Book Review: Home, Hearth And Holidays

28 Nov

51icc0wXDXL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_With holidays approaching in the charming town of Appleton, and Daphne Ballinger’s deadline to “get hitched” drawing closer, Daphne finds herself happily distracted with the unexpected tasks of “motherhood” Young Mabl is enjoying the attention, but the clock is ticking and unless love comes her way, Daphne’s delightful life will start unraveling by spring.



515ITCagVtL._UX250_Melody Carlson has written more than 200 books (with sales around 6.5 million) for teens, women and children. That’s a lot of books, but mostly she considers herself a “storyteller”. Her novels range from serious issues like schizophrenia (Finding Alice) to lighter topics like house-flipping (A Mile in My Flip-Flops) but most of the inspiration behind her fiction comes right out of real life. Her young adult novels (Diary of a Teenage Girl, TrueColors etc.) appeal to teenage girls around the world. Her annual Christmas novellas become more popular each year. She’s won a number of awards (including Romantic Time’s Career Achievement Award, the Rita and the Gold Medallion) and some of her books have been optioned for film/TV. Carlson has two grown sons and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and yellow Lab dog. To find out more about Melody Carlson, visit her website at


My Impressions:

The long wait for another Dear Daphne book from Melody Carslon is over! After publisher B&H decided to discontinue its fiction offerings, Carslon decided not to give up on publishing the remaining books in the series. I am so thankful for Whitefire Publishing, because this is a great series. Home, Hearth And Holidays continues big city girl Daphne Ballinger’s quest for a new life and love in small town Appleton. (You can read my reviews of the first 2 books by clicking on the following titles — Lock, Stock And Over A Barrel and Dating, Dining And Desperation.)

Daphne is still faced with the daunting terms of her Aunt Dee’s will — a home she loves and plenty of money, if she marries within a year. The first 6 months went by in a series of romance missteps, so Daphne settles into raising 8 year old Mabel and enjoying her small town life with close friends and family, even if she never meets Mr. Right. Of course, there is no shortage of eligible bachelors, but Daphne wonders if she’ll ever marry.

Home, Hearth And Holidays is not a Christmas book, but rather a book set during the late fall and winter months of November through February. Daphne and Mabel celebrate during this time, but the book is focused on Daphne’s personal growth. She still longs for a romantic relationship, but wants that to develop along a natural timeline, not one imposed on her by the eccentric will. I liked that Daphne is settling in and settling down, resisting the quick fix solutions to the problem of her future. I really like how this series is developing — less slap stick and more real life struggles. There is still plenty to chuckle over though!

Home, Hearth And Holidays is a winner! I cannot wait for book 4.


Audience: adults.

(I purchased this book for my Kindle. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book review: The Christmas Joy Ride

27 Nov

UnknownMiranda 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. Besides, a crazy trip with Joy would be more interesting than another Christmas home alone. Unemployed and facing foreclosure, Miranda feels she has nothing to lose by packing a bag and heading off to Route 66. But Joy has a hidden agenda for their Christmas joyride — and a hidden problem 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!


515ITCagVtL._UX250_Melody Carlson has written more than 200 books (with sales around 6.5 million) for teens, women and children. That’s a lot of books, but mostly she considers herself a “storyteller”. Her novels range from serious issues like schizophrenia (Finding Alice) to lighter topics like house-flipping (A Mile in My Flip-Flops) but most of the inspiration behind her fiction comes right out of real life. Her young adult novels (Diary of a Teenage Girl, TrueColors etc.) appeal to teenage girls around the world. Her annual Christmas novellas become more popular each year. She’s won a number of awards (including Romantic Time’s Career Achievement Award, the Rita and the Gold Medallion) and some of her books have been optioned for film/TV. Carlson has two grown sons and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and yellow Lab dog. To find out more about Melody Carlson, visit her website at

My Impressions:

I am a big fan of Melody Carlson, especially her Christmas novellas. Each successive one that I read is my new favorite, and that proved true with with The Christmas Joy Ride. Combining a fun duo spreading Christmas cheer with a trip down the famous Route 66, this book will kickstart your holiday spirit.

Joy Jorgensen is the 85 year old dynamo behind the Christmas with Joy blog. Facing a new chapter in her life and a cross-country move to be close to her sons, Joy enlists next-door neighbor Miranda to assist her in bringing a special Christmas blessing to 6 contest winners. Miranda is facing her own closing chapter as well. Divorced, unemployed, and soon to be homeless, Miranda is short on the holiday spirit, but agrees to accompany Joy on an RV adventure mostly to ensure Joy’s safety. Road blocks and bad weather, obstacles and unforeseen events beset the women as they bring blessings to those who have little cheer in their lives.

