Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Review - Promises Kept by Scarlett Dunn

Lady of marriageable age with two young boys, in need of husband.

I am a good cook and hard worker.
Victoria Eastman grew up in a Texas saloon—an experience that made her tough, resourceful, and determined to forge a new life. So she places an ad in a gentleman's newspaper... and soon finds herself a suitable arrangement on a farm in Promise, Wyoming. Only problem is that her would-be husband turns up dead the day she arrives.

Rancher Colt McBride is known for his true grit and business smarts. Yet when it comes to his new neighbor, Victoria, he's stumped: Who is she, really? She's lovely to look at, of course, and has proven herself a gentle soul. She's even causing him to question his staunch bachelorhood. But any kind of future may be shattered when a stranger reveals a secret about Victoria's past—one that could destroy them both. Unless, together, they can take a leap of faith—right into each other's arms...

I love Historical Romances like Promises Kept by Scarlett Dunn. I love being able to see how things used to be even if through the eyes of a fictional romance. It's fun and it lets me forget the kind of world we're in now for just a little bit.

Victoria Eastman is a strong woman. For much of the book it seems like she doesn't even fathom just how strong she is. And to be honest, while I love the cover, according to the descriptions of her in the book it does her no justice. So here we have this gorgeous woman who tries like hell to hold her own and provide for her boys. She's willing to go so far as to advertise her need/want of a husband. Someone who can help take care of her and the kids.

Colt McBride is the dreamy sort of cowboy that every woman, or at least a lot of them, fantasize about at least once in their lives. The kind that will step in and defend you. The kind that will take care of you. The kind that will treat you with the utmost respect. And the kind that will make you melt like a popsicle on the pavement in July. He's a hard worker and he's a good, kind man. He takes care of people and they love him for it.

But both of them are stubborn as hell. And it gets frustrating at times. Victoria has sworn off cowboys all together and Colt swears that he's never going to get married. Ever. Haven't fictional characters figured out yet that they shouldn't do that sort of thing? I suppose it's good that they did, or else we'd not have fantastic stories like this to read.

Not everything is biscuits and gravy though. There's a man in town who wants the land that was left to Victoria, and all of the land around it, and has decided he will stop at nothing until he owns it all. This includes stealing and killing off cattle... and people. He even goes so far as to try and "court" Victoria but things turn sour and she's not sure how to save herself, or her boys.

I loved this book. I think I may have mentioned that already. I love period novels. Just love them to death. Promises Kept delivers the window in to history along with the romance and the suspense all rolled up together. There are a lot of wonderful characters that we get to meet and see fleshed out quite a lot. Even if they seem like they're just background, they're not. No one is just a "bit part". I think that's wonderful. Lots of well rounded people to love and read about.

If you love historical romances, this is definitely the book for you. If you love Christian or inspirational fiction, this is the book for you. Even if you don't, this is still a wonderful story to read because it's not an overwhelming aspect of the book at all.

I am definitely looking forward to reading others in this series!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Review - Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

“Dead girl walking”, the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret”, the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.

Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery.

It's been a couple of months since I wrote up a review. And a couple of months since I read this Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. It's not a novel that's easy to review to be honest. I've read Fever 1793 and Speak by Anderson and while Speak was by no means a happy story to read, Melinda's ordeal was one that I was, unfortunately, familiar with... so it made it easier.

Lia and Cassie have eating disorders. But we don't see much of Cassie at all in the story. At least not in a conventional way. She's more... haunting... than anything else. She sort of manifests as one of Lia's demons.

The writing in this book is definitely different. Not told in solid story form but mainly through the jumbled thoughts of the main character. And I can tell you, it was so frustrating to read. So frustrating that I KNEW all this girl needed to do was eat... and so frustrating that she REFUSED even though she knew that was what she needed, too.

But eating disorders are never that easy. You can't just look at someone with bulimia and tell them to stop throwing up their food. You can't look at someone with anorexia and say "Here, have a sandwich," and expect everything to get better. It's a battle. And not a battle between you and that person, but a battle between that person and whatever demons are waging battle in their heads. Clearly Lia had many. And it was sad.

I'd seen a movie like this once. Long ago and far away. Best friends become anorexic... they literally compete to see who can eat the least and get the skinniest and then... one of them dies. The other is left with the guilt on top of the disease and her family's insistence that she seek treatment and "get better".

Lia has a family who knows what she's doing... in a way. They know she has a problem. And they believe they're monitoring it correctly. But Lia lies and manipulates her way in to "seeming" normal. The anger and irritation at seeing her lie conflicts with the sadness and the heartache of "watching" her waste away...

It's a hard book to read.

If you've read any of Anderson's other novels... I'd suggest giving this one a go. I'd probably recommend it for highschool and up because unfortunately, I know how easy it is for younger kids to read or see something like this book and "identify" with it to the point where they think they're experiencing the same issues... again, something I'm familiar with personally, sadly. So... less easily influenced minds are probably better suited for this particular type of story.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Review - Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

Cole St. Clair has come to California for one reason: to get Isabel Culpeper back. She fled from his damaged, drained life, and damaged and drained it even more. He doesn't just want her. He needs her.

Isabel is trying to build herself a life in Los Angeles. It's not really working. She can play the game as well as all the other fakes...but what's the point? What is there to win?

Cole and Isabel share a past that never seemed to have a future. They have the power to save each other and the power to tear each other apart. The only thing for certain is that they cannot let go.

Ok, so I finished Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater almost 3 weeks ago but I was putting off actually getting online and typing up a review because I am exhausted. Well, I'm less exhausted now than I was before... but still. So, sorry there hasn't been much activity on the blog as of late.

I was super stoked when I heard Sinner was coming out. I loved the Wolves of Mercy Falls series and I was so sad when it was all over. I was even more stoked when I learned that this one would be following Cole and Isabel. I love the Grace/Sam story with all my heart, but I wanted to know where Cole's story went.

Cole has gone to Los Angeles to find Isabel. In the process he's also supposed to be filming some kind of reality show and making a new record with a new band. Or at least, mostly new. Isabel is happy to see him, and she isn't happy to see him at the same time. She doesn't want to fall in love with him because she doesn't want to be hurt and she thinks that Cole is definitely the kind of person who is going to hurt her.

I have to admire Cole and his persistence. And the fact that even in the face of blatant temptation he didn't let his former addiction overcome him and cause him to undo all of the things that he's accomplished since becoming a wolf. I loved his carefree attitude and I loved being able to just be inside his head. He was trying so incredibly hard with Isabel.

Isabel kind of ticked me off a bit, but then I had to remember that she was putting up with a lot when it came to Cole's reality show. A lot that she didn't really have to put up with at all. And she was doing so quite well for the most part. I cut her some slack even though a few things she did still irritated me. Like insisting that Cole was doing things he shouldn't without really giving him a chance to plead his case.

