Friday, December 9, 2011

Need a good Amish Christmas read or gift?

A few weeks back, I posted a review of a great Amish Christmas story, Cindy Woodsmall's The Christmas Singing. If you're looking for a great Christmas read or a gift for a reader friend, here are some more enticements for you to try out Cindy's charming story.

Check out the trailer and/or read Chapter 1 below.

The Christmas Singing (Chapter 1 Excerpt)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Can you con a con? -- Shadow in Serenity

Shadow in Serenity by Terry Blackstock was an enjoyable way for me to pass the hours during a long ride back home from visiting family.  This was not what I would call a typical Terry Blackstock book -- not the "stay-up-all-night" suspenseful page turner like so many of her others -- but it was a story well worth my time!

"You can't con a con" -- or can you?  Logan Brisco smoothly works his way into the small town of Serenity, Texas, endearing himself to practically everyone in town as he lays the groundwork for his biggest con yet.  What he doesn't expect, though, is to run into the likes of Carny Sullivan, a free-spirited woman who grew up as the daughter of carnival workers and learned the art of cheating unsuspecting marks.  Carny appears to be the only one in town who can see through Logan's facade and tries to warn the friends she has made in her new hometown.  Carny sees Logan as a threat to Serenity, and Logan sees Carny as a challenge to his well-honed skills.  Will Carny be able to stand strong, or will Logan's scheming win her over?

My enjoyment of this story increased as I learned the "back story" of the book.  This was a rewrite of one of the last books Terri Blackstock wrote on the secular market, before she was convicted to only write stories that honor God.  By removing some elements and adding others, she was able to share a story that she loved in a way that (in Terri's own words) "more closely fit my worldview and my Christian conscience."  As a Christian who enjoys and appreciates the work of talented writers who hold true to their faith, I say, "Thank you, Terri Blackstock, for sharing your gift."  (Terri shares more about this story at her website:

An Amish Wedding

An Amish Wedding is a compilation of three novellas by Beth Wiseman, Kathleen Fuller, and Kelly Long.

In A Perfect Secret, Kelly Long introduces Rose and Luke -- a young couple who have known each other all their lives and have been expected by everyone around them to be married some day.  Rose begins to have doubts, though, as she realizes how predictable her relationship with Luke is and how much she wishes for excitement.  When she encounters the thief who is plaguing her community, she finds her desire for adventure growing stronger and has even more questions about her future with Luke.  While Rose looks for answers to her questions, her friend Priscilla runs into problems as she prepares for her own marriage to Chester Lapp.

Kathleen Fuller picks up the story of Priscilla's sister Naomi in A Perfect Match.  When Chester's cousin Zeke comes to town for Priscilla's and Chester's wedding, Naomi puts her matchmaking skills to work with her friend Margaret.  Things don't go as planned, though, and Naomi is surprised to find herself in the middle of a match-up.  Still hurting from being abandoned by her first love, Naomi doesn't believe she is ready to trust again.

Beth Wiseman pulls the pieces together in A Perfect Plan.  As the time approaches for Priscilla's and Chester's wedding, problems continue to grow and threaten to overshadow the love they have for each other.  From an unexpected source, they are reminded of the meaning of true love and of God's plan for their lives.

Three stories, three authors -- one saga of intertwined lives.  Kelly, Kathleen, and Beth all have their distinctive styles of writing but weave them together in a way that makes for a very enjoyable account of life, love, and faith.  Fans of good Amish fiction should definitely enjoy this trio of stories from some of the best!

This book was provided free from Book Sneeze for my honest review.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Remembering Christmas -- and the things that make it special!

I just finished Dan Walsh's Remembering Christmas, and my reaction was, "What a great book!"  This is a beautiful story, full of reminders about what is really important at Christmas . . . and at all other times of the year!

Rick Denton is living the life he loves -- good job at a CPA firm, nice condo, good car, good times -- all with no strong personal connections or commitments.  A few times a year he makes an obligatory phone call to his mother, but he has pretty much left his home and family behind in his quest to follow his dreams.

On the day after Thanksgiving comes a call from his mother that disrupts Rick's good life and fun plans.  His stepfather has suffered an aneurysm and is in critical condition.  His mother asks him to come help with the Book Nook -- the small Christian bookstore Leanne and Art own.  The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the busiest season of the year and they can't afford to close the store.  Rick reluctantly gives up his ski trip to go to Seabreeze to help his mother out through the weekend.  He is uncomfortable dealing with the people connected with the store and is anxious for the crisis to pass so he can get back to his life in Charlotte.

As Rick's time in Seabreeze stretches into weeks rather than days, he begins to notice a change in how he feels about his stay and the people around him.  Then he stumbles upon some shocking information, and he realizes he may have been wrong about the people and things that are important.

Rick's journey through his memories and his priorities was heartwarming and thought provoking.  The plot and characters drew me in from the very first page and kept me to the very end.  And the big twist in the story was a masterpiece!  This is the first book I've read by Dan Walsh, but I'm definitely interested in going back for more.  I would recommend this story to anyone interested in being reminded of the things that really matter at Christmas time.

Dan Walsh is the award-winning author of The Unfinished Gift, The Homecoming, and The Deepest Waters. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Dan served as a pastor for 25 years. He lives with his family in the Daytona Beach area, where he's busy researching and writing his next novel.

Available September 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

This book was provided free from Revell for my honest review.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Charming Christmas Story -- The Christmas Shoppe

Melody Carlson's The Christmas Shoppe offers a charming visit to the small town of Parrish Springs.  Matilda Honeycutt doesn't quite fit in with the other residents of Parrish Springs, and some are intent on running her and her unorthodox business out of town.  Even those who initially give her the benefit of the doubt begin to question whether her store full of second-hand, thrift-shop merchandise belongs on the main street of town. What happens, though, when the doubters actually visit The Christmas Shoppe is pretty amazing and unexplainable. Something about the store begins to win over even Matilda's strongest opponents.

This story contains elements of fantasy that qualify as Christmas "magic."  It is a fun read that reminds you of things that matter -- memories that money can't buy.  My one criticism is that the story sometimes moves too slowly and seems to get bogged down in detail.  All in all, though, I would recommend it to be worth the few hours needed to read the story.

Available September 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

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

The Mercy -- the end of a trilogy

(Spoiler alert:  You might not want to read this review until you have read the first two books in The Rose Trilogy -- The Thorn and The Judgment.)

Beverly Lewis's The Mercy finishes up her Rose Trilogy -- and quite a finish it is!

Hen is caring for Brandon after his accident, and she doesn't see any way to resolve the differences in the lifestyle Brandon enjoys and the return to Plain life that she longs for.  And she fears that she may lose Mattie Sue once Brandon is recovered enough to return home. 

Rose wonders whether she will ever find real love or whether she will settle for a good life as an Amish wife in a relationship that is just comfortable.  As hard as she tries, she can't forget about Nick and the special feelings they shared.

