Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Author Guest Post -- An Amish Harvest

I love these novella collections that come out periodically from some of my favorite Amish fiction authors.  Here is a treat from the newest collection -- a special blog post from one of the authors.  Kathleen Fuller shares about her inspiration for the novella she contributed, A Quiet Love. 

What inspired you to write a particular story? I’m often asked this question, and the answer varies. I find inspiration in a lot of things, but when it came to writing A Quiet Love, my novella in An Amish Harvest, my inspiration was fairly close to home.

First, a little background on Amos, the main character in A Quiet Love. We first meet Amos in my young adult book, Hide and Secret. He’s a burly, sweet fourteen-year-old who is clearly “different”. He’s loved by his family, especially his younger brother Jeremiah and their best friend, Anna Mae. Anna Mae and Jeremiah’s story is continued in my novel A Faith of Her Own, with Amos as a secondary character. By this time, I wanted him to have his own book. More importantly, he needed his own happy ending.

In a Faith of her Own we find out that Amos is autistic. As a special education teacher I’ve worked with a variety of kids on the autism spectrum, and they all have a special place in my heart. I’m positive they have taught me more than I taught them. While Amos’s autism isn’t clearly defined and he didn’t get the education and therapy he needed when he was younger, he still has hopes and dreams, just like everyone else. He loves God, he wants to be happy, and he has a lot of love to give.

My hope in writing this story is to show that we all need to look beyond the surface. Amos and his love interest, Dinah, both have their own issues and challenges (honestly, don’t we all!). But God loves them, just as he loves us all. We are each an individual with a purpose. We make our own unique stamp on the world and on those we encounter. We have love to give and we are worthy love, regardless of the labels society gives us.

Open minds and open hearts bring Amos and Dinah together. The bigger question is: What can an open mind and an open heart do for you?

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Faith-filled historical fiction -- Guide Me Home

When a new Kim Vogel Sawyer book comes out, I don't have to wonder -- I KNOW it will be great.  So I was not surprised that in Guide Me Home Kim crafted an awesome story of of love, family, faith, hopes, and dreams.

As in all Kim's books, the characters are real to life and draw you into their stories from beginning to end, coming across as friends or family you have known all your life.  In Rebekah Hardin she gives us an incredible young woman, devoted to her family and her home in the hills, yet not totally afraid of dreaming of more.  Her sense of loyalty and sacrifice, even at great hardship, drives her beyond her guilt and fears.  Devlin Bale, the college-educated city boy with great ambitions, has plans that are quite different from Reb's, and he has much to learn about what is most important in life.  Tolly Sanford is a hard-working gentle spirit with a healthy dose of Godly wisdom that is valuable to everyone.

The historical aspect of this story adds a fascinating component, and it is obvious that Kim has done her homework on that.  The uplifting emphasis on faith provides a generous level of inspiration.

I highly recommend this books to fans of great inspirational fiction. Thanks to the author for providing a copy of Guide Me Home in exchange for my honest review.

About the Book:

Working in the massive cave might allow Rebekah the chance to bring joy back to her family. But will it claim more than it gives?

After tragedy leaves its mark on Rebekah Hardin’s family, she plans to help her parents and six siblings honor her beloved brother’s memory and alleviate their poverty by working as a guide in the dangerous cave system. Kentucky’s renowned Mammoth Cave presents profitable opportunities in for hardworking, capable men. But Rebekah is determined and if it means presenting herself as a himself, then she’s up to the job. 
Under the wing of experienced guide Tolly Sanford, “Reb” begins to learn the complexities of the cave and the two are joined by an aspiring young cartographer, Devlin Bale.
The university student has traveled to the hill country to map tunnels—not to fall for a girl in disguise. Can the God who designed miles of underground astonishment shape Devlin’s ambitious plans and free Reb from the weight from the past?   

About the Author:

KIM VOGEL SAWYER's titles have garnered awards including the ACFW Carol Award, the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Kim lives in central Kansas with her retired military husband Don. She enjoys spending time with her three daughters and grandchildren.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Intriguing Biblical time period fiction -- The Advocate

The Advocate is quite different from Randy Singer's usual contemporary legal thrillers.  It is historical fiction set in New Testament times, with both real and fictional characters as well as real and fictional events.  It was a story, though, that I found very intriguing.

While the details came from a mixture of Biblical facts, historical facts, and fictional thoughts from the author's mind, the story helped bring to life some of what the world was like where Jesus, Paul, and other New Testament people lived.  Whether or not the Theophilus Luke mentioned in his writings actually came into contact with Pontius Pilate, Paul, or Jesus, imagining the events from his perspective made for a very compelling story.

About the Book:

At the trial of Christ, Theophilus, brilliant young "assessore" raised in the Roman aristocracy, stands behind Pontius Pilate and whispers, "Offer to release Barabbas." The strategy backfires, and Theophilus never forgets the sight of an innocent man unjustly suffering the worst of all possible deaths--Roman crucifixion. Three decades later, Theophilus has proven himself in the legal ranks of the Roman Empire and has an opportunity for redemption. He takes the case of Paul of Tarsus, defending the outspoken apostle in front of Nero, Rome’s cruelest tyrant. Can Theophilus mount a defense that will keep another innocent man from execution? The advocate's first trial altered the course of history. His last will change the fate of an empire.

