Reviewer: Jessica Sichel
“Christmas” is a collection of four short stories written by Marcia Lee Laycock. “Missing Christmas,” “No Matter How Far,” “An Earthly Treasure,” and “An Unexpected Glory” are rather different from each other and each has a different take on the miracle and wonder of Christmas. Yet, all of the stories share the common theme of God as provider, whether the needs of the characters are physical, emotional, or financial.
In the first story, “Missing Christmas,” self-centeredness overwhelms the main character. Due to an unfortunate event, she and her husband are unable to attend Christmas with distant family as previous planned, leaving the unnamed narrator feeling very sorry for herself. However, towards the end of the story she is shown an unexpected kindness and says, “The sight…filled my soul with a light that made me forget about myself.” The wonder of Christmas wins over the narrator.
Next, Laycock tells the story of a man in desperate straits who almost gives in to the physical stress his body undertakes in, “No Matter How Far.” Help comes in various forms and in the end, the sequence of events, along with his background, propels him towards finding answers to certain questions.
The third story, “An Earthly Treasure,” is a little out there – literally! It is a science fiction tale which takes place in space and shows how, even when we are physically and mentally very far from where Jesus wrought miracles, God works anyway, crossing immeasurable boundaries.
The fourth story – and my favorite – is “An Unexpected Glory,” a classic tale of overcoming the desire for Christmas to be perfect. The mishaps which befall the characters are all too well known by many. When things seem to be falling apart all around, God can and does work all things for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
Laycock has a talent for storytelling and shows her versatility in the variety of genres, settings, and characters within this little collection. One story seems to have a more existential feel, while another is heart-warming, and a third is science fiction. When picking up a compilation of Christmas stories, one might expect a more traditional, consistent set of tales. Instead, Laycock modernizes Christmas by setting her stories in what seem to be present – and in one case, is actually future – scenarios. Furthermore, the characters themselves are rather approachable, feeling and thinking things that a reader may very well think for him or herself. Laycock does a good job making connections between the reader and her characters.
There are a few flaws in the tales, such as in the fourth story when a baby is given medication for an unknown ailment instead of being taken to a doctor for evaluation. The medication causes the child to sleep, which is not necessarily a sign of healing. This incident leaves a disturbing feeling in the mind. Also, some of Laycock’s characters could be made a little less flat, with more information or background being given about them. These are, however, short stories, so some brevity in such areas is to be expected.
Overall, for a different take on the traditional fireside short story, “Christmas” would be a good choice. Happy reading!
Reviewer: Cierra Loften
Everyone who knows me knows I love everything about the holiday season. The festivities, the decorations, the food, and of course, the real reason for the season: celebrating the birth of Christ. So, when I saw the title of Laycock's collection of 4 short stories, I decided to pick it up. The cover gets right down to the point of what the stories are about (the birth of Jesus) and the author bio on the back is also simple and lovely to look at. The cover earns an 8 from me. There were four separate stories, with their own respective characters, though, overall, I didn't really connect with the characters in any of the stories. I found them a tad boring, though they weren't awful by any means. I'll offer a 6 for the characters. Each story's plot was fairly simple and fairly interesting, though none of them really struck my interest for very long. Plot earns an 8 from me. Style wise, I can tell Laycock has been writing for quite a while. Her ideas flow very well and she does a wonderful job of closing each story. Style earns an 8. Unfortunately, when it comes to addictiveness, I really had a difficult time finishing these stories. As mentioned above, I didn't find them that intriguing and that made it hard for me to want to keep reading at times. Addictivenes earns a 4. Ending on a positive note, the stories were inspirational and did a beautiful job of capturing the peaceful, loving essence of Christmastime. Content earns a 10. Overall, Christmas earns a 4 star rating from me.
Reviewer: Beverly Wallin
Love, Lies and Consequences (Book II) - Through Thick and Thin tells us exactly that. The pregnant heroine, Raegan, doesn't listen to her fiance's proclamation of love for her, whether or not the baby is his. This book shows that Christians aren't perfect, which I find more interesting than those who have perfect characters.
When the second chapter switched to another couple entirely, I lost a little interest, however it soon became clear the women were friends. Afterwards, I was drawn in and had a hard time putting the book down.