She'd put up a wall though. One that she wasn't sure she wanted to put down for Cole. Well, in a way, she desperately wanted him to bust right through it and sweep her off her feet and carry her off in to the sunset with his mustang... but the rational part of her wanted to keep the wall in place because the lifestyle he was accustomed to (and she wasn't) was one that normally would have lead him to tear her heart to pieces and leave her broken on the ground. He had to prove himself. Over and over again. And I think he did that with flying colors. I love Cole. I really do.

And it doesn't hurt that when I read his chapters I hear Dan Bittner's voice in my head.

This was a great installment in the series. A definite deviation from the normal back and forth between Sam and Grace and their sort of ... innocence. Both Cole and Isabel are world weary and tired of the phoniness of people and the hurt they've gone through where as Sam and Grace were full of hope. Cole and Isabel hold each other up, though. They kind of find a new strength in each other and it makes the world not seem as bad.

If you've read the rest of the series, you should absolutely pick this one up. It's a fantastic read.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Review - Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue is book 3 in the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. And, as I love all things Maggie Stiefvater, I had to read this. Although, I have put it off because book 4 is not scheduled to come out until February of 2016 so I didn't want there to be a million days in between reading this and reading that but... as with all things... I am impatient. And I had to stop procrastinating and get to reading.

Blue and Co. (Or Gansey and Co. however you want to look at it) are so close to finding Glendower's tomb that they can taste it. Sort of. But Maura is gone and there are curses on caves and Greenmantle is now teaching at Aglionby and Adam has to go to court to testify against his father and things just aren't working out the way they're supposed to be.

Some finagling has to be done to gain access to certain places and to make other things go away... it's getting scary. They're getting so close but everything is upending and they're not quite sure what to do next.


That was the best summary I could give without giving much away. As this is still a relatively new book.

First of all, I would like to say that I would love Blue's sense of style. I really would. But unfortunately I am the type of person that can really only rock jeans and t-shirts and still look like some semblance of a human being.

Moving along. This book has a lot of surprises in it. Some interesting. Some incredibly sad. One in particular I didn't see coming at ALL. Not at all. I guess that's kind of how surprises work though. You don't see them coming.

I didn't want to put this one down. I brought it with me to babysit, to dog sit... I brought it to read while I was waiting for my daughter's band concert to start... I read it outside, inside... everywhere and anywhere and all the time. That is how magnificent this installment is. It's also frustrating in a way. Everyone seems so stubborn and no one seems to give anyone the credit that they deserve.

The crew makes some new friends in this story. One I enjoyed immensely and I thought was just absolutely fantastic. Another was... different. Although I'm not sure yet whether or not that's a bad thing. I guess we will have to wait for the 4th book to find out for sure.

I loved Blue Lily, Lily Blue. But then, I love all of Maggie's books. It's fun to read about stories that are set close to home with names of places that I've been to. It had enough suspense without making the entire thing one big ball of "Oh my gosh what's going to happen!?" and the characters (Blue especially) had enough sass to keep things funny. We get a look at how strong they can truly be when bad things happen, and boy do they happen in this one. We also get to see just how magical things are the closer they get to their goal. It's pretty incredible. And I'll just warn you now, you'll get a punch to the gut in the end. Just saying.

If you've read the other 2 in this series, you HAVE to give this one a go. If you haven't, I suggest reading books 1 & 2 first before even attempting this one. You'll be completely lost if you're not all caught up on things. I can't wait for The Raven King to be released!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Review - Just Like Elizabeth Taylor by LuAnn Brobst Staheli

Twelve-year-old Liz Taylor has known for a long time that she would escape—escape the abuse against herself, and against her mother. She just didn’t know how or when.

Then the perfect opportunity comes—money left of the table by her mother’s abuser—and Liz is on the run. But a girl her age doesn’t have many options when it comes to hideouts, making a K.O. A. Kampground and a nearby middle school her perfect choices.

If only she can keep to herself, Liz, now using the name Beth, knows she can make it on her own, until things change, and she realizes she must face her situation head on if she is to save herself and her mom.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I decided to read Just Like Elizabeth Taylor by LuAnn Brobst Staheli. It was not a long winded book so I quickly found out the meat of it shortly after beginning.

Liz and her mother are being abused. Her mother by her boyfriend, and Liz by the boyfriend's son. Liz can't understand why her mother doesn't leave, but she won't. Liz decides she can't stay anymore and so she takes the boyfriends money and takes off. She parks herself at a KOA and enrolls in the school nearby. She's never reported missing. No one ever comes looking for her. She sets up camp in a shed at the KOA and does odd jobs in order to keep her money supply up so she can buy food, clothing, and things like a space heater to keep her warm during winter months.

She originally planned on keeping her head down and keeping to herself. But things don't always end up as planned.


My heart absolutely broke for Liz. And for her mother. But mostly for Liz. I know what it's like to be in an abusive relationship and so while I can relate to her mother... it makes me angry that she put her daughter in that situation with no real intention of getting her out of it. It makes me mad that Liz, who is the same age as my oldest daughter, would have to get herself out of harms way and live all by herself in an area completely foreign to her. No one to help her. No one to take care of her. No one to really care.

It's sickening.

BUT... I was kind of peeved at Liz too, for not telling her mother about the abuse from the son. Who knows. Her life could have been completely different had she said something. Maybe mom would have snapped out of it and decided her daughter was worth more than being in a relationship just for the sake of not being alone. But then again, maybe not. You never know.

She was so strong. Liz was. So much stronger than I think I ever could have been at her age. Having to go through what she did and then having to fend for herself for the better part of a year. Not falling apart despite all she'd been through. Knowing that no one had cared enough to even report her missing. Not that I think she should have gone back to that hell hole... but just the fact that it seemed no one wanted her.

I'm glad she was able to make a friend. Even if she didn't want to at first. Everyone needs a friend. Not a lot. But one special one. Liz was lucky enough to make two. Well, three by the end of it all. And every one of them played a part in saving her. Helping her truly save herself.

It was a very short story. Easy to read. Length wise. Subject matter is another story. It was good. It definitely hit close to home, but it was good. And kudos to LuAnn for being able to pack such a story in such a short time and still manage to develop all the characters thoroughly and satisfactorily.

I'd recommend this book to readers age 12-13 and up. But with the younger end of the spectrum I'd definitely set aside time to warn them about what they were about to read and then talk to them about it. It's not light subject matter. In the slightest. Liz goes through some horrible things.

But she's so brave. To go through what she did and come out on the other side mostly in tact. She had more courage than most adults would when faced with the same type of situation. But she was also able to realize and understand that sometimes it was ok to rescue and it was also ok to accept a rescue.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Review - Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

It's late summer 1793, and the streets of Philadelphia are abuzz with mosquitoes and rumors of fever. Down near the docks, many have taken ill, and the fatalities are mounting. Now they include Polly, the serving girl at the Cook Coffeehouse. But fourteen-year-old Mattie Cook doesn't get a moment to mourn the passing of her childhood playmate. New customers have overrun her family's coffee shop, located far from the mosquito-infested river, and Mattie's concerns of fever are all but overshadowed by dreams of growing her family's small business into a thriving enterprise. But when the fever begins to strike closer to home, Mattie's struggle to build a new life must give way to a new fight-the fight to stay alive.
I picked up Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson because of the cover originally. And the author. The blurb on the back totally sucked me in. I love historic fiction. Absolutely love it. Even a story as sad as this one.

