“This tender love story between two wounded people whom God brings together for healing is a book readers will enjoy anytime—but especially at Christmas!” --Francine Rivers, New York Times bestselling author of Redeeming Love and A Voice in the Wind
Amid war and the fading dream of the Confederacy, a wounded soldier and a destitute widow discover the true meaning of Christmas—and sacrificial love.
Recently widowed, Aletta Prescott struggles to hold life together for herself and her six-year-old son. With the bank threatening to evict them, she discovers an advertisement for the Women’s Relief Society auction and applies for a position—only to discover it’s been filled. Then a chance meeting with a wounded soldier offers another opportunity—and friendship. But can Aletta trust this man?
Captain Jake Winston, a revered Confederate sharpshooter, suffered a head wound at the Battle of Chickamauga. When doctors deliver their diagnosis, Jake fears losing not only his greatest skill but his very identity. As he heals, Jake is ordered to assist with a local Women’s Relief Society auction. He respectfully objects. Kowtowing to a bunch of “crinolines” isn’t his idea of soldiering. But orders are orders, and he soon discovers this group of ladies—one, in particular—is far more than he bargained for.
Set against the backdrop and history of the Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee, Christmas at Carnton is a story of hope renewed and faith restored at Christmas.
My Review of Christmas at Carnton
Tamera Alexander gives us a beautiful novella sure to steal your heart and lighten your spirits with Christmas at Carnton.
Aletta Prescott is trying to hold her little family together. Since the death of her husband, a soldier fighting for the Confederacy, Aletta is doing what she can to provide for her, her six year old son and the baby she carries. When Aletta loses her job as a seamstress and her home is foreclosed by the bank, she has only 2 weeks to procure other employment. Knowing God never close a door without opening a window, Aletta discovers an advertisement for a pastry chef at Carnton Plantation. The pastry chef is to lead the Women’s Relief Society in a fund raiser for the hospital and wounded soldiers and Aletta is determined to win the temporary position.
When arriving at the beautiful Carnton Plantation, Aletta discovers she is a day late and the position already filled. But through Providence and a poor attitude by the new pastry chef, Mrs. McGavock takes her on despite her worries of her delicate condition. In addition, Aletta promises to build the life-size Nativity set when a local artisan is unable to do the job. Mrs. McGavock’s misgivings about her carpentry abilities are alleviated when Captain Jake Winston, a wounded veteran arrives under orders from General Bragg to aid in the fund-raiser for the cause. With Jake’s strength and Aletta’s skills the two become a perfect team.
As time goes on and the preparations for the fund-raiser and Christmas are coming to a head, Aletta and Jake discover they have feelings for one another. Jake is completely smitten with Aletta and has grown fond of her son, but is afraid to push so soon after her husband’s death. Aletta is drawn to Jake and can picture a life with him, but her feelings of guilt over the loss of her husband and her appending arrive of her baby keep her at arm’s length. As the fund-raiser comes to a close and Christmas arrives, Aletta and Jake’s time at Carnton is coming to an end. Jake and Aletta must spend the last few days overcoming their fears and trusting that God will provide them a future together.
Christmas at Carnton is a feel good novella that leaves you contented with a smile on your face. The story-line is delicate and the characters are easy to love. Aletta is a strong determined women with courage to face an uncertain future. Mrs. McGavock is a dynamic woman and independent with a giving heart. Jake is the perfect hero. Strong, handsome and fiercely loyal to those he loves. Watching the relationship between Jake and Aletta unfold was a delight. But my favorite character was Tempy. She was so giving and loving to everyone despite the life she lived as a slave. Tempy was always looking out for everyone else, always putting their needs ahead of hers. I especially loved the relationship Tempy and Aletta developed as they worked side by side in the Carnton kitchen. In addition, I also appreciated the beautiful friendship between Aletta’s son Andrew and Mrs. McGavock’s son Winder. They were a delight and added joviality and lightness to the book. The bond that grew between Jake and Andrew was almost like father and son and did not go unnoticed by a grateful Aletta.
On a side note, the author gave some interesting historical background on Carnton and some of the characters in her story. She also included some delicious recipes that Tempy and Aletta prepared in the kitchen they shared. I plan to try the shortbread and pumpkin bread recipes, but truth be told they all sound delicious. And I was delighted to hear there will be more novels coming surrounding Carton. This is one reader who will be anxiously awaiting their publication.
Christmas at Carnton is a must-read for the holidays. It is a delightful novella with everything you could want – history, romance, faith and Christmas. A beautiful piece of Historical Christian Fiction sure to please everyone.
I want to thank Thomas Nelson-Fiction via NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of Christmas at Carnton by Tamara Alexander for a fair and honest review.
Thankful for Cash $250 Giveaway
November 15th to December 15th
Could you use an extra $250 this holiday season? Here is your chance!!
