Stories of faith, life, and love

Tag: Christian Fiction Review (Page 1 of 5)

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.

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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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What I’m Reading: Saving Grace

I am the queen of hair-brained ideas. I spent a lot of my early stay-at-home-mom years chasing a lot of those in attempts to find an outlet for my adult side. After all, when children’s programming becomes the bulk of your viewing choices, you need an adult outlet. The call of a little extra income for your one income family also calls like a siren song.

I sold Christmas Around the World, which was based on home parties. I wasn’t horrible at this seasonal business and actually sold it for a couple of years. But knick-knacks aren’t really my thing. And I’m naturally an introvert. Not a great combination.

I was an Avon representative. Yes, the girl who is allergic to most makeup and can wear it only for short periods of time if I’ve taken an allergy pill, sold Avon. I did fairly well with that one. I actually sold it for several years and even won awards.

My time selling makeup was at least better than my idea to open a gift basket business. In theory, it’s not a bad idea. After all, I enjoy putting gift sets together for people. I bought a book about the gift basket business to prepare myself. I came up with a plan, but my fire to do it fizzled out quickly. Not as quickly as my idea to break into freelance editing for companies, with no training and only a book to guide me, but still, quicker than my jaunt into at-home childcare. (I’m a relaxed mom. Having to have a sparkling house and provide healthy, well-planned meals every day did not agree with me.)

At least by the time my big, expensive ideas for opening a bakery or a Christian bookstore/conference center were sparked, I’d learned not to follow every idea that came into my head. Although I have to admit, these two ideas still haunt me at times. I even have floor plans drawn out for each business.

But during these times when I so desperately needed to find an outlet and my dream of becoming an author was still working itself out, I had one thing a lot of people lack. I had a cheerleader. My husband could have easily said no to any of my ideas. He could have told me how ill-fitting some of my plans were to my personality. He could have made me feel foolish for thinking about trying or, even worse, foolish when they fell through.

He didn’t. He let me try, as long as it didn’t involve a bank loan. He let me explore and decide for myself whether each plan was a good fit for me or not. When I inevitably walked away from each of them, he didn’t say “I told you so”. And when I finally started focusing on my dream of writing, he didn’t stand off in the corner shaking his head and muttering, “Here we go again.” No, he encouraged me, gave me writing time, and sent me to conferences with the abandon of someone who’d never lived with a woman who’d chased down more bad ideas than good.

That encouragement means the world to me. It’s given me the chance to find out which ideas are in my life for a time/purpose, which ones should never have seen the light of day, which ones are meant to fuel the stories I write, and which ones I should chase after for the rest of my life.

Because an idea can fall into any of those categories. Just ask Michelle Wilson from Amy Anguish’s newest book, Saving Grace. When Michelle is involved in a fatal accident, newborn Grace is left alone in this world. Bonded through the traumatic event, Michelle feels she has been called to make sure Grace is taken care of for the rest of her life.

Initially, this charge seems perfectly set up. Her parents are equipped to provide emergency foster care. Grace’s birth grandparents are dead, and there are no uncles or aunts to claim her. Already moving back home to start her dream job, Michelle is perfectly placed to provide Grace with the love and care she needs.

But it isn’t smooth sailing for Michelle. While her parents agree to help her, they’ve made it clear they aren’t sure Michelle is ready to be a single parent. And when her best friend Greg learns Grace’s parents wanted her raised by a married couple, not a single person, even he has a hard time fully backing her decision.

The lack of support leaves Michelle determined to see her plan through to the end. Will she allow herself the time to search out if God wants her to keep going in this direction or if He has another plan in place for her and Grace?

Of course, Greg has to weigh some ideas of his own. He’s loved Michelle for what seems like forever, even though she’s never noticed the shift in his feelings. In all their years together, he’s never not supported her. But this is a child’s life and her parent’s dying request. How can he support her? When the answer comes to him suddenly, Greg has to decide if the idea is one he should abandon or hold onto no matter what.

