Thursday, March 27, 2014

Southern Charm -- Can't wait to read this one! -- A Beauty So Rare

I don't usually post about a book before I've even read it . . . but I think this one is worth sharing right away. 

Very soon I am going to be reviewing A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander. I'm sure it will be a great one, just like her first Belmont Mansion novel, A Lasting Impression.  Don't you think the beautiful cover offers a great invitation to open up and see what is inside?

Here are a couple of teasers to encourage you to check out this story!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Great mystery, with an Amish flavor -- Murder Simply Brewed

During a six-hour road trip today, I had the pleasure of enjoying Vannetta Chapman's latest book.  Murder Simply Brewed is not your typical Amish fiction.  Instead, it is a "special blend" with a little something for everyone -- Amish, mystery, romance -- a "who-dun-it" that keeps you turning the page from beginning to end.

The characters, every bit as much as the suspense, move this story.  The English (Amber, Tate, Elizabeth and others) and Amish (Hannah, Jesse, Eunice, and others) come to life in the pages of the story, all in their own unique ways.  Because of the community in which they live and the artisan village in which many of them work, these people from different cultures blend their lives in a variety of ways, while still remaining true to their separateness.   

Fans of great Christian fiction in a variety of genres should enjoy this five-star story.

Thanks to BookLook Bloggers for providing a copy of Murder Simply Brewed in exchange for my honest review.

About the Story

What will happen when two amateur sleuths, one Amish and one English, combine forces to solve the string of crimes happening in the Amish Artisan Village? Spring has arrived in Middlebury, Indiana, and Amber Wright can see profits in sight for her collection of Amish artisan shops—until she receives a call that Ethan Gray is dead. Hurrying over to A Simple Blend, she finds a single hole in the front window and Mr. Gray dead from an apparent heart attack. All the money is still in his register. Hannah Troyer takes over the shop’s duties, and she and Amber become fast friends as well as amateur sleuths. The police believe Gray’s death to be a by-product of vandalism, but Amber and Hannah aren't so easily convinced. Old Testament clues that don't add up, a neighbor who is pulled into the midst of the investigation, a town with secrets to hide, and blossoming romance—all will combine to push Amber and Hannah into unfamiliar roles in order to solve a mystery and bring peace to the Amish community.

About the Author

Vannetta Chapman is author of the best-selling novel A Simple Amish Christmas. She has published over one hundred articles in Christian family magazines, receiving over two dozen awards from Romance Writers of America chapter groups. In 2012 she was awarded a Carol Award for Falling to Pieces. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace of Albion, Pennsylvania. 

Visit Vannetta's website: Twitter: @VennettaChapman Facebook: VannettaChapmanBooks

Mid-twentieth century American Indian story -- A Sky Without Stars

A Sky Without Stars contains some interesting history about the lives and culture of Indians in mid-twentieth century America.  Frankie Chasing Bear and her son are struggling to find their way in a world where they live with a mixture of their Lakota heritage and white men's ways.  In the midst of personal struggles, Frankie is a strong, single mother driven to complete a traditional Lakota star quilt for her young son Harold and try to provide the best life she can for him.

Although there were elements of the story that were interesting -- particularly the historical elements and Frankie's search for direction for herself and Harold -- this story and its characters felt a little flat to me.  I did finish the book to see how things turned out for Frankie, Nick, and Harold, but it was something of a struggle for me to stay interested at many points in the story. 

Anyone interested in Christian historical fiction from this time period and/or culture could well find this an enjoyable read.

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

See what other readers think about A Sky Without Stars here. 

About Quilts of Love: Quilts tell stories of love and loss, hope and faith, tradition and new beginnings. The Quilts of Love series focuses on the women who quilted all of these things into their family histories. A new book releases each month and features contemporary and historical romances as well as women's fiction and the occasional light mystery. You will be drawn into the endearing characters of this series and be touched by their stories. 

