Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Road Home by Beverly Lewis

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

It's been a while since I have read Amish Fiction, so I was glad to see The Road Home by Beverly Lewis arrive in my mailbox. I think that in many ways, for me, Amish fiction has similarities with both current fiction and period fiction. Given their lifestyles and the old-fashioned courting rituals that they live by, as they live in the modern world and deal with many of the same challenges that others do.

The Road Home was the first book I have read by Beverly Lewis. I liked her style of writing, the way in which she developed the characters and told the story. The book was a nice, easy read with chapters that were the perfect length for picking it up a chapter at a time. The story was sweet, and full of innocence. Lena Rose was thrust into an Amish community several states from home, with different rules and traditions than her own Amish community, and with relatives that she had never met, when her parents unexpectedly died. Separated from her siblings, she had to learn to cope with not being able to help them and be there for them, and find ways to bide her time until she could come home at last. She made some quick friends and quickly became a contributing and liked member of the new community. Lena Rose was hard to not like, such a sweet and considerate person that found many ways to serve others. I found myself hoping that things would turn out well (if not exactly as she anticipated) and found myself with tears in my eyes in more than one part of the story. As the story unfold, the reader saw just how resilient Lena Rose was, as she grew and adapted to her new world.

I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading other works by Beverly Lewis in the future.

About the Book

As the sun began to rise, Lena Rose leaned against the cool pane of the bus window and gazed out at the familiar landscape of her life. I'm leaving my family and everything I know behind. She sighed, trying to keep her composure.

Grieving the death of her Amish parents and the separation from her nine close-knit siblings, Lena Rose Schwartz consoles herself that her new life in Lancaster County won't be forever. Surely someday soon she will return to her beloved Michigan settlement, including her beau. But even as she holds on to hope for a reunion with those she loves most, she discovers that Lancaster holds charms of its own. Will she find the courage to open her heart to other possibilities?

About the Author

Beverly Lewis, born in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, has more than 17 million books in print. Her stories have been published in 12 languages and have regularly appeared on numerous bestseller lists, including the New York Times and USA Today. Beverly and her husband, David, live in Colorado, where they enjoy hiking, biking, making music, and spending time with their family. Learn more at www.beverlylewis.com.


No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Chance At Forever by Melissa Jagears

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

Summer sports are in full swing at my house, but I have still found some time to read. I recently finished reading A Chance at Forever by Melissa Jagears. The book is part of her Teaville Moral Society series, but it reads well as an individual book.

Set in Kansas in 1909, the book follows the story of Mercy, who helps run the local orphanage with her brother and sister-in-law and serves as a member of the local school board, and Aaron who has recently returned to Teaville to try to set things right with those he wronged as a bully when he was child. He has changed since he left Teaville and we meet him as he is applying for a teaching position at the local school. Mercy, one of the victims of his bullying, does not believe he has changed and does not want someone of his like to be allowed to teach.

As fate would have it, while he is waiting on the decision of the school board, he finds a summer job that puts him at the orphanage as the gardener. He sees this as an opportunity to help show Mercy that he is a change man and hopefully, gain her forgiveness for the way he treated her as a child.

The plot was engaging and made the book difficult to put down. The characters were easy to relate to and the type that you wanted only the best for. The story was a touching read that was well written with underlying messages of faith and forgiveness. It included a nice touch of romance and mystery, which were enjoyable and added to the appeal of the story. It was nice to watch how through self-discovery and awareness, Mercy was able to come to realize that she might be wrong that no man could ever love her or choose her as his. As the characters grew through the story, they gained new perspectives about others around them and helped show that it's never too late to turn to God and that through faith and conviction great things are possible.

If you enjoy historical fiction or a simple love story, then this book is for you.

About

". . . heartwarming and sweet . . . compelling . . ."--RT Book Reviews on A Love So True

Determined to protect the children of Teaville, Kansas, from the bullying she experienced as a child, Mercy McClain finds fulfillment working at the local orphanage and serving on the school board. When Aaron Firebrook, the worst of her childhood bullies, petitions the board for a teaching position, she's dead set against his getting the job.

