Christmas may be over, but that doesn’t mean we need to stop reading holiday novels! I find novels of this type are heartwarming, happy, and magical. There’s always time for that. And seeing as it’s winter in half the world, there’s no better time to read a book that takes place during this time of year.

The book I am about to share with you is not only about Christmas. It’s also about dogs! Well, sort of. There’s a cute golden retriever that plays a very important role in the romance part of the story. Here it is:

 

NOELLE’S GOLDEN CHRISTMAS

By: Tamie Dearen

When it comes to the Christmas season, Noelle Holiday is a real Scrooge…

December isn’t filled with the magic of Christmas for Noelle, just the looming dread she’s about to lose something else dear to her. Will she ever be rid of her Christmas curse?

When she adopts an injured shelter dog, she discovers the love of her life… a Golden Retriever named Abby. Perhaps being single is God’s plan for her, but at least she isn’t alone.

Her meddling family, however, is convinced she needs a man in her life. They introduce her to two irresistible men who couldn’t be more alike. Or more different. Both men sweep into her life, testing her faith, and stirring up desire and confusion in equal measure.

If she can just get through this humbug holiday without another heartache!

This sweet Christmas Romance tells the story of a believer, struggling to implement her faith in her everyday walk and battling fear to find the agape love that drives it away.

BONUS: Within this book you will find a link to hear an original song, a replay of the event which takes place in the story. Enjoy!

 

Noelle’s Golden Christmas is the first book in the Holiday, Inc. Christian Romance series. If you remember correctly, you’ll know that I have already read book number two, Haley’s Hangdog Holiday, which you can find the review for at HERE. As you may have guessed, you can read out of order as these can be standalone. And, before I forget, book number three, Shara’s Happy New-foundland Year, is now available!! You can find that HERE.

 

Anyway, I have to admit that I liked Haley’s Hangdog Holiday better than Noelle’s Golden Christmas. However, Noelle’s Golden Christmas was pretty good. As typical with all of Tamie Dearen’s work, the writing is phenomenal. The characters are well-developed. The scenes are written so that you really feel like you’re in the novel. I also love the dogs in these novels. I think it’s neat to add this extra story to the romance.

What I didn’t particularly like this time around was that the romance was rushed in my opinion. There’s chemistry at first, but by the end of the novel, they’re so in love and are engaged, and it’s only been like a month. I know that sometimes that works for people, but to me, that’s not typical. So, I didn’t feel a connection like I had hoped.

It is a clean novel, and one that I would totally recommend. I’ll even be reading the third book at some point. But Noelle’s Golden Christmas didn’t totally do it for me. And I hate saying that because I really love Tamie Dearen’s work. Having said all this, I am rating the book four stars instead of five.

Of note, there is some tough issues mentioned – eating disorders and harming oneself. But it is done tastefully and there is redemption!

Plus, this book comes with a song!!! Go check it out!

To read Noelle’s Golden Christmas, you can download it at:

www.amazon.com/dp/B017JPAANK

 

 

 

 

 

How about another thriller? I’ve been doing a lot of those lately, haven’t I. All for good reasons, as I’ve shared before. This one, however, isn’t quite a thriller. It’s more a suspense. There’s also a romantic element to it, which sweetens it up a bit. Would you like to know more about this book? Let me share!

 

Not What She Seems

By: Victorine E. Lieske

 

Steven Ashton, a billionaire from New York, and Emily Grant, on the run from the law…and when they meet he can’t help falling for her. What he doesn’t know is that interfering in her life will put his own life in danger.

When billionaire Steven Ashton couldn’t stand his high society social life anymore, he left the stress of New York on a vacation for his soul. The need to meet real down to earth people led him to a small Nebraska town. He didn’t want to lie about who he was, but he couldn’t exactly tell them the truth.

Emily could have easily fallen in love with Steven, under different circumstances, but her past was catching up with her and she needed a new life. If the authorities found out about her, she could lose the one thing that meant everything, her four year old son.

 

I have read other books by Victorine E. Lieske before. I figured this one would be a good one to try. After all, she’s great with her romance novels! So how does she do with suspense? Let’s find out. I’ll first share what I liked.

Not What She Seems is very well-written. I thought the storyline was enjoyable and easy to follow. I love that it’s a clean novel. Many books in this genre tend to be even just a slightly bit dirty. This one wasn’t whatsoever. So that’s a huge plus. Especially for those younger people who like to read suspense. Another huge plus was that you never find out the culprit until the very end. I have to admit that it wasn’t someone I had suspected so kudos to Victorine for keeping it a mystery!

