Friday, March 27, 2015

Danger and long-held secrets -- Deadly Echoes

Nancy Mehl has written another good mystery set in a Mennonite community in Deadly Echoes, her second Finding Sanctuary book.

The fictional town of Sanctuary, Missouri, is a quiet, secluded place, but it certainly has its share of mystery and peril.  Nancy blends Mennonite and "English" residents of the community in a story filled with danger, suspense, and a fair share of romance.  The Mennonite element does not seem as prominent in this story as in some of Nancy's others but does add an interesting piece to the story line. The back story is developed throughout the book at just the right pace while the characters deal with life-threatening situations.  The characters are well developed and keep the interest level high as the story progresses.

Fans of Christian suspense should find Deadly Echoes very enjoyable.  Thanks to Bethany House for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the book:

After a youth filled with tragedy and upheaval, Sarah Miller's life is finally settled with all echoes of the past silent at last. She happily calls Sanctuary her home and spends her days teaching at the local school.

Sarah's joy at her recent reunion with her sister, Hannah, and meeting the niece she didn't know she had is too soon interrupted when Deputy Sheriff Paul Gleason informs Sarah her sister has been killed.

As she learns more about Hannah's death, the circumstances are eerily similar to their parents' murder. Sarah enlists Paul's help in digging deeper into the murders the police are dismissing as burglaries gone wrong. Paul's concern encourages Sarah's growing feelings for him, but as their investigation peels back the layers of lies almost twenty years old, they get close to uncovering the truth one person will do anything to hide--even if that means coming after the last remaining members of the Miller family.

About the author:

Nancy Mehl is the author of eighteen books and received the ACFW Mystery Book of the Year Award in 2009. She has a background in social work and is a member of ACFW and RWA. She writes from her home in Missouri where she lives with her husband, Norman, and their Puggle, Watson. Visit her website at

A fun visit to Pinecraft -- The Promise of Palm Grove

Everything I have heard about the Amish community of Pinecraft in Sarasota, Florida, makes it sound like a lively, fun place to visit.  Shelley Shepard Gray's The Promise of Palm Grove fits that same description -- lively and fun!

From the opening pages, Beverly, Leona, Mattie, and Sara start the story off with delightful anticipation.  You can almost feel the excitement when the Pioneer bus pulls into Sarasota.  And the fun really kicks off when the girls first meet some of the local boys.

There are the difficult moments in the story when tough things must be dealt with.  But all in all, the story feels like a sunny vacation in the middle of a hard winter.  This is very much the type of enjoyable story I've come to expect from Shelley Shepard Gray.

Fans of Amish fiction should enjoy this quick read.  I look forward to more visits to Pinecraft  through future installments in the series where I'm hoping to find a few loose ends tied up.

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

Read what other reviewers have to say about The Promise of Palm Grove here.

About the book:

Leona must decide: Does she follow the path set out before her? Or take a chance with only the promise of what could be to guide her?

A young Amish woman finds herself torn between the man she's pledged to wed and the man her heart desires in this heartwarming story of chance, duty, and choice in the face of love---the first volume in the beloved New York Times bestselling author's new Amish Brides of Pinecraft series.

Amish bride-to-be Leona is thrilled to be in Florida, on a mini-vacation in the pretty town of Pinecraft. Her girlfriends think she's happy because she's away from the stress of wedding planning. They have no idea that Leona's real joy is in being away from her fiancé.

Edmund is a good man, and will make a decent husband . . . just not for Leona. The more time she spends with him and his overbearing ways, the less she wants to be his wife. Her cousins are sure Edmund is the right man for her---and their certainty makes Leona begin to doubt herself. But when a chance encounter with a wayward cat brings her face-to-face with a handsome, fun-loving Amish man named Zachary Kauffman, Leona's faced with two vastly different futures.

Purchase a copy: 
About the author: 
Shelley Shepard Gray is a two-time New York Times bestseller, a two-time USA Today bestseller, 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.

