December Review Books
Not only is “To Everything a Season” the first book in Lauraine Snelling’s new Song of Blessing series, it is her latest in the ongoing saga of the Bjorklund family. Set in the town of Blessing, North Dakota, the story is a captivating illustration of life during the early 1900’s, especially among the Bjorklund family and friends. The narrative moves along at a leisurely and gentle pace for the most part but is punctuated by the excitement of a bank robbery, a few trials and tragedy, and choice bits of humor.
I have to confess that “To Everything a Season” is my first book featuring the Bjorklund family. I have read and enjoyed other novels by this talented author but somehow have missed any of the series set in Blessing. For this reason, at times I felt that there were things I should know about certain characters and that knowing this things would have made my experience all the richer. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the book as a whole.
Obviously, as the first book of a new series and a continuation of the series that have preceded it, “To Everything a Season” spent some time catching the reader up on the lives of the Bjorklund family members. For this reason, I found myself nearly halfway through it before the primary character of the book description made her appearance. Then as series are famous for, I was left with a large cliffhanger at the end. If I really want to know what happens with Trygve and Miriam, I will have to wait until the next installment. Oh well, I have become accustomed to waiting and there are many, many other books to read while I wait.
Truthfully, I loved my visit to Blessing and getting to know many of the Bjorklunds and their friends and neighbors. I may even go back and read the previous series (if I can find the time). Fans of Lauraine Snelling will definitely not want to miss this one.
This book was provided for review by the Book Club Network.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Beloved Author Lauraine Snelling Returns Again to Her Popular Red River Valley Setting
Trygve Knutson is devoted to his family and his community. With his job on the construction crew, he is helping to build a future for the North Dakota town of Blessing. Though he loves his home, he sometimes dreams of other horizons–especially since meeting Miriam Hastings.
Miriam is in Blessing to get practical training to become an accredited nurse. She’s been promised a position in the Chicago women’s hospital that will enable her to support her siblings and her ailing mother. Although eager to return to her family, Miriam is surprised to find how much she enjoys the small town of Blessing. And her growing attachment to Trygve soon has her questioning a future she always considered set in stone.
When a family emergency calls Miriam home sooner than planned, will she find a way to return? If not, will it mean losing Trygve–and her chance at love–for good?
I thoroughly enjoyed “Playing by Heart” and hated to see it come to an end. I was actually somewhat surprised at the course of Lula’s career – probably due to the book’s cover. The story is told in first person with chapters alternating between the two primary characters, Lula and Chet. I found it fun to see the book’s events through both points of view and felt like it gave me an inside track to how everything would turn out.
A historical romance set during World War 1, “Playing by Heart” is about two people whose lives have been shaped by the expectations of others. Lula has pursued a career in mathematics primarily to overcome her schooldays nickname of “Fruity Lu” and to prove herself to her father and her siblings. Chet has remained in his hometown to take care of his widowed mother while his brother serves in the army during the war but knows he can never live up to his brother in his mother’s eyes. The narrative examines the futility of attempting to meet the expectations of others and the importance of being the person the Lord designed one to be.
I enjoyed the historical aspect of the story, especially the early history of both men and women’s basketball. It was also interesting to learn how different life was for women in our not so distant past, especially when it came to a career. The characters came to life on the pages and the plot moved at a steady and believable pace. I was not exactly crazy about the ending but even that was quite realistic in that Chet had to follow through on a hasty decision made when highly emotional and a happy-ever-after had to be delayed for awhile.
I highly recommend “Playing by Heart” and hope you will give it a chance.
This book was provided for review by The Book Club Network.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Lula Bowman has finally achieved her dream: a teaching position and a scholarship to continue her college education in mathematics. But then a shocking phone call from her sister, Jewel, changes everything.
With a heavy heart, Lula returns to her Oklahoma hometown to do right by her sister, but the only teaching job available in Dunn is combination music instructor/basketball coach. Lula doesn’t even consider those real subjects!
Determined to prove herself, Lula commits to covering the job for the rest of the school year. Reluctantly, she turns to the boys’ coach, Chet, to learn the newfangled game of basketball. Chet is handsome and single, but Lula has no plans to fall for a local boy. She’s returning to college and her scholarship as soon as she gets Jewel back on her feet.
