12 Days At Bleakly Manor (Once Upon a Dickens Christmas #1) by Michelle Griep | Christmas Book Review

12 Days At Bleakly Manor (Once Upon a Dickens Christmas #1) by Michelle Griep

Book review disclosure.

Once Upon A Dickens Christmas #1
Historical Fiction

A mysterious invitation to spend Christmas 
at an English manor home 
may bring danger...and love?

England, 1851: When Clara Chapman receives an intriguing invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home, she is hesitant yet feels compelled to attend—for if she remains the duration of the twelve-day celebration, she is promised a sum of one thousand pounds.

But is she walking into danger? It appears so, especially when she comes face to face with one of the other guests—her former fiancĂ©, Benjamin Lane.

Imprisoned unjustly, Ben wants revenge on whoever stole his honor. When he’s given the chance to gain his freedom, he jumps at it—and is faced with the anger of the woman he stood up at the altar. Brought together under mysterious circumstances, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters.

What matters most is what Christmas is all about . . . love.

Pour a cup of tea and settle in for Book 1 of the Once Upon a Dickens Christmas series--a page-turning Victorian-era holiday tale--by Michelle Griep, a reader and critic favorite.

My Thoughts

Fans of Charles Dickens and Agatha Christie will surely enjoy this Christmas novella. The premise is one that you are familiar with in a storyline. Strangers receive invitations to come to Bleakly Manor and the one that remains until the end will receive the prize. 

But the resemblance ends there. Michelle Griep has taken those bones of an outline and fleshed them out with characters and scenarios that are fresh and interesting. As the characters are added one by one and then leave one by one you can't help but like them. They are quirky to a fault and really make the story come alive. The manor house is a perfect setting. As the story progresses it just gets creepier and creepier.

Just like a good Dickens story, when you think you have the plot figured out a turn in the story comes and takes you in a whole new direction. I was surprised and pleased with the ending which is exactly what I want in a story like this. I recommend you get this for one of those cold winter evenings that you need a good book to curl up with. You won't be disappointed.

Connect With The Author

Michelle Griep

Disclosure of materials.

Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon & Thomas Johnson Unlikely Friends On The Passage To Freedom by Matt Carter & Aaron Ivey | Historical Fiction Review

Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon & Thomas Johnson Unlikely Friends On The Passage To Freedom by Matt Carter & Aaron Ivey

Book review disclosure.

Matt Carter & Aaron Ivey
Historical Fiction

Thomas Johnson and Charles Spurgeon lived worlds apart.

Johnson, an American slave, born into captivity and longing for freedom--- Spurgeon, an Englishman born into relative ease and comfort, but, longing too for a freedom of his own. Their respective journeys led to an unlikely meeting and an even more unlikely friendship, forged by fate and mutual love for the mission of Christ.

Steal Away Home is a new kind of book based on historical research, which tells a previously untold story set in the 1800s of the relationship between an African-American missionary and one of the greatest preachers to ever live.

My Thoughts

What a relevant book for our modern times. This story of Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson reminds us that we are all in need of freedom. It was true then and it's true now. We all have chains that enslave us and we need Someone to set us free.

The story begins when both men were around ten years of age. They were both curious boys wanting to do ten-year-old boy things. But they are from two completely different worlds. Charles is living mostly with his grandparents in England. He's loved and nurtured and valued. Thomas on the other hand was born into slavery on a plantation in Virginia and is beaten and abused into submission. 

While it may seem that Thomas is the only one needing his freedom, Charles is plagued by chains of debilitating depression and physical ailments. As the story unfolds you are taken deeper into each man's world and get to see the freedom that only Christ can bring.

While this book is a fictionalized retelling of their lives it is based on the two men's extensive writings. I was moved deeply by both of their stories. When the two finally meet and become good friends later I was delighted to see how each drew strength from the other. There were many facts that I didn't realize about Charles Spurgeon and that makes his writings even more valuable. When he speaks about trusting God in the darkest of hours he's speaking from experience. I knew nothing about Thomas Johnson before this book but I am so glad to have met him this way.

This is a beautiful story of friendship and love between two men, their families, and their God. I recommend it to anyone that needs to experience freedom from what chains them down. You will be encouraged by the story of these two giants of the faith.

Disclosure of materials.


Day Dreams & Movie Screens (Lena In The Spotlight #2) by Alena Pitts | Juvenile Fiction Review

Day Dreams & Movie Screens (Lena In The Spotlight #2) by Alena Pitts

Book review disclosure.

Lena In The Spotlight #2
Juvenile Fiction

Eleven-year-old Lena Daniels’ summer of Hollywood starlets and movie filming alongside her favorite singer, Mallory Winston, is over. School will be back in full swing, and it seems as though life might just pick up where it left off—with volleyball games, homework, and her best friends.

