Saturday, December 31, 2016

My Favorite Book Read in 2016

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Have you ever connected so much with a book that you experienced the same sort of healing as the main character? Young Cee Cee Honeycutt lives with her mentally ill mother and absent father. The only support CeeCee has is through her books and with the eldery neighbor. The day CeeCee discovers Camille in the front yard wearing a tattered prom dress and tiara as she blows kisses to passing motorists, she knows her mother has completely flipped. When tragedy strikes, Tootie Caldwell, a previously unknown great-aunt comes to CeeCee’s rescue and whisks her away to Savannah. Within hours of her arrival, CeeCee is catapulted into a perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricities—a world that appears to be run entirely by women.

“Life is full of change, honey. That's how we learn and grow. When we're born, the Good Lord gives each of us a Life Book. Chapter by chapter, we live and learn... When a chapter of your Life Book is complete, your spirit knows it's time to turn the page so a new chapter can begin. Even when you're scared or think you're not ready, your spirit knows you are.”
― Beth Hoffman 

While Tootie is busy saving Savannah’s endangered historic homes from the wrecking ball, CeeCee encounters a cast of unforgettable, eccentric characters. From the mysterious Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who bathes in an outdoor tub under the watchful eyes of a voyeuristic peacock, to Oletta Jones, the all-knowing household cook, to Violene Hobbs, the loud-mouthed widow who entertains a local police officer in her yellow see-through peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer.

But CeeCee’s view of the world is challenged in ways she could have never imagined: there are secrets to keep, injustices to face, and loyalties to uphold. Just as she begins to find her ballast and experiences a sense of belonging, her newfound joy collides with the long-held fear that her mother’s legacy has left her destined for destruction.

I laughed, cried, and absolutely imagined what would it had been like if I would have been rescued by a loving aunt and her friends when I was removed from my biological family. Although the situation was different from in the book. I had the pain, fear, and needed the same healing from a traumatic childhood. Some may not be able to read this novel from personal triggers but it can very much open the door to healing. So much compassion and healing can come from a book when you dive into the world of words! Moreover, I was completely astonished that this book was the first novel written by Beth Hoffman. Exceptionally well written  with great descriptions. I could not put this book down. My favorite part was the mysterious letters to Ms. Violene Hobbs from her traveling brassiere. The imagery of the bra in different locations had me in stitches. 

My favorite quote was, “…It’s my fire… Everyone needs to find the one thing that brings out her passion. It’s what we do and share with the world that matters…far too many people die with a heart that’s gone flat with indifference, and it surely must be a terrible way to go. Life will offer us amazing opportunities, but we have got to be wide-awake to recognize them… it’s in that you’ll find your calling in life. That’s where true happiness and purpose lies. You’ll never be fulfilled if you don’t.”

If you love Southern fiction, this will be a favorite. This book reminded me of The Secret Life of bees by Sue Monk Kidd and The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I am so grateful that a woman from my book club suggested this book to me. It opens up so many doors for a great discussion. This by far was my favorite novel of 2016! I give it my Highest recommendation!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Sunshine, Tapestries, and Christmas Critters

Sunshine, Tapestries, and Christmas Critters
Wordless Wednesday Post 60 
Well just a few words...

Newest Tapestry Framed from our trip to Neuschwanstein Castle

Tapestries framed from when we lived in Naples, Italy.

Sunshine in the Library/Music Room

Sunshine in the Foyer

Dinning Room
My "Son"shine!

My Newest Cross-Stitch "Coffee" 2016

"Marriage" Made this for hubby as an anniversary gift. 24 Years last August

Dinner  Was Crab Chowder

Hubby's Bowl

King Crab Legs

Sure was big!

Away Near A Manger...Two Cats in a bed

Our New Nightly Visitor

Opossum wants to be a MaryJane Farmgirl Sisterhood Member

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas Reading: Part Two

Time To Snuggle Up With Some Books! 
Christmas Book Reviews: Part Two
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday! It has been rather quiet at our house and very enjoyable to have everyone home. Lots of board games, video games, and music. We did family music lessons the month of December with me on piano, hubby on guitar, and our son on alto and baritone Saxaphone… with a bit of help on his parents instruments too. I am not much into the video games but why father and son were playing together on-line. I had lots of time to read! Oh and it has been nice to have a few friends stop by for coffee. 

