Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh – Review

Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh

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Keeping Christmas is a holiday novella about adjusting to Christmas when there is a change in the family. For Stan and Judith, that change happens to be an empty nest. This is the first holiday they’ll be spending without any of their kids, and they don’t know what to do about it. Judith just can’t seem to muster up any Christmas spirit. The novella is heartwarming and emotional, all too relevant for anyone who has ever spent holidays without a loved one. If you’re looking for a holiday read with a little more substance and a little less fluff, Keeping Christmas is the book for you! It can be easily read in an evening or two, and it also makes a great gift for friends or neighbors. Recommended for fans of Christmas novellas and inspirational fiction.

Publisher Info:

Stan opened the ugly ornaments box and pulled out the top three ornaments, the ones wrapped in green paper, the kids’ favorites, and set them on the coffee table. He picked up the first one, the biggest one–Anna’s blue pinecone–and began to unwrap it. Without thinking, Judith walked up, stopped him, and gently took it out of his hand. She wrapped it back up, set it carefully in the box. Then picked up the other two ornaments, put them in the box, and closed the flaps.

“What’s the matter?” Stan said. “Did I do something wrong?”

“I don’t think I can do this.”

Nothing is more beautiful than family

For the first time since their children were born, empty nesters Judith and Stan Winters spent Thanksgiving without the kids, and it’s looking like Christmas will be the same. Judith can’t bring herself to even start decorating for the holiday; her kids always hung the first ornaments on the tree, ornaments they had made each year since they were toddlers. Sure, the ornaments were strange-looking–some were downright ugly–but they were tradition.

With Judith refusing to decorate the bare spruce tree in their living room, Stan’s only hope for saving the holiday is found in a box of handmade ornaments . . .

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of several books, including The Unfinished Gift and The Restoration Series with Gary Smalley. He has won three Carol Awards, and three of his novels were finalists for the RT Book ReviewsInspirational Book of the Year. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Dan served as a pastor for twenty-five years. He lives with his wife in the Daytona Beach area, where he’s busy researching and writing his next novel. Learn more at www.danwalshbooks.com.

*I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

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The Christmas Joy Ride by Melody Carlson – Review

The Christmas Joy Ride by Melody Carlson

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Another delightful Christmas novella from Melody Carlson! The Christmas Joy Ride follows Joy, an eighty-something Christmas blogger, & her thirty-something neighbor, Miranda, on an RV trip down Route 66. Joy is on a mission to spread Christmas cheer to a list of specific people, and she enlists Miranda to help her. In an interview, Carlson said Carol Burnett would be the perfect actress to play Joy in a movie, and I loved having that reference before starting the book. Joy and Miranda will absolutely steal your heart. They are an excellent duo, and I’d love to hang out with them! Carlson’s Christmas novellas are always something I look forward to, and this one doesn’t disappoint. Grab The Christmas Joy Ride when you have a few hours to spend in a cozy chair with a cup of something hot. This book has it all–holiday spirit, heartfelt friendship, a bit of suspense, and a dash of romance. The Christmas Joy Ride is such a fun story. It’s the kind of holiday novella you’ll reach for year after year. It’d also make a great Christmas gift! Highly recommended!

Publisher Info:

Miranda did not put adventure on her Christmas list, but thanks to her eighty-five-year-old neighbor Joy, that’s exactly what she’s getting this year. When Joy tells Miranda that she plans to drive an old RV decked out in Christmas decorations from their Chicago neighborhood to her new retirement digs in Phoenix–in the dead of winter, no less–the much younger Miranda insists that Joy cannot make such a trip by herself. Unemployed and facing foreclosure, Miranda feels she has nothing to lose by packing a bag and heading off with Joy toward Route 66. But Joy has a hidden agenda for their Christmas joyride–one that could derail the whole venture.

No one captures the heartwarming fun of the Christmas season quite like Melody Carlson. Fasten your seat belt, because it’s going to be an exciting ride!

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of more than two hundred books with combined sales of more than six million. She is the author of the bestselling The Christmas Bus, The Christmas Dog, Christmas at Harrington’s, and The Christmas Cat. She received a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her many books, including the Diary of a Teenage Girl series and Finding Alice. She and her husband live in central Oregon. Learn more at www.melodycarlson.com.

