Sunday, November 27, 2016

Engaging, complex story -- Love Bears All Things

Beth Wiseman's Love Bears All Things is a great continuation to her Amish Secrets series.  The story could be read as a stand-alone, but it will definitely be better enjoyed after reading Her Brother's Keeper.

Charlotte is an Englisher who has previously connected (in the first book of the series) with the Amish world through deception.  After the truth was revealed and amends made, she came through with friends as close as family.  When Charlotte's life in Texas appears to be falling apart, she finds herself going back to Lancaster County for a fresh start.

This story is much more complex than some Amish fiction.  There is the matter of the Englisher finding her place in the Amish world, while at the same time a young Amish man is trying to find his place in the English world.  There are mental health and substance abuse issues, unexpected pregnancies, and difficult relationship questions.  All of the story lines make for a very engaging read, without the easy cookie-cutter solutions.

Fans of good Amish fiction should enjoy Love Bears All Things.  And the story leaves enough unanswered questions to create a high level of anticipation for the next installment in the series.

Thanks to BookLook Bloggers for providing a copy of this book.  I was happy to share my personal thoughts in this review.

About the Book:

Could God be offering Charlotte a second chance at true love?

Charlotte Dolinsky needs time to recover after breaking up with her boyfriend, Ryan. But when a surprise visitor shows up on her doorstep in Texas, she’s forced to put aside her own worries to help her Amish friends in Lancaster County. Soon she is entangled in a web of deception and this time, she isn’t the only one keeping secrets.

Daniel Byler struggles each day in his Amish community to heal from his fiancĂ©e’s betrayal. When he discovers that a member of his family is in danger of being shunned, his pain turns to fear. His only way to help is by partnering with Charlotte, a woman he barely knows who has already deceived them all before.

Charlotte begins building a friendship with Daniel that she’ll need to lean on when more surprises surface from her past and she once again finds herself torn between two worlds. Will Charlotte’s friends in the Amish community be able to show her the power of redemption and lead her home? And can she help young Jacob realize that God offers second chances at happiness when she isn’t even sure herself?

About the Author:

Beth Wiseman is the award-winning and bestselling author of the Daughters of the Promise, Land of Canaan, and Amish Secrets series. While she is best known for her Amish novels, Beth has also written contemporary novels including Need You Now, The House that Love Built, and The Promise.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Beautiful Book -- Earth Psalms

Francine Rivers' Earth Psalms is a beautiful book -- both visually and in its inspiring contents. 

The book contains 52 devotionals -- one for each week of the year.  Each devotional begins with a short passage of scripture and ends with a verse or two from the book of Psalms.  In between you will find an inspiring story from nature, beautiful photography, and some combination of uplifting quotes, hymn lyrics, and interesting facts.

I didn't know I could learn so much or be so challenged by stories of earthworms, turtles, pansies, and such, but that is exactly what happened as I read the book.  Francine used her awesome writing talent to transform her accounts of ordinary things and simple events into profound thoughts that bring encouragement and joy.  

Reading through this book in just a few sittings was very enjoyable and thought-provoking.  But I really look forward to going back through it at a much slower pace, putting more time and meditation into the reflections and applications that Francine suggests at the end of each devotional.

I highly recommend Earth Psalms to anyone interested in simple, yet profound, lessons from God's Word and his creation. Each devotional is a short, quick read but provides enough "food for thought" to last much longer.

Thanks to Tyndale Publishers for providing a copy of this book.  I am happy to share my own thoughts about the book in this review.

About the Book:

Millions of readers have been transformed and inspired by Francine Rivers bestselling novels Redeeming Love and A Voice in the Wind. Now, in this weekly devotional, the beloved author invites you to join her in seeking the Creator through the marvelous natural world we live in. Francine shares observations she's gathered over a lifetime of exploring abroad and in her own backyard and reflects on how they might apply to your daily life. What do the majestic redwoods, the persistent woodpecker, or a glorious sunrise reveal about our artistic and generous God? How could that change your outlook or the way you handle adversity? Stunning photography, Scripture excerpts, applications, and prayers accompany Francine's reflections, inspiring you to be encouraged. Be challenged. Be comforted. God's power is immense; His attention to detail in precise; His love for you is vast and unfailing. The proof is all around you.

