Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Book Review - Christmas at Grey Sage by Phyllis Clark Nichols

Book Synopsis
This Christmas, there’s plenty of room at the inn.

Nestled in the snow-covered Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Santa Fe, the Grey Sage Inn looks like the perfect place for weary travelers to escape the craziness of the Christmas season. There’s plenty to see in historic Santa Fe during the day, and the inn’s owners, Maude and Silas Thornhill, are happy to spend their evenings hosting this year’s guests from across the country.

But an unusual snowstorm throws a wrench in the festive mood. The sprawling inn becomes close quarters as stranded guests discover this Christmas won’t be the relaxed vacation they expected. Tension and fear mount as the storm worsens, and Silas, a retired doctor, is called away in the middle of the night to care for a neighbor. The snow and stress unlocks tongues–and in the unexpected conversation that follows, secrets and pasts are revealed, and hearts are healed.

In the midst of snowdrifts and fireside conversations, of tales of days gone by, the warmth of Christmas brings a renewed hope as these trapped strangers become friends–proof again that the joy, hope, peace, and love of Christmas can be experienced no matter where you are.

My Review
Christmas at Grey Sage tells the story of Maude and Silas.  They live near Santa Fe, but usually go away for a quiet Christmas together.  This year an old friend convinces them to open their beautiful home as an inn.  An interesting and disparate group of travelers visits.  When a snow storm keeps everyone inside at the inn, lives are changed.

I found this book very intriguing from the first chapter.  It begins with a flashback to Christmas 1973, when Maude and Silas are making a special holiday for their little boy Elan.  But there is a mysterious reference:  "... there would only be nine more Christmases celebrated at Grey Sage" (p. 7).  This sets the tone of the book and provides foreshadowing about how these people's lives are going to change.

I always enjoy books that put a diverse group of people together, and that was an interesting aspect of Christmas at Grey Sage.  The visitors to the inn include "a retired military officer, an aging ballerina, a religion professor with his wife and a son who's recuperating from war injuries, a pharmacist and his music-teaching wife, a grieving widow who's a psycho-therapist, her daughter ..." (p. 14). 

I also loved the setting, with the inn suites named for artists, and the glimpses of life in Santa Fe.  (It made me want to visit the Southwest!)

As the story unfolds and we learn these characters' secrets, there is warmth, understanding, and genuine healing from the past.  Christmas at Grey Sage was a lovely read, and it would make a great Hallmark movie.  I recommend it to anyone looking for a sensitively told, unique Christmas story.

Author Bio
Phyllis Clark Nichols believes everyone could use a little more hope and light. Her character-driven Southern fiction explores profound human questions from within the simple lives of small town communities you just know you've visited before. With a love for nature, art, faith and ordinary people, she tells redemptive tales of loss and recovery, estrangement and connection, longing and fulfillment, often through surprisingly serendipitous events. Phyllis grew up in the deep shade of magnolia trees in South Georgia. Now she lives in the Texas Hill Country with her portrait-artist husband, where red birds and axis deer are her ever-ravenous neighbors. She is an English major and classically-trained musician, seminary graduate, concert artist and co-founder of a national cable network for the health and disability-related programming. After retiring as a cable network executive, Phyllis began leading mission teams to orphanages in Guatemala and now serves on three non-profit boards where she works with others who are equally passionate about bringing hope and light to those who need it most.

Find out more about Phyllis at http://www.phyllisclarknichols.com.


I received a copy of this book from Litfuse.

Book Review - Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (audiobook performed by Laurel Schroeder)

Book Synopsis
Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, middle-aged siblings who live together in the fictional town of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island, decide to adopt a boy from an orphan asylum to help on their farm. But owing to a series of mishaps, the child who is delivered to their care is not a boy at all but a precocious girl of 11 named Anne Shirley. Although, as Marilla dryly informs her, "you certainly have a genius for getting into trouble", with pluck, imagination, and optimism, Anne flourishes at Green Gables. And Matthew and Marilla find their lives transformed and their hearts opened to a deeper love than they ever knew possible.





My Review
Anne of Green Gables tells the story of an orphan named Anne Shirley, who goes to live with a middle aged pair of siblings on Prince Edward Island, Canada.  Although Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert had planned to take in a boy to help around their farm, they unexpectedly decide to let Anne stay.  Her warmth and imagination changes their lives, as they also change hers.

