“Bedtime for Boo” – A Haunting Bedtime Story

I read this to my 4-year old before bed tonight.  She likes ghosts and such, so I knew it would be ok.  The illustrations (by Bonnie Lieck) are very beautiful and kid friendly.

The story (by Mickie Mathis) is about Boo and his family, who live in a haunted house.  Boo is very excited because he gets to go haunting like the big ghosts.  As you can imagine, he is still wound up when they come home at the end of their night of haunting.  Mama Ghost has to get Boo to go to sleep.  She does that by getting him to close his eyes and listen to the world around him – the house, the animals, the weather outside.  Soon, he has fallen sound asleep.

My child liked the story.  She liked looking at the illustrations and pointing things out (like monsters).  It was a nice “quiet” book for us to read before she went to bed, so I appreciate that as well.

This book would be a great Halloween gift for a young child (to be read to), or a young reader (maybe 1st or 2nd grade).

I received this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.

“All the Pleasures of the Season”

This was a quick read.  Lady Miranda Archer has had her debut season.  She is trying to do what is right for her family and live up to their expectations.   Her family is no stranger to scandal and she just wanted to be the normal child.  So she picks a man who has been pursuing her all season that by all appearances would be a good match.  Her sister has been pushing for him and her family approves…except her brother.

However, there’s a problem.  Miranda doesn’t really like him.  She doesn’t know him all that well, and there’s just something about him that strikes her as “off”.  She would prefer to be marrying Gilbert, who is a second son and destined for the armed forces.  The problem is that she doesn’t think anyone in her family would support that match.

Miranda begins to understand what marriage to her selected fiance would mean and tries to get out of it.

There’s not a whole lot of depth to the characters, but I would be interested in reading more from this author.  I enjoyed the book and it was a great little read during all of the holiday chaos.

I was provided with this book from Edelweiss.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

“Her Christmas Pleasure” – A Quick Read

Karen Erickson’s Her Christmas Pleasure is a quick read about two people who haven’t admitted they love each other.  Damien is a Napoleonic war veteran who has accepted a job in another country.  He was Celia’s late husband’s best friend and has worked/lived with the family his entire life.  He seemed to be in that nebulous grey area of not quite a servant, but not born to the family.

Celia’s mourning period is almost over.  She lives with her late husband’s family, since her son is the heir.  Her husband was an only child, and the holidays are difficult for his parents.  She had a good relationship with her husband and has come to rely on Damien to be her friend – and a connection to her husband.

This Christmas, Damien realizes that he either has to tell Celia about his feelings or leave without telling her.  But the timing has never been right….then they accidentally meet under the mistletoe.  What follows is a somewhat rushed courtship – full of feelings of passion, guilt, confusion, and ultimately love.

I sometimes think these books rush the relationship too quickly.  I understand that when you have a novella, that it just has to happen that way, and that a book like this calls for a certain suspension of reality.  If you are looking for a quick read that involves Christmas and that doesn’t require a whole lot of thought, this book is for you.  Warning – there are a few explicit intimate scenes.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via the NetGalley system.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

“Jane Austen Made Me Do It” …and I Loved Almost Every Minute

I love, love, love Jane Austen.  I have read every one of her novels, as well as a lot of the sequels, prequels, inspired-bys, etc.  When the opportunity arose for me to read this anthology of Austen-inspired stories, I jumped.  Some of them were better than others, but they were all different and interesting in their own ways.

I liked how these various authors played with Austen names, and when they used actual characters, they stayed true to the original.  One of the ones that I thought was creative was “Intolerable Stupidity” by Laurie Viera Rigler.  In this story, Lady Catherine de Bourgh is a judge in a hidden court, but what’s interesting is that the Austen characters (specifically Mr. Darcy) change appearance based on the perceptions of the audience.  So while he always shows up in a dripping wet shirt, sometimes he has fangs (as a vampire hunter), sometimes he doesn’t.  However, that story was kind of hard to keep everything straight; but part of that may be because I read it over two days.

I also liked “Mr. Bennet Meets His Match” by Amanda Grange.  It tells the purported story of how Mr. Bennet came to meet and marry Mrs. Bennet.  A relationship that almost all think is a horrible one comes about in an interesting way.  “Letters to Lydia” by Maya Slater also tells a hidden side of a tumultuous story.  It’s the story of Maria’s letters to Lydia when they are apart, especially when Lydia is eloping.  Interestingly enough, Maria knew where Lydia was before Lydia’s family knew.  I like to think about how that would have changed the story if Jane had added it.

Several stories are told in the present day – with characters who are Austen fans looking for their “Darcy”, and the supernatural (or coincidence) plays a part in their relationship.  One of those stories is “The Mysterious Closet: A Tale” by Myretta Robens that tells the story of Cathy and Henry and how they meet in a mysterious room in a castle.  Another is “A Night at Northanger” by Lauren Willig, one of my favorite authors.  It tells the story of Cate’s experiences hunting ghosts at Northanger Abbey and how her experiences lead her to look at her life and what she wants out of her future.

