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A Dog’s Perfect Christmas–meeting life’s challenges
A Dog’s Perfect Christmas
by W. Bruce Cameron
I have discovered an author I was unfamiliar with, but now I want to read more of his works. W. Bruce Cameron specializes in dog/people stories and knows how to combine some humor with tough reality. His A Dog’s Perfect Christmas could be labeled as a “feel-good Christmas story,” but it is so much more.
This is the tale of an imperfect family doing their best to survive the everyday struggles and big disasters. By the conclusion of this book, you’ll like all of the characters. Hunter loves his family but devotes himself to his job. His wife Juliana gave up her job to raise their children but struggles with inner conflict about her role. Ello (short for Eloise) is their thirteen year old daughter caught in a hurricane of hormones and middle school relationships. Her two younger brothers are three year old twins who excel in wreaking havoc and rely on Ello to be their translator to the rest of the world. Grandpa Sander is a widower whose beloved wife passed away from cancer. Her care drained their financial resources requiring Sander to move in with his son’s family. Completing the family is Sander’s faithful canine retainer Winstead.
I devote so much of my review to the characters because the characters and how they interact with each other and meet life’s challenges is the focus of A Dog’s Perfect Christmas. Everyone in this book has specific needs to be met. The family undergoes a major crisis that could have thrown them all into despair, but as they work to stand strong together through the big problem confronting them, there is healing and a renewing of family and spirit.
Dogs play a part in this story that dog lovers will enjoy, especially the thinking process in Winstead’s brain as he reacts to his “daddy” Sander’s moods and actions. If only there were a puppy, this would be a perfect Christmas story…
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Forge for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction
Publication: October 10, 2020—Forge
He saw the tidal forces of rage fighting for control of Ello’s face. As a little girl, she had been able to charm her grandfather into reading her one book after another after another. Now, though, she’d morphed into this hideously unpleasant creature, spitting acidic venom.
Winstead and Ruby had already incorporated park visits into their bill of rights, and now gazed at Sander expectantly whenever he stood up out of his chair. They tracked him with eager intensity as he fetched their leashes, then bounded joyfully into the minivan, wrestling all the way to the park.
When Hunter released her, Ruby darted off with crazed energy, racing around the room in celebration, because puppies know how to celebrate everything.
Broken Heart Attack–good series
Broken Heart Attack
by James J. Cudney
The best way for me to describe the beginning of Broken Heart Attack is “hyperactive,” a label which is meant to be descriptive, not positive or negative. Author James J. Cudney packs a lot into the first several chapters as he brings readers up to speed on the events in the first book of the series and introduces a complex plot with a lot of characters.
The main mystery of Broken Heart Attack centers around the Paddington family, murder, and a missing will. Unfortunately, the Paddington family is quite dysfunctional, and there is not one member of the family that I could relate to or invest myself in. In other words, by the end of the book, I really didn’t care who the murderer was.
A side issue to the murder is a paternity case. Other stories that affect the main character, Kellan, continue from the first book but make little progress: the reappearance of a presumed dead wife, conflict with co-worker Myriam, a potential love triangle involving friends Connor and Maggie, and a possible softening in his relationship with Sheriff Montague.
I purchased this book; it was not an advance copy. Therefore, I was surprised to see a number of errors. Some were obviously a case of autocorrect gone wrong, some were spelling, and some were, more egregiously, pronoun usage. This is particularly startling because the author rarely has errors in his posted book reviews.
On the positive side, Nana D continues to provide humor and Kellan is a likeable character. Would I read another book in this cozy mystery series? Absolutely! I would particularly like to see what happens as Kellan is pressured by his wife’s mob family, the Castiglianos. I would urge the author to write the next book at a less frenetic pace with more character development. He has the beginnings of a good series with interesting plots and a college setting that provides a background with multiple possibilities. The Braxton Campus Mystery Series definitely has a lot of potential.
Notes: #2 in the Braxton Campus Mystery Series. It could be read as a standalone, but would be more fun in sequence.
