Christmas Book Picks 2018

I received a complimentary copy of the first book on this list for an honest review.

It’s that time of year again! I share my Christmas Book Picks before Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. in case any of my blog readers would like to procure and read a title or two from the list during the holiday season. I very much hope you will. 🙂 You’ll find them listed in the order I read them.
*And to the authors of my Christmas Picks, if you’d like a little gift for making the list, see the bottom of this post.*

The Christmas Star: A Love Story by Robert Tate Miller

Christian Fiction/Contemporary Fiction

★★★★ from me

Paul, a husband and father with a crumbling life, lands back in time with shepherds who’ll travel to see the newborn Christ. I usually dislike making comparisons between creative works, but here and there, this novel reminded me of four different movies I like. That includes two of my all-time favorites: It’s a Wonderful Life and The Nativity Story. This sobering tale is saturated with the meaning of Christmas and the hope, redemption, and beautiful light that meaning brings. If you feel drawn by the winking white light of the star on the book cover, go with that feeling.

Two from Galilee by Marjorie Holmes

Christian Fiction/Biblical Fiction

★★★★ from me

A young couple’s love must bear the weight of the ages… Countless people are familiar with the biblical story of Mary and Joseph. There’s depth and an almost painful beauty to this fictionalized account, with distinct characters and their different motives coming into play. It shows how flawed human beings might react when what they “claim to believe” may no longer just be an ideal concept—a nice, safe distance away from reality. I see why so many people have enjoyed this inspiring classic over the years.

Red Boots by Kate Willis

Fiction/Short Story

★★★★ from me

An old shopkeeper has a chance to bring joy to a young heart. There’s a touch of whimsy to this tale, with a pair of boots “listening to the voices” of the shop’s shoppers and “the cash register’s song” filling the atmosphere. Sure, it can be easy for such a quick and pleasant read to be all holiday schmaltz, but the ingredients of a little regret and a dash of sacrifice make this dessert more than a Christmas popcorn ball. If you enjoy stories that give you a Gift of the Magi kind of feeling, check this one out.

The Candy Cane Caper by Cynthia Blair

Young Adult Fiction

★★★★ from me

Christine and Susan Pratt, teenaged twin sisters, set out on a Christmastime adventure to save a children’s hospital in danger of shutting down. This is the sixth book in the Pratt Twins series, but you can enjoy it even if you’ve not read the previous books yet. Chris and Sooz aren’t teenagers who only deal with what they go through because something happens to them. They’re proactive girls who make stuff happen. Plus, this fun, wholesome YA read has the bonus of being ultra Christmassy.

With Love from Miss Lily: A Christmas Story by Jackie French

Historical Fiction

★★★★★ from me

Sophie, a hospital director in war-torn Europe, is in for an unexpected Christmas. I stepped into a series mid-river when I picked up this short tale, sandwiched between two novels I haven’t read yet. But even without all the background information, the heart of this tale paints a poignant, compelling picture. It’s an account of resistance, of espionage, and of the sharp ingenuity that comes to the fore when ordinary people find themselves in the darkest, most critical of circumstances. An impactful, hopeful holiday story indeed.

Ms. Ely’s Christmas Wish: A New Life Tabernacle Short Story by LaShonda Bowman

Christian Fiction/Contemporary Fiction

★★★★★ from me

Seeing that some of her loved ones are moving on with happy lives, it might be time for Orella Ely to start her own new life elsewhere. Now, if this “short story” isn’t actually on the low end of a novella, I’m sure it’s at least a novelette. And it’s a beautiful tale. Not a sugary-Christmas-corny kind of beautiful, as Ms. Ely isn’t a sugary, sweet-old-granny type of heroine. But her sauciness and snap add some kick (and humor!) to this read. The story managed to break my heart in places without becoming depressing, and I liked how I couldn’t predict every turn the story took. I’d be happy to go back to read more about Ms. Ely earlier in the New Life Tabernacle series and to treat it like “prequel” reading.

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There you have ’em—my picks for the year. Christmas is now officially kicked-off!

