Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Read Love Reviews: Paper Angels

Paper Angels by Jimmy Wayne with Travis Thrasher

Pub. Date: November 1, 2011
Publisher: Howard Books
Format: pdf, 240pp
Age Range: Adult
ISBN-13: 9781451606195 (for Hardcover)
Source: NetGalley

 Synopsis from
Kevin Morrell is a forty-three-year-old husband and father who runs a successful design and marketing firm that's crashed into the suffering economy. Attempting to navigate the busyness of the mall at Christmas, Kevin is humbled when he stumbles across the Salvation Army's Angel Tree Project. His wife insists that he take a paper ornament.
The name on the ornament is Thomas Brandt, a fifteen-year-old still reeling from the implosion of his family—from years of verbal abuse from an alcoholic father to a mother who finally left him behind, only to find herself and her children penniless and struggling. The only thing has allowed Lynn to survive is her faith. Thomas shares that faith, but he also wonders why God has seemingly abandoned them.
This is the story about a man and a boy one December. A man whose life is changed by a simple expression of kindness, and a boy who takes that expression of kindness and shows the true meaning of Christmas.
My Review:

Paper Angels is clearly inspired by Country singer and Author Jimmy Wayne's own life. He was himself once a recipient of the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program. Having lived through hard times himself, he feels a personal responsibility to give back. Knowing Jimmy Wayne's music and background, I was curious to read this book, and thanks to NetGalley, I was able to do so. 

I began reading on Christmas Eve and finished the day after Christmas. Paper Angels tells an important story. Readers will understand a little more about the Salvation Army and the organization's Angel Tree program. But more importantly, readers will be given an immeasurable gift. For this novel is a fitting book to read at Christmastime to remember what the Spirit of Christmas is all about.

The two storylines and two families intersect thanks to the Angel Tree. When Kevin pulls Thomas' angel off the tree at the mall, he begins to think about more than himself and his own troubles. Additionally, each time he goes to buy a gift for Thomas, Kevin has an encounter with someone from his past with whom he has lost touch. Through his giving to Thomas, and his interactions with friends, Kevin begins to learn how to be a better husband, father, and friend. And just as importantly, his faith, which been forgotten and nearly lost, is refound.

Thomas' storyline is the most compelling part of the novel. And Thomas is also the strength of the book. You'll want to read the story through to its conclusion just to find out what kind of Christmas and what kind of ending Thomas has. This young man is both giving and forgiving. He is compassionate and kind. He has his own struggles and troubles, but he overcomes them through faith and love. I won't give anything away, but Thomas has a heart of gold. And we can all benefit from reading this book at Christmas time and remembering that, even if our lives are difficult or stressful, there is always someone who is hurting and struggling more than we are. If we remember to look past ourselves and help others, we'll be rewarded more than we could ever imagine. I hope that those who read this book are inspired to be generous and give of themselves to make someone else's life a little bit happier. Not just at Christmas, but all year through.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sunday Inspiration (20): Christmas Day Edition

"Good Tidings of Great Joy" by Walter Rane
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

Luke 2:8-14, King James Version


Merry Christmas to All! Hallelujah the Savior is born!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Read Love Reviews: The Christmas Bus

The Christmas Bus by Melody Carlson

Pub. Date: October 1, 2006
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Format: Nook book, 134pp
Age Range: Adult
ISBN-13: 9781441200921
Source: Barnes & Noble

Synopsis from
Welcome to Christmas Valley - Christmas Capital of the Pacific Northwest!

It's only two weeks before Christmas, and Edith Ryan is disappointed to learn that none of her children are coming home for the holidays. Her large house, which doubles as The Shepherd's Inn the rest of the year, will feel so empty without them. And it's too late to open the inn for Christmas reservations--surely everyone else has their plans made by now. In a town where Christmas is a way of life all year long, going through the holidays alone is just about enough to bring her to tears.

Suddenly, Edith knows what she has to do - she'll invite strangers to book those rooms usually reserved for family during the week of Christmas. When the guest list shapes up to include a cantankerous old woman and a mysterious young couple with a broken-down hippie bus and a baby on the way, Edith wonders if she made the right choice.

My Review: 

Barnes & Noble offered The Christmas Book as a free Nook book for a short time. Having read another of Melody Carlson's Christmas novellas, I decided to hop on the free offer before it was gone! (If you are reading this now, you're too late.)  

The Christmas Bus is a nice little read to help get you in the Christmas spirit. It's not going to win awards for literary value, but it accomplishes what it sets out to do.  

The novella, which reads a little like Jan Karon's Mitford, tells a heartwarming story of a small town called Christmas Valley. The hamlet capitalizes on the commercial side of Christmas to draw tourists. But in Carlson's tale, the characters learn a lot about the true meaning and spirit of Christmas. This story teaches about hospitality and generosity and serves as a gentle reminder to all of us to open our hearts at Christmastime.

While The Christmas Bus is for the most part predictable, Carlson succesfully creates a comforting, heartwarming tale. And she does throw in a surprising little twist at the end that I enjoyed.

If you are looking for a short, peaceful book to read in December, The Christmas Bus is a nice diversion and a relaxing way to sit a spell to escape the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

Recommended for Christmas cheer!