The whole family is affected by their Maam's continued suffering as a result of her buggy accident years earlier.  There may be hope for relief of her pain, but only if she is willing to go through a risky surgical procedure.

Love, forgiveness, grace, and healing are themes woven throughout this heartwarming story from the "reigning queen of Amish fiction."  As always, time spent with a Beverly Lewis story is good time.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Keeper is "a keeper"

Suzanne Woods Fisher has written another great Amish story -- The Keeper, the first book of her new Stoney Ridge Seasons series.

Julia Lapp is heartbroken -- or is it angry -- when her fiance calls off their upcoming wedding -- again.  And she is certain she knows who is to blame --The Bee Man!  When Roman Troyer brings his bees back to the community and then ends up staying longer than usual, right on the Lapp property, Lydia has to deal with a confusing mixture of feelings.  And to make matters worse, her father's failing health puts her in a position of responsibility for her younger siblings and the care of the family's Windmill Farm.  Will she be able to trust in God's care to heal her hurting heart and carry her through tougher times than she ever imagined possible?

This was another very enjoyable story by Suzanne Woods Fisher.  At some times, I felt that the story seemed a little disjointed; certain scenes seemed to not fit together smoothly.  Before the end of the book, though, the pieces fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.  And I have to admit that the big developments toward the end caught me off-guard but presented a beautiful picture of God's perfect plan.

Find out more by viewing this video trailer about The Keeper.

The Keeper is due to be released by Revell in January 2012.  I was lucky enough to win an advanced reader copy during a facebook author party.  Check out Suzanne's facebook page or go here to enter a contest where you might win an advanced copy, as well as some other prizes.

A Confident Heart update and video trailer

A couple of months ago, I posted a review of a non-fiction book, A Confident Heart by Renee Swope. (You can read my review here.)

If you are interested in more information about the book, including a video trailer by the author, click here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Christmas Note -- A Heartwarming Story

The Christmas Note is the latest of Donna VanLiere's heartwarming (and sometimes heartbreaking) Christmas stories, and it was another great one!  Her previous books include The Christmas Shoes, The Christmas Blessing, and The Christmas Hope.

Gretchen Daniels and her two young children move to Grandon to be near her mother after her husband, Kyle, is the victim of a tragic miltary incident in Afghanistan.  Living in the condo next door is Melissa McCreary, who seems to have no desire to make any connection with her new neighbors.  When Gretchen is asked to pass on a message to Melissa concerning her mother's death, she really has no desire to get involved.  Somewhat reluctantly, though, Gretchen finds herself driven by Kyle's "voice" to reach out to Melissa.  The discovery of a note that Melissa's mother started, but never finished, sets off a search for a brother and sister Melissa never knew she had.  Neither Melissa nor Gretchen has any idea of the twists and turns they will face as their lives become more intertwined.

Ms. VanLiere skillfully drew me into the thoughts and actions of her characters.  I came to care about each one and anxiously awaited the resolution of their troubles and challenges.  Some of the elements of the plot were predictable, but others caught me by surprise.  I would recommend that you spend the couple of hours or so that it takes to read this story of Christmas miracles, forgiveness, and restoration.

This book was provided free from Book Sneeze for my honest review.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Warm Amish Romance -- The Christmas Singing

Cindy Woodsmall has written another warm Christmas story in The Christmas Singing.

Mattie is doing well with her business in Ohio -- Mattie Cakes -- and is looking forward to a good life with Sol.  When tragedy strikes, though, she finds herself back in Pennsylvania and having to spend time with Gideon, her childhood sweetheart who broke her heart three years earlier by ending their engagement.  Little does Mattie know that Gideon has never let go of his love for her but has lived with a series of lies as he tried to protect her.  What will happen if the truth ever comes out?

In typical Cindy Woodsmall fashion, this is a sweet story of Amish romance and restoration of broken hearts.  If you've read The Sound of Sleigh Bells, you'll find yourself revisiting some old friends and making new ones.  I recommend this novella for a relaxing, Sunday-afternoon read.

And the recipes from Sherry Gore at the end of the book are a nice bonus!

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Another Amy Clipston Contest

Amy Clipston is running another contest -- this time for an authentic Amish baby dress, meadow tea mix, and a book about Amish schools.  Check it out here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A trilogy of life-changing fiction -- Forever Faithful

Before Bailey Flanigan had to choose between Cody and Brandon . . . before Dayne Matthews was willing to risk his Hollywood stardom for a life of faith . . . before the Baxters became neighbors, friends, and household names to thousands (or millions???) of faithful readers . . . Karen Kingsbury was already writing great God-honoring, life-changing fiction. Forever Faithful is a collection of three of those stories.

In Waiting for Morning, Hannah Ryan receives some of the most devastating news a mother and wife could receive. While stuck in a dark spot, she is driven by sorrow and rage and shuts God out of her life. Forgiveness – toward the man responsible for the loss of her family and toward God – is the farthest thing from her mind. Is there hope and help for turning from her bitterness back to the God she desperately needs?

A Moment of Weakness is the story of Jade and Tanner, best friends as children before a move separates them. A few years later they find each other and give in to a moment of weakness, a choice that separates them again, perhaps forever. Nearly a decade passes before Jade becomes the victim of an unfaithful husband who tries to destroy her and win custody of her son. Is Tanner the one who can help her keep her son and bring truth to light?

Halfway to Forever brings together the main characters from the previous two stories and finds them all facing tremendous struggles. Lives of family members and their trust in God are at stake. Will their faith triumph and see them through the trials?

These individual titles have been packaged together into one volume. This is a great way for someone to be introduced to the writing of Karen Kingsbury in a multi-story series. And those who are already fans will enjoy this book from a favorite author.

Please take a minute to rank this review. It helps me have a broader selection of books to bring to you. Your email address is required only to make sure the system is not being taken advantage of. (If you don't want the newsletter, just uncheck the box.) Thanks!
I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for an honest review.

Monday, October 3, 2011

An Amish “Who-Dun-It” -- Falling to Pieces

Falling to Pieces in the Shipshewana Amish Mystery series is the first book I’ve read by Vannetta Chapman – and I look forward to more.

Deborah Yoder and a couple of her friends have enjoyed making quilts together for some time. Now there are special reasons for each of them to need to earn money from the sale of those quilts, and they are at a loss of what to do since Daisy’s Quilt Shop has been closed since the death of its owner.

Callie Harper has traveled from Houston to Shipshewana to take care of her Aunt Daisy’s affairs, get her quilt shop sold, and move on. She’s not sure, though, if going back to Houston is the best move for her, as she doesn’t believe she has anything or anyone to go back to.

