Category: Balance of Faith whilst Living

#ChristmasReads Book Review | “The Crooked Christmas Tree” by Damian Chandler

Posted Saturday, 23 December, 2017 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Book By: I am a new reviewer for Hachette Books and their imprints, starting with FaithWords which is their INSPY (Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction) imprint of releases focusing on uplifting and spiritual stories which are a delight to read whilst engaging your mind in life affirming and heart-centered stories. I found Hachette via Edelweiss at the conclusion of [2015] and have been wicked happy I can review for their imprints Grand Central Publishing, FaithWords & Center Street.

I received a complimentary copy of “The Crooked Christmas Tree” direct from the publisher FaithWords (an imprint of Hachette Book Group Inc.) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Why this story was one I thought I’d enjoying reading this Christmastide:

I almost laughed out loud – in the middle of the night – whilst reading the opening to this delightful Christmas story! Why dear hearts, did I find the laughter ready to burst out of me? Despite the hour and the darkness encroaching outside whilst I prayed for colder weather this Christmas instead of the traditionally humid stink of bright sunshine intermixed with forest fire smoke billowing into the skyline? The congested air is the worst – especially as whilst others are braving non-controllable burns – my county chose to have controlled burns which pollute the toxicity of the local air space during Christmas week (of all times!) adding to the absence of Christmas Spirit in our towne. You don’t have to look far to see someone saying something snarky – to find a cheerfulness during Winter is quite rare these days – which is one reason I surround myself with uplifting Literature – both fiction and Non-Fiction – whilst finding the simpler joys in life itself. To give of my own spirit to those who might not reciprocate but that’s their walk, not mine.

I read this story the week our car ran out of gas in the middle of the parking lot – right in-line with heavy traffic, negative comments from passerby (of whom judged the situation out of hand) and a genuine sense of “Lord, you know I’m not going to be able to move this car an inch – pray then, what am I going to do?” Out of sight behind me, a good Samaritan had arrived – a woman in flip-flops with a heart of gold – who was as immediately surprised as I was we could ‘move’ said stalled car out of the main lane of traffic, dodge a car who cut us off and volley between pushing in the front & rear of the car to make it into a ‘safe parking space’. She left to purchase an emergency can of gas before we could say anything other than ‘thank you’ and when she returnt to help us fill the tank, we only had time enough to give her hugs and a hearty ‘thank you’ before she disappeared back in queue to head off to where she was heading before her path intersected with ours.

Less than three days later – our car didn’t overturn, the battery was dead – we had to walk to make an appointment and blessedly had a kindness of a return trip back home given to us. The battery itself? Supposedly covered under warranty but only to the person who purchased it – if you have a used car, the total replacement cost of a battery which if installed improperly would kill the ‘brain’ of said car was not an option in a family who relies on the work life of their Mum. Getting the estimate was a test of faith in of itself – the fact we could run the car off the ‘emergency jump’ our insurance paid for was incredible – we travelled throughout our towne to seek out prices for batteries, a free test to confirm the dead state it was in and perhaps, if there were resources for help with dead batteries which need replacement. It was a long, long day – by the time the car finally was turnt off we were ready for comfort food and a Christmas movie (we chose a Bing Crosby film). Mum was only expecting a few days off but now has closer to five – as we await replacing the battery. That’s a walk of faith in of it’s own – she woke up this morning feeling quite ill – we hoped it wasn’t the seasonal flu everyone keeps telling us is horrid – which affected her hours at work but now – with a dead battery, we are drawing closer to hearth and home; encouraging each other knowing this new bit of strife shall pass and blessedly, even at Christmas – things could be far worse than they appear.

So you see, as I was reading this story – it came at a point in time where I needed some ‘extra’ Christmas cheer, a healthy dose of humour and a humbling account of another person’s insight in how even without our awareness, we are being guided through life lessons which help shape who we are and who we are becoming. In regards to the trials of the car – even at the height of the uncertainty of realising your car won’t turn over – either due to needing gas (there is a back-story about how we ran out) or needing to replace a battery; you find ‘the helpers’ Mr Rogers infamous quotation about the random acts of kindness strangers give to us throughout our lives. You’ll have a lot of naysayers and a lot of snark but then, if you look a bit closer – you’ll find the ones walking as humbled of a path as you are – where sometimes a person who stops their car in the middle of a parking lot, flashers ablaze and refuses to move their car until you can get yours parked is a reminder we’re all someone’s hero blessing each other with empathy and compassionate sympathy for life’s unexpected moments of adversity.

