Saturday, July 25, 2015

TWW's Book Review: Christmas Embrace by Emily Walters

Are we sure this is an original story? I swear I saw this as a Hallmark Movie on television last year. Wait! Yes, I did and the movie was called Snow Bride. Hmmm...

Seriously, with just a few small changes, Christmas Embrace by Emily Walters is almost exactly like Snow Bride. Since the movie was released in 2013 and this book has a publication date of 2015, I have to wonder. Despite the similarities, as a writer, I was attracted to it merely because the main character is a writer. Frankly, how could I not read this one? 

I had to really concentrate on this because I had the movie running through my head and the details of this kept getting mashed up between what I had seen in the film versus what was being read on the page. Fortunately for me this was a quick read, and unlike the movie, it had an interesting twist at the end to make reading through to the last page worth the effort.

I found it a little disappointing that the description of the book gave too much of the story away. The cover does not accurately represent the characters ages either. When reading Christmas Embrace, I got the impression that the characters were slightly older and more mature. The adults pictured appear a little too fresh-faced for me. 

It was nice to see the main character, Sarah Armstrong, grow a backbone. However, the other female characters are polar opposites. Mrs. Clouse is too much like Mrs. Clause, and Eva is pure evil. Interesting that the names are so close to the descriptions I have just given them. The brothers were predictable and since there was a dad in this versus the movie, I'll refrain from commenting. 

If you have not seen the movie, then this wouldn't be too bad of a read. However, if you have seen the movie then bypass the book. Rating:

Wishing you moments of great reading!

Like anything you see here? Then contact me, Susan Dusterhoft at I am always looking for more books/products to review, and other writing assignments!

TWW's Book Review: Without You - A Christmas Short Story by Adrianne James

As I continue on my Christmas short story reading, I came across this nine page read by Adrianne James. If there is one thing that Without You - A Christ Short Story has going for it, it would be the fact that it is definitely short. I wouldn't really classify this as a short story. It seems more like a chapter from a much larger book.

The two main characters, Logan and Serenity, clearly have a history together according to the thoughts of Logan. This tale is written from his perspective and it starts out with him on a plane flying home to her. It doesn't take long to find out that he is a military man through and through, and Serenity...well she is not cut out to be a military man's wife. Yet, Logan still thinks he is right no matter how Serenity feels. During his travel back to her, however, he meets a few people that slowly helps him to stop and really assess his situation. 

I believe that there is more to this then what was shared. Nine pages is really too short to get all the necessary details needed to make a story complete, even a short story. I had to go back and reread this a few times due to details that were not consistent. I feel Ms. James needs to go back, do a rewrite, and add more pages to this one. Rating: 

Wishing you moments of great reading!


Like anything you see here? Then contact me, Susan Dusterhoft at I am always looking for more books/products to review, and other writing assignments!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

TWW's Book Review: A Sandy's Seashell Shop Christmas: An Outer Banks E-short by Lisa Wingate

Do you believe in miracles? Do you believe in second chances? Do you believe opening your heart to new possibilities? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need to read A Sandy's Seashell Shop Christmas: An Outer Banks E-short by Lisa Wingate.

It's Christmas Eve, and widow Tiff Riley has escaped to the seashore of her husband's childhood. Son Micah is so young and hasn't really experienced a real Christmas. Perhaps Santa has decided that it's time. Maybe it was Aaron's way of telling Tiff that it was okay for her to let go.

With a little help from Sandy' Seashell Shop, Christmas Eve won't be forgotten because there is hope for Tiff, otherwise why would Santa magically make sure that she and Micah found the true meaning of Christmas. 

This is small town living at it's finest. It is what we all want to feel not only at the holidays, but all year long. It really is a Christmas miracle. This is a heartwarming story and a must read to remind us what the holiday is all about.

Wishing you moments of great reading!
Like anything you see here? Then contact me, Susan Dusterhoft at I am always looking for more books/products to review, and other writing assignments!