Find Shelley online: website

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Another visit with close friends -- Harvest of Blessings (with a giveaway)

Have you ever read a series of books filled with fictional characters set in a fictional town and felt like you were among some of your closest friends every time you opened another book?  Well, that's how I feel about Harvest of Blessings and the rest of Charlotte Hubbard's Seasons of the Heart series.

We've been through many of life's ups and downs together in Willow Ridge.  There are the characters who have been present since the beginning.  One of those is Miriam, who seems to be the heart of the community, who sees the best in almost everyone and who always has an open ear and a tasty baked good to offer to anyone in need.  At the other extreme is Hiram Knepp, the now ex-communicated bishop who continues to show up and wreak havoc on the good folks of Willow Ridge.

Harvest of Blessings introduces a new character, or rather brings back a former resident to Willow Ridge -- Nora.  Nora returns home after sixteen years with lots of secrets and little chance of ever being able to fit back into the town -- particularly because of her own family's feelings toward her.  Her appearance stirs things up and forces the entire community to make difficult decisions about compassion and forgiveness.

While I am sad to know this series is about to end with only one more book, I am excited to know that Nora's story is a launching point for a whole new series Charlotte is working on.

If you are a fan of great Amish fiction, you should enjoy Harvest of Blessings.   But first you will definitely want to read the previous four books in the series.  Thanks to Charlotte Hubbard and Goddess Fish Promotions for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Be sure and read through to the end of this post for a chance to win a prize.  One randomly drawn commenter will receive a $50 Amazon/BN gift card.

About the Book:

The tranquil little town of Willow Ridge is facing a startling challenge. Wealthy Nora Glick Landwehr is determined to make it her home again—and put her past to rest. Cast out by her own family, Nora can’t reconcile with Old Amish ways or her strict father. But she’ll do anything to help her community embrace the future . . . and make amends to the daughter she had to give up. So, she certainly has no time for her reckless new neighbor Luke Hooley. They disagree about almost everything. And how can she trust him if he always seems to believe the worst about her? Somehow, though, his unexpected support and passionate heart are helping her find her own way in faith. And Nora will discover that even in the face of insidious lies and unyielding judgment, God creates unexpected chances for forgiveness—and love.

Enjoy an Excerpt from Harvest of Blessings: 

As Miriam pulled seven loaves of bread from the oven early Saturday morning, she savored the silence of the Sweet Seasons kitchen. This time before her partner Naomi Brenneman and her waitresses arrived was always her chance to think things through, and the past twenty-four hours had given her quite a lot to consider.

Lord, I hope You’ll hold Nora and Lizzie and Wilma and Millie in Your healin’ hands, she prayed as she measured flour for the day’s pie crusts. And I hope You’ll open Gabe and Atlee’s hearts, as well. But Your will be done.

Miriam chuckled, at herself mostly. It seemed that telling God what to do rather than asking Him was an easy habit to fall into. Her visit with Nora yesterday, followed by the unfortunate scene with Gabe in the dining room, had made her think a lot about whether some of the Old Order ways came more from men’s insistence on control than from consulting God about the right way to handle their childrens’ mistakes. In some districts, expressing such an idea out loud might be considered reason for requiring a member to repent. But that didn’t stop a lot of Plain women from wondering if things couldn’t be different. Kinder. More loving.

“Miriam, when I die and go to heaven, please God, I believe it’ll smell a whole lot like your kitchen,” came a voice through her open window.

Miriam laughed. “Tom Hostetler, I believe you’re beggin’ for a sample,” she called out. “My stars, I can’t think you’ve already milked your cows.”

“I get up earlier when I’ve got a lot on my mind.”

“Jah, I know all about that.” As the bishop walked in, Miriam gestured toward a tall stool near her work area. “And between you, me, and this countertop, my heart’s achin’ for the Glick women. Every one of them had their lives turned upside down sixteen years ago when Gabe sent Nora away, and now they’re goin’ through it again.”

Tom smiled ruefully. “I knew you’d see it that way, just as I could’ve predicted Gabe’s reaction when Nora asked for his forgiveness,” he murmured. “That’s where the fish bone gets caught in my throat. She did ask. And her father flat-out refused to even give her the time of day.”