Veteran lawyer-author Singer (The Last Plea Bargain) uses the idea advanced elsewhere that the Bible books Luke and Acts were written as legal briefs to defend the Apostle Paul against the Roman emperor Nero. The two biblical books are addressed to an enigmatic Theophilus, (a name meaning "lover of God,") and Singer develops a fictional Theophilus, a lawyer who stood behind Pilate to advise him to offer up Jesus Christ to be crucified. Theophilus witnesses the lives of Jesus and Paul unfold, and has to decide based on the evidence whether to join the early movement of Jesus followers and become a victim of the great persecution of Nero. Some of the dialog comes directly from Scripture; other speeches are faithful to biblical characters such as Paul: "The most important thing is not that the letter proclaims my innocence but that it proclaims the good news about the Messiah."

Cross James Michener's great historical fiction with a John Grisham legal thriller, and you've got this epic classic by Singer.

About the Author:

Randy Singer is a critically acclaimed, award-winning author and veteran trial attorney.

He has penned more than 10 legal thrillers and was recently a finalist with John Grisham and Michael Connelly for the inaugural Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction sponsored by the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal. Randy runs his own law practice and has been named to Virginia Business magazine's select list of "Legal Elite" litigation attorneys. In addition to his law practice and writing, Randy serves as teaching pastor for Trinity Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He calls it his "Jekyll and Hyde thing"—part lawyer, part pastor. He also teaches classes in advocacy and civil litigation at Regent Law School and, through his church, is involved with ministry opportunities in India. He and his wife, Rhonda, live in Virginia Beach. They have two grown children.

Visit his website at www.randysinger.net.

Touching story -- The Loyal Heart

Shelley Shepard Gray is an author who does a great job in a variety of genres.  She is a favorite in the Amish fiction category but has also written some great historical stories in a Texas western setting and others set in Chicago during the time of the World's Fair at the turn of the 20th century.

In The Loyal Heart, Shelley takes us back to Texas, soon after the Civil War.  Some of the flashbacks of the story occur during the war itself, with the main story taking place a couple years later.

In this book, as in so many of her others, Shelley uses her gentle style to tell a touching story of hurts, friendship, love . . . and of course, loyalty.  Miranda is a hurting woman who discovers she is much stronger than she ever thought possible.  Robert is a man who has experienced almost every side of life and has come out with a rare wealth of character.  The other characters all come to life in amazing ways to fit into this engaging story.  And I also found one of the things I enjoy about well-written historical fiction -- a chance to learn some details about history that I didn't know before.

I highly recommend The Loyal Heart to fans of great inspirational historical fiction.  Thanks to Shelley for providing a copy in exchange for my honest review.

About the story: 

Robert came to Galveston to fulfill his promise to a dying man and look after his widow. He didn’t expect to find love in the unlikeliest of places.

Robert Truax, former Second Lieutenant and Confederate officer in the Civil War, made a promise to his comrade Phillip Markham. If anything happened to Phillip, Robert would look after his beloved wife, Miranda. She was his life, his world, his everything.

After the war, Robert is left to pick up the pieces and fulfill his pact. When he arrives at Miranda’s home in Galveston, Texas, things are worse than he imagined. Phillip’s name has been dragged through the mud, everyone in town believes him to be a traitor, and his widow is treated as an outcast. Even more disturbing is her emotional well-being. Miranda seems hopeless, lost, and so very alone.
Robert had thought his duty would be simple. He would help Miranda as quickly as possible in order to honor a promise. But the moment Robert laid eyes on her, his plans changed. He’s mesmerized by her beauty and yearns to help her in any way he can.

He makes it his duty to protect Miranda, turn her reputation around, and to find some way to help her smile again. But it doesn’t prove to be an easy task—Robert knows something about Phillip that could shake Miranda to the core and alter her view of the man she thought she knew so well.

About the author:

Shelley Shepard Gray is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers' prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner.  She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town's bike trail.

You can find Shelley online at her website and on Facebook.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Fantastic story -- Fraying at the Edge

Cindy Woodsmall's Fraying at the Edge is a fantastic second installment in her Amish of Summer Grove series.  It picks up right where the story of Ariana and Skylar left off at the end of Ties that Bind.

Cindy once again uses her personal understanding of the Amish culture and master storytelling skills to pen an intriguing tale, one where Old Order Amish and Englisch lifestyles overlap in very complicated ways.  The fascinating characters drive the story at just the right pace as they each learn their own lessons about love, forgiveness, and personal beliefs.  The type of questions about God and man-made rules add an engaging element somewhat different from many other Amish stories.

Fans of great Amish fiction should enjoy this series by Cindy Woodsmall.  This is one where it is important to read the books in order, so be sure to check out Ties that Bind first.  I can't wait to have some dangling loose ends tied up when the next installment comes out.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for providing a copy of Fraying at the Edge in exchange for my honest review.

