December 2019: “Christmas Magic” by Alaine Greyson and Marie McGrath in Summary

Summary (Warning: Mild Spoilers):

“Christmas Magic” is a collection of 7 short stories by Alaine Greyson and Marie McGrath focusing on love and family around the holidays in the face of struggle with grief, tragedy, and of course everyone’s greatest enemies: themselves. Each story takes the time to address what it means to be successful, and how the characters’ actions with that success defines them.

As an added bonus, one of the stories by Alaine Greyson is a spin-off of her current Reclaiming Life series, so we get to enjoy characters fans already know and love. Another one of her stories featured acts as a preview to an upcoming release.

Marie McGrath’s short stories center around family and the preservation of traditions around the holidays. These wholesome themes are brought to life with unique, lively characters, each with their own hopes and aspirations.

My Overall Response:

In “Christmas Magic” Alaine Greyson and Marie McGrath took on the task of producing a collection of wholesome Christmas themed stories with a tight deadline against some pretty tremendous personal circumstances. This was the book that inspired me to theme December 2019’s reviews in anticipation of its release. Guess what I learned? Planning, writing, and executing a holiday-themed book with a deadline is hard. Please stand and give everyone at Creative James Media, Alaine Greyson, Marie McGrath, and Brian Paone a round of applause.

With that tight of a deadline, there are going to be mistakes, and I will mention some of them here. I also recognize how AMAZING the turnaround was from when the stories were “done” to when I received my copy of the book.

Now that I’m done explaining that, let me get into some more details on my responses to the individual stories. Many of the stories I really enjoyed – they were the wholesome, sweet, and Hallmark Card style warm fuzzies I imagine readers look forward to using to decompress from holiday stress.

My favorite stories were “Christmas Spirit” and “Paws and Santa Claus”. These are my favorites because they are unique and went against the cliche Christmas Romance stereotype. “Christmas Spirit” really brought out that winter magic that I mentioned being so important to me. It is also a story about mourning and grief during the holidays. “Paws and Santa Claus” brings out the overcoming adversity theme I was looking for, and while there are hints at romance, it is not at the forefront. Enjoyably, it is almost part of a joke about how romance can wait.

I did run into a bit of confusion with the story “The Christmas Locket”. Two major inconsistencies hit me in the story: the main character was both adopted and not adopted, and the family has 5 kids then 6 kids. Only 5 kids are named. In the case of the adopted vs. not adopted issue, it was less of a concern until the mother referenced being pregnant with the adopted child. These sorts of inconsistencies should have been caught, but as previously mentioned this book was on a tight deadline. I imagine a second edition providing clarity.

The other issue I ran into a couple of times was that some of the stories, even ones that I loved, had ambiguous dialogue that could not be attributed to a specific character. This threw me off because I wasn’t sure who was saying what.

Overall, I really enjoyed this collection of short stories and encourage a second, expanded edition to be released next year. I look forward to reading more from both Alaine Greyson and Marie McGrath.

LGBTQA Friendly?
Not mentioned in the book. Does not impact the author’s recommendation, but would not be recommended for LGBTQA book lists.

Grammar and Formatting:
There are a few issues with consistencies (plural pronouns vs. singular pronouns) that do not interrupt the reading experience too badly. This is not terribly surprising given the short turnaround, but the grammar and spelling are otherwise as expected. There are some formatting errors in the book where the font size changes mid-word, but it returns to the original size. This seems like an issue with the formatting program. I would expect that these be corrected with additional time to review for future editions.

Did This Book Bring Holiday Cheer?
Absolutely! 100% – This book brought me holiday cheer and helped me destress. The stories were wholesome, and while some were a bit on the extra-cheese cheesy side for the modern fairytale ending that’s what the holidays need sometimes.

Want to know more about the authors?
The book was published by Creative James Media. You can follow Alaine Greyson on Twitter or visit her website here. You can follow Marie McGrath on Twitter and follow their books on Amazon here. You purchase your copy of the book here.

December 2019: “The 24 Nights Before Christmas” by Rachel S. Bell

Summary (Warning: Mild Spoilers):

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the holidays? Have you ever wanted to take some time to give yourself the greatest gift of all: self-improvement? In “The 24 Nights Before Christmas” Rachel S. Bell takes us on a journey through anecdotes, religious references, and therapeutic thought exercises with each day leading up to Christmas Eve, December 24.

As a brief example of the topics covered she approaches:
-Self Worth and Intrinsic Value
-Goal Setting
-Fulfilling Dreams
-Finding Your Purpose
-The Importance of Friendship
-How Nerd References Are the Best Things Ever And Applicable to Everything

Each day has exercises designed for prayer or for those less inclined for that style method.

My Overall Response:

If you are a Christian, or Unitarian, or a spiritualist of any walk of life that respects good advice regardless of the source, this is a great workbook. I have a friend from high school that knew from an early age that he was called to serve his church and I recommended this book to him to consider for a future workshop.

As a non-Christian, I was thrilled with the exercises and found myself laughing at the funny anecdotes. I constantly connected with the author’s life experiences and the exercises she created. The Bible passages selected were helpful and not the kind of scripture that can be used out of context in a harmful manner. I’m reminded of a phrase I saw a while back:

“Be humble enough to recognize and accept good advice regardless of its source…” ~ Allos of Mr. Lakusu Facebook

I’m not going to quote random Facebook groups at you in these responses.

My point is that Rachel S. Bell created a book primarily for Christian readers that can still reach beyond and touch so many more. I loved it and can’t wait to pass this book along. I highly recommend anyone pick up a copy if you find yourself struggling in dark places.

LGBTQA Friendly?
Not a topic approached in the book. Does not impact the reviewer’s recommendation.

Fantastic grammar. The author is gifted with words.

Did This Book Bring Holiday Cheer?
Absolutely! This book brought levity to some heavy topics that have a tendency to come up around the holidays. That’s quite a hefty task. Bravo!

Want to know more about the author?
You can visit Rachel S. Bell’s website here and purchase your own copy of The 24 Nights Before Christmas here. She’s fairly private and not active on Twitter. I politely request that you respect the author’s privacy and instead show her books all of the love they very clearly deserve.

December 2019: “Boomer’s Criss-Cross Christmas” by Miriam Van Scott

Summary (Warning: Mild Spoilers):
Boomer the kangaroo takes us on a global journey through Christmas traditions on every continent on a hunt to understand what Christmas is. Through this representation of cultures and traditions around the world Boomer brings some of that Christmas magic into you and your child’s heart.

My Overall Response:
Can someone die of cuteness? Die of warm fuzzies? If you need to feel your heart expand and you want to help give your kid a sense of adventure while at the same time fill them with a sense of magic this is probably the book for them. This is a feel good book and in the depths of holiday stress this is exactly what kids and adults alike need.

LGBTQA Friendly?
No representation in this book. Does not impact reviewer’s recommendation.

The grammar is easy to understand for children and easy to read aloud.

Did this story bring holiday cheer?
YES – Additionally, I felt included as a non-Christian. This means a lot to me in a way I’m struggling to put into words other than Thank You.

Want to know more about the author?
To learn more about the author please visit her website at or her Twitter account.

Want to know more about the illustrator?
The illustrator is Bethany Van Scott. I’m unable to find much information on them at this time and will update in the future if that changes!

I wish I knew more about the illustrator because I love these illustrations! The colors, shapes, lines, and presentations are brilliant. I would love to know how to contact them for future opportunities. I love their style.