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by Sue Moorcroft
Good personal character is something that is often taken for granted, but in moments of crisis it can rise to the forefront to shine. That is what happens to Nico Pettersson when he takes his eight-year old daughter Josie to her mother Lauren’s home for a planned visit only to discover an alcohol and drug mess. Lauren is in no condition for a visit or to take care of her two-year old Maria. This precious little one is not Nico’s child. In fact, her conception had resulted in divorce. As a single parent, Nico has his own set of problems, but can he leave his daughter’s sister in a filthy, hungry, and thirsty state?
Throughout Sue Moorcroft’s Christmas Wishes, Nico has many decisive moments of conscience. Meanwhile, he reconnects with Hannah, a childhood friend who is his former hockey teammate’s little sister. She is confronted with a break in her relationship with Albin, a cold, wealthy, supercilious boyfriend who controls her shop and her residence in Sweden. The setting bounces back and forth between Stockholm, Sweden, and Middledip, England, with Hannah and Nico having ties in both countries.
The setting is beautiful and Moorcroft has a talent for descriptions. Christmas is not just a backdrop, but an integral part of the story. The plot and relationships are complex. The ups and downs of romance weave through the story and provide a few surprises. A well-behaved Josie and cute-as-a-button Maria are a wonderful pair of children, and my heart went out to them in their respective situations. Hannah’s grandmother, Nan Heather, is a wise and delightful ninety year old who rounds out the cast beautifully. Christmas Wishes is a Christmas gift to readers who want a good storyline coupled with romance in a Christmas setting.
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to HarperCollins (Avon Books) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction (Adult), Romance, Women’s Fiction
Notes: 1. This book is part of the Middledip Series which seems to be loosely connected by a Middledip, England, setting and by an emphasis on seasons. My impression is that the books in this series do not need to be read in any particular order and that they make excellent standalones.
2. There is one place in the book where the description of a sexual encounter borders on too much detail for my taste, but it is not enough to make me wish I hadn’t read the book. Skim and move on!
Publication: October 29, 2020—HarperCollins (Avon)
The butterflies that journeyed home with her fluttered wings of ice…
Anders rocked a mixed retro look with a Seventies mustache but a Sixties short-back-and-sides. His wide-lapelled suits teamed with busy floral ties were a fashion mystery.
Autumn seemed to have decided not to bother this year and winter had swept in as if from Narnia. Iron-hard frosts stripped the color from the landscape, bleak but beautiful…
A Walk in the Woods
by Bill Bryson
The Appalachian Trail, a little over 2,000 miles of challenging terrain, is a test that hikers of all ages, genders, and experience levels attack in various ways. There are parking lot visitors; they drive in, look around a bit and perhaps picnic, but do not actually hike the trail. Section hikers traverse parts of the trail at various times with a few completing the whole trail over the course of a lifetime. Then there are a few hardy souls who are full thru-hikers; they keep at it from south to north until they complete the trail.
As you might imagine, hiking the Appalachian Trail is an endeavor that requires a lot of planning and the purchase of expensive equipment to get the lightest weight gear possible. Carrying a forty pound backpack all day over rough terrain with formidable ascents and descents is a difficult task indeed. Author Bill Bryson who has written a number of travel books relates in A Walk in the Woods his experiences on the Appalachian Trail with Stephen Katz, a former school chum he had traveled around Europe with twenty-years prior. Much of the book describes the harsh realities of the hike and the delightful relief of their occasional forays into civilization to replenish supplies and sleep in a real bed. Some of the book relates their changing relationship as they confront the trials of the trail together as well as anecdotes about the interesting people they meet along the way.
Bryson’s writing style is comfortable. The descriptions are detailed without being overblown, and there is just enough history of the trail to give the reader an understanding of why it is the way it is. Often humorous, it provides an interesting read taking the reader into a once in a lifetime experience on the Appalachian Trail.
Notes: Some profanity
Publication: December 26, 2006 (first published May 5, 1998)—Anchor Books
But even men far tougher and more attuned to the wilderness than Thoreau were sobered by its strange and palpable menace. Daniel Boone, who not only wrestled bears but tried to date their sisters, described corners of the southern Appalachians as “so wild and horrid that it is impossible to behold them without terror.” When Daniel Boone is uneasy, you know it’s time to watch your step.
I was beginning to appreciate that the central feature of life on the Appalachian Trail is deprivation, that the whole point of the experience is to remove yourself so thoroughly from the conveniences of everyday life that the most ordinary things—processed cheese, a can of pop gorgeously beaded with condensation—fill you with wonder and gratitude.
And all the time, as we crept along on this absurdly narrow, dangerous perch, we were half-blinded by flying snow and jostled by gusts of wind, which roared through the dancing trees and shook us by our packs. This wasn’t a blizzard; it was a tempest.
I Owe You One
by Sophie Kinsella
I have read and enjoyed a number of books by Sophie Kinsella who is perhaps most famous for her Shopaholic series. Then I read one that just didn’t have the same zing and humor, so I entered I Owe You One with some trepidation. I am pleased to report that Kinsella’s latest book lives up to her standards and my expectations. At first I was a little concerned there would be too much predictability. The main character’s name is Fixie, derived from her penchant for fixing things ranging from the placement of objects to personal relationships. OCD is definitely in play as she struggles not to rearrange things or declare her every thought. As Fixie’s high school heartthrob reenters her life, the reader is watching a foreseeable train wreck: “No, Fixie, don’t do it!”
