Advent in Narnia: Reflections For The Season by Heidi Haverkamp – Book Review

Advent in Narnia: Reflections For The Season by Heidi Haverkamp

Published By  Westminster John Knox Press   September 14, 2015

Genres:  Religion and Spirituality, Christian

Pages:  96

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

“Walking into Advent can be like walking through the wardrobe.”

With its enchanting themes of snow and cold, light and darkness, meals and gifts, temptation and sin, forgiveness and hope–and even an appearance by Father Christmas–C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe fits naturally into the Advent season. As the reader seeks a storied king and anticipates the glorious coming of Christmas, these twenty-eight devotions alternate between Scripture and passages from the novel to prompt meditation on Advent themes. Each devotion also includes questions for reflection. The book also provides several resources for churches, including four sessions for small group discussion and ideas for creating a “Narnia Night” for families. Readers will ultimately come to know God better while journeying through Narnia

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Story Notes

Heidi Haverkamp’s look at the season of Advent through the eyes of the Narnia series brings a fresh and fun element to the traditional Christian celebration of Christmas.

How happy I was to see this book available on NetGalley! Having seen it in bookstores and online I was curious about how one would bring the two worlds together. Granted, the Narnia series was written by C.S. Lewis to share the Gospel with children in a fun way, but I wondered what correlations there would be with the season of Advent. Ms. Haverkamp made these correlations in a unique and delightful way that had me rethinking and truly pondering the meanings and implications that are part of the foundations of our Christian faith. I had not done an Advent study in several years and was thrilled to have found another that was based on a favorite book series.  Having read all the books numerous times throughout my life and having seen the fairly good movies released as well, the memories of the stories came back quickly to me as I read the daily lessons and questions. Ms. Haverkamp told the story of Advent and its many lessons in conjunction with the characters and their reactions to the land of Narnia and their experiences there. I really enjoyed how she showed the innocence and pure trust of Lucy to be the same as what we need for our faith in Jesus Christ. Lucy was confident in her faith of what she had seen and although somewhat upset with Edmund she refused to give in and say it was just pretend. As is the point of Narnia, Ms. Haverkamp emphasized that faith comes when we believe that Aslan (Jesus) is coming and will bring and end to Winter (Sin). I found myself remembering again my dislike and then pity for Edmund that he was so determined to go his own way and found himself in a trouble that he could not get out of alone. How like Edmund we are when we decide we know better than God about how life works and what we need to do. And how like Aslan He was and is to show us mercy and grace enough to guide us, however painfully, to the right path again. As an adult I also identify with Peter and Susan who are “older” but not sure if they are ready to let go of the childhood beliefs yet. We all must remember that Jesus said to come to him we must be like a child (Matt. 18:3), just as Lucy came to Aslan as a child. And it is her faith and trust in Aslan that will lead all her older siblings to have faith enough to follow Aslan into battle against the White Witch. How delightful it was to read and remember the story each day and to savor that close relationship with Jesus that we sometimes let fall to the side. To read the “Christmas” story in a different light was refreshing to me and I truly felt I had been able to experience it in a new way. I believe this study would be good for a family as well as individuals who wish for a new look at our traditional faith narrative. I will certainly recommend this to others, with or without children, who are looking for a good study of Advent.

I received this E-book free of charge from Westminster John Knox Press via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

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Cherringham: A Lesson In Murder by Neil Richards and Matthew Costello – Book Review

Cherringham: A Lesson In Murder  By  Neil Richards and Matthew Costello

Published By  Bastei Entertainment   March 11, 2015

Genres:  Mystery & Thrillers, General Fiction (Adult)

Pages:  107

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

When Jack and Sarah are called in to investigate mysterious pranks at an exclusive girls’ private school, it seems at first that it might be the work of a few mean pupils with a grudge. But things quickly turn serious when a popular teacher meets a sudden, violent death. Now, with murder in the air, Jack and Sarah have their own lessons to learn about the Cherringham Girls School, its dark secrets… and who wanted that teacher dead before they learned the truth.

Cherringham is serial novel à la Charles Dickens, with a new mystery thriller released each month. Set in the sleepy English village of Cherringham, the detective series brings together an unlikely sleuthing duo: English web designer Sarah and American ex-cop Jack. Thrilling and deadly – but with a spot of tea – it’s like Rosamunde Pilcher meets Inspector Barnaby. Each of the self-contained episodes is a quick read for the morning commute, while waiting for the doctor, or when curling up with a hot cuppa.

