Friday, January 23, 2015

A great story that keeps you guessing -- Child of Mine

A Child of Mine is the second novel that David and Beverly Lewis have co-written, and I certainly hope it is not their last. They have put together a heartwarming story that has major twists and turns throughout.

The characters drew me in quickly, and I was thoroughly engaged as their full stories came to light rather gradually.  The more I learned of each one, though, I couldn't imagine any possible conclusion that could leave all of them living "happily ever after."  Without giving any spoilers, I will warn that there is a fair amount of heartbreak along the way, mixed in with a good deal of happiness. Be prepared to shed a few tears as you read.

A Child of Mine is not typical Beverly Lewis Amish fare.  There is an Amish character who fits in a major way into the main story line, but much of the story is non-Amish. The storytelling is still great, though, even in a more contemporary setting.

I highly recommend A Child of Mine to fans of Beverly Lewis's Amish fiction, as well as to anyone who enjoys great inspirational romance. 

Thanks to Bethany House for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the book:

Flight instructor Jack Livingston has been raising his eight-year-old adopted niece, Natalie, since the accident that took her parents' lives. When he travels, Natalie is tenderly cared for by her Amish nanny, Laura Mast, who loves the little girl as her own.

Eight excruciating years ago, Kelly Maines's baby was kidnapped. Determined to find her child, Kelly has tirelessly pursued every lead to its bitter end. And now, with the clock ticking, one last clue from a private investigator ignites a tiny flame of hope: Just a few miles away lives a young girl who matches the profile.

Can this be, at long last, Kelly's beloved daughter?

About the Authors:

Beverly Lewis, born in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, is the New York Times bestselling author of more than ninety books. Her stories have been published in eleven languages worldwide. A keen interest in her mother's Plain heritage has inspired Beverly to write many Amish-related novels, beginning with The Shunning, which has sold more than one million copies and is an Original Hallmark Channel movie. In 2007, The Brethren was honored with a Christy Award.

Beverly has been interviewed by both national and international media, including Time magazine, the Associated Press, and the BBC. She lives with her husband, David, in Colorado.

Visit her website at or for more information.

David Lewis is the bestselling author of Coming Home, his first solo novel, as well as a keyboard artist and pilot. He is the first editor for his wife, Beverly Lewis, as well as research partner and manager. David was born in Minnesota, grew up in the Midwest, and met Beverly in Colorado, where they currently make their home.

Another good read from Beverly Lewis -- The River

The River, Beverly Lewis's newest Amish novel, is filled with emotional struggles and difficult family relationships.

Tilly and Ruth, two sisters who left their Amish family and settled into new lives in the English world, reluctantly visit their home and family and find that many of the hard feelings from their past are still very much alive.  As they face hurts and fears they tried to leave behind, new truths come out and potentially life-changing decisions have to be made.

In her typical fashion, Beverly Lewis draws from her personal connection with the Plain people to paint a vivid picture of Amish characters and details of their lives.  There is a great deal of tension between the family members who have left the Plain life and those who are still firmly rooted in their culture.  Although the story does seem a little slow and drawn out in some parts, it is an engaging tale that runs strong with themes such as reconciliation, acceptance, and overcoming guilt.

I recommend The River to all fans of good Amish fiction. Thanks to Bethany House for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the Book:

She looked once more at the dreaded river. Since Anna's death, it had been such a barrier . . . a place and a moment she could not seem to move past.
A line I can't move beyond...
The River

Tilly and Ruth, two formerly Amish sisters, are plagued by unresolved relationships when they reluctantly return to Lancaster County for their parents' landmark wedding anniversary. Since departing their Plain upbringing, Tilly has married an Englisher, but Ruth remains single and hasn't entirely forgotten her failed courtship with her Amish beau.

Past meets present as Tilly and Ruth yearn for acceptance and redemption. Can they face the future in the light of a past they can't undo?

 About the Author:

Beverly Lewis, born in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, is the New York Times bestselling author of more than ninety books. Her stories have been published in eleven languages worldwide. A keen interest in her mother's Plain heritage has inspired Beverly to write many Amish-related novels, beginning with The Shunning, which has sold more than one million copies and is an Original Hallmark Channel movie. In 2007, The Brethren was honored with a Christy Award.

Beverly has been interviewed by both national and international media, including Time magazine, the Associated Press, and the BBC. She lives with her husband, David, in Colorado.

