A Miser, A Manger, A Miracle: The First Christmas Carol by Marianne Jordan ~ Review

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A Miser, A Manager, A Miracle: The First Christmas Carol by Marianne Jordan

What a marvelous adaptation of the Christmas Carol by Dickens! I’ve never heard of anyone taking the Christmas story and adapting it this way. Better yet, this book came about as a result of a play written by the author for her church production. What the author has done is to flesh out the story for the readers. She has done this so well that at times I was walking with Ebenezer in his soul searching journey led by three different angels.

Ebenezer was the Inn keeper in the tiny town of Bethlehem. He was delighted at the opportunity to earn a great deal of money when the Romans decreed that the descendants of David register in their home town to be counted and taxed. Ebenezer loved making money. He didn’t care how he accomplished that or who he hurt on the way. He considered himself above the rabble anyway. As people crowded into the small spaces of the Inn, Ebenezer had one room left and he was holding onto it to save it for a rich customer who could afford his lavish rates. One couple he turned away was a man and his pregnant wife.

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Then that night the angel Gabriel appeared to him in his home. He would be visited that night by three more angels, in an effort to redeem his corrupted soul. First he visited his past. Then the present. But nothing touched his heart until he started to get to know a man called Jesus. Even the man’s teaching didn’t touch his heart until he witnessed the scourging and the crucifixion of this innocent one. Finally he was a broken and repentant man. For the first time in his life, he wanted to save this man’s agony by offering his life for Jesus’ life. Then he was told this was Jesus’ choice, to die for him, the wretched, greedy Ebenezer.

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Don’t let the familiarity of the story scheme distract you. The author has done a marvelous job of allowing us to see life from Ebenezer’s eyes. There are many other elements of the Christmas Carol you’ll find familiar when you read this book.

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All of this enhances the experience Ebenezer lived in his one night of revelation. Since we already know the outcome of the story, and even the way it is being told, the joy is in the details. And the author did a wonderful job of telling this story with realistic detail and heart. I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I hope you do too.

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Haley’s Hangdog Holiday (Bk 2) by Tamie Dearen ~ Review

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Haley’s Hangdog Holiday by Tamie Dearen

While this book is the second book in a series, it is completely capable of standing on its own. The books in the series are only loosely connected, so you could read these books in any order and enjoy them. And of course each book features a dog as part of the story.

This is the type of story I enjoy reading over and over. It has a well developed plot that includes plenty of humor, realistic struggles for both parties in their lives as Christians, and development with bumps in the road when Haley and Gavin became a couple. Both characters are completely believable. They aren’t perfect, but are both striving to be the best person they can be. Being a Christian is a driving role in both their lives.

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Haley and Gavin had a lot in common. They were both extremely competitive and when they both signed up for a particular degree program in accounting, they came head to head at the top of their classes, striving for the same honors. In spite of that, they didn’t really get to know each other until two years into the degree program, and that by a chance encounter on the ski slopes in Colorado.

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Haley had no intentions of dating at all in school. On the other hand, Gavin had somehow ended up with a reputation as a playboy. It was undeserved, but he didn’t it much. They had to overcome a lot of wrong impressions just to get to know each other. Then came some impressive obstacles. It took a lot of time for those obstacles to be overcome. That is what drew me into the story. How they overcame and resolved those differences is what makes this story a great read.

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My favorite parts of the story have to do with the dogs Daisy and Bojangles. They added quite a bit of humor and dimension to the running storyline, especially for Haley who was not really a dog lover at the beginning of the book. While the dog element is not prominent in the story arc, it is still an important element. That is great for all dog lovers.

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After: Book 1 by Joy Ohagwu ~ Review

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After: Book 1 by Joy Ohagwu

What happens when your world falls apart all of a sudden? That is the theme of this book. Candace Rodriguez is a top ranking singer associated with a record label. Six months ago, she accepted Christ as her Savior. Slowly, her perspectives changed and she changed her behavior accordingly. It didn’t take long before she saw that her music future would have to change as well. Then one day she fell off a stage. She realized at that moment she had to take her future in hand both physically and spiritually.

God takes control and provides a way for Candace to get away to a farm in Maryland owned by a doctor couple where she can get rest and begin to regroup. While there, her faith grows as she waits for the Lord’s leading for her future as a singer. She’s under pressure to create a whole new line up of songs that are fitting with her new found faith in Christ. So she begins to undertake the task of writing enough songs to fill a new album. But her muse has fled. In the meantime, she meets JB Patrickson, who is also pulling up roots to begin life again after a brief stint on Wall Street as a trader. When the housing bubble crashed, so did he.

