Saturday, December 31, 2016

Top 13 Books of 2016

As of right now, I've read 65 books in 2016! Surpassing my goal of 55 but a whole 10 books and I'm hopeful that I'll finish The Lady and the Lionheart tonight before 12 so I'm including it here because, even though I'm not finished it with it yet, I can just tell it's going to be a favorite.

I've been blessed to live the lives of a hundred+ characters this year through the pages of these incredible books. I cannot even begin to say how they have all impacted me and my imagination but I can tell you it has been a glorious ride and I am already looking forward to so many more books in 2017.

What is a book that you've loved from this year? Comment below!

1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 

2. Morning Star by Pierce Brown 

3. Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

4. Conspiracy of Silence by Ronie Kendig 

5. Accelerant by Ronie Kendig 

6. Keep Holding On by Melissa Tagg

7. The Ringmasters Wife by Kristy Cambron 

8. One Enchanted Eve by Melissa Tagg

9. The Progeny by Tosca Lee

10. Siren's Song by Mary Weber

11. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

12. If I Run by Terri Blackstock 

13. The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Biscof

Friday, December 30, 2016

Tangled Webs by Irene Hannon | Re:View

Tangled Webs indeed! As Irene Hannon’s third book in the Men of Valor series, I had a lot of high expectations for this book and I was not disappointed! I had long since wondered about the third brother in the series. Finn, the troubled one. He was a bit of an enigma to me and mysteries like that are just begging to be solved!

I started this book and got through the first few pages then picked it up the next day and finished it! I don't usually have time to read like this, but I was glad I did for this book. It’s a rollercoaster of ups and downs, twists and turns, and questions at every one of those turns. I would say that it started out with less action than her other books but, because of the way she told the story, you didn’t feel like it was slow at all. The unanswered questions and other plot elements pull you along.

I really really really loved Finn. Definitely my favorite brother out of them all, and Dana was a great female lead as well. In Irene’s characteristic “love at first sight” type of romance, I like that they were both cautious (for various reasons) and took some time to get to know one another.

I also enjoyed her secondary characters immensely, especially Hazel! I love the small town feel and the Walleye was perfect! Irene also included such a compelling story line for her somewhat-ani-hero and I just appreciated the realness to the character and how she perfectly detailed the course of events that led to all of the decisions made (sorry to be vague here but I don’t want to spoil anything).

The only thing I didn’t exactly love was how Finn’s brothers, and Finn himself, use the term “hot” so often to describe Dana. It was like this in all of the books and…though I totally get it, I think one use of that term is about enough for me. But hey, it doesn’t affect the story and it’s probably just a personal thing anyway.

I would definitely recommend this to fans of romantic suspense. There’s a good bit of both in the book, though maybe less action than normal the story makes up for it in my opinion. It’s a great third book in my opinion and makes me look forward to her next series “Code of Honor” which releases fall of 2017!

My Rating: 4.5*
Purchase: Tangled Webs

Book Description
(from Amazon)
After a disastrous Middle East mission ends his six-year Army Ranger career, Finn McGregor needs some downtime. A peaceful month in the woods sounds like the perfect way to decompress. But peace isn't on the agenda once he crosses paths with publishing executive Dana Lewis, a neighbor who is nursing wounds of her own. Someone seems bent on disrupting her stay in the lakeside cabin she inherited from her grandfather. As Finn and Dana work together to discover who is behind the disquieting pranks, the incidents begin to take on a menacing tone. And when it becomes apparent Dana's foe may have deadly intent, Finn finds himself back in the thick of the action--ready or not. 
I received this book for free but was under no obligation to 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. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Cliche Christmas by Nicole Deese | Re:View

I'm a sucker for a great Hallmark movie. Yes, they are cheesy. Yes, they are slightly (or a lotly) unrealistic. Yes, they always end happy. I see all of these things as the reason they are so good and the reason I love them—especially during the holiday season.

With that said, I found A Cliché Christmas to be an awesome combination of a Hallmark movie in book form with quite a bit more snark making it even that much more enjoyable.

