Alaskan Holiday by Debbie Macomber (review by Kristi)

alaskan holiday

About the book An uplifting Christmas tale, set in the Alaskan wilderness, about finding love where it’s least expected–from the #1 New York Times bestselling author who’s one of America’s most beloved storytellers.

Before beginning her new job as sous chef at one of Seattle’s finest restaurants, Josie Stewart takes on a six-month position cooking at a lodge in an Alaskan lake town. It’s only temporary–or so she thinks, as she becomes a valued part of the local community, falling in love with the people who call the Klutina Lake home. But one man, in particular, stands out among Josie’s new friends: Palmer Saxon, a quiet, intense sword craftsman, whose very existence forces her to question whether her heart wants to return to Washington at all.

Publication Date:  October 2, 2018

Publisher:  Ballantine Books

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Christmas Fiction

 

My thoughtsRecently it seems as if I have a had a love/hate relationship with this author’s work. This book falls somewhere in the “meh” zone. I didn’t dislike the book but I didn’t love it either. The story seems a bit cliche with a big city woman falling for a small town (or in this case middle of nowhere in Alaska) man. It was a bit of awkward reading at the beginning and I feel like the story really didn’t get interesting until almost the end.

The beginning of this story had me checking my Kindle to make sure I hadn’t accidentally skipped pages. It seemed as if the story had started before the book began. These characters had already developed a relationship during the six months they knew each other prior to the beginning of the novel. Somehow, this made me feel left out. I also felt like the pace of the story was off and it didn’t have a nice flow to it. I was almost left wondering if this wasn’t an early book from this author that had been released again after getting a new cover.

As to the characters, well Palmer seemed a bit too awkward and I really didn’t find myself enamored of Josie. Jack was a character I just wasn’t sure about. While he seemed like someone I could grow to like, some of his actions were just too over the top. There isn’t a large cast of characters in this book either which made finding ones to connect to a bit difficult.

All in all, this was an ok story. However, I think I would recommend any of the author’s other Christmas novels over this one. While it had a cute cover and a good premise it just wasn’t one of my favorites from Macomber.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and was not required to write a review. All opinions are mine.

 

About the author:   Debbie Macomber is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and one of today’s most popular writers with more than 200 million copies of her books in print worldwide. In her novels, Macomber brings to life compelling relationships that embrace family and enduring friendships, uplifting her readers with stories of connection and hope. Macomber’s novels have spent over 1,000 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Thirteen of these novels hit the number one spot.

In 2018, Macomber’s all-new hardcover publications include Cottage by the Sea (July) and Alaskan Holiday (October). Macomber is also releasing a new cookbook titled Debbie Macomber’s Table: Sharing the Joy of Cooking with Family and Friends (April). In addition to fiction, Macomber has also published two bestselling cookbooks, an adult coloring book, numerous inspirational and nonfiction works, and two acclaimed children’s books.

Celebrated as “the official storyteller of Christmas”, Macomber’s annual Christmas books are beloved and five have been crafted into original Hallmark Channel movies. Macomber is also the author of the bestselling Cedar Cove Series which the Hallmark Channel chose as the basis for its first dramatic scripted television series. Debuting in 2013, Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove was a ratings favorite for three seasons.

She serves on the Guideposts National Advisory Cabinet, is a YFC National Ambassador, and is World Vision’s international spokesperson for their Knit for Kids charity initiative. A devoted grandmother, Debbie and Wayne live in Port Orchard, Washington, the town which inspired the Cedar Cove series.

Website   •   Facebook   •   Twitter

Five Golden Wishes by Cari Lynn Webb (review by Cathy)

Five Golden Wishes

About the book:

Dylan King never intended to get involved with Christmas Town. He’d arranged his business trip to include a short visit with his Aunt Odette. But now he’s fixing furniture for Over the River Retirement Home residents, welding a fence for the carousel and extending his stay every other day. If he stopped making up excuses to spend more time with Sadie Kent, he could finally get back to business like he wanted.

Sadie Kent has fallen to a new low. Not only has she ditched Santa School (a birthday gift from her young daughters to regain her Christmas spirit after her holiday divorce last year), Sadie has seriously embellished her culinary skills. Between keeping her volunteer commitments and trying to find a job that won’t interfere with her daughters’ school schedules, baking and decorating Christmas cookies to help raise money for the carousel refurbishment might be one step too far. If Dylan King stopped offering suggestions and distracting her, and reigniting her holiday spirit, Sadie could prove she had everything under control.

