Saturday, October 3, 2015

Review of "A Basket Brigade Christmas: Three Women, Three Love Stories, One Country Divided"

Review of A Basket Brigade Christmas: Three Women, Three Love Stories, One Country Divided

by Judith Miller, Nancy Moser, & Stephanie Grace Whitson


Not even the Civil War can smother the spirit of Christmas, especially in the town of Decatur, Illinois, in 1862, where the ladies of the Basket Brigade board trains to minister to Union soldiers, offering fried chicken, pickled peaches, pound cake, and other dainties to men who haven’t eaten a home-cooked meal since enlisting. Join Sarah, Lucy, and Zona, three compassionate members of the brigade, as they care for wounded heroes—and find love along the way.
A Stitch in Time by Stephanie Grace Whitson:  Late September 1862, Decatur, Illinois, the Civil War has divided families and hearts and now Lucy Maddox's community has experienced their first personal loss.   Lucy has lost her neighbor and one true love to the war, but Jonah Kincaid only considered her a friend.  That does not stop the ache in her heart or the loss of his family and the small community.   Lucy steps up to help his grieving mother with the Ladies' Aid as she can not serve as the president while in her year of grieving and mourning.   Lucy remembers the young men she has ministered to on the trains as she helped deliver baskets of food to the soldiers say how cold they were and she has the idea to open her home to the ladies of the community to sew blankets and knit socks for the men.   The ladies also begin including letters to the soldiers with the blankets and socks and Lucy develops a growing correspondence with one of the soldiers while her faithful employee, Silas, continues to manage and run their mercantile and help her efforts with the Ladies Aid project.  Two men are interested in Lucy but who will win her heart?   

MY REVIEW of A Stitch in Time by Stephanie Grace Whitson:  What courage Lucy shows as she is alone in the world with both her parents deceased and she willingly opens her home to the ladies of the community to lend comfort to the soldiers.   Her father was always opposed to inviting people into their home or rather their mansion but her mother was always doing whatever she could to help others and would certainly smile at Lucy's efforts.   Silas quietly helps Lucy while secretly longing to marry her and protect her forever while Lucy gets involved with a soldier she has been corresponding with but Silas and several others are suspicious of Private Greene.  Readers will enjoy seeing what happens with Private Greene, Silas, and Lucy as well as the ladies work on the blankets and socks.   
       I rate this novella 4 stars and think readers of historical fiction will enjoy it.

A Pinch of Love by Judith Miller:  October 1862, Decatur, Illinois,Sarah McHenry is helping her parents run the family bakery alone while her twin brother, Samuel, is away fighting for the Union.  Sarah now has the added burden of her mother's sudden illness.  Her mother has been in charge of the Basket Brigade (a group of local women who carry hot meals to the wounded soldiers on the train each day) and she begs Sarah to take over her duties while she is ill and confined to bed.   Sarah has never helped her mother with the project because she simply could not bear to look at the wounded young men, knowing her brother could well be hurt somewhere as his letters were few and far between.   Sarah is a loving, dutiful daughter though and so she reluctantly agrees.   She is extremely anxious as she begins the work.   But she soon has a change of heart when she meets the handsome, kind Corporal Jacob Curtis, assigned as aide to assist the wounded in the railcar she is serving food to and he puts himself at her ready disposal as well.   They begin exchanging letters each time they meet to serve the soldiers since their time together is limited and they both desire to get to know the other better.   Will love grow for this young couple or will the irritating, manipulative local man, Matthew, win her over despite her distaste for him?   

MY REVIEW of A Pinch of Love by Judith Miller:  I could actually imagine the delightful smells of the stews, soups, breads, coffee and desserts as Sarah and the Basket Brigade served the wounded young soldiers.   The compassion that Sarah shows to the young men was so touching and I could not help but think that she would be an amazing nurse.   She shows the same tender care and compassion for her mother as she tends to her needs.  It is hard to imagine that she felt she was unsuited for the position with her mother's group of ladies.  She imagines that each of the young men could easily be her own twin brother, Samuel, and she hopes and prays that some kind soul is treating him with the same love and concern that she shares with the young men on the train.   
         The tension between Sarah and Matthew, the manipulative and abusive young local man, add to the intrigue of this novella as well as the budding relationship between her and Jacob.  What path will Sarah choose for her life or will she simply resign herself to running her parents' bakery for them and never marrying and having a family of her own?  This novella was my favorite among the collection and I have long been a fan of Judith Miller's writing so it came as no surprise.   
        I rate this novella 5 stars and think that readers will also give it high ratings.