The Christmas Pearl

Imagine remembering what Christmas was in the past dating back to World War II. Theodorea, ninety three, is doing just that while living with her family of “insufferable bunch of truculent knuckleheads.” Even better they have come from near and far to stay for Christmas. On December twenty third, cook has a family emergency as her daughter goes into labor.  With bickering, spoiled grandchildren, extramarital affairs, drug addiction, and a very depressed situation, Theodorea needs a miracle. Oh and it comes in the form of an angel. This angel is Pearl who is also my favorite character in the book. Pearl is the no nonsense Gullah black maid from Theodorea’s childhood. Only a few days till Christmas and it will take a miracle to save this family.

 This book is far from plausible except for the behavior of family members. Yet, The Christmas Pearl is not intended for a true story.  Much why it is called fiction. There are so many lessons that can be learned from The Christmas Pearl and what a great way to give insight to your own behavior at Christmas. I admit, I purchased gift cards. The magic of this book is the way the author is able to give one perspective from different age groups. 

I really enjoyed this light read and finished The Christmas Pearl in one day. My favorite quote was, “When I close my eyes for the last time, an entire library of instructions for genuinely rewarding living will go with me.” How true! No matter what our age, we are filled with life lessons and the image of a library just makes me smile. I recommend The Christmas Pearl by Dorothea Benton Frank. I also plan on reading her books in the future. 

Susanna’s Christmas Wish

Amish fiction author Jerry Eicher has created an inspirational and charming Christmas story with his book, Susanna’s Christmas Wish. Herman and Susanna Wagler are at odds as a young newlywed Amish couple. Herman was raised in an more conservative Amish family that does not celebrate Christmas like Susanna’s family. To make matters more complicated, Matthew Yoder who was Susanna’s ex-boyfriend has returned to the Amish community while in “de ban.” As the families struggle to heal, forgive, and follow the godly ways of their faith, readers will be captivated and given a glimpse into the lifestyle of the Amish. 

What I really liked the most about this book was how the author created an opportunity to teach readers how to work through family conflict. I liked the use of kindness, patience, and the support of their faith that carried the young family through the difficult time. Moreover, a bit or humor and stubbornness between mother in law, son, and daughter connects with many readers.

This book is a quick read and can easily be finished in one or two days. The plot flows at a good pace and the book is well written. I have been told that Jerry Eicher’s other books based on the Amish are much deeper and engaging for the reader. I look forward to reading more from Jerry Eicher.
The Christmas Box

Wow! I checked The Christmas Box By Richard Paul Evans out from the Library and I could not put it down. I read the entire book in just a few hours. If you are looking for a Christmas read about the importance of family, kindness, and healing from grief than this book is a must add to your reading list. Richard Paul Evans writes with a emotional and thoughtful way that captured this readers attention immediately. The story begins with a young couple and their four year old daughter, answer an ad to move into a large home with a widow named Mary Parkin. The story continues as each learn a bit about each other and life lessons that you the reader will carry in your own heart. I admit, I was crying at the end with the death of a character.

The author uses imagery and a bit of foreshadow throughout the novel. I found it interesting that the author also gives a description of the monument, which is of a childlike angel with upturned palms and outstretched wings. The word "hope" appears on the angel's right wing. When reports surfaced that grieving parents were seeking the statue, Evans commissioned the construction of an angel statue matching the description in The Christmas Box. In 1994, it was placed in Salt Lake City, Utah on land donated by the city. As of June 2014, over 120 Christmas Box Angels have been erected, mostly in the United States. If I lived closer I too would want to visit this stature and lay a white flower at the statue's base.

My favorite quote from the book is, 

 “The human life cycle no less than evolves around the box; from the open-topped box called a bassinet, to the pine box we call a coffin, the box is our past and, just as assuredly, our future. It should not surprise us then that the lowly box plays such a significant role in the first Christmas story. For Christmas began in a humble, hay-filled box of splintered wood. The Magi, wise men who had traveled far to see the infant king, laid treasure-filled boxes at the feet of that holy child. And in the end, when He had ransomed our sins with His blood, the Lord of Christmas was laid down in a box of stone. How fitting that each Christmas season brightly wrapped boxes skirt the pine boughs of Christmas trees around the world.” 

This is such a powerful book that I give it my highest recommendation. The grammar may not be perfect but the message of the book is what has made it so special. This would be a great gift or a family read.

