Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Out of the Ordinary by Jen Turano, © 2017

Apart From the Crowd series, Book 2

Jen Turano's fun characters meet each other and explore from there ~ uncomplicated?

Miss Gertrude Cadwalader is the caregiver companion attendant for a well-regarded society matron, Mrs. Davenport, traveling for aging fun-and-adventure. Mrs. D's travels take her down quirky paths that Gertrude is quick to try to remedy. Taking much on herself and her reputation, she has had some narrow escapes of detection. Who said this was going to be easy? Not withstanding being aboard the Cornelia, a yacht of  her friend, shipping magnate Mr. Harrison Sinclair. Introductions: Harrison is a close friend of Mr. Asher Rutherford, fiancĂ© of Gertrude's dear friend, Miss Permilia Griswold. Harrison regards Gertrude quite fondly:
   The mere thought of Gertrude had his lips curving into a smile.
   She was a lady he found to be undeniably delightful. Unlike many ladies he'd recently become acquainted with, Gertrude was a very sensible sort, possessed of a wonderful sense of humor and ability to accept peculiarities life sent her way with a smile on her lovely face.
   --Out of the Ordinary, 38
His observations certainly fit her in her companion juncture with Mrs. Davenport. As Gertrude attempts to cover the tracks left behind by said Mrs. D, she gets into a tumble herself with accusations of mistrust.

Jen Turano's characters are self-sufficient, unassuming, and innocent in what they determine to be not unusual in themselves. What will be interesting to discover is Mrs. Davenport's foibles and what stands behind their awakening ~ "a minor weakness or failing of character; slight flaw or defect: an all-too-human foible." That is, that most people are able to keep under wraps.

Permilia discovers the answer to Harrison's wardrobe query and is sure to enlighten Asher as to his friend's reason. The interaction between characters is laughable and touching. Great insight to forming endearing relationships that last. As an industrialist, Harrison's own social skills are lacking in the demure phrasing to ladies he deemed in need of his assistance. He hasn't had a problem (well, an occasional annoyance, one would say) with his three sisters in conversing. A quandary to him, indeed.
   Quite truthfully, he was contemplating the idea of remaining mute for the rest of the night because every time he did open his mouth, one lady or another took exception to all the words he allowed to escape.
   --Ibid., 77
I like him because of his unpretentiousness.

I enjoyed the gathering of characters from the first novel, especially the Huxley sisters. They have a way about them that is endearing, even when they try to be explicit about their ability to take care of themselves. This second book may be read as a stand-alone novel, but... you won't want to miss out on the first ones in the series ~ the prequel, At Your Request, and book 1, Behind the Scenes.

Image result for 1883 gilded age yachtIn his contentment, Asher, now engaged, offers to share Lord Byron's poetic works with Harrison and his assistance in finding a true companion to keep him well put together. Harrison is insistent he is already content. What will he do now that his friends are closely watching out for him? I laugh at Asher's steady supply as a merchant ~ "Harrison, I'm the owner of a department store. I'm expected to have random items at my disposal."

Jen Turano's stories are always fun and adventurous! Their conversations are captivating and you, too, will "be where you are" at the entrance into their days.