I loved the premise of this book — bringing unique and personalized Christmas celebrations to those whose hope is fading. Joy chose a nursing home, a rehab center, a struggling diner owner, a foster family, a salon owner battling cancer and a motherless girl whose father has quit celebrating Christmas. With each stop, people are blessed with her generosity and determination to make everything perfect just for them. The Christmas Joy Ride made me rethink the acts of kindness and charity that I routinely do. Should we act routinely or with fresh enthusiasm and personalized action? Joy’s character is inspired, but it is Miranda who grows in her attitude towards life. There is a bit of romance in the book that I thought was perfect as well. This book may be short in pages — 168 — but big in impact. I loved it and highly recommend it!

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Revel for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: Keeping Christmas

27 Nov

UnknownFor 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 they were strange-looking–some could be called downright ugly–but they were tradition. A tradition she’s heartbroken to miss this year.

With Judith refusing to decorate the bare spruce tree in their living room, Stan knows something must be done. And his only hope for saving the holiday is found in a box of handmade ornaments.


31Q8cgdPbTL._UX250_Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 14 novels and 1 nonfiction devotional, including The Unfinished Gift, The Reunion and The Discovery. He has won 3 ACFW Carol Awards, 3 Selah Awards, and 3 times his novels have been named as finalists for RT Reviews Inspirational Novel of the Year.

For those who haven’t read Dan’s books, reviewers often compare him to Nicholas Sparks and Richard Paul Evans. Although more recently, Dan has also started to pen suspense novels (like, What Follows After and When Night Comes). Dan has been writing fulltime since 2010. He and his wife Cindi have been married 38 years and have 2 grown children and 2 grandchildren. They live in the Daytona Beach area, where Dan grew up. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter, read his blog, or preview all his books by visiting his website at


My Impressions:

Dan Walsh has rocketed to the top of my book club’s favorite authors list with his books The Discovery, The Reunion and The Deepest Waters. We chose Keeping Christmas for our December discussion and I am so glad. This book hit me where I live. But although it focuses on empty-nesters Judith and Stan, there is something in this novella for all ages. This book gets a recommended read designation.

Judith and Stan’s grown children are flung far and wide and unable to make it home for Christmas this year. All of Judith’s memories seem to be tied to her kids and grands and it’s taking a toll on her. Depression has sunk in and no amount of Christmas cheerleading by Stan and her friend Betty seems to make an impression. Can Judith’s Christmas joy be restored?

All of my children are grown, but do not have families of there own (yet). And while I have never had to spend a Christmas without them, the last two Thanksgivings have found us minus one kid or another. I can see the writing on the wall and can remember the times my own family had to miss spending time with my parents or in-laws. Keeping Christmas was a good reminder of just where we get our Christmas joy. Judith’s struggles were very real. She didn’t want to be depressed, but all the same she was. I loved the steps she took to rekindle her spirit by focusing on others. It wasn’t an overnight process, but then it wouldn’t have been realistic if it was. Stan’s attempts to get Judith in the Christmas mood ranged from clueless, to sweet, to awesome. He gets a big A+ in the husband department. Other characters, such as Judith’s friend Betty and young mother Taryn, are an added treat in this quick read that will get you in the Christmas spirit too!

Another winner from Dan Walsh!


Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE

(Thanks to Revell for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

26 Nov


Grab a good book and dig in!!

Book Review: An Endless Christmas

25 Nov

51Rtgzl1IxL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_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.




311xQ3MySQL._UX250_Taking multi-tasking to new heights (or depths, depending on your perspective), Cynthia Ruchti is the award-winning author of recent releases All My Belongings (novel), When the Morning Glory Blooms (novel), and Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices (nonfiction). She makes potato corn chowder for her husband of 42 years, loves on her three kids and five grandchildren, recently retired from 33 years of writing and producing a daily radio broadcast called THE HEARTBEAT OF THE HOME, is past president of the 2,700-member American Christian Fiction Writers and now serves as ACFW’s Professional Relations Liaison, all while working on more book projects in addition to the eight already on the shelves. Ruchti tells stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark through writing and speaking, but she gave up knitting, counted cross-stitch, sewing her own clothes, naps, and dusting baseboards a long time ago. You can find her at, at, or in the kitchen, brewing herself another cup of tea.

My Impressions:

Some people like to watch Hallmark Channel movies or listen to Christmas music to kickstart their Christmas spirit. I like to read Christmas-themed novellas. Cynthia Ruchti’s heartwarming book, An Endless Christmas, is perfect to get you into the holiday mood. The Binder family with their traditions, non-traditions and bottomless Christmas cheer and the oh-so-perfect rural setting is the way Christmas should be done. And this book is a great reminder of what Christmas means.

