Joy to the World By Carolyn Miller, Amanda Barratt and Erica Vetsch

I love reading Christmas fiction during the holiday.  It always gives a warm cozy feeling and is one more thing to make it special.  This book is a big plus as there are 3 stories in it by great authors. They are also set in an era I especially like, the 1800’s.

“Heaven and Nature Sing” by Carolyn Miller made me a part of a really old fashioned Christmas with the wealthy.  I love the descriptions of their entertainment.  It was such a simple and uncomplicated time; gathering a yule log, making greenery decorations, performing with music and song.  Edith Mansfield has been invited to a party by her God mother, Lady Grantley for the Christmas holiday.  Her focus was entertaining a group of young people. The snafu to such a grand time is the beau, George Bannerman, whom Edith had shunned a marriage proposal from the year before was also invited.  The reason for the breakup is not made clear at first but both obviously still have feelings for each other.  There has definitely been a misunderstanding.  The awkwardness in being tossed together is heightened by the complicated Victorian codes of conduct. 

“Far as the Curse Is Found” by Amanda Barratt, I must admit was my favorite! Dwight, the Earl of Amberly has returned to London briefly to sell his estate.  He has been living in isolation in Yorkshire since returning from the war.  It appears he is suffering from PTSD. Jenny an unwed mother, due to a rape, is very ill as is her baby girl. Dwight sees her collapse in the street with her infant and brings her to the estate do receive medical care. Upon her recovery he offers her a job at his home in Yorkshire.  She accepts.  He gives her shelter and provision while she gives him something much greater, friendship and God’s word. 

“The Wonders of His Love” by Erica Vetsch. Cilla Haverly was destined to become a duchess, and then her husband dies.  She becomes trapped in the dull, lifeless, drudgery serving her mother-in-law. Hamish Sinclair is commissioned by the dowager to paint Cilla’s brother-in-law and sister-in law’s portrait. As cliché as it may sound, Hamish brings color to Cilla’s gray life.  He is poor and of a lower class, but has confidence in himself and purpose.  She has all the trimmings of the upper class but is very insecure and has no purpose in her existence.  I found it a beautiful example of how God can send someone into our life to not only change it but change us.  Three wonderful Christmas novellas just in time for the season!

I received this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.

Nothing Short of Wondrous By Regina Scott

Kate Tremaine is a strong and tough widow, raising her young son Danny, and running a hotel in Yellowstone Park.  After the tragic sudden death of her husband she had developed the grit to deal with what came her way.  The only thing she loves more than her son is the park itself.  She ferociously guards it against anything that might harm its natural wonders and beauty

Lt. Will Prescott of the U.S. Calvary has come to patrol the park to protect it and put an end to poaching animals. He has a past he is ashamed of. Kate and Will become friends and develop deep feeling for each other.  Setting aside the personal obstacles they perceive, there is danger and complications regarding the park.

I have never had the privilege to visit Yellowstone and didn’t know much about it other than Old Faithful and bear stories. I thoroughly enjoyed all the descriptions of its beauty and uniqueness.  The dangers of the park’s natural wonders were surprising.  One can only imagine how wonderful it was in the 1800’s.  I actually went and researched it to learn more. 

The author’s vivid depiction of Kate’s Gateway Inn was delightful.  How she cared for her guests, the meals, the special touches.  *Sigh* So comforting and homey.  I guess it played at my lifelong dream to own bed and breakfast.  But seeing as how I struggle to make my own bed daily and eat no more than oatmeal for breakfast that this vision is probably not in my future!  I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

I received this book from Revell Publishers in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions stated are my own.  

The Great Farmapalooza

Jill Roman is an author I love for my smallest grandpeeps, 2 1/2 years and 1 year.  They are avid readers . . . well listeners but that is how it starts right?  Even the smallest children can begin to learn about God and how wonderful He is.  This book is a fun means to teach them about praising God.  I know my little ones are learning the sounds animals make and enjoy it so much. How delightful the authors use those sounds to show them praising God!   A HUGE plus also is that there are flaps to peek under to reveal surprises.  My boys LOVE books with that special touch! It makes reading even more exciting and really involves them in the story. The book also pleases me with being super sturdy and washable, after all little readers are a bit enthusiastic!  I received this book from B & H Kids in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.

