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review 2018-02-22 18:57
The Christmas Town (Christmas Hope) - Donna VanLiere

The Christmas town by Donna VanLiere
This holiday read is about Lauren, she's lived a hard life with her mother in jail and then later in foster homes.
Now she's in her 20's and lives with another girl.
Story also follows Ben who's mentally challenged and he puts notes in grocery bags at the store. Very inspirational uplifting notes that he selects for everyone.
Ben's mother Stacy meets Lauren at the police station so they can point out who hit her car and left. After they stop at local bakery where they talk and Lauren tells her she works at the grocery store.
She has a suggestion for Gloria's Place-a local place for mothers, children and those in need. They love her suggestion and her help.
Love how the community takes care of the people in need.

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review 2017-12-12 01:40
The Christmas Fling by Heidi Cullinan - My Thoughts
The Christmas Fling - Heidi Cullinan

The first of my Christmas books to read and ooh, it's a good one!  In The Christmas Fling, we return to Logan, Minnesota, the setting of the Minnesota Christmas quadrology.  We meet many old friends - as one does when they go home for Christmas, and we meet a pair of MCs that have issues.  Oh, they both have issues. 

The book starts of with a bang- almost literally.  Before we are many pages in, we find ourselves in the midst of a hugely satisfying, steamy, sexy scene that is really enough to curl your toes.  And a bit of a warning here, we're talking some kink, more specifically, some humiliation kink - which is not everyone's cup of tea.  It's really not mine either, in fact it usually squicks the hell out of me, but the way Heidi writes it, I found the workings of the characters' minds fascinating.  Characters are Heidi's strength and it really shows in this book. 

We have Evan, who is most likely on the spectrum, who can't really remember faces, who has a tendency to one-track-mindedness to the point of forgetting to take care of himself.  Another one who has his own neuroses, his own insecurities, his own bloody one-track-mindedness.  *LOL* 

But honestly, aside from the terrifically drawn characters, the other wonderful thing about this book, and really about all of Heidi's books, is the sense of family.  Found family and blood family.  It never fails to warm my heart and often sets me to tearing up.  And then there's Linda Kay who is right up there as fave Cullinan character of all time with Randy Jansen. 

So great start to my Christmas reading!  :)

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review 2017-10-14 05:52
Quick Holiday Read
Underneath My Christmas Tree (Love in a ... Underneath My Christmas Tree (Love in a Small Town Book 6) - Tawdra Kandle

Underneath My Christmas Tree by Tawdra Kandle is a fairly short holiday read, perfect for those with limited time for reading.  Ms Kandle has delivered a well-written book.  The characters are sweet and lovable.  Elizabeth is a lawyer and not a fan of Christmas.  Trent is selling Christmas trees from the parking lot of her law office to help his uncle. Their story is a holiday romance with bits of drama, humor and sizzle.  I enjoyed this story but I think I would have enjoyed it more if it wasn't written in first person.  This is a complete story, not a cliff-hanger.


I voluntarily read an Advance Reader Copy of this book that I received from NetGalley.

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review 2016-10-22 21:21
A delightful story about a place we’d all like to call home
The Christmas Town - Donna VanLiere

My review is based on a free advance copy from St Martin’s Press via NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion or the review content.

OK, I’m not a big fan of Christmas. There, I’ve said it. The fuss, the mad rush to buy presents, the obligation to be happy… But there are certain things about Christmas I don’t mind, like the crafts fairs that pop up everywhere, some of the songs (although not when played continuously 24/7) or the books (and movies, but, especially the movies, I prefer them around the right time of the year. Watching a Christmas movie in August is a no-no).

Despite that, I could not resist requesting this book when I read the description, as I do like stories where a community gets together and people find a true home. And I’m happy I decided to read it.

The Christmas Town is fairly short, full of surprises (well, some not so surprising, but pleasant nonetheless), and it has a big heart. You have memorable characters (some very recognisable, like the woman who insists on using British expressions nobody understands, or the tall, dark and handsome romantic hero), some unique, like Ben, the young man who works at a grocery store and wins everybody’s heart by offering them personalised messages with their shopping. You have a great setting, and a suitably seasonal story, with auctions, personal objects, songs, and social media confusing things.

The story is told from several characters’ points of view (in the third person), although the main character is Lauren Gabriel, a young woman with a difficult childhood but full of dreams and hopes, despite her disappointments. She ends up in Grandon, a charming small-town, and although there are heartaches on the way… Well, this is a Christmas story, but I won’t spoil it for you.

