Books · Holiday · Reviews

SPR Reviews: Holiday Edition (Part V): A Christmas Mourning, Miss Kane’s Christmas, and Montana’s Secret Santa

During the holiday season, the reviews I post on The Self-Rescue Princess will have a different focus as my reading habits change. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, I only read novels set during the holiday season or have a seasonal theme. The Holiday Edition reviews will focus on the holiday spirit in the stories, and I plan to review more than one book in each post. I decided to go with more than one because I find I read more at this time and I want to share as many holiday short stories, novellas and books that I can during this time frame.

This last week or so has been busy with holiday preparations between crafting gifts and our annual ornament exchange party we had on Saturday. I’m trying to catch up on my reading and reviewing. For this week, I have three wonderful short stories that will get you in the Christmas mood, and are perfect to read when your time is short.

achristmasmourningA Christmas Mourning by Laura Bradford

This is an unusual Christmas in that the story actually takes place during the summer but is about an event that happened at Christmas time twenty-six years ago. I thought a Christmas themed story that wasn’t  taking during the holiday season was a nice twist. Jakkob lost a treasured item of his mother’s when he was a child and carries that disappointment even as an adult. It was a tangible link to her past and he fills as if he took it away from her. Claire is heartbroken for Jakkob and decides to search for the missing treasure to return it to Jakkob in hopes it will heal him and the rift between his family.

I don’t want to give too many details and give the story away. This story had so much Christmas spirit and heart even though it takes place in the summer. The search for the missing Christmas heirloom was the center of the story and also connected to the relationships of the characters. The ending was pure Christmas love that could love one a little teary. This is one of my favorite reads this year.

misskane'schristmasMiss Kane’s Christmas by Caroline Mickelson

Three days before Christmas, Carol, Santa’s daughter, is being sent on a mission to change the mind of Ben who is planning on ruining Christmas for all children–by having his next writing project about how Santa is a lie published. Carol is certain she can sway Ben from not only ruining the Christmases of millions of children in the future, but the current one for his children. Her immediate goal is to ensure that Ben’s two children have a Merry Christmas even though their dad is doing everything he can to avoid it by eliminating anything Christmas related from their house…no decorations, Christmas cookies, music.

But what happens when a crazy for Christmas woman and a Christmas avoider start to have tender feelings for each other? Who will win out in the battle of how to celebrate or not celebrate the holiday season? And what will happen when Ben finds out Carol’s love for Christmas and Santa isn’t because she’s a little crazy, but the daughter of Santa? This was a sweet Christmas story (a little fast paced at times) that shows how children’s joy at the season can give an adult a different perspective on the holidays. Not to mention how people’s hearts can be a little more open to love–and Christmas magic.

montana secret santaMontana Secret Santa by Debra Salonen

Krista finds herself in quite the quandary when her partner, on doctor’s advice, needs to take it easy during the holiday. One of the ways for her partner to lose some of her stress is to hand it over to Krista–being a member of the Montana Secret Santa program. While Krista believes in the program, she’s not that interested in being on the board and being responsible for other’s Christmas as she isn’t quite that fond of the holiday herself–thanks to her dysfunctional family. But, she agrees in order to help out her friend and business partner…and it doesn’t hurt that a hunky newcomer is also joining the board.

Jonah returned to his hometown after selling his company to relax and figure out what he wanted to do next with his life. He finds himself not only roped into dog sitting for his parents, but also taking over as the president for the Secret Santa, a task he’s not too interested in until he discovers the sexy woman his dog charges nearly trampled was also on the committee. Maybe helping out the non-profit wasn’t such a terrible idea after all. He did have plenty of time on his hands.

