Nowhere for Christmas, by Heather Gray

gray coverNowhere for Christmas, by Heather Gray is a laugh-out-loud story.  I found myself chuckling often, totally captivated and delighted by the main characters.  Avery, a newspaper reporter who has a shot at national syndication, her teenage son, Eli, and, Gavin, a photojournalist find themselves traveling to Nowhere, Oklahoma to capture a heart-warming small-town Christmas for the newspaper.  Their rental car didn’t look like much, but they were assured it was reliable so they set their skepticism aside and pulled onto Interstate 40 full of optimism — and ptomaine poisoning, which had them pulling right back off the interstate and into a rest area.  The entire journey was one mishap after another.  I’m not going to spoil the journey for the reader by listing them all, better you climb into the car with Avery, Eli, and Gavin and experience the road trip with them.  Strap on your seat belt and prepare for a wonderful ride.

Heather Gray is an excellent writer.  As I said, this story made me laugh-out-loud and I couldn’t wait to turn the page and see what would happen next.  I loved the spirited conversation between Avery and Eli.  The mother-son relationship was realistic, complete with edgy tempers, smart remarks, and unconditional love.  The attraction between Gavin and Avery unfolded slowly and naturally.  Every character in this novel, from the bait shop mechanic (yes, I wrote that correctly, read the book you’ll understand) to the small town cop were well defined and believable.  From beginning to end, I loved this story.

Amazon Book Blurb:

Anything can happen on the road to Nowhere…
A journalist and single mother, Avery is used to being in control though she tries to remind her-self to let God take lead in her life. Eli, her son, is happy as long as he has his music, plenty of food, and the occasional adult on which to practice his rapier wit. Gavin, a virtual stranger, is a photojournalist who mysteriously dropped off the scene a few years ago.

The trio ends up together for a Christmas road trip to the small town of Nowhere. An eight hour drive in a rental car turns into two days of misadventure and calamity as bad luck seems to stalk them. They get a flat tire, the bumper falls off, the car overheats – and that’s only the beginning! Along the way they meet some interesting people – from a bait shop owner who moonlights as a mechanic to a chatty preacher’s wife and a highway patrolman whose wife and mother can’t agree on the best way to remove a skunk’s stink.

Hungry, cold, and tired, the three finally reach Nowhere only to discover the town is nothing like they expected. They learn that reaching their destination doesn’t necessarily mean the journey has ended.

About the Author (Amazon Bio):

Aside from her long-standing love affair with coffee, Heather’s greatest joys in life are her relationship with her Savior, her family, and writing. Years ago, she decided it would be better to laugh than yell. Heather carries that theme over into her writing where she strives to create characters that experience both the highs and lows of life and, through it all, find a way to love God, embrace each day, and laugh out loud right along with her.

Astraea Press is a royalty paying e-publisher dedicated to supplying clean reading material to an eager public. I bought this book with my own monies. This review was not purchased and reflects my honest, unsolicited opinion.

The Toymaker, by Kay Springsteen


springsteenI spent Christmas Day reading, “The Toymaker” by Kay Springsteen.  Springsteen’s prose is so smooth it all but disappears, letting the story take center stage.  To me that is the mark of an excellent writer.  Her words painted vivid pictures in my mind.   The story’s main characters, Lady Ivy and Philip Green — or rather, Noel Phillip Vincent Greenstone, the Twelfth Duke of Greenbriar — are vividly drawn, very human, and very likable.   I very much enjoyed reading this book.

“The Toymaker” isn’t a page turner.  I had no trouble putting it down as I moved through the day, but every time I paused the gentle story called to me. The romantic stumbling block in the story was a little contrived and could have been solved easily, but that seems to be a time honored romance story tradition and was easily forgiveable.  All-in-all, “The Toymaker” by Kay Springsteen  was the perfect, leisurely Christmas Day story and for the most part I read it while sitting in front of the fireplace draped in a fluffy blanket.

