Monday, December 31, 2018

Short Story Review: The Christmas Phoenix, by Patricia Kiyono

The Christmas Phoenix
Patricia Kiyono
Kindle Edition, 70 pages
Clean Reads
November 24, 2011
Christmas Romance, Contemporary Romance,
Short Stories
Source: Amazon

Synopsis: Jess Tate is trying to make a life for herself and her teenage son after her husband's sudden death. Running the family’s struggling landscape business in Northern Michigan has been hard work, and her son hasn’t been much help. She’s managed to get by, learning to run the big equipment herself, but between snowplowing early in the mornings and working her daytime job in town, she often wonders if there will ever be more to life than endless work.

Talented ice sculptor Jake Thompson had fame and fortune in St. Louis, but he’s been forced to start over after a disastrous relationship left him embittered and deeply in debt. His sister’s remote vacation home in Northern Michigan is the ideal retreat to lick his wounds and rebuild his career in peace and quiet—-except a certain feisty redhead and her teenage son have a penchant for disturbing his solitude.

In the snowy winter, Jake and Jess unexpectedly find their lives and attitudes begin to change. Will family involvements and ghosts from the past keep them apart, or are they strong enough to risk rising from the ashes of their lives like the mythical phoenix?

This is the very first time I review a short story on this blog. I much prefer to read longer works, even if I don't review as many of them afterward. However, this particular short story grabbed me because of that cover! I have never seen such an unusual, STUNNING cover on a Christmas romance before!

This is also the first time I encounter the symbolism of the phoenix used in a romance short story (or novel, for that matter), whether it's Christmas-themed or not. In this delightful work, it applies perfectly to the two protagonists; both of them are indeed "rising from the ashes" of their painful pasts in order to start anew.

Another first for me is coming across an ice sculptor in a work of fiction, whatever the genre. From what the author describes, this is a beautiful, although delicate and painstaking artistic endeavor. Actually, I had never heard of this art form, either. It seems incredible that an artist could actually sculpt something beautiful out of a material as ephemeral (although deceptively solid) as ice. (The same thing can be said for those artists who build elaborate sand castles.) Obviously, this is another aspect of the story that caught my attention right away!

Although this is a very short work, the author hooked me from the very beginning. That's because her characterizations are excellent, and she has an eye for realistic detail. While I read, I actually felt that I was up there in northern Michigan, surrounded by all that lovely snow! (I've never seen snow up close and personal, so to me, it's an aesthetic treat. Lol.)

This short story almost feels like a full-length novel, and I would have loved it if Kiyono had written it as such. However, I was able to get into the plot and enjoy it, even as I began to wish that she had, indeed, given me more of these characters I had begun to like as if they lived right next door. 

Jake was a wonderful guy! Even with his war wound, which gave him chronic pain, he was not the type of person to complain. All he wanted was the solitude necessary for him to create his ice masterpieces. However, he was not immune to the attraction he immediately felt for Jess, whom he soon came to admire, because of her gutsy attitude and concern for her teen son.

Jess worked hard -- TOO hard, in Jake's opinion. After some initial mistrust, he soon began to feel comfortable enough to tell her so. Then he began to help her, and also got her son, Rory, to take some responsibility for household chores.

Jess and Rory were great characters, as well. They had a good mother-son bond, with Jess not being a harsh disciplinarian, but more of a good friend. I really liked this about her, even though I must admit that Rory should have been doing more to help her out. But he was a typical 14-year-old boy, more interested in video games than making his bed. And he tended toward absentmindedness, too -- especially in regard to schoolwork.

Jess and Jake comically meet when she mistakes his house for that of a new customer, and starts to plow his drive. Yes, she drives a snowplow. This is hard work, indeed, so my hat goes off to this woman! 

This was the type of work her husband used to do, when he was alive. Aside from waitressing, Jess decided to keep the landscape business, which he had started, going, in order to meet the bills, and support herself and her son. So she had actually taught herself to drive a snowplow.

As the story progresses, these three characters start to become good friends. Jake becomes a role model for Rory, and the attraction between him and Jess builds into something more than friendship.

Some readers might think that this all sounds much too predictable, but I thoroughly enjoyed it! This is the type of warm holiday fare I love to read! Romance is just SO right for the Christmas season! And I especially appreciate it when there's family involved. 

Kiyono has created a beautiful, very special story here, and again I must mention that I wish it had been a novel. However, she did a GREAT job with the short-story length, and brought everything to that "happily ever after" ending every romance novel fan loves! Still, I'm crossing my fingers that she will decide to write more about these very likeable characters!

Of course, I'm going to check out more of this author's work on Goodreads! Kudos to her for a WONDERFUL Christmas read!  


During her first career, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary music, computer classes, elementary classrooms, and junior high social studies. She now teaches music education at the university level.

She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, not far from her children and grandchildren. Current interests, aside from writing, include sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, and music. A love of travel and an interest in faraway people inspires her to create stories about different cultures.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Shelf Candy Saturday No. 272: Freya, by Matthew Laurence

Welcome to Shelf Candy Saturday!

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

Here's my choice for this week!

 (Freya, Book 1)
Matthew Laurence
Hardcover, 352 pages
March 14, 2017
Mythology, Paranormal Fiction,
Urban Fantasy,
Young Adult Fiction

My Thoughts About This Cover

What an incredibly STUNNING cover!! I found it while browsing on Goodreads, and it totally floored me! Talk about "girl power"! (Btw, it should REALLY be called "female power", or "woman power".) The young woman on the cover just radiates power and confidence! 

