Pieces on Earth: A Christmas Novella by Cathy Bryant ~ Review

Pieces on EArth pic

Pieces on Earth: A Christmas Novella by Cathy Bryant

I have read several books written by this author and they are all winners. This author writes her books as a ministry. Her writing is purposeful and heart touching. Her characters not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. Faith in God is an integral part of their lives. Even when the characters are fumbling and faltering in their relationship and walk in Christ, they are still in earnest about getting right with God.

Pieces on Earth is a beautiful novella about a Mom and daughter’s struggle to make sense of their lives when their husband and father does not come home after being deployed in Afghanistan. They feel broken in pieces and try hard to carry on, especially since Liv is expecting a baby. To help her 4-year-old daughter, Liv begins to tell her the gospel story from the beginning of the Bible in such a way that the child can understand. Each night the discussion between them helps not only little Chesney see the big picture, but helps Liv gain some fresh perspectives herself.

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Other losses are experienced in the group of Navy wives and they reach out to help each other. Then Liv’s risky pregnancy takes a turn for the worse and the doctor has placed her on bed rest for the remainder of the term. Liv couldn’t believe that her life could reach any lower point than this. She felt she was drying up like a desert.

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I loved this story. For a novella, it is well plotted out, has great points to make, and carries a great message. The simple plot helps the reader contemplate our lives and what our purpose is. The book focuses on character development over action and aims its message toward our hearts rather than offers only entertainment.

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The Christmas Dog by Melody Carlson ~ Review

Christmas Dog, The pic

The Christmas Dog by Melody Carlson

I have to admit, I got quite a chuckle from reading this story. The story is not meant to be humorous, but to me the silliness of the main character was what set off my funny bone. I suppose it’s because I know a few people just like our main character, Betty Kowalski. You know the type. Betty is a widow, living in her house alone; her grown children have their own children and are busy with their lives and are scattered all over the country. Unlike some people she knows, she does not live in a gated community with security built in, nor does she live in a secured building with buzzers. Her neighborhood is a typical neighborhood with friends she’s lived near about half her life.

The part I find funny is her attitude toward a new neighbor. She knew who used to live in that house when it was in its prime. Now, the house is old and worn and more than a little bit shabby. She’s convinced that the new neighbor must be a squatter. When hammering and sawing sounds came from the house at night and the pink toilet appeared in the back yard, she was even more suspicious. Then when that viewpoint didn’t seem to work, she wondered if he was a criminal. He never answered the door. He didn’t talk to anyone, and no one had ever seen him smile. It wouldn’t have been so bad if she’d kept her thoughts to herself, but she was not as quiet as she should have been with her opinions to her friends and neighbors. Now the newcomer is ignored and snubbed by most of the neighborhood.

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Betty’s attitude was worth several eye rolls in my opinion, and even one of her daughters felt she was being unfair. But that happens when fear overrules reason and you are alone. The author did a great job writing about this type of fear and isolation so that the reader would feel somewhat irritated while still understanding the woman and her ridiculous assumptions. This is not a typical Christmas story.

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The turning point happens when a little dirty unclaimed dog appears and Betty assumes he belongs to the neighbor. He in turn assumes it is hers, so for a little while we are viewing a ridiculous tug of war. Poor dog. In the end, this dog actually becomes an integral part of transformed attitudes, but you’re going to have to read the book to find out how.

A rebellious granddaughter shows up at Betty’s house after Thanksgiving, and adds to the confusion of conflicts. My favorite part is how the little scruffy dog wins over hearts little by little and brings about quite a transformation of attitudes. But things have to get worse before they get better. As usual my favorite author of Christmas stories has penned another winner.

 

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The Christmas Shoppe by Melody Carlson ~ Review

Christmas Shoppe pic

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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Silent Star by Tracie Peterson ~ Review

Silent Star pic

Silent Star by Tracie Peterson

Two lonely, hurting persons find each other in the midst of a war-saddened era in American history. What a beautifully written story. This author delves into the psyche of human nature, that when people hurt, they hurt others. Sometimes they don’t even realize they are dumping their hurt on someone else until a turn of events brings it to their attention.