*I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

Chance of Loving You — Review

Chance of Loving You Romance Collection by Terri Blackstock, Candace Calvert, & Susan May Warren

Synopsis:

An anthology by three bestselling romance authors

For Love of Money by Terri Blackstock Trying to launch her own design firm while waitressing on the side, Julie Sheffield was drawn to the kind man she waited on at the restaurant last night . . . until he stiffed her on the tip by leaving her half of a sweepstakes ticket.

The Recipe by Candace Calvert Hospital dietary assistant Aimee Curran is determined to win the Vegan Valentine Bake-Off to prove she’s finally found her calling. But while caring for one of her patients—the elderly grandmother of a handsome CSI photographer—Aimee begins to question where she belongs.

Hook, Line & Sinker by Susan May Warren Grad student Abigail Cushman has agreed to enter the annual Deep Haven fishing contest. She’s a quick learner, even if she doesn’t know the difference between a bass and a trout. But nothing could prepare her for competing against the handsome charmer she’s tried to forget since grief tore them apart.

One chance for each woman to change her life . . . but will love be the real prize?

My Thoughts:

Chance of Loving You is a romance collection comprised of three unrelated stories. The collection begins with For Love of Money by Terri Blackstock. This is my favorite story of the trio! Julie is a struggling waitress, and Blake is down on his luck and unemployed. When Blake doesn’t have the money to leave a tip, he leaves Julie half of a sweepstakes ticket. You can guess where this is headed; think Nicholas Cage in It Could Happen to You. I expected the story to be predictable, but it actually surprised me several times! Blake and Julie are relatable characters who are all too human. Fans of inspirational fiction and Christian romance will adore For Love of Money!

The Recipe by Candace Calvert centers on Aimee, current dietary assistant at a hospital but aspiring culinary star. One of her edible decorations at the hospital isn’t well received, and she finds herself constantly trying to make up for it. It doesn’t help that a patient’s gorgeous grandson is always around throwing her off balance. The Recipe is enjoyable and had my mouth watering for strawberry rhubarb crumble. The story moved slowly and seemed repetitive at times, but it’s an overall good read.

Susan May Warren’s Hook, Line & Sinker rounds out the collection. Abby and Ross have a somewhat complicated past, and now they’re competing against each other in a fishing contest. Like all of Warren’s stories, the characters are realistic and have a magnetism about them. If you’re a fan of Warren’s Deep Haven books, you definitely don’t want to miss Hook, Line & Sinker!

Chance of Loving You is a wonderful collection of stories in a gorgeous package. (Seriously, check out that cover!) I love that they included a recipe at the end of each story. Highly recommended for Christian Romance and Inspirational Fiction fans!

About the Authors:

To learn more about the authors of Chance of Loving You, visit the links below.

Terri Blackstock – BioWebsite

Candace Calvert – BioWebsite

Susan May Warren – BioWebsite

*Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

A Marriage Carol by Chris Fabry & Gary Chapman – Review

A Marriage Carol

Synopsis:

On Christmas Eve twenty years earlier, Marlee and Jacob were married in a snowstorm.   This Christmas Eve, they are ready to quit, divorce is imminent. Their relationship is as icy as the road they’re traveling and as blocked with troubles as the piling snow. They take a shortcut to get to the lawyer’s office, on a slippery, no-fault path. She thinks they need to stay on the main road. He disagrees. They fight. Story of their lives and they slam into a bank of snow , spinning, drifting, falling, out of control. Just like their lives. Reluctantly, freezing cold, hungry, scared, she trudges up the hill. Jacob is nowhere to be found. Her ears frozen, fingers and hands red, she comes to a house on the hillside, built like a Bed and Breakfast, a green wreath on the red door and the door-knocker is in the shape of a wedding ring.

The red door opens and the first thing she notices is the fire in the room, blazing hot, a warm, inviting, friendly place and the voice of an old man welcomes her in. There are three golden pots on the hearth, shining, glimmering things. The old man claims that they are used to restore marriages. She laughs-and begins a journey through her past, present, and future that will test how she views her lifelong love. There are two futures available. Which will she choose?

My Thoughts:

A Marriage Carol is an emotional take on A Christmas Carol, but with a twist. In this story, Marlee and Jacob are a couple struggling to survive in more way than one. A car crash and a mysterious man lead them to critical moment where they must choose which path to take. This story is incredibly engrossing, and it will grab your heart! While it is technically a Christmas story, it can be enjoyed any time of year. Jacob and Marlee are extremely realistic. Other parts of the story include a bit of fantasy, keeping in time with A Christmas Carol. I highly recommend A Marriage Carol to fans of Christmas fiction, inspirational fiction, and retellings of classic stories. Read this book. It will only take you an hour or two!

