Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Heart-Tugging Love Story -- A Home in Drayton Valley

A dream of a better life...
A tragedy aboard a wagon train...
A tentative agreement...
Will it lead to love for two seeking hearts?

Hoping to escape the poor conditions of 1880 New York, Tarsie Raines and her friends Joss and Mary Brubacher and their two children set off for Kansas aboard an unusual wagon train. But when tragedy strikes on the trip across the prairie, Tarsie is thrown into a partnership with Joss that leaves them both questioning God and their plans for the future.

As their funds dwindle and nothing goes as planned, will they give up and go their separate ways? Or will God use their time in Drayton Valley in a way they never expected?

My Thoughts

Another reviewer has said, "Sawyer treats readers to love stories that speak to the heart."  I wholeheartedly agree with that assessment . . . and it perfectly describes A Home in Drayton Valley!

From the very beginning of the story, I fell in love with Mary and with Tarsie, but not so much with Joss.  In fact, there were times I even hoped the fates of the individual characters would turn out differently than they did.  But as the story progressed, Kim carefully crafted the plot in such an engaging way that I was caught up in longing for the best for each person as they learned lessons about life and love and God's directions.

The harsh realities of life sometimes brought a tear to my eyes, and the sweet pleasures brought a smile to my lips.  Whatever turns the story took, my heart was touched, and I wasn't really ready to end this journey with the new friends I made along the way.

The last few times I've read a book by Kim Vogel Sawyer, I've thought, "but she still hasn't topped In Every Heartbeat."  Now . . . well, I'm not sure I'm ready to make a call on that one.  Something I am sure of is that I highly recommend A Home in Drayton Valley.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for providing this book free of charge in exchange for my honest review.

Kim Vogel Sawyer is the author of nineteen novels, including several CBA and ECPA bestsellers. Her books have won the ACFW Book of the Year Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Kim is active in her church, where she leads women's fellowship and participates in both voice and bell choirs. In her spare time, she enjoys drama, quilting, and calligraphy. Kim and her husband, Don, reside in central Kansas, and have three daughters and six grandchildren. She invites you to visit her Web site at for more information.

A Christmas Trio -- Christmas in Apple Ridge

The Amish community of Apple Ridge is a place to discover anew that even though life doesn’t always look the way you might expect and pain can’t help but color our actions…love may just be around the corner, just in time for Christmas!

Experience the holidays with the Plain folk of Apple Ridge, Pennsylvania, in these touching novellas centered around love, romance, heartache, and restoration from best-selling author Cindy Woodsmall.
Christmas in Apple Ridge is a three-in-one collection that includes The Sound of Sleigh BellsThe Christmas Singing, and an all-new story, The Dawn of Christmas.

The Sound of Sleigh Bells
Beth Hertzler is unable to let go of a past tragedy, but when she discovers a large, intricately carved scene of Amish children playing in the snow, something deep inside Beth’s soul responds. Determined that her niece meet the gifted artist, her aunt tracks him down, but it’s not that simple – will Jonah be able to offer Beth the sleigh ride she’s always dreamed of and a second chance at real love?

The Christmas Singing
Mattie thought her childhood sweetheart adored her until he abruptly ended their engagement on Christmas Eve. Brokenhearted, Mattie moves away and pursues her longtime dream of becoming a cake decorator, and even finds a new beau. But when Mattie is forced to return home three years later, will learning the truth behind Gideon’s rejection restore her Christmas joy – or open the door to even deeper heartbreak?

The Dawn of Christmas
Sadie enjoys her freedom away from home and her mission trips to Peru, but after four years, her Old Order Amish family insists it’s time to come home and settle down. Levi, a bachelor who distrusts women after a family heartbreak, also has no desire for romance. To keep their families from meddling in their lives, Sadie and Levi devise a plan—but soon discover that the walls around their hearts are breaking down. Can they let go of their prejudices, learn to trust each other, and embrace a future together?

My Thoughts:

What could be better than an Amish Christmas story by Cindy Woodsmall?  How about three Amish Christmas stories by Cindy Woodsmall?

As always, Cindy quickly draws you into touching stories in the lives of Old Order Amish characters.  In each of these stories there are struggles related to some kind of heartache from the past mixed with the chance for romance and joy in the present and future.  Obstacles often appear too big to be overcome, but special things always seem to come together at Christmas time.  Although these novellas do not have to be read as a series, it is fun to see characters carry over from one story to the next.

Cindy has such a heart for authenticity in her stories, and her love for the Plain people shines through in this trio of stories as it does in everything she writes.  I would highly recommend this collection for anyone who is a fan of Amish fiction or of feel-good Christmas stories in general.