If you’re interested in this year’s Christmas Book Picks giveaway, simply comment on this post to be entered to win a paperback copy of The Christmas Star by Robert Tate Miller (list price $12.95.) Be sure to request the giveaway book in your comment. Any comment that does not request the giveaway book will be taken as a much appreciated friendly comment and won’t be entered in the giveaway. 🙂
Giveaway begins on Friday, November 2, 2018 (4:00 AM, PST) and ends on Friday, November 16, 2018 (11:59 PM, PST) to give the winner time to read the book before Christmas!

This giveaway is open to U.S. residents and mailing addresses only in the contiguous U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii. Entrants must be 18 years of age or older. One randomly determined winner will be notified by email on Saturday, November 17, 2018. If the winner does not respond by Sunday, November 18, 2018, a different entrant will be selected. Add p[dot]prospects[at]live[dot]com to your address book to ensure that a giveaway notification isn’t sent to your junk mail/spam box. For additional giveaway terms, see the Blog Giveaways and Giveaway Privacy information on my Policies page. Entering the giveaway indicates your agreement to the terms.

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You can get your reading started by picking up free Kindle copies of Red Boots and With Love from Miss Lily. Be sure to double-check the price before downloading!

 

And check out a romantic comedy that ties right into the holidays: The “She” Stands Alone. It’s available as a standalone (Ha! She stands alone! 😀 ) and also as part of a collection, Inspiring Love: Three Romantic Reads.

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Congratulations, authors, and thank you for writing your books! If I’ve selected yours as a Christmas Pick this year, you’re welcome to a complimentary medal to display on your website, blog, social media—wherever you wish. Click the image below and contact me to receive a full size PNG medal. (The lined watermark will be removed, of course, and the medal will include the year on it, 2018.) Thanks again!

 

A Heads-Up: Book Awards for 2018

*AWARDS and GIVEAWAYS*
Yes indeed! It’s almost time for the Annual Book Awards at Prismatic Prospects. The awards will open with this year’s Christmas Book Picks, followed by the awards for Favorite Covers, and the Favorite Reads honors will come next. This year will also include a bonus list of Noteworthy Reads!

Here’s the schedule for the book award announcements:

Christmas Book Picks 2018: Friday, November 2nd
Favorite Covers 2018: Monday, November 26th
Favorite Reads 2018: Friday, November 30th
Noteworthy Reads 2018: Monday, December 3rd

There will be book giveaways for my blog readers and visitors to enter and a little gift for the winning authors. Be sure to save the dates and stop by for the fun!

 

Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain, and Christian Books

I should start off by saying this post isn’t meant to stir up a theological debate or to prove which belief is the “right” one on this topic. Rather, this post is a call for Christian Fiction readers to consider how we regard and talk about an author when their thinking may differ from ours.

It seems many Christian readers frown if, in Christian Fiction or in fiction written by Christians, they see characters use “Oh my G…” or “Oh L…” as casual interjections. I don’t think it’s a bad thing for Christians to frown or cringe at that when they’ve been taught not to take the Lord’s name in vain.

However, it does concern me when ChristFic readers begin to criticize an author’s Christian standards or speculate on the author’s spiritual condition because their fictional characters use those interjections.

It’s no secret that Christians the world over interpret biblical teachings differently and have different doctrinal views. That’s nothing new. So it’s important to realize that not every Christian has the same belief about what “taking the Lord’s name in vain” actually means.

Consider this fact about me: I am my mother’s daughter. She’ll often identify me as such to people who don’t know me (“This is my daughter”), or she’ll sometimes address me as such as a term of endearment. “Hello, daughter!”

Even so, though I am her daughter, “daughter” isn’t my name. Not even if you were to spell it with a capital D. My name is Nadine.

Some Christians don’t consider saying “Oh my G…” to be taking the Lord’s name in vain because they don’t consider His name to be “God.” We commonly use that more generic word as a reference to Him or as an alternative to His name, whether out of habit, for convenience, by tradition, out of respect, or whatever the case.

But when Moses inquired after the Lord’s name in the book of Exodus, did the Lord answer, “My name is God, with a capital G”?

Not exactly.

He answered Moses by saying, “I AM THAT [or WHO] I AM. Tell the Israelites, ‘I AM’ has sent me to you.” The “I AM” phrase there relates to the name Yahweh, sometimes shortened as Yah or Jah. The name is where we get the phrase “praise Jah,” or as we better know it, “Hallelujah.” (Hallelu-Jah! Not so much “hallelu-god.”)

