Friday, July 26, 2013

Summer of Secrets

On a recent visit to Jamesport, Missouri, I was introduced to the writing of Charlotte Hubbard and decided to try out her books.  After reading Summer of Secrets, I'm glad I did.

The Lantz women may not be your typical, stereotyped Amish.  While they hold strongly to their time-honored beliefs and traditions, they also seem to have a little bit of extra spunk that adds interest to their lives and the lives of their friends and family.  The appearance of the long-lost Rebecca throws Miriam, her daughters Rachel and Rhoda, and others in their close community into a tailspin that threatens to bring severe consequences to all involved.  Trusting in God's guidance and His timing proves to be the only way to weather the storm that is almost as powerful as the flood that started an unexpected chain of events eighteen years earlier.

Charlotte Hubbard has relied on her own research and the assistance of a tour guide with life-long, first-hand knowledge of Amish life in Missouri to provide a well-written, authentic story.  I look forward to reading more in this series.

About the Book

Welcome to Willow Ridge, Missouri! In this cozy Amish town along the banks of the river, the Old Ways are celebrated at the Sweet Seasons Bakery Café, and love is a gift God gives with grace…

Summer has come to Willow Ridge, but Rachel Lantz is looking forward to a whole new season in her life—marriage to strapping carpenter Micah Brenneman, her childhood sweetheart. When a strange Englischer arrives in the café claiming to be the long-lost sister of Rachel and her twin Rhoda, Rachel feels the sturdy foundation of her future crumbling—including Micah’s steadfast love. As the days heat up and tempers flare, Rachel and Micah will learn that even when God’s plan isn’t clear, it will always lead them back to each other…

About the Author

Drawing upon her experiences in Jamesport, the largest Old Order Amish community west of the Mississippi, longtime Missourian Charlotte Hubbard writes of simpler times and a faith-based lifestyle in her new Seasons of the Heart series. Like her heroine, Miriam Lantz, Charlotte considers it her personal mission to feed people—to share hearth and home. Faith and family, farming and food preservation are hallmarks of her lifestyle, and the foundation of her earlier Angels of Mercy series. She’s a deacon, a dedicated church musician and choir member, and when she’s not writing, she loves to try new recipes, crochet, and sew. Charlotte now lives in Minnesota with her husband and their border collie.

A Light, Fun Read -- Lock, Stock, and Over a Barrel

This is the fourth book I've read by Melody Carlson, and all have been fairly light, quick-to-read stories that provide a good amount of entertainment in return for the time invested in reading them.  

In Lock, Stock, and Over a Barrel, Daphne and her friends are fun characters, each with their own little quirks that add flavor to the story.  The deceased Aunt Dee sounds like someone it would have been really fun to get to know in real life!

While the author fleshes out a good story, she also leaves you wanting more.  The story ends without tying up all the loose ends, leaving room for lots of guessing until the next book in the series comes out.  I look forward to seeing where Daphne and company go next!

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

A Giveaway:  I have a second copy of this book that I will be happy to share with a lucky reader.  If you're interested, post a comment below by midnight, Sunday, July 28, and I'll randomly choose a winner.

About the Book

With high hopes, Daphne Ballinger lands her dream job at The New York Times. But it's not long until writing about weddings becomes a painful reminder of her own failed romance, and her love of the city slowly sours as well. Is it time to give up the Big Apple for her small hometown of Appleton?

When her eccentric Aunt Dee passes away and leaves a sizeable estate to Daphne, going back home is an easy choice. What isn’t easy is coming to terms with the downright odd clauses written into the will.

Daphne only stands to inherit the estate if she agrees to her aunt's very specific posthumous terms -- personal and professional. And if she fails to comply, the sprawling old Victorian house shall be bequeathed to . . . Aunt Dee’s cats.

And if Daphne thinks that’s odd, wait until she finds out an array of secrets about Aunt Dee's life, and how imperfect circumstances can sometimes lead to God's perfect timing.

 About the Author

Melody Carlson has sold more than five million books. A professional writer for twenty years, she recently received the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award. Melody has two grown sons and lives with her husband in the Pacific Northwest.

