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.

 

 

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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!

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

 

SRP Review: Holiday Edition (Part 1): An Island Christmas, A Christmas Bonus, All I Want For Christmas

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.

It’s holiday reading time! This year I’m a little behind schedule (two illnesses, multitude of Christmas gift crafting, writing book 6 in the Scrap This series, and preparing for the tax season is to blame) and I hope to get some more reading done now that two huge items on my to-do list are complete (mermaid tail blanket and tax courses). But I did manage to work in some reading time to save my sanity and give my overworked brain a rest.

an-island-christmasMy first book of the season was An Island Christmas by Nancy Thayer. This book took place during Christmas time on Nantucket, and it also has a Christmas wedding. The Gordon family comes together over the holidays for a wedding and there is some meddling and doubts that might put a damper on the big day. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away so all I will say is that this was what I’d consider a perfect Christmas story–family angst (but not too heavy), wonderful descriptions of the holiday appearance of the town, family get together, and most of all a sweet holiday spirit where there are lessons learned and a great understanding and appreciation at the end. It was the perfect book to start off my holiday reading.

achristmasbonuscoverThe next book I read was The Christmas Bonus by Patty Froese. Millie agrees to help her boss, Andrew, with a work project over the Christmas holiday and finds herself swayed into staying with his family. There is plenty of family angst in the story, and one of the issues is very heavy but is handled in a way where it doesn’t take away the hope and spirit of the story. At first, everything seems simple in the characters lives but like real people, the reader starts to learn of the struggles each one faces. I loved seeing how over the holidays, a time usually spent with family, Millie and Andrew not only come to realize how well they do know each other, but also learn some important (if at times not flattering) things about themselves and realize their roles in some of the issues they are facing.

all-i-want-for-christmasThe last book for this edition is All I Want for Christmas by Nora Roberts. This was a cute, sappy, heart-warming Christmas story…think Hallmark Christmas movie…which means it was written just the way I love holiday stories. The story takes places over a few months time but the Christmas hope is spread throughout the book as it’s centered on the twins big gift for Christmas which they are keeping a secret from their dad. The one thing twins Zeke and Zach want for Christmas is for their single dad to fall in love so they can have a mom. I loved the antics of the twins and how the issue keeping the couple apart felt real but wasn’t too traumatic as to dampen the sweet spirit of the story. I found myself smiling while I was reading this book.

I hope to have another edition up by the end of the week. Now that I’m all done with my courses and test taking for the upcoming tax season, I have more reading time. I can’t wait until it’s time to turn on the Christmas lights, sit in the recliner, and let myself enter into the world of another book.

 

 

 

 

SRP Review Holiday Edition (Part IV): The Perfect Gift, Snowed In, and A Very Country Christmas

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.

The holiday season is over and with it comes the packing up of our Christmas decorations and putting away the holiday theme and setting books until the end of the year. While I’ll miss reading them, I’m looking forward to reading mysteries, romances, and whatever else catches my eye that is set during any time of the year and explores other themes.

the perfect giftThe first book to finish up the list for this (last) year’s holiday reading is The Perfect Gift by Serenity Woods. In this story, Brock has been grieving for his deceased wife for two years and wants to explore getting into a new relationship; he still loves and misses his wife but yearns to have love in his life again. Erin had met Brock online through a chat group for parents who have children that have chronic illnesses and while hesitant at first, agrees to see if their online friendship can blossom into anything more. This book has a holiday setting and I enjoyed seeing Christmastime taking place in another country. And reading about Christmas in a warmer weather fit this year as where I live we had record highs. I liked how the Christmas season blended into the story without it overshadowing the growing romance or having Christmas being the sole reason for the couple being together. Note: This book does have steamy scenes.

snowed innThe next book was Snowed In by Danielle Lee Zwissler that had a Christmas theme and setting to the story. The heroine Lacy is on her way to visit her family for Christmas when her car breaks down on a snowy road. Grayson happens to be driving and stops to help the damsel in distress. Lacy isn’t so thrilled with being rescued but agrees to accompany the stranger when he mentions he’s heading to the inn where she was planning on staying. When she arrives, Lacy is greeted with warmth and love, something she has longed for all her life. Even though she was heading to her family, she never felt a sense of belonging and she does with Grayson and his family. This was a sweet story with a lovely message about finding and accepting love from where it’s offered. I felt that the holiday theme was so strong that the story was a little rushed at times.

a very country christmasThe last book for this holiday reading binge was A Very Country Christmas by Zara Stoneley. Christmastime. Couple in love. Horses. Wonderful setting. What more could a girl want in a holiday story? Lottie is looking forward to having a lovely, romantic Christmas dinner (cooked by her) with her fiance…before she knows it, the romantic meal has turned into a large gathering of friends and family. I loved the antics of the secondary characters and wish I could say more, but I don’t want to give away the ending. This was an enjoyable, feel-good read and was the perfect book as this year’s last holiday read.

