Ornaments of Love – Holiday Contest Winner

Holiday Book Contest Winner

Today’s Featured Author and Book

Ornaments of Love

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Book Description:

A touching Christmas story with glowing illustrations, Ornaments of Love is a story to cherish for years to come. A beautiful tale of Ayana, an endearing ten-year-old who excitedly anticipates that special time of year when the entire family joins together to decorate and admire the Christmas tree. But sadly this year is different. Ayana realizes that her mom and dad are far too busy with everything else to enjoy the tree with Ayana. Then, something unexpected happens and the family is brought together with tenderness and joy. Filled to the brim and overflowing with charming moments, gentle humor, and timeless illustrations, this beautiful story is a wonderful reminder of what’s important not only during the Christmas season, but every day of our lives. Ornaments of Love is destined to become one of your favorite holiday stories. One that will remain in your heart forever.

Coloring Book Description:

This beautifully designed coloring book is a companion or stand-alone book to the original Ornaments of Love picture book. It contains not only the complete story of Ornaments of Love, but also provides 21 full-size coloring pages for artists of all ages. The Ornaments of Love coloring book was created to bring families together at Christmas time. It provides families a perfect way to reduce holiday stress by spending quiet time coloring pages that showcase angels, bells, stars and much more. Coloring pages range from easy to difficult, perfect for all family members! Additional complimentary coloring pages are available to print online with the purchase of the coloring book. Make this a special gift for your loved ones by also purchasing the original ‘Ornaments of Love’ picture book with full color illustrations.


Notes: 

Sharlin Craig’s Ornaments of Love is a heartwarming children’s book about one family’s Christmas, illustrated by Helen Monwuba. Ayana is a young girl who is very excited about decorating the Christmas tree with her parents, but they seem to be too busy to help her. Disheartened, she is left to put the ornaments on the tree herself. Ayana then watches from afar over the next few weeks as her parents rush to do everything to prepare for Christmas, except spend time with her. Then, the family dog knocks the tree over and breaks all of their precious ornaments, leaving Ayana and her parents to piece together their fond memories and experience true Christmas joy together.

Despite being a bit sad at first, Ornaments of Love is an adorable book for children. Sharlin Craig’s story is simple and straightforward, but still manages to tug on the heartstrings. It exhibits the importance of spending time with family around the holidays, and also includes some touching memories that any family or child could relate to. Helen Monwuba’s illustrations are very nice as well; they are simple and not overdone, but are still expressive and have a very classic look to them. Paired together, the story and illustrations are just delightful.

Ornaments of Love is a great book to read together as a family, whether it is Christmastime or not. It is a charming little story with a great moral behind it, and may even inspire the readers and their families to take their own little strolls down memory lane together, too.

Originally critiqued by the Authors Talk About It team.


Sharlin Craig

Sharlin Craig, a Detroit native who now resides in southern California with her husband and daughter, is dedicated to writing inspirational children’s books that touch the spirit of her readers. A graduate of Oakland University, she’s taught music to children for several years while also writing music and lyrics. She’s combined her love for children and writing into authoring her debut children’s Christmas picture book, ‘Ornaments of Love’.

Sharlin believes that with the right surroundings and daily encouragement, children are boundless. She’s passionate about helping children feel understood and empowered through her books and hopes that her stories make them smile.

Learn more at SharlinCraig.com.

 


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Peace and Love,

Rob and Janelle

 


Doors are open for the 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest! Deadline is 9/30/17

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You get more than just an entry into a contest!  All entries that earn at least 3 Stars get promotion, too!

Are you ready for the chance to be an award-winning author?  

Yes!  Excellent!

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Mistletoe and Horsehoes – Entered in Holiday Contest

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Juliette Douglas

Mistletoe and Horseshoes by Juliette Douglas is an imaginative Western story that takes place on the snowy border of Canada. The headstrong and stoic Jolene takes us into a little town where she finds love, herself, and what the spirit of Christmas truly means.

Jolene is a compelling character and her history as an abused prostitute as well as her jail-time make her a stand-out character in a genre that can be very masculine. She is dismissive, drinks whiskey, and is not afraid to trek through the snow with her faithful horse. However, this all unravels when she agrees to marry Emmett Foster, a man she has known less than two days. There is no real development into the relationship and while both bond over their shared jail-time, the relationship is not convincing which was a pity as Jolene is so unique.

The lack of development could be because the story is only thirty pages. One stylistic problem is that Douglas uses the adjective “hazel” more than twelve times to describe Jolene’s eyes but very little else about her. And so the reader is left with a romance between two characters that is built on . . . criminal conviction?

That being said, the theme of “Christmas miracles” influences the story and in turn the accelerated romance. The birth of a baby in the stable and Emmett’s festive spirit give the story a Christmas feel and a happy ending that is perfect for this season.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Twelve Days to Save Christmas – Entered in Holiday Contest

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Jane Finch

In Jane Finch’s holiday tale, Twelve Days to Save Christmas, the town of Berryfield is bracing themselves for another drab Christmas. Their mayor, a Scrooge-like man who does not believe in Christmas spirit, and has banned it entirely. When Jane and her magical friend, Mary, set about decorating the offices of Grange Solicitors for the festive holiday, the grumpy mayor retaliates by banning family pets in all of Berryfield. It is up to Jane and her friends to change the mayor’s mind, and bring festive cheer back to Berryfield, once and for all. 