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

How to Catch a Prince by Rachel Hauck — Review & Giveaway!!

How to Catch a Prince

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Synopsis:

She caught her prince once. Can she catch him again?

American heiress Corina Del Rey’s life was devastated by war. Every thing she loved was lost. But after five years of grief, she’s shed her grave clothes and started over in the sunshine along the Florida coast.

But some things are not so easily forgotten. When a secret from her past confronts her face to face, she realizes she must follow her heart. Even if it cost her everything.

Prince Stephen of Brighton Kingdom is a former Royal Air Command lieutenant turned star rugby player, trying to make sense of his life after the devastation of war.
When his brother, King Nathaniel, discovers Stephen’s pre war secret, he must deal with an aspect of his life he longed to forget. But how can he do so without exposing the truth and breaching national security?

Yet, true love has a destiny all it’s own. As the cathedral bells peal through Cathedral City, Corina and Stephen must chose to answer the call of love on their hearts.
Or let it be lost forever?

My Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed Rachel Hauck’s newest royal novel. How to Catch a Prince is the third book in the Royal Wedding Series, but it can be read as a standalone novel. I’ve yet to read the first 2 books in the series (Once Upon a Prince Princess Ever After), but they’ve definitely made my To-Be-Read list! Hauck is the author of one of my favorite books, Love Starts with Elle, so I had high hopes for How to Catch a Prince. The story feels authentic, contemporary, and realistic with a touch of fairy tale magic. Hauck’s descriptions of Cathedral City instantly transported me to a world of majestic architecture and had my mouth watering for those famous puffs. The book is surprisingly unpredictable, which seems to be rare these days. I very much enjoyed getting to know Stephen and Corina, and the addition of Brill & Adelaide (I’m being vague to avoid spoilers!) was both surprising and perfect for the story. They add an additional layer of emotional depth and an element of faith to How to Catch a Prince. Hauck invokes just the right amount of humor to balance out the serious side of the story. Reading How to Catch a Prince is time well spent. Highly recommended for fans of inspirational fiction, contemporary romance, and royal romance.

Favorite Quotes:

Love had a way of making a girl empty herself. -page 101

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Royal Giveaway:

Catch Prince Rachel Hauck

About the Author:

 Rachel Hauck is an award-winning, best selling author of critically acclaimed novels such as The Wedding Dress, Love Starts with Elle, and Once Upon A Prince. She also penned the Songbird Novels with multi-platinum recording artist, Sara Evans. Booklist named their novel, Softly and Tenderly, one of 2011 Top Ten Inspirationals. She serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers and is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, and conference speaker. Rachel lives in central Florida with her husband and pets.
Find Rachel online: website, Facebook, Twitter

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Winter Brides (A Year of Weddings) — Review

Winter Brides by Denise Hunter, Deborah Raney, & Betsy St. Amant

Winter Brides is a collection of three novellas from the Zondervan series ‘A Year of Weddings.’ Winter Brides contains the stories from December, January, and February.

Info from the Publisher:

Happily ever after begins today. The honor of your presence is requested at three winter weddings . . .

A December Bride by Denise Hunter

When Layla O’Reilly and Seth Murphy make their engagement public, she knows it’s only to convince a major client that she’s high-society enough to work for his agency. Seth has secretly loved Layla for years, but she’s never given him the time of day. For Layla, this romantic illusion is the chance to save her career. And for Seth, it’s the chance to finally win her heart.

A January Bride by Deborah Raney

Novelist Madeleine Houser arranges a temporary office in a local bed and breakfast to escape the distracting renovations on her own house. Although she’s never laid eyes on the inn’s owner, an unlikely friendship blossoms between them as they leave daily notes for each other, and before long, Maddie finds herself falling for her mysterious host—a man likely many years her senior—and a man she’s never even met.

A February Bride by Betsy St. Amant

History repeats itself when Allie Andrews escapes the church on her wedding day—wearing the same dress passed down for generations of women in her family, all women with histories of failed marriages. Allie loves Marcus but fears she’s destined to repeat her family’s mistakes. When thrown unexpectedly together for a wedding months later, Allie and Marcus discover their own story might be far from over.