Enter Georgia Cole who makes a living off of Christmas and Weston James, the one who let her get away. Just like in any good Hallmark movie we’ve got a cute small town in snowy Oregon, a beyond handsome male lead (whom I may have a crush on), and a stubborn woman who is strong and yet admits to her weaknesses too.

I really loved Weston as the hero and, though at times Georgia got to be a bit frustrating, I loved how Nicole brought them together in the end. This really isn’t a spoiler alert in the sense that, like any good Hallmark movie, you expect a happy ending, right?

I laughed until it hurt, giggled at the sweet romantic parts, and felt extremely satisfied at the end. A perfect Christmas read—or one to keep the magic of Christmas going!

My rating: 5*
Purchase: A Cliche Christmas

Book Description
(from Amazon)
Writing happy endings is easy. Living one is the hard part.

Georgia Cole—known in Hollywood as the “Holiday Goddess”—has made a name for herself writing heartwarming screenplays chock-full of Christmas clichés, but she has yet to experience the true magic of the season. So, when her eccentric grandmother volunteers her to direct a pageant at Georgia’s hometown community theater, she is less than thrilled. To make matters worse, she’ll be working alongside Weston James, her childhood crush and the one man she has tried desperately to forget.

Now, facing memories of a lonely childhood and the humiliation of her last onstage performance, seven years earlier, Georgia is on the verge of a complete mistletoe meltdown. As Weston attempts to thaw the frozen walls around her heart, Georgia endeavors to let go of her fears and give love a second chance. If she does, will she finally believe that Christmas can be more than a cliché?
I received this book for free but was under no obligation to 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.

One Enchanted Eve by Melissa Tagg | Re:View

Sometimes a book comes along that just meets you in the right place. For me, that was Melissa's One Enchanted Eve.

I have a fierce love for all-things Christmas. Movies, decorations, music, food, books...the list goes on. So when I heard that the second in the Enchanted Christmas Collection was coming out I was giddy with excitement. I loved the first one, One Enchanted Christmas, and have thoroughly enjoyed the Walker Family through her Maple Valley series, so if there is any way that I can continue on in that world, I will!

Enter Colin Renwycke and Rylan Jefferson. A combustive duo if there ever was one. And isn’t that the best kind? Theirs is definitely not a situation of too many cooks in the kitchen – I’d say two is just about right! I love their interactions, their backstories coming to life, and the creative and cute ways that Melissa brought them together. I think it’s been one of my favorite stories of hers so far…though I think I say that for every one of her books.

If you are looking for a quicker read and something that will prolong the warm fuzzy feelings of Christmas while making you smile, this is the novella for you. The romance and the deeper truths Melissa brings to light will leave you feeling satisfied, if not wanting a bit of dessert too!
My rating: 5*
Purchase: One Enchanted Eve

Book Description
(from Amazon)
A delightful Christmas romance about finding the perfect recipe for love.

After years of mistakes and regret, Colin Renwycke finally has a plan: Hone his baking talent at the Denver Culinary Institute and embark on a new career as a pastry chef. If he's lucky, he might even manage to earn back his family's respect. But despite his skills in the kitchen, Colin's a mess in the classroom and his ongoing disasters are proving too much for his prickly instructor. If he loses his spot at the school, he's out of backup plans.

Culinary school instructor Rylan Jefferson has the chance to reclaim her dream of running her own bakery. But she only has until Christmas Eve to come up with the perfect recipe to impress an eccentric investor. She has no time for holiday parties or family plans . . . and especially not for the unruly student baker who couldn't follow a recipe if his life depended on it.

But Colin has the one ingredient Rylan needs most—talent. Lots of it. And when he makes a proposal that just might solve both their problems, Rylan can't say no—even if it does mean traveling all the way to Iowa. It just might be that the snow-covered plains and a charming small town full of postcard Christmas cheer are exactly what her hungry heart needs . . . along with a man who is much more than he seems.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Caraval by Stephanie Garber | Re:View

It's all a game...So they say!

I was given early review access to Caraval thanks to Flatiron Books and NetGalley and I have to admit I was really excited. It seems as if everyone is buzzing about this book and it's release January 31st. I jumped into it with gusto...