EnJ*O*Y this excerpt from Jen Turano's Out of the Ordinary ~ Chapter 1

June 4, 1883

Slipping through the crowd gathered on the upper deck of a most extravagant yacht, Miss Gertrude Cadwalader drew in a breath and adopted an air of what she hoped would be taken for nonchalance. Her greatest desire was that no one would realize she was anything but completely composed, even though something was horribly, horribly amiss.
   Mrs. Davenport, the lady Gertrude was paid to be a companion to, had, regrettably, gone missing.
   It wasn’t that Gertrude was concerned her employer had fallen overboard, or that she’d suffered some manner of terrible accident. Circumstances such as those would have been much easier to handle than the reality Gertrude was facing—that reality being the unfortunate business of Mrs. Davenport having the propensity to go missing on a far too frequent basis.
   On this evening, Mrs. Davenport had not been seen for over an hour. During that hour, Gertrude was all but convinced her employer had been pursuing activities that would be considered suspicious in nature by everyone except members of the criminal set.
   Unable to help but shudder over that idea, Gertrude quickened her pace and reached a flight of narrow steps that led below-deck. Glancing over her shoulder, relief trickled through her when she realized all the guests who’d been invited to celebrate the recent engagement of Miss Permilia Griswold to Mr. Asher Rutherford were sufficiently occupied and not paying her the least little mind.
   Keeping a firm grip on the railing because the unusually large bustle attached to her behind made traveling down stairs tricky, Gertrude reached the lower deck and took a second to peruse her surroundings.
   To her left, she discovered a great many closed doors, a rather daunting sight, and when she looked to the right, she was less than reassured when she discovered just as many closed doors in that direction.
   Knowing there was nothing left to do except get on with the disturbing matter at hand, especially since the longer she lingered, the more mischief Mrs. Davenport could get into, Gertrude headed down the companionway to her right, stopping at the first door she encountered.
   After she edged the door open, she found a delightful stateroom on the other side, paneled in gleaming wood. Set in the very middle of the room was a four-poster bed, complete with a canopy draped in blue silk. The bed was sitting high enough from the floor to where a person could very well slip underneath it if that person were trying to avoid detection.
   Marching her way across the room, Gertrude stopped directly beside the bed and leaned over, stopping mid-lean when one of the wires used to create the monstrosity on her behind took that moment to jab through the delicate material of her petticoats and drawers. Wincing, Gertrude straightened even as she longed to rub a bottom that was now sore but impossible to reach past a bustle that seemed to be coming undone.
   Deciding it would not benefit her to bend over again since she really had no liking for wires jabbing her, she cleared her throat and lowered her voice to the merest whisper.
   “Mrs. Davenport, are you under there?”
   When only silence met her ears, Gertrude debated bending over again, but when the thought sprang to mind that there was a very good chance her bustle would only disintegrate further, jabbing her numerous times in the process, she abandoned that particular debate.
   “Since I seem to be suffering some ill effects from a bustle you assured me had been crafted in a most expert manner, which, sadly, I’m learning was not exactly the case, I fear I’m beginning to lose all sense of a pleasant attitude,” she began in a voice slightly louder than a whisper this time. “Because of that, and because I’m certain you, Mrs. Davenport, won’t want my enjoyment in this lovely evening to be ruined because of an ill humor, I’m going to suggest if you are under the bed, you show yourself immediately. You must know that no good can possibly come from skulking around Mr. Harrison Sinclair’s yacht.”
   When Mrs. Davenport did not come crawling out from underneath the bed, Gertrude made for the door, stopping a second later when she noticed a smaller door, one that might very well lead to a wardrobe. Knowing her employer had a great liking for wardrobes, and the space they provided a person when one wanted to go unobserved, Gertrude changed directions and strode across the room again, taking hold of the latch attached to the smaller door and giving it a pull.
   She did not discover Mrs. Davenport lurking on the other side. Instead, she found a room she’d been told was called a “head” instead of a retiring room, one that came complete with a marble sink with gilded taps.
   Unable to stop herself since her curiosity was now getting the better of her, she turned one of the taps, which immediately sent a stream of clear water spouting out of it.
   Not wanting the fresh water to go to waste, she splashed some on her face, which had become heated during her searching endeavors, washed her hands, then stilled when she thought she heard footsteps in the companionway.
   Turning off the tap, she reached for the fluffy towel that was hanging from a gilded hook, patted her face and hands dry, returned the towel to the hook, uncertain that was proper but not knowing what else to do with it, and then moved as stealthily as she could out of the head and through the stateroom. Opening the door ever so carefully, she stuck her head out and peered down the companionway.
   At first, she thought she must have been imagining the footsteps, until she glimpsed the merest hint of a shadow disappearing around a corner. Hoping the shadow belonged to none other than the errant Mrs. Davenport, Gertrude hurried after it, coming to an abrupt halt when she rounded the corner and found herself facing two doors, one of which had been left slightly ajar.
   “I’ve found you now.” Pushing open that door, she discovered herself in a room that was devoid of Mrs. Davenport, but filled to the brim with leather-bound books, the scent of the leather reminding Gertrude of the library her father used to own, back in the days before he’d lost the family fortune and . . .
   Shaking herself from thoughts she certainly hadn’t expected to spring to mind, especially since she couldn’t afford to become distracted, Gertrude headed farther into what turned out to be the yacht’s library. She made short shrift of looking behind two chairs with tufted cushions upholstered in a navy and white fabric, disappointment stealing through her when she didn’t uncover Mrs. Davenport crouched behind either chair.
   Tapping a finger against her chin, she considered a small fainting couch that was positioned directly underneath a painting that, if she wasn’t mistaken, might have been painted by Bouguereau. What such a painting was doing onboard a yacht, she couldn’t say, but since Mrs. Davenport was often drawn to objects of an expensive nature, the small space located between the wall and the back of the couch certainly deserved further investigation. Moving to stand before the couch, Gertrude placed a knee on top of the cushion, peered over the back of the couch, and found absolutely nothing there.
