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.

An Endless Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti — Review

An Endless Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti

Publisher Info:

On the way to Christmas with his family, Micah asks Katie to marry him. She says no, but there is no getting out of Christmas now. The Binder family celebrates every Christmas as if it were their last. Too many people, too much snow, and too little room should be a recipe for disaster. But sometimes too much is just enough. Especially when it’s Christmas.

Review:

An Endless Christmas is a heartfelt holiday tale of faith, family, and love. One of my very favorite types of books, it’s a holiday novella focused on family during the Christmas season. This is the first book by Cynthia Ruchti that I’ve had the pleasure to read, and it was such a great experience! The characters are well developed and lovable, the story has a few unexpected twists, and the setting screams picturesque holiday. This book is by no means holiday fluff (though I do love such stories!), Ruchti weaves a bit of suspense and mystery into the story. The pace is perfect–which is tricky for some authors when it comes to novellas. You’ll finish this story longing to spend more time with the Binder (pronounced Bender) family, but also aching to hug your own! An Endless Christmas stresses the importance of family, forgiveness, and living in the moment. This is a must-read for the upcoming Christmas season, and it may well become a Christmas tradition in your holiday reading. Highly recommended for fans of Christian fiction, holiday novellas, and inspirational fiction.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Drawing from 33 years of on-air radio ministry, Cynthia Ruchti tells stories of hope-that-glows-in-the-dark through her novels and novellas, nonfiction books and devotionals, and speaking for women’s and writers’ events. Her books have been recognized by Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Awards, Selah Awards, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Christian Retailing’s BEST Awards, and Carol Award nominations, among other honors, including a Family Fiction Readers’ Choice Award. She and her plot-tweaking husband live in Pittsville, Wisconsin, not far from their three children and five grandchildren.

*I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor by Melanie Dobson — Review

Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor by Melanie Dobson

Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor is the collision of three generations of stories. The setting jumps back and forth between the past and present, which is noted by the date on the past sections and a different font used for each time-frame. The story starts with Maggie and later moves to Libby, but much of the book is viewed through the eyes of Heather, our present-day main character. Without giving away any spoilers, I can say this is a story about history repeating itself. It’s also a tale of secrets–from family, from others–and what happens when they come out. I enjoyed this story very much. There’s a definite twist that the author lets us in on late in the story, but well before the characters pick up on it. This book is a mystery of sorts, mainly of family heritage and a suspicious death. It’s not super intense, which I actually liked. It’s interesting and realistic and sheds a light on how people with disabilities were viewed in the past. Libby likely falls somewhere on the autism spectrum, but no one knew that in her time. The author paints a picture of what life was like and mentions how different things are today. It’s ultimately a story of family and forgiveness, how truth can heal wounds. There are a lot of moving parts, which took some getting used to. Early on I had to keep looking back to remember which character was which. That being said, I’m very glad I read Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, and I hope you’ll read it, too. The book is extremely well written and includes beautiful descriptions of gardens and manors. I strongly suggest you read the author’s note after finishing the story, as I found it informative and a nice conclusion to the book. Highly recommended for fans of inspirational fiction, family sagas, and mild suspense.

Publisher Info:

When Heather Toulson returns to her parents’ cottage in the English countryside, she uncovers long-hidden secrets about her family history and stumbles onto the truth about a sixty-year-old murder.

Libby, a free spirit who can’t be tamed by her parents, finds solace with her neighbor Oliver, the son of Lord Croft of Ladenbrooke Manor. Libby finds herself pregnant and alone when her father kicks her out and Oliver mysteriously drowns in a nearby river. Though theories spread across the English countryside, no one is ever held responsible for Oliver’s death.

Sixty years later, Heather Toulson, returning to her family’s cottage in the shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, is filled with mixed emotions. She’s mourning her father’s passing but can’t let go of the anger and resentment over their strained relationship. Adding to her confusion, Heather has an uneasy reunion with her first love, all while sorting through her family’s belongings left behind in the cottage. What she uncovers will change everything she thought she knew about her family’s history.

Award-winning author Melanie Dobson seamlessly weaves the past and present together, fluidly unraveling the decades-old mystery and reveals how the characters are connected in shocking ways.

