Friday, November 21, 2014

SAM'S CHRISTMAS WISH by George D. Durrant




ABOUT THE BOOK

"We don't need no charity," insists Big Sam Edwards. It's bad enough to have lost his job a few weeks before Christmas; the thought of "do-gooders" meddling in his business is more than he can bear. "I'll be watching if anybody comes around trying to leave anything at the door!" he warns.

But the mystery of a pile of gifts left anonymously, without any tracks in the snow, works a change in Sam's heart. The spirit of Christmas fills his home with joy.

Over the years, Sam becomes one of the most generous men in town. Yet his fondest wish goes unrealized: "I wish I could do something good and do it in secret so nobody would ever know."

And then one Christmas, he gets his chance—his secret act is even more gratifying than he ever could have imagined.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

GEORGE D. DURRANT was born and raised in American Fork, Utah. He graduated from Brigham Young University and became a full-time educator. He is a master storyteller and loves telling stories to his eight children, thirty-four grandchildren, and fifteen great-grandchildren. He and his wife, Susan Easton Black Durrant, live in the Rocky Mountains.

DAN BURR, an award-winning illustrator, earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Utah State University and a master’s degree in illustration from Syracuse University. He and his wife, Patti, are the parents of two children and live in Tetonia, Idaho. Dan has illustrated many children’s books, including The Miracle of the Wooden Shoes, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, The Mansion, and The Christmas Train.

EXCERPTS (from Deseret Book website)

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Sams_christmas_wish_spread2

Sams_christmas_wish_spread1

REVIEW

I confess, I thought I knew where this story would end up, but I was surprised by the ending.  When Sam's family is blessed on Christmas with gifts and dinner after he lost his job, he doesn't want to accept it.  But when he calls the sheriff in anger, the sheriff shows him that there are no tracks in the snow except his own. For the sake of his children, Sam eventually gives in and accepts the gifts and he takes the scripture shared to heart: "That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly."  Sam uses this scripture in doing many good deeds throughout the rest of his life, but he wants very much to do an act of service that no one every knows was done by him.  And when his neighbors who have been so kind to him end up in serious trouble, he puts his life on the line to help.  A beautifully illustrated story of true love and service that is bound to touch even the hardest heart.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

BLOG TOUR: Softly Falling by Carla Kelly

Softly Falling blog tour

ABOUT THE BOOK

Beautiful Lily Branson learns that her wayward father has lost his Wyoming cattle ranch in a card game to handsome cowboy Jack Sinclair, no less! When a series of deadly winter storms sets in, Lily and Jack must work together to save the cattle—as well as their hearts.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carla Kelly is a veteran of the New York and international publishing world. The author of more than thirty novels and novellas for Donald I. Fine Co., Signet, and Harlequin, Carla is the recipient of two Rita Awards (think Oscars for romance writing) from Romance Writers of America and two Spur Awards (think Oscars for western fiction) from Western Writers of America. She is also a recipient of a Whitney Award for Borrowed Light and My Loving Vigil Keeping.

REVIEW

Another great romance by Carla Kelly, Softly Falling, focuses on the power of human beings to rely on each other for survival.  For me to thoroughly enjoy a romance I have to connect with the characters.  I knew this one would be interesting because of the survival aspects of the story.  Wyoming winters are rather famous for their severity so the idea of being stuck in one with no real help available is one that intrigued me. I also found myself very much liking both Lily and Jack.  Lily for her courage in facing a whole boatload of disappointments when she meets up with her alcoholic father.  Jack's admirable characteristics include a determination to succeed despite a life full of hard knocks. But they weren't the only characters that I enjoyed.  In these kind of stories I always enjoy child characters and the three in this one were no exception, especially since these three girls and one boy have had some pretty big challenges themselves.  It was fun to see Lily learn how to work with these children.  The details of life on a Wyoming ranch make me supremely grateful not to have lived on one.  That is one of the things that Kelly is especially good at historical details and enjoyable dialogue.  Another winner from a great romance writer.

Friday, November 14, 2014

BLOG TOUR w/ GIVEAWAY: The Match Maker by Karey White

Match Maker

Blog Tour hosted by I Am A Reader November 4th to 21st Tour Schedule

Match Maker Book Cover

ABOUT THE BOOK

(Summary contains spoilers if you have not yet read book #1 The Husband Maker) It’s been six months since Charlotte and Kyle broke up, and the Husband Maker strikes again. Kyle is officially engaged, while Charlotte is still nursing a broken heart. In an effort to get Charlotte out of her rut, she and her best friend decide it’s time for some good old-fashioned matchmaking. While Aleena arranges for Charlotte to meet up with a handsome Scottish tourist, Charlotte gets her two best friends together. But when sparks start to fly between Aleena and Angus, Charlotte is left feeling more alone that ever--at least until the charming Scotsman becomes more than just a safe, rebound guy and teaches her that maybe, just maybe, she can dare to open her heart again.

