Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Gift


The Gift is Shelly Shepard Gray's third installment in her Amish of Hart County series. Although it's the third book it can be read as a stand alone. I believe once you read it though you will go back and read the entire series so far, it's that good!

Susanna Schwartz and her family are enjoying their new farm. On her way home from dropping her sister off at a friends house, Susanna has a buggy accident. It takes her a few weeks to recover, but once she's ready she is excited to attend their first church service in the new community. When she receives a less than warm greeting she is confused as to why half the community is angry with her and her family. They had hoped this was a chance for a new beginning, but she's beginning to think they will never be welcome.

Neil Vance and his family are the talk of the town. His dad finally had to come clean about his gambling and all the debts he owed.The family had to put the farm up for sale. That's bad enough but the family that bought the farm barely offered them enough to make it worth selling. Forced to move in with his dad's brother, Joseph, the family's shame and anger is at an all-time high. Neil can't stop thinking about the girl he helped in the buggy wreck. She was the prettiest girl he had ever seen and he would love to see her again. Imagine his surprise when the girl of his dreams shows up at church! Things were going along great until he learns her name, Susanna Schwartz. Then his admiration turns to anger, her family is the family that bought his farm, and in his opinion cheated his family.

The Gift is a great reminder that there are always two sides to every story and that things aren't always what they seem. Susanna and Neil spend a great deal of their time trying to figure out their friendship because of family bias. I understand the need for family loyalty but sometimes you have to make up your own mind about a person. Neil is hurt and angry and sometimes he takes that anger out on Susanna. What I love about him though is that he's quick to apologize and mean it. You have to give him credit for that. I know people who are wrong and know they are wrong but never will admit it. Neil isn't a guy who plays around with someone's feelings. He's a straight shooter and you always know where you stand. He comes off as gruff and abrasive at times but I really liked the fact he wasn't a flirt.

Susanna lacks self confidence. She always sees herself as an odd ball and an ugly duckling, which couldn't be further from the truth. Sure she isn't as outgoing as her sister, but she is a true blue friend and will stick by you no matter what. I love her heart, she is open and honest and willing to do just about anything to help a friend. Her shyness makes her a little awkward in social situations, but once you get to know her you will love her. I really liked Susanna, I feel like we could be friends in real life.  She has a kind and compassionate heart and isn't overly dramatic. I felt bad for her though, because she kind of took the brunt of the Vance's family anger for a while, but she was persistent and eventually won them all over.

As Neil and Susanna's friendship grows a series of random accidents has them questioning everything they know. Can Susanna trust Neil? Or could he be the one causing her family all the trouble? When Susanna shares with Neil her belief that these accidents are anything but random their friendship will be put to the ultimate test.


Shelley Shepard Gray has done an amazing job of weaving mystery and romance together. You will be hooked from the first page and won't be able to put the book down until you finish. She creates characters that are flawed yet have redeeming qualities and you will find yourself having a hard time remembering they are fiction! I absolutely loved The Gift and believe you will too.It would make a great gift or stocking stuffer for the book nerd in your life. And if you're like me and are the book nerd in your family treat yourself to this great book. You'll be glad you did!

Here's what other's are saying about The Gift: http://litfusegroup.com/author/sgray

*I received a free copy of this book. All opinions expressed above are my own.

The Christmas Admirer

About the Book


Name of book: The Christmas Admirer
Author: Laura V Hilton
Genre: Amish Romance
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Amish romance fans will love this heartwarming holiday story, perfect for gift-giving.
Benaiah Troyer has loved Susanna King for as long as he can remember, but when his parents died in an accident a year ago, he broke up with her—for her own good. After all, he was now the sole caregiver for his three younger sisters. What woman would want to put up with that? Still, against his better judgment, he can’t help leaving her a gift now and then, anonymously addressing her name in big block print, just to catch a smile. Roses one month, maple syrup candy another; and maybe this time, something special for Christmas.
Susanna has never gotten over losing Benaiah, but now the clock is ticking. Her father is selling his glass-blowing business, remarrying in January, and moving to Iowa with his bossy wife-to-be. Angry and frustrated, Susanna realizes she’s left with three options: one, go with Daed to his new home with a new mom; two, stay in Jamesport, Missouri, as an old maid; or, three, the best yet, flush out her mysterious secret admirer. But how could she be with anyone else when her heart is still with Benaiah?
My Thoughts: You will absolutely love this book! Not only is the cover absolutely beautiful but the characters make their way into your heart. I'm typically not a fan of Christmas stories but since this one was by Ms. Hamilton, and I've read other stories by her and loved them, I decided to give it a try. I'm so glad I did. You will be hooked from the start and get so wrapped up in the story that you forget the characters are fictional. It's truly a heart warming story that is sure to get you in the Christmas spirit. 
*I was provided a free copy of this book. All opinions expressed above are my own. 