Amy has written a story of finding one’s purpose that opens the reader up to the reality of the many paths we have to choose from in life and the importance of quieting our hearts to hear Him tell us which ones to turn from, which ones to travel for a time, and which ones to journey down for the rest of our lives.

https://scrivenings.link/savinggrace

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What I’m Reading: Secrets Over Sweet Tea

Bread pudding. Five years ago, I would have said those words didn’t belong in the same sentence much less their ingredients in the same recipe.

I love bread. I love pudding. But the concept of pudding made out of bread sounded incredibly mushy and gross. To be honest, it still does. However, the reality of bread pudding is no longer something that causes me to scrunch up my nose in disgust.

One day, I got brave. Though at the time, I may have wondered if it was bravery or stupidity that lead me away from more known desserts like cheesecake and chocolate lava cake.

My husband and I were at an Irish Pub, and I was taking risks and trying new things. It was my birthday, after all. And the restaurant’s limited dessert menu left me with a choice between three items. I found myself requesting the bread pudding, and am I ever glad I did. I could be wrong, but I believe I heard angels singing as I took that warm, comforting first bite. Paired with salted caramel ice cream and filled with the flavors of fall, this dessert was as close to perfection as anything I’m going to find this side of heaven.

My foray into the wonderful world of bread pudding was unexpected but definitely worth it. I love it when something works out differently than I thought but much better than I’d anticipated.

That’s exactly what happened as I read Secrets Over Sweet Tea by Denise Hildreth Jones. I picked up the book on a whim in a used bookstore my husband and I frequent. With all the seriousness going on in our world currently, I wanted a light read, full of humor and good times. The cover was inviting, the author new to me, and the back spoke of a boisterous southern pastor’s wife. It sounded like a perfect little ball of fluff for my weekend.

Scarlett Jo Newberry is as full of life and love as the back promised she would be. Not your typical pastor’s wife, her outgoing, outrageous personality is a turn off to some, but as people warm up to the woman underneath they see what an asset she is to their church and community.

But this story isn’t all fun and games. There’s a lot of heavy stuff in the secrets her congregation tries to hide. From adultery and addiction to divorce and sexual assault, all the characters twined together in the story have a serious, real to life issue they’re trying to keep secret. When truth comes out, the resulting mess is not easily contained.

It would have been easy for Secrets Over Sweet Tea to leave one bogged down with the reality of it all. It would also have been easy for the story to make light of the heavy issues and avoid any talk of repercussions. This story doesn’t go either of those directions.

Real issues are dealt with in truthful, scriptural ways. Discussions around how each person’s decisions affect those around them are realistic and honest. But the story balances the heaviness of the themes with faith and the vibrant personality of Scarlett Jo. The end result is an entertaining, truth filled story that makes you want to go back for seconds.

https://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Over-Sweet-Tea/dp/B00FE3IFB4/

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What I’m Reading: The Ravenwood Saga

If you’ve followed my blog or any of my social media accounts very long, you know I’m just as likely to sit down and watch an episode of Doctor Who as I am the latest Hallmark movie. I equally love the Lord of the Rings, Marvel movies, and While You Were Sleeping. There’s enough love in me for fantasy, action, sci-fi, drama, and romance. At least, there is when it comes to television and movies.

As much as my tastes in television and movies span the various genres, my taste in reading has rarely strayed from one genre, the romance genre. Any variations have come from whether or not I’m in the mood for historical or contemporary romance. Through the years a couple of suspense books have wormed their way onto my shelves. But it wasn’t until the past year that fantasy/speculative fiction made its own appearance, with the exceptions of a few that are not in the Christian market which I read to share the experience with my kids.

Anyway, a year or so ago, I won a copy of the first book in Morgan Busse’s The Soul Chronicles series and devoured it along with the second one. When I saw she’d come out with a new series and I found myself with a couple gift cards, it wasn’t a difficult choice to add The Ravenwood Saga to my cart. It wasn’t until last month that I had the chance to read them.