I would say there are more hits than misses in this anthology.  I don’t usually read anthologies because just when I get into a story, it ends.  I didn’t really have any issues with this one; my schedule is busy enough that I would read one or two stories at each sitting.

I received this book from the publisher through the NetGalley system.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

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“House of Secrets” by Tracie Peterson

Bailee Cooper has been the “mother” of her family since her mom died when she was young.  She has always felt responsible for her younger sisters, and has put her life on hold/reorganized her life to ensure that she is available to her sisters.  Her dad has not been much help, other than paying for things – education, clothing, homes, etc.  To a certain extent, her younger sisters have also resented her actions/interference in their lives, but have dealt with it because she takes care of everything.

Bailee is offered a promotion at her job where she has been a freelance editor for a number of years.  Her boss, Mark Delahunt, wants her to be independent for once.  Over the years, he has become her friend, no matter the walls she erects…and has begun to care for her.  Bailee is fighting her desire for the position because of her responsibility to her sisters.

Out of the blue, Bailee’s dad summons her and her sisters to their summer house in Washington state.  Not only is this unusual because her dad wants to spend time with them, but also because the sense of their mother is so strong in this house.  The girls have often believed their father had a hand in their mother’s death, but have never confronted him about it.  At the beginning of their vacation, they decide to confront their father with their beliefs – to make him answer to them.

However, nothing goes as planned.  What they imagined as true is false.  What they remember as dreams are reality.  How they perceive their father (and themselves) is not necessarily the truth.  This book is about walls being torn down, people accepting others for what they are, and people accepting themselves for what they are – not what they think others need them to be.

This book is beautifully written and there are twists and turns throughout.  My heart broke for Bailee and her sisters, and the impact that secrets have had on this family.  Through their relationships with God, they will find their way.

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

“Winning the Wallflower” – a Novella with Sneak Peeks!

I love Eloisa James’ books!  I have probably read just about everything she has written – especially her historical fiction.  Due to an inheritance, Lucy becomes a girl in demand.  She is already engaged, but when she inherits, her mother forces her to break her engagement because now the man isn’t suitable since he doesn’t have a title.

Coming face to face with the man she agreed to marry, Lucy forces Cyrus to tell her why she was selected for his bride.  Forced to confront his own reasons for choosing her, Cyrus acknowledges that he chose her because she was safe…not given to giggling, drama, or other foolishness.  She “checked a box” on his list of successes he wants to achieve.  Sadly, this confirms Lucy’s opinion of what happened when she became engaged.  She continues to challenge his behavior, his thinking, his actions…..and breaks the engagement, even though she didn’t want to.

Faced with the loss of the woman he was going to marry, Cyrus realizes that maybe the way he chose a bride was wrong.  The two of them have to figure out if the engagement is what they want, or if they want to call it off completely, no matter what Lucy’s mother wants.

I know this is a novella, but I thought that the ending was a bit abrupt, in my opinion.  It just seemed to be resolved, without the usual depth of understanding I expect from her books.  One thing I liked was that there were several excerpts from other books.  One of them, The Duke is Mine, is the story of a secondary character within Winning the Wallflower.  I’m looking forward to reading it.

I received this book from the publisher through the Edelweiss program.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

 

“The House at Tyneford” – A Story About Life Continuing On, No Matter What

I am very interested in World War II-era stories, especially stores of those affected by the Holocaust.  This book starts at the beginning of WW2 in Vienna.  Elise and her family have a good life in Austria .  Her father is a novelist, her mother is a musician.  The problem is that they are Jewish.  The family is trying to get everyone out of the country, but they are having problems getting visas.  Elise is able to leave the country because she is being sponsored by an English family to come and work as a house servant.  Being the youngest in the family, it’s hard for her to leave, but she does so with the understanding that her family will send for her when they get to America.

Elise has never truly worked.  Everything has always been done for her, so when she arrives in England at Tyneford, she is in for a rude awakening.  Housemaids work from before dawn to after dark.  There is never a moment’s peace.  And it’s even harder when you don’t speak very good English.  Luckily, the squire (Mr. Rivers) is a kind man and has read Elise’s father’s books.  Kit Rivers, the squire’s son, is not around much, but when he is, it brings life to the house.

Elise has to work through a number of things – learning English, being away from her family, seeking information on her family, as well as just adjusting to a different way of life.  She is a source of suspicion from those who visit the house, a source of frustration to the head butler and housekeeper, and a curiosity of sorts for the villagers, Mr. Rivers, and Kit Rivers.

The novel follows Elise’s life throughout her time in England.  I found it interesting to read about what her life was like as a Jew in England and how much faith it took to continue to exist while her family was in such dire straits.  Her relationships with the Rivers men are interesting, if unsurprising.  My heart ached for her – wanting to know what was going on with her family, trying to find her way in England, and yet dreading the information that could come at any time.  But each day, she got up and continued on with her duties and responsibilities, knowing that she is trying to make her parents proud.