The winner of this giveaway will receive $250 in Paypal Cash or a $250 Amazon.com Gift Card.Thanks to this amazing group of authors, bloggers and publisher for making this giveaway possible! Sponsor List I Am A Reader Auggie @ AuggieTalk Cynthia Luhrs Author Author Laurie Treacy Helen Smith Author S.T. Bende The Lovely Books Donna, My Life. One Story at a Time. Laurisa White Reyes, Author Simple Wyrdings Author Melissa Wright Bookworm Lisa Rockin' Book Reviews Krysten Lindsay Hager author Glistering: B's Blog Geybie's Book Blog Lori's Reading Corner Author Al Stone D.S. Venetta Book Reviews and Giveaways JeanBookNerd Coupons and Freebies Mom Taylor Dean Books Author Crystal Marcos Readers Realm Dorine White- Author Literary Winner Liana Gardner Dawn Malone, author Pretty Little Reader Author Tia Souders
Giveaway Details$250 in Paypal Cash or a $250 Amazon.com eGift Card Ends 12/15/17 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use money sent via Paypal or gift codes via Amazon.com. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the authors, bloggers and publishers on the sponsor list. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. a Rafflecopter giveaway
Can the secrets of the past be forgiven this Christmas?
Christmas is approaching on the island of Jersey, but Libby is feeling far from festive. Her police work and duties as vicar’s wife weigh heavily on her, she’s anxious about her troubled children, and now her best friend, Stella, has suddenly turned against her, citing a mysterious family grudge.
Libby is devastated by Stella’s unexpected coldness. But then her father shows her a diary written by her great-aunt Queenie, which sheds light on a long-hidden secret—one rooted in love, loyalty and betrayal. Writing during the Nazi occupation of Jersey in the winter of 1941, Queenie reveals a community torn apart by illicit romance, heartbreak and revenge—and by dark acts of fear and desperation.
The more Libby immerses herself in Queenie’s journal, the more she understands why its secrets still haunt her family and Stella’s. Christmas is a time of forgiveness, but is the treachery of their shared past too shameful to be forgotten?
My review of Rebecca Boxall's Christmas on the Coast
Christmas on the Coast by Rebecca Boxall is the delightful holiday read sure to bring a smile to your face and warmth to your heart.
Libby is feeling a little frazzled these days. With the holidays approaching her duties as a Vicar’s wife and a financial crime investigator is leaving her with little time for anything else. Add the pressure of three grown children who constantly need mum and dad to solve their problems and Libby is about to burst. Her one bright spot is her BFF Stella. Since childhood the two have shared everything including their friendship anniversary every year. But when Stella gets a startling phone call concerning the health of her mother, a secret is revealed upon her deathbed that changes everything for these two women. Stella, now refuses to talk with Libby, leaving her best friend bereft and confused. How will the two ever solve their divide if Stella refuses to talk?
When a minor accident leaves Libby’s mother with a sprained wrist, Libby decides to travel to Canterbury to spend time with her parents. As the days go by, Libby realizes this visit is what she needed to put everything in perspective. When she decides to share all her worries and concerns about her family, as well as her relationship with Stella, her father doesn’t seem surprised at the news. Instead he offers her a diary that her great-aunt Queenie kept when the island of Jersey was under Nazi occupation during WWII. This diary holds the key to the grudge that Stella’s mother has held against Libby’s family for many years. Armed with the diary, Libby travels back to Jersey and her family where the answers she craves and the love she deserves awaits her. Can Libby’s family put aside their needs for once to show Libby their appreciation and help with holiday preparations? Can Stella find it in her heart to let go of her mother’s past and animosity toward Libby and her family? You’ll have to read the book to find out!!
Personally speaking, Christmas on the Coast was not only a sweet Christmas book, but also a very clever and insightful read. I had all the drama of Libby’s children and their problems, while the mystery of Stella’s anger left me hanging on every page hoping for a clue. I especially enjoyed Queenie’s character and the vivid descriptions of Jersey during the German occupation. I also liked Libby and Libby’s parents. It was easy to see where Libby inherited her nurturing nature. The author alternating chapters between Libby and Queenie was pure genius. It kept me reading and turning the pages anxious to get to the next chapter. I didn’t want to put it down. And as all good Christmas novels promise, the ending was both satisfying and delightful.
For an enjoyable Christmas read to welcome in the holidays consider Christmas on the Coast by Rebecca Boxall. It will sweep you away to a small channel island where you will get a taste of England’s coast, holiday traditions and two families past and present. Light your tree, sit back with a good cuppa tea and be prepared to be entertained.
I want to thank Lake Union Publishing via NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of Christmas on the Coast by Rebecca Boxall for a fair and honest review.
A former professor descends into darkness in this provocative story of a Nazi soldier torn between duty and conscience.
East Prussia, Nazi Germany, 1939. History professor Erik Mueller is a model citizen and a family man. He’s also a decorated sergeant in the Gestapo. Proving his courage on the battlefields of Poland and the Soviet Union, and proud of the German army’s victories across Europe, he embraces what he thinks is the righteousness of the Third Reich’s cause.
But his loyalties are soon tested when he crosses paths with his old university friend Trude Bensheim. Forced into unemployment for being Jewish, Trude and her husband start a secret organization to help Jews escape Germany. But when they are betrayed by someone they thought they could trust, their lives hang in the balance.
Erik feels responsible for Trude’s capture, and he knows he’s in a position to help them. But when everything he holds dear is at stake, will he save his friends…or himself?
