmas, and adds a little cheer to what can be a stressful time of the year

Book Review: Christmas at the Rekindle Inn by Lori Waters

 

Christmas at the Reindle Inn #BookReviewMary Walker has a habit of giving in when it comes to her mother, but this time her mom went too far. At first glance, the gift seems innocent. Seven days at a lovely Vermont inn in mid-December is Mary’s idea of the perfect Christmas present—that is until she discovers her traveling companion’s identity.

The Rekindle Inn is the last place J.T. Walker wants to spend his Christmas vacation, much less in the company with the woman who’d recently ripped his heart to shreds. A challenge of wills, and the need to show Mary he no longer cares, has him on the plane to Santaville faster than the time it takes to unwrap a candy cane.

The Rekindle Inn specializes in mending relationships, but when the Walkers check in, it will take more than a little Christmas magic to bring these two broken hearts back together. More like a Christmas miracle.

Picked up from Netgalley in exchange for a review, this almost didn’t make it into the Christmas Reading pile, until I was checking my dashboard on the site for another book, and – eeep! It was there ready to read, and my chance of a themed romance was rapidly running out the door!

Continue reading

It’s August so it must be Christmas

So, it’s mid August and therefore the middle of summer (at least here in the northern hemisphere). That means there are two states of mind that co-exist in the bloggersphere: First, there’s a general apathy going around and it’s not just with the book bloggers. I follow several bloggers in other niches, more than one of whom has voiced a dissatisfaction with blogging in general and their niche in particular. Specifically it is the ones that have been doing blogging for a number of years: there is a loss of impetus, and a loss of interest about what’s on offer/new/the spin they can put on things. It’s certainly something I’ve been feeling, as I believe it’s one of the reasons behind my recent lack of reading and reviewing (as mentioned in my reading update earlier in the week).
Card-Book-2
The second, perhaps opposing state of mind is: it’s 4.5 months to Christmas. This affects bloggers in different ways, depending on the niche. For crafters, there’s a case for “Christmas in July” which is when they start creating stuff ahead of the holiday period (and for the Yanks, it really means “Thanksgiving in July”). So: cue knitting, stitching, card making, scrapbooking and general craftiness in the summer months in readiness for the winter holiday season. (The item opposite is an example of the crafty things from Sandy’s Crafty Creations). The TV shows on the relevant channels start going haywire with offers for the winter months.    Thankfully the Festival Of Quilts up at the NEC at the beginning of August wasn’t primed for Christmas themes, but it could have been!  I haven’t done any cross stitch for months, and generally don’t make anything to give away. I am currently working on a quilt top, using some old fabric I picked up in the early 1990s (does anyone remember the pink themed Laura Ashley quilt fabric?!).

For book bloggers, now is the time for the front lists to start being filled for the Christmas lists, e.g. Christmas themed romances, the books being prepped to get on the “Super Thursday” lists (which happens early October) and the requests for front list bloggers to consider scheduling their slots between now and the end of the year. In fact I got my first Christmas themed galley yesterday!  At the moment I have no other themed books for the rest of the year, and am currently not planning on any other themes this year – the mood I’ve been in this year means it’s not really worth planning as I wont keep to it!

For lifestyle and household design bloggers (once the “return to school” run has finished) it’ll be a case of how to decorate the house for autumn/Thanksgiving/Christmas.  Being European, Thanksgiving is not a huge influence, and where I live does not exactly go for Halloween, so there is no pressure for Trick or Treating, or decorating the non-existent porch in carved pumpkins. The biggest thing for us here is Christmas, and after decorating my parents’ house last year, I was in no mood to do it all again in my own place, so I don’t actually remember even putting the tree up. I’ve not brought new decorations in several years – some of my decorations date back to when I had my first flat in the early 1990s, and so I might be on the look out to start collecting something new.  I’ve previously picked up small pieces in the Birmingham German Market, but have been disillusioned with this for several years now, and don’t venture in at all during the 6 weeks or so that it’s on. With the current building works going on around the old Central Library, there will have to be some changes as to what’s situated where, and I’ve found out that it now goes on even longer this year than before! woe! I have a number of themed magazines going back over the last few years, making suggestions as to how to decorate the house.  I might actually go back through some of these magazines to see what the mentioned companies are producing now, otherwise I might just hit ebay. (ETA: I’ve just been reminded that IKEA has opened one of it’s smaller stores in Dale End, Birmingham. I may have to visit).

For the food bloggers, some will get excited by the influx of the winter foods (something I might get excited about). The pumpkins and squashes, the thick hearty soups, an excuse to go into carb coma with all the root veg and the bread based stuffings. The magazines will soon start telling us how to cook the perfect Christmas cake (hint: buy it). On the other hand – there’s what to have for the festive meals, how many versions of potatoes to cook this year, and worst of all – the Christmas meal out with friends/social group/work.  With my main social group it can be hard to find places that cater for those of us who have specific dietary needs –  vegetarians, specific allergies/intolerance such as gluten, general fussy eaters – never mind choosing a date that suits most people!

So dear constant reader: how are you doing during these fine summer months? Hit a block in your blogging routine? what are you doing to break it? What are you thinking about with regards to the rest of the year (inside or outside your niche)?

 

Book Review: Finding Christmas by Jeannie Moon

finding christmas

Small town Holly Point wasn’t big enough to hold the dreams of golden girl Maggie Benson. So when she left at eighteen, she flew right through college and into the adrenaline-pumping life of a navy fighter pilot. But without warning, a devastating crash destroys the career she loves and sends her back to her overly protective family to heal. Maggie can’t imagine how she can reconnect with the woman she was until the hot local high school basketball coach steps up to show her the way.