 

 

SRP Holiday Review Edition (Part I): Do You Believe in Santa, Bella’s Christmas Bake Off, and Get Yourself Organized for Christmas

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’m so excited! It’s the time of the year where I pull out all my holiday themed books (and sweaters…yes, I’m one of the people who wear them and I don’t care that it’s a no on every fashion list) and settle into to do some serious reading. I seem to read more at this time of the year than any other. If you have any suggestions for titles (adult, young adult, children books) please let me know as I can never have too many holiday books.

do you believe in santaThe first book for this year is Do You Believe in Santa? by Sierra Donovan. Stories with a Christmas theme or setting are my favorites. Every year, I look forward to diving into these types of stories as the happiness and goodwill melt away all my cares and contribute to my enjoyment of the holiday season. What I enjoy most about holiday stories is the magic weaved into them through details of the setting, atmosphere, and the love-of-Christmas embraced by the characters. Do You Believe in Santa? fit perfectly into my holiday reading needs.

From the first introduction of Mandy and the store she works in, I knew I was in for a magical time. I loved seeing Mandy as a little girl and knowing that as an adult, she still embraced—and found a way to make a living—from her love of Christmas and Santa Claus. The only thing missing in Mandy’s life is true love. It’s hard for her as the eligible bachelors in town, remembering about her defense of Santa, don’t take her seriously or want her to change.
When a new man arrives in town, Mandy decides to step out of her comfort zone and agree to a date. The romance is written in a sweet and honest way. (I had started to type an example but deleted it, not wanting to spoil the story.) I loved seeing Mandy show him her town, and her love for the holidays, and watching Jake fall under the spell of Christmas. Do You Believe in Santa? kept the Christmas spirit throughout even though the majority of the book took place before the holiday season.

bella's christmas bakeoffThe next book was Bella’s Christmas Bake Off by Sue Watson.  Amy is blissfully baking away and looking forward to Christmas when her husband arrives home and announces he’s leaving her. The timing comes as a shock to Amy, though not the news itself as she knows their marriage has been on the rocks for a while, but how could he leave her before the holidays. I thought the same thing. Why tell her then when he knew how much the holidays meant to his wife? Then again, why would a man who’d run around on his wife care about her love of a particular season?

Amy turns to her favorite holiday program to try and gain back some of her positive and happy feelings of the holidays, even though it does bring some bittersweet memories as the host was her childhood best friend Bella. The girls had a falling out, which Amy caused, and the friendship never recovered. It is one of the regrets of Amy’s life. When watching the show, Amy learns that the recipes Bella uses were Amy’s mother. A war is now on. With some maneuverings, Amy wins a contest and be spending some time with her former best friend. Amy plans on using the time to right her wrongs, have Bella’s wrongs righted, and maybe with the Christmas spirit in the air some hearts and minds will open.

I’ll admit I was a little worried if the book would fulfill my holiday reading needs. While the book has some heavy moments and painful pasts for the characters, it never took over. When I’m in a holiday reading mood, I want a book that will refresh my spirit, make me a little teary because of love and goodwill not sorrow. I want a story that will showcase the best of the holiday spirit: love, second chances, wonder, happiness, and of course scenes showing Christmas in all its beautiful (and sometimes dysfunctional) wonder. Bella’s Christmas Bake Off fulfilled all my needs.

get yourself organized for the holidaysAnd the last book for this part of my holiday reviews is Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp. I like planning and am always on the lookout for ideas on how to improve upon my current methods. And since Christmas is my holiday love and I go all out–decorating, baking, movie watching, reading, clothing, etc– I figured a book just on organizing for the holiday was a perfect read for me. I even started a holiday planner to keep notes of everything I need to do, want to do, and should be doing as in my quest to get it all in, I sometimes miss something that gives me a little pang of regret.

The one thing that the book advises doing, and that I’m having trouble with, is downsizing the must-do list. I don’t know if I can, or even want to give anything up. Except for the holiday season (okay and book launches), my life is pretty tame and one day rolls into the next. For the holidays, I like feeling that every day is special and I have something fun and different to do. The one take-away I do keep in mind is not to let my plans overwhelm my family. I make sure that I have some must-dos holiday-specialness activities that I can do on my own…reading, watching movies, crafting. Something that gives me the feeling I need and doesn’t make the holidays something my family comes to dread.