Mattie's town is stricken with yellow fever. Her mother falls ill and orders Mattie out of the house and out to the country. Her grandfather, ever the military man, promises to deliver her to her destination and protect her with his life. But not long after leaving Mattie's grandfather also appears ill. They're kicked out of the wagon that's supposed to drive them and it takes off with everything but the clothes on their back.

Mattie, too, becomes extremely ill but manages to pull through to find that her grandfather is, more or less, well and ready to journey on. They decide to go back home to find Mattie's mother, but she's gone. And there's no way to find her. With so few people even willing to come out of their homes there's not even anyone to ask. So they find themselves back in the coffee house waiting to see what happens next.


Like I said, I love historic fiction. I love period stories with a passion. And Fever 1793 was fantastic. It's got enough in it to keep you turning page after page and before you know it, you'll be finished with it. The story is based on the actual yellow fever epidemic that swept through Philadelphia and displaced thousands of people, killing thousands more.

I love the actual history peppered throughout the entire book and how well it was fused with the life of Mattie Cook and her family. We got to see the plague through the eyes of someone who was there. Fictionally speaking, of course, but how many girls like Mattie lived in Philadelphia at that time? How many people had to go through the things she went through. The prospect of first love. The loss of a friend. Having to leave home after finding out she may also lose her mother. Her bird disappearing. Falling ill but recovering only to lose her grandfather during a burglary.

That was the part that got me. That hit me the hardest.

It was sad when her mother sent her away. When all she could see, hear, and smell around her was pestilence and death. But it broke my heart to pieces when her grandfather left her. Absolutely broke it to pieces. Big, mushy, blubbering pieces.

He had such a big heart. He was such a hero to Mattie. And she was a hero to him. He loved her so much and was determined to protect her and care for her with everything he had in him. I'm glad that this wasn't a story where the teenage main character was irritated and horrible to the grandparent that was only there to care for them. I think that would have been horrible.

But Mattie, she loved her grandpa every bit as much as he loved her. She rescued him every bit as much as he had rescued her. Unfortunately, for both of them, the last rescuing took too much of him. I cried. I will admit it. And it was bad because it was in the dentist's office. So I'm sure I looked like an idiot, but that's ok. Books that can pull emotion out of nowhere are the best books to read.

I liked that this book did not really end with a "and they lived happily ever after". As sad as that is. No one bounced back to where they'd been before the fever hit. It took its toll on everyone. Young and old. Strong and weak. It was realistic in its portrayal of the survivors. While I would have loved a happily ever after for some of the characters, life isn't always like that. Mattie found out how strong she was, despite her young age. Eliza, her friend and the cook for the coffee house, was able to move up in life to a position not many people of her color were able to reach during that time. Mattie no longer seemed scared of herself or worried about how to behave properly. She no longer worried about whether or not people viewed her as a child. She had found her place and earned her right to be where she was in the end. She worked hard.

I think that was about as happy as it could end. Through horrible illness and loss, she found out who she could be and how strong she was in the process. She became herself, instead of trying to fit everyone else's image of a girl her age.

This was a middle grade book. One that I might have read in 5th - 8th grade. It's definitely age appropriate, and I believe it's got enough in it to keep even the most reluctant reader reading. I'd recommend this to people of any age though. Not just children. Like I said, it's based in actual historical fact so you just might learn something you never knew before if you give this one a go!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review - Wind Catcher by Jeff & Erynn Altabef

Juliet Wildfire Stone hears voices and sees visions, but she can’t make out what they mean. Her eccentric grandfather tells her stories about the Great Wind Spirit and Coyote, but he might as well be speaking another language. None of it makes any sense.

When she stumbles upon a series of murders she can't help but worry her grandfather might be involved. To discover the truth, Juliet must choose between her new life at an elite private school and her Native American heritage. Once she uncovers an ancient secret society formed over two hundred years ago to keep her safe, she starts to wonder whether there’s some truth to those old stories her grandfather has been telling her.

All she wants is to be an average sixteen-year-old girl, but she has never been average—could never be average.

Betrayed by those she loves, she must decide whether to run or risk everything by fulfilling her destiny as the Chosen.

First of all, I would like to say how much I love the cover for Wind Catcher by Jeff and Erynn Altabef. It's bright and the colors are stunning. It's what got me interested in reviewing this story right off the bat.  I'm a sucker for a pretty sunset and the twisting arrows in the center were an interesting (and integral) element.

Juliet seems stuck between two worlds. The Bartens world, where she doesn't feel she fits in. To them she's "Indian Trash" and won't ever be labeled as anything else. Not by the "popular" kids at least. And the world she left behind when she went to Bartens. The world with her friends, her not-boyfriend Troy, and her grandfather.

The gruesome torture and subsequent murder of one of her grandfather's friends sets a giant snowball rolling down hill and she's powerless to stop it. All she can seem to do is stand in front of it and wait for it to pick her up and take her with it. She finds out that she's part of an ancient... prophecy... if you will. She is "the Chosen" and the fate of the world, quite literally, is in her hands.

But no one wants to be honest with her. Her mother and grandfather have lied to her her whole life. And now Troy isn't being honest with her either. Teachers are keeping secrets. Friends of friends... everyone knows something that they don't want to tell her. It's driving her up the wall. All she wants is to understand what's going on.... and then leave it behind. She wants no part in it. She doesn't want to be "the Chosen". She wants to be normal.

She can't ever be "normal" again.


I love stories with Native American influence. I love the culture and the heritage. So I loved Juliet's grandfather. And the fact that he was a Medicine Man with stories upon stories that he wanted to tell her. It made me sad that she didn't want to hear them anymore. Because it meant that I didn't get to hear them either.

The story established the conflict pretty quickly. People dying. Horrible deaths. Juliet's grandfather seems to be involved somehow but no one can quite figure it out, and she won't ask him until she's pieced together enough of the puzzle to get a straight answer from him.

Ok. So we find things out the slow way. That's fine with me. I like the build up of a good mystery. I like the suspense. I also like plot twists and surprises. I like the idea of an ancient society sworn to protect the coming of the one who would save their world. I liked that the Chosen was Juliet. That the fate of human kind rested, not on a man or an arrogant boy... but a girl who, on the outside, appeared to be just like every other 16 year old girl in creation. Struggling to find her place and figure out who she is in the grand scheme of things.

I liked her grandfather, Jake... or... Sicheii as she refers to him. I liked that he held on to the traditions of his culture. And that he attempted, however fruitless his attempts were, to continue to pass those traditions on to Juliet. He loved her dearly, and gave everything he had for her.

Troy seemed to be her rock. The strong pillar in her crumbling world. The one who would always be there for her, even in spite of all of her temper tantrums and the silent treatment. I loved that this story was not fixated on making him her target. Yes, she expressed feelings for him... but the book was NOT about her pining away for him. Or running after him. Or throwing herself at him. There was no insta-love, or love triangle or love rhombus... whatever you want to call it. He was her best friend and, as sometimes happens with best friends, he became a little something more than that. Even if not in an official capacity. And even if she thought he didn't feel the same way.

