Monday, December 24, 2018

The Christmas Candle by Max Lucado {Book Review}



~ Description 

Imagine a Victorian England village in the Cotswolds where very little out of the ordinary ever happens . . . except at Christmas time.

This year, Edward Haddington, a lowly candle maker, is visited by a mysterious angel. That angel silently imparts a precious gift—a gift that’s bungled and subsequently lost. The candle maker and his wife, Bea, struggle to find the gift.

And when they do, they have to make a difficult choice. Who among their community is most in need of a Christmas miracle?

Join inspirational author Max Lucado and experience anew the joy of Christmas.


~ My Review 

A dear story, full of charming settings, memorable characters (honestly, who doesn't love the Haddingtons?), and a theme that spells Christmas. 

I read this book after watching the movie and—quite honestly—I liked the movie better. The book had it's own perks, though, giving a bit more background to some of the characters. Emily was a more likable gal in the movie, in my opinion. xD

The story of the "magical" Christmas candle had me skeptical at first, but I ended up appreciating the heart of the story.

Four Christmas candles out of five! 


Be sure to check out Stories by Firefly for more Christmas fun! <3 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Savanna's Gift by Camille Eide {Book Review}


~ Description

Forced to return to the ski lodge where she once worked, Savanna Holt is reminded of one special Christmas and how ambition led her to make the worst mistake of her life: Leaving Luke Nelson.

Stunned to discover Luke never left, but worked his way up from lift operator to manager, Savanna sees the opportunity as a gift from God. She’s determined to win Luke back. But Luke wants no reminders of his past hurt, or a relationship with the woman who put ambition before love.

Can Savanna convince Luke she’s changed and her interest isn't because of his position? And when her dream job beckons, will she sacrifice her dream for a second chance at love?


~ My Review

Well, gracious, that was cute. In a charmingly-written tale that reminded me of a Hallmark movie, this novella was sweet, touching, and heartfelt—all in under 100 pages.

Luke, Savanna, Mylie, and the Freemans were all such fun characters, each realistically done. And the medical details and loads of sarcasm weren't bad additions... *wink* A precious second-chance love story!

Five ski slopes out of five! 


Be sure to check out Stories by Firefly for more Christmas fun! <3 

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Silent Star by Tracie Peterson {Book Review}


~ Description 

In the 1940s, the small Pennsylvania town of Haven is rather subdued with their young men facing battles in far-away Europe. Young Andy Gilbert, burdened with his job of delivering telegrams bringing the news of those missing or killed in action, faces the coming holidays with dread and discouragement. With each new message he must deliver- met by screaming mothers, grief-stricken wives, and weeping families--he longs to join the ranks of the numbered dead. Only one elderly woman recognizes the pain and suffering tormenting Andy--and it is through her wisdom that the stars again can shine for Andy and for a town that desperately needs the hope those stars represent.

A touching novella book from a bestselling novelist.


~ My Review

"Oh my, how heartbreaking!" was my first thoughts when I got a chapter or so into this book. And it certainly does hold a special sort of sadness. But there is hope, too. There's always hope. <3

The story—ahh, it turned out so sweet! Andy and Estella and Mary Beth... *hugs them all* The friendships were amazing. I enjoyed the story and the hints of what's to come. The only thing I needed at the end of the story was to find out what happened to Sammy...

Four blue stars out of five! 


I'm doing a mini book review nearly every day leading up to Christmas, in participation with the 12 Days of Christmas blog party. Be sure to check out Stories by Firefly for more Christmas fun! <3 

Friday, December 21, 2018

Kind by Kellyn Roth {Book Review}




~ Description 

Lt. Neil Hudson is sure to have a rotten Christmas.

How can he have anything but a rotten Christmas when he's stuck in war-torn Germany away from his family, friends, and all hope of a decent turkey dinner?

That's when the Slades come into his life.



~ My Review 

A short story set in German a few months after the end of WWII? Sign me up!

This short, heart-warming tale by indie author Kellyn Roth did not disappoint. The teasing banter between Neil, Kell, and Clive was so fun and guy-typical. And the Slade family—ahh, they were darling!

A sweet story, full of Christmas spirit.

Four crush caps out of five! 


**I received a copy of this story from the author in exchange for my honest review.**


I'm doing a mini book review nearly every day leading up to Christmas, in participation with the 12 Days of Christmas blog party. Be sure to check out Stories by Firefly for more Christmas fun! <3 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Bridge by Karen Kingsbury {Book Review}


~ Description 

A heartwarming Christmas story about a hundred-year flood, lost love, and the beauty of enduring friendships.

Molly Allen lives alone in Portland, but she left her heart back in Tennessee with a man she walked away from five years ago. They had a rare sort of love she hasn’t found since.

Ryan Kelly lives in Nashville after a broken engagement and several years on the road touring with a country music duo. He can still hear Molly’s voice encouraging him to follow his dreams; Molly, whose memory stays with him. At least he can visit The Bridge—the oldest bookstore in historic downtown Franklin—and remember the hours he and Molly once spent there.

For thirty years, Charlie and Donna Barton have run The Bridge, providing the people of middle Tennessee with coffee, conversation, and shelves of good books—even through dismal book sales and the rise of digital books. Then in May, the hundred-year flood swept through Franklin and destroyed nearly every book in the store.

Now the bank is pulling the lease on The Bridge. Despondent and without answers, Charlie considers the unthinkable. Then tragedy strikes, and suddenly, everything changes. In the face of desperate brokenness and lost opportunities, could the miracle of a second chance actually unfold?

The Bridge is a love story set against the struggle of the American bookstore, a love story you will never forget.


