Monday, December 26, 2016

Fun Christmas-time romance (with a GIVEAWAY) -- The Christmas Bakery on Huckleberry Hill

(Be sure to read all the way to the end of the post for links to other reviews, a bonus post from the author, and information about a giveaway.)
If you see the name Jennifer Beckstrand and the words "Huckleberry Hill," you can be sure of one thing -- a fun story with some hilarious matchmaking!  The Christmas Bakery on Huckleberry Hill is the latest installment in this delightful Amish series and appears as one of the three novellas in The Amish Christmas Kitchen.

As usual, you just never know what Anna Helmuth and her loyal husband Felty might cook up to help one of their grandchildren find his perfect match. Vikings, minions, good food, and Christmas goats -- all are ingredients in a delicious recipe for Christmas fun!  A Christmas story often has its Scrooge or Grinch character, and Jennifer provided one of those as well.

So if you are interested in a quick, delightful read for Christmas, be sure to check out Jennifer's story.  Thanks to Celebrate Lit for providing electronic copy of this Christmas collection.  The review is based on my own thoughts from the story.

About the Book:

When shy Katie Rose Gingerich’s dat sends her to Huckleberry Hill to secure a marriage proposal, she never expects to long for carefree Titus Helmuth—or to hope that he might want to spend every Christmas with her . . .

About the Author:
Jennifer Beckstrand is the bestselling Amish romance author of The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series for Kensington Books. Huckleberry Summer was nominated for the RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Award and the 2015 RITA® Award, and Huckleberry Hill won the 2014 LIME Award for Inspirational fiction. Both Huckleberry Hill and Huckleberry Christmas appeared in list of top ten inspirational books for 2014.

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. Jennifer has a degree in mathematics and a background in editing. She and her husband have been married for thirty years, and she has four daughters, two sons, and four adorable grandchildren, whom she spoils rotten.

Guest Post from Jennifer Beckstrand:

What do you get when you combine Anna and Felty’s earnest grandson, Titus, with a pretty girl who’s practically engaged to someone else, a sleigh full of Christmas bakery orders, and two mischievous Christmas goats?

A wild, wacky, and wunderbarr Christmas, that’s what.

Anna and Felty Helmuth are determined to make this the most romantic Christmas ever on Huckleberry Hill, but have they bitten off more than they can chew trying to match their slightly scatterbrained grandson Titus with timid Katie Rose Gingerich? Titus tends to be a little thick in the head when it comes to love, and Katie Rose is too shy to open her mouth. It might take every potholder Anna can knit plus a determined goat and a little Christmas magic to bring Titus and Katie Rose together. 

Titus would do anything for his Mammi Anna, even eat her very bad cooking and learn how to knit, but why does he have to be the one to care for Mammi’s new goat? Goats give him the willies. But when Titus meets the pretty girl staying with his grandparents for Christmas, he doesn’t mind the goat so much. The more he sees of Katie Rose’s gentle ways and loving spirit, the more he wishes he were the kind of boy she would bake a pie for. Can he convince her to love him without offending her boyfriend? And will Mammi notice if he gets rid of her goat?

After I wrote Huckleberry Hearts, I just knew there had to be someone special out there for Titus Helmuth, Anna and Felty’s lovable grandson. Christmas is the perfect setting for “A Christmas Bakery on Huckleberry Hill” because Titus is one character who seems to have the spirit of Christmas in his heart all year long. When Katie Rose is homesick, Titus does his best to make her feel welcome and comfortable on Huckleberry Hill. He delivers her Christmas goodies, writes poetry for her, and sings Christmas songs. When he finally realizes he loves her, he’s going to have to use both Christmas goats and every trick in the book to convince her to marry him. It’s a fun, heartwarming, wonderful-gute Christmas romance.

“A Christmas Bakery on Huckleberry Hill” is in The Amish Christmas Kitchen novella collection, and it will definitely get you in the Christmas spirit. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Blog Stops

December 15: Daysong Reflections

December 15: cherylbbookblog

December 16: Karen Sue Hadley

December 16: Jeanette’s Thoughts

December 17: Quiet Quilter

December 17: Moments Dipped in Ink

December 18: The Power of Words

December 18:  A Greater Yes

December 19: Christian Bookaholic

December 19: Lighthouse Academy

December 20: Neverending Stories


December 21: Autism Mom

December 22: Bigreadersite

December 22: Splashes of Joy

December 23: Blossoms and Blessings

December 25: Eat, Read, Teach, Blog

December 27: Bibliophile Reviews

December 27: Donna’s BookShelf


To celebrate her tour, Jennifer is giving away three copies of Huckleberry Christmas. Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post to earn 9 extra entries in the giveaway!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Civil War intrigue -- Pursuing Gold

Pursuing Gold, by Cynthia L. Simmons, is an intriguing story set in Chattanooga during the Civil War.

