Genre: Short Story or Novella

#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 Riffle

Add to LibraryThing

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 | “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 Riffle

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)

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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

#RRSciFiMonth Book Review | “The Last Day of Captain Lincoln” (a novella debut) by EXO Books

Posted Wednesday, 29 November, 2017 by jorielov , 0 Comments

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

Acquired Book by: Last year for #RRSciFiMonth, I had intended to review this story and host the illustrator in an interview, however, due to certain circumstances and a family health crisis, I had to postpone my readings of the story. Although, I attempted to read this story during [2017] the timing never felt right to broach the subject matter within it’s scope, thereby, I pushed forward my plans until this year’s #RRSciFiMonth event in November, 2017.

I received a complimentary copy of “The Last Day of Captain Lincoln” direct from the author/publisher EXO Books in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Why I’ve been dearly keen on reading this lovely Sci-Fi Novella:

I was originally approached by Mr EXO to read this novella for the [2016] #RRSciFiMonth event, however, I was unable to complete what I had planned – as I wanted to not only read the story but to interview the illustrator of who had inspired me whilst browsing through the hardback copy prior to reading the narrative. These illustrations were so captivatingly honest and real – they illustrated the depth of emotional conviction whilst giving you a clear insight into what the character being illustrated could have been thinking at the time their portrait was taken. I felt these illustrations were an apt component to the story-line, of digging in even a bit deeper than where the context might take me as they visually were quite stunning to lay thought over on their own!

The main reason I knew in my heart I couldn’t read this story last [November] or even during the #SciFiExperience (which has served as a bookended event to my wanderings during Sci Fi November) – is due to the experiences I had with my Dad during his stroke, surgery and hospitalisation. I wasn’t entirely sure when I could alight inside another person’s ‘last day’ as I had come too close to realising the last ‘day’ of my father’s. Looking back on the past year has been an incredible year of healing and growth – of how the mind heals after the eruptions of stroke and how the man re-emerges back into his life whilst looking ahead to the future. It has been a difficult year for the most part but it has been a blessed year at the same time – it’s the year my Dad recovered from his stroke and I, took on the role of his caregiver.

What first caught my attention though – is how the story seemed to be told – from an introspective angle of insight into Captain Lincoln. I also liked the innovative approach and non-conventional publishing career of the author, of whom, goes simply by ‘EXO Books’ which is in of itself a clever moniker to have as an author/publisher due to the duality of it’s purpose.

As the [2017] #RRSciFiMonth event approached – I knew I wanted to do something quite special connected to reading the story, which is why I co-hosted a chat with Mr EXO on Twitter. You can read the recapture of the conversation as well as find links to to the Storified transcript and the books of rec’s via Riffle on this post. Perhaps, next year – I can converse with the illustrator and bring everything full circle!

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#RRSciFiMonth Book Review | “The Last Day of Captain Lincoln” (a novella debut) by EXO BooksThe Last Day of Captain Lincoln
by EXO Books
Illustrator/Cover Designer: Kimberly Hazen
Source: Direct from Author, Direct from Publisher

Captain Lincoln's last day is the hardest day of his life.

An old, onetime Captain of the interstellar spaceship USNAS Hope Eternal, Lincoln always knew that this day would come. For just as birthdays are carefully planned, so are deaths. And although he must reckon with his fate, this is not a somber story. It is a tale of love and sacrifice, told in the context of the most advanced civilization ever to exist—a society that has taken to the stars in an effort to save all that is best in humanity.

Follow Lincoln through his internal struggles, his joy in having lived, and his journey to peace.

The End is just the beginning.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to Riffle

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9780997590258

Genres: Science Fiction, Short Story or Novella, Space Opera


Published by EXO Books, LLC

on 20th August, 2016

Format: Hardcover Edition

Pages: 133

Published By:  EXO Books

Available Formats: Hardback, Ebook

Genre(s): Speculative | Science Fiction | Futuristic Fiction

Space Opera | Introspective Fiction | Death & Mortality

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • #FuellYourSciFi
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Posted Wednesday, 29 November, 2017 by jorielov in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Debut Author, Fly in the Ointment, Hard Science Fiction, Indie Author, Science Fiction, Soft Science Fiction, Space Opera, Speculative Fiction, Vulgarity in Literature

#RRSciFiMonth Chat, No.1 | @joriestory co-hosts with @EXO_Books about #SpaceOpera!

Posted Monday, 27 November, 2017 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

Sci Fi Month banner created by Rinn Reads and used with permission.

[ 2017 ]

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co-hosting my 1st #RRscifimonth chat:

hallo, hallo Sci Fi November enthusiasts!

this year, I wanted to do something wicked different than i have in the past – which is why, I conceived of the idea to host two #RRSciFiMonth chats! the first of course, was inspired by the novella ‘The Last Day of Captain Lincoln’ which is set in Space – giving me the chance to talk about one of my favourite sub-genres: Space Opera! this is also why you’ve seen me change my Twitter Profile to reflect: JORIE LOVES SPACE OPERA rather than the regular declaration of JORIE LOVES A STORY.

as we discussed how we wanted to co-host the chat, Mr Exo & I devised our own approach – I would start the question-based sections with two enquiries to set the tone of the discussion bent round our main topic whilst Mr Exo would come after me, tying in his questions with giving away books. the format worked well – plus, *behind-the-scenes*, i was DM’ing Mr Exo a few times throughout the chat, whilst monitoring the replies coming to me directly (in order to re-direct them onto the tag #RRSciFiMonth) as I replied to the chatters who had come to participate.

i was honestly thrilled to bits how well the chat took off – from the very start of it, i noticed everyone had settled into sharing their *favourite!* memories of Science Fiction gateways into Space Opera & the worlds within the universe which hug us so close to the heart of what we love about the Speculative worlds we explore across mediums! as you will well see – all of us are not just intrepid explorers of literature, no! we criss-cross through television, motion pictures, literature and all stops betwixt and between – allowing ourselves to be captured by the visionaries who enrich our lives by their visions of Futuristic worlds.

in order to sort out the time zones – i posted a brief Poll via Twitter to gauge which hour would be best for everyone to *meet-up* whilst mindful of my own schedule & the author’s (Mr Exo), which is why I leant on hosting my first #RRSciFiMonth chat on a *Saturday!* without being able to promote the chat as readily as i wanted too – i was wicked thankful for the supportive cheering & rallying by our lovely event co-hosts Lisa @EffingRainbow + Imyril @imyril, of whom i am grateful who enjoy real-time DMs and last minute suggestions! i truly look forward to visiting their blogs more throughout the coming year, whilst finally making my personal rounds to seeing not only their content for this event but all the lovely blogs i missed whilst i was dealing with my illnesses.

before i talk about my *favourite!* moments of the chat, i want to give you a chance to read the lovely transcript Imyril has presented for all of us to ENJOY reading! grab your favourite cuppa of brew & settle in for a wicked sweet chat where we all get our full-on sci-fi geek-on discussing everything & anything inter-related to the topic at hand! plus, a few tangents where we swung OT (off-topic) as well! it wouldn’t quite be a Twitter chat if the chatters didn’t go OT! lol

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Posted Monday, 27 November, 2017 by jorielov in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Hard Science Fiction, Indie Author, Science Fiction, Soft Science Fiction, Space Opera, Speculative Fiction, Spontaneous Convos Inspired by Book, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event