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.

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 Forgotten Secret

For myself, the mark of a good novel is any novel that draws you in and leaves you feeling emotionally invested by the time you’ve read the last line. I’ve read a few books this week and while they’ve kept boredom at bay, one stood out as a “really, really good book.” It sucked me in, held me captive, and left me feeling like I found a great friend right to the very end… which sounds a little like Stockholm syndrome… but I assure you I mean it all in a positive way.

…a multi-faceted gem!

The Forgotten Secret, written by new-to-me author Kathleen McGurl, was a story that made me say, “Now that’s my kind of book!” It has a 4.22 star (out of 5) rating on Goodreads so I’m obviously not in the minority when it comes to this title. It was oh-so-perfectly suited to my reading needs.

(On a funny side note, my 11-year-old son is sitting on the couch beside me. He’s been reading “No Better Friend” as his choice for a biographical book report. He doesn’t enjoy book reports or forced reading – although he does enjoy reading, but won’t admit it. Anyhow… I digress. While he’s sitting beside me, he glances over and sees the title of my post and asks why I’m writing a book report. I explain how I’m given books to read in exchange for my opinions and that sounded a bit too much like the schoolwork he’s procrastinating about and he just couldn’t understand why I would do this. I feel like an island in this home some days…)

In The Forgotten Secret two seemingly unconnected women in different eras deal with the obstacles life has thrown at them. It’s a novel of their struggles, decades apart, on finding independence, on becoming strong and vibrant versions of themselves. We’re drawn into their stories with unique perspectives and challenges that each have to deal with, sink or swim.

The contemporary heroine, Clare, comes into an inheritance of a ramshackle Irish farmhouse, providing her with the opportunity and means to leave an abusive, manipulative marriage. Our historical heroine, Ellen, struggles with finding her way in love and loyalty as Ireland is torn apart in turmoil and civil unrest. A hidden secret in the farmhouse tie the two women together as they navigate their individual lives. A bridge is built between past and present as Clare researches further into the treasure she’s found.

Ms. McGurl does a wonderful job of negotiating the dual-timeline without leaving the reader lost. She paints vivid, colourful pictures and infuses her novels with real characters and strong emotion. She plucks the purportedly random strings of each story and weaves them all into a heartwarming tale of triumph and courage. Effortlessly, the elements between past and present intersect and we’re left with a multi-faceted gem that brings mystery, friendship, romance, and loyalty to a touching conclusion that may (or may not) have (but definitely did) leave me with tears of longing and joy. 4.5 stars from me!

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

Published by: HQ Digital
Publication Date: March 1, 2019

Book Review: Castle on the Rise by Kristy Cambron

I was awarded a copy of Castle on the Rise (part 2 in the Lost Castle series) by new-to-me author Kristy Cambron. This book takes place in three eras of Ireland’s riveting history (present, early 20th century, and the 1700s.) It was not a time travel tale. It was a story of resilience, independence, family drama, love, loss, faith, and conviction.

The lives of the characters from each era were twined together in a remarkable tale detailing the struggles of Irish history and rebellions. Each setting was tied together through family trees and national loyalties, with the basis of the interactions focusing on a historical estate and neighbourhood pub. I found it fascinating and emotional to read.

It wasn’t an easy book to read – I put it down between chapters much more often than I usually do. This wasn’t due to boredom so much as just needing to let my mind change track between the different eras. The romance was clean and sweet, the troubles and trials daunting.

The modern characters weren’t as well developed (in my opinion), but it was a colourful novel that makes me want to pack my bags and catch the next flight to the Emerald Isle. Ths historical elements were beautifully written in vivid detail. It piqued my interest in so much more than the landscapes of this beautiful country. I want to know more about her history, culture, and people’s fierce pride and independence. Women were the unsung heroes of this tale.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Published by Thomas Nelson; Publication Date – 05 Feb 2019