Aaron knows he deserves every bit of Mercy's mistrust, but he's returned to his hometown a changed man and is seeking the forgiveness of those he wronged. He doesn't expect Mercy to like him, but surely he can prove he now has the children's best interests at heart.

Will resentment and old wounds hold them back, or can Mercy and Aaron overcome the past in time to battle the threats against the future of the town's orphans?

About the author:
Melissa Jagears

Carol Award-winning author Melissa Jagears is a homeschooling mom who writes Christian historical romance into the wee hours of the night. She's the author of the Unexpected Brides series, the Teaville Moral Society series, and Love by the Letter, a free prequel ebook novella. You can learn more about Melissa, her books, and where she hangs out online at www.melissajagears.com.

No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

Monday, April 2, 2018

High Cotton by Debby Mayne

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

Spring has sprung! Only, those little shoots of spring flowers that were starting to peep through in my flower beds are now being coated in a nice spring snow. I shouldn't be surprised, it seems to be typical here to have one last snowfall before we can really enjoy spring. With spring comes a busy schedule again at my house with sports and end of school activities and shows. While I enjoyed the wind down of the winter, I read the new book by Debby Mayne, High Cotton. High Cotton is the first in the Bucklin Family Reunion Series.
The Bucklin family is a very relate-able family and I really enjoyed the format in which the story is written. The author used the point of view of four female members, by birth or marriage, of the Bucklin family to tell the story, which is set primarily in the weeks leading up to what we learn is a more than once a year family reunion. The use of multiple viewpoints is a great way to engage the reader and provide insight to the family. I love that the reader gets the impression that it is one of those events that no one really wants to go to, but everyone realizes that you can't miss it, or you will be the topic of conversation for the family. This is so real life, how many events and not just family events, do we commit to attend, not out of want but out of obligation. Of course, it also made me appreciative of the family that I have and the closeness we have. I was fortunate to grow up in a family where we spent a lot of time with my grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins and I actually look forward to seeing the family, but as we have grown bigger (and older), it certainly is harder to get together, making those opportunities so much more important to me. Of course, there are several things I have attended out of obligation, so I can still relate.

Another 'challenge' for the Bucklin family is that there seems to be a lot of pressure in the family around success, in life and love, and who can make the most and best food for the event. After all, who wants to be that person that shows up with a bag of chips or stack of plates to the family reunion? All four women had an 'image' concerns that they were facing. Some concerns were stuck in the old-fashioned values (or perhaps southern) - a woman should marry, a man should support the family and others were around perceptions of success - having a great job, owning a house. I feel fortunate that we are more inclined to celebrate success and not dwell on our differences. In fact, I don't always see a lot of comparison in my family, but I also know that there is a little bit of that out there, as with most families...my grandma always told me that she enjoyed my wedding the most and I certainly enjoyed knowing that (whether she told us all or not, I don't know, but it doesn't matter because I know she enjoyed mine for sure.

I liked that all four women experienced growth through the course of the story. They came to renewed perspectives on their situation, they learned that the truth is important and that people can surprise you and they recognized that faith is important in their lives. For several of them, they developed stronger relationships with family members. Learning from them and even going into business together. Some entered into new relationships, with promise for the future.

I really enjoyed the way the story was told by the four women. The characters were familiar and enjoyable and the story was filled with a real perspective and a good balance of humor. The multiple points of view led to short chapters, which made it easy to ready in short or long installments. I look forward to the next reunion story in this series.


High Cotton
by Debby Mayne
Bucklin Family Reunion series: Book 1

Some families are filled with so much love they can't help but drive each other crazy.

Shay Henke has mixed feelings about going to her family's next reunion. On the one hand, she'll get to see everyone in her mama's family---folks she loves unconditionally. On the other hand, she knows there'll be more drama than you can shake a stick at.

The days leading up to the event bring one surprise after another. First Shay must deal with her sister-in-law's deep, dark secret. Then she has to contend with the childish ways of her business-mogul twin cousins. And when her high school crush wants to be her date to the reunion . . . well, it may have been a dream come true for Shay's teen self, but the woman she's become doesn't know what to make of this.