Monday, July 20, 2015

TWW's Book Review: Have Yourself a Curvy Little Christmas (A Perfect Fit Holiday Novella) by Sugar Jamison

Let me start by saying that titles are deceiving and "This is not what you think it is!" Meet Dina Gregory and her 10-month old son, Dash. They are on their way to confront her ex to own up to his responsibilities. As luck would have it, she finds his brother, Ben, instead. Gina speaks her mind and is not afraid to tell it like it is. Ben has been hiding from life and when he meets Gina, his whole world changes. 

I almost want to say that this is one of those "too good to be true" stories. I understand that this book is part of a series, but I don't think I am interested in the other books leading up to this one. Sometimes knowing just a little of the background is enough for me. While it does not happen often, in this case, Ms. Jamison provided enough background for both Ben and Gina to set up their meeting and draw them to each other.

I like strong women. I also like a little conflict. Have Yourself a Curvy Little Christmas provided both for me. I like the fact that Gina hesitated before making commitments, but was not deterred by Ben's inability to reveal the most painful part of his life. I also loved the elements of Christmas brought in to push Ben past his dark moments and reveal the true loving man that Gina saw all along. 

This is a novella, and slightly longer than a traditional short story so anyone can read this in a few hours. Perfect for those afternoon or evening reading sessions. Rating:

Wishing you moments of great reading!
Like anything you see here? Then contact me, Susan Dusterhoft at I am always looking for more books/products to review, and other writing assignments!

TWW's Book Review: A Christmas Stamp (A Historical Christmas romantic short story) (O Little Town of Christmas Book 1) by Cynthia Hickey

A simple, sweet story about how a community comes together to create a postage stamp that represents their small town. Ms. Hickey does a great job representing what life was like in 1932 rural America.

I found it intriguing that we would see six characters whose lives would become intertwined by a simple mishap involving a bicycle. Can anyone say "Brilliant!" Lilly and Calvin, Lily's mom and the local doctor and Calvin's mom and the postmaster all seemed to have been succumb to unexpected love. 

This story is filled with lots of firsts:
1. Lilly and Calvin's first jobs;
2. Noel's first phone system;
3. Calvin and Lilly's moms first love after their first husbands; and many more that I will let the reader's spot.

Remembering that this is a short story about Noel, Missouri's desire to create a Christmas stamp that will put the quaint town on the map, I felt that Lilly and Calvin's story had plenty of time to develop, but I would have loved to see a bit more development of the other four characters. They all have wonderful personalities, but you only see a small hint of that in this 64 page turner. Overall, I loved the simplicity. A Christmas Stamp by Cynthia Hickey delivers on the holiday romance! Rating:

Wishing you moments of great reading!


Like anything you see here? Then contact me, Susan Dusterhoft at I am always looking for more books/products to review, and other writing assignments!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Never Put the Key to Happiness In Someone Else's Pocket

As a follow-up to last weekend's post "No Matter What You Decide to Do in Life, Be Sure it Makes You Happy", tell me if you ever said this (or a reasonable facsimile thereof)..."If I could just do this for (fill in how long here), maybe everything will turn out okay for me and then I can (fill in what you really want to do here). If I had a dollar for every time I did said that to myself, I'd be rich by now.

I've spent the better part of my life making sure that other people's dreams came true. Or at the very least made their lives easier. What I forgot along the way is that I should never have put the key to my own happiness in someone else's pocket. This is a very powerful and life affirming statement. What does it mean then?

Well for me, it simply means that the key to my own personal happiness lies within me and not with others. Furthermore, I can't spend the rest of my life making sure others are happy if I am not. I need to own the key so that I can unlock the door to my happiness and ensure that it stays open forever. If I don't then I am going to end up being just like Cinderella, the Scullery Maid (you know...before she met Prince Charming.)  I would venture to say the same thing could happen to anybody if they didn't take ownership of their own personal key to happiness.

I love what I do for a living. Don't get me wrong. I know where my strengths are and that is being in a support roll; helping others shine. But sometimes I get so caught up that I forget about me. I put everything that I have into whatever I am doing, and before I know it another month is gone, another summer is over and another year has ended without doing the things that make me truly happy. It is my own fault. I left my key in someone else's pocket again.