This is a classic children's novel, and I have read it several times in the past.  I really enjoyed this reread, especially in audiobook format.  The book came alive with the narration by Laurel Schroeder.  She did a great job of characterizations, especially Anne's emphatic line deliveries and sense of drama.

I loved visiting with Anne in this story, and seeing the ordinary world through her sense of wonder.  I especially like the fanciful names she gives to everyday people and places.  I also really appreciated the way she sought out kindred spirits and her strong, loyal devotion to friends.

Anne of Green Gables is such a lovely book, about friendship and imagination and the power of home.  It was a pleasure to read again, and I recommend this audiobook adaptation highly.  It would make a wonderful trip listen that parents would enjoy as much as children.  It also would be great as a bedtime listen.

I received a copy of this book from Audiobookworm Promotions.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - There is Always a Tomorrow by Anna Belfrage

Book Spotlight
There is Always a Tomorrow is the ninth book in Anna Belfrage’s time slip series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

It is 1692 and the Colony of Maryland is still adapting to the consequences of Coode’s Rebellion some years previously. Religious tolerance in the colony is now a thing of the past, but safe in their home, Alex and Matthew Graham have no reason to suspect they will become embroiled in the ongoing religious conflicts—until one of their sons betrays their friend Carlos Muñoz to the authorities.

Matthew Graham does not leave his friends to rot—not even if they’re papist priests—so soon enough most of the Graham family is involved in a rescue attempt, desperate to save Carlos from a sentence that may well kill him.

Meanwhile, in London little Rachel is going through hell. In a matter of months she loses everything, even her surname, as apparently her father is not Master Cooke but one Jacob Graham. Not that her paternity matters when her entire life implodes.

Will Alex and Matthew be able to help their unknown grandchild? More importantly, will Rachel want their help?

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

 

Author Bio

Anna was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result she’s multilingual and most of her reading is historical- both non-fiction and fiction. Possessed of a lively imagination, she has drawers full of potential stories, all of them set in the past. She was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Ideally, Anna aspired to becoming a pioneer time traveller, but science has as yet not advanced to the point of making that possible. Instead she ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for her most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career Anna raised her four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive…

For years she combined a challenging career with four children and the odd snatched moment of writing. Nowadays Anna spends most of her spare time at her writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and she slips away into her imaginary world, with her imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in her life pops his head in to ensure she’s still there.

Other than on her website, www.annabelfrage.com, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel. You can also connect with Anna on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

Giveaway
During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a paperback copy of There is Always a Tomorrow! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.  

Giveaway Rules 
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on December 21st. You must be 18 or older to enter. 
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY. 
– Only one entry per household. 
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. 
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.  

There is Always a Tomorrow
 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Dear Abby - Famous TV Dogs: Eddie from Frasier

Dear Friends,

I will be taking a break from my Famous TV Dogs series after this week, but wanted to share one more favorite dog with you.  Eddie, the Jack Russell Terrier from Frasier, is my Momma's favorite TV dog, and I am partial to him myself.  Regular readers will know that I am a "Doxie-Jack" (Dachshund - Jack Russell Terrier mix), so I love that Eddie is a Jack Russell.
Frasier was a popular TV series that aired from 1993 - 2004.  It tells the story of Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer), a radio psychologist who moved back home to Seattle to live with his elderly father, Martin, and Martin's dog buddy, Eddie.  Eddie appears in every episode and usually steals the scenes he is in.

Eddie was originally played by a dog named Moose.  Moose was born in 1990 in Florida.  He was a little too rambunctious for his original family, and they rehomed him with someone who trained dogs for television and movies.  Early in his career Moose appeared in the movie My Dog Skip

Moose trained for six months for the role of Eddie on Frasier.  His signature trick was giving Frasier a long, hard stare.  

Eddie stares at Frasier's photo
The actors would dab sardine oil and liver pate on their faces to encourage Moose to lick them on cue.


Eddie and Martin (John Mahoney)
Moose was made more famous by a calendar, and by a book called My Life as a Dog by  Brian Hargrove.

When Moose quit acting, his son Enzo took over the role for the last four seasons of the show.


Moose the dog later retired with his son Enzo.  He had a long life and passed away of natural causes at home at the age of 15 1/2.