“And then there was Hiram, appearin’ from outta nowhere to get right in the thick of it,” Miriam said with a grimace. She passed Tom a serrated bread knife and went to the refrigerator for a stick of butter. “Somebody’s gotta see if this bread’s fit to eat. Might as well be us.”

Tom chuckled and selected the round, golden-brown loaf nearest him. “How much do ya recall from all those years ago?” he asked as he positioned the knife on the bread. “Hiram was the bishop then, and Gabe and I were preachers, with your Jesse servin’ as our deacon.”

“It was all so hush-hush. Nora’d already been gone a week or so before I realized it,” Miriam replied in a far-away voice. “Wilma looked like she’d been hit by a truck, and wouldn’t—couldn’t—let on about the details Gabe forbade her to discuss. So we were left to assume that Nora was pregnant. Then, when Atlee and Lizzie suddenly had a red-headed baby—as newlyweds, without her bein’ pregnant—that pretty much told the tale.”

“Gabe insisted that the less folks knew, the less they could gossip—and other girls wouldn’t follow Nora’s sinful path.” He slathered butter on a generous slice of dense, grainy bread and handed it to Miriam. “And while Hiram and Jesse and I went along with that age-old strategy, I wondered what would become of Nora . . . how she would ever join the church or reunite with her family.”

He paused to close his eyes over a big bite of bread. “But I was the youngster—hadn’t been a preacher very long, so I didn’t make waves,” he went on. “Eventually the whole episode faded away, and Millie grew up as Atlee and Lizzie’s child.”

“Well, our days of sweepin’ it under the rug are over. Mmmm,” Miriam murmured as she took a big bite of the warm bread. “Your fresh butter almost turns this bread into dessert, Tom.”

“Nah, it’s your way of puttin’ the ingredients together that makes it special,” the bishop insisted.

About the Author:
Drawing upon her experiences in Jamesport, the largest Old Order Amish community west of the Mississippi, longtime Missourian Charlotte Hubbard (a.k.a. Naomi King) 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.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

A gentle, touching story -- A Faith of Her Own

Amish fiction is one of my favorite genres, and I've read hundreds of Amish stories.  There are several authors I have come to trust, and I can be pretty sure I'm going to enjoy whatever books they write.  Some of the stories, though, stand out above and beyond the others.

Kathleen Fuller's A Faith of Her Own is one of those standouts.  Kathleen tells Anna Mae's and Jeremiah's story in a way that is gentle and touching.  The questions and struggles are very realistic and very deep.  There are issues of deep hurts that require healing and forgiveness.  Difficult decisions with long-reaching consequences have to be made.  And this is definitely a story that keeps you guessing about the resolution all the way to the very last pages.

But running through every one of those challenges is an overarching theme of a personal, guiding faith in God, a kind of faith that requires patience and understanding rather than rash judgments and quick decisions.  Anna Mae, Jeremiah, and the other characters in this story draw you into their lives and provide opportunities for you to share in their joys and their heartaches as they each find their own answers.

Fans of great Amish fiction should definitely enjoy visiting Middlefield in A Faith of Her Own.  Thanks to Kathleen for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the Book:

Can Anna Mae heed God’s call on her life, even if it means leaving behind everything she knows . . .  and everyone she loves?

Ever since Anna Mae’s childhood friend Jeremiah left their Amish community, she’s questioned her own place in the Amish world.  The Amish life feels as if it’s closing in on her, and with her mother trying to set her up with potential suitors, Anna Mae feels trapped in a life she’s not sure she wants anymore. But she’s never told anyone that she longs for a tiny taste of freedom—freedom that could be very costly.

When Jeremiah suddenly reappears in Middlefield to help his mentor, Yankee veterinarian Dr. Miller, new questions surface for Anna Mae, along with feelings she’d never fully acknowledged before.