The plot leaves the anticipated pathway soon after with lots of surprises in store. It does not focus solely on Fixie’s love life. Fixie also struggles with family relationships which are closely tied with the family business. You will like Fixie if for no other reason than she tries so hard in everything she does. She feels like a failure, is loaded with unwarranted guilt, and carries the torch for making everything turn out right and keeping everyone happy—a big burden for one person.
There are many other interesting major and minor characters you will meet, but not all of them are likable, of course. The setting is West London where the denizens range from scruffy to posh. The book flows nicely with lots of humor and is a fast and enjoyable read.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Dial Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Women’s Fiction
Publication: February 19, 2019—Dial Press
When I think how I believed his version of everything, how I rationalized everything he said and did, I feel warm with stupidity. But he was so convincing.
Ryan’s pathological, I’ve realized. He says anything to anyone to get out of whatever situation he’s in. Truth doesn’t count, integrity doesn’t count, love doesn’t even figure. Yelling at him would be like yelling at a rock. It’s never going to change.
I learned that failing doesn’t mean you are a failure; it just means you’re a human being.
by Susan Furlong
Brynn Callahan suffers mental effects from being part of a Marine search team for the dead. She and her dog Wilco both received physical injuries from an encounter with an IED in Iraq. Retired from the military, they work as a team for the local sheriff.
In Fractured Truth, Brynn has been chosen for her job, despite a less than stellar work record due to PTS and associated addictions, to act as a liaison between law enforcement and the people group she was born into. She is half Traveller or Pavee, originally an Irish roaming group who settled in the Appalachian mountains in Tennessee. She is only partially successful in this role as the Pavees view her as an outsider and traitor for working with the police. She is helpful, however, in that she understands their customs and perspectives.
Brynn and Wilco are called upon to locate the body of a girl found by a cross-country skier. Wilco is successful and later, thanks to his sensitive nose, is able to locate another woman’s body who police suspect is in a river. The plot is very complex with many suspects. While investigating these crimes, Brynn is also dealing with PTS issues that she tries to overcome with alcohol and prescription drugs. In addition, she has past relationships that color her attempts to establish a new life in Bone Gap. She suffers discrimination from the Pavees and from some of her “settled” coworkers who look to blame the Pavees for problems. The Pavees, in turn, ostracize Brynn and her grandmother.
Fractured Truth has a good solid plot. It is a fascinating mystery, if somewhat gruesome at times. Author Susan Furlong, who has a talent with words, has created an interesting character in Brynn Callahan. I didn’t find her likeable or unlikeable, but I did find myself rooting for her in her struggle against her personal demons. Her battles are deep and painful, and unfortunately there are many returning soldiers who literally share the same torments. The book ends with the criminal cases solved but some loose ends that will carry the reader into the next book in the series.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: 1. #2 in the Bone Gap Travellers series, but works well as a standalone.
2. Since I review a lot of cozy mysteries, I want to point out that this book is not a cozy mystery. It falls in the traditional mystery series category. Some might classify it as a Police Procedural or a K-9 mystery. It is quite successfully all of these things!
Publication: December 18, 2018—Kensington Books
A little smirk played along the corner of her lips. She enjoyed causing trouble. Gone was the withering flower, replaced by little Ms. Mean Girl. Who was the real Winnie? I had no idea. This interrogation was giving me mental whiplash.
“War is a series of relentless extremes. Boredom to certain death. No between. Anxiety becomes a part of who you are. You never turn it off. You do, and you’re not on your game, not able to save your own thankless hide, let alone your buddies.”
We kept our boundaries tight and adhered to a strict moral code, but somewhere along the line, we’d forgotten to allow for humanness. Rules and rigidness had replaced love and mercy.
Murder Made to Order
by Lena Gregory
If you have ever wondered what it would be like to move from cold, urban New York to small town Florida complete with snakes, alligators, and monkeys, try reading Murder Made to Order. In this cozy mystery, Gia’s diner, the All-Day Breakfast Café, is in danger of being shut down because of zoning regulations. When Gia finds the town council’s president dead, things get complicated.
Not even sure she wants to live in Florida, Gia finds herself in the middle of a forest fire, a tornado, and a murder investigation. On the plus side, however, are her supportive friend of ten years Savannah, her potential boyfriend Hunt, and a lot of encouraging townsfolk.
Author Lena Gregory draws the reader into Murder Made to Order with a good background, interesting characters, and surprising complications. Along the way you learn a lot of interesting things about life near the Ocala National Forest.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #2 in the All-Day Breakfast Café Mystery Series, but works as a standalone.
Publication: June 19, 2018 — Kensington Press (Lyrical Underground)
Gia stood in the middle of the living room and stared out the window. Rain pounded against the house. Lightning flashed, bolt after bolt, illuminating the yard. Mesmerizing. The tall, thin palm tree outside her front window bent in half.
“Twenty-one years old, barely old enough to drink, and he struts in like he owns the place. Drunk as a skunk and dumber than a bag of rocks, carryin’ on about how his daddy was going to own the place.”
Gia watched them walk away, realizing nothing united a community the way tragedy did. It seemed the need to help others brought out the best in people.