My Review of A Bitter Rain
James D. Shipman gives us a powerful and memorable WWII novel in A Bitter Rain. It’s 1939 and Erik Mueller, an unemployed historian, is now a member of the SS thanks to his wife’s connections to Karl Schmidt, an up and coming officer stationed at SS headquarters in Konigsberg. While Erik is grateful for the job and income, he is less than enthusiastic about going to war. Corina, his wife, is hungry to move up in the world and constantly prods Erik to do whatever he can to make that happen.
While Corina is fully indoctrinated and in line with all of the Nazi propaganda, Erik is skeptical and leery of the misleading nature and brainwashing of his countrymen against the Jewish population. Never does their differences of opinion become clearer than when Erik runs into his former friend Trude Bensheim from his university days. Erik is surprised and happy to see Trude, but Corina is livid. She wants nothing to do with his former Jewish friend and denounces his former friendship with her. Trude has only one thing in mind, to advance Erik through the ranks and to live by all the Nazi’s proclamations.
As war is declared and Germany attempts to take over Europe, Erik is forced into battle. Afraid, but determined, Erik displays stoicism in leading his men onto the frontlines of battle. His fortitude and bravery does not go unnoticed. His remaining men show him respect and loyalty and his superiors advance him quickly through the ranks. At home, Corina is happy with her rising star and sees herself climbing the social ladder. Unfortunately, for Trude and her family, Konigsberg, the war and the political ramifications of the Nazi party have become a terrifying ordeal. Borders are closed and passports are denied. Food is scarce and deportation is now a reality for her Jewish friends and neighbors. Trude knows it’s only a matter of time till they are caught and thus begins their personal nightmare.
While Erik enjoys the camaraderie of his commanding officer and the men he leads, a battle in a small Russian town seals his fate. Although he leads his men to victory, he disobeys an order from his commanding officer to kill a group of unarmed Russian prisoners. Knowing he will lose everything he has gained, Erik refuses the command. He is immediately arrested and taken back to Germany. Awaiting trial, he is beaten and humiliated by the high officers and the Nazi guards. Karl, for the sake of Corina, comes to his rescue again and gives him another chance. If he fails this time, it will cost him his life and possibly that of his family. Now stripped of his rank with a wife who refuses to acknowledge him, Erik leaves for Soldau, a concentration camp for Jewish prisoners where the vast majority are starved or worked to death. Erik’s new job is to confiscate Jewish prisoners’ property and turn it over to the government. As time goes by, Erik settles in trying to ignore what goes on behind the prison walls until he sees Trude. Now Erik must decide once again to stand his moral ground and help Trude escape and risk losing everything, even his very life.
I had a hard time putting this book down. Beautifully written with characters you’ll either love or hate, A Bitter Rain is a winner, especially for those who love a great WWII novel. I loved Trude and the lengths she was willing to go to protect her daughter. I liked Erik and his ability to put aside his own safety to take the high ground no matter what it cost. I disliked Gunther and Corina. Both of these characters were self-serving, greedy and desperately in need of a conscience. My favorite characters however, were minor characters. Captain Dutt, Friedrich, Schaefer and Frau Werner. These four showed kindness and empathy at a time when doing so could get you killed or worse. They were beautiful souls that enriched the story-line and added so much to the book. As all good books do I was reluctant to let these characters go.
On a side note, I greatly appreciated the historical commentary the author gave us on Konigsberg, East Prussia, the SS, Soldau Concentration Camp and Germany and the Nazi’s at the close of the book. Even though the characters in the book were fictitious, it was a stark reminder that the events were not.
A Bitter Rain is a must read for those who like drama, historical fiction or a good WWII novel. Filled with strong characters and an equally strong story-line, A Bitter Rain is a winner that will stay with you long after you turn the last page.
I want to thank Lake Union Publishing via NetGalley for an advanced copy of A Bitter Rain for a fair and honest review.
Stone Silence by Taylor Dean Great big beautiful love. Does it really exist? Everyone tells me it does. They say, “Spencer Elliott, don’t worry, you’ll find it one day. You just have to find the right man and when you do, it will surprise the heck out of you.” I’m still waiting for that heck of a surprise to hit. It has proven to be elusive thus far. I’m pretty sure the entire world is lying about love and the joke is on me. I know I want a man in my heart and in my life. Unfortunately, most men immediately push my OFF button and I lose interest quickly. Feeling pressure to prove I’m trying to find my soulmate, I finally give in and agree to a date. Huge mistake. Afterward I find myself abandoned in the middle of nowhere, in desperate need of help. That’s when I meet Stony by chance. He’s a silent and unsmiling man who intrigues me with his ability to keep going after life has knocked him down. Suddenly the abstract notion of love becomes tangible and within my reach. Once I experience it, I wonder how I ever lived without it. That’s when I stay with Stony by choice. But when Stony’s hidden past and present-day reality collide, his silence is broken. And the truth about his life nearly brings me to my knees. I can’t compete with ghosts from the past. I refuse to fight for a man’s love. He either loves me or he doesn’t. It’s as simple and as complicated as that. My only hope is . . . he does.
The Sound of Silence Series is a three book series.