Q & A with Francine Rivers
Author of Earth Psalms

New York Times bestselling author Francine Rivers has published numerous novels—all bestsellers—and she has continued to win both industry acclaim and reader loyalty around the globe. Her Christian novels have been awarded or nominated for numerous honors and in 1997, after winning her third RITA Award for Inspirational Fiction, Francine was inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. Francine’s novels have been translated into over 40 different languages, and she enjoys bestseller status in many foreign countries.

1.    What motivated you to venture into your first nonfiction title?

I love reading nonfiction but had never tackled it. When I shared with someone in South Africa about doing “earth psalms” about the way God speaks to me through His creation, someone mentioned turning those essays into a devotional. I love devotionals and read a new one every year, so the prospect of writing one was exciting. Tyndale partnered me with Karin Stock Buursma and we worked together as a team. I thoroughly enjoyed everything about the project.

2.    Was it hard to share personal stories about how God has worked in your life without the safety net of fictionalization?

Sharing personal stories about how God works in my life is a pleasure, and I love hearing how God has worked in other people’s lives, too. It’s the life experiences and hope we share with one another that brings God even closer. It shows how personally involved the Lord is in His children’s lives.

3.    Explain the title. How did you come up with the idea of Earth Psalms?

A psalm is a song, and the earth and everything on it, in it, above it, and beyond it is God’s creation. Everything God created sings praise to Him, and I believe also teaches us many lessons about our Creator as well. It’s exciting to look at things we might have taken for granted and see what they teach us about the Lord. We are never to worship any created thing or even creation itself. We are to worship the Creator, Jesus Christ, the Word that created it all.

4.    What will readers find inside the pages of Earth Psalms?

Readers will find an earth psalm (essay) about something God has created and a lesson God has taught me through it. There are questions for readers to ponder or use for journaling: Reflect, Apply, Connect with God. There are also some additional facts, Scripture, and hymns, as well as beautiful pictures. The earth psalm essay was my part. The enriching questions and details are Karin’s, and the beautiful artwork was put together by Jennifer Ghionzoli at Tyndale.

5.    What was it like working with a collaborator for the first time?

Working with Karin Stock Buursma was a pleasure. We talked about any editing that needed to be done, the questions and elements of the devotional. I hope to work with her again.

6.    What is your hope for this book?

I hope readers will look at ordinary things (and some not so ordinary) in a new way and search for ways God speaks to us through His creation. Just as an artist reveals himself through his art, God has given us evidence of Himself in everything He’s created. We are to be good stewards of what God has given us. Nature is to be enjoyed and appreciated. It all points to Him.

7.    Why do you think Christians need to hear this message?

We live in a busy world, and even Christians can get in such a rush they forget to “stop and smell the roses.” Imagine that wonderful scent reminding you that the prayers of believers are like the scent of incense to God. I hope readers will slow down, look around, discover the beauty, and then praise God for all the many blessings He has given us. And then, start looking for ways God speaks to each individual through His creation. The essays I’ve written are lessons I’ve learned, but God has things to point out to each individual that speak to their personal lives.

8.    How do you hope your message will resonate with your readers?

I know many other people who love the natural world and see how it is evidence of God as Creator of all. I hope this devotional will encourage them to rejoice and look for and share how God speaks to them. There are so many mysteries that can’t be explained by evolution, but can easily be explained by God. We have the inside story of how the earth was made, and our place in it.