About the book: In 1951, Frankie Chasing Bear is a Lakota caught between cultures. She wants to raise her son Harold to revere his Lakota heritage, but she knows he will need to become as a white man to succeed. After his father's killed in a barroom brawl, Harold and Frankie move to Arizona, where she begins a Lakota Star pattern quilt for Harold with tribal wisdom sung, sewn and prayed into it.

She distrusts Christians, as her own parents were forced to convert at an Indian School, until she meets BIA agent Nick Parker, a half-Lakota who's also caught between cultures. Nick must convince Frankie that white men and Christians aren't all bad as he tries to win her heart in order to put the stars back into her sky.

Learn more about this book and the series at the Quilts of Love website.

About the Author: Linda S. Clare is an award-winning coauthor of three books, including Lost Boys and the Moms Who Love Them (with Melody Carlson and Heather Kopp), Revealed: Spiritual Reality in a Makeover World, and Making Peace with a Dangerous God (with Kristen Johnson Ingram). She is also the author of The Fence My Father Built. She has taught college-level creative writing classes for seven years, and edits and mentors writers. She also is a frequent writing conference presenter and church retreat leader. She and her husband of thirty-one years have four grown children, including a set of twins. They live in Eugene, Oregon, with their five wayward cats: Oliver, Xena the Warrior Kitty, Paladine, Melchior, and Mamma Mia! 

Learn more about Linda at:

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fun story with quirky characters -- Home at Last

Fun and quirky -- those are two things I have come to expect in an Anita Higman story.  The characters may have challenges -- perhaps many challenges -- but as they deal with them, they will also have their share of fun along the way.  And there will certainly be a few quirky folks show up as the story progresses.

Home at Last is a story -- sometimes sweet and at other times bitter -- of a mismatched couple, thrown together in a rather awkward way.  Olivia has led a very sheltered, but enjoyable, life as the employee of the owner of Bromfeld Manor.  She is settling into her new, secure life after he leaves the estate to her, when long-lost son of the manor, Noah Bromfeld, shows up.

Olivia and Noah go on a roller-coaster ride as they try to resolve the question of who really should have the estate.   Issues of faith, family, love -- and an abundance of secrets -- all come into play as they get to know themselves and each other.

Home at Last is an enjoyable quick read that I would recommend to fans of good fiction.  Thanks to Anita for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


***Anita Higman has graciously offered to give away two copies of this book to readers of my blog.  All you have to do to have a chance to win is make a comment below by 5:00 p.m. Monday, March 24.  I will randomly choose two names after that time.  Be sure to include your email address so I can contact you if you win.***

About the Author

Anita Higman provided the following questions and answers to help us readers get to know her a little better and understand some of her "story behind the story" of  Home at Last.

How long have you known you wanted to be an author?

Growing up I longed to be a writer. When I was very young (I don’t remember my age) I started working on a novel about a man from Mars who wanted to go to college in New York. I never finished that novel, but it left an impression on me. I knew deep down that writing was my dream, even though I didn’t get around to fulfilling it until I was in my thirties.

When a reader finishes Home at Last, what do you want them to come away with?

I would love for them to be inspired, challenged, and entertained. If I accomplished even one of those things I would feel my writing time wasn’t wasted.

Where did you come up with the idea for the story, Home at Last?

The inspiration came from watching the latest movie version of Jane Eyre over and over and over. I love that story. I read Jane Eyre a few months ago, and I was truly awed by Charlotte Bronte’s writing. I highly recommend it if you’ve never read this masterpiece.

Any hobbies you especially enjoy?

I love decorating. I know that sounds awfully girly, but it’s exciting to see the right drapes and the right colors and flooring and accessories all come together to make a pleasant room—a place where you want to spend time and a place you want to share with your family and friends.

Home at Last deals with orphans and abandonment. Those are elements that show up frequently in your work. Why is that?

There were times growing up that I felt lonely and abandoned. But instead of sharing all of these details of my past in interviews, I infuse my novels with those intense emotional memories. That is one of the many blessings of creating art—to be able to sift through, study, and then hopefully, through the miracle of writing, let go of some of the painful pieces and burdensome baggage of our pasts.