If you have read the first two stories as previously published books, you will find The Dawn of Christmas only in this three-in-one edition.  The publisher is, however, offering the collection in a very affordable paperback.

Thank you to the Blogging for Books program which provided me this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

View the book trailer below:

Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times and CBA best-selling author of ten works of fiction and one work of nonfiction, whose connection with the Amish community has been featured widely in national media and throughout Christian news outlets. She lives outside Atlanta with her family.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Amish Shakespeare? -- Courting Cate

About the Book

When This Couple Gets to Courting, Sparks Will Fly!

In Paradise, Pennsylvania, Cate Miller is known more for her sharp tongue and fiery temper than her striking appearance. Her sweet and flirty sister, Betsy, on the other hand, seems to have attracted most of the bachelors in Lancaster County!

But the sisters’ wealthy father has made one hard-and-fast rule: older Cate must marry first, before younger Betsy can even start courting. Unfortunately, untamable Cate has driven away every suitor–until Pete Treger comes to town, that is.

Prodded by the men of the area, Pete turns his attention to winning Cate’s hand. But is his interest true or is there a scheme at play?

Book 1 in The Courtships of Lancaster County series.

My Thoughts

I admit that I'm a fan of almost every type of Amish fiction book I've read, even though there is a lot of similarity and predictability in many of the stories.  It is always fun and refreshing, though, to read a story with a different twist or flair to it -- while still remaining true to the genre -- and Leslie Gould certainly hit that mark with Courting Cate

Cate is a much "sassier" young Amish woman than the characters of many Amish stories, and her spunk draws you in right away.  Having the story told from Cate's point of view adds fun to the presentation.

Has this Amish story made me want to read Shakespeare?  I have to admit I've never read The Taming of the Shrew, but Cate's story makes me wonder if it just might be worth my time.

I would definitely recommend Courting Cate as being worth your time.

(Thanks to Litfuse Publicity Group for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.)

About the Author

Leslie Gould is the co-author, with Mindy Starns Clark, of the #1 bestselling The Amish Midwife and The Amish Nanny. She is also the author of numerous novels, including Garden of Dreams, Beyond the Blue (winner of the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice for Best Inspirational Novel, 2006), and Scrap Everything. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Portland State University and has taught fiction writing at Multnomah University as an adjunct professor. She resides with her husband and four children in Portland, Oregon.

Learn more at

A retelling of the Taming of the Shrew! Leslie Gould is celebrating the release of Courting Cate with a fun Kindle Fire Giveaway and a Facebook Author Chat Party (11/20)!

One lucky winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • Courting Cate by Leslie Gould
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 19th. Winner will be announced at the "Courting Cate" Author Chat Facebook Party on 11/20. Connect with Leslie, get a sneak peek of her next book, try your hand at an Amish trivia contest, and chat with readers just like you. There will also be gift certificates, books and a Book Club Prize Pack to be won (10 copies for your book club or small group)!

So grab your copy of Courting Cate and join Leslie on the evening of the November 20th for a chance to connect with Leslie and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 20th!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Christmas Dreams -- The Christmas Pony

The queen of the Christmas novella, Melody Carlson pens another magical tale of expectation and excitement as one little girl dreams big and the impossible becomes possible.

Eight-year-old Lucy Turnbull knew better than to wish for a pony that Christmas in 1937. Her mother had assured her in no uncertain terms that asking for a pony was the same as asking for the moon. Besides, the only extra mouths they needed at their boarding house were the paying kind. But when an interesting pair of strangers comes to town, Lucy starts to believe her Christmas wishes might just come true after all.

The Christmas Pony is a sweet, quick-to-read Christmas story.  The characters are fun, and their interactions make for a delightful Christmas story.  Lucy's youthful perspective keeps the story fun, in spite of the struggles the adults around her experience.  Her story reminds readers to never give up on hopes and dreams -- especially at Christmas time!

I recommend The Christmas Pony to help you get into the Christmas spirit!

Available September 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

This book was provided free of charge by Revell in exchange for my honest review.

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books with sales of more than five million. She is the author of several Christmas books from Revell, including the bestselling The Christmas Bus, The Christmas Dog, and Christmas at Harrington's, which is being considered for a TV movie. She is also the author of many teen books, including Just Another Girl, Anything but Normal, Double Take, The Jerk Magnet, and the Diary of a Teenage Girl series. Melody was nominated for a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her books in 2010 and won the award in 2011. She and her husband live in central Oregon. For more information about Melody visit her website at

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Back Home to Hickory Hollow -- The Bridesmaid

Twenty-seven-year-old Joanna Kurtz has made several trips to the altar, but never as a bride. The single young Amishwoman is a closet writer with a longing to be published something practically unheard of in her Lancaster County community. Yet Joanna's stories aren't her only secret. She also has a beau who is courting her from afar, unbeknownst even to her sister, Cora, who, though younger, seems to have suitors to spare.