I got lost, however, during the detailing of Juliet's dreams. They seemed out of place with the rest of the story. Almost like a completely different story line developed half way through the book. The turn the book took toward the end kind of felt forced. In my opinion, it just didn't mesh with the rest of the story. It was interesting, don't get me wrong. And Juliet totally went from zero to badass in about 10 seconds flat... but her transformation happened so quickly I don't feel like I had enough of a chance to get excited about it before things ended.

Wind Catcher hooked me as a Native American YA Fantasy. It took a turn from that and veered more in to the Sci-Fi toward the end. Not that I don't like Sci-Fi... I just think that maybe that element should have been woven a little bit more in to the earlier story to better integrate the two ideas and keep the flow of the story more smooth.

With that being said, it is definitely an interesting story. And like I mentioned, I'm sure a LOT of people can identify with Juliet in the beginning. If you're looking for a new sci-fi/fantasy read I suggest this one. If you're looking for a good, suspenseful mystery I suggest this one. Just hold on to your seat and be prepared for some twists and turns you're not expecting!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Review & Giveaway - Harvest of Blessings by Charlotte Hubbard

The tranquil little town of Willow Ridge is facing a startling challenge. Wealthy Nora Glick Landwehr is determined to make it her home again--and put her past to rest. Cast out by her own family, Nora can't reconcile with Old Amish ways or her strict father. But she'll do anything to help her community embrace the future . . . and make amends to the daughter she had to give up. So, she certainly has no time for her reckless new neighbor Luke Hooley. They disagree about almost everything. And how can she trust him if he always seems to believe the worst about her? Somehow, though, his unexpected support and passionate heart are helping her find her own way in faith. And Nora will discover that even in the face of insidious lies and unyielding judgment, God creates unexpected chances for forgiveness--and love.

I'm so glad I got to read Harvest of Blessings by Charlotte Hubbard, book 5 in the Seasons of the Heart series. True to form, it was fantastic. Just like the rest of the series.

Unlike the other books, though, this centered, NOT on a member of the Lantz family, but on Preacher Gabe Glick's estranged daughter, Nora Landwehr. When Preacher Gabe found out his daughter was pregnant he demanded she name the father, so that he could be held responsible. She refused to name him and was sent away to live with her aunt. After giving birth her baby girl wound up in Willow Ridge, but she did not.

For 16 years Nora lived an English life and even married an English man. She's moving back to Willow Ridge because she's decided the flashy, expensive English life she'd been living was not for her. She desired a more Plain existence but also to reconnect with her family... and the little girl she dropped on her brother's doorstep 16 years before.


Leave it to Hiram to be at the center of the drama in this story. Nora actually buys his home on Bishops Ridge but Hiram believes that entitles him to WAY more freedom than is actually allowed of a business transaction. He's no longer just committing sins unbecoming of a Bishop in the Amish culture, but things that are bordering on abusive and illegal in all sorts of ways. Yuck.

Nora is a different kind of character. In many ways, more experienced in the world than her Amish counterparts, having lived English for half of her life. I like that she goes home though. That she decides the English life isn't what she wants. And I like how persistent she is trying to patch things up with her family. She's a strong woman who, even though EVERY OBSTACLE POSSIBLE was placed in front of her, never gave up hope. Not truly anyway.

Millie was just like her mother. Kind-hearted and strong in ways she couldn't have understood for someone so young. She sacrificed time she could have spent running around having fun, deciding whether or not the Amish church was something she wanted to be a part of, and dedicated herself to taking care of her grandparents.

Luke Hooley... definitely not his brother, Ben, but not bad in his own respect. Still not a member of the church in his 30s, and really not in the mood to settle down with anyone. Until Nora comes along. Then it's like someone has hit him with a sack of potatoes and Nora is all he can think about. And good thing, too. It seems that Luke has a habit of showing up in places at just the right time, manages to rescue Nora from nasty Hiram several times. Messes up once... but sometimes that is what happens when you fall for someone and get jealous.

I wasn't too fond of Ira Hooley at first. He seemed too dismissive for Millie. And when he saw Nora it was like Millie didn't exist to him at all. Forget that he was twice her age. He redeemed himself though. Which was surprising. And he was extremely good to Millie when her world was turned upside down. Or, as they say in the book, her applecart was overturned.

The story had some shocking twists and revelations. And like I said, Hiram pushed the envelope QUITE a bit. But I loved how Willow Ridge, for the most part, rallied around Nora to help her. Even some of the decisions she made weren't exactly in line with the Amish way of thinking. Makes me wish the town were a place I could actually go visit. And it was great to see all the familiar names from Cedar Creek (One Big Happy Family & Home at Cedar Creek) pop up quite a few times. I miss them.

The book was lovely. Ms. Hubbard's books are never without their share of drama and excitement and are always uplifting. They have a way of making you feel better just for the fact that you've read them. They become stories that you hate to close the book on because you've known the characters so long they almost feel like friends. And you don't want to say goodbye. So, as always, Harvest of Blessings is a highly recommended read. Whether you've read the other books in the series or not. I suggest that you DO pick up the other books, but it's not necessary. Just makes things that much more enjoyable.

Drawing upon her experiences in Jamesport, the largest Old Order Amish community west of the Mississippi, longtime Missourian Charlotte Hubbard (a.k.a. Naomi King) writes of simpler times and a faith-based lifestyle in her new Seasons of the Heart series. Like her heroine, Miriam Lantz, Charlotte considers it her personal mission to feed people—to share hearth and home. Faith and family, farming and food preservation are hallmarks of her lifestyle, and the foundation of her earlier Angels of Mercy series. She’s a deacon, a dedicated church musician and choir member, and when she’s not writing, she loves to try new recipes, crochet, and sew. Charlotte now lives in Minnesota with her husband and their border collie.

Excerpt from Harvest of Blessings by Charlotte Hubbard

When Nora swung open the restroom door, she nearly ran into Hiram Knepp before she saw him in the shadowy hallway. He was leaning against the wall as though he’d been waiting for her to come out. He shifted quickly, so he was blocking her exit.

“Looking good,” he murmured with a devilish smile.

Nora somehow contained her irritation. “Hiram,” she said with a curt nod. “If you’ll excuse me—”

“Oh, there’s no excuse for you today,” he quipped as his gaze roamed the length of her. “You and Hooley are as mismatched as a thoroughbred racehorse yoked to an ox. What do you see in him, anyway?”

Nora didn’t try to break past him, because that would bring her into contact with the arm he’d planted against the wall, right at her chest level. “You’re entitled to your opinion,” she muttered, “but—”

“But I’m really here with a proposition,” Hiram interrupted. “A business proposition, that is.”

As he moved closer, Nora had nowhere to go but backwards, into the deeper shadow. As her back found the wall she instinctively bent one leg up, so her knee was in a strategic position. She remained silent, making Hiram talk while she figured out how to get out of this trap he’d set.

