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Review: Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me: I love Christmas. As soon as the Thanksgiving dinner is cleared away, our house undergoes a tinsel-and-tree transformation as we prepare for the Christmas season. We make large pans of fudge and (with a nod to my Ohio roots) hundreds of peanut-butter-chocolate Buckeyes. We bake dozens of cookies. We even wrap all the paintings on our walls in Christmas paper—an inexpensive holiday tip borrowed from a physician’s office years ago. So it’s no surprise that I also love Christmas books. This year, I’m excited to share the latest release from my friend and fellow Florida author Dan Walsh. Keeping Christmas: A Novel is a story to which I can relate. Not only does it take place in my beautiful hometown of Mount Dora, Florida, but the central characters are empty-nesters—just like my husband and me. Christmas looks different to us in this stage of life than it did when our five children were small, and it does to Stan and Judith, too. Their three children are grown and gone, with families of their own—and none of them can make it home for the holidays. All the couple has left are their memories and a box of what they call “The Ugly Ornaments,” lovingly crafted by their children through the years. Stan, an avid fisherman, seems eager to embrace their new lifestyle. After all, this is the Christmas when he and his best friend plan to buy their dream rig, the fishing boat of their dreams. But Judith has more than a bit of trouble moving beyond her loneliness and into the wonder and beauty of Christmas.    Walsh, as always, does a masterful job of creating characters about whom we care. This time, he weaves the threads of their lives into a beautiful tapestry with more than a hint of compassion, love, and Christmas magic. Include this book on your list of books to read—and give—this Christmas, and watch for my coming interview with Dan about Keeping Christmas along with news of a Christmas contest. If you live in the Central Florida area, be sure to visit charming Mount Dora on December 6, 6-8 p.m. and enjoy an in-person visit with Dan at the 2015 Christmas Book-tacular. Maybe I’ll see you there!   (FTC Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel free from the author. I was not required to post a review or a positive response.) Find a local Christian bookstore where you can purchase Keeping Christmas. Find this book on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, or at Christian Book Distributors. Read Marti’s article about Christmas in Mount Dora in More to Life Magazine (page 60).    ...

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Review: An Endless Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti

Dear Friends, Not long ago, I wrote about The Perfect Christmas and how, even with at least one child unexpectedly absent, I know it will be the perfect Christmas after all. Author Cynthia Ruchti’s new novella,  An Endless Christmas, also describes a perfect Christmas. And a perfect family. And a story that’s just—perfect, right? Maybe. Nurse practitioner Katie Vale sees herself as the one huge blot on an otherwise-flawless family Christmas scene in wintry Minnesota. When she turns down boyfriend Micah Binder’s unexpected proposal at the start of the holiday, she plans to pack her bags and return to her Florida home. But Micah and his large, loving extended family urge her to stay. And somehow, the grace-laden magic of an endless Christmas starts to work in ways that surprise everyone. In my case, the obstacle to a perfect Christmas was my attitude. Read the book to find out what Katie discovers about herself and her own imperfect holiday. An Endless Christmas is a tender, thoughtful story that, like every good Christmas gift, delivers much more than glitter and glitz. Watch for my “Words with Friends” interview tomorrow with author Cynthia Ruchti (a friend as well as an award-winning novelist), and go buy this novella for anyone who loves characters who become friends, timeless truth, and a page-turning story bright with Christmas wonder and hope. Have you had a Christmas that started out less than perfect but ended up better than you thought? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or on social media. Blessings! For His glory, Marti   Find a local Christian bookstore where you can purchase Endless Christmas. Find this book on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, or at Christian Book Distributors. (FTC Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this novella free from the publisher. I was not required to post a review or a positive...

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Review: The Caregiver’s Notebook by Jolene Philo

Dear Friends, It’s been a while since I posted a book review, so I hope you enjoy this one. I know so many authors and others in the publishing industry that I stopped posting reviews on bookseller sites a while ago, but I still review books occasionally on my blog. I also post “Words with Friends” interviews so you can get to know the books and authors I love. I haven’t met Jolene Philo, the author of The Caregiver’s Notebook: An Organizational Tool and Support to Help You Care for Others (Discovery House, 2014) personally, but she and I both belong to AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) and the Christian Authors Network. The title and concept of her book intrigued me, and I was delighted to take a closer look. Chances are that if you’re an adult in 2015, you are or you know someone (probably more than one someone) who serves as a caregiver. With the graying of America come additional responsibilities to care for a parent(s), spouse, disabled child, or others who need special assistance because of physical and/or mental disabilities. And that means you know someone who needs this book. In The Caregiver’s Notebook, Jolene Philo does an amazing job of pulling together resources, records, and refreshment in the form of multiple ideas for caregivers in one compact place. The spiral-bound book (it lies flat–an asset when filling out pages) has fifteen tabs, including “Contacts,’ “Calendar,” “Medications,” “Insurance Information,” and “Routines and Schedules,” among others. Although I’m not a caregiver at present, I watched my mother serve as my father’s caregiver for several years, and I have had several friends in this situation. Since caregivers’ lives are already so full, I understand the need to collect and organize much of the information related to caregiving in one easy-access place. Each tabbed section begins with instructions (sometimes short, sometimes longer) about how to use the pages that follow. Also included are tips from fellow caregivers, Scripture verses and other inspirational quotes, and small but vital takeaway points labeled as “Stress Relievers.” As you can tell, Jolene knows the needs of caregivers well. In fact, I believe the author herself is the book’s greatest asset. The wisdom gained from her many years of  past and present caregiving experience both informed and inspired this valuable tool. One concern I have with the book is its small size (approximately 6.5 x 9.5”). Although convenient, its compact nature left me wondering about storage for the many additional medical and other forms that seem to accompany caregiving. However, the book’s final section provides potential assistance. It highlights another website of hers, which includes links to organizational resources, downloadable forms, and other helps for caregivers. That...

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