Review: The 12 Christmases of You & Me by Jennifer Joyce

The 12 Christmases of You & Me

 

About the book, The 12 Christmases of You & Me

The_12_Christmases_of_You_&_Me_Jennifer_Joyce_pngWhat if you could go back in time and fix the biggest mistake of your life?

Two years ago, Maisie’s best friend walked out of her life and she hasn’t heard from him since. When she wakes up in 1994, she naturally assumes she’s dreaming. But when she finds herself in the past again the next night and her actions in the dream alter her present-day life, she begins to wonder if she’s somehow hopping back in time. And if she is time-travelling, can she save her friendship with Jonas?

When Maisie is forced to relive Christmases of the past, will she face up to her mistakes, or make them all over again?

The 12 Christmases of You & Me is a magical tale of friendship, first loves, and learning to live in the present.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Jennifer Joyce

Jennifer JoyceJennifer Joyce is a writer of romantic comedies who lives in Manchester with her husband and their two daughters. She’s been scribbling down bits of stories for as long as she can remember, graduating from a pen to a typewriter and then an electronic typewriter. And she felt like the bee’s knees typing on THAT. She now writes her books on a laptop (which has a proper delete button and everything).

Connect with Jennifer:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellJennifer Joyce’s novel The 12 Christmases of You & Me came to me on a rainy day in autumn, which seems appropriate, since it opens on a rainy day in November, with the main character complaining that it’s too soon for a Christmas Countdown since Halloween and Bonfire Night have only just passed. As someone who revels in Halloween, I appreciated this sentiment more than is probably healthy, and felt an instant connection with Maisie.

And how could I not? In her lead character, Joyce has given us a funny, candid woman who is also a single mom feeling a bit adrift from her teenaged daughter, something all mothers and daughters experience at some point. She’s also a therapist, good at helping her clients find truth and equilibrium when she’s a bit out of balance herself.

The time travel dreams, allowing Maisie to relive her youth with her friends Lily and Jonas, are an interesting convention in a Christmas novel. It’s almost as if Joyce said “What if the Ghost of Christmas Past was YOU?” While some of Maisie’s dream-alterations do seem to flow into her waking life, she seems to instinctively know that there are fixed points (to borrow a concept from Doctor Who) that cannot be changed.

Ultimately her dream journey is one of self-discovery, and watching her unfold each memory is delightful, and evocative of the wistfulness we all feel when gazing at photo albums, whether they are digital or analog.

The supporting characters in this story were all as vivid as Maisie. Lily, her best friend, was the perfect slightly nervous bride, and I liked the way Joyce wrote her as almost a non-biological sister to Maisie. Similarly Aaron and Jonas were dimensional from their first introductions, and if the latter at first made me think of Ricky from My So-Called Life , I hope I can be forgiven, because with the exception of a teenaged fondness for eye-liner, the two are nothing alike.

Maisie’s Mum  and Dad (Fran and Mick) and her daughter Annabelle also felt supremely real, and in the latter, particularly, Joyce managed to capture the mix of sullen young woman and sweet child that so many teenagers can be. (I know I was, and I’ve apologized to my own mother more than once.)

While the title of this novel might imply a story full of fluff, this is absolutely not the case. The Christmas setting is neither sugary or saccharine, but serves as a perfect time of reflection with a hint of magic, and every character takes a journey that leads them down their proper path.

Goes well with a sandwich of leftover holiday turkey with cranberry sauce and cream cheese. (Trust me, it’s delicious.)


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Endless Skies

About the book, Endless Skies

  • Paperback : 281 pages
  • Publisher : Sapere Books (July 26, 2020)

Endless Skies - coverAs archaeologist Rachel excavates a World War Two airfield, could a love story from the past hold a lesson for her as well?

After yet another disastrous love affair Rachel has been forced to leave her long-term position for a temporary role as an Archaeology Lecturer at Lincoln University. Rachel has sworn off men and is determined to spend her time away clearing her head and sorting her life out. But when one of her students begins flirting with her, it seems she could be about to make the same mistakes again…

She distracts herself by taking on some freelance work for local property developer, Jonathan Daubney. He introduces her to an old Second World War RAF base. And from her very first visit something about it gives Rachel chills…

As Rachel makes new friends and delves into local history, she is also forced to confront her own troubled past. Could a wartime love story have any bearing on her own situation? Could this time be different?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

UK Readers (99p til October 23) | US Readers (Amazon) | Goodreads


About the author, Jane Cable

Jane Cable I write romance with a twist, that extra something to keep readers guessing right to the end. While my books are character driven my inspiration is always a British setting; so far a village in Yorkshire (The Cheesemaker’s House), a Hampshire wood (The Faerie Tree), gorgeous Studland Bay in Dorset (Another You) and rural Lincolnshire (Endless Skies).