“Several friends have told me how excited they are to be consigning items to your new store,” Hiram continued. “What a shame it would be if your business went belly-up. Most small businesses—especially those owned by women—fail within the first year because they’re undercapitalized. I’d like to help prevent that.”

I just bet you would, Nora thought, but she kept her mouth shut. Anything she said would give him more ammunition.

Hiram smirked. “Miriam Hooley and Andy Leitner can attest to that,” he stated. “They couldn’t keep their doors open if they didn’t have a benefactor who owned their buildings and relieved them of all that overhead. So what if I bought my barn back?” he asked. “What if I became your silent partner, Nora?”

“No way,” she muttered. “I don’t care to pay the sort of interest you’d expect.”

Hiram’s chuckle echoed in the small hallway. “Nora, my dear,” he protested in a silky voice. “You misunderstand my—”

The door to the mens’ room swung open so hard it hit the wall.

“The lady said no, Knepp,” Luke snapped as he stepped into the hallway. “I’ve got zero tolerance for snakes, so you’d better slither back into your hole. Got it?”

Hiram backed away from her. His jet black goatee rippled with his grin as he pointed first to Nora and then to Luke. “There’s just no accounting for taste, I guess,” he said with a shake of his head. “If you care to reconsider my offer, Nora, my door’s always open.”

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cover Reveal - Belong to Me by Laura Howard


Belong to Me by Laura Howard 
(A Moore Crossing Novel) 
Publication date: March 31st 2015
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance


Kate and Noah thought they had the kind of love that could last through anything. Until their world crumbles out from beneath them.
After months of separation, the tragic death of Jack, Kate’s twin and Noah’s best friend, throws them back together. As they try to heal from the horrific loss, will they be able to overcome old wounds or are they destined to live separately forever?


Laura Howard lives in New Hampshire with her husband and four children. Her obsession with books began at the age of 6 when she got her first library card. Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High and other girly novels were routinely devoured in single sittings. Books took a backseat to diapers when she had her first child. It wasn’t until the release of a little novel called Twilight, 8 years later, that she rediscovered her love of fiction. Soon after, her own characters began to make themselves known. The Forgotten Ones is her first published novel.

Author links: 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Review - The Shadow Catcher's Daughter by Carla Olson Gade

Eliana has secrets. Daring Eliana Van Horn aims to make her mark by joining her father as his photography assistant--disguised as a young man--on a survey expedition to the remote Four Corners.

Living in the shadows of his native heritage, trail guide Yiska Wilcox is thrown off course when the shadow catcher's daughter opens up the uncharted territory of his heart. As they travel through dangerous terrain in the mountains and deserts of Colorado and New Mexico, Eliana and Yiska must learn to overcome the barriers of culture, faith, and ideals to discover common ground.

Though they are worlds apart, will they stake a chance on love?

I got The Shadow Catcher's Daughter by Carla Olson Gade, book 1 in the Love in Four Corners series, when it first debuted... but lost it for a while after I'd started reading it. For a long while. I actually found it just a couple of months ago searching through my mom's house in a pile of books she'd taken off my old shelves and from various corner's of the house. I'm really glad it found its way back to me.

Eliana is the daughter of a photographer. She's accompanying him on a professional trip but she's disguised as a boy, both to keep herself safe and to try and avoid issues with the team. Before leaving on the expedition she meets Yiska. A "halfbreed" who's both a trail guide and a wonderfully poetic writer. They both become enamored with each other immediately.

Along the journey Yiska proves an incredible asset to the team, saving Eli several times and protecting the team from attack on more than one occasion. The trip is not without tragedy though... but along with the tragedy comes hope.

I liked this story. It was WAY too short if you ask me. I wish it had gone on for at least another 100 pages. Yiska was brave and selfless. And as I said before, an incredibly poetic writer. He was a man with dreams that, it seemed, he wasn't sure he'd be able to realize. Until he came across Eliana and her father. Two people who treated him like a human being and not like an animal like it seemed so many others believed him to be.

Eliana was a very determined young woman. She knew what she wanted and she wasn't going to let the fact that she was female stop her from achieving the goals she'd set for herself. She was also extremely kind and so full of faith. A faith that rubbed off on her trail guide eventually.

Her father was wonderful. He was protective but not overbearing. He was stern but he was kind and he was generous. Not quick to jump to conclusions or to accuse. He let Eliana be who she wanted to be and accepted Yiska almost as a part of the family, trusting him to take care of his daughter should anything happen to him on their journey. Or even after.

There wasn't necessarily one defining moment in this story. A peak, so to speak. It was full of mountains and valleys and action scattered all throughout. I love period pieces, especially set in or around this time. The descriptions of their travels and Yiska's stories and journal writings were absolutely lovely. Due to the characters in this story it was not without the issues of prejudice and finding faith. And as I said before, it was not without its tragedy.

But there was a joy as well. Every cloud has a silver lining right? Yiska was Eliana's every bit as much as she was his. And I thought that ended the book fantastically. I just wish it had been longer. I really do. That is the ONLY bone I have to pick with this story.

If you like period pieces as much as I do then this is a wonderful story to read. If you like Christian fiction (mixed in with some actual history!) then this is the book for you. If you're interested in reading at ALL then I suggest picking it up. It's an easy book to breeze through and it's such a wonderful story. Carla is a fantastic writer (I've also reviewed her novel A Pattern for Romance HERE) and a fantastic person as well and I'm glad that I was able to finally get this story reviewed!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Review - A Place Beyond by Laura Howard

The time has come. Allison's quest to save her mother from Aoife's wicked enchantment will test everything she believes in. Who is trustworthy in the land of the Fair Folk, the Tuatha de Danaan? It's up to Allison, along with her ragtag host of allies, to unravel the truth.

Journey along and discover the power of love and duty as Allison faces the most difficult trial of her life.

Ah. The conclusion to the Danaan Trilogy, A Place Beyond by Laura Howard was a great period to a long and suspenseful sentence.

Allison finds out that Liam, her father, is not dead as she'd thought, but imprisoned by Aoife... ill and getting worse every moment. His condition, unfortunately, is in direct connection with her mother's who, like Liam, is not feeling well.

Aoife puts a curse on Allison in an effort to derail Niamh and Aodhan's relationship and to ensure the rule of Tir na n'Og once her own parents have moved on. Meanwhile, things in the human world are falling apart for Allison. All except for Ethan. She has to make the decision to lie and manipulate and trick her friends, or lose her mom and her dad for good.

I can't say too much about this story, being that it is still relatively new and I don't want to spoil it for anyone. What I will say is that it is super fast paced and fantastic. I love the relationship between Allison and Ethan, how he knows he's not really enough to protect her against her paranormal foes, but he would die trying anyway. I hate that she has to keep lying to her friends and family but completely understand her need for doing so. Even in as difficult a time as they face in this story.

Aoife is as hateful as ever in this installment and proves that she will literally stop at nothing to win the right to rule... even if it means dozens more die in the process. She seems to care for nothing and no one and plows through the lives of those she deems lesser than her.