Welcome back to Christmas Town where wishes in the heart, no matter how deep they’re buried, find a voice. And the power of family and love endures.

My thoughts:

Five Golden Wishes is a sweet and clean read with characters that will make you smile while tugging at your heartstrings.

Sadie is such a wonderful character but is stressed to the max with the holidays fast approaching and losing her holiday spirit isn’t easy to deal with.  I loved her two daughters that are trying to help her regain her spirit and their innocent nature is perfect in this storyline.

Dylan is my favorite character in the book.  Dylan has much more patience than I would have with Aunt Odette and her friends at the retirement home as they bring him more and more furniture to repair.  I have to admit to laughing at some of their escapades and soon understood why it was so hard to say no to them.

Overall this was a delightful book and one that it perfect for this time of year.  It’s fast paced with a sweet romance that can will be enjoyed for readers of most ages.

I voluntarily reviewed an e-copy provided by the publisher.  All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

Formula of Deception: A Novel by Carrie Stuart Parks (review by Cathy)

Formula of Deception

About the book:

When her twin sister was murdered, Murphy Anderson changed her name and appearance and moved to Kodiak to avoid the press and publicity. But when local authorities discover she’s an artist and request her help in drawing a dying man’s memories, she unintentionally ends up in the limelight again—and may be back in the killer’s crosshairs.

The memory that Murphy was asked to draw was from an Alaskan hunter who discovered five bodies on remote Ruuwaq Island ten years ago, but has only shared the information with the police now that he’s dying of cancer. When they go to the island to investigate, no skeletons remain but there is evidence that the bodies may have been deliberately destroyed. But the big discovery is of a World War II Quonset hut.

As one by one the people who were at the hut die, Murphy knows there is something much deeper at stake. What happened there during WWII? And who is willing to kill to keep those secrets buried?

My thoughts:

This is the first book that I’ve read by this author, so I wasn’t sure what to expect or if I would enjoy her writing.  I should have known that when I received the book from the publisher, I would like this book so much because they have published some of my favorite books and authors.

I loved the setting of Alaska, the protagonist and the suspense.  It was difficult to put this book down as I quickly got caught up in the story from the very beginning.   It’s non stop action as Murphy Anderson is on the run from a killer and searching for her sister.   I’m glad I started reading this during the day because I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have slept a wink if I’d started it late at night, mainly because I didn’t want to stop reading and partly because I couldn’t stop thinking about what would happen next and you have to sleep sometime, right?

I don’t want to give anything away but be prepared for a fast paced and sitting on the edge of your seat good read.

I received a copy from the publisher and was under no obligation to write a review.  All opinions are my own.

 

Dear Santa: A Novel by Nancy Naigle (review by Kristi)

dear santa

About the book:   From USA Today bestselling author Nancy Naigle, Dear Santa is a heartwarming Christmas story about finding your passion for life and love.

Angela Carson wants nothing more than to be the third-generation to run her family’s holiday store, Heart of Christmas, successfully. They’ve weathered over sixty tourist seasons, major hurricanes, and urban sprawl, in their old decommissioned lighthouse. But the national chain that set up shop in their small North Carolina town of Pleasant Sands may be more than Heart of Christmas can survive.

Encouraged by her niece to ask Santa for help through the Dear Santa app, Angela gives in and lets the words fly in a way that, if Santa were real, would no doubt land her on the naughty list. What’s the harm when it’s just a computer-generated response?

Geoff Paisley has been at his mother’s side running the mega-chain Christmas Galore for the last ten years. When his mother falls ill, Geoff promises to answer the Dear Santa letters in her stead. Soon he realizes the woman he’s been corresponding with on Dear Santa is Angela. How could the woman that grates his every last nerve in person have intrigued him so deeply through those letters?

When Geoff reveals that he’s her Dear Santa, will Angela be able to set aside their very public feud to embrace the magic of the holiday and possibly find true love?

Publication Date:  October 16, 2018

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Griffin

Genre:  Christmas, Contemporary Fiction

 

My thoughts:  If you’re a Hallmark Christmas movie fanatic then this book is right up your alley. Predictable, yet cute, story and characters who seem like your next door neighbors made this book a quick read. And it’s one you’ll want to read again and again.