I’d just finished a couple contemporary romances, and I wanted something different. I opened up The Mark of the Raven as a way to cleanse my reading palette. I intended to read one book before returning to my standard genre. My plans changed.

The second I read the last page of The Mark of the Raven, I opened up Flight of the Raven. I didn’t have the third book yet, but I added it to my library as soon as I finished the second book. Cry of the Raven didn’t have a waiting period. I finished it the next day.

I loved the characters and the world the author created. Lady Selene is a strong character, gifted with the power to dreamwalk. It is the gift of House Ravenwood, and they have used it to exact revenge on the other houses in their land for abandoning them to the enemy many years before. Lady Selene has been raised on the stories of betrayal and the belief that through using their powers to torment others, steal their secrets, and at times, kill them in their dream worlds, House Ravenwood stays strong.

Only this idea and the reality of what she’s expected to do doesn’t sit well with Lady Selene. Deep inside, she feels there must be more to her gift than fear and death, and she is determined to find out where her gift came from and its true purpose.

As one man steps forward from House Maris to unite the different houses against their common enemy, Lady Selene has her first hint that her family has indeed missed something in the way their gift is used. To seek out truth could lead to more than being disowned. If her mother finds out she’s not following the ways of her house, it will most certainly mean death. But can she continue in the ways of House Ravenwood and dreamkilling when her heart is telling her the gift was given for a better purpose?

Selene’s quest to find the truth behind the gifting continues through each book. As war draws closer, she is faced with terrible choices, deadly consequences, and inner battles she never imagined possible. Finding the correct path for her life isn’t easy, and it’s made more difficult through the suspicions of those around her and the danger she faces from her own family.

The spiritual lessons of the book are clear but do not detract from the story. In fact, the story makes the scriptural truths more vibrant and inspire the reader to seek out and care for their own gifts and talents. The Ravenwood Saga is a beautiful example of truth clothed in fantasy leaving its message to resonate in the reader rather than being content to simply entertain, though it does that as well.

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What I’m Reading: Five Days in Skye

I have a love/hate relationship with books set in places I have never been. And to be honest, that’s most of them since I’m not well-traveled. As pathetic as it is, I’ve only visited (not including those I’ve passed through on my way somewhere else) nine states, and I don’t even have a passport. Most of those were for martial arts tournaments or writing conferences. If you make me narrow it down to places I’ve actually spent at least three days in for something other than tournaments and conferences, I have to lower it to four, possibly five. My point is, there are a lot of places I haven’t been. So, I read about a lot of places I’ve never seen.

I love reading a book and being able to clearly picture the mountains in Colorado, the vinyards in California, or the colors of fall in New England. They create in me a desire to see these places for myself, and that’s where the hate comes in. Do you realize how many places are now on my “someday I’ll go there” list? It’s been steadily growing since high school, and I’ve yet to check one place off.

Take my latest read, Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano. Andrea Sullivan is set to vacation on a tropical island, and when her boss sends her on a business trip to Scotland, she is less than enthused. (I really don’t know what her problem was. I’d choose Scotland any day. Have you heard the way they speak? And who doesn’t want to explore castles?) Andrea goes because work is what she does, and she is in line for a VP position. Impressing the boss is more important than a little rest. Besides, she can relax any time.

The quick change in plans makes Andrea a little moody, and after a rocky start with her client, James MacDonald, she’s not feeling any better about the whole ordeal. James, on the other hand, is determined to help Andrea see how much there is to love about Skye. After slowly eroding some of her defenses, James succeeds in getting Andrea to stay longer than she expected, a total of five days in Skye to learn to live life away from work and love Skye. And despite previous hurts, family drama, and a strict code about mixing business with pleasure, Andrea may find she loves the man she met in Skye as well.

While the entertaining, well-told story and likable characters are enough to give the story a great review, the descriptions of Skye make it even better. As James and Andrea explore in and around Skye, the images readers are left with are a little more than enticing.