Was there anything I didn’t like? There were a couple of things. The first was that toward the end, I had to reread some parts just to make sure I was following right. Overall, the book is very easy to follow and makes tons of sense. There was just a few parts at the end where I had to recheck. Another downfall is that much of the story was predictable. Not so much the biggest part of the book, but much of the rest was. Lastly, I wasn’t feeling the romance aspect of the story at all. It was cute, but didn’t do anything for me.

All in all, I rated this four stars! If you go to the Amazon page for this novel, which I have the link just below, you’ll see that it has tons of reviews all in favor of this story. It’s also a New York Times Bestseller so that says something, right? Okay. Now that I said my piece, go check it out!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B003HS5LRO

I know it’s a little late in the year to be talking about pumpkins. After all, Christmas is just one week from today, and who in the world has pumpkins left!?! Now is the time for Christmas trees, right? But a thought hit me on something we did back in October and so I thought now was a good a time as any to share it.

Every year there is a church not far from us that does what is called a Pumpkin Walk. Basically, it’s where you can walk through this little trail in the woods owned by this church, and all along the way there are pumpkins that have been carved. This was our third year going, and we have never been disappointed. There are tons and tons of pumpkins, with a variety of different carvings, all way better than anything I could ever do. To give you some examples, here are some pictures from that night:

 

 

 

 

Some neat stuff, right? And there was a lot more of that!

Anyway, this is the thought that hit me, and I guess it could go one of two ways. First is, we can be like a pumpkin. Life’s failures and triumphs can carve us. Sometimes it might make us stronger, our carving beautiful. Sometimes it takes a toll on us and the carving doesn’t come out so well. Either way, we are all carved into something. What is your something?

Or, secondly, yet somewhat the same, we can carve out our lives or paths into who we want to be, and what we want to do, or where we want to go. We can choose to be good, and kind, and loving. Or rude, controlling, selfish. We can work our hardest or measly get through. We can choose living life to the fullest or in a slump. How will you carve your ‘pumpkin’?

Hopefully some of that makes some kind of sense. It hit me sort of fast and I tried writing it the way I thought about it. That doesn’t always work, lol, but I tried. Even if you get nothing out of that, look at those pumpkins!! Aren’t they gorgeous!!

Have a great Christmas season!

 

 

I’m in the process of writing my first thriller novel, which I’m totally excited about. To do so, I want to prepare myself the best way possible. How do I do that? By reading thriller novels, of course! My sister recommended one, and upon reading the book’s blurb, I was hooked, and wanted to get my hands on a copy pronto. Thank goodness for libraries! (I say that because a book by a best-selling author costs more than I’m willing to spend right now.)

Let me first share with you a little bit about the book, including the cover and blurb, and then I’ll go into what my thoughts are.

Velocity

By Dean Koontz

If you don’t take this note to the police . . . I will kill a lovely blond schoolteacher. . . . If you do . . . I will instead kill an elderly woman active in charity work. You have six hours to decide. The choice is yours.
 
The typewritten note under his windshield seems like just a sick joke. But in less than twenty-four hours, Billy Wiles, an ordinary, hardworking guy, is about to see his life take on the speed of a nightmare. Because a young blond schoolteacher is murdered—and now Billy has another note. And another deadline. This time he knows it’s no joke. He’s racing a killer faster than evil itself. And Billy must accept his terrifying challenge: The choice is yours.
 
Think fast. Fear never slows down. . . .

 

Sound goods, right? It did to me! And after reading it, I thought that it was amazing. That’s why I rated it four stars! Let me elaborate.

Dean Koontz did a wonderful job describing the story. There was never a dull moment. I thought it all came together rather nicely. Throughout, I was left wondering who could be the culprit. I also think that the whole premise is crazy! With these hard choices, there’s no way I could make a decision. What a creative thinker Mr. Koontz is. I applaud him for that.

If I liked it so much, why just four stars? Why not a perfect five? There are three reasons why I took this book off from the perfect throne:

  1. Some descriptions were too many, in my opinion. I thought there was information we just didn’t need.
  2. I felt the ending was too easy. Once we figure out things and the victim works his way to victory, it all just goes too quickly. There was barely a fight.
  3. I also didn’t like how the character was too “at ease” with everything. There is no way a person, going through what this character did, would handle it the way he did.

But overall, I liked the book. I’m glad my sister recommended it. I would recommend it as well. To warn you, though, it isn’t clean. But that shouldn’t really come as a surprise, seeing as it’s Dean Koontz and all.

