Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Book Review: A Sprinkling of Christmas Magic, by Elizabeth Rolls, Bronwyn Scott, Margaret McPhee



A Sprinkling of Christmas Magic
Elizabeth Rolls, Bronwyn Scott, Margaret McPhee
Mass Market Paperback, 288 pages
Harlequin, October 22, 2013
Anthologies, Christmas Romance, Historical Fiction,, Holiday Romance, Social Justice



Book Synopsis
Snuggle up with these three Regency tales!

"Christmas Cinderella", by Elizabeth Rolls

Handsome country rector Alex Martindale dreams of kissing his spirited schoolmistress and never having to stop…. With some mistletoe, he may just get his wish!

"Finding Forever at Christmas", by Bronwyn Scott

At the Yule Ball, Catherine Emerson receives a proposal from the man she thought she wanted—but a kiss from his mysterious, darkly handsome brother unleashes a deeper desire….

"The Captain's Christmas Angel", by Margaret McPhee

Returning to England for Christmas, Sarah Ellison discovers a man adrift in the Atlantic Ocean. Nothing could have prepared her for the gorgeous Captain Daniel Alexander, or the secrets he keeps!
 





https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17900182-a-sprinkling-of-christmas-magic


New Edition Published in October, 2014, 
by Mills & Boon



https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23439828-a-magical-regency-christmas








This is a very nice, entertaining, and romantic collection of Christmas romance novellas, all taking place during the Regency period in England. I can credit the novels of Mary Balogh for my love of this period in English history, and  especially love reading Regency romances during the Christmas season.

Although I did enjoy this collection, I was a bit disappointed because two of these stories did not really revolve around the Christmas season; in fact, the events depicted could have taken place at any time of year. Still, the stories were very well written, with very compelling characters and plots, so I don't think it would be fair of me to judge the book too harshly.

The first novella, "Christmas Cinderella", was supposedly based on the famous fairy tale, and it was, to a degree. However, I found it had much more in common with my favorite classic of all time, Jane Eyre. (Come to think of it, this classic novel might have itself been partly influenced by the story of Cinderella.) 

The main female character, Hyppolita Woodrowe (known as "Polly"), is a former heiress who has lost her entire inheritance through a very unfortunate circumstance. She is dependent upon her aunt and her family, and, as in the novel Jane Eyre, they resent this, considering her to be now beneath them. Thus they treat her with contempt. Her aunt, the nasty Lady Eliot, reminds me of Mrs. Reed in Charlotte Bronte's great novel.

There are more similarities; Polly is determined to be independent, and actively seeks employment; Alex Martindale, the rector who falls in love with her, brings to mind St. John Rivers, a clergyman from the classic novel, although their personalities are vastly different. Also, Alex sets up Polly as a schoolmistress, just as St. John  does for Jane.

I think it's because of these similarities that I love this story as much as I do! Rolls does have some original plot elements that make the story hers, however. Besides, the romance between Alex and Polly is very tender and sweet. He is completely drawn to her, and his ruminations regarding the propriety of his actions are very touching, as he's obviously very concerned about her reputation, and controls himself (with some effort) whenever he's around her. There's one more thing I found totally endearing, although unusual, about him. I won't say what this is, because it would be a major spoiler. 

Of the three novellas included in this book, I found this first one to be most imbued with the true Christmas spirit. It's very much in evidence, not only in the romance between Alex and Polly, but also in Polly's dealings with her students and their families.

I did not like the second story, "Finding Forever At Christmas", as much as the first. That was because I felt it lacked some passion and drama. The plot develops gradually, as Catherine Emerson returns to her family and friends, after a five-year stay as a student in Paris. She has been looking forward to seeing her childhood friend Channing, on whom she's had a crush for years. As she reacquaints herself with him, his family, and her other friends, she also begins to feel inexplicably attracted to Finn, Channing's older brother. 

The two brothers are very different; while Channing is extroverted and very charming, Finn is introverted and studious. He is also darkly mysterious....

I did like the way Finn wooed Catherine. I also liked that she was not a frivolous, materialistic girl, and, like Polly in the first story, had quite a streak of independence. However, their romance should have taken longer to develop, so I think this story would have been much better as a full-length novel, with greater prominence given to the Christmas season, as well.

The third and last story, "The Captain's Christmas Angel", was a very exciting one, with very realistically drawn characters, and I think it might be my favorite of the three, although this one didn't have much to do with Christmas, either. Still, it's a wonderfully evocative tale, with its suspense and references to pirates at sea.

Daniel Alexander, the captain in the story, meets the heroine, Sarah Ellison, as the latter is returning by ship to England with her niece, Imelda Bowden. The way they meet is highly dramatic, too -- she notices a man floating in the ocean, and immediately notifies the ship's first mate. Daniel is then rescued, thanks to Sarah.