About the Author




Amish fiction lovers responded positively and immediately to Laura V. Hilton’s debut Patchwork Dreams, when she burst on the scene in 2009 with her unique series, The Amish of Seymour, set in the tiny town of Seymour, in Webster County, Missouri. Fans of the genre immediately recognized Hilton’s insider knowledge, not only of the Webster County community, but Amish culture in general. Her natural speech and writing patterns, she says, are uniquely “Amish,” acquired from her Amish maternal grandparents. The Amish of Seymour, includes Patchwork Dreams, A Harvest of Hearts, and Promised to Another. Her second series, The Amish of Webster County, is comprised of Healing Love, Surrendered Love, and Awakened Love. A stand-alone title, A White Christmas in Webster County, was released in September 2014. The Amish of Jamesport includes The Snow Globe, The Postcard and The Birdhouse. In spring 2016 she released The Amish Firefighter with the setting in Jamesport, MO, the same as for The Amish Wanderer.
novel,
Laura is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and a professional book reviewer. Laura and her husband, Steve, have five children, whom Laura homeschools. The family makes their home in Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas.

Guest Post from Laura V. Hilton

Glass Blowing and The Christmas Admirer

Right before my youngest son joined the Coast Guard we went on a short mini-vacation to Springfield, Missouri, actually going farther north almost to Kansas City to see another Amish community near there in Osceola. There is a cheese factory there and my son wanted to try some of their cheeses – such as a ghost pepper cheese. Too spicy for me.
But upon the return to Springfield, Steve read about a glass blowers shop in the downtown area. We found the address and went to visit it. It is owned by an older gentleman and his son. They had a display area set up where people could see their wares and buy them and then a work area where the son mostly worked, and talked about how the fire needed to be so hot, and showed us how he worked and made things. As we watched, he made a lovely flower, a lily, in different colors of glass, green, white, pinks.

It was fascinating.

And I got to thinking what if…
So I did some more research. Asked questions. Probably drove them nuts. But when Whitaker House indicated they’d be interested in a Christmas novel, I proposed one about a glass blower.

The story is set in Jamesport, Missouri, and while completely stand alone, it does have some continuing characters from other books I’ve written set in Jamesport. If you are interested, the books set there are:
Amish Books set in Jamesport, Missouri:
The Snow Globe
The Postcard
The Birdhouse
The Amish Firefighter
The Amish Wanderer
The Kissing Bridge (part of Springs of Love collection)
The Christmas Admirer
Gingerbread Wishes (part of A Plain Thanksgiving collection–November 2018)
Love by the Numbers (February 2018)
I haven’t read any books about an Amish glass blower, but that’s not to say they aren’t out
there. I haven’t read all the Amish books available. Jamesport is an area that is more tourist-oriented than the books set in Seymour / Webster County Missouri. They give buggy tours, have bed and breakfasts, open their homes for visitors to eat supper with them, and have businesses.


All Amish districts are different and the rules vary depending on the bishop and preachers. Some are more liberal and some more conservative. Some keep themselves distant and don’t welcome attention from non-Amish and some embrace it. While Jamesport is not as touristy as some districts in Lancaster Pennsylvania or in Ohio, it is much more so than others.