When Deborah and her friends encourage Callie to continue her aunt’s business and help them sell their quilts online, she finds herself reluctantly agreeing to their ideas and staying in Shipshewana – if only temporarily. When the editor of the local newspaper is found dead under questionable circumstances, Callie appears to be an obvious suspect because of some very public threats she made against him. Deborah and Callie work together to clear Callie’s name and get to the bottom of other mysterious happenings.

This story is definitely a little off the beaten path of Amish fiction. While I’m not sure how realistic some of the actions of the Amish characters were, it was a fun read that I would recommend to fans of both Amish and "who-dun-it" books.

This book was provided free from Zondervan for my honest review.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Sweet Story of Love and Trust -- The Wonder of Your Love

Beth Wiseman has shared another great story in The Wonder of Your Love, book 2 of her Land of Canaan series.

Katie Ann Stoltzfus is faced with raising her new baby boy as a single mother in the small Amish community of Canaan, Colorado.  Her husband Ivan left her and moved back to Pennsylvania to live with an English woman and was then killed in a car accident, dying before Katie Ann even had the chance to tell him she was finally expecting their first child.  Eli Detweiler, widowed 17 years ago, has raised his six children alone in Middlefield, Ohio.  Since his youngest daughter has now married and all his children are out on their own, he is looking forward to having less responsibility and traveling to places he has never visited before. 

When Eli comes to Canaan for a relative's wedding, family and friends try to play matchmakers with him and Katie Ann.  The two of them become good friends but are certain that nothing more will come of their relationship, as Eli has finished his job of raising children and Katie Ann has only just begun hers.  Eli has always felt that marrying again would somehow betray the love he had for his wife, and Katie Ann is not sure she will ever be able to trust another man.  But neither Eli nor Katie Ann is prepared for fully experiencing the wonder of God's love in their own lives, as well as the lives of those around them.

Beth Wiseman wrote this story with such depth and detail that the characters come alive and seem like friends you would want to sit and visit with.  I'm certainly hoping there is a book 3 yet to come to provide the chance to revisit these special friends in Canaan, Colorado.

This book was provided free from Book Sneeze for my honest review.

Another Amy Clipston contest

Amy Clipston has a new contest.  Lots of neat prizes, including her new Christmas book, Naomi's Gift.  Check it out here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A delightful Christmas visit to Amish country -- A Lancaster County Christmas

What could be more fun than a visit to Lancaster County in the snow?  Since I probably won't get a chance to do that for real anytime soon, I'm so glad Suzanne Woods Fisher took me there in A Lancaster County Christmas.

If you've read Suzanne's other novels, you'll get the chance to revisit some friends, Sol and Mattie Riehl, who are living the Plain life with their son Danny and Mattie's cousin Zach.  Mattie is losing hope in her life-long dream for a large family, and her fear is taking its toll on her and her family.  Jaime and C. J. Fitzpatrick are drifting apart, as Jaime is enjoying her father's new-found interest in her life and she is worrying about her husband's relationship with a co-worker.  When a snowstorm on the day before Christmas Eve brings the families together unexpectedly, the Amish family and English couple learn a lot about each other and each person discovers much about themselves.

A Lancaster County Christmas contains many of the elements of a typical Christmas story, where you expect to find personal and inter-personal conflict and where Christmas miracles occur.  What makes this story so rich is how deeply Suzanne takes you into the characters' thoughts and feelings.  As the characters, who live at such variying paces, each see themselves through the perspective of the others, I am reminded once again how different, and yet how very much alike we all are in our need for the peace of God that seems to show up so vividly during the season of miracles.

If you want to start your Christmas season off a little early and in a very enjoyable way, I would reommend you give A Lancaster County Christmas a try.

Available September 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

This book was provided free from the publisher for my honest review.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A fun contest by Amy Clipston

Here's a chance to have one of your recipes included in a book by one of my favorite Amish authors.  Click here to enter:  Amy Clipston contest

Irene Hannon does it again! -- Deadly Pursuit

Irene Hannon has written another great story filled with just the right mix of suspense, romance, and faith in Deadly Pursuit, the second installment in her Guardians of Justice series.

Alison Taylor is recovering, both physically and emotionally, from a serious accident and immersed in her work with a child protection agency.  Mitch Morgan is an ex-Navy SEAL who has returned to his hometown of St. Louis where he is a detective with a local police department.  Alison and Mitch are set up on a date by Alison's brother Cole and find they enjoy their time together.  When seemingly random pranks heat up to real danger for Alison, drama and romance abound for both of them.  And the faith that sustains Alison causes Mitch to look for what's missing in his life.

Irene Hannon's writing is captivating and her characters come to life.  She drew me into the story in the very first pages -- the very first sentences -- and kept me wanting more up until the very last.  Even though the distinction between the "good guys" and "bad guys" became apparent early in the story, the details of how the story plays out kept me in suspense and turning pages. 

Irene Hannon's extensive research into so many elements of the story make the setting and details ring true -- including the inner workings of the law enforcement agencies and the descriptions of how a person's body reacts to trauma.  Anyone familiar with the St. Louis area will feel at home with her descriptions of real locations.  My own town of Potosi even made it into the story with the mention of the prison from which one of the characters has recently been released.

Although Deadly Pursuit can stand alone, I would highly recommend that you read the first book in the series, Fatal Judgment.  And if Irene's Heroes of Quantico series is any indication of how the stories in a series just get better, I can't wait for the third installment!

Available September 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

This book was provided free for my review from the publisher.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Another Jenkins Hit! -- The Betrayal

Jerry Jenkins has written another hit with The Betrayal, the second of his Precinct 11 series.

Detective Boone Drake has been shot while involved in the greatest sting in Chicago history.  And in an unexpected turn of events, he has found himself falling in love with Haeley Lamonica, a big step as he continues his healing from losing his family in a tragic accident.

Before Boone has the chance to recover enough to leave the hospital, he finds that something has gone terribly wrong and things are not what they seem.  Somewhere within the police department, there are people who can't be trusted, and there doesn't seem to be an easy way to determine who those people are.  Is Haeley a victim of a set-up, or is there a side to her that Drake knows nothing about?  Who can he trust to find the answers about Haeley that he needs?  What can he do to guarantee the safety of the key witness in the sting operation?  And is Drake's own life in danger?

This story is fast moving and full of suspense.  The distinction between the "good guys" and the "bad guys" is not completely clear until the end of the book.  The drama leading up to that climax will keep you turning the pages. 

Although this book could probably stand alone, parts of the story fit together best if you have read The Brotherhood.  The first book moved at a slower pace and involved a lot of personal introspection by the main character but helped to set the backgraound for The Betrayal.  If you enjoy police drama with a Christian view, both books are definitely worth your time.

This book was provided free by Tydale House Publishers for my honest review.

An Amish story that is "out of this world" -- In Plain Sight

If I were trying to think of two different genres of fiction to put together into one story, I don't believe I would ever have come up with Amish and science fiction.  Marlayne Giron did just that in her newest book, In Plain Sight, and I have to say that it did not work for me.