As Anna Mae and Jeremiah rekindle their friendship, old feelings take on new meaning. Yet the question still lingers: What is God’s plan for her life? Should she stay, keeping loyal to her Amish family, or does God have a bigger plan—one that provides more freedom than she could imagine? The answers do not come easily, and the answer to God’s call may lie in different directions . . . for both of them.

About the Author:

I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, and now make my home in beautiful Geneva, Ohio. I’ve been married to James for 15 wonderful years (really, they have been wonderful!)  We have three terrific children, three dogs, and an overwhelmed cat. We have also raised cattle, pigs, and chickens at various times over the years. We would have gone into the goat business, but I had to draw the line somewhere. I started writing in 2000, and published my first short story a year later. Since then I have authored several short stories, novellas, novels, and have done a lot of freelance non-fiction work. I have also worked as an editor. I have a Masters degree in Special Education, emphasis on teaching the blind and visually impaired, and a Bachelors in Early Childhood/Elementary Education. I have taught all age groups ranging from age 4 to age 18. A few of my favorite things: my relationship with Christ, chocolate (of course!), autumn, a satisfying book, good friends, a sense of humor, people who don’t take themselves seriously, haunting melodies, NFL football, and did I mention chocolate?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Fantastic anthology -- An Amish Cradle

An Amish Cradle is another fantastic anthology of stories from some of the best authors of Amish fiction.  This collection provides an excellent opportunity to get a taste of the writing of multiple authors -- whether you're trying them out for the first time or wanting to enjoy more from those you know well.

As the title makes clear, each of these four stories is about the birth of a baby (or maybe more) into an Amish family, each family with its own unique make-up and challenges.  The authors individually deal gracefully and sensitively with some sort of difficult situation surrounding the birth and how the families rely on their faith in God to deal with their struggles.

I highly recommend this collection to fans of great Amish fiction.  Thanks to the BookLook blogger program for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the Book:

In the Father's Arms by Beth Wiseman -- Ruth Anne Zook is excited that she and her best friend are due with their children the same week. But when Ruth Anne's baby is born with Down Syndrome, she and her husband struggle to understand God's plan.

A Son for Always by Amy Clipston -- Carolyn and her husband Joshua are thrilled to be pregnant with their first child. A teenager when she had her son Benjamin, Carolyn still feels obligated to work to secure Ben's future, even though Josh adopted Ben. She struggles to realize that Josh will love and protect both of their children equally.

A Heart Full of Love by Kathleen Fuller -- Ellie's mother loves to meddle in her personal life-especially now that Ellie's pregnant. Since Ellie is blind, her mother worries that she won't be able to handle the baby. When Ellie gives birth to twins, her mother insists on moving in. Just as everyone reaches the breaking point, a miracle draws them closer to each other and to God.

An Unexpected Blessing by Vannetta Chapman -- At 42, Etta thought her time of having children was over, but she's pregnant again. She goes into labor during a blizzard, and complications with the delivery raise fear. Etta struggles to accept Gotte's wille for the baby and her son, David, who moved away two years earlier in search of what he would do with his life.

About the Authors:

Award-winning, bestselling author Beth Wiseman is best known for her Amish novels, but she has also written several successful contemporary novels, set primarily in her beloved Texas, including Need You Now and The House that Love Built. Both have received glowing reviews. Beth's The Promise is inspired by a true story.

Amy Clipston is the best-selling author of the Kauffman Amish Bakery series. Her novels have hit multiple best-seller lists including CBD, CBA, and ECPA. She and her family live in North Carolina.

Kathleen Fuller is the author of several bestselling novels, including A Man of His Word and Treasuring Emma, as well as a middle-grade Amish series, The Mysteries of Middlefield.

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. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather's birthplace of Albion, Pennsylvania.

Amish Beginnings -- Anna's Crossing

In Anna's Crossing, Suzanne Woods Fisher gives us a look at a piece of Amish history that even the most avid fans of Amish fiction may not be familiar with.  She has taken historical facts of some of the earliest experiences of Amish immigration to the New World and woven them into an awesome story. 