Here is a little clip of Eddie giving his famous stare on Frasier:



Do you remember Eddie the dog from Frasier?  I would love to hear from you in the comments, below.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!  I'll touch base next week before the holidays.

Love,
Abby xoxoxo


Book Review - Moonlight Over Manhattan by Sarah Morgan

Book Synopsis
Determined to conquer a lifetime of shyness, Harriet Knight challenges herself to do one thing a day in December that scares her, including celebrating Christmas without her family. But when dog walker Harriet meets her newest client, exuberant spaniel Madi, she adds an extra challenge to her list—dealing with Madi’s temporary dog sitter, gruff doctor Ethan Black, and their very unexpected chemistry.

Ethan thought he was used to chaos, until he met Madi—how can one tiny dog cause such mayhem? To Ethan, the solution is simple—he will pay Harriet to share his New York apartment and provide twenty-four-hour care. But there’s nothing simple about how Harriet makes him feel.

Ethan’s kisses make Harriet shine brighter than the stars over moonlit Manhattan. But when his dog-sitting duties are over and Harriet returns to her own home, will she dare to take the biggest challenge of all—letting Ethan know he has her heart for life, not just for Christmas?

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Purchase Links

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My Review
Harriet Knight is a Manhattan dog walker.  She is a kind but timid person, and challenges herself to do one thing that scares her each day in December.   One of the things she tries is online dating.  As a result of a disastrous blind date, she escapes a restaurant through a bathroom window and turns her ankle.  When she has it checked out in a local hospital, she meets a handsome doctor named Ethan Black.  She goes home, assuming this was a one time meeting.  To Harriet's surprise, when she is called on to help with an unexpected dog walking - and pet sitting - challenge, it is at Ethan's apartment. Ethan is taking care of his sister's lovable - but destructive - spaniel named Madi.  Madi has separation anxiety and needs constant company.  That is where Harriet comes in.  As she stays at Ethan's apartment to help Madi, sparks fly, and it turns out to be a very special December for them both.

Moonlight Over Manhattan is part of Sarah Morgan's Manhattan With Love series.  I have read and reviewed several books in this series.  They are all fun reads, but I think Moonlight Over Manhattan is my favorite in the series.  I really enjoyed Harriet as a character.  She is kind and likable, and I admire the way she challenges herself to do things that make her nervous.  Ethan is also a kind hearted person.  They both love books and reading ... and there is even an adorable dog involved!   (Note for fellow dachshund friends - Harriet is fostering a dachshund for a rescue group early in the book.)

I loved the glimpses of Manhattan over the holidays, and enjoyed the wonderful descriptions in this book in general.  For instance:

"They walked along the snowy streets, their breath clouding the freezing air.  This part of Manhattan had a small, intimate feel.  Snow fell like frozen confetti, muffling street noise and carpeting the cobbled streets.  In this part of the street the trees reached across and touched each other, street lamps bathing the snow with an ethereal glow" (p. 167).

All the books in this series are feel good reads, and Moonlight Over Manhattan is no exception.  Harriet and Ethan are likable, kind, caring people whom readers will enjoy getting to know.  They are also well developed characters who have enough little quirks to be really interesting.

Moonlight Over Manhattan is a light, fun holiday read.  It is perfect to enjoy for a few evenings or over a winter weekend.  I recommend it for fans of contemporary romance, feel good reads, and holiday novels.

Author Bio
USA Today bestselling author Sarah Morgan writes lively, sexy contemporary stories for Harlequin.

Romantic Times has described her as ‘a magician with words’ and nominated her books for their Reviewer’s Choice Awards and their ‘Top Pick’ slot. In 2012 Sarah received the prestigious RITA® Award from the Romance Writers of America. She lives near London with her family..

 

Connect with Sarah

Website | Facebook | Twitter

I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Book Review - Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano

Book Synopsis
Lynhurst Manor is a house built on secrets . . . and the arrival of Aurelie Harcourt might reveal them all.
When Aurelie Harcourt's father dies suddenly, he leaves her just two things: his famous pen name, Nathaniel Droll, and his wealthy family--who want very little to do with her.