Katie Vale has long ago given up on family Christmases and on family in general. Angry words and indifference have colored her memories. And bad relationships seem to be a genetic foregone conclusion. But boyfriend Micah Binder’s family gathering is unavoidable this year. The perfect family seems to do Christmas perfectly as well. Within the chaos and confusion, a sense of belonging emerges, and Katie is drawn to a future of hope and love.

imagesThe Binder family seems a bit too good to be true, and that’s the charm of An Endless Christmas. The love and faith the family shares comes from intentional acts and hard lessons. How many of us, including long-time Christians, have wounds that continue to reopen, especially during the holidays. Main character, Katie, has a hard time of letting go of past hurts and letting the love of God make things new. Katie feels she can’t measure up, something we all may feel when looking in and out, instead of up. Towards the end of the book, Katie finds that perfect isn’t really what she thought:

The perfection she’d thought exquisite but unattainable wasn’t perfection at all. It was a family that dug in their heels and determined to love, to survive, to repair the damaged fabric of their legacy, with God’s help. (pp. 191-192)

Another plus of An Endless Christmas is the setting — Stillwater, Minnesota. I stopped reading to google this picturesque town north of the Twin Cities. If I ever visit Minnesota, I am going to make sure Stillwater is on the itinerary. Thanks Cynthia for bringing it to my attention!

An Endless Christmas is fun and funny and filled with poignant moments that remind the reader of the sacrifice of Christ. So grab a cup of tea, coffee or cocoa and settle into a great Christmas read!


Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to LitFuse for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Top 10 Tuesday — Bookish Blessings

24 Nov

The great people over at The Broke And The Bookish host Top 10 Tuesday every week. Thanks so much for all you do coordinating, and thanks to all the great bloggers who participate. This week’s theme is Thanksgiving Freebie. To find out what others are thinking about this week, click HERE.


I have so many things to be grateful for, but often take them for granted in the midst of a busy life. So here are the things I consider Bookish Blessings.

Top 10 Bookish Blessings

I am thankful for a creative God who put the desire to create in the hearts of men. I think it is so cool that God chose to speak the world into being. It is also no coincidence that Jesus is described as the Word made flesh. Words are powerful and have the ability to change, redirect and focus our minds, attitudes and thoughts. So thank you God for putting words in the hearts of authors and to those who are faithful to write them down.

I am thankful for living in a country that values freedom of expression. Yes, I know that this freedom is under attack in many areas of our lives, but we still live in a country where people are free to express themselves with beautiful words as well as the ugly.

imagesI am thankful for parents and teachers who inspired the love of reading. Bed time stories and books as gifts for every occasion — my parents encouraged me to read. My father’s example of reading instead of TV watching influenced me as well. Teachers also promoted the love of reading with free reading time, plenty of visits to the library and rewards for completing books.

I am thankful for the ability to read. Literacy is so important — it opens doors of opportunity otherwise locked shut. In addition, restored sight has allowed me to continue my love of reading when I thought my days were numbered. I lost the sight in my left eye in 2011 as the first symptom of multiple sclerosis. Modern medicine and the diligent prayers of my husband restored my eye sight. I had another bought of blindness in my right eye a few months later that also resulted in healing. I have to wear glasses — but who doesn’t at my age! ;)

10941450_835574353167622_217806821708471398_nI am thankful for my book clubs. I belong to 2 book clubs. By The Book has been meeting for 13 years and Page Turners has been meeting for 3. I love the time we spend discussing books, but more importantly is the time we spend sharing our lives. Thanks ladies for your continued love and friendship.

I am thankful for my blogger friends. In an age where social media creates less community, I am fortunate to have formed friendships with fellow bloggers who share my love of reading. I never thought 6 years ago when I started this blog, that I could relate to other book lovers all over the world. How cool is that!

I am thankful for my blog readers. You guys rock with your encouraging comments and faithfulness in visiting my blog. It astounds me that anyone really wants my opinion on books. I am humbled by the response I have received from the first days of my stumbling efforts up to today’s stumbling efforts!

I am thankful for publishers and publicists. Thanks so much for making great books available for free! I have been introduced to many authors and genres that I never would have without your generosity.

I am thankful for authors. While I still get a bit fan girl when it comes to interacting with authors, I am so thankful that the authors I have had the pleasure of meeting and corresponding with are really real people. Thanks for sharing your hearts and talent with us.

10897043_804065939639810_2878622415100144741_nI am thankful for my family. These people really are the best! Who else would bear with me when I have to finish a book for review and neglect other things like meals, laundry, a clean house . . . . And did I mention that I don’t get paid for the reviews? They get that I view this as a ministry, even as I endure their good-natured teasing.