9.    What first sparked your love of the natural world and when did you begin to connect its role to your faith walk?

Both of my parents loved nature. My dad loved to fish. So whenever we traveled, we camped by a stream, lake, or the ocean. While Dad and my brother fished, Mom and I wandered the shore, looking at rocks and flowers, keeping an eye out for animals. We also lived a couple miles outside a small town, and our entertainment was hiking and exploring. My parents were Christians, active in the church, so I grew up knowing God created the world and everything in, on, and above it. My views temporarily shifted in high school and college, where evolution was (and still is) being promoted as “the answer” to how things came to be. But the closer you look at that theory, the more illogical it becomes, the more holes you find in the thinking. Looking for evidence of God in creation became important because I wanted to pass along that mind-set to my children and grandchildren.

10.  How can exploring nature and God’s creation help to expand our love for Him and result in a closer relationship with our Creator?

I start with the thought: God created this thing, and there is a purpose in it and for it. What does this unique creation say about God? What lesson might He be trying to teach me through this plant or animal? The world is full of evidence and clues, and they all point to Him. It’s a treasure hunt! You have to spend more time with the Lord to find answers. As we ask our questions and seek answers from Him, He gives us the ability to find what He wants us to know. We are blessed that God wants us to have a personal, intimate relationship with Him and has made that possible through His Son, Jesus.

11.  What does nature reveal about our creative and generous God? How might these lessons and observations shape our faith?

Searching for earth psalms has encouraged my faith in the Lord. God has been generous in His creation. He’s given us vast variety and diversity. He’s given us color and shape and texture. We haven’t even begun to fully explore the wonder of His creation. It’s only been in recent history that we’ve “discovered” black holes and nebulae and dwarf stars. We haven’t even seen all the things on the ocean floor. Everything was made by God, an endless wonderland of things to study and explore, all to the glory of God, who made it all.

12.  How have you seen God’s character and faithfulness demonstrated in nature?

The seasons play out the Gospel every year. He gives us the air we need to breathe, the rain to grow the food we eat, the time and eternity to know Him. The one constant is the Lord, who existed before creation and will always be.

13.  God’s glory is manifested in nature all around us. How can we tune into His glorious message? What do you do to discover Earth Psalm moments?

We tune in by praying and reading His Word and asking Him to open our eyes, ears, and hearts to what He has for us. Then we look and listen with hearts fixed on Him. When we discover something that has a lesson for us, we give thanks to God for that lesson. And then we share it with others.

14.  What have your observations about nature taught you about God?

My observations about nature have taught me how much God loves me and every person on the planet. He could have created a simple, functional, plain planet for us to live on. Instead, He created one filled with beautiful, interesting things from the bottom of the oceans to the mountaintops and beyond. It makes my heart ache sometimes that my love is so limited by my human nature. He’s given us so much, gifts beyond counting. Enjoying nature makes me love and praise Him all the more.

15.  What lessons have been most surprising as you dig into the world God created?

God even teaches us valuable lessons through beetles and worms!

16.  You’ve traveled a lot. Do you have favorite places you love to explore over and over again?

My own backyard.

17.  What’s your favorite destination, and do you have a place you’ve always wanted to go?

After Rick’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s, we decided to travel as much as possible while we are physically able, and have done so extensively over the last ten years. We still have a list of places we’d like to visit, many of which are right here in California. The favorite destination of any trip always comes at the end—home. And the one place I’ve always wanted to go—and stay—is heaven.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Countdown to Christmas -- The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (with GIVEAWAY)

Ace Collins' The Most Wonderful Time of the Year is a nice read for the Christmas season.  It actually provides a countdown to Christmas (and beyond) with a reading for each day of the month of December.

Each day's reading includes a verse (or a few verses) of scripture, some devotional thoughts, lyrics and background information from a song (mostly Christmas songs), and a recipe for a Christmas treat -- either for eating or pampering.  The readings are fairly short and quick to read, a nice thought to start or finish the day without requiring a lot of time to be added to an already busy time.  Some entries offer suggestions to help make your holiday season more enjoyable or meaningful, while others are generally uplifting for any time of year.  The daily selections could easily be enjoyed alone or shared during family time.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity Group for providing a copy of this book.  I am happy to share my own thoughts in this review.

See what other readers have to say about The Most Wonderful Time of the Year here.

