Book Reviews

It Happened One Christmas Eve by Jenn McKinlay

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My Interest

I was in the mood for a “put your brains under the seat and don’t ask too many questions” sort of Christmas book. [That quote, by the way, originated long ago with a Bond movie–The Spy Who Loved Me, iirc].

The Story

Heiress and museum director, Claire MacIntosh (fyi, I’ve never met a woman named Claire–nor Tess…most popular names in novels) plays Runaway Bride by seizing Santa’s “sleigh” and making a run for it when her society husband-to-be plans a cheesy Pinterest/Instagram-worthy proposal. Trey may have money and be an up-and-coming partner in her father’s environmental law firm, but he’s not at all what Claire dreams of. Her society mother Hildy pushes Trey at her like an exceptional hors d’oeuvres. Claire sees him as wheat grass. Happily, Santa’s sleigh has been hijacked by Sam, a well known investigative journalist.  Yep, you guessed it…..[No spoilers here].

My Verdict

This little book was just what I needed. I laughed, I “awed-d” and I just plain had a fun time listening to it.

3.0

It Happened One Christmas Eve by Jenn McKinlay

I don’t have the page total but it was only 3 hours and 22 minutes on audio

Book Reviews · Reading Challenges

November Reading Events Tally

November has too many great reading events! Thankfully, I started a new job this month, so my participation was curtailed by the exhaustion of all day in new surroundings, all day surrounded by people, and all day learning new things. So, my goals were a little too lofty this year!

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Sorry, German Literature, but you were the one that got lost in the crowd this time. No worries–I’d already read one German book in translation this year.

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My Nevile Shute reading put me in good stead this year. I finished my second book by the Australian author at the start of the month. I reviewed What Happened to the Corbetts by Nevil Shute (Also titled The Ordeal) and the newer Jane Harper novel Lost Man.

 

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Nonfiction November is an event I look forward to each year. This year I did “ok,” not great, but “ok.” I finished two audio books–Christmas Far From Home about Christmas in the Korean War and The Women of Rothschild, a biography of the women of that famous family.

 

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I had big hopes for little books this year! But Novellas in November just didn’t go very far this time. A few “double dips”–books that worked for this and some other reading challenge or event. I reviewed A Christmas Escape by Anne Perry which “doubled” with 20 Books of Christmas, and What Happened to the Corbetts which doubled with Aus Reading Month.

 

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20 Books for Christmas is still on going, so I’m not done. I’m trying to just use Christmas themed books–fiction or nonfiction. So, I reviewed Christmas Far From Home (nonfiction), The Christmas Escape,   The Christmas Bookshop, Mistletoe and Magic for the Cornish Midwife, and another book I’m reviewing on Monday.

I also read two other books, too long for NovNov and not Christmas Themed Meredith, Alone and The Blue Castle.

Have you done a November reading round-up type post? Have you read any of these books? Read anything else you think I’d want to know about? Leave me a comment or a link to your post!

Book Reviews

Review: Mistletoe and Magic for the Cornish Midwife by Jo Bartlett

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My Interest

I enjoyed the first two books in this series, but had a hard time getting the next book on audio, so haven’t read that one. This book is book #6 or so, although at least one book has a different title in the USA, I think this one is the same on both sides of the Atlantic. I love the midwives! Each book focuses on a different member of the local midwife team–think Call the Midwife, but set today and in Cornwall. I’ve liked them all so far.

The Story

Back home after a failed marriage in New Zealand, Nadia and her two young children are currently living with her mother in very tight quarters. She’s missing her beloved Labrador who had to stay in New Zealand with her estranged husband. Her job is her sanity at the moment, but with Christmas approaching and ratty soon-to-be-ex-hubs Ryan off living the life with a new girlfriend, his Facetime appearances with his two kids are getting further and further and further apart. Meanwhile, the father of one of her daughter’s classmates, Hamish by name,  is a doctor and he’s well…he’s pretty much everything Nadia has always wanted in a guy. He loves his kids, treats her and her children very nicely and is an all-around good guy. So now what? [No Spoilers]

My Thoughts

Like Jenny Colgan and Judy Leigh, these are pleasant books–nothing too angst-inducing. I love the villages in which these ladies live, enjoy their family stories, like the local businesses like the Fish & Chips place and the Cookie Jar and the rest of them.