As Aurelie struggles to find a home with her father's family and learn the rules of society, she relishes in his parting gift--the beginning of his last story. The story she always wanted to hear, about her mother's mysterious disappearance from the home where she now lives. To complete the novel, she'll have to extract clues from relatives--and one enigmatic houseguest--who often seem reluctant to give them up.


My Review
Lady Jayne Disappears tells the story of Aurelie Harcourt.  When her much loved father, a writer, passes away, Aurelie continues writing under his pen name and goes to live with his family.  Lynhurst Manor is a mysterious home and the family that lives there is equally mysterious.  Aurelie looks for answers about her mother's long ago disappearance as she continues to write a novel inspired by her life.

This is such a unique and intriguing novel.   It is a historical novel set in 1861.  It involves family secrets, a mystery, a Gothic setting, and a bit of romance as well.   Joanna Davidson Politano does a wonderful job of blending these elements.  

The writing is fresh and creative.  Each chapter begins with a short epigraph from the fictional novel within this book, Lady Jayne Disappears.  There is Aurelie and the novel she is writing (continued from her father's work) and then the real history of Lady Jayne, her mother.  

The setting of Lynwood Manor was perfect for this story.  Aurelie observes:  "Papa had been right - the walls were bursting with stories.  And I must remain among them as long as humanly possible" (p. 73).

Aurelie is an interesting character, curious and resilient, and determined to discover truth in her writing and in her life.  I kept reading, hoping that she would find answers - and happiness.  I enjoyed all the twists and turns of the story.

The romantic plot was well written and involved two intelligent, likable characters who were truly perfect for each other.

I really enjoyed this novel.  I recommend Lady Jayne Disappears for fans of historical fiction, Christian fiction, and anyone who enjoys a well written novel that incorporates both mystery and romance.

Author Bio
Joanna Davidson Politano is a freelance writer and debut novelist who spends as much time as possible spinning tales that capture the exquisite details of ordinary lives. She lives with her husband and their two babies in a house in the woods near Lake Michigan. Learn more at www.jdpstories.com.

I received a copy of this book from Revell Reads.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - Altered To Death (A Faith Hunter Scrap This Mystery) by Christina Freeburn

Book Synopsis
Looking for a craft cozy so memorable you’ll stay up late scrapping about it? Well, welcome to the town of Eden.

Faith Hunter, who is supposed to be planning her wedding, instead finds herself distracted by the town scrapbook she was commissioned to create. Eden’s oldest mystery, the founding family’s exodus nearly a hundred years ago, remains unsolved.

A search through the family’s abandoned mansion leads to the uncovering of bones on that very property. And then ex-boyfriend Steve Davis announces a surprise heir has staked a claim.

How can Faith not be distracted? Now she’s determined to dig up the truth left behind.

Because scrappers are multi-taskers extraordinaire, Faith can’t say no when family friend Wyatt Buford asks her to look into his deadbeat father’s disappearing act and his connection to the murder.

Her quest for answers unearths secrets past and present that some would prefer stay buried at any cost. Faith’s resolve to present the facts and nothing but about Eden’s history could lead to her own future being cut short.

See what I mean about memorable? Delve in to Eden and you’ll find a cozy you won’t soon forget.


Author Bio
The Faith Hunter Scrap This Mystery series brings together Christina Freeburn’s love of mysteries, scrapbooking, and West Virginia. When not writing or reading, she can be found in her scrapbook room or at a crop. Alas, none of the real-life crops have had a sexy male prosecutor or a handsome police officer attending. 

Christina served in the JAG Corps of the US Army and also worked as a paralegal, librarian, and church secretary. She lives in West Virginia with her husband, children, a dog, and a rarely seen cat except by those who are afraid or allergic to felines.


Author Links:
Webpage: www.christinafreeburn.com
Blog: www.theselfrescueprincess.wordpress.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Christina-Freeburn-Author/245592138834150
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChristinaFreeb1
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/ChristinaFreeburn

Giveaway
(1) Print Copy - Altered To Death (A Faith Hunter Scrap This Mystery) by Christina Freeburn - U.S. ONLY.  Ends 12/7.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Dear Abby - Famous TV Dogs: Snoopy

Dear Friends,

I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving!  I had a wonderful time with my family, and I am happy to be back visiting with you.

Snoopy is one of my favorite TV dogs.  He started out in the Peanuts comic strip by Charles Schulz in 1950.  Snoopy was inspired by Charles Schulz's dog Spike.  Snoopy was almost called "Sniffy," but there was another comic strip out with a dog named Sniffy.