Here is the link to the book’s Amazon page for you to check it out some more:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0345533461

 

A few weeks ago, there tended to be a theme at my house. This isn’t something we planned for, and really I never noticed it until recently as I thought back on it. The theme was:

 

SALSA

 

Why was this the theme for the week? Let me explain.

First of all, on a Wednesday night, the local library hosted free salsa dancing lessons. For someone who has been wanting to do dance lessons for a long time, this was the time to jump on the opportunity. Not only did I get my dance lessons, but they were free, and the type of dance was fun! The best part of it all was that my husband, who wants nothing to do with dancing, was more than willing to appease me. He joined in on the fun, and I would say he was glad to have had the opportunity to learn something new and do something different. For the record, I would do salsa dancing again. I would also try any other dance lessons.

Second of all, we had a lot of tomatoes from our garden that needed to be used up. We have never made homemade salsa before so we had to learn fast. We searched for a recipe that looked good and even doctored it up a bit. After trying it, there are things I would change. It turned out way too watery. Probably because we chopped those tomatoes up to smithereens. Regardless, there are things I’d omit or change all together.

These two things don’t seem worthy of calling “salsa” a theme. But here’s why I would say it was. These were two things we do not typically do. They were new. They were different. They both happened within like two day’s time. It stood out. When something stands out, I can easily see it become a theme. Plus, when the root word of both things is the same, it’s obviously a theme, lol!

Have you had themes you’ve noticed show up in your days, weeks, months, or maybe even years? Were they intentional or by total coincidence?

By the way, do you have any good salsa recipes I should try?

Take a look at this exciting new young adult action and adventure novel, The Student and the Slave, now available for purchase! This is the third book in the Krillonian Chronicles, after The Collar and the Cavvarach and The Gladiator and the Guard.

 


The series is set in an alternate world that is very much like our own, with just a few major differences.  One is that slavery is legal there.  Slaves must wear metal collars that lock around their neck, making their enslaved status obvious to everyone. Another difference is the popularity of a martial art called cavvara shil.  It is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with “have a rack”), a weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge.  Competitors can strike at each other with their feet as well as with the blades.  You win in one of two ways: disarming your opponent (hooking or knocking their cavvarach out of their hands) or pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.

The Collar and the Cavvarach by Annie Douglass Lima


First, a Little Information about Books 1 and 2: 
Book 1: The Collar and the Cavvarach

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire’s most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie’s escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time. With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?


Click here to read chapter 1 of The Collar and the Cavvarach.
Click here to read about life in the Krillonian Empire, where the series is set.



The Gladiator and the Guard by Annie Douglass LimaBook 2: The Gladiator and the Guard

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

Click here to read about life in the arena where Bensin and other gladiators are forced to live and train.


 

 

And now, The Student and the Slave, with another awesome cover by the talented Jack Lin!

Book 3: The Student and the Slave


Is this what freedom is supposed to be like? Desperate to provide for himself and his sister Ellie, Bensin searches fruitlessly for work like all the other former slaves in Tarnestra. He needs the money for an even more important purpose, though: to rescue Coach Steene, who sacrificed himself for Bensin’s freedom. When members of two rival street gangs express interest in Bensin’s martial arts skills, he realizes he may have a chance to save his father figure after all … at a cost.

Meanwhile, Steene struggles with his new life of slavery in far-away Neliria. Raymond, his young owner, seizes any opportunity to make his life miserable. But while Steene longs to escape and rejoin Bensin and Ellie, he starts to realize that Raymond needs him too. His choices will affect not only his own future, but that of everyone he cares about. Can he make the right ones … and live with the consequences?

 

EXCERPT

In this excerpt, Steene realizes that the arrangements he has secretly been trying to make for his escape may come to nothing after all.

“Guess what? I’ve got two pieces of good news,” said Raymond when Steene joined him in the dining room for lunch the next day. “Those clothes I ordered for you arrived this morning, and it’s just in time, ’cause now you’ll be able to bring them with you to Jarreon and look all professional. We’re leaving tomorrow!”

“Tomorrow?” Steene froze with the tray in his hands. “But I thought your dad’s trip wasn’t until the eleventh.”

“He decided to leave early.” Raymond was practically bouncing in his seat with excitement. “He’s going to take me sightseeing before his work starts, and we’re going to do all kinds of fun stuff. I can hardly wait. This was exactly the sort of thing I was hoping would happen when I quit going to regular school.”

Steene set the tray down and handed Raymond a bowl of stew, his mind spinning. Tomorrow. But he hadn’t heard back from Ellie yet. He’d assumed they still had several more days. How will I find out the details about the escape plan? “I should probably wait here for now and fly to Jarreon closer to the start of the tournament.”

