Blue Christmas by Diane Moody ~ Review

Blue Christmas by Diane Moody

Blue Christmas pic

Have you ever heard of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events? Things start out fine, but then get worse and worse. Well, this story is a bit like that with events that begin very well, but then there are surprise twists and turns that seem to get worse and worse. But the best part about this book is that it is the Christian version and so much more upbeat, with a terrific ending. You will not be disappointed.

Hannah was alone this Christmas. Her family was off enjoying a Colorado ski trip where she should be, but since she was assistant manager at the local grocery store, and the manager had just had a family emergency, she was next in line to supervise. On this Christmas Eve, she was feeling a bit sorry for herself when a kind, motherly customer she saw in the store regularly invited to attend Christmas Eve services with her. She wouldn’t take no for an answer either. That was the beginning of an incredible journey for Hannah.

Jason McKenzie is a star. His rock band, Out of the Blue, was a teen favorite. But living on the road was exhausting and from time to time he’d come home for a respite. He showed up on Christmas Eve and was immediately enchanted with Hannah.

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One of the things I like most about this story, besides the fact that it’s a Christmas story, is the humor infused in the tale. There’s a laugh around every corner. It’s good clean humor and makes this story just perfect.

Second, this story means more when you read the history behind the writing of this tale. I love reading where authors get their ideas. This one has a wee bit of truth and a bunch of fun fabrication. And this is one of those books that doesn’t lose its appeal when you read it the second time or third time. That’s my kind of book!

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Cinderella Texas by Molly Noble Bull ~ Review

Cinderella Texas pic

Cinderella Texas by Molly Noble Bull

Cinderella Texas by Molly Noble Bull is one of the newest published books by this author (2017). Both main characters love the Lord and are Christians, but have chosen vastly different lifestyles for themselves. The disparity makes this a unique type of story. The issues are not a matter of right and wrong; rather their choices are what places a wall between the two. The conflict/resolution issue in this story is still emotional, a matter of finding a place, a middle road, in which to meet. How they do this is what drives this story forward.

Alyson Spencer was a city girl, through and through. She was born, reared and educated in Dallas, TX and preferred living there. She never expected to get work anywhere else. When nothing else she wanted turned up, she took a job teaching a rancher’s children at his home. But she was not prepared for the desolation of the location in southern Texas and the distinct lifestyle of the family there. There were no modern conveniences at all. She’d signed a contract for a year of teaching without knowing this ahead of time, so how would she be able to endure the deprivation?

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Quatro Greene, Alyson’s employer and widowed father of her two new students, looked too young to have children. What was unsettling was his wealth. Yet he didnt live like a wealthy man. Neither did his family. They chose this nearly Amish-like lifestyle as a means of practicing their faith. Alyson respected that. It even intrigued her. Yet she just wasn’t certain it was a lifestyle she could adapt to within a year. The only thing she and Quatro had in common were a love for his children and a love for God. Quatro on the other hand, was a confusing person. His feet were planted in two different worlds: his personal life and his business life. How did he live with that?

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I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The author’s writing style mixes well the serious issues with humor at the quandry Alyson finds herself in. If you like Amish fiction reads, then some aspects of this genre may be familiar to you. However, the mixing of two worlds is the main issue, making this book more unique. That’s the feature I like the best.

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Alyson’s character is well developed in this story. I wish, however, we could see a little more inside Quatro’s head. It would flesh out the development of characters more thoroughly than was there. I wanted to know more about his struggles and how he balanced his worlds. The resolution put forth in this book could make an interesting part two. I can also see how you could develop a sequel to this book by amplifying any resolution with more details. I hope the author will consider this idea.

 

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12 Saturdays by F.P. Lione ~ Review

12 Saturdays pic

12 Saturdays by F.P. Lione

Twelve Saturdays is like an “everything” bagel; it has a little bit of everything in it. The setting is New York City: Staten Island and Manhattan. It has a little bit of suspense and tension with a few bad guys thrown in. There’s fun humor and a few giggles. Some romance, some psychology, some tragedy, some adventure, and lots of relationship dynamics. All this is blended very well into an unforgettable storyline.