Set in a charming world of thatched cottages, lush gardens, and lovely summer evenings, this romantic and historical mystery brings to light the secrets and heartaches that have divided a family for generations.

Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/1HuCCkT

About the author:

Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of thirteen historical romance, suspense, and contemporary novels. Two of her novels won Carol Awards in 2011, and Love Finds You in Liberty, Indianawon Best Novel of Indiana in 2010. Melanie lives with her husband Jon and two daughters near Portland, Oregon.

Find Melanie online: website, Twitter, Facebook

The Story Behind Shadows of Ladebrooke Manor — from The Litfuse Blog

Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Where does a writer find inspiration? What’s the hardest part about writing a book? What do you hope your writing achieves? We’ve asked Melanie Dobson to tell us the story behind Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor. Read our interview with Melanie to learn more!


Tell us a bit about the story behind your latest novel. Where did you find inspiration?

Researching and writing a novel is a little bit like working on a puzzle—I find pieces of inspiration from all sorts of places and then try to fit those pieces together to create a story. For Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, I was inspired by a number of things: the manor homes and gardens in England, the process to restore damaged artwork, the beauty and migration of butterflies, parents who fight for their autistic children, unique, talented kids who don’t always fit into society’s box of normal, and most of all, by the power of God to redeem and restore broken relationships.

What was the hardest part about writing your latest novel: Getting started? Keeping it going? Finding the perfect ending?

Middles have always been my greatest challenge. I start writing a novel excited about the beginning, and I have a fairly good idea of how the story will end. Weaving together all the threads in the middle is hard for me though. I’ve learned to press on, and then come back and edit once I’ve written the last chapter of my book.

What do you love most about your main character?

My main characters are four generations of Doyle women, and one man—Walter Doyle—who loved all of them. Walter and each of these women are crucial to the story, but I’ll pick Libby sinceShadows of Ladenbrooke Manor revolves around what happened to her. I love Libby’s creativity, her desire for relationships even when they are difficult, her loyalty to Oliver Croft, and her passion to paint beautiful butterflies.

When readers get to the last page, what do you hope they take away from the story?

Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor was my exploration of God’s light shining through the shadows of life, along with the beauty and power of His restoration through generations. The story is ultimately about transformation — how even in the hardest situations God can weave together a story of hope and redemption and create incredible beauty from the ashes of our lives. When readers finish reading this novel, I hope they are inspired to see God working through the shadows in their own life.

What are you working on next?

Right now I’m writing another novel set in England, and I’m editing a magical middle grade series that I wrote with my daughters.

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

Side Note: IT’S OFFICIALLY 5 MONTHS UNTIL CHRISTMAS!!!!!

Picture Perfect Love by Melissa McClone — Review

Picture Perfect Love by Melissa McClone

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Picture Perfect Love is the newest addition to the Year of Weddings series from Zondervan. Like the other titles, it’s a novella that somehow includes a wedding. This is the first of Melissa McClone’s titles that I’ve read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! Picture Perfect Love is a story of trust–in others, in oneself, and in God. It’s a tale of forgiveness, faith, and second chances. Jenna Harrison is a wedding photographer who happened to be left at the altar during her wedding rehearsal. But that was two years ago, and she’s moved on…mostly. When her ex-fiance shows up on her doorstep, all bets are off. Picture Perfect Love will offer you a one to two hour getaway from the stresses of life. You’ll grow attached to the characters very quickly and be sad to see their story end after spending such a brief period of time with them. (I hope we’ll see a sequel!)  McClone sets a picturesque scene for the final wedding in the book. I probably reread that paragraph five times because I love it so much! Often novellas can feel rushed or drawn out, but McClone manages to set (and keep) the pace just right. There was only one time in the story that felt rushed by jumping a few weeks instead of letting us see a relationship develop. Apart from that, I have no criticism! If you have an hour or two for an extremely enjoyable read, pick up Picture Perfect Love. You won’t regret it!! Highly recommended for fans of inspirational fiction, Christian romance, and novellas.

Favorite lines:

His heartbeat rivaled the rumble of thunder.