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#ChristmasReads Book Review | “The Crooked Christmas Tree” by Damian ChandlerThe Crooked Christmas Tree
Subtitle: The Beautiful Meaning of Jesus' Birth
by Damian Chandler
Source: Direct from Publisher

In this real-life Christmas fable, when a Dad decides to let his kids select the family Christmas tree, he gets an unexpected lesson about God's love.

In this thoroughly contemporary holiday story, a father lets his children choose the family Christmas tree. To his surprise, the kids pick one that is crooked. As he tries one thing after another to make the tree look right, he rediscovers the power of God's love. He begins to understand Christmas in a new way, particularly when his family decorates their tree and crown it with a star, never even noticing the crookedness he spent hours in the garage struggling to hide. The tender and laugh-out-loud narrative of real-life relationships propels the reader through the most un-generic Christmas story. This upbeat and comedic treasure refreshes the Christmas message of love and faith.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

Find on Book Browse

ISBN: 9781478918370

Genres: Christmas Story &/or Christmas Romance, Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Short Story or Novella, Spirituality & Metaphysics


Published by FaithWords

on 3rd October, 2017

Format: Hardcover Edition

Pages: 144

Published by: FaithWords (@FaithWords)
an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc. (@HachetteBooks) via Hachette Nashville

Formats Available: Hardcover, Audiobook & Ebook

Converse via: #INSPYbooks & #ChristmasReads

About Damian Chandler

Damian Chandler Photo Credit: Asun Olivan Photography

DAMIAN CHANDLER was born in Toronto Canada and raised on the island of Barbados. His ministry journey started in a small church housed in the basement of his uncle's home. With only nine members, the burden of the ministry fell equally on the shoulders of all, including 16-year-old Damian. That small church created his spiritual hunger and formed the foundation of his call to ministry.

He holds a Masters of Divinity; founded Impact Youth Ministries, an urban youth ministry focused on developing teens with a contagious and fearless faith; and has served churches in Seattle, Huntsville, and now Sacramento, where he is senior pastor of Capitol City SDA Church.

Damian is passionate about ministry but he is even more passionate about family. After years of dedicated pursuit, God gave him the desire of his heart and a partner in life, his wife Tanzy Chandler. They later added to their partnership daughter Zoe and sons Salem and Levi.

Photo Credit: Asun Olivan Photography

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • #WYChristmasReadathon
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Posted Saturday, 23 December, 2017 by jorielov in 21st Century, Balance of Faith whilst Living, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Christianity, FaithWords, Family Life, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Modern Day, Non-Fiction, Post-911 (11th September 2001), Spirituality & Metaphysics, Vignettes of Real Life

#ChristmasReads Book Review | “Kissing Father Christmas” by Robin Jones Gunn

Posted Tuesday, 19 December, 2017 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

Book Review Banner using Unsplash.com (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Frank McKenna

Acquired Book By: I am a new reviewer for Hachette Books and their imprints, starting with FaithWords which is their INSPY (Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction) imprint of releases focusing on uplifting and spiritual stories which are a delight to read whilst engaging your mind in life affirming and heart-centered stories. I found Hachette via Edelweiss at the conclusion of [2015] and have been wicked happy I can review for their imprints Grand Central Publishing, FaithWords & Center Street.

I received a complimentary copy of “Kissing Father Christmas” direct from the publisher FaithWords (an imprint of Hachette Book Group Inc.) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Why I am enjoying reading this lovely Christmas series:

There is a cosy comfort of joy warming into this novella omnibus – as you delight in the ambiance of the British village whilst caught up in the mystery surrounding the lead character! What drew her to cross the North Atlantic flying all the way over the Pond and then, find herself remiss with regrets, longingly hopeful to embrace the warmth of a tea cafe and yet, hesitating just outside the door. Upon entering, your caught up in the quaintness of the cafe itself – the unexpectedly cheerful ‘hallo’ of a man you hadn’t expected to see and the willingness of the woman descending the stairs to stay open a bit later than planned, simply to fill a request for a cuppa tea and a scone to satisfy fatigued hunger.