Former NBA star Will Fitzgerald knows how an injury can derail more than a career. Still, he’s happy with his life as a teacher and coach at Holly Point High School, until his quiet life is upended by the beautiful, brilliant, and hurting Maggie. Blindsided by the intense attraction, Will wonders if pursuing the woman of his dreams will answer the question of what’s been missing in his life.

Can Maggie trust enough again to let Will past her wounds, inside and out, so that they can both find the Christmas magic they’ve been searching for?

From Tule Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for a review. This book is one in a series of book set in/around New York in the Christmas period (many of which I have reviewed before This Christmas by Jeannie Moon, Goodness and Light by Patty Blount and A Light in the Window by Jolyse Barnett.)

Maggie returns home for the first time in several years, and two years after a Plane crash left her with skin burns over much of her body and having had part of one of her legs amputated.  She has a prosthetic leg which allows her to get around, but it doesn’t make things any easier as she is still coming to terms with not knowing her place in life anymore….she can no longer be a pilot, so where can she go now?

Will is a coach at the local school where Maggie comes in contact with him. He previously was a talented basketball player, until an accident broke his back and derailed his own plans for the future. They begin seeing each other….don’t know if they would actually call it dating….and Will, who is further along in finding his role in life, is there to pick up the pieces when Maggie is confronted with various things in her life and has to decide where to go next.

There is a light smattering in the sex department, but it’s relatively clean overall.

As Moon states in her introduction, she spent some time working with the mental health teams dealing with PTSD and recovering from life-changing injuries, and it’s good to see that a main character to be a woman, a soldier, a pilot, suffering from injuries sustained doing a job she loved and was good at, now trying to balance her needs against being a sister, a daughter a friends and a lover – it’s a bold choice, and one that Moon pulls off well. As with the other books, they’re not huge, but still manages to cover enough ground to make it a slightly challenging/thought provoking read.

Recommended for people who want a decent romance, with a little bit of Christmas theme running through, whilst changing the game a little

About this author

Jeannie Moon is a school librarian who loves that she has a job which allows her to immerse herself in good books and call it work. A native Long Islander, Jeannie still lives there with her family and a couple of well-behaved dogs and an equally misbehaving cat.

Tule Publishing have a page dedicated to Jeannie Moon here.  You can read an excerpt from the book here.

 

 

 

Book Review: An Avalon Christmas by Darien Gee

An Avalon #Christmas For fans of Friendship Bread and The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society comes a delightful collection of stories that will put a smile on your face this holiday season.

The holidays have finally arrived in Avalon, Illinois and everyone is filled with festive cheer. Well, maybe not everyone …

The husbands of Avalon have started a Bah Humbug Club. A neighborhood cookie exchange wreaks havoc on Erin Meeks’ carefully planned life. Melvin O’Malley’s daughter has abandoned him for the holidays in a senior facility, and shop owner Margot West is intent on creating the best holiday shopping experience for her customers when a stranger threatens to ruin it.

But a few surprises await them as well–an anonymous donor is giving away free turkeys at the Pick and Save, and there’s an air of mystery surrounding a generous raffle prize for the upcoming Christmas Bazaar. And when it looks like Santa might be a no show, someone unexpected steps into his boots.

Celebrate the season with 12 heartwarming stories of hope and cheer that continue the spirit of Gee’s first two novels, Friendship Bread and The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society. Includes recipes

This is a book of 12 short stories, all centred around the town of Avalon. Most of the people have been living in the town for years, and not everyone is looking forward to the Christmas holidays. Some are feeling lonely as they have lost their loved ones, some are losing their business or their homes, whilst others try to see the best in the holidays.

The stories have a loose link with each other and the reader ends up back where they started with the Senior Centre and the inhabitants there in.

The stories are not too “twee” – there is a positive feeling at the end of each story, even if the overall situations are not the most positive.

There are recipes at the end of the book, including a sough dough starter for sharing with others, and for which I will keep this ebook for reference later!

These are not the most in-depth set of stories: there is enough character development of the relevant people in each story, but these are short stories so that is appropriate – you get a decent enough indication of the people involved and what happens why.   This is a nice light read for a busy time of year

Book Review: A Highlander for Christmas by Jamie Carie

highlanderA Highlander for Christmas by Jamie Carie

A Christmas Novella: Lady Juliet Lindsay has made a colossal mistake. In the face of her parents’ rejection she realizes that a single stolen kiss could cost her everything. Sent to her aunt and uncle’s home in Scotland, she finds something in the rugged highland beauty that steals her heart…and a highland man, who seems her other half. Iain MacLeon, chieftain of the clan MacLeon, has one thing on his mind in a time where politics are like a tempest brewing—sheep. He loves his people and his land but he didn’t know he also needed a woman to share the load. And then he sees her…the flame-haired Englishwoman who steals his heart and holds it hostage against all his beliefs and all he holds dear. But how will he persuade his clan to love her as he does?

As a novella, this is a short story, which doesnt allow for much character development or extraneous plotting. Things happen apace and the job gets done.  Juliet attends the Highland Games whilst hiding after bringing shame upon her family whilst in London. There she comes to the attention of Iain MacLeon, who takes an instant shine to her.

She finds she has been promised in marriage to Lord Malcolm, a violent ungracious man, who has paid off her family’s debts in exchange for her hand.  He is not happy when he finds she has married MacLeon at Gretna Green, he kidnaps her, and forces a show down in the wilds of the Highlands.

Like I said, little room for extra plotting, story line or character development, so dont go in looking for a deep emotional resonance. Vague relation to Christmas as she arrives at her new home on Christmas Day.  Several references to a Christian God (and associated praying) which could have been worse.  As you can tell from the review – not much to write about!