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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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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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.

Christmas Shoppe Quote1

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.

Christmas Shoppe Quote2

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.

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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Darcy’s Christmas Wish: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Penelope Swan ~ Review

Darcy's Christmas Wish pic

Darcy’s Christmas Wish: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Penelope Swan

From time to time, I enjoy variations of favorite stories. This one is a variation of the time period within Pride and Prejudice. For example, it begins about 15 years before our favorite story by Jane Austin. Elizabeth was visiting with her aunt and uncle Gardiner because Jane, Mary, Kitty and Lydia had all succumbed to a nasty case of the whooping cough. It was winter and cold in London on the day we are re-introduced to a young Darcy and a 7-year-old Elizabeth.

Darcy's Christmas Wish quote1

The Gardiners were visiting Mr. Waverley and having tea while Elizabeth frolicked outside in the snow. She had wandered quite far when she discovered a young boy who had fallen into a small lake while sledding. She helped pull him out and covered him up with pine boughs before running for help. Darcy never forgot that; he remembered her eyes even though he didn’t know her name, and made a wish that Christmas that he would someday find her again to thank her for saving his life.

Decades passed and once again many of Darcy’s family were visiting with Lady Catherine and Anne, including Lord Hargreaves, Colonel Fitzwilliam and his young son George. They were celebrating Christmas with friends: Mr. Collins, his wife Charlotte and Elizabeth who was visiting with her friend. Darcy and Elizabeth had met long before this. When young George slipped outside into the deep snowy night in search of his new puppy, it seemed as if history was repeating itself.

Darcy's Christmas Wish quote2

This is a fun short story, specifically created for the Christmas season. I thought it was a perfect addition to add to my collection of seasonal shorts, a way to remember a favorite story, while none of the added details detracted from the original. The author writes several variations of this type. I enjoyed this one very much and I recommend it to you.

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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.

A Bleu Streak Christmas quote1

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.

A Bleu Streak Christmas quote2

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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