   Since there was little sense lingering in a room where her employer was obviously not, Gertrude began to straighten, but to her dismay, her bustle took that moment to shift, making her side-heavy. Before she could do more than let out a squeak, she wobbled to the left, the bustle shifted again, and before she knew it, the weight of it pulled her straight against the fainting couch. She was left reclining in an awkward and less than graceful pose between the high back of the couch and the cushioned seat.
   When what felt like every wire that had been used to fashion the bustle—a bustle that was actually a sawed-in-half birdcage—began jabbing her in far too many places, Gertrude tried to push herself into an upright position. That decision turned out to be a grave error in judgment when she heard the fabric of her gown rip right before she became completely immobile.
   Realizing that the wires of her bustle were keeping her firmly attached to the fainting couch, Gertrude knew she had no choice but to call for help. Before she could do so, though, footsteps sounded directly outside the library door.
   Turning her head, the only part of her body she seemed capable of turning, she blinked and then blinked again when a lovely young lady dressed in a delightful gown of yellow tulle stepped into the room, paused, and then sent a frown Gertrude’s way.
   “I say, Miss Cadwalader, are you quite all right? I could have sworn I just heard a bit of a ruckus, but . . .” She waved a hand Gertrude’s way. “There you are, completely at your leisure, although now that I think about it, you being at your leisure is somewhat odd. When I took note of you leaving the upper deck, I thought for certain you must be searching out a retiring room to fix your hair, since it is, as I’m certain you’re aware, looking downright frightful at the moment.”
   For the briefest of seconds, Gertrude could only stare at the young lady known as Miss Clementine Flowerdew—a member of the fashionable set and a lady Gertrude rarely conversed with, and certainly wasn’t looking forward to conversing with at this inopportune time.
   That Miss Flowerdew was looking very well indeed, there could be no question. Strands of jewels were woven into the young lady’s perfectly styled flaxen hair, the style of that hair drawing attention to the graceful curve of her white neck. Encircled around that neck were additional jewels, set in numerous strands that ended in a glitter of diamonds nestled directly in the very center of Miss Flowerdew’s charms.
   A flicker of what felt exactly like envy took Gertrude by surprise, brought on, no doubt, by the thought that any charms she might possess were tucked away beneath a gown that was made of yards and yards of hideous green fabric.
   Even though she wasn’t a lady who held an overt interest in fashion, which made her the ideal companion for a woman who considered herself a designer but had no true talent for design, she did occasionally wish Mrs. Davenport would refrain from using her as a subject to try out her more outlandish creations. Refraining from that behavior would have allowed Gertrude to attend the engagement event that very evening without wearing a curiously designed bustle, one that was now responsible for keeping her a prisoner on the fainting couch.
   The idea for that bustle had come about when Mrs. Davenport had overheard a conversation between Gertrude and her very good friend Miss Permilia Griswold. Permilia was the guest of honor this evening and a woman with a keen eye for fashion. As such, she was always up to date on the trends fashions were expected to take. Those trends were now suggesting that bustles were to expand in size by numerous inches. Evidently wanting to embrace the idea that bustles were to become larger than ever, Mrs. Davenport had set about creating the largest bustle anyone had probably ever seen, resorting to using a real birdcage to obtain the size she’d decided she needed.
   That size was directly responsible for the yards and yards of fabric Gertrude was wearing, since Mrs. Davenport had longed to create what she called a waterfall effect that would cascade gracefully from Gertrude’s backside. While Mrs. Davenport claimed the green color was her inspiration for creating that waterfall, something to do with rushing water, Gertrude had the sneaking suspicion her employer had used the green because it was the only color available that came with so many yards of fabric to the bolt, the availability of that bolt a direct result of no one with any sense of style wanting to be garbed in such an awful color.
   Sadly, there was no disputing the idea that the gown Gertrude was wearing did not show to advantage next to Miss Flowerdew’s frothy creation of yellow tulle, which left . . .
   “Oh dear, I do hope I haven’t hurt your feelings with the frightful hair remark, Miss Cadwalader. I did so want to get off on the right foot with you. Clearly, though, since you’ve yet to respond to my statement, you weren’t aware that there’s something gravely amiss with whatever that is you currently have fashioned on your head.”
   Raising a hand, Gertrude patted the right side of her head and then patted the left. “Everything seems to be in order” was all she could think to say.
   Miss Flowerdew walked closer, shaking her perfectly coiffed head in a rather sad sort of way. “You look as if you’ve attached two golden baker buns to either side of your head—a look that is neither fashionable nor appealing.”
   “Mrs. Davenport told me she was told by a society matron who just returned from Europe that this particular style was all the rage this season.”
   Miss Flowerdew bit her lip. “Perhaps that style may be wellregarded in some obscure European country, one that’s far, far away, but I didn’t witness a single lady wearing that look when I was over in Paris a few weeks back.”
   Taking a second to rub at a kink in her neck that was becoming more knotted by the minute, Gertrude released a sigh. “And that right there, Miss Flowerdew, is why one should never trust a lady of a certain age who is looking far too innocently back at you, while she’s styling your hair in what you believe is a questionable manner, but she insists is not.”
   “I beg your pardon?”
   Gertrude stopped rubbing her neck and waved Miss Flowerdew’s comment aside. “It’s of little consequence, simply a touch of pondering about finding myself in somewhat peculiar circumstances at times. However, now is hardly the time for me to descend into a state of self-reflection. May I assume you’re searching for a retiring room and that is why you were following me? As you can see, there’s not a retiring room here in the library. I do know that you can find a well-appointed one on the aft deck, right behind the sitting salon, where people are currently taking their leisure to get out of the stiff ocean breeze.”
   To Gertrude’s surprise, Miss Flowerdew gave a delicate shrug of her shoulders before she smiled, walked across the room, then made quite the production of lowering herself into a chair, smoothing out the folds of her skirt before she lifted her head. “I didn’t follow you because I was searching out a retiring room, Miss Cadwalader. I followed you because I’d like to speak with you privately.” She nodded to the chair adjacent to her. “It would be easier to enjoy our conversation, though, if you’d join me over here.”