For more information about Melody visit her website at

Lily's Adventures Continue -- A Big Year for Lily

In A Big Year for Lily, Suzanne Woods Fisher and Mary Ann Kinsinger continue in a delightful way the adventures of Lily Lapp.  This third book carries on the fun story of a precocious, now 10-year-old Amish girl who has a knack for getting into all kinds of escapades.  Lily, while still a fun-loving little girl, is going through some of the rites of passage of growing up Amish -- things like wearing a straight-pinned dress and sitting with the other young girls at church services.

Lily's stories should hit well their intended audience of 8-12 year olds and serve as a perfect way to introduce a new generation to the genre.  Young readers will identify with many details of Lily's life, at the same time learning about a culture with many differences from their own.   As with the first two books, this one can be enjoyed in its entirety or on a chapter-by-chapter basis.

As before, Mary Ann's firsthand knowledge of growing up Amish and Suzanne's skillful writing work together for an enjoyable read for young and old alike.

Young readers can have more fun with Lily at
Thanks to Litfuse Publicity Group for providing a free copy of A Big Year for Lily in exchange for my honest review.

See what other readers have to say here.

About the Book 

Lily Lapp's family has settled into their new home in Pennsylvania, but life still holds big changes and big steps for Lily. Good changes, like once again living close to her beloved cousin and best friend, Hannah. Bad changes, like a mean girl who plays tricks on her. And no change at all where Lily would most want 
one---Aaron Yoder sits near her in school and relentlessly teases her. Surprises are in store for Lily as she learns, with Mama and Papa's help, to manage the ups and downs of growing up Amish.

About the Author

Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of the Lancaster County Secrets series and the Stoney Ridge Seasons series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. She is also the coauthor of a new Amish children's series, The Adventures of Lily Lapp. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne is a Carol Award winner and a Christy Award finalist. She is the host of internet radio show Amish Wisdom and a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazines. She lives in California. 
For more information, please visit and connect with her on Twitter @suzannewfisher. Get Amish proverbs delivered right to your iPhone or iPad! Download the free app!

Suzanne Woods Fisher is celebrating the release of A Big Year for Lilybook three in the beloved Adventures of Lily Lapp series, with a giveaway extravaganza!


  One winner will receive:
Twelve winners will receive:
  • Special prizes specially picked by Lily (something new each day)! Suzanne will announce the winners on July 29 on her blog!
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on July 27th. All winners will be announced July 29th at Suzanne's blog.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to visit Suzanne's blog on the 29th to see if you won one of the fun prizes! (Or better yet, subscribe to her blog and have the winner announcement delivered to your inbox!)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Big Year for Lily giveaway!

My review of this book is scheduled for later this week, but in the meantime I wanted to share this with you!

Suzanne Woods Fisher is celebrating the release of A Big Year for Lilybook three in the beloved Adventures of Lily Lapp series, with a giveaway extravaganza!


  One winner will receive:
Twelve winners will receive:
  • Special prizes specially picked by Lily (something new each day)! Suzanne will announce the winners on July 29 on her blog!
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on July 27th. All winners will be announced July 29th at Suzanne's blog.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to visit Suzanne's blog on the 29th to see if you won one of the fun prizes! (Or better yet, subscribe to her blog and have the winner announcement delivered to your inbox!)

Monday, July 8, 2013

An Awesome Series Conclusion -- A Wedding for Julia

The good news -- A Wedding for Julia is an awesome conclusion to Vannetta Chapman's Pebble Creek Amish Series.  The bad news -- A Wedding for Julia concludes the series.

As in the other Pebble Creek Amish books, Vannetta's characters make the story come to life.  Julia and Caleb each have their own problems and questions about their future but come together in such a special way.  Sharon is a young lady with a tough exterior that covers a deep need for understanding and love.  And how could you not love Ada with her keen insights and a Psalm ready for every occasion.  It was fun to have visits from Miriam, Lydia, and other "old friends" from the first two books in the series.