Book One: Stone Silence, Spencer’s Story Book Two: Jailbird, Mia’s Story Book Three: Hothouse Flower, Shay’s Story
Each book has a happy ending and there are no cliffhangers. They are not standalones and should be read in order.
Hate waiting for the next book in a series?
You won't have to wait long!
Jailbird, Book Two will be released on December 1st, 2017
Hothouse Flower, Book Three will be released on January 1st, 2018
What readers are saying about STONE SILENCE:This story just wrapped me in its arms and held me tight. I adored the characters and never wanted the book to end. Dean weaves a heart-tugging romance like nobody else's business. Her books are always a feast to my literary mind and always go on my To-Read-Again pile once I finish.
-Charissa Stastny, Author
Once again Dean takes the raw pain and hurt many of us can relate to, and creates a perfectly romantic tale for readers to escape into, giving us hope, love, second chances and ultimately that believable happily ever after we all seek for as true romance lovers.
-Mylissa's Reviews and Book Thoughts
READ AN EXCERPT FROM STONE SILENCE:
“You like home improvement?” he asks.
“I love it. But let’s pick something we both like.”
“Let’s rock, paper, scissors it.”
“Excuse me?” I say, surprised at his suggestion. Again, the levity feels a little odd without an accompanying smile.
He holds out his hand. “Ready? If I win, it’s the baseball game, if you win, it’s home improvement.”
I’m still a little stunned and stare at him open-mouthed.
“You do know how to play rock, paper, scissors, right?”
Flustered, I say, “Yes, of course.”
“Okay then, let’s do this.”
I hold out my hand and he counts, “1, 2, 3 . . .”
He does paper and I do scissors. I win.
“Home improvement it is,” he says.
He flips to HGTV where an episode of House Hunters is playing. He settles into the recliner and seems content.
“You like this?” I ask. “I mean, really, we can watch whatever you’d like.”
“Used to be in the business. Now I just own several rentals.”
“What was your business?”
“Flipping houses. Selling them.”
Okay, that explains why he’s fine with watching HGTV. “You don’t mind watching this?”
“Don’t make me admit it.”
I laugh aloud at this funny man. His deadpan expression makes everything seem funnier than it really is. I can’t hide my smile as I stare at the TV. He’s an enigma and I want to solve the mystery. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Might not answer.”
“Can I ask anyway?” I say.
“How much time do you save in your life by never speaking in full sentences?”
He looks over at me with narrowed eyes, but I don’t back down.
“Eons,” he retorts. Then he mumbles, “Smart aleck.”
I laugh, but he remains . . . well, Stony.
I have to believe help will be in Roby.
But I can’t make it without water.
Now would be a good time for someone to ask me for a ride again. I contemplate finding a shady place to sit and wait for the rain that’s supposed to arrive this afternoon. The thought leads to a mental vision of me shivering in the bushes, drenched and stranded. I’m not sure which is the lesser of two evils. Plus, I can’t sit around and wait for rain water to quench my thirst. I know I don’t have that kind of time. All I know is Finn felt determined to get home early today so he could dodge the rain. Reportedly, torrential downfalls are headed this way. The news predicts flooding is going to be a problem again.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out.
Even though I feel utterly alone, the most alone I’ve ever felt in my life, I realize that I’m not really alone. When people love you, are you ever really alone? They’re always behind the scenes, thinking of you and hoping for your safety. I have people in my life who love me. I matter to them. If something happens to me, they will mourn my loss from their life. This buoys me. They are with me, strengthening me. I feel them with me now, coaxing me to not give up. I hear my mom’s voice in my head; I love you, Spencer, my precious daughter. I hear my dad’s voice; My baby girl, my beautiful baby girl. I hear my brother’s voice; Don’t you dare give up, Spencer. Don’t you do it.
He’s right. I can’t quit now. I’ve come too far.
I’ve been sitting for too long. I have to keep going. I can’t give in to delirium. I pull myself up to a standing position and fight the dizziness that overcomes me.
Even though I’m still standing in the harsh sunlight, I can now see angry storm clouds in the distance. The horizon holds that blurry, slanted look, the one that tells me it’s pouring rain in that neck of the woods. I wonder how soon it will arrive here. The humidity level has risen in the past half hour and I’m sweating profusely. My skin feels cool and moist, yet I’m burning up and goosebumps are covering my arms. An odd combination. My pulse is racing and the muscles in my legs are cramping.
I need help now. I can’t wait any longer. I’m no longer fighting for just my current safety, I’m fighting for my life.
Suddenly, I hear a strange sound. A low buzz, the trill of electric machinery. It wafts over the airwaves and calls to me.
Someone is out here working. At last, I’ve found someone I can ask for help. Whoever it is, they are my only hope. My situation is dire and I don’t have a choice.
There’s a small gravel road to the right of me. The sound is coming from that direction. The rise and fall of the land doesn’t allow me to see where I’m headed. I follow the sound as if it’s the call of the Pied Piper. Wherever it takes me, that’s where I’m going.
I have no other option.
My feet propel me forward like they have a will of their own and I feel helpless. I’m no longer in control; the situation has taken control of me.
“He kicked me out of the car. I’ve been walking for hours. Please, if you could just . . .”
