April 19th, 2014

murder simply brewed

When the coffee shop manager is murdered in Middlebury’s Amish Artisan Village, two women from different walks of life must join together to solve the mystery.
Spring has arrived in Middlebury, Indiana, and Amber Wright is optimistic about the growing profit from her collection of Amish shops—until she receives a call that Ethan Gray is dead. Hurrying over to A Simple Blend, she finds a solitary hole in the front window and the store manager lying next to the espresso machine, dead from an apparent heart attack. All the money is still in his register.
When Amber hires a young Amish woman, Hannah Troyer, to take over the shop’s duties, the two women become fast friends—as well as amateur sleuths. The police believe Gray’s death is a by-product of vandalism, but Amber and Hannah aren’t convinced.
Clues that don’t add up, a neighbor who is pulled into the midst of the investigation, a town with secrets to hide, and a blossoming romance—all will combine to push Amber and Hannah into unfamiliar roles in order to reveal answers to the mysteries around them.

My Comments:  This book contains all of my favs – murder mystery, Amish fiction, and romance (as well as COFFEE).  I was so excited to receive and read this book, and it did not disappoint. I always enjoy Vannetta Chapman’s writing.  The book is long enough to really sink your teeth into and there are some surprise elements.  Two main characters solve the mystery together along with their new loves – an Englisch couple and an Amish couple. The setting is an Amish village run by the Englisch (if that makes sense – it works). I would love to visit such a place on vacation. If you love Coffeehouse Mysteries by Cleo Coyle, and you enjoy Amish fiction – you will also enjoy this read!

Thank you to Netgalley for the free review e-read.  The opinions are definitely my own.

April 8th, 2014

fearless

When an Amish woman falls for the New York crime writer who buys her family farm, she must decide whether to follow the longings of her heart or the rules of her faith.When Hope Yoder loses her husband, she is left trying to support her two small children—and one on the way—however she can. She ends up taking a job as a part-time housekeeper for the Englisch man who has bought the farm that once belonged to her family.Logan Parker is a bestselling crime fiction writer from New York City who accompanies his fiancée on a trip to Holmes County, Ohio, but the trip takes a strange turn when he sees an Amish farmhouse for sale. Intrigued by a strong sense of familiarity, he enters the house and is overcome with a feeling of deep peace. He’s never been to Ohio before, but something in this house feels right, and he purchases the farm to use as a retreat. Something about the peacefulness of the house frees him from the crippling writer’s block that threatens to ruin his career, and something about the quiet Amish woman who comes to clean his home makes him less and less excited about returning to New York and the woman he is supposed to marry.Slowly, Logan and Hope are drawn together, and when they discover that they share a strange past, they must decide how that affects their future. Will Hope overcome her fear of embracing love again?

My Comments:  Just when I think I have read enough Amish books for a while, I read one like this and remember why I love the genre.  This book is rich with characters and story. It is multifaceted and engaging. Logan Parker – what a man! He is confused and lonely.  He doesn’t get “out” enough to know how complex some people are.  I love that he’s a writer and quite gifted at that. Hope – what a woman!  As I read this book, I wondered if it could be a stand alone novel.  It definitely could, but it is the third in a series and I have read and reviewed the other two books as well.  They were written about a year apart, and I loved those books as much as this one! If you want something a little different and with some meat to it and you love this genre – this is a great book for you to add to your TBR pile!

Thank you to Howard Books for the free review copy.  This opinion is mine and mine alone – written with complete honesty.

 

