Book Review: All Hearts Come Home for Christmas – Various Authors

Heartwarming Christmas Collection

I copied in a few weeks ago to enjoy this collection of Christmas novellas. (Side note: Novellas is a word that I use to annoy my husband. He has bad high school memories over a confrontation with a teacher in relation to this word. Like any good wife, I usually use it in the car when he can’t escape me.)

This collection includes :

Christmas at Falstone Castle · Sarah M. Eden

The Dowager Duchess of Kielder eagerly anticipates spending Christmas with her son and his family. Though their relationship has been strained, the duchess is determined to heal the chasm. Even with the help of the widowed local vicar, her plan will take a Christmas miracle. But during this magical season, anything is possible . . . even two second chances for love.

The Heart of Christmas · Anita Stansfield

When a chance meeting brings together a gentle seamstress and a widowed banker, each lonely soul finds a first hint of hope. As their lives become entwined, it will take Christmas spirit to guide a broken family to love and healing.

’Tis the Season to Be Daring · Esther Hatch

Elizabeth Davenport has had quite enough of the London Season. Determined to evade a parade of unsuitable suitors, she seeks help from the one gentleman who has no regard for Society’s rules. All of Society knows Lord Hawthorne is not interested in marriage, yet he cannot deny Miss Davenport’s unique charm. And as the Christmas season works its magic, their charade begins to feel less like playacting and more like love.

The Christmas Dress · Joanna Barker

Seamstress Nell Addington is thrilled when her childhood friend Jacob Hammond commissions a dress for his sister. But when Nell realizes her feelings for Jacob run far deeper than friendship, an unexpected snowstorm—and some holiday cheer—may convince them both that love is worth fighting for.

Overall, this collection is exactly as presented: heartwarming. Each story has it’s own quirks and themes, all with a historical, seasonal backdrop. There is nothing objectionable in the content – just a bundle of emotion- stirring, feel good reads to get you in a holiday mood. You’ll need some hot chocolate to round out the experience.

Publication Date: September 1, 2019

Publisher: Covenant Communications

I was provided with a complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley, with thanks to the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review: One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow

Lyrical & Haunting

I was privileged to received an advance copy of One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow, a historical novel by Olivia Hawker that was published last week.

Publisher’s Description:

From the bestselling author of The Ragged Edge of Night comes a powerful and poetic novel of survival and sacrifice on the American frontier.

Wyoming, 1876. For as long as they have lived on the frontier, the Bemis and Webber families have relied on each other. With no other settlers for miles, it is a matter of survival. But when Ernest Bemis finds his wife, Cora, in a compromising situation with their neighbor, he doesn’t think of survival. In one impulsive moment, a man is dead, Ernest is off to prison, and the women left behind are divided by rage and remorse.

Losing her husband to Cora’s indiscretion is another hardship for stoic Nettie Mae. But as a brutal Wyoming winter bears down, Cora and Nettie Mae have no choice but to come together as one family—to share the duties of working the land and raising their children. There’s Nettie Mae’s son, Clyde—no longer a boy, but not yet a man—who must navigate the road to adulthood without a father to guide him, and Cora’s daughter, Beulah, who is as wild and untamable as her prairie home.

Bound by the uncommon threads in their lives and the challenges that lie ahead, Cora and Nettie Mae begin to forge an unexpected sisterhood. But when a love blossoms between Clyde and Beulah, bonds are once again tested, and these two resilient women must finally decide whether they can learn to trust each other—or else risk losing everything they hold dear.

My Thoughts:

This novel was lyrical and haunting from the very first line. It’s a story of loss and ruin, family and friendship. It’s strange and melodic and quite possibly the best novel I’ve read this year. I’m not sure I could be nearly as strong as any of the characters and the way they adapted and forged forever ties despite hardships and necessity.

Beulah, one of the central characters, is an odd one, and yet absolutely beautiful in her head-in-the-clouds and oneness with the earth. She “communicates” with the earth, with the harvest, with the animals, with those who have passed – and that sounds so creepy and wrong – but it’s actually done very well. Maybe “aware” is a better word than “communicates” – she’s hyperaware and connected with everything around her.