“No,” he says emphatically with a raised voice. Then again it’s as if he’s quietly speaking to himself. “I can’t do this. I’m not ready.”
“No?” I ask, feeling unbelief. If he’ll just let me finish a sentence, I’ll ask him for water and be on my way. “I just want a . . .”
“Roby’s just up the road,” he interrupts.
“Please, just a . . .”
“Someone will help you there,” he says with finality.
There’s a reason this guy lives all by himself in the boondocks. He’s about as friendly as a rabid dog. I doubt there’s a prince hiding underneath his stern demeanor. Only a beast.
Our eyes lock for a few moments. I implore him for help and I’m met with an unyielding gaze. I feel like I just ran into a rock wall. Hard.
Help is not here. Help is not anywhere. Despair engulfs me and I feel utterly defeated. I war between begging and my pride. My pride wins and that’s my downfall. “Never mind,” I whisper as my voice cracks. The impending rain will save me. I’ll cup my hands and drink to my heart’s content. I’ll find someone else to help me. Surely there’s another house down the road.
If there isn’t, it doesn’t matter. If I’m going to survive, I have to save myself.
There’s no sign of compassion in this man. I cast a longing-filled glance at his motorhome and wonder if I can make a run for it and attack his faucet before Mr. Unfriendly even has the chance to get down from his ladder.
I know I don’t have the strength, so I turn to leave.
My gait is wobbly and I falter. The buzzing in my head increases in volume. My head feels as though it has turned into one huge pulsing heartbeat. I don’t want to die out here. It strikes me as odd that I might die in the middle of the heartland because I couldn’t find anyone to help me. So much for friendship being the Texas state motto. Maybe they should remind their residents to act accordingly.
I hear a deep sigh from behind me. I don’t know how I hear it above the roar in my head. It sounds as though it’s miles away and yet whispered in my ear. Then the man says something unintelligible under his breath as his conscience gets the best of him. I hear that loud and clear.
“Wait,” he says. “I’m sorry. Of course I’ll help you. Please come back.”
Slowly, I turn to face him, ready to express my gratitude. The clouds roll in at that very moment and the sky darkens. A few raindrops land on my face and I instinctively turn my head toward the heavens, hoping moisture will inadvertently land in my waiting mouth.
Instead, the simple act of moving my head leaves me reeling and the lights go out as I fall to the ground in a crumpled heap.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Taylor Dean lives in Texas and is the mother of four grown children. Upon finding herself with an empty nest, she began to write the stories that were always wandering around in her head, quickly finding she had a passion for writing, specifically romance. Whether it’s paranormal, contemporary, or suspense—you’ll find all sub-genres of clean romance in her line-up.
When two estranged sisters reunite for their parents’ 50th anniversary, a family tragedy brings unexpected lessons of hope and healing amid the flowers of their mother’s perennial garden.
Eva—known to all as Lovey—grew up in Oxford, MS, surrounded by literary history and her mother's stunning perennial gardens. But a garden shed fire and the burns suffered by one of her best friends seemed to change everything. Her older sister Bitsy blamed her for the fire—and no one spoke up on Lovey’s behalf. Bitsy the cheerleader, Bitsy the homecoming queen, Bitsy married to a wealthy investor. And all the while, Lovey bears the brunt of everything that goes wrong.
At eighteen, Lovey turns down a marriage proposal and flees to Arizona—the farthest thing from the South she can imagine. She becomes a successful advertising executive and a weekend yoga instructor, and she seems to have it all together. But she's alone. And on her 45th birthday, she can't help but wonder what's wrong.
When she gets a call from her father insisting that she come home three weeks early for her parents' 50th wedding anniversary celebration, she's at wits end. She's about to close the biggest contract of her career, but his words, "Family First," hit too close to home.
Eva's journey home to the memory garden her father has planned as an anniversary surprise for her mother becomes one of discovering roots, and truth, and love, and what living perennially in spite of disappointments and tragedy really means.
Eva thought she wanted to leave her family and the South far behind . . . but she's realizing she hasn't truly been herself the whole time she's been gone.
My Review of Perennials
Julie Cantrell’s Perennials is the powerful novel of The Sutherland Family and their ability to love, forgive and find their way home again.
Bitsy and Lovey Sutherland were inseparable as children growing up in rural Oxford, Mississippi. Spending time outdoors with companions Finn and Fisher, the sister’s days were filled with flower gardens, playing games and catching fireflies. But as Bitsy enters her teenage years things begin to change for the sisters. Feeling peer pressure to fit in and be popular, Bitsy no longer enjoys the carefree days of playing outdoors and getting dirty. In time her carefree spirit turns spiteful and angry and Lovey finds she is the target of her older sister’s venom. When a tragic accident occurs involving Finn and Fisher, Bitsy points the guilty finger at Lovey and thus begins years of bitter feuding. As the years go by and the sisters grow further apart Lovey decides to leave rural Mississippi for Arizona despite the pleas of her parents and a marriage proposal from Fisher.
