Book Review (and a Giveaway!): Christmas Lights by Kestell, Swanson, Hayman, and Havig

November 18, 2016 April Hayman, Cathe Swanson, Chautona Havig, Christian, Christmas, giveaway, Vikki Kestell 35

about the book

Four novellas in a variety of genres—that’s all they are. Just four stories to quiet your heart and soul as you embrace the beauty of the Christmas season. Inside, you’ll find Vikki Kestell’s historical romance and a reminder that the Lord’s plans are always just what we need. You’ll be introduced to Cathe Swanson’s unlikely romance about a woman who sets out to do one good deed and is drawn into the lives of a cast of eccentric elderly people. You’ll meet April Hayman and her southern madcap mystery featuring an FBI agent, a con artist or two, and a few eccentric elderly people of her own. And you’ll find Chautona Havig’s Christian fiction novella that blends comedy, suspense, with a garnish of romance.

In the hope that through these Christmas stories your heart will be lightened and brightened, we offer you this collection. Merry Christmas! And a happy, light read!

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GENRE: Christmas Novella Collection
RELEASE DATE: October 15, 2016
PAGES: 397

christmas-lights-book-reviewWhat a cute collection of Christmas novellas!  Each one unique, no two stories alike.

In Vikki Kestell’s “The Heart of Joy”, readers are treated to more of Joy Michaels’ story – a young widow who was first introduced in the third book in Kestell’s Prairie Heritage series. This one is the only historical novella in the group and is a tender romance between two longtime friends. Lots of very sweet moments in this one… but if you’re a dog lover and have a difficult time with books like Where the Red Fern Grows or Marley & Me, etc. there are also some moments in this story that might be too disturbing for you to read. Also… I really must know what happened to Joy’s son. Please tell me there’s another book coming up that will answer this question?!? 🙂

Cathe Swanson’s fiction debut “Snow Angels” is a heartwarming, humorous, romantic novella that I could absolutely see made into a Hallmark movie! In fact, if I’m allowed a wishlist for that channel-of-all-movies-Christmas, “Snow Angels” currently is at the top. Vivid characters, the perfect dose of laughter, a nice touch of swoon factor – and a touching reminder that there but for the grace of God go any of us. Swanson’s story is my very fave of this collection, and I’m eagerly looking forward to her novel in the same series which comes out in early 2017.

“Trip the Light Fantastic” by another debut author, April Hayman, is a quirky story about a quirky FBI agent who takes a Christmastime assignment to track down a quirky conman and ends up with more than he bargained for. Even though this is a contemporary tale, it has a certain “Sam Spade Private Eye” vintage feel to it – which I loved! It abounds with … wait for it … quirky (there’s just no better word for them) characters whose endearing and gentler qualities sneak up on you when you least expect it. A few twists seem a tad farfetched but hey – it’s fiction and it’s fun!

Chautona Havig closes out the collection with “Christmas Stalkings”, a blend of suspense, humor, and a dash of romance.  Now… before I proceed farther… Zuzu (my beloved canine sidekick) insists that I issue the same disclaimer about this story that I did for “The Heart of Joy” – that some scenes may be too disturbing for dog lovers to read. But considering that she’s just referring to the copious amount of cats in this novella, take this particular disclaimer with a grain of salt 😉 Wendy is a pleasantly-kooky cat lady who could be any of us really (minus all the cats) and she’s sandwiched between two socially awkward gentlemen as neighbors. Mayhem abounds, Havig-style, so be prepared to giggle a lot in this one too!

Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a nice respite from the holiday chaos, pull up your coziest chair and turn on some twinkle lights and then open up this fun collection and settle in! You’ll go through a range of emotions – from heartbreak to happiness and a little bit of everything in between – but most importantly each story will keep you focused on the most important Christmas Light – the Light of the World. I am especially impressed with the debut novellas in the bunch and look forward to more offerings from each of them in the future!

(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the authors via Celebrate Lit Tours. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)

My Rating: 4 stars / Nice and Christmasy

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about the author

vikki-kestellVikki Kestell is the author of the acclaimed inspirational series, A Prairie Heritage—a compelling saga of family, faith, and great courage. Vikki’s contribution to this collection, The Heart of Joy, asks, “Can true, enduring love happen twice in a lifetime?”

cathe-swansonCathe Swanson: Author of contemporary mystery and romantic suspense, Cathe brings us Snow Angels – an entertaining companion novella and introduction to her upcoming Great Lakes series.

april-haymanApril Hayman: Author of Heirlooms of Deception series, debuts with a novella featuring mystery, humor, and “divine intervention.”

chautona-havig-10-1445157644Chautona Havig: Author of the Amazon bestselling Aggie’s Inheritance, Past Forward, and HearthLand series, Chautona brings humor, stalkings, and stockings to this collection.