No air remained in her lungs. She drew in a short breath so she could answer. “I want to believe things could be different.”

The smells of hairspray and perfume filled the dressing room. Music played from an iPod docking station. The strawberry-blonde flower girl danced barefoot.

Real love can be messy.

Publisher Info:

When image becomes everything, it’s up to love to refocus the heart.

Photographer Jenna Harrison wants every bride and groom to lookpicture perfect on their special day, putting her heart into every wedding to give the couple memorable images of their love. But her own heart is still broken, the unworn wedding dress hanging in her closet a reminder that relationships aren’t always as perfect as they look through her camera lens. But Jenna has faith that she will find true love. Until then, she must be patient and trust in God’s plan and His perfect timing.

Attorney Ashton Vance is the one that got away. When an embarrassing Photoshopped picture of put an end to his political aspirations, he blamed Jenna. So what if the photo led to his being offered a dream job and changing his life for the better? Jenna betrayed his trust, and two years later, Ashton’s heart still hasn’t recovered.

It was me. His younger sister’s three words turn Ashton’s world upside down. He must ask Jenna’s forgiveness, but can he risk his heart a second time? Even if Jenna can forgive him, dare he hope for a second chance at her love?

About the author:

Melissa McClone has published more than thirty novels with Harlequin and Tule Publishing Group. She has also been nominated for Romance Writers of America’s RITA® award. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three school-aged children, two spoiled Norwegian Elkhounds and cats who think they rule the house.

Find Melissa online: website, Twitter, Facebook, Litfuse

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

The Wonder of You by Susan May Warren — Review

The Wonder of You by Susan May Warren

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The Wonder of You is the 5th book in Warren’s Christiansen Family series. This time the focus is on the youngest Christiansen member, Amelia. It’s a classic love triangle story–which boy should she choose? There’s Roark-the Brit she fell in love with overseas, or Seth- her hometown lifelong boyfriend. Amelia’s story is about more than romance, though. She’s struggling with her purpose and God’s plan for her life. Failure is a strong theme throughout The Wonder of You. Warren tackles the issue from several different angles, showing us self-failure in different situations and life stages and how we can react and rebound in each. While this story didn’t grab me as quickly as When I Fall in Love (book 3), it slowly worked it’s way to the forefront of my mind. By the end, I wanted more! Warren weaves in a bit of suspense in places, and she has superbly set up the next (and final) book in the Christiansen Family series. Fans of the series will be overjoyed to see a lot of Grace and Max in The Wonder of You. It’s really nice to see where they are now and what they’re dealing with, and they are strong secondary characters in this story. I give this book a solid 4 stars. Recommended for fans of inspirational fiction, family series, and Christian romance.

Publisher Info:

Mortified after her semester abroad is cut short, Amelia Christiansen returns to Deep Haven, certain she isn’t brave enough for the adventures she’s dreamed of. The last thing she expects is for the man who broke her heart to cross the Atlantic and beg forgiveness.

Heir to a European hotel dynasty, Roark St. John has trekked from one exotic locale to another, haunted by tragedy and the expectations that accompany his last name. Amelia is the first woman to give him a reason to stop running. He’ll do anything for a second chance—even contend with Amelia’s old flame, who is intent on sending Roark packing.

While one surprise after another leaves Amelia reeling, Roark’s continued presence only highlights the questions pursuing her. Like him, is she running from the life God has called her to? Could finding her new place mean leaving home behind?

Susan May Warren

{MORE ABOUT SUSAN MAY WARREN}

Susan May Warren is the bestselling, RITA Award–winning author of more than forty novels whose compelling plots and unforgettable characters have won acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. She served with her husband and four children as a missionary in Russia for eight years before she and her family returned home to the States. She now writes full-time as her husband runs a lodge on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, where many of her books are set. She and her family enjoy hiking, canoeing, and being involved in their local church. Several of her critically acclaimed novels have been ECPA and CBA bestsellers, were chosen as Top Picks by Romantic Times, and have won the RWA’s Inspirational Reader’s Choice contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year award. Five of her books have been Christy Award finalists. In addition to her writing, Susan loves to teach and speak at women’s events about God’s amazing grace in our lives. She also runs a writing community for authors. Visit MyBookTherapy.com to learn more. For exciting updates on her new releases, previous books, and more, visit her website at http://www.susanmaywarren.com

ABOUT THE CHRISTIANSEN FAMILY SERIES:

Set on the north shore of Minnesota, the series features the Christiansens, a family readers can identify with as they try to figure out how faith meets real life.

In Take a Chance on Me . . . (the 2014 Christy Award winner for Contemporary Series)

Darek Christiansen, heir to the historic Evergreen Lake Resort is angry since the loss of his wife. After a charity auction connects him with assistant county attorney, Ivy Madison, Darek begins to believe there might be love again in his future, but he’ll have to overcome his painful past – and Ivy’s secret connection to his wife’s death.

In It had to Be You . . .

Eden Christiansen’s job as handler for her NHL rookie brother, Owen, leaves her little time to focus on her own career. If only team enforcer, Jace, would mentor the young man. When Owen’s carelessness leads to an injury, Eden and Jace are thrown together and begin to wonder if they belong on the same team after all.

In When I Fall in Love . . .

Hawaii was the last place Grace Christiansen ever imagined she’d vacation, much less fall in love. But when her family surprises her with a cooking retreat in the Aloha State, she is pulled away from her predictable life and thrown headfirst into the path of hockey player, Max Sharpe, and the romantic adventure of a lifetime.

In Always On My Mind . . .

After a failed dig in Honduras, aspiring archaeologist Casper Christiansen heads home to Minnesota to face his unresolved feelings for Raina Beaumont, the woman of his dreams. But when he arrives unannounced on her doorstep, he receives the shock of a lifetime: Raina is pregnant with someone else’s baby.

In Evergreen (CHRISTMAS NOVELLA!!). . .

An empty nest has Ingrid Christiansen dreading the upcoming holidays, but her husband, John, couldn’t be more excited about this new season of life. He even has a surprise trip abroad planned. He’s sure she’ll love it. What’s more romantic than Christmas in Paris?

Before he can stop her, however, Ingrid agrees to spearhead a major church project. Then their faithful dog, Butterscotch, needs emergency surgery, draining their savings. And then—because disasters strike in threes—an unexpected guest arrives, dredging up old hurts.

As a beautiful blanket of snow transforms the north woods into a winter wonderland, a deep chill settles over John and Ingrid’s marriage. With the holidays fast approaching, their only hope of keeping their love evergreen depends on turning the page on the past and embracing a new chapter of their future.

Coming in Spring 2016: You’re the One That I Want

I urge you to check out the Christiansen family series!!

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

Two Roads Home by Deborah Raney — Review & Giveaway!

Two Roads Home (A Chicory Inn Novel) by Deborah Raney

Two Roads Home is the second Chicory Inn Novel by Deborah Raney. The first, Home to Chicory Lane (See my review here), centered on Chase & Landyn (Whitman) Spencer along with the Whitman clan. Two Roads Home focuses on Landyn’s older sister, Corinne, and her family. Fans of Chicory Inn will be glad to discover that the rest of the Whitman family is still very much involved in the story. I was so happy to dive into this book and catch up with the characters! The Chicory Inn is idyllic, and Raney’s description of Corinne’s house made me wish I could move right in! One of my favorite things about this book is the cover. Simply gorgeous, inviting, and relaxing. I love the continuity between the first book and this one in terms of cover art. However, this laid back picture doesn’t completely represent the tension hidden inside the novel. I was completely surprised when the book took a suspenseful turn. I was enjoying the story very much, but the added intensity made it SO much better! There’s a definite feeling of unease for much of the story. Everything isn’t necessarily resolved by the end, but it’s tied up well enough. This is a story about marriage, purpose, and faith. I’m looking forward to the next title in the series and luckily a teaser chapter is included at the end of Two Roads HomeAnother Way Home will allow a peek into the lives of Danae (Whitman) Brooks & her husband, Dallas. It’s not too late to visit Chicory Inn. Pick up the first two books right away as the next releases in a few months! Highly recommended to fans of Inspirational Fiction, Family Fiction, and books featuring an inn!