Twin brothers, one with silver eyes and one with gold, show up in an Amish community, attempting to fit in by dressing and behaving as Amish.  As crop circles begin to appear in fields and farmers in the area suffer loss to crops and livestock, one of the brothers falls in love with a local Amish girl, and the boys live with and are defended by her family.  Things become more and more complex as the brothers look for a way to repair their damaged space ship and make contact with other beings of their own kind. 

Following all the incongruous events of this story just did not make for enjoyable reading.  There were also several unpolished elements in the actual writing of the book.  I have read some favorable reviews of the book, so there is evidently an audience for this type of story.  For me, though, it was just too far "out there."

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Whisper of Peace

In A Whisper of Peace, Kim Vogel Sawyer took me to a time and place I had never visited before -- just before the turn of the 20th century in the "wilds" of Alaska.  And I very much enjoyed the visit!

It took all of a couple of pages to become drawn in by Lizzie "White Feather" Dawson, a young, self-sufficient Athabascan woman with a strong need to belong to someone.  Alone since the death of her mother and banished by her tribe because of her white father, she longs to fulfill her mother's dying wish of reconciling with her grandparents.  If that fails, her only other hope is to go to her father in San Francisco, where he returned after abandoning Lizzie and her mother years before.

Clay Selby, accompanied by his step-sister Vivian, follows his dream of being a great missionary like his father and moves to Alaska to set up a mission in the Athabascan village.  Earning the confidence of the native people is a big challenge, especially after Clay and Vivian become friends with Lizzie.  And Clay is driven to get the mission building completed, anxious to stand behind the pulpit and preach so that he can bring the natives to God.

As is often the case, things don't always go as planned.  But God's plans for all of the characters are much better than their own.  Lizzie finds a place to belong -- where she never would have expected.  Clay gets his chance to minister -- not in the way he had thought.  Vivian finds peace -- after first finding truth.

As expected, this is another great book from Kim Vogel Sawyer.  The characters come alive, the story keeps you wanting more, and God is honored.  I would  highly recommend A Whisper of Peace.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Amy Clipston Contest

Amy Clipston is running a new contest to celebrate the release of her new book, Naomi's Gift.  Go to her blog and check it out!  Amy Clipston Books

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Security for Doubting Hearts -- A Confident Heart

In A Confident Heart, Renee Swope begins by sharing a vivid image that came to her at a moment when she was experiencing self-doubt.  As she stood in front of her mirror, getting ready for an event that she doubted she was competent to handle, she turned around and saw a shadow on the wall, distorting the image of her body.  When she faced the light, she didn't see the shadow; when she turned from the light, the shadow was there, larger than life.  The lesson carried over into her relationship with God -- when she turned her back to His light, she would encounter the shadows of doubt, but when she faced His light the shadows disappeared.

Throughout the book Renee uses examples from scripture and from her own life to point out how doubt keeps Christians from living with a heart that is confident and secure in God's promises.  She leads her readers to understand some of the blessings of living in that security with thoughts such as these:
  • In our experience with God, we can go beyond believing in Him to believing Him to the point of relying on him, no matter what we feel.
  • "Until God's love is enough, nothing else will be."
  • Like a radio has AM and FM frequencies, we can have AM (against me) or FM (for me) thoughts.  Our own thoughts are often AM, but God's are always FM.
  • "Jesus did not die on the cross just to get us out of hell and into heaven.  He died on the cross to get Himself out of heaven and into us!" 
In the last chapter of her book, Renee summarizes with a list of doubts we might face in our lives and the truths that God offers to counter those doubts.  That list alone makes the book well worth reading.  I can see myself referring back to this book for encouragement, in whole and in part, multiple times when doubt comes calling.  I would recommend this book to anyone who ever suffers from or is trapped by self-doubt.

Available August 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

This book was provided to me free of charge for my honest review from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Another Great Author -- Blue Skies Tomorrow

Blue Skies Tomorrow was my first introduction to another great author -- Sarah Sundin.  This is book three in her Wings of Glory WWII romance series.  There was no problem in picking up this late in the series, but I was left wanting to go back to the first two books just to enjoy more of the story.

Helen Carlisle has been recently widowed when her hero husband became a casualty of war.  She is staying busy with her "heart's work" of volunteer efforts on the home front and caring for her young son Jay-Jay.  Lt. Ray Novak is trying to find his place of service in the war, although his heart is in the pulpit.  When Ray returns home to Antioch, California, he and Helen renew an old friendship -- and maybe more.  But there are deep issues they both have to deal with, issues that drive them apart for a while -- and maybe forever.

One of the things that really touched me in the story was the growth of Helen's faith.  This paragraph stood out and spoke to my heart:

     "For the first time, she yielded to his comfort. 
      Jesus didn't take away her tears, he received them.
      He didn't take away the memories, he shared them. 
      He didn't take away the hurts, he felt them.
      Somehow, with the Lord, she could bear it."

Sarah develops characters with such depth that you feel you really know them and share in their joys and struggles.  I was drawn into the story as her characters faced very real and ugly horrors of society in sometimes painful ways.  And although the story and most of the people are fictional, it is obvious that Sarah has done a tremendous amount of research to make the setting and many details true to life.

Available August 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

This book was provided free for my honest review from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

"What We Can Learn from the Simple Life" -- Amish Values for Your Family

"What We Can Learn from the Simple Life" -- that's the lead-in on the cover of Suzanne Woods Fisher's Amish Values for Your Family.  And there are indeed lots of lessons we can learn.  This book reinforces what I've learned from a lot of reading about and limited interaction with Amish people -- we are very different, yet very much the same.

This is a great book to read all at once or in small chunks.  Suzanne shares real stories from real Amish families and then offers suggestions and/or asks questions to help the reader think about how the same values and ideals can fit into the less simple lives of families who are not Amish.  The specific events she tells about may play out differently in Amish homes than they would in yours or mine, but she reminds us that we can teach our children the same lessons of respect, appreciation for God's creation, work ethic, and so much more.

So take a few minutes, sit back in your favorite chair, and enjoy snippets from the simple life.  I think you'll be glad you did!

Available August 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

This book was provided free for my honest review from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Trio of Some Favorite Christian Fiction Authors

As I was looking through the list of authors with pages at Family Fiction, I found these who didn't fit into either of the categories I had already listed.  Of course, Francine Rivers and Karen Kingsbury are two of the top-of-the-line Christian fiction authors who have written lots of books.  Just recently I discovered Eva Marie Everson's first Cedar Key novel and loved it!  I'm anxiously awaiting the next book.  Check out these pages for some great reads.

Great Suspense Authors

Another of my favorite genres of books is suspense.  Here are some of the authors whose books I really enjoy in that category.  Some of them write at least partially in the supernatural realm, some write legal or crime dramas, and others write more general suspense.  Check out their pages at Family Fiction and enjoy their books!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Amish Authors I Love

As any readers of my blog know, one of my favorite types of books is Amish fiction.  These are some of the authors whose books I love to read.  In fact, if they've written an Amish book, I probably own it and have read it!  Check out their pages at Family Fiction for more information -- and enjoy their stories!