One of my favorite characters is Allison's grandmother. Despite the hardship she's been through, and having to deal with Allison's constant disappearing, she is still super supportive of Allison. She's sweet and kind and caring and even with everything going on around her she still wants to try and help Allison have as normal a life as possible. And she accepts all of Allison's excuses without getting angry at her or demanding too much of an explanation.

Well, the roller coaster ride is over. It's time to get out of the car. A Place Beyond was the final loop in the track and was well worth the wait to get to it. Once I finally got a chance to sit down and really get in to the story it moved along quite quickly, not really giving you a chance to relax and take a breath before moving on in to another exciting bit of the book.

It's kind of sad that it's over. I enjoyed the series immensely. Irish lore has always intrigued me and with this story it was like it had come to life in front of my eyes. I enjoyed watching Allison mature and grow. I enjoyed watching her and Ethan grow together. It was nice to see her "friends" become real and true companions. And... well, I can't say much more.

If you haven't read the series, I highly recommend it. Start with The Forgotten Ones and just jump right in. It's a magical world and the descriptions are amazing along with the characters. It's a fun read and an exciting one as well. You won't regret it!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Review - Huckleberry Spring by Jennifer Beckstrand

Nothing gives Anna and Felty Helmuth greater satisfaction than seeing their grandchildren happily married--except for planning their next matchmaking venture. And as springtime comes to Huckleberry Hill, Wisconsin, the air is filled with promise. . .

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. . .

I've been reading a lot of Amish fiction lately. And unfortunately due to an email mishap I was not able to get this review up when I normally would... BUT we're here now. And Huckleberry Spring (book 4 in the Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill) by Jennifer Beckstrand was definitely worth the scramble and stuffing my ears in headphones with movie soundtracks blasting and blocking out any other noise so that I could read straight through until I'd finished it.

Emma Nelson and Ben Helmuth were engaged and in love. The ideal couple. The type that made everyone else wish they could be them. Incredibly in love. And then it was over. Engagement was broken and Ben was gone. To Florida of all places. Leaving Emma in Wisconsin to mourn and try and put on a brave face so no one scolded her for crying or tried to make her feel better either.

Anna Helmuth was not easily dissuaded and was bound and determined to put the two lovebirds back together again. She convinced her husband, Felty, that he needed some fixing. Needed to get Lasik surgery for his eyeballs, his deviated septum repaired, plantar warts removed.... all in the name of love. Because if Felty was laid up recovering then Ben would HAVE to come back to help out with the chores until he was up on his feet again. And, it just so happens that at that same time Anna decided she needed a giant pumpkin and that Emma was the only person in the world that could help her to grow one.

Ben and Emma were thrown together, both wanting to help his grandparents, but neither being able to  handle being around each other. Ben wanted Emma to move on. And Emma thought she'd forced Ben away. That she'd disgusted him so much that he had no choice but to leave. Both of them couldn't have been more wrong. Even if it took them forever to figure it out.

I loved this book. I loved Anna and Felty's relationship. Felty didn't think Anna should meddle in Ben and Emma's lack-of-relationship but loved her enough to do whatever she wanted him to do to keep their grandson in Wisconsin. Even if it meant a root canal and a new false tooth.

Emma is the MOST accident prone person I have ever "met" in my life. And I thought I was clumsy. She seems to attract problems like a super magnet. It kind of made her endearing though. And it only seemed to REALLY embarrass her when it came to what she thought Ben thought of her, and when people made fun of her for it. Which they rarely did on account of how much everyone loved her. She was kind and helpful and never sought out sympathy for all the trouble she found herself in. Even when the man she loved more than anything left and her best friend deserted her. She was so much stronger than she gave herself credit for.

Mahlon was her twin, and a wonderful big brother. Even if he was a little cranky. He was Emma's shoulder when she needed one and was hellbent on defending her even when she didn't want him to. The relationship between the two of them was wonderful and comical. And it made me happy when Emma's friend Lizzy came back and Mahlon started paying her more attention. Even if in the beginning it was mostly teasing.

Oh my gosh this book made my heart ache. Watching Ben and Emma from the outside, knowing the way they felt about each other but Ben being too stubborn it seemed to do anything about it. And Emma thinking it was all her fault that he'd left to begin with. I just wanted to take them both and shake some sense in to them. Make them see how ridiculous the whole thing was. I could completely imagine the pain Emma was feeling every time she thought of Ben. The soul sucking emptiness that she must have felt when he left.

Three quarters of the way through the book I got a kick in the gut though. One I wouldn't have been able to see coming from a mile away. And one that kind of hits a little close to home. Obviously I won't give it away... you'll have to read it to find out what it is.

That being said, this book is definitely highly recommended. The characters are wonderful (although Emma's mother and Adam were not high on my list of likes). I was rooting for Emma the entire time and just when I thought I knew what was going to happen the rug got pulled out from under me. There's enough going on to keep you interested and the plot twist will most certainly surprise you. And I don't do this often with books... I may have teared up a bit toward the end. But in a good way. Do yourself a favor and read Huckleberry Spring!

Author Bio:

I grew up with a steady diet of William Shakespeare and Jane Austen. After all that literary immersion, I naturally decided to get a degree in mathematics, which came in handy when one of my six children needed help with homework. After my fourth daughter was born, I started writing. By juggling diaper changes, soccer games, music lessons, laundry, and two more children, I finished my first manuscript—a Western—in just under fourteen years.

I have always been fascinated by the Amish way of life and now write Inspirational Amish Romance. I am drawn to the strong faith of the Plain people and admire the importance they put on enduring family ties. I have visited and studied Amish communities in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin where I met with a bishop and a minister as well as several Amish mamms, dats, and children. It has always impressed me at what salt-of-the-earth people they are. My interactions with these kind people have been some of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I have a dear Amish friend with whom I correspond in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. She helps me keep my facts straight and gives me inspiration for my stories.

My goal is to write uplifting, inspiring stories with happy endings and hopeful messages. If my books make readers want to give themselves a big hug or jump up and down for joy, I’ve done my job. I am a member of Romance Writers of America and American Christian Fiction Writers and am represented by Mary Sue Seymour of The Seymour Agency.

There are three Amish romances in the Forever After in Apple Lake Series (Summerside/Guideposts). Kate’s Song, Rebecca’s Rose, and Miriam’s Quilt are all now available.

I have six Amish Roamish buggymances in the works with Kensington Books. The first and second books, Huckleberry Hill and Huckleberry Summer, are now available in stores and online. The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill is set in northern Wisconsin Amish country.

The series, The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill, is about an elderly Amish couple who try to find suitable mates for their grandchildren. What could be more fun than throwing two young people together to see if sparks ignite? No one would ever suspect two octogenarian Amish folks of mischief.

Romantic Times gave Huckleberry Hill 4 1/2 stars and chose Huckleberry Summer as a TOP PICK.

I have four daughters, two sons, three sons-in-law, and two adorable grandsons. I live in the foothills of the Wasatch Front with my husband and one son still left at home.