However, the more time she spends around Jewel’s family, the girls’ basketball team, music classes, and Chet, the more Lula comes to realize what she’s given up in her single-minded pursuit of degree after degree. God is working on her heart, and her future is starting to look a lot different than she’d expected.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Anne Mateer has loved reading and writing stories since childhood. In 2000, she began studying the craft of fiction and working toward publication. Ten years later, she received her first book contract. Anne is a three time Genesis contest finalist, a Carol Award finalist, and a contributor to A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts.
Anne and her equally history-obsessed husband live in Texas. They are the proud parents of three young adults who spent many family vacations touring historical sites.
After losing the man she loved during the war, Esther had focused on raising her orphaned niece and managing the family bakery. Jeremy had been rejected by his fiance when she learned he had lost a foot in battle. Neither ever expected to find love at their age but Esther’s search for just the right artist to paint a Christmas star for her niece’s wedding gift may have set things in motion for another family wedding.
“The Christmas Star Bride” may be my favorite so far in the 12 Brides of Christmas collection – probably because the romance came as somewhat a surprise to both parties. I probably also liked the story because it featured a couple who were a bit more mature than those in the usual romance novels. Of course, Cabot’s excellent skill at developing a wonderful story and her careful research combined to make this one well worth my time.
I am loving getting to read all the stories in this collection and hate to see it quickly coming to the end. I encourage everyone to grab a copy of one or more of these sweet and inspiring stories about Christmas brides.
This book was provided for review by Shiloh Run Studios.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
More About The Christmas Star Bride with Amanda Cabot
Who would have guessed that at one time Cheyenne, Wyoming had the highest number of millionaires per capita in the country? Amanda Cabot discovered that fact and many others while researching her novella The Christmas Star Bride. Such a surprising fact spurred her imagination and intrigued her writer’s sensibility.
“Ever since I moved to Cheyenne and learned a bit of its history, I’ve been fascinated by the era of the cattle barons when Cheyenne was the wealthiest city per capita in the country. Not only was Cheyenne the capitol of Wyoming Territory, but it also boasted beautiful parks, the only opera house west of the Mississippi and even had electric lights. What better time and place to set a story?”
This is not Amanda’s first visit to nineteenth century Cheyenne. Two of her Westward Winds books, Waiting for Spring and With Autumn’s Return, are both set in Cheyenne during this period.
In this particular story, however, she wanted to tell the story of “an older couple, one who’d suffered through the War Between the States, and how love comes when it’s least expected. Once I realized what Jeremy and Esther had endured, the story practically wrote itself.”
“The Bible verse I chose for this story is Psalm 34:22, “The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants, and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.” Both Esther and Jeremy have had desolate periods in their lives, but thanks to their faith in the Lord, they are redeemed.”
Amanda noted that while her characters are not based on real people, “my heroes and heroines frequently embody my personal values. Because I believe in justice and happy endings, readers will find that my protagonists do, too. They’ll also find the recurring theme of the healing power of love, since that’s something I believe in.”
Because she lives in Cheyenne, Amanda often walks the streets her characters inhabited. She’d not personally like to have lived in that time period (too dangerous to be ill), but she would love to have seen the opulent homes now gone.
Who is Amanda Cabot?
Amanda Cabot is the author of more than thirty novels, including the CBA bestseller Christmas Roses and Waiting for Spring. A Christmas-time bride herself, Amanda now lives in Cheyenne with her high-school sweetheart husband, where they celebrate a fairly simple Christmas tradition.
Amanda had one last word: “I hope everyone who’s reading this has an opportunity to read all of the 12 Brides of Christmas novellas. I’ve had the privilege of reading each of them, and I can tell you that you’re in for a treat.”
I’ll be honest – my adult son laughed when he saw the title of this book. I will admit, the title gives absolutely no indication of the intense, suspense-filled content within the covers of this novel. I sincerely hope that other readers will not pass it by because they would miss a real page turner.
