Thursday, December 6, 2012

Walking With Bilbo: A devotional adventure through The Hobbit by Sarah Arthur

I'm sure you've seen the previews and heard the hype about the new movie, The Hobbit, based on the book of the same name by JRR Tolkien. I know it's been a big topic in my household.  When I saw that I had the chance to review Walking with Bilbo: A devotional adventure through The Hobbit, I jumped at it.  

I grew up in a home where The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Hobbit and The Similrilian were well-loved.  My dad loved these books... I liked them.  Every year for Christmas my dad gets a JRR Tolkien calendar for Christmas.  EVERY. YEAR.  :)  Now, my 16 yr old daughter is absorbed in them... and has been for many years.  She was definitely a fan before the more recent movies with Orlando Bloom were put out.  So, she is really the reason I wanted to get this devotional -- I wanted to know if it was a good book for her.  

From the Back Cover:

Faith is an ongoing adventure, not simply a one-time choice. "The Road goes ever on and on," as Biblo regularly reminded Frodo.  Once we hear the knock on the door and step onto the Road, there's no turning back. Life will never be the same again.

Are you ready for the adventure?

In Walking with Bilbo, Sara Arthur explores the parallels between our daily Christian lives and the adventure that Gandalf invited Bilbo to take.  Each chapter begins with a quote from The Hobbit, a relate-able story that is relevant to today and the parallel between that and Bilbo's journey, a Bible verse that relates, questions to help the reader in "going further" and a list of Scriptures that correlate to the topic of the chapter (i.e. "The Word on Accepting the Job, The Word on Being Chosen, The Word on Being Wise in God's Eyes).

I read through the first two or three chapters, just to see how they were and I really enjoyed the ability to correlate The Hobbit and Bilbo's Journey to The Bible and our Christian journey.  The chapters are laid out well and I love that there are questions at the end and Scriptures to dig deeper.  I think this is an excellent addition to the library of anyone (especially YOUTH) who enjoy Tolkien and The Hobbit.

For more information on purchasing, please click one of these links:, B&, or

Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Bride Wore Blue by Mona Hodgson

This third book in the Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek is a wonderful continuation of the Sinclair Sisters' story. 

In The Bride Wore Blue, baby sister Vivian joins the older three sisters in Cripple Creek, Colorado. She struggles with the decision, but has no other option. As a budding fashion designer, she had hoped to join her father in Paris, but instead he sent her to her sisters. After several attempts to procure a respectable job in a respectable establishment, she is "forced" to attain a job as a hostess... at a brothel. She hides this from her sisters and their families, as well as, her landlady. She is ashamed, but feels she's right where she belongs because of her history and relationship with Gregory, the man she was to marry. 

I won't give away details, but after keeping secrets and telling lies ... she is caught up in more mayhem than she thought possible! Bank robbers, a dead madame, kidnapping and more! You'll definitely want to read this book, especially if you have read the other two in the series. If you haven't read the other two books, check them out as well!! 

About the author

MONA HODGSON writes western, historical fiction for WaterBrtook Press. She is the author of TWO BRIDES TOO MANY, TOO RICH FOR A BRIDE, THE BRIDE WORE BLUE, TWICE A BRIDE, and THE QUILTED HEART novellas (early 2013 releases). Her writing credits also include nearly thirty children’s books, contributions to eleven books for adults, and hundreds of short stories, articles, and poems in newspapers and magazines. One of Mona’s favorite things to do (besides writing or eating dark chocolate) is to speak at women's retreats and schools, and for women’s groups, librarians, and at writers’ conferences throughout the United States and Canada. Mona lives in Arizona with her husband, Bob. Check out to learn more. You can also follow Mona on her blog and

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Spring Meadow Sanctuary by Lynnette Bonner

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books.  A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured.  The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between!  Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

Lynnette Bonner

and the book:

Spring Meadow Sanctuary

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 11, 2012)

***Special thanks to Lynnette Bonner for sending me a review copy.***


Born and raised in Malawi, Africa. Lynnette Bonner spent the first years of her life reveling in warm equatorial sunshine and the late evening duets of cicadas and hyenas. The year she turned eight she was off to Rift Valley Academy, a boarding school in Kenya where she spent many joy-filled years, and graduated in 1990.

That fall, she traded to a new duet--one of traffic and rain--when she moved to Kirkland, Washington to attend Northwest University. It was there that she met her husband and a few years later they moved to the small town of Pierce, Idaho.

During the time they lived in Idaho, while studying the history of their little town, Lynnette was inspired to begin the Shepherd's Heart Series with Rocky Mountain Oasis.

Marty and Lynnette have four children, and currently live in Washington where Marty pastors a church and Lynnette works as an administrative assistant.

Visit the author's website.


He broke her heart.

Now he’s back to ask for a second chance.

Heart pounding in shock, Sharyah Jordan gapes at the outlaw staring down the barrel of his gun at her. Cascade Bennett shattered her dreams only last summer, and now he plans to kidnap her and haul her into the wilderness with a bunch of outlaws…for her own protection? She’d rather be locked in her classroom for a whole week with Brandon McBride and his arsenal of tricks, and that was saying something.

Cade Bennett’s heart nearly drops to his toes when he sees Sharyah standing by the desk. Sharyah Jordan was not supposed to be here. Blast if he didn’t hate complications, and Sharyah with her alluring brown eyes and silky blond hair was a walking, talking personification of complication.
Now was probably not the time to tell her he’d made a huge mistake last summer….

Two broken hearts. Dangerous Outlaws. One last chance at love.

Step into a day when outlaws ran free, the land was wild, and guns blazed at the drop of a hat.

Product Details:
List Price: $14.77
Paperback: 286 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 11, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1480156949
ISBN-13: 978-1480156944


Sharyah had just bent over the papers she needed to grade when the small rock landed on her desk with a soft thud. The titter of laugher ceased as she snapped her head up to study her students. Everyone seemed to be in deep concentration and intent on their lessons. She focused her gaze on Brandon McBride, but he looked as innocent as an angel and sat attentively reading his history lesson, just as he should be. Sonja and Sally Weaver both gave her sympathetic glances, from the last row of desks where they were working on their math lesson together.

Sharyah sighed, knowing from past experience that asking the class who had done the deed would prove futile. She’d been here two weeks, now. Two weeks in the God-forsaken little back-water town of Beth Haven and for a solid week-and-a-half she’d been longing to pack her bags and return home.

She had been approached about teaching in Madras, but upon arriving learned that the former teacher had decided to stay on for another year. Disappointed, she’d been all set to go back home when the head of the board told her that Beth Haven had been having trouble keeping a teacher and he thought they might be searching for one again. When she’d arrived and informed the Beth Haven board of her interest in the teaching position, they’d been ecstatic. She could see why, now. No teacher in their right mind would want to stay and deal with this, but she was determined to make it work.

The first week, she’d spent countless hours grilling the students both collectively and individually as to the identity of the trickster, but whoever the little devil was, he had a fierce grip on the loyalty of everyone else in the class. No one would give him up.

For the last several weeks, she’d tried to ignore the incidents in hopes that the prankster would give up out of sheer boredom.

Never one to be squeamish, when she’d found the snake in her top desk drawer she’d calmly picked it up and tossed it out the window. A few of the boys had gaped in disappointment, but the next day a tack had appeared on her chair. She’d noticed it before she sat on it, thankfully, and had whisked it out of sight and plunked herself down on the chair with zest. But, even though she’d been watching their faces carefully as she dropped into the seat, she hadn’t been able to determine which child was the most disappointed when she didn’t cry out in pain.

A couple days ago, she’d actually almost laughed when she’d discovered that all the chalk had been replaced with garden carrots, fuzzy green tops and all. Thankfully she’d had an extra piece in her satchel.

Today however, the large spider in her lunch pail had been almost more than she could bear. She shuddered at the memory and thanked her lucky stars that Papa had never allowed her to luxuriate in a fit of the vapors – because if ever there was a moment when she’d been tempted to, that had been it. The thing had been so large she could see its beady eyes looking right at her! And fuzzy! She rubbed at the goose-flesh on her arms. All afternoon her stomach had been grumbling its complaint. The thought of eating her sandwich and the apple that a spider crawled all over had been more than her fortitude could handle.

Yes, packing up and returning to home would be heaven. But, in a way that would be just like succumbing to the vapors, and she wouldn’t allow herself the weakness of retreat. She would get a much-needed break in the spring, just a few short months away, when her entire family came over for Jason and Nicki’s March wedding. Tears pressed at the backs of her eyes as longing to see them all welled up inside her. But she blinked hard and reined in her emotions. Until then, she would simply have to forge ahead.

All her life she’d wanted only one thing.

Well, two things if she were honest, but she wasn’t going to think about Cascade Bennett today. She sighed and glanced out the window. If she was smart she wouldn’t ever again waste another moment of time pondering the way he’d broken her heart. God promised in his Word that goodness and mercy would follow her all the days of her life, so obviously the good things God had for her didn’t include Cade Bennett.

Samuel Perry - that’s who she should be thinking on. Yes, Sam. If he ever got around to asking her, he would make a very…suitable husband. She could learn to be happy and satisfied with a man like Sam.

Giving herself a shake, she returned her focus to her students. The one thing she’d wanted ever since she could remember was to be a teacher. She loved children, loved to see their eyes light up when understanding dawned. Loved their frank outlook on life and their quickness to forgive and move on. Loved to help them make something of themselves. That love was the reason she was here, and she had to figure out a way to get these children to accept her, or at least respect her.

She glanced at the clock and stood from her desk. “Alright, children. It’s time to head home for the day.” She gave them all her sunniest smile. “See you bright and early in the morning, and don’t forget tomorrow is our day to go leaf collecting, so bring a sack or pillowslip from home to carry with you.” She pinned Brandon with a look. “Brandon, if I could have a moment of your time up by my desk, please? Everyone else, you’re dismissed.”

Purposely she turned her back and began to erase the chalk board, but inwardly she cringed, waiting for some missile or projectile to bombard her. With a determined clench of her jaw, she threw back her shoulders. Show no fear!

Amazingly enough nothing happened and soon, other than Brandon shuffling his feet as he waited for her to finish, the room filled with silence.

Finally, she hung the rag on its hook by the board and turned to face her little nemesis. My, but he had the most alluring big chocolate eyes. And right at the moment they were dripping with innocence. Future women beware! Brandon McBride cometh! She bit off a grin and folded her hands carefully in front of her.

“Did you need my help, Miss Jordan?” He looked around as though expecting her to ask him to carry something for her.

“No, Brandon. But I want you to know that I’m not going anywhere.”

He seemed puzzled. “Not going anywhere, ma’am?”

“No matter the number of tricks played on me, I will finish out the school year. Now,” she held up a hand to still his protest, “it can be a good year for both of us, or it can be a miserable year. Your choice.”

“But ma’am, I don’t…” Suddenly his eyes widened. “You think I’m the one that’s been playin’ tricks on you?” He shook his head, dark eyes wide and gleaming with sincerity. “It ain’t me, ma’am. Honest it’s not.”

“Isn’t. ‘It isn’t me, ma’am,’” she corrected automatically, then sighed. “You are dismissed, Brandon. See you tomorrow.”

“Yes’m.” He turned to fetch his lunch pail and slate.

Was that an impish gleam in his eyes? Or simply relief at not being in too much trouble?

She watched him dash out the door, his ever-present slingshot cocked at an angle in the waistband of his pants, and then sighed as she sank down onto her chair.

Wasp-venom-pain stabbed into her backside. With a yelp, she leapt to her feet. And pulled the offending stick pin from her posterior.

Her eyes narrowed. “Why that little—”

The back door crashed in, startling the rest of the thought from her mind.

A man tromped in, black bowler pulled low over his brow, red bandana covering his nose and mouth and a gun leveled at her chest.


Cade Bennett stood in the alley, his heart beating a competition with the tinny piano playing inside the saloon. Judd Rodale and his younger brother Mick had gone in only moments ago. He took a calming breath and checked his weapon one more time, then stepped around the corner and pushed through the bat-wing doors of The Golden Pearl.

The room looked the same as it had the night before when he’d scouted it with Rocky and Sky. Upright piano in the back right corner. Bar along the wall to his left. Stairs leading up to the second floor along the rear wall. And six round tables scattered throughout the room. Judd and Mick sat at a table close to the bar. They’d already been dealt in to the perpetual poker game The Pearl kept running. The dealer wore a white shirt with black armbands and a visor cap, and looked a little nervous as he dealt out a card to Judd. The other two men in the game must be locals. Cade didn’t recognize them.

He sidled up to the bar and rested his forearms there, lifting a finger to the barkeep.

“What’ll it be?” The man wiped his hands on a rag that looked like it would leave more behind than it would clean off.

“Whiskey. Make it a double.”

The bartender sloshed the liquid into a glass and slid it his way.

Cade lifted it in a gesture of thanks and turned to face the room, propping his elbows on the bar and one boot on the rail below. He sniffed the whiskey but didn’t taste it. He would need all his senses to pull this off.

The poker hand came to an end and Rodale raked in his winnings.

Time to turn on the charm. Lord, a little help here. “You gentlemen care to let a weary traveler in on a bit of the fun?”

Judd Rodale didn’t even look at him. “You gonna drink that whiskey, kid? Or just look at it?”

Mick snickered and organized his stacks of coins, taking his brother’s lead in not even glancing Cade’s way.

Cade chuckled. “Well, I need all my wits about me if I’m going to go up against you Rodales in a poker game. I’ve heard you’re the best.”

Judd looked up then, scanning him from head to toe.

Good. He had the man’s attention.

“I’m sorry, kid, but I can’t say your reputation has spread as far as mine. I have no idea who you are.”

Cade grabbed a chair and circled around so that his back would be to the wall when he sat. He turned the chair backwards and straddled it, setting his whiskey on the card table. “Well now, I’m going to ignore the fact that you called me kid in that tone, because basically I’m nobody.” He stretched his hand across the table giving Rodale what he hoped was an irritated smile. “Name’s Schilling. Cade Schilling.”

The dealer fumbled the cards he was shuffling.

Judd’s eyes widened a bit as he studied Cade, ignoring his proffered hand.

Cade felt his first moment of ease. So their planning ahead on this one had paid off. These men had definitely heard of Cade Schilling.

One of the locals gathered up his money and stood. “Time for me to call it a night, fellas. Catch you another time.”

No one seemed to notice his departure. All attention at the table was fixed on Cade.

Mick cursed. “You are Cade Schilling? The Cade Schilling who—”

Judd cleared his throat loudly.

Mick caught himself. “—well, the Cade Schilling?”

Cade grinned. “Never met another one of me. So what do you say? We playing cards, or not?” Casually he removed a stack of gold eagles from his jacket pocket and laid them on the table.

Judd flicked a gesture to the dealer. “Deal him in.”

"Now you’re talking.” Cade stood, flipped his chair around the right way, removed his jacket and hung it over the back. He rolled up his sleeves as he sat down again, and grinned at the men who were all staring at him in question. “Had a friend get shot once. Someone thought he had a card up his sleeve. I watched him die, choking on his own blood.” He shrugged. “I’ve made it a point to roll my sleeves up for every poker game since then.”

Mick chuckled and picked up his hand of cards.

The kid would be easier to win over than Judd. But if he could get Judd to like him, the rest of the Rodale Gang would fall in line.

Cade let the first two hands go, cringing inwardly at the amount of money Judd was taking off him. He reminded himself that the money was Sam’s anyway – all part of the ruse.

They were halfway into the third round when Rocky and his brother Sky pushed through the doors, their badges plainly visible. Sky sauntered to a table and Rocky eased up to the bar. Cade’s heart rate kicked up a notch. The other local folded, snatched his hat from the back of his chair and quickly strode from the room. The only other patron in the room hurriedly followed him out the doors.

Smart men. A little more of the tenseness eased from Cade’s shoulders. Less potential for casualties. Less witnesses. The bartender, piano player, and dealer were the only others left now, and they would be easily convinced to keep quiet about the events that were about to unfold.

Cade thought through the plan one more time, making sure he had every detail of what was to happen figured out. Jason had wanted to be here too, but Nicki, the widow Jason had fallen in love with, was due to have her baby any day now and they’d all convinced him they could pull this off without him.

Lord I hope we were right on that count.

He laid a card aside and took another from the dealer. It was time to put everything into play. He lowered his voice and kept his perusal on his cards as he said, “Judd, unless I miss my guess, your dandy of a brother here has been sneaking down to town and has caused a little ruckus. Two lawmen just came in. One at the bar, one at the table near the door.”

Judd’s voice was just as low, barely audible over the plinking of the piano. “I see ’em. We don’t have anything to worry about. Sheriff Collier wouldn’t know an outlaw from a bread roll. This is his town.”

Pretending great interest in his cards, Cade lifted one shoulder. “The barber said they brought in a couple new men. This must be them.”

“Well, we ain’t done nothing to warrant their attention. They mostly leave us alone so long as we keep to ourselves. I’ll handle this.” Judd swilled his whiskey and took a gulp then started to stand.

Cade flicked the corner of one of his cards. “I hear tell Judge Green’s daughter is sure a pretty little thing.”

Mick shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

Judd cursed softly and sank back down. “Mick?”

Mick couldn’t seem to meet his brother’s gaze.

Judd swore again. “I ought to shoot you, myself! We are just about—” he cut off, tossing Cade a glance before he returned his attention to Mick. “Now I have to figure out a way to get us out of here.”

Cade leaned forward. “Maybe I can help you with that.”

Judd glowered at him.

Cade pressed on. “I’ve been needing a place to…hang my hat, for a bit. I get you out of here and…?” He shrugged. Their whole plan hinged on the decision Judd would make right here.

Mick nodded at Cade. “You get us out of here and you can stay with us for as long as you want.”

Judd wasn’t so quick to take the bait. He lowered his brow. “Why would you do us any favors?”

Cade pushed out his lower lip and eased into a comfortable posture. “Suit yourself. Like I said, I’ve been needing a place to lie low. Word hereabouts is you have the best hide-out around, and….” He lifted his shoulders and resettled his hat, once again leaving the decision in Judd’s hands.

Rocky and Sky stood erect and turned to face their table.

“Judd, just let him help us.” Desperation tinged the edges of Mick’s tone.

Judd glanced toward the slowly approaching lawmen. Then gave Cade a barely perceptible nod.

Cade suppressed a sigh of relief as he stood and swung his jacket over his shoulder. “Gentlemen,” he said loudly, “the game has been fun, but I sense it is time to move on.”  He tipped his hat to Sky and Rocky as he stepped past them. They were already drawing their guns, right on cue.

“Mick Rodale, you are under arrest for the molestation of Missy Green.”

Cade palmed his gun, spun around and swung his coat over Rocky’s Colt knocking the aim down and away. He pressed the muzzle of his pistol to Sky’s chest. Sky only had enough time to let loose his scripted cry of shock before Cade pulled the trigger.

The report was a little loud, but about right.

Sky flew backward and crashed over a table, sliding across the surface and disappearing over the other side as the table toppled onto its edge. His body was concealed, only his legs protruded from one end.

Too bad about that. He couldn’t see if the blood packet they’d rigged had worked.

Rocky had recovered from his pretended surprise by this time and had his Colt leveled at Judd’s head. “Drop your gun! I will kill him!”

Calmly Cade turned and pressed the muzzle of his pistol under Rocky’s chin. “Your friend over there is lying in a pool of his own blood. Do you think I’d hesitate to kill you too? You have five seconds to drop that gun.

Rocky’s eyes narrowed.

“Four… three…”

“Alright! Alright!” Rocky’s gun thumped onto the table and he raised his hands above his head.

This was the critical moment. Now he had to keep Judd and Mick from shooting Rocky themselves.

He kept his pistol aimed directly at Rocky and his body between him and the Rodales. “Have a seat in that chair behind you. Judd, Mick. I got this. I’ll meet you outside of town.”

Mick shucked his gun and pushed Cade aside. He stood trembling in excitement before Rocky. “Let me kill this one.”

Dear God, give me wisdom. Cade hoped his breathing sounded normal to the others in the room. It rasped ragged and thready in his own ears. He made a quick decision, met Rocky’s gaze and then thunked him a good one with the butt of his pistol. Not hard enough to actually knock him out, but Rocky took the cue and slumped over, toppling to the floor with a low moan.

Cade pierced Mick with a look. “You kill a lawman and it will follow you to your grave. Trust me, I know.”

Judd had his pistol free now. He gestured the bartender, piano player, and dealer toward the back wall and they stumbled over themselves to comply. Cade made swift work of tying up Rocky and the bartender while Mick grumbled his way through binding the other two.

Judd stepped over and eyed Sky, then turned to Cade and nodded. “Thanks. We owe you one.”

Cade smoothed down his sleeves, buttoned the cuffs, and swung his jacket on. “Best we make ourselves scarce.” He wanted to get these two out of here before one of them decided to put an extra bullet into either Sky or Rocky.

Judd snapped his fingers at Mick. “Let’s go.”

With a sigh of frustration Mick followed them out the doors. They mounted up and galloped toward the foothills.

A tremor of sheer relief coursed through Cade. First step down. Thank you, Lord.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Unexpected Christmas Hero by Kathi Macias, an interview with the author

Homelessness is a tough topic for Christmas. What inspired you to use that as the basis for your annual Christmas novel?

I’ve been involved in homeless ministries, to one degree or another, for decades, so I’m not new to this area of ministry. But I’ll admit that I had never considered writing a novel about it until someone in my family, who had personally experienced homelessness at one time in his life, suggested it. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed the perfect theme for a Christmas novel. After all, at Christmas we celebrate the birth of our Savior, who was pretty much homeless at that particular point in time and was born in a stable because there was no room for them at the Bethlehem Motel 6.

Despite having previous ministry and even personal experience with the homeless, were there still some difficult times for you as you researched and wrote this novel?

Absolutely! I always try to climb inside the skin of my characters, and when I thought of myself as the young mother Josie, attempting to care for and protect her two small children while living on the streets, I wept. There were times when my own children were little that we didn’t have a lot of material things and almost never had enough money at the end of the month, but we always had a roof over our heads and never wondered where we would find our next meal. When I consider that approximately 25 percent of the homeless in America are families (either single or dual-parent) with small children, it breaks my heart.

Can you give us a brief synopsis of Unexpected Christmas Hero?

This is a story about a young family—husband, wife, two small children—who seem to be living the American dream. But when the husband dies unexpectedly, the wife (Josie) not only has to deal with that loss but quickly discovers that they are destitute. Her husband had lost his job some months earlier but didn’t want to worry her, so he hid it from her, hoping to find another position. He didn’t, and eventually ran up all their credit cards, took out a second mortgage on the house, emptied their savings, and even cashed in his life insurance policy. It doesn’t take long until Josie and her children lose their home and find themselves living on the streets, depending on the charity of others to survive. Then they meet Rick, a homeless Vietnam vet who takes them under his wing and, in a most surprising and sacrificial way, becomes their unexpected Christmas hero.

Tell us about the “story behind the story,” which involves the man on the front cover.

When the publisher sent the designer out to find someone to pose as Rick, the homeless vet in the book, he spotted a man on the street who looked amazingly like him. He asked the man—whose name is Willard Parker—if he would pose for the book cover. The man readily agreed and then explained that he truly was homeless and hoped having his picture on the cover would somehow help him find his family, particularly his grown daughter. We are doing our best to stay in touch with Mr. Parker and also to spread his story across the Internet and on radio/TV in hopes of fulfilling his dream to be reunited with his family. If anyone looks at the picture on the cover and/or recognizes the man’s name (Willard Parker) and knows the whereabouts of any of his family, we would truly appreciate it if they would contact me at so we can take the necessary steps to try and make this reunion happen.

Where can people find your book?

It’s available on any of the main online venues (Amazon,, Barnes & Noble, etc.) and many stores nationwide.

Can you give us your website info?

Sure! You can find me at or I’d love it if people would stop by there and check out all my books, as well as the video trailers that go with them. They can also sign up to receive my weekly devotional, or check out where I’ll be speaking in the near future. Above all, click on “contact” and send me an email. I’d love to hear from them, and I promise to answer.

I was given a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for posting the author’s interview and/or book review on my blog. CSS Virtual Book Tours are managed by Christian Speakers Services (

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Healing Love, The Amish of Webster County by Laura V. Hilton

Over the years, I have read MANY Amish novels written by many different authors... some in different genres (suspense/mystery/romance/comdey/etc).  While this is not the first book I've read by Laura V. Hilton... it is my favorite so far and it won't be the last!!  I COULD NOT put the book down and go to sleep last night!! Seriously, I started the book early yesterday morning, and of course, had life to live between readings, but finished it at 1:15 this morning.  It was THAT GOOD!

About the Book: (from

Life gets a lot harder for Amish midwife Kristi Lapp when a buggy wreck lands her in the hospital and leaves her with a pronounced limp. Among her biggest concerns is the well–being of her dog, Chinook, as she is no longer able to keep up with the high–energy Siberian husky. Adding insult to injury, she fears she’ll never marry for love, for what man would willingly wed a woman who needs help with even the most basic of household tasks?

Shane Zimmerman moved to Seymour for a fresh start. The veterinarian is still reeling from the loss of his young wife, who died in childbirth—an aneurysm, the autopsy determined, but he still blames the midwife and the herbal remedies she administered. He meets his next–door neighbor, Kristi, when he discovers her wrecked buggy and takes her to the hospital. Eager to deepen the friendship that forms between them, he offers to take care of exercising her dog. But the harsh words of Kristi’s father discourage him from pursuing a relationship further—for the time being. Shane isn’t Amish, although his grandparents were, and Ira Lapp would rather his daughter marry an aging Amish widower than a young Englischer.

Despite all the forces that would keep them apart, Kristi and Shane can’t deny the strong attraction between them. So, their on–again, off–again relationship persists, as Kristi submits to physical therapy for her leg and Shane reevaluates his reasons for being Englisch. But will they find a way to stay together? Or are their differences too divisive to resolve?

About the Author:

Laura is an award winning author, a pastor's wife, married over twenty-five years and has five children. She homeschools, writes book reviews and books, Patchwork Dreams, A Harvest of Hearts and Promised to Another.

My Review:

As I said at the beginning of this post, I really enjoyed this book.  I read somewhere else that someone thought it was predictable.... and while there are parts you HOPE will turn out a certain way, Laura keeps it to where to you really don't KNOW that it'll turn out that way.  If I had KNOWN whether or not it would work out, I would not have stayed awake until the wee hours of the morning to figure it out.  

I think part of the reason I enjoyed this book so much is that it wasn't your average, normal Amish story, but it did have all the parts of a good Christian romance -- a handsome, SWEET guy, a likable girl and circumstances that seem daunting.  It was the best Amish book I've read in a while!! I can't wait to read the rest of the series!

This book was provided by Whitaker House for review purposes, Blog Tour promoted byLovenGod Promotions

Thursday, November 8, 2012

An Amish Family Cookbook by Jerry & Tina Eicher

I received this lovely cookbook to review some time ago with the First Team of Reviewers.  I didn't receive it in time to review it along with the others on the team and was asked to review it when I could.  Well, of course, I wanted to try out some recipes first.  Unfortunately, life has been so crazy that I have only tried two recipes out.  And both were pie crusts.  So, my review is based on what I see in the cookbook and on what I experienced with the two pie crust recipes. :)  YUM!

The pie section starts on page 175 and covers 12 pages and includes 21 recipes, 2 of which are are pie crust recipes.  They are called Pie Crust and Never-Fail Pie Crust.  I made Mini-Pumpkin Pies using the Pie Crust recipe and my family liked it and thought the pie crusts were delicious.

Today, I decided to surprise my family with a homemade Apple Pie.  I had canned some Apple Pie Filling a couple of years ago and have a couple left, so I pulled one out and pulled out this cookbook as well.  I flipped to what I thought was the recipe and pulled out and measured out the flour and salt, then added the shortening.  I was in the midst of mixing this, when I realized it wasn't the same recipe!

I was shocked by the next ingredient... can you read it?  It's VINEGAR!?  And then milk.  So, since I had already started, I figured why not finish?  Since I was doing an Apple Pie, I wanted a top crust as well, so I doubled the recipe.   After you mix the ingredients, the recipe says to chill for 30mins.  When it was time to roll it out, I thought the mix was a little hard and was afraid it would crumble and fall apart, but as it warmed a little it did fine.  I put the first crust into the pan, filled it, then topped it with the second crust. Unfortunately, I am not very good at making those pretty edges on my crust, but ya' know what?  My pies usually get eaten anyhow. So, here's a picture of it going into the oven.

I had a little bit of extra crust left over, so I rolled it out, brushed it with melted butter and sprinkled it with cinnamon and sugar.  I figure my kids will love it as an after school snack.    Let me show you something:

Isn't that BEAUTIFUL!?!  Wow, so flaky.... and pretty.  And it tasted good too! :)

I wasn't sure how long to bake the pie, so I just watched it.  When it was almost done, I pulled it out, brushed it with butter and sprinkled cinnamon and sugar on it.  Voila!

As I said, my decorative pinching of the crust leaves a lot to be desired, but the pie looks great (ignore that OLD pan it's on!).

Here's a glimpse at the rest of the cookbook:

The table of contents... 


Some Amish Wisdom                                                      And Wit:

The wisdom pieces are scattered throughout on just about every page (not quite) and the wit is at the beginning of each to section.  

I love the simplicity of this book.  There are lots of "sweets" and desserts and honestly, there aren't a TON of different recipes (in other words, different from what I would normally make).  BUT, I love anything Amish/Mennonite and I collect cookbooks, so I am thrilled with this book.  I look forward to trying MORE recipes besides just sweets.  

To Purchase:  The Amish Family Cookbook at Amazon.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Merry Little Christmas by Anita Higman

About A Merry Little Christmas: 
Fall in love with this cozy story about two people from different worlds.

Franny Martin is an Oklahoma farm girl who's preparing to spend the holidays alone...again. Then Charlie Landau shows up one day, all wealth and polish, and offers to buy Franny's farm. Franny has no money to speak of, but she is clever and spirited, and she's more than happy to sell the farm and move to the city.

As Sinatra croons from the radio and Christmas descends upon her charming farm, Franny teaches Charlie the curious and sometimes comical ways of country life. In the process, they unearth some discoveries of the heart-that sometimes love comes when you're least ready for it. Will the holidays bring their most impossible dreams within reach?
Link to buy the book:   

Meet Anita:
Best-selling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has over thirty books published (several coauthored) for adults and children. She's been a Barnes & Noble "Author of the Month" for Houston and has a BA degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita loves good movies, exotic teas, and brunch with her friends.

Find out more about Anita at

"Funny how women have this way of turning boys into dragon slayers."

My Review: 

What a beautiful, moving story just in time for Christmas!!  It's a story of love, hurts from the past, overcoming those hurts and overcoming adversity, even when it's daunting.  This book really moved me... it kept me smiling and yes, there were a few tears along the read.  I came away from reading this with a contentedness in my heart and a renewal to be thankful for my family and the life God has given me.  

As far as I can tell, Love Finds You in Humble, Texas is the only other of Ms. Higman's books that I've read, but I will be reading more!!  She has such a gift and way with words.  Please, find this book... buy it, read it and pass it along!!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Tangled Ashes by Michele Phoenix, a review

About the Book:

When Marshall Becker arrives in Lamorlaye, France, to begin the massive renovation of a Renaissance-era castle, he unearths a dark World War II history few in the village remember.  The project that was meant to provide an escape for Becker instead becomes a gripping glimpse into the human drama that unfolded during the Nazi occupation and seems to live on in midnight disturbances and acts of vandalism.
Populated with a cast of complex characters, “Tangled Ashes” follows Becker’s exploration of the castle’s shadowy past as he seeks to cope with an unbearable present.  From the virtually mute recluse who lives in the gatehouse to the feisty and enigmatic nanny of the owner’s children, every one of the ch√Ęteau’s inhabitants seems to have something to hide and something to survive—but none more so than Becker himself.
My Review:
I'm not really sure what I was expecting from Tangled Ashes when I asked to review it.  I guess I thought I could learn something of history since my high school education was lacking.... and I did learn something!  
I enjoyed this book, not in a pleasant, funny, lovely kind of way, but in a sad, heart-breaking, life-affecting kind of way.  There are some books written that I call "eye-candy"... they are easy to read, feel good, don't make you think too much kind of books.  I LOVE that type of book, because they are enjoyable and relaxing.  If you are looking for that, then don't pick up this book!! If you are looking for a book that will make you examine yourself a little closer, a book that explores some history along with fiction and a book that is wonderfully written, albeit gut-wrenching -- this is your book! (Okay, so I don't want ever book I read to end in happily ever after-- life isn't that way, why should fiction be?)
Ms. Phoenix jumps back and forth from chapter to chapter between modern day (2001) and  France, 1943-1944.  I found that a little frustrating to keep up with... especially in the beginning when you really don't know the connection between the two stories/time periods.  Other than that, I was thoroughly taken in with the story of Becker, Jade, Therese, Elise and Maria.  What a beautifully tragic story is woven together through time and the manor.  Each of the main characters is waging an internal war... something that has changed who they are and how they live their lives.  Tangled Ashes gets untangled in the last chapter or so, when things become clear and you find the puzzle pieces that makes the story click.  
To purchase the book check the links below:, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million or Christian Book Distributors

About the Author:   Visit her website here:

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hot Buttons by Nicole O'Dell

About the Books:

Nicole O’Dell helps address the Hot Buttons in teens’ lives before the issues become problems 
From dating to drugs, modesty to purity, morals to popularity, teens face all sorts of tough issues. How teens respond to these hot-button issues can have lasting effects on who they want to be and who they actually become. What if parents can help their teens prepare for these hot buttons–before the issues become a problem?
The uniquely packaged Hot Buttons Series is an accessible, quick-reference resource that parents can use to equip their children to make the right decisions, even in the face of peer pressure and outside influences. More than just another how-to manual, Hot Button Dating Edition offers practical real-life situations that parents can read and discuss with their preteens. Topics include: physical activity, missionary dating, and violence/abuse in dating relationships.
Author, mom, and broadcaster, Nicole O’Dell provides short scenarios followed by three or four responses that a teen might choose in that particular situation. Parents are then encouraged to help their children explore the issue, ask questions, and discuss the options, so when a similar situation comes up in real life, the teens are already prepared to respond.
Hot Buttons Dating Edition offers practical real-life situations that parents can read and discuss with their preteens. Topics include: physical activity, missionary dating, and violence/abuse in dating relationships.
Hot Buttons Internet Edition helps parents prepare their teens for online challenges they may face. Topics discussed include: internet activity, file sharing, social networking, and internet predators.
Hot Buttons Drug Edition braves the scary world of substance abuse, equipping parents with facts, warning signs, and real-world scenarios on: alcohol; Marijuana and other drugs; inhalants; and prescription drugs.
Hot Buttons Sexuality Edition offers the facts about teen sexuality, backed by statistics; specifics for how to talk frankly about sex with your kids, discussion about the growth of homosexuality and bisexuality among teens; and compassionate advice for guiding your teen to reclaim purity.

About the Author:
Youth-culture expert, Nicole O'Dell is the host of Choose NOW Radio: Parent Talk and Teen Talk and the founder of Choose NOW Ministries, dedicated to guiding teens through tough issues and helping parents encourage good decisions. On air, O'Dell covers peer pressure, dating, purity, drugs, alcohol, modesty, popularity, and anything else that comes up along the way. Nicole writes and speaks to preteens, teenagers, and parents about how to prepare for life's tough choices. As an author, O'Dell writes both fiction and nonfiction. Her popular YA fiction includes the Diamond Estate Series and the Scenarios for Girls interactive books that feature alternate endings, allowing young girls to decide the outcome for the main character. Her nonfiction for teens includes Girl Talk, which she wrote with her two daughters based on their popular advice column. O'Dell, resides in Paxton, IL, with her husband and six children-the youngest of whom are toddler triplets.

My Review:
I wanted to review this set of books because I have 5 children, two of whom are already teens and two are very near being teenagers.  I also work with teens in our church, so I see the things they struggle with and the questions they have.  

I really like this quote from page 22 of the Dating Edition:

The battle we fight in protecting, shielding, and preparing our teens for life's hot-button issues isn't as
 black-and-white as a physical battle in which the wins and losses can be easily quantified.  
We must often blindly face battles for our kids, operating more on faith than on sight,
 being obedient to the call of Christ and reliant on the leading of the Holy Spirit.  

We aren't in a battle of wills with our children, we are in a battle against Satan and the temptations he puts in our path.  With the help of the Holy Spirit and God's Word, we can help our children fight and WIN this battle.   Nicole's books are a wonderful guide on facing the temptations the world has to offer head-on and winning!

Each of the four books has four parts (fill in the blanks with Dating, Internet, Sexuality or Drug) :

      * __________Hot Buttons
      * Identifying the __________Hot Buttons
      * Pressing the ___________Hot Buttons
      * Parent-Teen Study Guide

Within each section, there are several chapters that deal with each of the 4 main headings (Dating/internet/Sexuality/drug Hot buttons, Identifying, Pressing and Study Guide).  There is a lot of information in these small 6x6 books, and I love that there is plenty of Scripture to  back what Nicole has written to help us breach this topics with our children.  

In the Parent-Teen Study Guide there are Strategic Scenarios that the parent is supposed to share with their child.  The parent is supposed to tell the child the given story then offer the given options (choices) with no commentary.  Then, use the things you have learned in the previous sections to guide a discussion with your teen about the choice they made.  In this manner, you deal with the situations before your teen is faced with the given situation/temptation. 

I wouldn't suggest reading verbatim from the book aloud to your child ... I would say study up on it and then when you are having alone time with the child you want to approach the given subject about, the given scenario is a great place to start.  

These books would be a great read for parents of teens, preteens or anyone who works with teens.  You can click on the above titles of the books and purchase them there.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Memory Jar by Tricia Goyer

About the Book: 

Book One in the Seven Brides for Seven Bachelors series
Every year, 30–40 young Amish men descend on the cozy little town of West Kootenai, Montana, arriving in the spring to live there for six months and receive ‘resident’ status for the hunting season in the fall. They arrive as bachelors, but go home with brides! Sarah Shelter has lived in West Kootenai for the last ten years and wonders if she will ever fall in love.
Since the tragic death of her best friend, she carries her memories in a jar along with the small items connected to them. For just as long, she’s also been carrying around her emotions instead of allowing them to penetrate deep into her heart. Now she’s met a kind and gentle man who may be able to break down the wall. But can Sarah risk her heart to finally achieve her dreams?

About the Author:
Tricia Goyer is the award winning author of over thirty books including Beside Still Waters, Remembering You, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences and is the host of Living Inspired. She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife.

My Review:
This book is not your average "boy meets girl, boy courts girl" Amish story.  This is a beautiful story of friendship that is more than the normal friendship, of hurt that seems unbearable, of family/religious expectations that seem suffocating and of what it takes to overcome all that's gone on before -- LOVE.  Along the way, there are twists and turns that seem insurmountable, but in the end God works all things together. 
I loved this book.  The Memory Jar is something I would have done (I have several "scrapbooks" from childhood, that are more like a memory jar than a real scrapbook).  It's a beautiful way to keep the memories of each day and the gifts God gives us.  Sarah has to overcome the chains that her memories have become... holding her in the past and keeping her from her dreams and future.  Jathan (love that name!) is not your normal Amish man with dreams of following in his Dat's footsteps... no, he loves to bake and create in the kitchen, but he must help provide for his family and work in the job his father has chosen for him... or does he?  Just goes to show that Amish life isn't as plain and simple as Englischer's imagine it is!
I would definitely recommend this beautiful story.  

Favorite Quotes from the Book:

"Her whole life she always pictured falling in love being full of nervous emotion, peaks of romance, and teh exitement of wondering if he loved her as much as she loved him.  But maybe love was simpler.  Maybe true love was finding someone you could talk to with ease, whose heart cared for the same things and whose dreams could meld with your own."

"Every day, you can choose to be part of God's creative process.  I'm not talking about making things. Rather I'm speaking of allowing God to form you.  We, God's people, are his greatest creation,  but it's easier to tend our gardens then our souls..... God has made you a unique design.  Never forget that.  Also know that God's made someone to be your fit, to see your specialness as I do."

Buy a copy here:
Make your own Memory Jar, instructions here:

Check out the video trailer: 

Thank you so much "Litfuse Publishing group" for choosing me to be a reviewer of this book!