Friday Flashback: Two Tickets to a Christmas Ball by Donita K. Paul (My First Book Review!)

Being unfamiliar with the name Donita K. Paul, I did a quick internet check which showed she had published other books under the pen name Kathleen Paul, several of which I had read.

So when I received my book, Two Tickets to a Christmas Ball, a few days ago, with great excitement, I curled up in my chair and began to read.

The story starts with Cora Crowder, a young Christian lady from a dysfunctional, non-Christian family who feels Christmas is too commercialized but also feels the obligation to get family presents.

Cora finds a charming bookstore in an old part of town almost no one remembers or goes to anymore and upon recommendation from the owner, buys a book for her uncle.

Her first encounter with the owner and the son of Warner, Werner and Wizbotterdad’s bookstore, leaves her feeling slightly off-kilter as if something is a bit askew, but there is no real no explanation for the feeling.

The story introduces Simon Derrick, Cora’s fellow employee, at the bookstore, where she quickly recognizes him having worked with him for five years. He’s practically clueless as to who she is when she says hello and repeatedly throughout the book calls her by the wrong name.

As the story progresses from her chance meeting of her boss’ boss, the book she buys with a ticket to the Christmas Ball tucked inside, on through to the end of the story there is a fanciful mix of fantasy, magic and reality. All is tied up loosely with a beautiful bow at the Christmas Ball.

Danita K. Paul does a good job of mixing the worlds of magic and Christianity along with a tolerable explanation of things normally not considered acceptable in the Christian world, such as fairies, wizards and magic.

The character development seems to suffer from the story being so short-there are many things begging to be more fully developed and people you would love to get to know better.

Technically a novella, Two Tickets to a Christmas Ball provides a quick, light read on a pre-Christmas night.

This book was provided to me free in exchange for a blog review.

(Slight revisions made)
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Embracing Hope by Janell Butler Wojtowicz And Giveaway

Book Blurb

Take a poignant look into the broken heart and daily struggles of Christian college dean Drew McKinley. The story chronicles the turbulent first year in his desperate journey to understand God’s motives for the sudden death of his wife and his quest to find hope in his future.

Crossing his perilous path are Allison, a graduate student and new employee in the dean’s office, and Chris, the handsome but egotistical student senate president.

The road Drew must navigate is fraught with career upheaval, a reawakening heart and the struggle for forgiveness and restoration. Will Drew finish his journey to embrace the hope God offers, the love Allison shares and the guidance Chris needs, or will he turn his back on all three with catastrophic consequences?

My Review

Not only is Janell Butler Wojtowicz a new author to me, but Embracing Hope is her debut novel. However, you would never guess this is a debut novel, as she writes like a seasoned author.

The two main characters are Drew McKinley, dean of a Christian college and Allison Bennett, a graduate student and new hire for the dean’s office. In addition, there are various other significant characters. The book is written in a realistic, true to life form and doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to some unusually heavy topics. Alcoholism, child abuse, assault and the loss of a spouse are among the horrific issues that leave us reeling.

Written in an authentic, no-holds-barred manner, Embracing Hope allows us, as readers, to experience the emotions and lives of the individuals in the story.  Wojtowicz portrays her characters’ actions and reactions to what life and God mete out in a realistic and genuine way. They question God, become angry at Him and angry at others and they wonder if life is worth living at all. Reading Embracing Hope, we, too, think and feel the thoughts and emotions that all but extinguish hope.

Hope is not extinguished for Drew, Allison, and others we meet and come to love. Biblical gems and lessons are interspersed throughout the book through the wise counsel of friends and pastors. We listen to their conversations and we hear God calling us to forgive and come to terms with our anger.

*****Disclaimer*****

I would caution that Embracing Hope contains some violent scenes some will find tough to read and process. I did. I had to skip through several pages that were too triggering for me. I have old memories of an assault and recent memories of an injury-laden fall, and this book is truly evocative of real life.

I received this book from Reads & Reels & R&R Book Tours. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.

GIVEAWAY

To help promote Janell’s fabulous novel, R&R Book Tours is giving away one (1) eBook copy of Embracing Hope. Click the link below to enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/0e7c6a8f24/? 

