The New York Times bestselling author of Redeeming Love and A Voice in the Wind pens a captivating tale of suffering, seeking, and redemption set in Appalachia in the 1850s.
In the misty peaks and valleys of Appalachia roams the sin eater―a myth as much as a man, burdened with absolving the sins of villagers passing from this life to the next. But when a young girl uncovers the dark secret behind the tradition, she vows to show her village the truth.
All that matters for young Cadi Forbes is finding the one man who can set her free from the sin that plagues her, the sin that has stolen her mother’s love from her and made Cadi wish she could flee life and its terrible injustice. But Cadi doesn’t know that the sin eater is seeking as well. Before their journeys are over, Cadi and the sin eater must face themselves, each other, and the One who will demand everything from them in exchange for the answers they seek.
This book doesn’t shy away from the hard. Physical, verbal, and emotional abuse. Shame. Isolation. Murder. Grief and loss. It dives into it all and mostly keeps its head above water (one instance of the opposite stood out to me and I’ll detail it in Negatives). This would be why it made my Best Reads of 2021 list.
I honestly liked Fagan more than Cadi. That boy suffered. He lost the approval of his dad, which is painful enough. But then the fact that his dad beat him and tried to kill him on top of that? Fagan just seemed to sacrifice more than Cadi did for the sake of the story goal, and I wish he’d gotten more page time.
But that’s not to say I didn’t like Cadi! She has a great narration voice and her pain was beautifully, heartbreakingly scrolled across each page. I liked that this book acknowledged that hard and horrible things happen to young people and that they feel the pain just as much as an adult would. And that they are as capable of standing up for a truth they believe in as anyone else.
The arc of how God changed a broken village from something ugly and twisted into something beautiful certainly shines. And even though the novel isn’t all that fast-paced, it kept me engaged to the very last page.
The conclusion with Cadi’s mother didn’t quite work for me. This woman has horrifically abused Cadi for years, to the point that this ten-year-old wished she was dead. And at the end, she was just like, “Oh, I never meant it, I always loved you.” That’s not how it works. In a situation of abuse (which I have researched for a story of my own), there needs to be a gradual building of trust back. It is often not healthy to return to an abuser until a very long time afterward, if at all. A simple apology can’t just erase years of abuse.
The book also makes use of excessively long passages of Scripture in the narrative. Most of the time this is done very well and it helps push the narrative forward. I’m definitely not against putting Bible verses in a story, please don’t hear me saying that. But when it literally spans four pages and the story comes to a complete stand still for someone to quote Scripture for those four pages? That’s a bit much. A Christian book does need to include explicit truths about Jesus. But if it’s going to go anywhere, it needs to be a great story first. If I randomly put four pages of quotes from another book in my novel, and the quotes didn't affect the scene at all, an editor would remove it immediately.
While The Last Sin Eater is marketed as the Gospel to those who wouldn’t hear it another way, it seems to be targeting already converted audiences to remind them of the Gospel. (Someone who isn’t interested in the Gospel isn’t going to read four pages of Scripture inserted into the narrative.) Which is absolutely fine! We need books like that. But the marketing was a little deceptive.
Another aside—I don’t remember reading in the story anywhere what year it was or where they were living. A little disorienting at first.
The Last Sin Eater has a bump or bruise or two along the way. But overall, this is a story that isn’t afraid to acknowledge the harsh realities of broken humans—and watch them grow past them.
I’m so excited to join in the cover reveal for The Blackout Book Club by Amy Lynn Green! This WWII novel, following a group of women involved in the home front war effort in Maine, releases in November. You can read more about it below!
If you've hung around here for a while, you know Amy Lynn Green's debut novel, Things We Didn't Say blew me away and still remains on my favorites list. Her second novel, The Lines Between Us, is one of the best examples of portraying multiple different belief systems equally.
So, as soon as I found out she had a new one coming out November 2022, I was immediately on board.
I mean, The Blackout Book Club. That, ladies and gentlemen, is an incredible title.
Oh, right, I said I'd let you read what it was about.