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Husband Maker Cover

Coming Spring 2015
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The Wife Maker by Karey White

Wife Maker 2


Karey WhiteABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karey White grew up in Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Missouri. She attended Ricks College and Brigham Young University. Her first novel, Gifted, was a Whitney Award Finalist. She loves to travel, read, bake treats, and spend time with family and friends. She and her husband are the parents of four great children. She teaches summer creative writing courses to young people and is currently working on her next book.



REVIEW

Karey White has written another winner with The Match Maker. Having enjoyed her first book so much, I was really looking forward to this one and I was not disappointed.  There are some spoilers coming up so if you haven't read the first one, do that before reading further.

Charlotte is struggling with here break-up with Kyle and is shocked to learn after only six months that he is engaged.  With some prodding from her friend Aleena, she contacts the Scottish guy she met not too long ago.  As she spends some time with him, she really starts to ponder what she wants both in love and in life.  Wanting her friends to be happy, she sets up her friends, Aleena and Angus.

There is something that I realized quite early in the first book and I was eager to see how that would play out here.  This is something that the reader picks up on but which Charlotte remains clueless about, at least until the end of this book.  It leaves Charlotte having to decide how she feels about her relationships and what it is she really wants. Unsurprisingly things are left unresolved with Charlotte having her work cut out for her to fix some problems that she inadvertently helped create.  I am really eager to read book three to find out what happens and see if things work out the way I hope they will.

EXCERPT 

“Have you heard from Flynn?” Aleena asked between bites.

“We talked last night for a while.”

“You’re still talking to him?” Angus asked. He sounded surprised.

“They’ve been talking a lot,” Aleena said.

“I don’t know if I’d say ‘a lot.’” I really didn’t want to talk about this.

“I think he really likes Charlotte,” Aleena said.

“We’re friends.”

“How much do you talk?” Angus asked.

“A couple of times a week, I guess.”

“Maybe at the beginning it was a couple of times a week, but hasn’t it picked up lately?” Aleena asked.

I shrugged and kept chewing, even though I had already swallowed.

“Have you seen that new Reese Witherspoon movie?” I asked.

“Nice try,” Aleena said. “Let’s talk about Scotland. When are you going?”

“I’m not,” I said.

“You really should,” Aleena said. “What a great chance to see another part of the world.” Aleena turned to Angus. “He’s invited her over and over and she keeps putting him off.”

“Why?” Angus turned to me.

“I’m busy. I’ve got lots of projects going on at work.”

“Oh please. That’s not why you’re not going.”

I gave Aleena a pointed look, but she wasn’t looking at me, so she didn’t see it.

“Why aren’t you going?” Angus asked.

I took another bite of salad. “I think she’s not going because she’s afraid she’s falling for him and a boyfriend in Scotland is pretty inconvenient.”

“I’ve never said I’m falling for him, but you’re right. Scotland isn’t convenient.”

“Maybe he’ll move back here,” Angus said. “His brother did.”

“And that’s why he won’t,” I said. “He doesn’t want to leave his mom and the family business.”

“Maybe you could split your time between here and there.” Finally, Aleena looked at me and I gave her a “shut up” look. “What? I’m just trying to help you work things out. Maybe the fortune meant long-term romance.”

“What fortune?” Angus asked.

“Charlotte’s fortune cookie that said ‘romance will come to you from foreign lands,’” Aleena said.

“First of all,” I said, “that was your fortune. Second, I don’t believe in fortunes. Third, let’s talk about something else.”

“Why?” Angus asked. “He seemed like a nice guy.”

I sighed. “He is a nice guy. A nice guy who lives in Scotland.”

“Who’s invited you to come visit,” Aleena said.

“I think you should go,” said Angus. I stared at him. When I realized my mouth was hanging open, I hurried and clamped it shut. 

“What?” Angus looked at my surprised face. “Has he asked you to marry him and move there forever?”

I shook my head. For some reason, I had expected Angus to discourage me from going. I would have thought he would disapprove. I’d have imagined him saying, “Don’t follow a guy halfway around the world unless you mean business.” But instead he was telling me I should go.

