Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock

Title: Catching Christmas

Author: Terri Blackstock

Published By: Thomas Nelson (2018)

Synopsis: As a first-year law associate, Sydney Batson knows she will be updating her resume by New Year’s if she loses her current court case. So when her grandmother gets inexplicably ill while she’s in court, Sydney arranges for a cab to get her to the clinic.

The last thing cab driver Finn Parrish wants is to be saddled with a wheelchair-bound old lady with dementia. But because Miss Callie reminds him of his own mother, whom he failed miserably in her last days, he can’t say no when she keeps calling him for rides. Once a successful gourmet chef, Finn’s biggest concern now is making his rent, but half the time Callie doesn’t remember to pay him. And as she starts to feel better, she leads him on wild goose chases to find a Christmas date for her granddaughter.

When Finn meets Sydney, he’s quite sure that she’s never needed help finding a date. Does Miss Callie have an ulterior motive, or is this just a mission driven by delusions? He’s willing to do whatever he can to help fulfill Callie’s Christmas wish. He just never expected to be a vital part of it.(Taken from Goodreads)

My Review:

**I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**

First Thoughts: Aaaack this book could not have been any sweeter! Seriously, I made my way through the book with a huge smile on my face. It warmed my heart and sent sweet tears to my eyes. Terri Blackstock has done it again! I also have to comment this is probably the first book of hers I’ve read where there is no murder mystery. It was light humored, with important themes, and full fantastic, relatable characters that drove the story. I loved every word.

Loves:

Okay, Finn was fantastic. I absolutely loved his character. He was hilarious, but also incredibly real. I was rooting for him the entire time; every time he tried to convince himself not to be kind, I had to smile at the inevitable inability to follow through. His interactions with the other characters were so well done. 

Sydney was just as amazingly well-rounded, but significantly different. It was easy to see her point of view even when it wasn’t one we as the reader agreed with; it was easy to empathize with her situation. I especially loved getting to see both her and Finn’s perspectives on the situations, and how they intertwined and how they conflicted. 

And of course, Callie. She was the best! 

I loved the gentle themes surrounding the story without overpowering it; I loved the bittersweet ending; I loved the messages and the setting and the characters and pretty much absolutely everything!

Dislikes:

There’s honestly nothing I really disliked.

Analyzation:

The story moved at a good pace—something was always happening and character development never stopped progressing. Every new scene provided new ways to get to know characters without much fluff. It allowed time for the reader to reach conclusions on their own before a message was actually spelled out, which, in my opinion, is always more powerful.

I absolutely loved the thematics surrounding Sydney. The idea that you don’t have to stay at a job just for the money, that you shouldn’t compromise your beliefs for your job, that family is always more important—I loved it, and delivered via Sydney, the sweet, but determined, character, made it all the more powerful.

Themes: Doing the right thing; kindness; not judging a book by its cover; standing up for yourself and things you believe in; not being afraid of the world; strength and courage in the face of evil; faith and trust in God.

Overall: 

Catching Christmas held my attention from page one, presented some valuable themes through the eyes of very much imperfect but also incredibly lovable characters, and provided good laughs while gently tugging on the readers’ heartstrings. All while against a backdrop of Christmastime! I loved it so, so much.

5.0 / 5.0

ROMANOV by Nadine Brandes

Title: Romanov

Author: Nadine Brandes

Published By: Thomas Nelson (2019)

Synopsis:

The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them . . . and he’s hunted Romanov before.

Nastya’s only chances of survival are to either release the spell, and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya’s never dabbled in magic before, but it doesn’t frighten her as much as her growing attraction for Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her . . .

That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad . . . and he’s on the other. (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

**I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**

First Thoughts and Reactions: THANKS NADINE FOR RIPPING MY HEART OUT!

Just when you thought Nadine couldn’t write anything better…. Romanov appears.