Plot Description: An impulsive promise to her brother before he goes off to the European Front puts Avis Montgomery in the unlikely position of head librarian in small-town Maine. Though she has never been much of a reader, when wartime needs threaten to close the library, she invents a book club to keep its doors open. The women she convinces to attend the first meeting couldn't be more different--a wealthy spinster determined to aid the war effort, an exhausted mother looking for a fresh start, and a determined young war worker.
At first, the struggles of the home front are all the club members have in common, but over time, the books they choose become more than an escape from the hardships of life and the fear of the U-boat battles that rage just past their shores. As the women face personal challenges and band together in the face of danger, they find they share more in common with each other than they think. But when their growing friendships are tested by secrets of the past and present, they must decide whether depending on each other is worth the cost.
Pre-order Link: (Because I'm sure you want to preorder it now, right?) https://bakerbookhouse.com/products/431778
Now that you have all the lovely details . . . the moment you've all been waiting for . . .
Would you look at that. It reminds me a lot of the cover of Things We Didn't Say in all the best ways.
That's all I have for you today! I hope you'll stay tuned with me for the release of The Blackout Book Club in November 2022!
From the bestselling author of If I Were You comes a nostalgic and endearing holiday story that reminds us that sometimes the most meaningful gifts are the ones we least expect and don’t deserve.
Best friends Audrey Barrett and Eve Dawson are looking forward to celebrating Christmas in postwar America, thrilled at the prospect of starting new traditions with their five-year-old sons. But when the 1951 Sears Christmas Wish Book arrives and the boys start obsessing over every toy in it, Audrey and Eve realize they must first teach them the true significance of the holiday. They begin by helping Bobby and Harry plan gifts of encouragement and service for those in their community, starting by walking an elderly neighbor’s yellow Lab―since a dog topped the boys’ wish list for Santa. In the charming tale that follows, Audrey and Eve are surprised to find their own hearts healing from the tragedies of war and opening to the possibility of forgiveness and new love.
This is a really sweet story. Even though it’s not fast-paced, the story of a mom trying to teach her son that there’s more to Christmas and life resonates with a wide audience. It encouraged me to think of my own neighbors more, and how I could serve them and get to know them. To be willing to “meddle” in healthy ways. To be willing to give.
The way both Audrey and Eve wanted to be independent may have resonated with more deeply, though. Because we all know what it’s like to make a mistake, whether big or small, and feel like we have to pay it back somehow. We all know what it’s like to be treated as if we’re incapable and to want to show others that we have a place in the world.
Plus, the 1950's are just a time that isn't represented a lot in fiction.
This is a sequel to her novel If I Were You. However, nowhere on the book’s covers or title pages will you find this information. (As you can see in the blurb above, which came straight from the book’s back cover.) To get this, you have to read the author note and acknowledgements in the back.
As a result, I was a bit confused as to Eve and Audrey’s references to their backstory for easily two-thirds of the book. It also was hard to keep the characters straight especially at the beginning of the story—Eve and Audrey were both single parents, Bobby and Harry were both boys the same age, they both came from England, and otherwise were very similar. Once the story developed, some differences presented themselves and I was able to keep up.
If I had read If I Were You, I would already have all the character development I needed to actually care about these characters. (Although, to be clear, the author did a good job balancing the backstory with the current story going on.)
However, it wasn’t until three quarters of the way through the book that I saw that author’s note. So now I have a lot of spoilers for If I Were You that I wish I didn’t have.
To sum up, don’t read The Wish Book Christmas before If I Were You.
This is a sweet story with themes that will touch a few strings deep inside—a great year-round Christmas read. Just don’t read it before you read If I Were You.
For nearly a century, Victorian London relied on “climbing boys” - orphans owned by chimney sweeps - to clean flues and protect homes from fire. The work was hard, thankless, and brutally dangerous.
Eleven-year-old Nan Sparrow is quite possibly the best climber who ever lived - and a girl. With her wits and will, she’s managed to beat the deadly odds time and time again. But when Nan gets stuck in a deadly chimney fire, she fears her time has come.
Instead, she wakes to find herself in an abandoned attic. And she is not alone. Huddled in the corner is a mysterious creature - a golem - made from ash and coal. This is the creature that saved her from the fire.