Imagine if you will that you are kidnapped by a drug cartel along with an extremely deadly toxin that could destroy thousands of people if released – and they want you to develop a means to detonate it so they can extract revenge against a rival cartel. You are all alone in a jungle compound with ruthless men when you discover that your very best childhood friend who you haven’t heard from in a decade has been sent undercover to rescue you. Can you forgive him for his disappearance from you life and allow yourself to trust him to get you out of a hopeless situation?
That is exactly the scenario Jess McCoy found herself in the middle of when Will Gumble suddenly appears as another prisoner of the cartel. As he was forced to help her in the lab, the two of them tried to develop an escape plan. As the days grew short, so did their hope of escaping alive.
“Navy SEAL Noel” has a fast-paced plot with a suspense that keeps building. Although I knew that everything would work out in the end (it almost always does), there were times I had my doubts. I thoroughly enjoyed this story about Jess and Will and their eventual realization that without God’s intervention they had no hope. Great book about forgiveness and dependence on the Lord.
A copy of this book was provided for review by the author.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
A LETHAL REUNION
Abducted by a drug cartel, scientist Jessalynn McCoy’s orders are simple—release a deadly toxin, or be killed. Trapped with no options, she’s desperate for help…she just never expected it from Will Gumble. The boy who let her down years ago is now a navy SEAL. She trusts his skills, his experience. Yet trusting him is a struggle. Will’s Christmas wish is to heal their damaged relationship and get them to safety. But time is running out and someone is on to their escape plans. Any mistake could mean the difference between facing the holidays together or apart. Forever.
Excerpt From Navy SEAL Noel:
“Jess, calm down. I won’t hurt you.” The words made no sense to her muddled brain, but they continued, quiet and assured. “Don’t scream. It’s all right. I won’t let anything happen to you.”
It wasn’t the words that made her sink into him, but the voice that, even after all this time, she’d recognize anywhere. Her eyes hadn’t been playing tricks on her that afternoon. Will Gumble was in this compound. In her very room.
“I thought I saw you—I thought that was you, but…” Her words were little more than a whisper despite his assurance that it was safe to speak. Her stomach pitched, fear and relief mingling with alarm and the echo of a remembered betrayal. But dealing with her emotions would have to wait until she felt steadier on her feet. Exhaustion and the ebbing of her fight-or-flight adrenaline rush had left her legs like jelly. She leaned into Will. He held out his arms, as though he knew just what she needed. As though he was still someone who cared about taking care of her, being there for her.
But she didn’t want him holding her. She wanted answers. She wanted to understand what on earth was happening. Most of all, she wanted to silence the little voice in her head that kept saying Will’s appearance was simply a dream or hallucination.
Yanking herself upright at the last possible moment, she shoved his chest with both hands. “You scared me to death! Why did you break into my room? What are you doing here?”
His lopsided grin had always started with a little quirk to the left before spreading across his mouth. And that hadn’t changed, even as he looked down at the tiny black-and-white-checkered floor tiles.
He scraped his fingers over the black whiskers covering his chin. “Your dad sent me.”
“Well, I couldn’t say no to my new XO, could I?”
“So you’re still in the navy?” Oh, she sounded bitter—so much more bitter than she wanted to. Why couldn’t her words be flippant and nonchalant, as if it didn’t really matter that she no longer knew even the most basic things about him? He’d popped back into her life, and she didn’t want it to matter.
But it did.
Maybe because of the extreme situation.
Sure. She’d just keep telling herself that.
His smile flickered for a moment before he nodded slowly. “I am.”
Forcing a chuckle, she said, “I figured when my dad realized I was missing, he’d send a SEAL team to bring me home.”
“Not a full team—he just sent one.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
By day Liz Johnson is a marketing manager for a Christian publisher. She finds time to write late at night and is a two-time ACFW Carol Award finalist. Liz makes her home in Nashville, TN, where she enjoys theater, exploring local music, and making frequent trips to Arizona to dote on her nieces and nephews. She loves stories of true love with happy endings and shares about her adventures in writing at Facebook.com/LizJohnsonBooks and Twitter.com/LizJohnsonBooks.