Read Love Reviews: White Christmas Pie

White Christmas Pie by Wanda E. Brunstetter

Pub. Date: September 2008
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc.
Format: Paperback, 300pp
Age Range: Adult
ISBN-13: 9781597899376
Source: Library

Synopsis from
Step into Amish country for this bittersweet holiday romance. Here you'll meet Will Henderson, a young man tortured by his past, and Karen Yoder, a young woman looking for answers. Add a desperate father searching for his son, and you have all the ingredients for a first-class romance that will inspire and enthrall.

My Review: 

White Christmas Pie is my first experience reading a Wanda Brunstetter book. I know that she has a good reputation for writing Amish Fiction, so I was excited when, on my way to the checkout, I saw this on a special display at the library. I snatched it up, added it to my pile, and went merrily on my way.

White Christmas Pie is a very easy read. While's it's not deep, its characters are not fleshed out, and the story is fairly predictable, I found the experience to be very comforting. Reading Christian fiction, particularly Amish Fiction, is a breath of fresh air. It's akin to watching Little House on the Prairie. People are simpler, life is gentler, and one is restored and refreshed for having spent a little time away from the world at large.

While there is nothing bad about the story, the fact that much of plot centers around contrivances and misunderstandings takes it down a notch. Still, this fact didn't take away from my enjoyment of the novel. I happily turned the pages to see Will, Karen, Regina, Mark, Frank, et al through to the end. I wanted a happy ending for them all and the author was kind enough to oblige.  

Christmas Pie could probably be shared by mother and daughter. I would imagine the novel is safe reading for anyone 12 or older. It's clean, positive, and uplifting. And though the story has its turmoil, it is never dark or weighty.  From what I've read on goodreads, this book is not necessarily on par with the rest of Brunstetter's other work, so don't be misled. I look forward to reading more by this author.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Read Love Reviews: Liesl & Po

Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver

Pub. Date: October 4, 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins
Format: Hardcover, 307pp
Age Range: 9 to 12
ISBN-13: 9780062014511
Source: Library

Synopsis from
Liesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice—until one night a ghost appears from the darkness. It is Po, who comes from the Other Side. Both Liesl and Po are lonely, but together they are less alone.
That same night, an alchemist's apprentice, Will, bungles an important delivery. He accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable.
Will's mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey.
From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver comes a luminous and magnificent novel that glows with rare magic, ghostly wonders, and a true friendship that lights even the darkest of places.

My Review:


Liesl & Po reads like a fairytale. Young Liesl, hidden away in the attic by an evil stepmother, eventually finds her way to freedom and adventure. While there are common tropes here, the story is not derivative. Liesl & Po is a magical tale with a unique premise and original ideas.

The story feels at once period and timeless. While it seems at times like the novel could be Victorian, there is nothing that pins it down to any one time or place.  You'll instantly fall in love with the characters. Liesl is brave, artistic, and smart. She is befriended by Po, an unusual character whom I could never adequately describe. The reader is drawn to it with both curiosity and compassion. You really should find out for yourself what makes Po so loveably unique! Along the way, we also meet Will, who is taken with Liesl from the start. Each of her friends is drawn to Liesl for different reasons, but as the story progresses, the three are united in both mission and friendship.

The whole cast of characters, be they villainous or sympathetic, comes vibrantly off the page and into your imaginative space. You'll be transported into another world as you journey along with Liesl and friends. You'll laugh, sneer, cheer, and maybe even cry. For while this tale has sprinkles of magic, humor, and adventure, it is most importantly about love and relationships. At book's end when you discover the real-life inspiration behind the novel, you'll understand why Lauren Oliver put so much genuine heart its telling.

Lauren Oliver's Liesl & Po, with its spirited heroine, its fresh take on ghosts and "the Other Side," and its tender portrayal of love and loss is nothing short of a joy to read. 

Highly recommended!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Inspiration (19)

"It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty founder was a child himself."
Charles Dickens

Sunday Inspiration is a weekly feature hosted here @ Read Love.
It began from my desire to share a nugget of encouragement or wisdom.
I didn't intend for it to be a community thing, but due to positive feedback,
I'm giving it a try! (Thanks, Kate)

Participation is welcome!
Your quote need not be faith-based, but it should be positive and uplifting.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Inspiration (18)

"Reflect on your present blessings of which every man has many, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some."
Charles Dickens

Sunday Inspiration is a weekly feature hosted here @ Read Love.
It began from my desire to share a nugget of encouragement or wisdom.
I didn't intend for it to be a community thing, but due to positive feedback,
I'm giving it a try! (Thanks, Kate)

Participation is welcome!
Your quote need not be faith-based, but it should be positive and uplifting.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

CD Reviews:
Crisis Worship by Pavilion Towers Worship

I'd like to share my newest CD review for

Crisis Worship  by Pavilion Towers Worship.

This CD is a terrific worship record from Society Revival Music Group, a record label founded by Jerel Paul Bland aka Rel Paul (see my review of his CD Spoiler Alert). The main vocal is a beautiful female voice from Pavilion Towers Worship Leader, Cortney Joi. Learn more about Cortney Joi and the group here.
Click through on the CD cover to hop over to to read my review.

Pavilion Towers Worship - Crisis Worship
4.5 stars is a terrific site, full of Christian music (and book) reviews and news.  Each week, you can stream an entire album!  If you're interested, click on the logo below to learn more! Right now, you can stream this record!

I have been asked to join the Album Review Staff at, the #1-ranked Christian music website.
Each month I'll be writing two or three reviews for them.
(Note: I will still be posting book reviews, etc., here on Read Love.)

*I receive no remuneration for my reviews at*