Favorite lines:

He kissed her forehead, yearning to be back in her good graces, homesick for her in a way that didn’t fit with the fact that he was holding her in his arms. -page 38

But the words seemed strangely unavailable to her. And she knew God was answering her prayer for the right words. Sometimes silence was the answer to a prayer for the right words. Thank you for closing my mouth. Perhaps there would be another day to say those things. But that day was not today. -page 266

Publisher Info:

Two Roads Home (Abingdon Press, June 2015)

What if it’s too late for dreams to come true?

Minor-but-nagging setbacks continue to sour Grant and Audrey Whitman’s initiation into the world of innkeeping, but larger challenges brew when an innocent flirtation leads to big trouble for the Whitmans’ son-in-law, Jesse. Jesse Pennington’s friendly, outgoing personality has always served him well, especially in a career that has earned him and his wife Corinne a very comfortable lifestyle. But Corinne and Jesse are both restless—and for similar reasons, if only they could share those with each other. Instead, too many business trips and trumped-up charges of harassment from a disgruntled coworker threaten their marriage and possibly put their three precious daughters at risk.

With their life in disarray, God is tugging at their hearts to pursue other dreams. Can Corinne and Jesse pick up the pieces of what was once a wonderful life before it all crumbles beneath them?

Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/1BdaEcG

 About the author: 


Deborah Raney’s books have won numerous awards, including the RITA, National Readers Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, and the Carol Award, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. She and her husband, Ken, recently traded small-town life in Kansas-the setting of many of Deborah’s novels-for life in the (relatively) big city of Wichita, where they enjoy gardening, antiquing, movies, and traveling to visit four children and a growing brood of grandchildren who all live much too far away.

Find Deborah online: website, Twitter, Facebook

Deborah Raney’s ‘Two Roads Home’ 5-Book Giveaway

Two Roads Home Deborah Raney

Click the button to be taken to the giveaway page!

Deborah Raney also wrote one of my all-time favorite books, Playing by HeartShe wrote an updated and expanded version of the book and it released last year as A January Bride, part of the multi-authored series A Year of Weddings. I hope you’ll check out her work!!

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

Once Upon a Summertime by Melody Carlson — Review

Once Upon a Summertime by Melody Carlson

Synopsis:

She’s looking for her big break. She never imagined it would depend on a blast from her past.

Managing the Value Lodge in her hometown was not what Anna Gordon had in mind when she set out in the hospitality industry. But it’s a safe choice for a young woman starting out her career.

Then, out of the blue, she gets the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance to reinvent herself and reinvigorate her career by moving to New York City. She applies for a management position at a stylish new hotel, The Rothsberg. But the city is full of surprises–not the least of which is discovering that Sean O’Neil, a once-upon-a-time crush, has applied for the very same position.

This sweetly romantic tale of dreams come true takes you through the storied streets of New York City–and into the depths of the human heart.

My Thoughts:

Another winner from Melody Carlson! I was so excited when I heard Melody Carlson was coming out with a new contemporary series. Luckily, I was able to get my hands on a review copy and dive head first into the Follow Your Heart series! Book 1 is called Once Upon a Summertime and centers on Anna Gordon, who has a less-than-fulfilling career and not much else of which to speak. Following a series of events and decisions, Anna winds up in New York City to interview for her dream job. While this story has definite fairy-tale tendencies, it’s not a fairy tale. Anna faces ups and downs in her new city, including a new romance. New York City itself is a main character in this story and has as much a part in the romance as the actual couple. Carlson’s descriptions of the city left me wanting to visit more than any other book has. If you’ve been to NYC, you’ll be itching to go back. If you haven’t been (like me!), you’ll be dying to plan a trip! The setting, characters, and plot are both inviting and envy-worthy. While the ending feels a bit rushed and possibly too easy, it’s well worth the read. Highly recommended for fans of NYC, romance, and Melody Carlson’s other works. I can’t wait for the next book in the Follow Your Heart series!

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

About the Author:

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books with sales of more than 6.5 million. She received a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her many books, includingFinding Alice. She and her husband live in central Oregon. Learn more at www.melodycarlson.com.

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