There is humour, characters you’d love to know in real life, complications, chance, music, miracles and family. And a great sense of community. The story also touches on some sad issues (Lauren’s difficult childhood and her relationship with her estranged parents, children’s illnesses and disabilities, financial worries) but all dealt with a light touch.

If you want a light and heart-warming read with endearing characters and a place you’d love to call home, and you don’t mind Christmas (or even if you do) I recommend it. Ah, and don’t miss Ben’s messages. Priceless!

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review 2016-09-21 00:00
The Christmas Town (Christmas Hope)
The Christmas Town (Christmas Hope) - Donna VanLiere "My life is the same." Always the same...

Synthesizing this one is the existential condition in which the main protagonist of the latest Christmas novel by Donna VanLiere is living in.

The Christmas Town will be released published by St.Martin's Press on Oct 18th.

Lauren Gabriel, the protagonist (who knows if the last name Gabriel chosen by the author in honor of the archangel Gabriel?) is a cashier in a store.

She is just 20 but her life has known a lot of sufferance during all her still brief life. Very disgraceful parents without any kind of responsibility or maturity abandoned her de fact but also emotively. Later many foster homes, many other people but no one she could called: family. Lauren hasn't never been in grade to call a place "My house" and people living there, "My family."

Lauren has never, never been surrounded by a real family.

The most horrible moment of the year for Lauren is the Christmas Time.

It should be a time of joy, happiness, a moment for staying together, putting up the decoration on the Christmas Trees, singing carols during Christmas Day, choosing presents for relatives and friends the days before Christmas, baking gingerbread cookies, but she doesn't know these feelings.

She hasn't never proved these emotions.

She hasn't never been happy.

But a family...

Someone who love you, someone who think that you are important and treasure your life. There is no price for a dream like this one thinks Lauren.

Lauren in a moment of discomfort but also of great lucidity posts on Facebook her most profound and at the same time hidden dream: spending the Christmas Day in a real family as if that family would be her own family. After all why not?
A family would be the best Christmas gift to her.

She receives just ironic, sarcastic and disenchanted replies so she deletes the post.

She posts on Craiglist and there, someone is truly interested to give her a chance for spending a Happy Christmas Day with a good family.

At the same time a car accident where Lauren is the most important ocular witnesses bring her back to Grandon a place at a hour of distance from her town. The attorney of the woman involved in the car accident needs her help. The man of the truck must be recognized.

That man changed hair cut but not face and Lauren will give clear indications, recognizing without any doubts the responsible of the car accident.

She seems to be born for staying at Grandon, Lauren. She starts to make friendship with the lady involved in the car accident, Stacy and with her she spends some time at Betty's Bakery, where she can finds this world and the other in terms of pastry but also that human warm so necessary to her for going on. And special people, of course.
Other ladies in fact, while they are still chatting stop by Betty's Bakery as well. They are organizing a fundraising for Glory’s Place, dedicated at single mothers and families in need but they don't know how to do that, and Lauren asks to them if they have thought at a sing-a-thon.

Launched the idea the ladies, they don't know Lauren doesn't live in their town, ask her if she wants to be involved as a volunteer. She says yes.

In this town for miss "My life is the same" the re-born.

Optimism at first thanks to Ben a magical young man, with some difficulties. Employed in a store where Lauren stops by he loves to put in every shopper bag a special blessing for everyone.
At the end it pays a lot, because people feel that they are special.
Ben writes these messages personally.
People receive encouragements. They love to be cuddle with these special random blessings. Lauren is not an exception. She starts to think these blessings are real balsam for her soul.

Lauren Gabriel will discover a lot of things about her family while she is in this new town. She will discover that sometimes is no possible to recuperate people lost forever but, most important, she will learn that these wonderful bunch of new people entered for case in her life are becoming important. Lauren doesn't imagine it, but when she will suffer a personal turmoil she will be missed by everyone, because she will also start to make a difference in their life.

What is life without love? What is life without friendship, help, compassion and human understanding?

As always the writing-style of Donna is captivating. She will create a lot of situations plenty of dialogues that will keep the reader interested and curious without forgetting her profound sense of Christianity, one of the best treats of her books.

Another jewel for your Christmas season or a great gift for sending a special message to a friend or someone you love and for let him/she know that she/he is part of your family.

I thank NetGalley and St.Martin's Press for this copy of The Christmas Town.

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