Angus and I looked at each other for longer than was comfortable. I could feel Aleena’s eyes on us, and I wanted to look away, but I needed to read what was behind Angus’s words. Finally, he lowered his eyes. “Just go. There’s nothing here to stop you.”

What did he mean? My family was here. My friends were here. My job was here. There was plenty here to stop me.

I laughed, but it sounded fake. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you want me to move to another country.”

Angus shrugged. “Just want you to be happy, Charlotte, and you don’t seem to be happy with what you’ve got here.”


BLOG TOUR GIVEAWAY

$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
Ends 11/30/14

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the publisher. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A TIMELESS ROMANCE ANTHOLOGY: Silver Bells




ABOUT THE BOOK

Six Award-Winning Authors have contributed new stories to A Timeless Romance Anthology: Silver Bells. Readers will love this collection of six historical novellas, all centered around the Christmas season with one thing in common: Romance.

In NY Times & USA Today’s bestselling author Lucinda Brant’s delightful novella, FAIRY CHRISTMAS, Kitty Aldershot is orphaned and forced to live on others’ charity. Offered a home under the generous roof of her relatives, the Earl of Salt Hendon and his countess, Kitty wants for nothing, not even the affections of Mr. Tom Allenby. But when Kitty stumbles across a letter written by Lady Caroline that reveals how Mr. Allenby would be ruined should he marry the likes of Kitty, she realizes she has been fooling herself all along. Kitty’s world crumbles around her as she recognizes she will forever be alone with no prospects at all.

Sarah M. Eden’s charming romance novella A CHRISTMAS PROMISE, Sean Kirkpatrick is trying to get to his new place of employment, Kilkenny Castle, in order to start as the new stablehand. His only requirement is to drive a team of high-spirited nags from Dublin to Kilkenny in a certain amount of time. Unfortunately he winds up in a muddy field, stuck, lost, and running out of time. He’s about to lose the job before he can prove himself capable of finishing his first assignment. When Maeve Butler arrives on the scene, Sean isn’t sure if she’s intent on rescuing him or bent on torturing him with her fiery wit and lovely dark eyes.

In Heather B. Moore’s enchanting novella, TWELVE MONTHS, Lucien Baxter’s best and most incorrigible friend, Will, dies unexpectedly, leaving behind his new bride and unborn child the week before Christmas. Will’s last request is that Lucien watches over Cora, not just as a benefactor, but as a husband. When Lucien does his duty and proposes to Cora, he’s turned down flat. But over the course of the next few days, Lucien discovers that marrying Cora wouldn’t be any sort of duty after all, but a matter of following his heart.

In Lu Ann Staheli’s sweet romance novella, A FEZZIWIG CHRISTMAS, Dick Wilkins and his best friend Ebenezer Scrooge have been looking forward to the annual Fezziwig Christmas dance for weeks. Ebenezer is practically engaged to Annabelle Fezziwig, and Dick hopes to start courting her younger sister, Pricilla. Once the dance starts, and Pricilla arrives, as pretty and charming as ever, Dick discovers that he’s not the only man vying for her attention. His best friend advises Dick that he has to win Pricilla’s heart, as well as her mother’s favor. Losing his heart has suddenly become very complicated.

A TASTE OF HOME, a captivating romance by Annette Lyon, we meet Claire Jennings, who’s on her way to spend Christmas with her family. As she rides the train with William Rhodes, who grew up across the street, memories of Christmases past flood her mind. He may be twenty-one now, but she can’t forget his torturous teasing from their school years. At the rail station, Claire discovers that her home is under quarantine because her little brother has measles. She's stuck in town, away from her family, on her favorite holiday. William stays behind with her, and as Christmas Day approaches and her homesickness deepens, she discovers that perhaps he has changed in more ways than one.

Becca Wilhite’s entrancing novella, MY MODERN GIRL, follows Margie, who lands her dream job as a clerk at Macy’s department store in New York City. Margie might be new in town, but she’s determined to succeed and prove to Henry that moving to the city was the right decision. As the Christmas season approaches, Margie realizes that being a “modern girl” might not be all she had dreamed of and Henry might have more to offer than she ever imagined.

REVIEW

FAIRY CHRISTMAS. I thoroughly enjoyed this story.  Kitty and Allenby were sweet characters, but the part that surprised me the most was the other romance that took place in the story.  I was focused on Kitty and her attempt to get Mr. Allenby to propose that I didn't realize that the other romance was happening although there are hints that point in that direction.  This is the kind of short story that I enjoy, with enough conflict to create a plot, but the emphasis is on the characters.