The premise is about family relationships. Jenna had been out on a date when she learned that her father was in the hospital. By the time she got there, it was too late, and she was overcome by so many regrets. She had not known he had a brain tumor. Then she learned that her father had some rather odd requests for her after his death. And that’s the beginning of an unforgettable series of 12 Saturdays.

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I enjoyed reading this book so much. There were moments of levity which balanced out the revelatory nature of the story. The one driving character, Jenna, was a real, living, breathing person to me. I found myself relating to her on so many levels. The more her background was revealed, the more her life spoke to me.

One element of the book I really enjoyed was the “girl power” feel of Jenna’s friendships. The best of the humor as well as the best of her strength came from these close ties. There were also a few twists and turns as the book progressed that kept me turning the pages.

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Finally, this is a faith-based story. Jenna wasn’t exactly the picture perfect Christian; she was a work in progress, just as we are. I took comfort in the growth in her character shown to us through her trials and triumphs. At a crucial point in the story, she knows where she belongs. I felt a great deal of satisfaction in this conclusion.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from CKN Christian Publishing on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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The Hope of Refuge: An Ada’s House Novel by Cindy Woodsmall ~ Review

The Hope of Refuge Cindy Woodsmall book1

The Hope of Refuge: An Ada’s House Novel by Cindy Woodsmall

The Hope of Refuge by Cindy Woodsmall is the first book of a three book series: Ada’s House. This trilogy reminded me how much I enjoy books by this author. Ms. Woodsmall creates tales with emotional dynamics that pulls me in, keeps me reading intently without wanting to put down the book, and connect with the well-developed characters so that I feel I have a vested interest in the outcome.

Two of the main characters are Cara and Ephraim. Cara had been running since she was 15. She found respite once she married Johnny. The best thing that ever happened to her was their daughter Lori. But Johnny had cancer. And now she is on the run again, with Lori in tow. The one thing she has from her past that has brought her peace and direction is her diary from her mother. In it, she recently found a clue to past memories that were fleeting now. Acting on those clues, she left the city she grew up in and found herself without cash, out in the country, with Amish all around her.

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Ephraim found the mother and child in his old rickety barn. His first impulse was to chase them away. But eventually he learned that Cara had a reason for being in his barn. It had to do with memories from twenty years before. They couldn’t stay in the barn, and no one else seemed to want to help the two. So he took a risk, and did something that was dangerous to his standing in the Old Order Amish community. He let them stay in his house while Cara worked to get enough to set out on her own.

This isn’t a simple Amish tale. The author includes some truly heart-wrenching details, with twists and turns I didn’t anticipate. In spite of Cara’s rough background, and desperation at facing so many wrong turns, I had to admire her for her desire to care for her daughter and keep her safe; and what Ephraim had to do to protect this mother and daughter may also take you by surprise. I absolutely loved this book. It was so well written, I had difficulty finding a place to stop reading just to do normal every day tasks. Their story resolves nicely at the end. Be sure you have a box of tissues on hand toward the final chapters; you may need them!

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Looking ahead to the second book, the subplot in this book involving Ephraim’s sister, Deborah, and one of his good friends, Mahlon, becomes one of the main plots of the next book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing). I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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The Naomi Chronicles Book 2: Choosing to Be by Paula Rose Michelson ~ Review

Naomi Chronicles Choosing to Be new cover

The Naomi Chronicles Book 2: Choosing to Be by Paula Rose Michelson

This is book two of the series, The Naomi Chronicles. Both books are very closely tied, so even though they are complete books and can be read on their own, this second book closely continues the story begun in the first book and resolves much of it. I recommend you purchase them together and read them one right after the other.

The focus of this book divides between Naomi and her husband, Chaz. They are separated after only one week of marriage at the beginning of this story. What’s unique about this book is that the first book emphasized how most of life’s choices had been removed from Naomi’s life in her first thirty years. How many of us readers can identify with that? Stuff happens, and sometimes leads us places we hadn’t originally wanted to go. But now, she is at a crossroads and begins to realize she has many choices to make. The choices do not come easy to her, so this is her opportunity to learn many truths, find her inner peace, especially coming to peace with her past, and figure out how to proceed. Does she go back into hiding, or will she become like a butterfly, finally released from her cocoon?