The story is an interesting one, combining mystery, danger, romance, and faith.  A wide variety of fascinating characters interact as the story takes several twists and turns before all is revealed and resolved at the end.

While the plot did keep me engaged, this was not an especially good read for me.  The writing seemed to be somewhat choppy and stilted.  Also, there were several distracting editorial errors, including typos and one name mistake that took a little re-reading to figure out.

All in all, though, if you enjoy historical fiction from this time period, you may well find this story worth your time.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity Group for providing a copy of the book.  The thoughts in this review are all my own.

You can see what other readers have to say about Pursuing Gold here.

About the Book: 

With his father dead and his business partner incapacitated, Peter Chandler inherits the leadership of a bank in economic crisis.

With only a newly-minted college degree and little experience, Peter joins his partner's daughter, Mary Beth Roper, in a struggle to keep C&R Bank afloat while the Civil War rages around Chattanooga. Political pressure for unsecured loans of gold to the government stirs up trouble as tempers and prices rise. Their problems multiply when Mary Beth discovers counterfeit money with Peter's forged signature. Can they find the forger before the bank fails? The two friends must pursue gold on behalf of their business, as they learn to pursue their heavenly Father to find hope and peace. 

Purchase a copy:

About the Author:

Cynthia L Simmons and her husband, Ray, have five children and reside in Atlanta. She has taught for over thirty years as a homeschool mother and Bible teacher. She's a columnist for Leading Hearts Magazine and she directs Atlanta Christian Writing Conference. Cyndi has a heart for encouraging women in today's crazy, upside-down world. She loves history and peppers her speaking and teaching with fascinating vignettes from the past. Her first book, Struggles and Triumphs, was nominated for 2008 Georgia Author of the Year. She co-founded Homeschool Answers and hosts Heart of the Matter Radio.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Sweet Amish Christmas romance -- The Angel of Forest Hill

Cindy Woodsmall's The Angel of Forest Hill is a sweet Amish Christmas romance that could be enjoyed at any time of the year.

Rose and Joel are both interesting characters with deep needs and concerns in which each can be of benefit to the other.  Joel's difficulties surface in the form of extreme tragedy from the very beginning of the story.  The fact that Rose has hurts and scars is evident early on, but the depth of her struggles comes to the surface at a little slower pace.  Their story involves a slow-blossoming love born out of practical circumstances rather than any initial spark of romance. 

There are themes in the story that are probably unique to the Amish way of life.  Much of the plot, although in the Amish setting, has to do with personal issues that could come up in situations that any of us might face from time to time.  Trust (or lack thereof), emotions (positive and negative), and communication are areas where Joel and Rose have to learn important lessons.  Cindy Woodsmall hits those topics by way of a very engaging story.

If you are a fan of Amish fiction, and especially if you are already familiar with Cindy Woodsmall, you know to expect good things from her.  You should not be disappointed with this quick Christmas read.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for providing a copy of this book.  I was delighted to share my own thoughts in this review.

About the Book:

A time of anticipation. A season of miracles.
Because of Joel’s impossible situation, twenty-one-year-old Rose must sacrifice everything. As days pass into years in the midst of the beautiful hills, the laughter of children, and God’s providence—is it too much for Rose to hope for love in return?

An amazing journey toward love and belonging, filled with the wonder of the season of Christ’s birth.

When Old Order Amish Rose Kurtz is asked to leave her family, travel deep into West Vir­ginia, and help Joel Dienner with his children in the wake of tragedy, the quiet young woman recognizes a home where she might find kindness instead of criticism and hope replacing harsh words. She agrees to stay in Forest Hill and become Joel’s wife for the sake of his family needs, but their marriage is to be a partnership, one built from need, not love and affection.

As the years pass, Rose continues to beckon Joel to join life again, to take joy in his growing children, and to awaken his heart to the possibility of new love. Joel hopes that Rose can move beyond deep-rooted hurts to see the beautiful Christmas ahead, their season. But will the arrival of a beautiful widow and a series of misunderstandings reverse how far Rose and Joel have come?

About the Author:

Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times and CBA best-selling author of numerous works of fiction and one of nonfiction. Her connection with the Amish community has been featured widely in national media. She lives in the Foothills of the North Georgia Mountains with her family. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Engaging, complex story -- Love Bears All Things

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

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

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

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

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

About the Book:

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

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

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

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

About the Author:

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

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Beautiful Book -- Earth Psalms

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Book:

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

Q & A with Francine Rivers
Author of Earth Psalms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6.    What is your hope for this book?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God even teaches us valuable lessons through beetles and worms!

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

My own backyard.

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

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

Saturday, November 12, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

About the Book:

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

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

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

About the Author:

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


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

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


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


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Chilling suspense -- Fatal Frost (with a GIVEAWAY)

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

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

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

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

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

About the Book:

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

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

About the Author:

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


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