   Gertrude took the briefest of seconds to contemplate her current dilemma.
   Miss Flowerdew, being of the fashionable set, was a woman who would probably not understand how it had come to be that Gertrude was currently wearing a birdcage on her bottom. But if she didn’t explain her unusual situation to Miss Flowerdew, she’d continue being stuck. That could lead to someone stumbling upon Mrs. Davenport and whatever it was Mrs. Davenport was up to, which could very well turn disastrous for her employer.
   The sense of loyalty she held for Mrs. Davenport, a woman who was undoubtedly odd, yet provided Gertrude with a more than generous wage, had her lifting her chin.
   “As curious as this is going to sound, Miss Flowerdew,” she began, “I’m afraid that it’s impossible for me to join you since I’ve gotten myself into a tricky situation, one that I can’t seem to correct by myself.”
   Miss Flowerdew leaned forward, pursed her lips, then, curiously enough, smiled. “You need a favor from me?”
   “I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call it a favor, more on the lines of a smidgen of assistance.”
   If anything, Miss Flowerdew’s smile brightened. “Assistance that would leave you in my debt?”
   A trace of unease began tickling the back of Gertrude’s neck, mixing with the knot that was still there. Summoning up a smile of her own, she nodded toward the door. “Upon further reflection, I truly don’t want to put you out, nor do I want you to miss any of the festivities currently taking place topside. If you’d simply be so kind as to tell Miss Permilia Griswold that I could use her assistance when you return to the top deck, I’d greatly appreciate it.”
   “Appreciate it enough to where you’d be willing to agree to do me a little favor?”
   “You’re very tenacious with this idea about me owing you a favor, aren’t you?”
   Instead of replying, Miss Flowerdew rose to her feet and moved closer, her gaze traveling over Gertrude with eyes that were far too sharp for Gertrude’s liking.
   “You’ve landed yourself in a pickle, haven’t you?”
   “I don’t know if I’d go so far as to claim I’m in a pickle.”
   “You’re obviously stuck to the couch, which certainly constitutes being in a pickle.”
   “I suppose it does,” Gertrude admitted.
   “How fortuitous,” Miss Flowerdew chirped before she began pacing back and forth in front of Gertrude, seemingly sizing up the situation. Stopping, she arched a delicate brow Gertrude’s way. “How did it happen?”
   “I lost my balance trying to get a . . . ah . . . closer look at the painting hanging above this very couch. Then, to add insult to injury, my bustle broke, evidently from the force of my fall, and pieces of it pierced the couch. I don’t want to move because I’m afraid I’ll ruin the upholstery if I do.”
   Tapping a toe against the floor, Miss Flowerdew looked from Gertrude to the painting hanging behind the couch, then back to Gertrude again right as her eyes widened. “Forgive me, Miss Cadwalader, but I must tell you that your current situation seems to be more ominous than curious. Why, the only reasonable explanation that springs to my mind to explain why you would have needed to peruse that painting so closely is that you’re a thief but got foiled in your attempt to steal that painting by gravity.”
   “Good heavens, Miss Flowerdew, get ahold of yourself. That’s a completely ridiculous conclusion, especially since it would be next to impossible for anyone to make off undetected with a painting of that size.”
   “So you were considering the matter.”
   Gertrude’s brows drew together. “No, I wasn’t, I was . . . oh, never mind. Allow me to simply say that I’m not a thief, nor was I attempting a heist on Mr. Sinclair’s yacht.”
   Ignoring everything she’d just said, Miss Flowerdew began pacing again, stopping a few seconds later to look Gertrude’s prone form up and down. “Do you have so much fabric making up your skirt because that’s where you stash your ill-gotten gains?”
   “Of course not, especially since, again, I don’t spend my time as a thief but only as a companion to Mrs. Davenport. If you must know, she’s responsible for the gown I’m wearing, and she used extra yards of fabric because of the questionable bustle she designed for me.”
   Miss Flowerdew released a sniff. “A ridiculous explanation if I ever heard one.”
   “It may be ridiculous, but it’s true. And, it’s also an explanation I’ll be able to prove once I get unstuck from this couch. I’ll then be able to show you the bustle in question, and then you’ll be extending me an apology, one I richly deserve since you’ve now taken to questioning my integrity.”
   Turning her back on Gertrude, Miss Flowerdew walked across the room and retook her seat. Considering Gertrude with narrowed eyes, she finally gave a short jerk of her head. “Very well, let me see this so-called questionable bustle.” “I can’t very well show it to you since, if you’ve forgotten, I’m stuck. You’ll have to assist me with getting unstuck first, and then I can prove my innocence.”
   Miss Flowerdew suddenly smiled. “Which brings us directly back to the beginning of our conversation, one that, if you’ve forgotten, dealt with you being in my debt. I’m perfectly willing to assist you, however, it will come with a cost—that cost being your agreement to assist me in the foreseeable future with a little matter that’s very dear to me.” Her smile turned smug. “Since the question has arisen regarding your reason for being on the couch in the first place, a question that I’m sure you’re going to want to keep hush-hush, I suggest you agree to my terms.”
   “That sounds a little like blackmail.”
   Miss Flowerdew tapped a gloved finger against her chin. “It does at that, doesn’t it?”
   “I’m not one to give in to demands, Miss Flowerdew, especially since I’ve done absolutely nothing to warrant a blackmail demand in the first place.”
   Wrinkling her nose, Miss Flowerdew settled back into the chair. “Has anyone ever told you that you’re far too cheeky to fit the expectations of a wallflower?”
   “Has anyone ever told you that there’s not actually a society known as the wallflowers—it’s simply a derogatory name for a group of lovely young ladies who aren’t considered as fashionable as society wants them to be?”
   Miss Flowerdew completely neglected to respond to that, choosing to beam another bright smile Gertrude’s way instead. “My goodness but we do seem to have gotten distracted from the business at hand. And since we are missing out on the festivities that are occurring above board, allow me to redirect our conversation to the important matter I need to broach with you.”
   Sitting forward in the chair, Miss Flowerdew suddenly looked far too earnest. “I’d like you to personally introduce me to the oh-so-delicious Mr. Harrison Sinclair, and then I want your promise that you’ll do whatever is in your power to convince him to offer me a proposal of the matrimonial type.”
Jen Turano, Out of the Ordinary Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2017.