One of my favorite lines in the book was in the letter Julia received from her new mother-in-law:  "Remember, Julia, courage is fear that has said its prayers."  That statement seems to sum up so much of what Julia and her family and friends learned as they worked through their fears, hopes, and dreams -- and it also serves as a challenge to anyone reading the story.

I highly recommend A Wedding for Julia to all fans of great Amish fiction.  It is a great story on its own, but it is even better as a follow-up to A Promise for Miriam and A Home for Lydia.  I am anxious to see what Vannetta has to share next.

 It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books.  A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured.  The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between!  Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***


Vannetta Chapman has published more than 100 articles in Christian family magazines. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace in Albion, Pennsylvania. Vannetta is a multi-award-winning member of Romance Writers of America. She was a teacher for 15 years and currently resides in the Texas Hill country. Her first two inspirational novels—A Simple Amish Christmas and Falling to Pieces—were Christian Book Distributors bestsellers.

Visit the author's website.


Julia Beechy’s dream of opening a café is shattered when her mother says she must marry or move to live with distant family upon her mother’s imminent death. Caleb Zook thought he would never marry, but can he help this beautiful, sad woman? Is this God’s plan for his future?

Product Details:
List Price: $8.79
Publisher Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2013)
Language English
ISBN-10 0736946160
ISBN-13 978-0736946162



Pebble Creek, Wisconsin


Julia Beechy stood next to the open grave and prayed the wind would stop howling for one moment. Next to her, she could feel her mother trembling. Ada Beechy had turned seventy-eight the previous week, two days before Julia’s father had passed. It would have been perfectly acceptable for her mother to sit, especially in light of the mist, the cold, and the wind.

Ada Beechy had no intention of sitting.

But Julia did shuffle one step closer to her mother, so that their sleeves were touching, as the bishop began to read the words to the hymn Ada had requested—“Where the Roses Never Fade.” Ada had stared out the window of their kitchen, her attention completely focused on the rosebushes, which had yet to bud, while members from their church sat beside Jonathan’s body in the next room. She’d gazed at the bushes and made her request.

Bishop Atlee had nodded, ran his fingers through his beard, and said, “Of course.”

Julia tried to focus on the bishop’s words as the men—the pallbearers—covered the plain coffin with dirt. How many shovelfuls would it take? Would Bishop Atlee have to read the hymn twice? Why was she worrying about such things?

David King stepped back, and Julia realized they were finished. Bishop Atlee bowed his head, signaling it was time for them to silently pray the words from the passage in Matthew, chapter six, verses nine through thirteen—their Lord’s prayer. Julia’s mind formed the words, but her heart remained numb.

“Amen,” Bishop Atlee said, in a voice as gentle as her mother’s hand on her arm.

The large crowd began to move. Words of comfort flowed over and around her. There had been a steady coming and going of people through the house to view her father’s body for the entire three days. Julia had become used to her privacy as she cared for her parents alone. The large amounts of food and the people had surprised her. Some of them she saw at church, but others came from neighboring districts. Those she barely knew.

She and Ada turned to go, for their buggy was marked with a number one on the side. The white chalk against the black buggy caused Julia’s heart to twist. They had led the procession to the cemetery. They would lead the gathering of friends away from the graveside.

But Julia realized she wasn’t ready to leave.

She pulled back, needing to look one more time. Needing to swipe at her tears so she could read the words clearly.

Jonathan Beechy



83 years, 4 months, 3 days

Now she and her mother were alone.

Chapter 1

Tuesday morning, six months later

Julia glanced around the kitchen as she waited for her mother’s egg to boil. Everything was clean and orderly. Why wouldn’t it be? It was only the two of them. Except for the days when she baked, there was little to do. Julia was hoping that would change soon, and she meant to talk to Ada about it. Today would be a good day. She’d put it off long enough.

The water started to boil, and she began counting in her mind. Three minutes made for the perfect egg, at least for Ada it did. There were few things her mother could stomach on the days she wasn’t well, but a soft-boiled egg was one.