Endless Melody by Nancy Moser:  November, 1862, Decatur, Illionois, Zona Evans, the young single musician of the community always heads up the church Christmas musicale and this year presents new challenges.   One of the local prominent rich ladies has always had a solo in the musicale but her singing leaves much to be desired, will Zona have the nerve to leave her out this year and invoke the wrath of the woman and her family?  One of the young boys who has always participated is experiencing the voice change that accompanies puberty.  How will he ever be replaced?   And one young man has the voice of an angel but his grandfather forbids him from singing.   How can she convince his grandfather to allow little Johnny to use his gift?  She was to marry Cardiff Kensington fifteen years ago but he left to fight in the Mexican War and she never heard from him again.  Little did she know that he wrote letters to her for years but her parents hid them from her.   Will they find each other again?   or is all hope gone?

MY REVIEW of Endless Melody by Nancy Moser:  Singing is a favorite activity of mine and so this novella touched many special nerves and memories for me.   It was truly moving to imagine the church group singing Christmas carols for the wounded soldiers on the train as the Basket Brigade ladies served them warm, nourishing food.   I felt empathy for Zona and Cardiff as they each thought the other had deserted them.   Readers will delight in seeing how things are resolved for Zona, Cardiff and little Johnny.  
       I rate this novella 5 stars and highly recommend it to readers.   Those who love historical fiction and romance are sure to appreciate this novella.  A bonus feature includes actual recipes that were used in the time period and some that were served to the men on the trains.  
       I received an ebook of this collection from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

About the Authors:
Judith McCoy Miller

Judith McCoy Miller is an award-winning author whose avid research and love for history are reflected in her bestselling novels. Judy and her husband make their home in Topeka, Kansas.  Connect with Judith here:

Nancy Moser

Nancy Moser is the author of three inspirational humor books and a 24 novels, including The Journey of Josephine Cain, Mozart's Sister, Washington's Lady, A Patchwork Christmas Collection, An Unlikely Suitor and Time Lottery, a Christy Award winner. She is an inspirational speaker, giving seminars around the country, as well as dramatizations in costume as Martha Washington. She has earned a degree in architecture; run a business with her husband; traveled extensively in Europe; and has performed in various theaters, symphonies, and choirs. She and her husband have three grown children and make their home in the Midwest. Read more about her books at

Stephanie Grace Whitson

A native of southern Illinois, Stephanie Grace Whitson has lived in Nebraska since 1975. She began what she calls "playing with imaginary friends" (writing fiction) when, as a result of teaching her four homeschooled children Nebraska history, she was personally encouraged and challenged by the lives of pioneer women in the West. Since her first book, Walks the Fire, was published in 1995, Stephanie's fiction titles have appeared on the ECPA bestseller list numerous times and been finalists for the Christy Award, the Inspirational Reader's Choice Award, and ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year. Her first nonfiction work, How to Help a Grieving Friend, was released in 2005. In addition to serving in her local church and keeping up with two married children, two college students, and a high school senior, Stephanie enjoys motorcycle trips with her family and church friends. Her passionate interests in pioneer women's history, antique quilts, and French, Italian, and Hawaiian language and culture provide endless story-telling possibilities.  Connect with Stephanie here:

Monday, September 28, 2015

5-Star Review of "The Lopsided Christmas Cake"

Review of The Lopsided Christmas Cake

by Wanda & Jean Brunstetter

Join the Hochstetler twin sisters on stage as they bumble their way through baking a cake for a charity auction in front of a live audience. The take-charge Elma and the klutzy optimist Thelma manage to entertain their audience—and attract the admiration of two bachelors, an outspoken woodworker and a shy harness maker from a neighboring Amish community. As fall leads into the Christmas season, could romance be blossoming for one or more of the Hochstetler twins? Find out in this brand new romance from New York Times bestselling author Wanda E. Brunstetter, writing with her daughter-in-law Jean Brunstetter.