The Sound of Falling Leaves By Lisa Carter

The author is no doubt a gifted writer, but this book was just not for me. I love stories about the Appalachian life, but they are usually not set in modern day time. I struggled with that.
A little gentle tension between the characters can add to the story but the intense discord and hostility portrayed throughout the book bothered me after a while. People are so hateful and bitter toward others today it is something I want to escape not read more of.
I read at night to relax and fall asleep. There was murder, rape, criminal activity, violence, cruelty and avarice in many situations and scenarios. Again much like the world we live in and plastered across our news reports. Not things I want to read about or find enjoyable.
I am giving this book 4 stars it was well written and it is obvious the author put a lot of work into it but I said it just wasn’t my cup of tea.
I received this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.

Something Worth Doing By Jane Kirkpatrick

The author never ceases to amaze me with the fascinating little known women of history she finds to write about. Her talent is extraordinary in how she takes the facts and adds fictional details to weave a story that brings the woman to life. All of her women are not only distinctive but also strong and persevering.
This novel is about Abigail Scott Duniway. A suffragist in the late 1800’s who worked tirelessly to win the right for women to vote. She also was advocate of women’s equality in other areas they faced discrimination during that era.
I certainly found her a feisty one, even to the point at times of being aggravating with her bold opinions and out outspokenness. Those traits during her time were considered stepping over the line and inappropriate for women. Yet I have to admit, with the prejudice that prevailed, a strong approach would be the only way to break through and make progress.
While being this revolutionary woman, she was still filled the gender roles of wife, mother, grandmother and sister. Her duties were not as easily dealt with as we do now. House work and childcare were hard and arduous. While she loved her family she chafed against the restrictions their care put upon her and the work itself. Just like all women she struggled with laundry and housework.
My heart ached for the many tragedies and setbacks her family faced. I admired though how she put aside her disappoint and pain, facing the problems head on. I felt her gentle laid back husband was a perfect match for her. His unending patience, love and sense of humor were rare, especially in that day and time.
At the end of the book (as in all Ms. Kirkpatrick’s books) you can read the historical facts from her research that makes the “bones” of the book. You will find she really does her homework! I always like to do my own exploration on the “Kirkpatrick women”, finding pictures of them and even reading their biographies. Another outstanding book by Jane Kirkpatrick!
I received this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.

The Edge of Belonging By Amanda Cox

I am sure Amanda Cox is going to be put on my favorite authors list! I had trouble finding a point to stop reading when I needed to put the book down. I liked the uniqueness of her storyline. It was riveting with many surprises along the way. I was hooked after the first paragraph!
The story interchanges between the present and the past. It begins with a hurting 30 year old homeless man finding an abandoned baby on the side of the highway. Finding himself damaged from being in the foster care system that left him feeling rejected and unloved, he vows to care for this newborn girl and protect her from his fate. With nothing to offer but his love, he ventures to provide for her needs. God works through unexpected circumstances to place the exact people he needs into his and baby Ivy’s life. All of them crushed by difficult issues in their lives. None of them dreaming they will ever know peace and happiness again. Yet God brings them all together, totally unaware each one holds the other needs.
The present day is 24 year old Ivy coming home for her grandmother’s funeral, and seeking the truth about the secret circumstances of her birth.
With so many things I liked about this book, there are two that stand out for me. One is that no matter what wounds life has put upon your heart, God can heal them. There is always hope, but we have to be willing to see His Hand and work with Him. Second, families are not just flesh and blood relatives. Love, commitment and compassion create “family” ties among the most unlikely people and in incredible ways. This bond is as strong as any we are related to by birth sometimes even greater. An incredible book! At the end she had the first pages of her next book. I am already looking forward to it and will HAVE to read it!
I received this book from Revell Publishers in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.