Purchase Links

 Amazon

Smashwords

Barnes Noble Nook

kobo

Janell’s Social Media Sites

Twitter

Blog

Author Facebook

Author Amazon Profile

Goodreads

 Author Bio

Janell Butler Wojtowicz, born and raised on an Iowa farm, was one of those kids who loved to write the dreaded “What I did on summer vacation” essay. She wrote stories for her own enjoyment, including a short story about a teenage drug addict—something of which she knew nothing about. Her cousin illustrated the cover using Halloween orange paper featuring a hypodermic needle.

Janell attended the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Minnesota, earning a bachelor’s degree in, naturally, Written Communication, adding a Journalism Emphasis. She returned to Iowa where she worked as a reporter/editor at three small town newspapers for 10 years.

Janell left the small town Iowa life when she married, Frank Wojtowicz, a family friend who lived in Minneapolis. (By the way, her Polish last name is pronounced “Why-tow-vitch.) She worked in public relations at her alma mater, the University of Northwestern; Leadership Foundations, a nonprofit organization supporting inner-city Christian ministries; and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Today, Janell owns a freelance service, A Portrait in Words, and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America.

Much of Janell’s writing has been the “people stories” of trial, tragedy and triumph, which are reflected in her debut novel, “Embracing Hope.” The idea for the novel came after watching a BBC version of “Jane Eyre” in 2007. That night she dreamed the beginning, pivotal scene in the middle and the ending of “Embracing Hope”, and began writing it the next day. Unlike her first story, she was very familiar with the setting of “Embracing Hope”: a Christian college campus.

She and Frank, live in New Brighton, Minnesota, a pleasant suburb of the Twin Cities. She has two step-sons, a step-daughter-in-law, and three step-granddaughters.

Blog Tour: Embracing Hope by Janell Butler Wojtowicz

Schedule

Dec 18th

Reads & Reels (Feature Promo) http://www.readsandreels.com

Love Books Group (Excerpt) http://www.lovebooksgroup.blog

The Christian Fiction Girl (Interview) https://christianfictiongirl.blog

Dec 19th

The Bookworm Chronicles (Excerpt) http://muretbookworm.wordpress.com

Book Reviews by Shalini (Excerpt) http://www.bookreviewsbyshalini.wordpress.com

Dec. 20th

Captive Dreams Window (Review) https://captivedreamswindow.wordpress.com/

Reading is My Superpower (Promo) http://readingismysuperpower.org/

Dec. 21st

Didi Oviatt (Excerpt) https://didioviatt.com

Tenntwo Musings (Review) https://tenntwo.wordpress.com/

Dec. 22nd

Literary Dust (Excerpt) https://literarydust.wordpress.com

Discerning Lillies (Review) http://discerninglillies.wordpress.com

Dec. 23rd

Kristin’s Novel Café (Review)  https://knovelcafe.wordpress.com

Book Lover in Florida (Promo) http://bookloverfl12.wordpress.com

 

Out of the Ordinary (Apart from the Crowd Book #2) by Jen Turano

My Review

Jen Turano’s delightful book, Out of the Ordinary, reintroduces us to Gertrude Cadwalader whom we met in At Your Request (Apart From the Crowd): An Apart From the Crowd Novella and in Behind the Scenes (Apart From the Crowd Book #1).

Out of the Ordinary is an out of the ordinary story. I laughed so hard at some sections; I literally had tears running down my eyes. I would be hard-pressed to explain which comedic moment was my favorite as they all have their own laugh-out-loud, crack up moments. However, don’t let that mislead you. There are some very serious aspects to the story.

Gertrude is paid to be a companion to Mrs. Davenport, an eccentric lady with a propensity to take things that aren’t hers, thereby creating many precarious situations for Gertrude to correct. I really felt sorry for poor Gertrude when one situation leads to a disastrous misunderstanding and a less than ideal situation for unfortunate Gertrude.

Harrison Sinclair is a lovable hero. He has absolutely no fashion sense, and his problems with being able to see colors as others do lead to some unusual combinations of clothing. He loves his family, is loyal to his friends and overall, makes a great champion for those he cares about.

