Sunday, February 27, 2022

Review: Faith in the Mountain Valley by Misty M. Beller

My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing


This epic journey is the only way to leave her secrets behind.

After eleven years spent looking for the girl who stole his heart, Jean-Jacques Baptiste—better known as French to his friends—is tempted to give up. Until the day he spotted the flaxen-haired stranger traveling the wooded path with Blackfoot Indians. He never imagined he’d find his childhood friend masquerading as a man in this Rocky Mountain wilderness, hundreds of miles from the Canadian town where he last saw her. No matter her reasons, he can’t let her go this time.

Colette Mignon’s life has become a cacophony of lies, including the fact that her Blackfoot Indian companions believe she’s a man. She’s willing to live the taxing life of a trapper in these desolate mountains as long as it keeps her secrets hidden. When her childhood friend and first love discovers her, his determination to help might put everything at risk.

As the worst of her past threatens to catch up with her, the hope for Colette’s new life shatters. But no matter what, she must protect the one good thing that came from all her mistakes. Though French is determined to stay at her side, she can’t let him become entangled in the perilous consequences of her actions. If only it wasn’t so painful to push him away. The danger pressing in may leave her only one choice—leave everything behind…again.

My Review

I loved how this book really added some variety to the series! French has been an enigma in the previous books, so it was gratifying to learn his secrets and motivations- ultimately, finding Colette. Colette is disguised as a man since she is on the run, and I thought it was so interesting that she found a place with a small group of Indians who are accepting of her differences. French and Colette's reunion is serendipitous- or providential- and French displayed his unwavering loyalty as he joins her camp and does whatever it takes to be whatever she needs. It takes some time for French to break down her walls, but it was beautiful how their friendship renewed and blossomed into sweet romance. Of course, there is still a good deal of danger and adventure in the wilderness, and I'm always astounded by the resiliency of these outdoorspeople. Colette's internal struggles are evident throughout the story, and only a resolution with her past can allow her to move forward with peace. One of my favorites of the series!

Disclosure statement: A complimentary copy of this book was provided from a tour group, publisher, publicist, or author, including NetGalley, OR was borrowed from the library, including OverDrive, OR borrowed from Kindle Unlimited, OR purchased. A review was not required and all views and opinions expressed are unbiased and my own.

Don't miss the other books in the Call of the Rockies series . . .

Friday, February 25, 2022

Book Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway: KidVenture: Twelve Weeks to Midnight Blue by Steve Searfoss

On Tour with Prism Book Tours

KidVenture: Twelve Weeks to Midnight Blue
(KidVenture #1)
By Steve Searfoss
Middle Grade Fiction, Contemporary
Paperback & ebook, 125 Pages
January 26, 2020 by Steve Searfoss

Chance Sterling launches a pool cleaning business over the summer. Join Chance as he looks for new customers, discovers how much to charge them, takes on a business partner, recruits an employee, deals with difficult clients, and figures out how to make a profit. He has twelve weeks to reach his goal. Will he make it? Only if he takes some chances.

KidVenture stories are business adventures where kids figure out how to market their company, understand risk, and negotiate. Each chapter ends with a challenge, including business decisions, ethical dilemmas and interpersonal conflict for young readers to wrestle with. As the story progresses, the characters track revenue, costs, profit margin, and other key metrics which are explained in simple, fun ways that tie into the story.

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I tried to think about why the unfairness bothered me so much. It was more than just having to split the money with her. This business was mine. I had started it. Sure, it had only been five weeks, but still. I had done a lot of work to get to that point. Not just cleaning Dad’s pool, but negotiating, going out and finding another customer. This was something I was building, all by myself. I didn’t like the idea of sharing, of giving part of it up to someone else. I liked being able to say to myself this was all mine. All of it. I didn’t want to give that up.

I smiled, satisfied with myself. I tried to think of more cons, but no other ones came to mind. But those were enough. I had five really good reasons not to make Addie my partner. So I turned my attention to the right side of the sheet, the pros. Those were a lot harder to come up with. I stared at the white sheet for a long time. All I could think about was how I would lose half of my money and how that wasn’t fair. Not fair at all!