Andy Gilbert was a young man who lived alone in his parents’ house. His mother had recently died of cancer and he missed her. When his father died earlier in a car accident, Andy had had to quit school to earn a living and take care of his mother. He became a telegram delivery boy. At a time when all his friends and schoolmates had gone off to fight in the Great War (WWII), he was forced to stay home, classified as 4F because of a painful foot injury. However, the physical pain was nothing compared to the change of attitudes the townspeople of this small Pennsylvania village had toward him. Sometimes his telegrams brought bad news to families with sons, cousins, and nephews at war. So now he was avoided and shunned, and superstition overtook small town closeness. It was a sad plight all the delivery boys shared. But none felt it as strongly as Andy did. He was truly alone.

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Estella Nelson was a widow who had moved in with her mother after her husband’s untimely and sudden death 10 years ago. Now that her mother had passed on, she had moved back to her hometown. One day she came across a young man who was obviously distressed, grieving at his parents’ graves. This chance meeting became the beginning of a deep friendship where each fulfilled a need the other had for acceptance and companionship.

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All wrapped together is the poignancy, the tragedy and meanness of human loss and sadness, the Christmas spirit in the true sense of the word, and victory in overcoming such human frailty. The very claim that God has overcome the pain in the world is encapsulated in this holiday short story. If Christmas means even the slightest bit of loneliness and sadness to you, I think you will experience the essence of God’s love while reading this book. I highly recommend it.

Silent Star quote3

 

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The Christmas Cowboy by Shanna Hatfield ~ Review

The Christmas Cowboy by Shanna Hatfield

Christmas Cowboy pic

If you are looking for a sweet and clean romance, slightly fluffy, but with no crudeness or sex, then this is the read for you. It is one of my favorite romances, with a western flavor, and Christmas related to boot.

Tate Morgan grew up on a ranch; it’s his way of life. On top of that, he is a talented bronc rider taking awards on the rodeo circuit. As you read this story, you are either going to think to yourself, “Is this guy real? He’s too good to be true” or “Ok, what’s his game?” But it turns out that he’s a genuinely nice guy who loves life and people. He’s surrounded by women fans. Sometimes they get on his nerves because of their aggressiveness. He would rather do the chasing when it comes to finding one that would fit into his life. So far, he hasn’t found one he can picture living with and having a family with. Then he meets Kenzie Beckett.

one gift is life altering

Kenzie Beckett is a little shy when it comes to cowboys. She’s had some bad experiences. But secretly she really likes Tate Morgan once she gets to know him. The problem is she believes all cowboys are players. So when she thinks she sees evidence of that in Tate, she runs. The best part of the story is how they resolved this issue.

There’s a lot of great humor in this story. That’s one of my favorite parts of this book. I enjoy laughing, and the give and take Tate and Kenzie share is wonderful. And Tate’s friends are great guys too. That’s good writing on the part of the author.

Christmas manger

From time to time I enjoy an uncomplicated plot, especially around the holidays. I find it enjoyable to read a more simple story between larger novels with complex plots and scenes, and non-fiction books. This fits very well in that category. If you enjoy a great, clean story with a feel good romance, a clear cut hero and heroine, a happily after, (and yeah, it’s formulaic) then I recommend this book for you.

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Merry Kisses A Riverbend Romance Novella 5 by Valerie Comer ~ Review

Merry Kisses A Riverbend Romance Novella 5 by Valerie Comer

Merry Kisses A Riverbend Romance Novella 5 by Valerie Comer

This is a new author to me, but I did enjoy this book very much. So much, in fact, that I read it twice in a row, back to back. What attracted me to the story most was the element of conflict between the two prominent characters, Sonya Simmons and Heath Collins. I have to say that the topic of interest was one I hadn’t read in other books before. I think it will be especially interesting to those who are young Christian parents.

