Christmas Book Picks 2014

Christmas Book Picks

I received complimentary copies of most of the books I mention here from the publishers in exchange for honest reviews, which you’ll find in the posts I’ve linked to.

Yes, so, I initially planned on posting my Christmas Book Picks right after Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S. on the 27th, but I figured posting a little over a week early wouldn’t hurt, in case any of my dear blog readers would like to procure and read a title or two from this list, which I hope you will! Consider the extra week to be more reading time. :-)

The 20th Christmas

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The 20th Christmas by Andrea Rodgers

Christian Fiction

 from me

A serious-but-still-Christmassy novel from a debut author. Really, how could I not read this book after coming across this beautiful cover that effectively and accurately speaks volumes about the story? Hopefully Rodgers has got more books up her sleeve.

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From Dishes to Snow

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From Dishes to Snow by Kathy M. Howard

Christian Fiction

from me

Another serious read from a debut author here, and, okay–this isn’t technically a “Christmas” novel. However, there’s quite a joyful holiday theme that runs through it from Thanksgiving to Christmas, and with the snow and all to boot, I feel this book is wholly worthy to be on this list.

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Clara's Wish

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Clara’s Wish by Beth Shriver

Amish Romance

★ from me

Nope, I still don’t read much Amish fiction, but yes, I’m glad I read this. It has pretty much everything a good Christmas novel set in modern times in an Amish community should have. (I may not be the ultimate authority on that, on account of my limited experience with this subgenre, but I know when a book leaves me with a nice Christmassy feeling. :-D )

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Where Treetops Glisten

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Where Treetops Glisten by Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman, and Sarah Sundin

Christian Historical Romance

 from me

With all of the World War II fiction I’ve read (and still plan to read) this year, of course I had to include a holiday-themed one in the mix. Here are three romance novellas by three authors that tell the story of one family, the Turners, in a smooth flow from one novella to the next. The second, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, is my favorite of the three.

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A Christmas Carol

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A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Classic Literature

 from me

I finally got to see why this story is such a classic! Well, I’ve seen why by watching its best film adaptation, Scrooge (1951), countless times since my childhood, but I’ve read the book at last, and it’s a delight of a tale. Admission: this isn’t the cover of the edition I read, but the Puffin Classics copy I have pictured captures the story’s delightfulness so very well. God bless us, every one!

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Merry Christmas Darling

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Merry Christmas, Darling by Denise Devine

Sweet Romance

 from me

This book was the biggest surprise for me on this list. It’s exceedingly rare for me to pick up a book with an animal so prominent on the cover, especially if there are no people accompanying the animal, as that makes it come off as an animal tale–which this book, despite the cat, is not. I found this in a collection of sweet Christmas romances; while readers’ expectations of sweet/clean romances vary, nothing here made me blush, personally. Good holiday fun!

There, now. I believe I’ve officially kicked-off Christmas!
Publicly, anyway. I’ve been having Christmas myself since October…

The Princess Spy by Melanie Dickerson

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. BookLook Bloggers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.
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The Princess SpyThe Princess Spy by Melanie Dickerson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

I picked out The Princess Spy for what promised to be a welcome switch-up in my reading: a young adult retelling of a fairy tale with lords, ladies, and dangerous intrigues. I’m not sure it’s so much a retelling as it is a novel with a couple of aspects loosely inspired by a fairy tale (note the frogs depicted on the front cover), but it’s definitely got its lords and ladies and intrigues, along with a good helping of faith at work.

What did I most like about this novel? In a word: Margaretha. In such a story, it would be so easy to turn this chatty heroine into a damsel ever in helpless distress, only too lucky because of the sudden arrival of an invincible Prince Charming who rides in to save her from everything. Margaretha, however, has spunk and backbone, demonstrated through her actions and words. “We’re at war, or shortly will be,” she tells her cousin Anne, “and we cannot be squeamish about such things.” And yet, Margaretha’s spunk doesn’t cancel out her compassion or her conscious dependence on God. Her hero is strong, but not invincible, and his humanness allows for a balance of give and take in their relationship.

The story might have benefited from a subplot running alongside Margaretha’s adventure, if the book needed “more” in it, as the story seems to rely much on repetition, either in the characters saying the same things over again in different conversations or in the narrator repeating the same information about the characters’ thoughts, feelings, and attributes. Also, even with the book’s title, Margaretha doesn’t do very much spying.

Yet, anyone looking for a nice piece of YA fiction with danger, romance, and faith would do well to give The Princess Spy a try.

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The Princess Spy is the fifth of Melanie Dickerson’s retold fairy tales.

The Healer's Apprentice The Merchant's Daughter The Fairest Beauty The Captive Maiden

How Much Do You Love Me? by Paul Mark Tag

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received a free copy of this book, for which I give my honest review, through Goodreads First Reads.
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How Much Do You Love MeHow Much Do You Love Me? by Paul Mark Tag

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

As I’m all for finding fiction with main characters of diverse races, the image of the woman on this novel’s lovely cover caught my attention. In How Much Do You Love Me?, author Paul Mark Tag weaves a World War II tale of culture, romance, and mystery, a needful reminder of the wartime internment of many people right in the United States, including loyal U.S. citizens.

As a lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest, it was quite the experience for me to see the familiar names of local cities–Bellevue, Bainbridge Island, Puyallup, my hometown of Seattle–associated with this unfortunate and rather racially charged aspect of WWII. I’m sure that nowadays, any number of people in my neck of society (and other necks, I presume) take interracial dating and marriage for granted, either forgetting or being unaware that it wasn’t too many years ago that marriage between different races was illegal in much of the U.S.

I found this to be an engaging and enlightening novel. The conclusion of the mystery wasn’t wholly convincing to me, as while there was an explanation for it, it didn’t seem like a strong enough reason for the characters to take such humanly drastic, permanent measures. In essence, I thought, “Ah, I see! But, practically, in their situation, was this really…necessary?” However, the mystery was woven in so well that I still found it interesting.

Here’s a great piece of historical fiction that I definitely recommend.

Walk to Beautiful by Jimmy Wayne

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. BookLook Bloggers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.
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Walk to BeautifulWalk to Beautiful: The Power of Love and a Homeless Kid Who Found the Way by Jimmy Wayne with Ken Abraham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

When, Jimmy?… When will you do anything to help someone other than yourself?

If it takes nothing else, it takes courage to write something like Walk to Beautiful, country music star Jimmy Wayne’s personal account of childhood hunger and homelessness, abuse and neglect, his experiences in foster care, and his (oftentimes humbling) rise in the music industry.

I couldn’t read Wayne’s story without reacting physically at times, whether that was gasping, cringing, laughing, or blinking back a few tears. “The Crazy Years” of Wayne’s childhood are just that, with enough tumult to make the reader’s noggin spin, and conversely, the compassion Wayne runs into in “Saved by Love” is a relief to come across. I take it I’m not familiar enough with country music, its artists and songs, for most of the names and titles peppered through Wayne’s career accounts to have made much difference to me, but the highlighted events kept me reading.

What I find most compelling is how the author comes to himself, that he evidently doesn’t want to be famous just for the sake of being famous, but he uses his platform to further a cause his life has made him genuinely passionate about. Here’s an engaging memoir, a call to action, and an inspiring read.