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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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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Somehow, Christmas Will Come by Peggy Blann Phifer ~Review~

Somehow, Christmas Will Come by Peggy Blann Phifer

Somehow Christmas Will Come

Somehow, Christmas Will Come is a beautifully written family story which has seen so much tragedy in their young lives. The one most impacted by the world gone wrong is a little 6 year old girl by the name of Bethany. At the age of 5, she lost her mother. At the age of 6, she loses her father. How will she survive?

Molly Dugan, Bethany’s aunt is only twenty-one. She has just been laid off and in spite of her foster parents’ plea for her to stay with them as long as she liked, she decided to visit her older brother and his family first. Only the year before, he had lost his wife to a serious boating accident. Molly had not been able to attend the funeral because of her work schedule. Patrick lived in Los Vegas, across the country from where she lived. Once she had arrived in the city of bright lights, she came to know Bethany’s grandmother, Jessie Baker, who lived just a few blocks away. She and Jessie became close friends, sharing in their love for Patrick and the precocious little Bethie.

butterfly struggle to fly

It soon became apparent to Molly that her brother Pat was not over grieving the loss of his wife Jaime. It seemed he had taken to drinking to deal with his grief. This hit Molly hard, because Patrick had never used alcohol before. In his teen years he was a rock, and never seemed to be tempted by liquor. But now he was downing straight vodka and had been doing so for at least a year. She wondered if he was putting his job at risk. Later on, she learned that Pat’s best friend, Trace, would cover for him. How long would that last before Pat hit rock bottom?

Months later, when Molly had made the decision to stay with her brother and Jessie and Bethie, the unthinkable happened. Patrick, while drinking, took his motorcycle out and was killed in a collision. His best friend Trace Whitcomb had the unenviable task of conveying the news to the little family.

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Trace became a tower of strength and comfort to the grieving women and little girl. He spent as much time as possible helping them deal with this final blow. Trace was also the key to helping Bethany through her denial that her daddy was finally gone, since he had been a part of their little family long before Molly came to live in Nevada. Trace was single and had no family of his own. How this family survives so much turmoil is what makes this book such a great story.

There are several aspects about this author’s writing I really enjoyed. The first is how well she penned the dynamics of Patrick Dugan’s family. She uses wit and humor to flesh out Patrick’s character, how he lovingly fathered his daughter, handled his job professionally, and grieved his wife quietly. In spite of the emotional toll of so many problems the family faced, there were lighter moments that caused me to laugh out loud and tugged at my heart.

The second aspect I liked is the development of a new face in the story after Patrick was gone, that of Trace Whitcomb. His place in the family dynamics is crucial to their survival. He quickly became a key player. It was exciting to read how a grandmother, an aunt, a first grader and a best friend became a new family unit for Bethany’s sake. Of course, it was not perfect. There were the usual issues to deal with and even a bit of a surprise at the end. But all that put together is what makes this book a joy to read.

Trust in Jesus He handles it

Finally, there is a romantic element that develops between Molly and Trace. The author makes this part of the story seem natural rather than unrealistic or obtrusive, as it may very well have become. Kudos to the author for making it all fit together so well.

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 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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At Bluebonnet Lake: A Novel (Texas Crossroads #1) by Amanda Cabot ~Review~

At Bluebonnet Lake (Texas Crossroads 1) by Amanda Cabot

At Bluebonnet Lake

Rainbow’s End seems destined to become a place of meetings, of life-long changes and sudden new directions. In essence, the old broken down resort that’s seen better days, was the place many came to ponder the crossroads they faced. In this book, we meet Roy, Sally, Kate and Greg. Their quandaries and decisions are what makes this contemporary romance a rewarding read.

Greg Vange’s childhood was dominated by his father’s disappointment in him. Greg never cared for sports as his father had. It seemed he didn’t possess the coveted sports gene whatsoever, and his dad was vocal about his shortcomings. But Greg was intelligent, loved school, and buried himself in computer technology. So it was no wonder when he finished his education that he started a business and found a lucrative niche for the software he designed. After dedicating fifteen years of his life to perfecting his brainchild, he suddenly realized one day that the world had passed him by. In a move that surprised his friends, he sold his business for a tidy profit and became free to do as he pleased. He ended up at Rainbow’s End to contemplate the next step. He wanted to follow God’s leading which prompted him to leave California and head for the Texas hill country.

