Christmas Novella Mini Reviews

Welcome! The Merry Christmas season is upon us, filling cars with Christmas music and homes with Hallmark movies, Christmas trees, and the spirit of giving. I have a review sampler here of Christmas novellas I’ve read recently (because I love EVERYTHING Christmas!). These will put you in the mood for the season and are to be enjoyed with hot chocolate, tea, or a fireplace close by. Since it’s almost Christmas, you could keep the festivities alive by reading these into January (I totally would!)

(Click on the book covers to visit the Goodreads pages for a plot summary, etc.)

One Enchanted Eve by Melissa Tagg

one-enchanted-eveThis novella continues the story of a character we met in last year’s edition, One Enchanted Christmas. It proves there is always more to the story behind seemingly antihero of that one, illustrating everyone has a journey and has trials. I love revisiting Maple Valley, especially the Renwyckes for Christmas. This is a must-read Christmas novella! The combo of drama, humor, and family is just perfect. And I can’t forget to mention the bonding that happens between Collin and Rylan over pastry and the flirting with recipe cards = swoon! In true “Tagg” style, this story is at once nostalgic and insightful, drawing out an emotional depth and realness from its characters, taking us home for Christmas and to blessings in unexpected little things.

Starring Christmas novella set by Rachel McMillan and Allison Pittman

Starring Christmas.jpgFalling For a Christmas Star by Rachel McMillan

At once depicting a story of made-for-TV Christmas movies AND reading like one, this little novella gives nods to the sappy souls who watch these movies all season and the underlying hope of the season they all exhibit. Rachel applies her humor and pop culture references to a contemporary story for a change, exploring the possibility of happily-ever-after in an unexpected avenue for the characters.

Lone Star Christmas Lights by Allison Pittman

Again reading somewhat like a Hallmark movie with a quaint setting and meet-cute, this one was a proper companion story to Rachel’s because it featured the sister of the hero from hers. Though one of the main professions of the characters was not really “my thing” (it was a craft brewery), I still enjoyed the Christmas setting and relatable characters.

Oh, the Weather Outside Is Frightful by Susan May Warren

32732111This story is perfect for the season – especially if you’re in the mood for a little romance, slight suspense, and blizzards. Oh, and wonderfully familiar faces from the Montana Fire series, like Hannah and CJ St. John, the pair who goes on quite an adventure to realize their feelings for each other. A wonderful message of hope and “being enough” ties this adventure together.

A Night Like No Other by Kristin Vayden

a-night-like-no-otherThis is a powerful, timely story featuring the relationship of Mary and Joseph before and through Jesus’ birth. While it is a fictional account, it stays true to Biblical events and poses a few “what-if?” scenarios which portray Mary and Joseph in a relatable light. It deftly communicates the wonder of God’s plan, the ordinary people like Mary, Joseph, you and me that He chooses to use. It’s highly recommended, especially to read this time of year!

A Royal Christmas Wedding by Rachel Hauck

a-royal-christmas-weddingBoth comfortably read as a standalone novellla AND a return to Rachel’s famed Royal Wedding series, this book spins a modern-day Christmas fairytale with enchanted moments of Divine light. It’s a perfect story for the Christmas season with down-to-earth characters. I enjoyed the second-chance storyline and the way it directs the characters to seek God’s plan for their dreams.I loved the moments of Christmas tradition and the way they were beautifully tied in with an emphasis on the gift of Christ at Christmas. The happily-ever-after ending left me smiling!

Thank you to the Thomas Nelson Fiction Guild for the review copy of A Royal Christmas Wedding.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top 9 Books or series I wish someone would make into a movie/series

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

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

This week is a freebie topic! I’m choosing to go with books I wish someone would make into miniseries, TV series, or movies. So, make yourself some popcorn and read on for my ideas!

Top 9 Books or Series I wish someone would make into a movie/series

Miniseries

TTT Adaptation 1

#1 The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton

No question about it, this book is my number one pick for being adapted into some form of film. I have always said it should be a miniseries, that way there would be enough time for all the little details to be included. Plus the budget would be higher for filming on location in rural TN. And we need authentic costumes. I can dream, right? Basically, I’d volunteer to work on the crew just to see it done. (History Channel, AMC, or Hallmark, are you listening?)

#2 The Price of Privilege series by Jessica Dotta (Born of Persuasion, Mark of Distinction, Price of Privilege)

It should be no surprise to see this on my list. Favorite. Series. Ever. And a miniseries would be awesome, yes?

TV series

TTT Adaptations 2

#3 The “Redemption” series (and subsequent related Baxter Family books) by Karen Kingsbury (some with Gary Smalley)

We have 23 books in 5 series that could be adapted, so I think it could be a very long-running series. (Ahem, Hallmark, since you’ve already adapted Karen’s The Bridge and book-based Cedar Cove, this could be your next hit series.)

