These Christmas books include humorous pokes at cakes to inspiring stories of both present-day tales of forgiveness and redemption and seeking the peace and spirit of the season.
"THE SNOW ANGEL," by Glenn Beck with Nicole Baart, Threshold Editions, $21, 288 pages (f)
“The Snow Angel” tells the story of Rachel, a woman stuck in a loveless, abusive marriage and bereft of any real hope. Her singular joy in life is Lily, her 11-year-old daughter. It’s a deeply personal story, shimmering with the fragile hope that Christmas stirs within us — the hope for forgiveness, for redemption and in our yearning to be known.
— Scott Livingston
Based on a timeless Bible story, the well-told tale is the story of a contemporary prodigal son. Luke Crisp has every worldly thing he could want, as well as his father’s love. When he heads to school to get an MBA, he meets friends that draw him away from his family. Now, penniless and homeless and deserted by others, he looks to find a way back.
— Rosemarie Howard
"JACOB T. MARLEY," by R. William Bennett, Shadow Mountain, $17.99, 202 pages (f)
Utah author R. William Bennett tells Jacob T. Marley's side of the "A Christmas Carol" in how his life influenced Ebenezer Scrooge and what allowed Marley to appear that Christmas Eve night that put into events that changed Scrooge.
— Christine Rappleye
"CARVING ANGELS," by Diane Stringham Tolley, Cedar Fort, $12.99, 115 pages (f)
Author Diane Stringham Tolley illustrates that divine strength in her character master carver Papa Adam. Once the best of Santa’s toy carvers, when he loses his sight he loses his sense of purpose. His youngest grandchild, 5-year-old Amy, brings him a piece of wood with a request he carve one more thing for her. And Amy won’t accept his blindness as an excuse. It is a delight for readers to watch this endearing pair grow in confidence and purpose together as their talents increase.
— Sheryl C.S. Johnson
“FULL OF GRACE: Encountering Mary in Faith, Art and Life,” by Judith Dupre, Random House, $40, 332 pages (nf)
“Full of Grace: Encountering Mary in Faith, Art, and Life” by Judith Dupre is a stunning book written about one of the most mysterious yet most powerful women in history. Dupre not only created an art book about the Virgin Mary but a history of her as well. One of the most powerful parts of the book is a section titled “Mary’s Many Faces.” In this section is a series of pictures that portray Mary in many different cultural views.
— Shelby Scoffield
“Christmas in Sugarcreek” by Shelley Shepard Gray is a sentimental novel that has a touching yet sappy storyline that will appeal only to a female audience. Part of the “Seasons of Sugarcreek” series, this is a book that pays homage to the Christmas season. Taking place in an Amish community, the story follows Judith Graber, a young woman who always does what she is told but often forgets to take care of her own needs. But when bad boy Ben Knox starts to work in her family store, she starts getting ample amounts of attention from him.
A story of love and forgiveness, Gray paints a stirring picture of Christmas time and the magic it can have on people. — S.S.
"WRECK THE HALLS: Cake Wrecks Gets 'Festive'," by Jen Yates, Andrews McMeel Publishing, $14.99, 232 pages
From the author of the CakeWreck.com blog that features professional cakes gone unintentionally awry is this snarky collection of holiday-theme cakes in a picture book. Not to be taken too seriously, this book includes her signature sarcastic commentary on pictures of cakes that could make you smile. — C.R.
"THE CHRISTMAS CREED," by Ted Hindmarsh, Sweetwater Books, $12.99, 118 pages (f)
In this novel by Utah author Ted Hindmarsh, Dr. Alexander Pennington III is driving home for Christmas — in part to show off his status symbol of a car — when a blizzard forces him to spend the holidays with a sick widow and her three children. It also forces him to rethink his family selfishness. — C.R.
“The Gift,” by Cecelia Ahern is a story within a story about the gift of time. Lou has his priorities upside down — material wealth, fame and power first. His family relationships last. Feeling generous one morning, he offers a homeless man named Gabriel a job, and things begin to change.
The book contains frequent use of offensive language. Drinking and non-marital sex are integral to the story, although not portrayed as acceptable. — R.H.
"MARIAN'S CHRISTMAS WISH," by Carla Kelly, Sweetwater Books, $8.99, 298 pages (f)
In the Regency-era love story by Utah author Carla Kelly, unconventional Marian Wynswich is determined to enjoy this Christmas as it may be the last in their ancestral home. However when her brother brings friends to visit for the holidays, her determination to avoid love may be in vain. — C.R.
"THE WISE MAN RETURNS," by Kenny Kemp, Sweetwater Books, $16.99, 354 pages (f)
One of the wise men who sought out Jesus as a baby returns to Judea to seek his counsel and is surprised to learn he is not king. He follows the rumors of miracles and changed lives because of Jesus Christ as he searches for soul-healing answers. — C.R.
"MIRACLE OF THE CHRISTMAS STAR," by Susan Dean Elzey, Sweetwater Books, $12.99, 169 pages (f)
Sariah's daughter Hannah was born the night a new star was shown in the sky, but she is stricken with palsy. Through the struggles of raising her, Sariah knows she must have faith and hope as she seeks a healing miracle from Jesus. — C.R.
Max Fox is lacking in the Christmas spirit this year. He's out of work, has alienated his parents and he and his wife, Jenny, recently found out they cannot have children. An orphan girl comes to live with them for the holidays and changes everything.
This debut novel by Clint G. Cox of triumph over tragedy and adversity is well-written, despite some predictability. It is a satisfying read that reminds us about the importance of forgiveness, hope and charity.
— Stephanie Abney
"COMFORT AND JOY," by India Knight, Penguin, $14, 230 pages (f)
This is not the typical Christmas story. "Comfort and Joy" tells the story of Clara Dunphy and her rather unique collection of ex-husbands, friends and family as they all share the Christmas holiday and their opinions on a wide variety of topics. This book contains strong language and deals with a number of adult topics. Author India Knight tries to add some warmth by detailing the tumultuous relationships between the main characters. However, even with this it still falls way short of being a feel-good holiday novel.
— Steve Larson