Finally I forced myself to concentrate. I had to admit her flyers looked nice. She did a good job with them. And she was right, I couldn’t draw. Nobody wants to look at doodles of nervous spaghetti. That wasn’t my strength, but it was something she was good at. So I wrote that down. Maybe she would be better at finding customers than I was. Maybe she wouldn’t be, but did I want to take that risk? If I didn’t agree to make her my partner, she’d be out there slipping flyers under the same doors I was knocking on. Our neighborhood was only so big. Could it support two different kids offering a pool cleaning service? Maybe it would be good to partner with her just to keep her from competing with me.

As I thought about it, I also had to admit she had good ideas. This whole marketing thing was a new concept I hadn’t really thought of. It definitely solved the two problems I was worried about before. If we could leave a flyer describing our pool cleaning business at each house, then it didn’t matter if they were home or not. They could read it whenever they got home. If they didn’t have a pool they could just throw the flyer away. But if it was me knocking on doors though, I would have to waste twenty minutes talking to them, like I did with the nice old lady who gave me candy and the pimply teenager who wanted to steal my idea. On the other hand, if they did have a pool, maybe they’d look at the flyer and decide to call. In that case I’d be happy to go talk to them about our service and how we guarantee not just a clean pool, but peace of mind too.

Look at that! I just said our cleaning service, and they would call us. What was wrong with me? Was I forgetting how unfair this all was? Then I remembered that Addie got Mom to let her use her phone number. She was always good at getting Mom and Dad to help her. Ok, if I really thought about it, she was better at asking for help than I was. I usually had a lot of pride to swallow, but she didn’t seem to have that problem.

I tried to think if there were other pros. I remembered something my mom had told me once, she said two were better than one. Maybe this is what she meant. I was good at cleaning pools, negotiating, talking to customers, figuring things out. Addie was good at art, coming up with new ideas —she was very creative I had to admit—, and asking for help. Maybe it was true, two were better than one, and together we could do more things, in different ways, and do them better, than we could if each of us were on our own. This way I could focus on what I did best, and have her do the things I really didn’t enjoy doing.

There was something else. I could trust Addie. Sure, she was annoying sometimes. But she’s still my sister. She wouldn’t intentionally try to mess me up or run off with all my money. It’s true I could probably find someone else to draw the flyers and just pay them for it without giving up half my business. But they wouldn’t be a partner. Not like Addie would. Someone who really cared if we succeeded or failed, and someone I could trust to have our best interests at heart.

I wrote down one more pro. If Addie’s plan did work, there was the chance that we could make a lot more money than I could if it was just me. This whole time, I had kept thinking about what would happen if Addie’s flyers didn’t get us any new customers, or only got us one or two. But what if her marketing got us three customers, or five, or even 10. That would be amazing!

Was that a chance worth taking? I turned the paper over and drew two lines across, so I divided the page into thirds. At the top of the first section, I wrote down Worst Possible Outcome. That was easy, I quickly scribbled: “0 new clients. Result = $20 a week instead of $40.”

Below that I wrote Normal Outcome. I had to believe that, over time, with Addie’s help and with her flyers, we could get at least two more customers, which is what we have now. Aargh why did I keep saying we again? So in that case, I’d be making $40 dollars a week, just like I am now. That seemed very reasonable. This was the most likely result.

And then at the bottom of the page I wrote down Best Outcome. Let’s say Addie got us four more customers. That would be six total. Then we’d be making $120 per week, and I’d get half of that, $60 a week. Plus that seemed a lot more stable. What if Larry changed his mind? Then I’d be back to just cleaning Dad’s pool. But if we had six customers, losing one of them wouldn’t be as big a deal.