~ My Review 

Ahh, this book takes the cake for "most adorable chance-meeting/re-connect-years-later romance." Molly and Ryan are the definition of legit cuteness. And Charlie and Donna and The Bridge and everyone else... I just can't describe how much I adore this story.

So yes, this book is fabulous. A bit different from the movie (and don't even ask me to choose between the book or movie), but still really good. Loved the story of second chances. <3

Five copies of Jane Eyre out of five! 


Scamper over to Stories by Firefly for more 12 Days of Christmas fun! :D

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

An Endless Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti {Book Review}


~ Description 

An award-winning novelist’s heartwarming story about family and love lost, found, and finally truly revealed at Christmas.

Christmas takes a very different turn when the guests of honor break up instead of announcing their engagement. Trapped with his family, they learn that love looks different than either imagined. Both in their eighties, Dodie and Wilson Binder celebrate every Christmas as if it were their last. This year, their grandson Micah is planning to ask his girlfriend, Katie, to marry him so they can celebrate with the whole family. But things go very wrong when she says "no." Now they are stuck. 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.


~ My Review 

After grabbing this book for a couple bucks from CBD, I started it with little idea of what to expect... And I was blown away by what I found tucked inside the pages.

First, the Binder family. Can y'all just adopt me already?! I loved the large family, their traditions, their close-ties, their selfless love, and each of their individual uniquenesses. And then the "problem" couple—Micah was a sweetheart, and Katie... Oh, Katie. I related to her so well.

I really enjoy the writing style of this book. Sometimes, I find myself going “wait, what?”, but for the most part, it’s fun and engaging. The synopsis makes it sound like it's more from the grandparents' perspective, but it was mostly from Katie's.

Five sleigh rides out of five! 


Find more 12 Days of Christmas fun on Stories by Firefly

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

A Dog Named Christmas by Greg Kincaid {Book Review}


~ Description 

Todd, they always want you to adopt a dog. That's what they do. Besides, we don't need another animal around here, and most definitely not a dog.

When Todd McCray, a developmentally challenged young man still living on his parents' Kansas farm, hears that a local animal shelter is seeking temporary homes for its dogs during the days leading to Christmas, he knows exactly what he wants for the holidays. His father objects, but Todd's persistence quickly wins out. Soon the McCrays are the short-term foster family for a lovable pooch the young man names Christmas.

But what about all the other dogs who will be forced to spend the Yuletide season in cages? In the days that follow, Todd uses his special gifts of persuasion to encourage his hometown to participate in the Adopt a Dog for Christmas Program. What follows from his small act of kindness will teach his family, and his community, about peace on earth and good will toward men and animals.


~ My Review 

A humorous tale with lots of heart!

I'm quite the dog person, so if you've got a story of Christmas spirit that includes a dog as a main part of the tale—sign me up. (Bonus points if the pet survives through every single page, because...just don't do that to me. I'll cry harder than I would over a character death. Slight exaggeration.)  And Christmas was a lab! So that was sweet. <3

From Todd, to his parents, to Hannah and all the neighbors, to Christmas and the dogs at the shelter—this book is full of entertaining and endearing characters.

If you've saw and enjoyed the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie based on this book, you definitely should give it a read. The movie is amazing, but the book provides a bit more depth to the characters and their backstories.

Four tennis balls out of five!


Be sure to check out Stories by Firefly for more 12 Days of Christmas fun! 

Monday, December 17, 2018

In the Dark Streets Shineth by David McCullough {Book Review}



~ Description

Christmas Eve, 1941. Mere days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt met at the White House. As war raged throughout the world, the two leaders delivered a powerful message of hope that still resonates today.

Bestselling author and renowned historian David McCullough relates a compelling story about the spirit of Christmas and the power of light to shine in difficult, dangerous times. Also sharing the stories behind the songs "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas," this beautifully designed book is filled with historic photographs and uplifting messages that will bring the Christmas spirit home to your family.


~ My Review

Wow. I'm not even sure how this book first ended up on my to-be-read list (seeing it around Goodreads somewhere would be my first guess), but gracious, I'm so glad I read it.

An inspiring, non-fiction account of the first Christmas of WWII—mere weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The hope-filled speeches and stories behind popular songs are powerful and will draw tears even to the eyes of the least patriotic reader.

Five Christmas carols out of five! 


{ Be sure to check out Stories by Firefly for more Christmas fun! }

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Hannah's Hope by Karen Kingsbury {Book Review}




~ Description

Bestselling author Karen Kingsbury offers the final installment in her Red Gloves seriesthe heartwarming tale of a girl whose only wish is to be held by the father she never knew.

15-year-old Hannah Roberts remembers when her father was her closest friend. The image is hazy, though, pulled from her distant childhood memories, and her father is now very cold and distant. Feeling orphaned, Hannah lives a lonely life with her wealthy, ailing grandmother. As Christmas nears, Hannah learns a shocking truth: the man she believed was her father is not her parent after all. In an effort to find answers, she begins a desperate search for her real father, Air Force pilot Mike Conner. Local politicians and the city's newspaper catch wind of her quest, and the entire state joins in Hannah's hope that she'll find her father before the holidays.


~ My Review

Holy moley, this book was fantastic.

Karen Kingsbury was a new-to-me author of 2018 that, after five amazing books, has became a potential favorite. This was the first book I'd read by her with a teenaged main character and a military theme, and I loved it for both reasons.

I adore books with characters (teens or adults) searching for one or both of their biological parents. Hannah's quest to find her father—preferably before Christmas—was so, so good.

Hannah was a sweet, bold, responsible teenaged girl, and Mike was just...awesome. Oh, and the chauffeur (who's name I can't remember...) was such a sweetheart!

Ahh, and the ending?! I may or may not have teared up... <3

Five of five red gloves for this darling holiday tale! 



