~The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson~ I love this book! If you’re feeling down in the dumps or grumpy this Christmas season, grab a copy of this beloved Christmas tale. The Herdsman children, all six of them, are not the most well-behaved children. In fact, they are the town juvenile delinquents, and when they show up to church after being told the church has snacks, they take over the children’s Christmas play. Having never been to church before, or hearing the Christmas story, they have a unique and unconventional take on the story. This is sure to be a disaster, until the worst Christmas pageant ever turns into the best. This endearing book always puts a smile on my face and joy in my heart. You don’t have to be a kid or have kids to enjoy this children’s book.
~Christmas Joy Ride by Melody Carlson~
This is a fun little Christmas story. Joy Jorgensen, an 85-year-old blogger, is being moved into an assisted living facility near her sons, but before she goes she plans a trip to spread Christmas joy. Instead of taking the scheduled flight Chicago to Phoenix, she decides to travel in her motorhome down route 66. Taking along her neighbor Miranda as a sidekick, Joy follows her detailed plan, stopping off along the way to spread Christmas cheer to contest winners chosen through her blog, Christmas Joy.
This is a sweet, short book about spreading holiday cheer and love. A light, feel-good read. In one part of the book, a character plays Santa to try to convince a disbelieving child. Being blessed with children who happen to be black and white, literal thinkers, we never tried to convince our children that Santa was real. If that idea bothers you, be forewarned. I enjoyed this little novella, and look forward to reading more of Melody Carlson’s Christmas books.
“I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” said Rain. She wished they could go back to just sitting in the quiet, not saying anything.
Will stood, fists clenched at his sides before he visibly relaxed, and let his arms hang loosely. Rain expected him to come and sit beside her, or look at her, or say something. Instead, he turned on his heel and walked away into the late afternoon shadows, leaving her sitting there alone on a cool concrete bench in his dead mother’s garden.
At 40,000 words, the rough draft of this novel is about half way through my plot outline. Hmmm. May need to trim a bit. I usually write short and then add. I’m not good at math, but even I know at this rate the story would be way too long.
Last month I took advantage of nanowrimo fever to try and keep up the momentum I established a few weeks earlier after reading Finish by Jon Acuff. One of his suggestions was to cut your goals in half, so at half done I feel pretty good about my progress. Except when I don’t feel good about it. Ha! Do you ever beat yourself up for not being as good, as fast, or as brilliant as someone else?
This morning I told my daughter I was a bit sad and depressed for no apparent reason. I wondered if it was because I wasn’t cranking out the high word counts I saw others producing.
Obviously, I was feeling a little sorry for myself and enjoying some sour grapes when I said, “Other people are getting to be all fabulous because they won nanowrimo and here I am still poking along.”
She said, “But you’re already fabulous, mama.”
We laughed. So much for whining about not winning. I guess maybe I don’t need to “win” at everything. As long as I stay fabulous.
Time for me to quit belly aching and get back to work on this novel.
Stay fabulous, y’all!
By the way, what do you think of the new mini book break reviews I’ve been posting? Do you like them?
~Skipping Christmas by John Grisham~
What’s Christmas without the Kranks? This short novel has become a Christmas tradition for many. Who hasn’t, at one point or another, wanted to forgo the whole crazy holiday furor. I chuckled through the familiar story of the Kranks and Luther’s decision to skip Christmas for one year and go on a cruise instead. I enjoyed this short, humorous tale. It was interesting to read this departure from the types of novels I usually associate with John Grisham. Light hearted and fun, this one got me in the holiday spirit.
~First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen~
“No matter how hard you try, you can’t make someone love you. You can’t stop them from making the wrong decision. There was no magic for that.”
“It had taken her a long time to realize that a prison sometimes isn’t a person at all. Sometimes it’s simply a door you assume is locked because you’ve never tried to open it.”
“The right men make all the difference in the world. But the wrong men do, too.”
“Maybe you don’t have to be lead into the future. Maybe you can pick your own path. Maybe you don’t fall in love. Maybe you jump. Maybe, just maybe, it’s all a choice.”
