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.

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.

Another Way Home by Deborah Raney — Review

Another Way Home (A Chicory Inn Novel) by Deborah Raney

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Another Way Home is the third 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 entire Whitman family. Two Roads Home focused on Landyn’s older sister, Corinne, and her family. Another Way Home follows the middle sister, Danae, & her husband Dallas Brooks. Danae and Dallas are having trouble trying to get pregnant, which seems more and more prevalent in today’s world. Raney handles the relevant subject with a grace and honesty that is refreshing. Fans of Chicory Inn will be ecstatic to see the rest of the Whitman family is still completely involved in the story. I was so happy to dive into this book and catch up with the characters! The Chicory Inn is idyllic. One of my favorite things about this book is the cover. Simply gorgeous, inviting, and relaxing. I love the continuity between all 3 books in this series in terms of cover art. I have to say the novel is a bit more intense than the picturesque cover would suggest. I was completely surprised when the second book in the series took a suspenseful turn, but I kind of expected it with this book. This is a story about marriage, infertility, family, and trust in God. I’m looking forward to the next title in the series and luckily a teaser chapter is included at the end of Another Way Home. Close to Home will feature Bree Whitman, Tim’s widow. I can’t wait to find out more about her story! It’s not too late to visit Chicory Inn. Pick up the first book and join the fun! Highly recommended to fans of Inspirational Fiction, Family Fiction, and books featuring an inn!

Publisher Info:

Sometimes God’s ways are not at all what we expect . . . and exactly what we need.

Grant and Audrey are adding grandchildren to their family left and right, but middle daughter, Danae, and her husband, Dallas Brooks, have been trying for years with no baby in sight.

Though Danae is ready to consider adoption, Dallas will not even discuss it. Despairing of ever having a family of her own, Danae decides to pour her passion and energies into volunteer work with a newly opened women’s shelter in town. Looking for a good cause to fill her lonely days, she never expects to give her heart to the hurting women she meets there. She’s finally learning to live her life with gratitude, but then heart-wrenching events on Thanksgiving weekend threaten to pull the entire Whitman clan into turmoil-and leave them all forever changed.

Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/1NQhjf8

 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
From the Litfuse Blog:

Story Behind Another Way Home

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

My writer friend Courtney Walsh planted the idea for the Chicory Inn Novels one evening a few years ago while we sat in a hotel lobby talking late into the night after a conference. I’d told several family stories during our visit, and at one point Courtney said, “Deb, you have so many fun family stories, you really ought to write a book about a big extended family like yours! Or better yet, a series!” That got my wheels turning, and I’ve been excited about the people who live on Chicory Lane ever since!

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

For me, it’s always writing the first draft (which I’d classify as “keeping it going” since I usually have fun with the idea, with creating the characters, living in the setting in my head. But that first draft kills me. Once I near the end, I almost always find the perfect ending. Unlike many authors, I love the editing process, too.

What trait do you love most about your main character?

I love the way Danae loves her husband. She’s not perfect, and she sometimes gets too self-absorbed, but she loves Dallas unabashedly, and would do anything for him. She loves her extended family the same way, and she loves that Dallas also loves her family.

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

I hope readers will think of difficult situations in their own lives, and realize that God already knows the ending to their story. He already has a plan for redeeming their toughest situation. And He will get them through!

What are you working on next?

I’ve just finished the fourth novel, Close to Home, which will release next spring. And then there is one final novel in the Chicory Inn series—Whitman son Link’s story, Home at Last—and I can’t wait to write it. I’ve already started on the research for an issue that will be key in the story. But it’s still a secret. :) :)

Interesting question posed in Deborah Raney's 'Another Way Home'

Deborah Raney’s Writing Favorites

What are your ideal writing conditions?

Clean house, perfect weather (so I can write out on the deck), great music playing, good coffee in a mug at my side.

If you could write in a different genre, which would you choose?

Believe it or not, I’d probably say suspense! I don’t like too scary books, and I wouldn’t enjoy all the research a suspense novel takes, but I’ve really enjoyed writing my women’s fiction novels that took a more suspenseful turn!

What book have you reread the most?

You know, I’ve only re-read a handful of books in my life! Cold Sassy Tree, my favorite novel of all time is one. And LaVerle Spencer’s Then Came Heaven (which I finished, then turned to the front and began re-reading immediately!)

If you could have lunch with any literary character, who would it be and why?