Be sure to check out Stories by Firefly for more Christmas fun! <3 

Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson {Book Review}



~ Description

Laughs abound in this bestselling Christmas classic by Barbara Robinson! The Best Christmas Pageant Ever follows the outrageous shenanigans of the Herdman siblings, or “the worst kids in the history of the world.” The siblings take over the annual Christmas pageant in a hilarious yet heartwarming tale involving the Three Wise Men, a ham, scared shepherds, and six rowdy kids.

Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie, and Gladys Herdman are an awful bunch. They set fire to Fred Shoemaker’s toolshed, blackmailed Wanda Pierce to get her charm bracelet, and smacked Alice Wendelken across the head. And that’s just the start! When the Herdmans show up at church for the free snacks and suddenly take over the Christmas pageant, the other kids are shocked. It’s obvious that they’re up to no good. But Christmas magic is all around and the Herdmans, who have never heard the Christmas story before, start to reimagine it in their own way.

This year’s pageant is definitely like no other, but maybe that’s exactly what makes it so special.


~ My Review

Oh my goodness, this book! I went into it unsure what to expect, but I was certainly not disappointed. It's an engaging story, chocked with side-splitting humor. The small town vibes, the delightfully funny writing style, the main character's voice, this book is a gem.

Since reading, I had the privilege of attending a live performance of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, produced by a local theatre group. They did a fabulous job of bringing the story to life! <3

Four angel wings out of five! 


I'll be doing a mini book review here nearly every day leading up to Christmas, in participation with the 12 Days of Christmas blog party. Be sure to check out Stories by Firefly for more Christmas fun! <3 

Friday, December 14, 2018

Ilyon & Acktar blog tour {Spotlights + Review}


Welcome to another epic stop on the combined Ilyon and Acktar blog tour! Fantasy series written and published by indie authors, these are much-loved books. I've been an honorary Acktarian for a few years, and I'm planning my first visit to Ilyon in the new year. ;) 


ACKTAR

(Haven’t discovered the The Blades of Acktar yet? Find out more at on the official Blades of Acktar page!)



About Decree

The Adventure Continues.

Discover more of The Blades of Acktar in this collection of novellas and short stories.

The Blades as They Should’ve Been 
A test and the Gathering of Nobles will decide Leith and Martyn’s futures. Can they fight to become more than the Blades they were? Will Keevan accept the man who attempted to kill him as family?

The First Mission
When Martyn visits Surgis, his past seems determined to haunt him. Can he figure out how to forgive, especially when confronted with an enemy in need of his help? 

To the Far Great Mountains 
A death sends Leith and Martyn far beyond the borders of Acktar. Will they be able to arrest their quarry before they are caught themselves? 

From the story of how Leith and Martyn met to Ranson’s search for a life outside of the Blades, these stories will answer plaguing questions and expand the world of Acktar.




My Review

Rather than try to combine all my feelings for this darling book in a coherent paragraph or two, I'll briefly go over each story and novella included—a total of ten. I so enjoyed my journey back to Acktar this week! <3

(Contains spoilers for anyone who hasn't read the previous four books in The Blades of Acktar series!)

Meeting Martin — a short story — 4 stars 
This was a nice little story, and an insightful look into Martyn's backstory, including his introduction to Harrison Vane and Leith. The long division conversation made me smile. <3

A Blizzard for Brandi — a short story— 4 stars 
Well, that was sweet. A bit predictable, by the title, but it was sweet to see Leith, Renna, Brandi, and their makeshift family.

The Blades as They Should Have Been — a novella— 4 stars
I was...kinda bored at first?? *wince* The feels were fabulous, as well as seeing everyone again and the intro to the Blade Marshals, but all the politics kind of bored me. It got more engaging toward the end, though.

The First Mission — a novella — 5 stars
Um, excuse me while I smirk over how adorable Martyn and Kayleigh are together. All this brother relationship thing with Owen? #allthehearts  The hatred vs. forgiveness thread with Lord Norton was AMAZE—feelsy and so well done. Also, when Martyn was trying to comfort the girl and asking Kayleigh for advice...golly, who wouldn't grin over that? <3

Honeymoon Holdup — a short story— 4 stars
Cute and humorous, with it's serious moments. I'll always love Leith and Renna together. My only "complaint" would be that the can't-kill-even-in-the-line-of-duty-because-everyone-knows-I-was-an-assassin thing felt like a bit of a repeat of Martyn's struggles. Not that they both wouldn't be facing those thoughts in the given situations, it just felt redundant?

The Wedding — a short story — 4 stars
Basically, ten–twenty pages of Shad and Jolene being so darn cute. xD (I think I'd read this one before? Maybe during a blog tour special for street team members or something... I don't know, but it was familiar.)

To the Far Great Mountains — a novella — 5 stars
A mission that throws Leith and Marytn together on their own for a month + a wedding + a Torren baby?! YES PLEASE. The guys' escapade in Verden had me grinning and adoring their brothers-relationship, and the two of them talking about fatherhood made me so happy. My children are growing up. *sniffs*

The Healer and the Clerk — a novella — 4 stars
At first, I wasn't sure I'd like this one—I previously haven't been a fan of Michelle Allen and Ranson isn't a favorite of mine—but this ended up being a really sweet story. <3

The Perfect Plan — a short story — 4 stars
A funny and sweet story of Renna and Brandi's parents, Lord Laurance Faythe and Princess Annita Eirdon. From this one, you can see where Brandi got her spunk. ;)  (I’d definitely read this one before, a shorter version. Again, probably from some sort of blog tour special or something.)

The Treaty — a short story — 5 stars
*grinning like a dork* So the rest of it was dandy, but gracious, that ending was ADORABLE. I always knew Leith would make a precious dad. <333

4/4.5 stars! 