Nadia’s story though, did induce a little angst. I could just see so many of my friends as we went along through the parenting years. They’d all have to lie for the divorced dad who couldn’t get his act together and do the right thing. Sadly, then many were burned when the “fun Dad” years began and he reappeared dangling a car in front of a 16 year old to get back in good graces and then lied about everything. Thankfully, they couldn’t keep the act going and at least 1 car was repossessed. I hope Nadia doesn’t go through all that was what I was thinking!!

Hamish was believable and likeable as was the story with his elder daughter. Oh, and dog lovers? This one I’ll give a brief spoiler on. Never fear–ok? The dog makes it back to those who love her.

My Verdict

3.25

 

My Reviews of other Cornish Midwives books

  1. The Cornish Midwife
  2. Summer Wedding for the Cornish Midwife (this may be the one with a different title in the UK)

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Book Reviews

Review: The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan

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My Interest

Who doesn’t love a quirky old book store?

The Story

Carmen has always been in the shadow of her successful sister, Sofia. Sofia is a lawyer, with perfect children, perfect husband, perfect nanny, perfect home in the most perfect of all Edinburgh neighborhoods. Meanwhile, Carmen partied, didn’t try in school and now even the dull job in a fusty local department store has deserted her. Her mother and sister conspire and she gets a new job in a bookstore lawyer Sofia is trying to get profitable enough to sell it as a going concern so her client will at least get out from under it. And, she’s been given a new home–a former servant’s room in her sisters basement. Next door to the perfect nanny.

Meanwhile, the bookshop hasn’t been dusted since soon after the war and the man who runs it is afraid of his own shadow. His cataloging system defies imagination and he is prone to giving the books away. But, it’s Christmas in Edinburgh, the shop is on the main shopping street and a host of good-looking men come in, including mega-selling author Blare. Maybe Carmen’s life is looking up? In spite of helping with her two nieces and one nephew who go to schools so posh they remind each other constantly to be “kind?”

My Thoughts

I especially liked the way the relationships improved between Carmen and the children, Carmen and her sister and Carmen and her boss, “Young” Mr. McCredie. These were wonderful. I liked the men in the store, too. Ramsey would have been my pick if he wasn’t so encumbered!

But my very favorite characters were Phoebe and the little girl who loved the Little Match Girl. Those were little girls to whom I could well relate!

This was a good book to escape into. I loved it. The Muppet Christmas Carol watching scene was classic!! (Stick around for the aftermath of that!) And then there was the magic of creating the window display with the train set and the house of sweet little mice and on and on and on. Only one tiny thing–Eric’s father–seemed not to fit. I’m not sure why the author did that, but it’s her book and not mine. I loved this book–have I said that already?

Just read it!

My Verdict

4.0

The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan

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Book Reviews

NonFicNov Review: A Christmas Far From Home by Stanley Weintraub

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My Interest

Since moving here to Southern Ohio in 2008 I’ve met two Korean War veterans. One died during the Covid epidemic, the other, my next door neighbor, is still going strong at 90-something. Of course, I have a near life-long interest in U.S. history, too, so that figured into decided to read (well, listen to) this book.

Author Stanley Weintraub has made an industry for himself writing nonfiction stories set at Christmas during the various wars. Finally, I was a child of the 70’s. The movie M*A*S*H was one of the first “grown-up” movies I watched. I also read the book  (and a couple of the sequels) at a tender age. Then there was the t.v. show [see the bottom of this post] that ran about 100 times longer than the war itself. So, in memory of all those people who fought in Korea and were immortalized by the book, movie and tv show characters, I had to read or listen to this book.

The Story

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Mountbatten (left) and MacArthur (right)
photo credit

General of the Armies Douglas MacArthur, was an early believer in public relations–p.r. Much like Lord Mountbatten (“Uncle Dickie” on The Crown), he was a self-promoter who was often regarded as having over-reached. MacArthur had at least some of the traits of a narcissist. He ran away and deserted our troops, fleeing to safety in Australia with his much younger wife, their toddler son (and his nanny) when the Japanese over-ran the Philippines. For this he managed to earn the nation’s highest award for bravery: The Congressional Medal of Honor.