I loved the romance between these two! Both have secrets from their pasts, and Sarah's are particularly painful. She has erected a wall to keep men at arm's length, which Daniel is determined to break down. How he does this is totally, and wonderfully, romantic....I fell in love with him myself! He's dashing, exciting, and yet, oh, so tender.....

I really liked Sarah, as well. At the beginning of the story, she's just as determined to keep her distance from Daniel as he is to get closer to her. She is a compassionate, sensitive woman who has suffered greatly, but is nevertheless courageously moving forward to start a new life.

I would definitely recommend this collection to lovers of romance, although it should be kept in mind that only the first story uses the Christmas theme effectively. Still, all three novellas make for some wonderfully cozy  reading, especially for those who love to cuddle up by the fire!

MY RATING:

                                                                                   
   
                                                                                       




Elizabeth lives in the Adelaide hills of South Australia, although she was born in England. She has a degree in Music Education, and taught music for several years, while her husband, a former nuclear physicist, finished his Ph.D. 
Elizabeth had the writing bug from an early age, and wrote stories from the time she could read. Her first published Regency novel was The Unexpected Bride, released in 2004. She has published many other titles, such as His Lady Mistress (2004), A Compromised Lady (2007), and The Chivalrous Rake (2004). She also has a story included in another Christmas collection, Mistletoe Kisses (2006).




Bronwyn is the author of over 25 historical romances for Harlequin Books, and her area of specialty is the 1830s. Bronwyn enjoys setting her stories against the backdrop of interesting social and political events in or concerning Great Britain. 
She is a full-time, tenured faculty member at a Northwest college. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, learning languages, and being with her family. Some of her published novels include The Earl's Forbidden Ward (2009), The Viscount Claims His Bride (2009), and Secret Life of a Scandalous Debutante (2011).



Margaret McPhee lives on the West Coast of Scotland with her husband and her pet rabbit, called "Gwinnie".  She trained as a scientist, but was always a romantic at heart. She met her husband quite literally between science labs.
As a child Margaret spent much of her time in an imaginary world. Romance entered the equation when she chanced upon one of her gran's Mills & Boon Historicals, and she never looked back. With help from the Romantic Novelists Association's new writers' scheme, her first Regency romance, The Captain's Lady (2006), was born. She has many other Regency titles to her credit, such as The Wicked Earl (2007), and A Dark and Brooding Gentleman (2011). She also has a story in another Christmas Regency collection, Christmas Wedding Belles (2007).


This is my third and last review for
hosted by
Michelle @ The Christmas Spirit!!




Saturday, December 27, 2014

Shelf Candy Saturday #138: The Red Necklace, by Sally Gardner

 


Welcome to Shelf Candy Saturday!!


This is my weekly feature
showcasing beautiful book covers!
It also provides information,
if available, on their very talented creators!

For more information
about Shelf Candy Saturday,
simply go HERE.



Here's my choice for this week!



The Red Necklace
Hardcover, 384 pages
Dial Books
May 1, 2008
Historical Fiction, Romance,
Young Adult Fiction


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2645599-the-red-necklace





My Thoughts About This Cover

Exquisite. Delicate. Detailed. Bold. Undeniably beautiful.... These are the words of awed admiration that come to my mind as I contemplate this cover. Had I noticed this book on one of my many visits to dear ol' Barnes & Noble this past year, I would have snatched it up in the blink of an eye! Of course, the plot intrigues me, too, with its exciting combination of historical fiction and suspense. (In fact, I'm slightly reminded of The Scarlet Pimpernel, although the two novels are totally different.) However, when I buy this book, it will have this cover, and no other!

The overall composition is bold, yet it's very detailed. I love the young woman's silhouette, which is placed in relief by the subtle, dark tone edging it all the way around. I also love that her face is in three-quarter profile; this has a much more aesthetic effect. 

Those curls are truly magnificent! They are so artfully done, so beautifully shaped.... They are also intricately perfect, as they wind in and out, spiraling upon themselves. 

The dress is nothing short of lovely, with its soft sky-blue tone, its delicate lace bordering the high neckline, that gorgeous blue bow in the back....

The background looks like some sort of lacy, flowery wallpaper, and its muted tone perfectly accentuates this gorgeous profile.

And then we have the piece de resistance: the title, which is a flat band of red across this young woman's neck, alluding to the necklace. It contrasts beautifully with the author's name, which echoes the tone  and style of the dress.

Everything about the cover lets us know that the time period of this novel is that of the French Revolution, even if that fact were not stated in the upper right-hand corner of the cover. The young woman herself is also an allusion to Marie Antoinette, after all.