I glanced back up at the worst possible outcome I had written down. I scratched my head. Would I be ok if the worst happened? Yes I would. I could handle it. Now it would be a bummer to only make $20 each week, but not the end of the world. It would take me twice as long to get Midnight Blue, but other than that, not that big of a deal. On the other hand, the best possible outcome…well that made me giddy to think about. I realized I had spent all my time thinking about the worst possible outcome and not enough thinking about the best possible outcome.

Then I had another thought. Summer was almost halfway done. I was nowhere close to my goal of making $225 to buy Midnight Blue. If I was going to make it, I had to do something different. I had to be true to my name and take a chance.

I put the pencil down. I had one more thing to think about. This wasn’t only about Addie. This was about me, and what I wanted. What did I really hope for? Did I dream about scooping up dead leaves and drowned insects? Not really. I was already kind of getting bored with that. But what I did daydream about, what I fantasized about, was running a business. A real business. I had been having fun ever since Dad put that idea of leverage in my head. I like a challenge. And, I have to admit, again, Addie’s flyers had inspired me to dream big. I imagined us running a real company with lots of customers. That was easier to do with a partner. Even if there were just two of us struggling to find another customer, that felt like we were a real business, building a dream. When it was just me, it was hard not to feel like I was just cleaning pools.

Excerpted from Kidventure: Twelve Weeks to Midnight Blue by Steve Searfoss, Copyright © 2022 by Steve Searfoss. Published by Steve Searfoss.

About the Author

Steve Searfoss: I wrote my first KidVenture book after years of making up stories to teach my kids about business and economics. Whenever they'd ask how something works or why things were a certain way, I would say, "Let's pretend you have a business that sells..." and off we'd go. What would start as a simple hypothetical to explain a concept would become an adventure spanning several days as my kids would come back with new questions which would spawn more plot twists. Rather than give them quick answers, I tried to create cliffhangers to get them to really think through an idea and make the experience as interactive as possible.

I try to bring that same spirit of fun, curiosity and challenge to each KidVenture book. That’s why every chapter ends with a dilemma and a set of questions. KidVenture books are fun for kids to read alone, and even more fun to read together and discuss. There are plenty of books where kids learn about being doctors and astronauts and firefighters. There are hardly any where they learn what it’s like to run small business. KidVenture is different. The companies the kids start are modest and simple, but the themes are serious and important.

I’m an entrepreneur who has started a half dozen or so businesses and have had my share of failures. My dad was an entrepreneur and as a kid I used to love asking him about his business and learning the ins and outs of what to do and not do. Mistakes make the best stories — and the best lessons. I wanted to write a business book that was realistic, where you get to see the characters stumble and wander and reset, the way entrepreneurs do in real life. Unlike most books and movies where business is portrayed as easy, where all you need is one good idea and the desire to be successful, the characters in KidVenture find that every day brings new problems to solve.

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Thursday, February 24, 2022

Review: Courage in the Mountain Wilderness by Misty M. Beller

My rating: 4 stars / I really liked it


Keeping her son safe on this epic journey may be harder than she imagined.

Caleb Jackson is on a journey. And not just the mission he and his friends have embarked on to fetch the Nez Perce chief’s runaway daughter. Maybe someday, he could also find God’s plan for his life. He’d once thought being a small town minister was the Lord’s will for him, but he’d proved a failure at living under the scrutiny of his congregation. Yet the chief’s niece and her feisty toddler accompanying them on this expedition make him feel like he might be able to make a difference yet.

Otskai is eager to take on a challenge. She’s lived under the shelter of other’s choices her entire life, especially when she was betrothed to one of the village braves at the tender age of eight. Now with her husband's death, she’s finally found the freedom she always craved—even with a two-year-old to raise. She’s built her camas root harvest into a thriving trade to provide all she and her son need and more, yet she can’t seem to keep her active child safe. When she agrees to accompany her new friends on a trip to bring back her wayward cousin, she knows she’ll have her hands full managing her boy.

The journey turns out nothing like Otskai expects, and for the first time in her life, she’s thankful to have others around to help. Especially Caleb, whose gentle attentions captivate her son and occupy him for hours at a time. But as the danger escalates and her worst fears come to light, she must find the courage to choose between freedom and a love more liberating than she imagined possible.