Jen Turano is the author of nine books and two novellas. She is a graduate of the University of Akron with a degree in clothing and textiles. Jen is a member of ACFW and lives in a suburb of Denver, Colorado. Enjoy visiting her website.

***Thank you to Celebrate Lit and Bethany House for providing a copy of Jen Turano's Out of the Ordinary. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Sunday, November 26, 2017

21 Days of Christmas: Stories that Celebrate God's Greatest Gift compiled by Kathy Ide, © 2015

A Fiction Lover's Devotional series, Book 2

21 Days of Christmas

My Review:
Twenty-one authors contribute a Devotion and Life Application within this hardcover book with a ribbon bookmark! Just the right size to slip into your purse and take along with you ~ to share with a friend over a mocha coffee or chai tea latte!

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Join Joanne Bischof's Becca Fletcher on her Balsam Walk.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:10, 11 ESV

Watch what path you may be on this Christmastime ~ it may be in your own family right close at home. Or to cross the path of someone from long ago...

Image result for Christmas 1864Lena Nelson Dooley's story, "The Christmas Child of 1864," is a war torn story of the gift of grace given. He turns our mourning into J*O*Y as only He can. A gift to last beyond pain to mend a heart.

Kindness is an antidote to sadness or feeling alone ~ to share a word of encouragement and a different way of looking at where you are.

Image result for bun boy restaurant"Christmas Then and Now" is shared by David B. Carl. In his Life Application he shares how Jesus was born in a stable; Herod would not look for Him there. The "Now" family found their gift ~ His J*O*Y received on Christmas Eve.

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About the Book
Name of book: 21 Days of Christmas: A Fiction Lover’s Devotional
Author: Kathy Ide
Genre: Christian Fiction Devotional
Release Date: September 1, 2015

Christmas is more than just a holiday. It is a time to recapture the joy and wonder of God’s greatest gift: His Son, Jesus.