Julia walked around the kitchen as she counted, and that was when she noticed the calendar. She’d failed to flip the page to September. Where had the last six months gone?

Six months since her father had died.

Six months of Ada’s health continuing to fail.

Six months that Julia had continued to postpone her dream.

She flipped the page, smiled at the photograph of harvested hay, and vowed that today she would speak with her mother. Returning to the stove, she scooped out the egg with a spoon and placed it in a bowl of water to cool. Slicing a piece of bread from the fresh loaf she’d made yesterday, she laid it on a plate and added a dab of butter and apple preserves on the side. She set the plate on a tray, which already held a tall glass of fresh milk. Picking it all up, she turned to walk to her mother’s room and nearly dropped the tray when she saw Ada standing in the doorway.

“I’m not an invalid, and I don’t need to eat in my bedroom.”

She weighed a mere eighty-nine pounds. Julia had brought in the scale from the barn last week and confirmed her fears. Her mother was losing weight. She was also shrinking. Ada now stood a mere five foot four inches.

Why was it that the body shrank as it grew older? It was almost as if it needed to conserve its energy for more important things. Her mother had attempted to braid her hair and tuck it under her kapp, but the arthritis that crippled her hands made the task difficult. The result was snow-white hair sprouting in various directions and a kapp tipped slightly to the back of her head. She also hadn’t been able to correctly pin her dark green dress.

In spite of her appearance, the blue eyes behind her small glasses twinkled with good humor and complete clarity. Her mother’s health might be failing, but today her mind was sharp. Julia was grateful. Some days sporadic bouts of dementia robbed her even of that.

“Mamm, I don’t mind bringing it to you.”

Ada waved her hand, dismissing the notion. “When I’m too feeble to get out of bed, I’ll be praying the Lord sees fit to take me home.”

Julia didn’t think it was a good time to remind her she’d stayed in bed three days last week. Ada remembered well enough. She simply chose to ignore the bad days.

“Let me help you.”

Setting the tray on the kitchen table, Julia was relieved to see that at least her mother was using the cane Dr. Hanson had provided. He’d suggested a walker, but Ada had insisted “the Lord was her strength.” The cane was a compromise.

Julia inwardly winced as she looked at her mother’s hands. Some mornings the crippling arthritis was better than others. This morning her hands—wrinkled, and spotted with age—resembled claws. She wondered how her mother would be able to pick up the utensils to eat. She was tempted to offer to feed her, but the last time she’d suggested that had earned her a twenty-minute lecture on self-sufficiency.

Ada must have noticed her staring. Patting her daughter’s arm, she murmured, “I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me.”


She bowed her head as her mother prayed over her breakfast. While Ada thanked God for her food, Julia prayed for strength and wisdom.

Was today the right day? And how best to broach the topic? Why were her palms sweating?

She waited until Ada had finished the egg and eaten half the bread. Some part of her wanted to believe that if her dream came true, Ada would improve. Another part knew it was only a matter of time until she’d be left alone in the big two-story house beside Pebble Creek.

“My baked goods have been selling well at Lydia and Aaron’s shop.”

“Ya. That’s wunderbaar.”

Julia nodded but vowed in her heart to push forward with her plan. She’d thought perhaps she should wait until her mother’s health improved, but after the visit with Doc Hanson last week, she knew that wasn’t going to happen. It was imperative she not wait until winter. The tourist crowds came during the summer and stayed through the fall foliage. If she was going to do this, she needed to do it now.

“Mamm, I’d like to expand my cooking business.”

“You don’t have a business.” Ada fumbled with the glass of milk, and they both reached to settle it. “You have a hobby.”

Rising and walking across the room, Julia fetched the herbal ointment the doctor had recommended. When she opened the jar, the smell of mint balm filled the kitchen. Pulling her mother’s left hand across the table, she worked the cream into the skin, rubbing gently with her fingers to massage the muscles until they were straightened.

“I’d like to make it a business, though.” She looked up, peering directly into her mother’s eyes.

Why was this so hard? Why was she so afraid Ada would say no?

She was thirty-seven years old, and she was still worried whether her mother would approve of her plans. “I’d like to open a café here in the house.”