You pick up on the subtle gestures which are underwrit into the story-line – such as the mysterious greeter might have a purpose yet unknown and how twinkling in the back of your mind, there is something quite amiss about how this woman presents herself and how she internalises her experiences and seasons. Whilst sitting there by the glow of the hearth, her memories spilt out of her soul as if she were re-living them each in turn to the awareness of what was going to come once she reached a certain window back into the past. Her upbringing was spent on the road with her mother – an actress who took on various theatrical roles up and down the West Coast between California and Oregon; the stage was her mother’s passion but she still found golden moments of unexpected happiness spent with her mother off-stage. Miranda had a heart full of memories but there was a twist of uncertainty untying the joyfulness of her remembrance. Almost as if there was something nibbling at her to remember and in so doing, the joyful manner of her reminiscing would buckle under that unwanted truth that was just out of sight.

The way in which Ms Gunn tucked her character into the ambiance of the setting and timescape of the novellas is partially what allowed you to suspend time and simply soak inside her world. The other bit is how openly honest she left Miranda to provide glimmers of the truth percolating to the surface and left the other half as a self-exploration of truth (on behalf of Miranda) as seen through the journey we take alongside her as readers (always favourable!). She has a genuine ease about her writing style – where you can just feel as if you’ve stepped inside her heart and are watching how she’s pieced the words together to develop the arc of the narrative itself! The space for a novella is short and yet, she has filled these novellas with the depth of a novel!

-quoted from my review of Finding Father Christmas / Engaging Father Christmas

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#ChristmasReads Book Review | “Kissing Father Christmas” by Robin Jones GunnKissing Father Christmas
by Robin Jones Gunn
Source: Direct from Publisher

Bestselling, award-winning author Robin Jones Gunn welcomes us back to the cozy English village of Carlton Heath for a winter romance that will melt your heart.

Anna's first visit to Carlton Heath in England was last May for the wedding of her cousin Ian to Miranda. The beautiful event ended with a dance under the stars and Anna receiving an unexpected kiss from Peter, the groomsman who caught her eye and now holds her heart.

Now, at the invitation of family and friends, Anna is returning to Carlton Heath for Christmas. She has Peter's recent email to fill her with assurance that he's looking forward to seeing her again as well.

More than his brief words, though, the vivid memory of their unforgettable kiss provides a promise of more to come. Anna, ever the imaginative artist, has been busy painting a romantic conclusion to her holiday visit. Certainly she's not the only one who has been dreaming of another dance and another kiss.

But when she sees Peter again, his intentions seem to shift as speedily as the blustery winter weather. Is Anna's heart misleading her, or will Father Christmas bestow on her the gift of love for which she has long dreamed?

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

Find on Book Browse

ISBN: 9781455565603

Also by this author: Finding Father Christmas | Engaging Father Christmas

Also in this series: Finding Father Christmas | Engaging Father Christmas


Genres: Christmas Story &/or Christmas Romance, Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Contemporary Romance, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Spirituality & Metaphysics


Published by FaithWords

on 4th October, 2016

Format: Hardcover Edition

Pages: 192

Published by: FaithWords (@FaithWords)
an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc. (@HachetteBooks) via Hachette Nashville

Formats Available: Hardcover, Audiobook & Ebook

The Father Christmas Series includes:

Finding Father Christmas & Engaging Father Christmas (omnibus edition) by Robin Jones GunnKissing Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn

Finding Father Christmas

Engaging Father Christmas

Kissing Father Christmas

Converse via: #INSPYbooks, #ChristmasReads

About Robin Jones Gunn

Robin Jones Gunn Photo Credit: Ross Gunn III

Robin Jones Gunn has written 82 books over the past 25 years, with almost 4.5 million copies sold worldwide. She received a Christy Award for her novel Sisterchicks in Gondolas, and speaks at events around the US and Canada as well as in South America, Africa, Europe, and Australia.