For fans of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple series, Lilian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who series, Caroline Graham’s Midsomer Murders, and the American TV series Murder She Wrote, starring Angela Lansbury.

Co-authors Neil Richards (based in the UK) and Matthew Costello (based in the US), are known for their script work on major computer games. The Cherringham crime series is their first fictional transatlantic collaboration.

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Story Notes

The 13th book in Neil Richards and Matthew Costello’s series Cherringham is a good mystery story that is intriguing in spite of its short length.

Not knowing this was story number 13 in a 14 story series it was a little disconcerting to jump into the lives of the main characters but as their personal lives weren’t key to the storyline I moved right into the story just fine. Minor pranks at private girls school Cherringham Hall have escalated to a level the staff cannot handle so Headmaster Gavin Ward sends for local sleuths Jack Brennan and Sarah Edwards to find out what’s going on. After hearing the details of what has occurred Jack and Sarah decide this case is worth their time and set out to find the culprit. As they dig into the school, they find there is more to the school’s success than the brilliant minds of its students – and also stumble into an apparent suicide. But to solve this crime Jack and Sarah will have to find a way to get past the protective barrier everyone at the school maintains like a war-time fortress. Although this book was not especially long I did enjoy reading and considering the mystery. It was not complicated but still retained enough thrill to keep me reading to the very end. I prefer longer mystery books so as to get to know the characters in the story better but without a complex plot this was not necessary in this story. I had clues throughout the story that this belonged in a series but it stood alone fairly well while also inviting the reader to look for the rest in the series. I will perhaps read the others in the series given time but not sure it will be soon. I would recommend this book to others with a word of caution as to language. Given this is written by British authors I fully expected a larger inclusion of curse words and I was right – there is not so many as to put everyone off but enough that some might take offense. So read with caution this book and the rest in the series.

This E-book was provided to me at no cost by Bastei Entertainment via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

Don’t Tell Anyone by Eleanor Gray – Book Review

Don’t Tell Anyone  By  Eleanor Gray

Published By  Midnight Ink   December 8, 2016

Genres:  Mystery & Thrillers, General Fiction (Adult)

Pages: 360

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

This E-book was provided to me at no cost by Midnight Ink via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

Finding Father Christmas/ Engaging Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn – Book Review

Finding Father Christmas/Engaging Father Christmas  By  Robin Jones Gunn

Published By  FaithWords/Center Street   06 September, 2016

Genres:  Romance, Religion and Spirituality

Pages:  352

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

In FINDING FATHER CHRISTMAS, Miranda Carson’s search for her father leads her unexpectedly to London with only a few feeble clues as to who he might be. Immediately welcomed into a family that doesn’t recognize her, and whom she’s quickly coming to love, she faces a terrible decision. Should she reveal her true identity and destroy their idyllic image of her father? Or should she carry the truth home with her to San Francisco and remain alone in this world? Whatever choice she makes during this London Christmas will forever change the future for both herself and the family she can’t bear to leave.

In ENGAGING FATHER CHRISTMAS Miranda Carson can’t wait to return to England for Christmas and to be with her boyfriend, Ian. She has spent a lifetime yearning for a place to call home, and she’s sure Carlton Heath will be it, especially when a hinted-at engagement ring slips into the conversation. But Miranda’s high hopes for a jolly Christmas with the small circle of people she has come to love are toppled when Ian’s father is hospitalized and the matriarch of the Whitcombe family withholds her blessing from Miranda. Questions run rampant in Miranda’s mind about whether she really belongs in this cheery corner of the world. Then, when her true identity threatens all her relationships in unanticipated ways, Miranda is certain all is lost. And yet . . . maybe Father Christmas has special gifts in store for her after all.

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Story Notes

Robin Jones Gunn’s first two books in her Father Christmas series are great holiday stories that are not to be missed.