I enjoyed catching up with other characters from earlier stories. In spite of the fact that there is overlap of characters in the series, Out of the Ordinary works easily as a stand-alone.

Jen Turano has written another historical novel with quirky characters, messages of faith and humor interspersed between serious subjects.

I received this book from Bethany House and NetGalley. However, I was not required to write a review.

Publisher’s Summary

Miss Gertrude Cadwalader hoped her position as the paid companion to Mrs. Davenport would be easy. But as she becomes acquainted with her employer, she realizes the wealthy Mrs. Davenport has a strange tendency to be a bit light-fingered with other people’s trinkets. Gertrude is relieved when Mrs. Davenport decides to have a quiet summer away from the social scene–until the woman changes her mind in order to help a young socialite launch into society.

When Gertrude is caught in the act of trying to return one of the trinkets by Mrs. Sinclair, the mother of shipping magnate Harrison Sinclair, the woman jumps to an unfortunate conclusion. Harrison is determined to mend fences with Miss Cadwalader, but he’s unprepared for the escapades a friendship with her will entail.

CSB (Christian Standard Bible) She Reads Truth Bible: CSB Bibles by Holman,‎ Raechel Myers,‎ Amanda Bible Williams

My Review

CSB (Christian Standard Bible) She Reads Truth Bible, is beautifully bound in linen; my copy is a very pretty poppy color and also has a linen covered sleeve to protect and store it in, that fits well on my bookshelf!

I read many chapters and books of the She Reads Truth Bible, and as I read this version of the Bible, I was struck by its rhythm, poetry (for example Psalm 23) and adherence to the King James version, only in easier to understand language.

I was impressed by the forward, one portion in particular; “Women in the Word of God every day” is our simple but significant message. The forward continues with the reasons behind this version; it is insightful, thought-provoking and very much worth the time to read.

After the note from the creators, Rachel Myers and Amanda Bible Williams, there is a treasure trove of features. Some of the features include almost 200 devotionals, timelines and illustrated maps, to name a few.

I enjoyed the introductory verse to each chapter of the Bible which encapsulated the message of that chapter. Each verse is beautifully illustrated. In addition, I appreciated the reading guide for the chapters at the beginning of each book. 

If you are interested in purchasing the She Reads Truth Bible, be sure to include the entire title shown above. The authors have also written another book entitled She Reads Truth, that comes up when you do an internet search. Or you can use this link http://shereadstruthbible.com/ (Not an affiliate link.)

I received CSB (Christian Standard Bible) She Reads Truth Bible from B&H Publishing by FrontGate Media. However, I was under no obligation to write a review.

The authors also have a website at http://shereadstruth.com/, where they are currently studying about the Advent. There are many other Bible studies and resources on the site.

For a video message from the creators of She Reads Truth click this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrvnRyBR3Tc

#SheReadsTruth #ReadYourBible

Giveaway

And, guess what? There is a giveaway until the 10th where you can win one of 7 copies!! All you have to do is go to this site https://www.blessedfreebies.com/she-reads-truth.html.

Publisher’s Summary

The She Reads Truth Bible aims to live at the intersection of beauty, goodness, and Truth. Featuring devotionals by the She Reads Truth team, and Scripture reading plans that include supplemental passages for deeper understanding, this Bible invites every woman to count themselves among the She Reads Truth community of “Women in the Word of God every day.” The She Reads Truth Bible also features 66 key verses, artfully lettered to aid in Scripture memorization.

Features include: almost 200 devotionals, 66 artist-designed key verses, 35 full-color timelines, 20 full-color maps, 11 full-color charts, reading plans for every book of the Bible, one-year Bible reading plan, detailed book introductions, key verse list, carefully curated topical index, smyth-sewn binding, two colored ribbon markers, and wide margins for journaling and note-taking.

The She Reads Truth Bible features the highly readable, highly reliable text of the Christian Standard Bible® (CSB). The CSB stays as literal as possible to the Bible’s original meaning without sacrificing clarity, making it easier to engage with Scripture’s life-transforming message and to share it with others.