Publication: November 25, 2018—Creativia
I loved my nana, but her friends were harder to handle than standing upside down catching a greasy pig in a mud slide.
Eustacia and Nana D had some sort of symbiotic relationship where they often couldn’t stand to be around one another but if ever two days went by without time for tea or gossip, the world might’ve come to an end.
I woke up Thursday morning with a hangover so painful my head had put out a foreclosure sign.
The Rancher’s Homecoming–inspiration on a Montana ranch
The Rancher’s Homecoming
by Anna J. Stewart
What a great final book in the Return of the Blackwell Brothers series! Anna J. Stewart has the job of continuing the story and finalizing this series in her book The Rancher’s Homecoming. Stewart does a fantastic job with both tasks.
Chance Blackwell considers himself the black sheep of the Blackwell family because he never enjoyed riding horses (blasphemy on a ranch!), he loves music, and he eloped with the foreman’s daughter, hoping never to return. Life is full of surprises, however, and Chance’s wife, Maura, passes away from cancer leaving him with a hole in his heart and an adorable preschooler, and without an inspiration for his songs. His grandfather, Big E, continues to manipulate behind the scenes, and Chance is forced to return to Falcon Creek to cast the deciding vote on the sale of the ranch.
The story moves quickly ahead while the reader gets glimpses into the past to see reasons for various characters’ actions. The relationship between Chance and Katie, his wife’s sister, who is also the acting foreman of the ranch, becomes complicated. The always likable sister-in-laws band together to try to make things better on several fronts. Will Big E ever explain himself? Has he changed? What influence does he have over Katie? Can the Blackwell brothers trust her? Should Chance vote to sell, hurting Ethan and Ty, or vote to retain the property, hurting Ben and Jon? Life is complicated, and so is the plot of The Rancher’s Homecoming.
This book is another in the series that lives up to its “heartwarming” moniker. Interesting characters, beautiful Montana setting, and a nice balance between introspection and action combine to make this a great read. If you haven’t read this series yet, I strongly recommend you put it on your TBR list for 2019!
I would like to extend my thanks to the author, Anna J. Stewart, for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #5 in Return of the Blackwell Brothers but will work as a standalone because of brief explanations of characters and past events as the book progresses
Publication: December 1, 2018—Harlequin Publishing
There was nothing for him here. Nothing except bitter memories of a place where he never belonged and a family he’d never fit into. Forget being a square peg in a round hole. For Chance, he’d always felt like a banjo in an orchestra.
The melody found itself, as it always did, skipping and hopping its way through his mind like stones across a still lake.
The late-summer air brushed over them, warm and welcoming, as the river rushed beyond them and meandered through Blackwell land as easily as a bee to its hive.
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you libraries aren’t important. It’s where our dreams wait to be discovered.”
Academic Curveball–knocking this cozy out of the park
by James J. Cudney
Academic Curveball is the first cozy mystery in the newly created Braxton Campus Mystery Series by James J. Cudney. Although not alone in having a male author and a male protagonist, this book is outside the norm for the typical cozy. He effectively flips the scenario from female main character, either supported or opposed by a male law enforcement figure, to a male character standing in opposition to a female sheriff. He also has a mixed relationship with his former best friend who is currently director of security at Braxton college.
Academic Curveball has a very complicated plot. The reader must attend closely to all potential clues as Kellan, assistant director of a TV reality show, evaluates them and follows the leads to discover the murderer in a case that involves secrets of all kinds from romantic to political. He does his amateur sleuthing while trying to reestablish family ties and old friendships, working his primary job, filling in for a murdered professor, and doing some long distance single parenting.
With interesting characters and tangled motives galore, Academic Curveball is set in a college town. His father is the president of the college and his mother is in charge of admissions. A favorite character for most readers will be sassy Nana D whose repartee with Kellan provides humor, but she is lively and sharp and should not be overlooked as fluff. There is a baseball theme along with focuses on politics, both in the town and at the college. Just when you think all the balls have been recovered, there is one last curveball that will surprise you and make you wish January and the publication of the second book in the series, Broken Heart Attack, would come quickly.