Without the familiar trappings of most Amish stories -- farms, horses, buggies, and such -- Suzanne has managed to carry the spirit of the people onto the Charming Nancy, a merchant ship that actually transported some of the first Amish families from Germany in the 18th century.  Even though the characters come from her own imagination, their experiences represent many of the challenges that those passengers would likely have faced.  If you are anything like me, you will enjoy the pieces of history to be learned as you enjoy Anna's story.  And you just might be surprised at the masterful ways Suzanne pulls all the pieces of the puzzle together in the personal interactions of her characters.

I would highly recommend this book to any fan of Amish fiction or Amish history.  Thanks to Revell Publishing for providing a copy in exchange for my honest review.

If you are interested in some of the "story behind the story" from Suzanne, you might check out an interview she did with fellow Amish author Kate Lloyd on Kate's blog.

Also, Suzanne had a guest post on Amish America about the Amish dress code, a piece of which relates to Anna's Crossing.

About the book:

Some endings are really beginnings . . .

On a hot day in 1737 in Rotterdam, Anna König reluctantly sets foot on the Charming Nancy, a merchant ship that will carry her and her fellow Amish believers across the Atlantic to start a new life. As the only one in her community who can speak English, she feels compelled to go. But Anna is determined to complete this journey and return home--assuming she survives. She's heard horrific tales of ocean crossings and worse ones of what lay ahead in the New World. But fearfulness is something Anna has never known.

Ship's carpenter Bairn resents the somber people--dubbed Peculiars by the deckhands--who fill the lower deck of the Charming Nancy. All Bairn wants to do is to put his lonely past behind him, but that irksome and lovely lass Anna and her people keep intruding on him.

Delays, storms, illness, and diminishing provisions test the mettle and patience of everyone on board. When Anna is caught in a life-threatening situation, Bairn makes a discovery that shakes his entire foundation. But has the revelation come too late?

Bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher invites you back to the beginning of Amish life in America with this fascinating glimpse into the first ocean crossing--and the lives of two intrepid people who braved it.

About the author:

Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of The Letters, The Calling, 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 an Amish children's series, The Adventures of Lily Lapp. Suzanne is a Carol Award winner for The Search, a Carol Award finalist for The Choice, and a Christy Award finalist for The Waiting. She is also a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazines. She lives in California. Learn more at and connect with Suzanne on Twitter @suzannewfisher.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Page-turning suspense -- Twisted Innocence

Twisted Innocence, Terri Blackstock's riveting conclusion to her Moonlighters Series, is filled with the page-turning suspense her fans can always expect in her books.  Romance and faith round out the story of characters dealing with flaws and hurts where God's redemption and family's love are the only sources of hope.

If you have read the previous books in this series (and if not, why not?), you will enjoy finding loose ends tied up in this final installment.  I think the story could be enjoyed on its own, but many pieces of the big picture will be missing without the background provided in Truth Stained Lies and Distortion.

I highly recommend Twisted Innocence -- and the entire Moonlighters Series -- to fans of great "up-all-night" suspense.

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 Twisted Innocence here.

About the book:

Holly Cramer's past choices have finally caught up to her, but she never expected them to endanger her baby.

Though Holly's stumbled through most of her adult life as a party girl, she longs to live a more stable life for her daughter. Then police show up to question her about the whereabouts of Creed Kershaw, Lily's father. She has kept his identity a secret from friends and family---she never even told him about the pregnancy. Now he's a person of interest in a drug-related murder case.

Determined to keep him out of their lives and turn him over to police, Holly uses her private investigating skills to search for him. But her bravado backfires when he turns the tables and takes her and the baby hostage. As desperate hours tick by, Holly realizes his connection to Leonard Miller-the man who has gunned down several members of her family. Creed claims he's innocent and that Miller is after him too. His gentleness with Lily moves her, but she can't trust a man who has held her at gunpoint . . . even if he reminds her so much of herself.

Dangers old and new threaten Holly and her baby, and lives are demanded as sacrifices for love. Through a complex web of mistakes and regret, redemption is the one hope Holly has left to hold on to. 

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.

Find Terri online: website, Facebook, Twitter