Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Pioneer Christmas Collection

A Pioneer Christmas Collection: 9 Stories of Finding Shelter and Love in a Wintry Frontier 

Paperback, ebook

September 1, 2015

by Kathleen Fuller  (Author), Vickie McDonough  (Author), Lauraine Snelling (Author), Margaret Brownley (Author), Marcia Gruver  (Author), Cynthia Hickey  (Author), Shannon McNear  (Author), Michelle Ule (Author), Anna Carrie Urquhart  (Author)

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Barbour Books 
  • ISBN-13: 978-1634090315

Journey along with American settlers who learn that despite where the trail takes them or how primitive their lodgings may be Christmas is all about the heart. Determined to honor Christ’s birth, these pioneers find a way to make Christmas happen in places like a cave, a tipi, and a dugout. Modern readers will enjoy a peek into life before commercialism took over the sacred day, distracting us from the true blessings of faith, hope, and love. Enjoy nine original novellas of Christmas romance as penned from many of today’s leading Christian authors, including Lauraine Snelling, Kathleen Fuller, and Vickie McDonough.

I love Christmas and Christmas stories! Throw in a whole bunch of top-notch historical authors and you've got a treat! This compilation of original and inspiring historical romance novella's will entertain you with their intriguing tales of pioneer life. Each story concludes with the new pioneers celebrating Christmas in unconventional dwellings.

`DEFENDING TRUTH' by Shannon McNear, sees Truth, a young woman in western North Carolina, alone and responsible for her younger siblings after her father had left them to fight the British. What will she do when she comes across a half-starved militia man loyal to the Crown?   This story was familliar -- as if I've read it before. I looked though, and don't see it in my history of reviews, so maybe I didn't. Despite it being familiar, it also was intriguing. I couldn't help but keep reading to see how it would all work out. Truth can't help but like the courageous Tory, but he's the enemy of all the Over-the-Mountain men. I had to admire Truth's pluck and Micah's perseverance. 4 stars. 

`THE CALLING' by Kathleen Fuller centers around a tavern in Unionville, Ohio, that also doubles as a stagecoach stop. Elijah Montgomery is pushed by his parents to travel and preach. Is he just being obedient to his folks or hearing the calling himself? What part might Milly, the lovely tavern girl who works for her father, have in helping Elijah to find his destiny?  This story also seems so familiar. I knew exactly what would happen when. And I double checked to make sure I didn't overlook this collection. I hadn't. I also couldn't find any indication these stories had been previously published. Milly is a sweet girl, obedient and loving to her father, her aunt, and the regulars and guests of the tavern. Elijah is a man told by his parents that he is called by God, but he wasn't willing to follow. Will he follow the call his parents think they hear? Will he hear the call himself?  A sweet romance, but not much interaction between hero/heroine. 3.5 stars. 

`A SILENT NIGHT' by Anna Urquhart illustrates the struggles of a mother and young child surviving on their own in the woodlands of Michigan Territory in 1830. Refusing a marriage of convenience that most women would have taken up leaves Lorna vulnerable and unprepared for winter. How can she possibly survive and will they get their Christmas miracle that 6 year old Afton is praying for?  I didn't remember this story, so it was a pleasant surprise. Lorna is mourning the loss of her husband and facing her first winter alone in an unfinished house in rural, unsettled Michigan. She has a hard lot of it, but fought to keep things going and hope alive.  Afton is praying for an impossible miracle. I wondered how God would answer that prayer. The answer caught me by surprise and was very sweet.. I've never read any of Ms. Urquhart's stories before, but I would definitely read one in the future. 4 stars.

'A PONY EXPRESS CHRISTMAS' by Margaret Brownley has the bloomer-clad Ellie-May Newman searching across the unforgiving Nebraska Territory for her missing brother who rode for the Pony Express. After saving a man, she informs him he'll be helping her on her quest.  Margaret Brownley is one of my favorite historical authors. I couldn't wait to read this story--and it was the main reason I wanted to read this collection. And it was totally worth the price of the book. I loved A PONY EXPRESS CHRISTMAS. It was fun, unexpected, and a bit of fresh air. I enjoyed the whole story, especially the romance, the sparks, and Andy's "artwork". Beautiful story. 5 stars. 