#SheReadsTruth #ReadYourBible

Friday Flashback-A Christmas Promise (Christmas Holiday Extravaganza) by Tamera Lynn Kraft

My Review

Anna Brunner faced many obstacles and a rough life in Schoenbrunn Village, Ohio, in 1773. One of the things she didn’t want to face was her husband’s need to hide details of his mission work from her.

John Brunner felt protecting his wife from things that would distress her justified his half-truths.

John’s desire to help ease his wife’s anxiety was admirable. However, his methods were not.Even though we know it is to avoid conflict and ease our conscience, many of us fall into the same trap John did, with half-truths and evasions. We justify our actions by telling ourselves we are doing it for the other person’s feelings.

We all, as individuals like Anna, sometimes want to bury our heads in the sand to avoid hurt and pain. However, this only sets us up for more heartbreak and pain.

There are many lessons to be learned from A Christmas Promise. Even though the story is a novella, therefore it is short, it packs several messages into the pages you read.

A Christmas Promise (Christmas Holiday Extravaganza) by Tamera Lynn Kraft focuses on Christmas for Moravians in colonial America. I am a little familiar with the Moravian faith and some of its Christmas traditions, so I especially enjoyed learning more.

I received A Christmas Promise (Christmas Holiday Extravaganza) from the author. However, I was not required to give a review.

Publisher’s Summary

During colonial times, John and Anna settle in an Ohio village to become Moravian missionaries to the Lenape. When John is called away two days before Christmas to help at another settlement, he promises he’ll be back by Christmas Day. When he doesn’t show up, Anna works hard to not fear the worst while she provides her children with a traditional Moravian Christmas. Through it all, she discovers a Christmas promise that will give her the peace she craves.

A Plain and Sweet Christmas Romance Collection: Spend Christmas with 9 Historical Couples from Amish, Mennonite, Quaker, and Amana Settlements by Lauralee Bliss,‎ Ramona K. Cecil,‎ Dianne Christner,‎ Melanie Dobson,‎ Jerry S. Eicher,‎ Olivia Newport,‎ Rachael O. Phillips,‎ Claire Sanders and‎ Anna Schmidt

My Review

A Plain and Sweet Christmas focuses on how the Quakers, Mennonites, Amish and those from the Amana Colonies in Iowa either do or do not celebrate Christmas. Of course, there are romantic elements to each story. Surprisingly, some of the stories focus on married couples. However, just because you are married doesn’t mean there is no romance, right?

I enjoyed reading about the Amana Colonies. I have family members who lived in Iowa, so I’ve always been fascinated with the Amana Colonies. Unfortunately, I have never been able to visit them. Maybe one day I’ll get the opportunity. Having read these stories will help me to appreciate their history even more.

The compilation features authors whose books I’ve read before and some that are new to me. I am always excited to read a set of novellas like this because of the exposure to new authors, and A Plain and Sweet Christmas Romance Collection doesn’t disappoint! Also, there are some great recipes at the end of the stories; I can’t wait to try some of them out.

Each narrative is well-written with very different perspectives, some more heart-wrenching than others. Even so, if you are looking for a heartwarming, faith-filled book full of Christmas history, drama, hope and renewal, along with love and romance, then you are sure to enjoy A Plain and Sweet Christmas Romance Collection.

I received this book from NetGalley. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.

Publisher’s Summary

Enjoy a simple Christmas, sweetened by love, in historical communities of plain faith people. Four romances develop among the Ohio River Valley Quakers of the mid-1800s. Two Mennonite couples face influences from outside their old traditions. Two Amish couples from the early 1900s are affected by world events. And in an Amana community, childhood sweethearts are reunited. Each story also includes a recipe for a sweet traditional treat.

Runaway Romance by Miralee Ferrell

My Review

Miralee Ferrell’s book, Runaway Romance, is not only an interesting story about actors and actresses, but it’s going to be a movie on UP TV, too!

Ann Stanway thought life couldn’t be any better. She and the love of her life, Scott Adson, starred in the blockbuster reality show, Life with the Adsons. However, things aren’t as rosy as they seem, leaving her reeling. Hurt and confused she takes a trip to get away and ends up in a charming Amish community in Cave City, Kentucky.