Overall, this was a really good book. The author teaches us to be open, honest, and willing to make compromises, especially in intimate relationships. I would recommend it to couples of all ages and religions.
Reviewer: Mary Hosmar
Joe Peas is a complex man. The Italian itinerant house painter is much more than he seems. Mr. Newsome has taken what seems to be a simple story with a simple hero and turned it into a convincing and interesting character study of both Joe Peas and human nature.
Although I found the introduction of new characters in almost every chapter in the first part of the book somewhat mystifying and confusing, I kept reading.
Eventually, it all came together into a good story which made the reading effort very worthwhile. The characters are well developed, interesting and believable although some of the situations they found themselves in were hard to imagine.
The author, being a medical doctor himself, brings in a lot of medical (and at times, legal) information, some of which, although informative, was too long and
detracted from the story.
I was disappointed towards the ending. It seemed as if the author was in a rush to tie up loose ends, some of which might have been better left for the reader to
wonder about. The rush to finish the story left this reader with a dissatisfied feeling. The last part of the last chapter, however, brings the story back to the
beginning and is a fitting way to end.
Reviewer: Jane Daly
This book was a well-written novel of young love and the way it can blind us to the truth. It kept me guessing until the end. I love to read a book with such deep characters and a story that could very well be happening around me.
Reviewer: Valerie Jackson
The book starts out stilted and full of clichés and awkward exposition. About 1/3 into the book the conversational style abruptly improves during the job offer phone call. At the halfway point the author was really getting her feet under her and by the end I was paying less attention to the style of writing and more to the problems of the primary characters, Simone and Aaron.
I found the characters' lives a little too perfect, both spiritually and financially. I would have loved to seen their struggles on stage rather than learning about their problems almost solely through character introspection. Simone is a sweetie with a sure sense of self, by the way. Anyone would love to have her for a friend.
This is, I believe, the author's first published inspirational novel. As her storytelling develops more skill and depth of character, she is easily a writer to watch.
Reviewer: Laura J. Davis
This Road we Traveled by Jane Kirkpatrick is a story of determination, hope, and faith that God will provide no matter how bad things get.
Tabitha Brown (known as Tabby) is determined not to be left behind as all her children decide to pick up and leave Missouri for Oregon. Her son, Orus, doesn't want her to come because of her age and her lame foot. She would, quite simply, be too much of a burden to them. But Tabby doesn't take orders from her son and with his Uncle John, she gets her own wagon, a driver, and oxen and with her pet chicken Beatrice, they set out on the Oregon Trail.
The story is true, which makes it all the more interesting. What happened to them on the trail is a testament to the strength and determination of the men and women who paved the way to a new frontier. While the story seemed to drag at times, it soon redeemed itself by picking up the pace and creating a story rich in history. The author is known for her excellent research and it shows. I had never heard of Tabitha Brown before I read this book and about the impact she had in Oregon. This should be required reading in schools. If you like historical fiction you will like this book.
Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Reviewer: Michelle Dennis Evans
This is a sweet story about 14-year-old Bethany who is in a terrible car accident killing both her parents. With a severely broken leg, Bethany is unable to dance. At times the characters seemed older than 14 and some of the conversations didn’t ring true to a teenager – this could be because they were rich ballerinas and possibly more mature than the average teen. Great book for teens to see through Bethany’s eyes, what it might be like to lose everything valuable to you. Her grief journey shows the wide range of highs and lows that are very real when someone close to you dies.
Reviewer: Ofilya Silver-Launza
Tears to Dancing was a good read, with relatable real-life circumstances. This book definitely reached into the readers heart and tugged out emotion for the characters. Absolutely loved the ending! It's a must read!
Reviewer: Mary Hemlow
Anyone who has ever been responsible for a teen will appreciate the scenario in this novella. A missionary father who has been forced to return from the field in Kenya because of his errant daughter, makes an attempt to reconnect with her through their mutual enjoyment of fly fishing. It's difficult not to admire the father's patience and tenacity in the face of his daughter's disrespect. The comparison between his thoughts about what he wants to say to his daughter and what he actually does say adds a richness to his character. A smoothly depicted account, it was difficult to put down due to my curiosity as to whether the relationship would be restored. A well told story of sacrificial love, would recommend to readers in relationship with teens or to anyone who has felt unloved.