A Way in a Manger by Amy Brady ~ Review

A Way in a Manger pic

A Way in a Manger by Amy Brady

I really enjoy devotional books, especially when they have a theme or a central thought to them. In this case, this one focuses on the names of God’s Son assigned to Him by Scripture. The author’s theme comes from the Bible verse in Isaiah 9:6 which states that He shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace. With this as her outline, each week is dedicated to a series of devotionals focused on one of the above 5 names.

Some people like to read Advent material for the month of December. But when I read this devotional, I realized it wasn’t limited to Advent material. The contrast I think is that Advent is traditionally about the events of Christmas, the history surrounding it and the timeline, this book is more of a devotional with the intention of helping us view Christmas in a new and fresh way. The author provides more insights to the five characteristics mentioned in Isaiah as Jesus lives in us day by day as our Savior and Lord. It is not about the baby in the manger, but about the Jesus who rose from the dead and lives in our hearts and lives right now.

A Way in a Manger quote1

The author’s conversational style makes this book’s pages easy to understand, as if it were two people carrying on a conversation in a small cafe over a cup of coffee. Each day there is a “Passage to Ponder,” some unique insights and some questions to make us think. I gained several different perspectives that gave me more to think about when I read this book. This is the type of material I will enjoy reading and re-reading for many years to come.

A Way in a Manger quote2

 

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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.

Christmas Dog, The quote1

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.

Christmas Dog, The quote2

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

Haleys Hangdog Holiday pic

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.

Haleys Hangdog Holiday quote1

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.

Haleys Hangdog Holiday quote2

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.

Haleys Hangdog Holiday quote3

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.

Haleys Hangdog Holiday quote4

 

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Object Talks for Christmas (Object Talks series Bk. 1) by Verna Kokmeyar Illustrations by Brandee Smith ~ Review

Object Talks for Christmas pic

Lessons With Objects website

Object Talks for Christmas (Bk. 1) by Verna Kokmeyar Illustrations by Brandee Smith

This is a small booklet I managed to get on my kindle a little while ago. But the physical book would probably be a better source than the kindle version in this case. It is nicely illustrated, but the pictures are a bit off; at least it is off on my kindle. I provided a link above to get to the source where you can get the printed book. There are about 45 object talks in this book, all centered around the theme of Christmas or how to live as God wants us to live. This is not a children’s picture book. These talks are not intended to be read to children.

Christmas is

If you aren’t certain what an object talk is, it is a short devotional intended for children. Each talk lasts about 10 to 15 minutes and is centered around an object. Most of these items are Christmas associated items. For example bells, bows, candles, candy, Christmas cards, Christmas carols, colors, cranberries, elves, extension cords, gingerbread, glitter, icicles, jingle bells, gifts, Holly, ornaments, a string of Christmas lights, kisses, pine needles, plates, poinsettias, popcorn, gift tags, wrapping paper and Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer are some of the objects used in these particular short talks.

Christmas Isaiah 9 6

Each talk has a Scripture associated with it. Some lessons will include a simple discussion. Some of them have a craft project or an item to take home associated with it. All the lessons are Christ centered and Biblically sound. A few of the lessons have a strong salvation message. Many of the talks encourage the listeners to include a way they can make their lives count for God. Some of the talks are about the Christmas story and what God intended when He sent Jesus to earth. There is also a prayer offered for each talk.

He first loved us Christmas theme

In my opinion, the talks are appropriate for children from First grade through Fourth grade, depending on the maturity of the group. It can vary up or down. However, in my experience, much older people enjoy and be encouraged by these simple messages. That is why some churches include short children’s talks during the main church service. If you need a collection of children’s talks, this book could provide for that need. I can also see how this book would be a good guideline as a series of Advent devotions in family worship beginning right after Thanksgiving and going through the month of December.

 

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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.

Silent Star quote1

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.

Silent Star quote2

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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Mistletoe Memories: 4 in 1 Romance Collection ~ Review

Mistletoe Memories pic

Mistletoe Memories: 4 in 1 Romance Collection

This book is a collection of four short romance stories centered around Christmas time: ‘Tis the Season by Carla Olson Gade, Mercy Mild by Gina Welborn, Midnight Clear by Lisa Karon Richardson, and Comfort and joy by Jennifer AiLee. All were published in 2013. Each story covers a different period of time but all in the same location: Schooley’s Mountain, New Jersey. All are romances but also involve children, usually orphans finding homes. These are the type of stories you don’t mind if the children read over your shoulder. They are squeaky clean and sweet.

Mistletoe Memories quote1

The basic theme is good people overcoming adversity. From historical romance to contemporary romance, each of these stories fit into this book as part of a whole. Reading this, I felt a sense of continuity that was comfortable. There’s a sense of community even if it spans a couple centuries. Each is the perfect length for a short, feel good Christmas read.

Mistletoe Memories quote2

There’s a lot of fun packed in these four short stories. I had a good laugh over the antics of the children. The romances were sweet. The drama was mild in keeping with the Christmas spirit. And God was honored in each of the stories in many special ways. Overall this is a very pleasant book.

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The Beloved Christmas Quilt: 3 Stories of Family, Romance and Amish Faith by Wanda E. Brunstetter, Jean Brunstetter & Richelle Brunstetter ~ Review

Beloved Christmas Quilt pic

The Beloved Christmas Quilt: 3 Stories of Family, Romance and Amish Faith by Wanda E. Brunstetter, jean Brunstetter and Richelle Brunstetter

This set of stories is very special. There is one quilt and three generations of stories related to this quilt. What makes the book original is that three generations of Wanda Brunstetter’s family wrote this story.

The first book written by Wanda is Luella’s Promise. Luella has been taking care of her friend Dena Zook since her heart troubles began. Luella took on the responsibility of taking care of the home, cooking meals and caring and watching over Dena’s 4 year old son. Just before she died, Dena gave Luella a beautiful quilt in gratitude for what Luella did to help the family. She also extracted a promise from Luella to continue helping her grieving husband with the care of their son. Luella promised and continued to cook, clean and care for Atlee’s little boy after her friend died. Eventually this led to some complications as the adults grew closer to each other. Atlee eventually realized he had grown to love Luella, but there was one pressing problem, he was sixteen years older than she was. Her parents would not consent to a relationship between them.

Beloved Christmas Quilt quote1

Jean Brunstetter writes Karen’s Gift. Karen is Luella and Atlee Zook’s daughter. By the time the story begins, she is married to Seth Allgyer and has moved to another community with him while they start their family. When their third daughter Nancy Anne is born, the couple is worried because Karen was exposed to German Measles during the pregnancy. Eventually they discover that Nancy Anne is deaf, and the knowledge contributes toward a rift in their marriage which was amplified by stress in Seth’s job. The community and friends helped them through some of the roughest spots.

Richelle Brunstetter wrote the final book, Roseanna’s Groom. Roseanna is Karen and Seth Allgyer’s eldest daughter. She is about to be married. In fact, all her family is gathered together to celebrate with her and John. But just before the service started, John ran and Roseanna is faced with the fallout of a broken heart and a blow to her self worth. As the special Christmas quilt is passed from mother to daughter at Christmas, the Scripture embroidered on the quilt offers unique comfort to each woman going through trials.

Beloved Christmas Quilt quote2

Each simple plot was endearing, poignant, and a delight to read. The stories captured well the simplicity of Amish life while dealing with the complexities of human nature. I enjoyed reading all of these short Christmas stories. If you are a fan of Wanda Brunstetter’s books, you’ll welcome these new treasures to your collection.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Shiloh Run Press, an imprint of Barbour Publishing, Inc. 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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