The juxtaposition of a Hollywood lifestyle and an Amish way of living is striking. Ann’s turmoil over what was real and what her perception of reality was creates an intriguing dichotomy.  As she tries to navigate her way through a quagmire, some of her own making, she begins to realize her real problem is not being true to her faith.

The characters run the gamut from sweet and endearing to cruel and calculated, making you love some of them and be repulsed by others. The novel is well-written, and the characters well developed. The plot is unique and out of the ordinary, with not just romance, but a small touch of mystery, too.

I received Runaway Romance from the author. However, I was under no obligation to write a review.

Publisher’s Summary

When a reality TV star meets the reality of life, will it be her downfall or her salvation?

Ann Stanway had it all—a starring role in a reality show, an adoring boyfriend, and a sparkling future with limitless possibilities. Until the rules changed and the life she’d thought was real no longer existed. Leaving L.A. seems like her only option, and she lands in Kentucky at a quiet Amish inn—as far removed from her past as possible. Now she knows what was missing in her life–peace, true friendship and, dare she hope, a man who accepts her for who she is–or at least who he thinks she is.

Hunter Lewis is intrigued by the new woman staying at his friend’s Amish inn. Annie appears to be what she claims, but she’s secretive and won’t open up. He’s been burned by a woman before and can’t tolerate deception. But his interest in Annie is growing, and the attraction seems to be mutual—until something happens that makes Hunter question everything he’d thought was real. Dare he risk his heart, when he’s certain Annie is keeping secrets?

Can their new romance withstand the pressure, or will Ann choose to run again?

Frozen Notes (Book Four Amazing Grace Series) by Fay Lamb

My Review

I’m once again blown away by Fay Lamb’s writing!

Frozen Notes is book four of the Amazing Grace series. I was assured, since I hadn’t read the other three in this series, that it could be a stand-alone, and it can.

The opening scenes were difficult for me due to PTSD (just a warning for others). However, I wanted to read the story, mainly out of curiosity, to see how an author I thought of as a romance writer handled a mystery suspense novel. I wasn’t disappointed. Fay Lamb has a unique talent for bringing any genre she writes to life.

Once I got past the first chapter, I was unable to put Frozen Notes down! I read it in one sitting over the course of a couple of hours. I was so drawn into the story and the lives of the characters that EVERYTHING in the background disappeared.

Frozen Notes is a hard-hitting tale dealing with addiction, murder, lies and abuse, and that’s just a tiny glimpse into the lives of the major individuals living with Amazing Grace, North Carolina.  Fay Lamb takes gritty, ugly and petrifying circumstances, with no apparent chance for redemption, and turns them into moments of deliverance, recovery and salvation. She masterfully intermeshes the disparate, but linked, lives of each person and brings healing and hope.

I admire how she interposes profound messages of faith and deliverance throughout, in an artless way, never leaving you feeling preached to or beaten over the head with the tenet or belief. Her style opens the way for natural and genuine knowledge of biblical principles.

I received Frozen Notes from the author. However, I was under no obligation to write a review.

Publisher’s Summary

Fay Lamb is a gifted writer who creates wonderful, three-dimensional characters in the midst of an action packed story. ~Margaret Daley, USA Today Bestselling Author

****The author is donating 100% of her royalties from this book to hurricane relief through Samaritan’s Purse.

Lyric Carter’s dreams of fame and fortune in a rock band ended the day Balaam Carter left to pursue their dreams without her. When Balaam’s brother promised to love and protect Lyric and to love her son, Cade—his brother, Balaam’s child—as his own, she believed him. But Braedon turned her dreams into a nightmare by killing Balaam’s best friend, turning the gun on himself, and placing Lyric in the middle of a criminal investigation that could leave her and Cade dead.

Balaam Carter’s every dream has come true, but he’s living in a nightmare of addiction and regret. The famous rock star would give everything he has to return to the girl he once held in his arms—back when his only crime was running moonshine for his father. Now, he’s seeking redemption for all the destruction his dreams have brought to the people he loves.