Ada didn’t speak as Julia reached for her right hand and began rubbing the ointment into it. When she’d finished, her mother touched her cheek, leaving the faint scent of mint and summer.

“Dear Julia, how can you open a café in these rooms if you won’t be living here?” Behind the glasses were blue eyes filled with calmness, sadness, and determination.

“I don’t understand—”

“Do you think your dat and I would leave you here after we’ve gone on? Leave you alone?”


“Nein, Julia. It wouldn’t be proper. It wouldn’t be right.”

“What…” Julia’s heart was racing so fast she felt as if she’d run from the creek. She didn’t know which question to ask first. “How…”

“We always hoped you might marry. Your father spoke to you about this on several occasions.”

“Ya, but—”

“I know your reasons, and I even understand them. The fact remains that you can’t live here alone once I’m gone, which according to Doc Hanson will be relatively soon.”

Julia jumped up from her chair, walked to the kitchen counter, and glanced outside. Her gaze fell on the rose bushes. They still held some of summer’s blooms—a deep, vibrant red.

“So you’re deciding I have to leave? Just like that? I have no say in it at all?” Her voice rose with each question.

“You’ll go to Pennsylvania. Back to live with my family.”

“I don’t even know those people.”

“They’re family, nonetheless. You’ve exchanged letters with them for years.”

“This is my home, mamm. You would kick me out of my home?”

Ada bowed her head. She didn’t speak for the space of nearly three minutes—long enough to boil another egg. When she looked up, her words were gentle, but they still made Julia want to scream. “God is our refuge and strength, dochder.”

“The Psalms are not the answer to this!”

“Always you can find the answers in Gotte’s Word.”

Julia closed her eyes and forced her emotions to calm down. When she looked at her mother again, she saw the same quiet, loving woman who had been beside her every day of her life. What she recognized, in her mother’s eyes, was kindness—and it confused her as much as the decree she had just issued.

“There’s no changing your mind?”

“Nein. The papers were drawn up before your dat passed. It’s why we agreed to sell the pastureland to Mr. and Mrs. Elliott. This home will be sold when I pass, and the money will be put in a trust for you, to help support you the rest of your life—”

“Support me.”

“On the condition you live in Pennsylvania with my family.”

“Why are you telling me this now?” Julia’s voice was a whisper. How could her life have taken such a catastrophic turn? When she’d slipped out of bed this morning, she never would have imagined that her days in this home, her days living beside Pebble Creek, were numbered.

It was true she hadn’t been overly social. She couldn’t remember the last singing she’d been to, but then she was not a girl. She was a woman.

Instead she’d waited. She’d done what a good daughter should do, followed all the rules, and waited. For what? So she could be turned out of her home. So she could be told once more what to do.

It wasn’t fair.

And she hadn’t seen it coming. She had never expected such an answer. She had never dreamed her mother and her father—she mustn’t forget he had agreed to this plan—would betray her this way.

No, she’d been busy designing a café in the bottom floor of their home. Where should she put the tables she would purchase from David King? What type of sign would best attract customers? What would be the best location for it? Should she advertise in the Budget? What design should she use for the menus?

None of those things mattered if she would be living in Pennsylvania.

“Why now?” she repeated.

“Why? Because you asked.” Her mother stood, gripped her cane, and shuffled out of the room.

Leaving Julia alone, staring out at the last of the crimson roses.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Southern Charm??? -- Gone South

Gone South was a fun read that captivated me from the first page -- or maybe it was the front cover with the mix of modern-day girl in jeans combined with the southern gown.  The strength of the story, though, is all about its characters.

Tish McComb is such an interesting character, a modern woman who loves and somewhat romanticizes the past, not afraid to strike out on her own and take risks.  And much of the time, she is pretty confident in who and what she is . . . or at least she tries to convince herself of that confidence with a well-used private declaration:  "I am Tish McComb.  You can't change who I am."