As I finished, I contemplated the need to get a passport, and I was only stopped by the reality that I don’t have the means to go anywhere right now, much less fly to Scotland. And with that truth, you can clearly see why I have a love/hate relationship with stories like Five Days in Skye. I love the story and the way the setting comes alive in my imagination, but I do kind of hate that I know I’m not going there any time soon. Of course, if the desire to visit Scotland hits me in the future, I could always spend more time there by re-reading Five Days in Skye!

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Main Character Monday with Dean Blackburn

Welcome to Main Character Monday. Today’s guest is homicide detective, Dean Blackburn, from Song in the Dark by Jessica White. Thank you for joining me.

Thanks for having me. But honestly, I’m used to being the interviewer not the interviewee.

What three words would you use to describe your author?

Curious, tenacious, and courageous enough to discover the truth. She reminds me of my three Dobermans when they catch a scent and refuse to abandon it until they discover the source. She never stops digging until she gets to the heart of the story.

Just for fun. Go with your gut.

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunset. It means I get to go home and spend time with my dogs.

Pie or Cake?

Honey Cakes & Moon Pies makes this pomegranate cake that’s to die for.

Tulip or Iris?

I guess irises, because they were my mother’s favorite. But whatever Jenna prefers.

Chocolate or Vanilla?

Hands down, dark chocolate.

Interesting. Next question. If you could visit any place in the world, where would you go?

I’d probably get out of Albany, New York and visit some warmer climates. I’m not really the touristy type, but I like quiet places where the boys can stretch their legs and I can relax and read a book cover to cover without worrying about looking over my shoulder. Perhaps discover some unique bookshops hidden around the world, like the one in Coober Pedy, Australia that’s built inside a cave. Or Atlantis Books in Santorini, Greece that carries old hardbound books.

Speaking of books, let’s talk the Bible. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Which of these traits do you find easiest to display in your life? 

Wow. I guess self-control would be my strongest. You can’t be a good detective if you don’t learn to control your thoughts and emotions and not let them get in the way of the evidence or project onto your victim or your suspect.

Which of them is the hardest to display?

Hardest? All the rest! Again, with my job, it’s really hard to see the good around you—but that’s why Jenna amazes me. She’s got the whole package. She even makes my curmudgeon of a neighbor grin like an old fool.


Jenna sounds like someone we all need in our lives. I’d love to meet her, but for now, we should continue with the interview. What is your favorite story from the Old Testament?

Old Testament? Probably the story of Gideon. Growing up a military brat, I learned to trust in numbers and weapons. But since meeting Jenna, I’ve learned God has us covered. Whatever we need, we’ll have when we need it.

What is your favorite book in the New Testament?

Acts. It’s practical. Stories like Ananias and Sapphira really hit home. I hate it when perps get away with lying to the cops. It’s good to know that even when I can’t see the truth in a situation, God knows. In the end, justice is His. If He chooses to let me be a part of that, then it’s a privilege.

If you could leave us with one message, what would you want us to know?

That darkness can’t extinguish light, but light can expel darkness. So surround yourself with people who bring light into your life. And never take them for granted.

Thank you for joining me today. I think you must be the first detective I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing, and it gives you a slightly different perspective than most of the characters I interview.

Readers, you can find out more about Dean and meet Jenna in Song in the Dark by Jessica White. Keep reading for more about Jessica and where to find her book.

More on Song in the Dark:

After graduating from Juilliard, harpist Jenna Fields returns home to Albany to escape her manipulative ex and prove to her controlling mother that she can orchestrate her own life.

Homicide detective Dean Blackburn spends his days seeking justice for the dead. But darkness taints everything, including him.

When his three Dobermans lead him to Jenna playing in the park, he tries to resist the beautiful musician and focus on his cases. At least until he witnesses Jenna’s ex attempt to blackmail her and learns she’s being stalked, just like one of his homicide victims.

When her world crumbles beneath her feet, and Dean learns she has her own dark secrets, he helps Jenna see that the key to escaping her mother’s gilded cage is already in her hands.

