Audiobook Review: The Christmas Angel Project

4 Dec

Five women from different walks of life have become close friends through their book club — enjoying one another’s company even more than they enjoy the books. So when the leader of the book club unexpectedly passes away on the cusp of the Christmas season, the four remaining friends are stunned. They relied on Abby for inspiration and motivation. She was the glue that held them together, and they’re sure that without her the group can’t continue.

When the group gathers “one last time” to open a bag Abby’s husband gives them, they find Abby had made each of them an angel ornament for Christmas, crafted especially for each woman and accompanied by a sweet and personal note. Inspired by their beloved friend, together Cassidy, Louisa, Grace, and Belinda decide to commit themselves to becoming Christmas Angels to others in need. Each woman will use her life situation and talents to reach out and help others in her own unique way — little knowing that her own life and her relationships will be changed forever.

 

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 http://www.melodycarlson.com/.

 

My Impressions:

What kind of legacy will you leave? That is the underlying theme of Melody Carlson’s The Christmas Angel Project. Carlson, known as the queen of Christmas novellas, has another hit with this book. She takes her characters on a journey from grief to hope as she explores how people can use their talents and dreams to make a community a better place.

Four women — Cassidy, Louisa, Grace, and Belinda — find themselves lost and rudderless following the death of their friend, Abby. Abby has befriended, encouraged, and basically loved on all four, and they find themselves unsure how they will get through the next days and weeks leading up to Christmas without her. Although members of the same bookclub, the women feel disconnected from each other without Abby. That is until they receive an unexpected gift from their dear friend.

The Christmas Angel Project is all about finding purpose within the framework of one’s gifts, personality, and passions. Each character built on what they had already developed in their lives and used it to reach out to others in unique and meaningful ways. The projects each woman undertook — veterinary care for the elderly, art classes for the grieving, decorating Habitat homes, and a fashion show for high schoolers — brought dignity, self-confidence, and hope to those they touched. The characters all had fears, self-doubt, and feelings of unworthiness common to all. I liked that about them. They were real women with real struggles who decided to focus not on themselves but on others. And that is what Abby had done in her life, and that is the legacy she left for the four to continue.

I listened to the audiobook of The Christmas Angel Project and was at first put off by the narrator’s voice. Her timing was great, but she made several of the characters sound older than they were. But as I got more and more involved with the story, her voice disappeared and the women emerged.

A heart-warming read for the Christmas season, The Christmas Angel Project gets a recommended rating from me!

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(I purchased the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

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December Book Club Selection — The Gift of Christmas Past

3 Dec

This month, By The Book is reading a book by one of our favorite authors and her daughter-in-law! The Gift of Christmas Past is the collaborative effort by Cindy and Erin Woodsmall. We would love for you to join us!

Arson wasn’t the only fire that ignited between them. 
Promises shattered.  
Lies spoken.
She was arrested.  
He returned to the safety of his wealthy parents.
 
Almost ten years later, Hadley and Monroe are both specialists in the field of speech therapy. They meet again . . . thrown together to help a four-year-old-girl rendered mute after being rescued from a fire. 



Years of secrets and anger beg to be set free as Hadley and Monroe try to push aside past hurts and find common ground in order to help the traumatized child and her family.



Can the love of Christmas past drift into the present, bringing healing and hope for all?

Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times, CBA, ECPA, and USA Today best-selling author who has written seventeen (and counting!) works of fiction and one of nonfiction.

Cindy and her husband reside near the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains in their now empty nest.

If you’d like more information or to contact her, you can go to her website: http://www.cindywoodsmall.com or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/authorcindywoodsmall

Erin Woodsmall is a writer, musician, wife, and mom of three. She has edited, brainstormed, and researched books with Cindy for almost a decade. She is very excited about their first coauthored book.

 

Book Review + Giveaway!): Christy

3 Dec

New edition of Catherine Marshall’s inspirational classic!

The train taking nineteen-year-old teacher Christy Huddleston from her home in Asheville, North Carolina, might as well be transporting her to another world. The Smoky Mountain community of Cutter Gap feels suspended in time, trapped by poverty, superstitions, and century-old traditions.

But as Christy struggles to find acceptance in her new home, some see her — and her one-room school — as a threat to their way of life. Her faith is challenged and her heart is torn between two strong men with conflicting views about how to care for the families of the Cove.

Yearning to make a difference, will Christy’s determination and devotion be enough?

Learn more, get a free map of Cutter Gap, and purchase a copy.