Visit her website at or for more information.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A misfit group stitched together -- The Healing Quilt

Wanda Brunstetter continues her Half-Stitched Amish Quilting Club series with another entertaining story -- The Healing Quilt.

Emma and Lamar Miller have bought a second home in Sarasota, Florida, where they can enjoy some warmer weather; and they decide to try another quilting class.  As in their earlier classes, they manage to bring together quite a misfit group of students who have a variety of struggles they are dealing with in their lives.  As they teach their students the basics of quilting, Emma and Lamar manage to also share some pretty important life lessons that bring about some pretty impressive results.

As is true with the other Quilting Club stories, this story is a little different in writing style from the typical Amish fiction.  Because there are several diverse characters brought together into a unique setting, the story is presented from different points of view.  At times their stories may appear somewhat disconnected and be slightly difficult to follow.  But the multiple directions worked for me because of the whole premise of the story.

Although the setting is Amish, most of the characters are not.  So The Healing Quilt should be enjoyable for fans of a variety of genres.

Thanks to Wanda Brunstetter and her publisher for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the Book:

Retired Amish newlyweds Emma and Lamar Miller have decided to buy a winter place in Sarasota, Florida. But it wouldn’t feel like home if Emma didn’t take her quilting materials and offer classes. Wounded and hurting people have a knack for finding their way to her classes for some quilting therapy: Jennifer, a pregnant new mom; Mike, a charter boat owner; Erika, a wheelchair-bound teen; Kim, a waitress; Noreen, a newly-retired widow; and BJ, an artist facing illness. And when Jan visits from Indiana, romance is also added to the class discussions.

About the Author:

Wanda Brunstetter is an award-winning romance novelist who has led millions of readers to lose their heart in the Amish life. She is the author of over 60 books with more than 6 million copies sold. Many of her books have landed on the top bestseller lists, including the New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, CBA, ECPA, and CBD. Wanda is considered one of the founders of the Amish fiction genre, and her work has been covered by national publications, including Time Magazine and USA Today. Wanda’s books have been translated into four foreign languages.

Wanda’s fascination with the Amish culture developed when she met her husband, Richard, who grew up in a Mennonite church, and whose family has a Pennsylvania Dutch heritage. Meeting her new Mennonite sister-in-laws caused Wanda to yearn for the simpler life. In their travels, she and her husband have become close friends with many Amish people across America. Wanda’s desire to explore their culture increased when she discovered that her great-great grandparents were part of the Anabaptist faith.

All of Wanda’s novels are based on personal research intended to accurately portray the Amish way of life. Many of her books are well-read and trusted by the Amish, who credit her for giving readers a deeper understanding of the people and their customs.

Wanda’s primary attraction to the Amish is their desire to live a devout Christian life that strives to honor God, work hard, and maintain close family ties. Whenever she visits her Amish friends, Wanda finds herself drawn to their peaceful lifestyle, sincerity, and close family ties, which is in stark contrast to the chaos and busyness that plagues so many modern “Englishers.” Time and time again, Wanda loses her heart in the Amish life, and she hopes her readers will, too.

Another fun read and a "visit" with the author -- Huckleberry Spring

If you see a book with Jennifer Beckstrand as the author's name and the word "Huckleberry" in the title . . . well, you can be sure that you are in for a fun read.  

Huckleberry Spring is Jennifer's fourth book in her Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series, and it's my favorite so far.  Anna and Felty Helmuth (some pretty unconventional Amish folks) continue their efforts to find mates for their grandchildren, with some very entertaining events along the way.  Poor Felty has to endure some pretty extreme schemes from his "Banannie" this time as they try to work things out for their grandson Ben and his ex-fiance Emma.  And there are some moments in the story where I even shed some tears of sadness and concern.  I don't want to give any spoilers, so I'll say you will just have to read the book for yourself to see how things turn out.

If you are looking for an entertaining story, you should enjoy Huckleberry Spring -- Amish fiction fan or not.  You can read this book as a stand alone, but I would highly recommend enjoying the first three books before you read this one, just so you can pick up on some of the little inside stories along the way.  I'm really looking forward to my next visit to Huckleberry Hill when Huckleberry Harvest hits the shelves later this year.

Thanks to Jennifer and her publisher for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Be sure and read to the end of this post.  Jennifer was gracious enough to provide some questions and answers for me to share with my readers.  I think you will enjoy the "inside scoop"!

