Books That Changed Me—2021 Winter Edition! @JanSikes3 @JoanHallWrites @JacqBiggar @Sandra_Cox #writingcommunity #mustreads #fivestarbooks

snowy driveway
Our shed on a snowy day ten years ago.

Winter has arrived with the shortest day of the year. The icy air permeates the walls, and there is nothing quite like cuddling under a blanket to read during the long nights. The busy holidays are here, but I still carve out that time to lose myself in a wonderful story.

It’s always hard to pick three or four books from the many I read and enjoy, but these stories have left me changed after reading them. They introduced me to a new world, and I fell in love with the characters. I want to visit some of these places. They are books you can’t put down, and so good you forget you are reading. They put you right into the story.

Here are my choices this time around. I’m sharing the blurb and my review that has been on my blog before but is worth showing again. These are books to curl up by a warm fire and sip hot chocolate or mulled wine.


New husband, new house, new town… and a new mystery to solve.

Tami Montgomery thought her police chief husband was going to be the only investigator in the family when she gave up her journalism career and moved with him to Madeira, New Mexico.

But after the historical society asks her to write stories for a book celebrating the town’s one-hundred fiftieth year, she becomes embroiled in a new mystery. If she can’t solve this one, she could lose everything. Her research uncovers a spate of untimely deaths of local law enforcement officials. Further digging reveals a common link—they all lived in the house she and Jason now share.

Tami isn’t a superstitious person, but the circumstances are too similar for coincidence. Then she unearths an even more disturbing pattern. And if history repeats itself, Jason will be the next to die.

My Review

I read the prequel to this story, “House of Sorrow,” and loved that, so I was eager to read the first book in the Legends of Madeira Series. Jason and Tami Montgomery left Driscoll Lake for Jason’s new job as the town’s police chief in Madeira, New Mexico. They buy the house that was in the prequel and quickly settled into the small, mostly welcoming town. It was nice to see characters from the Driscoll Lake series, but unnecessary to have read those books to appreciate this story. I enjoyed Jason’s growth and how he approached his new job. Tami immediately made friends and got involved in the town’s historical society that was doing a book on the town’s history.

Tami, who had been a journalist, jumped right into her part of researching past police chiefs. She soon found herself looking for more answers as she dug deeper into the murder mystery of two of these chiefs. I loved the characters, and Madeira was a place I’d like to visit. Many subplots were woven in that added an extra depth to the story. Tami was a favorite character, as was the neighborhood’s stray cat, Oscar. There was a mystery to be solved, and it appeared Jason was in danger. I had a few guesses and changed my mind more than once, but finally, by the end. I realized who it was, but not why. I love the use of legends, history, and psychic abilities mixed in with well-rounded characters and a mystery that goes back over one hundred years. This is a nicely paced read that I can highly recommend.



Will a Christmas wish bring two lonely hearts together and give a little girl the family she’s always wanted?

Single parent, Grace Donovan arrives in the small town of Emerson with the hope a trial program at the local cancer clinic will be the answer to prolonging her young daughter’s life. She doesn’t expect to fall for her handsome boss.
As principal of Emerson Elementary, Kyle Roberts is aware of the students’ medical issues and his heart goes out to little Cassie Donovan and her mother. When he learns Grace needs a job, he fabricates a childcare program, and is pleasantly surprised by its success. Now, if only he could help Cassie’s recovery and get Grace to give him a chance before she learns of his duplicity.
Cassie Donovan barely remembers the father who died when she was just a toddler, but she does know her mother is sad. Even though Cassie wants a puppy more than anything, she gives up her wish to ask for a daddy from Santa Claus, that way if she gets sick again, Mommy won’t be alone.

This Christmas, two families are brought together by a Christmas wish and a child’s need for a miracle.

My Review

“Love Me” is a wonderful holiday read about a mother and her daughter fighting cancer. Grace and Cassie move to a new town to try an experimental treatment, and luckily an anonymous donor covers the expenses. Grace finds a job at Cassie’s school while Cassie finds a new best friend. I love how the story is told from both the mother and daughter’s POV. Cassie wants a puppy for Christmas, but she decides her mother needs a companion if something happens to her. It’s a story that tugged on my heart, thinking about a little girl battling for her life when she should be playing and having fun. Her strength and caring shine throughout the story as a powerful symbol of love, and the mother, having lived through so much loss and heartache, keeps going for her daughter. I could feel the emotion behind Cassie because her character is based on an amazing young girl on social media who is fighting this battle. This was a heartwarming romantic story that didn’t back down from the reality of childhood leukemia. I highly recommend this!



A modern day, shapeshifting sheriff.
He’s the sheriff of a sparsely populated county in Montana. His blood brother and childhood best friend is Chief of Police on the Blackfoot Reservation, but they no longer speak. His deputy is a southern transplant with the body of a high-priced call girl, a voice of honey and mouth of a trucker. And if that’s not enough, he’s got a secret that would stun those that know him best. Other than that, it’s business as usual for Sheriff Mateo Grey.

