Thursday, December 31, 2015

14 Favorite Reads of 2015 + GIVEAWAY

I'm wrapping up the year on Thinking Thoughts and I'm so thankful looking back over this year. I've gotten to read some incredible books. I've met amazing new friends here on the blog. I've gotten to know some amazing authors. I've started a newsletter. I got an agent (eeeik!). And all the way I've gotten to share these experiences with you my dear readers. I am so grateful!

As a kind of wrap-up I've compiled a list of my favorite 14 reads of 2015. These books...well, I can't recommend them highly enough! You can also check out my reviews of them (find them here). And make sure you scroll to the bottom for the GIVEAWAY!

A Praying Life
by Paul E. Miller

Purchase link:

by Thomas Locke
Purchase link:

Plot & Structure
by James Scott Bell

Writing Craft
Purchase link:

Golden Son
by Pierce Brown

Science Fiction/Fantasy
Purchase link:

Playing Saint
by Zachary Bartels

Purchase link:

How to Catch A Prince
by Rachel Hauck

Purchase link:

These Broken Stars
by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

YA Lit/Dystopian/SciFi
Purchase link:

by Marissa Meyer

YA Lit/Fantasy 
Purchase link:
by Ronie Kendig

Military Suspense
Purchase link:

by Laura Hillenbrand

Purchase link:

From the Start
by Melissa Tagg

Purchase link:

Seek and Hide
by Amanda G. Stevens

Purchase link:

A Time To Die
by Nadine Brandes

Purchase link:

by Ronie Kendig

Purchase link:

To end the year with a BANG! I thought I'd offer up one last giveaway. I've got 12 books (that will remain a mystery) to giveaway. They are review books so they have been read once, but I thought I'd share the love and pass them along. The best part is that, should you win, you won't know WHAT you won...well, until you get it at least. I thought it could be fun - hey, they are all great books and, if you've read the book, you can pass it along to someone who will enjoy it!

Leave a comment below with your favorite genre - no guarantees, but as the winners are chosen (via Rafflecopter) I'll try and match up genres with winners.

Enter below: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Kristy Cambron | Spread the Christmas Joy


“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”

—John Ruskin

It was raining. A steady, drenching rain that was just cold enough to be chilling, but not near the point of producing welcome snowflakes from the sky. My husband and I loaded up the waterproof jackets and golf umbrellas, and on we went as a family, trekking through our small town’s annual Christmas light display in the midst of the downpour.

You read that right: it was Christmas. And it was raining.

There’s something magical about snow on Christmas. Maybe something magical about snow on any day, really. (That is, as long as you don’t have to drive in it.) And that’s why rain on Christmas Eve last year made me think of the holiday memory that stands out now. Both before and after Christmas Day – for me, it’s snow.

I remember wishing for it. Dreaming of it as a kid, each Christmas Eve. Taking snapshots in my mind so I’d recall the wonder of it later. Finding snowflakes lovely and hushed and such a softly falling work of art. Even at a tender age, I could see the beauty in it.

I have nostalgic memories of snow– one frigid morning when I woke early to find our family was snowed in. There was a crackling fire on the hearth. My Dad played his guitar in the warmth of the den while my Mom made hot chocolate. And for the time-being, that little Midwest home became a paradise.

There are fun family memories too. One work and school day before Christmas, snow came down and forced cars on the interstate into completely stalled, bumper-to-bumper traffic. We still had to drive into town and found ourselves in the thick of it. No one moved. It was miserable. Until, my Dad stepped out of his car, right there on the off-ramp. My sister and I were in the car behind, puzzled at what he could be doing. Until a snowball landed smack-dab in the center of our windshield. We looked at each other, smiled, then darted out of the car. The three of us had a snowball fight right there in the traffic jam, and I will never forget it.

These memories were because of snow. The white stuff that closes schools, causes flight cancellations and headaches for holiday travelers everywhere. And I feel for all of us when we’re in one of those situations. But for the nostalgia, for the memories and the magic of it all, I still love snow.

The rainy Christmas Eve last year made me realize that sometimes, the gentle and the beautiful are made such because of their rarity. I can’t remember the last Christmas snowfall we’ve had. But I know I’ll remember the next one. I’ll cherish the moments, and ready my heart for the magic it brings.

I love John Ruskin’s quote. Snow is good weather, that’s for sure, and I plan to revel in it whenever it comes.

Happy New Year – and may joyful, snowy days abound in 2016!

With Joy,

Kristy is offering a signed copy of A Sparrow in Terezin to one reader who comments with an answer to the question on today’s post:

What’s your best snow memory? 