The Little Amish Matchmaker: A Christmas Romance
Book by Linda Byler

I checked this book out from our local library and I really enjoyed it. The Little Amish Matchmaker by Linda Byler is a quick and pleasurable read. I was able to finish this Christmas romance in one day. The author writes for Preteen to adult with a clean and heartwarming tale about Isaac a 7th grader who tries to get his 21 year old brother Simon and his school teacher to go out on a date. 

Yet, this book has another theme and that is the connection of a community that helps a young girl overcome her problems with stuttering and society's judgement of those with mental health issues. 

I like how the author creates an opportunity for the reader to look within and how we each are part of the world and have the ability to reach out.

In The Little Amish Matchmaker you learn about the Amish everyday lifestyle and phrases in Pennsylvania Dutch. I was even more pleased to learn that the author is Amish. Linda Byler brings her tender humor and skillful observation of family relationships to this holiday story. “I love Isaac’s self-confidence and scheming as he prods his reluctant older brother,” she says knowingly about her characters. It is almost as you are sitting by a fire and she is telling you the story in person. There are many Christian faith references but not too many as to put off a non-Christian reader. The book is well written and I will read more books by Linda Byler in the future. 

I hope each of you have been able to snuggle up with a book. 

I Can't Even Imagine a better thing to spend some quiet time than with family or a book! What did you enjoy reading over the holidays? Does your family have a favorite holiday book?

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas 2016

Christmas Greetings

Christmas is a wonderful and auspicious time of the year when we celebrate faith, family, and the tradition of giving gifts. My greatest wish to my blogging family and visitors is to share the warmth and love of the Christmas spirit and tell you how grateful I am for you.

Take a moment to create that beautiful place of stillness within, celebrate those you hold close, and give from the heart.

Warmest thoughts and Best Wishes for a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year,
Ginger Dawn Harman

Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas Novels

Time To Snuggle Up With Some Books! 
Christmas Book Reviews: Part One

Stocking Fillers: Twelve Short Stories for Christmas
By Debbie Young

In my annual gathering up of my Christmas and winter collections of novels, I was delighted to find Stocking Fillers by Debbie Young. This was one of those treats that you find that was tucked away and forgotten. I finished this collection of short stories in one day! Not only did I enjoy this book but I sent a copy to a friend via amazon to enjoy.

Debbie Young has an amazing gift of storytelling and has a remarkable talent for capturing the reader with often her first line. For example in the short, True Cost of Christmas, Young immediately hooks the reader with the line, “If I catch your mother doing that again, I’m am going to slap her.” Who hasn’t has that familiar guest over during the holidays that inundates you with advice? I laughed at the list of giver’s names with the estimated cost behind each item and on the flip side what dear mother in law spent on each giver. It is this real life plausibility that makes Debbie Young such an enjoyable read. Readers can relate to the spoiled child, the unsatisfied husband who is either controllable or indifferent, the lonely elderly woman next door, or extravagant dinner parties.

My favorite two short stories in Stocking Fillers are “Park and Ride” and "Do You Believe?" In Park and Ride, a traditional “real” Santa is on a bus with the “store hired” Santa. I love the deeper meaning that the author evokes on judgement, insecurity, and the old vs. new. To be able to take these underline themes in such a short story format is brilliant. I also very much enjoyed, Do You Believe? The ending really has you wondering if Jerome is being sincere or playing a joke. With that in mind, Debbie Young gives the reader room to imagine and not give a closed ending in her novels.
I highly recommend this “Five Star” novel and encourage readers to read other works by Debbie Young.

Christmas Present: A Chronicles of St. Mary's Short Story (Audible Audio Edition) 
By Jodi Taylor

This was my first story that I have read by Jodi Taylor. I really enjoyed this futuristic time traveling modern tale. Taylor's use of humor and engaging plot kept me hooked till the end. I especially liked the use of historical fiction as a tool to reunite lovers.

The narration was well done and the pace was good. I plan on reading more from this author in the future.  Highly recommend.

Little Donkey: A Short Story 
(Audible Audio Edition)
By Jodi Taylor
Pull out the ginger biscuits and tea for a wonderful story story. Jodi Taylor creates a funny story with an emotional ending. My favorite part was three men giving a donkey a bath in an porcelain tub while the girls ate cake and drank tea. The humor was spot on and Lucy Price-Lewis gives excellent voice in her narration.

I highly recommend Little Donkey.