About the Book:

Ever since the Helmuths’ grandson, Ben, abruptly broke his engagement and moved to Florida, Emma Nelson has kept busy tending her vegetable garden and raising award-winning pumpkins. She can put her heartache aside to help Ben’s mammi with her own pumpkin patch. At least until Ben shows up to lend support to his ailing dawdi…

Gardening side by side with pretty, nurturing Emma is a sweet kind of torture for Ben. She could have her pick of suitors who can offer what he can’t, and he cares too much to burden her with his secret. Leaving once more is the only option. Yet Emma’s courage is daring him to accept the grace that flourishes here, and the love that has been calling him back to Huckleberry Hill.

About the Author:
Jennifer Beckstrand is the bestselling author of The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series set in beautiful northern Wisconsin. The first three books in the series are now available in stores and online: Huckleberry Hill, Huckleberry Summer, and Huckleberry Christmas. Huckleberry Spring comes out January 27. Jennifer has always been drawn to the strong faith and the enduring family ties of the Plain people and loves writing about the antics of Anna and Felty Helmuth, the two scheming Amish grandparents who try to help their grandchildren find suitable mates in Huckleberry Hill. Who would ever suspect two elderly Amish folks of mischief? 
Jennifer has a degree in mathematics, which comes in handy when one of her six children needs help with algebra. After twenty-five years of being a chauffeur, cook, maid, and nurse, she embarked on a writing career. Jennifer is a member of Romance Writers of America and American Christian Fiction Writers and is represented by Nicole Resciniti of The Seymour Agency.

She and her husband have been married for thirty years, and she has four daughters, two sons, and three adorable grandsons, whom she spoils rotten.

Find out more about Jennifer and her books:
Twitter: @JenniferBeckst1

Q&A from Jennifer: 

(Donna Mynatt originally posted the questions in this Q&A on her blog last month.

1)    Fans LOVE the Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill… how did you get the idea for matchmaking grandparents? And did you plan from the beginning to write the series with such wonderful humor (Anna’s cooking, for example)?

I don’t remember exactly how I got the idea for Anna and Felty. (Ideas float in and out of my head regularly.) There’s a little bit of a matchmaker inside of me, and I thought it would be fun to explore how a character could actually be successful at matchmaking. My kids have always resisted any attempts by me to set them up with suitable mates.

I’ve always enjoyed infusing my writing with humor. I love to laugh, and I love writing delightful characters who remind us of happy times and old friends. I won’t read a book or see a movie if I know it’s going to end sadly. I think Jane Austen was my first inspiration for that style of writing. I wanted Huckleberry Hill to be a place that readers would want to return to again and again.

2)    Anna and Felty have 13 children and 64 grandchildren (not to mention the 99 greats and 1 great-great) and that’s just at the end of book #1… how many books do you plan to write in this series? Ms. Braun wrote 30+ “Cat Who” books. Could this be another such series?

There are three more books in the Huckleberry Hill series that come out this year: Huckleberry Spring, Huckleberry Harvest, and Huckleberry Hearts, and holy cow, I am so excited for all of them. Huckleberry Spring comes out January 27. After that, I am planning on leaving Huckleberry Hill but staying near Bonduel, Wisconsin for a series of books about a trio of Amish sisters. I will most likely revisit Huckleberry Hill in the future so my readers can catch up with Anna and Felty.

3)    Do you use an outline for your stories? Do you have a folder or a file where you keep future ideas for stories or do you just come up with ideas after a suggestion from your editor/agent/friends?

The ideas for my stories are all in my head, though I do type out character sketches and other random ideas once I know I’m going to write a specific story. I definitely use an outline so I don’t get lost but mostly so my editor knows what’s going on. An outline helps me and the editor weed out problems and plot holes before I spend all that time writing the book.

4)    We read about writer retreats, conferences and the like. Is this the norm for most authors? Are they necessary for your writing? How often do you travel? Where do you go? Who do you travel with? What is your favorite vacation spot?

This year I didn’t go to any writer’s conferences, but I usually go to one or two a year. They’re a great place to meet fellow authors and make new friends. If you’re an aspiring author, I think writer’s conferences are the best way to meet agents and editors and get your work out there. I always come home from conferences reenergized and ready to write. I also come back with valuable writing tips and techniques.