I really enjoyed Montana Secret Santa. Naturally, it contained both a holiday theme and setting as it’s set during a very cold Christmas season in Montana. I loved that the story revolved around a group who has set out to make Christmas better for members in the town. The romance between Krista and Jonah blossomed from their volunteering with the non-profit and in the process getting to know each other. There was some Christmas angst at times, a little over the top reactions from Krista, but the to-dos on the list during the holiday season (added onto the normal everyday tasks) can make anyone lose it. Especially when the added stress of complicated family relationships. I can definitely see this as  Hallmark Countdown to Christmas movies. This is one of the list of one of my favorite holiday reads for this year.

Advertisements
Books · Holiday · Reviews

SRP Reviews: Holiday Edition (Part IV)–Getting in the Spirit, Christmas Spirit, and With Love, Christmas (Hallmark Movie)

During the holiday season, the reviews I post on The Self-Rescue Princess will have a different focus as my reading habits change. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, I only read novels set during the holiday season or have a seasonal theme. The Holiday Edition reviews will focus on the holiday spirit in the stories, and I plan to review more than one book in each post. I decided to go with more than one because I find I read more at this time and I want to share as many holiday short stories, novellas and books that I can during this time frame.

gettinginspiritGetting in the Spirit: Naughty and Nice in Sapphire Falls by Erin Nicholas

Levi Spencer had a huge wake up call about his reckless behavior when a car accident could’ve ended his life. To help him accomplish his new calmer life style, he takes his brother up on the offer to visit Sapphire Falls for the holiday season and agrees to let his brother set him up with a nice, sweet, country girl for the Christmas formal.

Kate wants nothing more than one happy Christmas. When she was growing up, her parents ran from it and as an adult she’s had one disastrous Christmas after the one. Her friend Phoebe (Levi’s brother’s wife) tells her the way to get her wish is to come to Sapphire Falls, a place that knows how to do Christmas, and to sweeten the deal, Phoebe will set her friend up with a sweet country boy for the Christmas formal. How could Kate turn down that offer? The only small issue is that Phoebe and her husband will be away for a few days when Kate first gets there, but the town and the country boy will take care of her.

But there is a little mishap and Levi and Kate match –and when this couple finds their way to each other, Christmas turns into a very steamy holiday. The Christmas setting is perfect. I want to go to Sapphire Falls for the holidays, and I do like how the background of Christmas heightened the feelings of romance and blossoming love between the couple. Getting in the Spirit is the first part of the couple’s romance and there are two other stories to follow. Disclaimer: For those who like sweet romances please note this is a steamy story.

christmasspiritChristmas Spirit by Morgana Best.

Prudence has traveled all over as medium sharing the impressions she the dead reveal to her to their loved ones. Her world is turned upside down when she sees her first ghost, a detective who was murdered and needs help from the only person who can see him–Prudence.

Prudence had arrived home, planning to get some rest before preparing for the arrival of her relatives who were visiting for Christmas and instead finds herself being drawn into a murder investigation. Prudence finds the holiday season a little depressing since her divorce and an estrangement with her daughter so the investigation allows her to focus on something else.

This story is set during Christmas time but the holiday itself doesn’t feature a role in the story besides the added stresses that time of year can bring, especially to those who feel alone. The mystery aspect is the stronger element in the story so if you prefer stories where Christmas time isn’t the focus, this is the read for you.

With Love, Christmas Key ArtWith Love, Christmas (Countdown to Christmas Hallmark Movie)

Melanie finds a great amount of joy in everything to do with the Christmas season, her co-worker Donovan feels the opposite. What is she to do when she draws his name in the Secret Santa exchange–and also is teamed up with him to work on an ad campaign to run during Christmas? Her answer is discover why he’s so Bah humbug about the holidays and show him what there is to love about the season.

This is one of my favorite movies of the season. I love the sweet chemistry between the couple and the way they fell in love seemed natural and I could see it happening in real life. I enjoyed how they were getting to know each other through not just working together but in Melanie’s Secret Santa emails. I love how their differences were worked out for the couple even though they hadn’t realized that they were smoothing out the areas that could keep them apart. The holiday setting and theme really added to the romance and I don’t think this particular story could take place during any other time of the year. This is one of those Hallmark Christmas movies that increases my Christmas spirit. I’ll be honest here and admit one of my dreams and goals is to write a Christmas story that has this much Christmas heart and spirit.

