#ChristmasReads Book Review | “A Cup of Christmas Cheer” a collection of Historical Short Stories (Vol. 3) by Guideposts Books (2014)

Posted Monday, 18 December, 2017 by jorielov , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Book By: Long before I was a book blogger, I was an active blog commenter on a variety of blogs – especially group author blogs such as The Word Wenches, Heroines Heroes & History as well as visiting INSPY Fiction authors I enjoyed getting to know such as Julie Lessman (following her on her blog tours), Debbie Lynne Costello (of whom I met through HHH), Brenda S. Anderson (the author of my beloved Coming Home series) and a few others of whom I enjoyed getting to know throughout the book blogosphere. My commenting days grew numbered the more I started to focus on developing my own blog here at Jorie Loves A Story – which is in part why I am re-focusing myself in the New Year 2018 to re-take up the joy of commenting on blogs (per a commenting challenge).

Whilst I visited all these lovely authors – many of whom write between Historical & Contemporary INSPY Fiction of a variety of sub-genres or threads of interest – my path happily kept crossing with Ms Costello. I enjoyed getting to know her as a fellow writer and cheering for her whilst she worked on having her dreams of being published could be realised. In [2014] a blogger hosted a bookaway for the anthology “A Cup of Christmas Cheer” which includes her short story “The Letter”. I was overjoyed when I learnt I had won the book – as I personally love reading Christmas stories! Due to a variety of reasons – I was never fully able to focus on reading this lovely collection until December, 2017.

Although, I did win a complimentary copy of “A Cup of Christmas Cheer” Vol. 3 direct from the author Debbie Lynne Costello I was not obligated to post a review. I decided to share my thoughts after reading the stories within this collection for my own edification and to share those thoughts with my readers who might enjoy the same kinds of stories. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Why I love reading Christmas stories & Short Stories in INSPY Literature:

I am starting to garnish a collection of ‘bride’ short stories & novellas as my parents love to surprise me with INSPY anthologies – I have quite a lovely stack of them to read throughout 2018, whilst also marking the year I get to return to focusing on making a dent in my reading queue for my own *70 Authors Challenge* which is about celebrating INSPY Literature overall!

The main reason I love reading short stories – irregardless of the genre or literary style is because you get to gather a proper sense of a writer’s sensibility and their personal take on the craft of writing stories. To me, short stories and novellas are little kernals of insight towards undestanding the larger breadth of a writer’s career – you get to tuck into these little shorter stories first, as a preview of what you will find in their longer stories whilst appreciating the respite for enjoying shorter fiction, too! I love stories – in all forms, shapes and sizes, but one thing as you might have observed is I truly love ANTHOLOGIES. (as previously blogged about during the A to Z Challenge; despite having reviewed a fair amount of anthologies since then!)

Christmas stories at their heart are a delight to read because they embrace everything I love about the Season overall – secular or INSPY holiday reads are lovely to find because they talk about the things in life which sometimes are overshadowed by stress, woe and health crises – the joys, happiness and romance of a well-lived life where you can enjoy the blessings of Winter, the elements of a changing season and the festive cheer of Yule where everyone is getting ready to dress their tree, sort out their gifts for their Christmas morning surprises and curate their family traditions – from food, to games to home parties and the gathering of friends. It’s the time of year for Christmas Midnight Mass, candle light caroling and the smell of fresh trees lingering in the air whilst the twinkle lights make you smile every chance you see them.

Honestly what is not to love!? I do yield on reading Romances and/or Family Dramas – of finding all the goodness of the holiday but a bit of dramatic back-story as well threading into the stories I gravitate towards! A lovely romance is wicked awesomesauce no matter which time of the year you find it to read but Christmas, oh, Christmas is a delightful Season of it’s own. I sometimes wish we could ‘hold fast’ to the spirit of Christmas & Yule – long past New Year’s and into the middle bits of every year where the toils of life and the stresses of work nearly deplete the joys you try to seek out to re-balance your days.

Yes, Christmas is a special time of the year – and for me, that means a lovely array of new #ChristmasReads – INSPY and secular alike, dramatic or historical, contemporary or romantic – short, long, stand-alone, serial, part of an anthology or multi generational saga. All of them are appreciated which is why this year, I am thankful I can take more time to highlight the kinds of stories I love to be #amreading during this wicked sweet time of the year!

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Notation on Cover Art: The artwork for this series is wonderfully illustrated – these are pocket editions in hardcover which I also appreciate because you can hold them in your hands, curl inside the stories and feel yourself drift into the lives of the characters. Each writer had her own approach to play off the ‘theme’ of each volume but the illustrations which accompany the stories themselves I felt was a special ‘added’ treat! Isn’t this just lovely to look at and feel like your part of the scene!?