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Kate Sherwood took a month’s vacation to travel to a resort in Texas with her grandmother Sally, who remembered a trip to Rainbow’s End with her husband Larry, years ago. She wanted to re-live some of those precious memories now that she and Kate were all the family they had. Kate loved her grandmother for good reason. When Kate was very young her parents died. Grandma Sally and Grandpa Larry took her in and raised her. It wasn’t much of a sacrifice to take time off work to spend time with her grandmother, especially when there were hints that she was experiencing some heart problems. But looking around, Kate realized this business was on its last legs. It was perilously close to shutting its doors. She was disappointed, although judging by the stars in her eyes, Sally hardly noticed. She was remembering this resort in her mind’s eye as she saw it in the past.

Roy Gordon was a widower from the town of Dupree, just three miles from Rainbow’s End. He came over to take some of his meals at the Inn. Carmen’s superb cooking was worth the trip. In the past several weeks he and Greg had formed a bond of friendship. Seated at the single table in the dining room was Kate and her grandmother. It wasn’t long before Roy paired up with Sally, and Greg paired up with Kate. Both men were intrigued.

One of the factors I loved about this book was the vivid descriptions of the surrounding countryside and Bluebonnet Lake. I could easily imagine myself vacationing in the area. The author employed descriptive terms that conveyed well the peace and tranquility of the views. Looking through Kate’s eyes, I could see the potential of Rainbow’s End as she began to see it. She was a visionary for the advertising firm she worked for. She had the ability to find hidden potential for her clients’ businesses as part of her work creating effective ads for them. It was only natural that she would see unique possibilities for the failing resort.

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Another thing I liked was the double feature: two romances for the price of one. Both romances were reminders that we can experience love regardless of our age. I especially noticed how the sweet relationships fit the setting so well. A heavily conflicted relationship would not have matched the tranquility of the location. Of course there were some barriers both couples needed to overcome before their romance could grow, but the obstacles were not formidable. Kate and Greg, the main characters, needed some closure from past issues before they could move forward as a couple. These issues created light tension between them in spite of their attraction to each other. But the resolution was satisfying.

The third element of the plot I enjoyed was the undercurrent of faith in their lives. The author writes it as a natural part of each character’s personality. God’s ways were important to the four friends we grow to care for in the story. Faith was as normal as breathing. It was natural for them to read their Bibles and pray together. Reading this book, we see faith in action rather than something to preach about. God was real to them, and their comforter and source of wisdom.

The author plans to make this book the first in a series. The next book is scheduled to be released in the early months of 2015. Rainbow’s End is the setting once more for the next adventure. I’m looking forward to reading them. For more information you can go to the author’s website.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Netgalley on behalf of Revell (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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Here to Stay (Where Love Begins Bk. 2) by Melissa Tagg ~ Review ~

Here to Stay (Where Love Begins Bk. 2) by Melissa Tagg

Here to Stay

This book is about dreams, expectations, beginnings, hopes and being young with your entire life before you. Of course, this is balanced with loss, grief, reality, family and heritage, adjustment and God. When the author throws in generous helpings of humor, lovable characters, feuding families and lives poised on the precipice of either disaster or adventure, you have a story that draws you in and won’t let you go until you’ve finished it.

Blake Hunziker, also known as Blaze around his home town of Whisper Shore, Michigan, was like the prodigal son. He was returning home after nomadic adventuring around the world. Well, it wasn’t so much grasping life and living it to the fullest as much as it was running from life and the guilt he carried in his conscience about his brother Ryan’s death. So returning home was his way of squaring his shoulders and facing head on the responsibility he’d been running from for half a decade. If only he knew what he was supposed to do with his life.

Autumn Kingsley, on the other hand, had always taken on the challenges of life, putting others’ needs before her own. For example, when her mother deeded her Kingsley Inn, the business Autumn’s grandparents poured their lives into and passed on on to her mother, Autumn accepted ownership–at least temporarily, because it didn’t keep her from dreams of traveling to far off places as her father had done. But at this point, she didn’t think her life merited even a page in a scrapbook. Some day, she hoped to fill an entire book with the adventures of her life.

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Blake and Autumn had a history. First, as family rivalry since Blake’s parents owned the Hunziker Hotel, an upscale competitor to the sprawling down-home charm of the Kingsley Inn. The tiny coastal town on Lake Michigan could barely contain the two businesses. Second, since Autumn’s sister had dated Blake’s brother, who, she discovered, had a pain pill drug addiction stemming from a sports injury. It had become serious. When she had warned Ryan’s parents, they didn’t believe her, spurned her efforts to help, and even publicly denounced her after Ryan’s death in an accident. Since then, the Hunzikers and the Kingsleys carried on a private war that trickled down the family line and even into business. It was definitely a shock, then, when Blake and Autumn began to work together on a winter festival committee for their town. Sparks were sure to fly–both kinds.

