The Christmas Cake (The Holiday Collection: Timeless Stories of Faith, Hope, and Love Bk. 2) by Joyce Swann ~ Review

Christmas Cake, The pic

The Christmas Cake by Joyce Swann

The Christmas Cake is much shorter than a novella. It is a short story. In fact, this little story is much more than a piece of entertainment. It is allegorical in nature. Or to put it in more understandable terms, it is a word picture. A word picture helps us understand a concept that is difficult to grasp until someone makes a comparison with an item and shows you how they are similar and different. Word pictures are very effective ways to tell people how you feel, what your viewpoint is, or to teach a unique concept. I used to use word pictures when I was an upper elementary teacher. It’s very satisfying to look into someone’s face and see that they “got it” when you use a word picture to explain something.

Christmas Cake, The quote 1

You could also call this mini book a miniature sermon in fiction form. In any case, there is no finger wagging. When someone says something is “preachy,” take into account that preaching is usually teaching something. People pay to go to college classes where they are taught something. Most of the preaching I grew up with was that type of learning. That is a far cry from finger wagging, which I call nagging. There is no nagging in this story. It is a beautiful fiction piece of a mother with a destructive nature, and a daughter who loves the Lord Jesus spending time together on a Christmas Eve.

Christmas Cake, The quote2

During their talk the mother unintentionally reveals that her former husband, Michelle’s dad, became a genuine Christian during his bout with cancer. That was 10 years ago, and Michelle hadn’t known! So even if her conversation with her Mom was distressing, she now had that comfort for her heart. But then, later she realizes she must somehow tell her Mom how to become a Christian herself. She asks God to give her the words she needs.

Christmas Cake, The quote3

God gives her the illustration of the Christmas cake she is making for Christmas dinner. This is a wonderful word picture. I wish I had thought of this when I was teaching! In fact, this little story is a great tool to use if you are thinking of a way to tell someone what being a Christian is all about. And to top it off, the 100 year old recipe is included with the book. What a great bonus. I plan on making this recipe soon; it is very much like a cake recipe I had gotten from my own grandmother several years ago.

Christmas Cake, The quote4

I encourage you to invite a friend over, bake the cake together and use the illustration in your conversation. Or use it to help your children and grandchildren understand why we need Christ as our Savior! Enjoy the book.

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Ho-Ho-Nooo (TJ and the Time Stumblers Bk 4) by Bill Myers ~ Review

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Ho Ho Nooo: TJ and the Time Stumblers Bk 4 by bill Myers

Middle grade readers will love this book. It should appeal to both boys and girls because it is a basic adventure book. The purpose of the book’s message is to explore the true meaning of Christmas without getting overly “religious.” The main character, TJ, takes on several jobs to try to earn money to give her dad for Christmas. Things get out of hand, of course, while she tries to compete with her sister who is planning on purchasing a large screen TV. To “help” TJ understand what really counts for Christmas, bumbling time travelers on a school assignment from the future visit TJ and stay hidden in her bedroom. She’s the only one who can see and hear them, but doesn’t pay much attention to their warnings. There are plenty of laughs to go around–good clean non-crude humor.

Herby and Tuna are traveling from the future to invisibly observe their target historical figure for a school assignment. Since their arrival, everything seems to go wrong for them, including equipment malfunctions; but they do manage to tag along with TJ to school and work for awhile. Their “help” is doubtful but funny.

Ho Ho Nooo Quote1

Besides the goofy humor in this short book, there are family dynamics to explore (TJ’s mom died of cancer recently) and social dynamics to learn from. This book, like the many others written by this author is not just a fluff piece. There are valuable lessons taught within the humorous events, just enough to prompt young readers to think. Parents will love this. Books like this were something I searched for when my children were the age this book is written for (between ages 7 and 11).

If you are looking for a hilarious, fast-paced adventure for your children to read, this is one I highly recommend. While it is the fourth book in a series, each one can be read independently.

 

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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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After: Book 1 by Joy Ohagwu ~ Review

After Bk 1 pic

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.

After Bk 1 quote1

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.

After Bk 1 quote3

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.

After Bk 1 quote5

 

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A Goose Creek Christmas by Virginia Smith ~ Review

A Goose Creek Christmas pic

A Goose Creek Christmas (Book 4) by Virginia Smith

This is book four of the “Tales from the Goose Creek B&B” series. I haven’t read any of the other books in this series, so it seems to be sufficiently independent of the other books. This is also a novella although I did’t see any indication of that in the description. However I was able to read it through twice in just a few hours, so it is short.

This is a great light read filled with zany, quirky characters, a small town feel, and the ability to help you set the mood for the season.

A Goose Creek Christmas quote1

Albert and Millie Richardson are in their twilight years, have bought themselves a Bed and Breakfast and just recently remodeled it. They are anticipating their years of retirement when Al was unexpectedly released from his work as computer specialist. His pride was hurt more than anything else, since he was already prepared to retire in another year, so he decided to delay telling his wife for awhile so as not to upset her over the upcoming holidays. Well, that was his excuse anyway.

In the meantime, Millie had her hands full with one of her neighbors who takes on the task of decorating the downtown business district of Goose Creek. The problem was that her tastes clashed with those of the community, especially the downtown businesses. She was so distracted with this dilemma that she didn’t notice that her husband suddenly had more time on his hands than he used to.

A Goose Creek Christmas quote2

There are so many amusing moments in this short tale. I enjoyed taking the time to get to know this local community. If you are in the need for momentary breaks during the Christmas season, this is the book for you. It is a pleasant and sweet diversion.

 

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True Love at Christmas by Juliette Duncan ~ Review

True Love at Christmas pic

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.

True Love at Christmas quote1

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

Hang Your Heart on Christmas pic

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?

Hang Yout Heart on Christmas quote1

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.

Hang Your Heart on Christmas quote2

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”.

Hang Your Heart on Christmas quote3

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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