April 8th, 2014

broken beautiful

Sometimes everything you ever learned about yourself is wrong
 
Fashion is a fickle industry, a frightening fact for twenty-four year old model Ivy Clark. Ten years in and she’s learned a sacred truth—appearance is everything. Nobody cares about her broken past as long as she looks beautiful for the camera. This is the only life Ivy knows—so when it starts to unravel, she’ll do anything to hold on. Even if that means moving to the quaint island town of Greenbrier, South Carolina, to be the new face of her stepmother’s bridal wear line—an irony too rich for words, since Ivy is far from the pure bride in white.If only her tenuous future didn’t rest in the hands of Davis Knight, her mysterious new photographer. Not only did he walk away from the kind of success Ivy longs for to work maintenance at a local church, he treats her differently than any man ever has. Somehow, Davis sees through the façade she works so hard to maintain. He, along with a cast of other characters, challenges everything Ivy has come to believe about beauty and worth. Is it possible that God sees her—a woman stained and broken by the world—yet wants her still?
My Comments:  I was engaged enough in this story, but I wouldn’t say it was one of my favorites.  The characters for the most part were young and live in a different type of world than I do. However, having said that, the story had me in tears at times. Characters lives were changed and sadness was throughout. The realism of the characters lives kept me with the story throughout. Christianity was woven throughout, but not overtly so.
The cover of the book is beautiful – I love it! It really goes well with the story. I read the other two books by this author and found them different types of books as well.  For some reason I related to this one the least, but I think it would be great for a 20 or early 30 something or even a teen to read! The message about how things change as we get older is an important one.
I received  free review copy of this book from Blogging for Books and WaterMark Multnomoah in exchange for my honest review, which I have given.

 

April 3rd, 2014

the calling

Twenty-year-old Bethany Schrock is restless. Her love life has derailed, her faith hangs by a thread, and she is spending the incredibly hot summer days wading through a lifetime’s accumulation of junk at the home of five ancient Amish sisters. About the only thing that holds her interest is the spirited and dangerously handsome Jimmy Fisher–and he seems bent on irritating her to no end.

When the sly old sisters and a guest at the Inn get Bethany involved in running the local soup kitchen and starting a community garden, she suddenly finds herself wondering, Shootfire! How did that happen? Despite her newfound purposefulness, a gnawing emptiness about a childhood mystery continues to plague her. Encouraged by Jimmy Fisher, she will seek out the answers she craves–and uncover a shocking secret that will break her heart, heal it, and point her to love.

My Comments: I love Suzanne Woods Fisher’s books!  This book had the most fun characters.  The “sisters” cracked me up, what characters they are!  I was surprised they were Amish – with their clutter and hoarding ways. I love the way these Amish characters got involved in ministry to the community.  You don’t find that in many Amish books.  It seems they like to stick to themselves, but these characters were involved.

The Englisch character, Geena, is also a different and unique type of character and also very endearing.  Mammi Vera what a crack-up – very opinionated.  The stories were based around these and other characters.  I will definitely read the rest in the series – sweet and engaging content!

Thank you NetGalley for a free review e-copy.  The opinions are definitely my own.

March 23rd, 2014

distortion

Juliet Cole’s life has been dismantled by the murder of her husband. She doesn’t know who—or what—to trust when everything she has believed to be true about her marriage has been a lie. When Juliet Cole’s husband of fifteen years is gunned down in a dark parking lot before her eyes, she thinks it was a random shooting. Devastated and traumatized, she answers hours of questioning. When she’s finally allowed to return home to break the news to her boys, she hears a voicemail that takes the situation from a random shooting to a planned, deliberate attack. “Mrs. Cole, we know you have access to the supply and the money. If you don’t turn fifty million over to us and give us the codes, then you’ll be burying more family members.”

 

Suddenly, Juliet realizes that she and her children could be in danger. She teams up with her sisters and PI Michael Hogan to dig into the sham Bob has been living for years. The more she learns, the worse the betrayal. A drug trafficking history, a fortune in cash, and a secret family all emerge to turn Juliet’s belief system on its head, and threaten the things she loves. Are she and her sisters skilled enough as sleuths to get to the truth?

My Comments:  I read this book in just a couple of days.  I was engaged throughout.  Distortion is the second book in a new series by Terri Blackstock entitled Moonlighters Series and this book continues somewhat where the first book, Truth-Stained Lies left off.  I can’t even imagine finding out my husband life was a lie.  I also can’t imagine being a PI.  This book takes me to a world I know little about, but it is fascinating.  This poor family has been through it.  Two murders in just a year or two. It seemed to all begin when they found out their pastor-father had an affair and left the church.  I would love to hear some of the back story, since my husband is a pastor and my kids grew up in a pastor’s home.  Please bring us more Terri.  I love your books.