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Barbara Cameron is hosting a new contest for a reader to win an autographed copy of A Time for Peace, Book 3 of the Quilts of Lancaster County, on Go there to read details of the contest. Good luck!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Cindy Woodsmall Information

I received some information about Cindy Woodsmall's books that I would like to share with other fans of this great author.

* Special eBook promotion!
The eBook of Cindy’s first book in the Ada’s House series, The Hope of Refuge, is specially priced at only $1.99 for a limited time! You can check out the following link to purchase this before August 15:

* Book Signing Tour!
Cindy will kick off her The Harvest of Grace book signing tour with a stop at Lifeway in Memphis, TN on August 9th. She’ll also be meeting fans and signing books in Arkansas (Conway, Little Rock, Harrison, Rogers, Jonesboro), Oklahoma (Tulsa, Oklahoma City) Kansas (Topeka), and Missouri (Kansas City, St. Louis, Branson, Springfield). If you live in any of these stops, Cindy would love to meet you! Details are available at the following:

Saturday, July 30, 2011

An Amish Story with Rich Characters -- The Harvest of Grace

The Harvest of Grace, the third of Cindy Woodsmall’s Ada’s House novels, was a delight to read, with its multiple story lines and rich, complex characters.

Sylvia Fisher is betrayed by the man she is expecting to marry and decides that she must leave the people and farm she loves. Working hard to help another family save their struggling dairy business seems to be the way to escape her hurt and loneliness. But her plans are disrupted by the unexpected return of the Blanks’ wayward son, Aaron, who has other ideas for his family’s future. Sylvia’s life becomes more complicated as she deals with issues of her heart, toward God, her family, and others.

Old friends from the previous Ada’s House novels are prominent characters in this story as well. Cara continues to try to prepare herself for acceptance into the Amish church and marriage to Ephraim but finds that she has lingering hurt and anger standing in her way. Lena and Grey, Deborah and Jonathan, and Ada and Israel work their way through various issues in their relationships.

One of the things I enjoyed the most in this series was Cindy’s development of such rich, authentic characters. Many of the individuals had deep, complex issues to deal with. As they dealt with those issues, she showed how they struggled with themselves, with other people, and with God to learn lessons of forgiveness and to enjoy the fruits of the harvest of His grace.

 Please take a minute to rank this review. It helps me have a broader selection of books to bring to you. Your email address is required only to make sure the system is not being taken advantage of. (If you don't want the newsletter, just uncheck the box.) Thanks!

(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Great Story with a Challenge -- Courageous

For months I've been following the plans and preparations for Courageous, the newest movie from Alex & Stephen Kendrick and Sherwood Pictures (the Georgia church who brought us Facing the Giants and Fireproof.)  When I ran across the novelization of the story by Randy Alcorn, I decided to give it a read -- and I'm really glad I did!

Courageous is the story of four law enforcement officers (as well as their families and a couple of other friends) who take their calling to "serve and protect" seriously.  As the strains of their work and various struggles of family life take their toll, each man finds himself at a different place in his relationships with his wife and children -- and with God.  As they see the impact that the absence of fathers makes on the drug- and gang-related scene they regularly deal with, the truth hits home that these men are falling short in their own roles as fathers.  Through courage from God and accountability to each other, they determine to take seriously the important and difficult job of fatherhood.

On a surface level, this is a great story to read just for the pleasure of reading.  It goes much deeper, though, in dealing with very important and relevant topics.  Fathers, in particular, will be challenged to take a serious look at the impact they are making on their families, but mothers and children will be touched as well.  I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good story with a healthy dose of conviction. 

If you have seen the other Sherwood Pictures movies or read the books, you will find a couple of familiar characters making appearances in the story.  Now I'm even more ready for this movie!

(Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Treasuring Emma by Kathleen Fuller

Treasuring Emma by Kathleen Fuller is a quick-to-read Amish story which starts the new Middlefield Family series.

Emma Shetler has faced much loss in recent years. Her mother’s death to cancer and her father’s death three years earlier have left Emma and her grandmother alone on the family farm. When Adam Otto returns to his family’s farm next door after being gone for two years, Emma has to deal with the broken heart she still carries as a result of his leaving. Family financial concerns lead to conflicts with her sister Clara, and new complications arise when her brother-in-law’s cousin arrives in town.

Treasuring Emma contains many of the usual elements of Amish stories, but with plenty of questions to keep you turning pages and involved in the story. The characters were interesting – some fun to get to know and some not the kind of folks you would call your friends. A couple of things caught my attention as different from some Amish stories. Adam’s experiences during his time in the “English” world were described a little more explicitly than usual – although I didn’t find this in any way offensive. And Clara was much more outspoken toward her husband than Amish wives are usually portrayed.

There were just enough pieces of the story left hanging to bring things to a good conclusion -- but also to keep you waiting for the next Middlefield Family book.

(Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.)

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Blessed -- Shaker Series

The Blessed by Ann H. Gabhart was my first exposure to the group of people known as the Shakers. I have to say that I found their ideas and way of life pretty strange, but those oddities were an important part of this story set in the mid-19th century.

Isaac Kingston has lost his beloved wife Ella, and the guilt he carries over her death is so strong that he considers ending his own life. Lacey Bishop has had her share of struggles in her young life, and things get much more complicated for her after the death of her “surrogate mother” who taught her so much about God and the Bible.

Through very different sets of circumstances, Isaac and Ella both find themselves moving into a Shaker village, surrounded by strange people with unusual ideas about living, loving and worshiping. They both are hesitant to become Believers and sign the Covenant required for official status as members of the community. In the midst of their reluctance, both become more confident in what they believe and find a strong measure of healing and freedom from their past and present trials.

This is the fourth book in Ann Gabhart’s Shaker Series but easily functions as a stand-alone title. The story was very interesting and engaging, although it seemed to have something of a slow start. There were many intriguing characters who added richness to the story, although at times the cultural/historical information seemed to overshadow them. I did enjoy the book and would be glad to read another by this author.

Available July 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

This book was provided to me free of charge from Revell for my honest review.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A trio of Amish stories -- The Judgment, Lilly's Wedding Quilt, Sarah's Garden

My reading has slowed down during the last few weeks.  I guess you could say I've been distracted by a new love.  Traveling out of state to visit my first grandson and scrapbooking his pictures have taken much of my time and interest lately.

I have managed to read a little, though, and some of my most recent reads have been three Amish stories -- one by well-known Beverly Lewis and two by a new face on the Amish scene, Kelly Long.

The Judgment by Beverly Lewis is the second in her Rose Trilogy.  This book allows a return visit with Rose Kauffman and her sister Hannah "Hen" Orringer. 

