25 October 2015

Christmas Traditions 8-in-1 Collection - Guest Review by Tina Rice



Christmas Traditions
FIVE STARS ***** 
8 Christmas Novellas...Stories of Love at Christmas
    by Jennifer AlLee, Angela Breidenbach, Darlene Franklin, Patty Smith Hall,  
    Cynthia Hickey, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Niki Turner and Gina Welborn

Reviewed by Tina St.Clair Rice, Guest Reviewer

1) A Nutcracker Christmas by Jennifer AlLee
Isabella Brandt is one of many ballerinas in the 1945 San Francisco Ballet Corps.  She, like the others, are trying out for a coveted position in the upcoming performance of the Nutcracker.  

Violinist Victor Randolf recently immigrated to America from Hungary and was fortunate to land a position in the Orchestra for the Ballet Corps.  As Isabella and Victor work together they form a closeness neither of them expected.  With Thanksgiving coming up, Isabella invites many of the ballerinas and Victor to her apartment.  After the delicious Thanksgiving meal, they gather in the living room enjoying coffee and listening to Victor play his violin.  An unexpected “guest” shows up, the last person Isabella expected to ever see again.  Beyond shocked, Isabella can only stare while her other guests leave.  What, how can this happen?  What does this mean for her future?

I like the way Jennifer weaves her story and shows her characters feelings, challenges, past hurts, hopes, dreams and faith.  Taking us backstage for a glimpse of the hard work it takes to produce a production like the Nutcracker and into their lives away from the stage. 

2) Eleven Pipers Piping by Angela Breidenbach
(CFP: This NEW RELEASE novella was only published this fall. The other novellas and short stories originally released last year. Angela lost her father last year while the collection was being written.)

Mirielle Sheehan is the music teacher at an exclusive church school for boys in the 1890's frontier town of Helena, Montana.  She is determined to help eleven abandoned young orphaned boys of various ages as they struggle to buy food and survive on their own as newsies—boys selling newspapers.  However, the school superintendent has given her a choice: either turn these rowdy street boys into model citizens or they will get sold into indenture or sent to the military—within the week.  

Evan Russell has been searching for his 6 year old son, Joseph, for sometime now.  After his wife died, he left Joseph in his brother's care while he went away to work.  However, Joseph is missing after a fire destroyed the home and family with it.  Is Joseph alive somewhere? He has to be!  Mirielle and Evan join forces to locate young Joesph with the help of the newsies.  Will they be able to find Joseph or is he really gone?  Praying for a miracle they enlist the citizens of Helena along with the newsies.  

This is a sweet and endearing story.  The 11 newsies certainly captured my heart and I so wanted them to find a safe, loving place to live...off the streets.  Evan's heartbreaking search for his son had me in tears as he struggled to hold onto the hope that Joesph is still alive somewhere.  I like Mirielle's spirit, compassion and dedication to these young boys.  This is a story that will capture the hearts of the readers.

3) An Apple For Christmas by Darlene Franklin 

Ruby Nelson is the new teacher at an all girls school in 1895 Vermont.  She enjoys teaching these young girls, even the challenging ones.  There are twin girls, Pippin and Margil, in her class that have captured Ruby's heart.  The twins father, MacIntosh—Mac Cortland, owns an apple orchard he and his deceased wife started years earlier.  Before moving from New York, Ruby's background was in agricultural science involving apples and is very interested in the Mac's apple orchard.  She also finds her heart drawn to Mac.

It is fun that Mac and the twins are named after apples...which fits the story-line very well. Margil fell in love with Ruby right off but it took a little longer for Pippin. It was fun to watch the interaction between Ruby and Mac—some very humorous moments too.  The twins were delightful and full of plans for their father and teacher.  Will their plans turn out the way they hoped or will they fall far short?
An Apple for Christmas is full of humor, love, faith and apples—of course—making this a sweet story.


4) Christmas Lessons by Patty Smith Hall
As a child Claire Davenport learned she had Polo which left one of her legs weakened and her walking with a cane.  Because of her disability, she broke off her engagement two years ago to the love of her life, Billy Warner.

After the broken engagement Billy leaves Marietta to pursue his dream of coaching football.  Now back in Marietta, he accepts the head coach position at the school where Claire teaches.  Claire learns he is back and will be working at the school at a staff meeting.  Added to that, he will be helping Claire as she works to give Christmas to the needy families in the community.