First Frost is a delightful read. As with all of Sarah Addison Allen’s books, this story is infused with a bit of magic. This novel is a sequel to Garden Spells, but can be read as a stand-alone.
Each of the Waverley women has a unique talent. Sydney can do magic with your hair, giving her clients a “do” that does much more than empower them. While a good haircut can work wonders, Sydney’s are extra special. Claire has a special talent for cooking. Her candies are becoming famous, the special ingredients promoting happiness and well-being. Bay, Sydney’s daughter, has the gift of knowing where things belong. For instance, she knows that a certain boy belongs with her, but he is not receptive to that idea.
All of the Waverley women get agitated and tense while waiting for the first frost, the only time the apple tree in the backyard blooms. The anticipation of the season’s changing stirs them up.
This book is satisfying and sweet. Sarah Addison Allen’s storytelling is beautiful and unique.
I especially enjoyed the idea of an over protective apple tree that throws fruit at the suitors and husbands of the Waverley women.
Sarah Addison Allen’s stories are unusual, having that special something, and so easy to fall into. Her novels have never failed to capture my interest.
~Pretty is As Pretty Dies by Elizabeth Spann Craig~
Myrtle Clover loves to solve mysteries when her son, the police chief, isn’t getting in her way. The retired schoolteacher, an octogenarian, considers herself to be a clever sleuth, and can’t pass up mysteries even when she’s been warned off. This is the first book in the Myrtle Clover cozy mystery series. In this book, Parke Stockard, a local realtor who is not at all well liked in the community, has suffered a fatal blow at the church altar while tampering with the flowers. I read these cozy mysteries out of order, but it wasn’t difficult to go back and fill in with the ones I missed. The main character is full of spunk and attitude. All the supporting characters are just as enjoyable to read about. These cozies make me chuckle. I get a kick out of Myrtle showing displeasure with her police chief son by putting out garden gnomes. The neighbors can tell how irritated she is with him by how many gnomes decorate the lawn. In fact, it’s quite common for her yard guy to be unable to cut the grass due to a plethora of garden gnomes, so he has to weed eat around them.
If you’re looking for a good cozy, I recommend this series.
~The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls ~
12-year-old Bean and her older sister Liz are abandoned by their mother and, left to their own devices, decide to go to search out their Uncle Tinsley, lifelong resident of a small town in Virginia. This is the first time the girls have met their uncle, who turns out to be a bit of a recluse and eccentric to boot. Having nowhere else to turn, they end up staying in the dilapidated mansion that has been in the family for generations. The setting and the storytelling is authentic to the 1970s.
Bean is smart and funny, and a thoroughly enjoyable character. I do tend to like coming-of-age stories. This audiobook was read by Jeannette Walls herself and I always enjoy listening to an author read their own work. I thought this was a good weekend read.
~Like A Watered Garden by Patti Hill~⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I know I say this too often, but this book really is one of my favorites. This is an inspirational Christian read. It was published in 2005, but remains at the top of my personal list of best loved Christian inspirational novels. Mibby has lost her husband and is trying to find her footing. This isn’t an easy thing to do, especially with the twists and turns in her story. She’s working to get her small business of designing gardens going while at the same time raising her 13-year-old son on her own. Mibby’s a real woman. She has a pear shaped figure and uncooperative hair. She has a next-door neighbor who dispenses comfort with words of wisdom and sugary home-baked goods. She kind of reminds me of some people I know. It makes me wish for the company of a good friend. I love all the characters in this book.
I don’t generally like characters that cry, but Mibby gets a pass because the scenes are so well done. Her crying fits are honest. None of that fake stuff here. I love a character who finds comfort in prayer, sugar laden snacks, and in the occasional indulgence of a good ugly cry.
It isn’t a fast, action-packed book, but I liked the flow. The pacing seems perfect to me for this kind of book. Is it strange that I find a story about grief comforting even from the beginning? This is the first book in a three-part series and I would like it very much if Patti Hill would write some more of Mibby’s story.🙂
“Mother,” Rain said, “did you really grow up here?”
Rain knew the answer to the question, but wanted to feel her mother out. She wanted to ask her mother what was she thinking and when could they leave, but it was better to not approach the topic directly. You had to take your time. Mother could be skittish and ornery, especially when her back was pushed up against the wall of unrealized hopes and tattered dreams.