MY REVIEW:  Laughter is good for the soul and this book is filled with humor!   Elma and Thelma have quite an amusing presentation at the Cooking Show to Benefit Amish Medical Bills but that doesn't stop Joseph and Delbert and a mystery man from bidding on the lopsided Christmas cake.   The cake gets the highest bid of any item of the day in fact!   The bachelors, Joseph and Delbert, want to get to know the cute identical twins.   The antics of the couples as they court are at times amusing and sometimes, the relationship issues made me sad.   I won't spoil things for readers as to why but I loved this book and had to keep reading until the very end without stopping!   This book really captured my attention from the very beginning.   I admire the twins and the determination they show as they take over the store and home their grandparents left to them.    I am not sure that I would have handled myself with the courage that Elma and Thelma showed.   
        I rate this book 5 stars and highly recommend it.   The recipe for Grandma's Special Christmas Cake is included as well.  
       I received a copy of this book from netgalley in exchage for my honest review.   

About the Authors:

A nationally recognized authority on the Amish community, Wanda E. Brunstetter has sold more than seven million copies of her fiction and nonfiction books. Wanda enjoys an uncommon kinship with the Amish and continues to visit their communities throughout the country. Her books have won numerous awards and topped several bestselling charts.
Jean Brunstetter became fascinated with the Amish when she first went to Pennsylvania to visit her father-in-law's family.  Since that time, Jean has become friends with several Amish families and enjoys writing about their way of life.  She also likes to put some of the simple practices followed by Amish into her daily routine.  Jean lives in Washington State with her husband, Richard Jr. and their three children, but takes every opportunity to visit Amish communities in several states.  In addition to writing, Jean enjoys boating, gardening, and spending time on the beach.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

5-Star Review of "Mystery Rider"

Review of Mystery Rider

(Horses and Friends #3)

by Miralee Ferrell


In the third installment in the Horses and Friends series, thirteen-year-old Kate Ferris already has one problem. Snooty, well-to-do Melissa is boarding her horse at Kate’s family stable. When Melissa suddenly turns nice, Kate is shocked ... and suspicious.

The last thing she needs is more trouble. So when a hooded rider appears—and then disappears—on a stunning black horse outside her home, Kate isn’t sure if Melissa is playing a trick or something more dangerous is going on. Either way, Kate and her friends will need an extra measure of faith and courage to solve this mystery.

MY REVIEW:   This third installment in the Horses and Friends series is sure to please both young readers and adults.   I think that horse lovers and mystery lovers, in particular, will find much in this one to hold their attention and keep their interest!   Kate and her friends see a "mystery rider" on a beautiful, black horse who only rides at night and with a hood covering the face.   They are determined to solve the mystery of the horse and rider but first they have to find them.   
       Melissa has now joined their little group and since she used to treat Kate badly, Kate does not trust her and wonders why she is being so nice to them now.   Does she want something?  Is the "mystery rider" a trick Melissa and her old rich friends are pulling?  
Read the book to find all these answers and many other surprises.
       I rate this book 5 stars and think other readers will love it as I did.
       I received a kindle version of this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author:
Miralee Ferrell

Miralee Ferrell and her husband, Allen, live on eleven acres in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge in southern Washington State, where they love to garden, play with their dogs, take walks, and go sailing. She is also able to combine two other passions—horseback riding and spending time with her grown children—since her married daughter lives nearby, and they often ride together on the wooded trails near their home. 

Ironically, Miralee, now the author of eight books, with many more on the way, never had a burning desire to write—at least more than her own memoirs for her children. So she was shocked when God called her to start writing after she turned fifty. To Miralee, writing is a ministry that she hopes will impact hearts, and she anticipates how God will use each of her books to bless and change lives.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

5-Star Review of "We Never Asked for Wings"

Review of We Never Asked for Wings

by Vanessa Diffenbaugh


From the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Language of Flowers comes her much-anticipated new novel about young love, hard choices, and hope against all odds.

For fourteen years, Letty Espinosa has worked three jobs around San Francisco to make ends meet while her mother raised her children—Alex, now fifteen, and Luna, six—in their tiny apartment on a forgotten spit of wetlands near the bay. But now Letty’s parents are returning to Mexico, and Letty must step up and become a mother for the first time in her life.