My Review

“Mateo’s Law” is an exciting paranormal, western romance that I read in two sittings. It is set in a small town in Montana, where Blair moved to join the force as a deputy. She is in a long-distance relationship but is attracted to the sheriff, Mateo. When something attacks a town resident, they investigate it together, but Blair is unaware of Mateo’s secret of being a shapeshifter. I love it when Mateo is in his alternative form, and I felt his freedom. The scenery is lush and the town a place I’d want to call home. Blair and Mateo have great chemistry, conversations, and working relationship. I was definitely rooting for Blair and Mateo and hope more stories are coming with these characters. If you love a paranormal page-turning romance, you won’t want to miss this!


Mountain Laurel Christmas

by Jan Sikes


Orphaned, his family torn apart by tragedy, Cole Knight has come a long way from a ramshackle miner’s cabin on the side of the Cumberland Mountain.
Daring to follow an impossible dream, he’s made it big in the music business. Now, he’s a country music sensation with a huge house, fancy cars, plenty of willing women, money, and adoring fans. He should be on top of the world. Instead, he’s drowning in a swirling pool of self-contempt and relentless guilt.

It’s easier to lose himself in a bottle than face the hard truth…he hasn’t delivered on a promise he made to his father.

It’s almost Christmas, and the sting of failure drives him back to that tiny cabin in the mountains. But has he waited too late to put the shattered pieces back together—to find himself and restore a lost family?

My Review

“Mountain Laurel Christmas” is a perfect holiday read. Cole Knight has gone from having everything taken from him as a child to becoming a huge country star who has everything. Yet, the emptiness from when he was a young boy can’t be filled with money, fame, or drinking. One night, Cole is overwhelmed and ends up at the place where he grew up. It’s here he searches for what’s missing and begins his journey to healing. The detail to the setting and music brought the story deeper, making me feel like a friend was sharing their story with me. Although a quick read, it is a reminder of what is important, especially during the holiday season. I highly recommend this heart-warming story that can be enjoyed any time of the year.


This is my final blog of the year. Happy Holidays!


47 thoughts on “Books That Changed Me—2021 Winter Edition! @JanSikes3 @JoanHallWrites @JacqBiggar @Sandra_Cox #writingcommunity #mustreads #fivestarbooks”

    1. It had to be here, Joan I can’t wait for more to come 🙂 You definitely have some good reading ahead of you!

  1. I am deeply honored to find Mountain Laurel Christmas sitting here with these fabulous authors! Thank you, Denise. I know I am going to have a very hard time picking my Top Ten this year. I have read some really great books in 2021! Thank you for sharing! Great selection!

    1. It was a story that had to be here, Jan 🙂 It is so hard to pick from all the good books read. We are lucky to be a part of such a talented community! Merry Christmas!

  2. I’ve read all but one of these, Denise, and they were all exceptional. I’m familiar with the work of all of these authors and think you made great choices!

    1. You can’t go wrong with any of them, Jacqui. 🙂 I think they would all make good holiday reading. Merry Christmas!

  3. I always enjoy seeing your book recommendations, Denise. If they aren’t already on my tbr list, I make sure they get added. Thanks so much for sharing!!

  4. What a lovely surprise, Denise. Thanks for including me with this awesome group of authors. I’ve read Jacqui’s–purrfect for the season–heartwarming Christmas story and am intrigued by Joan and Jan’s. So many books. So little time:) Thanks again and Happy Holidays. scoxoxo

    1. Thrilled to include Mateo here, Sandra. I still would move to that town 🙂 Jacquie’s was definitely a must-read holiday story just like Jan’s. You can’t go wrong reading any of these. My reading list is long and if I just had more time…I could finsh it…lol Happy Holidays xo

    1. Thank you, Beem. I feel lucky to be a part of such a talented group of writers in our community. Merry Christmas!

  5. Thanks so much for including my holiday novella with these amazing writers Denise! You hooked me with your review for Mateo and I have Jan’s on my reading list. I’m currently reading- and enjoying- This Second Chance.
    Merry Christmas!

    1. It was such a heartwarming story, Jacquie it had to be here 🙂 I hope you enjoy Mateo and happy thrilled to hear you are reading This Second Chance. I can’t wait to share the new covers for that series in the new year. Merry Christmas! xo

  6. Wonderful selections and great reviews, Denise. Thank you so much for sharing. Having a very very Merry Christmas. 💗

  7. Excellent selections and fabulous reviews, Denise! You’ve had a busy and rewarding year reading books from the talented authors. Have a wonderful Christmas! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Priscilla! Yes, that’s the best part of reading when you take away more than just a story. Happy holiday to you and yours too!

  8. Hi Denise! Well, my blog reading and supporting blog authors has taken a bit of a hit with the holidays, but I’m happy to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Jan’s novella, and just remembered to review it on Amazon. And I’m now reading Teagan’s Journey 11. So…one book at a time. 🙂 Happy Happy Holidays.

    1. Yes, I agree rhe holidays slow us down as we focus on family and loved ones. Jan’s story was a great read mixed into that. One book at a time is right. I’m getting back into it. Happy reading, Pam.

  9. Excellent reviews and congratulations to Joan. Jacquie, Sandra, and Jan! I already have a copy of Jan’s book, and “Cold Dark Night” has caught my eye. Thanks for sharing Denise. Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    1. Thanks, Mark! You have some good reading ahead with those stories on your TBR list! Wishing your family the very same 🙂

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