Overall, I can guarantee this will not be everyone’s cup of tea. The pace of the prose is meandering. The style of writing is unique. The story itself, however, is brimming with feelings and evocative imagery. I absolutely loved it.

My thanks to the publisher for a complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: October 8, 2019

Book Review: Met Her Match by Jude Deveraux

Best-selling author, Jude Deveraux, has held my attention for years. Offhand, I can’t think of any of her titles that I haven’t enjoyed. Met Her Match, Deveraux’s newest release, was just as enjoyable as her other titles.

From the publisher:
Set in the beloved fictional town of Summer Hill, Virginia, Met Her Match examines the tensions between the wealthy townspeople, the summer vacationers and the working-class people who keep the town and resort running. Told with humor and heart, Met Her Match is the perfect summer escape.

Perfect summer escape, indeed. The balance between the “classes”, the mystery, the camaraderie, the romance – they were all sweetly done in that read-in-a-hammock type of way. (If you’re a devotee of romance novels, you’ll totally get what I mean!) The chemistry between the love interests, the descriptions of the resort town, and all the twists of gossip – reliable or otherwise – made for a relatable read and made you feel like you were sitting lakeside with the rest of the crew.

It might not be summer anymore, but this one would be a great stocking stuffer for those who like sweet, sizzling, contemporary romance with a twist of mystery. Great to read over a weekend or sitting in the school carpool lane! Released a few days ago, it should be available on all major booksellers shelves now.

My thanks to the publisher for a chance to read an advanced reader’s copy courtesy of NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Published by: Harlequin Mira
Publication Date: September 17, 2019

Book Review: A Round-Up

There are certain books you read that leave a big impression on your heart. Others you read and wonder why you didn’t just put it down. Many more fall into the in-between – they’re great distractions in the moment, but the emotional wow-factor isn’t quite what you hoped. Most fall somewhere along the middle. They are entertainment, pure and simple.

I haven’t been reading as much over the last few weeks – falling into a bit of a slump on that front. We’ve been busy. I’ve been tired. And even my great escape has felt like it required too much energy. I’ve been blogging even less. Priorities and all that… I have a few titles I’ve read that I should post reviews for… but instead of a singular post for each, I’m going to offer a round-up of recommendations and reflection. Each of these titles are complimentary copies I received via NetGalley in exchange for my opinions.

The Spanish Promise by Karen Swan is a dual-timeline novel touching on a family’s secrets and the desire to prevent a scandal. (Bonus trivia: Author Karen Swan is a Globe & Mail bestseller.) I loved the mystery and unlocking of the secrets – the questions and false-leads and the historical elements as they tried to figure out who the wealthy patriarch was leaving his estate to and the why behind his actions. The drama of all that unfolded during the Spanish Civil War and how it influenced so many lives in the present really captured my attention. I didn’t love the supposed romance of the contemporary characters – or even the characters themselves. That aspect fell flat and I found it a bit worldly and jaded. Rating: 3 stars

Published by: Pan MacMillan / Publishers Group Canada
Publication Date: May 1, 2019 .

Edie Browne’s Cottage by the Sea by Jane Linfoot is set seaside, obviously, in the UK. After some health issues and a break up, our female lead tries to find healing and herself as she stays with her aunt and tackles the renovation of her cottage by the sea. Both Edie and her aunt have some healing to do. The novel is quirky and like other seaside romance novels, makes me want to take a vacation. That being said, while I loved the comradery that developed (because that’s what happens in small towns, no?) the book isn’t deep or even emotionally engaging. I loved the crafty and creative spin on things because that’s my language… and Cam had me won over from the start. Overall, it’s a light bit of fluff that’ll have you craving ice cream and bonfires, but you probably won’t feel like your life has been changed. Another 3 stars from me.

