Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Review: The Nativity Bride (Novella)

The Nativity Bride (Novella)
By Miralee Ferrell
The 12 Brides of Christmas, #7
Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Studios), 2014


Deborah Summers has waited five years and prayed for Curt Warren to return to Goldendale, Washington, passing up another marriage proposal by believing in her first love. When tragedy finally brings him home, will a rift with his father drive him away too quickly?

My thoughts

The Nativity Bride by Miralee Ferrell is #7 in The 12 Brides of Christmas series, which consists of 12 old-fashioned romances with a new short story releasing every Monday through December 22.

Miralee always creates appealing characters and interesting storylines in a historical setting - and is able to accomplish the same in this novella set in Goldendale, Washington during the month of December, 1880.

We meet the teenage Curt and Deborah five years earlier as Curt leaves home to pursue a woodworking apprenticeship, and this gives the story some depth. It was easy to be drawn to this character who, in spite of his seemingly rebellious tendencies, only longed for his father's approval and acceptance. Curt had no personal relationship with God at the time he left Goldendale, and the spiritual growth that took place during the years between is enjoyable to see. And I especially admired Deborah because of her commitment and care of her ailing mother.

The Nativity Bride is a story of forgiveness and restored relationships, both physical and spiritual. This is the only I've read from the 12 Brides collection, but I enjoyed this cozy Christmas read and am glad to recommend it.

The Nativity Bride can be purchased online at Amazon and B&N.

Miralee Ferrell

        Miralee Ferrell and her husband, Allen, live on eleven acres in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge in southern Washington State, where they love to garden, play with their dogs, take walks, and go sailing. She is also able to combine two other passions—horseback riding and spending time with her grown children—since her married daughter lives nearby, and they often ride together on the wooded trails near their home.
        Ironically, Miralee, now the author of eight books, with many more on the way, never had a burning desire to write—at least more than her own memoirs for her children. So she was shocked when God called her to start writing after she turned fifty. To Miralee, writing is a ministry that she hopes will impact hearts, and she anticipates how God will use each of her books to bless and change lives.

Connect with Miralee on her websiteFacebook, and Twitter.

Thank you to Miralee for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - 12.30.2014

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Bookish/Blogging Goals for 2015

1) Reading the Bible is more important than any blogging or review commitments, so my goal is to join with an online group and do a chronological read through in 2015.

2) Commit to less reviews so I can read more of what I'm in the mood for occasionally.

3) Read a non-fiction book every now and then, like . . .

4) Share more of Erma Bombeck's humor on my blog. Got a great response to my Christmas-themed posts and hope to continue this through the year.

5) Interview more authors. I've discovered that this is something I really enjoy, and I've met some very kind and gracious authors in the process.

6) Be more involved in the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads and participate in a few group or buddy reads there as time allows.

7) Whittle down my pile of review books already committed to on NetGalley - My eyes are bigger than my stomach, as my grandmother used to say - especially when it comes to books! Since these books don't have a blog tour deadline, they don't get top priority.

8) Do occasional posts featuring beautiful art. I had so much fun with Christmas art during December that I'd like to do this on a regular basis.

9) Read or reread a few classics, like . . .

10) Participate in more Top Ten Tuesday lists!

Do you have any reading goals for 2015? Please share if you do!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Ereader Bargain: The Heirs of Ireland Series by Michael K. Reynolds

Last year I tried a new author and discovered one of the most enjoyable and memorable historical series I've ever read. I don't usually take the time to publicize a bargain-priced book or series by itself, but these novels are well worth the effort if more readers discover the writing of Michael K. Reynolds.

Michael is the author of a three-volume series of Irish historical novels entitled The Heirs of Ireland - three chapters of one epic story that captures the indelible spirit and hope of the Irish people, beginning with Irish immigration to America in the 1840s and ending shortly after the Civil War. And you can tell from Michael's picture that he just might have a little Irish connection from which to draw!

My emotions were engaged from page one of the first book, Flight of the Earls, and the connection only strengthened with the deepening of characterization and plot throughout the series. I really can't say enough about these novels, and hope many new readers will discover these stories. All three volumes are currently available for Kindle readers at great prices. Links to my reviews and Amazon pages are below.

Volume 1, Flight of the Earls

Volume 2, In Golden Splendor

Volume 3, Songs of the Shenandoah

Please don't be thrown off by Songs of the Shenandoah's $2.99 price, for this concluding novel is powerful, one I designated as having the WOW! factor.

You can also connect with Michael on his website,, and on Facebook.

Review: A December Bride (Novella)

A December Bride
By Denise Hunter
A Year of Weddings
Zondervan, 2013


A year’s worth of novellas from twelve inspirational romance authors. Happily ever after guaranteed.