**I received this ebook free from the author for blog tour/promotional purposes. No reviews, positive or otherwise, were required. All opinions expressed are purely my own.** 


About the Author

Tricia Mingerink is a twenty-something, book-loving, horse-riding country girl. She lives in Michigan with her family and their pack of pets. When she isn't writing, she can be found pursuing backwoods adventures across the country.

You can connect with Tricia on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.




ILYON

(Haven’t discovered the world of Ilyon yet? Find out more at the official Ilyon Chronicles website!)



About Bitter Winter

Already struggling with a harsh winter and the threat of food shortage, a catastrophic event leaves those in the Landale camps reeling. Just when things couldn’t get much worse, camp members fall ill with the same devastating sickness that’s sweeping across the country.

Determined to gain the cure, Jace sets off to Valcré. However, there are only two sources—the queen, or a powerful gang of smugglers who have made the dangerous city their home. When Jace gains audience with the gang leader, he finds the price of the cure is steeper than any of them imagined, forcing him to make an impossible choice—betray his conscience or let those he loves die.






About Lacy

The last thing Aaron ever envisioned was falling for a prostitute. Everything about it spells trouble. However, he can’t help noticing the way her smile lights up when she sees him and how much brokenness she hides behind it. Neither can he ignore how desperately she needs rescue and protection.

When Lacy shares a life or death secret with him, Aaron is willing to risk everything to help her and to show her Elôm’s love. Yet, such a choice could destroy his reputation and maybe even cost him his freedom.

An Ilyon Chronicles Novella





About the Author

Jaye L. Knight is an award-winning author, homeschool graduate, and shameless tea addict with a passion for Christian fantasy. Armed with an active imagination and love for adventure, Jaye weaves stories of truth, faith, and courage with the message that even in the deepest darkness, God’s love shines as a light to offer hope. She has been penning stories since the age of eight and resides in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

You can connect with Jaye on her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Etsy.




GIVEAWAY




a Rafflecopter giveaway


Are you an Acktar fan? A Ilyon fan? Are you ready for some fabulous new reads? 

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Hope Your Heart Needs by Holley Gerth {Book Review}



~ Description 

Understanding more of God's character and how he loves us changed bestselling author Holley Gerth's life in beautiful, powerful ways. She realized that she didn't have to settle for "I'm fine" when there was someone whispering to her in every moment, "You're mine." The hope, joy, peace, and purpose she longed for were already there, in the heart of God.

Now in 52 devotional readings, Holley shares with women the answer to the restlessness they feel in their hearts that keeps them hurrying, striving, pushing. She shows them that "the God who scattered stars like diamonds across the velvet of the universe, the keeper of every sparrow, the maker of us all, is inviting us to draw closer to him. He is the place where our hearts can go on the hard days and the happy ones, in the highs and lows, when we are sad or frustrated or downright giddy. He is what we've been searching for all along."


~ My Rating 

4 stars


~ My Review 

Holley Gerth presents a book of fifty-two devotionals, each focusing on a different aspect of God's character. The writing style is personal and comforting. It's like sitting down with a cup of coffee and a good friend, and pouring your heart out until you feel clean, emptied of your pain and struggles, filled with God's grace. 

At first, I wasn't too impressed with this book. The first handful of readings weren't very "deep," with nothing special about them. The second half, though, contained many chapters and passages that spoke to me. 

Recommended to anyone who enjoys devotionals designed for women of any age, needing some hope for their hearts. <3 


**I received a complimentary copy of this book from B&H/Lifeway in exchange for my honest review.**

Saturday, December 8, 2018

You have a Purpose. // The Carpenter



Jesus likely would have begun his work as a carpenter while still a teenager. When we consider this, it seems like a decade or more of his time on earth could have been used differently. Only 10 percent of Jesus's life was spent in public ministry.  
I think we need to know this because we will all have "carpenter years." Times when we don't feel like we're living up to our potential. We feel like we could be doing something more, something bigger. We can resist the smallness. We, like the questioning crowd around Jesus, can become disappointed and disillusioned by what doesn't seem as grand as we'd imagined.  
// Hope Your Heart Needs by Holley Gerth, page 140


I'm not even exaggerating when I say that these lines jumped off the page at me as I read them. Wait...Jesus had a season of "smallness"? Yes, yes, He did.

His ministry, covered in the four Gospels, all happened in about three years—around 10% of His earthly life! The average life span in the US is about 78 years. (Yes, I just googled it.) Ten percent of that is less than 8 years.


Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. 
// Mark 6:3 kjv


It is not at all my intention to insinuate that you only need to serve God for 7.8 years and then you can do what you want. Nope, not at all.

But if, right now, you feel like you're not doing anything. Like you're not fulfilling your purpose. You ache to be doing something more, something bigger, have a larger impact, but the opportunities just aren't there....don't despair.

There is a purpose in the place and season you're in at this very moment. Maybe God is preparing you for something larger. Maybe He's working out the details of your future, as you sit in the darkness, unable to see what comes next or why you're even on this earth.

But you have a purpose. Be patient as you wait for His timing. It's always perfect.

The One who died to wash away the sins of the entire world, to reach your broken heart and mine, He too had a season of waiting. A season of, in the eyes of some, not fulfilling His potential, His purpose.


even when you think you don't 
even when you can't see what it is
even when you feel worthless
even when you're confused 
hurting 
scared 
even when nothing makes sense

you. have. a. purpose. 