Kristy Cambron fancies life as a vintage-inspired storyteller. Her debut novel, THE BUTTERFLY AND THE VIOLIN, was named to Library Journal Reviews and RT Reviewers' Choice Awards Best of 2014 lists, and received a 2015 INSPY Awards nomination for best debut novel. Her second novel, A SPARROW IN TEREZIN, was named to Library Journal Reviews Best of 2015 list, and received a nomination for RT Reviewers' Choice Awards Best Inspirational Book of 2015. Kristy's third historical novel, THE RINGMASTER'S WIFE, will release from HarperCollins Christian Publishing in June, 2016.

Kristy is a Speaker and Art/Design Manager at, and holds a degree in Art History from Indiana University. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three sons, where she can probably be bribed with a coconut mocha latte and a good read.

You can connect with Kristy at:
Facebook: Kristy Cambron | Twitter: @KCambronAuthor | Instagram: kristycambron
Pinterest: KCambronAuthor | Web: | 

The Ringmaster's Wife 
(coming June 7, 2016)
Pre-Order now here

What is revealed when you pull back the curtain of the greatest show on earth?

Rosamund Easling is no stranger to opulence. As the daughter of an earl, she’s grown up with all the comforts money can buy. But when hard times befall the family’s Yorkshire estate in the aftermath of the Great War, the stage is set for a series of events that change her world beyond even her wildest dreams.

Though expected to marry for a title instead of love, Rosamund feels called to a different life—one of adventure outside the confines of a ladies’ parlor. When her father sells her beloved horse, she abandons all she’s known and follows in pursuit as her horse is shipped to the new owner—an American entertainer by the name of John Ringling. Knowing she has much to learn, Rosamund agrees to a bareback riding apprenticeship in the shadow of the Ringlings’ home—the Ca’D’Zan. In what would become the last days of the enigmatic Mable Ringling’s life, Rosamund finds a deeper sense of purpose in her new life and begins to experience the awakening of faith.

With a mysterious and dazzling supporting cast of characters, Rosamund journeys far from the traditions of the English countryside to the last days of the Roaring Twenties—a journey that forever changes what her life might have been.

Julie Arduini | Spread the Christmas Joy

The Christmas Iron

With a call to encourage readers to surrender the good, the bad, and---maybe one day---the chocolate, I understand Christmas is not always the fun vision of perfection the coffee commercial that makes me cry each year depicts. I’m living proof that sometimes there isn’t much to celebrate in December and that there are years when surviving is the only goal.

One memory that stands out is the year of the Christmas iron. I wasn’t quite a teen but I was old enough to understand tension. Our family was going through a difficult season that seemed magnified against the Christmas tree and blinking lights. It was a year where I’d later learn marriage held in the balance, addiction ruled, money was tight, and we were all wound tighter than a toy solder’s drum.

Somehow with limited funds we bought Mom an iron. I don’t remember where we bought it or who wrapped it. I don’t recall enjoying Christmas Eve new pajamas or the excitement of waking Christmas morning.

I do remember sitting next to the tree, in complete innocence blurting, “Mom, are you going to open your iron now?”
There was dead silence followed by laughter. Between the stress of our situation and the mood swings of an almost teenaged girl, I didn’t interpret the giggles as laughing with me as much as at me. I was devastated and remember feeling an ache the entire day that I ruined what could have been the one good thing about that particular Christmas.

Looking back, I can smile at my mistake and I certainly rejoice that for all that could have happened after that year, things really turned around the better for all of us. I use that moment as a reminder to never let any situation become so tense that a child is afraid to speak. Even as an adult I’ve had seasons full of loss and change and I was determined not to let anyone feel the ache and worry I remembered carrying all those years ago.

Christmas doesn’t need to be perfect, but I am a big believer in making sure it is a season for everyone to enjoy.

Even if you receive an iron for Christmas.

Julie Arduini loves to encourage readers to surrender the good, the
bad, and ---maybe one day---the chocolate. She’s the author of the Amazon bestseller, ENTRUSTED, and co-author of THE LOVE BOAT BACHELOR and UNLIKELY MERGER. She also shared her story in the infertility devotional, A WALK IN THE VALLEY. She blogs every other Wednesday for Christians Read. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more by visiting her at, where she invites readers to subscribe to her monthly newsletter full of resources and giveaway opportunities at JULIE ARDUINI: SURRENDER ISSUES AND CHOCOLATE.
Amazon: Heart Seekers

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Every Bride Needs A Groom by Janice Thompson | RE:View

A delightful read filled with genuine laughs, sweet romance, and what every girl dreams of: the perfect wedding dress!