I don’t enjoy traveling—I am definitely a homebody. I like my own bed and my own bathroom. J My daughter studied in London last year, and my family pried me away from home to visit her there. I had a wonderful time. London is an amazing city. That’s one place I wouldn’t mind going again. I’m more of a “busy” traveler. I get antsy if I’m just sitting on the beach relaxing. A vacation for me needs to be filled with “doing” and “seeing.”

5)    Do you find that writing under a deadline takes the fun out of writing? If so, how do you deal with that? Are there any special snacks you like to have handy, especially during stressful times?

My last book was under a pretty demanding deadline, and I let the stress take some of the fun out of the writing. A deadline always makes writing harder, but my new motto is: If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. Writing is hard work. Sometimes it’s okay to not love it—as long as you plow through and stick with it!

The one thing I eat regularly while at the computer is raw almonds. I love them. If I’m especially stressed, I adore fried Swiss cheese. Frying Swiss cheese makes the whole house stink, but it tastes so good. I eat while I write mostly to stay awake. It’s a busy mother’s burden. If I sit down, I often fall asleep.

6)    What are you working on now? Is there another genre you are interested in writing or are you perfectly content to stick with Amish Fiction?

Here is a sneak peek of what I’m working on now. It’s a series called the Adventures of the Honeybee Sisters and it will be coming out in 2016. 

Lily, Poppy, and Rose Christner, known as the Honeybee Sisters in their Amish community, are smart, inseparable, and all grown up. Orphaned when they were very young, the girls were raised by their eccentric Aunt Bitsy, who doesn’t behave like a proper Amish spinster, probably because she’s not Amish. The Honeybee Sisters have blossomed into rare beauties, and the boys in the community have begun to take notice. But Aunt Bitsy is determined to scare off all comers with her brusque manner and her handy shotgun. None but the most worthy will make it past Bitsy’s defenses. It’s going to be a rowdy and romantic summer—harvesting honey from their many beehives and fighting off the boys right and left. 

In addition to this new series, I have a series of Western historicals that I’m eager to get out there someday. But I have plenty to keep me busy for another year or so.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

A gripping, somewhat dark, tale from WWII -- Thief of Glory

Thief of Glory is a story inspired by Sigmund Brouwer's own parents and their experiences during WWII.

This was a book I couldn't completely like . . . but I couldn't really dislike.  It is a gripping tale, highlighting some of the difficult experiences from WWII in a setting I had not previously read about -- the Dutch East Indies.  Brouwer's detailed descriptions make the characters and their challenges come alive off the pages, causing you to feel like you're living their experiences with them.  There were times that I almost gave up on the book, but the quality of writing just wouldn't quite let me go.

Most of the story is written as a memoir, told from the perspective of a man looking back to his younger years, which made it a little hard for me to get into.  The fact that it was set mainly in a prison camp leads to dark details, although there are moments of light that shine through.  From the brief description I read of the book, I was expecting to see more of a Christian perspective and more romance.

I would recommend this book to readers prepared to handle dark historical details but would suggest that it not be read by immature or overly sensitive readers.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for providing a copy in exchange for my honest review.

About the book:

…A boy coming of age in a time of war

…the love that inspires him to survive

For ten year-old Jeremiah Prins, the life of privilege as the son of a school headmaster in the Dutch East Indies comes crashing to a halt in 1942 after the Japanese Imperialist invasion of the Southeast Pacific. Jeremiah takes on the responsibility of caring for his younger siblings when his father and older stepbrothers are separated from the rest of the family, and he is surprised by what life in the camp reveals about a woman he barely knows his frail, troubled mother.

Amidst starvation, brutality, sacrifice and generosity, Jeremiah draws on all of his courage and cunning to fill in the gap for his mother. Life in the camps is made more tolerable as Jeremiah’s boyhood infatuation with his close friend Laura deepens into a friendship from which they both draw strength.

The darkest sides of humanity threaten to overwhelm Jeremiah and Laura, as time and war will test their fortitude. The only thing that will bring them safely to the other side is the most enduring bond of all.

About the author:

Sigmund is the best-selling author of nearly thirty novels, with close to 4 million books in print. Based on his inspiration for Thief of Glory, which Sigmund wrote as a way to learn and honor the his parent’s stories, especially of his father’s boyhood in a Japanese concentration camp, Sigmund leads The Chapters of Our Lives memoir seminars across the United States and Canada. ( Sigmund is married to recording artist Cindy Morgan and has two daughters.

Find out more at