A Bleu Streak Christmas by T.I. Lowe ~ Review

A Bleu Streak Christmas pic

A Bleu Streak Christmas by T.I. Lowe

A Bleu Streak Christmas is the second book of a three book series. I have read this book without the benefit of reading either of the other books of this series, which I intend to do as soon as possible. I could tell there was some back story with one of the main characters, Maverick King, one of the King twins. In fact, several times there were references to a back story, but in spite of that, the book easily stood alone as its own story. Once I read it however, and found it was part of a series, I definitely wanted to read the other two parts.

Bleu Streak is a rock band with shaky beginnings. But by the time this book starts, they are established and raring to go on tour. Some of the members of the band are married with children. It doesn’t seem to hinder them from traveling, although it has slowed them down a bit. In fact, one of the wives is very pregnant, and will not be able to perform her usual jobs while traveling, so the band decided to hire a personal assistant to the manager. They hired Izzy Walker. As soon as Mave sees her, sparks start to fly. Unlike the “plastic women” he is used to, those that hang around rock stars, she doesn’t seem impressed with him. In fact, she shies away from him most of the time. So now he is intrigued.

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Interestingly, this book is written in the first person. Half the story is from Mave’s point of view, while the other half is from Izzy’s point of view. Don’t expect formal language; this is not historical fiction. They talk in the moment, in the way you would expect someone in that age group to talk or to think. I’m not usually very comfortable with first person, but the author does this pretty well. It felt authentic and helped me gain a fresh point of view.

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What I enjoyed most about this book were the pranks all the band members would play on each other. They were a family, with that family feel you get when you are comfortable in your skin and with each other. So the pranks were funny and downright creative. There were a lot of great belly laugh moments. I completely enjoyed this book, and that made the reading go quickly. It is supposed to be a novella, but it had the feel of a full length book. I felt I left the story knowing something of the experience of members of a band on tour. In the end, I couldn’t help but be impressed with the fibre of this group of guys. Big hearted, kind, caring, bumbling, funny, but family. Nicely done, T.I. Lowe.

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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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Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh ~ Review

Keeping Christmas pic

Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh

For many folks, Christmas is a happy time of year. It’s filled with warm cozy memories, family, food and fun. But it is not that way for everyone. For some people this holiday only brings them pain and emptiness. There may be bad memories or a lack of good memories. What then? Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh is all about one couple dealing with the emptiness of loss at one of the most family oriented times of the year.

Stan and Judith Winters are empty nesters. And this year it was painfully obvious. Their three children are grown, married, with families and good jobs. And they are scattered all over the US. None were able to come home for Thanksgiving, and Judith has just learned that none of them will be able to afford to come home for Christmas either. This has put Judith into a deep depression which she has been unable to shake. Stan and Judith’s best friends, Barney and Betty (I don’t know their last names, but it probably isn’t Rubble!) even tried to cheer Judith up. Nothing seemed to work. Stan knew there had to be a solution to the problem, but he just couldn’t think what it could be.

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There were so many poignant moments in this book. Judith’s feelings are understandable and very true for many other people dealing with the empty nest. It drew me in, made me feel a little sad as I read her plight. But even though the predominant problem is sad, there were still plenty of funny and even feel-good moments. I enjoyed the book so much, in fact, that I have read it several times in the past couple of years.

My favorite part of the story was a discussion between Judith and Betty about their husbands. Keep in mind that this book is written by a male author, so it was so surprising to read their discussion about how men seem to have switches on their feelings, and how often they can switch off those feelings while the wife just can’t do that. The discussion was precious. I found myself agreeing, “Yeah, how is that possible?” The author nailed that conversation.

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The second most favorite part about the story was the description of the ugly ornaments and their significance. Again, I felt a heart tug here because our children and I used to make ornaments when they were younger. There were a lot of fond memories wrapped up in those years. As it turns out, those ornaments play an important part in the resolution, which was a perfect way to end the book. Even if you’re not an empty nester, I believe you’ll enjoy reading this story.

Christ died for you individually Santa kneels

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley on behalf of the author and Revell. 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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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.

Merry Kisses A Riverbend Romance Novella Quote2

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 Church At Third and Main by Reg Quist ~ Review

Church at Third and Main pic

The Church At Third and Main by Reg Quist

Have you ever read a book that at one point elicited a response like, “Oh, I remember doing that!” or “Yep, been there, done that, and have the t-shirt for it,” or others like those comments? Deja vu? or “Ah! I know what that’s like”. Or how about this, “Yes, sadly, that is true”? Those were some of my thoughts as I read through this book, twice. That’s because if you have ever been intertwined with the inner workings of a congregation of Christian believers whose church has seen better days and better times, you understand the angst of trying to bring it back to life. Oh, I’m not talking about the church building. That doesn’t really matter so much; it’s the inner soul of a church fellowship, the collective group of people where the total becomes greater than the number of its parts–individuals.

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This is the story of a man who loves God better than himself. He has been approached by a person with God’s interest at heart. And this older member has asked Jonathon McCann to take on a two-year project, to attempt to bring the old congretation with its few remaining members back to life, to impact the neighborhood again, for the Lord. Jonathon was not a preacher or a pastor or a reverend or a Father. He was just a godly man, a husband, a father of children, a friend, a coworker. He was even a businessman. How could he possibly attempt such a hurculean task? That’s what this book is about. For me, since I have been close to this type of experience, seen its attempts, prayed for those who have tried, and cried over the failures and the hurts, this was a riveting read.

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This may not be interesting reading for all persons. This story definitely has a target audience. But I hope you’ll give it a chance. If you’ve ever been a member of a group of people who love God, honor Him, and want to dedicate their lives to Him, then you may have shared some of the experiences found in this book. It will touch your heart and perhaps encourage you to look around and see where you fit in. It certainly touched mine and helped me gain some new perspectives.

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My favorite parts of this book involved times when a few people’s souls were mended from past hurts and slights. These were not the prettiest parts of the story, but certainly central to what Jonathon was trying to do and central to what God is always doing, because His entire message to us humans is about reconciliation. Sometimes the right thing to do is the toughest thing to do. The writer skillfully portrays some of these crucial moments with sensitivity and heart.

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There are also amusing incidents, crazy times, silly people, angry people, vindictive and unforgiving people in this story. A fellowship of Christian believers is like a family. You will always have a wide variety of members like this. They are part of this story and crucial to the plot. This is certainly a memorable book.

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 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 Bridge of Peace by Cindy Woodsmall ~ Review

The Bridge of Peace by Cindy Woodsmall

Bridge of Peace pic

The Bridge of Peace by Cindy Woodsmall is the second 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.

Cara and Ephraim’s story is continued from the first book into this one. We also get to know Deborah, Ephraim’s sister a little better since she, Cara and Ada live together in Hope Crossing now. Cara is helping Deborah recover when her fiance leaves her and his mother without support. It seems he even left the Amish lifestyle behind him. The three women eventually establish a good business as a bakery in their new setting in spite of a rough beginning, while Ada continues to mentor Cara.

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Meanwhile back in Dry Lake, where the story originated, Teacher Lena is having difficulties in school with a rebellious and angry student, a bull in the neighboring pasture threatens the school children, Grey is having marital difficulties, Jonathan is attracted to Deborah, Israel is beginning to see Ada, and Dwane is being downright creepy. While we don’t know these characters now, this authors manages to capture our interest in them quickly as our sense of community grows. Suspense builds, and so does the drama. I recommend you bring along a box of tissues when you read this book. The drama in this tale is just as heart-wrenching and touching as those in the first book.

Midst all the emotional valleys and mountain tops, this author holds it all together with great humor and meaningful life lessons. I found it helpful to read this book right after book 1 of the series. The three books together run seamlessly into each other, building on the storyline right at the beginning. You can read them independently, but you would lose some of the references to the action that went on before. Because of that, I recommend purchasing these books together.

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One other thing really attracts me to this author’s works. She weaves into her stories examples that steadfastly demonstrate God’s involvement in our everyday lives. These stories are like word pictures in action. We’re not preached at, but we see God’s principles enacted throughout the book in such a way that it has to touch our hearts. Whenever I read her books, I find myself delving into deep thoughts of spiritual meaning, how God can live through me more effectively, showing how much He loves His children. All this comes so naturally to the author’s pen, that we barely notice it while reading these tales. This is why Cindy Woodsmall is one of my top favorite authors.

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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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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