Twelve Days to Save Christmas is a bit of an odd book to categorize, because it is not immediately clear what age group it would cater to. The magical elves and abundance of Christmas spirit would suggest that it is a children’s book, but it seems far too wordy and slow-paced to adequately entertain a child. Its narrative seemed a bit slow, too; there were often long-winded, sometimes confusing passages that seemed to do little to advance the plot.

Nevertheless, Twelve Days to Save Christmas is a charming holiday story. Its plot seems familiar, but wonderfully unique at the same time. Jane Finch’s use of descriptive language is vivid and diverse, spinning a creative tale about the importance of Christmas cheer. It’s an incredibly innocent story, but with something in it for anyone to enjoy. Twelve Days to Save Christmas is a great laid-back, easy read to help you get in the mood for the holidays.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Truls and Trine: A Christmas Story – Entered in Holiday Contest

4 Stars

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Anita Hager

An adorable Christmas story by Anita Hager, Truls and Trine – A Christmas Story is the 16th book in her Be the magic you are series.  With full-color images throughout, parents and young readers alike will enjoy a cute tale of two trolls and their Christmas Eve adventure.  Truls and Trine are a brother and sister pair, who enjoy a sweet friendship with their human friend, Jenny.  Though the pair are friends with Jenny, they were unsure of what Christmas was.  Jenny explained to them why people add colorful lights to their Christmas trees and about Santa Claus.  Truls didn’t want to believe in Santa Claus, but Trine was quite willing to believe in the fanastical story of a jolly man in a red suit delivering presents to children around the world.  Before the night was over, Truls discovered the truth about Santa and his reindeer.  

Overall, Hager’s Truls and Trine – A Christmas Story is a nice little holiday story – even one that could easily be read as a bedtime story.  There were definitely a few cliche moments from Truls not believing in Santa and having to experience it for himself to him, Trine and Jenny ultimately saving Christmas.  At the same time, the storyline offers a few twists and turns to a basic plot that has been nearly overdone.  Truls and Trine – A Christmas Story is a quick and fun read that places a focus on friendship and family without any religious undertones.  It could use another round of proofing and readers may wonder what happened with the snowball at the beginning, but overall it’s well worth grabbing a copy and sharing the young trolls tales with a young reader. 

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Ornamental Graces – Entered in Holiday Book Contest

4 Stars

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Carolyn Astfalk

Ornamental Graces by  Carolyn Astfalk is a romance novel that explores some tough topics. There are themes surrounding faith, lust, death, abortion and the callings of the heart. With the beautiful, yet vulnerable, Emily and the pitiable Dan, we are given a strong romance that shows the path of two characters and how they finally get the ending they both deserve.

Being a Christian romance novel, there is a focus on the emotions of the characters rather than steamy love scenes. That being said, many of the “dates” and romance sequences are predictable and feel clichéd. There are rolls around in the mud, picnics in classrooms and fun in the pool. It sometimes reads like a culmination of romance films, and this is a pity as there is something wonderfully honest in the love between Dan and Emily. That being said, this book’s “sweet” factor may work with readers who are looking for a quintessential romance story.

The real winners of Ornamental Graces are the characters. Dan is a broken man who slowly begins to heal both with Emily and with his renewed faith in God as well. He is well developed, and by the end, female readers will no doubt appreciate this softer male character. The inclusion of Emily’s family, as well as significant events around Christmas time, add a level of warmth to this novel which ties it up nicely. Astfalk’s good writing will hold your attention and the book has been well edited.

Overall, Ornamental Graces is a sweet romance that will give readers a real study of emotions and how love can grow despite distance, heartache and emotional struggle. It pits two passionate characters against each other in a romance that sometimes feels hopeless. Through prayer, patience and a lot of private moments, we are met with a love story that will make its readers smile.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Twelve Spirits of Christmas – Entered in the Holiday Book Contest

4 Stars

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Kathryn M. Hearst

Twelve Spirits of Christmas is Kathryn M. Hearst’s second novel about Tessa Lamar, a Cherokee woman who uses her psychic abilities to assist the Orange County Police Department. In this adventure, Tessa is trying to unravel the mystery of a dangerous serial killer who uses lyrics from the carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas” to choose his victims. It isn’t as easy as she would have hoped, especially while managing a hectic jumble of colorful family members, a steamy romance, and her newfound mystical abilities. Her time is limited, though, and she must race to catch the killer before he has a chance to finish the carol. 

Twelve Spirits of Christmas is an odd mix of things that don’t usually go together (Cherokee folklore, crime drama, and Christmas, to name the obvious ones). It’s a little difficult to wrap your head around in the beginning; for a good amount of the novel, the plot seemed to be all over the place. Thankfully, as the story progressed, it did begin to be easier to follow. 