If you could have dinner with two special people, who would they be?

Josh Groban, because his music inspires me, and Leif Enger, because I love the way he writes.

What are the fun things about a book signing? The uncomfortable parts? 

If I’ve invited friends, it’s always great to see them and catch up. If strangers trickle by, and I’m able to tell them about my book, or if I can encourage them in some way I feel like the book signing was successful. The uncomfortable parts can be when people automatically think you’re an employee at the bookstore and ask where the restroom is located. Too many of those kinds of responses can lower the level of enthusiasm significantly. Before I head into a book signing, I usually pray, and the prayer goes something like, “Lord, if the sales are wonderful help me not to become haughty about it, and if the sales aren’t so wonderful please help me not to become discouraged.”

Home at Last also deals with dysfunctional families, estrangement, and then also forgiveness and reconciliation. Why do you gravitate toward those themes?

Because they are powerful and compelling themes, and because they are ones I understand on a personal level.

You’ve been published, so what do you dream of now?

I would love to have one of my books made into a movie. In the process, I’d like for these stories to entertain as well as inspire people to see that God cares for them deeply and that His gift of grace is a present just waiting to be opened.

How can readers connect with you?

Please feel to stop by my website at or chat with me on my Facebook Reader Page at!/AuthorAnitaHigman

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

True Amish story -- Plain Faith

Plain Faith is a true story as told to Tricia Goyer, due to be released in early May.  I'm very anxious to read this one!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Bible Studies for Women -- InScribed Collection

I'm always on the lookout for good Bible studies -- either for individuals or small groups.  So I was definitely interested when I had the opportunity to review these first four books in a larger, ongoing collection.  Thanks to the BookLook Bloggers program for providing these books in exchange for my honest review.

The format for this review is as follows:  I'm first sharing the publisher's description of each book.  After each description, I'll share a few thoughts of my own about the study.

Leaving Ordinary by Donna Gaines

The deepest longing of the human heart is to know and be known by God. God longs for an intimate relationship with us as well. But how do we develop that kind of relationship with a holy God? It is one thing to long for such a relationship, but quite another to experience intimacy with Him. In Leaving Ordinary, Donna Gaines shares from her personal experience how prayer can become the channel that links the believer’s heart to the heart of God.

God gave the pattern of the tabernacle to the Israelites. It was a temporary and portable dwelling for His glory. Through it God taught them how to approach and worship Him before He led them to their reward—the promised land. Using the tabernacle and its articles as a guide, Donna teaches readers how to interact with God in that secret place of true intimacy that leads to worship. Your ordinary daily practice of prayer can become an extraordinary encounter with the living Lord. Leaving Ordinary is essential reading for anyone who desires to enter into and experience the reality of God’s presence.

My thoughts:  Donna Gaines leads a study of the tabernacle as a model for our prayer and worship relationship with God.  This book has little room for written interaction but provides a great deal of practical application of this Old Testament picture to our current-day experience.  She concludes the book with suggested scriptures to pray over our husbands, children and grandchildren.

Living "So That" by Wendy Blight

In today’s world, it’s tough to make everyday decisions, let alone decisions that honor God. Our culture is increasingly driven by selfish desires. However, as Christians, our lives should not be self-centered and static; they should be others-centered and active, making a difference for the Kingdom of God.

Living "So That" is a fresh approach to understanding God's Word, focusing on many of the powerful "so that" verses in Scripture, including Jesus Came So That. . .; God Spoke So That. . .; Pray So That. . .; Trials Come So That. . . . Through her approachable style, personal examples, and biblical teaching, Wendy equips readers to take what they study in the Word of God and practically live it out in order to impact the world around them. The result is a renewed appreciation for the power and applicability of Scripture. Through practical examples and biblical truths, Wendy helps readers gain a new perspective on daily living, equipping them to apply these biblical truths to present-day decision-making.

