Just hear those sleighbells jingling…

A Christmas Story a Day, by Louise Richards

264 pages

Self-published on October 27, 2017

Amazon | Author’s Website

A Christmas Story a Day is an Advent calendar for the reader with twenty-five stories that inspire, amuse and warm the heart. Join MaryAnn as she humorously prepares for her family dinner, Bobby, as he navigates Christmas of Cleveland past, a treetop angel, as she and the ornaments bring peace to a bickering family, a misguided town as an angel redirects their path and a choir as it prepares for the yearly choral extravaganza. Follow as Karen finds Christmas in the eyes of her newborn grandchild, Daisy as she goes to the ball, Moira and J.D.’s journey of trust, a little boy who finds his voice and a wondering soul who stops wandering. Read how Henry Wadsworth Longfellow finds comfort amidst his despair, Pepita learns of Christmas love, an old man pays a debt, a police sergeant experiences a Christmas miracle, the author remembers times of Christmas past and Carol opposes materialism. Celebrate the miracle of the Christmas Truce, a man with special needs who finds the love of a fur friend, God as He prepares three stars to play their part, and an old bell ringer’s answered prayer. Ponder a message brought by a quail, solace in the light, the redemption of a shepherd, curious animals who welcome the newborn King, and three ships that appear on Christmas day. Cozy up with a cup of hot cocoa as you celebrate the joy and simplicity of the season of wonder.

Twenty-five stories for twenty-five days of Christmas – it’s an adorable concept and sure to delight anyone who revels in the yuletide spirit, especially if you enjoy the religious side of the holiday. The stories are short and sweet, and the writing has that cozy, simplistic, fairytale feel that goes nicely with a cup of tea. There are some small proofreading errors, but nothing more serious than a missed comma here and there. In short, A Christmas Story a Day is a fluffy, Hallmark-style treat for the holiday diehards among us.

I was captivated

Worldwielder, by JM Vaughan

410 pages

Published on July 30, 2017 by Aeternal Books

Amazon | Goodreads | Author’s Website

Melissa Mabrey isn’t like other sixteen-year-olds. From the time she was four, she’s been able to see the colors of people’s minds, colors that reveal to her their true feelings, desires, and fears. She’s only met one other person who’s like her—her best friend Kyle. But two years ago, Kyle mysteriously disappeared, and she hasn’t heard a word from him since.

Until today. In a book carried by a stranger, Melissa finds a desperate plea for help from Kyle. Following his clues, she’s hurtled from our world into the Gallery, a gateway to millions of worlds. Each world is entered through a painting, and each has a different “pull” on the minds of its occupants. There are pulls that make people grow calm in the face of peril, or flee from shadows in terror, or kill each other, or forget things forever.

But for Melissa, there’s nothing scarier than the unknown, and now she must traverse countless perilous worlds to find Kyle, fending off ruthless barbarians, the Gallery Guard, and her friend’s captors. Along the way, she’ll discover the truth about what she and Kyle are—a truth so terrifying her life will never be the same.

Worldwielder is nothing short of phenomenal.

Vaughan has woven one of the most creative and enthralling fantasy worlds I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. I’m not even sure how to begin explaining everything I loved about this book – do I start with Melissa, who isn’t a Strong Female Character™, but an actual strong female character complete with fears and flaws and the badassery to face them? Or do I start with the rest of the characters, major and minor alike, who all wrenched at my heartstrings in one way or another? Or maybe the writing itself, which was superlative – full of luxurious description without being overwritten, and so evocative that the most dramatic of the twists and turns made my heart start beating a little faster.

On top of everything else, this book avoids every YA trope and pitfall that tends to drive me nuts. No shoe-horned romance, no info-dumping, no nonsensical, unruly magic system, and no shying away from putting the characters in actual danger with actual consequences.

Look, I’m running out of adjectives, so I’ll keep it simple: Worldwielder is a breath of fresh air in the YA genre, and I cannot recommend it enough.

Where Sexy Jesus meets UFOs

The Book of David: Chapter One, by Robert Kent

153 pages

Published on June 23, 2016 by Middle Grade Ninja Press

Amazon | Goodreads | Author’s Website

The Walters family has just purchased the perfect home if only it weren’t located in the small hick town of Harrington, Indiana, and if only it weren’t haunted. David Walters is an atheist now, but his minister father taught him from a young age that Satan would one day deceive all mankind by pretending his demons were extraterrestrials. The day the Walters family moves in, they spot a flying saucer outside their new home. Things only get stranger from there. David Walters is about to learn what it means to be truly haunted, forcing him to confront his past, fight for his family, his soul, and his sanity.

Now this is how you start a serialized story.

This first installment in the five-part horror novel The Book of David is actually quite light on horror, but deliciously heavy on the suspense. The writing is rich and evocative, and it drew me in so deeply that when I turned the final page an audible “what no” escaped me because goddammit I wanted more. Kent introduces a wealth of mystery in this novella without making it feel like an info-dump. Couple that with the wonderful writing that made me care for David and company immediately, and Chapter One is one hell of a cliffhanger (pun perhaps intended). I’m itching to pick up the next chapter and see how quickly it evolves into the horror genre – the author obviously has a way of building a mood and I’m very curious to see how creepy it can get.

If irreverent Biblical UFO horror sounds like it’d be up your alley, please give this book a shot – and don’t be surprised when you reach for the next installments.