Review: Christmas at Carriage Hill by Carla Neggers

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I think 2014 was the first year I read anything by Carla Neggers, and I’ve become a fan. I was happy to see that Neggers wrote a Christmas novella, set in the part of Massachusetts where my mother grew up.

Christmas at Carriage Hill is a contemporary romance with an old-fashioned feel. There’s an impending wedding, New England snow, ice skating, English scones, and a military man who won’t let go of his true love.

Alex and Ian dated, broke up, then ran into each other while traveling abroad for a wedding. While the plot wasn’t thoroughly fleshed out and the secondary characters were a little flat, those are acceptable in a novella. I appreciated the great scenery, the main characters, the recipes, and the happily ever after. The power of nostalgia got to me, too, as I remember visiting the Quabbin as a child.

I enjoyed this light, uplifting, Christmassy novella by a favorite author… and it’s a steal at 99ยข.

-calliope

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Review: Nest by Esther Ehrlich

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I generally don’t read children’s fiction, but I wanted to read Nest to get an idea of the usefulness of a book about children grieving. I can report with confidence this: I believe Nest would be helpful for 10-14 year olds with a mentally unstable or absent parent. They would see they are not alone, people grieve and cope in myriad ways, and anger is natural. Young readers could see that maintaining connections — family ties, friendships, or even looser relationships — help distract as well as move a person through his or her bucketful of emotions. Moving forward is key.

That’s my opinion as a mother and a former schoolteacher.

My emotional response to Nest was pretty much bawling my eyes out. A child without two loving parents just kills me… though I know it is so, so common. I felt for Chirp and her sister, for Chirp’s friends Dawn and Joey… Why did they have to suffer? Why did their lives have to be upended?

Yet they found ways to cope. They found ways to hope. They found ways to stick together to fill up a little bit of what was missing.

Nest is well-written, from the sentence structure to the easy flow to the authentic characters. The only niggling detail was about prayer: the author had Chirp uncomfortable saying grace before a meal, or saying the name Jesus. But I’m pretty sure Jewish people say grace (to G-d, not Jesus) and they believe Jesus existed, just that he wasn’t the Messiah. Besides that, Nest was wonderful. The 1970s were portrayed just as I remember them, without being contrived or hokey. And though the ending was sad, I finished the book with the thought that those children were going to make it. They had hope, they had strength, and they had each other.

-Calliope
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Review: Harbor Island (Sharpe & Donovan) by Carla Neggers

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I don’t know HOW I missed out on this series until now. Where have I been? Living under a rock?

Harbor Island is a complex, witty, gritty, romantic suspense novel. Emma and Colin are FBI agents. Right there, Neggers has me as a fan. They have a quiet, affectionate banter … refreshing, as it’s not the usual shtick I experience in rom coms. (I love rom coms, but this is a nice change of pace.) And they are bent on solving a crime that spans decades and the globe.

While I mostly appreciated the underlying romance, and just ate up all the knowing glances, smooches, and warm embraces, I also really enjoyed the FBI adventure set on an island near Boston, MA. Gunshots, murder, larceny, con men, artists… Neggers made it so exciting that I’m on the edge of my seat just remembering it.

There were a lot of characters in this novel, and it took a bit to keep them all straight. I would have been better off reading books 1-3 in the series before jumping into this one (#4). But it was totally doable and enjoyable. Neggers took me on such a great ride that I can’t wait for book 5. I’m off to read 1-3 … and then maybe book 4 again!

-calliope

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Review: Fast Track by Julie Garwood

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When you’re already laughing and crying in the first quarter of a book, you know it’s a good one. Once I got through my tears, Garwood had me on the edge of my seat. Fast Track was fast-moving through to the end, I’ll tell ya.

The complex plot included terrific friendships, happy couples, an impending romance, secret agents (well, two special agents and one guy who couldn’t be pigeonholed) and a family driven so deeply by greed that it colored black the relationships with their own blood! I loved every minute of the suspense.

The friendship among the women was good – they were real with each other. The guys related to each other pretty realistically, too. I didn’t love the hero… he had some personality quirks that just weren’t for me… but in the end his redeeming qualities shone through. The heroine was a strong woman who became a bit submissive when interacting with the love of her life – an annoying but understandable part of the story.

I struggled a bit with a few rambly parts … wordy pages here and there and some lengthy descriptions that I glossed over. I also noticed quite a bit of telling instead of showing. Besides that, the beautifully thought-out plot overwhelmed any shortcomings in the writing.

-calliope

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