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The Christmas Calendar Girls–an advent calendar that helps others

The Christmas Calendar Girls

by Samantha Tonge

The Christmas Calendar GirlsFern, Davina, and Cara bond over children who attend the same school in Birchwood Estate. With different personalities and strengths they value each other rather than hold jealousies. In The Christmas Calendar Girls by Samantha Tonge, the ladies work together to save the food bank that is a lifeline for so many in the community, from the addict to the unemployed parent struggling to provide.

It’s the busy Christmas season and late to begin a project to raise money, but Fern has an idea to save the food bank and engender community spirit and good will. Her friends jump on board to help.

All is not smooth sailing, however, with the project and its changing deadlines or in the “calendar girls’ ” personal lives. Fern is a widowed journalist trying to find a new normal for herself and her daughter Lily. Perhaps she is ready to have a relationship again. Kit, a former client of the food bank, stirs her heart, but is he ready for romance? Davina has always been close to her twin boys, but the more sensitive of the two begins pulling away and the pair get into a fight at school. Cara is fantastic with food, very creative, and a doting, stay-at-home mom. Suddenly she seems to have lost it all as she burns foods, uses the wrong ingredients, and  forgets school notices and weather appropriate clothing for her kids. She fears the onset of early dementia.

Watching these characters grow as they lean on each other and gradually reveal their secrets and rooting for them as they try to help those less fortunate, makes for a gentle, interesting, and inspiring story. Birchwood Estate will never be the same.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Aria for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Publication:   October 3, 2019—Aria

Memorable Lines:

That’s what Cara’s homely place was like…If it was a person it would have been a welcoming aunt, who always had your favorite biscuits in and never forgot to send birthday money.

“Bringing everyone together, friends and family, over food and drink, with the purpose of helping people facing difficult times…your idea really does encapsulate everything that the festive season should be about.”

Sometimes I worried I’d never meet another man. I didn’t need one to look after myself and Lily. But I wanted the company. The closeness. I missed that.

Goodness, Grace, and Me–it’s complicated

Goodness, Grace, and Me

by Julie Houston

Goodness, Grace, and MeComplicated relationships are at the center of Julie Houston’s Goodness, Grace, and Me. Harriet (Hat) has been best friends with Grace since they were eleven, and they both idolized Amanda who along the way picked up the title “Little Miss Goodness.” Twenty years later, Grace and Harriet  assume they are rid of her influence when she suddenly re-enters their lives. Despite all warnings, Harriet’s husband Nick becomes involved in business with Amanda’s husband and thus Amanda. Grace’s brother continues to be under Amanda’s spell.

Life is not easy for Harriet, mother of three, who had to return to teaching because of economic problems. Also Nick’s mother has come to live with them. Although her situation is complicated, Harriet pushes hard for stability for her family.

This is my second Julie Houston book to read and I like it much better than the first. The main character is strong, likable, and has moral character. There is a subplot involving Harriet’s mother, possible dementia, and a secret. I wasn’t sure how the plot would sort itself out, but it did and I enjoyed watching it happen.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Aria for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

Notes: Includes some British vulgarisms but they are not terribly offensive compared to those found in Julie Houston’s Coming Home to Holly Close Farm.

Publication:   February 19, 2019—Aria

Memorable Lines:

I can only ever sulk for a maximum of five minutes, by which time I’ve usually had enough of giving the cold shoulder treatment and need to start talking again. Life is just too short to spend it in silence.

Admittedly, I did most of the hard graft but I lightened the proceedings by blasting out T.Rex’s “I Love to Boogie”, so that even Kit forgot he was a fully paid up member of the moody brigade and jitterbugged round the furniture with the Hoover.

…wrapping a duvet around her against the almost damp cold which had settled in the sitting room like a melancholic maiden aunt who has outstayed her welcome, I went back through the hall to ring the doctor’s surgery.

If My Moon Was Your Sun–the Great Forgetting

If My Moon Was Your Sun

by Andreas Steinhöfel

Illustrated by Nele Palmate

Translation by Matthew O. Anderson

If My Moon Was Your SunIf My Moon Was Your Sun is the poignant tale of ten year old Max who kidnaps his grandfather from an assisted living facility where he lives because he is gradually losing his memory. Max takes his grandpa to Grandpa’s favorite place where he first kissed his future wife and asked her to marry him. They are accompanied on their adventure by Miss Schneider who relives her younger days by dancing through the meadow.

I was provided with a digital version of this book for reviewing purposes, but the actual book has a CD audiobook with classical music by Georges Bizet and Sergei Prokofiev. The original story was created as part of the Ohrenspitzer project for children’s concerts. There are annotations throughout the book indicating the musical work and composer that accompanies each segment of the book. Most of the compositions are by Prokofiev, so I listened to some of his works and can only imagine how wonderful the union of the story, artwork, and music must be.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Plough Publishing House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Fiction, Parenting and Families

Notes: accompanied by CD audiobook

Publication:   November 1, 2017—Plough Publishing House

Memorable Lines:

The special thing happened when you let yourself sink slowly into the tall grass and pressed your hands into earth, which was firm and yet soft too, as though it could breathe. You closed your eyes, you breathed deeply in and out, and in no time at all you felt rooted and alive. Your thoughts became clear and orderly: the right thoughts flowed through your mind like cool, wet silver, and the wrong thoughts burned up like rust in a very hot fire.

To keep the Great Forgetting away from Grandfather when it tried to grab hold of him, it was sometimes enough to hug him tightly, offering nearness and security.

Watching Miss Schneider dance was like watching the sun spill itself over the earth. Stiff arms and legs, now in motion, suddenly seemed touched by eternal youth, and from their graceful movements a lightness flowed throughout the valley.

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