Navigating this new terrain is challenging for Letty, especially as Luna desperately misses her grandparents and Alex, who is falling in love with a classmate, is unwilling to give his mother a chance. Letty comes up with a plan to help the family escape the dangerous neighborhood and heartbreaking injustice that have marked their lives, but one wrong move could jeopardize everything she’s worked for and her family’s fragile hopes for the future.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh blends gorgeous prose with compelling themes of motherhood, undocumented immigration, and the American Dream in a powerful and prescient story about family.

MY REVIEW:  I can not say enough good things about this book and new-to-me author.  This is Vanessa Diffenbaugh's second novel and now I want to find the first novel she wrote and read it as well.   The characters are real and lovable and complex.   I could easily feel the raw emotions of each of the main characters.  I honestly did not have a great deal of knowledge concerning illegal immigrants in the United States and the struggles they must face in an attempt to better the lives of themselves and their families.   Living in meager, cramped spaces and working many jobs while being away from their children is the plight of the immigrants in this book.  
          The author also deals beautifully with youth and the bad choices that are often made in the name of love.  Letty spends her time trying to get ahead and helping her children to have the best opportunities in life after her parents move back to Mexico and force her to finally become a true parent to Alex and Luna.  It is a tough road for the children and Letty, but hope and help may appear in unexpected ways.   
          I rate this book 5 stars and eagerly recommend it to readers of dramatic fiction.  
          I received a kindle version of this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author:
Vanessa Diffenbaugh

VANESSA DIFFENBAUGH was born in San Francisco and raised in Chico, California. After graduating from Stanford University, she worked in the non-profit sector, teaching art and technology to youth in low-income communities. Following the success of her debut novel, The Language of Flowers, she co-founded Camellia Network, a non-profit whose mission is to connect every youth aging out of foster care to the critical resources, opportunities, and support they need to thrive in adulthood. She currently lives in Monterey, CA, with her husband and four children.

Follow Vanessa at

Follow Vanessa on Twitter @VDiffenbaugh

Follow Vanessa on Instagram @vanessadiffenbaugh

Sunday, September 20, 2015

5-Star Review of "Midnight on the Mississippi"

Review of Midnight on the Mississippi

(Secrets of the South Mysteries #1)

by Mary Ellis


Midnight on the Mississippi begins the new Secrets of the South Mysteries from bestselling author Mary Ellis. These complex crime dramas follow an investigator's quest to make the world a better place...solving one case at a time.

New Orleans--Hunter Galen, a stock and securities broker, suspects his business partner, James Nowak, may be involved in embezzling their clients' money, but he's reluctant to jeopardize their friendship based on suspicion alone. After James turns up dead, Hunter realizes his unwillingness to confront a problem may have cost James his life.

Nicki Price, a newly minted PI, intends to solve the stockbroker's murder, recover the missing millions from the client accounts, and establish herself in the career she adores. As she ferrets out fraud and deception at Galen Investments, Hunter's fiancee, Ashley Menard, rubs Nicki the wrong way. Nicki doesn't trust the ostentatious woman with an agenda longer than the Mississippi River. Ashley seems to be hiding something, but is Nicki's growing attraction to Hunter--a suspected murderer--her true reason for disliking Ashley?

As they encounter sophisticated shell games, blackmail, and murder, Nicki and Hunter's only option is to turn to God as they search for answers, elude lethal danger, and perhaps discover love along the way.

MY REVIEW:  Warning!  Reading this book will likely make you hungry!   Nicki and Hunter are constantly enjoying New Orleans cuisine and I have not tried any of it and wow, it made me so hungry to try some!!!   Even crayfish and boudin!   But unfortunately, Hunter is in deep trouble and in danger of a life in prison and Nicki is a new private investigator who is determined to prove him innocent.  Meanwhile someone is out to get rid of Nicki permanently!   
         If you love mysteries and romances that just seem like they'll never make it, then this is the book for you to read!   Mary Ellis hooked me from the very beginning and oh, yes, who wouldn't want to attend a birthday bash on a huge private yacht??   I could definitely imagine being a guest in the crowd.    
      I rate this book 5 stars and I am certainly eagerly anticipating the second book in the series.    
      I received a kindle version of this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.   