Amazon’s book blurb:

Lady Ivy Plumthorne, elder daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Wythorpe, is a worry to her parents. Desiring only that she be as happily wed as her younger sister, they’ve spent the past year parading prospective suitors in front of her. When she finds none of the suitors… suitable, her parents despair she will ever find the perfect husband. With Christmas approaching, they find one more prospective suitor, the Duke of Greenbriar. Only problem is, Ivy’s already met the man of her dreams… and he’s a toymaker. Noel Phillip Vincent Greenstone, the Twelfth Duke of Greenbriar, wasn’t cut out to be a duke. He preferred crafting toys that made children happy. So that’s just what he did. And as Phillip Green, he traveled freely about, visiting shops and orphanages, and making no child went without a toy of his or her own. But a few chance meetings with Lady Ivy and he knows he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. The problem is, she needs to marry a nobleman and she only knows him as Phillip the Toymaker. He needs a plan, and fast. The world needs to meet the reclusive Duke of Greenbriar, so Phillip plans his own coming out. But how will Ivy react when she learns the truth?

About the Author (Amazon bio)

k springsteenKay Springsteen is a romance junkie and a chocolate addict, who makes her home in Virginia near the Blue Ridge Mountains. She can and does write anywhere, and often incorporates little oddities of her every day life into her stories. Her family has learned the hard way to maintain a low profile in order to stay off her radar, for fear they will find themselves crafted into her latest novel. Kay is a Christian, who is passionate about all life. She has been an outspoken advocate for homeless persons, shelter pets, the environment, military and first responder personnel, community outreach, education, and people of all ages who have disabilities.

Kay can often be found taking long hikes in the mountains with one or two of her terrific rescue dogs, but she’s just as content to stay home gardening or simply spending time with her wonderful family. You might even find her at Starbucks writing. But if she sees you, watch out! You might just end up in one of her books. She believes in magic and real-life fairy tales, and the romance of life, and knows everyone has a happily ever after waiting out there somewhere. But until you get to it, why not pick up a good book and think about the possibilities?

Astraea Press is a royalty paying e-publisher dedicated to supplying clean reading material to an eager public.  I received this book free of charge from Kay Springsteen and with no strings attached.  This review was not purchased and reflects my honest, unsolicited opinion.

Cookies!

Okay, it is seriously time to start baking.  This evening, Friday and Saturday I will be scarce — not that it matters since you all seem to be busy, too, and aren’t visiting me much anyway.  A few of you are still posting and I caught up okay this morning, but I don’t know if it’s going to stay that way.

Tonight I am making cookies:  chocolate chip; chocolate butterscotch; Snickerdoodles; and maybe something else — maybe not.  We shall see. We shall also see if I remember to take photos.  I hope that, unlike Church Lady, I remember to use my oven mitt!

Christmas Open House

It is official.  we have set the date for our Christmas open house.  I had better get to baking!  I have tons of goodies to make!

I think I am offering tea (hot & iced), coffee, and spiced cider to drink.  If something else is wanted, our guests will have to bring it with them.  It’s an afternoon party — that’ll do, won’t it?

My goody menu is pretty much Christmas traditional — decorated sugar cookies, banana walnut bread, Thumb Print Cookies, Ginger Bread, fudge, … what else?  NO fruit cake!

And I keep changing my food menu.  Finger foods, or big pots of chili (one spicy, one mild?).  I think veggie trays and cheese trays no matter what.  And probably a fresh fruit tray as well.

This will be the first time we have done any major holiday entertaining since Amoeba and I have been together.  In Hawaii, all the holiday gatherings were potluck joint ventures with our friends.  Amoeba and I are taking this on ourselves.  This house just cries out for a huge party.

Of course this party is going to require a trip to Pier 1.  I need some classy looking serving platters and hors d’oeuvre plates.  The Pier 1 “Tasting Party” set has the perfect pieces — classy, yet understated and they match the dishes I already have.