Moreover, to the Hebrews who received that commandment about the Lord’s name (and to many people today, especially in certain cultures), one’s name isn’t merely a sound you make or letters or symbols you write down to refer to someone, like “Joe” or “Jane.” Rather, one’s name is a declaration about who a person is, their character and reputation.

It’s where we get an expression like “So-and-So has a good name in the community.” The point isn’t that So-and-So is called Joe or Jane, or to say “Joe” or “Jane” is a nice name to have. What the person is literally called, for practical language/communication purposes, is beside the point. The point of the expression is to refer to that person’s character and reputation.

Even if Joe were called Bill, and if Jane were called Beth, it wouldn’t change who they are as people. And there may be other Joes and Janes out there, called by those same literal names, but that’s not the point, either. It’s the speaker’s meaning and intent behind the word “Joe” or “Jane” that gives significance to the expression, “Joe/Jane has a good name in the community.”

Taking on the name of the Lord is to take on His character, His reputation. Not just what we verbally call Him for the sake of limited, earthly communication, but Who He is. And no matter what limited, earthly language we speak, it’s the meaning and intent behind what we call Him that’s of paramount significance, not the earthly word itself. Earthly words can only go so far to represent or explain what is not of this earth.

There are Christians who believe the commandment about not taking the Lord’s name in vain doesn’t have to do with saying, “Oh my G…” or what have you. It’s about claiming the name—the character, the reputation—of the Lord in vain, to no avail. Claiming Him, saying you’re a believer in Him, but then not behaving like it.

In that sense, the commandment not to take the Lord’s name in vain isn’t a rule about cussing. It’s a commandment about how you live. As if to say, “Thou shalt not claim connection to the LORD thy God while living a lie.”

It’s like if you get married to someone, you claim connection to their name or take their name as your own, but then you go around having romantic flings with other people. You’re living a lie, behaving as if you aren’t married to your spouse, whose name you now share. That would mean you’ve taken your spouse’s name in vain.

When people have a different belief concerning the Lord’s name, “Oh my G…” may just be a colloquial phrase to them, an interjection having nothing to do with the meaning and intent behind the name Yahweh. Having nothing to do with the sacredness of declaring or taking on Yahweh’s character and reputation.

Now, in case you’re wondering about this particular author’s writing: if a character in one of my books says, “Oh, God,” it’s not a mere interjection. It’s a prayer. Still, I’m well aware that not every Christian has the same beliefs about what it means to take the Lord’s name in vain.

And whatever your belief is on the matter, or any number of other matters, I trust it’s best not to jump to conclusions about an author’s Christianity or personal standards because of something one of their fictional characters did or said.

On a related note, we live in an era of author websites, social media, email, and such. Though it isn’t possible to do so in every case, the best way to get a clearer understanding of an author’s heart or intent on a matter may be to go ahead and contact them about your concerns regarding their book. To ask the author questions and to consider their answers. Not to merely prejudge or speculate about the author. 🙂

 

The Theory of Happily Ever After by Kristin Billerbeck

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. Revell provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

The Theory of Happily Ever After by Kristin Billerbeck

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

Maggie, a scientist, has written a popular book on the science of being happy, but her recent romantic breakup has done a miserable number on her. When her friends drag her along to be the guest speaker on a singles’ cruise, maybe it’ll help bring Maggie out of the dumps in The Theory of Happily Ever After by author Kristin Billerbeck.

I found the premise of this novel interesting, and I don’t come across many contemporary romances and chick-lit-ish tales with heroines who are doctors or scientists. The first quarter of this book is light reading with a lot of humor but also some serious life issues sprinkled in.

However, a couple jokes are rehashed far too many times, with repeated references to gelato and Hallmark movies, along with Maggie’s bunch of disparaging inner barbs about her ex’s new woman. Plus, I usually can only take so much of a heroine who seems as down on herself as Maggie does, besides how down she is on her ex, as her constant thoughts and mentions of him indicate.

And, in all honesty, as much as I love romantic stories, I think I’m finding I can only take the romance genre in smaller, more concise doses these days, for the most part. Some of the scenes here dragged for me as I waited for the story to move on, and I eventually decided not to continue.

Still, from what I’ve read, I can see how this novel might be right down another ChristFic romance fan’s alley.