Circumstances throw Tish into some complicated relationships with a cast of other interesting characters; George, Mel, and Calv all bring their own unique perspective into this delightful story.  There is an engaging mix of trials and triumphs as Tish and company develop and learn more about themselves and each other and watch God's mercy and love shine through in their lives.

Thanks to WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for providing me a free copy of this ebook through their Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review.

About the Book

The charm of the South drew her back to her family’s roots. But when the town’s old resentments turn the sweet tea bitter, can Tish find a welcome anywhere?
Leaving frosty Michigan for the Deep South was never a blip in the simple plans Tish McComb imagined for her life, dreams of marriage and family that were dashed five years earlier in a tragic accident. Now an opportunity to buy her great-great-great-grandparents’ Civil War era home beckons Tish to Noble, Alabama, a Southern town in every sense of the word. She wonders if God has given her a new dream—the old house filled with friends, her vintage percolator bubbling on the sideboard.

When Tish discovers that McCombs aren’t welcome in town, she feels like a Yankee behind enemy lines. Only local antiques dealer George Zorbas seems willing to give her a chance. What’s a lonely outcast to do but take in Noble’s resident prodigal, Melanie Hamilton, and hope that the two can find some much needed acceptance in each other.

Problem is, old habits die hard, and Mel is quite set in her destructive ways. With Melanie blocked from going home by her influential father, Tish must try to manage her incorrigible houseguest as she attempts to prove her own worth in a town that seems to have forgotten that every sinner needs God-given mercy, love and forgiveness.

About the Author

Meg Moseley is still a Californian at heart although she's lived more than half her life in other states. Holding jobs that ranged from candle-maker to administrative assistant, Meg eventually contributed human-interest pieces for a suburban edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Contemporary fiction remains her real love, and she's the author of When Sparrows Fall and Gone South. She lives in Atlanta near the foothills of the Southern Appalachians with her husband.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Good Story/Tough Issues -- Out of a Dream

Through a facebook connection, Rosemary Hines recently contacted me and asked if I would be interested in reading and reviewing Out of a Dream.  I have to admit that I was just a little hesitant when I realized that it dealt with New Age beliefs, a topic I'm not particularly interested in and even a little uncomfortable reading about.

But what I found was a well-written story of one woman's journey to truth -- a journey that takes her through false answers to her questions along the way.  Michelle and her family have some major problems to deal with and don't have the faith they really need to find the solutions.  But God places the right people in their lives to help them navigate through the darkness and find the light they need.

Rosemary writes from the heart as she deals with some very tough issues in this story, many of which she knows from first-hand experience.  Her authenticity shows through in her well-developed characters and their real-life challenges.

Thanks to Rosemary for providing me a copy of her ebook for review.  I look forward to continuing Michelle's story through the other two books in this Sandy Cove Series.

About the Story
Set in the fictional coastal community of Sandy Cove, Oregon, Out of a Dream tells the story of a troubled young newlywed, Michelle Baron. Displaced from her hometown in Southern California, she begins having a series of nightmares. Her quest to understand these dreams leads her to the New World bookstore where she begins a spiritual journey that will challenge her Christian heritage as well as her marriage. 

Torn between her love for her husband and the intrigue she finds in her New Age alliances, Michelle wrestles with spiritual forces she cannot see.  A call from home and the family trauma that ensues cause her to confront the battle that is raging for her soul and decide the course of her future.

About the Author

Rosemary Hines writes contemporary, suspenseful fiction from a Christian worldview. Her characters and their struggles and triumphs reflect life in our 21st century culture in America. Boldly tackling tough subjects such as suicide, abortion, and the ever-increasing efforts of secular society to silence the faith of many, she is known for her sensitive approach and strong messages of hope and redemption. Rosemary taught writing at a secondary level for fifteen years. Her books have been reviewed and recommended at Christian conferences across the United States. Active in her church as a Sunday school teacher and a women's Bible study leader, she and her husband have also served as missionaries in Ukraine, delivering humanitarian relief to orphanages and hospitals. They reside in Southern California where they enjoy spending time with their grown children and grandchildren.  

For more information about Rosemary and her books, visit her website or check her out on facebook.