When the Korean “War” began, Arthur hadn’t lived in the USA for many years. He’d commanded the Philippine Army, then been away in Australia during World War II, then oversaw the occupation of Japan. His last big experience in the United States had been leading the Army, with the help of his assistant, Dwight D. Eisenhower, through Washington D.C. and to the camp of the “Bonus Marchers” or “Bonus Army”–the unemployed, homeless, desperate veterans of World War I marching on Washington to try to make Congress pay them their “bonus” for service in WWI several years early. It didn’t work. MacArthur and Ike led the tanks and troops in moving the marchers out of their encampment. (Where many of them were subsequently put on trains and sent to south Florida where they would die in a hurricane). He survived that black mark how? Public relations. He also had a notorious affair with a showgirl called Bubbles who called him, wait for it, “Daddy.” Yeah.

When the U.S. entered Korea Mac Arthur was in charge of the Command area that included Korea. He did not take the whole thing very seriously and insisted, as have so many commanders in so many wars, that our boys would be home for Christmas.

Only, they weren’t. And, many did not even have winter uniforms. [This mix-up of seasons and uniforms is a specialty of the U.S. Army. In the Spanish American War, a tropical war, they had heavy woolen uniforms]. This book tells what the men went trough from Thanksgiving until what we remember today as the Chosin Reservoir aka “The Frozen Chosin” was over. Thankfully, President Harry S. Truman, got tired of MacArthur’s grandiose insubordination and fired him. Who knows how long the war would have lasted with “Doug Out Doug” in charge (the name comes from hiding in a dugout).

My Thoughts

My next door neighbor was a young and bitterly cold U.S. Marine during this battle. It must not have affected him–he used to mow the equivalent of 3 acres with a push mower every week and raise 7 kids on a city cop’s salary. All but 1 went to and graduated from college. He’s still tough. It’s pretty obvious from this story that he wasn’t the only one.

Harry Truman was a remarkable president for standing up to an icon and winning. MacArthur should have been revealed of command when the Philippines fell. Instead he let another general take the surrender while he went on living his life with his family in Australia. His Congressional Medal of Honor should have gone to all of those who survived captivity under the Japanese. He is remembered well, however, for changing Japan to a more democratic form of government. Nonetheless, Truman kept a potential despot from running for president by firing him over Korea. We should be grateful.

My Verdict

3.5

A Christmas Far From Home: An Epic Tale of Courage and Survival During the Korean War by Stanley Weintraub

 

My Review of Another Book by This Author

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Pearl Harbor Christmas: A World at War December 1941 by Stanley Weintraub

Book Reviews

#NovNov22 Review: A Christmas Escape by Anne Perry

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My Interest

I’ve read the first 16 of Anne Perry’s William Monk books and one of her World War I series. I love Monk and Hester and their friends. Perry’s Christmas books usually center on a lesser character from one of her series. I like that.

The Story

Charles Latterly, brother of Hester, is recently widowed. He goes off to Italy to the island of Stromboli for a Christmas-time holiday. A volcano on the island is part of the interest. He meets up with friends and a friend’s young “ward”–a feisty young woman with a real “spark” in her eye. Along the way, naturally, there is a murder. Plus, how about a fictional character that’s a little too lifelike? How does it all come together? What happens to the friends? No spoilers on this blog!

My Thoughts

Anne Perry can get too sexually gruesome for me, but that was not the case this time (ok that is sort of a spoiler). I loved the setting of the story. I didn’t really love the “me-talka-not-so-good-a-Englisha” accent given to the Italian guy. Oh well, that’s me. Another good Christmas time story from Perry. I took off for the silly accent.

Now I want to make and eat stromboli!! My recipe is below!