My Review

This series follows a group of travelers as they embark on different missions in the wilderness, and the friends they meet and join with them along the way. At this point in the series three of the men have found love amid their adventures, and in this book I enjoyed getting to know Caleb better. He is cheerful, encouraging, and quickly bonds with Otsaki's son. It takes longer for Otsaki to warm up to him, but his consistency, faith and battle with a grizzly endear him to her. As usual with this author, the Christian message is strong and the characters each grow on their own personal spiritual journey.

Disclosure statement: A complimentary copy of this book was provided from a tour group, publisher, publicist, or author, including NetGalley, OR was borrowed from the library, including OverDrive, OR borrowed from Kindle Unlimited, OR purchased. A review was not required and all views and opinions expressed are unbiased and my own.

Don't miss the other books in the Call of the Rockies series . . .

Book Tour, Review, Excerpt & Giveaway: Summerhaven by Tiffany Odekirk


My rating: 4 stars / I really liked it


Hannah Kent and Oliver Jennings pledged their hearts to each other as children. Now, years later, Hannah is thrilled to receive an invitation to spend the summer at Oliver’s family’s country estate. The path to wedded bliss is clear—so long as Oliver’s highbrow older brother, Damon, has ceased his juvenile antics, Hannah’s future looks bright indeed.

But from the moment Hannah arrives at Summerhaven, nothing is as she expected. Oliver seems disinterested in renewing their acquaintance, and Damon is not the brutish boy she remembers but a man intent on avoiding marriage. Although she has loathed Damon her whole life, when he contrives a ruse designed to win them both what they desire, Hannah warily agrees. All she has to do to reclaim Oliver’s attention is pretend to be madly in love with Damon. But when Damon is surprisingly convincing in his role as a suitor, it proves difficult to discern the line between pretense and true love.

My Review

There's something about Regency stories set at a country estate that I just adore! It's such an idyllic environment for the characters to interact with each other. Hannah's expectations of revisiting Summerhaven and reuniting with childhood sweetheart Oliver are pretty high, so it's not a surprise when nothing goes according to her plans. I felt bad for her as she struggles to hold on to her fantasy as it crumbles when faced with the reality of her situation and the changes she discovers in Oliver. It was frustrating when she kept excusing and justifying his behavior, even in the midst of her hurt feelings. I enjoyed Damon's teasing and the glimpses into his heart and unrequited affection for Hannah. He is her rescuer in many ways, and I loved how he helps her see things with a new perspective. This love triangle has plenty of angsty emotion as Hannah navigates complex family dynamics at Summerhaven.

Disclosure statement: A complimentary copy of this book was provided from a tour group, publisher, publicist, or author, including NetGalley, OR was borrowed from the library, including OverDrive, OR borrowed from Kindle Unlimited, OR purchased. A review was not required and all views and opinions expressed are unbiased and my own.


Damon stepped forward, and his watch key and seal—visible reminders of his status and self-importance—clanked together. He bowed. “Miss Kent.”

“My lord,” I returned with a shallow curtsy.

The corners of his mouth curled into a smile. “I see someone has managed to make a lady out of the wild girl I once knew,” Damon said, and before stepping back in line with his mother, he met my eye and added, “A pity.”

My eyebrows pulled together in surprise.

“Do try not to scowl, Miss Kent. It will crease your lovely brow.”

“Damon Jennings,” Lady Winfield scolded. “You have been taught better manners.”

“My apologies, Mother. Teasing a beautiful woman is one of few things that has yet to be lectured out of me.”

I gaped. Never in all my life had a man spoken so casually to me. Damon may have grown into a man, but he was not a gentleman.


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Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Review: Room on the Porch Swing by Amy Clipston

My rating: 3 stars / I liked it


Ever since her best friend died six months ago, Laura Reihl has vowed to make each day count. And that means she should probably break off her relationship with Rudy. They’ve been together for so many years, and his friendship means the world to her. But she knows friendship doesn’t come close to the fireworks of true love, and she’s not really feeling the fireworks.

