Review: The Recipe Box by Viola Shipman

This is a charming story about Samantha moving back home to small town Michigan from her temporary pastry chef stint in NYC. Though her big city boss was a total jerk, Samantha did leave behind good friends and big dreams.

She didn’t realize that her dreams could be fulfilled in Michigan if she’d only give it a chance. Back at her family’s orchard, Samantha spent time with her mom and grandmother, finding out little by little just how special the family recipe box was. I loved how her two worlds collided via the recipe box, giving Samantha the opportunity of a lifetime – if she decided to take it.

I loved the orchard setting, the convivial relationships among the women, persistent Angelo, and that awesome recipe box. I couldn’t quite identify with Samantha’s personal struggles, and the story was fairly predictable, but in the end I was satisfied — much like I am when hearing the expected crunch of an apple. All good stuff.

-calliope

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Review: The Amish Christmas Kitchen by Long, Baker, Beckstrand

This book is a collection of three novellas that center around Amish kitchens at Christmas time. 

Baking Love on Ice Mountain introduced Clara, who managed to bake up a storm even while grieving … and moving on. I enjoyed this well-written story and the mountain setting, as well as the wisdom of the older people being passed down to the next generation. 

The Christmas Bakery on Huckleberry Hill is by one of my most favorite authors, Jennifer Beckstrand. Beckstrand didn’t disappoint, bringing her signature silly grandparent pair Anna and Felty to Katie’s life, ready to be matchmakers once again. I loved that they maintained a sense of humor even when the wrong boy was trying to court sweet Katie – for the wrong reasons… her triple chocolate cakes! 

The Special Christmas Cookie contained a fun twist on one of my favorite tropes – governess/nanny/tutor falls in love with guardian of a sweet child. Problem was, the writing was sloppy. Many repetitive paragraphs and pages should have been cleaned up during editing – especially when it came to telling (in addition to the already sufficient showing) how independent and strong Jonathan wanted to be. 

The three authors send a common message with these novellas: loneliness can be overcome by taking a step forward. Each novella had a character that suffered loneliness because he or she was afraid to reach out. Once they could extend themselves, they found a brighter, more joyful season waiting for them. 

And at the end of each novella, you’ll find a recipe waiting for YOU. 🙂

-calliope

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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 99¢.

-calliope

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