Shay's contentment is challenged, and she's determined to shake things up a bit. But will she find the excitement she's looking for, or will Shay realize she prefers her quiet and predictable life?

One thing is certain: Life with the Bucklin family is never boring.

Meet the Author
Debby Mayne writes family and faith-based romances, cozy mysteries, and women's fiction and is the author of more than 60 novels and novellas-plus more than 1,000 short stories, articles, and devotions for busy women. Debby is currently an etiquette writer for The Spruce.

Debby grew up in a military family, which meant moving every few years throughout her childhood. She was born in Alaska, and she has lived in Mississippi, Tennessee, Oregon, Florida, South Carolina, Hawaii, and Japan. Her parents were both from the Deep South, so Debby enjoys featuring characters with Southern drawls, plenty of down-home cooking, and folks with quirky mannerisms. High Cotton is the first book in the Bucklin Family Reunion series.

Learn more about Debby and her works on her site.


You can purchase a copy here.

No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Wewalka Baking Party and Review #Tryazon #wewalkaparty

As a participant in the Tryazon Wewalka Party, I received an Wewalka party pack which included a coupons to try the product at the party and to share with my guests. All opinions expressed are my own.
Pizza is a staple at our house. We have it on a variety of crusts. We do open face quesadilla pizzas on tortillas, we use leftover buns and bagels to make pizzas, we use bread dough, dough mixes and homemade dough. We top them with all sorts of toppings - simple to complex, sweet and savory. We enjoy it at any meal and as a snack too. So, when I got the opportunity to try Wewalka European Bakery Style Dough, I was excited.

The party pack included an apron and an oven mitt for me and some insulated bags, magnetic shopping lists, Wewalka pens and measuring spoons and coupons for product to share with guests. (not all pictured)
I spent a couple of evenings studying the website and finding inspiration and recipes to try at our party. I wound printing out a recipe for shrimp flatbread, a buffalo chicken calzone, a chocolate cherry cheesecake pizza, jalapeno popper puffs, bread sticks and a prosciutto pizza. I made up my grocery list and headed off to find my ingredients and the dough. My store carried four varieties of their dough - Puff Pastry, Flatbread, Classic Pizza and Bistro Pizza. I decided to grab a couple of each to try at the party, using the recipes I found or improvising with other pizzas we enjoy.
Before the guests arrived, I started with prep work and even got a couple of the things in the oven. I wanted the guests to see and work with the product, but with basketball on in the background and plans to play poker, I knew attention would be divided and I would have to prepare to ensure we got to also try more product than we prepped during the party. Plus, you can only have so much in the oven at a time and I only have three baking stones.
I love that the dough comes on parchment paper and is refrigerated, so when you are ready to bake you can simply unroll, top and bake. The packaging is great too, as it is a flat sleeve and can easily stack on the side of my refrigerator, making them easy to access. As I opened the packaging to make the first recipe, I noticed this small valve on the inside. I assumed it had something to do with minimizing moisture build-up on the dough, but to be sure I looked it up on the website and learned that the valve is part of their packaging because they "use real, live baker’s yeast which needs to slowly release carbon dioxide, so we’ve added specialized valves to the packaging. Our yeast ensures your pastries and pizzas always rise up and bake to perfection." (I like it, great way to ensure the freshness and deliver performance of the product). Baking on the parchment paper sure made clean-up easy, which was especially good for the party, since we only had three stones and one pan that we were using.



Buffalo Pizza:
Started with a traditional pizza crust, used ranch dressing to cover the dough, added chicken that had been mixed with buffalo sauce, then added onions and shredded colby jack cheese and baked according to the package.

 Margherita Pizza:

Shrimp Flatbread:

Buffalo Chicken Calzone:

Jalepeno Popper Puffs:

Margherita and Cheese Flatbread:
Started by unrolling a flatbread and scoring it to create two halves. Added pizza sauce as a base to each side. Added fresh mozzarella slices on one side and shredded Italian cheese on the other. Baked it according to the package directions. Then, added fresh sliced tomatoes and fresh basil. Returned it to the oven for 5 minutes, then drizzled with balsamic.