Oh, probably Cynthia, Father Tim’s wife in Jan Karon’s Mitford novels. I just think we’d be kindred spirits, and Father Tim is a lot like my Ken.

Favorite first line of a book:

I read this one recently and it made me smile. From Lisa Wingate’s The Sea Keeper’s Daughter: Perhaps denial is the mind’sway of protecting the heart from a sucker punch it can’t handle.

Do you have a go-to writing snack?

It’s hard to beat M&Ms—or any chocolate. I love Coffee Nips too! And Gobstoppers (miniature jawbreakers).

What is your favorite writing tool?

I must say I love having my Chicago Manual of Style open beside me. I’ve tried the online version, but there’s just something about having the hardcover book at hand. (And it doesn’t hurt that the new 16th edition’s aqua cover looks great in my office!)

If you were trapped in a book, what fictional place would you like to explore?

What a fun question! Well, I think I’d really love exploring Mitford (Jan Karon has a way of creating a cozy, warm environment.) But maybe I should use this opportunity to travel to Europe and explore some author’s fictional towns there.

What would the title of your biography be?

Better Late than Never. LOL! I’m really a fairly punctual person, but I do tend to experience some of life’s landmarks later than most. I was in my thirties before I’d ever flown in an airplane (I LOVE flying!) I still have never been to Europe… I’ve barely been outside the U.S. except for a brief jaunt into Mexico over the California border, and a couple of ports of call on the one cruise we went on years ago.

If you could live a day in one of your characters’ lives, who would you choose? Explain:

It would definitely be one of my Chicory Lane characters simply because their lives are very much like mine (AND they live near my grandbabies!) I truly love my life and while I do have a bucket list, I couldn’t ask for a better life than the one I’ve already lived!

Favorite quote:

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. —Jim Elliot

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

The Splendor of Ordinary Days by Jeff High — Review & Giveaway

The Splendor of Ordinary Days by Jeff High

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The Splendor of Ordinary Days is the third book in Jeff High’s Watervalley series. I haven’t read the first two titles in the series (More Things in Heaven and Earth and Each Shining Hour), but that didn’t affect my enjoyment of The Splendor of Ordinary Days at all! High’s Watervalley series revolves around a small town in Tennessee and tells the stories of its inhabitants. If you enjoy character driven stories with small town settings, this is definitely a book for you. The main character, Dr. Luke Bradford, is well developed and realistic. He harbors a natural curiosity about the townspeople, and he’s definitely a character for whom you’ll be cheering. The supporting characters were both believable and compelling. High’s storytelling makes you feel like you’re a part of the Watervalley community and have lived the very stories he’s telling. I greatly enjoyed my time spent reading The Splendor of Ordinary Days, and I expect to read the other two books in the Watervalley series in the future. If you enjoy small town series, don’t hesitate to jump into Watervalley!

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

Publisher Info:

The pastoral charm of small-town Watervalley, Tennessee, can be deceptive, as young Dr. Luke Bradford discovers when he’s caught in the fallout of a decades-old conflict.

After a rocky start as Watervalley’s only doctor, Luke Bradford has decided to stay in town, honoring the three-year commitment he made to pay off his medical school debts. But even as his friendships with the quirky townsfolk deepen, and he pursues a romance with lovely schoolteacher Christine Chambers, several military veterans’ emotional wounds trigger anger and unrest in Watervalley.

At the center of the clash is the curmudgeonly publisher of thelocal newspaper, Luther Whitmore. Luther grew up in Watervalley, but he returned from combat in Vietnam a changed man. He fenced in beautiful Moon Lake, posting “Keep Out” notices at the beloved spot, and provokes the townspeople with his incendiary newspaper.

As Luke struggles to understand Luther’s past, and restore harmony in Watervalley, an unforeseen crisis shatters a relationship he values dearly. Suddenly Luke must answer life’s toughest questions about service, courage, love, and sacrifice.

About the author:

After growing up on a farm in rural Tennessee, Jeff Highattained degrees in literature and nursing. He is the three-time winner, in fiction and poetry, of an annual writing contest held by Vanderbilt Medical Center. He lived in Nashville for many years, and throughout the country as a travel nurse, before returning to his original hometown, near where he now works as an operating room RN in open-heart surgery. He is theauthor of the Watervalley novels, including More Things in Heaven and Earth and Each Shining Hour.

Connect with Jeff: website, Twitter, Facebook

Splendor of Ordinary Days

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.