That's all for now... I pray this touched someone as it did me. <3 

Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Christmas Duet {blog tour}



Happy Saturday, readers! Welcome to the Christmas Duet blog tour, featuring His Law is Love by Rebekah A. Morris and O Come All Ye Faithful by Faith Blum. Both of these darling works of fiction feature Christmas song references, which makes them especially fun. :D 



Synopsis

Will hate and fear drown the song of Christmas love?

Amelia is eagerly anticipating her first Christmas in the west, but she soon finds that her brother-in-law's worry and her sister's exhaustion reach far deeper than the cares of a ranch and a family. A rash of fires and cattle thefts is plaguing the area, and the three young orphans they've sheltered are under suspicion from their prejudiced neighbors.

As hostilities mount, Amelia seizes every opportunity to help and encourage, but how much can one girl do? Will Reverend Brown win the community over to the true spirit of love? And will help arrive before everything they hold dear is destroyed?


My Review

His Law is Love was such a lovely story! 

Full of Christmas spirit and song references from the season, this story of a family in the west was so endearing. I adored the symbolism of choosing love over hatred, joy over fear. All of the characters were an enjoyment to read about—particularly that herd of children. 

I'd never heard of the Arizona Rangers of the early 1900s, so learning that tidbit from history was especially interesting. 

Oh, and they called Phoebe "Sissy"—I loved that! Having been called 'sissy' by my brother (and then parents and grandparents and anyone else who heard it...) for as long as I can remember, that was fun. :)


**I received an e-copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.** 



Rebekah A. Morris is a homeschool graduate, an enthusiastic freelance author and a passionate writing teacher. Her books include, among others, Home Fires of the Great War, The Unexpected Request, Gift from the Storm, the Christmas Collection series, and her best selling Triple Creek Ranch series. Some of her favorite pastimes, when she isn’t writing, include reading, playing with her seven nieces and nephews, and coming up with dramatic and original things to do. (Sometimes with the nieces and nephews!) The Show-Me state is where she calls home. 



~*~





Synopsis

O Come All Ye Faithful
Edwin wanted to be home, but instead he crouched in a trench. The English on one side of No Man’s Land and Germans on the other. What a way to spend Christmas. Could anything make it better?

Peace on Earth
Emmie and Elana are estranged sisters, torn apart by an old boyfriend five years earlier. Will they survive a night in the same hotel room after a blizzard forces them together or will peace on earth go out the window?

Silent Night
Christmas decorating had never gone this wrong. Jenna had just started when a crazy, gun-waving woman, walks right in the front door and ties her up in her own Christmas lights. Will Jenna even see her family this Christmas?

The Gift Goes On
Four friends and a year to reflect on. The year had been good for Carlotta, but Priscilla, Remus, and Newton all had at least one trial through the year. A mysterious giver the previous year had helped them all out, though. What would this year’s gifts bring?

O Christmas Tree
Gareth loves Christmas. But more than that, he loves Christmas tree hunting. As the family prepares for their annual trip, Gareth can barely contain his excitement. But what are all the spray bottles for?


My Review

This was a sweet collection of Christmas stories! Since there are five individual stories tucked inside these pages, I'll review and rate each one. 

O Come All Ye Faithful // 5 stars 
This was definitely my favorite story! I love the story of the Christmas Truce of 1914, and this was a personal look into the life and heart of one of the soldiers present. 

Peace on Earth // 3.5 stars 
The longest story in the book, this wasn't quite what I expected. I found that I couldn't connect well with either sister or their broken-home background. The theme of forgiveness was nicely done, though.

Silent Night // 4 stars 
I snickered and smiled my way through this story, which dealt well with the reality of mental illness. I would've liked more of Fay's backstory, but it was otherwise a sweet read. 

The Gift Goes On // 3.5 stars
Though sweet, this story felt like a chapter out of something longer. The group of friends were fun to read about, but I kept expecting more more about the mysterious gifts mentioned near the beginning. 

O Christmas Tree // 3 stars 
A cute story of a family going out to a farm to get their Christmas. While I enjoyed this one, I was confused by the spray bottles and the sister's attitude. The farm parts were fun though! 

**I received an e-copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.** 



Faith Blum is a small-town Wisconsin girl. She’s lived in, or outside of, small towns her whole life. The thought of living in a city with more than 60,000 people in it scares her, especially after some interesting adventures driving through big cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota.

Faith currently resides in the middle of the state of Wisconsin with her husband and their cat, Smokey. She is blessed to be able to have writing as her full-time career with household work and cooking to do on the side. She loves to paint walls as long as she doesn’t have to do hallways or ceilings.

When not writing, you can find her cooking food from scratch due to food allergies (fun), doing dishes (meh), knitting, crocheting, sewing, reading, or spending time with her husband (yay!). She is also a Community Assistant for the Young Writers Workshop and loves her work there. She loves to hear from her readers, so feel free to contact her on her website.




Just like Rebekah and Faith teamed up for this tour, they have also teamed up on the giveaway!

Grand Prize: Paperback of each (US only)
1st Prize: eBook of each (International and US)
2nd Prize: eBook of choice (International and US)

Enter here!




Are you looking forward to these new Christmas stories? Have you read any of these sweet authors' previous books? 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

There was Always Laughter in our House by Sarah Holman {Book Review}


~ Description

What do you get when you mix two parents who grew up in the city, six kids who have always lived in the country, and add homeschooling? You get a whole lot of laughter!

Homeschool graduate and author Sarah Holman shares stories about her family that range from thought-provoking to side-splitting. She shares both hilarious mistakes and heartbreaking moments in her family. In this collection of stories, she endeavors capture some of the answers to the questions people have often asked her about growing up in a conservative homeschool family as well as some of the wisdom she has gleaned along the way. Sarah invites you to open up this scrapbook of memories. She hopes that you come away encouraged, inspired…and laughing.