I’m always been a fan of Christmas themed stories that include heart and a telling of reconciliation and redemption. Ms. Gun brings such joy and homey-ness to this series and I was thrilled to be able to review it. Miranda is a young woman who has been looking for family all her life. Although she had her mother until age 10 that relationship was one of instability and controlled chaos with spoken love thrown in as an effort to cover the majority of time spent working. Having grown up on charity from others Miranda has learned to depend on herself for what she needs or wants. Now, years later, Miranda has found a clue as to whom her father may have been and comes to the small village of Carlton-Heath to see if she can find him. I was fully engaged in this book and its excellent characters almost immediately and read the whole book to the end in just two sittings. Ms. Gunn created a kind, intelligent and very vulnerable character in Miranda, who was searching for what we all seek: a family and place to belong. It was wonderful to read a story of a meaningful time in this character’s life and I found it a good reminder to cherish all those we hold dear and to welcome those who may join our family. I felt like I was walking alongside Miranda as she went about trying to find her father and was thrilled when she also found the most important of relationships – the one with her heavenly Father. Ms. Gunn wrote Miranda’s search for God and her conversion in such a powerful way that I found myself with tears of joy falling over the joy and belonging Miranda found with Jesus. And when she finally gained the courage to tell her family all she had discovered about her father, I loved her grace and kindness in the face of their unkind and mean accusations. She was willing to step out of their lives and go back to her life if it would make things easier – no matter the pain it caused her. And because of this I was very happy to see them welcome her somewhat in the first story and even more so in the second. The second story in this book was a really lovely continuation of the first with Miranda finding love with the MacGregor’s son Ian. She has visited several times since her initial visit and hopes that she and Ian will be able to make their relationship permanent soon. But then Ian’s father has a heart attack and Ian must step up to play Father Christmas in the village’s annual show, making their time together limited. And Miranda is also receiving a cold shoulder from the matriarch of her father’s family which makes the possibility of staying in Carlton Heath seem an uncomfortable reality. Add to this the discovery by the press of Miranda’s identity and you have a story that seems to be too big a mess to sort out happily for everyone. I was very pleased that Ms. Gunn did not shy away from the messy and hurtful parts of this type of story. She was very real and honest with her characters and let them show the emotions that most people would exhibit given the circumstances they were experiencing. I was thrilled to see the ending of this book included the full welcoming of Miranda to the Whitcombe family. It made Miranda’s choice of staying in Carlton Heath a real possibility and helped her relationship with Ian become even better with their engagement. And this caveats nicely into the third book of the series – Kissing Father Christmas – which is wonderful!  Ms. Gunn included so many “British-isms” making the book even more enjoyable for me personally. I love the British culture and the many traditions they participate in each day – but none more so than their Christmas traditions. I loved to read of their meals and all the meanings behind what was served or included on the tablescape. I really enjoyed reading of the annual telling of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Story that was a big plot point in this series. It was fun to imagine the different ways in which it was presented and those who participated in the play – from the entire cast being children one year to the entire cast being those over 60 the next. And it was these many lovely tellings of this classic story that Ms. Gunn  used to bring back Miranda’s love of theater that died with her mother. I highly recommend reading this book and will pass it on to my family and friends. And I have also watched the Hallmark movie that was based on this book which, while good, does not compare with the descriptive writing and well developed characters seen in the actual book.  I’m most certainly looking forward to Ms. Gunn’s next works.

This E-book was provided to me free of charge by FaithWords/Center street via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

Fairly Human by Holly Jacobs – Book Review

Fairly Human  By  Holly Jacobs

Published By  Bellebooks/Imaginn Books   March 15, 2004

Genres:   Humor, Romance

Pages:  166

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Myrtle, Fern, and Blossom have successfully found all three Aaronson siblings their own happily-ever-afters. But in doing that, they’ve stepped over the line. The Fairy Council has sentenced them to live as humans for the next six months. But not as their familiar, comfortable selves. Instead, they’re to revert back to their true forms—gorgeous women guaranteed to make any man stand up and take notice.

The godmothers have always functioned as a unit. Now they’re on independent paths. Each sister collides with a man who makes her feel everything from delight to annoyance. And maybe something more.

Myrtle, Fern, and Blossom soon learn all about a magic that has nothing to do with fairies and everything to do with love. When their six months is up, will they go back to creating happily-ever-afters for people in need? Or will they find their own, instead?

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Story Notes

Oh how I have longed to give Holly Jacobs 5 stars and I am finally able to do it with her final story in the “Dear Fairy Godmother” series entitled “Fairly Human”. This one of the best completions to a really fun and entertaining series I have found. The love lives of Fern, Blossom and Myrtle will leave you with a happy smile on your face and in your heart.