 

Catherine Marshall (1914-1983), The New York Times best-selling author of 30 books, is best known for her novel Christy. Based on the life of her mother, Christy captured the hearts of millions and became a popular CBS television series. Around the kitchen table at Evergreen Farm, as her mother reminisced, Catherine probed for details and insights into the rugged lives of these Appalachian highlanders. Catherine shared the story of her husband, Dr. Peter Marshall, Chaplain of the United States Senate, in A Man Called Peter. A decade after Dr. Marshall’s untimely death, Catherine married Leonard LeSourd, Executive Editor of Guideposts, forging a dynamic writer-editor partnership. A beloved inspirational writer and speaker, Catherine’s enduring career spanned four decades and reached over 30 million readers.

Find out more about Catherine at http://gileadpublishing.com/christy.

 

My Impressions:

Confession time: I had never read the best-selling classic Christy by Catherine Marshall before I opened its pages last week. I know! I have been missing something very special for a very long time. This book made Christianity Today‘s most influential book list for a good reason. This 50 year-old classic tells the story of young Christy Huddleston, an earnest young woman who sets out to teach the children of Cutter Gap in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Idealistic and enthusiastic, Christy finds herself in a poverty-stricken area where superstitions run deep, literacy is rare, and disease often brings heartache to an already hard existence. And while Christy brings considerable energy and talent to the job, she ends up learning more than her pupils. The insights she gleans from her friends are ones that the reader can cherish as well. I loved, loved, loved this book! If you haven’t read it yet, you must! If its been awhile since you’ve visited the community of Cutter Gap, what are you waiting for? And if you are looking for a Christmas gift for that special someone (especially older teen girls), Christy is the perfect choice.

Christy is set in the backwoods of a time-gone-by Tennessee. Based on the real life adventures of Catherine Marshall’s mother, this book opens up a window on what mountain people had to combat in the early 1900s — an isolated area fraught with hygiene problems, ignorance, and suspicion of outside influences. The story is told in Christy Huddleston’s first person voice, giving fresh eyes to the world of Cutter Gap. I loved how Christy grew as a person as she came to love and minister to the children and women. Teacher was of great influence, yet Christy learned more from her interactions with mentor Miss Alice, friends Fairlight and Opal, and pupils like Little Burl, Ruby Mae, and Lundy. She learned to overlook the smells and dirt and the sometimes backward ways of men and women, as her view became colored by the love she grew to have for the people. The book itself is filled with flowing prose that captures the beauty of the mountains, the nobility (and meanness) of the people, and the work of God in nature and man. All the characters have a complexity that makes them so very real. And if you think that a book that was written 50 years ago about a place and time now remote to the modern reader, then you will be pleasantly surprised. Christy may tell of a time 100 years in the past, but has a relevance for 2017. God’s love is the prevailing theme of the novel, and many of the characters struggle to accept it or live it out in real and meaningful ways. Miss Alice’s character is the plumb line for all others, and she brought a wisdom to the book when others were struggling.

Christy set my imagination aflame! Cutter Gap is a place I know I will visit again.

Very Highly Recommended!

Audience: older teens to adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to Gilead Publishing and LitFuse for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Giveaway!

Celebrate the new 50th anniversary edition of Christy by entering to win one of TWO $50 Visa cash cards (details below) and by attending a Facebook Live party on December 5!

TWO grand prize winners will receive:

  • One copy of Christy
  • One $50 Visa Cash Card

Enter today by clicking the HERE. But hurry, the giveaway ends on December 5. The winner will be announced at the Christy Facebook Live Party. RSVP for a chance to connect with authors who’ve been impacted by Christy and other readers, as well as for a chance to win other prizes!

First Line Friday — 12 Days at Bleakley Manor

1 Dec

 

It’s officially the Christmas season! Oh, I know that many of you have your house all decorated and have been humming Christmas carols since Halloween. The stores here in Middle Georgia have certainly been decked out for months. But I like the Thanksgiving leftovers to be consumed and the calendar to read December 1st before I really start to celebrate. But don’t call me a Scrooge, because I am all in when it comes to Christmas books, indulging long before I crack open the ornament box. Speaking of Scrooge, my FLF selection is a Victorian novel a la Dickens. In fact, this book is the first in the Once Upon A Dickens Christmas series by Michelle Griep 12 Days at Bleakly Manor.

So grab the closest book, share its first line in the comments, and then head on over to Hoarding Books for more bloggers and their FLF posts!

A mysterious invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home may bring danger . . .and love?

England, 1851: When Clara Chapman receives an intriguing invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home, she is hesitant yet feels compelled to attend—for if she remains the duration of the twelve-day celebration, she is promised a sum of five hundred pounds.

But is she walking into danger? It appears so, especially when she comes face to face with one of the other guests—her former fiancé, Benjamin Lane.