A Life Once Dreamed By Rachel Fordham

What would cause a young woman of privilege and wealth to leave her family, her childhood sweetheart/fiancée, and move to a small town in the rugged Dakota Territory to become a school teacher? That is exactly what Agnes Pratt did. She is loved and accepted by the small community of Penance. Teaching school and loving the children has become her life calling. Her neighbors have no clue of her previous life, although they do wonder why such a young attractive woman has no desire to marry. Her past is safe until 6 years later when the new doctor arrives in town. Shock upon shock it is her fiancée she has been hiding from. It is a challenge for them to keep their previous relationship to themselves. Tensions rise with being near each other again and her reason for leaving still unexplained. Not to mention the other people involved in their lives at different levels that knew nothing of their shared past.
I would have assumed Agnes would be a spoiled little rich girl. I was very impressed by compassion, courage and work ethic, no matter how hard the job. James was so sweet and patient. Their love was strong and true even with all the misunderstanding and years of separation. The couple’s transition from ease and wealth to the hard life in a territory in the 1800’s showed they had true character. I was inspired by their faith and desire to seek God in all things. I loved the way the author gradually built the suspense in revealing Agnes’s hidden story. I tried to guess multiple times but was wrong on every one! An exciting, beautiful story of true sacrificial love!
I received this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.

Stories That Bind Us By Susie Finkbeiner

As soon as I see Susie Finkbeiner has a new book out, I HAVE to read it! She never disappoints! I was able to totally lose myself in the story and characters! The story takes place in the 1960’s.
Betty Sweet’s beloved husband of 23 years dies suddenly right before her eyes. She is only 40 years old and of course is devastated. They had one of those special sweet marriages and he was the love of her life. I could relate to so much of her emotions and experiences having lost my husband. Grieving the loss of the love of her life consumed her in every area. As if this was not enough to deal with, out of the blue, her sister Clara whom she has had no contact with for years, shows up at her door with her 5 year old son. She needs a place to stay and she needs help. Betty pulls herself together to welcome them to her home and life. Clara’s problems are serious. Their mother suffered from mental illness throughout their childhood, finally dying in a sanitarium. Betty lovingly shoulders the responsibility of her sister’ mental illness and the care of her young nephew, Hugo. It matters not to her he is black, but during this era others where not so accepting.
There was so much to the book! I don’t even know where to begin! Betty’s putting her sister’s and nephew’s needs before her own was an incredible Christian testimony. I couldn’t imagine being her shoes after losing my husband. She had never been able to have children so Hugo captured her heart immediately. He was such a sweet and gentle child. There were times I wished I could reach into the book and hug him! With his mother’s problems his short life had struggles that needed healing too. Betty’s love and sacrifice knew no bounds. I loved her in-laws. They were her true family and support. Her relationship with them was so comforting and loving. The interactions between them gave me such a warm fuzzy feeling.
This is a beautiful, heartening story, showing that with unconditional love and strong faith in God no problem is too big! I am amazed how the author wove an enthralling story with such difficult subjects as the grief of losing a spouse and a parent, parental rejection, family mental illness and racial prejudice. Yet the book is not depressing but inspirational and uplifting. A definite want to read!!!

These Nameless Things By Shawn Smucker

This is my second book of Shawn Smucker’s to read. I had trouble getting into the book. While the writer was wonderfully descriptive in not only visual terms but also the emotions of the characters I found the story very confusing. I would connect with parts this all of sudden be confused about what was going on.
The characters didn’t seem to have much of a personal history other than an escape from somewhere on the other side of the mountain. I wanted to know more about them. It was difficult to follow a story line. There kept being more questions, but no answers. I left me with a very unfinished feeling about the story. Also with this being from a Christian publisher I thought there would be a Christian theme running through it. There is no mention of scripture or God in the book. I loved the cover, it drew me in to read the book.
I think a big part of the problem is that the dystopian genre is not for me.
I received this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.

Little Words Matter Jumbo Coloring Book By B&H Kids Editorial Staff

I was surprised and delighted when I received this coloring book. When they said Jumbo and they meant JUMBO! When I was a child my mother faithfully bought me “jumbo” coloring books and they were thick. Nowadays I find such books that say jumbo but are anything but. Such a disappointment.
This book is perfect for little ones! Not only is it thick, all 384 pages of it but each page is big. Now that’s jumbo!!! The pictures are large also and simple in drawing so a young budding artist will not get discouraged with a lot of detail to color. It also doubles as a fun teaching book and more! Giant letters to trace, learning colors, numbers, counting, shapes, body parts, alphabet activities, Bible characters and even prayer pages. Hours of fun and learning for little ones! So worth the money, you won’t be disappointed!!!
I received this book from B & H Kids in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.