(2/4 update: we have a contract! Karen & Roma Downey will be working together to bring the Baxter Family series to television!! http://deadline.com/2016/02/roma-downey-the-baxter-family-faith-based-novel-tv-series-1201694238/)

#4 “Christiansen Family” series by Susan May Warren

This is another that fits the TV series format! Though the 6 books could be a series of movies, too, what with each sibling having their own book.

Movie

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#5 The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

In the vein of The Book Thief or Woman in Gold, this would be an excellent historical drama on screen with 2 intertwining stories — present day and WWII.

#6 Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano

Besides this being a great story, it made me want to go to Scotland. If it were made into a movie, I might not actually have to go there to see all the wonderful locations referenced in the story. Plus I’d like to see a cast with the great chemistry of James and Andrea (with Henry Cavill, of course).

#7 The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck

With a large cast, this would be a fabulous family drama with flashbacks to the early story of a couple certain characters. It would be a perfect June Hallmark movie!

#8 The Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E. Ladd

Who doesn’t love a good Regency period drama with mystery and romance? With the right casting, it could be a new favorite!

#9 Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg

Because the world needs more good rom-coms! Why not one with realistic characters, a serious story of forgiveness, and small-town charm.

 

Well, that’s my list for now. How about you? Do you have any favorite books you’d like to see adapted to film of some kind? Share in the comments!

Review: “The Wedding Chapel” by Rachel Hauck

Rachel Hauck has the ability to pen stories that are both sweet and gritty, dealing with real life in a way that illuminates the thread of the Divine in all of our lives. Her latest novel, The Wedding Chapel, is one such example. Read on for my review.

*click here to see my review of Rachel’s previous novel, How to Catch a Prince*

About the book: An old, forgotten chapel holds the key to love and forgiveness.

The Wedding Chapel by Rachel HauckRetired hall-of-fame football coach Jimmy Westbrook never imagined anything would come of his labor of love—building a wedding chapel for Collette Greer, the woman he fell in love with in 1949. But now a realtor wants the land the chapel sits on, and he sees no reason to hang onto the past.

Photographer Taylor Branson is trying to make a life for herself in New York. Leaving her hometown of Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, she put a lot of things behind her, including her family’s string of failed marriages. When she falls head-over-heels for Jack Gillingham, a top ad man, their whirlwind romance and elopement leave her with doubts. Jack, while genuine in his love for Taylor, can never seem to find the right way to show her he really cares.

When a post-mortem letter from Taylor’s Granny Peg shows up, along with an old photo, she is driven to uncover family secrets and the secret to her own happiness, starting with an assignment to photograph an unknown, obscure wedding chapel back in Heart’s Bend.

Taylor begins a mission to convince Jimmy that the chapel is worth saving—and that forgiveness and healing might happen within the chapel’s walls . . . for both of them.

My thoughts: With subtlety and beauty, this story paints a picture of how God requires our surrender, to be wholly dependent on Him, in order to bless us. Jack’s transformation stood out to me the most, possibly because his backstory was unfortunate and tough to overcome. I was rooting for him to embrace his path.

Just so you know, I’m not typically a fan of a book with as many as 4 main characters (with corresponding viewpoints), but Rachel’s skills make the story cohesive, even with occasional flashbacks to Colette and Jimmy’s early relationship. It follows these characters as all 4 experience a drastic shift in perspective, learn lessons of personal worth, and realize how much family matters.

I appreciated how Rachel timed flashbacks in this story to explain how the characters’ past shaped their current life, and how their choices had a lasting impact. I think Rachel did wonderfully in choosing which moments to flash back to and which to just explain in passing. The subtle hint of suspense regarding a certain secret one of the characters held on to was well staged, too.

This is a poignant story of love, faith, second chances, and recognizing the blessings in front of you. I am glad this title will find a place on my shelf because it is one of those I think will reveal deeper emotions and lessons with every re-read!

Thank you to Rachel Hauck for the opportunity to be a part of her “tribe”, Zondervan, & NetGalley for the review copies.

 

Review: “How to Catch a Prince” by Rachel Hauck

“It’s not easy to catch a prince, even harder to keep one.”- Corina Del Rey in How to Catch a Prince

Those words, uttered by the main character in Rachel Hauck’s latest novel in the “Royal Weddings” series, perfectly set up the story of wealthy socialite Corina Del Rey and Prince Stephen of Brighton kingdom. This book is a wonderful modern fairy tale whose message is this: love is a choice, and requires selfless sacrifice.

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How to Catch a Prince by Rachel Hauck Click to visit Rachel’s website!

I’m so happy to be a part of Rachel Hauck’s team for reviewing this recent release! Without further ado, here’s a summary of the book and my thoughts.

Book Summary: Prince Stephen came to America to escape responsibility. But what he found complicates his life more than ever.

Corina Del Rey is happy with her life in Melbourne, Florida. She spends her days engrossed in her career as a journalist and has her sights set on climbing the corporate ladder if for no other reason, to distract herself from her dissolving family. But when she is confronted with the past she fought so hard to put behind her, she struggles to make sense of her future.