Imprisoned unjustly, Ben wants revenge on whoever stole his honor. When he’s given the chance to gain his freedom, he jumps at it — and is faced with the anger of the woman he stood up at the altar. Brought together under mysterious circumstances, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters.

What matters most is what Christmas is all about . . . love.

Pour a cup of tea and settle in for Book 1 of the Once Upon a Dickens Christmas series — a page-turning Victorian-era holiday tale — by Michelle Griep, a reader and critic favorite.

Michelle Griep has been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She seeks to glorify God in all that she writes — except for that graffiti phase she went through as a teenager. She resides in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, where she teaches history and writing classes for a local high school co-op. An Anglophile at heart, she runs away to England every chance she gets, under the guise of research. Really, though, she’s eating excessive amounts of scones while rambling around a castle. Michelle is a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and MCWG (Minnesota Christian Writers Guild).

 

 

If You Liked A Time to Stand . . .

30 Nov

If you liked BTB’s November 2017 selection, A Time to Stand by Robert Whitlow, check out these books!

The Color of Justice by Ace Collins.

Two racially charged cases. Two attorneys searching for the truth. But only one will stay alive long enough to find it. 

1964

Justice, Mississippi, is a town divided. White and black. Rich and poor. Rule makers and rule breakers. Right or wrong, everyone assumes their place behind a fragile façade that is about to crumble.  When attorney Coop Lindsay agrees to defend a black man accused of murdering a white teenager, the bribes and death threats don’t intimidate him. As he prepares for the case of a lifetime, the young lawyer knows it’s the verdict that poses the real threat—innocent or guilty, because of his stand Coop is no longer welcome in Justice. As he follows his conscience, he wonders just how far some people will go to make sure he doesn’t finish his job?

2014

To some, the result of the trial still feels like a fresh wound even fifty years later, when Coop’s grandson arrives in Justice seeking answers to the questions unresolved by the trial that changed his family’s legacy. When a new case is presented, again pitting white against black, this third generation Lindsay may have the opportunity he needs to right the wrongs of the past. 

But hate destroys everything it touches, and the Lindsay family will not escape unscathed.

Home at Last by Deborah Raney.

Why did their differences matter so much?

Link Whitman has settled into the role of bachelor without ever intending to. Now he’s stuck in a dead-end job and, as the next Whitman wedding fast approaches, he is the last one standing. The pressure from his sisters’ efforts to play matchmaker is getting hard to bear as Link pulls extra shifts at work, and helps his parents at the Chicory Inn.

All her life, Shayla Michaels has felt as if she straddled two worlds. Her mother’s white family labeled her African American father with names Shayla didn’t repeat in polite — well, in any company. Her father’s family disapproved as well, though they eventually embraced Shayla as their own. After the death of her mother, and her brother Jerry’s incarceration, life has left Shayla’s father bitter, her niece, Portia, an orphan, and Shayla responsible for them all. She knows God loves them all, but why couldn’t people accept each other for what was on the inside? For their hearts?
Everything changes one icy morning when a child runs into the street and Link nearly hits her with his pickup. Soon he is falling in love with the little girl’s aunt, Shayla, the beautiful woman who runs Coffee’s On, the bakery in Langhorne. Can Shayla and Link overcome society’s view of their differences and find true love? Is there hope of changing the sometimes-ugly world around them into something better for them all?

Missing Isaac by Valerie Fraser Luesse. (BTB’s February 2018 Selection)

There was another South in the 1960s, one far removed from the marches and bombings and turmoil in the streets that were broadcast on the evening news. It was a place of inner turmoil, where ordinary people struggled to right themselves on a social landscape that was dramatically shifting beneath their feet. This is the world of Valerie Fraser Luesse’s stunning debut, Missing Isaac.

It is 1965 when black field hand Isaac Reynolds goes missing from the tiny, unassuming town of Glory, Alabama. The townspeople’s reactions range from concern to indifference, but one boy will stop at nothing to find out what happened to his unlikely friend. White, wealthy, and fatherless, young Pete McLean has nothing to gain and everything to lose in his relentless search for Isaac. In the process, he will discover much more than he bargained for. Before it’s all over, Pete–and the people he loves most — will have to blur the hard lines of race, class, and religion. And what they discover about themselves may change some of them forever.

No Greater Love by Kathi Macias.

