Stories of faith, life, and love

Category: Christmas

What I’m Reading: Year End Wrap Up

Before moving on to new books for the new year, let’s take a look back at some of my favorites from 2020. If you haven’t had the chance to check these out, add them to your list for 2021. You won’t be sorry.

Favorite Christmas Book: While It Was Snowing by Tari Faris. I believe this was the first book I’ve read from this author, but it won’t be the last. It’s a friends to lovers story with a Christmas twist. It is an easy read, and perfect for reading while snuggled under a warm blanket with a cup of hot cocoa.

Favorite Non-fiction Book: Wrestling for My Life by Shawn Michaels. Yes, this is a book about a professional wrestler, written by that wrestler. I didn’t know what to expect when I read it, but I came away challenged and encouraged in my own faith. Much more down to earth than some celebrity salvation stories, Shawn Michaels’ faith seems grounded in the practical truths of God’s word.

Favorite Humorous Book: Turtles in the Road by Rhonda and Kaley Rhea. This one made me laugh. In the middle of the night. Beside my sleeping husband. Who was no longer sleeping and didn’t find the scene as funny as I did. I’ll be revisiting this one in the future.

Favorite Fantasy Series Devoured One After the Other: The Ravenwood Saga by Morgan Busse. I know it’s a long title. It probably wouldn’t fit on a plaque. But who cares? This trilogy was amazing. I loved the characters and the story. I look forward to more from this author.

Favorite Non-Christmas Holiday Romance: The Cupcake Dilemma by Jennifer Rodewald. It’s a great Valentine’s Day centered story that is more lighthearted than others by this author. (Not that the others aren’t as good. They are. Just different.) This one is sweet and fun and leaves you with a good feeling at the end. I’m also currently giving away a copy of this one. Check out more on that below.

Giveaway Opportunity: For those that don’t know, some author friends and I have a YouTube channel called Once Upon A Page. We discuss all things reading and writing. We even interview various authors. Currently, we are working on a video compilation for Valentine’s Day. We want to hear from you! What does romance mean to you? What is the most romantic thing someone has ever done for you? You can answer one or both questions in a short video. We may use your entry in our special Romance Edition of Author Talks. Whether we do or not, you will be entered to win an Ebook copy of The Cupcake Dilemma and a set of ColorStreet nail polish strips in the perfect Valentine’s Day date color.

Check it out the specifics on my Facebook page.

What I’m Watching: Hallmark Christmas Movies

It’s that wonderful time of year again! You know what I’m referring to. The Hallmark channel is filled with festive movies twenty-four hours a day. And while, I am happy to agree with the naysayers that the movies are predictable and even cheesy, I have to draw a line in the snow when they say this makes them unwatchable.

Yes, I know how it’s going to turn out, and I love that! It’s comforting. Yes, I know they’re cheesy, but cheese can be a good thing, like a gooey grilled cheese sandwich. What these holiday movies bring is two hours of warm feelings, Christmas memories, and sweet romance. All things I love.

I’ve watched most of the 2020 movies that have come out so far. There are some exceptions that I’m not going to go back and watch, but there are also some I’ve already watched more than once. I want to share my favorites now, so you can catch them before the season is over and they’re packed away until next year.

If I Only Had Christmas – This is Candace Cameron Bure’s newest movies, and it’s based on one of my favorite movies, The Wizard of Oz. I loved the premise and enjoyed the movie. And Warren Christie is a favorite leading guy from an older Hallmark Christmas movie. I still liked him in this one, but not as much as his older movie. I give this one 3 Christmas stars as a solid movie I’ll probably watch again.

Five Star Christmas – I love just about any movie with Victor Webster, and I enjoyed this one too. With disgruntled family members pretending to be guests at their father’s new bed and breakfast in order to impress a travel writer, the level of funny in this one goes through the roof. Painfully so, according to my husband who has trouble watching anyone (even movie characters) in embarrassing situations. While not my absolute favorite so far, I will be watching this one again. I give it 3 1/2 Christmas stars.

A Nashville Christmas Carol – This is another adaptation. I wasn’t sure what to think of this one at first. I love Jessy Schram and Wes Brown. It’s the non-actors that I was concerned about. And while some of their performances were over-the-top, it really worked for the story. And while there was no ghost of Christmas future, the reason given for the lack was perfect. Though it isn’t my favorite for either of these actors, I will watch this one again. I give it 3 1/2 Christmas stars.

Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Sweater – I think I would watch Niall Matter explaining how paint dries. I always seem to love his characters. And this movie gives him a good pairing with Ashley Williams. It’s traditional Hallmark Christmas movie fare, and it’s an enjoyable movie. There was nothing extra special that made me fall in love with the story, but I will watch it again. This movie gets 3 1/2 Christmas stars.

A Timeless Christmas – This movie is Ryan Paevey at his best! He perfectly portrays the out of time Charles who wakes up in his home in the future to find it’s been turned into a museum of his life and unexplained disappearance. This one is one of this year’s favorites, and I give it a solid 4 Christmas stars.

Christmas Waltz – Lacey Chabert is wonderful as always. And how do I not remember Will Kemp? I went back and searched some of his other Hallmark movies. I’ve seen him in others, with Lacey Chabert, and I still didn’t remember him. But I loved him in this one and will be rewatching the others he’s in. The looks he gives at times are powerful. You can feel the hurt or happiness. Some of the dance scenes go the route of old Hollywood movies, but it doesn’t detract from the movie. This is also one of my favorites for 2020, and I will watch it each year. I give this one a firm 4 Christmas stars.

Cranberry Christmas – This one is a little different. Unlike most of the Hallmark movies, the couple is already married, though estranged. They’ve gone different directions in chasing the dreams that brought them together in the first place. The thing I like about his one is that you get Christmas and memories and all the same wonderful feelings, but you also get a realistic look at relationships. One of the characters even makes a statement like, “Marriage is hard work.” Not the usual fare for Hallmark, but it’s a message worth repeating in a time when difficulty often means throw it away and start again rather than work for it. That message alone is enough that I give this movie a four Christmas star rating.

This is a tough year to determine a favorite, but I think I’ve found mine. I reserve the right to detract this statement since there are several new ones still to come out. With 4 3/4 Christmas starts (because is there really a 5 star movie out there?), my favorite Hallmark Christmas movie of 2020 is On the 12th Date of Christmas. This one stars Tyler Hines and Mallory Jansen. I’m not sure I’ve seen Mallory in anything else, but Tyler is a favorite of mine. The two together are pure magic. From the time they’re forced to work together, trying to meld completely different personalities, to the time the sparks start to fly, these two sell it. I will watch this movie again and again and again.

Have I left any out that you enjoyed this year? Do you disagree with any of my ratings?

What I’m Reading Christmas: Mistletoe Kiss

Mistletoe Kiss Review

I’ve never understood the whole mistletoe thing. The basics, yes. Simple enough. Get caught standing under the mistletoe and you’re going to get kissed. But why? And who decided this was a good idea?

Luckily, no one I know decorates with mistletoe. I’m a fan of personal space, and an unexpected kiss would definitely be an unwelcome invasion of that space. I can’t imagine anyone would actually be a fan of this idea.

In my experience, kisses never end well when they start as a challenge, dare, or part of a weird game or tradition. Spin the bottle, anyone? It’s like the non-holiday version of mistletoe.

I admit they do make for great scenes in movies and books though. When Lucy and Jack get caught under the mistletoe in While You Were Sleeping, it was both awkward and sweet. It reinforces their growing feelings for each other, though neither is prepared to admit it.

Maybe that’s another drawback (or possibly perk) to a mistletoe kiss. Could it reveal what’s lying dormant under the surface of your relationship? It happened with Lucy and Jack.

And it happened with Chase and Rachel in Mistletoe Kiss by Andrea Boyd. Chase has loved his best friend for as long as he can remember, but she’s never seen him that way. When she suggests they participate in an attempt to break a world record for the most couples kissing under the mistletoe he agrees. But is it going to be a way to show her how he really feels or just a bittersweet moment to forever taunt him with the reminder that he can’t get out of the friend zone?

When she realizes their kiss has to last for ten seconds, Rachel has second thoughts about going through with her plan, no matter how much it means to scratch “beat a world record” off her bucket list. When the kiss is more amazing than she ever dreamed it would be, Rachel has to determine if it’s a fluke or if she should have taken Chase out of the friend zone a long time ago.