Can Billy learn why Claire really broke their engagement?   As they work together will they find that they still love each other?  I like how the author shows that despite having a disability, it doesn't mean you can't live a full, active life...including love.  Misunderstandings, insecurities, redemption, forgiveness, love and faith are woven to create a sweet story.

5) Handcarved Christmas by Cynthia Hickey

Laura Worth lived in a small town in Missouri with her parents and is the oldest of their 10 children.  An advertisement in the town paper catches her eye for young single women to be brides for eligible men in Montana.  With nothing to keep her in Missouri this seems like an answer to her prayers so she starts up a correspondence with a perspective groom, Benjamin Cooper, or Ben.  After some time and prayer she concludes that she is to be Ben's bride and travels the long way to Montana.  Now she anxiously awaits her groom at the train station, peering out the window but only sees more snow falling, no groom in sight!  What has happened to him?  What should she do?  Finally hiring a driver to take her the two hours ride to Ben's home she arrives and knocks on the door.  Ben opens the door, puzzled why a young woman would be at his door step in the middle of a snow storm.  He learns that she is to be his bride!  Finding a note left by Ben's brother, Sam, explains that Laura is Sam's Christmas gift to Ben.  

To protect her reputation Ben has no choice now but to marry her since they were alone all night.  They return to town the next day and marry.  Of course, things don't go as smoothly as they would like.  Being strangers, they both have a lot to learn about each other and being married.  As they work side by side, along with Sam, they learn to care for each other.  Christmas is fast approaching and they each have their little secrets preparing for the holiday.  What will Christmas bring to this couple? 

Handcarved Christmas is a charming and sweet romance set in 1880 Montana where mail-order brides are common.  I like the way the author shows the characters struggles as they learn to live together and care for each other, their strengths, weaknesses and faith.  Great story!


6) The Fruitcake Challenge by Carrie Fancett Pagels

Our hero/heroin live and work near Mackinaw City in Northern Michigan's logging camp in 1890.  Josephine-Jo Christy, daughter of the camp's owner, is the camps cook and longs to leave and find another life for herself.   She has vowed to leave once this camp site moves on to the next camp site where the white pines they harvest are plentiful.  Jo longs to marry and have a family but does not want to marry a lumberjack.  Tom Jeffries is a teacher but teaching jobs are scarce and pay little, so he finds a job with the Christy logging camp as a lumberjack to support himself and his widowed mother. 

Both Jo and Tom have prayed for God's leading in their lives and question His direction at times.  Tom challenges Jo to bake a fruitcake like his mothers', if she does he will marry her.  Jo takes up the challenge, not to marry him but to take him down a notch or two—he is way too cocky, and besides he is a lumberjack.  But over the months as they get to know each other and Jo bakes one fruitcake after another that doesn't meet Tom's specifications, Jo begins to rethink baking yet one more fruitcake.  Tom now has second thoughts on his challenge to Jo, he wants to marry her but not because of her baking a fruitcake.  Things don't go smoothly as the deadline gets closer.  Even though Jo's fruitcakes are not like Tom's mothers', each fruitcake she bakes spark romance in other unlikely couples. 

I loved the sparks between Jo and Tom, each trying not to admit to themselves that there is an attraction.  I like the way the author includes Jo and Tom's thoughts showing their uncertainty and how vulnerable they really are. The description of how remote the logging camp really is from the nearest town and the difficulty traveling back and forth gives us a glimpse of their way of life.  Those in the camp are more like family than co-workers and rely on each other daily.  No story would be complete without surprises, and this one includes some surprises along the way keeping the reader engrossed in the story.  I thoroughly enjoyed this story and would like to see more of the characters in a follow-up story. 


7) Sadie's Gift by Niki Turner

Sadie Hubbard is a nurse working in the local Preventorium in the early 1920's.  She cares for children who have or have been exposed to Tuberculosis (TB).  Her heart goes out to them and their families and wants to make each Christmas a very special one even if she has to sacrifice to do it.  

Nathan Wells is a man on a mission, to return his recently deceased brother's car to his parents and then be left alone with his grief.  As Sadie is walking across the icy street he swerves to avoid hitting her.  Angry, he informs Sadie that she has to pay for repairs to the car.  