The designer of this absolutely brilliant cover is Kimi Weart, president and creative director at A Printable Press, a stationery company specializing in custom design. She is also a highly talented fine artist, especially as a draftsman, with an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) from New York University, which she acquired in 2005. Previous to that, she graduated from Brown University with a BA in Visual Arts, in 1995. Her drawings, done in graphite with other materials, are exquisitely detailed, and look like photographs when seen from a distance. She has participated in numerous group exhibitions. Of course, she is a book designer, as well.



Kimi Weart Online Links

 
 
  
What do you think of my 
choice this week?
Please leave a comment
and let me know!







Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!!



O Come All Ye Faithful

O, come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come let us adore Him,
O come let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord!









May all of you have the merriest
Christmas ever,
full of divine blessings
and the gentle peace 
of this beautiful season!












Book Review: Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances, by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle


Let It Snow
John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle
Trade Paperback, 352 pages
Speak, October 2, 2008
Anthologies, Christmas Romance, Contemporary Romance, Young Adult Fiction



Book Synopsis:  An ill-timed storm on Christmas Eve buries the residents of Gracetown under multiple feet of snow and causes quite a bit of chaos. One brave soul ventures out into the storm from her stranded train and sets off a chain of events that will change quite a few lives. Over the next three days one girl takes a risky shortcut with an adorable stranger, three friends set out to win a race to the Waffle House (and the hash brown spoils), and the fate of a teacup pig falls into the hands of a lovesick barista.

A trio of today's bestselling authors - John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle- brings all the magic of the holidays to life in three hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and kisses that will steal your breath away.



https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16081588-let-it-snow







This is a funny, totally crazy holiday collection of teen romance novellas! The characters in all three are affected by the same sudden, Christmas Eve storm, which has hit the town of Gracetown. The circumstances are different in each story, although they're connected through some of the same characters in each.

In the first novella, "The Jubilee Express" (Maureen Johnson), Jubilee, the main female character, must suddenly travel from Richmond, Virginia to Florida to stay with her grandparents, because of a rather funny incident involving her parents. She is thus parted from her boyfriend, Noah, just before she was supposed to go participate in a holiday feast with him and his family. Her life changes completely after her train is stranded in the storm, and she comes to a very important realization....

In the second and funniest novella, "A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle" (John Green) three friends go trekking off in the middle of the storm, bound for a Waffle House full of cheerleaders. On the way, they encounter several obstacles, one of them being the formidable Reston twins, with whom they nearly have an all-out battle.

Addie, the heroine of the third story, "The Patron Saint of Pigs" (Lauren Myracle) did not get much sympathy from me at first. After all, she had cheated on her boyfriend, Jeb. Complicating the plot and adding to the fun was a special errand involving a pig small enough to fit in a teacup....and an eccentric earth angel nicknamed "Mayzie".

I loved the main characters tremendously! I even came to like Addie, as she eventually realized that she was just a bit self-centered. Jeb, her boyfriend, was so sweet and loving.....he was totally torn up about the whole situation.

My favorite story was "The Jubilee Express", because of its poignant, very romantic tone. However, there were some funny moments in it, as well. Jubilee is rather snarky at times, but she's also a girl with deep feelings. Stuart, the boy she eventually meets, is  also a wonderful character, and presents a very marked contrast to Noah, who, as Jubilee herself tells the reader, is always "busy". Stuart is never too busy to pay attention to Jubilee.

In the second story, I really liked "The Duke", who is really a girl, although she's not "a girlie girl". She and Tobin, who have been friends for years, suddenly discover feelings  for each other as the story progresses. Tobin is a very funny guy, too, as well as a reluctant adventurer. JP, his sidekick, is even funnier. And Keun....he is absolutely hilarious as he keeps stressing the importance of the three friends getting to the Waffle House.

I also liked Dorrie and Tegan, from the third novella. Tegan in particular was someone whom I would have liked to have as a friend. Dorrie, although a great character, is a bit too much of a "lecturer" for me to wholeheartedly like her.

This was very entertaining, lighthearted holiday reading, with all of the usual teen angst that is a typical ingredient of YA fiction. I totally devoured the book! When I finished it, I was so sad that these were not full-length novels. I realize that the plots reached their complete development in each novella, and the last one brought all the characters and events together for a very satisfactory conclusion. Still, I would love to read more about all of these teens in future, longer works.... This, of course, is the mark of a great author, that they make you care so much about their characters, you're actually sad and reluctant to let them go.... In this case, the only solution is for me to read this book again, and I definitely plan to do so, either next Christmas season, or perhaps long before that!