And was disappointed. I know...I know! Crazy right? And, like any of my reviews, this is only my opinion so you may love this book like almost everyone else that's read it, but I just didn't fall in love with it (aside from LOVING the cover!).

I think the first big warning sign for me was the main character. Scarlett...oh, Scarlett how I wanted to like you but I just couldn't get past your internal monologue. It's a fate many characters fall prey to, but she was overly innocent and repetitive at times to me.

And then there was the writing. This was both a bonus and a downside for me. I think Stephanie is an incredible writer with a vibrant imagination that I really connected with...sometimes. It was an odd paradox for me because I felt as if there were times where the description was just stunning and others where the dialogue was just so young. I don't think I quite connected with the synaesthesia either. When I finally realized that's what was happening it made more sense, but it really caught me off guard when all of the sudden emotions and thoughts had "colors" associated with them.

I did, however, enjoy the idea of the story. I liked the magical world, the confusing and compelling idea of the plot, and the romance, though a bit heavy at times, was well described and somewhat believable (I won't go into this too much for fear of spoilers).

I think one of the problems for me was the fact that people were comparing Caraval to The Night Circus (one of my favorite reads of 2016) and I just didn't see it. Maybe in as far as there was a magical circus type idea...but nothing beyond that.

I wanted sooo badly to all-out love this book but it just wasn't there for me. I definitely thought about 60-70% of the way through it it really started to pick up and that's when I really got interested, but that's much too long (in my opinion) for a book to leave me feeling lackadaisical about it.

I do, however, want to read the second book because I must know what happens, but I don't think this is a series I'll own in hardback, just on Kindle. Which is sad because...that cover!!! *Sigh*
My rating: 3.8-4*
Purchase: (pre-order) Caraval

Book Description 
(from Amazon)
Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world . . .

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.
I received this book for free but was under no obligation to 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.

Conspiracy of Silence by Ronie Kendig | RE:View

Explosive and non-stop - Ronie Kendig has done it again with Conspiracy of Silence!

Following on the heels of her FREE novella Warrior’s Seal, we jump straight in to a high-octane adventure following the determined and slightly mysterious Cole “Tox” Russell. Woven together with archeological clues, threads of romance, and rocketing suspense at every corner, you won’t be able to put this book down until the end.

I really enjoyed Tox’s character development in this story. There is still a lot that is mysterious about him, yet we were able to get a window into his past. I also love the team dynamic – no one does it better than Ronie when it comes to hunky team members with a ton of character. I love how separate they all are and yet how well they fit together.

Then, of course, there was the romance. Not as much as in her previous books sadly, but still zinging where it was brought out. I would love to see more in the next book, but I’m a sucker for romance in general! I think the balance was good in this first book though. It felt realistic when there is a big mission to be focusing on, you’re not going to always be thinking of “the girl” but more “the mission”. So I do appreciate the real-ness.

I also loved how fast-paced Conspiracy was. There was never a dull moment and that led to many pages (and chapters) read long after I should have been sleeping.

If you are a fan of suspense, military fiction, or anything Ronie’s written in the past – this book will not disappoint! Think of it like a mix between David Baldacci, James Rollins, and Ronie’s classic rapid-fire fiction. Her writing is clear, succinct, compelling, and just right for the action-packed thrill ride I expect to take for a story of this magnitude.

My rating: 5*
Purchase: Conspiracy of Silence

Book Description
(from Amazon)
Kendig Ratchets Up the Action in Her New Suspense Series!

Four years after a tragic mission decimated his career and his team, Cole "Tox" Russell is persona non grata to the United States. And that's fine--he just wants to be left alone. But when a dormant, centuries-old disease is unleashed, Tox is lured back into action.

Partnered with FBI agent Kasey Cortes, Tox has to pull together a team to begin a globe-spanning search for answers--and a cure. As their quest leads them from continent to continent, it slowly becomes clear they're not just fighting a plague--but battling against an ancient secret society whose true goals remain hidden.