 

 

Books · Holiday · Reviews

SRP REVIEWS: HOLIDAY EDITION (PART III) – Better Off Thread, Nurturing That Spark, and Trouble Under the Mistletoe

During the holiday season, the reviews I post on The Self-Rescue Princess will have a different focus as my reading habits change. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, I only read novels set during the holiday season or have a seasonal theme. The Holiday Edition reviews will focus on the holiday spirit in the stories, and I plan to review more than one book in each post. I decided to go with more than one because I find I read more at this time and I want to share as many holiday short stories, novellas and books that I can during this time frame.
betteroffthreadBetter Off Thread by Amanda Lee
The Christmas season is upon Marcy and her friends and she’s busy at the Seven-Year Stitch helping customers get ready for the holidays, but not so much that she can’t take some time off to help her friend Captain Moe by being an elf to his Santa Claus for sick children at the hospital. With Angus along for the adventure, Marcy arrives at the hospital to find that Captain Moe isn’t all too happy with the hospital administrator who is later found murdered–and Captain Moe is the now the suspect.
Since this is a mystery, it can be hard to say that a book has Christmas cheer as a murder is involved but this story has plenty of Christmas atmosphere and joy. The murder isn’t gruesome and while there are threats and dire happenings (it is a murder mystery) those parts of the story don’t overwhelm or take away from the Christmas theme and setting of the story. I don’t like to give away too much of the plot, but for anyone and for anyone concerned about children being in jeopardy since the crime took place in the hospital and started with Captain Moe and Marcy entertaining sick children, I’d like to reassure that no children come to harm.I loved seeing how Marcy interacted with her customers and “watching” her create Christmas ornaments and gifts. All the pieces of the story (mystery, romance, Christmas) flowed together and complemented each other perfectly. This was a great Christmas mystery that not only gave me the Christmas feels but also got me in the crafting…which is good since I have some presents to make.nurturingthatsparkNurturing That Spark by Sandra Sookoo

All Morgan wants is a lovely Christmas holiday with her niece, and what she gets is a teenager more enamored with her electronic devices than creating special holiday memories with the aunt who loves her. Morgan believes the perfect solution is a holiday vacation in a rural spot with limited internet connection. What she gets instead is a sullen teen–and could it be possible a love of her life?

Carter is a single father who’s used to it being him and his son and is happy with his life but wouldn’t mind a someone special to add into his family. Out on his park ranger rounds, he meets Morgan and can’t deny the instant spark between them. But can two people really fall in love in a short amount of time? And were their differences too much for a solid relationship ever to be built on?

Nurturing that Spark had a Christmas setting and theme in the book. Morgan wants a connection with her family, holiday memories and love that they can build on, and she runs into problem after problem trying to get her niece on board. The harder she tries, the more the teen rejects her ideas and plans. I felt bad for Morgan because she wanted so much to create the perfect holidays and her niece didn’t seem interested. I liked seeing the interaction between Morgan, her niece, Carter and his young son and how they created a family holiday from two small families who both had felt they were missing something. I loved that Morgan’s spirits picked up as she started finding hope in having the type of Christmas experience she wished for. There is some family angst, but nothing too dramatic that takes away from the holiday-feel-goodness that I cherish in holiday stories.

troublemistletoeTrouble Under the Mistletoe by Rebecca Barrett

Trouble the cat and Billie Dean, the human he’s staying with, are having a rather mundane Christmas Eve until the man Billie Dean loves and who went was deployed overseas is now back in town. But something isn’t quite right about the business dealings going on in Billie Dean’s father’s dealership and Trouble is determined to find out the truth.