Later when Sadie arrives at the boarding house in which she lives she runs into Nathan again as he is now staying there too until his car is repaired. Will they be able to get past their first meeting and work together for the children?  Can Sadie's actions reveal the true Spirit of Christmas to Nathan?  Can Nathan release his anger and grief? 

This is a very touching Christmas novella in many ways, a bit of suspense, range of emotions, humor, romance, redemption and Spirituality.  I love the way God's love is revealed through Sadie's heart and how she shares the true Spirit of Christmas. 


8) Holly Daze by Gina Welborn

This is a charming short novella set in 1880's Iowa at Christmas time.  This little town has a festival each year in which they continue years of superstition—the placing of a cherry twig into glasses of holy water by an unmarried maiden, Lena Reinhardt, to bring good fortune for that year.  James Holly, an English paleontologist, is in Iowa for a geological survey at the time of the festival.  While there one of his fossils is stolen, delaying his departure until it is found.

The character's struggles in this novella are clearly shown.  Struggles that even Christians have— like Lena and James. I like how faith, forgiveness and redemption is addressed and opens the eyes to God's forgiveness and what it means for the believer.  A bit of humor, faith, love and romance makes this a charming Christmas story.

 THANKS TINA for the reviews!!!

GIVEAWAY:  This #1 Amazon Bestseller in Christian Christmas stories continues to stay on the top five of the list even months after release! Now available in paperback, we're giving away a copy to one of our readers. (International winners ebook only.) Answer this question: Why do you read Christmas collections? 


39 comments:

  1. Thanks for your wonderful reviews, as well as the work and time involved, Tina - it is so appreciated!! Thanks, also, for being such a faithful follower of OWG and supporter of our team.

    I loved each of the stories in this collection, such a small price for so much reading enjoyment!! Christmas has always been my favorite holiday - the celebrated birthdate of my Lord the foremost reason, the added love and joy shown during the season - another. Christian Christmas story collections help reinforce those comforting and inspiring feelings for me.

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    1. Thank you for those kind words Bonnie.
      OWG is a blessing to me. I love the heart of OWG and everyone here.
      Thanks for letting me be a part of it.
      Blessings, Tina

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    2. Christmas is my favorite time too Bonnie for just that reason.
      Blessings,Tina

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  2. As a Christian, Christmas stories seem to enhance the Reason for the Season. They seem to show what a mighty God we serve. People seem to be a lot nicer too. This Christmas is going to be a difficult time for me ( I lost my mom, dad and brother all within the last 5 years) and a lot of these stories remind me that Christmas is a time for Love and family

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    1. So true, Pam, they do! We serve an amazing God! Praying for you that God will put His angels all around you this Christmas!

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    2. Agree Pam, they do that for sure. Praying your Christmas will be blessed.
      Blessings,Tina

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    3. Congratulations Pam on winning the paperback copy! I hope you are enjoying it!

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  3. Christmas collections are always heart touching & almost always happy, wonderful, inspiring stories. They are spirit boosters for sure :) I'd love to read this collection!
    dkstevensneAT outlookD otCoM

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    1. I love those spirit boosters, too! Would love for you to read these, Deanna!

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    2. Deanna, I too love these inspiring stories. Hope you get to read this collection soon, you will be blessed.
      Blessings,Tina

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  4. Christmas is a special time of year and it's all about love and Christmas collections tend to be about love as well and that is why I read them.

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    1. Yes, I enjoy the love element, too, Laurie!!!

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    2. Laurie, I love to read them for that very reason too.
      Blessings,Tina

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  5. Christmas books are great for putting you in the spirit! Let's face it, usually book Christmases are more perfect than real life. ;)
    rw620 AT aol DOT com

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    1. Robin, Christmas stories certainly put me in the spirit for sure. Hope you get a chance to read this Christmas collection.
      Blessings,Tina

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  6. Hi Carrie and everyone here at OWG. Christmas stories brings a special meaning to me. I guess the idea is that it all started with the birth of our Lord Jesus, and from then on, the idea of Christmas is a gift. A gift of warmth, love, blessings and peace. It is a time where people tend to be more generous in their actions and definitely in their smiles - at least that's my impression. Christmas is a time of giving, a time to share with love ones or others, and reading stories set during this miraculous time melts my heart, and brings a smile to me. justcommonly[at]gmail[dot]com