`A CHRISTMAS CASTLE' by Cynthia Hickey ambushes Annie Morgan with quite a few eye-popping revelations when she arrives at her ranch in Prescott, Arizona, to chase down her new husband who was supposed to meet her in town. Two winners so far. I've loved Ms. Hickey's cozy mysteries (I've read her first three) but not the historicals she's written until now. A CHRISTMAS CASTLE is a misnomer, for sure, but it was an adorable story, complete with Ms. Hickey's larger-than-life, fiesty heroines. I couldn't help but fall in love with Annie and Drake. A very good story that caught me by surprise. 5 stars. 

`THE COWBOY'S ANGEL' by Lauraine Snelling has a very pregnant woman and her son living on the Dakota Territory plains in 1875 waiting for her husband to return home after leaving weeks earlier to purchase supplies. With a baby coming, a 4 yr. old son, animals to care for, and snowstorms, Belle is in much need of a Christmas miracle from God's angels. What could have befallen her husband?  This story was unexpected.  Another blessing. I haven't read many (if any) of Ms. Snelling's books, but I greatly enjoyed THE COWBOY'S ANGEL. A real live Christmas miracle, answers to prayer, and blessings in abundance. Loved it. The characters were realistic. 5 stars. 

`A BADLANDS CHRISTMAS' by Marcia Gruver soon has Australian Jonathon Nancarrow journeying from sophisticated New York City along with his two daughters to the small town of Medora in the heart of the wilderness, still seeking peace and healing after the death of his wife. His eldest daughter Noela takes quite a while adjusting to the overwhelming differences, especially having to live in a house made of dirt and grass called a soddie! Will this little family survive a harsh Dakota winter here and can Noela find love in the wilderness?  This was a different sort of story. Noela's father has lost everything in a foolish move and now the only option for this former man of means is a dilapidated sod house in the Badlands. Noela has  her mind set on marrying a rich dandy, so she is not at all happy about Christmassing in the Badlands, but it's even worse when she learns  her father has moved there and sold all her personal items along with the house in New York City. Noela was very whiny and selfish about the whole thing, and I didn't understand why any man would be attracted to her.  It did end well though. 3 stars. 

`BUCKSKIN BRIDE' by Vickie McDonough takes us to Oklahoma Territory in 1889 to where Mattie and her two sisters Milly and Jess are living in a tipi, which unknowingly happens to be on handsome Irishman Conall Donegan's land. Their father hasn't returned and Mattie having been left in charge feels a huge responsibility to keep her sisters safe, fed, and sheltered. When Jess is hurt and they are all discovered, Mattie feels like everything is falling apart. Can things come together for Christmas?  Ms. McDonough is known for her trademark: strong, feisty heroines who are more at home in pants and hunting game, than wearing long dresses and bonnets and cooking over a stove. This story is no different. Except add a tee-pee, a tornado, and a broken leg to the mix. I didn't relate much to Mattie since a tomboy I am not, but it was a sweet tale. I think Conall will have an education learning how to hunt and survive off the land. I couldn't believe his stupidity when the tornado came. Very realistic to the Oklahoma setting. 4 stars.  

`THE GOLD RUSH CHRISTMAS' by Michelle Ule delivers an interesting and unique story with twins Samantha and Peter Harris travelling to Skagway, Alaska with good friend Miles. What sets out as a search for the twins' father ends up becoming so much more for all three of these `musketeers'. This takes place during the 1897 Gold Rush bringing many unsavoury characters to the region; however this story which is based on a true account ends with an extraordinary Christmas inspired conclusion.  This story was rather skim worthy. All the life was edited out of it and it read like a listing of events, not as come-to-life characters.  The story was unique and based on real events. The story was told rather than shown and so I didn't relate or enjoy. The writing itself was impeccable. 3 stars. 

Overall rating: 4.05

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

I Can Read 2 Facing the Blazing Furnace and Joseph the Dreamer

Facing the Blazing Furnace

I Can Read! / Adventure Bible


December 29, 2015

by David Miles (Illustrator)

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Series: I Can Read! / Adventure Bible
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Zonderkidz; Gld edition
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310750932

When King Nebuchadnezzar orders everyone in his kingdom to worship a golden statue, three young men refuse to obey. They disobey the king and risk death in the fiery furnace.
 Find out what happens in this Level 2 I Can Read written and illustrated in the tradition of the bestselling NIV Adventure Bible.
Perfect for beginning readers ages 4-8, learning Bible stories on their own.