As time goes by Lovey settles into her new life at Apogee, a successful advertising firm in Phoenix. Her love life however, is another matter. Having been through an ugly breakup, Lovey is determined to put love and relationships behind her and concentrate on nothing but work. With a new campaign that could bring huge profits to her advertising firm and a large bonus to fund an early retirement for her, Lovey throws herself into her work. With her parents 50th Wedding Anniversary around the corner Lovey has to slay this project and meet her milestones in order to make it home for the party. As she has not been home in years she knows her parents are looking forward to their reunion. But an urgent phone call from her parents asking her to return weeks before the party without explanation has her in a bind. Although the Jansana account is critical, her parents Laurel and Chief, have always come first. Determined to make it all work, Lovey reluctantly leaves for Oxford hoping to return to Arizona as soon as possible.
Once home it’s clear to Lovey not much has changed. She finds she has missed Mississippi more than ever. Being with her parents evoke memories of childhood, both sweet and bitter, but regardless she is glad she has made the journey home. Seeing Fisher once again ignites a spark she thought long ago extinguished and her feud with Bitsy escalates despite the years and distance apart. As The Sutherlands 50th Wedding Anniversary draws near and feelings intensify between Fisher and Lovey, Bitsy's verbal attacks on Lovey redouble. As emotions come to a head and Lovey decides to run back to Arizona to avoid conflict and a work crisis, her parents disclose the truth behind her real call home. Lovey must decide to make a stand for her parents and Fisher, while trying to close the emotional gap between herself and Bisty before it’s too late.
I loved Perennials. This is the kind of book I like to sink my teeth into. It has beautiful, well developed characters and a storyline that tugs at your heart. The author skillfully builds the tension and plot throughout the book, until the turning point where everything breaks loose and all the pieces fall into place. I also love when an author gives us a great Prologue and an Epilogue. It sets the stage for what will happen throughout the book and gives us closure at the end of the story. I loved Lovey and Fisher’s characters. They are true and human in the face of all they have endured. Bitsy, on the other hand, was much harder to like. Even when the author gave the story closure and you see why she operates as she does, I still had a hard time trusting her. The damage she had done to Lovey and Fisher all those years was surreal. And last, but not least we have Laurel and Chief. They were a beautiful and unique couple and the legacy they left behind will live on in their children and grandchildren for a lifetime.
If you want a great read that will keep you turning the pages and your emotions flowing then Perennials is the book for you. A beautiful story that is hard to put down with characters that will make you smile and make you cry.
I want to thank Thomas Nelson-Fiction via NetGalley for an advanced copy of Perennials by Julie Cantrell for a fair and honest review.
A warm, wry, sharply observed debut novel about what happens when a family is forced to spend a week together in quarantine over the holidays...
It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter—who is usually off saving the world—will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family.
For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity—and even decent Wi-Fi—and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while her older sister, Olivia, deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems.
Their father, Andrew, sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent. But his wife, Emma, is hiding a secret that will turn the whole family upside down.
In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive…
My Review of Seven Days of Us
Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak is the intricate story of the Birch Family forced together for a week at Christmas under medical quarantine.
The Birch family has not been together under one roof for quite a while. Their oldest daughter Olivia is coming home from Liberia where she has been treating an epidemic of Haag Virus along with another doctor Sean Coughlan. Unfortunately, Olivia must stay in enforced medical confinement at home, leaving her family with little choice but to join her in isolation at their old county manor in Norfolk. But Olivia’s dreading the week she must spend with her family over the holidays. She has felt disconnected from her mother and father for quite a number of years and the closeness she once felt with her sister is gone as they now have nothing in common. As the days progress Olivia begins to feel trapped. She misses Sean and the day to day intensity of living in the worst of conditions, treating the worst of diseases. Phoebe, her sister, does nothing but prattle on about her upcoming nuptials while dad makes himself scarce and mom bustles about the decaying manor cooking and wrapping gifts as if everything is hunky dory. But the serene family Christmas the Birch family is trying so hard to manufacture is about to come unraveled at the arrival of two unexpected guests, George, Phoebe’s fiancé and Jesse, a son Andrew Birch has never met. As secrets of the family are revealed, and everybody has one, the tension within the house comes to a head with explosive results. But the outcome is for the better as the Birch family find they will emerge from their medical seclusion a more caring and tight-knit family. One they’ve always wanted to be, one they always needed to be.
I liked the way Francesca Hornak weaved complex characters into an ever evolving storyline. As the holiday week wore on, you could feel the tension building in the house. When George and Jesse finally arrive on the scene, things really begin to take a turn in an unexpected way and there was never a dull moment in the Birch residence again. Secrets are laid bare leaving the family to deal with them in the aftermath. Things will never be the same again, but the family will be the better for it.
All the characters in Seven Days of Us were unique and well written. Each had a distinct part to play in this book, but my favorites were Jesse and Emma. I liked Emma because despite all the problems she was quietly dealing with, her priority was always and foremost her family. She tried to bring lightness to all the tension and when all else failed she reverted to the kitchen to feed her loved ones. She tried to constantly keep everyone happy even in the most awkward of situations and when she finally had enough of her husband’s behavior she let lose a lifetime of pent-up frustration. It was a great scene in the book, one I could read again and again.