Rose is torn between her feelings for Silas Good and those for her long-time friend and confidante Nick -- the bishop's wayward foster son who has run away from the community.  Her mother's health and her sister's troubled marriage with her English husband, Brandon, also deeply concern Rose.

This was a great installment in the trilogy.  It didn't provide many answers to the challenges of the characters -- in fact, it seemed to add more questions.  But it was a great set up for the conclusion due to come out this fall!

Sarah's Garden and Lilly's Wedding Quilt, Patch of Heaven novels, are the first two Amish books by Kelly Long. The stories are great and add a slightly different element from the norm. Kelly writes more open expression of desire and passion into her Amish characters than any others I've read. While the stories are very enjoyable and there is certainly nothing inappropriate in them, it was definitely unexpected.

In Sarah’s Garden, Sarah King expects to join the church, marry an Amish man, and live her life as an Amish wife. It appears that Jacob Wyse may be the one she will live that predictable life with. But when Englisher Grant Williams moves next door and sets up a veterinary practice among the Amish community, her feelings and plans take twists and turns she never expected.

In Lilly’s Wedding Quilt, Lilly Lapp finds herself in a marriage based on a series of misunderstandings. She is uncertain whether the relationship will bloom into real love but commits herself to giving it her best effort. Lilly resigns herself to the fact that she has missed out on the traditional gift of a wedding quilt, something very important to her, and is quite surprised to see how that longing is finally resolved.

I hope there are more Patch of Heaven stories yet to come!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Amish Desserts

I just had a chance to preview Wanda E. Brunstetter's Amish Friends Cookbook: Desserts. a collection of dessert recipes compiled from some of her other cookbooks.

My thoughts about the book?  One word pretty well sums it up:  YUMMY!  There is a good variety of recipes -- a few that I was already familiar with and lots of new ones.  As I turned through the pages, I lost count of how many dishes I really want to try out.  And thankfully, most of the ingredients are things that I could find in my own pantry, not something so out of the ordinary that I wouldn't even know where to look for it.

A nice touch is the photography scattered throughout the book.  There are pictures of some of the desserts, as well as bright, colorful snapshots of Amish life.  Several of the pages also include a verse of scripture or a little piece of wisdom in the form of a short quote.  All in all, I think this book would make a nice gift or a nice addition to your own recipe collection.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Chasing Sunsets -- a lovely, multi-layered story

Chasing Sunsets by Eva Marie Everson is a rich, multi-layered story of love and relationships. 

Kimberly Tucker is at a very low point in her life.  Reeling from her divorce and conflict with her ex-husband over their sons, she faces the prospect of a lonely few weeks.  At her father’s insistence, she reluctantly goes to the family vacation home in Cedar Key, not looking forward to facing painful memories.  Once there, Kim connects with an elderly neighbor who helps her face with God’s grace a variety of issues as they come to the surface – including a possible second chance with the man who held her heart during a long-ago summer of love.

This book started off as a pretty straightforward story.  But as it progressed, deeper layers of the plot were uncovered, leaving me unable to put the book down.  As each new piece of the story was revealed, I was anxious to see where the story would go next. 

I don’t know how long it is before the next Cedar Key novel is due to come out – but it’s too long!  I can’t wait to learn more about the interesting characters.  I’m pretty sure I would enjoy a trip to Cedar Key, but I guess for now I’ll have to settle for visiting there vicariously.

(This book was provided free from Revell for my honest review.)

Available June 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Growing Up Amish

Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler is a memoir by a man who grew up in an Amish family and struggled for years before finally leaving the church at the age of 26.  Ira left the Amish lifestyle multiple times over a period of about ten years, but was drawn back repeatedly because of his fear of being eternally lost if he remained outside the church.  It was only after coming to a personal relationship with Christ and gaining peace about his spiritual condition that he was able to finally give in to the yearnings he had for life outside the box he had felt confined in.

Because of my interest and enjoyment in reading Amish fiction and learning more of the plain lifestyle, I was intrigued by the details of Amish workings from a non-fiction perspective.  However, the author's story was so full of hurt and defeat -- his own and others -- that I felt almost depressed by the time I finished the book.  I did appreciate the fact that while he disagreed with much about the lifestyle of the people he left behind, Ira did not "bash" the individuals or put them down as a whole.  This is definitely not a "feel-good" story; rather it is a difficult look at a troubled season of life.

(Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Amish story full of history and suspense -- The Amish Nanny

The Amish Nanny by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould picks up where The Amish Midwife left off, continuing the story of the sister of the previous book's main character.  Mindy and Leslie have done a great job once again!

Ada Rupp's health has improved dramatically with the help of information provided by her recently discovered sister Lexie.  But the condition of Ada's heart is not so great as it appears that her plan to enjoy her long-held desire for teaching and her dream of love and marriage with Will Gundy are both hitting seemingly impenetrable obstacles.  Ada begins to wonder if she might need the rumpspringa she never really experienced -- but in a different way -- an opportunity to break free from a sheltered life and see new places.

The chance for adventure comes when Ada, Alice, and Christy are called upon to make a trip to Switzerland to handle some family business.  Ada is excited about the possibility of finally meeting her birth mother who gave her up as an infant.  Along the way Ada meets Daniel Hart, a handsome young Mennonite with a deep interest in history, and discovers there might be a chance for a different kind of future than she had imagined. 

In addition to the fictional account of the adventures of Ada and friends, this book is full of historical information about the Amish and other Anabaptist groups.  That history is intriguing in itself but does not in the least take away from the enjoyment of a great Amish story.  I hope this is not the last we'll hear of  the interesting people in The Women of Lancaster County series.

Love & War

"Marriage is fabulously hard."  Not exactly the most romantic or fairy-tale description of marriage!  But that is the premise from which John & Stasi Eldredge begin their book,  Love & War: Find Your Way to Something Beautiful in Your Marriage.  John and Stasi share very honestly (often painfully so) passages in their own twenty-five year marriage as they describe this important relationship as "a great love story, set in the midst of war."

At some points, the message of the book seems discouraging and depressing, as the authors paint the picture that the difficulties and disappointments of marriage are inevitable, that they are common to all marriages.  The Eldredges describe marriage as a love story that God is telling, but a story fiercely opposed by the Enemy.  They remind couples, though, that fighting together in God's strength against the Enemy rather than against each other is the way to win the war.  At some times, John and Stasi blend their thoughts and experiences, and at others they share from their individual male and female perspectives to give a more well-rounded view of marriage.

While it seemed that in some ways this book presented more problems than solutions, I believe it contains useful guidance and direction for married couples -- whether newly married or many years down the road. 

Please take a minute to rank this review. It helps me have a broader selection of books to bring to you.  Your email address is required only to make sure the system is not being taken advantage of.  (If you don't want the newsletter, just uncheck the box.)  Thanks!

(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program for my honest review.)

