Twelfth Night: Christmas Story Mini Reviews

Yes, it is January. I happily just finished a Christmas story and will be watching all the Hallmark movies from this past Christmas season through the month. I have discovered some new Christmas novellas, some of which have their own blog posts already, over the past weeks. This post, though, is for the few stories I have read and not yet shared about. And since today is considered the “Twelfth Night” (before the feast of Epiphany), I thought it appropriate to share now!

(I don’t observe the 12 days of Christmas or Christmastide schedule, but I do think it’s a fun idea!)

Without further ado, here are the Christmas stories I have enjoyed this year with a few thoughts on each. (Titles link to Goodreads)

Bespoke: A Tiny Christmas Tale (Espoir Archives #1) by Amanda Dykes

This is one short story that I was caught up in… with such lyrical writing and intriguing characters, I was hooked from the first hint of a secret in the prologue. My favorite things about it were the music!, the growth exhibited by the main characters, and the era. I absolutely LOVED that the setting was so immersive… though a definite year is never noted, it is clearly a historical novel and felt timeless because it was never specific (though hinted).

Letters Home: A Christmas Short Story by Rachelle Rea Cobb

This is a sweet and poetic short story in letter form. If you have read the Steadfast Love series, it is a wonderful companion story OR a great prequel that sets up and shows a different perspective on some of the events in that trilogy. I do hope Rachelle has more bookish plans for these characters!

His Mistletoe Miracle (Sugar Creek #3) by Jenny B. Jones

A FUN and hilarious romantic novel that also balanced a meaningful message of growth and even the fallout of a traumatic experience. With plenty of snarky, laugh-out-loud moments, Will and Cordelia navigate their newfound pretend “relationship” through holiday traditions and family gatherings, all the while really getting to know each other and prodding each other toward greater purpose. I hope to catch up on the rest of the “Sugar Creek” stories soon!

The Christmas Heirloom: Four Holiday Novellas of Love Through the Generations

Legacy of Love by Kristi Ann Hunter

Delightful and a nice start to the series, I especially enjoyed seeing the characters learn their worth and find an unexpected connection in this story.

Gift of the Heart by Karen Witemeyer

Though this was a novella, I thought it a well fleshed-out story in a very believable timeline. With Karen’s usual humor and endearing characters, this story takes a hero who would consider himself unlikely and pairs him with a darling little girl and a strong woman who never expected a second chance at love.

A Shot at Love by Sarah Loudin Thomas

I laughed out loud more than once while reading this story. Fleeta’s penchant for outshooting the boys was hilarious and an outward show of her fortitude. I liked Hank as her match, a man who respected her and was equal to the challenge of showing her his care. I really liked the setting of 1950s Appalachia, too.

Because of You by Becky Wade

This novella ties in to Becky’s “Bradford Sisters Romance” series in setting. Besides the fun cameos of familiar characters, this story wonderfully concluded the collection with a friendship-to-romance plot that touched on the nostalgia of the season but focused more on the joy in serving. It also handled themes of grief in a very real and tangible way, having both Leo and Maddie come to terms with honoring the past and choosing joy and good things for the future. It ended with great possibility, not with everything worked out. and I liked that.

Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Christmas Cake Kisses by Lena Goldfinch

This short story is just as sweet as its title implies. I adore the cover and the Victorian setting, and I really liked the time spent with the characters. Arabella and Malcolm learn more about one another and grow closer, even through a misunderstanding. I could have read a whole novel about them!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 New-To-Me Authors I Read for the First Time in 2016

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

At first consideration, I didn’t think I had read 10 NEW authors this year because I tend to gravitate to favorite authors I know I will enjoy. Upon looking through Goodreads, however, I found I had read more than 10 new authors in 2016. I’ve listed below my favorites, in alphabetical order (because who could ever rank them!!??), and my corresponding book(s) review(s).

Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read for the First Time in 2016

1. Pepper D. Basham

Pepper D. BashamLet me just tell you now: you need to read Pepper’s books. As of last week, I have read all 4 of her published works and cannot wait for more. She conquers both historical and contemporary romance with the same determination to communicate messages of God’s grace and Christ’s love with her characters.

The Thorn Bearer

The Thorn Keeper

A Twist of Faith

2. Rachelle Rea Cobb

Rachelle ReaWhile I might have been a little late in discovering fellow blogger Rachelle Rea Cobb’s historical series, I hope I made up for it by devouring her series this year. I was also privileged to participate on her special launch team for book 3. This is a series not to miss if you’re a fan of history, gripping drama, fantastic romance, or stories of redemption.

The Sound of Diamonds

The Sound of Silver

The Sound of Emeralds

3. Melanie Dickerson

The Beautiful PretenderAfter hearing about Melanie’s skill at transforming fairytales into clever retelllings with an inspirational bent, I had to try one of her stories for myself. Everyone was right! I will be reading more of her books in the future.

The Beautiful Pretender

4. Ruth Logan Herne

392151Ruth seems like such a sweet person! I enjoyed one of her recent releases for the first time this year in conjunction with SLB Tours.