21 Days of Christmas will warm your heart with stories about giving, loving, and family. These engaging tales celebrate the hope and joy that make this blessed season unique. At the end of each story you’ll find an insightful message that will help you discover anew the true meaning of this special time of year. So grab a cup of hot apple cider with a cinnamon stick, curl up in your favorite chair beside a picture window overlooking a serene spot, and savor the true meaning of Christmas through these inspirational and encouraging stories.

Click here to purchase your copy.

 More About Kathy Ide
Kathy Ide-square_300x300
Kathy is the editor/compiler of the Fiction Lover’s Devotional series (www.FictionDevo.com) and author of “Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors” (http://secretsofbestsellingauthors.com). She has also written numerous articles, short stories, devotionals, play scripts, and Sunday school curriculum. She has ghostwritten ten nonfiction books and a five-book novel series.

She is also a full-time freelance editor, working with aspiring, new, and experienced authors as well as publishers.

Kathy speaks at writers’ conferences across the country.

She is the founder and coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network (www.TheChristianPEN.com) and the Christian Editor Connection (www.ChristianEditor.com).

For more about Kathy, visit www.KathyIde.com.

Guest Post from Kathy Ide
Looking for a great Christmas gift for friends and family who love fiction … or devotionals? You can give them both in one book!

21 Days of Christmas: Stories that Celebrate God’s Greatest Gift is book two in the Fiction Lover’s Devotional series. It’s a collection of 21 fiction stories, each written by a different author—including well-known novelists such as Lena Nelson Dooley, Joanne Bischof, Jan Cline, and Lynn Kinnaman. Some stories are about the first Christmas, when Mary and Joseph brought God’s Son into the world. Others are about how we celebrate that history-changing event today. Each story is followed by a brief Life Application written by the author of that story.

The first chapter starts out with an amusing tale of a modern-day couple in the front seat of a car, on Christmas Eve, traveling to see relatives for the holiday. They’re griping about the hassles of the season, and hollering at the the kids, who are playing with the foil on Mom’s Jell-O salad in the backseat. Then we break from that to a scene of Mary and Joseph entering Bethlehem, about to bring God’s Son into the world. It contrasts the modern-day wife, not wanting to go into a sleazy diner because it’s the only place open on Christmas Eve, with Mary hesitating to go into a smelly barnyard to give birth. When the modern-day couple decide to tell their children the Christmas story—complete with snow and a little drummer boy—the contrasts become both highly funny and very poignant.

I wrote one of the chapters in the book. It’s about the first Christmas, from the perspective of Joseph. What he must have thought and felt when Mary was giving birth to Jesus, knowing that he had been personally given the divine responsibility to teach God’s Son about God. Based on the Old Testament teachings he’d been raised with, what did Joseph think Jesus would be like when He was born, and how did reality clash with those expectations?

This book makes a great gift for family and friends, with its beautiful debossed hardback cover, full-color interior, and a ribbon page marker. With stories about the Nativity as well as tales of modern-day people celebrating that event, almost anyone would enjoy receiving a copy and reading it—even those who don’t believe in Christ as their Savior. It’s small enough to be a stocking stuffer (or tucked into the pocket of a Christmas-themed pot holder!) and inexpensive enough to be a practical gift for those people you’re not sure will reciprocate, or who may feel uncomfortable if they didn’t get you anything.

This devotional would also be ideal to incorporate into an individual’s or a family’s advent celebration, reading one chapter a day during the three weeks leading up to Christmas.

Each chapter takes only about ten minutes to read, which makes it ideal for the hectic holiday season. And since each chapter stands alone, it doesn’t matter whether you read one or two stories, half the book, or the whole thing.

Other books in the Fiction Lover’s Devotional series are:

***Thank you to Celebrate Lit and Broadstreet Publishers for this copy of 21 Days of Christmas. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Blog Stops

Reader’s Cozy CornerNovember 22
Blossoms and BlessingsNovember 23
Carpe Diem, November 23
Multifarious, November 25
A Reader’s Brain, November 25
A Greater YesNovember 26
Lane Hill House, November 26
Texas Book -aholic, November 27
Jeanette’s Thoughts, November 27
Karen Sue Hadley, November 28
By The Book, November 29
Mary Hake, November 30
Remebrancy, December 2

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To celebrate her tour, Kathy is giving away a grand prize of a set of 21 Days devotional books!!

Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Kutless ~ Alpha / Omega Music CD, © 2017

Come and join in with worship songs by Kutless to take with you throughout the week!