Monday, June 6, 2011


I had the opportunity to be one of the Karen Kingsbury fans chosen to receive and review an advance copy of the latest Bailey Flanigan book -- LEARNING.  Here's the review I submitted:

Learning . . .

Love well . . . laugh often . . . live for Christ.

When you can’t take another step, God will carry you.

When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and
armies bigger than yours do not be afraid.  For the Lord your God who brought
you up out of Egypt will be with you. 

Such important lessons for Bailey Flanigan and friends . . . and for all of us who have the privilege of reading this, another great story by Karen Kingsbury.

How do you shine for Christ in a place where He is not welcome?  How do you go on when health concerns threaten to destroy your family?  How do you know when you’ve found the one you’ll share a forever kind of love with?  Bailey, Cody, Brandon, and even some of the Baxters, struggle to learn answers to questions like these.

One of the things that make a KK book so special is the way the lessons come alive off the pages of fiction and hit you right where you are.  I barely had time to read this book and get my review in on time because when the book arrived I was out of state for the birth of my first grandchild.  The lessons of God’s faithfulness that Bailey and her friends learned are some of the very things I pray for my newborn grandson. 

Without giving away details, I can’t say much more – but I’ll warn you that we’ll have to keep reading to find the answer to the Cody/Brandon question.  I’m still pulling toward the Team Cody camp . . . but only time (and a couple more books) will tell!  Longing to read Longing (the next installment in this series).

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A quick visit to Angel Island -- The Wedding Promise

The Wedding Promise by Thomas Kinkade and Katherine Spencer is the second installment in their Angel Island series, which follows right on the heels of their Cape Light novels.  This is a quick and easy-to-read story that draws the reader into its pleasant setting.

Liza Martin is just getting her feet on the ground in her plans to bring The Inn at Angel Island back up to the previous state of the time when her aunt and uncle ran it, when she is approached by a young lady who has her heart set on getting married at the inn.  Initially determined to decline the request to handle the wedding, Liza decides to give it a try but ends up facing all kinds of hurdles in pulling off this first major event of her new career.  On the personal front, Liza finds herself falling for Daniel, the very desirable handyman who is helping her with renovations.  Things get very confusing in that arena as Daniel sends mixed signals about his interest in Liza and is unwilling to open up and share his secrets.

I enjoyed this book, as I did the first in this series and the previous series.  However, for much of the book, the plot seems to move very slowly, and I felt it was bogged down in details rather than anything that really moved the story along.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Fast-Paced Romantic Crime Thriller -- A Killer Among Us

A Killer Among Us by Lynette Eason is a fast-paced romantic crime thriller with lots of twists and turns to the story.  Kit Kenyon knows her business as a top-notch hostage negotiator.  Almost immediately after starting a new job, she and her new partner Noah Lambert find themselves involved in a terrifying serial murder case.  The case progresses and the danger grows personal, as it appears that the killer may be after either Kit or Noah. 

As Kit and Noah get to know each other better, his openly expressed faith and compassion have a dramatic impact on Kit.  She finds herself having to make decisions about how to handle feelings of betrayal and hurt in her personal life, and the partnership begins to move in unexpected directions.

I was a little hesitant to opt in on reviewing this book when I realized it was the third in a series, but I’m glad I chose to do so.  There was enough background information given to make this enjoyable as a stand-alone, but now I’m anxious to go back and read the first two installments in the Women of Justice series.

(This book was provided free from Revell for my honest review.)

Available May 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

End of a Series -- Greater Love

This week I read the third and final installment in Robert Whitlow's Tides of Truth series -- Greater Love.  As I said in a post about the second book, this was an OK series, but not my favorite. 

The story begins with Tami Taylor struggling to make a couple of major decisions in her life -- (1) which law firm's offer to accept for her first employment after passing the bar and (2) whether she should choose between the the two men vying for her heart, or whether God's plan for her involves neither of them.  After finally making her employment decision, Tami receives a court-appointed assignment and ends up in the middle of a case where there is much more danger and intrigue than what is immediately apparent.  Along the way, she learns important lessons in "greater love" and suffers the loss of someone close to her.

Once I started this series, I wanted to finish it to see how things turned out for Tami and her friends/family.  Some things, though, kept it from rising to the top of my favorites list.  Many elements of the plot were drawn out and slow moving.  The spiritual elements -- although generally something I very much enjoy and appreciate in a novel -- were just a little too "out there" for my comfort zone.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Walk continues . . . -- Miles to Go

I'm not sure what it is about Richard Paul Evans' books that makes them so compelling.  There is action, but I wouldn't call them action packed.  There is romance, but I wouldn't classify them as typical romantic stories.  His books always make me think and make me feel -- and I don't even realize how much until after I've finished the story.

Miles to Go, "the second journal of THE WALK series," fits into this same category.  Alan Christoffersen picks up right where he left off at the end of The Walk -- in the hospital recovering from his near-deadly attack, resulting in a months-long detour from his original plan.  During this unexpected down time, though, his life takes on new meaning through a mutually beneficial relationship with his very own Angel.  He also has the chance to reconnect with important people from his past.   When he is able to start back on his cross-country trek, he meets Kailamai -- once again someone he helps as she brings new enjoyment to his life.  Without being "preachy" or "teachy," Richard reminds his readers of important life lessons through Alan's relationships.

So I wind down to the end of the book -- the very last entry before the epilogue -- feeling quiet and introspective -- and Evans throws in a big-time cliffhanger!  And I have to wait until sometime next year to get the answers?!?!?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A different kind of Amish story -- The Promise of an Angel

The Promise of an Angel by Ruth Reid blends Amish characters and angels into an engaging story of love and faith.

Judith Fischer wants to live the typical Amish life, marrying a man of common faith and raising a house full of children.  She has loved Levi Plank for years and anxiously awaits her nineteenth birthday when her parents will allow her to be courted.  Things change for Judith after her younger brother Samuel suffers a serious injury at a barn raising.  She believes she has been visited by an angel, but her family, friends, and church officials fear that she is either being deceived or is willfully sinning and should confess her wrongs.  Only Andrew Lapp, the bishop’s son, believes Judith’s story, and that puts him into a difficult spot with his father.  Eventually Judith’s parents have to make a difficult decision to keep Judith from having to suffer the discipline of the church.

Ruth Reid’s first story is a good one, and I look forward to reading more from her.  The quality of her work is comparable to many of the works by other writers of Amish stories.  Her characters draw you in as they deal with their struggles and joys of life.

(Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Another great thriller by Randy Singer -- Directed Verdict

When I finished my first book by Randy Singer, I knew I was hooked, and Directed Verdict confirmed that response.  This was another legal page-turner with lots of twists and turns, keeping me unable to decide who were the "good guys" and who were the "bad guys" up to the very end.