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from the author

The Christmas Lights Collection formed in the spring of 2016 with the idea of bringing four novellas together with one unifying theme: light. After all, each author in this collection has one primary focus in life: Jesus.  And in the book of John, He is called the “Light of Men.”

We thought we’d share what inspired our novellas and pray that these books are a delight and encouragement to all.

The Heart of Joy:  This novella is a spin-off story from Vikki Kestell’s Prairie Heritage series and features one of her most beloved characters, Joy Thoresen, from book three, Joy on This Mountain. After three years of widowhood, Joy mourns not only the loss of her husband but the child someone has kidnapped as well.  Only her faith sustains her through difficult days.

Vikki’s goal in writing is to provide FaithFilledFiction to Christians, and this novella is no exception. She worked to show that even amid our sorrow, the Lord brings good, hope-filled gifts to us even when we think we’re not ready for them. She also desired to fill in small, time-veiled gaps in Joy’s story.  The Heart of Joy puts the finishing touches on Joy’s story.

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Snow Angels:  The idea for Snow Angels came to Cathe in slow increments. The idea of using homeless veterans originally prompted research into homeless shelters and programs, but the scope of those became too much for a novella. Still, those characters had stories Cathe wanted to tell, so she continued her research and became increasingly concerned with the plight of homeless veterans—particularly the women. For some reason, we often forget that women serve, get PTSD, and end up on the streets just like the men.

Cathe wanted to combine those realities with other misconceptions that often blind us to the person behind the façade. She wanted to demonstrate how people in otherwise normal lives also can be thrust into situations that trigger PTSD and how those people work through it. Of course, with such a heavy topic, Cathe chose to write the story with a liberal dusting of humor to lighten the mood as you read.

As her debut novel, Cathe introduces readers to characters we’ll see more of in her Great Lakes series and paves the way for her upcoming novel, Baggage Claim, releasing in early 2017.

Trip the Light Fantastic: April has been working on a mystery surrounding, of all things, Shakespeare’s inkwell!  So, when she was invited to be a part of the Christmas Lights Collection, April decided to do an introductory novel to her Heirlooms of Deception series and Lance “Trip” Devereaux was “born.”

April admits to loving another character, Landry, just a little bit more than the others. Yet, he could never be a main character. He’s too much of a rascal and a mastermind, so he works best from the shadows. While this book wasn’t about him directly, it could be about someone similar—someone who works in the light but has lost his way and needs help from God and some new friends. Trip the Light Fantastic is a sideways introduction into a character that April hopes will entertain readers for more books to come.

April set her series in Mississippi where her grandparents lived, so the books are rich in southern manners, mannerisms, and manors!  Well, there’s one plantation belonging to her irascible but charming con-artist.  Watch for a book set at the Crawford house in Spilled Ink, releasing in December 2016.

christmas-tree-1812689_1280Christmas Stalkings: A couple of years ago, Chautona was on a Facebook group and a young woman admitted to having seven Christmas trees.  Intrigued, she named it the “Seven Tree Obsession” and wondered what kind of character would have seven trees—and why.  Well, the more she thought about it, the more interesting it became. After all, what would happen if ornaments got moved around when she wasn’t looking?  Who would do that?  Why?  And what could she add to complicate it?

So, when the opportunity to do the Christmas Lights Collection came, Chautona decided she wanted to do that story.  It seemed easy enough to contain into forty-thousand words.  HA!  But she got in her car, turned on her trusty voice recorder, and in the three-hour trek to her ACFW meeting, she schemed, plotted, and laughed until her sides ached at the ideas she came up with.  Half never made it into the book, of course, but that’s okay. Chautona has a prequel/sequel planned for it.  Lord willing, New Year’s Revolutions will release on December 31.  It’s the “Paul Harvey” version—the “rest of the story.”

While Christmas Stalkings does stand alone, Chautona wanted to explore Neal’s side of things a bit.  So she is. It’ll be the fastest “write-to-publication” she’s ever done, but she just had to try.  So, for NaNoWriMo, Chautona is off to try to figure out what’s up with Neal and why he’s such a crusty curmudgeon.  He’s too young for that!  And maybe, just maybe, he’ll embrace a “new life” in the New Year.