~ My Rating 

5 stars


~ My Review

Oh my, what a lovely look into the life of a sweet, caring homeschool family!

I picked this book up, expecting some smiles and laughs and challenging lines, and I was not disappointed in the least.

Going in, I was somewhat familiar with the Holman family from following three of the sisters' blogs (Sarah, Rose, and Mikayla), all of which I love. Learning more about their family and background—and dozens of inside jokes—was so much fun.

Sarah delves into the ups and downs of living in a house of eight, of being homeschooled before homeschooling was 'cool', of living fully or Christ even when misunderstood and criticized. Although my family's approach to homeschooling is/was a bit different than that of the Holmans, this book was such an encouragement. While reading, I found myself thinking along the lines of—"Hey, someone else really does get those weird questions..." or "Oh, we did that too!"

I love 'real' stories, and I adored the ones inside these pages. The truth and the honesty. The love, the compassion, the beauty, the faith. It was an encouraging and inspiring read.

If you want a true story that will warm your heart and make you laugh, give There was Always Laughter in Our House a try. <3

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thankful. {2018}



I'm thankful for memories...

...and I'm thankful for moments. 


I'm thankful for experience...

...and I'm thankful for innocence. 


I'm thankful for words...

...and I'm thankful for the things that words can't describe. 


I'm thankful for color...

...and I'm thankful for black & white. 


I'm thankful for noise...

...and I'm thankful for quiet. 


I'm thankful for sunshine...

...and I'm thankful for moonlight. 


I'm thankful for answers...

...and I'm thankful for questions. 


I'm thankful for people who laugh with me...

...and I'm thankful for people who cry with me. 


I'm thankful for eighteen years of life and love...

...and I'm thankful for many more to come. 



Happy Thanksgiving, lovelies. <3 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Thief, the Damsel, and the Dragon by Angela R. Watts {Book Review}


~ Description

“... the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.” ~ Psalms 91:13

Edward Prosner is going to steal from the small town mayor of Fall Springs, North Carolina. He’s got a flawless plan of action and is determined to return honor and justice to his father’s good name. The problem he faces? He needs a date for the mayor’s dinner party.

Lucy Levitt is a huge romantic at heart, but with her family’s ranch and her part-time job, she has no time for dating. She believes God will place her soulmate in her life when the time is right. When the new man in town asks her out, how can she say no?

The first date seems ordinary enough, but then they begin to realize that they can’t fight their dragons alone.


~ My Rating

4 stars


~ My Review

A sweet lil' novella about justice, love, and God's never-failing goodness. <3 

The Thief, the Damsel, and the Dragon is a charming story of small towns and big hearts, old grudges and new love, a farm girl and an up-town boy.

The first half of the book had me wondering what on earth had transpired to cause Ed to hold such a grudge on the town's seemingly-upstanding mayor. And then the second half had me smiling over the redemption and forgiveness. <3 

Lucy and Ed's love story was so darling! They were both such cute characters, especially in their interactions with each other. And let's not forget Sean. His banter with Ed was AMAZE. 

I also adored the way Miss Watts twisted the end, as if Lucy and Ed wrote the story themselves. It was unique and so well done! <3 

(Randomness here, but I just got to throw this in. The line about stealing something like the Declaration of Independence? I. Cracked. Up. xD #NationalTreasureFTW )

A few times while reading, I got confused as to what was happening. At first, I got SJ mixed up with Sean, but that sorted out pretty easily (and was probably just me). Then, originally, I was under the impression that Ed's parents USED TO live in Fall Springs—meaning they had since left—but then you find out that he moved there because of them and they live just out of town. There was also some head-hopping, but nothing too distracting. 

A great little read! Definitely worth the hours I spent inside the pages. Can't wait to see more by this author! <3


**I received an e-copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.**

Saturday, November 17, 2018

When God Calls the Heart at Christmas by Brian Bird & Michelle Cox {Devotional Review + Spotlight}


~ SYNOPSIS

Celebrate Christmas in Hope Valley

Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Whether it’s in the fictional town of Hope Valley in the early 1900s or in our lives today, nothing is more profound than celebrating God’s most important gift to the world.

When God Calls the Heart at Christmas is about a celebration of faith, family, friends, and the most meaningful Yuletide traditions. Inspired by best-selling author Janette Oke and the Hallmark Channel original TV series When Calls the Heart, these twenty-five devotions not only explore “God-moments” from the series, but also commemorate favorite holiday recipes, stories, and traditions—many of them contributed by the Hearties, the beloved fans of the show.

Journey with us to Hope Valley as we focus on all the reasons for this most blessed season. As shepherds and angels learned on that holy night so long ago, when God calls the heart at Christmas, you can expect a celebration.




~ REVIEW

5 stars

What a darling Christmas devotional!

When God Calls the Heart at Christmas is a beautiful book, filled to the brim with Christmas merriment. The devotional is divided into twenty-five days, or chapters, each one containing a lesson that somehow connects to the When Calls the Heart TV show, a Bible verse, a prayer, a list of related questions, a recipe, and a few Christmas traditions.

The Christmas stories and traditions were my favorite parts! Those, along with the recipes, were submitted by the Hearties, the fans of the TV show. I love Christmas and Christmas traditions, so hearing others' Christmas stories was special and sweet. <3

Between the photos, the stories, and the beautiful formatting, this book isn't one to be missed!


**I received a complimentary copy of this book from Sirens Media and BroadStreet Publishing.**


~ SERIES


Inspired by best-selling author Janette Oke and the Hallmark Channel original TV series When Calls the Heart.