With Chase and Rachel hesitant to risk their solid friendship, neither is willing to admit their feelings to the other or even themselves. Every action and word is inspected for deeper meaning, as they try to sort out their own feelings and work up the nerve to take a chance on love with another Mistletoe Kiss.

Four Christmas Angel Rating

It’s a sweet and fun story. I enjoyed it and give it a solid three and a half Christmas angels. Though, again, I’m not into decapitating an angel so the picture will show four.

What I’m Reading Christmas: Once Upon a Silent Night

What I’m Reading:
Once Upon a Silent Night

Dreams are funny things. Not the asleep in your bed kind of dreams. The what do I want to be when I grow up sort of dreams.

Dreams are goals on steroids. They’re the major goal that you meet all the minor goals to reach. And dreams have the ability to motivate you to do all sorts of things you wouldn’t otherwise consider. It’s all in hopes of finally achieving that one thing you’ve been straining to reach for who knows how long.

Dreams can also frustrate, confuse, and discourage you. “Only when you don’t reach them,” you might think. You’d be wrong.

Of course, working hard and planning every step to bring you closer to your dream only to find yourself further away than when you started is definitely a discouragement. I’m not arguing that point. But sometimes, the reality of achieving your dream isn’t what you thought it would be back when it was only an idea shining brightly in your mind.

Then, all you saw was the payoff, the prestige, or the fulfillment it would bring. When you finally succeed, the work to maintain the dream or to move to a new stage of the dream hits you squarely in the face. The dream is still sweet, but the maintenance of it can be draining. Still, you wouldn’t trade anything for chance to achieve the dream.

At least, that’s the thought that keeps Alessia Talbot warm at night in Kimberly Rae Jordan’s book Once Upon a Silent Night. I mean, it’s literally keeping her warm at night since she’s living in her car. Her dream got her kicked out of her home. When her dream didn’t immediately pan out, she ended up with a series of dead end jobs that eventually led to no place to call home except the SUV her parents gifted to her before her exile from the family.

With a low paying job, Alessia has a system worked out to provide her basic needs. She simply cannot afford an apartment. She knows she can always go back home, but it means giving up her dream of singing professionally for life as a lawyer in the family practice. She’d rather fight the cold than give in to their demands.

When a local church sign declares their building will be open 24 hours a day through the holiday season, Alessia takes the chance to warm up after her late night shift at the bar where she works. Gio has the overnight shift at the church, and his welcoming no pressure attitude frees her to come back night after night.

As these hours of warming up continues, Alessia soon warms up to Gio too. Though neither is completely open about their past, friendship is formed as they find they’re kindred spirits in many ways. The closeness they share is new for both of them, and they each battle with being attracted to the one they don’t believe they can ever have.

Gio introduces Alessia to the real meaning of Christmas while helping her reclaim a fondness for the holiday season. In the process, his support and encouragement opens Alessia up to possibilities she hasn’t considered for her life.

Even as they’re growing closer, Alessia knows she has to either give up her dream or walk away from Gio and the hope she’s found in the town of New Hope Falls. But she’s already given up so much to make her dream a reality. She’s not going to throw it away now, even if it breaks her slowly healing heart.

Fighting for our dreams is like that sometimes. We get stuck thinking the dream is the be all, end all. We have to achieve the dream no matter what we leave behind. We get so narrowly focused we can’t see God modifying the dream or changing it completely. We end up down a path God never intended us to travel.

Dreams are tricky. Sometimes they’re born out of our own desire. Other times they are God-given. How do we choose which ones to follow and which ones to leave behind? That’s the question Alessia faces in Once Upon a Silent Night.

Four Christmas Angel Rating

I give this book 3.5 Christmas Angels. (But since I don’t want to half an angel my picture still shows four). It was a good story, and I think it would have been even better if I’d read the earlier stories in the series.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, when I have to determine if a dream is mine or God-given, I start with giving it back to Him. I acknowledge to Him that my heart’s desire is whatever the thing is, but I desire His will above all else. I ask Him to keep me going forward if it is from Him, but to close doors if it isn’t a path I should take. It’s not always 100% clear, but He’s always given me little proofs of which direction I should go.

What about you? Do you have a dream you’ve had to give up things for? Was it worth it?

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