Sweep is the story of a girl and her monster. Together, these two outcasts carve out a life - saving one another in the process. By one of today’s most powerful storytellers, Sweep is a heartrending adventure about the everlasting gifts of friendship and hope.
While intended for a middle grade audience, this is a children’s book that speaks more to the grown-up world than one might think. Nan and her group of friends face down big things, dark things and come out better. At its glowing heart, Sweep is a story about all the things that make up life—the sweet and wondrous, and the dark and painful.
The friendship between Nan and Charlie is just the sweetest thing ever. From the back cover copy, I expected Charlie to be this more mature protector type. He sure is the protector type but his child-like questions and curiosity about everything warm the heart.
Unlike Nan, I adored Toby and wished he would have had more time on the pages. But if he were to have more time on the page, then something else would have had to be taken out, and we just can’t have that.
The inclusion of Jewish heritage and characters was a lovely touch and I enjoyed having it in there. It’s such a rich and interesting history to read about and a group of people that need representation in fiction beyond victims in WWII novels.
Miss Bloom was a brilliant adult figure—showing where she’s made mistakes and where she’s gotten it right. Her care for the kids in the story added a lot. And seeing an adult regain her sense of wonder is a beautiful thing as well.
The climax is gorgeous. And bittersweet. And . . . well, I won’t spoil it.
None. (If you have a more sensitive reader, you may want to consider that this book tactfully but realistically portrays what chimney sweeps of that time faced. This can lead to some intense scenes for younger readers such as a chimney fire intentionally started by another sweep, one sweep who is killed in an accident, and illnesses brought on by inhaling soot.)
Don’t sweep this book aside. No matter what age you are, this should be required reading for everyone and is sure to grab readers who still hang on to their sense of wonder. (It would definitely be a fabulous choice for a family read-aloud!)
Beth Tremayne has always been drawn to adventure. During her childhood, she fed that desire by exploring every inch of the Isles of Scilly. Now, after stumbling across an old collection of letters and a map buried on her family's property, she's found more adventure than she ever anticipated in the hunt for pirate treasure. But in order to discover where the clues lead, she must search alongside Lord Sheridan, a man she finds insufferable.
Sheridan has spent years pursuing whatever archaeological interests pique his imagination. And when he discovers that Beth's search connects with one of his far-removed pirate ancestors, he can't help getting involved. Plus, he finds her irresistible, even though she insists he stole a prized possession of hers.
As they work together following different clues and drawing closer to danger, they start to piece together a story of tragic love and piratical adventure. But which treasure will bring the greatest surprise--the one they find in each other or the one just out of their reach?
Sheridan did not disappoint. In my opinion, he was not as awkward as he was in the last book, but I think lessening up on that aspect was what gave us all this other great page time seeing his heart. His and Beth’s banter was the best thing ever.
Beth . . . well, she could be a little annoying, especially there at the beginning. I think mainly because I was already in Camp Sheridan and waiting for her to wake up. J In which case, it worked perfect, because I was feeling that tension between the two of them. But you know what, I’m sure I’m annoying to people sometimes. It was great watching her grow past it and the care that she gave to her family even in her adventures and mistakes.
I’m very excited to see the dynamic between Telford and Emily play out, but especially between Emily and her family. It looks like it will be a golden opportunity to represent verbal and emotional abuse—a subject that is often not represented at all or represented very poorly making the survivors seem like wimps. And she did convince me to like Telford after how I hated him for how he treated Libby in the first book--I mean, he takes in stray animals and likes chocolate. There may be hope for him.
The climax was brilliant. The perfect mix of winning and losing. I won’t give away any more, but it was very well done.
To Treasure an Heiress is a book to treasure.
The Electrical Menagerie, one-of-a-kind robotic roadshow, is bankrupt.
Sylvester Carthage, illusionist and engineer, has the eccentric imagination the Menagerie needs to succeed creatively -- but none of the people skills. Fast-talking Arbrook Huxley, meanwhile, has all the savvy the Menagerie needs to succeed commercially -- but none of the scruples.