Katie Fisher grew up in a small town and is accustomed to routine. When she takes a chance and enters a contest meant for brides and wins, she has to face the reality of what happens when dreams get ahead of real life.

I found Katie to be charming, her family to be hilarious, and the circumstances the characters face to be delightful. I can relate to Katie, being from a small town myself, and enjoyed the growth that comes with figuring out whether to stay where you're comfortable or to take a risk on something new.

There were a few things that seemed a little...far fetched to me (I won't mention them so I don't spoil anything) but I tried to just take them in stride with the story. I also wish I could have seen more details about the handsome pro-basketball player, but I have suspicions on why there wasn't more about him in this particular book.

I liked the secondary plot involving Katie's family as well. Janice really pulls off the close family dynamics and adds quite a bit of humor that pulls you along. I would say that I felt there was a bit too much telling vs. showing in my opinion. Granted, we're in Katie's point of view the whole time so it's only natural, but I would have loved less "and then we talked about" statements.

All in all, it was a delightful, easy read. Lighthearted and fun with just enough romance to pull you along but enough plot to keep you going as well. I'd recommend this to fans of comedy, romantic comedy, and romance.

Rating: 4*
Purchase: Every Bride Needs A Groom

Book Description
(from Janice's website)

Small-town girl Katie Fisher is planning her wedding. Sure, her boyfriend hasn’t managed to pop the question just yet, but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t enter a contest in Texas Bride magazine to win the dress of her dreams, right? But when her boyfriend breaks up with her and takes a job in another town–the very same day Katie wins her dream dress–her world is turned upside down. Should she claim her prize? And will the hunky former pro-basketball player who runs the swanky Dallas bridal shop–yeah, you read that right–catch on to her humiliation if she does?
I received a free copy of this book for review purposes, but was under no obligation to read the book or post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.

Cathrine Bonham | Spread the Christmas Joy

The Great Relief

Hallmark movies and holiday music would have us believe that December is a magical time of year when the Christmas Spirit visits us like a gentle breeze, leaving twinkling lights above our heads and gifting humanity with unconditional kindness and charity towards one another. Like a Yuletide Pentacost.

How I wish the Christmas spirit came like Pentacost.

Working retail takes a lot out of you. It is demanding, thankless work. Especially at Christmas time. The long hours, and holiday stress combine to make me pretty cranky at this time of year.

Every year I wait, with nutmeg baited breath, for that magical moment when it will feel like Christmas. Guess what? It never comes.

Like Charlie Brown, I coast through the holidays. I buy gifts and make food. I go to the gatherings and hang the decorations. But really, it just feels like any other day. There isn’t any magic in any of it. No meaning, no reason for all the fuss.

Yes, thank you Linus, I know the reason, but it still feels kind of hollow. Everywhere I see nativities and images of a baby in a manger, but Christ is never really talked about. The real reason is often glossed, over even by Christians. After all Christmas isn’t the end all and be all of the Christian faith. That’s Easter.

So why celebrate Christmas at all? Well, because Jesus was born. Before you can Celebrate Easter and the power of the Cross you have to wrap your head around the fact that Christ was God who became Human. He lived so he could die. He is God but he was also fully Human.

My point isn’t to be a Christmas downer. It’s just to say that sometimes Christmas feels like any other day. It doesn’t make me less Christian. It doesn’t make me less human. It certainly doesn’t make me Scrooge.

One year on this date, when I was still young, I woke up, completely convinced that today was really Christmas and Dec 25th had been a practice Christmas. I felt like I had finally found that magic everyone had always talked about.

I ran to the living room full of wonder, only to discovered that my dreams were crushed. The tree was bare. Yes I mean the tree was bare not just underneath it. Yes I would have liked more presents but most of all I couldn’t believe my parents were taking the tree down, on the real Christmas of all days.

I never really recaptured that feeling of wonder. Though I try. I think if I listen to enough Christmas songs, or if I watch enough Christmas movies, or if I buy everyone the perfect present, then it will come back. I’ve never felt Christmas quite like that again. I have found a feeling that comes in a close second though.

Every year I look forward to what I’ve started thinking of as the Great Relief. It’s the week between December 26th and the first of the year when all of the Christmas decorations are still up but most of the shopping frenzy has died down.

Yes we all know that Christmas doesn’t come from a store. As Linus once said, Christmas is about so much more.