I also liked Jesse. Jesse liked to get to the heart of the matter, in other words he wore his proverbial heart on his sleeve. This made him extremely endearing to the reader, but not necessarily to his new found family. Jesse also had a kind side to him and was willing to go the extra mile, even at the expense of himself. I believe it was Jesse and Emma that were instrumental in resolving the conflicts that held the Birch family hostage for so long. All in all, they were charming characters amid the others who were often reserved and seemingly detached. Unfortunately, George was my least favorite character. Selfish and often self-serving, he only had his own interests at heart.
Seven Days of Us is the unique story of The Birch Family trying to get through the holidays with secrets intact and with little emotion expended as possible. Instead, secrets are revealed, feelings expressed and a family long void of emotion manages to find themselves seeing each other in an all new light. The family that entered the holidays will not be the same family that enters the New Year.
I want to thank Berkley Publishing via NetGalley for an advanced copy of Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak for a fair and honest review.
My thoughts on bread making and The Gift of Bread
Recipes for the Heart and the Table
When I was a child one of my favorite memories was watching my mother make homemade bread. My mother’s way of making bread may seem a little unconventional, but the process definitely worked. On bread baking day I would climb a chair and sit at the table mesmerized by her process. She never used a recipe, she made it all by sight and touch. After she proofed her yeast, she took a big enamel roaster (the kind you roast a turkey) and added a 5 lb. sack of Cinderella flour. After the flour came the shortening, salt, sugar, yeast then to this she added warm water. With the exception of the flour everything was done without measuring. As she kneaded the dough she would feel the texture and know if she needed more water to achieve the beautiful elastic consistency she always managed to create. Not once did I ever see her add more flour, or adjust anything else. She knew from experience and feel what she needed to do to have her dough turn out beautifully each and every time.
After the dough was silky and smooth she covered the roaster with its lid then wrapped the roaster in blankets to keep it warm and free of any drafts. My mother always gave her bread dough three risings. Two in the roaster and one in the pans. I swear it’s what made the bread crusty on the outside, but chewy and light as a feather on the inside. I always ran into the house when she punched it down for the first time. When she lifted that lid and the pungent smell of the yeast hit your nose there was nothing like it in the world, well that is besides slicing and eating it warm from the oven. My mother was always at her best in the kitchen baking and cooking for those she loved.
Today I try to carry on some of my mom’s favorite traditions and baking bread is just one of them. Try as I might though, after all these years I have never managed to create a loaf of bread the same way she did. I have however, managed to find a lot of great bread recipes and I’ve collected many bread cookbooks through the years. And even though I have enough cookbooks to fill a small library, I couldn’t stop myself from buying my latest find The Gift of Bread: Recipes for the Heart and the Table by Karen Whiting. This book is not just a cookbook full of bread recipes. This is a book where bread is lived spiritually, physically and emotionally. It is as she calls it a “cookbook devotional”. Each beautiful chapter starts with a short scripture passage, followed by a short personal story of family or friends followed by Lovin’ From The Lord where the author shares a biblical passage always related to meals or breaking bread. She includes a Food For Thought and concludes each chapter with The Joy of Bread Making where the reader gets countless kitchen tips or Lovin’ From The Oven where the author shares wonderful bread or muffin recipes for family and friends to enjoy. The finishing touch at the end of each chapter is A Morsel of Bread, a small quote that gives you food for thought for your day.
In rating this book I would easily give it 5 *****. To describe it I would use one of two words, DELIGHTFUL or INSPIRATIONAL. This is a book I plan to refer to again and again and not just for the recipes. The personal stories and scriptural passages in regards to relationships and food are so well thought out. An all-around gem of a book that will not only feed your hunger, but feed your heart and soul too.
In closing I wanted to note that the above picture is one I took of Karen Whiting’s book The Gift of Bread and the loaves of bread sitting by it are two loaves I made from one of the recipes in the book. The Amish White Bread was light and delicious and easy to make. Because my daughters occasionally, but lovingly call me out for tweaking recipes I will be honest and say the only thing I did differently was in using instant yeast verses dry active yeast. Dry active yeast you typically proof first, whereas instant yeast you just add it to the flour. I also shaped the loaves by hand instead of using a loaf pan. I like to have fun and do creative things when making bread, but that was it. Soft and yummy the bread was a hit.
So if you are a novice and would like to make some bread for the first time, or an old pro like my mom, The Gift of Bread: Recipes for the Heart and the Table is sure to be the inspiration to get you motivated to make and break bread.
Celebrate the joyful hope of the Christmas season as characters find healing in the midst of heartbreak.
New from Olivia Newport!
Christmas in Blue
In the wake of a personal loss deeper than anyone realizes, Angela plans to bypass as much of the season as possible and get through her duties as the church organist by going on autopilot. Instead, she finds herself in charge of the town’s celebration. After a mysterious young man arrives, townspeople suspect he is the reason that one set of plans after another disintegrate until little is left of their traditions. Yet Angela warms to Gabe because she suspects they share a secret—his real reason for coming to town. Even when all they have to work with is a garish supply of blue Christmas decorations, Gabe helps Angela discover the hidden beauty of hope.
Christmas in Gold
After eighty years, change is nothing new for Astrid. By the time she was twenty, she survived the destructive Nazi regime, caring for her family under brutal circumstances, moving to America, and losing her husband. At forty she was widowed again and left to build a new life with her children. Now, when she faces a move into an assisted living community and meets a young woman on the brink of despair, she resolves to stir up hope through tragedy one more time.