This short story has a holiday setting, a mystery, and a sweet romance wrapped up into it. Trouble is definitely the star and I loved his voice. It had just enough angst in it to feel the characters concerns and worries without it taking over the holiday feels of the story. It’s the perfect length when you’d love to read a complete story but don’t have much time for reading.

 

 

Books · Holiday · Reviews

SRP REVIEWS: HOLIDAY EDITION (PART II) – Merry Ex-Mas, Tender Hearts, and The Mistletoe Inn (HALLMARK MOVIE)

During the holiday season, the reviews I post on The Self-Rescue Princess will have a different focus as my reading habits change. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, I only read novels set during the holiday season or have a seasonal theme. The Holiday Edition reviews will focus on the holiday spirit in the stories, and I plan to review more than one book in each post. I decided to go with more than one because I find I read more at this time and I want to share as many holiday short stories, novellas and books that I can during this time frame.

merryexmasMerry Ex-Mas by Sheila Roberts

The holidays aren’t quite that merry for some of the women in Icicle Falls: Cass’s daughter is engaged and wants to get married this Christmas and have her father (Cass’s ex) and his new wife stay at Cass’s house, Charlene’s ex-husband waltzes back into her life with apologies and a renewed love for her, and Ella is trying to get used to being divorced which is hard when you still live with your ex. But, all is not what it seems and it will take the spirit of the holiday to help the women sort out truth from fiction. I love how this story shows the struggles of three women trying to find the Christmas spirit when it would be easier just to let it remain lost. This book has a nice balance of holiday setting, holiday theme, and the angst that can make us want to give up trying to maintain  holiday cheer for those that we love (and who sometimes create our trying moments).

tenderheartsTender Hearts by Gail Delaney

Billy and Erin met while they were both in Hawaii on vacation. Erin was sure their time together was only a vacation fling and not true love so she slipped out of Billy’s room–and life–only to find she needed to venture back into his life since they created one together.

This story takes place over many months, ending during the Christmas season. This was one of my favorite books as the characters felt real and had a great chemistry together, even when they were at odds with other. The issues they were trying to overcome came across as natural rather than obstacles created so the couple could struggle with being together. The ending was beautiful and poignant, a perfect Christmas story ending. (Currently, it’s one of my favorites.) I don’t normally add disclaimers but I wanted to let readers know this book does have some heartbreaking scenes of a very ill baby which might be hard for some readers, especially during the holiday season.

the mistletoe innAnd last is another holiday movie review, Mistletoe Inn (A Hallmark Countdown to Christmas Movie)- This movie is based on the book The Mistletoe Inn by Richard Paul Evans. Kimberly finds herself single just in time for the holidays when her boyfriend dumps her because she isn’t serious (like him!) about her writing. Kimberly has dreamed of being a writer but seems to allow her insecurities to hold her back from her dream. She finally decides to prove her ex wrong by going to a writing retreat that takes place in the Mistletoe Inn around Christmas time. I love a good romance, especially a Christmas one, and this one also throws in writing. I understood Kimberly as I struggle with some of her insecurities and being desperate for others approval. The holiday setting was perfect. I loved her love for Christmas (another thing I had in common with the heroine) and also how the famous (but never before seen in public) romance writer compared writing to decorating a Christmas tree. I hadn’t thought I’d come away with some good writing advice from the movie! This was a heartfelt Christmas movie and I thought the characters had a wonderful chemistry together. It was just what I love in a Christmas movie: small-time angst, getting to know and trust yourself and others, and love being realized and born during the holiday season.

Books · Holiday · Reviews

SRP Reviews: Holiday Edition (Part I) – Twelve Days of Christmas, A Christmas Wish (Hallmark Movie), and Double Deck the Halls

During the holiday season, the reviews I post on The Self-Rescue Princess will have a different focus as my reading habits change. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, I only read novels set during the holiday season or have a seasonal theme. The Holiday Edition reviews will focus on the holiday spirit in the stories, and I plan to review more than one book in each post. I decided to go with more than one because I find I read more at this time and I want to share as many holiday short stories, novellas and books that I can during this time frame.