What started as a whim turned into an accidental—and very public—engagement. Can Layla and Seth keep up the façade in Chapel Springs this holiday season—for the sake of her career . . . and his heart?

Under normal circumstances, Seth Murphy—the best friend of Layla O’Reilly’s ex-fiancé—would be the last person she’d marry. But the news of their upcoming (and phony) nuptials convinces a big client that Layla may be high-society enough to work for his agency—a coup that would put her fledgling home-staging business on the map.

Seth has secretly loved Layla for years, even when she was dating his best friend. Maybe she’ll never forgive him for the way he hurt her back then, but he has to try. And Layla is willing to keep up their engagement farce until she’s landed her client.

For Layla, it's the chance to save her career. But for Seth, it's his last chance to win her heart.

My thoughts

A December Bride by Denise Hunter kicks off a twelve-month series of romantic novellas by various inspirational authors. Some of the Chapel Springs characters are brought in, but it stands alone. I've always enjoyed Denise's writing and this short novella is no exception. It's a light, fun, and satisfying read. Two scenes  - one involving gingerbread cookies, the other a sleigh - were especially touching.

As far as characterization, I loved Seth; Layla, not so much, at least in the beginning. Seth has the qualities we love in our heroes - patience, honesty, humor, tenderness, sacrificial nature. Layla, on the other hand, came across as self centered, overly ambitious, and thoughtless of Seth's feelings - although we do see gradual change in her.

Denise is not only an excellent writer, but she excels at romance. Even in this novella format, she tells an enjoyable story and there was good character depth with Seth. But I didn't feel this format provided adequate time for Layla to grow enough that I could connect with her.

Christian themes are more subtle in Denise's writing, but very much present. Readers can't help but be challenged by the question, How far are we willing to go in order to achieve our goal? And is the goal one of our own making, or God's plan for us? Another thought is the preoccupation we often have of concern over what other people think of us, often more of a problem than we would like for it to be.

I enjoyed A December Bride overall and recommend it to all romance fans.

Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter is an internationally published best-selling author. Her books have won The Holt Medallion Award, The Reader's Choice Award, The Foreword Book of the Year Award, and was a RITA finalist. In 1996, inspired by the death of her grandfather, Denise began her first book, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she's been writing ever since. Her husband says he inspires all of her romantic stories, but Denise insists a good imagination helps, too. When Denise isn't writing, she's busy raising three heroes-in-the-making with her husband.

Meet Denise online at denisehunterbooks.comFacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Thank you to Zondervan for providing an electronic copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas with Erma - The Chimes Rang

Poignant words from Erma that will hit close to home for many of us. May the chimes ring for you this Christmas.

The Chimes Rang

There is a wonderful story of Christmas, about a great cathedral whose chimes would not ring until, as the legend goes, the real gift of love had been placed on its altar.

Year after year, great kings would offer up the riches of their land, but the chimes would not ring.

One year, a small waif in a shabby coat entered the great cathedral and proceeded down the long aisle. He was stopped and asked what he could possibly give that kings had not already offered. The small boy looked down and hopelessly examined his possessions. Finally, he took off his coat and laid it gently at the foot of the altar.

The chimes rang.

To receive a gift, molded from love and sacrifice, selected with care and tied up with all the excitement the giver has to offer, is indeed rare. They don't come along often, but when they do, cherish them.

I remember the year I received my first "Crumb Scraper." It was fashioned from half a paper plate and a lace doily. I have never seen such shining pride from the little four-year-old girl who asked, "You don't have one already, do you?"

The crumb scraper defied description. When you used one part of the cardboard to guide the crumbs into the plate, they bounced and scattered through the air like dancing snowflakes. But it didn't matter.

I remember a bookmark created from a piece of cardboard with a picture of Jesus crayoned on the front. It was one of those one-of-a-kind collector's items that depicted Jesus as a blond with a crew cut. Crayoned underneath the picture were words to live by, OH COME HOLY SPURT.

My favorite, though, was a small picture framed with construction paper, and reinforced with colored toothpicks. Staring out at me was a picture of Robbie Wagner. "Do you like it?" asked the small giver excitedly. "I used a hundred gallons of paste on it. Don't put it near heat or the toothpicks will fall off."

I could only admit it was beautiful, but why Robbie instead of his own picture? "The scissors slipped and I goofed my picture up," he explained. "Robbie had an extra one."

There were other gifts - the year of the bent coat hanger adorned with twisted nose tissues and the year of the matchbox covered with sewing scraps and fake pearls - and then the small homemade gifts were no more.

I still receive gifts at Christmas. They are thoughtful. They are wrapped with care. They are what I need.