A CHRISTMAS PROMISE.  The details in this story about Ireland and the Irish I found quite amusing.  I found myself laughing out loud at several points in the story.  I also loved Sean and Maeve as they met and fell in love.  The part where Sean gets stuck in the mud and meets Maeve and her large Irish wolfhounds entertained me very much.  But the ending I found especially pleasing as it showcases the strength of a solid relationship that goes beyond just being in love, but true trust and commitment.

TWELVE MONTHS: Cory and Lucien both won me over immediately.  Sweet Cory who lost both her fiance and now her husband, who also had to live with knowing her husband was unfaithful to her and is reluctant to believe in a good love again.  Lucien, whose best friend was Cory's husband, is used to covering for Will but to marry his wife?  He's uncertain at first until he starts to get to know her and realizes how great she is and how much he likes her.  I especially enjoyed the musical parts where they played for each other.

A FEZZIWIG CHRISTMAS.  This is an interesting take on Ebenezer Scrooge story with the main character actually being his friend, Dick Wilkins.  Cilla is an interesting character as well as she looks forward to receiving suitors.  And Dick being already smitten was cute as he tried to figure out the best way to approach her.  The dance where Dick first becomes Cilla's rescuer is sweet as she seeks to avoid someone she discovers to her dismay is boring as all get out.  It was kind of sad reading about Ebenezer proposing to Belle knowing what would happen later, but all in all a sweet story.

A TASTE OF HOME.  The fun thing about this story was the way Claire started to see Will in a new way. After Will tormented her throughout her childhood she was reluctant to travel home to Utah with him, but it was better than traveling alone.  When she discovers that she can't go home because her little brother has the measles she is devastated.  Will decides this is his opportunity to show Claire how much he likes her by helping her face a lonely Christmas.  I love the selfless gesture that Will makes to help a disappointed Claire enjoy Christmas.

MY MODERN GIRL.  I think this one was my favorite of the six stories.  I fell for Henry almost immediately.  His willingness to let Margie go since that's what she wanted won me over as did his determination to prove to her his worthiness.  And then as Margie slowly realized that while she loved certain things about the city, there were things about home she missed, including Henry.  But the way Henry came through for her at the end really made me sigh happily.  This is what a short story romance should be.

Overall a wonderful set of short stories that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Monday, November 10, 2014

JACOB T. MARLEY by R. William Bennett


ABOUT THE BOOK

“Marley was dead to begin with . . .”

These chillingly familiar words begin the classic Christmas tale of remorse and redemption in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Now R. William Bennett rewinds the story and focuses the spotlight on Scrooge’s miserly business partner, Jacob T. Marley, who was allowed to return as a ghost to warn Scrooge away from his ill-fated path. Why was Marley allowed to return? And why hadn’t he been given the same chance as Ebenezer Scrooge?

Or had he?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

R. WILLIAM (BILL) BENNETT spent more than thirty years in business, most recently as a division president of FranklinCovey. The author of the award-winning novella The Christmas Gift, Bill and his family live in Alpine, Utah. You can contact him at Bill@rwilliambennet.com.

REVIEW

I sometimes have a hard reading books like this that go back and take an original story and offer another take on it.  But I found myself really enjoying this one.  It's a very thought-provoking look at redemption and forgiveness and making choices that lead us to become what we do.  Jacob T. Marley let his pride and greed get the better of him at great harm to himself and everyone he came in contact with.  And when he and Scrooge met up they had the same flaws and they fed off each other making things worse.  And until the day he died Marley never once stopped to think about how his choices had shaped his life.  As he lay dying, he watched Scrooge manipulating his way into Marley's house, he realizes for the first time how much harm he has done.

Obviously we don't really know why Marley does what he does in the original story, A Christmas Carol, something changes that leads him to want to prevent Scrooge from ending up in the same sort of situation.  Bennett gives the reader a look at what might have been.  I found myself thoroughly enthralled with the portrayal of Marley as he seeks to help Scrooge take a different path. And in the end he does something that during his mortal life he would never have done.  Frankly it had me in tears.  The story is so well told and beautifully highlights the joys of serving those around us and that the true treasures in life don't revolve around money.  A story of bad choices, remorse, and change that becomes possible through the sacrifice of our Savior.  A novel truly worthy of the Christmas season.

Friday, November 7, 2014

FAIRY TALE CHRISTMAS by Michael McLean and Scott McLean (Includes Giveaway!)