Forbidden romance, an unlikely martyr, and an even more unlikely hero. Orphaned four years earlier when their parents, active in the African National Congress ANC movement against Apartheid, were murdered, 16-year-old Chioma and her 15-year-old brother Masozi now live and work on an Afrikaner family’s farm. When Chioma and Andrew, the farm owner’s son, find themselves attracted to one another, tragedy revisits their lives. Chioma escapes to join an ANC rebel band in her effort to survive and gain revenge for her family and culture. When cultures clash in life-or-death struggles, Chioma must choose between violence and revenge or forgiveness and selfless love. Loosely based on historical events and set near Pretoria, South Africa, in the violent upheaval prior to ANC leader Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 and his ascendance to the presidency of South Africa, this story of forbidden romance produces an unlikely martyr who is replaced by one even more unlikely.

Book Review: 21 Days of Christmas (A Fiction Lover’s Devotional)

29 Nov

About the Book

Name of book: 21 Days of Christmas: A Fiction Lover’s Devotional

Author: Kathy Ide

Genre: Christian Fiction Devotional

Release Date: September 1, 2015

Christmas is more than just a holiday. It is a time to recapture the joy and wonder of God’s greatest gift: His Son, Jesus.

21 Days of Christmas will warm your heart with stories about giving, loving, and family. These engaging tales celebrate the hope and joy that make this blessed season unique. At the end of each story you’ll find an insightful message that will help you discover anew the true meaning of this special time of year. So grab a cup of hot apple cider with a cinnamon stick, curl up in your favorite chair beside a picture window overlooking a serene spot, and savor the true meaning of Christmas through these inspirational and encouraging stories.

Click here to purchase your copy.


More About Kathy Ide

Kathy is the editor/compiler of the Fiction Lover’s Devotional series (www.FictionDevo.com) and author of Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors (http://secretsofbestsellingauthors.com). She has also written numerous articles, short stories, devotionals, play scripts, and Sunday school curriculum. She has ghostwritten ten nonfiction books and a five-book novel series.

She is also a full-time freelance editor, working with aspiring, new, and experienced authors as well as publishers.

Kathy speaks at writers’ conferences across the country.

She is the founder and coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network (www.TheChristianPEN.com) and the Christian Editor Connection (www.ChristianEditor.com).

For more about Kathy, visit http://www.KathyIde.com.

 

 

My Impressions:

For someone who loves a good story and is looking for a way to focus on the real reason for the season, 21 Days of Christmas (A Fiction Lover’s Devotional) is a perfect choice. This unique collection has 21 short stories ranging from contemporary to historical settings revolving around some aspect of Christmas. In Star Light, Star Bright the reader sees the momentous birth through the eyes of Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph. In Camouflaged Christmas we see a young mother struggling to celebrate while her husband is deployed. And in The Last Ember we see a how a kind gesture speaks volumes to a despairing woman. And those are just a few of the wonderful tales shared by twenty-one different authors as they present their take on the real message of Christmas — hope, love, joy, and peace through the birth of the Savior. I liked that all the characters in the various stories were real and relatable, with struggles and doubts, hopes and dreams, just like you and me. At the end of each story a short Life Application is shared making each relevant for the reader. 21 Days of Christmas will make the perfect pre-Christmas gift for the bookworm in your life. Or pick a copy up for yourself and kickstart your day by focusing on what is truly important this Christmas.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to Celebrate Lit for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

 

Guest Post from Kathy Ide

Looking for a great Christmas gift for friends and family who love fiction … or devotionals? You can give them both in one book!

21 Days of Christmas: Stories that Celebrate God’s Greatest Gift is book two in the Fiction Lover’s Devotional series. It’s a collection of 21 fiction stories, each written by a different author—including well-known novelists such as Lena Nelson Dooley, Joanne Bischof, Jan Cline, and Lynn Kinnaman. Some stories are about the first Christmas, when Mary and Joseph brought God’s Son into the world. Others are about how we celebrate that history-changing event today. Each story is followed by a brief Life Application written by the author of that story.

The first chapter starts out with an amusing tale of a modern-day couple in the front seat of a car, on Christmas Eve, traveling to see relatives for the holiday. They’re griping about the hassles of the season, and hollering at the the kids, who are playing with the foil on Mom’s Jell-O salad in the backseat. Then we break from that to a scene of Mary and Joseph entering Bethlehem, about to bring God’s Son into the world. It contrasts the modern-day wife, not wanting to go into a sleazy diner because it’s the only place open on Christmas Eve, with Mary hesitating to go into a smelly barnyard to give birth. When the modern-day couple decide to tell their children the Christmas story—complete with snow and a little drummer boy—the contrasts become both highly funny and very poignant.