I received this book free in exchange for my honest review from Zondervan Pubishing and NetGalley.  This is my honest review a 4.5 star book.

March 18th, 2014

runaway saint

About the book: Sara Drexel is an artist with a supportive husband, a hip young business, and a house the her neighbors openly admire.  By all appearances, Sara has ir all figures out.  Not far beneath the surface, though, she’s restless.  Her faith has evaporated.  Her salt has lost its savor.

As a girl, Sara thought Aunt Bel seemed chosen.  A vessel of light.  A missionary.  A saint.  Fresh out of college Bel left on a summer mission trip to Kazakhstan.  She never came back.  That was 20 years ago.  Now, without warning, Aunt Bel is standing on Sara’s doorstep, looking for a place to crash.

Sara can’t say no to family, but saying yes to Bel quickly turns her entire precariously-balanced life upside down.

And Bel is hiding something.  Though reticent to speak about it, she has been through a hellish ordeal in Eastern Europe.  But as her secrets come to light one by one, Sara finds them hitting close to home.

My comments:  This was a riveting read – very different from books I usually read.  The story kept me wanting more.  My daughters have always loved Lisa Samson’s writing, but this was the first of her books that I read fully.  Her characters are multi-faceted and interesting.  Christianity is presented in a completely different light.  The story is complete.  I would consider this a slice of life book in a life completely different than mine.  The writing kept me wanting more.  I am going back to read some of her other books.  This book is thought provoking.  I recommend it!  Thank you to Thomas Nelson for a free review copy in exchange for my honest review which I have given.

March 17th, 2014

holding a tender heart

From the back cover:  Debbie Watson has just graduated from college and landed her first job.  Her parents are happy for her and eager to see her get out on her own and embark on all that life has to offer.

But what will they say when Debbie announces she’s moving in with the Amish Beiler family because she prefers the plain life to the worldly glitter her peers have chosen?  Not to mention her attraction to Alvin Knepp, the quiet young Amish farmer who doesn’t seem to notice she’s alive–and tries to win her heart.

While she’s waiting for Alvin to notice her, Debbie has other matters to sort out.  Verna, her dear friend and the oldest Beiler sister, is devastated when Joe Weaver, the man she loves, is wrongly charged with a crime that will put him behind bars for years.  Can Debbie intervene to help Verna and Joe while pining for Alvin and trying to assure her parents she’s not gone off the deep end of the pier?

My Comments:   I love the title of this book because it is so descriptive of the contents of the story!  Verna Beiler definitely has a tender heart which she so willingly gives to Joe Weaver.

I usually do not like men writing about women’s feelings and emotions, but Jerry Eichler does a great job of it.  He captures young Debbie and Verna in a true to life way.  It must have something to do with his Amish background (and maybe a little help from his wife?)  I read this book jam-packed full of emotion.  Verna, who has truly given her heart to Joe, is devastated by him being accused of murder.  She is loyal to the end.  Debbie, and Engish girl,  has emotions that run all over the place as well as she decides how she wants to live her life now that she has graduated from college.

I will never completely understand why the Amish choose to make life harder than it already is.  Sometimes I think we evangelicals depend too much on grace, but the Amish are definitely stuck to law.  What a difference!  The admirable quality is sticking to one set of rules completely, and trusting God for the outcome.

This book whet my appetite for the remainder of the books in the series (series of three books).  I am drawn in by the Beiler family and can see why Debbie, and English girl is attracted to them.

I highly recommend this book to fans of Amish fiction!  It is a great addition to the Amish fiction library.

I received a free review copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.  Thank you Harvest House!

March 15th, 2014

frostfire inn

Lauren Endicott is haunted by the injustice of a father sent to prison for a murder he didn’t commit. She never expected the novel she wrote about the case to become a bestseller, one in which a thinly disguised local senator was the actual murderer, and she certainly never expected to face the town’s outrage after the senator committed suicide. Most of all, she never wanted to hurt the senator’s son, Flynn Huntington, the boy she had loved from afar, the one she knew could never be hers. After the senator’s death, the town and the Huntingtons wanted her gone, and truth be told, Lauren was glad to go. She knew Flynn Huntington hated her, and that she would have to make a life for herself elsewhere.