Published by: Harper Impulse and Killer Reads
Publication Date: May 24, 2019

The Woman In Our House by Andrew Hart isn’t my typical read. It’s contemporary suspense done well. It’s a bit dark and twisted (as suspense typically is.) Based on the premise that the nanny they hired isn’t who she claims to be, I will admit there were things I didn’t see coming… and other aspects that I had pinned down right away. As a mother, it gave me goosebumps. As a reader, I wanted to see what happened next. That being said, I found some of it was a little stilted. Give it a go if you are into twists and turns and twisted minds. Still… just a 3 stars from me. (and 3 stars aren’t bad, just somewhat indifferent…)

Published by: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: June 18, 2019

I have some others to review as well, but they will hold until another day… as it seems these were all mediocre (and that could just be the slump speaking) what’s on your must-recommend list? What have you recently read that sticks out in your mind and actually moved you? Please share…

Book Review: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

It’s the May long weekend here in our tiny corner of the world. The weather is finally cooperating for outdoor book binges. We had a birthday party yesterday and I have this weird thing about parents judging my housekeeping skills, so we cleaned like mad before the 12 year old boys showed up to make a mess again. Thankfully, clean-up was a breeze so today lent itself to indulgent backyard gazebo time with a rosé lemonade (meh) and a book (amazing!)

I’ve had The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek on my to-read pile for months. I’ve put it off, and put it off, and put it off… until I decided to give it a go last night. I made it to chapter 13 (when I should have been sleeping but we all know I’ll give up sleep for a good book.) The wee hours of the morning finally got to me, so I put it down knowing I’d have the afternoon to while away in 1930’s Kentucky hill country. Oh. My. Word. Why didn’t I read this book sooner?!?

Why didn’t I read this book sooner?!?

From the first paragraphs, this title is evocative and transports you to another time and place. It’s rife with folklore, superstition, and old home remedies – balanced with an honest and colourful depiction of a difficult era and landscape. Inspired by the historical and truly remarkable Kentucky Pack Horse library service and gentle-hearted blue-skinned people of Kentucky, Kim Michele Richardson weaves a poignant and heart-wrenching telling of poverty, misogyny, racial prejudice, and poverty. Through it all, books bind humble souls together – feeding the mind when the land won’t yield food and families are dying of starvation.

I don’t want to share any spoilers so I’ll leave you with this: pick up a copy of this book, book off a chunk of free-time, and dive right in! You’ll find yourself invested – infuriated with the wrongness of so many situations, in tears because of the heartache and loss, and absolutely in love with the Book Lady, Cussy, and the family she builds through the care and gifts for her patrons. Honestly, one of the best books I’ve read in awhile!

This complimentary title was provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: May 7, 2019

Book Review: The View from Alameda Island by Robyn Carr

I’d like to preface this review by saying that Robyn Carr is one of my favourite contemporary women’s fiction authors. She’s pretty spectacular and there’s something about the way she pieces her words together that is easy to read and relatable. I know I’m not alone in this opinion as she’s a #1 New York Times Bestselling Author – she knows what works. In fact, so many people love her, that one of her beloved series, Virgin River, has been picked up for a Netflix series production. I’ve been looking forward to this book since I first started hearing about it as an anticipated release.

The View from Alameda Island is set for publication tomorrow (April 30, 2019) and it will pop up everywhere – grocery stores, bookstores, airports, libraries, etc. Here is the tagline description from the publisher:

A poignant and powerful story about how one woman’s best intentions lead to the worst of situations, and how love helps her to heal and ultimately triumph.”

Now, I read this last week so my thoughts aren’t entirely fresh, but I was, honestly, underwhelmed. I found it a bit slow to start and it just wasn’t my favourite of Ms. Carr’s stories. That being said, the further in I read, the more I enjoyed it. It was, as described, poignant – it touched on emotional abuse, physical abuse, divorce, strained family relationships, new beginnings, healing, and gentle romance.

Overall, I did enjoy the book – it was true to previous works in perhaps an overly formulaic way – as mentioned, not entirely my favourite. Maybe it was the fact that I read it after a very gripping novel or was a bit over-stressed last week -a bit of an it’s not you, it’s me situation?

As much as the primary characters carry the plot (and I did admire their strength and tenacity), I actually wanted to read more about some of the secondary characters and their development. (Perhaps written that way as a potential series???) I do not advise against reading this novel – in fact, I’d say give it a try – it has heart and soul and happily ever after – but it doesn’t get a definitive must-read recommendation from me (and I feel terrible actually saying that…) Sorry, Ms. Carr – I still love you! My opinions aside, I’m sure it will still pop up on best sellers lists and will be a great summer read. (PS – avoid if language and romantic scenes aren’t your thing…. I know some of my friends on here are cautious with content!)