Eben Troyer is a responsible young Amishman who hopes to make Joanna Kurtz his bride--if he can ever leave his parents' farm in Shipshewana, Indiana. Yet with his only brother off in the English world, intent on a military career, Eben's hopes for building a life with his dear Joanna are dimming, and patience is wearing thin. Will Joanna ever be more than a bridesmaid?

Beverly Lewis has been called the queen of Amish fiction and credited with giving birth to the genre.  The Bridesmaid is a perfect example of how deserving she is of that title!

In the late 1990s I read my first Amish novel by Beverly; I think it was The Shunning.  After this one book, also set in Hickory Hollow, I was hooked and wanted to go to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Over a decade later -- in 2010 -- my husband and I finally got to make that trip, and now the stories come even more alive as I read them.

During those years, I have read a lot of great Amish books by a variety of authors.  I couldn't begin to choose my favorite book or favorite author -- but Beverly Lewis still ranks with the best, and The Bridesmaid is an example of her high quality writing.  I felt like I was in the familiar company of good friends as I followed Joanna's and Eben's story.  The many uncertainties throughout the book kept me interested and wanting to keep reading to see how things would work out.

I didn't read The Fiddler, the first book in this series, before reading The Bridesmaid.  Although I was able to immediately engage in the story without the benefit of book one, I definitely plan to go back and see what I missed.

I would highly recommend The Bridesmaid to anyone who enjoys great Amish fiction.

This book was provided free of charge by Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.

Beverly's first venture into adult fiction is the best-selling trilogy, The Heritage of Lancaster County, including The Shunning, a suspenseful saga of Katie Lapp, a young Amish woman drawn to the modern world by secrets from her past. The book is loosely based on the author's maternal grandmother, Ada Ranck Buchwalter, who left her Old Order Mennonite upbringing to marry a Bible College student. One Amish-country newspaper claimed Beverly's work to be "a primer on Lancaster County folklore" and offers "an insider's view of Amish life."

A member of the National League of American Pen Women, as well as a Distinguished Alumnus of Evangel University, Lewis has written over 80 books for children, youth, and adults, many of them award-winning. She and her husband, David, make their home in Colorado, where they enjoy hiking, biking, and spending time with their family. They are also avid musicians and fiction "book worms."

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Nostalgic Christmas Story -- A Merry Little Christmas

About A Merry Little Christmas:

Fall in love with this cozy story about two people from different worlds.

Franny Martin is an Oklahoma farm girl who's preparing to spend the holidays alone...again. Then Charlie Landau shows up one day, all wealth and polish, and offers to buy Franny's farm. Franny has no money to speak of, but she is clever and spirited, and sh
e's more than happy to sell the farm and move to the city.

As Sinatra croons from the radio and Christmas descends upon her charming farm, Franny teaches Charlie the curious and sometimes comical ways of country life. In the process, they unearth some discoveries of the heart-that sometimes love comes when you're least ready for it. Will the holidays bring their most impossible dreams within reach? 

My Thoughts:

A Merry Little Christmas is an enjoyable story to read during the holiday season.  The characters are fun and entertaining, and the interaction between Franny and Charlie grabs you from their very first dance.  

Besides the expected love story in your typical Christmas novel, there are several other stories that play out in the book.  Cultural issues from the 1960s and complicated family dynamics add depth to the story and provide some interesting twists.  Several musical references can make you feel nostalgic for traditional Christmas songs.

Some of the details of the story seem a little disjointed, and one of the major conflicts is resolved a little too quickly to be realistic.  All in all, though, this is a fun and quick Christmas read.

(This book was provided free by Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my honest review.)

Link to buy the book:

Read what other reviewers think about A Merry Little Christmas here. 

Meet Anita:

Best-selling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has over thirty books published (several coauthored) for adults and children. She's been a Barnes & Noble "Author of the Month" for Houston and has a BA degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita loves good movies, exotic teas, and brunch with her friends.

Find out more about Anita at

Author Anita Higman invites readers to kick off the season with a spirited holiday tale. Anita is spreading the Christmas cheer by giving away FIFTEEN COPIES of the book. To enter to win A Merry Little Christmas, just head over to THE CONTEST PAGE at Anita's website and fill out the short form. Be sure to put BLOG CONTEST in the Subject Line. That's it. Winners will be announced on the Litfuse blog (and notified by email) on 11/9.