Author Links:

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review - Summer of Secrets by Charlotte Hubbard

Summer has come to Willow Ridge, but Rachel Lantz is looking forward to a whole new season in her life--marriage to strapping carpenter Micah Brenneman, her childhood sweetheart. When a strange Englischer arrives in the café claiming to be the long-lost sister of Rachel and her twin Rhoda, Rachel feels the sturdy foundation of her future crumbling--including Micah's steadfast love. As the days heat up and tempers flare, Rachel and Micah will learn that even when God's plan isn't clear, it will always lead them back to each other. . .

I finally got to the FIRST book in the Seasons of the Heart series, Summer of Secrets by Charlotte Hubbard! And like the rest, it didn't disappoint.

It was interesting to read the beginnings of the Willow Ridge crew. To see that at one point Hiram Knepp was at least SOMEWHAT respected in the community. Even if not for long. And to see the first meetings between Tiffany (Rebecca) and the family she never knew she had. She definitely was a surprise (and a shock) when she walked in to the cafe with her spikey "witchy" hair and tattoos with her goth style clothing. But Miriam knew her and loved her anyway.

Tiffany was the little girl that Miriam lost when she was only 3 years old. Washed away during a flood and thought dead for 18 years. After her "adoptive" mother dies, Tiffany finds out she's not really Tiffany and storms out in search of answers she doesn't feel her grieving father will truthfully provide. The truth, however, is not what she expected and seems to be more in conflict with what's going on once she's met her Mamm and her sisters than she ever was.

To Rachel's dismay and complete irritation, her honey Micah seems smitten with "Tiffany" and can't stop gawking at her. But, things aren't always what they seem. Yes, Micah was intrigued by the "witchy" girl, but realized that underneath all the hair dye, dark shocking make up, tattoos, and strange clothing, there was someone who was hurting and trying to figure things out. Someone who needed to know her Mamm and sisters, even if she didn't think she wanted to.

And it's a good thing he persisted. If he hadn't, Rebecca never would have come back to the bakery the day she did. Miriam could have lost her shop. And Micah and Rachel may have been forced to transform their home in to a B&B not too long after marriage in order to bring income in to the family. Not that a B&B is a bad thing... but when you're newly married who wants to share a home with strange people you have to wait on and take care of? Not that they would have minded probably... but you know they wanted to be able to enjoy that time together alone...

Loved the book. And meeting Rebecca/Tiffany for the "first" time. Even after reading all the other books and liking her a lot for her character and her part in the stories that she was in, this first meeting rubbed me the wrong way. I think I judged her much like most of the residents of Willow Ridge.

Rachel was prone to tantrums in this one. Something else I wasn't used to seeing in subsequent books. But... I suppose if I was not quite engaged - at least not publicly - to MY childhood sweetheart, I'd probably have been a bit worried TOO if he kept blowing me off to go follow around someone else. Yes, he had his reasons, and they turned out to be honorable... but what young girl is able to see the forest for the trees in a situation like this? She came around, and that was the important part.

I LOVED this first look at Miriam (not MY first look, but this first look in the series). She's strong and steadfast and SASSY. And she's so incredibly smart. Not one to just roll over and let things happen to her that aren't fair simply because someone says she should. She fought for the right to be independent and to run her business, a business that employed and supplied food and work for MANY Willow Ridge residents. She fought to be able to take care of herself and her children without having to ask anyone for handouts, which I'm sure would have been given if they had been needed because the people in the town loved her.

Micah was a little sneaky for my taste in this book. At the beginning at least. I was kind of worried that he'd end up breaking Rachel's heart (even though I knew that wasn't going to be the case). Or put himself in a bad situation as far as Rebecca was concerned. The thing I dislike the most in life is a liar. And unfortunately, he lied a bit. Made promises that he knew he couldn't keep. BUT... in the end, like I said, intentions were honorable and ultimately resulted in the happy ending the story had. Were it not for his mild deception things would not have been so great for the Lantzes. So... I'll forgive him for telling a few fibs.

If you haven't read any of  the other books in the series, start with this one. Or don't. It doesn't really matter what order you read them in. They're just as exciting and fun to read OUT of order as they are IN order. I just highly suggest you read them! They're not without their drama and frustration (Hello, Hiram!) but they're lighthearted and friendly and after a while, familiar. Like friends. You won't be sorry!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Review - Autumn Winds by Charlotte Hubbard

Winds of change are blowing through Willow Ridge, and they're bringing a stranger to the Sweet Seasons Cafe. At first, widowed Miriam Lantz has misgivings about Ben Hooley, a handsome but rootless traveling blacksmith. But as she gets to know the kind-hearted newcomer, she wonders if his arrival was providential.

Perhaps she could find love again - if only there weren't so many obstacles in the way. With Bishop Knepp relentlessly pursuing her hand in marriage and the fate of her beloved cafe at stake, Miriam must listen to God and her heart to find the happiness she longs for, and the love she deserves.

I actually meant to read Autumn Winds by Charlotte Hubbard after I read Summer of Secrets, which is what I'm currently reading, but forgot what I was doing and just picked this up and couldn't really put it back down.

Ben Hooley literally blows in to town with a storm and in to Miriam's bakery. There is no doubt about it, the chemistry between the two is immediate and electric. If I may be so bold as to assume, it was love at first sight. Even though neither Ben nor Miriam will actually say as much. Unfortunately, Hiram Knepp is hell bent on squashing any chance Ben has with Miriam by trying to force her to marry himself. Something Miriam is not too keen on doing. At. All.

This book was definitely not without its drama. Hiram trying to discredit Ben with Miriam and the entire town of Willow Ridge by spying and snooping and twisting his past. Not surprisingly, it doesn't work. The entire town seems to be smitten with Ben and can't wait for him to settle down and set up shop for good. Ben decides that's a fantastic idea, to the delight of miss Miriam, and calls on his brothers and his aunts to join him. We find out that Hiram has been keeping secrets. The kind of which end up getting him shunned. Good old Hiram. Can always count on him for some excitement.

Like I said before, I've been reading this series somewhat backwards. So I already knew that he was shunned, but it was kind of suspenseful anyway, in that even though I was well aware, the details and the story were presented in such a way that I felt like it was completely new to me. If that makes sense. Kind of like when you watch a movie you've seen a million times and you know how it ends but you find yourself on the edge of your seat anyway.

Ben Hooley was the epitome of a dashing and protective gentleman. And as always, I love Miriam. She's such a strong and independent woman and I love that Ben respects that and doesn't expect for her to change. After all, she wouldn't really be the woman he loved if she caved and gave up her business and pledged to stay at home and wait on him hand and foot the way Hiram would expect her to do.

I love the way the whole town rallied around Ben and his brothers, making it possible for them to relocate and set their businesses up. Always so friendly and helpful. And the way everyone supported Miriam and looked out for her as far as Hiram was concerned. It was fun, also, to see the introductions of Ben's aunts Jerusalem and Nazareth. I'd read about them in several other books but it was great to see how they kind of charged in and took control of Hiram's household and his children and got them all sorted out. Exposing Hiram and his shenanigans in the process.