Loves:

Nastya and Maria’s friendship was so heartwarming. Maria was a little hard to get to know in the beginning, but it didn’t take long to fall in love with her character. Maria and Ivan’s relationship was the most precious and sweet thing in the world. Nastya’s father was one of the strongest characters I’ve read about in a long time. The setting was detailed, thorough, and compelling. Brandes nailed the little descriptions, scenes, and what seemed to be insignificant details so perfectly that together, they shaped a bigger and beautiful story.

Dislikes:

All the Russian names, though they added significant setting detail to the story, made it harder to keep track of those specific characters. The layout of the Ipatiev House felt difficult at times to picture. In the beginning of the story, I couldn’t figure out how old Alexei was; I first pictured him as a teenager, so then I was thrown off when he started playing with toy soldiers. 

A few confusions: Nastya throwing the message out the window felt very counterintuitive and unrealistic; she says, “I couldn’t allow myself to think of the repercussions. Not with something as important as the lives of my family at stake”—but if they catch her throwing the stone, won’t they most definitely kill her family? Her thought process was such a heroic one, yet it confused me; the action risked her family more than anything else so far, yet her family was the very thing she was risking everything trying to protect. Additionally: the scene where Nastya retrieves the doll from Yurcsky’s satchel was difficult to picture and understand.

Analyzation:

The arc of the story was phenomenal. Every scene was significant in its own way, building an intricate tale of family, strength, faith, and never giving up. Brandes gently paints a beautiful picture of Christlike love in the hardest of circumstances, all while ripping your heart out and stomping on it. Nastya is a Brandes character through and through—mischievous, smart, and impulsive, but deeply caring and sensitive underneath—so of course I loved her. Her family was sometimes hard to keep track of, mostly because Olga and Tatiana really never got any development, but other than that, the characters were fairly easy to keep straight.

The emotion of the story was powerful and well-shaped, but lacked a little in fleshing out and follow through. Nastya reached her conclusions and revelations fairly quickly, without much time to really chew on different concepts, and while it didn’t feel cheesy, it did feel rushed and underdeveloped at times. For example, her attraction to Zash. While plotted carefully, it lacked the emotional component in the beginning, leaving me as the reader feeling like her attraction popped out of nowhere—even though Nastya claimed to have always liked him. However, considering this was an advance read, and looking at Brandes’ other books, I fully expect that all the emotion will be fleshed out much more fully in the finished product. And in the end, I was one hundred percent rooting for Nastya and Zash.

THE ENDING ACTUALLY KILLED ME. Again, Nastya’s emotions were not completely full and deep, but I actually found the story perfectly paced nonetheless; a harder, more complex emotional storyline at this moment in the plot would have distracted from the point of the story, which was tactfully and heartbreakingly delivered with passion and punch.

Overall:

Brandes definitely knows how to make her characters and readers suffer. I was locked in these pages from the moment I began reading. It was a fulfilling, thought-provoking, captivating read full of lovable characters and a lot of heartbreak. I can’t wait to read the finished version!

Rating:

4.5 / 5.0 stars

MY 3RD NOVEL IS HERE!

After what has felt like forever…many hours of editing…what felt like even more hours of formatting…

PROOF OF PURPLE IS HERE.

Proof of Purple on Amazon!!!

Sixteen-year-old Saige Pemberton lives in a perfect world—a world free of sickness, crime, and chaos. But for Saige, nothing in her life is as easy as it should be: not with her family, and not with her friends.

Risa Dobbin has always been a model citizen, but when the world she trusted fails her, she begins to ask questions she never dared to ask before.

Mirren Chase has never felt good enough for her world. After her worst nightmare comes true, she wonders if her identity truly has become defined by her failure.

When the unthinkable happens, all three girls are forced to face their fears and insecurities in ways they never expected. Could the ideals that their society is built upon not actually be as perfect as they seem? Do they even dare hope for second chances in a world where mistakes are unforgivable?

____________________________________________

A Few Announcements:

– I’m hosting a giveaway over on my Instagram (@j.c.buchanan) so check it out if you’re interested in winning free signed copies of my books! You have until December 1st to enter!