So there’s my list of Bookish Blessings.

What are you thankful for?

Book Review: The Aleppo Code

23 Nov

UnknownWill the code reveal history’s most powerful weapon for destruction―or humanity’s only hope?

The living members of Tom Bohannon’s band of adventurers gather again in Jerusalem―physically battered, emotionally exhausted, spiritually challenged, and in various stages of shock―to examine a copy of the tenth-century Aleppo Code, the oldest complete text of Jewish scripture. What the clues inside reveal could lead to the reuniting of the Ark of the Covenant with its true source of power, a weapon that could lead to victory for this ragged bunch trying to save the world.

Hunted by the relentless assassins of the Prophet’s Guard and caught in the web of an international conspiracy plotting the conquest of Europe, Bohannon’s team searches the ruins of Ancient Babylon. Their search lands them amid the chaos that engulfs western Iraq, but they must press on to accomplish one of the most pivotal pieces of end-times prophecy. This intrepid group will uncover secrets that require them to risk everything for their faith, their country, and the peace of all mankind.

Unfolding against the backdrop of an Israeli/U.S. strike against Iran and the planned economic overthrow of the European Union by the sinister, secret head of the international Muslim Brotherhood, The Aleppo Code is a heart-pounding race. Brennan takes an epic story on a grand scale and tells it primarily through the eyes of one man who is desperately trying to save the world as he follows God’s purpose for his life.

71AJUS+xJsL._UX250_A Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and an award-winning author, Terry Brennan‘s career is marked with triumph in both the profit and non-profit business sectors and now again in his growing following as an author of fast-paced action-adventure novels that mix today’s geo-political reality with fascinating twists of fiction.

Brennan’s first two novels – The Sacred Cipher and its sequel, The Brotherhood Conspiracy – have received high praise from readers and reviewers alike, and will soon be followed by the third and final book in the series, The Aleppo Code. The Sacred Cipher is the Silver Award winner for Fiction in the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year contest for 2009. In April, 2013 Publisher’s Weekly called The Brotherhood Conspiracy “an international mystery thriller with a rapid-fire plot … a feast for the senses … intrigue that teeters on the edge of overdose.”

Prior to launching his career as an author, Brennan’s 22-year, award winning journalism career included:
* Seven years as a sportswriter and editor with The Philadelphia Bulletin, at the time the largest-circulation afternoon newspaper in the nation;
* Leading The Mercury of Pottstown (PA), as its editor, to a Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Writing;
* Serving as Executive Editor of a multi-national newspaper firm – Ingersoll Publications – with 400 newspapers in the USA, England and Ireland.

In 1996 Brennan transferred his successful management career to the non-profit sector and served for 12 years as Vice President of Operations for The Bowery Mission and three other ministries of the New York City-based parent organization, the Christian Herald Association, Inc.

Now Chief Administrative Officer for the non-profit agency Care for the Homeless in New York City, Brennan also won the Valley Forge Award for editorial writing from the Freedoms Foundation.

His two adult sons and their families live in Pennsylvania. Terry and his wife Andrea live in New York City area. Their daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter live in West Chester County and their son resides in Brooklyn.

My Impressions:

The third and final installment of Terry Brennan’s Jerusalem Prophecies series, The Aleppo Code, begins where the other books left off. (You can read my reviews of those books by clicking on the following titles: The Sacred Cipher and The Brotherhood Conspiracy.) The team, led by Tom Bohannon, has experienced devastation and grief in their efforts to discover the Tent of Meeting and the hidden Third Temple. But it seems something more is being asked of the group — a commitment to go where God leads looking towards Him for guidance in the face of doubts and confusion. And what God is leading them to may be a weapon for Israel’s enemies or a powerful tool in the hands of God.

Like the other books in the series, The Aleppo Code relies on Biblical history and legend, archeological finds and mysteries and modern day political conspiracy and intrigue. Brennan does an excellent job bringing all of these things together to create a fast-paced political thriller complete with terrorists, government agents and a few angels along the way. There is a vast cast of characters that I sometimes found daunting to keep straight. In the end, I just went along for the ride, enjoying the twists and turns, explosions and chases. The Aleppo Code has an Indiana Jones feel to it, but has a spiritual foundation not found in the Harrison Ford movies. Although the characters may feel out of control at many times, God’s hand is evident in bringing together His plans and purposes. In light of what is currently going on in the Middle East and Europe, the book is timely. There is much more going on behind the scenes than we could imagine.

For those who like complex political suspense with a well-researched historical foundation, The Aleppo Code is a good choice. But it is definitely not a standalone novel. You really do need to begin at the beginning.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Kregel for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)



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