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on December 6, 2013
I adored this Christmas story and I learned the history behind some holiday traditions and songs as well.
Character development and storyline were excellent elements of this faith building, heart warming story. Young Jimmy Reed had really lost his faith due to the loss of his father, but this Christmas season, he shared some eye opening revelations with a little help from his friends. But would it be enough for Jimmy to open his eyes as well as his heart?

I realize it is very difficult to write a Christian themed book and balancing the Christian aspects without the reader being offended and feeling like those aspects are being crammed down the reader's throats. I feel that Ace Collins achieved that precarious balance with his writing of The Christmas Star. Those Christian aspects were indeed crucial to the story created, as Jimmy had been brought up in a home filled with faith. Sometimes as with Jimmy's story, it's hard to hold onto that faith when something as big as losing your dad to a war occurs. And sometimes it takes a culmination of Christmas miracles to rebuild the hidden faith we still keep in our wounded hearts. This is a very well written book and it touched my heart deeply.
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on December 4, 2012
A portion of a review from my blog, The Reader's Commute:

It should be noted that this was one of the first books I've read that has had strong religious themes. I admired the way these themes and ideas were presented and I thought that the right information was weaved into the story as it progressed. However, I'd just like to focus on the story without delving too much into these themes; rather, I'd like to focus on the writing, storyline, and character development.

I'm a fan of post-war stories centered around families, and I love small town settings. Collins has peopled his town with a diverse, pleasant cast of supporting characters: Audrey, the honey-haired friend and potential love interest for Jimmy, Calvin, the poor farmer / bus driver bent on doing good, and Mr. Miller, the wealthy general store owner - all of these characters add heart and depth to the story.

Jimmy, as a main character, is interesting enough. He's clearly deeply affected by the loss of his father, and his insecurity and sadness shows in his demeanor. In the first few pages, the reader is introduced to Jimmy as a character who could care less about Christmas, presenting a gruff outward appearance. We see Jimmy reaching for a cigarette, not caring if he gets kicked out of school.

However, that persona dissolves rather quickly as events unfold. For three years, Jimmy has been dealing with the death of his father, and has probably "acted out" for the majority of that time. While reading this book, it felt like Jimmy's personality transitions too quickly. He's too quick to befriend Calvin, who Jimmy usually tries not to sit near on the bus for fear of getting his ear chewed off. He's too quick to start believing in the "hope" that Calvin describes to him. However, I tried not to let this bother me as I continued to read; I chose to ignore the Jimmy from the start of the book and instead focus on the Jimmy who wants to "be good."

As a writer, I grappled with the number of adjectives used in this story. The descriptions left very little to the imagination. In the introduction of the general store, I learn that brass bell mounted on the door is "two-inch wide, round." I learn that the door is "sixty-year-old heavy leaded glass and oak" (26). I've written before about the problems of "showing" and not "telling" in a work. When a writer only "shows," there's very little for the reader to imagine. It's as if all the work's been done for us! This can also be seen in the dialogue that follows on page 27, when Mr. Miller offers Marge a box of Christmas lights:

"I'd love to have them," Marge softly replied, "but I couldn't afford to buy them...""Marge," Miller's tone was now scolding, "I'm not trying to sell you the lights. I'm giving them to you. Take home a box tonight..."

It's easy enough for the reader to determine, from the dialogue chosen, that Marge is resisting the offer of the lights. It's easy to determine that Mr. Miller is insistent from the way he says "I'm not trying to sell you the lights." So why do we need "softly replied" and "Miller's tone was now scolding?" Let us as readers figure that out for ourselves!

I really enjoyed the robbery plot within the story. As Jimmy struggles to decide between "right" and "wrong," I was left guessing what the outcome of events would be. There were many plot twists within the story that kept me on my toes. Ultimately, the final twist Collins throws our way was not necessary in my eyes, as I feel the characters were in a good place without it; the inclusion of this twist in the final pages felt silly to me. Despite any issues I may have had with the construction of the story, The Christmas Star was a light-hearted holiday read that kept me entertained on my commute. I'm looking forward to sharing the story with my family, too.
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on November 17, 2012
Ace Collins in his new book, "The Christmas Star" published by Abingdon Press takes us into the life of Jimmy Reed.

From the back cover: Can the broken heart of a child be healed by an unexpected Christmas letter?

Robert Reed gave his life for his country in the early days of World War II. His sacrifice was honored when his widow and son were presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor. Each Christmas, the final decoration Marge Reed hangs on the family's tree is that medal. Rather than being a symbol of honor for young Jimmy Reed that shining star represents loss, pain, and suffering.