I was born and raised in Cardiff but spent most of my adult life living near Chichester before my husband and I upped sticks and moved to Cornwall three years ago.

I published my first two novels independently and have now been signed by Sapere Books. I am an active member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and contributing editor to Frost online magazine.

Connect with Jane:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Endless Skies was my first introduction to Jane Cable’s writing, and now I’m wondering where she’s been all my life, because her style is both haunting and lyrical, and her descriptions are vivid to the point that I, who have never been to Lincolnshire, or even to England (save for a stopover at Heathrow) felt like I was first, flying home over the area (in the prologue) and later, shopping for antiques with Rachel Ward, our protagonist.

It takes a deft touch and a skilled imagination to create a main character who is abrasive, but still makes you want to follow her journey, and Cable has done that with Rachel. Deliciously flawed, particularly by her taste in men, Rachel, when we meet her is a temporary Archaeology Lecturer at the local university, recovering from her latest love affair gone wrong, and grieving for her dead grandmother. Anyone would be a bit closed off and prickly.

And yet, Rachel remains compelling. Every antique she touches tells a story, and we get to share her attraction to history, and her love of finding why things mattered to the people who once owned them. In this way, we also get to see bits and pieces of her beloved Gran’s own story, which makes this novel all the more interesting.

No story is about a single person, though, and this novel is the richer for three (well, four) of the people whom enter Rachel’s life and stay there. Esther, an elderly woman in a care home, helps her untangle some of the history of the local airfield – the one we first encounter in the prologue. Jem (and his dog Toast) provide a bit of color wrapped in friendship. (Incidentally, Jem lives on a barge, something I’ve always fantasized about.) And Jonathan, a developer Rachel encounters professionally, but who may become the latest in her poorly chosen romances.

Still, romance is at the heart of this story, and the history running through it only makes it more real and more dimensional. This story is one for the ages, perhaps destined to become a classic. It’s rich and luscious and deeply satisfying.

Goes well with: a hearty fish stew.


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Review: Low Water Crossing, by Dana Glossbrenner

BNR Low Water Crossing

About the book, Low Water Crossing

  • Genre: Literary Fiction / Family Saga
  • Series: Sulfur Gap, book two
  • Independently published
  • Date of Publication: July 19, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 476
  • Scroll down for the giveaway!

Low Water CrossingLow Water Crossing is a tribute to those who endure heartache and nevertheless celebrate, to those who wait—and live full lives while waiting.

A backhoe unearths a human skeleton buried on Wayne Cheadham’s West Texas ranch. The investigation points a grisly finger at Wayne’s first wife. And so begins the wild ride through twenty-five years of love and heartbreak.

Wayne’s a highly eligible bachelor who runs into trouble, first because he’s naïve, and next because, well, life is unpredictable. He’s a loveable guy with a peaceful outlook. Just about anyone wants the best for him, dang it. To cope with sadness, he arranges for an old steel-girded bridge to be placed in the dry pasture in front of his house. Says it helps him adjust his perspective. Others say it’s the world’s largest yard ornament. He takes in stray emus and abandoned horses and becomes a mentor to a loveable little boy without much family. He sits and ponders his plight at a low-water crossing over the creek.

A cast of characters from the fictional small West Texas town of Sulfur Gap—the staff of a high school burger shop hangout on the Interstate, coffee groups at the Navaho Café, hair stylists from the Wild Hare, a local sheriff and his deputies, and the band at the local honky-tonk—knits together the community surrounding Wayne, and all bring their own quirks. People you’d find anywhere, some with thicker Texas twangs than others.

The town, the ranch, and familiar Texas cities such as San Angelo, Abilene, and Austin provide a backdrop for universal themes of love, grief, and loyalty.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Dana Glossbrenner

Dana GlossbrennerDana Glossbrenner has lived in West Texas all her life. She is the author of Women Behind Stained Glass: West Texas Pioneers (non-fiction) and The Lark: Book 1 of the Sulfur Gap Series.

Connect with Dana:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

While I have not read the first book in Dana Glossbrenner’s Sulfer Gap series, I had no problem jumping into the power and the poignance of Low Water Crossing.

Opening with a first-person narration by Wayne Cheadham, the pivot point around which this whole novel revolves, this story is told in sections, which are then subdivided into chapters, each one depicting a significant moment in that character’s life. Wayne is in every “book” but the three pov characters, Lucy, Cynthia, and Lou, are the three women in his life, their stories told sequentially, chronologically, beginning soon before he entered their spheres.