“What? No way!” Raymond looked horrified. “You’re my coach. I can’t get ready for a tournament without your help!


Click here to order The Student and the Slave from Amazon for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through November 31st!

 


About the Author:

Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and
later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her
husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at
Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since
her childhood, and to date has published fifteen books (three YA action and
adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, six anthologies of her
students’ poetry, and a Bible verse coloring and activity book). Besides
writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction),
scrapbooking, and international travel.

 

Connect with the Author Online:
Email: AnnieDouglassLima@gmail.com
Blog: http://anniedouglasslima.blogspot.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnnieDouglassLimaAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/princeofalasia
Goodreads: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnGoodreads
Amazon Author Page: http://bit.ly/AnnieDouglassLimaOnAmazon
LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnLinkedIn
Google+: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnGooglePlus

Now, enter to win an Amazon gift card or a free digital copy of the first two books in the series!



 

 

I know that Thanksgiving hasn’t even come yet, but what I am going to share with you today needs to be put out there well in advance. I’d like to introduce to you a different kind of devotional that the whole family can do, and it’s something geared toward Christmas. Without further ado, have a look at this:

 

The 25 Days of Christmas Family Devotional: Making Christmas More Meaningful

Many of us get caught up in the commercialization of Christmas. One way to prevent that is to focus on the reason for the season. Taking a few minutes each day with this different kind of devotional book will help your family think of others. Each day focuses on one word and includes a story from Daniel and Holly’s family, a Scripture reading with the devotional, the YouTube link to a Christmas Carol, and an activity that the entire family can be involved in.

Reviews

“We love it! You posted it just the right time. God’s providence!”

“My kids love it! Especially the song and the activity.”

“The kids like to read the verses during the devotional part. It has been a good way to get the whole family involved.”

Excerpt

Advent

Story

“I have a surprise for you kids,” Mom said as soon as Daniel and Holly walked in the door after school.

“What?” They both wanted to know.

“Follow me,” Mom requested as she walked toward the family room.

Two-year-old Evie followed along behind, clapping her hands and giggling.

“She must know what the secret is,” Daniel commented to Holly.

Holly laughed when Evie shouted, “Sec-et! Sec-et!”

Mom smiled as well. “That’s her new word for the day.”

Then Mom Continue reading “A Christmas Devotional”

Reluctantly Married is the second installment of the Married Series by best-selling author Victorine E. Lieske. This is also the second book from this series that I have read. You can find my post about Mistakenly Married HERE.

Because these are all standalone novels, you can read them in any order. That explains why I have yet to read the first, lol! Someday, though!

Anyway, back to the review. Let me share with you the cover to this book, as well as its blurb, before filling you in on what I liked, didn’t like, and my overall rating.

 

Megan Holloway can’t stand her local morning show co-host, Adam Warner, even though he’s a total hunk. He goads her on-air until she says things she regrets. But since ratings increase each time they have an on-air fight, the producer encourages his behavior.

When a relationship specialist comes onto the show purporting that Adam has hidden feelings for her, she reluctantly agrees to go out with him—on camera. What starts out as one date turns into a viral dating show with Megan and Adam alternating between locking lips and knocking heads.

As Megan fights her growing attraction to Adam, their popularity increases and ABC takes notice, offering them their own program. Not a morning show like Megan is hoping, but a dating show in which she and Adam must marry at the end. With the promise of a hundred thousand dollars and the possibility of scoring what she really wants, her own national program, she signs on.

What she doesn’t know is that Adam has fallen in love with her, and his objective is to get her to do the same.

 

MY REVIEW

This book reminded me of two TV shows. One was Full House. There is an episode where Danny Tanner and Vicki Larson bicker on set. Maybe not exactly bicker, but you can tell there’s tension. Later in the season you see they end up dating and so forth. This is exactly the type of atmosphere you’ll find in Reluctantly Married. The two main characters are co-hosts. You can tell there’s tension. At first it’s for ratings, but things eventually get real.

Another show it reminded me of was The Bachelorette. The climax of this story is the two main characters doing a show pretty much exactly the way The Bachelorette goes. There’s more than one man trying to win the female’s heart. In the end they get engaged.

So having said that, I thought it was kind of cool to relate to some things I have seen before.

The storyline is clean and well written, and started out fun at first. I liked having the “war” between the two characters. There’s even this one date night activity I’d like to try with my husband. If I do, I’ll blog it so you can all know!

There were a couple of things I didn’t like. I didn’t think this was a comedy, even though that’s what the book’s page on Amazon stated. However, that’s just my opinion. I also thought that the storyline got old. Like I said, started out fun at first. After that, though, I just wanted them to move on with it. The whole dating dragged on.