Yet a message delivered by one of Robert's fellow soldiers and a mystery letter found in a Bible put a father's sacrifice and faith into perspective and bring new meaning to not just the star hanging on the Christmas tree but the events of the very first Christmas. Then, when least expected, a Christmas miracle turns a final bit of holiday sadness into a joy that Jimmy has never known.

Ace Collins seems to understand the trauma you receive when you are a teenage boy and your father dies. It seems your whole world dies with you. And you have no idea of how to deal with that pain so you lash out at the world and that only gets you into trouble. That is exactly what is happening to Jimmy Reed. It's been three years since his father died in World War II and he is not improving. However there are individuals in his life who want to see him healed of his pain and set out to do exactly that. Mr. Collins throws in all kinds of sub-plots that keep the story moving briskly however the focus is on Jimmy. Through Mr. Collins' excellent writing skills we come to understand Jimmy and want him to be healed from his almost crushing pain. We rejoice when he rejoices but I am not going to give away major plot points. You are just going to have to read this book. I guarantee you will really enjoy it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Abingdon Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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on November 27, 2012
The Christmas Star
By Ace Collins

Jimmy Reed is angry - angry at God, angry at Christmas. But in his opinion his anger is justified, after all his father was killed in action and everyone else's is coming home.

Three years ago Robert Reed was killed in the Philippines Since then life has lost something for Jimmy and Christmas is just a reminder of what he has lost. But this year, Jimmy is going to get even with Christmas, if only he can remember to forget who his father was.

But friends are reaching out to Jimmy, teaching him about the man his father was. But Jimmy made a choice and is now regretting his rash decision. Jimmy doesn't know who to turn to or how to get himself out this mess that he has become entangled in.

When Jimmy discovers an old letter from his father his life is about to change. But will he allow a message, written years ago, to heal his heart or will it drive him further into despair?

But Robert Reed's life touched more people than Jimmy ever realized. Two days before Christmas a solider tells Jimmy a different story about how his father died. Robert died trying to save kids from Japanese bombers.

Christmas 1945 is one that Jimmy won't soon forget as he rediscovers hope! The Christmas Star is a story that will touch your heart. You will hurt with Jimmy as he struggles to come to terms with who he is and who he wants to become. The Christmas Star will warm your heart and give you hope as Christmas comes to Ash Flats and the Reed household.

I received a copy of this title for the purpose of this review, but all opinions expressed are my own.
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on November 26, 2012
Some really good Christian points are brought out in this story. Dealing with the aftermath of his fathers death, Jimmy, is struggling. He is one angry boy and getting into trouble.
Love how Calvin, his school bus driver, is sent at just the right time to meet Jimmy. What a man, who is living his faith. We also travel with Jimmy as he decides to help a group of thieves rob his Mother's boss.
We wonder what is going to happen to this family. Did enjoy the discovery in the family Bible.
What I really had a hard time with was the ending. It was very unbelievable and was not really explained at all.
This is a cute Christmas read that shows some really great Holiday Spirit.

I received this book from the Publisher Abingdon Press, and Pump Your Book Virtual Tours, and was not required to give a positive review.
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VINE VOICEon December 3, 2012
This book seems like one of those famous moments you get from a Christmas card. The story is about a teenaged boy, Jimmy, who lost his father in WWII. The fact that his country awarded his father the Medal of Honor posthumously seems to be causing Jimmy resentment. Jimmy and his mother have had a tough time ever since. Money is short. They can only afford the essentials. Jimmy is growing increasingly bitter and is starting to act out. He is even getting involved with some real criminals. It will take a lot of faith and a Christmas miracle to keep him from going so far down the wrong path that he will totally lose his way. I found the book entertaining in a naive sort of way. I thought the author could have ended the book before the last chapter pushed it a bit over the top. This book provided for review by Abingdon Press.
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on December 4, 2013
This is a delightful historical novel to read at the Christmas season.

It's a few days before Christmas, 1945. Jimmy Reed and his mom are going to have to celebrate Christmas alone. Jimmy's dad had been killed in the early days of World War II. Jimmy struggles with the loss, pain and anger. His work in high school is falling. He's beginning to run with the wrong crowd.

By God's grace there are people in Jimmy's life who try to help him get on the right path. Like the school bus driver who has hardly anything to his name yet so freely gives what he does have. And then a fellow soldier stops by to tell Jimmy of his father's heroic actions.

Jimmy begins to realize the true meaning of Christmas and the real sacrifice his father made. But Jimmy has made some bad decisions. Is there any way he can get his life back before it is too late?