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One of the things I appreciate about this author is her quirky sense of humor. She infuses her characters with sparkle and wit that makes reading this book so fun. What I will remember most about this particular story is the incident of the clawfoot bathtub. It still tickles my funny-bone now, after the book has been finished. It’s the kind of story you will share with your family and friends.

I also loved the author’s use of metaphors that paint emotional pictures for the reader and heighten our feelings of empathy. Autumn’s family Inn is a symbol of her perspective on life. The scrapbook references are closely related to the hotel motif and the journey she chooses to live. These writing aids are aptly applied to provide us insights to the two main characters, fleshing them out so that they come alive. They could be you and me.

If you enjoy stories of romance and the journey of life, I’m sure you will enjoy this book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley on behalf of 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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Until I Found You by Victoria Bylin ~ Review ~

Until I Found You by Victoria Bylin

Until I Found You

Kate Darby was a mess. In spite of the laissez faire attitude toward life she projected to others, she was a seething tornado inside: fears, insecurities, indecision about her future in spite of her dream job, and loneliness. To complicate her life, her grandmother suffered a stroke and Kate was needed to help her recover while at the same time keeping the family’s local newspaper, the Clarion, afloat during her absence. She had to take two months off from her job, an action that could lead to layoff in the future.

Kate was driving one particular perilous mountain road on the way to her grandmother’s house when she nearly struck a rare California condor feasting on a carcass in the middle of the road. Braking spun her car out of control until the shoulder of the road gave way, sending her over the edge and down the cliff. Before her car plummeted further into the ravine, she was pulled out of her vehicle by Nick, literally moments before it exploded in a ball of fire.

Nick Sheridan, retired veteran of life in the fast lane and reformed playboy bachelor, had recently made his home in Meadows, California while writing for a California travel magazine. He was the one who had discovered Leona Darby after her stroke and gotten her to the hospital in time to save her life. When he pulled Kate out of her downed car, he had recognized her from the pictures Leona had on her desk at the Clarion. Nick was doing some freelance work for her and they had become friends. After her stroke, she had communicated to Nick to help Kate settle in at the newspaper and be her friend.

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Once Kate and Nick got to know each other and learned to work together at the Clarion, Nick did his best to ignore his growing attraction for Kate. He had reasons why he needed to keep their relationship platonic. To Kate, Nick had the posture of a soldier, the ease of a cowboy, and the daring of a pirate. Once she learned of the book he had written, she was on the way to viewing him as her knight in shining armor. But Nick knew better how human he really was, and he didn’t want her to put him on a pedestal.

Several months before Kate’s accident, Nick had an epiphany and his life came to a screeching halt. His lifestyle had caught up with him; someone had been hurt as a result of his wayward behavior. He had some major decisions to make. On Mount Abel, he sought and found God. As a result he was in transition, putting away his old ways and adopting a new lifestyle with his brother’s help. From Leona, he knew his old ways would appeal to Kate, but he cared enough for her to know that she needed a real Savior, not him as a substitute. She had her own demons to face, so he needed to stay out of the way while she searched and found her own faith in God. But it was harder than he expected.

God hears our prayers

The author skillfully writes complex personal problems that intertwine between the three main characters. Leona’s heart ached for her only living family, her granddaughter Kate. She wanted so much for Kate to find the same soul satisfying relationship with God that she has had herself as well as a soul mate like she had with Alex, Kate’s grandfather. But Kate was stubborn. She would have to find her own way through her fears and insecurities. Although Leona’s stroke left her unable to talk, she could still write. So she set out to write in her journal a personal story for Kate that she had never shared with anyone else. She only hoped she would finish the story in time.

The author not only tells a wonderful multi-layered story, but uses metaphors that stir the reader’s heart. Two of my favorite metaphors used in this book are the condors which seem to appear at key moments for Kate, and the mountain road and cliff that played a role in shifting the direction of Kate’s life more than once. Of course, there are more metaphors in the book, and I hope you enjoy discovering them as much as I did.

Another element of Kate’s character development that resonated with me was in her struggle to fill the gaping hole in her life with things she knew well–her exciting job and her hero worship of Nick. But the God-shaped hole just wouldn’t be satisfied through her own efforts. How she came to terms with her doubts and insecurities and how she found faith in God brought back memories of my own internal battles and life lessons through the stages of maturity. In empathy, I was rooting for her to find her way.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley on behalf of Bethany House Publishers. I wasnot 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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