To save their show, Carthage & Huxley risk everything in a royal talent competition, vying for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to perform for the Future Celestial Queen. In this stardust-and-spark-powered empire of floating islands and flying trains, The Electrical Menagerie's bid at fame and fortune means weathering the glamorous and cutthroat world of critics, high society, and rival magicians -- but with real conspiracy lurking beneath tabloid controversy, there's more at stake in this contest than the prize.
Behind the glittery haze of flash paper and mirrors, every competitor has something to hide... and it's the lies Carthage & Huxley tell each other that may cost them everything.
Oh my goodness. This book is amazing.
First off, can I just say this is one book that’s being marketed accurately? It’s described as The Greatest Showman as fantasy, and that is EXACTLY what it is. It has enough Greatest Showman vibes while also being its own unique story.
Second, LOOK AT THAT AWESOME COVER.
Next up--the characters. The dynamic between Carthage and Huxley is INCREDIBLE. Both of their characters are so interesting, in personalities, in reactions, their viewpoints (at one point, we got to see them both describe the same person and it was so neat to see the different way they saw things), and in backstories. Then when the two of them clash and work together, I just sit back and watch the show. Perfect.
All her side characters had their own personalities and motivations and were almost as interesting as Carthage and Huxley. (But not quite, which is exactly the job of a side character.)
The mystery plot is intriguing—I was kept guessing right up until the perfect moment when my stomach sank and I was like “oh no, Huxley don’t take the bait . . .”'
Speaking of intriguing, the worldbuilding! It’s a different kind of fantasy world and the little details sprinkled throughout the story helped me understand it perfectly and feel like I was really there. (Without being overwhelmed by all the new information or annoyed that it interrupted the story.)
The climax was AMAZING. I could not quit reading it. I actually had trouble getting stopped reading throughout the whole book.
The book is very clean. While it does include some material that you may not want to hand young kids (a murder, attempted murders and kidnappings, drinking), for tweens on up, this seems like it would be a really good family read.
The only imaginable negative is that book two hasn’t released yet and I can’t find a release date anywhere. :)
I have a feeling this will definitely be making my Top Ten for 2022. As soon as I finished reading it, I turned around and read it again, it was that good. Highly recommended for fantasy fans, Greatest Showman fans, and any fans in between! (If you read it, leave a comment below and please let me know! I’d love to discuss it with someone.)
(And maybe if enough of us ask, we’ll be able to find out about book two. :) )
Sometimes even pilots have to wing it.
In the high-flying, heady world of 1920s aviation, brash pilot Robert “Hitch” Hitchcock’s life does a barrel roll when a young woman in an old-fashioned ball gown falls from the clouds smack in front of his biplane. As fearless as she is peculiar, Jael immediately proves she’s game for just about anything, including wing-walking in his struggling airshow. In return for her help, she demands a ride back home . . . to the sky.
Hitch thinks she’s nuts—until he steers his plane into the midst of a bizarre storm and nearly crashes into a strange airship like none he’s ever run afoul of, an airship with the power to control the weather. Caught between a corrupt sheriff and dangerous new enemies from above, Hitch must take his last chance to gain forgiveness from his estranged family, deliver Jael safely home before she flies off with his freewheeling heart, and save his Nebraska hometown from storm-wielding sky pirates.
Cocky, funny, and full of heart, Storming is a jaunty historical adventure / dieselpunk mash-up that combines rip-roaring steampunk adventure and small-town charm with the thrill of futuristic possibilities.
I think it was the strong plot that really made this book shine.
This is a solid book. I never came across a scene or a character that I didn’t feel served a purpose, even if I didn’t know yet what that purpose was. Everything seemed perfectly timed—at all the right moments one of the (three) villains popped back up so we didn’t forget them or some other important character. Sometimes he would run into yet another problem, sometimes he would pull off a win.
While the story is not exceptionally fast-paced, it isn’t slow, either. It gives us the perfect amount of time to form the relationships we need with characters, and the action scenes we need to get our heart going. Each of the characters had a unique personality, even the side characters, and even the town itself.