Christian Music News, New Christian Music News

"I am the ALPHA and the OMEGA, the Beginning and the End," says the Lord, "who is and who was and is to come, the Almighty."
Revelation 22:13

BEC Announces New Kutless Album 'Alpha / Omega'
Kutless, from Portland, Oregon, brings their tenth studio album, Alpha/Omega, which includes a reworked version of "Strong Tower" as well as the single "King of My Heart."

ALPHA / OMEGA Track Listing:
1.Your Great Name
2. Strong Tower
3. King Of My Heart
4. Cornerstone
5. You Are Love
6. Great Are You Lord
7. Your Love Awakens Me
8. Shepherd Of My Soul
9. Gave It All (I Surrender All)
10. No Wonder (Roar of the Rugged Cross)

"King of My Heart" produced by Seth Mosley & Michael "X" O'Connor for Full Circle Music

G I V E A W A Y ~ Alpha / Omega CD album by Kutless

One giveaway of this music CD will be given to one recipient commenting below here at Lane Hill House. Drawing will be in ten days just in time for Christmas giving or for you to share in your home. Winner from continental U.S. only because of shipping restraints. Leave your email for contact myname [at] location [dot] com.

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Friday, November 24, 2017

95: The Ideas That Birthed the Reformation by Martin Luther, 1517

Small substitutions have been made to aid in continuity, style, and readability, but for the most part, what you will find on these pages is the original text from the indicated translations.
95: The Ideas That Birthed the Reformation, 6

The ReformationDr. Martin Luther delivered his "95 Theses" to the Catholic Church on October 31, 1517, containing essential that the Bible be the ultimate authority and salvation by faith alone and not by human works. The theses are referenced with Scripture. The Protestant Reformation has its beginning. The Bible to be translated and available to people to read in their own language.
44. Because, by a work of charity, charity increases, and the man becomes better; while, by means of pardons, he does not become better, but only freer from punishment.
   There are three sorts of people: the first, the common sort, who live secure without remorse of conscience, acknowledging not their corrupt manners and natures, insensible of God's wrath, against their sins, and careless thereof. The second, those who through the law are scared, feel God's anger, and strive and wrestle with despair. The third, those that acknowledge their sins and God's merited wrath, feel themselves conceived and born in sin, and therefore deserving of perdition, but, notwithstanding, attentively hearken to the gospel, and believe that God, out of grace, for the sake of Jesus Christ, forgives sins, and so are justified before God, and afterward show the fruits of their faith by all manner of good works.
From Table Talk.
Ibid., 94
Five hundred years ago. Well worth reading.

95 copy

***Thank you to Celebrate Lit for the invitation to join this book tour and to Whitaker House Publishing for sending a print copy. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Whitaker House, © 2017 ~ Includes bibliographical references.
All Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version of the Holy Bible.
Publisher's Note: This new edition from Whitaker House has been slightly updated for the modern reader. Some words, expressions, and sentence structure have been revised for clarity and readability.

Source Material
Excerpts taken from the following works by Martin Luther:
Martin Luther, First Principles of the Reformation or the Ninety-Five Theses and the Three Primary Works of Dr. Martin Luther (London: John Murray, 1883.)

About the Book

Author: Martin Luther  
Genre: Non-Fiction, Historical Theology 
Release Date: August 8, 2017

In 1517, an unknown Augustinian monk, informed by his growing belief that salvation is by faith alone, published and distributed a stark criticism of papal abuses in the Catholic Church. In doing so, Martin Luther lit the spark for what would become the Protestant Reformation. What became known as the “95 Theses” was a series of statements expressing concern with corruption within the church, primarily the selling of “indulgences” to the people as a means of releasing them from acts of penitence. For the five hundredth anniversary of Luther’s revolutionary writing, this volume combines each thesis with an excerpt from one of his later works to provide a convenient way to understand the ideas and concepts that became the seeds of the Protestant Reformation.

 Print out a fun Luther mask here.
Click here to purchase your copy. 

About the Author

Martin Luther (1483–1546) was a German monk, priest, professor of theology, and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the sale of indulgences, the church’s practice of selling pieces of paper that guaranteed freedom from God’s punishment for sin. In 1517, Luther directly confronted this and other papal abuses by publishing his “95 Theses.” In 1534, Luther published a complete translation of the Bible into German.

Guest Post from Whitaker House Publishing

In 1517, a thriving new industry was sweeping northern Germany. Begun a few centuries earlier, its reappearance in the 16th century was perhaps the cleverest abuse of church power to date. Church officials strapped for cash decided to offer remission from the punishment for sins, or “indulgence,” to German believers in return for a commensurate amount of money. The slick church salesmanship of indulgences incensed one young priest, who believed that faithful Christians were being manipulated and the Word of God misinterpreted. He wrote a pamphlet comprised of 95 claims that he hoped would inspire scholarly debate. Titled Disputation of Dr. Martin Luther Concerning Penitence and Indulgences, it went down in history as “The 95 Theses.”