No one said the road to recovery would be easy, but Balaam is also desperate to protect Lyric and the little boy he left behind from a state full of drug lords who believe Lyric has the evidence that will tumble their lucrative cartels. Balaam’s continued sobriety, his natural ability for finding his way out of trouble, and his prayers to God above for the strength to never let them down again are all that he has to protect Lyric and his son, and still, he doesn’t know if he’s up for the task.

Hope by Fay Lamb (Ties that Bind Series Book 3)

My Review

Hope, Hope, Hope! Oh, my. What can I say, my how the mighty have fallen!

Fay Lamb’s story of Hope Astor is gut-wrenching, to say the least. Hope is reaping what she sowed, and it definitely isn’t pretty. However, her friends love her and are there for her in every way possible, up to and including providing her a home and covering her medical expenses.

Hope has endured many things in her life, most caused by her own catastrophic mistakes, but she’s facing a situation now that she didn’t create. Her only prospect of things getting better rest in the Lord’s hands. Can she let go and trust in Him and the trials she is facing, or will she give up and give in to her angst and pain.

Fay Lamb’s story of bad girl Hope resonates with faith, expectation, and possibility. In her previous books, Hope was the one you loved to detest. In spite of this, as you read Hope’s story, you begin to ache for the little girl inside her that is hurting so much and start to cheer for her as she grows and matures in her faith.

I received Hope from the author. However, I was under no obligation to write a review.

(I heard a rumor there will be another book written highlighting Judge Delilah James! I can’t wait to read it, yet I dread it too, because I don’t want to leave these wonderful friends!!)

Publisher’s Summary

****The author is donating 100% of her royalties from this book to hurricane relief through Samaritan’s Purse.*****

Hope Astor is literally a starving artist, living off the good graces of her friends as she seeks help for the fatigue that has plagued her for over a month. Dr. Daniel Duvall is a noted oncological surgeon whose life hasn’t been the same since losing his sister in a car accident the year before.

When Hope receives her diagnosis, she understands that her carefree artist’s lifestyle has left her without any options to save her life, but her friends try to convince her otherwise. They persuade Hope to seek treatment from the best doctor she knows.

Trouble is, Hope is the reason Daniel’s sister is dead, and she doesn’t think saving her life is on his list of priorities.

 

Libby (Ties that Bind Series Book 2) by Fay Lamb

My Review

Can I just say, I LOVE Libby? Fay Lamb has done an extraordinary job of writing about an adorably sweet, somewhat reserved young lady.

Libby is your typical girl next door. She has a hard time believing she is attractive and works at proving she’s not. However, everyone she meets knows she’s a diamond in the rough and just needs a little help to push her into the lovely woman she is.

I appreciate Libby’s love for the Lord and her relationship with Him. She endures so many sad situations, and yet she’s there for all her friends when they need her, she also prays for them mightily when they think they don’t need her or her guidance in all things of faith.

I laughed and cried when reading Libby. There are some circumstances in her past that broke my heart, as well as hers, and left her questioning her worth. Nonetheless, Fay Lamb was able to take these events and create a unique, loving person in Libby. Reading her story helped me to realize no matter how tragic or hurtful things in our past are, we can overcome.

I received Libby from the author. However, I was under no obligation to write a review.

Publisher’s Summary

****The author is donating 100% of her royalties from this book to hurricane relief through Samaritan’s Purse.

Libby Overstreet can’t see herself as anything but shy and socially awkward. She’s nearing thirty, and she’s never even been on a date. Then she meets the man of her dreams, but Libby knows he would never be interested in a wallflower like her. All she wants to do is to buy that garden nursery on the outskirts of town and settle down with the life she has always dreamed about. Evan Carter has been watching the sweet woman in the coffee shop for weeks when his friend tells him that the object of his affection plans to buy a garden nursery and needs Evan’s expertise as an architect/contractor. When they meet, Libby is more enamored of Evan and even more convinced that he would never look at her as anything but a friend. However, that’s far from the truth. Evan would love to get to know the innocent beauty God has placed in this path. Trouble is, he fears that a lovely flower like Libby will wilt under the sins of his past, and he’ll do everything in his power to keep that from happening.