But the real secret to the Christmas Spirit might just be the following fact:

According to the Church calendar, Christmas as is a twelve day celebration that starts on Christmas day and lasts until Epiphany on the sixth of January.

Maybe now that the gifts are given, the meals cooked, the decorations are up and the pressure is off, and the hype has died, you can finally relax and feel that Christmas Spirit.

Hey it’s finally Christmas. Merry Sixth day of Christmas.

Cathrine Bonham has always enjoyed reading and writing stories. Her favorite genre to read and write in, is anything speculative. She was home schooled through 12th grade and is now a Graduate of Owens community college where she majored in creative writing. Her short stories have previously appeared in the now defunct E-zine The Cross and Cosmos as well as the anthology Cross and Cosmos: Year One. She likes to post random thoughts and observations on her blog at

Leslie L. McKee | Spread the Christmas Joy

Spread the Christmas Joy

My favorite Christmas memory is not one specific event or Christmas. It is more of a tradition. Growing up, I spent a lot of time on my grandparents’ farm. I have many fond memories from my childhood, and my grandparents and Christmas traditions rank high on my list.

The Christmas plans always began the day after Thanksgiving, which is when we would put up the tree. To this day, that is one of my favorite things to do. Even as a child, I loved everything about it… especially turning off all the lights and watching the tree sparkle with the nativity set underneath. My favorite ornament was a little red barn. I always made sure to place it at eye level. In the days leading up to Christmas, my brother and I would help my gram make her delicious sugar cookies. We would line them up on the kitchen table and have various decorating stations. Of course, many of the cookies would get eaten along the way :-) I’d also play Christmas songs on the piano from a book my gram had had for years.

On Christmas Eve, my entire family would get dressed up and then bundle up and head to the small church my family had attended for years. The service was held early in the evening, and it always included a children’s choir and the telling of the Christmas story. However, my favorite part (which is one of my favorite parts of this tradition) was how the service ended. The church leaders would hand out little candles to everyone in attendance and dim the lights. Then, starting at the front of the church, one candle would be lit. That person would pass it on to the person beside them. This would continue until every candle in the church was lit. It was such a beautiful sight to watch. Once the final person’s candle was aglow, the pianist would begin playing “Silent Night,” which has always been my favorite Christmas hymn. It was such a peaceful yet reflective time, with the focus totally on the reason for the season: Jesus.

After service, we would head back to my grandparents’ house where we would sit on the floor by the Christmas tree and open our gifts. (We always opened gifts from Santa on Christmas Day, as he visited my grandparents’ house in addition to ours.) Before it got too late, my mom, dad, brother, and I would head home. We had to get to bed in time for Santa to visit!

My poppa died in 1996, but I think of him often (particularly on Christmas). While my gram is still alive, I moved away from my hometown years ago so it’s been quite some time since we’ve spent Christmas together. However, those Christmas traditions still live on in my life in some form. Every year, our tree goes up the day after Thanksgiving. A few years ago I found a ceramic Christmas tree just like my gram has (with lights and little bluebirds, plus a star on top). I play songs on my piano from the same book I used as a child (and it is still in great condition!). When we moved, my gram gave me my favorite ornament. I hang that red barn on our tree every year, and I still love “Silent Night.” While our church does not have the same “lighting of the candles” with the song, the memories/visuals are there every time I hear or sing the beloved hymn.

As an adult, I view Christmas a bit differently than I did as a child. Now, when I look at those lights on my tree and the angel high above, I cannot help but reflect on the lyrics:

Silent night, Holy night,
All is calm, all is bright…
Son of God, Love’s Pure Light…
Jesus, Lord at Thy Birth

Those lines from my favorite Christmas hymn pretty much sum it all up. Christmas is the time to reflect on the son of God, Jesus, Lord at his birth. However, with all the craziness and commercialism of the season, it is not always a silent night or holy night for many people. This year, take a few minutes to reflect on those lyrics and remember the true reason for the season: Jesus.

I am a professional editor and reviewer, and books have always been a significant part of my life. I am a member of ACFW and have served as a judge for their First Impressions, Genesis Awards, and Carol Awards contests. I am also a member of The Christian PEN, where I serve as part of their newsletter editorial staff.

I have been reviewing since 2005, primarily for RT Bookreviews Magazine. In 2015, I began reviewing for Publisher’s Weekly. Since 2012, I have been professionally editing and proofreading manuscripts for authors and publishers. My lifelong love of reading and learning, in addition to reviewing and teaching, led me into the publishing industry. Editing and reviewing are not merely jobs. They are my passions.