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JB has a history which makes him a bit gun shy around Candace. He is working hard to make the farm he is managing for his grandmother more prosperous. Their relationship starts out slow, but eventually they become good friends. Candace is trying to become physically healthy as well as spiritually healthy. She works hard to lose weight and JB has become her supporter along with the good doctors.

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What I like best about this book is the great way the author allows spiritual growth to show up in the characters’ lives without being overly talkative about it. Instead of talking it out, the author shows us how Candace grows. I understand Candace’s issue with weight loss too, as I struggle with the same problem. Her hard work was inspiring to me. I felt this was all good writing.

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In spite of working the book out in first person, the different voices were done very well. I usually find the first person use irritating and sometimes immature, but I think I was about half way through the book before I realized that I hadn’t even paid attention to the voice. I found that surprising. For once, the reader is privy to the thought process of a person whose heart is being turned to God and maintaining a mature attitude about it. I found that refreshing. I also like the moderate amount of tension built into the story. It wasn’t extreme, but it kept the story moving forward nicely. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

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True Love at Christmas by Juliette Duncan ~ Review

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True Love at Christmas by Juliette Duncan

This is one of those books that are tucked between books in a series. In this case, it fits into “The True Love Series” between books two and three. All of these are Christian romances. Even though this is an in-between book, it was written so that it could stand alone, although I certainly think it would be more meaningful if read with the series. I have not read any of the other books in the series, felt that it was a good read, but would have loved knowing more the context than I did. In any case, this is such a short story you can read it in a couple of hours.

The focus is on Margaret and Harold, parents of twin sisters who are grown, married and have children. Their single son Harrison lives nearby. Past Christmas’s have been stressful because of tension in the family. This year there is the potential for more problems because Harold is too ill to travel, as they had planned, to visit their twin daughters and new grandchildren whom they haven’t seen yet.

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A solution is needed and Harrison is the man to help coordinate it. There is a pleasant ending to this story, but not enough development to really get to know any of the main characters well. My guess is that it is accomplished in the series books. So the intention of this book is a pleasant side track to get to know known characters just a little bit better. If it’s read like this, then it’s a pleasant sidebar and nice read for getting into the Christmas spirit.

 

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Hang Your Heart on Christmas: A Western Romance Novella by Heather Blanton ~ Review

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Hang your Heart on Christmas: A Historical Western Christian Romance (The Brides of Evergreen Bk. 1) by Heather Blanton

You can enjoy this short, historical novella in just a few short hours. This is a story that only involves Christmas incidentally. Instead, it is a book about struggling within ourselves with our short-comings. Two people are hurting badly. One comes from innocence imposed upon. The other from a thirst for vengeance until life contains no meaning at all. Both are trying to escape their realities. Both hurting parties meet in the most peaceful town in the old West. Will they help each other heal their wounds? Or will those wounds drive the other away?

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Robert “Dent” Hernandez was the son of a US Marshall gunned down by a bad guy. Dent determines he will find his father’s killer and get vengeance for his loss. That sets him on the trail for 8 years, becoming a US Marshall himself, hunting down criminals and bringing them to justice while he searched. In the last leg of his journey, he ended up in his home town of Evergreen, Wyoming when tragedy strikes. The man who had become a substitute father to him, Sheriff Ben Hayes, was shot to death by a low life in Dent’s charge. During the investigation of the sheriff’s death, the judge placed Dent as interim sheriff. He doesn’t want to stay, but he has no choice.

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Amy Tate had come from the East, sent by her doctor to Evergreen. He assured her that she was heading to the West’s most peaceful town where there were more churches than saloons. She was put in old Doc Woodruff’s care for awhile because she was recovering from what we would call PTSD today. And she was to become the town’s new schoolteacher. Unfortunately, the first moment she stepped off the train, she was grabbed by the man who shot the sheriff and fainted dead away. That was not a reassuring beginning to her new life in this small town. And at the center of the trouble was the man called “Dent”.

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This is a fairly quick paced story of the old wild west. It begins with the death of the main character’s old friend in his home town. Dent was beginning to unravel. His story includes a mystery, lots of self searching, a light romance, some old friends, and a ranch Dent didn’t want to settle on. Amy too was going through a transition in her life as she recovers from an attack back East. Both are encouraged and aided by an older couple, the Doctor and Mrs. Woodruff.

Amy has faith in God that He will help her heal. In the meantime, she feels drawn to also help the interim sheriff in his quest for meaning in life. She believes God could help him heal his wounded spirit if only he would let Him. Their romance is the light touch in the book. It pretty much takes a back seat to the main issue of inner healing that Dent needs to move on with life. Overall, this is a great short story with enough action to move it along nicely. The romance is not overpowering, while the spiritual applications are light but significant to the story line. I highly recommend this book if you are looking for a short, powerful holiday read.