“Yes, I did,” said Mother, letting the sheet she was spreading on the daybed fly out with a snap. It caught the air and bellowed before settling onto the mattress. She had chosen to stay in what Aunt Linda called the sunroom, an old converted porch now walled in, the open end graced with windows all along the backside.
“I have history here. So do you.”
If there was one thing that Mother had plenty of, it was history. Rain was a little too acquainted with particular chapters of Mother’s history, or at least her version of it, which seemed to be subject to varying interpretations and in a constant state of revision. History was not Rain’s favorite subject.
“How long do you think we’ll stay here? We need to find a place before school starts.” In case her mother forgot, she added, “And where you can get a job.”
Mother wouldn’t stay long in this kind of place. That was stone cold fact. It was much too tame and boring. It was no wonder she had wanted to get out, and the small shabbiness of the town also explained why she had never brought them back here.
“Why did you bring us here?” The question popped out before Rain could stop herself.
“I wanted to show you where I came from.”
“That shouldn’t take long.”
Mother laughed and snatched up a crocheted throw pillow, bopping Rain on the head with it. Rain grabbed it and returned the favor. Before long they were squealing and jumping on the bed in a full out pillow fight. They tussled and rolled, laughing until, exhausted and happy as puppies in a pile, they flopped back onto the bed, arms entwined. Doran Bea favored Mother in looks, but Rain could always make Mother smile, at least for a little while. Sometimes a little was enough. Sometimes it was all you were going to get.
Rain listened to the quiet of the house, and to their breathing, until the two separate exhalations matched up.
Her mother said, “I know what you’re doing.”
Rain kept her focus on the ceiling joists above her head. A string of spider webs clung to a crossbeam, and bits of dust were caught up in the construction, the edges of the sticky gossamer creation lose and floating.
“You don’t have to try so hard. You know I love you, right?”
The automatic, expected response tumbled from Rain’s lips, reassurance her Mother wanted to hear. “I know,” she said. “I love you, too.”
There was not the slightest doubt that her mother loved her. She told her so every day. But then, Mother always gave her love away easily.
Taking advantage of nanowrimo fever, I am busily working away on a brand new book, the third in a series. So far, I am liking this one. A while back I started a new and productive writing routine that seems to be working for me. Perhaps the atmosphere in the writer community will help me keep the daily practices I have established over the last several weeks. It can’t hurt, right?
Before I started on book three November 1st, I finally finished the rough (very rough) draft of my second book.
It was a tough one, but I did it. The subject matter was hard for me to write about but I am glad I did. It feels good to finish.
I sped up my writing quite a bit after I read Finish by Jon Acuff. I did a Book Break review of Finish here.
I read some good advice about dictation and realized I have not been doing it wrong and that freed me up tremendously. Tech still frustrates me from time to time, but that’s part of the package.
You might have noticed a few changes to the blog. I’ve been enjoying Instagram, and decided to post my instareviews here as well under the title of Book Break. My super awesome technically gifted son did that magic code writing thing so it does it automatically, if I remember to tag it properly. Tell me what you think. I love the nifty little coffee cups he put in the titles. I will try to post the longer book reviews from time to time, but needed to streamline things and spend more time writing.
Any changes in your life lately? Have any tips on how to succeed and make it to finished?
~The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin~⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“We read to know we are not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone. We are not alone.”
This is one of those books that as soon as I finished it, I wanted to tell someone about it.. The book is a beautiful story about second chances, life, and love. Recently widowed AJ owns a bookstore on Alice Island. He is drowning in grief and isolates himself more and more. Then something happens to change his life. I was touched by the novel. It reminds us that life is full of the good and the bad. “In the end, we are collected works. He has read enough to know there are no collections we are each story is perfect. Some hits. Some misses. If you’re lucky, a stand out.”
There’s no magic in this novel, but somehow to me it felt magical.
The book contains some language, tragedy, and a bit of misbehavior, but it is a beautiful and life-affirming work. I find myself quite enamored with it. I suspect that if you are a book lover you would enjoy this one. It makes me want to go visit a bookshop.