Monday, August 2, 2021

Review: Amish Celebrations by Beth Wiseman



My rating: 3 stars / I liked it

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Synopsis

From bestselling author Beth Wiseman come four sweet stories centered around celebrations in the Amish community: rumschpringe, baptism, weddings, and Christmas. 

The Gift of Sisters
Hannah and Rachel are fraternal twins approaching their sixteenth birthday—a time when they will be allowed to spread their wings and enjoy their rumschpringe. The sisters couldn’t be more different: Hannah is outgoing and beautiful, while Rachel is shy and withdrawn. And when newcomer Abraham Stoltzfus arrives in Lancaster County, both women fall head over heels for him, each fighting for his affections in their own ways and driving the sisters to turn on each other. Who will Abraham choose? And will Hannah and Rachel reunite after a devastating heartbreak?

A New Beginning
Rebecca and Noah are in love and about to be baptized. But when Noah decides to enjoy one last night of his rumschpringe a few weeks before the ceremony, he does something that causes Rebecca to reconsider his proposal. As Rebecca and Noah navigate the turn in their relationship, Rebecca must learn to forgive Noah or abandon her dreams of marrying him. If Noah won’t forgive himself in time for the baptism, his guilt could cause him to run from his love for Rebecca and leave his community behind.

A Perfect Plan  (previously published in An Amish Wedding)
Priscilla King has been planning to marry Chester Lapp since she was sixteen years old, and when Chester pops the question on Priscilla’s nineteenth birthday, wedding plans begin immediately. But everything begins to fall apart as Chester works to build a house for his new bride, only to have one disaster after another occur. Can true love take this couple through the challenges that threaten their union, or will they begin to doubt that they are on the right path, the one God has chosen for them?

A Christmas Miracle
Mary is twenty-seven years old and already has five young children. Married to her husband at age eighteen, she wasn’t quite prepared for motherhood, and exhaustion and frustration are sending her into a downhill spiral as the holidays approach. Too proud and ashamed to ask for help, Mary’s situation begins to take a toll on her marriage. But when an elderly man in a red suit and his sidekick elf befriend Mary, showering her with wisdom and advice, she must choose to accept help, learn to cope with her situation, and ultimately find the true meaning of Christmas. 

My Review

I like the idea of a collection of stories based around different celebrations! It can be a wonderful time of coming together with family and friends, and often the special feelings bring an extra dose of happiness. In these stories however, like real life, they come with an extra dose of drama. The characters are entertaining but also a bit exhausting. I had mixed feelings as I read this collection. I think I was in the mood for something a bit more gentle and humorous. The author does a good job of incorporating struggles, flaws, and the efforts it takes to turn things around to make it right again.

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 Paper Daughters of Chinatown by Heather B. Moore



My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing

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Synopsis

A powerful story based on true events surrounding Donaldina Cameron and other brave women who fought to help Chinese-American women escape discrimination and slavery in the late 19th century in California.

When Donaldina Cameron arrives at the Occidental Mission Home for Girls in 1895, she intends to teach sewing skills to young Chinese women immigrants, but, within days, she discovers that the job is much more complicated than perfect stitches and even hems. San Francisco has a dark side, one where a powerful underground organization--the criminal tong--brings Chinese young women to America to sell them as slaves. With the help of Chinese interpreters and the Chinatown police squad, Donaldina becomes a tireless social reformer to stop the abominable slave and prostitution trade.

Mei Lien believes she is sailing to the "Gold Mountain" in America to become the wife of a rich Chinese man. Instead she finds herself sold into prostitution--beaten, starved, and forced into an opium addiction. It is only after a narrow escape that she hears of the mission home and dares to think there might be hope for a new life.


My Review

This is a review I should have written ages ago, but it's been intimidating to find the words to encompass how I felt while reading the book. I'm filled with admiration for Donaldina Cameron and those she worked with. The impact of the book was even greater for me because she was a real person and this account is meticulously researched, while still reading as easily as a novel. The author explores beyond the heroism of Donaldina- we see the humanity and reality and struggles and flaws and choices. The evil she confronts and fights against is unimaginable, but was all too real in our history- and sadly continues to this day. Through the trials and difficulties of the home and the girls in it, the overarching feeling of hope brought light and reassurance that they were making a significant and priceless difference. It was so heartwarming to read and think about the influence Donaldina had on generations to follow. This book is perfect for fans of both historical fiction and real historical accounts, and would make a wonderful book club featured book. I can't recommend it highly enough. It stayed with me for weeks after finishing it!

(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)


Saturday, July 24, 2021

Review: Faith's Mountain Home by Misty M. Beller



My rating: 3 stars / I liked it

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Synopsis

Nate Long has always watched over his identical twin brother, Aaron, even when it put him on the wrong side of the law. When Aaron is wounded in a shootout, the brothers are taken to Settler's Fort to recover. As Nate works to make reparations for their past, he marvels at the nursing Aaron receives under the care of a woman with all the reason in the world to resent him.

Laura Hannon knows what it is to start over, and she knows Nate's newfound faith is real. What she can't look past is how far he allowed himself to be led astray by his brother's weaknesses.