ABOUT THE BOOK

Santa Claus has been kidnapped!

Behind the plot are an evil queen, a wicked stepmother, a sorceress, a beanstalk giant, and, of course, the mischievous Rumpelstiltskin. They have a plan that will erase the term "Happily Ever After" from our storybooks forever.

But it's nearly Christmas Eve, and time is running out. Can Santa and the fairy-tale heroes save the day and bring Christmas to all the children of the world? Will anyone have a "Happily Ever After" again?

Fairy Tale Christmas reminds us all that there is good in everyone and that the magic of Christmas can soften any heart.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

MICHAEL MCLEAN has released more than two dozen albums, has written, produced, and directed award-winning films and television commercials, and has annually presented his landmark Christmas production, The Forgotten Carols, based on his book, to sold-out audiences throughout the United States since 1991. He and his wife, Lynne, live in Heber Valley.

SCOTT MCLEAN is an actor, songwriter, and playwright. A graduate of The American Academy of Dramatic Arts (NYC) and The National Theatre Conservatory (Denver), Scott lives, creates, acts, and auditions in New York City.

REVIEW

What a creatively new look at the Christmas season and Santa and toy giving!  Santa has decided that all kids deserve at least one present to help inspire them to be good.  As a result the elves and reindeer have been working overtime to get ready for Christmas Eve.  Meanwhile, some well-known fairy tale villains (think Rumplestiltskin, Snow White, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty) want their own so-called happy endings.  In order to force the fairy tale heroes to give up their happy endings they decide to kidnap Santa Claus.  But like most such things, it doesn't go the way they planned.  This is a light fun read for middle grade readers who enjoy fairy tale spin-offs and Christmas stories.

The advantage of having a songwriter for an author is the addition of music to the story.  While the website where the music will be is not up yet, I look forward to checking it out.

BLOG TOUR GIVEAWAY

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See the rest of the blog tour schedule here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

GOD BLESS US, EVERY ONE!: The Story Behind A Christmas Carol


ABOUT THE BOOK

In creating stories for others, we sometimes end up revealing truths to ourselves. Such was the experience of the beloved Charles Dickens, master storyteller and honorary champion of Christmas. But Dickens was not always the purveyor of yuletide wisdom we know today—he too had to discover for himself the true spirit of Christmas and how best to keep it all the year through.

It was 1843, and winter was fast approaching. Times were tough for Charles Dickens and his family. He needed to publish something that would earn enough money to meet his many obligations. Pondering his predicament, Dickens set out to write a quick Christmas story that would be sure to sell. Little did he know that his writing—and the genial ghost he would bring to life—would take him on an incredible journey of the heart.

This beautifully illustrated volume tells the story behind the writing of Dickens's most famous work and reveals how he discovered the spirit of Christmas for himself—with a little help from his own literary characters. Originally presented by acclaimed British actor John Rhys-Davies at the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's 2013 Christmas concert, the book also includes a DVD with footage from the event.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

JOHN RHYS-DAVIES is a celebrated Welsh actor and voice actor. Film audiences best know him for his roles as the dwarf Gimli in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the charismatic Arab excavator Sallah in the Indiana Jones films. His television credits include Shogun and War and Remembrance. Raised in England, Africa, and Wales, he credits his early exposure to classical literature for his decision to pursue acting and writing.

BRANDON DORMAN is the illustrator of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Wizard. He graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho, where he studied fine art and illustration. He and his wife, Emily, have three children and live in Washington, where he enjoys working as a freelance illustrator. His work has appeared in children’s books and on numerous covers, including Pingo, The Candy Shop War, and the Fablehaven series.

REVIEW

This beautiful book shares what the impetus was that lead Charles Dickens to write A Christmas Carol.  While part of the book is imaginary (Dickens goes on a trip with the Ghost of Christmas Present), the ideas behind it are not.  The book explores how Dickens ideas and beliefs about Christmas changed as he wrote his famous story.  Being in financial difficulty he had money very much on the brain that year, but writing about Scrooge's obsession with money helped transform his own beliefs about what is most important just as it did Scrooge's.  Dorman's illustrations are beautiful and showcase the story perfectly.  The part of the story I found most interesting is the part where the author imagined Dickens going on a trip with his ghost character and having his eyes opened to the fact that people can enjoy Christmas without all the trappings and trimmings.  This story was told as a part of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's annual Christmas concert and so a DVD of the performance of the story with John Rhys-Davies and the Choir and Orchestra is included.

EXCERPTS from Deseret Book

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