Taking control of your own happiness is a huge undertaking. How many of you have thought about, much less do anything about it? We're so caught up in running the race that we don't know how to get off the juggernaut we created. Before you know it, twenty something years will pass and you'll be sitting here like I am wondering what happened. But no is time to put yourself first and unleash possibilities! I have learned to take ownership of my life, thanks to the support of my husband, family and a few other people who have become a very important part of my life. 

If you're like me, take the key back, open the door and let your happiness shine!


Like anything you see here? Then contact me, Susan Dusterhoft at and let me know how I can help you.

Monday, July 13, 2015

TWW's Book Review: Her Christmas Bonus - Epilogue by Rain Danvers

For the naysayers, here is the rest of Sage and Terrance's story, and you lost out because you failed to read the entire e-book. If you had, you would have gotten exactly what you were asking for. Now I realize that this was split into two, but there is nothing wrong with that. These are short stories, not full blown novels. And the story... well I don't think it is far-fetched in the least because I know there are people out there that have experienced a similar situation as in Her Christmas Bonus and Her Christmas Bonus - Epilogue. Maybe not exactly the same, but similar none-the-less.

Ms. Danvers did a good job in wrapping up the loose ends to ensure that Sage made the right decision. It was thrilling to finally see her stand up and realize that things are not what they seem, and ultimately fight for her man. Clarisse, what a joke! Of course, now I won't be able to watch Rudolph anymore...nevertheless she is out of the picture.

I think it would be fun to see the rest of Sage and Terrance's journey. Perhaps Rain's readers could convince her to take both of the these short stories, Her Christmas Bonus and Her Christmas Bonus - Epilogue, fill in some of the gaps that the reviewers needed to know, and bring their romance to the next level. As for me, I have a pretty good imagination so I can make up my own story for these two any time I want. Isn't that what reading short stories are all about anyway...getting lost in a really good tale and then letting your imagination carry you away to a different ending, no matter what it might be. Rating: 

Wishing you moments of great reading!

Like anything you see here? Then contact me, Susan Dusterhoft at I am always looking for more books/products to review, and other writing assignments!

TWW's Book Review: Her Christmas Bonus by Rain Danvers

Since the holidays are just around the corner, I thought I would continue on with my short story and holiday romance theme for those of you who love this time of year as much as I do. If you are looking for a quick read on a cold winter's night, then Her Christmas Bonus by Rain Danvers might be just the trick. 

There were really two things that initially drew me to the story. Firstly, the company where the main characters, Sage and Terrance, work at is located in Newport Beach, California. One of the offices for my company is also located in the same town, so it must be fate that I read this. Secondly, both Sage and Terrance end up in Phoenix, Arizona for Christmas. I spent six years living in the mountains of Arizona and enjoyed many weekends during the winter in that city. Now I had to read this!

Sage is an accomplished business woman but realizes that the one man she wants, Terrance, is not available for her because they work at the same company. However, fate in the form of technology brings them together. Throw in her mom and some well meaning friends and you have all the makings of a happily ever after. 

I am a little disappointed in some of the other reviews that I read complaining that Her Christmas Bonus was too short, and the story advanced too rapidly. Frankly, I get what they all meant, but this is a short story. How long did they expect it to be? Ms. Danvers is sharing a small portion of their story, not their entire relationship from the moment them met until they have children and beyond. I think the negative reviewers missed the boat and the epilogue! Perhaps it's not a five star read but it doesn't deserve a one star either, or in my case a "Palm Tree"! Rating:

Wishing you moments of great reading!
Like anything you see here? Then contact me, Susan Dusterhoft at I am always looking for more books/products to review, and other writing assignments!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

No Matter What You Decide to Do in Life, Be Sure it Makes You Happy

Another birthday is around the corner and I have been thinking about the events around the world and in my own life these last few weeks. During these moments of reflection, my thoughts keep circling back to two significant points.

Firstly, a job does not constitute "having a life." Being able to support yourself through reliable employment is an amazing feeling. But I know that there are those out there dealing with sleepless nights, days of stomach unrest, and an overall feeling of great uncertainty for whatever reason. After much thought though, I came to the conclusion that a job, at it's core, may be completely fulfilling for many people, but at the end of the day, isn't working just a means to earn money so that we can live our real lives? For me personally, and I think because of who I am, I forget that there is a lot more to me than what I do for a living.

Over the years, I have enjoyed the various jobs I have held. There may have been one or two that were not the greatest, but I grew as a person and learned valuable skills. The takeaway from each one, and something I carry into every new role, is to always put everything I have into the job, no matter what. I won't change in this regard, and I believe this a valuable tip for everyone.

I have worked very hard to get where I am, and I recognize that others I have crossed paths with have also done the same. I applaud you for your hard work and gained opportunities. But on the other side of the coin, there are some that stand in the shadow of jealousy, a strong and uncontrollable emotion. Over the years, I have landed there a time or two myself, but I can assure you that what you perceive to be greener may not be as good as where you are standing right now. And I am pretty sure if you stopped to ask the person whom you thought was leading that great life, you would get a different story.

Ask me about my "greener life", I guarantee you will think differently after you listened to my tale.

While there are those that are looking to get that next promotion, make more money and garner recognition, I have decided to approach it from a different angle. I am looking at it from the perspective of needing a little more out of life; something that will feed my soul. I often wonder if anyone else has reached the same conclusion. Ask you want more from the life you are living? When you are ready to answer that question, I can assure you it is very eye-opening. I have taken a hard look at myself and am actually able to say with certainty that not only do I want, but I need more from my life. 

Secondly, during this period of introspection, I have come to realize that many of us spend too much time getting caught up "in the trappings" as it were, and forget about what really and truly matters. Life is too short to not be happy. How much time have you wasted being angry or fearful, and worrying about what others think, including your family? What have I done to cause this unrest? What have I gained from these negative thoughts, or more importantly, what have I lost? Why do I feel this way? Why do I hurt? Why? I have asked myself these questions numerous times, but I don't have a conclusive answer except to say that it must be me. And if this negative emotion surrounds me, perhaps it surrounds others and we have all forgotten about what makes us happy. 

Looking back on everything I have experienced in my life, I realize how certain moments have helped shape me into the person that I am today - an educated women with a fair amount of skills to do anything she wants to do. I consider myself to be evolving, practically on a daily basis. Things that made me happy when I was young, a year ago, last month and even yesterday, don't necessarily make me happy today. But right this moment...these are the things that make me happy (in no particular order):

1. Comfortable socks;
2. Cool nights and a fluffy comforter to snuggle under while I sleep;
3. An unlimited supply of good books to read and music to listen to in the background;
4. Having my own space to do whatever I want;
5. Being confident in my skills, and knowing that there are others who appreciate what I offer;
6. Delicious food;
7. Working in my garden;
8. Great movies I can watch anytime;
9. Sitting on the beach;
10. Tropical breezes and beautiful flowers to admire;
11. Spending time with family and friends; and
12. Sitting out on my patio and listening to the fountain.

What makes you happy? Think about it for awhile, and when you figure it out, I would love to hear about it!

Wishing you moments to reflect on what makes you happy,

Like anything you see here? Then contact me, Susan Dusterhoft at and let me know I may help you. 

TWW's Book Review: How the In-Laws Wrecked Christmas, A Short Story by Fiona Gibson

For the most part, I love short stories because they are exactly that - a quick read one can start and finish on a lunch hour. I found this one while searching online for new books and found that not only was How the In-Laws Wrecked Christmas a novella by Fiona Gibson, but it also revolved around my favorite holiday season, Christmas. Without reading the reviews (I don't liked to be tainted by others opinions.), I picked up a copy and headed off to lunch.

The story centers around two characters, Ben and Anna, heading off for what Anna believes to be the "perfect" Christmas. Little does she know that how wrong she is going to be. Perhaps this is simply a case of opposites attracting, but I just don't see it. The more I read, it was plain to see that Ben and Anna did not belong together. Clearly they came from different worlds and it was never more apparent as soon as Anna stepped out of the car. 

As soon as I saw Ben evading Anna's questions, and ultimately hearing the disdain dripping from his mother's mouth, I felt this story was more about one man's desire to tell his well-to-do parents to "bugger off" as they say across the pond. Things progressively get worse and I was happy to see that Anna was not completely oblivious to the situation, and after one day realize that this is not the life she envisions for herself. 

Overall I think that Ms. Gibson would be better off going back to the drawing board and adding a bit more detail to fill in the gaps that are sorely needed in How the In-Laws Wrecked Christmas. I would have really liked to see a bit more development of the backstory regarding Anna's relationships. I think this would help the ending make sense and maybe alleviate the abruptness as well. Rating:

Wishing you moments of great reading!

Like anything you see here? Then contact me, Susan Dusterhoft at I am always looking for more books/products to review. I can also provide assistance with blog writing!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

TWW's Book Review: Charmed, I'm Sure (The Halloween LaVeau Series, Book 4) by Rose Pressey

It's hard to believe that book four of The Halloween LaVeau Series picks up only a few short weeks after Hallie's story began. She has a black cat named Pluto, an old house she inherited from her dead great-aunt, the Book of Mystics and comes from a long line of witches. She recently became the Leader of the Underworld and her magic abilities are not quite there, although she is learning quickly. Her mom owns Bewitching Baths and Potions and she can't cook to save her life. Good thing her friend Annabelle comes to her rescue often.

In Charmed, I'm Sure, Rose Pressey introduces a couple of new characters. This chapter finds Hallie under investigation by the national witch's board. Enter Charlie, who wants to hang around for a week or two, but doesn't really offer a whole lot of reason why. Clearly there is something up, but Hallie can't quite put her finger on it. To make matters more interesting and confusing, Hallie's Uncle Fitzgerald Flannigan arrives on her doorstep. He is definitely a character, but I will let you find that out for yourself. 

Things start to get really out of control at the town festival, so it's up to Hallie, her friends, mom and Uncle Fitz (who has a penchant for disappearing) to figure things out before the whole town is upset with her. 

I love the fact that Hallie is finally starting to get a little stronger and more confident in her abilities and in herself. She seems to really want to make things better and is developing the right instincts she needs to be a true leader. I really like strong women characters in the books I read and Hallie is shaping up to be one I'll enjoy reading about again and again. Rating:

Wishing you moments of  great reading!

Like anything you see here? Then contact me, Susan Dusterhoft at I am always looking for more books/products to review. I can also provide assistance with blog writing!

TWW's Book Review: Third Time's A Charm (The Halloween LaVeau Series Book 3) by Rose Pressey

Halloween LaVeau is back in the next installment of the series. This time she is being challenged as the rightful owner of the Book of Mystics and the leader of the underworld. Hmmm...not sure she wanted it in the first place, but now that she is, I'm pretty sure she'll do whatever it takes to keep the book and her new-found presence in the community.

The book picks up where the previous left off. And like before, I found that I couldn't put it down. As I turned each page, I hoped for a resolution, but felt Hallie's frustration as she sunk further into the mystery as to why she was being challenged yet again in so few weeks since she found the book her grandmother left her.

Of course, having two men vying for her attention who just so happen to be half brothers is not so bad. It does, however, make it difficult to solve the predicament she finds herself in again. She has to figure out what is going on soon and do it while still getting her magic skills up to speed as quickly as possible. 

I have to wonder though if she will ever be able to improve her magic. While initially her inadequacies were charming, after this third installment of the series, I would have hoped she would not have to stumble around so much. Overall, I liked the story, and as part of the series, it helps to continue on with the events that are happening. Hopefully the next book the readers will find Hallie more sure of herself and her abilities. Rating: 

Wishing you moments of great reading!

Like anything you see here? Then contact me, Susan Dusterhoft at I am always looking for more books/products to review. I can also provide assistance with blog writing!