Happy Holidays! This year, I feel the need to start my holiday reading and viewing early. I don’t know what it is (okay I do but I don’t want to mention it and poke a hole in my happy bubble) so I decided to jump right into the entertainment that always cheers me up and boosts my spirits–Christmas/Holiday reading time. I’m going to shake things up a little bit this year by also including some reviews of Christmas/holiday movies (mainly Hallmark). As always, if you have suggestions and want to share your favorite holiday reads and movies, leave a comment. Now on to the reviews,

twelve days of christmasTwelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber.

The heroine in this story, Julia, loves the holiday season, actually she loves being cheerful and bubbly all year round. It’s who she is and can’t imagine anyone wanting to go through life in a sour mood and not acknowledging people–like her neighbor Cain. When he takes her newspaper by mistake (or maybe even deliberately) it’s not the action that pushes Julia over the edge but his lack of remorse and refusal to apologize. She vents to her best-friend and is given the idea of killing Cain with kindness. Since Julia needs an idea to blog about for the end of the year, she agrees. It doesn’t seem to work at first, but over time Julia finds the kindness magic working on Cain–and surprisingly on herself. This was a heartwarming holiday story that fits nicely into the spirit of the Christmas season. At times, I found Julia a little over-the-top in her actions, but as I got to know her more, I understood what was driving her. It was the perfect, sweet Christmas romance to get my seasonal reading off to a happy start.

a christmas wishA Wish for Christmas (A Hallmark Channel Countdown to Christmas Movie)- Sara is the type of friend and co-worker everyone that I know would love to have: conscientious, friendly, helpful and agreeable…but sometimes too helpful and agreeable to where she is taken advantage of. After an idea of hers is stolen by her boss, Sara makes a wish that she was braver. How I understand that! There are many times in my life that I wish I could’ve stood up for myself more or been honest when asked directly about how I felt about something, or if I could do something for someone, I’d say yes because I didn’t want to disappoint or upset the other person even though it meant giving up something I wanted to do. Well, with the help of Santa, Sara is finally able to speak her mind. What I loved most about this movie, (there are two things but one involves Sara) is that even though Sara is tougher she never loses her niceness. She is able to stand up for herself without being rude or mean about it. I have read/seen other books/movies with this theme and the heroine usually has a huge chip on her shoulder and what she says and does is quite mean. Not in a Wish for Christmas Wish, the spirit of the holidays (kindness, love, thinking of others) is still there while Sara learns she can be both strong and kind. The other thing I loved about this movie was Molly. When Sara tells her best friend how she’s been taken advantage of her, instead of Molly throwing a fit and ending the friendship, she realizes Sara is right and apologizes and changes her behavior. This is one of new favorite Christmas movies of this season (so far). I don’t know if it’s because of the “realness” of the characters or the message that strong doesn’t equal mean or selfish and you can look out for yourself while still caring and doing for others.

doubledeckThe last review for this edition is Double Deck the Halls by Gretchen Archer. First, I must say isn’t that about the cutest holiday cover you’ve ever seen? I know I love it and wish there was an ornament for it…but I digress. This is a short crime caper story in the Davis Way universe but features Granny Dee as the point of view character. The story is set around Christmas Time where Granny is visiting her granddaughter and two great-granddaughters for the holidays…and to play in a slot tournament. I don’t want to give away too much lets just say that a Christmas personality that one usually trusts is up to some horrible shenanigans and Granny Dee must save the day. It was an enjoyable story, cute, not too much angst (how I love my holiday reading) and the perfect “size” to get in some needed holiday themed reading if you only have a short amount of time (like waiting in long lines, baking cookies, etc.).