MY RATING







 John Green's first novel, Looking for Alaska, won the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award presented by the American Library Association. His second novel, An Abundance of Katherines, was a 2007 Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His next novel, Paper Towns, is a New York Times bestseller and won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best YA Mystery. In January 2012, his most recent novel, The Fault in Our Stars, was met with wide critical acclaim, unprecedented in Green's career. The praise included rave reviews in Time Magazine and The New York Times, on NPR, and from award-winning author Markus Zusak. The book also topped the New York Times Children's Paperback Bestsellers list for several weeks. Green has also coauthored a book with David Levithan called Will Grayson, Will Grayson, published in 2010. The film rights for all his books, with the exception of the one published in 2010, have been optioned to major Hollywood Studios.


Maureen Johnson
Maureen knew from an early age she wanted to be a writer. She went to high school at an all-girls' Catholic school and graduated from the University of Delaware with a degree in writing. She now lives and writes in New York City. Among her several books are 13 Little Blue Envelopes, The Name of the Star, Suite Scarlett, and Girl At Sea.

Many of the adventures Maureen's characters face in her books are based on real-life stories. Maureen has traveled all over Europe, and is a Secret Sister to vlog brothers Hank and John Green.


Lauren Myracle
Lauren Myracle is the author of numerous young adult novels. She was born in 1969 in North Carolina. Lauren Myracle holds an MA in English from Colorado State University and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College. She has written many novels, including the famous IM books, ttyl, ttfn, and l8r, g8r.

Her first novel, Kissing Kate, was selected as one of ALA's "Best Books for Young Adults" for the year 2004. It was named by Booklist as one of the "Top Ten Youth Romances" of the year, as well as one of the "Top Ten Books by New Writers." Her middle-grade novel, Eleven, came out in 2004, followed by its YA sequels (Twelve, Thirteen, Thirteen Plus One) .



This is my second review for
hosted by
Michelle @ The Christmas Spirit!!





Sunday, December 21, 2014

Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop 2014!!




Welcome to this stop in the 
Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop,
sponsored by
Mary @ Bookhounds, and
Kathy @ I Am A Reader!!


This hop runs from midnight, 12/21/15 
to midnight, 1/1/16!!
There are over 125 participating blogs,
all offering AMAZING prizes!!

For my giveaway this year,
I will be offering ONE LUCKY 
INTERNATIONAL WINNER a book of
their choice, worth up to $15.00,
from THE BOOK DEPOSITORY!!!!

Please make sure TBD delivers to your country.
You can do that HERE.


Christmas is just around
the corner, so this just might be
YOUR Christmas present
from A Night's Dream of Books!!
GOOD LUCK TO EVERYONE!!





  

Merry Christmas 
and
Happy Holidays!! 

HAPPY NEW YEAR, TOO!!



Be sure to check out the other AWESOME giveaways!!



Saturday, December 20, 2014

Shelf Candy Saturday #137: Christmas With Mary Engelbreit: Here Comes Santa Claus

 


Welcome to Shelf Candy Saturday!!


This is my weekly feature
showcasing beautiful book covers!
It also provides information,
if available, on their very talented creators!

For more information
about Shelf Candy Saturday,
simply go HERE.



Here's my choice for this week!



 Christmas With Mary Engelbreit: 
Here Comes Santa Claus
Mary Engelbreit
Hardcover, 143 pages
Oxmoor, first edition
August 2, 2002
Christmas Decorating, 
Christmas Traditions, Nonfiction


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1974013.Christmas_with_Mary_Engelbreit?ac=1




My Thoughts About This Cover

This is such a beautiful, whimsical cover! It really captures all the enchantment of this, the most wonderful season of the year! 

Of course, Engelbreit is known for her gorgeous art, which, although indeed whimsical, is never "cute" in a cliche sort of way, but instead, delights the viewer with its clean design and brilliant colors.

The Santa Claus on this particular cover has a decidedly Nordic feel, and in fact, is patterned on the Father Christmas image more common in those countries. His ridiculously long, pointed shoes remind me of fairies and elves, and are also a sample of this artist's subtle humor. Santa nevertheless is able to trudge through the snow, his bulging sack laden with goodies, with his trusty staff. Instead of reindeer, he has a faithful little dog at his side. 

The frame is very nicely detailed with small flowers, and I love the 'mellow yellow' color against the night-sky blue, which is speckled with stars. I believe the frame has a slight Art Nouveau influence, as well.

The lettering is very nice, too, of course; it's part of Mary Engelbreit's signature style.

This cover is perfect for one to get into the holiday spirit, since Christmas is just around the corner!





Mary Engelbreit Online Links
 
  
 


What do you think of my 
choice this week?
Please leave a comment
and let me know!