Home for Christmas: Stories for Young and Old compiled by Miriam LeBlanc

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ If you want Christmas stories that capture the season without being syrupy, this book is for you.

🖋 🖋🖋🖋🖋 The writing is consistently good in every entry, and many authors show they are not afraid to show a sad situation before showing the goodness.

Authors:  Henry Van Dyke, Pearl S. Buck, Beatrice Joy Chute, Ruth Sawyer, Elizabeth Goudge, Selma Lagerlöf, Rebecca Caudill, Madeleine L’Engle

Published October 5, 2021 by Plough Publishing

ISBN: 9780874860313

Genre: Fiction, Short Story Collection, Holiday Stories, Christian Fiction

🔪 Some stories occur in poverty scenes with stark imagery, or feature threats of violence that aren’t carried out.
💋 No sex scenes, little romance.
🚩 🚩 🚩 🚩 🚩 A Trigger Warning: this book has references to alcoholism, sex with masochistic dialogue.

Christmas is a time that inspires many, and makes them reconsider just what they think about God (and more particularly, Jesus). For writers willing to lean into the questions that the season brings up, Christmas stories can convict as well as inspire. This collection includes twenty acclaimed Christmas stories from authors in different cultures and periods. From stories about Christmas in gritty urban environments (“Transfiguration” by Madeleine L’Engle) to historical tales set in Siberia (“The Guest” by Nikolai S. Lesskov) to fantasy stories about supernatural encounters (“The Cribmaker’s Trip to Heaven” by Reimmichl), these stories show Christmas in its many shades and environments.

Christmas books, like Christmas songs on the pop station, often lean so far into sentiment until they become silly and insubstantial. This collection aims for quality over sentiment, collecting pieces from many different decades (some going as far back as 1910, or the last 1800s). Famous Christian authors like Madeleine L’Engle are included, as well as more obscure ones like Henry van Dyke that are worth rediscovering. This gives the book a very diverse feel, and not all of the stories are for young children. However, the Christmas themes of generosity, beauty out of chaos show up in every story in some way, showing how Christmas’ core message and ideas truly resonate across social classes, generations and locations.

Quality storytelling makes this book that very rare thing: a Christmas story collection worth not only reading once, but poring over multiple times. Many readers will even find that it’s a book worth reading throughout the year.

Reviewed by G. Connor Salter

G. Connor Salter is an award-winning journalist, freelance writer and storyteller. His short story series “Tapes from the Crawlspace” is available to watch on YouTube, as are various pieces published by Tall Tale TV. He has published over 300 book reviews in publications like Aphotic Realm and The Waynesdale News. He will read anything once, but prefers thrillers, fantasy and horror.

Annabel Lee by Mike Nappa

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ If you like suspense and mystery novels, you’ll like this book.

🖋️🖋️🖋️🖋️ The plot was predictable at times, but altogether enjoyable even when I knew what was coming.

Published March 1, 2016 by Revell

ISBN: 9780800726447

Genre: Fiction, Suspense, Supernatural Suspense

🔪🔪🔪🔪 There are many deaths, though few are gruesome, and at least one dog attack.

Leonard Truckson was always a secretive man. Annabel knew he had secrets. She also knew she was one of those secrets. Why else would he need a German Shepherd trained to eat fingers?

None of that really prepared her for the day he woke her in the middle of the night, told her to get dressed, and brought her out to where that dog lived. She also wasn’t prepared for him to pull a  lever next to the dog house that revealed a secret bunker. She was least prepared to be locked in that bunker with that dog with the strict orders to not let anyone in unless it was him and he said the safe code.

Trudi Coffey and Samuel Hill had once been married, but his covert missions had put stress on their relationship and led to a divorce. So, when he shows up asking for a book he gave her years ago, she knows something is up. She’s even more suspicious when Dr. Jonathan Smith shows up and questions her as one used to receiving answers.

Driven by a need to discover the truth about Dr. Smith and the strange clues Leonard Truckson left in his absence, Trudi finds herself wrapped up in an intense plot involving the CIA and other secret societies. Soon, what began as a desire to know the truth becomes a race against Dr. Smith to get to Annabel first.

This is a binge-worthy read. Nappa has a wonderfully unique style and tone that plays into the way he crafts mysteries and characters.

Reviewed by J. J. Hanna

J. J. Hanna is a writer from Littleton, CO. She has a B. S. from Taylor University in Professional Writing, and has worked in various roles in the publishing industry including literary agent, freelance writer, virtual assistant, and publicist. Her favorite genre is suspense, but she also enjoys Fantasy and SciFi. Connect with her online @authorjjhanna and http://www.authorjjhanna.com.

This review was originally published March 25, 2019.