But just as she begins to wonder if her summer was all just a dream, her world is turned upside down . . . again! The movie Above the Waters premiers, the previews seem to be splattered on every television and radio channel, and everyone knows her name. Her classmates, strangers, and even her friends are starting to treat her differently, and everywhere she turns she’s being asked for an autograph, a picture, or a hug.

Lena is just figuring out how to manage her new fame at home when she finds out she's hitting the road on a two-week bus tour to further promote the film. Traveling across the country with Mallory and her band—with the surprise addition of her whole family joining them for a week—Lena experiences adventures and challenges she never expected, while learning to step outside of her comfort zone and follow the path God has for her life. She learns that saying yes to God may not always be easy, but will take her further than she ever imagined!

This Faithgirlz series titled Lena in the Spotlight, written by Alena Pitts, star of The War Room and tween blogger of For Girls Like You, and co-written with her mother, editor and author, Wynter Pitts, is a reflection of Alena’s own life experiences as she reaches for the stars and keeps her faith in balance.

My Thoughts

Day Dreams & Movie Screens may be the most anticipated book in our family this year. My oldest granddaughter devoured Hello Stars, which is the first book in the series, and couldn't wait to read more about the charming Lena Daniels.

If you've read Hello Stars you know that Lena was cast in a Hollywood movie alongside her favorite music star, Mallory Winston. Well the movie is finished and cast is going on a bus tour to promote the film. As the story unfolds Lena has to cope with this newfound stardom. For the most part she does it with grace but there are challenges as well. Especially dealing with friends that aren't quite sure how to treat you now that you're famous.

As an adult I really like this series for young girls. It's realistic but still has an element of entertainment. While your girl isn't likely to become a Hollywood movie star there are still important lessons that can be learned from this story. The most important one is that it is imperative to always trust God and allow Him to lead you down the path that He has chosen.

I would highly recommend this series for tween girls. It is written as a series so to get the most out of it I would suggest reading the books in order. The third book is scheduled to come out in April of 2018. Not sure how I'm going to break that news to my grand girl!

Other Reviews For These Authors

Hello Stars
Connect With The Authors

Alena and Wynter Pitts

Disclosure of materials.

Fatal Trust by Todd M Johnson | Legal Thriller Review

Fatal Trust by Todd M Johnson

Book review disclosure.

Legal Thriller

A Simple Job. 
An Unbelievable Payout. 
But in Risking It All On Blind Trust, 
He May Just Lose Everything . . .

Ian Wells is a young, ambitious Minneapolis attorney struggling to build up a law practice while caring for a mother with Alzheimer's. As the stress and bills mount, Ian is nearing the breaking point when everything changes with a single new case. All Ian must do, the client demands, is judge whether three men qualify for nine million dollars of trust funds soon to be paid out by determining whether they've been involved in any criminal activity for the past twenty years. Ian's fee for a week's work: the unfathomable sum of two hundred thousand dollars.

The job seems too good to be true, and Ian wants to turn the offer down, but his needs weigh more heavily. He warily accepts the job--but is quickly dragged deep into a mystery linking the trust money to an illegal enterprise dating back to Prohibition and the greatest unsolved crime in Minnesota history. Ian soon finds himself the target of a swiftly tightening criminal investigation--realizing too late that this so-called simple job has spun out of control and now threatens his career, his future, and his life.

My Thoughts

Oh my goodness, I will definitely be on the lookout for more from Todd Johnson. Fatal Trust is the first book I have read of Johnson's but it isn't his first. He's also written The Deposit Slip and Critical Reaction. He's an experienced attorney and it shows in his writing. The plot of Fatal Trust was complex and took me on a very tense journey.

Ian Wells is the main character and he's easy to relate to. He finds himself in between a rock and a hard place when a too good to be true solution comes along. Everything in him is telling him to not take the case but instead of listening to his better judgement he does it anyway. 

The story is completely absorbing because all of us can put ourselves in his shoes. We've all done something we knew we shouldn't but we did it anyway and then we're left to face the consequences. The wonderful part is that there is a God in heaven who chooses to shower us in mercy. In Ian's case it involves his long-time friend Brook. 

The exciting part for me is that according to a Q&A with the author the ending of Fatal Trust corresponds with his previous book The Deposit Slip. You can bet I'm going to go download that to my Kindle. Plus he's in the process of writing another book that will round out the series and tie all the loose ends of these two books together. Now that's something to look forward to!

Connect With The Author

Todd Johnson
Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Emily Stephenson

Disclosure of materials.


NIrV May The Faith Be With You Holy Bible | Children's Bible Review

NIrV May The Faith Be With You Holy Bible

Book review disclosure.

New International Readers Version Bible (ages 8+)

Life in the Spirit isn’t about cushioned pews and easy living—it’s about adventure, risk, daring, and the pursuit of wisdom. It’s about letting the awesome power of God work through you to do things you never thought possible.