Autumn Winds is a wonderful story. Even if you haven't read any of the other books in the series. Just like the others it works as a stand-alone or as a read-out-of-order. I'm looking forward to finishing up Summer of Secrets and then diving in to Harvest of Blessings which I have the pleasure of doing an advanced review of. I can't wait! If you've ever wanted to read Amish Fiction I highly suggest starting with the Seasons of the Heart series by Charlotte Hubbard or the Home at Cedar Creek series and One Big Happy Family series by Naomi King (aka, Charlotte Hubbard!). Fantastic stories!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Review - Abby Finds Her Calling by Naomi King

The Lambright family's eldest daughter, Abby, runs her own sewing shop. There, she mends the town's clothes and their torn relationships. But the town maidel has sworn off any suitors of her own because of her unrequited love for James Graber, who is about to marry her younger sister, Zanna...

On the wedding day, Zanna is nowhere to be found, breaking James' heart. Zanna has brought shame to her family, but there's more in store for them when they discover how far she has fallen. Long-buried secrets come to light, and they test the bonds of the Cedar Creek community. Abby is at the center of it all, trying to maintain everyone's happiness. But will she ever find her own?
I absolutely love Naomi King's books. Abby Finds her Calling was no exception. Even though I read the books completely out of order, they were not hard to follow and could even be read as stand alones should you find yourself not in the mood to continue the series.

Abby's little sister Zanna is all set to marry the man of Abby's dreams, James Graber, when she up and disappears on their wedding day. Everyone is panicking and crying and in a fit because she's absolutely nowhere to be found and no one knows if she plans on coming back. James is heartbroken.

When she finally does turn up we find out that she is... in the family way... to put it nicely. Everyone is upset at James until they find out that James is not to blame for the situation that Zanna has found herself in. But she's not spilling the beans immediately. Even though it's a huge slight to James, he offers to raise the baby as his own and marry Zanna anyway. Tempting, but Zanna knows that even though James is an amazing person, she'd be unhappy marrying him because she doesn't love him.

Abby spends the 6 weeks that Zanna has been shunned helping her sister figure out her own place in their little community and finding ways for her to make money to care for herself and the baby she normally would not have been able to raise. While Zanna hopes that the father of her unborn child comes around and becomes the man she's always wished he would be.

I always learn so much reading these books. And I always have such a good time too. I love Abby and James and Sam and Emma and Zanna... they're all wonderful. So kind and loving and completely supportive of Zanna, even though James is the one who was jilted.

These stories are also fantastic reads because, while they definitely show all the love and compassion and kinship, they also make sure that you know that no one is perfect. Even the Amish. And everyone has secrets. And problems they can't handle on their own. They show that it's how you deal with a situation that makes or breaks you.

Abby is always so steadfast. Even though it would have broken her heart to see her little sister marry the man she's always loved, she wouldn't let that come between, what she thought was true love. She puts her heart and soul in to trying to repair relationships that don't seem repairable and is always supportive of the people that she loves. Even if it's not the kind of support they think they want.

James... now, I know what happens with James because, like I said, I read the books out of order. But it didn't stop me from being mad at him for being TOTALLY CLUELESS when it came to Abby's feelings for him. BUT it also made me love him as a character all the more the way he stood by Zanna even when she didn't feel like she deserved it. Proved he was DEFINITELY the kind of man that Abby deserved in the end.

The end of this book meshes with the beginning-ish of Rosemary Opens Her Heart, so it was great to see how the stories tied together. It's been a while since I read that book so I'd forgotten who's wedding Rosemary and her father-in-law had gone to when she met Abby and the gang. Goes to show you, even though they're separate books and could be read on their own, everyone is connected in some way.

This was the last book in the series for the Cedar Creek gang. And it makes me sad that there won't be anymore. Like saying goodbye to friends you know you won't ever see again. But if you love lighthearted romances or are just looking for a fun uplifting read, I highly recommend this book.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Review - Eve in the Beginning by H.B. Moore

The first love story on earth . . . Haunting . . . Lyrical . . . Unforgettable . . .

In a world where everything is perfect, yet the same day after day, Eve must decide if she wants to live forever in the garden with Adam and never know what lies beyond the walls. When she makes a choice with terrible consequences, the pain of mortality is swift. As she and Adam explore their new world, and her body changes, Eve discovers the sweetness of first love with the man who has always been at her side.

I jumped at the opportunity to review Eve in the Beginning by H.B. Moore because, while most of us know the story of Adam and Eve as is told in the Bible... who knows what they went through before they were booted out of the Garden? Or what happened to them after they had to leave?

Long and short of it... Adam and Eve are created by Elohim and are given the entire Garden of Eden to tend and to live in. Their days are endless and infinite. Until Lucifer tempts Eve with the knowledge she's been longing for and begging Adam to ask Elohim for. She gives in to the temptation and eats the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge and Adam, not wanting to live in the Garden without his wife, does as well. Boom, out they go. But with new knowledge, or rather... knowledge that they had once but had forgotten when they were created in the Garden. Now they're forced to fend for themselves against a world that they'd once been in harmony with but now have to fight against to survive. Animal and environment are their obstacles. And Lucifer has not disappeared.

I really enjoyed this story. I'm Christian and I know my Bible... but I've always wondered what happened to Adam and Eve when they were told they would have to leave the Garden. I've always wondered what it was like to live IN the Garden. And how it felt to be the only two human beings on the face of the earth.

I know Eve in the Beginning is a work of fiction, but it was incredibly fun to read through. Genesis says almost next to nothing of their actual time in the Garden or how they spent their time after (although we know they definitely were fruitful and multiplied). So I loved reading and imagining the picturesque perfection that was their home. I loved hearing how inquisitive Eve was and seeing how much Adam loved her.

She was a little accident prone, I'll give her that. But she was also strong, despite how she felt about herself. And Adam would have probably literally given his life if it meant protecting Eve. He very nearly did a few times. And Lucifer... ugh. I can imagine being tempted with something you've wanted for such a very long time... and finding hard not to give in to that temptation. But the whole time he was in the Garden with them I was yelling "No!" at Eve in my head. Despite knowing that... inevitably their time in the Garden would end.

They go through a lot when they leave. Knowing absolutely nothing about how to take care of themselves in a wild world they're not familiar with, they have to figure out how to feed themselves and keep themselves warm because winter is approaching. But... imagine (i'm using that word a lot, sorry) taking care of animals, living at peace and in complete and total harmony with every kind of animal you could think of... and then being in a place totally foreign to you where those same animals want you for dinner. Where you have to kill them to avoid dying. How heartbreaking.

It was just incredible to read through the hurdles they had to jump over at every turn. The hardships they faced and the dangers that seemed to wait for them around every corner and behind every tree and in every bush...

If you've ever wondered what became of Adam and Eve, outside of knowing their descendants, I suggest reading this book. I'm the type of person where, if I know a story and you re-tell it and get some of it wrong, it bothers me FOREVER. But this... not the case. It's the first I've read about the parents of all humankind and I absolutely would recommend it. Fantastic read.


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