With time running out and opposition growing on every side, the key to everything may rest in an antique codex, the Crown of Jerusalem--but will Tox and his team be able to trust each other enough to break this century-spanning conspiracy of silence?
I received this book for free but was under no obligation to 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.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Deb Kastner | Spread the Christmas Joy

Loving Sacrifice

In the excitement and craziness of the Christmas season, in giving and getting gifts, counting down the Advent calendar, chocolate and cookies, it’s easy for the little ones (and for us adults, as well) to forget why all this is happening—because of a baby born over two thousand years ago in a stable in Bethlehem.

We’ve found a delightful way that our five-year-old grandson “Boo” LOVES that focuses on sacrificial giving at a child’s level. After we’ve put up the Nativity set together and talked about each character in the story, I give him a bag of hay. With each act of “loving sacrifice” he makes, he gets to add one piece of hay to the Baby Jesus’s manger--to make a softer, better bed for Him to sleep in (it gets a little crowded so most of it goes around the manger, but Boo gets the point.) Then, on Christmas eve, he brings the hay he’s collected and adds it to the manger in the church Nativity scene. It’s quite a poignant moment.

You’d be amazed at how excited he is at the many possibilities of performing acts of loving sacrifice. He is constantly on the lookout for new ways to help. Boo especially likes to hold the doors for his now-disabled Grampy. If he gets to push the handicap button that opens the doors automatically, so much the better!

I’m also on the watch for him, pointing out times I see him display honor and kindness. Like when he shares his toys or his snacks with his friends. Or when he gets an ice-pack for Granny’s aching back, complete with a carefully-folded dish towel around it.

It’s exciting to watch him discover the Reason for the Season on his own, and it keeps Christ at the forefront of Christmas, not only for Boo, but for all of us.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year, from my family to yours.

Publisher's Weekly Bestselling, award-winning author of nearly 30 novels, Deb Kastner enjoys writing contemporary inspirational western stories set in small communities. She feels especially blessed to be able to include faith as a natural and genuine part of her characters' lives.

Deb lives in beautiful Colorado with her husband and a pack of miscreant mutts. She is blessed with three adult daughters and two grandchildren. Her favorite hobby is spoiling her grandchildren, but she also enjoys reading, watching movies, listening to music (The Texas Tenors are her fav), singing in the church choir, and exploring the Rocky Mountains on horseback.


Mistletoe plays an important part of Deb's latest release, and one winner will win a sprig of mistletoe & a "Joy to the World" book mark from Emilie's Etsy shop to keep your holiday lively!

All giveaways run until January 2nd and winners will be announced shortly after. Use the image to the left to share on social media and don't forget the hashtag: #SpreadTheChristmasJoy16

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Natalie Watlers | Spread the Christmas Joy

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is the unboxing of my Christmas ornaments. Over the course of two decades (possibly longer) I’ve been collecting them and each year, as I pull the tissue off one, I take a moment and reflect. These aren’t just decorations to be hung and forgotten. They tell a story—each a remind of reminder of where we’ve been, what we’ve done, and things we love throughout the years.
I’ve got homemade ornaments. Some passed down, some from my childhood, and many created with love by my three children. There are ornaments that commemorate our life-traveling; duty stations; events—all of them memories.

A few years back we decided to send ornaments to our ohana (that’s Hawaiian for family). These ornaments are local to wherever we’re currently stationed. A camel for Egypt; filigree sunflowers for Kansas; the annual White House ornament for D.C. A simple gift for Christmas—or so we thought! Turns out our ohana waited in great anticipation for their ornament from us. I thought it was because we sent them really cool ornaments! But the truth, as it was revealed to me, was that when our ornaments were received it became a time for our ohana to remember and pray for us! Isn’t that the greatest gift of all?!

As a military family we can’t always make it home for the holidays but it’s nice to know that no matter how many miles separate us, something as simple as an ornament can remind us we’re never really far away from the ones we love.

I'm a military wife and mother of three teenagers. The Army has told us the southern state of Georgia is our home and so here we are. My passion is writing stories with rich detail immersing readers in an adventure of high stakes, personal struggle, and page-turning suspense. All of my stories share my belief that no one is defined by their past.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Cathy Elliott | Spread the Christmas Joy

Where’s Joseph? 

At eighteen months, my grandgem Sidney already said a number of words. Enough for her gramsey (me) to understand…and happily obey.