Ms. Jacobs had given many glimpses into the minds and thoughts of the Fairy Godmothers before but never to the extent she does here. How fun it was to read that without magic to fall back on, the fairy sisters had to find their own happiness until they received their powers back after six months probation. I was glad to see that Ms. Jacobs gave each sister equal time to both find and fall in love on their own terms. Fern, finally branching out her love for cooking to find a job as a chef was entertaining to read about as she carefully and skillfully put aside all of Nico’s assumptions. And for them to both experience love and acceptance that had been missing before was a good addition to this story. Blossom’s foray into the world of acting begins as a kindness to an older gentleman and becomes her new passion. And falling in love with the director makes it easier for Blossom to feel at home in her new enterprise. Myrtle has not been my favorite Godmother up to this point but I found a new love for her as I read of her struggles to find an occupation that did not involve taking care of her sisters or godchildren. Ms. Jacobs found the perfect solution for Myrtle in Gordon and Zak Martinelli – both need her to care for them in some way. The zany conclusion of this hilarious story was perfectly imperfect – all the couples ended up together but instead of all choosing one world or the other they choose to continue in their human lives with occasional visits to Fairyland, something no one in Fairyland has done before. Ms. Jacobs also provided such a wonderful set of supporting characters to verbally spar and sympathize with the sisters that each page brought more laughter and smiles. Fiona was a riot as she effectively showed the sisters that it is okay for them to find happiness for themselves. I laughed so much every time she and Bernie argued over the sisters and their new lives – Bernie was so clueless about how women really feel it was comical. Ms. Jacobs included several previous characters from the other books in this series to help the sisters decide what made them happy. These characters often repeated phrases the sisters had told them and Ms. Jacobs effectively used these as “AHA” moments. And to top everything off, Ms. Jacobs left unnecessary language out of this book almost entirely  – much to my delight. I will be recommending this book wholeheartedly to others and will look into purchasing this book for my personal library.

This E-Book was provided to me at no cost by Bellebooks/Imajinn Books via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

Wildflower Harvest by Colleen L. Reece (w/bonus story Desert Rose) – Book Review

Wildflower Harvest + bonus story Desert Rose  By  Colleen L. Reece

Published By  Barbour Publishing/Barbour Books   December 01, 2016

Genres:   Romance, Christian

Pages:  320

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Enjoy two Old West romances from author Colleen L. Reece. Journey to Wyoming territory with Dr. Adam Birchfield who risks losing love in order to find his missing brother. But which identical twin sister did he really fall in love with back in West Virginia? Also includes the bonus story, Desert Rose, of a woman who falls in love with a man through his letters.

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Story Notes

Colleen L. Reece’s latest stories are a fun adventure in the growing Wyoming Territory town of Antelope.

Colleen L. Reece has many books that I have read and I looked forward to reading this latest offering. I was a little surprised though at how long it took me to get into the main story and actually like the characters. The formatting was rather jumpy and Ms. Reece would go back in time to cover the experiences that took place with one character during the time that had already past with the co-character. I found this slightly off-putting because it made it hard for me to connect with the individual characters. Its not that I don’t think the back stories and each characters thoughts weren’t important but the transition between them was not very smooth in its flow. Once the story really got going the formatting smoothed out and I enjoyed reading the book. I found Ms. Reece’s characters to be interesting and fairly true to reality. It was fun to read of each of their adventures as they made journeys and sought to find a place to belong and thrive. I realize this story was fairly short but I would have liked to see a little more character development with the main characters. The passage of time was merely mentioned and I am a fan of seeing the transition of characters as they become better people within the pages of a book. I did really appreciate that Ms. Reece had each of her characters grow in both physical and spiritual ways as they made their way in the new places they lived, although the details of this were not described fully. I was more drawn to the bonus story that was included rather than the main one – I found the writing to be more flowing and the story much more engaging. Which is funny as Desert Rose is a continuation of the main book, but I really liked the characters better. I found Rose to be a typical non-pampered 17 year old who believes she is up to any challenge or dare. I was very interested in the way Ms. Reece had Rose’s parents advise her when they found out she was corresponding with a man in Massachusetts. They did not reprimand her after she explained who he was and merely advised her to take it slow and be careful to not “encourage you friend to pull up stakes and move to Antelope, at least not until you’re eighteen”. One of the best devices I found Ms. Reece used in these books was to have the “bad guy” be the same person – even given the 20 year time span between the stories. I thought this really made the stories cohesive and allowed for that character’s development to be on-going through both books. I also loved how Rose’s mother Laurel told her that “when you fall in love, I shudder to think what outrageous thing you may do”.  It hearkened back to when Laurel followed Rose’s father Adam to Antelope because she loved him and wanted to know if he felt the same. It would set the tone for the rest of the story and give Rose the courage to save her life and Michael’s by agreeing to marriage even when she was unsure of Michael’s feelings for her. Overall I found these stories to be really nice and enjoyed reading them. The odd formatting really seemed unusual for Ms. Reece and perhaps this is just a one off book and is not indicative of Ms. Reece’s future writing. I look forward to more from this author and will recommend this book to others.

I received this E-book free of charge from Barbour Publishing/Barbour Books via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.