In this collection of devotionals and journals, Brian Bird, executive producer and co-creator of When Calls the Heart and Michelle Cox illuminate the “God-moments” from the fictional, 1910 mining town of Hope Valley. The stories of faith, hope, and love from each episode will touch your soul, inspire, and encourage you with wonderful virtues and relatable life lessons.


~ AUTHORS 


Brian Bird is executive producer and co-creator of the Hallmark Channel original series When Calls the Heart. In his three decades in Hollywood, he has writtien or produced two dozen films, including The Case for Christ, Captive and Not Easily Broken, and more than 250 episodes of such shows as Touched By An Angel, Step By Step and Evening Shade.



Known for her “encouragement with a Southern drawl,” Michelle Cox is an award-winning, best-selling author and the creator of the Just 18 Summers® brand of paren ng products and resources. She’s wri en for Guideposts, Christian Cinema, FoxNews.com, Focus on the Family, and numerous other publica ons. Her favorite roles, though, are as wife, mom, and grandmama to six perfect grandchildren.




Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Freedom's Ring by Heidi Chiavaroli {Book Review}


~ Description 

Boston, 2015
Two years after nearly losing her life in the Boston Marathon bombing, Annie David is still far from “Boston strong.” Instead she remains isolated and defeated—plagued by guilt over her niece, crippled in the blast, and by an antique ring alongside a hazy hero’s face. But when she learns the identity of her rescuer, will he be the hero she’s imagined? And can the long-past history of the woman behind the ring set her free from the guilt and fears of the present?

Boston, 1770
As a woman alone in a rebellious town, Liberty Caldwell finds herself in a dangerous predicament. When a British lieutenant, Alexander Smythe, comes to her rescue and offers her employment, Liberty accepts. As months go by, Alexander not only begins to share his love of poetry with her, but protects Liberty from the advances of a lecherous captain living in the officers’ house where she works.

Mounting tensions explode in the Boston Massacre, and Liberty’s world is shattered as her brother, with whom she has just reunited, is killed in the fray. Desperate and alone, she returns home, only to be assaulted by the captain. Afraid and furious toward redcoats, Liberty leaves the officers’ home, taking with her a ring that belonged to Alexander.

Two women, separated by centuries, must learn to face their fears. And when they feel they must be strong, they learn that sometimes true strength is found in surrender.


~ My Rating 

4 stars


~ My Review 

An eloquent, intriguing tale of brokenness and healing. <3

I'm settling in to write this review over a week after reading the book—and honestly? I feel like I'm still sorting through everything that happened in those 380-something pages. So many events. So many plot-twists. It was fantastic, but a lot to keep up with. 

This was my first dual-timeline novel, and I absolutely ADORED that aspect of the book. Anaya's and Liberty's stories wove together very well to create a deeply-layered tale of pain, loss, hope, and forgiveness. The connection of the ring was perfect and so nicely done. The historical details were amazing—this author knows her Boston. 

Liberty's story was...complicated. I didn't feel like I could connect with her very well. Originally, I liked Alexander...but I never really "believed" that she loved him. Cared for him, yes, but I'm not so sure it was love. Her relationship with James was precious, though cut short. She didn't treat Hugh like he deserved. (C'mon, honey, he loves you and your child. Either let yourself love him or break it off already.) 

Anaya/Annie's story was my favorite. Dealing with post-traumatic stress nearly two years after being a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing, befriending a veteran who can relate to her struggles, carrying guilt over her family's pain and loss from the same attack...I just loved her story. (I also loved Brad. Brad is mine, y'all.) 

Annie and Brad's search for the origin of the ring that brought them together—along with their relationship in general—were some of my favorite parts. I always enjoy a good genealogical search. ;)

As far as content, there's a rape and an illegitimate child, detailed kissing, and several deaths. Characters recalling bombings and blown-apart bodies—both at the Boston Marathon bombing and in the Iraqi War—and a woman who decides she's in love with two men (hey, it's disturbing, it's going in the content paragraph xD). Overall, I'd say 14+. 

So yup. Knocking off a star because of my confusion and annoyance with Liberty's love life. Otherwise? A fabulous book. <3


**I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers.**

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Veterans Day + Marine Corps Birthday {faith rambles}



So, this isn't what I'd planned to post today.

Actually, I didn't have a post planned for this weekend, which is probably part of the reason I'm sitting down to write something random at 7:20 p.m. I don't want to get out of the habit of posting every week, but it was either this or an overdue book review. So you're stuck with a few paragraphs of my rambles. :P

Tomorrow is Veterans Day, the specific day set aside each year in the US to honor those who have served our country in the armed forces. It's also Armistice Day and the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

And today is the 243rd birthday of the United States Marine Corps! I wrote a short story about twin brothers—Marines—which I posted on my writing blog. (Read it here, if ya like.)

So yeah, there's a quick history lesson for y'all. :P

How has your week been, my friend? I worked a few days, sorted through the final edits of Behold, made plans for the 12 Days of Christmas blog party, and read some books. So Christmasy. ;)


Well, that's all I've got this week... How are you, dears? 

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Not by Sight.

Do you ever read a verse from God's Word, maybe even a verse you've read many times, but it just slams you? Knocks you down and washes over and suddenly everything just.makes.more.sense. 




YouVersion's verse of the day for Monday was 2 Corinthians 5:7. I'd already read the verse more than once that afternoon, working around it in my inbox. (I usually don't delete the notifs until the next day, to make sure I read them at least a time or two throughout the day.) 


For we walk by faith, not by sight.  
// 2 Corinthians 5:7 kjv


At that particular knock-your-socks-off moment, I had finished homework and was clicking through a few email that had appeared in the meanwhile. I came back to the verse and my eyes landed on the words. 

I read it. And stopped. Stared. Read it again. 

Paul wrote to the church of Corinth that we walk by faith and not by sight. 