Photo Credit: Ross Gunn III

Read More

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • #WYChristmasReadathon
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Posted Tuesday, 19 December, 2017 by jorielov in 21st Century, Balance of Faith whilst Living, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Christianity, Christmas Romance &/or Holiday Story, Contemporary Romance, England, FaithWords, Family Life, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Modern Day, Post-911 (11th September 2001), Romance Fiction, Spirituality & Metaphysics

#ChristmasReads Book Review | “A Cup of Christmas Cheer” a collection of Historical Short Stories (Vol. 3) by Guideposts Books (2014)

Posted Monday, 18 December, 2017 by jorielov , , 0 Comments

Book Review badge created by Jorie in Canva using Unsplash.com photography (Creative Commons Zero).

Acquired Book By: Long before I was a book blogger, I was an active blog commenter on a variety of blogs – especially group author blogs such as The Word Wenches, Heroines Heroes & History as well as visiting INSPY Fiction authors I enjoyed getting to know such as Julie Lessman (following her on her blog tours), Debbie Lynne Costello (of whom I met through HHH), Brenda S. Anderson (the author of my beloved Coming Home series) and a few others of whom I enjoyed getting to know throughout the book blogosphere. My commenting days grew numbered the more I started to focus on developing my own blog here at Jorie Loves A Story – which is in part why I am re-focusing myself in the New Year 2018 to re-take up the joy of commenting on blogs (per a commenting challenge).

Whilst I visited all these lovely authors – many of whom write between Historical & Contemporary INSPY Fiction of a variety of sub-genres or threads of interest – my path happily kept crossing with Ms Costello. I enjoyed getting to know her as a fellow writer and cheering for her whilst she worked on having her dreams of being published could be realised. In [2014] a blogger hosted a bookaway for the anthology “A Cup of Christmas Cheer” which includes her short story “The Letter”. I was overjoyed when I learnt I had won the book – as I personally love reading Christmas stories! Due to a variety of reasons – I was never fully able to focus on reading this lovely collection until December, 2017.

Although, I did win a complimentary copy of “A Cup of Christmas Cheer” Vol. 3 direct from the author Debbie Lynne Costello I was not obligated to post a review. I decided to share my thoughts after reading the stories within this collection for my own edification and to share those thoughts with my readers who might enjoy the same kinds of stories. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Why I love reading Christmas stories & Short Stories in INSPY Literature:

I am starting to garnish a collection of ‘bride’ short stories & novellas as my parents love to surprise me with INSPY anthologies – I have quite a lovely stack of them to read throughout 2018, whilst also marking the year I get to return to focusing on making a dent in my reading queue for my own *70 Authors Challenge* which is about celebrating INSPY Literature overall!

The main reason I love reading short stories – irregardless of the genre or literary style is because you get to gather a proper sense of a writer’s sensibility and their personal take on the craft of writing stories. To me, short stories and novellas are little kernals of insight towards undestanding the larger breadth of a writer’s career – you get to tuck into these little shorter stories first, as a preview of what you will find in their longer stories whilst appreciating the respite for enjoying shorter fiction, too! I love stories – in all forms, shapes and sizes, but one thing as you might have observed is I truly love ANTHOLOGIES. (as previously blogged about during the A to Z Challenge; despite having reviewed a fair amount of anthologies since then!)

Christmas stories at their heart are a delight to read because they embrace everything I love about the Season overall – secular or INSPY holiday reads are lovely to find because they talk about the things in life which sometimes are overshadowed by stress, woe and health crises – the joys, happiness and romance of a well-lived life where you can enjoy the blessings of Winter, the elements of a changing season and the festive cheer of Yule where everyone is getting ready to dress their tree, sort out their gifts for their Christmas morning surprises and curate their family traditions – from food, to games to home parties and the gathering of friends. It’s the time of year for Christmas Midnight Mass, candle light caroling and the smell of fresh trees lingering in the air whilst the twinkle lights make you smile every chance you see them.