One final thing was how it ended. For most of the book, we see the female’s view. She’s falling for the male. Occasionally you get a small idea that the male is falling for the female, but not enough to warrant the ending. Basically, at the end, it’s the male character declaring his “love”, but I just didn’t feel it. I would have thought the female would have.

All that said, the ending was still great. I always like happy endings!

I have rated this book 4 stars! If you’d like to read for yourself, please go to:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QEE7MHA

This year I have the privilege of participating in an event called ThankfulAuthor. This event is taking place on Angela Hayes’ blog, and what it is, is two authors a day for the month of November share what they’re thankful for. This is now the third year that ThankfulAuthor is taking place, and having been well-received in the past, I’m glad many will get to see my response this year, as I believe it’s an important one.

I titled it “I’m Thankful for What?!!?” because what I share may not be popular, but I think it needs to be said. Here is part of my post:

 

When I signed up for #ThankfulAuthor, the gears in my mind started turning, trying to figure out what I’d want to say. There are simply too many things to be thankful for! To narrow it down to just one was hard. And I didn’t really want to say the same thing that everyone else does. Often you hear people quickly throw out there that they’re thankful for God, their faith, or perhaps their family and friends, or you might even hear one or two say they’re thankful for their jobs. Those aren’t bad things to be thankful for, and I’m beyond thankful for those very things myself. But I wanted to share something less common.

One thought that hit me was that I could share that I’m thankful for where I live. I’m a resident of the great state of Michigan! What’s unique about my exact location is that unemployment is low, the community is pretty safe, and the weather is outstanding. I mean, we rarely see tornadoes, feel only slight tremors from earthquakes, if even that, and wild fires and hurricanes are not something we even have to worry about. The beauty of spring, summer, fall, and winter are fully experienced, making me scratch my head as to why anyone would ever want to leave!

But as grateful as I am for my home here in Michigan, there is something else that I’m thankful for that deserves to be shared with you all. It might leave a lot of you puzzled, but try to bear with me here. What I’m thankful for is my…suffering. The word suffering here could also be replaced with hardships or struggles, if you want. Now why on earth would anyone be thankful for that? Let me explain.

Perhaps the best example…..

 

Please check out my example, as well as the rest of my post, at Angela Hayes’ site: https://authorangelahayes.blogspot.com/2017/11/thankful-author-2017-frances-hoelsema.htmlp://www.authorangelahayes.blogspot.com

 

And since we’re talking about being thankful, I’m thankful for you! I’d like to repay all of you for your support! So today and tomorrow only, here are some cool deals:

  1. Growing Up Neighbors – FREE – www.amazon.com/dp/B00PJGYW40
  2. Next Door Neighbors – FREE – www.amazon.com/dp/B01D8XZJ1U
  3. Unfortunate Events (my newest) – FREE – www.amazon.com/dp/B075FG5MJM
  4. What to Expect When You’re NOT Expecting – $0.99 – www.amazon.com/dp/B07375G9WJ

Thank you for everything, and may your Thanksgiving be grand!

Every Sunday, weather permitting, my family and I go out on a hike/walk. Usually we try out different parks. It was on our way back from a particular park that we found something. Well, I can’t say we “found” it. We’ve known it existed. It’s more like we decided to look into something in hopes to go explore it.

You see, I live in a city along Lake Michigan. Any time we want to go to the beach, we have one direct path to do so. You can see the opposite side of the channel, the houses, another pier, all that. Never did we know how to exactly get there, though.

Enter in this one Sunday we were out walking. We knew the entrance to this “other side” was just ahead. We thought it wouldn’t hurt to check out just how far we could go. Come to find out, there’s a guard shack there. It’s private property and the public is only allowed to enter on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That was good to know! We marked on our calendar the next Tuesday to come and check it out!

Let me tell you, it’s not what I expected. I honestly thought it was going to be this little strip of land with just the few houses that can be seen from our normal route to the beach. I thought this strip of land would lead to the pier we’ve always wanted to check out and that would be it. Boy was I wrong!

I seriously felt like I was in a whole other world! There was like a whole town inside my town, all reminding me of The Truman Show or something. It just looked staged.

We did get up close and personal with the lighthouse, and did walk the length of the pier. Walking back to our car, we kept thinking what a wonderful, hidden gem this was. To show you some highlights from that night, here are some pics:

Just looking at the pics, it seems surreal. I never knew there was all of this beyond the guard shack. To think one could live in a community protected by a guard shack, what a life!

What hidden gems have you found where you live? I encourage you to go and find/explore them!