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    1. Just Commonly, you said it well. Celebrating Jesus' birth is a time for joy and love. Hope you get a chance to read this wonderful Christmas collection.
      Blessings,Tina

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  7. Christmas stories help me to focus on the Saviour and the wonderful moments of Christmas.
    worthy2bpraised at gmail dot com

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    1. Merry, I love Christmas stories too and celebrating the birth of Jesus. Hope you enjoy this Christmas collection.
      Love your name....Merry....
      Blessings, Tina

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  8. Hello ladies. Love OWG blog. And thanks Tina for this good review. Love Christmas stories especially near Christmas. Always about love, happiness, and faith in GOD. Was glad for them to come out in print. Love celebrating the birth and love of our Saviour. Also I have a Christmas daughter in 1958. I offered to celebrate her birthday on a different day, but she has always thought it was special to be born on Jesus' birthday. Glad to be here for this time. Was offline again for a few days. GOD bless you all. Maxie > mac262(at)me(dot)com <

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    1. Maxie, thank you for your kind words. I too love Christmas season and the Reason we celebrate...the birth of Jesus. Your daughter sounds special and what a gift for her to be born on the day we celebrate Christmas. My mother was born on December 23rd, almost Christmas day. Hope you enjoy the Christmas collection.
      Blessings,Tina

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  9. The joy, family, surprise, music, gifts, caring, hot drinks savored with friends, coming together, and Christmas Eve services singing together and the real meaning of Christmas ~ Jesus Christ our Savior ~ opening one gift before bedtime (could it be warm cuddly pajamas?), coffee cake and hot chocolate morning, opening gifts and exclaims of "Just What I Wanted" lol; my children always would pack a tissue for tears. All of these together as little communities come together at this special time of year ~ I save Christmas stories in their own little section to read any time of the year. Love them! Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House lanehillhouse[at]centurylink[dot]net

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    1. Kathleen, Christmas is a special time of year. Hope you can add this Christmas collection to your Christmas section.
      Blessings,Tina

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  10. TINA, what amazing reviews you've written!! Thank you so much for sharing your heart and effort in putting together all these reviews! I loved all these novella's only I haven't read Angela's yet. I'm quite excited to read it after reading your take on it though - it sounds so sweet and just perfect for a happy ever after Christmas story! Hugs and blessings, Tina!!

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    1. Thank you for your kind words Noela! All these novellas are so enduring and I feel sure you will love Angela's too.
      I so enjoyed each one.
      Blessings, Tina

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  11. TINA, thank you for your lovely reviews! Christmas stories give that warm, fuzzy feeling year round.

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    1. Caryl, thank you for you kind words. Agree, Christmas stories do give us a warm and fuzzy feelings. It is great we can read them anytime.
      Blessings, Tina

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  12. Thank you so very much for sharing your awesome reviews with us here on OWG, TINA! I always find it daunting to even think of reviewing a collection, but you have done so very nicely indeed! I just love Christmas books and these are some great authors!

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    1. Diana, that is sweet of you to say...thank you. I love this Christmas collection, all by great authors!
      blessings, Tina

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  13. I read Christmas collections because I love Christmas stories. These look like some really good books by some really good authors. Thank you for the chance to win a copy.
    susanmsj at msn dot com

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    1. Susan, each story in this Christmas collection is filled with the Christmas spirit and by some very gifted authors. Hope you get to read this collection.
      blessings,Tina

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  14. These book covers are gorgeous and I love Christms Collections because it's that time of year again it's lots of fun.
    oh.hello.hiya@gmail.com

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    1. Danie, the book covers are beautiful and were designed by Cynthia Hickey. The stories in this Christmas collection is filled with the Christmas spirit, hopes, joys and love. Hope you can add it to your collection.
      Blessings,Tina

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  15. I love Christmas! I start reading books about Christmas in July. :-) What fun covers!
    Becky B

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    1. Ohiohomeschool, this Christmas collection will fill you with the Christmas spirit no matter what time of year you read it. Hope you can add it to your collection.
      Blessings,Tina

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  16. Thank you for your review! Your time spent on each is special!

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    1. You are welcome Angela. I really enjoyed each novella.
      blessings,Tina

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