My Review of Colors of Christmas
If you are looking for a book to add to your holiday reading list this year, make sure to add Colors of Christmas by Olivia Newport. This gem of a book holds two beautiful stories in one, Christmas in Gold and Christmas in Blue, both tender and endearing and sure to lift your hearts and spirits this Christmas season.
Christmas in Gold tells the story of Astrid, an elderly woman who sells her home and moves to Sycamore Hills, a place where seniors can be as independent as they want or receive assistance should they need it. It is an adjustment for Astrid for she is fiercely independent and private, but finds herself in need of help after a fall that left her with a broken ankle. But as the holidays approach and her new place of residence is being decorated for Christmas, Astrid is drawn to a particular tree dressed in gold. She has possessed for years three gold ornaments, the only thing left of her family from Germany after the war. It is her own sorrow she carries quietly from the past that draws her to her Physical Therapist Carly who is running from past mistakes of her own. As Astrid begins to open up and shares her story with Carly a bond of trust begins to form and an unlikely friendship develops between the women. A friendship that will take them into a brighter future and happier holiday season.
Christmas in Blue is the story of love, loss and the beauty of family and friends. The town of Spruce Valley has always taken its Christmas celebration very seriously. A Christmas to Remember has always been the town’s highlight of the year, but this year things are different. Carole, the town’s chief organizer and decorator loved by all has passed leaving her best friend Angela, the Main Street Church’s choir director, in charge by default. As Christmas approaches all Angela wants to do is run away. The loss of her best friend has been more than she can bear, especially with the holidays fast approaching. But as the town’s expectations mount for A Christmas to Remember Angela has only days to prepare for what normally takes weeks. And if things weren’t bad enough the decorations that are normally stored and used every year are ruined due to circumstances beyond her control. With nowhere to turn and limited resources and ideas a mysterious stranger named Gabe appears in town and magical things start to happen. With Gabriel leading the way new decorations are sought, and though all they can obtain are blue, Gabe and Angela are determined to make this year’s celebration a memorable one. As A Christmas to Remember approaches the whole town pulls together at their annual celebration making it one that Spruce Valley will never forget. Feeling the love of God, Gabe and her neighbors, Angela is able to approach Christmas without the dread she anticipated but with joy and tenderness in her heart.
I loved the stories comprising Colors of Christmas. They were both different in content, but left me with a smile on my face and looking forward to the hustle and bustle of Christmas. It also left me with the knowledge that my relationships with family and friends is really what makes Christmas magical and not the gifts under the tree. It reminded me to be thankful and to never take anything for granted and to remember it’s about the child in the manger that we really celebrate Christmas in the first place. The Colors of Christmas should make everyone’s reading list this year and will make a perfect gift for that booklover in your family.
I want to thank Barbour Publishing Inc via NetGalley for an advanced copy of Colors of Christmas by Olivia Newport for a fair and honest review.
Story Time--The Most Important 10 Minutes in a Child's Day!
Your children or grandchildren will delight in this fully-illustrated storybook that brings 365 read-aloud classic Bible stories to life for impressionable young hearts.
Beginning with the creation story, "God Creates the Earth," and ending with "In Eternity with God,” your children will develop faith in an almighty God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, while journeying alongside Bible characters like Samuel, Jonah, Esther, David, John the Baptist, Mary, Joseph, and many more.
365 Classic Bedtime Bible Stories promises to make bedtime reading a delightful learning and faith-building experience for your kids 3 and up.
My Review of 365 Classic Bedtime Bible Stories
365 Classic Bedtime Bible Stories by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut is a beautifully illustrated collection of bible stories from the Old and New Testaments for children of all ages. Starting with the story of creation Jesse Lyman Hurlbut takes us on a journey through a biblical timeline that children not only hear, but see through the tender illustrations that are provided for the reader. A perfect book for children too young for an adult or teenage bible, but in need of learning as much as they can about God and the roots of their faith. Both children and adults together can enjoy these stories and there is one for every day of the year. What a beautiful way of starting or ending your child’s day.
I enjoyed 365 Classic Bedtime Bible Stories as it relayed Old and New Testament knowledge, but in a way children can grasp, break down and remember. Each story leads to the next in a timeframe that stays true to its biblical period. At times I felt like I was reading a bible just for children instead of bible stories and the illustrations that the book provided were sweet and beautifully done. The beauty of 365 Classic Bedtime Bible Stories is your children can journey every day for a year, learn about their faith and be the better for it.
If your children are unfamiliar with the bible or bible stories 365 Classic Bedtime Bible Stories is the perfect way to introduce them to God and their faith. If your children are familiar with bible stories then 365 Classic Bedtime Stories can expound their knowledge and the tender illustrations make those stories come to life. Let 365 Classic Bedtime Bible Stories make your Christmas shopping list for your children or grandchildren. It’s the perfect Christmas gift for the season (or any occasion) and an excellent way to start your loved ones New Year.
I want to thank Barbour Publishing, Inc via NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of 365 Classic Bedtime Bible Stories by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut for a fair and honest review.
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