My Verdict

3.5

Stromboli

1 batch of pizza dough (can use frozen)

6 slices of ham of your choice from the deli

6 or more slices of salami (depends on the size)

6 or sandwich size slices of pepperoni–or more of pizza sized

Mezztta Chicago Style Sandwich Giardinera Mix (hot or mild–I use what I can find)

Parmesan cheese (in the can is fine)

6-8 Slices Provolone (or Mozzarella) cheese

Pat or roll out the pizza dough into a rectangle. Sprinkle with a little Parmesan and some Italian Seasoning (or oregano or basil or whatever). Sprinkle the Parm heavy where the meat will go (helps with grease). Spread the meat across the dough. Top with the next type etc. Sprinkle a little more Parm on top of the meat. Now top with the Giardinera Relish (use a slotted spoon and drain it pretty well). Top with the sliced cheese. Fold and seal the dough around everything making a sort of loaf. If desired, brush with a little olive oil or Italian dressing and some coarse salt, if desired. Move to cornmeal scattered pizza pan or baking sheet. Bake till done in a hot over–425, about 15 to 25 minutes. If your family likes sauce, serve it with pizza or pasta sauce. We eat this plain. The Stromboli at Nick’s Bar at Indiana University is covered in sauce. I prefer this!

 

Book Reviews

20 Books for Christmas Challenge–a belated start!

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Tea & Cake for the Soul hosts this fun run-up to Christmas each year during October, November, and December. I enjoyed it last year, so I’ll give it a go again this year. I’m not holding my breath on getting all 20 done though, and happily she has different levels of participation. I can at least manage 5 and maybe 10. While the books do not have to be Christmas themed, for me they do!  But Hanukkah or Kwanzaa would work, too. I don’t like to do “must read lists,” but below are a couple I’ll likely read or listen to. The others will be what I find on my Kindle or find available via the Library or Kindle Unlimited. I’ll also have a look to see if any of the series I like have a new Christmas story–maybe the Cornish Midwives or a series like that will have one.

Christmas at the Amish Market by Shelley Shepard Gray. I got this from Net Galley on audio, so unless I can’t stand the reader, it’s a sure thing.

A Cat Cafe Christmas by Codi Gary just sounds cute.

What I Read Earlier This Year:

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While not a Christmas story, Highland Hens by Judy Leigh does include Christmas. That counts, right?

How about you? Do you like to read/listen to Christmas-themed books? Or books for other holidays? Leave me a comment or a link to your own Christmas book post.

Book Reviews

20 Books For Christmas Review # 11: Fool Me Twice at Christmas by Camilla Isley

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My Interest

Once again, I needed an audio. This one was available, was new, and was only 5 hours long–great for me drives on errands. I had a big errand day, so just listened to the last 1/4 at home while having dinner alone. Plus, #20BooksForChristmas–though I had thought I’d only do 10 Christmas books. Whatever! They’ve been the perfect thing for unemployment.

The Story

Kate and Chuck come from families joined at the hip…well, more or less joined. The two parent-couples are business partners in a chocolate company. Kate and Chuck grew up in the chocolate factory playing together while their parents worked. They’ve had the holidays together all their lives. Their parents hoped and prayed the two would grow up to marry–in fact, they thought that really was the plan.

Now, however, the couple have broken up, but can’t bear to tell the parents. When the chocolate company’s new visual marketing guru wants to use Kate and Chuck’s “authentic” love story in the promotion of a new chocolate, the pair must fake it. But, will the fakery work? Will fake pre-marital counseling with a pastor make it all into bliss or continue the bust?

My Thoughts

While I’ve rarely if ever heard an American says someone is “rubbish at X” or use “cheeky” in the British way–so what! It’s fiction! This is a fun, light, rom-com perfect for the often over-stressed days of the Christmas season Enjoy laughing along with Kate and Chuck’s predicament and enjoy it. Enjoy the very real emotions it generates for love, family, and the season. This was as sweet a holiday rom-com as you can hope to find!

My Verdict

Fool Me Twice at Christmas by Camilla Isley is on sale for only 99 cents on Kindle right now, too!

More Christmas Fun from author Camilla Isley

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Fool Me Twice at Christmas is one of three books in Camilla Isley’s Christmas Romantic Comedy series of stand-alone novels.

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A Christmas Caroline by Camilla Isley

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Home For Christmas by Camilla Isley is the third book in the series, releases in the USA on February 22, 2022. Click the link to pre-order for only $3.99 for Kindle.