A cute little extra to this book is the letters to Santa that begin many chapters. I got a chuckle out of several of these letters written to Santa by kids. Also neat was the trivia about Pleasant Sands. The trivia, along with the author’s descriptions, made me feel as if I were there. This was the first book I’ve read by this author and I’ll be looking for more of her work as I really like her writing style.

If you enjoy Christmas stories be sure to add this book to your must-read list. A well-written story that will make you believe in love and Santa. Happy reading!!!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and was not required to write a review. All opinions are mine.

 

About the author:   USA TODAY Bestselling author, Nancy Naigle, writes love stories from the crossroad of small town and suspense.

With a career spent on the cutting edge of technology in the banking industry, she never let go of her dream to write. Now she works full-time writing stories that are a calming blend of community, family, and the simple things in life. She writes the kind of stories she hopes will provide an escape from the hectic day-to-day in the make believe worlds she creates.

Website  •   Facebook   •   Twitter

A Poppy in Remembrance by Michelle Ule (review by Cathy)

a poppy in remembrance

About the book:

Spanning three countries and the four years of World War I, A Poppy in Remembrance tells the epic story of a young American woman’s struggle to become a journalist in her father Jock Meacham’s world. As she searches for where she belongs professionally in London, Claire Meacham meets Reverend Oswald Chambers who opens her eyes to a completely different life. Working as Jock’s stenographer, Claire journeys to Egypt in 1916 where unbeknownst to him, she volunteers at Chambers’ YMCA ministry for ANZAC soldiers.

Claire finds her heart divided between a YMCA worker and a New Zealand soldier, while her reporting opportunities increase. When Jock demands she choose between her family and her faith, Claire struggles to find a balance. Chambers’ death throws everything into confusion as she and Jock transfer to France for the final year of the ghastly war.

Poppies mark WWI battlefields, but also serve as a mythological sign of hope. As Claire survives the final days of war in France, how will she find a way to encourage a ravaged world, a man to share it with and that elusive byline?

My thoughts:

A Poppy in Remembrance is one of the most artfully crafted novels that I’ve had the pleasure of reading.  The author drew me into the story from the first page and although it takes place during World War 1, the focus is on the journalistic side of the conflict and not so much the battle itself.

I loved having the protagonist, Claire Meacham in her own battle against the male dominated occupation of journalism.  I loved her determination and her strong faith but what I loved most of all is the mixture of real life characters with the fictional ones.  It was interesting to read about Oswald and Biddy Chambers the real life missionaries that were an integral part of the story and of Claire’s life.   I enjoyed the time Claire spent at the Bible Training  school and found the teachings of Oswald and Biddy uplifting and made me respect and appreciate not only them but all missionaries more than I already do.

The relationship between Jock and Claire was a bit fraught at times to put it mildly, but understandable to a certain degree because Claire is his daughter and he wanted her to be on her game while working in his world.  I didn’t like that both of her parents only went to church to be seen and when Claire wanted more it became a conflict which added to the story and held my attention.

The fact that the author touched on the family dynamic and not just the ugliness of the war was something else that made me love this book.  There is something going on all the time in this book and yet Ms. Ule does an exceptional job of tying the characters together and leaving no loose ends.   This is the first book that I’ve read by the author and now I’m anxious to read more of her work because I found her writing to be very much to my liking.

For fans of Historical fiction, I highly recommend adding this one to your Christmas list.

I received a copy from the author and was under no obligation to write a review.  All opinions are my own.

Death and Daisies by Amanda Flower (review by Kristi)

death and daisies.jpg

About the bookFlorist Fiona Knox left behind her gloomy life for a magical garden in Scotland, but a murder on her shop’s opening day spells doom.

Fiona Knox thought she was pulling her life back together when she inherited her godfather’s cottage in Duncreigan, Scotland—complete with a magical walled garden. But the erstwhile Tennessee flower shop owner promptly found herself puddle boot-deep in danger when she found a dead body among the glimmering blossoms. One police investigation later (made a trifle less unpleasant by the presence of handsome Chief Inspector Neil Craig), and Fiona’s life is getting back on a steady, though bewitched, track. Her sister Isla has just moved in with her, and the grand opening of her new spellbound venture, the Climbing Rose Flower Shop in Aberdeenshire, is imminent.

But dark, ensorcelled clouds are gathering to douse Fiona’s newly sunny outlook. First, imperious parish minister Quaid MacCullen makes it undeniably clear that he would be happy to send Fiona back to Tennessee. Then, a horrific lightning storm, rife with terribly omen, threatens to tear apart the elderly cottage and sends Fi and Isla cowering under their beds. The storm passes, but then, Fi is called away from the Climbing Rose’s opening soiree when Kipling, the tiny village’s weak-kneed volunteer police chief, finds a dead body on the beach.