Honestly what is not to love!? I do yield on reading Romances and/or Family Dramas – of finding all the goodness of the holiday but a bit of dramatic back-story as well threading into the stories I gravitate towards! A lovely romance is wicked awesomesauce no matter which time of the year you find it to read but Christmas, oh, Christmas is a delightful Season of it’s own. I sometimes wish we could ‘hold fast’ to the spirit of Christmas & Yule – long past New Year’s and into the middle bits of every year where the toils of life and the stresses of work nearly deplete the joys you try to seek out to re-balance your days.

Yes, Christmas is a special time of the year – and for me, that means a lovely array of new #ChristmasReads – INSPY and secular alike, dramatic or historical, contemporary or romantic – short, long, stand-alone, serial, part of an anthology or multi generational saga. All of them are appreciated which is why this year, I am thankful I can take more time to highlight the kinds of stories I love to be #amreading during this wicked sweet time of the year!

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Notation on Cover Art: The artwork for this series is wonderfully illustrated – these are pocket editions in hardcover which I also appreciate because you can hold them in your hands, curl inside the stories and feel yourself drift into the lives of the characters. Each writer had her own approach to play off the ‘theme’ of each volume but the illustrations which accompany the stories themselves I felt was a special ‘added’ treat! Isn’t this just lovely to look at and feel like your part of the scene!?

#ChristmasReads Book Review | “A Cup of Christmas Cheer” a collection of Historical Short Stories (Vol. 3) by Guideposts Books (2014)A Cup of Christmas Cheer, Vol.3
Subtitle: Heartwarming Tales of Christmas Past
by Debbie Lynne Costello
Source: Direct from Author

Although this collection has within it a total of eight stories - which are as follows:

* The Christmas Scarf by Liz Johnson
* A Bracelet for Christmas by Jacqueline Wheelock
* The family Quilt by Mona Hodgson
* Special Delivery by Susan Page Davis
* The Plum Pudding Phenomenon by Kae Noyce Tienstra
* Finding Something Precious by Pam Hanson & Barbara Andrews
* The Letter by Debbie Lynne Costello
* A Father's Gift by Keli Gwyn

I only have the synopsis to share with you about "The Letter" by Ms Costello as she gave me permission to share the Press Materials connected to this release featuring her short story.

A recent WWII widow receives a mysterious letter seeking reconciliation with her in-laws, but when she goes for a visit only her father-in-law seems to be interested in mending fences. But as the days pass mother-in-law and daughter-in-law learn a little about themselves and the true meaning of forgiveness.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

Genres: Anthology Collection of Short Stories and/or Essays, Christmas Story &/or Christmas Romance, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Short Story or Novella


Published by Guideposts Books

Format: Hardcover Edition

Pages: 233

Published by: Guideposts Books Page for this Series (@GuidepostsBooks)

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The volumes of this series which are available: *full list

NOTE: I look forward to gathering the rest of the series!

Tales of Faith and Family for the Holidays (Volume One)

Tales of Joy and Wonder for the Holidays (Volume Two)

Heartwarming Tales of Christmas Past (Volume Three)

Heartwarming Tales of Christmas Present (Volume Four)

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Get to know Ms Costello a bit better via her Interview on Ms Anderson’s blog!

Formats Available: Hardcover & Ebook

Converse via: #ChristmasReads, #INSPY &/or #ShortStory

+ #HolidayReads or #INSPY w/ #Christmas

About Debbie Lynne Costello

Debbie Lynn Costello

Debbie Lynne Costello has enjoyed writing stories since she was about eight years old. She raised her family and then embarked on her own career of writing the stories that had been begging to be told. She and her family live in upstate South Carolina.

Debbie Lynne has shown and raised Shetland sheepdogs for eighteen years and still enjoys litters now and then. In their spare time, her and her husband enjoy camping and riding their Arabian and Tennessee Walking horses.

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • 2017 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
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Posted Monday, 18 December, 2017 by jorielov in 20th Century, Animals in Fiction & Non-Fiction, Anthology Collection of Stories, Balance of Faith whilst Living, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Cats and Kittens, Childhood Friendship, Debut Author, Historical Fiction, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Mother-Daughter Relationships, Short Stories or Essays, Siblings, the Forties, the Nineteen Hundreds, The World Wars