More Than a Promise

5. Liz Johnson

where-two-hearts-meetLiz’s contemporary romance series set on the idyllic Prince Edward Island was a treat! It’s not to be missed. I’m anxious for book 3!

The Red Door Inn

Where Two Hearts Meet

6. Jenny B. Jones

I'll Be YoursAnother author I kept hearing about in the young adult genre, one I don’t visit very often. though that might be changing with such discoveries as Jenny (and the next on the list, Amy….)

I’ll Be Yours

7. Amy Matayo

the-thirteenth-chanceAmy is such fun! I reviewed her latest release and have since added a few more of her novels to my collection to be read soon, hopefully.

The Thirteenth Chance

8. Dani Pettrey

Cold Shot by Dani PettreyI know, I know, I haven’t read anything from Dani until this year. I *need* to read her Alaskan Courage series because it is totally my type of series. I just know I need some dedicated time because I have a feeling I’ll want to binge-read it. Anyway, I really loved the start of her new action/mystery/romance series and look forward to book 2 early next year!

Cold Shot

9. Kathleen Rouser

kathy-rouserKathleen contacted me concerning her new release from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, a small-time publisher, and I’m very glad she did! She is a delightful person, as evidenced in my interview post, and her novel is equally as delightful in depth of story and character.

Rumors and Promises (and interview)

10. James L. Rubart

the-long-journey-to-jake-palmerThe synopsis of James’s newest release, combined with the stunning cover and previous praise of his novels, made me eager to read this one. I knew it would be different than the norm, and I was happily correct. Fans of contemporary drama, stories of purpose, and even slight fantasy in a C.S. Lewis-like vein will enjoy James’s latest release.

The Long Journey to Jake Palmer

 

Well, have you read any of these books or authors before? Which is your favorite? What new authors have you discovered recently? I’d love to hear your comments and recommendations!

Review: “I’ll Be Yours” by Jenny B. Jones

Review: “I’ll Be Yours” by Jenny B. Jones

Today I’m here with a review of a book not in my typical reading genre: Young Adult (YA for short). It’s Jenny B. Jones’ latest release, I’ll Be Yours. Sometimes it’s fun to read something a little tiny bit out of the norm. Let me tell you, I’m so glad I did!

This story is at the same time fun and serious, with a storyline that has unexpected intensity and characters you’ll fall in love with (or at least have a fictional crush on, no matter your age. Seriously.). If you’re familiar with Jenny, you know she has written under the Christian Fiction banner in the past. While this story may not be labeled as such, it’s a clean YA story with Christian morals (though not directly stated). So, fans of both genres will likely be pleased!

About the BookI'll Be YoursAdd to Goodreads

She’s the coach’s brilliant daughter, clueless about love. He’s the dethroned football star, ready to teach Romance 101. When dark secrets and sparks collide, there’s no playbook for what happens next.

The day Andrew Levin arrives at Washington High, Harper O’Malley knows he’ll make the perfect starter boyfriend. The school’s newest band geek is totally in Harper’s league, yet completely out of this late-bloomer’s reach. Between fitting in with a new family, scoring the first chair in band, and rescuing dogs for the local animal shelter, Harper’s never had the opportunity to hone her dating skills. But even though Harper’s love life is far from perfect, she’s got the perfect plan.

Harper knows she’s insane to agree to tutor Ridley Estes, a notorious heartbreaker and the star of her high school’s football team—but in exchange, he’s offered to school her in the game of love. Just when she sees promise with her crush, a football scandal rocks her family, her town, and Ridley’s entire future. Harper suddenly has everything to lose—her family, friends, and even her heart. When the dust of the scandal settles, nothing will be the same. Including the girl who asked the most popular jock to teach her about love.

Review

This story has totally different conflict than a normal YA situation, I think. Instead of your typical awkward (or even rebellious) teenage scenario, these characters are in circumstances not of their choosing or influence. External forces have shaped and pushed Harper (and even Ridley) to cope and mature with wisdom. The arc of their story shows how reactions and choices can be made to be better, brave, and to accept the love offered them.

I liked the way the romance was gradually developed through the book. After the first few chapters, it’s obvious who the love interest for Harper will be. And the way that particular relationship started with a sweet friendship was pretty perfect.

Before you start thinking this story is all seriousness, let me say I really enjoyed Jenny’s sense of humor! She has a wry sense of humor that is 1 part sarcasm, 1 part fun, and 2 parts reality. She brings to light the humor in “everyday life” situations, making her characters feel real, normal, and sometimes gritty.

Beneath this story of finding a place to belong is an underlying theme of love as a choice. Choosing to love, even when a person does not return those feelings, is a choice to be both brave and vulnerable. But in that choice, peace can be found. This story is a call to be brave, with a cute first-love-romance that sometimes uses rescue dogs as metaphors :).

 

Thank you to Relz Author Support Services and Jenny B. Jones for the complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest review.