Joseph the Dreamer 

I Can Read! / Adventure Bible


December 29, 2015

by David Miles (Illustrator)

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Series: I Can Read! / Adventure Bible
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Zonderkidz; Gld edition 
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310750840

Joseph may be his father’s favorite son, but his brothers feel differently and sell him into slavery in Egypt. In this Level 2 I Can Read written and illustrated in the tradition of the bestselling Adventure Bible, find out how God turns a bad situation into a big blessing.
Perfect for beginning readers ages 4-8, learning Bible stories on their own.

Reviewed by Kaeli:  These little books are perfect for beginning or reluctant readers.  The words that are unfamiliar are repeated often so the learning reader will learn them. I like that these real life Bible stories are made into beginning readers so kids can read the stories for themselves and understand them. Filled with colorful pictures, they even engage the interest of the most reluctant of beginning readers. Highly recommended. Perfect for car trips, or long boring days when kids are snowed or iced in from school. Or if they are sick with the flu and miss school. Recommended. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Beginner's Bible Super Girls of the Bible and Super Heroes of the Bible Sticker and Activity Books

The Beginner's Bible Super Girls of the Bible Sticker and Activity Book 


December 29, 2015

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Series: The Beginner's Bible
  • Paperback: 16 pages
  • Publisher: Zonderkidz; Act Stk edition 
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310751182

Amazing women of the Bible come to life through age-appropriate puzzles, activity pages, and 50 reusable stickers in these friendly and fun sticker and activity book featuring The Beginner’s Bibleclassic art and simply written content. Children will love learning about Deborah, Ruth and Naomi, Queen Esther and more as they delight in the stories, art, and activities in The Beginner’s Bible Super Girls from the Bible Sticker and Activity Book.

The Beginner's Bible Super Heroes of the Bible Sticker and Activity Book 


December 29, 2015

by Kelly Pulley

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Series: The Beginner's Bible
  • Paperback: 16 pages
  • Publisher: Zonderkidz; Act Stk edition 
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310747512
Bible heroes come to life through age-appropriate puzzles, activity pages, and 50 reusable stickers in these friendly and fun sticker and activity book featuring The Beginner’s Bible classic art and simply written content.

Reviewed by Kaeli:  I enjoy getting these sticker books in the mail to review for Zonderkidz. Even though I am older than 8, I like finding where the stickers go and putting them there. There are also color by number, mazes, counting, writing skills, word searches, matching, coloring pictures, rhyming words, and more!  This will be an excellent book for car trips or those long boring days when school is cancelled due to snow or ice.  Learn while you play.  5 stars. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Diary of a Wimpy Elf

Diary of a Wimpy Elf 

The Legend Diaries

ebook and paperback

by Renae Brumbaugh

  • Print Length: 118 pages
  • Publisher: Armonia Publishing; 1 edition 
  • Publication Date: November 15, 2015
  • ASIN: B0182SJ2QY

Most of you reading this have a sweet, cozy picture of what goes on at the North Pole. Cute little elves, tra-la-la-ing as they build wooden train sets, play with sample toys, and paint eyelashes on dollies. And while some of that does take place, let me just say . . . that doesn't even begin to describe life at the North Pole. This book is my personal diary. It's the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me Rudolph. So if you're happy with your cozy little half-picture, walk away. This book is NOT for you. And that's okay . . . ignorance is bliss, and believe me, I'd love to have a little more bliss in my life. But if you want to know what REALLY goes on up here . . . buy this book. Read it. And then say a prayer for me, because I need all the prayers I can get. Because life as an elf . . . it's harrowing. 

DIARY OF A WIMPY ELF is a totally cute 'diary' type story about what one poor little elf has to experience every month.  I love some of the things about the story, including that they included church service, a pastor, and the nativity, in spite of it being a Santa and elves story. I also like how the reindeer were given personalities and liked different treats mixed into their oats, not to mention different holiday drinks, such as hot cider, hot chocolate or even root beer.  A totally fun story that is sure to be a holiday hit for your favorite child, no matter what time of the year they read it. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Story of God's Love for You

The Story of God's Love for You 

Hardcover, ebook, audio

October 6, 2015

by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Jago (Illustrator)

every story whispers his name…
It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne—everything—to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life! You see, the best thing about this Story is—it’s true. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. The Child upon whom everything would depend.