About the Book:

Family, community, faith, and love.  These “quilt blocks” sewn together made Ariana’s beautiful life.  When they are pulled to pieces, will anything familiar remain?

The Old Order Amish life Ariana Brenneman loved vanished virtually overnight with the discovery that she was switched at birth twenty years ago. Now she’s immersed in the Englischer world, getting to know her mother and under the authority of her biological father, an atheist intellectual with resolute plans to expand Ariana’s worldview. Only Quill Schlabach, a childhood friend living Englisch, can help steady Ariana’s tilting ground between the two worlds, but can she trust him after so many betrayals?

At the same time, Skylar Nash is forced to choose rehab or spend several months with her true relatives, the large Brenneman family and their seemingly backward life—no electricity, no technology, no fun. What the young woman can’t leave behind is her addiction to illegal prescription drugs and deep emptiness from the belief that she doesn’t belong in either family.

New ties are binding Ariana and Skylar to the lives they were meant to have. Can they find the wisdom and strength they’ll need to follow God’s threads into unexpected futures?
Fraying at the Edge is the second novel in The Amish of Summer Grove series.

About the Author:

Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times and CBA best-selling author of numerous works of fiction and one of nonfiction. Her connection with the Amish community has been featured widely in national media. She lives in the Foothills of the North Georgia Mountains with her family.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Moving story -- The Promise Of Jesse Woods

The Promise of Jesse Woods, a moving story by Chris Fabry, is only the second I have read by him, and it was an awesome confirmation of what a great writer he is.

The story spans the years between 1972 and 1984, with elements from both ends of that time period alternately filling in important details. The characters -- so well developed -- drive the story at a perfect pace for you to feel the deep emotions as they play out toward the finish, a finish that you can't be sure of until you're there. 

Make sure you have plenty of time to read when you start this one; you won't want to put it down!

Thanks to Tyndale Publishers for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the Book:

The summer of 1972 was the most pivotal of Matt Plumley’s childhood. While his beloved Pirates battle for back-to-back World Series titles, Matt’s family moves from Pittsburgh to Dogwood, West Virginia, where his father steps into the pulpit of a church under the thumb of town leader Basil Blackwood. A fish out of water, Matt is relieved to forge a fast bond with two unlikely friends: Dickie Darrel Lee Hancock, a mixed-race boy, and Jesse Woods, a tough-as-nails girl with a sister on her hip and no dad in sight.

As the trio traipses the hills and hollers, Matt begins to fall for Jesse, and their promises to each other draw him deeper into her terrifying reality. One night, the wrath of the Blackwoods and the secrets of Jesse’s family collide, and Matt joins Jesse in a rescue that saves one life and ends another . . . and severs the bond of their friendship.

Years later, Matt is pulled back to Dogwood and to memories of that momentous summer by news of Jesse’s upcoming wedding. He could never shake the feeling that there was more to the story of that fateful night, and he’s determined to learn the truth behind the only promise Jesse Woods ever broke.

About the Author:

Chris Fabry is an award-winning author and radio personality who hosts the daily program Chris Fabry Live! on Moody Radio. He is also heard on Love Worth Finding, Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, and other radio programs. A 1982 graduate of the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism at Marshall University and a native of West Virginia, Chris and his wife, Andrea, now live in Arizona and are the parents of nine children. 

Chris's novels, which include Dogwood, June Bug, Almost Heaven, and Every Waking Moment, have won three Christy Awards and an ECPA Christian Book Award, but it's his lyrical prose and tales of redemption that keep readers returning for more. He has also published more than 65 other books, including movie novelizations, like the recent bestseller War Room; nonfiction; and novels for children and young adults. He coauthored the Left Behind: The Kids series with Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, as well as the Red Rock Mysteries and the Wormling series with Jerry B. Jenkins. RPM is his latest series for kids and explores the exciting world of NASCAR. Visit his Web site at www.chrisfabry.com.

Conclusion of a series -- The Restoration

Wanda Brunstetter concludes her Prairie State Friends series set in Arthur, Illinois, with The Restoration.  This final book brings together all the characters and events from the series and wraps up several ongoing story lines.  

The close friends who are the main characters in this series all learn important lessons about love and "find themselves" through various experiences.  Some elements of the story provide a fair share of twists and turns, leading up to outcomes you can't be sure of until the end.  Others, though, seem to wrap up a little quickly.

All in all, this was a good story that Amish fiction fans should enjoy.

Thanks to Wanda and her publisher for providing a copy of The Restoration in exchange for my honest review.

About the Book:

Dive into an Amish country love triangle in this third book of the Prairie State Friends series. Priscilla Herschberger finds herself pursued by Elam, a childhood friend from her community, and David, an outsider raised in the modern world. Elam would do almost anything to convince Priscilla that David would never fit into the Amish way. Will flames of jealousy rage out of control and ruin lives? Can forgiveness allow love and trust to grow?

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author Wanda E. Brunstetter and her husband live in Washington State but take every opportunity to visit friends in  Amish settlements throughout the States.