I wrote one of the chapters in the book. It’s about the first Christmas, from the perspective of Joseph. What he must have thought and felt when Mary was giving birth to Jesus, knowing that he had been personally given the divine responsibility to teach God’s Son about God. Based on the Old Testament teachings he’d been raised with, what did Joseph think Jesus would be like when He was born, and how did reality clash with those expectations?

This book makes a great gift for family and friends, with its beautiful debossed hardback cover, full-color interior, and a ribbon page marker. With stories about the Nativity as well as tales of modern-day people celebrating that event, almost anyone would enjoy receiving a copy and reading it—even those who don’t believe in Christ as their Savior. It’s small enough to be a stocking stuffer (or tucked into the pocket of a Christmas-themed pot holder!) and inexpensive enough to be a practical gift for those people you’re not sure will reciprocate, or who may feel uncomfortable if they didn’t get you anything.

This devotional would also be ideal to incorporate into an individual’s or a family’s advent celebration, reading one chapter a day during the three weeks leading up to Christmas.

Each chapter takes only about ten minutes to read, which makes it ideal for the hectic holiday season. And since each chapter stands alone, it doesn’t matter whether you read one or two stories, half the book, or the whole thing.

Other books in the Fiction Lover’s Devotional series are:

21 Days of Grace: Stories that Celebrate God’s Unconditional Love

21 Days of Love: Stories that Celebrate Treasured Relationships

21 Days of Joy: Stories that Celebrate Motherhood

 

 

Blog Stops

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, November 21

Reflections From My Bookshelves, November 21

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, November 22

Reader’s Cozy Corner, November 22

Blossoms and Blessings, November 23

Carpe Diem, November 23

Chas Ray’s Book Nerd Corner, November 24

Multifarious, November 25

A Reader’s Brain, November 25

A Greater Yes, November 26

Lane Hill House, November 26

Texas Book -aholic, November 27

Jeanette’s Thoughts, November 27

Karen Sue Hadley, November 28

By The Book, November 29

Seasons of Opportunities, November 29

Mary Hake, November 30

Have A Wonderful Day, December 1

Remebrancy, December 2

God’s Little Bookworm, December 3

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, December 4

 

 

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Kathy is giving away a grand prize of a set of 21 days devotional books!!

Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries! https://promosimple.com/ps/c3c2

Happy Book Birthday! — A Song of Home by Susie Finkbeiner

28 Nov

 

 

Pearl Spence has finally settled into a routine in Bliss, Michigan, far from her home in Red River, Oklahoma. Like all the other kids, she goes to school each day, plays in the woods, and does her chores. But there’s one big difference: Mama is still gone, and doesn’t seem to have a thought for the family she’s left behind.

Escaping from her worries is another part of Pearl’s new routine, whether that’s running to Aunt Carrie’s farm, listening to the radio with Ray, or losing herself in a book. In fact, a chair in the stacks, surrounded by books, might be her favorite place on earth–until she discovers swing dancing. The music transports Pearl to a whole other world.

When Mama unexpectedly returns, it isn’t the happy occasion Pearl had imagined. Mama is distant and Pearl can’t figure out how to please her. And the horrible way she treats Daddy is more than Pearl can bear. Seems life would be better if Mama would just stay away.

Finkbeiner’s portrayal of both tragedy and everyday life in times of great change is charged with a raw beauty that will haunt readers. Fans of the two prior Pearl Spence novels won’t be disappointed!

Susie Finkbeiner is a story junkie. Always has been and always will be. It seems it’s a congenital condition, one she’s quite fond of.

After decades of reading everything she could get her hands on (except for See the Eel, a book assigned to her while in first grade, a book she declared was unfit for her book-snob eyes), Susie realized that she wanted to write stories of her own. She began with epics about horses and kittens (but never, ever eels).

It takes years to grow a writer and after decades of work, Susie realized (with much gnashing of teeth and tears) that she was a novelist. In order to learn how to write novels, she read eclectically and adventurously (she may never swim with sharks, but the lady will jump into nearly any story). After reading the work of Lisa Samson, Patti Hill, and Bonnie Grove she realized that there was room for a writer like her in Christian fiction.

Her first novels Paint Chips (2013) and My Mother’s Chamomile (2014) have contemporary settings. While she loved those stories and especially the characters, Susie felt the pull toward historical fiction.

A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl (2015), Finkbeiner’s bestselling historical set in 1930s Oklahoma, has been compared to the work of John Steinbeck and Harper Lee (which flatters Susie’s socks off). Pearl’s story continues with A Trail of Crumbs: A Novel of the Great Depression (2017) and A Song of Home: A Novel of the Swing Era (2018).

What does she have planned after that? More stories, of course. She’s a junkie. She couldn’t quit if she wanted to. (From Amazon.)