 

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Somehow, Christmas Will Come by Peggy Blann Phifer ~ Review

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Somehow, Christmas Will Come by Peggy Blann Phifer

The Christmas seasons is often a time of reflection and traveling down memory lane. It can be a time of hurt and pain, but also a time of healing. This story is a tasteful combination of tough issues dealt with humor and heart. A little 6-year-old girl’s heart is at stake when she has to deal not only with the recent loss of her mother to a boating accident, but then her father’s death through a motorcycle accident. How does Bethany survive?

Bethany’s Aunt Molly moved from Minnesota to Las Vegas to live with her brother Pat and his daughter Bethany. She had originally come to help Pat while he was still grieving over the loss of his wife in a boating accident. But it became painfully clear to her that Pat had an additional problem: alcoholism. He had gone from completely leaving the stuff alone for as long as she could remember to drowning his sorrows in the bottle every evening. Molly struggled in her changing role from little sister to friend and confidante. How could she help her brother? But before she could even get started, he was suddenly killed in an accident. Now, she had to deal with this loss and with her niece’s shock. The household was hurting.

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None of the coping would have been possible if it weren’t for Pat’s fire fighter partner, Trace. Trace had been close to Pat’s family since Bethany was born. During the difficult period of loss of his partner and best friend, Trace began to spend time with Pat’s family. Bethany came alive when he was there. He knew what she liked and it was through his gentle care that Bethany began to deal with her aching grief. Bethany’s grandmother became a stable factor in the group. She only lived a few blocks away, but moved into the house to help. Between the four of them, the family slowly recovered from their great loss.

This is a difficult book to describe. The situation was serious and heartbreaking. Yet the author created a family from the four grieving parties, and transformed them into a loving, caring unit that supported one another. She used humor, surprisingly, to bring them all closer. And I found it appropriate and well balanced in spite of what you would expect. In fact, you can’t help but laugh your way through the silliness that is Molly and Trace and even the grandmother. Together, their antics and love helped a little girl recover from a serious loss. Kudos to the author for a well written, sensitive, and yet light-hearted book about what makes a family. I consider this a memorable book.

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Another thing I like about the book is that while being a faith based story, it doesn’t tend to lecture or talk the topic of loss to death. Instead, it is a book of action. It demonstrates how the characters loved each other even in the worst of circumstances. It wasn’t easy. But they toughed it out together. If anything, the book performed as a great object lesson for the readers.

Somehow Christmas Will Come

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from The Book Club Network on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. 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 Christmas Shoppe by Melody Carlson ~ Review

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The Christmas Shoppe by Melody Carlson

Parrish Springs was typical small town USA. Then Matilda Honeycutt purchased the old Barton Building in the downtown area and things began to change.

Councilman George Snider didn’t like change. First, the city hired a female city manager, Susanna Elton. So he tried to quietly make her life difficult. Sometimes he wasn’t so quiet about it. That’s how small town politics worked. When Ms. Honeycutt put in a bid for the old vacant building, it was accepted and that didn’t sit right with George Snider, either. He had wanted to buy that old building himself, although many in the community weren’t so excited about that. They had heard he wanted to sell it to a big box discount store. They all knew what would happen then. Local businesses would suffer.

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Matilda began preparing her building for her business. She didn’t tell anyone what type of business it was, but rumors were flying. Other businesses were nervous. Then a big sign was delivered to the old Barton Building. “Christmas Shoppe.” Before the doors were open for business, rumors began to fly all over town. Not all of them were very nice. People were now being nosy, curious, and nasty. They picked on Matilda’s appearance. They picked on the items a few have seen that were to be put on the shelves. It was all a mystery. No one could figure out this new businesswoman.

When the doors opened the mystery deepened. It looked like a shoddy thriftshop, not a Christmas store. People began to get angry and the other businesses on that street signed a petition to close Matilda’s store down. But while all this is happening, mysterious things were going on. Susanna was baffled when she tried to warn Matilda what people were saying about her. She wanted Matilda’s small business to succeed. But Matilda didn’t pay her any mind. One by one, people entered the shop and their lives were subtly changed.

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When I want a unique story to read, especially a Christmas story, Melody Carson is my go to author. Her books are refreshing, unique, and meaningful. I have read many of her Christmas stories, and my heart has always been touched in one way or other. This one is no exception. The plot is slow to develop, but holds our interest in many ways. We become engaged with the characters and with the town atmosphere. They are always so true to life. There is an air of mystery, almost a taste of fantasy, but always with a good heart issue at the core. I tried to guess what the purpose of the puzzling thrift shop could be, but as usual I was carried right up to the final pages unable to predict where the book would take me. And once again, it touched my heart. I highly recommend this book for those who enjoy small town stories, light mysteries, a touch of fantasy, and a good sound Christmas message.

 

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