She upped the intrigue by having three villains, and I couldn’t wait to see how Hitch was going to squirm his way out of that one.
Jael was my favorite by far. She was very different than what I had expected after reading the back cover copy. She shows courage even in the face of a world that abandoned her, a completely new culture, or a madman in a huge airship. But she also has a soft heart that naturally cares for those around her.
And don't forget the theme! It's the beating heart behind the strong plot.
Storming is a fabulous book to tackle over a break. Once that plot warms up, you won't be able to stop it from flying.
All Is Calm
It’s going to be an unexpectedly romantic Christmas at Bluebird Ranch.
Brendan Waddell has always considered Bluebird Ranch a little piece of heaven: an idyllic ranch that pairs abused children with abused horses, run by one of his Marine buddies. Now, it seems just the place to spend Christmas recovering from an on-the-job injury.
Lauren Everman first came to the ranch as a foster kid, but now knows it’s the perfect hideout. As the witness to a murder, Lauren needs somewhere to lie low. Her beauty immediately catches Brendan’s attention—but so does her secretive behavior. This Special Ops Intel man knows a woman on the run when he sees one. Can he trust her, or is she putting the ranch at risk? One thing is certain: he’s going to do everything he can to keep her safe so he can see what magic Christmas brings.
All Is Bright
A romantic Christmas wedding at Tidewater Inn gives Delilah’s unique gifts a chance to shine. But will her light be snuffed out before the bride and groom say “I do”?
As manager of the Tidewater Inn, Delilah Carter has been planning a spectacular Christmas wedding for her friend, Elin Summerall. But when Delilah’s car is forced off the road and into the ocean, she finally has to admit that the strange phone calls she’s been receiving lately may be more than just pranks.
Sheriff Tom Bourne has always had a soft spot for Delilah, and he’s determined to protect her. He hopes to win her heart by giving her the surprise gift of a lifetime . . . but first he has to make sure nothing happens to her before Christmas Day.
It’s the season of miracles. But will both Elin and Delilah get the ones they need this holiday season?
All is Calm
It’s hard to get a whole mystery into one novella. It felt like it moved a little fast to me, but that had nothing to do with the writing and everything to do with the amount of words she had to do it with. Lauren and Tonya’s relationship was very intriguing. And the villain blew me away—I could have never guessed.
However, on the romance side, everything seemed to happen a bit fast to be entirely plausible. I mean, Brendan hadn’t even met this girl before, and he knows she’s suspected of murder. So he falls in love with her within a couple days? Decides to believe her within a couple hours? It was probably condensed so it fit in the novella, but still had me a little unconvinced.
There really isn’t that much to do with Christmas in this novel. I guess I was just expecting something that really had Christmas vibes, instead of just a novel that happens to occur at Christmas.
One final note—if you haven’t read the Bluebird Ranch series, you may be lost on some connections. For instance, I thought the person who wound up being the villain (an original character to the novella) was just another random callback to the series until I reached the end.
All is Bright
As with All is Calm, it moved a bit fast simply due to the fact that it was a short story. The relationship in this one felt more natural, since Delilah and Tom had known each other for a while before the story opened. It didn’t feel as rushed or forced. While the villain wasn’t quite as out of the blue as the first one, it did make perfect sense and provided for a wild ride. It has a few more Christmas vibes than the first, but again, it seems more like a story that happens to occur around Christmas. If the setting had been moved to summer, not much would have changed. As with the first, if you haven’t read the Hope Beach series, you may be a little lost like I was.
All is Calm, All is Bright features two sweet novellas, that, while they probably won’t blow you away, still make for a perfect read under the Christmas lights, especially for fans of her earlier novels.
Last year, I started a bit of a tradition. I went back through all the books I read over 2020 and compiled my top ten favorites—the top ten best reads of the year. Why not do it again this year? So here you have them—the top ten best reads of 2021. (You can look up my reviews or watch for them coming in the next couple months.) I’ve arranged them in the order I read them, because ordering them in how “best” they are is impossible.