SUSANNA’S CRANBERRY SALAD

Ingredients
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (thawed), chopped
  • 1 can (20 ounces) unsweetened crushed pineapple, drained
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1 medium apple, chopped
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Directions
  1. In a large bowl, mix the first six ingredients until blended. Refrigerate, covered, overnight.
  2. In a large bowl, beat cream until stiff peaks form. Just before serving, fold cream and walnuts into cranberry mixture.Makes 16 servings.

SUSANNA’S CRANBERRY SAUCE

For on top of turkey sandwiches as Becca requested
Ingredients
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (thawed), chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water or orange juice

Directions
In colander, rinse cranberries. In sauce pan, add water or orange juice and sugar, boil until sugar is dissolved. Add cranberries and return to a boil. Lower to simmer and cook about 10 minutes or until most of the cranberries had burst. Let cool.

SUSANNA’S “LOVE PORTION” GINGERBREAD

Ingredients
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1 T ground ginger
  • 1 t ground nutmeg
  • 1 t ground cloves
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup shortening, melted slightly
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ c water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t vanilla
Directions
Shift together flour, baking powder, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon. Set aside.
In mixing bowl, mix shortening, molasses, brown sugar, water, egg and vanilla until smooth. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients until they are absorbed. Divide dough into three pieces, pat down until about 1 ½ inch thickness, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for three hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. On lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to ¼ inch thickness. Cut in desired shapes. Place cookies about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 – 12 minutes in preheated oven. Cool on wire racks. When cool, decorate as desired.

Blog Stops


ASC Book Reviews, November 9
Books n Baubles, November 9
Janices book review, November 9
Have A Wonderful Day, November 10
A Greater Yes, November 10
D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, November 11
A Holland Reads, November 12
Simple Harvest Reads, November 12
Beck To Basics, November 13
Carpe Diem, November 13
Christian Bookaholic, November 14
Blossoms and BlessingsNovember 14
Baker Kella, November 16
Quiet Quilter, November 16
Karen Sue Hadley, November 16
Pause for Tales, November 17
Pursuing StacieNovember 17
For The Love of Books, November 18
Blogging With CarolNovember 18
Bigreadersite, November 19
Vicky Sluiter, November 19
SusanLovesBooks, November 19
Moments Dipped in Ink, November 20
New Horizon Reviews, November 20
Jeanette’s Thoughts, November 22
Daysong ReflectionsNovember 22
Splashes of JoyNovember 22

Giveaway



In honor of her tour, Laura is giving away
Grand Prize Package: The Christmas Admirer, “Unto Us a Child is Born” painting on decorative serving plate by Donna White, The Hearthside Collection, Inc., and commemorative Whitaker House/Anchor Distributors coloring book (not in photo).
1st Place Package: The Christmas Admirer and The Very First Christmas by Juliet David with interactive illustrations by Pauline Siewert (children’s book).
2nd Place Package: The Christmas Admirer and “The Woman Who Honors The Lord Shall Be Praised” myrrh-scented candle from abba Jerusalem!
Click the link to enter! https://promosimple.com/ps/c16f

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Your Dream. God's Plan



Your Dream. God's Plan is a unique book. Not only is it Tiffany Smiling telling you about her life and the challenges she has overcome, but it's a call to action. What happens when all your plans get interrupted? Maybe it's a divine appointment to meet God where he's at and where he's working!

I admit I wasn't sure what to expect when the opportunity arose for me to be able to review this book. I wanted to because the cover is pretty and the title caught my attention, but I didn't really know much about it. Once I sat down and began reading I instantly knew this book was written for me, and people like me. I don't normally write in books, I do if it's a bible study but I never highlight and underline in a regular book. As I said before, this is no ordinary book, at least one page in every chapter I underlined or highlighted something. 

I love how vulnerable Tiffany is through her story. She shares the good, the bad, the really bad and the downright ugly. She shares her struggles and how God used her brokenness to draw her closer to him. While she was pursuing a relationship with him, he revealed his plan for her step by step. This isn't a step by step formula for you to fix your life or find your purpose but a guide. It's a challenge for us to open our eyes and our hearts to hear God's calling and to follow. No matter where it might be or what it might cost. 