I love how the photographer posed the model in front of a graffiti mural, right between those beautiful wings! I happen to LOVE graffiti, too, but the kind that is actually ART, not the type that's just a bunch of sprayed squiggles. THIS particular mural certainly qualifies as real art. (Sadly, the graffiti artist is not credited. But a lot of these artists do tend to remain anonymous.) It's dynamic and vivid, with gorgeous, bright colors. The feathers on the wings are so beautifully detailed, too! 

Another thing I LOVE about the mural is the circle right behind the wings. I ADORE circles!! And this one gives the overall composition such a sense of harmony and wholeness. Well, of course, since it symbolizes how this young woman -- who is in reality the Norse goddess mentioned in the book's title -- is totally in control of herself, and won't allow ANYBODY to mess with her!

All of the colors used on this cover also harmonize very well. Two of them are favorites of mine -- aqua and hot pink. I also love the yellow accents that shoot out from the circle!

The font used for the title is bold and GORGEOUS, as well. It's not really a font, though; this is the type of lettering used on graffiti. Of course, I LOVE it, too!! And the color used on this title is also GREAT! It's a dark green, with aqua borders around the letters. The joining of the letter "e" with the letter "y" is also very effective.

Last but definitely NOT least, are those AWESOME spears that shoot out from behind the goddess's back, as well as the winged helmet that seems poised to come down on her head.

In short, this cover packs a LOT of visual punch!!

The brilliant designer is Ellen Duda, an illustrator and book designer currently based in New York. Before establishing her own freelance business, Duda-Day Illustration & Design, she was a Senior Designer with Imprint, a part of Macmillan Children's Publishing Group.

I've just added another great artist to my growing list of book illustrators and designers!

And one more thing: this book has GOT to become part of my personal library!! YAAAAASSSS!!!!  :)

Online Links

What do you think of 
this week's cover?
Please leave a comment
and let me know!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Book Blogger Hop No. 156: Books I Got For Christmas!!

Welcome to the Book Blogger Hop,
hosted by Billy @

For more information, and 
to find out the topic of next week's question, click HERE.

This Week's Question

Did you get any books 
for Christmas?
If so, name the titles.

(Submitted  by Billy  @ 

My Answer

Yup, I got books for Christmas! But Santa didn't bring them, nor did anyone I know give me any. I was my own Santa! I surfed on over to Ebay, did some browsing, and found the books below. Of course, they're all Christmas-themed. I'm a TOTAL Christmas addict! I won't be reading them at this time, though. I'll wait until the coming year, when the Christmas season rolls around again.

So here they are! I've listed them by author, in alphabetical order. Click on each cover for the Goodreads page.

And here are pics of the real books! This was a used book lot I saw on Ebay, and they're all in GREAT condition, too! AND, they arrived on Christmas Eve!! (Maybe some of Santa's elves secretly moonlight on


What are your thoughts on
this topic?
Please leave a comment! 
If you're participating in this meme,
I'll go comment on your 
own BBH post.
If not, I will then comment on one 
of your blog posts!
Thanks for visiting!!! 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Can't Wait Wednesday No. 85: Storm Cursed, by Patricia Briggs

Welcome to "Can't Wait Wednesday"!

This is a weekly event hosted by
Tressa @ Wishful Endings!
This is also where we excited book bloggers showcase future releases we're eagerly anticipating! 
For more information, 
please click HERE.

There's also a Linky widget, so participating blogs can link up!

Here's my choice for this week!

 Storm Cursed
(Mercy Thompson, Book 11)
Patricia Briggs
Hardcover, 384  pages
Ace Books
   May 5, 2019
Paranormal Fiction, Urban Fantasy


In this new instalment in the No. 1 New York Times bestselling series, Mercy Thompson must face a deadly enemy to defend all she loves . . .

My name is Mercedes Athena Thompson Hauptman, and I am a car mechanic.

And a coyote shapeshifter . . . And the mate of the Alpha of the Columbia Basin werewolf pack.
Even so, none of that would have gotten me into trouble if, a few months ago, I hadn't stood upon a bridge and taken responsibility for the safety of the citizens who lived in our territory. It seemed like the thing to do at the time. It should have only involved hunting down killer goblins, zombie goats, and an occasional troll. Instead, our home was viewed as neutral ground, a place where humans would feel safe to come and treat with the fae.

The reality is that nothing and no one is safe. As generals and politicians face off with the Gray Lords of the fae, a storm is coming and her name is Death.
But we are pack, and we have given our word. We will die to keep it.

 Why I can't wait for this one!

OH.MY.GOSH. Yes, yes, I know....I need to start with the first book first.....but I just couldn't resist showcasing this latest installment in this bestselling series!!! And....this is one of my New Year's resolutions -- to start reading this series already!! Because I am ALWAYS interested in novels about kick-butt female protagonists, and Mercy Thompson is the quintessential one!! And, of course, this latest book  sounds so FREAKING GOOD!!!!

You can access information 
about the previous books 
in this dynamic series HERE!!

The author's Goodreads profile
is HERE!!

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

Tuesday, December 25, 2018


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

You better watch out,
You better not pout,
You better not cry,
I'm telling you why!
Santa Claus is coming to town!
He's making a list
and checking it twice,
Gonna find out
who's naughty and nice!
Santa Claus is coming to town!

I would like to wish
all of you who celebrate
this wonderful holiday
a most joyous and beautiful
Christmas, full of peace
and the love of all of your family,
but especially...
His own special love!

And.....hope you get all the goodies
you asked Santa for!
(Such as BOOKS, for instance!!)