"An Open Book" linkup hosted at CarolynAstfalk.com and CatholicMom.com

#OpenBook: December 2016 Reads

The first Wednesday of each month, Carolyn Astfalk hosts #OpenBook, where bloggers link posts about books they’ve read recently. In December, predictably, my reading list was heavy on the Christmas novella. There are so many to choose from, they’re quick reads, and they’re just fun: the literary equivalent of a Hallmark-channel Christmas movie. But there’s plenty of other stuff too.


T36847-cvrThe Strangers at the Manger (Chime Travelers #5) by Lisa M. Hendey (children’s). Number 5 in the “Chime Traveler” series of chapter books for kids in grades 2 and up (younger as a read-aloud), this novel finds twins Patrick and Katie traveling through time to Bethlehem, where they accompany Mary and Joseph through their attempts to find lodging and stay with them until the Holy Family flees to Egypt to escape Herod’s attempts on Jesus’ life. Read my full review.

6-dates-to-disaster-fc-large6 Dates to Disaster (Bird Face #3) by Cynthia T. Toney (YA) The recently-released third book in the Bird Face series, 6 Dates to Disaster, finds Wendy looking for ways to fund her summer plan of visiting Mrs. V and her grandson in Alaska after her stepdad loses his job. An excellent writer, Wendy agrees to secretly tutor one of the girls in the “cool” clique, with more clients to follow, but Wendy finds herself doing more rewriting than proofreading–and is soon accused of cheating. She’s also distracted by her budding romance with David and by a mysterious note she found in an antique jewelry box. ARC provided by author.

happiness-in-betweenThe Happiness in Between by Grace Greene. Sandra’s parents think she’s a ne’er-do-well, not realizing that her ex (whom she’s married twice) is emotionally abusive. They finally agree to let her hide out in the family homestead, where she’s supposed to care for her aunt’s dog and keep an eye on the home. But her ex is on her trail and Sandra can’t tell the nice guy next door that she’s still married; she also can’t tell her aunt that the dog is missing. Good suspense! Netgalley review.

sandys-seashell-shop-christmasA Sandy’s Seashell Shop Christmas by Lisa Wingate. A young military widow tries to escape Christmas by holing up in a resort town with her 3-year-old, fortifying herself against holiday memories. The town conspires against her, though, working to catch her up in the holiday spirit and even providing a love interest.  This was a sweet Christmas novella; I’ve enjoyed other books in this series.


endless-christmas-ruchtiAn Endless Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti. A very public proposal right after the prospective bride meets the whole extended family turns into an awkward few days when everyone is snowed in. The only one really feeling the awkwardness is Katie, who’s convinced that it’s not a good idea for her to marry anyone. I loved the family in this novella–such great characters! Highly recommended.


connect-the-starsConnect the Stars by Marisa de los Santos & David Teague (YA). A bunch of troubled middle-schoolers and a drill-sergeant wannabe at a 6-week wilderness camp in the desert: what could possibly go wrong? Turns out, quite a bit. Audrey, who’s hypersensitive to people who aren’t telling the truth, and Aaron the walking encyclopedia are challenged to team up with people they thought were their enemies–just so everyone can survive the experience. Great story.

miss-kanes-christmasMiss Kane’s Christmas by Carolline Mikkelson. What happens when Santa Claus’ daughter is assigned to go undercover as a nanny for a Scrooge-like single dad who’s written a book about why it’s a bad idea to let your kids believe in Santa. Yes, it’s predictable. It’s also funny, and the elves were fabulous. As of this writing this novella is still free on Kindle–so go ahead and enjoy.


one-enchanted-christmasOne Enchanted Christmas by Melissa Tagg. Sometimes the fact that a story’s premise is far-fetched gets in the way of my enjoyment of a story. That’s what happened with this novella. I focused a little too hard on “that could never happen” with this one. Novelist Maren falls hard for the guy who’s featured in the cover art of her first book. He leads her on and tells her she can come stay at his farmhouse anytime. Suffering from writer’s block, she takes him up on the invitation a year later–and runs into his brother, who’s reluctantly running the place.

dakota-bluesDakota Blues by Lynne M. Spreen. If you liked “Steel Magnolias” and “Thelma and Louise” you’ll enjoy this novel. Fired by her super-demanding boss after taking time off to attend her mother’s funeral, Karen is still trying to regroup after her husband abandoned her for his pregnant girlfriend. She gets roped into driving an elderly neighbor on a last road trip to Vegas in an RV. This is a debut novel, and I hope the author publishes more–and soon!

its-destinyIt’s Destiny: Three Women’s Fiction Love Stories by Bette Lee Crosby, Tanya Anne Crosby and Julianne Maclean. I’m a huge fan of “Memory House.” Fans of Bette Lee Crosby’s work will love how this novel ties in elements from most of her others. But you don’t need to have read Crosby’s other novel to enjoy this story of a vulnerable young woman finding her way in the world, aided by the kindness of an older woman who has a unique gift. It’s easy to love these two characters.
“Lady’s Man” seemed more far-fetched (even though it lacked the magical element of “Memory House.”) This short piece seemed to be leading in a different direction at the beginning and almost lost me in the first chapter.
I liked the story behind “The Color of Destiny” but the story was not as well-told as the other two; there was a lot of repetition and needless foreshadowing.
Review based on ARC provided by the authors.


PrintWhat Pope Francis Really Said by Tom Hoopes unpacks the truth behind the media’s rush to judgment. I recommend the book to all Catholics committed to defending and living out their faith. Read my full review.

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Follow my Goodreads reviews for the full list of what I’ve read recently (even the duds!)

Visit today’s #OpenBook post to join the linkup or just get some great ideas about what to read! You’ll find it at Carolyn Astfalk’s A Scribbler’s Heart and at CatholicMom.com!

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2 thoughts on “#OpenBook: December 2016 Reads

  1. Oh, the Christmas novellas! I’m going to add An Endless Christmas to my list. And somehow we haven’t gotten The Strangers in the Manger yet. Also very intrigued by The Happiness In Between. Thanks for linking up – you always inflate my TBR list.

  2. The Happiness in Between isn’t out yet, but it was a very good story. LOVED An Endless Christmas; wanted to move in with the family! And your kiddos need The Strangers in the Manger. 🙂

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