It’s a structure that means we are a bit distanced from Wayne as we only hear his thoughts during interludes, but it’s also a structure that shows us his character through the eyes of these women. Lucy, his first love, who is just seventeen to his twenty when they meet and marry, is also mentioned throughout the novel, and in many ways it is her story that sets the pace and tone for the others. Cynthia comes next, and it’s through her eyes that we see Wayne come into his own as a man, and as a father. And finally there is Lou, who brings joy back into his life.

But that description makes it seem like this book is a romance, and while there are romantic entanglements, it’s really a broader story, a profoundly human story of love and loss, personal trauma and personal growth, making peace with time and circumstance, and making choices about what one wants vs. what one needs, and finding a balance between the two.

Author Dana Glossbrenner is deft with dialogue and rather sparing with description, giving us just enough detail to let our imaginations fill in the blanks. Her writing has a lyrical quality – simple language about complicated people – that makes you feel the wind in your hair even as you’re wanting to reach out and (alternately) give a character a good shaking or a comforting pat on the back.

Two images in this novel that I found quite profound are the bridge that Wayne had set on his property, so he could go and sit or stand on it and find new perspective, and the low water crossing of the title, which doesn’t refer to low water, but a low place where you might encounter water you must cross. It’s the latter I felt was especially metaphoric, as we have all come to low places in our lives where the only way out was through, but it felt like rushing water was making the journey more difficult.

Over all, this was a satisfying read, one I found myself truly immersed in, and while it isn’t entirely happy, it is both hopeful and full of the kinds of organic humorous moments that come from life.

Goes well with steak salad and iced tea.


Giveaway

TWO WINNERS: 1st winner gets signed copies of both books in the Sulfur Gap Series; 2nd winner gets a signed copy of Low Water Crossing.

 October 6-16 , 2020

(U.S. Only)

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Visit the Other Great Blogs on this Tour

(Or click to visit the Lone Star Literary Life tour page.)

10/6/20 Review Reading by Moonlight
10/7/20 Excerpt Texas Book Lover
10/7/20 BONUS Post Hall Ways Blog
10/8/20 Playlist The Adventures of a Travelers Wife
10/9/20 Review Bibliotica
10/10/20 Deleted Scene All the Ups and Downs
10/11/20 Author Interview The Page Unbound
10/12/20 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
10/13/20 Scrapbook Page Max Knight
10/14/20 Review StoreyBook Reviews
10/15/20 Review The Clueless Gent

 

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Spotlight: Saving Irene, by Judy Alter

BNR Saving Irene Blitz

About the book, Saving Irene, a Culinary Mystery

  • Cozy Mystery / Women Sleuths
  • Publisher: Alter Ego Press
  • Date of Publication: September 10, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 208
  • Scroll down for the giveaway!

Cover hi res Saving IreneIrene Foxglove wishes she were a French chef. Henrietta James, her assistant, knows she is nothing more than a small-time TV chef on a local Chicago channel. And yet when Irene is threatened, Henny tries desperately to save her, wishing always that “Madame” would tell her the truth—about her marriage, her spoiled daughter, her days in France, the man who threatens her. Henny’s best friend, the gay guy who lives next door, teases her, encourages her—and maybe loves her from afar. Murder, kidnapping, and some French gossip complicate this mystery, set in Chicago and redolent with the aroma of fine food. Recipes included.

Praise for Saving Irene:

“A nicely convoluted murder mystery and a glorification of America’s diverse cuisines, played out against the attractions of a lovingly drawn Chicago.”—Fred Erisman, In Their Own Words: Forgotten Women Pilots of Early Aviation

“You’ll find yourself cheering for Henny James as she works beyond her job description as prep assistant to save her boss, Irene Foxglove, glamorous local French-ish TV chef.”—Kaye George, Deadly Sweet Tooth (Vintage Sweets Mysteries Book 2)

“Get lost in the beauty of Chicago and the intrigue of a Texas girl making her way in the world . . . You won’t see the end coming.”—Mary Dulle, avid cozy fan

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Judy Alter

Author Pic Judy AlterAfter an award-winning career writing historical fiction about women of the nineteenth-century American West, Judy Alter turned her attention to contemporary cozy mysteries: the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries and Blue Plate Café Mysteries. Her avocation is cooking, and she is the author of Cooking My Way Through Life with Kids and BooksGourmet on a Hot Plate, and Texas is Chili Country.

Born in Chicago, she has made her home in Fort Worth for over fifty years. Judy is also a proud Scot, a member of Clan MacBean. One trip to the Highlands convinced her that is where her heart is, and she longs to write a novel set in Scotland.

Judy is an active member of Sisters in Crime, Guppies, Story Circle Network, Women Writing the West, and the Texas Institute of Letters. When she is not writing, she is busy with seven grandchildren and a lively poodle/border collie cross.

Connect with Judy:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Judy’s Stew | Gourmet on a Hot Plate


Giveaway

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