When I arrived for Christmas, my daughter had decorated their home beautifully, as was her custom. Sidney, anxious to show me something, pulled my hand, guiding me into the family room. We stopped in front of a low table where a nativity scene had been set up. Sidney made a funny face, and pointed.

I looked at the little figures around the baby Jesus. Hmm… Mary, shepherds, animals, wise men and more. I saw nothing amiss. What was she trying to tell me?

My daughter filled in the details. “Do you notice someone’s absent? Joseph is missing. We’ve searched and searched. But we can’t find him.”

I looked at Sidney. Did she know where he was? The little family looked incomplete, indeed. What had happened to Joseph? He couldn’t just walk away. I didn’t think he would, even if he could.

Soon, caught up in the delights of the holiday, I forgot all about him, my thoughts turning to Christmas Eve church service, filling stockings, and last minute gifts to wrap. I’d always loved the beauty and warmth of the season. But having little Sidney in the mix changed everything. Seeing the tree lights twinkle through her eyes made it all new somehow. I’d lift her up and together we’d touch some ornaments, sending them swinging on the branches. Then, we’d investigate the winged angel that graced the treetop.

“Pretty angel,” I’d say.

“Angah,” she repeated.

--> What a smart child. She’d be reading the Encyclopedia Britannica before we knew it
The family gatherings came to close with a final feast at a cousin’s home. I noticed everyone else admire our little Sidney almost as much as me. She toddled around, dropping a brilliant word here or there, making her gramsey proud. In fact, my eyes were on her and not on what I was doing when I set my water bottle on a table. And missed my mark. It started to fall and I grabbed it, sending the cap flying across the room. It rolled under a sofa. Oh, no.

My daughter saw my clumsy feat. “I’ll get it, Mom.” She jumped up to save me from embarrassment, leaned down, and reached under the sofa, feeling around. Sidney followed her, knelt, and peered into the dark space, too.

When my daughter stood and held the bottle cap out to me, Sidney looked up and asked, “Josah?”

Aww…what a memory! “She thought you were looking for Joseph,” I whispered to my daughter, marveling at our bright baby. Did everyone have such clever grands? I had a suspicion they did.

It took a bit of time, but Joseph was found at last, though how he came to reside behind the couch is a mystery still. But the next year, when the nativity scene was set out, everyone was in attendance. Even Josah.

Cathy Elliott is a full-time writer in northern California whose mysteries reflect her personal interests of crafting and collecting. She also leads music at church and cherishes time with her grandchildren. Cathy’s other plot-twisting works include A Vase of Mistaken Identity, Medals in the Attic, and A Stitch in Crime. She is also a contributing author to Guidepost’s Every Day with Jesus releasing in 2017.
Website & Occasional Blog:
Facebook: Author Cathy Elliott
Pinterest Board about A Stitch in Crime:


Cathy is offering a paperback copy of A Stitch in Crime as a giveaway to U.S. residents! Enter below.

All giveaways run until January 2nd and winners will be announced shortly after. Use the image to the left to share on social media and don't forget the hashtag: #SpreadTheChristmasJoy16

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Deborah Raney | Spread the Christmas Joy

Snowflake Party

The first snow of winter hasn't fallen yet, but in our kitchen tonight we're doing a pretty good imitation. The whole family is circled around the huge old oak table. The snip, snip, snip of scissors is background music for giggles and good-natured ribbing, and exclamations of “Oh, wow! Look at that one!” Tiny scraps of white paper float down from the table, making our floor look like a giant brownie sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Tonight has turned out to be the night for our annual Snowflake Party. The tradition began when our children were just toddlers. There has never been a date blocked out in red on our calendar, but nevertheless, a year rarely goes by that we don't celebrate the event.

It's one of those things that just happens. One day we wake up and the brisk autumn air has turned bitter. Naked tree branches trace their stark calligraphy on a dull grey sky. It's that time of limbo between the crisp anticipation of autumn's new beginnings and winter's joyful promises of Christmas and snow. The perfect time for a party.

On such a day, one of the kids will fly in the back door, fresh home from school, and say, "Hey, Mom! Tonight would be a good night for the Snowflake Party!"