My thoughts:  Wendy Blight uses a variety of scriptures to share some truths from God's Word with very practical applications.  The lessons are structured in a way to allow different readers to choose their own level of study.  Some of the questions worked into the various chapters simply involve gathering of facts, while others lead to more of an application level of the truths.  There are applications, concluding thoughts, and many segments include an "If you want to go deeper" section for those willing to put a little more effort into the study.  And Wendy encourages memorization of some key passages of scripture throughout the study.

Amazed and Confused by Heather Zempel

Most people have prayed for something or someone in earnest, seeking God’s will, only to be left confused by God’s response. Sometimes we ask, “Why would a good God allow bad things to happen to good people?” In Amazed and Confused, Heather Zempel tackles this question head-on by exploring the book of Habakkuk.

When the prophet Habakkuk prayed that God would bring change to the backsliding nation of Israel, this issue came to the forefront. Habakkuk begged God for revival and that He would turn the hearts of faithless people back to Him.

God’s answer to Habakkuk was, “Take a look at the nations and watch what happens! You will be shocked and amazed” (1:5, The Voice). The vision God gave Habakkuk was one of warfare and exile. How do you respond when God answers your prayers in a way that seems out of line with his character and promises?

Amazed and Confused proceeds systematically through the book of Habakkuk, exploring the prophet’s prayer, God’s response, and the prophet’s journey from confusion to worship. This interactive Bible study is the perfect choice for those who are hurting and confused about God’s responses to their prayers.

My thoughts:  "If you get seated next to Habakkuk at the marriage supper of the lamb, you won't have to say, 'I'm sorry I never read your book.'"  This statement comes from the author's comment on the front jacket cover and fits in with the conversational tone she uses in sharing honest, gut-level truths from this little-known minor prophet.  Heather Zempel interweaves truths from Habakkuk with other scripture and a real-life look at how even though God's responses to our requests don't always make sense in our limited understanding, we can still understand enough about Him to trust and worship Him for Who He is.  Each of the ten chapters in this book ends with some reflection questions and a place to record notes and thoughts from your study.

Dive Deeper by Jenifer Jernigan

Equip yourself to fall deeply in love with God's Word through this unique, interactive Bible study. Delving into the book of Ephesians, Dive Deeper is a tool for women—those who might be satisfied and content with their Bible study and for those who find themselves fearful or numb—to dive deeper into the living and active Word of God.

Dive Deeper comes from Jenifer Jernigan's heart. As a preacher’s daughter, she grew up with some pretty heavy expectations to live up to. Jenifer found herself becoming numb to the things of God because the Bible stories were all too familiar. She longed to break through the serene surface of her safe place and dive deeper into scripture. She wanted to fall in love with the stories she knew so well. Over time, Jenifer learned to do just that. Her unique methods are shared in this one-of-a-kind study. Dive Deeper takes readers by the hand and jumps with them into the exhilarating waters of Bible study.

My thoughts:  Jennifer Jernigan leads women into a deep study of the book of Ephesians through a method she labels d.i.v.e.:  define. investigate. visualize. embrace.  She uses an interactive style, with lots of places to answer questions and reflect on readings, to lead readers to dive deep into the truths about Jesus in Paul's letter.  One huge benefit of this book is learning a format that can be carried into a study of any part of the Word.  Anyone interested in "finding deep faith beyond shallow religion" could certainly benefit from this study.

Historical Romance and Mystery -- Butterfly Palace

I've not read many of Colleen Coble's books, but I'm fast becoming a fan of her work.  She is a masterful storyteller and offers her readers a real treat -- whether in a modern-day setting or on an adventure that takes us back to a different time and place. 

Butterfly Palace is a great story full of mystery and romance, set at the beginning of the 20th century in a home of great wealth. The unexpected ways in which the lives of the haves and the have-nots intersect provide an intriguing element to the story.  And trying to decide who are the "good guys" and who are the "bad guys" certainly keeps the reader involved in the story up to the very end.