#ChristmasReads Book Review | “A Cup of Christmas Cheer” a collection of Historical Short Stories (Vol. 3) by Guideposts Books (2014)A Cup of Christmas Cheer, Vol.3
Subtitle: Heartwarming Tales of Christmas Past

Although this collection has within it a total of eight stories - which are as follows:

* The Christmas Scarf by Liz Johnson
* A Bracelet for Christmas by Jacqueline Wheelock
* The family Quilt by Mona Hodgson
* Special Delivery by Susan Page Davis
* The Plum Pudding Phenomenon by Kae Noyce Tienstra
* Finding Something Precious by Pam Hanson & Barbara Andrews
* The Letter by Debbie Lynne Costello
* A Father's Gift by Keli Gwyn

I only have the synopsis to share with you about "The Letter" by Ms Costello as she gave me permission to share the Press Materials connected to this release featuring her short story.

A recent WWII widow receives a mysterious letter seeking reconciliation with her in-laws, but when she goes for a visit only her father-in-law seems to be interested in mending fences. But as the days pass mother-in-law and daughter-in-law learn a little about themselves and the true meaning of forgiveness.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

Pages: 233

Published by: Guideposts Books Page for this Series (@GuidepostsBooks)

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The volumes of this series which are available: *full list

NOTE: I look forward to gathering the rest of the series!

Tales of Faith and Family for the Holidays (Volume One)

Tales of Joy and Wonder for the Holidays (Volume Two)

Heartwarming Tales of Christmas Past (Volume Three)

Heartwarming Tales of Christmas Present (Volume Four)

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Get to know Ms Costello a bit better via her Interview on Ms Anderson’s blog!

Formats Available: Hardcover & Ebook

Converse via: #ChristmasReads, #INSPY &/or #ShortStory

+ #HolidayReads or #INSPY w/ #Christmas

About Debbie Lynne Costello

Debbie Lynn Costello

Debbie Lynne Costello has enjoyed writing stories since she was about eight years old. She raised her family and then embarked on her own career of writing the stories that had been begging to be told. She and her family live in upstate South Carolina.

Debbie Lynne has shown and raised Shetland sheepdogs for eighteen years and still enjoys litters now and then. In their spare time, her and her husband enjoy camping and riding their Arabian and Tennessee Walking horses.

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My review of a cup of christmas cheer, vol 3

As per my usual disclosure – when it comes to anthologies – I never know which of the shorts or novellas are going to whisk out a fanciful attachment on my behalf, which is why I may or may not mention each story inclusive to the anthology but rather focus on the stories which moved me most or which gave me something to chew on even if it wasn’t one of my favourites.

NOTE: These are the first stories I’ve read by these lovely authors and I do indeed to seek more of their stories out in the New Year and thereafter, as I loved their instincts for telling the tales!

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| The Christmas Scarf by Liz Johnson (@lizjohnsonbooks) |

There is such an urgency of hope threading through this short story – of how we desire to find the answer to something left undone and unknown. In this, Katie has missed her brother since he went off to war (in Vietnam) – growing up she became a nurse and gave back as much of her time as she could – to the St. Jude Mission. Thinking her brother might have felt lost and unwelcome after his return from the war – as their parents hadn’t taken kindly to Stephen’s choice to serve in the war; Katie worried he might feel he couldn’t come back home at all – to her or them.

She had launched herself into a mission of purpose – knitting scarves and giving them away to all the veterans she encountered whilst seeking out her brother – she had a photograph of him and each man she gave a scarf too she asked with a hopefulness she didn’t always feel, if one of them would recognise him? As the story moves along, you start to see how difficult the years without knowing what became of her brother were doing to her resolve. Of how having this missing person in her life was a struggle against hope and the uncertainties of when to give up searching for someone who might (in the end) not wish to be found. The heartwarming part is how Ms Johnson wrote her ending – of how even for the reader, hugged so dearly close into this lesson of heartful prayer and earnest hope at Christmas – sometimes, we’re all taken unawares for receiving a blessing we were not expecting.

| The Family Quilt by Mona Hodgson (@MonaHodgson) |

Everyone who has had living histories shared in their families will appreciate this tender-hearted Christmas story – about a family whose taken in their mother/grandmother to reside with them after her husband has died. It’s the kind of story you can relate too – especially if your family’s dynamic has altered through death to re-align afterwards and to carry on into a new series of memories after the grieving has past and happier times once again resume. The hardest part of course, is how to handle your emotions and the feelings which are triggered by the memories themselves – sometimes grief can have quite the effect on you and those you love.

In this story-line, a family bands together – to make this Christmas full of joy and not a bittersweet passage of time for the grandmother whose heart is still dearly attached to her husband’s. Her belongings don’t quite fit inside the house, her pallor of sorrow doesn’t quite allow her the usual joys she enjoys and her grand-children aren’t sure how to make her feel welcome when in reality she simply feels a bit lost.

What I loved about this though is how the girls in the family unite – the mother and her daughters, to create a hand-stitched and crafted keepsake for their grandmother – something which hopefully would give her more smiles than tears. It’s the kind of simple gesture which can have a lasting impact because in it’s simplicity it holds the key to everything – all that is dear whilst we’re alive and the tangible connection to someone our heart aches over after they’ve passed.

| Special Delivery by Susan Paige Davis (@SusanPageDavis) |

I believe I had a smile on my face the whole time I was reading this story! It is truly priceless – especially if you stop to consider how much mail costs and how much a rail ticket costs; the prices do not always benefit the customers who are trying to use the services because the cost of living has a way of becoming higher than the wages the working class can afford to spend. This is way I found this delightful little tale such an uplift because during the time in which it was set (1913) there were cheekier ways of getting round the regulations!

This delightful little treat of a story is set during Christmas, of how a young boy dearly wants to visit with his sisters who are staying with his grand-parents as they had to be separated after their parents died between different members of family who could raise them. It was an agreement they all had amongst themselves the siblings wouldn’t worry about losing touch with each other as they could each see one another every now and then during the year.

The one key issue is when the young boy’s guardians were falling a bit short of the round-trip ticket price for the train but cleverly realised parcels were easier to ship than a person could ride the rails! There is quite a bit of folly involved from there – but my favourite part of all, despite the adventures the young boy has on the train itself is the last takeaway – of how sometimes, bending the rules in an act of goodwill is something to celebrate!

| The Plum Pudding Phenomenon by Kae Noyce Tienstra |

I love reading about family holiday traditions and this one is wrapped up inside one family’s tradition of making Plum Pudding together! Reading about this traditional treat reminded me of the Christmas treat I promised Ms Freeman I’d try to make one year and why I was thrilled to bits Ms Halton helped me realise you can make it non-tradtionally without the suet! (mincemeat) I never truly looked into the ingredients for Plum Pudding – which is why I was quite surprised seeing there is a recipe included with this short story!

Christmas doesn’t have to be about the big gestures or the large feasts or even about what you give to each other -it’s about the time and the memories – of sharing moments together with those you love and care about which matters most of all. The young girl in this story thought her family’s Christmas traditions were invalid because of how ordinary they seemed to her when her classmates had flashier things to share about their families. What she learns is how blessed she truly is to have the family she does and what she observes about how they embrace Christmas spirit through their actions and their intentions of giving a part of themselves to their local community.

It is also about how sometimes a random act of kindness can be more than the act itself – sometimes, if someone surprises you by a kindness you hadn’t expected, it leads you to create a surprise which can engulf a wider audience lateron – such as how this family chose to share it’s Plum Pudding!

| Finding Something Precious by Pam Hanson & Barbara Andrews & Facebook |

An injured cat is the catalyst of healing in this short story – a family who ran a restaurant and lived above it in an apartment were kicked out by their landlord who felt it best to raise the rent on everything to make more of a profit now that the Depression had settled in for a few years. This in turn left the family separated – the father moved to Chicago and the mother and their two small children stayed behind. When Christmas was drawing closer, everyone started to feel the sting of being so far apart from one another. Without knowing what was the right course of action to take – they chose to be together rather than to struggle apart.

I can relate to this story myself – because whenever life’s adversities and trials have fallen on my family, we’ve stuck together and rallied through the uncertain times together. Our strength in faith and the spirit of hope sustaining us as much as living on prayer – as no one truly knows what struggles they shall have as life moves forward. In the story, what touches your heart is how despite the obstacles facing them and the unease in realising even food was a bit too expensive now to buy, the family strived to be back together – because even if nothing else changed – the hardship in finding work, the food insecurity and the high cost of living in general – they could at least be in one place together and share in the woes as much as in the joys which would come along as things started to improve for them.

The curious bit is how the writers’ knew to use a cat to give the story its anchour – because sometimes things do work out in the end similar to this story – of how a random act of kindness even if it means facing someone whose wronged you in the past, can lead to a moment of celebration. It just depends – of how willing the heart is to forgive and how much your soul believes in second chances.

| The Letter by Debbie Lynne Costello |

I love how well thought out this short story was start to finish! It has the breadth of a larger story in its folds because of the length it has to tell its heart – Ms Costello did a great job in securing her vision for what she wanted her characters to experience! This is a story about war and families – of how families can have a rift between them and how sometimes, it takes a Christmas miracle to re-build the time that is lost. In this case, Jennifer was trying to carry-on with her life after her husband was presumed missing and dead – it was WWII and there wasn’t a lot of opportunities for women to work – needless, she did want she must and kept a home for her son and daughter she knew her husband would appreciate. She kept them educated and well fed whilst worried her in-laws would never accept any of her actions.

She received a letter saying her in-laws suddenly wanted her back in their lives – for a week’s stay during Christmas which set her into a tailspin to understand why they’d want this reunion. For their own part, only her father-in-law was enthused about the chance to see her and his grand-children again – her mother-in-law was one of those distrustful types who thought her son picked the wrong bride! Imagine!? As you peer into this story, you start to see how everything fits together – there is a question about the letters themselves and of an unanswered question therein – something which is answered at long last in the conclusion – you’ll have to wait for it because it is a sweet ending to find revealled!

The emotions in this one were well played – you could definitely believe the circumstances and of the heartache of the grandfather – knowing he wants to do right by his son, honour his son’s wife and to embrace the joys of his grandchildren but how to do this when his wife and daughter-in-law are at odds?

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I truly loved reading this collection of short stories – there were a few stories which didn’t connect to me as strongly as the ones I’m focusing on during this review – one in particular just didn’t resonate with me as I think it should have and the very last story in the collection A Father’s Gift although had a conception of story which was rooted in earnest gratitude and the joyfulness of random acts of kindness – for me, something about how it was delivered was missing something. It is a good story to read because of how good natured the neighbourly love is described and of how we all hope to find the same in our lives.

Outside of those two stories – the collection was a beautiful tapestry of different lifestyles and backgrounds – of how our faith lives help give us strength in the storms of life and how the uncertainties of our present and future require us to lean harder on our faith and prayers. It’s also full of all the little moments which make life so beautiful and worth cherishing because those moments become our beloved memories of ole – the ones we like to pass down in living histories and family gatherings. The kind of stories you reminisce over during Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year’s dinners or whilst your trimming your tree – setting everything to rights in your home to see Christmas has arrived.

I love how portable these anthologies were made and how cleverly short the stories are to tuck out a few minutes here or there to absorb inside the worlds which were created to give you a lovely respite from your holiday preparations! I could even see the family cook reading this in the kitchen whilst on a tea break – letting the food cook or warm, whilst finding a pensive pause before the joys of serving the toils of her labours would begin! Christmas is a beautiful time of the year for many different reasons – some of which I have been sharing on my blog this year. Wherever the season finds you, know there are writers who are engaging us with a thoughtfulness of story and a timelessness of tales.

Did I mention you get to time travel through the historic past  as if you had boarded a train to dip in and out of different generations whilst observing these lovely characters at Christmastime!?

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I’m sharing this whilst participating in #WYChristmasReadathon

Christmas Readathon graphic provided by Writerly Yours and used with permission.

via @writerlyyours | writerlyyours.com

I personally love reading #ChristmasReads during the holiday season, I started a bit earlier this year as I tucked inside the anthology of stories by Ms Carla Kelly as well as hosting guest features for a lovely array of new releases feat. the following authors: Linn B. HaltonPatrice WiltonHelen J. Rolfe, Erin Greendiscussing ‘Christmas in a Small Town’; spotlighting Regina Scott as well as interviewing Ms Rock about ‘Christmas at Cade Ranch’; whilst reading ‘Last Christmas in Paris’ and spotlighting Evonne Wareham‘s Romantic Suspense novel set during Christmas!

Even when I’m highlighting a novel I want to read (via a spotlight) I share my notes & reasons why I am keen on reading it. I welcome you to visit me during this festive holiday season to seek your next #ChristmasReads for next year! Merry meet and blessed New Year’s to all.

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “A Cup of Christmas Cheer”, book synopsis, author photo & biography of Debbie Lynne Costello were all provided by the author Debbie Lynne Costello and used with permission. Writerly Yours Christmas Readathon badge is provided by Writerly Yours and is used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets embedded by codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Review Banner using Unsplash.com (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Frank McKenna and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2017.

I’m a social reader | I tweet my readerly life

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • 2017 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Monday, 18 December, 2017 by jorielov in 20th Century, Animals in Fiction & Non-Fiction, Anthology Collection of Stories, Balance of Faith whilst Living, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Cats and Kittens, Childhood Friendship, Debut Author, Historical Fiction, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Mother-Daughter Relationships, Short Stories or Essays, Siblings, the Forties, the Nineteen Hundreds, The World Wars

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