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To celebrate their tour, the authors are giving away a $25 Amazon gift card! Enter via the form below & be sure to comment on this blog post to claim nine extra entries in the giveaway!


Click here to view this promotion.

What about you? What are your favorite kind of Christmas lights? Tiny white? Big colored? The kind that blink on and off?

Follow along with the Celebrate Lit Blog Tour to see what others are saying!


35 Responses to “Book Review (and a Giveaway!): Christmas Lights by Kestell, Swanson, Hayman, and Havig”

  1. Janice Moore

    I love little, white lights that twinkle. If they are bright and solar, so much the better!
    I am so excited to hear about this book!

  2. Sunshine S.

    I like the old-fashioned big bulb Christmas lights! They always inspire childhood memories of celebrating Christmas at my grandparents’ house!

  3. Sylvia Miller

    I love white and colored Christmas lights, but probably favor white. White lights are closer to candlelight I think.

  4. Marylin Furumasu

    I like white lights, but my husband LOTS AND LOTS of colored, some blinking some not, lights. Since he puts the lights on i let him have his fun. He also likes bubble lights that we set up in the house and this year he bought these wall prints that have LED lights in them so it looks like there are lights on in the houses.. UGH …..well he is an electrical engineer so ii guess this is up his alley.??

  5. Winnie Thomas

    I love the white ones, but the colored ones are fun, too. The white ones just seem more serene and peaceful to me, as opposed to the “busier” colored ones. The older I get, the more peaceful I like things to be. LOL

  6. Patty

    I like simple white nights, but my husband is the opposite. We just got married last year, but bought a house this summer and he says be prepared it’s going to be a ‘redneck Christmas’ i’m a little scared!
    He is talking about putting Christmas blowups in the front yard. Not sure what all I knew they were so good I think about us …

    • Patty

      That last part of my comment got a bit mixed up! I meant to say I’m not sure what all of our new neighbors are going to think about us.

    • Carrie

      LOL LOL uh oh… let us know how it turns out 😉 There’s a story in the Christmas Lights collection that has a house with some unusual blowups in the yard haha!

      • Cathe Swanson

        I just loved writing that scene. I got so carried away that I decided to set the Wildes’ house on a corner lot so there was more room for decorations. The nativity scene was especially fun.

  7. dianne casey

    I prefer the tiny wHite Christmas tree lights. I think they are really pretty when sitting in the dark with the lights off and just the tree lights on.

  8. Cathe Swanson

    Wow… thank you for that review. I slept on Cloud 9 last night. It’s scary to publish your first book, and your kind words are indescribably encouraging. Thank you.
    As for lights, I like white lights on our tree because I have such a hodge-podge of ornaments. If they were more coordinated, I might use multi-colored lights, but I love my collection of ornaments. Some were made by the kids or grandkids; most are just things I have collected over the last 30 years. Not very elegant, but special to me. 🙂
    Again, thank you for the review. It was a blessing to me.

    • Carrie

      i think those kind of ornaments are just the best. Elegant trees are fairly boring in my opinion 🙂 And it’s absolutely my pleasure, Cathe! I really and truly loved it and I’m looking forward to the next one from you!

  9. Donna B

    I like both the white and multi colored small lights. I like to have them blinking but not too fast! Thanks for this review and giveaway. I’m looking forward to reading this Christmas Lights collection!


    This looks like a fantastic book ! I love the mini white lights , I love how they look outside especially when it snows ! I always put up multiple strands almost evert place I can find a spot !!

  11. April Hayman

    Tiny white Christmas lights are my favorite and every year I’m outvoted by the boys. They prefer the big, bold, colored lights. Thank you for the review! I’m so very glad you enjoyed it.

  12. Marleen V

    White lights (big or small) and not blinking are my favorite. Although I do cover the inside of our tree in big LED colored lights to give it just hint of color and I do tiny white LED lights all around the outside…it almost drowns the colored lights..but it creates the perfect effect on our real tree every year. I just love staring at it and it might put me in a coma if they blinked :o)

    Great review!

  13. Chautona Havig

    I really LOVE white lights oon everything, but my husband prefers colored, so we have them everywhere and joke that our house is Las Vegas West!

    Thank you for a fabulous review. I didn’t get to post that day because I was traveling and ou got lost in the shuffle. Please forgive me!

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