This is a great Christmas story, complete with a miracle at the end. Collins is at the top of his form with this novel. The characters are so real you feel like you know them. The small town of Ash Flat, Arkansas is brought to life through the wonderful people living there. Reading this novel was like taking a journey back in time to a simpler place, a place where people cared for each other and helped each other out. A truly heartwarming story.

Discussion questions at the back make this a great choice for a teen reading group.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
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on December 10, 2013
When I began reading The Christmas Star, I wondered what sort of story is was… I mean, Christmas is supposed to represent family, love, peace, joy, happiness…

Maybe so… but not many books are written about a happy, joyful season. Instead we read about a young boy desperately trying to raise money to buy his mother a special gift before she dies… on Christmas Eve. Another story is It’s A Wonderful Life, where George (our hero) is contemplating suicide.

These stories don’t represent the lives we wish we lived, they represent the lives we find ourselves living – illness, death, bankruptcy, war – but somehow we survive, usually a little stronger than we were before.

Christmas is a time of hope… hope for the future, hope for the joy and happiness we search for all year.

This story is a wonderful example of how a young man copes with the loss of his dad at Christmas time…

Young Jimmy begins to rebel after the death of his dad, but with the love of his mom and the support of his community, he just might find a little hope… enough to make the right choice.

I don’t want to give away anything else, so I’ll let you read the book for yourself. Read it. You’ll be blessed.
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on March 8, 2013
Jimmy Reed is a teenager, still grieving over his father's death after he's been gone for three years. This has put a heavy burden on his mother and they don't have much money to work with now. Even though Jimmy's father died a hero and was awarded a Medal of Honor, one they hang last on the Christmas tree each year, he still doesn't feel any better because of it. In fact, it makes him even angrier. What's worse is his dad is gone and the rest of the soldiers are coming home, which leaves Jimmy choosing to hang out with the wrong kids and getting into trouble because of his anger.
I like stories that take place during this time, yet sometimes it's not always happy such as in this book, and as I said above, Jimmy decided to get into trouble with some bad kids/the wrong crowd, rather than try to get over his father's death in a more constructive way, but at that time, was there really such a thing as counseling available back then? Not really.
A soldier brings Jimmy a letter before Christmas and he learns how his father really died, which brings great joy to him. Christmas now has a new meaning for him, and he changes his life accordingly.
This book has a strong Christian theme, too, which did make it go well with the season.
For myself, being female, this book was hard for me to get into, and it wasn't one I really enjoyed all that much because I couldn't get into it, but I think others will like this story a lot more than I did only because it's something I usually don't read. I would recommend this book, but for 'me', it was just one I was not crazy over. However, just because "I" had a hard time getting into this book does not mean you won't. I would still rate this book a good 4-star book as it will appeal to a large audience. In this instance, it's 'just me'.
I believe this book will appeal more to young boys/teens/male adults, perhaps more so than women. I received this book for FREE from Abington Press through NetGalley in exchange to read and write a review about it. It is NOT required for this review to be either positive or negative, but of my own honest opinion. "Free" means I was provided with ZERO MONIES to read this book nor to write this review, but to enjoy the pure pleasure of reading it. I am disclosing this information in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255,[...]
Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
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on December 22, 2012
It's December, 1945. All over the country, something special is in the air. The war is over, families are reunited. It really is "Peace on Earth." The first two paragraphs are a great description of the excitement as children pour out of the school building on the final school day of the year. But in the third paragraph we meet a sixteen year old in ill-fitting clothing with no reason to be happy. He acts tough, but inside he's hurting. His family hasn't been reunited; his father won't be coming home. Now his mother works hard just to keep food on the table, while everyone in town calls his father a hero. This is Jimmy Reed, and he doesn't care that his father posthumously received the Congressional Medal of Honor; he just wishes his father had never gone to war.

The Christmas Star had me hooked from those opening paragraphs. As the story developed, it reminded me of both It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol. It's a nostalgic look back at a magical time. I could see it unfolding like a black and white movie, to be watched while the snow falls outside. We have the troubled young man possibly heading into a situation with no way out, the good girl he wants to impress, bad guys, the random farmer with a tale to tell, and a humble bus driver with reasons of his own for disliking the season but who has chosen a different path to take.

If you're looking to escape the hustle and bustle of a commercial Christmas and have a hankering for the Christmases of times past, I heartily recommend this novel. I read the e-version of it in one evening, so it won't take long but it will stick with you.

I downloaded my free copy of The Christmas Star from Abingdon Press on the NetGalley website. I was under no obligation to write a review.
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