The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill—January 2021
I got this 20’s era mystery for Christmas last year and loved it. Piper is a spunky, smart heroine who actually uses her head. (I’m heading into a dangerous part of town? Might want to take an escort.) But what grabbed me and made it one of the best reads this year is the honest, raw look at grief that this book gave.
Veiled in Smoke by Jocelyn Green—March 2021
I got this book for my birthday and was amazed at how much it drew me in. All the characters were so well-developed. But Meg and Sylvie’s dynamic and tension as sisters (and the tension with their father as well) was what made this one of the best reads of 2021. And it was that tension that made it impossible for me to put it down.
The Nature of a Lady by Roseanna M. White—May 2021
This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2021. As soon as it came out, I was at the mailbox eagerly awaiting my preordered copy. It did not disappoint! I had never heard of the Scilly Islands, and what could be better than a treasure hunt? The characters all lived up to the unique voices she sets up in all her novels. I’m especially excited to see the next book focuses on my personal favorite character, Sheridan. But what made it one of the best reads of 2021 was how it touched me with its message—that everyone is known by someone far bigger than them, that everyone belongs.
The Paris Dressmaker by Kristy Cambron—June 2021
This was a surprise best from 2021. Our library (where I volunteer) got it, and, having just come off her session at the Story Embers Engaging Plot Summit, I quickly processed it and snatched it up. (No self-serving motive in processing that one . . . ) I’ll admit—it confused the heck out of me. She has essentially four plotlines running at once—two in the present and two in the past. So the whole story doesn’t really come together until the last page—at which point, I promptly went back to read it again. The plot is brilliant, as are the characters. My only complaint? She killed my favorite character. :(
Shadow by Kara Swanson—July 2021
Another anticipated read for 2021! The first novel in the duology, Dust, made my Best of 2020 list, and since then, I’ve been awaiting the next one. (That ending, Kara! Why?) I honestly think Shadow might be better than Dust (but of course, you have to read Dust to have any idea what’s going on). The magic system is so creative and vibrant, and characters old and new exploded onto the page. But what made this one a best for 2021 was the theme. It came very close to some things I was experiencing this summer and showed me the light in the shadows.
The Lines Between Us by Amy Lynn Green—September 2021
You guessed it—I’d been looking forward to this one, too, after her debut novel made my Best of 2020 list. The style and characters in this one were very unique to the style and characters of her debut. It was a wonderful novel with a dash of mystery mixed in. What made this one a Best of 2021 was how she presented all viewpoints equally. The novel deals with the conscientious objectors on one hand and the women’s army corps on the other. She showed the good people and the bad people of EVERY side. One of the most equal representing books I’ve ever read.
Numbers 7, 8, and 9
If I Run Trilogy (If I Run, If I’m Found, If I Live) by Terri Blackstock—October 2021
(REVIEW COMING SOON)
This one had been recommended to me many times, but I finally read it this year. And. Couldn’t. Stop. Reading. It. It’s a contemporary suspense, unlike the historical and fantasy I normally read. Her protagonist, Casey, is both sweet and smart, but it was Dylan that stole the stage for me. What made this one a Best of 2021 is not only the brilliant plot (and it was BRILLIANT) but the sensitive portrayal of mental illness and PTSD. I hope someday I can handle deep and needed topics in my own novels in the same way.
The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers—November 2021
(REVIEW COMING SOON)
This book was given to me by a friend, and I honestly didn’t know what I would think of it. I’d never read Francine Rivers and was not familiar with this book. It honestly was a hard and heavy book to read. I haven’t been that angry at a character’s parents in a long time. (I’m referring to both Cadi and Fagan’s parents by the way.) These kids truly went through horrible things. That being said, I honestly did like Fagan better than I did Cadi. This is also a very explicit Christian book (long Christian messages/monologues, long passages of Scripture in the novel, etc.). And yet, it was done in a way that didn’t feel preachy, forced, or awkward, despite the large amount of content in there. Those two things are what made this a Best of 2021 read.