Also in this second book, we become more acquainted with Chaz as an individual. We only get to know him briefly in the first book, so now his character becomes a little more developed and we see why he does the things he does. There is a twist in the plot here that may surprise you. I know it certainly knocked me for a loop when I learned more of his background. All I will tell you at this point is that there is a resolution for Naomi and Chaz. But the twist and the means of resolution is what makes this part of the tale so interesting.

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Meeting with God

There is so much to love in this second book. First, the author does a remarkable job of fashioning an old world atmosphere in the way Naomi dresses, talks and thinks that’s charming. But it is also in stark contrast to the rest of this new world, and it takes her time to adjust to the American way of life. I find that so endearing. The author uses a small boy to make that transition more palatable for Naomi. As the saying goes, “out of the mouth of babes…”

Second, the same little boy brings in comic relief while Naomi grapples with heavy life issues. How true to life! Often when we are trying to take in what God is speaking to us about, distractions are a way of bringing relief to the intensity of the moment. Either it becomes a way to take our minds off the issue and leads us away, or it helps us focus better on the point God is trying to make. I enjoy seeing how the author uses this feature for Naomi’s good.

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Third, I love the way the author leaves an opening for further development near the conclusion of the book. It makes me look forward to reading more of this series.

If you enjoyed this review, see my review of The Naomi Chronicles Book 1: No Other Choice here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of book 1 (basically) from the author and purchased this book on my own but with the author’s knowledge. My intention is to write a completely honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Irish Meadows: The Courage to Dream Bk 1 by Susan Anne Mason ~ Review~

Irish Meadows: The Courage to Dream Bk 1 by Susan Anne Mason

Irish Meadows

The author, Susan Anne Mason, has skillfully created a world into which we can feel comfortable. The two main characters, Brianna and Colleen, could be our sisters, realistically endearing and frustrating simultaneously. Brianna feels she has grown up in Colleen’s shadow, her father’s favored daughter. Nothing she did seemed to gain his respect. Colleen is the sister we love to hate. She is bold, brash, flirtatious, the apple of her father’s eye, and always on the prowl for rich, handsome bachelors. She played with them and even pit them against each other. Brianna, on the other hand, wanted to attend a university in the fall. She had no use for men at the moment, although her daddy wanted her to get married to a suitable (prosperous) gentleman as soon as possible.

But then Gilbert Whelan returned to Irish Meadows after three years at college. Gil grew up on the farm, the son of the O’Leary’s housekeeper. When she died, James O’Leary took in Gil and treated him like a son. He was big brother to all the rest of the five O’Leary children. Adam, the eldest son, resented Gil for that. Brianna wanted to enlist Gil’s aid in convincing her father to allow her to further her education. But it became a more complicated situation when she discovered her feelings for him were no longer brotherly. Gil himself has felt the stirrings of love for Brianna. When he finally gained the courage to approach James, his mentor and father figure, he was flatly refused. The reason shook him to the core.Irish Meadows quote1

One day a distant relative of mother 0’Leary’s came to stay with the family for awhile. Rylan Montgomery needed a place to stay for a few months while he worked on his internship. His goal was to become a priest. It was Colleen’s duty to ferry him around until he became familiar with the area. When her father caught her in a compromising position one evening, he “sentenced” her to working with Rylan at the orphanage. This was truly punitive for Colleen since she hated all things religious, including priests, church and orphanages. However, working with Rylan day after day brought about subtle changes to her heart. She began to enjoy working with the children. In introspection, she questioned her previous dubious behavior. And…she fell in love with Rylan. Colleen’s world was turned upside down. Family dynamics, secrets, disastrous emotional upheavals and more make this book an intriguing read.Irish Meadows quote2

There’s a lot to like in this book. First, the Point of View (POV) is key to how the author develops tension and suspense. There are four Points of View: Colleen’s, Brianna’s, Rylan’s, and Gilbert’s. This author manages to blend them so well that she avoids the disjointed feeling so common in books with so many POV’s. I feel these points of view are what keeps this storyline moving along without stalling for lack of physical action. That’s excellent characterization.Irish Meadows quote3