Charles Schulz and his dog Spike
I like Snoopy's imagination.  He is sometimes an author, sometimes a flying ace, and sometimes just a very happy beagle.  Over the years, Snoopy has had over 100 alter egos!

Snoopy even had his own song, "Snoopy vs the Red Baron" (1966, by the Royal Guardsmen).  It went to number 2 on the Billboard chart.




Snoopy's first TV appearance was in A Charlie Brown Christmas on December 9, 1965.  He appeared in many other TV specials after that, including It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966), Charlie Brown's All Stars (1966), You're in Love, Charlie Brown (1967), He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown (1968), Snoopy Comes Home (1972), and many more.

Here is Snoopy from A Charlie Brown Christmas:

And he was featured prominently in It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, too:

One of my favorite things about Snoopy is his happy dance.  I have a happy dance too, but Snoopy's is much jazzier!



Are you a fan of Snoopy and his appearances in the Peanuts TV specials?  I would love to hear from you in the comments.

Have a wonderful weekend!  I look forward to visiting with you next Friday.

Love,

Abby xoxoxo



Book Review - The Lady Travelers Guide to Larceny with a Dashing Stranger by Victoria Alexander

Book Synopsis

She must secure her future

A lady should never be obliged to think of matters financial! But when Lady Wilhelmina Bascombe’s carefree, extravagant lifestyle vanishes with the demise of her husband, her only hope lies in retrieving a family treasure—a Renaissance masterpiece currently in the hands of a cunning art collector in Venice. Thankfully, the Lady Travelers Society has orchestrated a clever plan to get Willie to Europe, leading a tour of mothers and daughters…and one curiously attentive man.

He must reclaim his heritage

Dante Augustus Montague’s one passion has long been his family’s art collection. He’s finally tracked a long-lost painting to the enchanting Lady Bascombe. Convinced that the canvas had been stolen, he will use any means to reclaim his birthright—including deception. But how long before pretend infatuation gives way to genuine desire?

Now they’re rivals for a prize that will change everything

Willie and Dante know they’re playing with fire in the magical moonlit city. Their common quest could compromise them both…or lead them to happily-ever-after.

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

 

My Review

The Lady Travelers Guide to Larceny with a Dashing Stranger is part of the Lady Travelers Society series.  It tells the story of Lady Wilhelmina ("Willie") Bascombe.  She is a widow who is on a search for a painting belonging to her family.  The painting is now in Venice.  In order to travel to Venice, she has agreed to host a tour for the Lady Travelers Society.  The tour consists of mothers and daughters ... and a dashing man named Dante Montague.  Dante is in search of the same painting, which he believes belongs in the family museum that he curates.

 

Before Willie leaves on the trip, she meets with Poppy, her godmother, and one of the founders of The Lady Travelers Society.  Poppy tells her:  "I must tell you, Wilhelmina, that the most wonderful things in life are often those we least expect" (eBook loc. 187-88).   This novel, and Willie's trip, is full of the unexpected!

 

This is a delightful, fast paced read.  Like The Lady Travelers Guide to Scoundrels and Other Gentleman (reviewed previously at my blog), it is a fun-filled romp.  The reader will join Willie, Dante, and a likable group of secondary characters on a trip across Europe.  There is humor and a bit of adventure, as well as the joy of armchair travels through Paris and Venice of another time.

 

I enjoyed the characters of Willie and Dante.  It was interesting that they both were pretending to be something they weren't initially.  Willie was pretending to be more efficient and well traveled than she actually was, and Dante was pretending to be more dashing and worldly than he was.  This led to some interesting scenes and surprising exchanges between the two.

 

The Lady Travelers Guide to Larceny with a Dashing Stranger is an engaging, lively read with likeable characters and lovely historical settings.  I enjoyed it, and look forward to my next travels with The Lady Travelers Society.

Author Bio

New York Times bestselling author Victoria Alexander was an award winning television reporter until she discovered fiction was much more fun than real life. She turned to writing full time and is still shocked it worked out.

Since the publication of her first book in 1995, she has written thirty-one full length novels and six novellas.

Connect with Victoria

Website | Facebook | Twitter

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and TLC Book Tours.