In my editing, I strive to provide quality services to values-based authors and assist them on their literary journeys. In my reviewing, I aim to provide an honest review and do all I can to promote the author and their work. I want to help readers obtain books that will entertain, educate, inform, and inspire them. I also want to help writers shine while spreading their message.

You can learn more about my editorial and proofreading services on my website: You can also find me at my blog:

Handmade Christmas towel! Keep for yourself or give as a gift.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tanya Eavenson | Spread the Christmas Joy

Family Traditions, Memories, and Jesus

For years growing up our tradition was to gather with family on Christmas Eve. Aunts, uncles, and cousins I hadn’t seen since the year before would flock together for this one day. Even now, I can picture the older men sitting at their squared card tables playing dominoes and smoking cigars. No matter where you were in the house, the sound of shuffling and clinking tiles could be heard.

This is a memory I will never forget, and was a precious time growing up. But when my first daughter came into the world around Christmas time, I told my husband I wanted to start my own family tradition, one that would help our children understand what Christ did coming as a babe. My husband knew how important this was for me since I hadn’t grown up in a Christian home. So the next year we began our own family tradition.

Every year on Christmas day, whether we go home for the holidays or not, we make a birthday cake for Jesus. The kids get up in the morning and help me make the cake, from stirring the ingredients to layering the icing on thick, and yes, they like a lot of icing. Then after dinner we bring out the cake, light the candles, and sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. Now, you might be wondering who blows out the candles. We all do because Jesus came for all.

I pray when my children get older, they will have their own traditions, but they will always remember praising and worshiping Christ on Christmas day. Even with something as simple as a cake.

Jesus’s Birthday Cake

  • 1 box of cake mix
  • Food coloring (at least four colors)
  • Bundt pan
  • Cooking spray
  • Icing (any)
  • Make cake mix as instructed on the box.
  • Separate cake mix into the same amount of bowls as food coloring and add food coloring to those bowls. Mix well.
  • Spray the bundt pan.
  • Take one color of cake mix and pour around the bottom of the bundt pan. Then take another color adding it on top. Do not mix. Add cake mix in layers, adding on top of each color until done.
  • Place in oven.
  • Let cake cool before icing.
When it comes time to cut the cake, you will see the center looks like a rainbow. It represents the story of Noah and God’s promises. And just as God made promises to them, He also made promises to us. One day Jesus will come back for those who love Him.

Tanya Eavenson enjoys spending time with her husband, and their three children. Her favorite pastime is grabbing a cup of coffee, eating chocolate, and reading a good book. Tanya is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Word Weavers International, and writes for Christ to the World Ministries. You can find her at her website on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google, or on Amazon.


He will fight for her at any cost...

Elizabeth Roberts can't remember her past, and the present is too painful. She turns to nightclubs and drinking to forget her infant daughter's death, her husband's affair.

When his wife's coma wiped out the memory of their marriage, Chris Roberts found comfort elsewhere. He can't erase his betrayal, but with God's help he’s determined to fight for Elizabeth at any cost.

She wants to forget. He wants to save his marriage. Can they trust God with their future and find a love that’s unconditional?

Purchase: Unconditional

Beth K. Vogt | Spread the Christmas Joy

When Christmas Comes Wrapped in Expectations

Christmas often comes wrapped in expectations, doesn’t it?

Let there be snow.
Let us all be home for Christmas.
Let the table be loaded down with all the family favorites … whatever those favorites may be for you and yours.
Let that longed for gift be waiting under the tree.

In other words, may Christmas this year be the most wonderful time of the year!

And sometimes, Christmas meets our expectations … maybe even exceeds them … and sometimes, Christmas doesn’t.

Long, long ago in a time faraway, my family was a military family stationed in Turkey. We spent not one, but two Christmases overseas in a predominately Muslim country. The nationals made concessions to the Americans living there, selling pairs of tiny handcrafted mittens that we hung on our Christmas trees, along with beautifully elaborate carved copper ornaments, unlike any you’d find in a stateside department store.

The second year we were stationed in Turkey, my physician-husband had to work from Christmas evening to the following morning in the emergency room. I didn’t want to tuck our three young children into bed that night without their dad there to read them stories and to pray over them and to share memories of the day with them. So Rob and I devised a plan – one that diverged from our usual tradition of Christmas night relaxing at home.

Rob and I dressed our 6-year-old son, and 3-year-old and 18-month-old daughters in their PJs, and drove the short distance to the base hospital. Once there, we unfolded an inflatable mattress in Rob’s small office and filled it with air, much to our children’s glee. Then we all bedded down in my husband’s office for the night, with Rob ready to answer the call of his pager whenever a patient needed him.