The way the book is organized made it very easy for me to include those specific ideas into my Christmas planner so I could spend more time decorating the planner rather than trying to make sure I included all the categories I’d need.

My Favorite Holiday Books

When the holiday season arrives, I live to immerse myself in it by also reading and watching holiday themed and setting books and shows.  I usually wait until Thanksgiving before settling in for holiday reads, but when the mood calls for it, I have been known to read one … or two … earlier to start brewing the holiday spirit. Here are some of my favorite reads that I’ve featured on my holiday reviews:

  1. homicidal holidays coverChesapeake Crime Homicidal Holidays. Okay, this one is cheating a little bit as I helped choose the stories for this anthology. It was such a thrill for me to do so as I love holiday books and devote from Thanksgiving to Jan 1 to reading nothing but holiday themed and setting stories. In this anthology, it’s not just the Christmas season that’s written about but Groundhog Day and Talk Like a Pirate Day. I must say all of the stories are wonderful and range from cute to a little on the dark side but no matter the mood of the story, they are all well-written and cleverly crafted.

 

Heartache Motel

2. Heartache Motel by Terri Austin, Larissa Reinhart, and LynDee Walker. These are three short stories featuring different heroines which are set around Christmas time (but not the same Christmas) at the Heartache Motel in Memphis. This anthology includes the stories Diners Keepers, Losers Weepers by Terri L. Austin, Quick Sketch by Larissa Reinhart, and Dateline Memphis by LynDee Walker. After reading this anthology, I want to go to Memphis during Christmas time though I’d pick a different motel to stay at. Each story in this book had its own voice, even though all three contained humor, mystery, and a strong, sassy heroine. I loved how the setting and time frame was a true part of the stories and not a gimmick. These three mysteries wouldn’t be the same if they were someplace else or at a different time. And, I must admit I’d love to get one of Cherry’s holiday wear creations. I’m one of those people who actually adore and wear Christmas theme sweaters.

  1. call me mrs. miracleCall Me Mrs. Miracle. I’ve read both of the Mrs. Miracle books, and this one is favorite. Call Me Mrs. Miracle, the second book featuring Mrs. Miracle, had more of a Christmas story line as part of the plot centers around a toy store at Christmas time and a little boy’s Christmas wish. Like with Mrs. Miracle, there is also a Hallmark movie based on this book. I will also admit there is one element of the book that I like a lot better in the movie than I do in the book and wish it was the same. I don’t want to give it away so won’t say anymore. It didn’t change the story much, but to me it made the Christmas spirit come through more in the movie than in the book. This book left me a little teary-eyed (which is hard to do) and has moved up the list as one of my favorite holiday reads. It had the right amount of emotion, plot, holiday setting and Christmas magic feeling to make it a perfect holiday read for me.

lakeshore christmas4. Lakeshore Christmas by Susan Wiggs. A couple of my favorite holiday (and general) book elements were in this story; Christmas time setting, a librarian as the heroine, and a love of Christmas by one character and the other who dislikes it. I love holiday stories where the hero and heroine are at opposite ends of the spectrum and land up coming together in the end. I loved the fact that the hero had been a child star made famous by a holiday movie and how that factored into his dislike of the holiday. At times, I kept debating which movie the author had in mind when writing the story. This is a contemporary love story and has a part that is a little steamy (very tastefully done). Lakeshore Christmas was one of those stories that had me totally immersed in the setting and the town. I’d lose track of time and didn’t want to put the book down. I wish I could visit Lakeshore next holiday season. There was one element of the story I found myself a little disappointed in as there was no ‘announcement’ from the characters about something they discovered or suspected, but as I thought about it was the perfect ending. I checked this book out from the library but will probably go buy a copy as I know I’ll want to read this again.

5. bahhumbugBah, Humbug! by Heather Horrocks. This book would make a great Hallmark Christmas movie. I could just picture this story on the television. I loved how the author weaved a serious issue with funny moments. The hero isn’t a Christmas guy and once the reader knows why he and his family just go through the motions, your heart will ache for them. I love how the heroine kindly, and with sass, pulls him into the Christmas spirit. The hero at first comes across rough and tough but his tender side springs up pretty fast. I loved the banter between the hero and heroine, ‘watching’ them together always made me smile. I will admit this book has one of my pet peeves (won’t mention so I don’t give away the story), but the author made me love these characters so much (hero and heroine plus the supporting cast) that I didn’t care.