About the Author:
Mary  Ellis

Mary Ellis has written twelve award-winning novels set in the Amish community and several historical romances set during the Civil War. Her latest, Midnight on the Mississippi, first of a new mystery series, Secrets of the South, is set in New Orleans. Before "retiring" to write full-time, Mary taught school and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate, a job with amazingly sweet fringe benefits. Mary enjoys traveling, gardening, bicycling and swimming, and lives in Ohio with her husband, dog and cat. She can be found on the web

Monday, September 14, 2015

5-Star Review of "Brightest & Best"

Review of Brightest and Best (Amish Turns of Time, #3)

by Olivia Newport


The collapse of a schoolhouse puts pressure on Amish families and their long-held educational values. Ella Hilty anticipates marrying Gideon Wittner and becoming a mother to his children. In a whirling clash of values, Ella seeks the solid ground that seems to have slipped away. Margaret Simpson, an English schoolteacher, wonders if she is losing her last chance at love. As the local authorities draw lines in the sand, Margaret puts romance at risk one final time. All eyes turn to Ella to make a sacrifice and accept a challenge that can bring unity to the Amish and understanding to the English.

MY REVIEW:  If it isn't bad enough that the Amish have a one-room schoolhouse in desperate need of repair and the schoolteacher is marrying which means that a new teacher must be secured quickly, the entire roof collapses on the Parent Committee as they examine the school to determine what repairs must be made.   I love that the author, Olivia Newport, has researched the struggle the Amish experienced in seeking their religious freedoms in educating their children and used it as a theme for this book in the series.   It reminded me a great deal of my own grandmother, who was born in 1901 and was only allowed to attend school through the eighth grade as only rich children could afford to go to one of the regional boarding high schools in Virginia.   She wanted to go to school so badly that she was allowed to attend the eighth grade twice so that she would not have to quit that year.  Some of the Amish young people in this story have a great desire to learn, even though their parents have plans for them to remain at home after 8th grade to learn the trades of the parents or become homemakers in the case of the young girls.   This book truly took me back in time to another period and certainly a trying one for many, Amish and English.   I worked as a public schoolteacher for 14 years and wonder if students today truly appreciate the opportunities for learning they have in our public schools.   
      I rate this book 5 stars and highly recommend it to readers of both Amish and historical fiction.
      I received a copy of this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author:
Olivia Newport

Olivia Newport's novels twist through time to find where faith and passions meet. She chases joy in Colorado, where daylilies grow as tall as she is. Her husband and two twenty-something children provide welcome distraction from the people stomping through her head on their way into her books.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

5-Star Review of "The Gift"

Review of The Gift (Prairie State Friends, Book 2)

by Wanda Brunstetter


Follow the heart-wrenching story of Adam Beachy, whose mother walked out on him and his family—and away from the Amish faith. Now he balks at the idea of ever marrying and having a family of his own. But when tragedy strikes, Adam is suddenly a father figure to his three nieces and finds himself needing a wife. Despite their differences over her practice of reflexology, Leah Mast seems the best option to fill that role. Can they make it work in a modern-day marriage of convenience?

MY REVIEW:  Leah has a gift from God that she takes great pleasure in using to help others in the community.  But her neighbor who is now her new employer does not approve of it or believe in its effectiveness.   Leah works for Adam as she cares for the three nieces he is now raising alone.   She and Adam become quite close but will the differences from his past create problems for their future?   He is looking for a mother for the three precious nieces and he needs a mother for them now!    The girls have grown attached to Leah.  Will she agree to marry a man without love?    Will love grow between them?    
         The secrets from Adam's past come to haunt them as Leah finds a special patient for her reflexology.    But will this secret come between Adam and Leah?   Or will this newfound secret bring them together?   
         This book is definitely filled with surprises.   I had read book one so it was really wonderful to see the story continue.  The characters are lovable and real.    They could be my own next door neighbors and in fact, I would quite enjoy it if they were my own neighbors.    
         I rated this book 5 stars and highly recommend it to readers.   Wanda Brunstetter's followers will be certain to fall in love with this book.    
         I received a print copy of this book from the publisher and a pdf version of this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author:
Wanda E. Brunstetter

Wanda Brunstetter is an award-winning romance novelist who has led millions of readers to lose their heart in the Amish life. She is the author of over 60 books with more than 7 million copies sold. Many of her books have landed on the top bestseller lists, including the New York Times, USA Today, Publisher's Weekly, CBA, ECPA, and CBD. Wanda is considered one of the founders of the Amish fiction genre, and her work has been covered by national publications, including Time Magazine and USA Today.

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

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

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