I would like to extend my thanks to author James J. Cudney and to Creativia for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #1 in the Braxton Campus Mystery Series
Publication: October 15, 2018—Creativia
Nana D indicated she’d rather spend an afternoon with her mouth crammed full of lemon wedges, her fingers pricked by a thousand tiny needles, and her feet glued inside a bumblebee’s nest than attend another Braxton event for my father.
It would be an interesting discussion with my father when he graciously stepped off his high horse and spoke to me again.
Wisps of gray shot out in all directions underneath a furry blue hat three-sizes too big on her frail and wrinkled head.
A Bridge for Christmas–rescuing with love
A Bridge for Christmas
by William Schwenn
The first part of A Bridge for Christmas is fairly easy going, setting the stage for a novel about a widower who shuffles through life a day at a time, apparently without purpose or direction. Dave finds himself adopting two dogs, and that one action changes his life. The plot progresses to include a low water bridge destroyed by flood, almost isolating Dave and a small group of his neighbors. There is also an introduction to several people with various approaches to animal rescue work.
Background set, the author William Schwenn picks up the pace, and Dave finds himself in the midst of a mysterious, secretive transport network for rescue dogs. Is the traditional North Carolina mountain community of Calvert County attracting a criminal element focused on dangerous drugs and horrible animal abuse? Will the Bear Creek Bridge be finished in time for Christmas relieving the residents of a one hour dangerous ride to get supplies and conduct business? Can Dave open up his heart to love again?
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Brighton Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Literary Fiction
Notes: This book contains a number of instances of swearing.
Publication: August 6, 2018—Brighton Publishing
Dave knew and loved the nature of dogs—they’d forget all about this in a day or two, and move on. Life for them was a fresh adventure every day. Win some, lose some, get confused by some, but no worries—tomorrow will be another day.
Tough mountain boys, Dave thought, and smiled gently. They’ll go through women and wives with the wind, reluctantly trade in trucks, but give up their dogs?
He always found it necessary to remind rookies in his department after their first encounter with particularly nasty elements of the human race, “Don’t think about it too much. Let the Almighty take care of His job, and let’s concentrate on doing ours. We’ll be busy enough with just that.”
Any Dream Will Do–a sweet story of second chances
Any Dream Will Do
by Debbie Macomber
Any Dream Will Do is a story of second chances and redemption. Shay’s background sets her up to feel obligated to sacrifice for her brother Caden to make up for poor choices. Upon release from a three year stay at the Washington Corrections Center for Women, her path crosses that of Drew, a widowed pastor with two children who is unable to move past the death of his wife. Neither is seeking a relationship and both have issues and problems they need to work through. As people of faith they attempt to do that carefully and using biblical principles as a moral compass.
Echoes of the past reverberate in the lives of Drew and Shay emphasizing that although they may get a second chance at happiness, there are no do-overs in life. The decisions of yesterday do affect the opportunities of today.
I like the characters in the book. Although the reader can see where the storyline is going, the characters are so amiable that you want to keep reading to watch the events play out. Also, the author Debbie Macomber keeps the plot interesting with unexpected complications.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House (Ballantine) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Romance, Christian
Notes: #4 in the New Beginnings Series (a thematic series, not dependent on continuing characters)
Publication: August 8, 2017— Random House (Ballantine)
One day I hoped to marry a man like him. Not a pastor, but a decent man who wasn’t into drugs or cheating or hitting women. Sounds simple, right? Well, from my experience those men were far and few between, and if I did happen upon one, I wasn’t entirely sure I’d recognize him.
I found the kindness factor among those who lived on the streets humbling. for the most part the homeless never took what they didn’t need. Often if they knew of someone else who was doing without, then they would accept it to hand off for another.
And with help I’d found a way to forgive him, not because he’d asked or because he deserved my forgiveness. I’d done it for my own peace of mind, to unburden the heavy load of resentment, refusing to cart it around any longer. That didn’t mean I was willing to be drawn back into his craziness, however.