Was it the Christmas night we’d come to expect? No. But was it a memory-in-the-making? Choosing to be a family together, even if togetherness meant camping out in a military hospital for the night? Yes.

And wasn’t that first Christmas all about changing expectations, too? A virgin giving birth? The savior of the world, arriving as a helpless infant? Immanuel, God with us – instead of God standing distant, separated from us by the Law? (Isaiah 7:14-17)

Today I’m wishing you a gloriously Merry Christmas, one where your expectations are surprised … overturned … by the unexpected.

--> Beth K. Vogt believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” A 2015 RITA® Finalist and a 2015 and 2014 Carol Award finalist, Beth is a contemporary romance novelist with Howard Books. Her 2014 novel, Somebody Like You, was one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2014. In 2015 she introduced her destination wedding series with both an e-novella, Can’t Buy Me Love (May) and a novel, Crazy Little Thing Called Love (June). Connect with Beth at

Monday, December 28, 2015

Kimberly Grace Bowman | Spread the Christmas Joy

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 
– Matthew 6:33 (KJV)

I remember it well…Although I don’t remember the exact year. All presents had been opened and enjoyed that Christmas Day. The day marched onward. Cleanup. Food. Fun. It was just my mom, dad, myself, and our kitty as it is usually since my childhood. And then it happened. My mom asked me to get something from the laundry/utility room. Well obedient me did as I was told, marching my little self into the room to do as bid. But it had been a trap. There before me was a box bigger than myself, reaching tall to the ceiling as it towered over me. Okay…Maybe it wasn’t that big. But it surely felt like it to the younger version of myself. I took a step back in awe and lo and behold there stood before me a brand new, unpackaged Yamaha keyboard piano.

I don’t quite remember my reaction. But I do remember that I was in awe. Mom and dad pulled a good one on me that year! Over a decade later, that piano still sits in our latest home and has been a source for much musical enjoyment over the years. I don’t play fluently by a long shot. But I have furthered myself and enjoyed the gift. I have learned a few songs and grown up with it in my life. It was truly a blessing in its time. Now that I have blazed a path into the field of writing rich stories from my heart and have found a new part of myself there, I haven’t been as involved in music. Although music is still a vital part of my life. Yet there’s a truth to be found from that day I opened the laundry room door to see that giant gift staring me in the face.

Notice that supposedly all gifts had been opened. I had proceeded on with my childhood Christmas Day with no thought that there was something else waiting for me around the corner if only I’d obey my mom’s instructions. And then it was there. A lot of times throughout life, we as Christians pray for something we need or want and then sit there as if it’s going to drop down out of the sky in 2.3 seconds…or less. Now there’s nothing wrong with asking the Lord for things that are in line with his will. Nothing wrong with that at all. We may even have the wisdom enough to thank him for the blessings he’s already given us. Yet within a whirlwind moment of desire, we still crave that one thing while our callings, pursuits, and missions placed on our lives and hearts from God fall by wayside unnoticed.

And then it comes…The Lord asks us to do something. It may or may not have anything to do with that desire. But besides it all, we kind of roll our eyes and think, “What good is that going to do?” But little do any of us know that in God’s wisdom, he’s leading us right into his perfect will and blessings…if we would only obey that one thing he’s asking us to do. All my mom asked me to do is go get something out of the laundry room. I did so…and a blessing was waiting for me on the other side of that door. So…What blessings wait for you on the other side of the small request God has made of you?

--> Kimberly Grace Bowman hails from Mississippi and is currently working her way towards becoming a published Christian fiction author. She is a recent homeschooling graduate and loves the world of the story and the richness of living life in the Kingdom of God. When not soaked in the world of her rich imagination, Kimberly writes and reports for up and coming motorsports site and helps spread the word about the best in wholesome entertainment via her blog Hearth and Home and western blog Cherish the West ( and She has also been published in a major Christian magazine publication in Mississippi as a journalist, earning herself a junior feature in 2012. In addition, Kimberly is an avid history enthusiast and loves the days of old, cherishing everything from the simple, nostalgic days of the western frontier all the way to Christian music from the 80s and 90s and a little bit of everything in between. Learn more about her at her personal blog website and follow her on social media…

Twitter: @kimberlygrace__
Instagram: @kimberlygrace_

Debra Marvin | Spread the Christmas Joy

It was a sad Christmas season when I decided there might not be a Santa Claus after all. I understood that with the time zones, he had a good chance of being able to make a 24 hour night of it, so that wasn’t the problem. I can’t recall what particular incident pushed me toward doubt. All those fake store Santas? The limited size of his bag of toys? When some of us made that unfortunate decision—thinking we’re so very smart—there’s a concern that it’s better to keep our parents in the dark. After all, Santa’s certainly not going to bother bringing us gifts if we don’t believe in him, right?