But oh, how I wish I could bend low and receive a gift of cardboard and library paste so that I could hear the chimes ring at Christmas just once more.

- Erma Bombeck, At Wit's End, Nelson Doubleday, Inc., 1965

Review: Huckleberry Christmas

Huckleberry Christmas
By Jennifer Beckstrand
The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill, #3
Kensington/Zebra Books, 2014


Now that they've happily married off two of their grandchildren, Anna and Felty Helmuth are ready for their next matchmaking challenge. What better way to celebrate the most heartwarming of seasons--and make Huckleberry Hill, Wisconsin, the place for unexpected love. . . A difficult marriage has left the Helmuths' widowed great-granddaughter, Beth, finished with wedlock. She's content to live with them and make a life for herself and her toddler son. But once she turns down handsome Tyler Yoder's proposal, it seems only fair to encourage him to find a suitable wife. Trouble is, his gentleness and generous ways are showing her how joyous a real meeting of hearts can be. . .

After a failed courtship, Tyler thought the best he could hope for in a wife was mere companionship. But spirited Beth is the one he longs to protect, and hold close. Earning her trust is the hardest thing he's ever had to do. And soon, both will discover that forgiveness and understanding are gifts that only rekindled faith--along with the happiest of holidays--can bring.

My thoughts

I am so glad to have discovered the writing of Jennifer Beckstrand because reading one of her books is pure pleasure. In fact, I can hardly read without a smile on my face. This is the third novel of Jennifer's that I've read, and I find her writing very refreshing and enjoyable.  Filled with charming characters, sweet romance, and gentle humor, Huckleberry Christmas captured my interest from the first page as I was transported to the Huckleberry Hill community of Bonduel, Wisconsin , and the ending left me looking forward to Anna Helmuth's next matchmaking effort. Although part of a series, it can easily stand alone.

The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill is a delightful series about an elderly Amish couple who decide to meddle in the lives of their relatives in order to help them find suitable mates. Felty and Anna are at the heart of these stories, but much more than mere matchmaking, they have the unique ability to gently impart spiritual wisdom into the hearts of their loved ones, wisdom that comes from a lifetime of walking with God. Felty and Anna are two very memorable and beloved characters.

Huckleberry Christmas shows a refreshingly different side of the traditional Amish setting - one infused with humor, where scarves are knit in bright colors contrary to the usual style, and where not every Amish woman is an excellent cook - Anna's green gelatin mixed with pickles and her runny rice pudding, for example. Jennifer's straightforward writing style and rich characterization are so easy to connect with. The serious theme of emotional abuse is also brought in and handled well. In one particular scene, Anna points out to Beth:  "You shouldn't let Amos ruin the rest of your life. . . . Do you really want to give his memory that much power?"

With his giving and caring nature, Tyler is one of my favorite heroes. Beth carried a lot of emotional baggage from her previous marriage, where she had lived with a constant criticism that eventually destroyed her trust in men and her faith in God. I love the advice Beth's mom gave to Tyler:  "Beth won't jump into the pool until she's checked to make sure it's filled with water. Then she'll have to be certain the water's warm. And then she'll want to know there's a gute swimmer to catch her. You'll have to be patient."

Spiritual themes flow throughout the narrative in a natural and beautiful way. One message that always speaks to me is the importance of trusting in God alone - because people, no matter how good or well intentioned they are, will invariably let us down. Also touching was when the words from O Little Town of Bethlehem - "How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given" - caused Beth to reflect that "God's gifts were given so quietly that many people didn't even recognize blessings when they came." I hate to imagine how many times that has been true in my life.

So often an author will rush a book's ending, but not so here! Jennifer took the time to give Huckleberry Christmas  a delightfully satisfying ending which readers will enjoy and appreciate. I'm eager to see what Anna and Felty are up to in Huckleberry Spring, which releases in February 2015. Highly recommended to fans of Amish fiction. 5 stars based on the enjoyment factor.

Click on the titles below to see my reviews of the previous two books in this series:
Huckleberry Hill
Huckleberry Summer

Jennifer Beckstrand

Jennifer Beckstrand is the bestselling author of The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series and the Forever After in Apple Lake series, set in two Amish communities in beautiful Wisconsin. She has always been drawn to the strong faith and the enduring family ties of the Plain people and loves writing about the antics of Anna and Felty Helmuth. Jennifer has a degree in mathematics and a background in editing. She and her husband have been married for thirty years, and she has four daughters, two sons, and two adorable grandsons, whom she spoils rotten.

Meet Jennifer online at, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Thank you to Jane Nutter at Kensington Publishing for providing an electronic copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read Huckleberry Christmas to see what part a sunflower plays in Tyler and Beth's romance!