In this brand-new full-text Bible, you’ll learn the highest, truest, and most rewarding way to a life of wisdom, apprenticing with the Ultimate Master himself—Jesus Christ.

Features include:
  • 24 full-color pages of content on the marvel of God’s creation and the meaning of faith
  • Vibrant outer space imagery
  • Compelling, metallic-embellished cover
  • The complete text of the New International Reader's Version (NIrV) of the Bible
Inside graphic - Creation.

My Thoughts

We fell in love with the May The Faith Be With You Devotional a couple of years ago. When the corresponding NIrV May The Faith Be With You Holy Bible became available this year I knew our boys needed it. They are all about space and science so this is a good fit for them.

I appreciate the NIrV translation because it is a third grade reading level which makes it easy for our oldest to read on his own and aloud to his brothers. Being able to read for himself gives him a sense of pride in accomplishment, frees me up, and gets them all in the word so that is a big bonus for our entire family. The inserts that explore creation and and other space and science type of things are a wonderful bonus. The illustrations are interesting to the boys so that means they are more likely to pick it up more often. That is a win to me!

This particular Bible would appeal to many, especially if they are space/science types. I think it would even work for older kids that are needing an easier reading level or English As A Second Language students. The content isn't babyish at all so it would work well.

Disclosure of materials.

All She Left Behind by Jane Kirkpatrick | Historical Fiction Review

All She Left Behind by Jane Kirkpatrick

Book review disclosure.

Historical Fiction

Already well-versed in the natural healing properties of herbs and oils, Jennie Pickett longs to become a doctor. But the Oregon frontier of the 1870s is an unforgiving place--especially for a single mother. To support herself and her young son, Jennie finds work caring for an older woman. When her patient dies, Jennie discovers that her heart has become entangled with the woman's widowed husband, a man many years her senior. Their unlikely romance may lead her to her ultimate goal--but the road forward is uncertain.

New York Times bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick invites you to leave behind your preconceived notions about love and life as you, along with Jennie, discover that dreams may be deferred--but they never really die. Based on a true story.

Read an excerpt.

My Thoughts

I can't get enough of Jane Kirkpatrick's historical novels. She has such a gift of resurrecting long forgotten figures from the past and allowing us to take a journey with them. Most of her leading characters are women and that's what we find in All She Left Behind.

Jennie Pickett is a young bride when we first meet her. A minor accident on her wedding day changes the entire scope of her married life. But Jennie is nothing but persistent. She's the epitome of "when life gives you lemons . . . make lemonade." For the first part of the novel we see Jennie being dealt blow after blow until the dreams she had for herself and her family seem impossible.

But Jennie serves a God of the possible. I don't want to give away the plot so I will just say that Jennie's story is inspiring. You will be reminded to never give up on a dream. It may be delayed far longer than you can imagine but if it's from God it will come to pass.

I can't stress enough to read the author's notes at the end. There is an epilogue that gives you part of the rest of the story. But the author's notes are like an epilogue to the epilogue. Fascinating stuff. If you are looking for a great read about a real person that will inspire you to dream big, this is the book for you!

Other Reviews For This Author

Connect With The Author

Jane Kirkpatrick

Disclosure of materials.

The Day The Angels Fell by Shawn Smucker | Supernatural Fiction Review

The Day The Angels Fell by Shawn Smucker

Book review disclosure.

Supernatural Fiction

It was the summer of storms and strays and strangers. The summer that lightning struck the big oak tree in the front yard. The summer his mother died in a tragic accident--and young Samuel Chambers would have done anything to turn back time. Even today, he can hardly believe it all happened . . .

Prompted by three strange carnival fortune-tellers and the surfacing of his mysterious and reclusive neighbor, Sam begins his search for the Tree of Life--the only thing that could possibly bring his mother back.

His quest to defeat death will entangle him and his best friend Abra in an ancient conflict, forcing Sam to grapple with an unwelcome question.

Could it be possible that death is a gift?

Read an excerpt.

My Thoughts

If you are a fan of supernatural fiction then you will be pleased to know that there is a new voice in the field. Shawn Smucker makes his debut with The Day The Angels Fell. Supernatural fiction is really not my thing but I enjoyed the story and felt like it was a quick read.

The story is told from the perspective of  Samuel Chambers. He's an old man about to attend the funeral of his last friend. Due to age and circumstance he is reflecting over the events that surrounded the death of his mother. It was a summer that would change the course of his life and those around him. 

As I said before it is a work of supernatural fiction so expect that in the writing. I thought Mr. Smucker did a good job of working those elements into the story without making it weird. The overall theme is that death is a gift. That may sound strange at first but after reading the novel I appreciate that phrase. 

If you can check your theology at the door and just read this title as a work of fiction I think you will enjoy it. The writing is good and the characters are engaging. Once you start the story I think you'll be hard pressed to put it down. 

Disclosure of materials.

Blog Designed by: NW Designs