All the stars and mountains and the oceans and galaxies and everything were nothing compared to how much God loved his children. He would move heaven and earth to be near them. Always. Whatever happened, whatever it cost him, he would always love them. And so it was that the wonderful love story began …
—from The Story of God’s Love for You (originally published as The Jesus Storybook Bible)

Reviewed by Jenna:  It's a very book. It really catches attention and draws the reader in. It's a fun way of describing the Bible. I love t he way Ms. Lloyd-Jones writes. It seems simple, but at the same time it's really complex. There was some revision of scripture, I'd memorized some of the verses already and I didn't like the way it was rewritten. Other than that, it was a very good book. Recommended for kids and young adults. Must read. 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook

Too Blessed to Be Stressed Cookbook 


November 1, 2015

by Debora M. Coty

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Barbour Books
  • ISBN-13: 978-1634093224

  • Feeling overwhelmed by life's daily demands? Could you use some encouragement and inspiration in the kitchen? The Too Blessed to Be Stressed Cookbook to the rescue! Each of the 100-plus recipes can be prepared in 20 minutes or less, plus you'll encounter some fabulous tips and suggestions as well as funny foodie quotes, scripture selections, humorous stories of cooking misadventures, and more, along the way. Recipes are arranged into 4 categories--Heart-Healthy, Soul-Fed, Time-Wise, and Company-Happy--and are accompanied by appealing full-color photographs. You'll cheer as you soak up the joy Debora M. Coty brings into your life and home!

My thoughts.  I made two recipes out of this cookbook.  The first was Best Bean Soup Ever on page 94. 

We added carrots, celery, and onions  to the basic recipe since we love our vegetables, and did not double the recipe since it says it serves 6 - 8.  We're a family of seven and I knew one son would refuse to eat it so I figured we were good.  It has served the six of us three days now and we still have some left over.  We give this recipe 3 stars as it is not the best bean soup ever, our preferred recipe is better. Maybe because I am not a huge fan of kidney and pinto beans. 

I also made Luscious Lime Pie on page 54.

My family were greatly excited to have "Key Lime Pie" for desert for a rare treat (I also made one for the church potluck) but it also got a 3 star rating from the family.  My daughters thought it was too sour, my husband said it was too rich.  It was good and simple to make so is a quick meal.  However, it didn't set up as well as it did in the cookbook picture, when we cut it, after it "chilled" for 2 days, it ran all over the plate. 

The cookbook is full of cute stories and jokes, the recipes are basic and simple; made with ingredients most people have on hand (You might need to pick up one or two items) and is set up for full meals if you want to use it that way. Makes it easy to plan menu rotations.  It also includes a shopping list of ingredients you need for each recipe which makes it easy. For women who work outside the home, eat out more than they should because they have no time to cook, this cookbook will be a blessing, It will help them cook more at home since the food preparation in most cases take less time than sitting in a drive-through line during rush hour, 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Love's Gift

Love's Gift: 8 Christian Romances Celebrating the True Meaning of Christmas 

Kindle Edition

by Krista Phillips  (Author), Belle Calhoune  (Author), Debra Lynn Collins  (Author), Valerie Comer  (Author),Christina Coryell  (Author), Heather Gray  (Author), Elizabeth Maddrey  (Author), Lee Tobin McClain  (Author)

  • Print Length: 770 pages
  • Publisher: OWD Publishing (October 13, 2015)
  • Publication Date: October 13, 2015
  • ASIN: B015YLZ7DO

Collection of Eight Christian romance novellas celebrating the true meaning of Christmas! 

Each of these never-before-released inspirational romances has an uplifting holiday message that will help you relax, forget your worries, and focus on the real meaning of Christmas: Jesus, God's gift to the world. 

Join eight beloved Christian romance writers as they weave tales about all kinds of Christmas romance. 