By faith, y'all. Faith means believing that He's in control, even we when can't see His presence. Faith means trusting that He has a plan, even in the chaos. Faith means knowing there is light even when all we see is darkness. 


Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
// Hebrews 11:1 kjv


Not by sight. Ya know, it doesn't matter what we can or can't see. Things in our lives that we have no idea how they can work out. Relationships that are so strained and distant we wonder if they'll ever be as strong as they once were. We can't see how God will work in these situations. But I promise you, friend. He will. He is right now, even as you read these scribblings from my heart. 

You know what else we don't have to see? Our futures. 

Can you envision what your life will be like five years from now? If so, super. Follow God and I'm sure the outcome will be amazing. But what if we can't? Are we doing something wrong? 

No, my friend, we're not. Because we're having the chance to walk by faith, and not by sight. Trusting that His plans are good, even when we have no idea what they are. Believe that His timing is best, even when you're so tired of waiting. 

There is always a reason, for the pain and the waiting and the unknowns. Hold to His promises, walk by faith, and one day—it'll all make sense. 



I literally wrote this in, like, ten minutes on Monday evening. I'm quite certian God intended the message for me, but maybe it will touch you too. <33

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Dear Hurting.


Dear Hurting... 

Yes, you. The one putting on a brave face and praying no one will see through it. The one who smiles in the daylight, but cries in the darkness. The one who's there for everyone else, but just needs someone to be there for them.

Because someone is—and He loves you so much more than you can comprehend. He feels your breaking heart and wants to hold you through this pain-ladened season.

The breaking of your heart isn't something to be feared, no matter the cause. Loving people may always bring us pain, but that's okay. Don't let the ache you carry hold you back from loving deeply the next time, and the next...and the time after that.

Don't fear the pain. Embrace it. For it's through the season of hurt that you will grow and you will bloom.

Broken is a state, but breaking is only a season. You may be breaking, but you're not broken. This isn't forever, dears. <3


The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. 
// Psalms 34:18 kjv

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. 
// Isaiah 26:3 kjv 


Praying for everyone who reads these words, that someone's heart will be strengthened. <3

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Read the Instructions.



If you're setting out to start a new craft project, you may read some tips, tricks, or watch some DIY videos.

When you take a test, you carefully read the instructions before beginning.

If you're taking a medication, you follow the directions on the box or bottle for the correct dosage.

Basically, when you need to know how to do something, you read the instructions.


Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. 
// Psalms 119:11 kjv


Did you know life comes with an instruction manual too?

Because it does, friends. God gave us His Word to cling to through the trials of life. The answers to all the questions. The reasons to all the whys. It's all in there, and we'll find it if we search long enough.


Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 
// Matthew 7:7-8 kjv


Let me take this a step further. What if you have the instructions, you've read them...but you still don't  understand. You don't know how to proceed. What do you do?

Ask the Teacher.

If you ask a teacher about something you don't understand, they may not give you the exact answer. But they'll always point you in the right direction.



How are y'all doing? Can I pray for you? What are you needing instruction and direction on currently? Let's talk. <33

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Falling for You by Becky Wade {Book Review}


~ Description

Famously beautiful model Willow Bradford is taking a temporary break from her hectic schedule to work as the innkeeper at her family's small-town bed-and-breakfast. She was enjoying the peace of her hometown, Merryweather, Washington, right up until she came face-to-face with Corbin Stewart, the man she loves to hate. A thoughtful rule-follower by nature, Willow threw caution to the wind four years ago when she entrusted her heart to Corbin--and suffered the consequences when it all fell apart.

Former NFL quarterback Corbin is forceful, charming, and accustomed to getting what he wants . . . except where Willow Bradford is concerned. Unable to forget her, he's never stopped regretting what happened between them. When their paths unexpectedly cross again, he's determined to make her give him a second chance.

When a decades-old missing persons case finds Corbin and Willow working together, they're forced to confront their past and who they've become--and whether they can risk falling for one another all over again. 


~ My Rating

3/3.5 stars


~ My Review 

I have such mixed feelings over this book. (I procrastinated writing this review for over a week—which didn't help, for the record.) It definitely had it's strong points, but I waffled between adoring and despising both of the main characters for most of the book.

First, Corbin. Honestly, the dude is fabulous sometimes. (Spoiler: He toilet-papered Willow's security gate...because she told him not to. What's not to love?!) I liked this guy more than I ever liked Willow, except when all he can think about is kissing her or pulling her shirt off her shoulder...(Get a grip, man.) The side of the story dealing with Corbin, his dad, and their relationship was wonderful, though.

Then there's Willow. Besides the fact that I don't have much in common with the gorgeous model gal, I liked her character most of the time. Aside from when she wanted to cast all the blame for everything that is wrong in the world—or ever has been—on Corbin. Still, she was badly hurt by him in years past, so I made a face and pushed through.

(Spoilers in this paragraph.) My main "gripe" with these two wasn't even the sins in their past. It was the way they handled their current relationship. Corbin is convinced he can win Willow back, so he sets out to do that. But Willow, even while making out with the guy on her couch, keeps telling that they're not together. They're not a couple. This is all over when she goes back to Cali in a few weeks. And that bothered me. She led him on for months—and he let himself be led on—and didn't seem to have a bit of remorse over it, until afterwards. (End of spoilers.)

All that aside... the murder mystery was rather intriguing and not at all something I expected to find in this book. Charlotte was such a fabulous example of a middle-school-aged girl, and I loved her character and her family.

Mrs. Wade is an amazing writer. Her prose is fabulous, her plots are well-woven, and her characters are solid. I just...had problems with some of the content in this one. That said, I'm looking forward to Britt and Zander's story. :)


**I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.**