About the Book:

Celebrate 31 days of a Christ-filled Christmas season. For Christians worldwide, the month of December is filled with joy and wonder as we anticipate the celebration of Christ’s birth. There is no other time of the year that can compare to the Christmas season for both the young and young at heart.

From December to New Year’s Eve, reawaken the wonder, joy, and magic that is Christmas with daily scripture and inspirational readings of stories behind popular Christmas traditions, carols and movies. Enjoy a wealth of fun activities to help make the most of the season, including heartwarming holiday recipes and homemade gift ideas.

With this soon-to-be-cherished holiday devotional, best-selling author Ace Collins will capture your imagination and help to make each day of December more memorable and meaningful to you, and those you love, by shining a light on the real spirit of the season.

About the Author:

Ace Collins defines himself as a storyteller. He has authored more than sixty books that have sold more than 2.5 million copies. His catalog includes novels, biographies, children's works as well as books on history, culture and faith. He has also been the featured speaker at the National Archives Distinguished Lecture Series, hosted a network television special and does college basketball play-by-play. Ace lives in Arkansas.


Make this upcoming Christmas holiday a Christ-filled season of joy and wonder with the help of Ace Collins' new devotional, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. From December to New Year’s Eve, reawaken the Christmas season with daily scripture and inspirational readings of stories behind popular Christmas traditions, carols and movies. Enjoy a wealth of fun activities to help make the most of the season, including heartwarming holiday recipes and homemade gift ideas. Download a free sampler of the book by clicking here.

Join Ace's Christmas festivities by entering to win the Magic of Christmas Prize Pack. Create new traditions this holiday season with your family and friends with the goodies included in the giveaway.


One grand prize winner will receive:
Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on November 21. The winner will be announced November 22 on the Litfuse blog.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Chilling suspense -- Fatal Frost (with a GIVEAWAY)

(Be sure to read to the end of the post for a chance to win your own copy of Fatal Frost.)

I have read and enjoyed a couple of series by Nancy Mehl with Mennonite settings.  But I think I've just discovered a new favorite genre of her writing.  Fatal Frost, the first in a new suspense series, is a page-turner that was hard to put down.

The main characters and plot were well-developed, with information provided at just the right pace that the story demanded.  Many of the characters were not black and white/good and bad; instead they were realistic, multi-dimensional people with real-world issues to deal with.

The suspense started in the very first pages and picked up as the story moved on.  There were plenty of twists to keep you guessing about the eventual outcome of the story.  Picking out the "bad guys" was not always an easy task.  There is an element of romance in the story, but it takes a back seat to the suspense. I am anxious to see what comes next in this intriguing series.

Thanks to Nancy Mehl and Bethany House for providing a copy of this book.  I was happy to share my own thoughts in this review.

About the Book:

Following in her absentee father's footsteps in a law enforcement career, U.S. Marshal Mercy Brennan has just recovered from being shot in the line of duty. And, unbeknownst to her, her father's recent reappearance in her life has put her in the sights of St. Louis's most powerful gang. Her boss assigns Deputy U.S. Marshal Mark St. Laurent--Mercy's ex-boyfriend--to get her out of town until her safety can be guaranteed.

Unaware of the extent her boss and Mark have been keeping her in the dark, it isn't until a freak ice storm strands them at a remote location and out of contact with the district office that the full severity of their situation becomes clear. As the storm worsens, the forces of nature combine with a deadly enemy to put them in great danger. Can they survive long enough for help to arrive--if help is even coming at all?

About the Author:

Nancy Mehl is the author of twenty-one books, including the Road to Kingdom and Finding Sanctuary series. Nancy writes from her home in Missouri, where she lives with her husband, Norman, and their puggle, Watson. Visit to learn more.


I have a second copy of Fatal Frost that I would be glad to share with another reader.  For a chance to win, please comment below by midnight on Wednesday, November 9.  I will randomly select the name of one commenter after that time.  Be sure to include your email address so I can contact you if you are the winner.