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts expressed are my own.

Published by: Harlequin Mira
Publication Date: April 30, 2019

Book Review: The Family Secret by Terry Lynn Thomas

I am a huge fan of historical fiction relating to WWII – books along the lines of The Nightingale or Lilac Girls hold a little corner of my heart. I am sure this stemmed from my childhood readings of The Hiding Place or even one of my favourite titles as a teen, Vienna Prelude. This genre sheds light on a terrible time in our recent history, but somehow softens the delivery a bit while still gripping emotions as we recognize how absolutely horrible it was to live through that dark time.

Engrossing and Intriguing

I recently finished The Family Secret by Terry Lynn Thomas. It’s the second title in the Cat Carlisle series. It was easy to read as a standalone, but I think you would understand more of the characters’ histories if you read the first novel, The Silent Woman (which I have not yet read.) I was vaguely expecting this to be more along the lines of the titles mentioned above, and was surprised when it actually was a bit more mysterious and focused on an investigator and his romantic interest, in their small town escape from London. Rather than being the main backdrop for the events and going-ons, the war actually loomed distantly on the horizon, influencing decisions (i.e. evacuating from London.) (This surprise is all on me – it was definitely touted as historical mystery.)

All that said, I was not disappointed in this read. It was well-written and colourfully descriptive. Characters were developed enough that even though you were invested in their doings, you didn’t necessarily love them. Spoiled teens, entitled adults, nosy neighbours… you’ll find them all. The plot – the actual mystery – was engrossing and intriguing, the character backgrounds giving them a bit more depth, and I loved the dramatic climax.

Overall, while it wasn’t what I was expecting, I was pleased I picked it up. It was historical fiction set in an era I enjoy reading about – just from a different perspective than I typically enjoy. A good solid 3-star (I liked it) rating from me.

I received a complimentary copy of this book via NetGalley with thanks to the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.

Publisher: HQ Digital
Publication Date: March 1, 2019

Book Review: The Bradford Sisters Romance

One day about a month ago I worried that I might run out of books to read. This convinced me that a trial of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited was in order. Now, keeping in mind that this is not my only source of reading material, I may have borrowed 4 titles total and one remains unread. It’s good in theory, but I think I need to pare down my to-be-read pile significantly before it’s something I will consider on a permanent basis.

One huge plus from this trial was the finding of Christy-award winning author Becky Wade’s series “The Bradford Sisters.” I’ve read books 1 (True to You – Nora) & 2 (Falling for You – Willow) and eagerly await Britt’s story. This series is delightful – it’s contemporary Christian romance, but it’s not cheesy or preachy. It’s all about real (fictional) characters in real (fictional) situations dealing with real emotions and struggles in life and faith – the kind of people you want to hang out with in real life, because they’re so, you know, real….

True to You | Bradford Sisters Romance |
Book 1 | Becky Wade

That being said, the sisters’ lives come across as remarkably pristine and fairy-tale-ish at first glance. They’re wealthy, they’re beautiful, they come from a well-respected family and every opportunity has been handed to them on a golden platter, or so it would seem. They’re enjoying more privilege than most of us will encounter in a lifetime. However, first impressions aren’t always accurate and as Wade digs deeper into their lives, you realise that they’ve encountered their share of struggle and heartache.

The stories are filled with some awesome supporting characters, fascinating adventure and mystery, snippets of humour, and the much-beloved romance. This trio of tales – although I’ve only read the first two, are fantastic and perfect for fans of Rachel Hauck or even Debbie Macomber or other inspirational authors who know their romance. I can’t wait for the third installment – Sweet On You – coming out April 30th. (Hint: It’s available for pre-order now!)

A Boy, A Book, and A Little Bit of Heartbreak

My youngest son, 11, claims to not enjoy reading, but when he finally sits down with a book, he gets lost in the pages. He’s still been reading “No Better Friend“, a biographical story by Robert Weintraub, for a school project. In short, it’s “the extraordinary tale of friendship and survival between a man and a dog in World War II.”