Attorney Brad Carson files a lawsuit against Saudi Arabia and the head of that nation's "religious police" and finds his team watched closely by individuals, organizations, and nations on opposite sides of the world.   Sarah Reed experienced horrendous persecution, including the brutal murder of her husband, at the hands of the Muttawa while the couple served as underground missionaries in Saudi Arabia.  She reluctantly enters the legal process as a means of clearing the trumped-up drug allegations against her husband and recovering the life insurance she needs to raise her two children. 

As Brad, Nikki Moreno (a paralegal with quesitonable ethics), Leslie Connors (an ambitious law student), and others on the team move forward with the case, it appears they might be in over their heads.  Careers and even lives appear to be on the line as deception and danger pop up at every turn, leaving Brad unsure of who he can trust and what pieces he can salvage from his crumbling case and personal feelings. 

Lessons of love, faith, and trust are woven throughout this intriguing story.  Randy Singer's personal faith and first-hand knowledge of the legal system bring a valuable authenticity to his writing.  I'm anxious to see what he has to offer next.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A short, but powerful, book -- Secrets of the Vine for Women

Secrets of the Vine for Women by Darlene Marie Wilkinson is a great example of good things coming in small packages.  This quick read (I probably spent an hour and a half to two hours reading it) is packed with conviction and hope. 

As a follow-up to responses her husband Bruce received to his Secrets of the Vine, Darlene takes Jesus's lessons from the vineyard in John 15 and directs it specifically to women.  She presents some very simple, yet profound, principles and examples of what it means for us to bear much fruit by abiding in the Vine.  She shares how God has a plan for each of us and how He guides us to reach the abundance He wants for us through one or more of three stages:  (1) intervening in our lives to discipline us so we will bear fruit; (2) intervening by pruning us so we will bear more fruit; and (3) inviting us to abide more deeply in Him so we will bear much fruit.

This book is one that spoke to me from beginning to end and which I will likely come back to for reminders of Christ's invitation to abide and experience abundance.

Please take a minute to rank this review. It helps me have a broader selection of books to bring to you. Your email address is required only to make sure the system is not being taken advantage of. (If you don't want the newsletter, just uncheck the box.) Thanks!
(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program for my honest review.)://

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A book of inspiration -- Amish Prayers

Amish Prayers compiled by Beverly Lewis, is a small book with a large dose of inspiration.  The book contains English translations of prayers from the German prayer book Die Ernsthafte Christenpflicht.  The prayer book has been special to Anabaptists (including Amish) since its earliest printing in 1708.

Beverly Lewis is one of the very first and most well-known authors of Amish fiction.  Her collection of prayers provides insight into the heart and worship of the Plain people with whom she shares both family roots and close friendships.

I enjoyed a quick read through Amish Prayers and believe that I will find even more inspiration as I return to spend additional time of reflection.  The prayers, though simple in their words, can lead to a deep sense of personal communion with God.

(For the purpose of review, I was provided a free copy of this book by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.  The views expressed, however, are my own opinions.)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

An Amish story set where? -- Paradise Valley

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Holmes County, Ohio.  The Sierra Madre of northeastern Mexico.  Which one of these places does not belong in a list of settings for Amish stories?  The answer is: they all belong!

Paradise Valley by Dale Cramer is a fictional story (although with some basis in fact) of a small group of Amish people who moved from Ohio to Mexico in the early 1920s.  Caleb Bender was one of five Amish fathers briefly jailed for refusing to obey Ohio's new law requiring all children to attend public schools.  To be released from jail and to have their children returned to their families from a state-run home, the men had to agree to send their children to the local school.  After some time of struggling with the issue of how to honor his promise to abide by the law and living true to his own convictions, Caleb found a small pamphlet that appeared to provide a solution:  "Paradise Valley -- five thousand acres of prime, flat, fertile farmland nestled in the Sierra Madre of northeastern Mexico . . . ten dollars an acre."  Others in the community became interested in the potential, but they all shared concerns about making such a move with no one having any firsthand knowledge of what they would encounter in the wilds of Mexico.  It was finally decided that Caleb and his family would be the trailblazers, moving ahead of the others and reporting back home so their friends could decide whether to follow. 

Dale Cramer is the great-grandson of one of the leaders of a group of Amish who made such a trek from Ohio to Mexico.  He weaves together a real historical context and some very "real" fictional characters into an excellent story of faith and struggle among Amish families.  Although it was very different from the Amish stories I usually read, I enjoyed this book and look forward to future installments in The Daughters of Caleb Bender series. 

(For the purpose of review, I was provided a free copy of this book by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.  The views expressed, however, are my own opinions.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Gripping Mystery! -- Under the Cajun Moon

Murder, mayhem, mystery, kidnapping, snakes, alligators, hidden treasure, romance, God's grace -- you'll find all these and more in Mindy Starns Clark's Under the Cajun Moon

Chloe Ledet is an international business etiquette expert, living in Chicago.  When she gets a call from her hometown of New Orleans that her father has been shot, she quickly flies there to be near him.  Before she can get to the hospital, though, she finds herself at her father's famous French Quarter restaurant, hearing a story of family treasure and mystery.  The next morning she wakes up in an unfamiliar hotel room and learns that she has been framed for murder.  When Travis Naquin, the grandson of her father's sometimes partner/sometimes adversary appears on the scene and seems intent on helping Chloe, the quagmire of mystery and danger grows deeper.  As the story unfolds through the lakes and bayous and marshes of south Louisiana, Chloe (as well as the reader) finds herself doubting the motives of almost everyone she knows.  And one of the biggest questions she struggles with is whether she can trust God to know or care about where she is and what is happening to her.

In the midst of the modern-day story, Mindy Starns Clark weaves an 18th-century tale that provides an intriguing backdrop to the setting.  In her masterful style of storytelling, she takes you back and forth between centuries without ever breaking the flow.  I would highly recommend this gripping mystery that you're sure to have trouble putting down.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Max on Life by Max Lucado

Do you have questions about . . .  well, about . . . LIFE?  Does God really care?  Am I really forgiven?  Does prayer really change anything?  How do I control my worries about my children?  How do I get out of a bad mood?

During his years as a writer and a minister, Max Lucado has heard many those and many more.  In Max on Life, he presents his answers to 172 questions, sharing his insights from scripture and from his years of ministry.  The subjects range from deep theological inquiries about heaven and hell to practical, down-to-earth issues like managing hectic family schedules and dealing with finances.

Lucado’s comfortable, conversational style makes reading his books very pleasurable, and this one was no exception.  His “mini-lessons” on life are presented in a very simple manner that can be understood not only by those who are Bible scholars, but also those who have very little background in the study of God’s Word.  This book can be read in its entirety in a short period of time or enjoyed in small doses.

There are a few spots where it seemed that Max’s comments never quite got to a direct answer to the question.  But overall, his responses provide sound answers and valuable food for thought.  I would definitely recommend Max on Life for anyone looking for answers to life’s questions. 

(Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.)