Prince Stephen of Brighton Kingdom has moved on since the tragic death of his buddies in Afghanistan. A star professional rugby player, he has no intention of looking over his shoulder at what could’ve been.

But when a notice arrives in the mail requiring his and his wife’s appearance before the courts to dissolve their marriage, he must deal with the questions rumbling around in his heart. He thought his marriage had been annulled long ago, but his memories of Corina Del Rey remain close. Does he still love her? Can he even find her? Above all, can he tell her the truth about that fateful night in Afghanistan seven years ago? If he does, he might really lose her forever.

This book has a rare premise – the hero and heroine are already married at the start of the story. The challenge to the characters comes when this is unexpectedly discovered (that they are still secretly married), and they are faced with a possible annulment and external circumstances that reunite them publicly.

Corina’s family has not been the same since her twin brother was killed during war time. Still searching for the truth of what happened, she corners Stephen to help her learn the truth. What she doesn’t know, however, is that Stephen knows more than he’s saying about the events that killed her brother and caused Stephen to run from their marriage. Stephen is still running from the past and has stopped trusting God.

Both of these characters undergo transformations as a result of their experiences and the call of God through this story. Rachel Hauck has used beautiful and endearing secondary characters to speak wisdom to the characters and show them what life lived for God looks like (sometimes it’s intimidating, requiring the faith to step out in love, or requiring a selfless attitude).

The setting of this story in a fictitious Brighton Kingdom is picturesque, modern, and realistic at the same time. It is most definitely a modern fairy tale, with a few mysterious – maybe “magical”? – characters. These characters instead have a hinted Divine origin and purpose, with an unearthly knowledge of the past and Corina and Stephen’s current circumstances. I thought they were a clever way to encourage Corina.

At the heart of this story is a wonderful message of a relationship centered on Christ. With His sacrifice, He makes us worthy of love, gives us value beyond our abilities. In so many ways, Rachel weaves Corina’s and Stephen’s past together to teach them lessons of sacrifice, worth, and forgiveness.

One more thing I loved about these characters is that they realized they were royal or famous by the world’s standards, but they were still called to serve and love others through their positions.

I’m so glad I was able to read this last book in the series! It stands alone, though, as a complete story. (Confession: I’ve not read the other two in the series yet, but I can’t wait to!) A big thank-you to Rachel for inviting me to be on her team! I’ll leave you with one more quote from the book:

“Your worth is not determined by who you are or what you do, even what you don’t do. It’s determined by the work of your Savior.” – Archbishop Caldwell in How to Catch a Prince

Thank you to Rachel Hauck and to Zondervan for the ebook copy in exchange for my honest review.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books People Have Been Telling Me I MUST Read

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

Top Ten Books People Have Been Telling Me I MUST Read

Some of these are on my TBR, some are just ones people have been telling me I MUST read, and some are new to me authors I haven’t had the chance to check out yet. My list includes a little over 10 books this week. I thought it was going to be a little tough to come up with 10, but it proved to be very easy!   In no particular order, here are the ones I keep hearing about:

TTT 10 I Keep Hearing I Must Read


Born of Persuasion by Jessica Dotta

I’ve heard fellow bloggers and reviewers say they loved this one – and some say they didn’t like it at all. I’m anxious to see who I agree with. I have a copy sitting on my shelf, just waiting….


The “Daughters of Boston” series by Julie Lessman (A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, A Passion Denied). 

Because I LOVED the follow-up series (“Winds of Change”), I know I’ll enjoy these, too. Julie never disappoints. Several blogger friends have recommended this series.


Once Upon A Prince by Rachel Hauck

I hear this is a realistic and cute modern-day fairy tale. Everyone dreams of becoming royalty, right? 😉


Stones for Bread by Christa Parrish

The cover alone should be enough to convince me. After reading some great reviews of this one, it’s found a place on my eventual TBR list.


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

After reading Jamie’s gushing review (and after reading Dear Mr. Knightley), I’m intrigued by the letter format of this story. I have a copy I’m itching to get to.


“The Heart’s Spring” series by Amber Stokes (Forget Me Not, Bleeding Heart, Morning Glory [one of her current WIP])

I really do want to read this one – it’s by fellow blogger and author Amber Stokes. She’s pretty fabulous, so I’m sure her stories will be, too. I’ve heard some great things about her writing. And have you seen her latest cover reveal????!!!


The “Alaskan Courage” series by Dani Pettrey (Submerged, Shattered, Stranded, Silenced, Sabotaged releasing 2/2015 )

The McKenna family gets a lot of publicity time in the blogosphere. I think I need to read these to see what the all hype is about 🙂 Really, a contemporary suspense/romance series set in Alaska seems like the perfect setting.


The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

It seems everyone and their best friend has read this one… at least some of my friends and family have. I’m not totally convinced yet, because I HAVE seen the movie, and I’m not all that interested in spending my time to read it because I know how it ends (plus some of its content seems a little much for me). (Is that awful?)


Have you read any of these??? Are there any I’m missing that I simply MUST add to my TBR?