Review: Any Dream Will Do by Debbie Macomber 

Sometimes predictable is just the thing you need, especially when it’s painted with the brush of faith and hope. Macomber is an expert in helping her characters gain faith in humanity and hope for themselves – even when it seems impossible. 

Any Dream Will Do is the motto of Shay’s new friend — the one who will help Shay save herself from the pit of despair she needs to step out of. But Shay hasn’t believed in dreams in so long, that’s a tough order to fill. 

I enjoyed this quick read centered around redemption and loving others. I’m not sure the story was quite realistic – there were some hokey parts where I suspended my disbelief – but it certainly was hopeful. And although only a small part of the book focused on romance, Macomber wrote a lovely happily ever after. 

-calliope

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Review: The Happy Hour Choir by Sally Kilpatrick

  

Some books are just magical, making me feel like I’m in another world, even though the plot and characters are pretty realistic. Some authors have a way of spinning a story into ethereality. The Crossroads Cafe by Deborah Smith, The Reluctant Prophet by Nancy Rue, and First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen all took me by surprise, embracing me into their twilight. And now The Happy Hour Choir joins the list. 

Beulah is a poor southern young woman, living with a friend, working in a bar, rolling her eyes at religion, and avoiding the church rectory across the street. Until a new, good looking, patient, strong, God-loving pastor comes to town. Beulah certainly notices Luke, and even though she avoids talking about God with him, she appreciates his steadfastness and stability.  

Luke doesn’t try to convert Beulah, but he does guide her in the areas of self-respect and leading others. 

And that’s where the happy hour choir comes in. Beulah uses her connections from the bar to put together a new choir for Luke’s church. And it just happens to meet after Luke’s bible study… Also held at the bar. 

Beulah and Luke wend their way through storms and calm, meeting up and lending support along the way. I loved to see their hearts changing and them shepherding the people around in amazing ways. 

Maybe the magic is in the southern-ness of the story, maybe it’s conviction of faith, or maybe it’s just Luke’s strong silent alpha maleness, but whatever it is left me feeling warm and wanting more. 

-calliope

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Review: Mocha Sunrise by Julie Carobini

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Best friends Livi, Bri and Gaby love each other like sisters, including telling it to each other straight even when the truth hurts. When Livi is mentally tortured by her antagonistic cousin/roommate, Bri and Gaby give Livi good advice – that she fails to follow.

Then Caleb enters the picture. Though he’s fighting his own demons, he forms a trifecta with Bri and Gaby to defend Livi. They push Livi to get out of her rut, push through, face her fears, make some decisions.

I like that Julie Carobini writes this story based on friendship, and maintains that main plot even while other things are happening to Livi – getting arrested, having job problems, meeting a new guy. I read a lot of contemporary romances, and none seem to hold the friendships in as high a regard as the romantic relationship. Mocha Sunrise focuses on the strength of friendship even while the best friends have romance in their lives.

I totally loved seeing Livi and Caleb find themselves as individuals and come together as a couple. Their transformations were amazing – from two uncertain and uneasy characters to honest and discerning people who were so authentic that I shed tears for them. 🙂

I appreciated Carobini’s hopeful and uplifting messages delivered by Caleb. And as I read Mocha Sunrise I felt a sense of peace and joy. How appropriate for this Christmas season.

-calliope

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Review: Mrs. McKeiver’s Solutions by Margaret Morgan

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This story set in 18th century England was such a treat! Mrs. McKeiver is the local midwife and general mother figure for the villagers. Her son doesn’t have the use of his legs and vacillates between depression and moving forward with his life.

The plot seemed secondary to the characters and setting. Basically, Mrs. McKeiver was remarrying, and her son had to figure out where to go when his mother moved. Other characters had babies, were forced to move to a different home, changed their religious inclinations, and were punished for their crimes.

I’m not big on non-fiction, so this fictional account was the perfect way for me to learn about English villages in the 1700s. The filth stands out in my mind, especially. People stank of sweat, urine, vomit, and disease. Animals stank, period. Food rotted and clothes deteriorated. Author Margaret Morgan employs Chaucer’s manner of slipping in crude bodily remarks in a matter-of-fact way… and always elicited from me a delayed but genuine laugh!

Besides the daily living outlined in the story, I was intrigued by the power that “the church” had on the villagers. Bishops, supposedly representing the Church, were totally in charge of everything, from disbursement of food and jobs to determining where people would live! Of course this autonomy led to corruption, another thread in this novel.

My only complaint is that I was rendered impatient by the rambly writing. I sometimes found myself not wanting to pick up at the next chapter because I knew it require some effort to work through all the words to get to the meat of the story. And so, Mrs. McKeiver’s Solutions was a long-winded but eye-opening, educational, amusing glimpse of a pretend village in a very real period in history.

-Calliope

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Review: Married for Christmas by Noelle Adams

20131211-235749.jpg Married for Christmas is Christmassy and sweet … The characters are young and quirky … I enjoyed it as a cute, unique novella. But the dialogue is uneven – natural in some places, out of place in others. And as sweet and charming as the story was, the whole time I was reading, I felt like I was watching an awkward, nerdy first date.

Jessica and Daniel marry out of convenience – or so they tell each other. They have quite a few misunderstandings and silent sulks because of their insecurities. Any feelings they have for each other are slowly and painfully revealed until they are finally honest with themselves and each other. A happily-ever-after on Christmas Day endeared me to the book, and yes I did sigh dreamily. 🙂

I enjoyed the Christmas aspect of the story, which was emotional and uplifting. I also thought the secret fears of a young couple were written very realistically. My favorite part of the book was the honesty Jessica persisted with, no matter the potential rejection or hurt. Her honesty was the catalyst for her marriage to move forward – what a gift!

This is a good read for someone in a new relationship.

-Calliope

Buy it now (99¢!!!) Married for Christmas