Thursday, December 22, 2011

Snappy Reviews: Christmas Challenge Update

Whew! I had some fantastic ideas about how this month was going to go. Between Hubs being (very!) sick, doing an early Christmas with part of our family, going out of town for a wedding, a deer hitting one of our cars, my father-in-law having surgery, and a surprise project at work, things haven't happened quite like I planned. However, we have had some great family time, and I have had more time to read than I normally do.

Because I haven't posted reviews on all of these books as I read them, I decided to introduce a new feature called Snappy Reviews. Basically, these reviews are going to be short and snappy. I probably won't do this much, but it will help me get my thoughts out quickly when I'm in a pinch!



Christmas at Harrington's 
by Melody Carlson

Sometimes the best gift is a second chance. Christmas is approaching, and Lena Markham finds herself penniless, friendless, and nearly hopeless. She is trying to restart her life, but job opportunities are practically nonexistent. When a secondhand red coat unexpectedly lands her a job as Mrs. Santa at a department store, Lena finally thinks her luck is changing. But can she keep her past a secret? Reading Christmas at Harrington's, a story full of redemption and true holiday spirit, will be your newest Christmas tradition.

[Contemporary Christian Fiction, Christmas / 167 pages / Published Oct 2011 / Revell]

My Thoughts
What a delightful story! I immediately felt deep compassion for Lena and hoped that she would find people in a new town who would allow her a fresh start. Her budding relationship with one of the town's wealthiest families gave me hope that she would indeed get her new beginning. Melody Carlson weaves together a beautiful story of hope, second chances, friendship, and grace. [5 stars]



The Christmas Wedding 
by James Patterson

The tree is decorated, the cookies are baked, and the packages are wrapped, but the biggest celebration this Christmas is Gaby Summerhill's wedding. Since her husband died three years ago, Gaby's four children have drifted apart, each consumed by the turbulence of their own lives. They haven't celebrated Christmas together since their father's death, but when Gaby announces that she's getting married—and that the groom will remain a secret until the wedding day—she may finally be able to bring them home for the holidays.

But the wedding isn't Gaby's only surprise—she has one more gift for her children, and it could change all their lives forever. With deeply affecting characters and the emotional twists of a James Patterson thriller, The Christmas Wedding is a fresh look at family and the magic of the season.

[Contemporary Fiction, Christmas / 288 pages / Published Oct 2011 / Little, Brown, and Company]

My Thoughts
James Patterson has been scaring me out of my mind for years. What a treat to discover that he can write a sweet, funny Christmas novel too! Gaby is determined to bring her family together for Christmas again. What better reason than a wedding! The catch? Only Gaby knows who the groom is! Gaby is one of the funnier characters I've gotten to know this year. I thoroughly appreciated her spunk and love for her family. The rest of the family was quite interesting as well . . . definitely a unique cast of characters. [Note: There is quite a bit of foul language in this book. I didn't think it was necessary to the plot or the development of the characters. Consider yourself warned.] [4 stars]



The Sound of Sleigh Bells 
by Cindy Woodsmall

Beth Hertzler works alongside her beloved Aunt Lizzy in their dry goods store, and serving as contact of sorts between Amish craftsmen and Englischers who want to sell the Plain people’s wares. But remorse and loneliness still echo in her heart everyday as she still wears the dark garb, indicating mourning of her fiancĂ©. When she discovers a large, intricately carved scene of Amish children playing in the snow, something deep inside Beth’s soul responds and she wants to help the unknown artist find homes for his work–including Lizzy’s dry goods store. But she doesn’t know if her bishop will approve of the gorgeous carving or deem it idolatry.

Lizzy sees the changes in her niece when Beth shows her the woodworking, and after Lizzy hunts down Jonah, the artist, she is all the more determined that Beth meets this man with the hands that create healing art. But it’s not that simple–will Lizzy’s elaborate plan to reintroduce her niece to love work? Will Jonah be able to offer Beth the sleigh ride she’s always dreamed of and a second chance at real love–or just more heartbreak?

[Contemporary Christian Fiction, Amish, Christmas / 208 pages / Published Oct 2009 / WaterBrook Multnomah]

My Thoughts
After reading The Christmas Singing, I simply had to go back and read The Sound of Sleigh Bells! I was not disappointed! Cindy Woodsmall has cemented my affection for the residents of Apple Ridge. I adore strong female characters and felt that Cindy did a wonderful job of combining the simplicity of Amish life and the strength that comes from loving the Lord in both Beth and Aunt Lizzy's characters. She also did a wonderful job of giving the characters real problems and helping them to overcome them without seeming trite or simplistic. You don't want to miss out on either of these Christmas novellas! [5 stars]

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