WWII history brought to life -- Remembering You

Remembering You is a touching story written a few years ago by Tricia Goyer. 

The story brings to life some of the details of WWII, one of Tricia's passions in her writing.  It is also a story about the love between generations in a family and about REALLY listening to each other.  There are moments that are difficult to witness and others that are very tender and touching.  There is a romantic element, but it seems to be secondary to some of the other themes. 

I really enjoyed this moving story and highly recommend it to anyone interested in WWII history. 

About the Book:

Television producer Ava Ellington cannot refuse her grandfather's last wish--that she accompany him to Europe on a tour of World War II battle sites. Ava has little interest in historical battles, but this may be her last chance to break down the barriers that have grown up between them, and she sets off, camera in hand, ready to record and report on their journey. She and Grandpa Jack are greeted in Paris by Paul, her grandpa's best friend, and his grandson Dennis. The Dennis who just happens to be Ava's first love.

History comes alive as the group travels across Europe--from the romantic sights of Paris to the bleak battlefields of Belgium to the Austrian labor camp these men liberated so many years before--and Ava sees a side of her grandfather she's never known before. As he shares his memories of those bitter days on the battlefield, she begins to understand how his experiences in the war made him the man he is today.

Throughout the journey, Ava and Dennis are drawn together in ways neither of them expected. Can their memories of the past lead to a bright new future?

About the Author

Tricia Goyer is the award-winning author of twenty-five books, many of them set during the World War II era.  She has interviewed more than one hundred war veterans to make her stories come alive for her readers.  Tricia and her husband, John, have four children and live in Little Rock, Arkansas.  Read more at 

Frightening possibilities -- Deep Shadows

When an author begins to write in a genre different from the one I am used to reading, I often wonder what to expect.  That is how I felt when Vannetta Chapman announced that she was going to write a dystopian series -- and all I had read of hers were Amish stories.

Well, I was not disappointed in her new direction in Deep Shadows.  The story was not a pleasant one -- in fact, it is pretty frightening to think of having to live through the situations it included.  Vannetta's telling of the story, though, made for a very intriguing read. 

One of the most engaging elements of the story is exploring how the characters deal with the difficulties that come when their normal day-to-day lives are completely turned upside down.  Vannetta has obviously down her "homework" in detailing the various scenarios that have to be dealt with.  Max and Shelby each bring their own strengths, weaknesses, pasts, and fears into the situation.  Shelby is definitely a mother driven by concern for her son's health; my only criticism would be that her focus seemed to drag down and get a little repetitive in some spots.

I am anxious to see how the story continues in the next book in the series, as well as reading the prequel in an ebook entitled Overshadowed.

About the Book:

All It Takes Is One Night to Plunge the World into Darkness

Life in Abney, Texas, is predictable and safe–until the night a massive solar flare wipes out all modern technology.

Shelby Sparks, novelist and single mom, had one goal: to provide for her diabetic son. In the wake of this global disaster, her mission hasn’t changed. Only now, medication is a priceless commodity and the future resembles an apocalyptic nightmare.

Max Berkman and Shelby were once sweethearts, but he lost his chance at claiming her love years ago. When the abrupt loss of power ushers him into a leadership role, he rises to the occasion. But his highest priority–to keep Shelby and her son safe–could prove to be the biggest challenge of all.

As the brilliant northern lights give way to deep shadows, Max and Shelby’s faith will be tested like never before. Only one rule remains: Find a way to survive.

About the Author:

Vannetta Chapman writes inspirational fiction full of grace, including romantic suspense and Amish romance novels. Chapman was a teacher for 15 years and currently writes full-time. She lives in the Texas hill country with her husband, pets, and a herd of deer.

Story behind the song -- Newton & Polly

Newton & Polly is my first read by Jody Hedlund, but I don't plan for it to be my last. 

The fact that Amazing Grace is my all-time favorite hymn drew me to the story.  I knew a little of the background of John Newton but had never heard of Polly who helped guide him to a knowledge of the love and care of a gracious God.