The traditional margherita pizza and the half margherita/half cheese flatbread were delicious. I think that margherita pizza is one of my favorites, there is just something about the fresh tomatoes and the drizzle of balsamic that is so tasty. We wound up making a buffalo chicken pizza in addition to the calzone. The jalapeƱo poppers, which we left the bacon out of, were delicious, but I would make them smaller next time - everyone was cutting them in half to enjoy anyway. The shrimp flatbread was tasty, but compared to the other offerings, just wasn't as popular. Everyone loved the chocolate cheesecake pizza, it was super rich though and so we had a good amount left over (not a bad thing at all - meant we got to enjoy some the next day).

Chocolate Cheesecake Pizza:

I liked the flavor of the product, but found that based on the timing on the directions and/or on the packaging for those that we improvised, that the pizza and flat breads did not bake up as much as I prefer. I don't mind a soft crust and it works fine for a lightly topped flatbread, but it made it difficult to plate up the chocolate cheesecake pizza and the calzone was also difficult to cut and plate for sharing. I found that extending the cooking time helped it cook up a little more. Also, those items that I tucked in the oven to reheat also crisped up nice directly on the stone.

The ease of use of the Wewalka pizza and flatbread products is tremendous. As a busy mom, I could feasibly make and bake a (nearly) homemade pizza for my family in about 20 minutes including prep, which is important on those nights with games and practices that leave little time for dinner. The dough being rolled up with the parchment paper not only makes it easy to use, but makes clean-up a breeze - another time saver on a busy night.

The puff pastry feels like a very versatile product to me, one that can be used for both sweet and savory dishes and the fact that it is fresh and not frozen makes it an easy go to for dinners or dessert. I look forward to trying more of the puff pastry recipes, since we wound up only trying the jalepeno poppers at the party.

There are so many more recipes that I look forward to trying, you can peruse them yourself here. You can find a local store that carries the Wewalka line, using their store locator here.

The guests and my family all enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the Wewalka Baking Party through Tryazon.

As a participant in the Tryazon Wewalka Party, I received an Wewalka party pack which included a coupons to try the product at the party and to share with my guests. All opinions expressed are my own.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

His Risk by Shelley Shepard Gray

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.
Spring keeps trying to overcome winter, but as is expected in early March, winter continues to rear it's head. The nice thing about a cold snowy evening is that it makes a great excuse to curl up on the couch with a blanket and a good book. During these recent cold spells, I found the chance to read a new book by Shelley Shepard Gray. The book was His Risk, the fourth book in her The Amish of Hart County series. The characters from the other books are mentioned, but as with her other books in the series, they are just minor characters in the book and the story focuses on a different set of characters, so you could easily jump in to the series with His Risk.

Calvin has been working undercover in a gang. He takes a huge risk returning to Horse Cove, Kentucky when he finds out his brother is sick - he hopes his presence in his Amish brother’s home will not put his family or their neighbors in harms way. For Alice, life had always been good, sure she had made some questionable choices during her Rumspringa, but had left that time behind. She enjoyed her life as a preschool teacher and the opportunities to be on our own and watch over her brother's houses when they travel. Alice and Calvin grew up in the same community, but knew little of each other and their lives growing up were very different.

His Risk was a good story, that pulled me in quickly. I found myself wanting to read just one more chapter, to see what happened next and to know how the issues at hand would resolve. I was expecting a little more suspense and mystery, like in the other books from the series, and although present, it wasn't as prevalent as it had been in the other books. In the case of this story, there was a sprinkling of suspense in the story but more so present as an open question of whether Calvin could move past the new life that his choices had brought upon him and find happiness.

His Risk was a good book and I look forward to reading more from Shelly Shepard Gray.


About the Book:

An undercover English DEA agent will do anything to protect the Amish girl he loves.

Calvin Fisher left the Amish community at fourteen and never looked back. Only his brother's illness can bring him back to Hart County. Now, as Calvin works to make amends, he meets Alice, a local nursery school teacher, and falls hard for her. But he has a secret that could threaten the happiness he's finally found.

Alice shouldn't like-or want-Calvin. He's English, has a questionable past, and an even more questionable job. Still, she can't help being intrigued. Though Calvin assures Alice that he's worthy of her, she's torn between surrendering to her growing feelings and steering clear of him.

When a sudden surge of criminal activity alarms the community and even targets Alice, Calvin fears that his double life has put everyone he loves at risk. As for Alice, she can't help but wonder if the brave and honorable man she's lost her heart to is far more dangerous than she could ever imagine.

Learn more and purchase a copy.

About the Author:

Shelley Shepard Gray is a "New York Times" and "USA Today" bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town's bike trail.
Find out more about Shelley at http://www.shelleyshepardgray.com.



Learn more about the book and check out other reviews on the blog tour landing page.
No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.
I have been jumping between genres recently and this past week have been reading a piece of Edwardian fiction, in which I have been deeply engrossed - A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White. A Song Unheard is the second book in the Shadows Over England series and is set primarily in Wales in 1914. This story is a stand alone story, but if you had a chance to read the first book in the series, A Name Unknown, this book offers a chance to catch a brief glimpse of those main characters, but more so, focused on the story of another member of the family.

Willa has a love for music, spending time catching practices of the symphony in London and playing on a well-loved violin. So when Mr. V offers a role that has her spending time with famed violinist Lukas De Wilde to locate a highly sought cypher key, she knows that she is the right person for the job. The author did a good job developing characters through the progression of the story, continuing to reveal things about some of the characters right up to the end of the story. Lukas is intrigued with Willa the moment he sees her on the street, assessing the building in ways similar to how he has seen his sister assess things. When he learns that she is a violin prodigy, he offers her lessons as a way to get to know her and spend more time with her. Willa is determined not to follow the path that Rosemary did and fall for her target, but she needs to spend time to get to know him to get close enough to locate and steal the cypher key.

Suspense and danger is woven throughout the story. We get the sense of the danger faced by Willa when she finds herself not alone on her quest and the ongoing danger faced by Lukas' family who is hiding out from the soldiers, even with one sharing the same house. When it seems that she will not succeed in completing the job and is caught in a place she shouldn't be, Willa confesses to Lukas and changes the dynamic between them. The story isn't over at that point though bringing more into the story as the danger intensifies and more secrets come out, making the story even that much more intriguing.

Through her vivid descriptions of the settings, both internal and external, the author is able to transport the reader to another time and place. Her story was so engaging that I found myself not wanting to put the book down, resulting in me yet again staying up later than I should simply so I can read a little more. The book had the perfect balance of danger, friendship and courtship, romance, mystery, deception, intrigue and faith.

I look forward to reading the next book in this series.


About the Book:
If Betraying Her Heart Means Saving Countless Lives, Will She Find the Courage?

Willa Forsythe is both a violin prodigy and top-notch thief, which makes her the perfect choice for a critical task at the outset of World War I--to secure a crucial cypher key from a famous violinist currently in Wales.

Lukas De Wilde has enjoyed the life of fame he's won--until now, when being recognized nearly gets him killed. Everyone wants the key to his father's work as a cryptologist. And Lukas fears that his mother and sister, who have vanished in the wake of the German invasion of Belgium, will pay the price. The only distraction he finds from his worry is in meeting the intriguing and talented Willa Forsythe.

But danger presses in from every side, and Willa knows what Lukas doesn't--that she must betray him and find that key, or her own family could pay the same price his surely has.

About The Author:
Roseanna M. White is a bestselling, Christy Award-nominated author who has long claimed that words are the air she breathes. When not writing fiction, she's homeschooling her two kids, designing book covers, editing, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna is the author of a slew of historical novels that span several continents and thousands of years. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to find their way into her books . . . to offset her real life, which is blessedly ordinary. You can learn more about her and her stories at www.RoseannaMWhite.com.



No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. A complimentary review copy was provided to me.