Monday, October 11, 2010

REVIEWS—New Holiday Story Releases

I recently read two Advance Reader Copies of two quintessential holiday reads. I hadn't read either author prior to this but these won't be the last books from these authors I'll read.

I thought I'd share them with you here. I also ask you to bear with me for invoking Christmas in mid-October. Me and the stores, huh? Can't escape it, can you?

The first story is written by Sheila Roberts and she will be my guest on October 29th. 

The Snow Globe

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Format: Hardcover, 176 pages
On Sale: October 26, 2010
Price: $10. 80
Rating: 4 stars

Back Cover Blurb:

On a blustery afternoon, Kiley Gray wanders into an antique shop and buys a beautiful snow globe.

“There’s a story behind that snow globe,” the antique dealer tells her, and explains that the original owner lost his wife and son right before Christmas. When he received the handcrafted snow globe as a Christmas present, the grieving widower saw the image of a beautiful woman beneath the glass—a woman who would eventually come into his life, mend his broken heart and bring him back to the world of the living. For years, the snow globe has passed from generation to generation, somehow always landing in the hands of a person in special need of a Christmas miracle.

When Kiley shares the story with her best friends—two women with troubles of their own—they don’t believe it. But they’re about to discover that at Christmastime, sometimes the impossible becomes possible and miracles really do come true.

My thoughts:

The whole season of Christmas is based on miracles but in our day and age, few believe in the phenomenon.

Ms. Roberts tells a lighthearted and fun tale of three women who, despite diverging lifestyles, have remained friends through thick and thin, good times and bad. Each is facing a crisis in their personal lives. All three are dreading Christmas for differing reasons. They don’t know it, but each is in need of a bit of Christmas magic.

Kiley has lost a job and a fiancĂ©—to her sister no less. Heart sore and depressed she allows her two best friends to take her for a weekend get away. While window shopping Kiley feels drawn to antique store and goes in and sees an old-fashioned snow globe, which she buys. When she relays the story the shopkeeper told her to her friends they don’t believe it. But Kiley believes.

"Actually, Kiley was a big believer, period. She’d been sure Santa was real until she was ten and even after waking up on Christmas Eve to discover her father hanging her filled stocking on the mantel, she kept pretending for another two years. She’d believed in Prince Charming and Mr. Right clear through college. She’d even believed in happy endings until just this past October when her boyfriend, Jeremy Horne, dumped her at her own Halloween party (how was that for tacky?) announcing that he couldn’t fight his attraction for her sister any longer."

When Kiley’s vision comes true she decides to pass the snow globe and it’s magical gift to each of her best friends. What ensues is a heartwarming, fun story about the power of miracles.

I love stories that combine the magic of Christmas and a touch of the supernatural. This one is a real winner and a perfect read for the holidays!

 Book Two:

An Amish Christmas
Author: Cynthia Keller
Format: Hardcover, 256 pages
On Sale: October 26, 2010
Price: $16.00
Rating:  4 stars

Back Cover Blurb:

Meg Hobart has everything: a happy marriage to a handsome, successful husband, a beautiful home in Charlotte, North Carolina, and three wonderful children. But it all comes crashing down around her the day she learns that her husband, James, has been living a lie—and has brought the family to financial ruin. Penniless and homeless, the Hobarts pack up what little they still possess and leave behind their golden life for good. But it’s not the material things Meg finds herself mourning. Instead, she misses the certainty that she should remain married to James, who has betrayed her trust so thoughtlessly. Worse, she is suddenly very aware of just how spoiled her children have become. Meg wonders what her family has really sacrificed in their pursuit of the American dream.

A frightening twist of fate forces the Hobarts to take refuge with a kind Amish family in Pennsylvania, where they find themselves in a home with no computers, no cell phones, nothing the children consider fashionable or fun. Her uncooperative brood confined to the Amish world of hard work and tradition, their futures entirely uncertain, Meg fears she can never make her family whole again.

Celebrating life’s simplest but most essential values, packed with laughter and tears, this is a story of forgiveness and the power of love. You will never forget the special moment in time that is An Amish Christmas.

My thoughts:

A family is supposed to be one of our greatest joys and the bedrock of our society. The sad fact is, for the most part, we’ve lost the concept of working together as a unit for the benefit of the family. In today’s world there are so many conflicts, financial problems, and so many gadgets to distract us from what a family is all about. A person’s worth is defined by their financial standing which seems to give the whole family, and children especially, a false sense of entitlement. It also creates spoiled, disrespectful children who have, along with the parents, lost sight of the qualities of love, mutual respect, the value of spending time as a family. These are some to the common issues Cynthia Keller deals with in An Amish Christmas.

It truly is a heartwarming story of a family reconnecting and learning what truly is important is each other and not what they have or don’t have. Important lessons of forgiveness and love and there is a scene in the book that really brings that message home to the Hobarts.

Just before Christmas, the Hobart and Lutz teens are trusted to take homemade goods to a town store where they are sold. The buggy belongs Jonathan, one of the oldest Lutz siblings, and is special but he trusts his brother to drive it into town. Young Will Hobart tries driving the buggy—he’s not supposed to, and an accident occurs. Amanda Lutz is injured when the buggy overturns, the buggy and baked goods are destroyed, and a trip to the hospital is necessary. This is a scenario that could cause all sorts of blame, anger, and division. Meg and James Hobart are absolutely appalled by their son’s carelessness in the face of such open generosity of the Lutz family. The Amish family assigns no blame and totally refrains from putting the Hobart teens in a defensive stance. The next morning, James and Meg are sick at heart and have no idea what to expect; Lizzie and Will were “pale and practically shaking with guilt.” Both families step up to replace the destroyed goods to meet their obligation to the store. The huge Lutz family warmly welcomes the Hobart women into the kitchen to help. The men welcome James and Will to repair the buggy. What’s done is done and forgiveness extended, but now there are things that must be fixed.

The stalwart sense of values the Amish family has touches the whole Hobart clan and gives them a better set of lenses to look at both the world around them and themselves.

An Amish Christmas is well paced, has strong, well-defined characters and emotional impact. It was a story I truly enjoyed reading.


tonya kappes said...

I'm sooo jealous!!! I love Christmas stories! AND the covers are to die for! My crit partner, Shelley Shepard Grey, has a new Amish Christmas book coming out ~Grace. It's soooo gooooooood!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mason Canyon said...

Sia, both of these books sound like wonderful reads. It's hard to believe Christmas will be here before we know it. We need more books to remind us of miracles. Enjoyed your reviews.

Thoughts in Progress

Mason Canyon said...

Sia, I had a blonde moment earlier and forgot to tell you I have an award for you at Thoughts in Progress in Saturday's post. Now where did I leave that cup of coffee.

Thoughts in Progress

Kat Sheridan said...

Yes, it's early to think about Christmas, but aren't we always saying we wish that Christmas spirit lasted all year 'round? Sounds as if these books are the perfect answer!

Olivia Cunning said...

I'm okay with a Christmas post, but am not too happy about being confronted with that four-letter s-word. Don't even want to think about it. *grrrr

Nice books though!

VA said...

I saw twinkle lights in the store already and thought to myself, *not yet*. Now Christmas reading recommendations are another thing.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I almost embed a holiday song but I fear retribution so I refrained, lolol!

Olivia, I'm with you, I'm not crazy about the four lettered yuck of the season either. Oh, did you notice? I'm a groupie now? lolol!

Actually, both books were good, Kat. I really did enjoy them. :-)

Stephen Tremp said...

I'm so looking forward to the holidays. We make the most of it at our household. Amsih Christmas sounds like a great holiday story to read.

Stephen Tremp