Thursday, November 17, 2011

Remembering Christmas by Dan Walsh

A real "feel good" book!

From the Publisher

Rick Denton lives his life on his terms. He works hard, plays hard, and answers to no one. So when his mother calls on Thanksgiving weekend begging him to come home after his stepfather has a stroke, Rick is more than a little reluctant. He's never liked Art and resents the man's presence in his life, despite the fact that his own father abandoned the family when Rick was just twelve. When what was supposed to be just a couple days helping out at the family bookstore turns into weeks of cashing out old ladies and running off the homeless man who keep hanging about, Rick's attitude sours even more.

Still, slowly but surely, the little bookstore and its quirky patrons--as well as the lovely young woman who works at his side each day--work their magic on him, revealing to Rick the truth about his family, his own life, and the true meaning of Christmas. With skillful storytelling, Dan Walsh creates a Christmas story will have readers remembering every good and perfect gift of Christmas.

My Take

I enjoy reading Christmas novels—maybe it’s because I’m a “bah humbug” person and I think reading about it will get me in the spirit. Or maybe because Christmas novels are usually “feel good” books that warm the heart. I’m not sure what it is but I was excited to receive Remembering Christmas to get that feeling.

There were several parts of Remembering Christmas that did give me the “feel good” feeling. I enjoyed that Rick came to the aid of his mom and stepfather without hesitation even though he wasn’t close to his stepfather. The down side to that was his attitude about it and thinking he would only be there for a few days. In my world, if my parents need me to help, I’m there in a heartbeat without the attitude. Some folks are different, of course, but I don’t really understand why.

After learning how much the community respects and praises his mom and stepfather, Rick starts to think about his childhood with a different perspective. He realizes maybe it was HIM and not his family that had a bad attitude growing up. It’s amazing how when you finally get to know about someone, your perspective and memories are altered. What I wasn’t so excited about was the fact that he didn’t know his mom and stepfather after all those years. Rick was selfish and self-centered and only interested in how he could climb the corporate ladder.

Because this is a Christian book, there are lots of faith references but nothing that is preachy. It was a good balance of antagonist and introspection. There was one aspect that did bother me a little. The title is Remembering Christmas but other than the weather, Walsh didn’t refer back to the spirit of Christmas. Yes, miracles happen at that time of year but they also happen throughout the year and the book didn’t really make me think of Christmas—spiritual or otherwise.

Remembering Christmas is a “feel good” book but it didn’t make a huge impression on me. I wasn’t compelled to sit and read it all at one—not a page turner to me. It’s a nice story but nothing special. For that reason, I give Remembering Christmas 3 stars. I am, however, interested in reading his other novels to see what they are like.

I received this book free from Revell  as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Available September 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

About the Author

Dan Walsh is the award-winning author ofThe Unfinished GiftThe HomecomingThe Deepest Waters, and Remembering Christmas. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Dan served as a pastor for 25 years. 

He lives with his family in the Daytona Beach area, where he’s busy researching and writing his next novel.

Visit his website here:  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Christmas Shoppe by Melody Carson

The epitome of Christmas’ true meaning

From the Publisher

The small town of Parrish Springs is not ready for Matilda Honeycutt. A strange older woman with scraggly gray hair and jewelry that jangles as she walks, Matilda is certainly not the most likely person to buy the old Barton Building on the town's quaint main street. When it becomes apparent that her new shop doesn't fit the expectations of Parrish Springs residents, a brouhaha erupts. After all, Christmas is approaching, and the last thing the town needs is a junky shop run by someone who looks and acts like a gypsy. But as townsfolk venture into the strange store, they discover that old memories can bring new life and healing. 

Once again, Melody Carlson delivers a Christmas story that will touch hearts and delight the senses. Sure to be a classic, The Christmas Shoppe is filled with the special magic the best Christmas stories share--that intangible mixture of nostalgia, joy, and a little bit of magic.

My Take

Just like the townspeople in The Christmas Shoppe, I thought the store was going to hold Christmas decorations and maybe even small gifts for children to give their parents. Silly me!!  I was sure surprised when the truth came out!

Loving Melody Carson books, I was surprised at the animosity of some characters. It just didn’t seem her style to have such bitter individuals in the story. I soon learned the necessity of those folks to make the story work. Even the nicer characters began to turn on Matilda when she opened her shoppe and it contained “junk”. 

I truly enjoyed seeing the characters soften and become believers after shopping at The Christmas Shoppe. Matilda is very intuitive when people come into her shoppe—she can bring out long forgotten memories and make people realize what’s important. The sayings and verses on her shoppe wall truly touched me and I am using them in my art and journaling. Thank you Ms. Carson for those.

The Christmas Shoppe gets 4 stars in my book. The character building and finally, togetherness, is the epitome of Christmas’ true meaning.   It’s a true “feel good” book to get you in the Christmas spirit.

I received this book free from Revell  as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


About the Author

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books with sales of more than five million. She is the author of several Christmas books from Revell, including the bestselling The Christmas Bus, The Christmas Dog, and Christmas at Harrington's, which is being considered for a TV movie. She is also the author of many teen books, including Just Another Girl, Anything but Normal, Double Take, and the Diary of a Teenage Girl series. Melody was nominated for a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her books in 2010 and 2011. She and her husband live in central Oregon. For more information about Melody visit her website at

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Devotions for Boots on the Ground by James W. Visel

Compelling and Personal ; a true testament of faith

From the Publisher

There is possibly nothing more conducive to thoughts of the Eternal than having ones face slammed into red, wet muck, with explosions so close your body arcs and bounces off the ground, hot shards burn in your flesh, and concussions are bright flashes of dirty fire beating a tattoo on the light receptors in the backs of your eyes. Your head aches; throbbing from visual shock waves. Time has come to an end; there is no right, no wrong, only whatever follows a life that is now over. The dark reaper is here. What’s it going to be like on the other side? Is there another side? 