One thing I found a little distracting was the fact that Elise doesn’t refer to her parents as Mom and Dad, it’s Anna and Julian.  Maybe that’s because they were such public persons and she didn’t relate to them as Mom and Dad.  But it was something to get used to.

I really liked this book and would definitely recommend it.

I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

“The Christmas Singing” – A Wonderful Christmas Story about Perceptions

The Christmas Singing is a quiet novel set in the current day.  Mattie and Gideon grew up together in their Pennsylvania Amish community, and eventually were engaged.  However, Gideon broke Mattie’s heart when he broke up with her three years ago.  Mattie gathered herself together and moved to live in the same Ohio town as her brother.  There, she was able to follow her dream of opening a bakery and built a small, but successful company.  She even started to move on and met a new man from the local Amish community.  Sol has a steady, quiet demeanor that appeals to Mattie after her relationship with Gideon.

When Mattie is faced with the destruction of her company, she runs into Gideon again.  She is forced to confront her feelings for him, her feelings for Sol, as well as her desire to reopen her business.  Mattie has always believed that she was the wronged party in the breakup between her and Gideon.  However, things are not always as they appear.  Gideon has had a very good reason for breaking up with her – one that Mattie has to take the time and the reflection to discover.

Mattie has a standing engagement for the Christmas singing.  Either she goes to her hometown singing with Gideon, or she meets Sol at the singing in Ohio.  Whichever one she chooses will determine her future.

I liked this story.  I thought that it was a great story and I liked how calm the writing was.  I had the feeling that I was getting to know these characters, even though it was a short novel.  I liked that Mattie seemed to be more “worldly” than some of the other Amish heroines.  She seems so very creative and her bakery has allowed her to earn a living doing something that she loved.  I was caught up in the differences between Sol and Gideon.  While I wanted her to pick the right man, I could see how she would be conflicted, given the circumstances.

I received this book from WaterBrook Press for the purposes of reviewing it.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

“The Crossing” by Serita Jakes

Wow!  What a book!  I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked it up, but this book took me on a journey on a story through a number of characters’ lives and thoughts.  Ten years ago, a masked man stepped onto a school bus filled with cheerleaders, football players, and students.  He shot and killed the cheerleading coach, wounded the bus driver, and wounded a football player.  He was never caught.  His actions affected more lives than just those three.  Claudia was a senior cheerleader and close friend of the coach.  She has never gotten over that night.

Fast forward ten years.  Claudia is married to Vic, who is the Assistant District Attorney.  Two years prior, she suffered a miscarriage and has had anxiety issues ever since.  Casio, the wounded football player is a cop with anger management issues.  His anger is causing issues with his current girlfriend.

Vic decides to reopen the case, hoping it will bring some closure to his wife.  Casio manages to get placed on the case with him, especially after Casio’s dad gives him some evidence that wasn’t in the original case files.  What follows is like watching lives self-combust.  What people believed turns out to be false, what they never saw actually existed, and people’s inner demons are still impacting events ten years later.

What I thought was interesting was that every chapter started with a prologue of sorts, written from the POV of the cheerleading coach as she lay dying in Claudia’s arms.  I thought it was some of the most beautiful writing I have read in a while.  This is christian fiction, but it’s not overwhelmingly so.  I was completely surprised by the ending.  It didn’t turn out at all as I imagined.

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Chapter One Excerpt

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.  I was not required to give a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

“The Wedding Quilt” – Drawing to a Close?

"The Wedding Quilt" by Jennifer Chiaverini

In Jennifer Chiaverini’s The Wedding Quilt, the story of the Elm Creek Quilters seems to be coming to a close.  This is a wonderful series, of which I have read almost every book.  The story begins with the invitation to Sarah and Matt’s daughter Caroline’s wedding – about 20 years after the last book was set.  As Sarah waits for her daughter to arrive at Elm Creek Manor, she remembers the day Caroline and her twin brother James were born.

This pattern continues throughout the book.  The current wedding story line is interwoven with stories from the past.  It is a good way for readers of the series to catch up with their favorite quilters with glimpses into their lives for the last 20 years. Readers are also able to learn some items that we didn’t know – for example, how active Agnes was in the community and why she had attached herself so deeply to Waterford.

There’s a little bit of drama throughout the book, in various story lines, that keeps the book moving.  There’s also sadness.  I came to the conclusion about 1/3 of the way through that this was probably the end of a series I really liked.  According to Jennifer’s website, this is not the last book in the series – that there is probably 1 more book to go.   Even with the feeling that it was drawing to a close, I enjoyed this book.  It brought closure to several story lines from other books, and it’s a nice book-end to the first book, when Sarah arrives at Elm Creek Manor to work for Sylvia.  I wonder where she will take the quilters next and who the next generation of Elm Creek Quilters will be?

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I received this book from the publisher through the NetGalley program.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.