When we were looking for a biography, he had two requirements:

1. There had to be a dog in the story

2. It couldn’t die.

He approved the description from Amazon so we bought the book. He heard the word “survival” and reason failed – I’m not actually sure how he believed a dog that was alive in the early ’40s would still be here today. He’s been so gripped by this one, that he didn’t see the end coming.

He was sent off to do some reading and I knew he was in the last chapters. All of a sudden he storms out of his room yelling “Doggo died!”. Now at first I had a moment of panic because our old smelly beast had been hiding in his bedroom with him, but no, that impression was cleared up immediately when the smelly beast followed him out.

My bewildered mind was still trying to process the situation when a book came sailing past my head and said boy plopped himself into a chair in the corner and burst into tears. I’m now befuddled and slightly amused.

He’s experienced his first heartbreak at the hands of a book. I wanted to wrap him in a great big bear hug while my shoulders silently shook with laughter and a stray tear found it’s way onto my cheek. We tried to discuss the story and pull apart his feelings, but he needed to let his tears wash some of the pain away. He now understands why I sometimes cry when I read.

He understands the wonder of the word on page and how we can become enmeshed and entangled in a world not our own. To say this book had an emotional impact is an understatement. In our case, he was so highly engaged in the true story of Judy (Doggo) and Frank (the British Radarman) that his young heart was bruised with the loss of a friend. (Mama was just happy that he learned about some of the atrocities of WWII and life as a POW.)

In my books, any story that can evoke such genuine feeling is a win. Not only did it capture the tale of loyalty and friendship of the characters, it spurred loyalty in the reader – a spirited 11-year-old boy. That, my friends, is a well-written story – well-written, indeed!

Book Review: The Noble Guardian by Michelle Griep


Taciturn & Tender –
Adventurous Historical Christian Romance

If you are looking for historical Christian fiction brimming with the characterization of a taciturn, valiant hero and a lively, generous heroine, while courting danger around every bend and the demonstration of courage in the face of disappointments, Michelle Griep’s The Noble Guardian has it all! Adventure. History. Romance. The third in The Bow Street Runners series, it’s easy to read as a standalone (but having read this title, I’ll definitely be adding the first two titles to my to-be-read stack.)

Griep has a wonderful way with words and kindly shares some of her historical research aspects with her readers at the back of the book. I have no remarks on the aspect of historical accuracy, because I’m generally reading the genre for the escape, not the realism. I’m guessing based on the facts she shared, most aspects were pretty spot-on.

Back to the story itself… two bruised individuals, an adorable cherub of a child, and well-shaped secondary characters shine. At 32o pages in the paperback format, it’s not a short book, but it’s quite the tale of longing, revenge, and as mentioned previously, danger (almost ridiculous amounts of danger, to be honest. I mean it’s fiction, but life just kept throwing one curveball after another – which of course they handled with fortitude and style.) They faced seemingly insurmountable hurdles while trying to navigate their futures and escape the wounds of their pasts while racing cross-country through Regency England.

Romance was sweetly threaded throughout and, of course, love triumphs all. One of my favourite quotes from the book was just before the half-way point, when the Captain (our hero!) insists Abby (our heroine) is more valuable than she realises and calls her a gem. *sigh* (I’d quote the exact line but my copy was uncorrected and I don’t want to get it wrong!) Honestly, coming from such a sullen man and in the early stages of their alliance it was really quite the tender and endearing scene (with a typical touch of gruffness from a pensive man.) The story was liberally sprinkled with references to faith and the characters’ development of conviction and hope. As they lean on each other, they each find safety – both physically and emotionally – as they become the family they’ve always needed.

I truly enjoyed this spin on my go-to genre and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a heartwarming historical tale of hope and redemption. You can pre-order your copy now through all major booksellers. It’s a 4.5 star for me!

I was provided with a complimentary Advanced Reader Copy of this title through NetGalley with thanks to the publisher and author. All opinions expressed are my own.

Published by: Barbour Publishing, Inc.
Publication Date: June 1, 2019