Pier 1 has long  been one of my favorite shopping places.  It is the first place I thought of when I realized my old table cloth won’t fit my new table.  I’ll also need napkins and napkin rings. At Pier 1, I’ll be able to get a high-end look without paying high-end department store prices.

Another good reason for going to Pier 1 is that I can drop off my Toys for Tots donation with them and they’ll see that it gets delivered.  In addition, Pier 1 is donating one dollar to Toys for Tots for every fan they get on Facebook during November and December.  Pop over now and “like” them.  Every little bit helps.

Speaking of every little bit helping – -does anybody have any hot party foods they think I should serve?  Should I scrap the chili idea and go with fancy finger sandwiches, chicken wings, an assorted appetizers, etc.?  I can’t make up my mind!

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Flashback Friday – O Christmas Tree

This is the
“O My Gosh, I Can’t Believe It’s on Time! Edition
of Flashback Friday, brought to you by Quilldancer.

Flashback Friday is the brain child of Linda from Mocha With Linda. This is the meme that takes us back in time to the days of our youth. Linda says, This meme’s purpose is to have us take a look back and share about a specific time or event in our lives. It will be fun to see how similar – or different – our experiences have been!

When you were growing up, when did your family put up and decorate the Christmas tree? Was it real or artificial? Who usually decorated it? Were there special decorations? What was on the top? White lights or colored, blinking or steady? How much did your family decorate for the holiday other than the tree (wreaths, dishes, snowglobes, miniature villages, etc.)? Did y’all do outdoor lights? White or colored, blinking or not? Are there special memories associated with decorating for Christmas?

We always had a live tree.  My dad was a logger and two of my Uncles owned tree farms.  They would have died if Gram put a fake tree up in our living room and buying a tree would have been an even worse crime!

Usually my dad or one of my uncles would bring the tree in and put it in the stand, then they would leave and Gram and I would decorate.  I never understood why, when I was a kid, Gram always made me go to my room until the lights were on the tree.  As an adult I know … it was the cuss words.  I am sure of it.

Gram had wonderful stuff to put on the tree!  She had old porcelain bells shaped like Santa, Angels, Christmas Trees, Bells (duh), Carolers, and Snowmen.  We always hung candy canes on the tree — one for each day until Christmas, and I got to eat one every night (well, usually I took it off the tree at night and didn’t eat it until the next day).  When there was only one candy cane left, I knew the next day was Christmas!  She started that when I was 6 to keep me from asking every night, “How long?”  She would say, “Go count the candy canes!”

If my dad did stay around when we decorated the tree, it had to have tinsel.  Gram generally skipped the tinsel because (as you doubtless know) it has a way of leaving the tree and migrating all over the house.  And my dad insisted that the tinsel be put on the tree one strand at a time. I was never that patient and would lose interest pretty fast.

For years we had an angel on top pf the tree.  It was just a little white plastic cone with a doll head and feather wings.  I remember thinking it ugly and being rather pleased when it finally burnt out.  We replaced it with a lovely multi-colored star.

The only other decoration that went up was Gram’s creche.  That was special.  It had a wooden stable with a real straw roof, and Gram always put real straw on the floor.  A porcelain angel hung from the peak of the stable roof.  There were porcelain figurines for Mary, Joseph, the wisemen, their camels, and there were sheep and donkeys.  Little baby Jesus was naked in the manager laying on a white cloth over the straw.  Of course he and it was porcelain, too.

The creche pictured here is much like Gram’s, but there are a few minor differences. I remember the first time Gram let me put the creche up.  She told me it was over 50 years old, and I had to be extremely careful with it.  Even then, I wasn’t allowed to move the stable because she was afraid it would fall apart.  Every year more of the roof flaked away.  I was very careful handling that creche.  I loved it.  I have no idea where it ended up after Gram died. It doesn’t matter though, it is still beautiful and everlasting in my heart.