The body proves difficult to identify, but Kipling is certain it’s that of the parish minister. Which makes Fiona, MacCullen’s new nemesis, a suspect. And what’s worse, Isla has seemed bewitched as of late…did she do something unspeakable to protect her sister? The last thing Fiona wanted to do was play detective again. But now, the rosy future she’d envisioned is going to seed, and if she and Craig can’t clear her name, her idyllic life will wilt away in Death and Daisies, national bestselling author Amanda Flower’s second enchanting Magic Garden mystery.

Publication Date:  November 13, 2018

Publisher:  Crooked Lane Books

Genre:  Cozy Mystery

Series:  A Magic Garden Mystery #2

 

My thoughts:  I never tire of reading cozy mysteries by Amanda Flower. She combines a murder mystery with just the right bit of wit and charm that makes her stories such fun reads. Death and Daisies take readers back to Scotland for the second installment of the Magic Garden Mystery series.

One of my favorite aspects of the story was the fact I got to know the characters better. Many are introduced in the first book but we really get to know them in this book. Raj and his sister, Presha, become almost like family to Fiona. And speaking of family, Isla, Fiona’s sister is over for a visit. The two don’t always see eye to eye but it is clear they care for each other and it was nice to read of their sisterly bond. And no Amanda Flower book would be complete without a four-legged creature of some sort so it was nice to see Ivanhoe the cat make a return appearance.

As to the mystery part of the book, well, I can never figure out who the murderer is until the reveal. The author gives many possibilities but never gives enough clues to spoil the mystery. This, along with her descriptions, makes the book a fun and quick read.

This book could be read as a standalone but I would recommend reading the series in order just to get to know the characters. Fans of cozy mysteries will surely love this latest book from Amanda Flower as it’s everything one would expect from the genre.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and was not required to write a review. All opinions are mine.

 

About the author:   Amanda Flower, a USA Today bestselling and  Agatha Award-winning mystery author, started her writing career in elementary school when she read a story she wrote to her sixth grade class and had the class in stitches with her description of being stuck on the top of a Ferris wheel. She knew at that moment she’d found her calling of making people laugh with her words.  In addition to being an author, Amanda is librarian in Northeast Ohio.

Website   •   Facebook   •   Twitter

Freedom’s Light by Colleen Coble (review by Cathy)

freedom's light

About the book:

Hannah Thomas left the South and all that was familiar to marry her beloved John. But the fact that she’s never been quite accepted by his mother and sister and that she doesn’t quite fit the strict Massachusetts Puritan community only becomes more difficult when John is killed in one of the first battles in the war for freedom. Hannah is allowed to continue to serve as lightkeeper for the twin tower lighthouses on the lonely coastline, but it is grueling work for a woman alone.

One of the first shipwrecks washes ashore a handsome captain she thinks is a Tory, but she soon finds out he’s working as a spy for Washington. Much stands in the way of their happiness including the need to protect his secret, pressure from John’s family to marry another, near-constant disapproval from the townspeople, and the appearance of Hannah’s wayward sister. Coupled with the strain of war, Hannah isn’t sure she’ll ever see the light of freedom.

My thoughts:

I have read several of Ms. Coble’s suspense novels and l have loved each and every one of them, so I was excited to read her new historical fiction novel.  Can I just say that I was soon reminded why she’s one of my favorite authors no matter what genre she writes?

I am somewhat obsessed with lighthouses and lighthouse keepers so this book was a win-win for me from the beginning for me.  Add a  young woman to be the  sole lighthouse keeper during the Revolutionary War during her husband’s absence and I was filled with anticipation as I read page after page.

I loved Hannah Thomas and the quiet strength she possessed which made the storyline interesting to me.  For one so young she had a moral compass and dignity that anyone of any age should strive for.  Her sister, Lydia was more than willing to throw caution to the wind to get what and who she wanted causing problems not only for herself but for Hannah as well.  It was disheartening to see Lydia pushing every boundary she could ,creating even more trouble for Hannah including with the church leaders.

There are several characters in the story, some that are likeable and some that are intolerable but placing them in each others lives made this a really good story that held my attention throughout.  I would love to read more of this genre by the author.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and was under no obligation to write a review.  All opinions are my own.