Anchor in the Storm by Sarah Sundin—April 2021
Alright, this addition is going to make this list eleven, but we’ll just only count If I Run as two. And don’t feel bad, Anchor in the Storm—it’s not your fault that you were up against Shadow and The Paris Dressmaker this year. While scrolling through my reviews, I realized I’d forgotten to list this gem of a book. What made this book a Best of 2021 was Lillian Avery. I related a lot to her struggle of not wanting to be seen as weak. Add on to that the realistic portrayal of anxiety, PTSD, and disabilities and a mystery plot involving a drug ring within the Navy? Count me in.
And there you have it! What about you? What were your best reads of 2021? Have you read
any of these books? What did you think of them?
If you want to see more “Best of” books, read the 2020 installment here (https://racheljleitch.weebly.com/rachels-reads/top-10-reads-of-2020), or click the “Best of” category in the sidebar!
Siblings forge new paths and find love in three stories filled with the wonder of Christmas.
Turn back the clock to a different time, listen to Bing Crosby sing of sleigh bells in the snow, as the realities of America’s involvement in the Second World War change the lives of the Turner family in Lafayette, Indiana.
In Cara Putman’s White Christmas, Abigail Turner is holding down the Home Front as a college student and a part-time employee at a one-of-a-kind candy shop. Loss of a beau to the war has Abigail skittish about romantic entanglements—until a hard-working young man with a serious problem needs her help.
Abigail’s brother Pete is a fighter pilot hero returned from the European Theater in Sarah Sundin’s I’ll Be Home for Christmas, trying to recapture the hope and peace his time at war has eroded. But when he encounters a precocious little girl in need of Pete’s friendship, can he convince her widowed mother that he’s no longer the bully she once knew?
In Tricia Goyer’s Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Meredith Turner, “Merry” to those who know her best, is using her skills as a combat nurse on the frontline in the Netherlands. Halfway around the world from home, Merry never expects to face her deepest betrayal head on, but that’s precisely what God has in mind to redeem her broken heart.
The Turner family believes in God’s providence during such a tumultuous time. Can they absorb the miracle of Christ’s birth and His plan for a future?
Cara Putman starts the collection off well. I was a little confused by Abigail at the beginning—in the first chapter, she seemed to be the shy fearful type, but in the next one, she was talking it up with a random guy she met on the bus. First chapters are hard, though, and those two facets of her personality were an interesting clash. While we often hear that Jackson felt responsible for his father’s death, we never hear just what happened, which made it hard for me to discern why he felt guilty. I loved the inclusion of the candy shop—it was a fascinating piece of history that lent some serious Christmas vibes to the story. And lastly, while I love Abigail wanting to be a lawyer, and believe there should be females thinking of the future in historical fiction, I did have to wonder if that was even an idea that crossed anyone’s mind in the 1940’s. It was a nice inclusion all the same, and the little mystery to this book definitely kept me turning pages.
I’ll Be Home For Christmas
I love Sarah Sundin’s writing, and this one did not disappoint. The characters all have distinct personalities and voices, the humor is brilliant, and her word images are, too. I love how after the big disagreement, both Pete and Grace had to sacrifice to make it up to each other. They didn’t just come back, say they were sorry, and cry a little and all was good. The backstories of both characters were solid.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Tricia Goyer takes us out of the Christmas vibes of Lafayette, Indiana and into the nursing battles of the Netherlands. The glimpse inside an army hospital is sad, but intriguing as well. The “identity reveal” (and you’ll know what that means when you get there) wasn’t really a surprise for me—I knew who he was from page one. I understood how Merry and Daaf’s misunderstanding came about, though, and saw the logic on both sides. Merry and Nancy's friendship goes deeper than many of the other friendships in the collection and is well developed. A sweet story about finding Christmas even in the dark.
This book nailed Christmas vibes in the atmosphere as well as the feel of the forties through the little details (like what going to see a movie was like, or getting a soda at the candy shop). All the novellas contain strong family and friend characters, each uniquely developed for their role in the novella (or if they were in all three, staying true to the other novellas). Honestly, the idea of a novella collection based on Christmas songs is just too cool.
This is another of my favorites and a collection of sweet stories that I return to each Christmas.
Hi there! Rachel again. Check out this section for book reviews and cover reveals of some of my favorites!