Once you get past the oddness of the plot, Twelve Spirits of Christmas is actually an excellent book. Kathryn M. Hearst’s characters are simultaneously believable and extraordinary, which made them very entertaining to read about. Her style of writing is full of imagery and quirkiness, while still maintaining the sense of suspense and mystery that keeps pages turning. Twelve Spirits of Christmas is a bit different, to be sure, but it is definitely a great read.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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A Campy Christmas – Entered in Holiday Contest

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Karen Musser Nortman

A Campy Christmas is the sixth book in Karen Musser Nortman’s A Frannie Shoemaker Camping Adventure series. Frannie and her husband, Larry, are disheartened at the prospect of spending Christmas alone. Their loved ones are all busy, and they are left to endure a quiet, undecorated, and lonely holiday. The Shoemakers’ mood lightens, however, when they are invited on a holiday camping trip alongside their close friends, the Ferrarros. All seems to be going well, until a sudden snowstorm leaves them stranded on their campground, bringing many more unexpected dilemmas along with it. 

A Campy Christmas, while unique, is not a very exciting read. Its long-winded explanations of characters irrelevant to the plot of this book makes it weak as a standalone piece. Perhaps it would fare better to a seasoned fan of the series; however, a newcomer may not find much to be impressed with. There was also far too much detail put into the characters’ frivolous actions; the redundant, “She did this, then she did this” narrative became exhausting as the novella progressed. 

Despite its rather poor development, A Campy Christmas was charming in its own humble way. It is different than most holiday stories in that the focus of the plot remains on the characters, and not in suffocating the reader with oppressive Christmas everything. The holiday themes were certainly present, but not overdone. Karen Musser Nortman’s characters were also delightfully easy to relate to, which made A Campy Christmas feel more down-to-earth and believable. A Campy Christmas is not a thriller by any means, but it is a warm and simple seasonal novella that certainly gets the holiday excitement flowing.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Treasury of Bizarre Christmas Stories Entered in Holiday Contest

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Fiza Pathan

Treasury of Bizarre Christmas Stories by Fiza Pathan is a collection of original short stories with Christmas as their focus. Pathan has tried to bring old Christmas charm to stories that are a little different from the usual light-heartedness we link with the festive season. She has included references to popular hymns, Christian stories as well as nods to traditional Christmas tales which would make it a great read this festive season.

However, the main problem with Treasury of Bizarre Christmas Stories is that they are not bizarre. While there are some unique stories like “Island of Christmas, “where Jesus flies a helicopter to save a man from a deserted island; they are not memorable. There are ghosts, witches, and murders, but only because Pathan was trying to give us something new. She was able to bring strong Christian values throughout the stories, and that will ring well with readers. However, the target audience is unidentifiable, and the stories are very formulaic.

 Treasury of Bizarre Christmas Stories is written in a very ‘old style’ with the use of phrases such as “poppycock “and “mammy” throughout the stories.  While this could be a nod to Charles Dickens (who Pathan quotes in the beginning), it adds a heaviness to the text drowning out the imaginative stories. This is a real pity as Pathan has some great stories hidden among the stylistic issues which make this collection almost difficult to finish.

Overall, Treasury of Bizarre Christmas Stories tries to give us a twist on what a Christmas story should be. There is a blend of Christmas cheer with bizarre circumstances that trickle across the 14 stories.  It is a nod to the old while bringing new stories forward. Sadly, the stories are not “exciting “enough to make their way into your Christmas stocking this year.

Originally critiqued by the Authors Talk About It team.

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Ornaments of Love Entered in Holiday Book Contest

4 Stars

Click here to get your copy!

Sharlin Craig

Sharlin Craig’s Ornaments of Love is a heartwarming children’s book about one family’s Christmas, illustrated by Helen Monwuba. Ayana is a young girl who is very excited about decorating the Christmas tree with her parents, but they seem to be too busy to help her. Disheartened, she is left to put the ornaments on the tree herself. Ayana then watches from afar over the next few weeks as her parents rush to do everything to prepare for Christmas, except spend time with her. Then, the family dog knocks the tree over and breaks all of their precious ornaments, leaving Ayana and her parents to piece together their fond memories and experience true Christmas joy together. 

Despite being a bit sad at first, Ornaments of Love is an adorable book for children. Sharlin Craig’s story is simple and straightforward, but still manages to tug on the heartstrings. It exhibits the importance of spending time with family around the holidays, and also includes some touching memories that any family or child could relate to. Helen Monwuba’s illustrations are very nice as well; they are simple and not overdone, but are still expressive and have a very classic look to them. Paired together, the story and illustrations are just delightful. 

Ornaments of Love is a great book to read together as a family, whether it is Christmastime or not. It is a charming little story with a great moral behind it, and may even inspire the readers and their families to take their own little strolls down memory lane together, too.

Originally critiqued by the Authors Talk About It team.

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