Book Reviews

20 Books of Christmas Review #10: The Matzah Ball: A Novel by Jean Meltzer

My Interest

A Hanukkah -Christmas book? Sure! I spent the last few years of college enjoying the celebration of most Jewish holidays with a friend, her husband, and her parents. Her mother adopted me and bought me groceries when she shopped for her wonderful son-in-law, the scholar! LOL. I’ve eaten matzo cubes–because round matzo balls are too ordinary. I became a lifelong latkes addict and make them most years. Plus my great aunt and her second husband ran a summer camp in northern Wisconsin that provided a de-stressing time for high-pressure Jewish kids from Chicago’s suburbs in the late 50’s and 60’s (much like the camp Rachael and Jacob attended in the book). My kids and I have lox and bagels for Christmas breakfast. And, so what if Hanukkah ended last week–it’s all good. So yeah, bring on the Christmas-Hanukkah book!

The Story

Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt is the daughter of a world famous Rabbi and a doctor. So why, oh why, did she become a best-selling author of Christmas novels? And why, oh why, doesn’t she ever get the happily ever after that she writes in her books. Enter party planning mogul Jacob Greenberg, her long-ago summer camp nemesis and first kiss recipient. When Rachel’s publisher decides it’s time for a change–a Hanukkah Romance to compete with the Christmas romances, she finds herself needing Jacob’s upcoming Matzah Ball, a live-music, glam and glitz, celebration for the nights of Hanukkah for her research. But that’s when things start to go awry as opposed to “on rye.” A ten-foot tall menorah, pink fuzzy socks, a baseball mascot-cum Matzah Ball costume, a sweet and wise Bubbe, the now seemingly obligatory gay guy bestie, and more go into the story.

My Thoughts

This book was so much fun! Yes, I did wonder why her folks didn’t just say “and an ticket for Rachel, too?” when the tickets were handed out for the great night of the Matzah Ball, but heck, what fun would that be? Rachel and Jacob are a matchmaker’s dream couple. They complete each other. They each make the other better. I loved this. I loved the rather Trump-like investor too! LOL Fun without bringing politics into it.

This book was just plain fun. Pick up some jelly doughnuts or rugelach or even chicken soup with matzo balls and just nosh away while you read or listen. You won’t be sorry.

One small note to the editor of this book. How could you allow the phrase “her truth” to be used in a story line about a Holocaust survivor? Unthinkable. Trendy isn’t always best. Still, I loved the book.

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Book Reviews

20 Books For Christmas Review #9: We’ll Have Have a Wonderful Cornish Christmas by C.P. Ward

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My Interest

This audiobook was on sale on Chirp. What’s not to love about a Christmas Extravaganza?

The Story

Lucy Drake, born Frances (as in Sir Francis Drake, the explorer) normally spends Christmas away on a solitary walking vacation. She has a social problem. It’s not farting like I thought, it’s simply her laugh. Anyway, it has always put men off. Her parents, a good natured, decent couple who live a dull, normal life with blessedly ordinary careers (I get tired of everyone being some high-flying hedge fund manager or actress) have decided to go to Cornwall and “glamp” while her father’s carpet company sponsors the first Christmas Extravaganza.

Along the way Lucy meets orthodontist Dan, his gay brother Tarquin (the name started as a joke in school), and Dan’s ex–a ruthlessly ambitious woman much like the wife of the redheaded royal. Dan is also an expert on Brussels Sprouts–not something you read in most novels today, let alone in a Christmas story. Dan finds Lucy’s social problem endearing–you can guess the rest. I’m sure.

My Thoughts

I liked this story–it was full of decent, everyday people and a baddie anyone on social media much could totally understand. Plus, what’s wrong with Santa in a sleigh pulled by female reindeer named Mike and Don? Or Santa being assisted by Robin Hood’s Merry Men? What kid doesn’t dream of winning a new lounge carpet for his family or of receiving a bathmat from Santa. And then there is the fudge…yes, fabulous fudge made with locally sourced Cornish sugar grown in a greenhouse!

My Verdict

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