– I FINALLY got a blog tour figured out! So if you’d be interested in helping me launch Proof of Purple into the world, you can sign up here::  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1nS5XlPE-n805t4KblFoE1c8WZbvJSCQj-Dnds4V_yqs/edit?vc=0&c=0&w=1

– My short novella sequel to You’ll Be Like Faye, Far Away Faye, has officially been released in paperback! You can get it on Amazon!

I’m SO EXCITED that Proof of Purple is finally out in the world!

The Covenant by Beverly Lewis

Title: The Covenant

Author: Beverly Lewis

Published By: Bethany House Publishers (2002)

Synopsis: Book 1 of Abram’s Daughters series from bestselling author Beverly Lewis. Years of secrecy bind the tiny community of Gobbler’s Knob together more than the present inhabitants know, and the Plain folk who farm the land rarely interact with the fancy locals. So when Sadie is beguiled by a dark-haired English boy, it is Sadie’s younger sister, Leah, who suffers from her sister’s shameful loss of innocence. And what of Leah’s sweetheart, Jonas Mast, sent to Ohio under the Bishop’s command? Drawn into an incomprehensible pact with her older sister, Leah finds her dreams spinning out of control, even as she clings desperately to the promises of God. The Covenant begins a powerful Lancaster portrait of the power of family and the miracle of hope. (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

Loves: The Amish culture was fascinating to read about. The characters were well rounded and likeable, and I enjoyed seeing the world through these character’s eyes in such a vivid way, even if their perspectives weren’t ones I necessarily share or agree with.

Analyzation: The story was a little slow. Strongly character-driven, nothing big happens until almost halfway through the book. However, I found every character to be very unique and I always wanted to know more. The story jumped around quite a bit, but still found focus in Leah and Sadie’s plotlines, with Mary Ruth and Hannah weaving their way in as well. Generally, it was the interpersonal conflicts that drove the story, and I felt the author penned it very skillfully, keeping each struggle unique, but still tying it together. 

Cleanliness/Negative Content: One hundred percent clean. <SPOILER> Sadie becomes pregnant by an English boy, but it is handled so carefully—in tune with the Amish culture—and there was absolutely nothing even remotely close to being dirty.<SPOILER>

Overall: I really found myself enjoying this book, despite its lack of strong conflict. I found myself intrigued by the three-dimensional characters and their struggles, all against the backdrop of the Amish culture. I’m already excited to return to this world and continue following these characters in the sequel!

NOTE: There were some Christian thematics, as following God is apart of the Amish culture. However, they were not all necessarily thematics I agree with. I would not classify this book as Christian fiction because a lot of the teachings are not ones I follow or recommend following. Just a disclaimer:)

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 

Recommendation: Anyone looking for insight into Amish culture or just a strong character-driven story.

At Her Fingertips by Kellyn Roth

Title: At Her Fingertips (The Chronicles of Alice and Ivy, #3)

Author: Kellyn Roth

Published By:

Synopsis: Debutante ​Alice Knight has a plan: have her first social Season in London, meet her husband, and marry him. As the Season begins, Alice’s feelings and common sense both begin to undermine her goals. But she must stick to her plan—and everyone, including God, had best stay out of it.

The plan looks even less appealing when a childhood friend reappears, an American author shows her a different kind of faith, and a charming gentleman is not all he should be.

The life she longs for is finally at her fingertips, but how can she know it’s the right one? (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

First Thoughts: AAAGAGAHAGH

Loves: Two main loves: one, the richness of the characters–for example, there’s Alice, all grown up but still the same Alice we know and love. And two, the adorable, sweet, clean romance that was impossible to not like. EEEEEK. The sweetness of this book is on overload.

Dislikes: I didn’t like Alice’s interactions with Ivy; she didn’t treat her sister the best in this novel, and I wish we could have seen her taking care of Ivy more, or realizing in the end that Ivy deserves just as much as she does. In this regard Alice became a little snottish, and I hope in future novels to see Ivy taken care of. Despite my frustration with Alice, though, it was so cool to see her all grown up and still the same Alice at the same time; she truly is a remarkable character.