Festive Treats
AA Abbott, Justin Lee Anderson, James Brogden, David Croser, Margaret Egrot, Katharine D’Souza, Simon Fairbanks, Heide Goody, Iain Grant, Hilary Mortz, Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn, Suzanna Stanbury, R E Vance, A Stuart Williams, and Debbie Young

As, I mentioned above,  I recently just finished a book called Stocking Fillers by Debbie Young and after I left my review, I was pleased to see that this book was offered on Amazon as a free download. I have only read one of the authors above. This was truly a gift and an opportunity to try out several new authors.

First, I want to commend the variety of stories and layout of Festive Treats. It contains stories that range from fantasy to humor to downright heartwarming goodness. I honestly have a hard time with picking a favorite story in this collection. Yet, I will begin with Margaret Egrot. Egrot is writes well and has a talent for imagery. One could not only feel the emotions of the main character Mary McCarthy but I felt as if I was inside her home and spent the day with her. From the details of the market to Jane’s kindness this story will have you going instantly to Egrot’s amazon page. I immediately purchased her novel about Alex.

This leads me into Katharine D’Souza. After reading her story, I purchased even more books! I really appreciate how D’Souza has you guessing up until the end. I must admit that I thought the mother had pulled a fast one over her daughter. However, the ending was not only pleasing for this reader but gave just enough space that the reader’s imagination was allowed. I also felt that this story was well paced and captured the reader’s attention.

I did have a bit of a problem following the story line of Hark by Iain Grant. In some areas it was a bit choppy and the author had a slight case of too much, “And” “So” and “LY.” However, I did enjoy the humor and the imagination of the four archangels. I also appreciated his plot of something different than the usually plotted themes that many writers follow. Grant is able to think out of the box even if the jokes have you rolling your eyes a bit. Alas, I have told several readers now the minced spy joke. I plan on reading this author in the future.

R. E. Vance is another author that is able to think outside of the box. His mixture of poetry and story was well thought out. Furthermore, his intelligence and culture is a pure delight for this reader. For example, the use of the Jinn, Penemue (The curer of stupidity in men), Astarte (A Middle Eastern goddess worshiped during the Bronze Age), and a mother-in-law add to a very interesting and thought provoking cast of characters. Each were well developed and rather clever.

David Croser, A. Stuart Williams, and Justin Lee Anderson each held my attention and provided me with a very pleasurable read. Anderson really provided much action and had me to the very end. I think my blood pressure might have even rose a bit. The Askari are some rather scary creatures. Williams has a gift for science fiction. Croser really amazed me with his ability to capture the modern Christmas short story. I was disappointed that he didn’t have a second story in this collection. I wanted to read another one. However, I downloaded his Rice Pudding Reality. Oh and yes, I wanted a mince pie after reading his story.

A Partridge in a Tree by Simon Fairbanks was a treasure to read! A favorite and really reminded me of A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote. As a matter of fact, we read this story as a family and it will be shared with my library book club. We all fell in love with the character Nicholas and every teen in my area will want parents like his. Possible to take over the drone. I really believe that Fairbanks would connect with the young adult audience. Furthermore, High school teachers could use his writing a great example for grammar and form.

Lindsay Strawberry Flynn really did a great job with a different approach to the birth of Jesus. She really was able to use just the amount of words for a captivating read.

A.A. Abbott also had a great story titles A Country Christmas. I really enjoyed how Abbott was able to show the change of character development with Ciara and Ben. I almost felt like Abbott is able to balance the reader with a historical tale but modern enough to please readers of a different fiction genera. This is very difficult to do because some only want the classic but some wish for the modern details such as video games in a story line. Abbott is brilliant at this.

Heidy Goody had me laughing in her story, Elf Service. Her light and humorous writing had us so inspired that we almost decorated a scale for a cat loving elf in our neighborhood. I also followed her on Amazon. Hilary Mortz really touched me with her story. She created a beautiful emotional story that really taught the spirit of friendship. I also felt that Mortz writes from a deeper place than some of the other short stories. I could really feel her passion with word choice and I felt this story was a bit more personal.

Now as for Mrs. Debbie Young, I was disappointed when I saw the story was The Owl & The Turkey. I have this story already on my kindle. I even fussed a bit because I wanted something new from her. As a reader, it is frustrating to download a short story collection with a favorite author and see a story you have already read. However, these collections give you a taste for what the author is like. Yet, she did give me something new. Several new authors to read and best of all a great selection of short stories to read. I highly recommend Festive Treats.

What have you been reading? Oh and I just came home with another stack of Christmas/Winter books from the library. Fireplace is on and I am all snuggled up!


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