So when Savilla’s widower, Allen, asks her to help him take care of the baby Savilla left behind, Laura jumps at the chance. Maybe the change of scenery will help her gain perspective on her relationship with Rudy. And she’d do anything to help Allen out—he’s always been a good friend to her, and he’s Rudy’s best friend as well.

When she arrives at Allen’s house, though, she finds a man she barely recognizes. Allen is distraught over his wife’s death, blaming himself for not taking her to the doctor soon enough.

As Laura helps Allen work through his grief, she remembers just how easy he is to talk to. And she discovers an attraction she’s never felt with Rudy. She can’t be falling for Allen, can she? It would be a betrayal to the two people she’s care most about, Savilla and Rudy. But if she denies her feelings, is she betraying herself?

My Review

Laura is such a sweetheart, and loves taking care of baby Mollie. She and Allen grieve Savilla together and focus on the care of Mollie, who requires extra comfort as she is going through teething. Contrary to the book synopsis, Laura is not thinking about breaking up with Rudy, and they make extra attempts throughout the book to stay connected despite Rudy's frustrations that she is spending too much time at Allen's home. They have all been friends for years, and Laura finds comfort in her friendships. 
Laura finds joy and purpose in her job caring for Mollie and making sure Allen takes care of himself. It's a natural progression as they begin to be attracted to one another, connecting on a deeper level and understanding the changes in each other. I didn't understand why she kept trying to make things work with Rudy when she knew that they didn't have anything in common anymore and didn't act like a caring couple. After some conflict and drama, it was good to see them finally come to terms with the inevitable.

Disclosure statement: A complimentary copy of this book was provided from a tour group, publisher, publicist, or author, including NetGalley, OR was borrowed from the library, including OverDrive, OR borrowed from Kindle Unlimited, OR purchased. A review was not required and all views and opinions expressed are unbiased and my own.

Review: The Farm Stand by Amy Clipston

My rating: 3 stars / I liked it


Salina Petersheim runs her own booth at the Amish market, where she’s known for having the freshest and most delicious produce in the area. Her father is the bishop of her church district, and her brother is a deacon. They are a very close family, yet sometimes she tires of being compared to her older brother, Neil, who is married and has two children. She also feels the pressure of having to be the perfect daughter for her parents. 

Salina has been dating Josiah for almost a year now, but he feels more like a friend than a boyfriend. Her parents approve of Josiah, who is a hardworking roofer. He’s handsome and easy to talk to, but he just doesn’t warm her heart the way she feels a boyfriend and future husband should. She secretly longs for more. 

Along comes William “Will” Zimmerman, a Mennonite chef who runs a restaurant located next door to the Amish market. He wants Salina to supply the produce for his restaurant, and as they forge a business relationship, they both feel themselves falling in love. Salina especially tries to deny her feelings for Will since her father wants her to marry within the community. 

Both Salina and Will feel stuck in their current relationships, but they cannot deny what they feel for each other. Will they follow their hearts or bow to the pressure of family? Or will God provide a surprising new road for them?

My Review

My favorite part of this book was the environment of the Amish Market. Aren't the covers of this series so vibrant? A group of young women forge friendships as they work alongside each other at different stands, and they each have a unique personality. Will and Salina have fantastic chemistry, but struggle to leave their current relationships behind in order to pursue something beyond friendship. Their relationship naturally develops into a romance, but family dynamics cause conflict and drama. I felt frustrated with repetitive thoughts and stalled progress, and hoped for more depth and connection to the emotions of the characters. I was glad to be able to get to the resolution and happy ending.

Disclosure statement: A complimentary copy of this book was provided from a tour group, publisher, publicist, or author, including NetGalley, OR was borrowed from the library, including OverDrive, OR borrowed from Kindle Unlimited, OR purchased. A review was not required and all views and opinions expressed are unbiased and my own.

Don't miss the other books in the Amish Marketplace series . . .