Lily and Andy/Drew are well-developed characters with a mixture of strengths and flaws that make them very "real."  Part of the attraction of the story is watching the unanticipated growth in Belle and some of the other characters.

I would highly recommend Butterfly Palace to fans of mystery, romance and early 20th-century fiction.  If you are a fan of Downton Abbey, you may enjoy the contrasting lives of the rich and their servants.

Thanks to BookLook Bloggers for providing a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

About the Book

Elegance and wealth. Privilege and politics. The extravagance of the Butterfly Palace overwhelmed Lily’s senses and nearly smothered her painful memories. She pushed away her misgivings . . . She was perfectly safe in this huge house.

Austin, Texas—1904: Abandoned by the love of her life and still mourning the loss of her mother, Lily Donaldson has turned her back on the pain and come to Austin for a fresh start, working for the Marshall family as a kitchen maid in their luxurious mansion, the Butterfly Palace. The tasks before her are legion, and her mistress less than pleasant, but at least Lily’s new life will be, if nothing else, distracting.

But one night, while serving at a dinner party, Lily recognizes the man who abandoned her, Andy, her liaison from the livery stable, the blacksmith’s son . . . sitting among the distinguished guests. Though he recognizes her, Andy does not acknowledge her aloud, and Lily is left reeling, flabbergasted, and irate.

But before she can get an explanation, the path of the Servant Girl Killer swerves very close to the Butterfly Palace, sowing terror among the maids. Having come to Austin to start anew, Lily suddenly feels trapped in a spider web. How can she know who to trust in a house where lies come dressed in fine suits and deceit in silk gowns the colors of butterfly wings?

About the Author 

Best-selling author Colleen Coble's novels have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Best Books of Indiana, ACFW Book of the Year, RWA’s RITA, the Holt Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers' Choice, and the Booksellers Best. She has nearly 2 million books in print and writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail. Colleen is CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers and is a member of Romance Writers of America. She lives with her husband Dave in Indiana.

Visit her website at Twitter @colleencoble.

Another great Terri Blackstock mystery -- Distortion

Terri Blackstock's name on a book is pretty much a guarantee of a great mystery topped off with a good dose of faith.  And Distortion just provides more evidence for that guarantee. By the second page, the mystery is established, and the suspense continues to grow throughout the story.  

The plot is fascinating, and I found it very interesting to read that Terri got the idea for the story when she and her husband returned a U-Haul truck in a scary part of town.  

The characters are well-developed and carry you through a wide range of feelings and emotions as they deal with unearthed secrets and a variety of dangers.  Juliet, in particular, has so many obstacles to face as her life is turned upside down, and Terri uses her character in those challenges to show a great example of faith in the midst of unthinkable difficulty.  

If you've read Truth Stained Lies (book one in the Moonlighters series), you'll find yourself revisiting old friends in Distortion.  The stories intersect in fascinating ways and leave some openings for a compelling Moonlighters conclusion.

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

See what other readers have to say about Distortion here.

About the book:
Juliet Cole's life has been dismantled by the murder of her husband. She doesn't know who---or what---to trust when everything she has believed to be true about her marriage has been a lie. 
A husband's lies can have deadly consequences. 
When Juliet Cole's husband of fifteen years is murdered before her eyes, she thinks it was a random shooting. Devastated and traumatized, she answers hours of questioning, then returns home to break the tragic news to her boys. But a threatening voice mail takes this from a random shooting to a planned, deliberate attack.
Juliet realizes that she and her children are in danger too, unless she meets the killers' demands. But as she and her sisters untangle the clues, her husband's dark secrets come to light. The more she learns, the more of her life is dismantled. Was her husband an innocent victim or a hardened criminal? 

Purchase a copy: 

About the Author: 
Terri Blackstock has sold over six million books worldwide and is a New York Times bestselling author. She is the award-winning author of Intervention, Vicious Cycle, and Downfall, as well as such series as Cape Refuge, Newpointe 911, the SunCoast Chronicles, Restoration, and Moonlighters. 

Learn more about Terri at: