Saturday, April 19, 2014

Review of "A Broken Kind of Beautiful"

Review of A Broken Kind of Beautiful

by Katie Ganshert 


Fashion is a fickle industry, a frightening fact for twenty-four-year-old model Ivy Clark. Ten years in and she's learned a sacred truth -- appearance is everything. Nobody cares about her broken past as long as she looks beautiful for the camera. This is the only life Ivy knows -- so when it starts to unravel, she'll do anything to hold on. Even if that means moving to the quaint island town of Greenbrier, South Carolina, to be the new face of her stepmother's bridal wear line -- an irony too rich for words, since Ivy is far from the pure bride in white.

MY REVIEW:  Ever wondered just how glamourous the life of a fashion model is?  You will find the answer to that question and many others as you read. Modeling is a fickle career as the youngest are considered the most desirable. Ivy has had a long run of success from age 14 to 24.    Can a 24-year-old truly become the undesirable simply due to her age?  Can twenty-four-year old models truly be considered old and out-of-date to the cameras and the photographers and designers?  Is outward beauty all that Ivy possesses or will she actually discover a new kind of beauty when she returns to the small town world of Greenbrier, South Carolina?  Can a sullied young beauty become the innocent, blushing young bride for the camera?  Ivy thinks she is undeserving and unworthy of playing the part of the "blushing young bride"? Why?   What has Ivy possibly done in her twenty-four-years to cause her to feel such shame?  
        I love the tour of the historical city.  I felt like I was actually in Greenbrier, South Carolina.  The characters are rich and inviting.   Ivy carries the burden of holding tightly to her  secrets and her past.  I have found this to be destructive in my own life as I am sure many other readers have as well.   Ivy is faced with a handsome, intriguing young man from her past who just happens to be a photographer now turned church maintenance man.   She can't quite figure out why he left New York and the fame that it brought.   His blind sister becomes a dear friend to her, surprising even herself.   Can she and Davis work together on the wedding fashion shoot and benefit for the blind art program and make it a success or will it all crumble like most of her life seems to be doing?     Read this book to find out if Ivy can let go and face her fears head-on.  Find out if this broken beautiful young woman can finally overcome the pain and shame of her past and find a new way to show her beauty to the world.   
5 Stars ***** I want to add that the cover of this book is exquisite.  My own daughter is a photographer and has captured many beach weddings and I am impressed by the wedding photo on the cover.   Nice artwork!  
     I was given a copy of this book by bloggingforbooks and Waterbrook Press in exchange for my honest review.   

About the Author:
Katie Ganshert

Katie Ganshert is the author of Wildflowers from Winter and Wishing on Willows, both published by Waterbrook Press, a division of Random House. Her debut, Wildflowers from Winter, is a Christy Award finalist, as well as a Christian Retailing’s Best finalist in the contemporary romance category. She lives in Iowa with her handsome husband, their dinosaur-loving son, and their goofy black lab, Bubba. When she’s not busy writing or playing or reading or snuggling, she is obsessing over the paperwork and the waiting that comes with adoption, which she and her husband hope to complete sometime before they are fifty. You can learn more about Katie and her books by visiting her website or author Facebook page.

Review of "Learning to Love: Saul's Story"

Review of Learning to Love:  Saul's Story

by J.E.B. Spredemann


SEQUEL to Chloe's Revelation - Book 3 in the Amish Girls Series 

Description contains *SPOILERS* if you haven't read Chloe's Revelation yet! 

To the readers of Chloe's Revelation in the Amish Girls Series who’ve ever wondered what happened to Saul Brenneman... 

Saul Brenneman, head-over-heels in love with Chloe Esh, is devastated when his past comes back to haunt him. With no other option, he is forced to marry a woman he does not love and leave behind his precious Chloe forever. Will he ever allow himself to love another woman? And will he be able to forgive himself and accept God’s will for his life? Adult Amish Christian Fiction

MY REVIEW:  "She glanced down at each photo and marveled at how happy the young couple seemed.  Sarah frowned.  NOTHING LIKE US.  Saul was even brazenly planting a kiss of the girl's cheek in one of the photographs. She flipped the strip over and read, in Saul's handwriting:  Ocean City with Chloe.  He shouldn't have this, it's a graven image.  But Sarah couldn't determine whether her righteous indignation was a result of the photo, or jealously over Saul's adoration for Chloe.  Probably the latter."  
I personally can not imagine having to shun a family member.  This book includes great details of a shunning but I will not ruin the book by telling you who is shunned or why.  Saul and Sarah are forced to marry when the previous poor judgment leads to an unwanted pregnancy.   Chloe is left hanging and broken-hearted as she had planned to marry Saul.  Saul is angry and poor Sarah is caught in the middle.  This story also shows two divided Amish districts.  The divide has taken place because one district has read the verbotten Bible and accepted Christ's gift of salvation.  The other district does not believe in reading the entire Bible and definitely does not teach that one can know they are saved.  Amish generally believe that one must perform good works and follow the Ordnung and HOPE that they will go to Heaven.   This is a book about love, forgiveness, and second chances.    5 Stars *****
I was given a free pdf version of this book by the author in exchange for my honest review.  

About the Author:
Author interview:

By the grace of God, J.E.B. Spredemann resides in beautiful sunny California and writes Christian fiction. We hope our books uplift you, inspire you, make you laugh, and touch your heart.

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To God alone be the glory!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Review of "Huckleberry Summer"

Review of Huckleberry Summer

The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill, Book 2

by Jennifer Beckstrand


LIBBY EICHER is the most obedient child a parent could ask for. She idolizes her father and wouldn’t think of doing anything to disappoint him. Even during her rumspringe, she didn’t step one toe outside of the Ordnung, the set of strict rules for Amish living. Why would she want to do anything remotely unconventional and risk getting into trouble? She is perfectly content living in her safe little world in her tranquil Amish community, never needing to muster courage that she doesn’t have. The Helmuths hire her to work for them on Huckleberry Hill, but not only is spending time with Aden Helmuth dangerous, it’s unsanitary. Their handsome grandson has a dog the size of a bear, determined to share all his dog germs with her. Will Susannah risk everything to realize her heart’s desire, or will fear override her chance for love?

ADEN HELMUTH has a hard time following anyone’s rules but his own, which makes growing up Amish a bit of a challenge. By the time he reaches his twenties he has gotten in trouble with the law and his community more times than he care to count. After his life is spared by a miraculous event, his parents send him to Huckleberry Hill, hoping he will seek a life of devotion to God. He sees an opportunity to escape a community hostile to his presence and find some purpose to his life. Even though Libby Eicher hates his dog, she’s kind of cute in her efforts to be so well behaved. Will his past return to haunt him and destroy any hope he has for happiness, or will Libby Eicher take a chance on an uncommon and exceptional young man?

MY REVIEW:  "Anna pursed her lips and scolded Felty with her eyes. 'Boys like Aden need a wife to settle them down.  A girl like little Eicher.'  Felty sputtered and coughed, and Anna stood up and thumped him on the back until he motioned for her to stop.  'Not another one of your matchmaking schemes, Annie.  I don't think my weak heart can stand it.' "
      Aden is the talk of the community when he comes to stay for the summer with his grandparents, Anna and Felty.   Lily innocently accepts an offer to work for them for the summer, never realizing that Anna and Felty are planning a matchmaking experience for her.   Lily's father warns her to stay away from Aden as the rumor mill has spread plenty of gossip about his "troubles".  Will forgiveness win out?  Will Aden have a chance to speak for himself and win the hearts of the Amish community?   
     This is a delightful light read....I can recall my own granny trying to "set me up" with young boys in the neighborhood and at church when I stayed with her during the summer.   My granny was not successful in her matchmaking but she did highly approve of the young men I dated and took to visit her for her seal of approval.   I married one of those young men and we ended up performing her funeral service for her when she passed on to glory at age she had requested of us when we were newlyweds.   5 Stars for this one and now, I can hardly wait for Huckleberry Christmas which is to release in October 2014......oh, I hope there is snow and maybe a romantic sleigh ride for some lucky Amish couple!  
I received a print Advanced Reader Copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.   

About the Author:
Jennifer Beckstrand 

From's 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 now write Inspirational Amish Romance. 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. Kate’s Song was the #1 Romantic Religious Fiction download in the Free Kindle Store in August of 2012, and Rebecca's Rose and Miriam's Quilt both spent time in the top 50 Religious Fiction books on

I have six Amish Romances in the works with Kensington Books. The first book, Huckleberry Hill, will be released on January 7, 2014. Huckleberry Hill is set in Wisconsin on a little hill in 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, calling it "A sweet romance with a lot of heart that offers a new, refreshing take on the...matchmaking trope. The storyline is feasible, the characters are well written, with both their strengths and weaknesses on display. Readers will treasure this series and put the first outing on their keeper shelf."

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.

Review of "Woman of Courage"

Review of Woman of Courage

by Wanda Brunstetter


Take a three-thousand mile journey with Amanda Pearson as she leaves the disgrace of a broken engagement and enters the work of a Quaker mission in the western wilds. The trip is fraught with danger, and Amanda is near death before reaching her destination. Among those she meets are an Indian woman who becomes her first convert and a half-Indian trapper who seems to be her biggest critic. But love follows her into the wilderness and will determine the course of her future. You are sure to enjoy this historical romance adventure from New York Timesbestselling author Wanda E. Brunstetter.

MY REVIEW:  "While Papa received no pay for his service as a Quaker minister back home, he'd worked as a cabinet maker for a good many years and had saved up some money.  Since they didn't know if or when they would return to New York, he'd sold their home, his business, and all their belongings except for the few things they would need for this trip.  Using some of the money, Papa had secured passage for him and Amanda on a steamboat, which took them to Cincinnati. From there, they'd boarded another steamboat to St. Louis, and then a third boat to Liberty, Missouri.  Continuing on their journey, they rode in wagons with some fur traders, following the Platte River to Fort Laramie, where they met the man who would guide them to the mission.  Harvey had said the rest of the journey would be best made on horseback without taking any wagons over the mountains."   
        Woman of Courage reminds me of the video game where players plan a trip by wagon to the west.   Life is certainly filled with danger and difficulty as Amanda, her Papa and their guide make their way by horseback to the mission.   Amanda likely never expected to have to stop for a long while and stay with an Indian woman and her husband.   I am sure that she never expected to meet a half-Indian trapper who aggravates her at every turn.  Will she survive to make it to the mission?  This book is different from Wanda Brunstetter's normal Amish fiction. Amanda and her Papa are Quakers and they seek to minister to Indians.   I loved this book.  It kept me wanting to sit and turn the pages.   5 Stars and I hope there is a sequel to this book as I would love to know what happens for the characters in the future.   
I received a kindle version of this book from netgalley and a print copy from the author and publisher in exchange for my honest review.   

About the Author:
Descended from Anabaptists herself, Wanda E. Brunstetter enjoys writing about the Amish because they live a peaceful, simple life.  Wanda's interest in the Amish and other Plain communities began when she married her husband, Richard, who grew up in a Mennonite church in Pennsylvania. Wanda and Richard have made numerous trips to Amish country and have many Amish friends, living in several communities.  Wanda hopes her readers will learn to love the wonderful Amish people as much as she does.   They have two grown children, six grandchildren, and one great-grandson.  In her spare time, Wanda enjoys beachcombing, ventriloquism, gardening, photography,  knitting, and having fun with her family. 

Review of "A Plain Man"

Review of A Plain Man

by Mary Ellis


Bestselling author Mary Ellis offers an engaging new standalone Amish romance about a prodigal seeking to find his way home.

Though Caleb Beachy lived in the Englisch world for some years, he is a Plain man at heart. When he decides to return to the Amish lifestyle, he moves back home and goes to work for his father. Soon these two strong-willed men find themselves at odds. Caleb discovers there's more to embracing his faith and reconnecting with the community than merely driving a horse and buggy and giving up Levis.

Josie Yoder was just a girl when he left. All grown up now, she gives Caleb hope for the future. She soothes his frayed temper and is determined to remind him that while his faith may have wavered, God never left his side. Caleb is tempted to return Josie's feelings, but the choices he made while away are a heavy burden on his conscience. Will past mistakes end up destroying their fledgling romance? Or will she be able to break through the wall around his heart?

A Plain Man is more than just a sweet romance centered in Amish beliefs. It's the ever-fresh story of a wounded heart finding joy, health, and healing in God's infinite grace. 

MY REVIEW:  "Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace.....Caleb slouched down against a post. 'Plenty at first, when I had wheels and a good job.  But money management didn't turn out to be my strong suit.' His friend's confusion only seemed to deepen. Caleb didn't know how much to reveal about his past.  Could he admit he'd hung out in  bars until closing time and bought drinks for people he'd never met before?  Should he talk about sleeping with women who were little more than acquaintances?  How about the fact that he'd attended church only once during his entire time in Cleveland?"......
Caleb turned to the Englisch world for several years but he has returned to his Amish family and desires nothing more than to live an upright life and marry Josie.  His father doesn't trust that he won't return to the Englisch world.  I have long believed that the Amish forgive and forget a person's sins if they have not joined the Amish church yet, but Caleb's father gives him a very hard time.  This book is full of love and forgiveness.  We all need a heavy dose of that in our lives.  This is a 5 star work of Amish fiction.   I have certainly had my share of mistakes and long for forgiveness for those mistakes.   I could feel the emotional pain of the characters as I read.   I was left with a feeling of hope and renewal when I read the last line of this book.  
I was given a kindle version of this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author:
Mary  Ellis

Mary Ellis grew up close to the Amish where she loved their peaceful agrarian lifestyle and strong sense of Christian community. She and her husband now live by the largest population of Old Order in the country where they take weekend trips to research her books. Mary enjoys reading, traveling, gardening, bicycling and swimming. Before “retiring” to write full-time, Mary taught Middle School and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate—a job with amazingly sweet fringe benefits. Her debut Amish fiction, A Widow’s Hope, first in the Miller Family series, was a finalist in the 2010 ACFW Carol Awards and received the Award of Merit for the Holt Medallion. She has since written ten best-selling novels. Her previous release, Living in Harmony, first in the New Beginning series, won the 2012 Lime Award for Excellence in Amish Fiction. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Review of "From The Heart"

Review of From the Heart: Volume One

An Inspirational Collection of Essays, Poems, and Thoughts on Nurturing Our Inner Child

Edited by Crystal Linn

From the Heart is an inspirational collection of essays, poems and thoughts on nurturing our inner child. It offers a little something for everyone, from a good mental cup of tea, to discussing the importance of play, to a serene sailboat with orcas. 

My Review:  A Sailor's Haiku

Sun kisses my cheek,
Wind gently ruffles my hair,
Serene, my life now.

This is one of many poems, essays, and thoughts readers will find in From the Heart which is truly written for the inner child within each of us.   I particularly love the idea of taking a tea party in to a resident of a nursing home as a special treat.   I know I have witnessed many who grieve greatly when they are forced to enter a nursing home and the pain they experience.   The importance of play and rest and true relaxation is stressed in this volume and ideas are given for many ways to accomplish this!   So grab some playdough, a puzzle, some bubbles, or a tea set and have a blast today!  This is a short, quick read and can be read in one sitting or used as a daily devotional reading.   4 Stars ****
I was given a  kindle copy of this book by the author in exchange for my honest review.  

About the Author:
Crystal lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family, her Manchester Terrier, Rosa, and one beta fish.

She enjoys reading a good mystery, writing poetry, and sailing with family and friends


review of "A Place to Call Home"

Review of A Place to Call Home

by Merrillee Whren


STARTING OVER After serving six years in prison for the false charge of manslaughter in the death of his wife, Kurt Jansen must overcome a world of bitterness if he wants to start a new life. But his first priority is securing a restoration job to pay a private investigator to find the real killer and a lawyer to get his kids back. Hiring a convicted wife-killer isn't what kind-hearted Molly Finnerty bargains for as part of the prison ministry she supports. However, she begins to believe Kurt's claim of innocence and gradually finds a great deal to like about him-perhaps more to like than she should. Can they overcome the past and find forgiveness and love?

MY REVIEW:  "Even though Steve had helped Kurt turn his life over to God, Kurt still had to tamp down the anger that surfaced whenever he faced the way people would view him for the rest of his life, unless he could find the person who had killed his wife.  Where had God been when He'd been sent to prison for something he didn't do? Would he ever know the answer?  His mind buzzed with the unfairness of it all, but he couldn't let his thoughts take him to that dark place---the place where hatred and revenge ruled.  Each day he struggled to keep his mind focused on something other than the injustice he had suffered."
Forgiveness and second chances abound in this book.  Are they easy to come to? No, they are not!  Steve has to prove himself to everyone and he swears he is innocent.  He wants to find the killer of his wife and get his children back, but obstacles are all around him.   Molly seems to be the answer to his prayers when she hires him to restore her home and live in the little apartment over the carriage house.  They both sense a powerful attraction between them and both continue to deny it.   Read this book to find out what happens ....this is a 5***** novel!  
I was given a free kindle version of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author:
Merrillee Whren

Merrillee Whren is an award-winning author who writes for Harlequin Love Inspired. She is the winner of the 2003 Golden Heart Award for best inspirational romance manuscript presented by Romance Writers of America. She has also been the recipient of the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award and the Maggie Award. She is married and has two grown daughters. She has lived in Cincinnati, Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Chicago and Florida. She now makes her home in the Arizona desert. When she’s not writing or working for her husband’s recruiting firm, she spends her free time playing tennis or walking while she plots her novels. Please visit her Web site at