     "It sounds to me like God has 
      intervened in your life in
      each of the occasions, 
      miraculously saving you from death.
      Perhaps he deemed that your time on earth isn't finished, 
      that he has more in store for you yet in this life."

In a note at the end of the book, Jody shares that her story is based on extensive research and contains a great amount of factual information.  It is a work of fiction, however, and has been written with creative license to craft an engaging story.

The characters and events -- both real and fictional -- keep the story moving at a very enjoyable pace.  The details give interesting insight into the time and place where John and Polly lived. Fans of great historical fiction should enjoy this intriguing story behind th well-known hymn. 

Thanks to Blogging for Books for providing a copy of the book.  The comments in this review are my own thoughts.

About the Book:

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found…

Now remembered as the author of the world’s most famous hymn, in the mid-eighteenth century as England and France stand on the brink of war, John Newton is a young sailor wandering aimlessly through life. His only duty is to report to his ship and avoid disgracing his father—until the night he hears Polly Catlett’s enchanting voice, caroling. He’s immediately smitten and determined to win her affection.

An intense connection quickly forms between the two, but John’s reckless spirit and disregard for the Christian life are concerns for the responsible, devout Polly. When an ill-fated stop at a tavern leaves John imprisoned and bound, Polly must choose to either stand by his side or walk out of his life forever. Will she forfeit her future for the man she loves?

Step back through the pages of history, to uncover the true love story behind a song that continues to stir the hearts and ignite the faith of millions around the globe.

About the Author:

Jody Hedlund is a CBA best-selling and award-winning author of fourteen books. Among a variety of genres, she especially loves bringing long-forgotten women of history to life. She is the author of Luther and Katharina, which was awarded the ECPA Book of the Year Award in Fiction. Her other novels have won the Carol Award, the INSPY Award, and the Christy Award. She resides in Midland, Michigan, with her husband and five busy children.

A "Charming" Christmas story -- An Amish Family Christmas

Shelley Shepard Gray takes us back to Charm, Ohio, for one more visit with the Kinsinger family in An Amish Family Christmas.  As always, her story is inviting and enjoyable.

Many of the characters seem like close family friends by the time you get to the fourth Charmed Amish Life book.  Levi is the Kinsinger family member highlighted in this story.  His story reminds readers how important family can be -- especially during times of deep hurt.  Julia and Penny are great additions to the series, so easy to care about and get to know.  Theirs is a beautiful story of a mother wanting to do what she believes is the very best for her child, even at the risk of personal sacrifice.  Fans of great Amish fiction should enjoy this story that emphasizes family, trust and forgiveness.

Thanks to Shelley for providing me a copy of this book.  I was pleased to share my thoughts about the story in this review.

About the Story:

In Shelley Shepard Gray’s fourth book in her Charmed Amish Life series, an unlikely Amish romance reveals that Christmas is a time for family, miracles—and love.

Ever since his father died in a tragic fire, Levi Kinsinger has felt adrift. Newly returned to Charm, Ohio, Levi is trying to fit into his old life, only to discover he seems to have outgrown it.

But when Julia, his young widowed neighbor, asks for his help with a Christmas project, Levi finds a sense of purpose for the first time in months. She and her daughter are new to Charm and could use a friend, a job Levi takes personally. Soon enough, friendship grows into attraction, but Levi can’t help having doubts. There’s something about Julia that doesn’t ring quite true…

Like Levi, Julia Kemp has survived her fair share of hardships—but only by hiding the truth of her past. Being an unmarried mother in an Amish community was unthinkable. Feeling hopeless, Julia did the only thing she could do: she moved to a new town and pretended to be a widow. But meeting Levi, she’s hopeful for the first time. Little by little, she begins to imagine telling him her darkest secret, and eventually…perhaps even sharing her life with him.

Christmas is a time for family, and as the holiday draws closer, Julia and Levi will have to face their pasts together…in order to find the healing, support and love they so desperately desire.

About the Author:

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