My Reviews:

A December Bride:

I always fall so easily into Denise Hunter’s stories! This is the first in a series called A Year of Weddings. Each novella will be written by a different author. A December Bride focuses on Layla. The story starts with her scramble to find a date for a wedding–but not just any wedding. Her ex is marrying her cousin, and it still stings. She ends up going with her ex’s former best friend, Seth. Things get tricky when Seth offers a lie about his and Layla’s relationship, and that’s when the story really starts to take off. Hunter has created a realistic tale with heart and holiday spirit. An easy read for a cozy evening!

A January Bride:

Several years ago my mom gave me a book with a cat on the cover. I was blown away by how much I loved the story inside! That book was Playing by Heart by Deborah Raney. When I started reading A January Bride, I thought, “This seems way too familiar. I think they may have ripped off that book with the cat on the cover.” After some research, I discovered A January Bride is in fact an updated, expanded edition of Playing by Heart!

A January Bride is the story of Maddie Houser and Arthur Tyler. The whole book revolves around simple misconceptions. I really enjoyed the story. My only criticism is that the last chapter should have either been an epilogue or labeled as some amount of time later. It would be implausible for the events to take place at that exact time. The author didn’t tell us how long it was between chapters, which I’d be interested to know. This is a fun read. I’d recommend it to fans of christian romance.

A February Bride:

I enjoyed this novella. I give it 3.5 stars. I think it’s hard to fully develop characters and tell a deep story in a novella because of the short length. However, St. Amant did a great job of it. I felt like I really got to know Marcus and Allie, while Hannah and Julie were strong supporting characters. The story was a little predictable, but it was still enjoyable. A February Bride is a short, sweet, easy read. When the story begins, Allie has just left Marcus at the altar. The women in her family have terrible track records when it comes to marriage, and Allie thinks she will ruin Marcus’ life by marrying him. Marcus’ sister, Hannah, gets engaged a few months later and asks Allie to be her maid of honor. Of course this leads to all kinds of awkward situations for Allie and Marcus. I’d recommend reading this on a lazy afternoon when you’re yearning for a good story. Don’t forget to check out the other books in the A Year of Weddings series!

Winter Brides is available now in paperback and digital form! It’d make a great gift for the Christian Fiction fan in your life!!

*I received a digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Christmas Cat by Melody Carlson — Review

The Christmas Cat by Melody Carlson

Info from Publisher

He felt his face flushing as Cara opened the door. Wearing a garnet-colored knit dress and with her dark hair pinned up, she looked even prettier than he remembered. Suddenly he wished he’d thought to bring a hostess gift. Like a cat.

After years abroad, Garrison Brown finds himself at the home of his beloved grandmother who has just passed away. He must sort out her belongings, including six cats who need new homes. While he hopes to dispense with the task quickly–especially since he is severely allergic to cats–his grandmother’s instructions don’t allow for speed. She has left some challenging requirements for the future homes of her furry friends.

Can he match the cats with the perfect new owners? And is it possible that he might meet his own match along the way?

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books with sales of more than six million. She is the author of several Christmas books, including the bestselling The Christmas Bus,The Christmas Dog, and Christmas at Harrington’s, as well as The Christmas Pony and A Simple Christmas Wish. She received a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her many books, including the Diary of a Teenage Girl series and Finding Alice. She and her husband live in central Oregon. Learn more at http://www.melodycarlson.com.

My Review:

I look forward to Melody Carlson’s Christmas novellas every year. Each book is full of holiday spirit, emotionally relevant, and just the right length for an afternoon or evening of reading by the fire. The covers are always spot-on, as well. The Christmas Cat focuses on Garrison Brown. After his grandmother passes away, he’s left with the arduous task of finding perfect homes for each of her 6 cats. His grandmother left very specific instructions regarding the cats, and Garrison finds there is much he didn’t know about her. Carlson has again woven a heartwarming tale that will be enjoyed by all age groups. She kept the story lighthearted while also addressing heavier matters. I highly recommend The Christmas Cat for all cat lovers, Carlson fans, and those who enjoy holiday novellas. Warning: this story may cause you to run out and get a cat!

Reviews

Praise for Carlson’s Christmas Novels

“A wonderfully sweet story, with vivid descriptions that pull you right into the pages.”–Book Reporteron The Christmas Pony

“This novel should be on everyone’s must-read list for the holiday season.”–RT Book Reviews, 4½ star Top Pick, on The Christmas Pony

“It would make a great old-fashioned gift for many people, especially older dog lovers, grandmas and neighbors.”–FaithfulReader.com on The Christmas Dog

“Bestselling novelist Melody Carlson blends humor and warmth in The Christmas Cat. Recommend as a gift for those who love animals.”

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