Analyzation: The author’s talent keeps improving with each book, and this one is definitely my favorite yet. How she managed to pull off not a love story, not a love triangle, but a love square, is beyond me, but she did and I can’t say I didn’t like it. Each character is rich and alive, different in their own way.

I really liked that we got Gibson’s perspective, even with him being the so-called “bad guy,” and that we really felt for Kirk even though we know him and Alice can’t be together. There were some beautiful themes that weren’t blatant but simply there. The author writes way above her years, and it blew me away how she carefully crafted these concepts without being preachy. Instead of simply telling us that we are designed for love, to wait for the one we really love to marry, and to be very careful with that choice, she shows us this through many options and examples. SPOILER>>There’s Gibson, who Alice thinks she’s in love with and who she thinks loves her, but who is actually very disrespectful to her and will become abusive; Kirk, who loves Alice but whom Alice doesn’t have feelings for (I love this one because it demonstrates that even if someone shows you affection and attention and seems genuine, you don’t have to marry him because you “should”); and then, finally, Peter, who we see a true connection with Alice. Juxtaposed next to Gibson and Kirk, the reader can clearly see what love is and that it is worth waiting for. <<SPOILER

Cleanliness/Negative Content: SPOILER>> Gibson, Alice’s lover, kisses her against her will. <<SPOILER

Nothing I would label as “dirty” or “inappropriate”; everything is handled well.

Overall: I don’t think this book could have been any cuter. Aaaagh. It was the sweetest, most heartwarming romance I’ve read in a long time. 

Rating: 5/5 stars

Recommendation: Probably ages 13+…anyone looking for a different, but sweet, romance.

There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones

Title: There You’ll Find Me

Author: Jenny B. Jones

Published By: 

Synopsis: Grief brought Finley to Ireland. Love will lead her home.

Finley Sinclair is not your typical eighteen-year-old. She’s witty, tough, and driven. With an upcoming interview at the Manhattan music conservatory, Finley needs to compose her audition piece. But her creativity disappeared with the death of her older brother, Will.

She decides to study abroad in Ireland so she can follow Will’s travel journal. It s the place he felt closest to God, and she’s hopeful being there will help her make peace over losing him. So she agrees to an exchange program and boards the plane.

Beckett Rush, teen heartthrob and Hollywood bad boy, is flying to Ireland to finish filming his latest vampire movie. On the flight, he meets Finley. She’s the one girl who seems immune to his charm. Undeterred, Beckett convinces her to be his assistant in exchange for his help as a tour guide.

Once in Ireland, Finley starts to break down. The loss of her brother and the pressure of school, her audition, and whatever it is that is happening between her and Beckett, leads her to a new and dangerous vice. When is God going to show up for her in this emerald paradise?

Then she experiences something that radically changes her perspective on life. Could it be God convincing her that everything she s been looking for has been with her all along? (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

First Thoughts: I loved this novel!

Loves: I loved the side plot with Mrs. Sweeney (Jones just loves her grandma characters, doesn’t she?). I really liked Finley of course, and I thought the romance was very sweet.

Dislikes: The one downside I had was that I found the writing a little stitled at times. Jones’ strength is obviously in wit and sarcasm, and with this being a book carrying some heavier themes, the lighter jokes and sarcasm that snuck in felt out of place and out of character, stilting the story a bit. If the story was a little more lighthearted, I think it would have worked a little better, but with the themes so heavy, it felt out of place to me.

Analyzation:  I really liked it overall. Jenny B Jones is doubtlessly a very good writer and she did an impressive job of capturing anxiety in words. Though I do not struggle with this personally, I found myelf getting anxious and worried as I read, truly able to feel Finley’s emotions. The romance subplot was unexpected, challenging, sweet. I seriously would read romance every day if they were all written how Jenny B. Jones writes hers. 

Cleanliness/Negative Content: No negative content that I recall.

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0

Recommendation: Recommended to ages 13+ and for Jenny B Jones fans for sure.