Second, the four main characters all have a crisis of heart to meet, deal with, and resolve. Even the secondary characters, Kathleen and James O’Leary, the parents, had to face issues themselves such as what really mattered in life, and how to handle secrets within a family unit. Each issue felt real, urgent, and relevant for today even if the source is a historical novel. I found each of the conflicts plausible and could relate to many of them myself. The author manages to create believable people we can become akin to and care for.Irish Meadows quote4

Third, this is a faith-based book. I love how each voice dealing with an issue was facing something that included a crisis of faith, as well as heart and home. When a faith issue has to be dealt with, even though it may be an entirely private matter between you and God, it does affect those around us because what we believe leads to how we live our lives. That is how this author presents each character’s conflicts. When we are privvy to their thoughts, feelings and the process of resolution within, we appreciate them more for their struggles, even if they are still a flawed individual. I enjoyed the process as I read along, because what they struggled with was thought-provoking and insightful. And since most of this was internal, none of it sounded even remotely like preaching or finger wagging. Rather, I felt blessed to gain a glimpse through the window of their souls. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series which will give us Adam’s story.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy (ARC) of this book from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

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Spring Dawn (Seasons of Faith Book 3) by Rebekah Lyn ~ Review

Spring Dawn (Seasons of Faith Book 3) by Rebekah Lyn

Spring Dawn

Spring Dawn is the third book in Rebekah Lyn’s Season of Faith series. In Book 1, we meet Elizabeth, Ian, Jeffrey, Stephen and Michelle. Book 2 continues the story of these five friends. In Book 3, the main plot is focused equally between Ian and Elizabeth’s growing romance and Jeffrey’s life and spiritual growth as a new Christian. You can read my reviews on Book 1 here and Book 2 here. By the time I finished reading the third book, I felt these five characters were also my friends. And because they are, I can’t wait to see more resolution in their lives.

In looking back over the scope of the books I’ve read so far in this series, I could see a pattern. The first book was a book of disasters where many people were thrown together in an effort to survive the season’s group of hurricanes. Our five main characters meet under different conditions and in different capacities. The second book was a book of mystery and adventure where Ms. Lyn’s readers become better acquainted with the friends. This third book is a book of testing: testing character, testing resolves, and testing relationships. An example of this is in the development of Ian and Lizzie’s relationship. In the second book, the reader may conclude that their relationship was on solid ground. Yet this third book creates uncertainty, tests their stability as a couple and stretching each one individually. That makes for very good reading.

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Lizzie begins to put distance between herself and Ian, while simultaneously drawing closer to Jeffrey, especially after his car accident. Ian becomes jealous of Jeffrey when he finds out about this. Michelle, too, feels some envy at Jeffrey and Lizzie’s easy camaraderie. Ian is already frustrated with the slow growth of his design business. He begins to wonder if Lizzie is the One for him to settle down with. Lizzie is not aware of these undercurrents. She is battling her own fears about falling back into her past lifestyle which she has kept hidden from Ian.

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After going through a hair-raising experience in the second book, Michelle feels much less secure in the current book. She’s dissatisfied with life, leans a little more on her friend Jeffrey for friendship while at the same time nothing seems to go her way. This subplot left me yearning for some type of resolution for her.

Jeffrey shares the limelight with Ian and Lizzie. After the events of the second book, Jeffrey resolves to stay closer to God, stay dry and away from former relationships that could lure him back to his old ways. He spends a little more time with Stephen. At the same time, he also resolves to reach out to Michelle in an effort to “be Jesus” to her. Of course, most of these resolutions are tested repeatedly, creating a sense of mystery about his relationship with Michelle. His accident temporarily takes him out of Michelle’s sphere and into the care of his parents. Happily this gives him an opportunity to gain some peace with them.

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I have thoroughly enjoyed this series so far. Rebekah Lyn’s writing style pulls us into the details of friendships and leads us to care for each of the five friends. The pace of this third book is slower than the previous books, which seems to be intentional in order to develop the tangled web of events, tests, and character development. If you enjoy delving into the details of life, watching how people going through life without God learn about Him and reach out to Him when others are not accessible, then you will enjoy this book.

Additional note: The fourth book in this series is soon to be released. Look for a December wedding!

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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