First we have to round up every pair of scissors in the house. This is one time when sharing is not a virtue. While the kids search for scissors, I scavenge every piece of plain white paper I can get my hands on. When I've collected at least five or six sheets for each member of the family, the pieces are cut into squares and folded catty-corner multiple times. The resulting triangles are artfully arranged in a basket, awaiting the beginning of the party.

Later, when supper dishes are drying on the counter, and all the crumbs and jelly spots have been wiped from the tabletop, I recruit a volunteer to help me stir up a big pot of hot cocoa. It will mull and warm on the back burner, tantalizing us with its aroma for the next hour.

Now the fun begins. Everyone claims a pair of fighting allowed. Then begins the careful cutting and snipping, shaping of plain white paper into intricate works of art. Each snowflake we create seems as unique and spectacular as the genuine variety created by God himself.

As each masterpiece is unfolded, collective oohs and aahs go up. Now the iron is pressed into duty, smoothing the creases and folds from each delicate creation. A spritz of starch is the finishing touch.

When the last dregs of our creative juices are drained, Dad oversees the vacuum patrol while I pour warm cocoa into generous mugs. We spread our handiwork on the floor all around us and sit, quietly admiring our work while we dunk marshmallows and sip rich chocolate.

Later, with empty mugs piled up in the sink, it's time for the judging to begin. There will be awards for cutest, prettiest, most unusual, most like the real thing, and as many other categories as we need for everyone to be a winner. Dad is the judge because he studied art in college. He also usually wins one of the top prizes—because he studied art in college.

Snowflakes deemed runners-up might be pasted in scrapbooks or hung on the refrigerator. A few even "melt" into the trash that very night. But the winners are taped proudly to the big picture windows in the living room for passersby to enjoy while they long for the day when genuine snowflakes will color the world clean and white.

When our oldest daughter went far away to college, she called just after Thanksgiving that year to tell me that her dorm window was covered with snowflakes. No, not the real thing, but the ones she remembers from her childhood—paper ones that she spent an entire evening cutting and snipping while sipping hot cocoa with her roommates.

That's the neat thing about traditions: They go with us no matter how far from home we might travel.

DEBORAH RANEY's first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched Deb’s writing career. Twenty years, thirty books, and numerous awards later, she's still creating stories that touch hearts and lives. She and husband, Ken, traded small-town life in Kansas for life in the city of Wichita. They love traveling to visit four grown children and seven grandchildren who all live much too far away.
Connect with Deb on her website:


Deb has graciously offered a copy of Silver Bells (ebook or paperback - per winners choice) as a giveaway! Enter below.

All giveaways run until January 2nd and winners will be announced shortly after. Use the image to the left to share on social media and don't forget the hashtag: #SpreadTheChristmasJoy16

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Monday, December 19, 2016

Jaime Jo Wright | Spread The Christmas Joy

When Christmas Falls Silent

Silent Night, Holy Night are words synonymous with Christmas. That reflective peace, the awe surrounding the holy Child’s birth, the fascination of the miracle that has occurred. But silence at Christmas is often filled with a numbing pain. The type of silence that occurs when voices fall still. Voices that have spoken, laughed, sung, and whispered throughout every Christmas you can recall. The voices of loved ones no longer here.

This Christmas is bittersweet for me, and the silence is impacting me in very poignant way. It is my first Christmas—ever—without a grandparent. My first Christmas since I was ten, (insert: thirty years), that my Gramma has not had a present wrapped beneath the tree. The scent of her Folgers (gasp! Cheap coffee) has drifted away, the sound of her voice giving my mom instructions as if she were still ten herself, and the conspiratorial winks she cast me when no one was looking.

My Gramma was the other half of me. I always wanted to believe I was like my Gramma Wright. Sweet, soft spoken, kind, gracious, and sensitive. But let’s face it, I am my Gramma Greenwood in spades. Direct, to-the-point, sentimental-to-a-point until reality is just that, reality, so face it and move on. A bit sarcastic, sometimes cynical, would fight to the death for her family, is loyal to a fault, and loves with every passionate ounce of her poker-faced being. Granted, Gramma wasn’t dramatic like I can be, nor super witty, and she wasn’t goofy—usually. But, Gramma got me, and I got her. We were, after all, kindred spirits. She knew it. I knew it.