So I played along.
Santa never came down our chimney, because it was small and went right into our furnace. Given that he came in the door, he had no reason to land on the roof, either. Luckily we had a big open front yard and I could look out the window and watch, but why take that chance? Get in bed, stay in bed, and close your eyes tight! (To the delight of parents everywhere, it’s the one night when children want to go to sleep, and I was no fool. Everyone, even the doubters know better than to risk forfeiture of presents.)

I don’t remember what gifts I received that year, but I’ve never forgotten my big surprise when I went outside to play on Christmas Day. There was a few inches of snow, most of it new, and as I wandered around I found the strangest set of tracks. Long, thin marks, and lots of animal tracks. Something like deer.

Reindeer and a sleigh. Duh! You can imagine my embarrassment. I told my parents about it, but I never did tell them how I’d almost stopped believing. After all, they had never once shown any doubts. So I learned to never listen to the doubters. The most amazing things in life don’t always make sense, even for a practical person like myself. Children know that, and so do I. Now.Merry Christmas!
Debra E. Marvin tries not to run too far from real life but the imagination born out of being an only child has a powerful draw. Besides, the voices in her head tend to agree with all the sensible things she says. She'd like to live a wee bit closer to her grandchildren, but is thankful that God is in control, that He chooses to bless us despite ourselves and that He has a sense of humor.

Other than writing light-hearted romances and gritty gothics, she has rather normal obsessions such as fabric, peanut butter, vacations, British dramas, and whatever mystery series she's currently stuck on.
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Pinterest @debraemarvin
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Desert Duet

Merry Christmas from Humbug. Wish You Were Here!

It’s 1933 in the good old US of A. In the midst of drought, the Depression, and gangsters on the lam, America finds solace in Hollywood's Golden Age.

Ex-pilot Eugene Tanner, determined to pen the lyrics for the movie industry's first "Best Song" award, books a rushed December stay at the remote Humbug Creek Guest Ranch (A Gold Mine of a Getaway!) Where better to find inspiration for an epic Western, than amid all that trail dust and burnt coffee?

Thea Knight gives up her short holiday break from the studio’s costume department to play cowgirl hostess at her family’s struggling guest ranch. But instead of helping their witty and handsome guest, she becomes his biggest distraction. Old flames and past regrets take a backseat when the pair become embroiled in a ghost town mystery marring Humbug, Arizona’s rustic Christmas. Thankfully, the cowgirl is as fast with her Winchester as she is with her comebacks.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Time To Speak by Nadine Brandes | RE:VIEW

Bold. Action packed. Unexpected. A Time To Speak is a book you won't soon forget!

Riding on the tales of A Time To Die (see my review here) Nadine offers the second, thrilling installment in the Out of Time Series, A Time To Speak. Here, the very same Parvin that we fell in love with in book one is back and ready to make a difference. She's faced with the challenge of living without a clock in a world where time is counted and almost everyone knows the day they will die.

The stage for A Time To Speak is deceptively large
and expands the further you progress into the book. The characters have strong motivations and the reader is dropped into a world they can both understand and imagine through Nadine's descriptions.

Overall, Parvin speaks and acts as a bastion of truth in a world that is saturated with fear and anger. She's a beacon--though often times her circumstances are so bleak that you wonder how she'll survive. We also see more of Salomon Hawke and, though he still remains partly a mystery, we get to see a lot more of what makes him who he is. He's definitely a favorite character of mine!

As I read, it did take me a few chapters to really get hooked. Once I was in it though, I was there until the end. You guessed it: laughing, tearing up, shouting at the pages...all the emotions! I enjoyed what felt like a little bit of additional action in this book (yep, the suspense writer in me coming out) and really liked Nadine's ability to keep me guessing. There were often times where I thought "how in the world will they get out of this situation". And yet, she had a way!

I definitely recommend this (and book one, of course) to fans of YA Literature, action, and those who like struggling through problems and issues with a main character that they at once love, are frustrated by, and are rooting for. You'll definitely end this book already wanting book three and the conclusion of the Out of Time Series. (P.S. Nadine just released the title: A Time To Rise and I LOVE it!)

Rating: 5*
Purchase: A Time To Speak

Book Description
(from Nadine's website)

How do you live after you planned to die?