Truthfully, Tiffany's story isn't much different from stories you've heard all your life. We've all struggled and had broken dreams but the difference, however, is how she chose to respond. She never let a challenge stop her from pursuing God and his dreams for her and his people. She shares her humor and insight in a down to earth way that even teens can enjoy and relate to. You feel like you are sitting down to coffee with a friend catching up on old times and you might find parts of her story mirror you own. 

This book is a rare gem and I hope you will give it a try. 

* I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah

About the Book

Name of book: My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah
Author: Angie Dicken
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: November 1, 2017
Schoolteacher Leanna McKee plans on leaving the coal mining town of Castle Gate, Utah, and never looking back. Good riddance to coal dust, rugged men, and the fatal mine that took her husband’s life.
Until the widow meets a widower who awakens her heart…and she finds herself inexplicably falling for miner Alex Pappas which stirs up a whole heap of trouble.
Alex’s Greek parents have arranged a more traditional match for him. When the schoolteacher’s association with the Greek family begins to anger the American miners, they threaten Alex and his family. Leanna has received an offer to teach elsewhere and feels she has no choice but to leave Castle Gate. . .though she will be leaving her heart behind.
My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this story. It is well written and you instantly connect with the characters. I felt bad for Leanna, she couldn't win no matter what she did. I admired her gumption. It takes guts to tell your parents no and follow your own heart, especially in this time period. She stood firm in her faith even when her heart and mind tried to lead her astray, in my mind she is a true heroine.  

About the Author

Angie Dicken is a third generation Greek American, the granddaughter of strong men and women who endured hardship to grow American roots. My Heart Belongs In Castle Gate, Utah is set near the birthplace of her grandfather, a Greek coal miner’s son, and published 100 years after his birth. Angie is a contributor to The Writer’s Alley blog and an ACFW member since 2010. She lives with her husband and four children in the Midwest where she enjoys exploring eclectic new restaurants and chatting with friends over coffee. You can connect with Angie at www.angiedicken.com.

Guest Post from Angie Dicken

My Publishing Story: A Journey of Perfect Timing

“Wait for the LORD;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the LORD.” Psalm 27:14


I wrote a story five years ago. My footing was finally solid on how to write, after a couple ACFW conferences and connecting with my bestie writing sister, Ashley. So in 2012, I poured my heart out within the parameters of what I’d learned.
The story I wrote stemmed from my heritage. From a very young age, I’ve been inspired by my grandfather. He was the son of a Greek coal miner who came over from Greece in the 1910’s. My grandfather always had wonderful stories to tell–he stirred up my intrigue for WWII era as he was a Purple Heart recipient (twice), and spoke of freeing concentration camps and invading Hitler’s homes; my grandfather lived a rags to riches legacy, having been born in a tent in a coal town, and then becoming a successful home and commercial builder–I declared I’d be an architect at age eleven…even majoring in Landscape Architecture in college.
Papou was one of my greatest heroes. And my novel was a tribute to him, to my Greek roots,to an American legacy.




My great grandfather, born in 1884 and
immigrated to Utah in 1910’s.


So, at ACFW 2012, I took my novel to conference with more confidence than I had before. This story caught the attention of an agent– and I signed a contract with the Steve Laube Agency in November of that year. That was amazing…I chuckle now because the name of the room that I interviewed with Tamela was the “McKee” room–the last name of my heroine. A sign? Maybe. When she sent my story out for all publishers to see that next month, I thought my time for that book was just around the corner.
And…
Now it’s 2017, and that story is under contract with a publisher as of Fall 2016.
What timing, right?
Why the heck did it take so long? Not for lack of trying. My agent and I took every possible measure.
Why did I get rejection after rejection, and write two other books in the wait?
What happened between then?
Only in looking back, do I see why I had to wait for this book. And when I look back, I realize just how much Timing is His and there’s nothing I can do to speed it up or make it mine. All I can do is take courage, and wait.
I’ll give you a quick recap of what happened between 2013–when the book was put in the proverbial drawer of unwanted manuscripts–and now, 2017, the year it will get published (um, after a few rewrites and edits–always learning…).
In looking back, this is what I see:

My Community was Built. I fell in love with my writer friendships. A bit dramatic? Maybe, but it’s the truth. I connected with ladies who knew my heart as a writer, and allowed me into their lives in an authentic, Christ-loving way. I found hope in the writing journey because my friends held my hands and rubbed my back when all seemed lost. And in this, I grew not as a writer, but as a heart. My heart became soft for the needs of others and the value of authenticity in this short, precious life.
There was a Pride Monster, and He needed to kill it. Oh, Lord, if ever there was a pride monster, it was me. My gut reaction in every rejection, every criticism, every other person’s success was a measurement against them according to me. Yuck. Do you know what the bestStarve it. Even though I had my sweet friends and my agent encouraging me along the way, my heart was set on publication and I was not getting that. I wanted it so badly that I turned ugly when it seemed to slip through my fingers with every rejection. And I spiraled and I came up for air to those authentic friendships speaking Truth in love. God knew what He was doing when He built my community, and He knew He would use it to lift me up and tear down my ugly.
The Darkest Valley Was Ahead. Everything stood still in 2014. My personal crisis gave me little room for any true focus on my writing success. If anything, it made the effort seem petty. When you go through your days wondering if you’ll make it to the next morning without a complete mental breakdown, you can’t really dream. My dream in those moments was to crawl out of my skin and run away. This was not about my writing, this was about God’s faithfulness to someone who was losing faith–in the person she loved, in the life she constructed, in the heart that was broken. Looking back (I did climb up and out of this valley), I needed this valley walk (or crawl) to happen when it did–without a book on the shelf, without confidence in something that I had accomplished. I needed brokenness to become stronger and know that my strength has nothing to do with me.
There are several other moments and signs that I see as I look back, but I’m not going for the longest blog post of 2017, but I do want to share two sweet confirmations that the timing really is His.
First, I got a book contract! You know this, but, the contract came at a time when I had grown peaceful in the journey–the pride monster lay slain, and I picked up a pen and took
an opportunity. My Oklahoma Land Run book with Love Inspired Historical won the Manuscript Matchmakers contest…and WAS coming out in Spring 2018.
I had secretly told those closest to me, that it would’ve been nice for it to come out in September instead…just because that’s when the book opens–September, 1893–the historical date of the Land Run.
So, what happens after I turn in my complete book a few days before its deadline? My editor tells me they bumped up my date to September of 2017. And I am sure, for them, it had nothing to do with the history, but for me, it was everything to do with the history–and His timing. Look for my debut novel, The Outlaw’s Second Chance this September!
There’s more…
My second contract came in! And this was a wonderful surprise. My agent and I had found out last spring that a new series was being launched based on geographical places around the U.S. I immediately thought of my Coal country story. So, I put together a proposal for a book I’d written long ago…and got a contract with Barbour this Fall for my novel, My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah.
But, the timing? November 2017 is my release.
God’s Timing in its finest…The book comes out during the centennial year of my grandfather’s birth. He was born in Dec. 1917 in Carbon County, Utah. My hero and my inspiration for this very book.
I just can’t stop smiling at the chance to honor my late grandfather with a story written by his third generation Greek American granddaughter who was inspired by his roots grown a century ago.
If only he could be here now. But I know he’s smiling, too.
A century.
It took a CENTURY.
Only by God’s grace, and His perfect timing.

Blog Stops


Faithfully Bookish, October 31
Caffeinated Reads, October 31
A Greater Yes, November 2
Daysong ReflectionsNovember 2
Carpe Diem, November 4
Radiant LightNovember 5
Texas Book-aholic, November 6
Babs Book Bistro, November 7
Neverending Stories, November 9
Have A Wonderful Day, November 10
Pause for Tales, November 10
Mary Hake, November 11
Splashes of JoyNovember 11
BigreadersiteNovember 12
Vicky Sluiter, November 13
Bibliophile ReviewsNovember 13

Giveaway


To celebrate her tour, Angie is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card and a copy of her book The Outlaw’s Second Chance!!
Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries! https://promosimple.com/ps/c1ff