This Christmas is still holy, as we celebrate Jesus’ birth, but I am very aware of the silence that sometimes envelopes a celebration. That silence of treasured memories, suppressed tears, and an empty chair. I am also more aware of the promise that arrives in the silence, in the shadow of a manger. The promise of hope, of continued life, of grace, and the knowledge that the last “I love you”, truly wasn’t the last.

My six-year-old daughter has her eternal home planned, complete with blueprints. I really hope Jesus is ok with the concept of elephants standing sentinel outside her bedroom doors, slides from the second story to the first story in the place of stairs, and a coffee bar suited for “mommy’s visits”. It’s funny, now, in the Christmas silence, that the imagination of a six-year-old doesn’t seem so silly any more. I have put in a few requests for my eternal home as well. The coffee bar sounds like a really good idea, I’d like to have a ginormous bed where I can sleep for hours with no threat of alarm clocks, and I’d like a huge library with red walls and dark, walnut shelving. But the outside is taking on less magnanimous design. It resembles a front porch, some potted geraniums, the drifting smell of Folger’s coffee, and Gramma standing on the stairs, waiting . . .

Yes, Christmas is silent for now, but it won’t be forever.

Professional coffee drinker & ECPA/Publisher's Weekly best-selling author, Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing spirited romantic suspense stained with the shadows of history. Coffee fuels her snarky personality. She lives in Neverland with her Cap’n Hook who stole her heart and will not give it back, their little fairy Tinkerbell, and a very mischievous Peter Pan. The foursome embark on scores of adventure that only make her fall more wildly in love with romance and intrigue.

Jaime lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures

Purchase: The Cowboy's Bride

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Meghan M. Gorecki | Spread The Christmas Joy

Family. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. Especially at the holidays. There may be drama, tears, bickering—but the most precious of holiday memories are often centered around traditions, food—and family.

Being the oldest of four still living (independently) at home, let me tell you—our holidays are not quiet. But that’s the beauty of them. We have so very many foods we make through the six-ish weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years. Foods that are traditions in and of themselves honoring the memory of family members who’re no longer with us. And it is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season.

Recently we had a day where all six of us were home (a Christmas miracle!) and we took it to explore Downtown Pittsburgh all decked out to the hilt for the holidays. We sang along to a Broadway musical en route, got coffee straightaway, and coined a new family catchphrase (courtesy of my way-wittier than me sister Sara):
We roast because we care.

To my dear mother’s continual chagrin, (mostly) loving sarcasm and joking around is a love language around here. And movie and musical references of course. I swear we have our own literal language just in movie quotes. It’s awesome.

My amazing family saw me through quite a trying year between last Christmas and today, and in them being the hands and feet of Jesus to me—I am reminded afresh of the Greatest Love. Unconditional.

And so, I wrote about a lot of it. And shoved it into a romantic comedy complete with characters that greatly resemble my own dear family. There is power in truth, and in story. And because of my family who, in turn, drive me absolutely nuts, keep me (majorly) down to earth, and love me so well—I learned a lot more about the true meaning of Christmas.

It is not in ideal circumstances or times of plenty and prosperity that we must place our hope in. Because sometimes life just rips the rug right out from under you. But God. He is faithful to restore, revive and heal. And oftentimes this includes the constants in your life—family. Whether it be family members by blood or by heart. Stay close to them, dial back the busy hustle and bustle and tap into the truest Hope and deepest Love we have—Jesus. Who placed us exactly in the lives of our families for our good and His glory.

Meghan M. Gorecki is an author of inspirational fiction, a blogger, book reviewer and voracious reader. Taking her life a day at a time as God leads, she is pursuing a career in the publishing industry as an editor in training and as a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. A hopeless romantic, history and Marvel nut, she's also a redhead (thanks to a box), who knows way too much trivia about movie musicals and the Civil War. Find her on social media and at her blog, A Northern Belle (
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Megan has JUST released her Christmas novella Wrapped in Red. Enter to win a digital copy here (or hop on over and grab it now if you can't wait!).

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