Parvin Blackwater should have died in her brother's place. She didn't. Now she's the only one who can protect her village, but no one wants to listen. When the Council starts forcing "new and improved" Clocks on the public, those who refuse are declared Radicals and exiled. Having been across the Wall once, Parvin is the only one who can save them. But instead of going through the Wall, she's packed into a boxcar, loaded on a cargo ship, and forced out to sea. How will she lead when facing the unknown? Worse yet, why are people suddenly dying before their Clocks have zeroed-out?
I received a free copy of this book for review purposes, but was under no obligation to read the book or post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.

Lauricia Matuska | Spread the Christmas Joy

A Christmas Tree, a Book, and… a Bird

From the moment I picked up The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in fourth grade, I became an avid reader. So it will come as no surprise when I confess that one of my most poignant Christmas memories involves a Christmas tree, a book, and… a bird.

I was a junior in high school and, somehow beyond memory, I had become enamored with birds. Cockatoos, to be exact. Yet I knew such a large bird was beyond my means, specifically because they live so long, so I had decided that all I wanted for Christmas was a cockatiel.

My parents were artists, so there wasn’t an abundance of money in the budget. Yet somehow, every year, Santa managed to come through and deliver my heart’s most cherished desire. Always. So I knew beyond any reasonable explanation that I would soon be the proud owner of a brand-new cockatiel. The only question was, where would my parents hide it?

The house I grew up in was pretty straight-forward. One hallway led from the living room, bisecting the building into equal halves where the other rooms line up in a row. The only exception was my parent’s room, which hosted a small, private bathroom that mirrored the main bathroom abutting the afore-mentioned, bisecting hallway. This bathroom was the only place my parents could possibly hide my new cockatiel.

When Christmas Eve arrived, I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep. I stayed awake long after everyone else had gone to bed. I was so excited that I snuck out of my room to the living room, sat on the couch next to the Christmas tree, and read by the multi-colored lights on the tree, longing to hear some faint twitter or tweet drift down the hall from my parent’s room. I stayed awake all night.

Needless to say, Santa did not bring my bird. When first my brother, then my parents, woke up, I reasoned they would keep the bird hidden until every other gift had been opened. As I dressed in my new Christmas clothes and climbed into the car to go to our family’s Christmas dinner, I figured that my bird must be stored at my aunt’s house. After Christmas dinner and a cut-throat game of Tripoli, I wandered circumspectly through each room, but I found no bird.

I was devastated. Santa had never failed me before! Yet I knew that my parents balanced a tight budget. Blacksmithing is not exactly a lucrative profession, no matter how skilled the artists, so I did my best to hide my disappointment, as well as my fatigue and the stomach-ache I always get when I skip a night of sleep. No matter what, I would not make my parents feel bad for being unable to give me a cockatiel.

The afternoon passed and, at last, it was time to leave. Sick to my stomach and only half awake, I bundled myself up in my jacket and trudged numbly to my parent’s car. When my parents informed me that we had to stop by my grandmother’s house, I nodded numbly. When they said I had to go inside with them, it was all I could do to hold back my tears. Would this day never end?

When I entered my grandmother’s living room, I immediately saw my cockatiel. A beautiful, solid white gentleman I named Bastian in honor of The Never-Ending Story. My mother later told me of how she had known I stayed up all night and how hard it had been for her to watch as I trudged through the day, yet how she never spoiled the secret because she knew how much joy it was going to bring me.

Our Father God is like that. He loves to give us good gifts, but in His timing and in His way. And it’s always worth the wait.

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is god to those who ask Him?” 
-Matthew 7:11

Lauricia Matuška has been teaching high school literature and creative writing classes for ten years. She first discovered the realm of fantasy by traveling with Lucy through the wardrobe to Narnia. Since then, she has established dual-residency between that world and this one, and currently serves as an ambassador to contemporary youth and young adults. The Healer's Rune, releasing Jan. 19, 2016 from Brimstone Fiction, is the first novel in her Ceryn Roh trilogy.

The Healer's Rune
Sabine is tired of her people living as slaves to the fey Rüddan in everything but name. But the ban on magic use keeps Humanity indebted to the Rüddan, whose superior strength is the only thing that once protected them from being annihilated by the Aethel. At least, that’s what Sabine has always believed. When she learns otherwise, she must overcome centuries of prejudice and lies, forge an alliance between two enemy races, and find the location of a powerful talisman in order to break the chains that bind Humanity to the Rüddan. Along the way she learns a dangerous secret about herself that could get her killed.
Pre-Order: The Healer's Rune