Where to connect with Jessica: AuthorJessicaWhite.com for more info

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What I’m Reading: The Cupcake Dilemma

My husband and I drive to Cape Girardeau, Missouri once every couple months to eat at our new favorite restaurant. It’s an Irish pub with a fun atmosphere and great food, but that’s beside the point. One of the last times we went there, I ordered dessert. I never order dessert at restaurants because I’m always too full. But this time, I purposefully saved room.

I ordered bread pudding. I’d never had bread pudding before and had no idea what to expect. Bread and pudding in the same sentence don’t sound appetizing, much less putting them in the same dessert! But something intrigued me about it, and I decided to take the risk.

I may take more risks in the future. My first bite of this warm, rich dessert was filled with cinnamony goodness. Fall exploded on my tongue, and it was a beautiful thing. Adding caramel ice cream to hot bread pudding added to the perfection. I think I heard angels singing. It was that good.

It’s amazing when you find a dessert like that bread pudding, but equally (if not more) amazing is finding a book like that. A story that grabs your attention from the first page and invites you to dive in and keep reading until you reach the end. A story that’s sweet and fun and balanced and leaves you with a good feeling at the end. (And as a bonus, they leave you without the uncomfortable fullness that comes with indulging in decadent desserts!)

I had the pleasure of devouring one of these special books just a few days ago. The Cupcake Dilemma: A Rock Creek Romance Novella by Jennifer Rodewald grabbed my attention with a great presentation. The cover is simple and cute and the idea that the book would contain cupcakes added to my interest. Then, I read the first line.

Wow! It wasn’t profound. It wasn’t a poetically written description of some far off place that painted a perfect Monet in my mind. It was sassy and fun and set the tone for the story to come. It made me dive in, and I didn’t come up for air until I reached the last page.

I’m not usually a fan of first person story telling, but Jennifer Rodewald does it so well in this book I forgot it was done that way as I was reading. Kirstin Hill is funny and sassy and in completely over her head when she’s assigned to bring cupcakes to the town’s Valentine’s Day barn dance.

She’s a great teacher, but Kirstin is a kitchen nightmare. And she’s struggling to find her place as the new girl in town, only adding to the pressure to provide perfect desserts. Enter Ian Connealy, baker at and owner of Sweet Tooth Bakery.

Ian wows the entire town with his sweet creations. Kirstin’s been wowed by them since she moved to town. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that in addition to being a superstar bakers, Ian is gorgeous. Plus, he’s willing to help with Kirstin’s cupcake dilema, if she’ll agree to his terms.

The story is full of frosting, friendship, flirting, and fun. And it leaves readers with that “just tried the most decadent dessert” feeling without the need to head to the gym.

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What I’m Reading: Ordinary Snowflakes

Southern Illinois definitely did not see a Hallmark worthy white Christmas this year. In fact, the temperatures were more like late spring or early summer. While I appreciated not having to bundle up (I’m really not a fan of weather in either extreme), it didn’t feel entirely right to celebrate Christmas in a t-shirt without a jacket. Even the twinkling lights on the way home from my in-law’s house seemed less festive without the chill of winter to add to their mystique.

I needed an infusion of white, and I needed it quickly. My holiday spirit was beginning to fade. I did what any Hallmark Christmas movie loving reader would do in this situation. I scanned my shelf for a new snow-filled Christmas book. My gaze landed on Ordinary Snowflakes by Jennifer Rodewald. Perfect. Couldn’t get more winter-filled than a book with snowflakes actually in the title, right?

I’d read a couple other books by Jennifer Rodewald, and I enjoyed them. If you’re interested, look up my reviews of Blue Columbine and Red Rose Bouquet. My one concern with this Christmas themed novella was whether or not it would be a heavy read. I’d enjoyed the last Christmas book I’d read, but it was fairly heavy by the end. I wasn’t sorry I’d read it, but I was ready for something a little lighter that still held some conflict to make the story interesting.