Image result for castle church door in wittenberg germanyMost historians believe that Martin Luther did not intend to spark a public debate. It was written in Latin, the language of scholars, and pinned to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church which served as a “bulletin board” of sorts, where Luther knew fellow theologians would see it and perhaps engage in a discussion on the topic.

Luther’s pamphlet, how­ever, was not another piece of paper flapping in the wind. Someone translated into German, and distributed it to the public with the help of a recent invention—the printing press. Luther tried to retrieve his work, but the damage was done. Within weeks, the debate that began in Wittenberg spread throughout Germany, and within months, all of Europe.

Five hundred years later, Whitaker House presents each of Luther’s 95 Theses paired with an excerpt from his many writings. Not every excerpt directly relates to the accompany­ing thesis, but we endeavored to select passages in which Luther was expounding on the same subject. Where further explanation was thought necessary to contextualize his words, a footnote is included. We hope you find 95: The Ideas That Changed the World an accessible and fascinating look into the ideas of this groundbreaking priest who stood up for God’s Word, the grace of the gospel—and made history.

Blog Stops

Lane Hill House, November 24
Fiction Aficionado, November 25
Pursuing Stacie, November 26
The Power of Words, November 27
A Greater YesNovember 29
Karen Sue Hadley, November 30
Mary Hake, December 1
Texas Book-aholic, December 2
BigreadersiteDecember 3
Carpe Diem, December 4
Multifarious, December 7
A Reader’s Brain, December 7


To celebrate the tour, Whitaker House is giving away
Grand Prize: 95: The Ideas That Birthed the Reformation by Martin Luther, KJVER Sword Study Bible/Personal Size Large Print-Burgundy Genuine Leather ($60 value), Whitaker House/Anchor Coloring Book.

First Place: 95: The Ideas That Birthed the Reformation by Martin Luther, “This is The Day” ceramic mug from Christian Arts Gifts, Whitaker House/Anchor Coloring Book

Second Place: 95: The Ideas That Birthed the Reformation by Martin Luther, Whitaker House/Anchor Coloring Book!!

Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries! https://promosimple.com/ps/c517

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Place at Our Table by Amy Clipston, © 2017

Amish Homestead, Book 1

A Place at Our Table

My Review:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
This story focuses primarily on the Riehl and Dienner families as they meet each other and their lives become interwoven through loss and moving forward. It is a story of hope and continuance in the building of relationships with each other and growing trust in the Lord.

love going to Amish communities - been to Arthur and Arcola in IL and Nappanee and Shipshewana in INJames Riehl, affectionately called Jamie by his family and close friends, has a lot on his plate that has nothing to do with food. As the oldest son, he is determined to be responsible for the major upkeep of their Amish homestead to lessen the chores on their dairy farm for their daed, Vernon Riehl. Jamie has been a volunteer fireman since a teenager and is in his middle twenties. He has a twin brother and sister near his age, Mark and Laura, and a younger sister, Cindy, 17. Jamie has recently transferred to Station 5.

A must for Chicagoans! Blue Gate Amish restaurant in Shipshewana, IN.  SUPER Delicious!!Kayla Dienner's family own a restaurant in Bird-in-Hand, near the fire station. Her brother, Simeon, was a firefighter and died during a rescue the previous year. Meeting Jamie when Station 5 is called to their barn fire, her younger teen brother, Nathan, discloses his desire to be trained too. Simeon's widow, Eva, and their baby live in an apartment within their family home. They all work together at their Dienner's Family Restaurant.

The families initially come together to help during the rebuilding of the Dienner's barn. I liked the growing relationship between Kayla and Jamie's sisters, Laura and Cindy. Struggles surface with what Kayla perceives as interference when Jamie tells Nathan about previous assistance calls, she sees as encouraging him when she has already lost one brother.

The support within the families is encouraging for them as difficulties are talked about together with a listening ear. Standing by each other, they develop an ability to see beyond today to a future that can be promising beyond their painful memories and cares. But it doesn't come quickly as burdens are shared and processed. A budding relationship is tenderly nurtured without becoming crowding or advising by those close to them, but knowing "I am here for you."

author Amy Clipston

A Place at Our Table is very special to me because it’s the first in my Amish Homestead series. I’m thrilled for my readers to meet the Riehl family members, and experience their joys and heartaches with them. Since Jamie Riehl, the hero in this book, is a volunteer firefighter, this book is dedicated to all the brave men and women who are serving or have served as firefighters and emergency medical technicians. ~ author Amy Clipston

***Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for sending a copy of this novel. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***