Ten years later when Lauren is forced to come back to town for a short stay, she has no intention of confronting her past. She’s changed her name, colored her hair, and hopes no one will recognize her. To her shock, she immediately finds herself the focus of Flynn’s attention. He’s no longer a boy, and in any other circumstances she’d be dazzled by the handsome and sophisticated man he has become. He doesn’t recognize her, and is under the mistaken impression she is an employee at the local inn. Lauren finds herself right back where she was so many years before, dreaming of someone who can never be hers.

Should Lauren tell him the truth about her identity? Or should she walk away before she breaks both their hearts?

My Comments:  This is a complete short story.  I was completely engaged throughout the short e-copy.  Parts of this story reminded me of  the television program, “Revenge” although without all the violence and deceit.  However, Lauren wanted to find out the truth about who murdered the person her father was accused of murdering.  Her own past is interesting, she is an attorney who wrote a best-selling novel.  She falls in love with a man who cannot find out her true identity.  Lauren is confronted with difficult decisions.  Read to find out what happened and why.  You will be thoroughly entertained.  I recommend this novella.

Thank you to Story Cartel for a free copy to review in exchange for my honest review, which I have given.

March 5th, 2014

BeaversBusy_187

Along a stream a dam pops out of the water. Beavers are busy at work! These aquatic mammals have unique traits that aid them in building the perfect lodge to raise young beavers and keep predators away. Mary Holland’s vibrant photographs document the beavers’ activities through the course of a year. Do these beavers ever take a break? Follow along as they pop through the winter ice to begin the busy year of eating bark, building dams and gathering food just in time for winter to come again.

 

My Comments:  Another great non-fiction text from Sylvan Dell.  My second graders and I enjoyed learning about beavers while reading this together.  What interesting creatures!  The illustrations, also by Mary Holland, are real-life and quite amazing.  The book includes a section to extend information as well as the web site sylvandellpublishing.com has a 15-30 page teaching activities guide to go along with the story. Most Sylvan Dell books are AR leveled as well as Lexile leveled and Fountas and Pinnell DRA leveled.  This is a great non-fiction and fun resource for children grades K-4.

This book was released on March 1, 2014.  I received a free review copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

March 3rd, 2014

Growing up Duggar

It’s All About Relationships!

In this delightful and very personal book, the four oldest Duggar girls share their hearts and their core beliefs, explaining that it’s all about relationships!

• Relationship with self: The girls share their own personal journeys to self-acceptance and navi­gating the difficult stage of adolescence.

• Relationship with parents: You’ll find revelations about how Jim Bob and Michelle keep the lines of communication open with their children.

• Relationships with siblings: Here, you’ll get a peek into the Buddy system, how the siblings handle conflict, and how the loss of little Jubilee (their sister) affected their relationships with each other.

• Relationships with friends: You’ll find principles on how the Duggar kids deal with peer pressure and how they interact with friends outside their family.

• Relationships with boys: You’ll learn the Duggar view of dating and courtship, and these four sisters will address the often-asked question of when one of them will get married.

• Relationship with God: And woven throughout the book, the girls talk about their most impor­tant relationship of all—their relationship with God and their own personal faith and beliefs.

This candid look into what Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger believe and why they believe it will give you practical insights into your own life and will inspire you to evaluate principles that will work for you.

My Comments:  I found this book so refreshing and I have to say I am in awe of Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar.  I got married young, but they REALLY got married young and have/had so much wisdom.  I wish I would have known them when I was raising my kids, they had marvelous ideas!  The Duggar girls who wrote this book, Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger, sound like such level-headed, wise young ladies with nothing but admiration, love, and respect for their parents.  I am awe-struck.  I don’t personally agree with everything they say and do, but they sure did an outstanding  job with these girls.  I don’t feel like they were brain-washed or anything, although I would say it would be easier to raise kids somewhat separated from our modern culture.  I love some of the ideas the Duggars used while raising their kids like the Obedience Game.  They made time to speak to each child individually and worked really hard at establishing an ongoing transparent relationship with their kids.  If I were raising kids now, I would gain lots from this book!  As it is, I will be using some of their strategies in my classroom.  Great read!  I highly recommend it!