I enjoy novellas. They are unique because the story usually remains focused on a single topic. Novellas can be used by authors as prequels, sequels, as a way to supplement a series with characters that are on the peripheral, or use a familiar setting but with entirely new characters. Because a novella is shorter, you can read it in just a few hours. But what I like most is that it is a way to showcase an author’s ability to delve into some great characterization in a short period of time. A few are successful at growing their characters satisfactorily. This author has that talent. Because of the interesting topic the main characters have conflict over, we become privvy to some interesting thought processes and provoking ideas.

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Another element of the story I enjoyed was the great humor the author employed when Sonya and Heath are together. The situation Sonya got into at the beginning of the story was funny and yet serious at the same time. And Heath was an entirely likeable guy. He didn’t mean to get Sonya into trouble, and his efforts to ingratiate himself with Sonya were humorous.

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Third, I just enjoy Christmas stories. Period. I found the situation of conflict between the two that included some interesting aspects about Christmas thought provoking and plausible, since I used to be a young parent once and struggled with some elements of the holidays too. I recommend this book, especially if you enjoy Christmas novellas.

 

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The Christmas Cat by Melody Carson ~Review~

The Christmas Cat by Melody Carson

Christmas Cat

Garrison Brown has been back in Seattle nearly a year from his nine-year mission term in Uganda. Most of this time was spent recovering from a bout of malaria, getting his feet back under him, and finding his way in life. Besides getting a job, he needed to spend some good quality time with his grandmother. He planned to do that this Thanksgiving. When he was twelve, he lost both parents in an accident; his Grams took him in and he lived with her until after his high school graduation. After he left for college, she took in a cat as a companion. Over the next sixteen years, it became seven cats.

Shortly after he decided this, he received a call from his grandmother’s attorney. Grams had passed away that morning, and Garrison needed to drive down to get information about her estate–especially about her cats. Poor Garrison, unfortunately, was allergic to cats. Badly. Even armed with anti-histamines he almost made it up to his old bedroom before his eyes started to water, he was sneezing and coughing and struggling to breathe. What he learned from Mr. Miller was that his grandma had strict stipulations about how Garrison was to place her cats into good homes. It would require quite a bit of work on his part. She definitely did not want them taken to a shelter. So Garrison’s cat adventures began.

live with all your heart Christmas theme

One of the requirements laid out in the instructions and lists was to find the cats homes within the neighborhood. So Garrison’s first step was to create some posters. As he was putting them up, he met Cara, a neighbor about his age. He explained about the cats and she wanted to look at them. He met her at the house. She fell in love with Harry, a Maine Coon cat–an intelligent breed. But once he started to go through one of Gram’s lists, it became apparent she wasn’t qualified to adopt one. Cara was disappointed and treated Garrison to a cold shoulder after that. He learned through that experience to go through the list of requirements first, before allowing the prospective owner to see the cats.

Still, it was through Cara’s references that Garrison found good homes for three of the cats in the next few days. In fact, he discovered more than just a place to live; he re-discovered the neighborhood. One person who took a cat home helped him select colors to paint the walls in his grandmother’s home. Another person, recently retired and restless, lent him a hand and some tips with some repair jobs around the place. Ruby, his grandma’s best friend, loaned Garrison her grandson who turned out to be a good worker and handy about the house. And still another one who adopted one of the cats loaned him some furniture to replace the cat tattered ones he had to throw out. It was like weaving a tapestry of friendship. Garrison, feeling somewhat lost since his return from Uganda, was learning how to fit into a neighborhood family.

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I also enjoyed the light element of romance in the story. Garrison was attracted to Cara, although she barely acknowledged him after she was turned down for a cat. He thought she was involved with her neighbor, David. Yet he continually ran into her on his rounds through the neighborhood, and he kept up hope for awhile.

This light-hearted, short 169-page novella is a fun read. It has colorful characters, cats, wit and humor, cats, light romance, and cats. It’s just the right book for cat lovers to read during a busy Christmas season. It would also make a nice Christmas present.

The overall holiday theme is charming in this book. It is not overpowering, but lends atmosphere. In the meantime, the reader is kept guessing which of the six cats was referred to by the book’s title as the Christmas Cat. We don’t find out until we reach the final pages.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Revell’s reader’s club blog review program. 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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