Can you go home again for Christmas? Belle Calhoune’s inspirational romance novella says yes, and it’s particularly exciting when you find your Mistletoe in Montana.  I didn't care too much for this story. It was well-written, but I couldn't connect with the characters. Brianna was your typical spoiled princess, and Luke has loved her forever, but even though he is angry at her (understandably) for jilting him in favor of marriage to an older movie director who owned a mansion, less  than two hours after her arrival back in town he's trying to kiss her.  I didn't like either him or her and even though Ms. Calhoune is traditionally published (thus the well-written part) I wasn't impressed enough with her voice or style to look up any of her previous books. 2 stars. 

Debra Lynn Collins wonders if you can actually give someone a man for Christmas… and A Match Made for Christmas is one Christian romance that answers that question! This one was definitely a 5 star review for me. LOVED A Match Made for Christmas. A very sweet romance by an author I hadn't read before I will look up more of her books. 

Valerie Comer introduces us to a disillusioned toy store clerk and a mall Santa who don't see eye-to-eye on the whole Christmas season, but that's nothing a few Merry Kisses can't cure. Loved, loved, loved this story. So cute. You can see the full review earlier on my blog.  I loved how the heroine improvised on saying the forbidden Merry Christmas and instead, accidentally said, Merry Kisses.  I also loved the faith message in this story. Valerie Comer is one of my favorite contemporary authors. 5 stars. 

And Christina Coryell’s Unwrapped takes traditional Christmas celebrations to the next level when heroine Trina Miller falls for her best friend’s brother. Another new to me author and a 5 star read. LOVED getting to know Trina and Charlie, and I will definitely look up more of Christina's books. I like the voice in these stories. First person in Trina's POV, but Charlie is very good at letting us know what he is thinking.  A sweet Christmas romance.  

If you like Christian fiction with hospital settings, Heather Gray’s An Informal Christmas will warm your heart as her hero and heroine overcome their differences to help sick kids.  This story started out with the hero and heroine disliking each other, but as the chaplain so aptly put it, when someone brings out the worst in each other they usually end up in bed together... Rather shocking statement, that, but the point is the worst turned to the best and it turned out Zach had a lot on his mind and heart and what he was doing was beyond beautiful.  Riley started out rather unlikable but with her warming up to Zach came a new, softer character that wasn't all business and was actually nice. Good story, good message, recommended. 4 stars. 

Christmas isn’t everyone’s favorite time of year. In fact, Christmas light displays take on a whole new meaning when you hate Christmas! But the hero of Elizabeth Maddrey’s Christian romance novella Operation Mistletoe won’t let heroine Victoria Spencer stay a Scrooge for long.  Ah, sweet. Tori believes Christmas is not the  holiday for her, Everything that can possibly go wrong does -- and always for Christmas. This year she gets her dream opportunity to write for a big newspaper. The catch? Write an article exposing Gabe, the man behind Operation Mistletoe. Tori is willing to do it, because she knew Gabe in college. But things are not always as they seem. And while it still may be an awful Christmas (who's to tell?) at least she'll have her by-line in a major newspaper.  Good story, enjoyed it. Recommended. 4 stars. 

In the Christian romance A Bond for the Holidays, a family almost falls apart when a terrible secret is revealed… but this inspirational novella by Lee Tobin McClain shows how God’s love can work a miracle.   This story was kind of sad. A family almost falling apart, a troubled, runaway teen, a long buried secret with  bitter, long reaching roots...  It made me want to cry. But despite everything, it had a beautiful ending that shows God's love in a way you'd never imagine.  I thought at first I'd give this one 3 stars, but I am reevaluating, and going with 4 stars because of the wonderful ending. 

Maybe you prefer celebrating Christmas 365 days a year in the Smoky Mountains. In Krista Phillips’inspirational holiday novella, A (kinda) Country Christmas a woman does just that—until a handsome, world traveler shows up and ruins everything.  What could be more fun than a Christmas themed store?  I picture Bronners, in Frankenmuth, Michigan, but this one is in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Add a clutzy hero who knocks a tree over about meeting, and an "evil" pastor, set on matchmaking. I liked the daughter. She added a nice touch.  4 stars.

Join eight Christian romance writers on a journey that will warm your heart this holiday season, deepen your faith, and help you embrace the true gifts of Christmas.