Ordinary Snowflakes delivered exactly what I was looking for. Kale is a single mom raising a child with special needs thanks to an accident early in childhood. She’s a great mom, but she suffers the same mom guilt most of us battle along with a large dose of guilt from the choices of her past.

Kale’s guilt pushes her to be extra protective with her daughter, in areas where she feels Sydney might be hurt. This extends to everyday activities most children take for granted. It’s in an instance of lashing out in fear that Kale meets Craig, a handsome, charismatic man who ignites the gushy feelings of crushing on a guy that Kale hasn’t felt in a long time. Everything she feels for Craig stands in direct opposition to what she’s known with Joe, her friend and Sydney’s physical therapist since her accident.

Joe has been her rock, standing beside her as she cares for Sydney and her aging father. He’s offered wisdom and support, but friendship is where their relationship stops. There aren’t sparks, and he doesn’t make her weak in the knees. As he pushes her in different areas regarding Sydney’s care, conflict tinges their friendship. Kale becomes even more aware of the differences between the two men in her life.

While Kale considers the role each man should play in her life, Sydney brings fun and adventure to her days. Their relationship is sweet and honest just like the story itself. And scattered along the way are nugget (or maybe snowballs in this case) of truth for the reader to take away. One of my favorite is a reminder to chase the things that are important to the heart of God rather than those things the world says we should check off our list. It’s a lesson for Kale and for us that’s especially pertinent as we say good-bye to 2019 and begin 2020.

And, in my opinion, you can never go wrong starting the year off with a good book. So tomorrow, while you’re still tired from the late New Year’s Eve night, take time to relax with Ordinary Snowflakes. It’s a quick , enjoyable read that will encourage you to start the new year right.

https://www.amazon.com/Ordinary-Snowflakes-Romance-Christmas-Novella-ebook/dp/B01LXNRC2C

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What I’m Reading: Calm and Bright

We’ve all heard the phrase, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Though none of us can say who actually said it first (some say Will Rogers, Oscar Wilde, or an advertisement for a suit from the 1960s), we tend to be well acquainted with its meaning. We consider it as we choose clothes for a first date or job interview. We practice our presentation for the hundredth time even though we know it backwards and forwards. We do it because we know the importance of that first impression.

My DNA is made up of every possible hindrance to a good first impression. I’m an introvert who needs well defined parameters for social situations to function at my best. I’m the proud recipient of the unrefined grace gene rendering me incapable of getting through events without awkward moments of embarrassment. Add to those my tendency to answer questions off the cuff incorrectly. Someone tells me thanks for shopping at their store, and without missing a beat I say something like “you too”. And after any conversational train wreck, I, of course, spend hours thinking about what I could have done differently.

All this wonderfully embarrassing DNA leaves me uncomfortable in many situations, but it’s also taught me something the quote failed to do. I may not have a second chance to make a first impression, but I can redeem a first impression with what comes next.

Changing a first impression isn’t easy. Depending on the situation it can take dedication and hard work. For Brad Hughes, the male main character in Autumn Macarthur’s book Calm and Bright, it may even take a Christmas miracle.

Brad’s life changed after Maddie divorced him and returned to her small hometown in Idaho. When he’s invited to spend Christmas with Maddie for the sake of their four year old, he jumps at the chance. It may be his opportunity to change her mind about him and their marriage. But her impression of him and their time together is harder to overcome than he first imagines.

Even with a few good memories, a son they both love, and one of Maddie’s relatives in his corner, Brad realizes there are a lot of things separating them. He quickly learns the patterns of behavior he adopted during their marriage meant one thing to him and felt completely different to Maddie. Besides, Maddie seems to thrive in the small community she returned to while he has done well with big city life and the demands of a high profile job.

The impressions Brad left Maddie with when they divorced are ingrained in Maddie’s mind. They leave her questioning and fighting every good feeling Brad’s arrival tries to bring. Brad learns words are not enough to undo the past. He’s got to listen to Maddie and show her how much he’s changed if he hopes to turn her heart to him by the end of Christmas.

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