The old timers use the maxim, “There are no atheists in a fox-hole”. Possibly so; I can only give my own experience, and I never had the opportunity to be in one. Combat aviators crash and sometimes burn instead. But close calls almost always give rise to interminable questions; especially when the survived experience is seared into the human psyche. For some, satisfactory answers never seem to come. For myself, may I pro-offer both scorching experience, and incredible life-lessons learned? Then, should you ever fall into similar adventure; you man go into it better prepared than I was.
                                                                                                -- James W. Visel

My Take

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up Devotions for Boots on the Ground. Would it be about Visel’s Vietnam War experiences? Would it be a devotional? Or his journey with God? I was quite surprised to find out it was about all of them.

Visel tells stories about combat that may be disturbing to some but they are the truth---a truth that nobody really talks about. Some parts are gruesome but Visel tempers them with bible verses and interpretations of God’s voice. 

I personally know James W. Visel and know that he is a very faithful Christian and always relates life to bible teachings. He does this same thing in Devotions for Boots on the Ground. He constantly looks for God’s lesson in the events described in the book. 

There are also amusing accounts of soldiers letting of some steam interspersed in Visel’s account of a situation. With all the death and destruction in Vietnam, it’s understandable that the solders played practical jokes and made light of certain events. 

One suggestion I would make is to have an appendix or list with all the abbreviations and their meanings. That would have been very helpful for a layperson. The military is full of acronyms and it's hard to keep track of them if the reader doesn't have a military background. 

I give Devotions for Boots on the Ground 4 starts. For new author, James W. Visel, the writing is compelling, sometimes hard to read, but the reader feels part of the story. With a published book under his belt, Visel had a promising future as a writer.

I received this book free for personal use. I am not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

About the Author

James W. Visel is a highly decorated helicopter crew chief who did three tours of duty with the 173rd Assualt Helicopter Company “Robin Hoods” during 1966, 1967, and 1968. He was shot down or crashed due to catastrophic mechanical failure seven times and wounded twice during the Vietnam War.   

Targeting today’s GIs and their families, and drawing from personal experiences, the author reveals the surprising source of his incredible courage. A maverick whose life experience mad him passionately spiritual-minded; is a decorated combat vet, family man, 40 yr. building boss, skydiver, pilot; who projects refreshing, out of the box perspective to intense situations. Life can get dicey, Jim articulates, but God is faithful. You can trust Him!

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Corruptible by Mark Mynheir

Twists & turns from a police insider—couldn’t put it down!

From the Publisher

Ex-homicide detective Ray Quinn never had glamorous thoughts of the life of a private investigator—but being cornered in a bathroom stall by the enraged philandering husband of a client? That’s something he could live without. Retired from homicide and living with a painful disability, Ray’s options are limited. Stick to the job, keep impetuous sidekick Crevis alive, and spend quiet evenings with trusted pal Jim Beam, that’s about the best he can hope for.

As a new client emerges, Ray finds himself in an impossibly large boardroom holding a check with enough zeros to finally lift him from his financial pit. The job seems easy enough: find Logan Ramsey, an ex-cop turned security officer who’s taken off with sensitive corporate information. But few things are easy in Ray’s world, regardless of the amount of zeros in the check.

In what should be an open-and-shut case, Ray stumbles across Logan Ramsey in a seedy motel room. Only Ray wasn’t the first to find him. Now Logan’s dead, the client’s information is nowhere to be found, and Ray’s employer is less than forthcoming with the details. Suddenly the line between the good guys and bad guys isn’t so clear. With a foot in both worlds and an illuminating look at an unhappy ending that could well be his own, which will Ray choose?

My Take

I’ve recently taken a liking to some murder mystery books and have added several new authors to my list of “must reads”.  I’ve now added Mark Mynheir to that list! This was a new author for me and now I can’t wait to read the first Ray Quinn mystery book.

Mynheir has a way of taking the facts and thinking outside the box to get new angles. I found it interesting how a police investigator’s thought process works and getting inside their heads.  Working with the Florida homicide unit, SWAT team, and forensics brings a whole other perspective to the usual mystery novel. 

I also enjoyed the characters in The Corruptible.  From the murder victim (not just a “dead guy”) to head honcho CEO that hires Quinn to Quinn’s business partners, each one has a distinct, unique personality. They also have their own story and Mynheir brings out those stories to give the reader a “bonding” experience with the characters. I think this helps for sequel books—you already have an investment in the characters and will more likely to get the new book to see what happens to them.

The Corruptible is a Christian based novel but Mynheir didn’t make it “preachy”.  There was really only one faithful character and she wasn’t pushy about it even though it was mentioned each time she was involved in the story line. I also liked how several of the characters had their own struggles and were trying to work through them to heal themselves. One negative -- there was some repetition throughout the book on minor items but I think they can be overlooked with such a compelling story line. 

I give The Corruptible 5 stars—I couldn’t put the book down and the story kept pulling me further and further in. It was almost as if I was involved in the case, too. I can’t wait to see what Mynheir comes up with next!

I received this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah’s “Blogging for Books”  as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

About the Author

Mark Mynheir is the author of the Christy Award nominated The Night Watchman, the first Ray Quinn mystery. He has worked undercover as a narcotics agent, as a SWAT team member, and now investigates violent crimes as a detective with the Criminal Investigations Unit in central Florida, where he lives with his wife and three children.