Stay tuned for more holiday reviews of books…and a few movies. I’m always eager to add to my holiday book and movie collection so please share! Happy Almost Holidays!

Books · Holiday · Reviews

Top 10 Reads of Christmas Past

Since 2011, I have posted holiday reviews on my blog. Usually, I start the week of Thanksgiving and end the first week of January. I’m starting early this year as I’ve found a need to read some cheerful books to pick up my spirits. The last year has been a little stressful at times and I want to be in the right frame of mind for the approaching holiday season.

To start off my holiday reviewing season, I’m going to list my Top 10 holiday reads from 2011-2016. The reviews for my Christmas past reads can be found by clicking on the category tags and selecting reviews.

Happy Holiday Reading!

Top 10 Reads of Christmas Past

  1. On Strike for Christmas by Sheila Roberts
  2. Orphaned Hearts by Shawna K. Williams
  3. Call Me Mrs. Miracle by Debbie Macomber
  4. Lakeshore Christmas by Susan Wiggs
  5. Santa’s Sleigh is on its Way to West Virginia by Eric James
  6. Bah, Humbug! by Heather Horrocks
  7. Lowcountry Bordello by Susan M. Boyer
  8. Home for Christmas by Melissa McClone
  9. All I Want for Christmas by Nora Roberts
  10. Bella’s Christmas Bake Off by Sue Watson

 

Books · Holiday · Reviews

SRP Reviews: Holiday Edition (Part II): The Reading Group: December, All Was Calm, and Santa’s Sleigh Is On Its Way to West Virginia

During the holiday season, the reviews I post on The Self-Rescue Princess will have a different focus as my reading habits change. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, I only read novels set during the holiday season or have a seasonal theme. The Holiday Edition reviews will focus on the holiday spirit in the stories, and I plan to review more than one book in each post. I decided to go with more than one because I find I read more at this time and I want to share as many holiday short stories, novellas and books that I can during this time frame.

I had some unexpected holiday plans pop up at the end of last (couldn’t turn down seeing Moana with my two favorite little people) so I didn’t get around to posting more holiday reviews. And then yesterday, I conducted the great holiday gift hunt of 2016 which resulted in my husband finding the missing gifts in the living room where I had been wrapping. The only place I hadn’t torn apart searching for the missing movie gifts. (Next time, it’ll be the first place I look though I’m hoping there isn’t one.) On to the reviews for Part II of my holiday reading.

reading-group-decemberThe Reading Group: December by Della Parker: This book is set during the Christmas holiday and features Grace, a member of the reading group. The holiday season isn’t very happy for Grace as her family is struggling through a lot of hardships, but Grace doesn’t want to damper anyone else spirits so bears the burden alone. This story is about what happens when the facade Grace has constructed cracks. I don’t want to give the plot away, but there is a light in the dark for Grace and her family, and she sees the holiday spirit come alive.

all-was-calmThe next book in this edition is All Was Calm by Julie Carobini. This is a cozy mystery set during Christmas time. Tasha’s friend is on the suspect list when the owner of the camp she works for dies and it doesn’t seem the police are looking at anyone else so Tasha is on the case for the truth. I loved reading about the camp and the small town where Tasha now lives. Reading the descriptions of the normally, quiet town made me wish I had a trip planned in a mountain cabin resort (even though I’m not big on cold or snow). There were also many sweet moments between Tasha and her boyfriend which helped give the book a holiday feel.

santas-sleigh-on-its-wayMy last book for this post is Santa’s Sleigh Is On It’s Way to West Virginia by Eric James. Every year, I try to read a new to me children’s or middle grade book. I saw this one at Sam’s Club, and since it had West Virginia in the title, I had to get it. I absolutely love this book. It has the perfect balance of rhyme in the narration and the illustrations are delightful. I love how the story incorporates so many of the cities in West Virginia. (Note: The book is available for every state.) Currently, this is my favorite holiday read of the season.