My Review

This story revolves around admirable characters who are striving to overcome their circumstances that seem to keep kicking them while they're down. Nate and Laura each have faith to rely on for strength through their frustrations, and it gives them something in common as their friendship deepens, as well as the fascinating cave in the mountains and its hidden occupants. The pace of the story moved a bit too slowly for me, and kept referencing Laura and Nate's experiences from the previous book, so I don't think it should be read as a stand alone. Overall the book provided the author's trademark storytelling style of the harsh wilderness and frontier living with a hefty dose of faith-filled themes.

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.

Check out the previous books in the Hearts of Montana series . . .








Saturday, July 17, 2021

Series Review: The Honeybee Sisters by Jennifer Beckstrand



My rating: 4 stars / I really liked it

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Synopsis

Smart, kind, and good-hearted, the three Christner girls are affectionately known as The Honeybee Sisters in the beloved Wisconsin Amish community where, under the care of their aunt, they've grown into skilled beekeepers--and lovely, sought-after young women . . .

Though she has blossomed into a beauty, Lily Christner doesn't really believe it. Deep down, she still feels like a lonely, gawky teenager. Maybe that's why she's all but promised herself to Paul Glick, the one boy who never teased her in her awkward girlhood--unlike Dan Kanagy, whose creative name-calling left her in tears many a time. Now he's back in town after two years away--and being surprisingly sweet, suspiciously attentive--and making Lily unsettlingly yet deliciously nervous. It seems Dan wants Lily's forgiveness--and her heart. But can he convince her--not to mention her protective schwesters and aendi--that despite the past, her future lies with him?

My Review

I'm such a fan of this author's writing style- vibrant characters with a wonderful sense of humor woven throughout as well as thoughtful and subtle life lessons. My dad had beehives so this aspect of the story appealed strongly to my sentimental side- there's nothing like fresh honeycomb! I loved that the sisters made so many tasty things with their honey. Lily is capable and compassionate with helping raise her sisters and running the farm with her aunt, but her vulnerabilities are holding her back with her boyfriend's manipulative behavior. It was frustrating to see her in that kind of relationship, but the author skillfully shows how she is caught in his web of emotional manipulation. Dan's determination and perseverance is admirable, and I loved his positivity and the light he brought to Lily's daily life. It really created a contrast that she couldn't ignore. Her supportive aunt and sisters have distinct and individual personalities, so I was excited to continue reading the series. A mystery of vandalism at the farm isn't resolved, but becomes an overarching subplot 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.



My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing

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Synopsis

Their bees produce the most delectable honey in all of Wisconsin. And the three Christner girls are fondly known as The Honeybee Sisters throughout their peaceful Amish community--where their spirited sweetness is attracting any number of hopeful suitors. . .

Lively, determined, and independent, Poppy Christner isn't about to let some vandal keep making mischief on her family's farm. She's been outrunning boys and standing up for picked-on children ever since she was a girl--no matter how much her prideful, arrogant schoolmate Luke Bontranger insulted her. So Poppy certainly doesn't need his interference now, especially since he's made it plain he prefers demure, ladylike companions. In fact, if Luke doesn't stop helping her find the culprit--and growing humble and remorseful--she'll be forced to notice how handsome his change-of-heart is making him. And that could mean falling in love--maybe for a lifetime…

My Review

Poppy is such a fun character- fiercely loyal to her sisters, determined to accomplish tasks she's told she can't or shouldn't do, and enjoys needling Luke and his ego. Somehow their mutual dislike gradually and naturally shifts to an unlikely friendship, then stronger feelings, but the path to love is anything but smooth for them, and plenty of conflict kept me glued to the pages as I read. There's something so satisfying about Luke's shift that leaves him desperate for Poppy's approval and affection. They have great chemistry! The vandalism at the farm increases even as Dan, Luke, and their friend Josiah become frequent visitors to help repair the damage and attempt to protect the sisters. Aunt Bitsy is a favorite- sassy and blunt and unpredictable, keeping the boys on their toes. Even the cats have vibrant personalities, and the humor woven throughout kept me smiling and chuckling, but never veered into slapstick territory. 

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.



My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing

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Synopsis

Affectionately dubbed The Honeybee Sisters in their Wisconsin Amish community, the three Christner girls are devoted beekeepers who are coming-of-age—and discovering the sweet surprise of love…
 
Shy, skittish Rose Christner is more comfortable tending to the beehives on the family farm and keeping her aunt’s unruly cats in line than attending social gatherings with the rest of the die youngie. A childhood trauma and secret shame keep her heart under lock and key, and Rose just can’t accept the sweet attention she’s receiving from a handsome neighbor. But the more she shies away from Josiah Yoder, the more their families sneakily plot to bring them together. And when a vandal who’s been plaguing the Honeybee Farm starts targeting Rose, Josiah’s steadfast protection—and patience—just may lead her into his waiting arms…

My Review

We don't fully understand why Rose is so withdrawn and nervous to the degree she is around others besides her family until this third book, and it was quite revealing. Josiah is the perfect match for her- endlessly patient, gentle and kind as he waits for her to be ready for his love. It was so sweet how he slowly develops a friendship with her, but her metal blocks prevent her from moving past her trauma and feelings of crippling guilt. Her aunt provides wisdom as Josiah learns the difference between sheltering Rose and supporting her. The suspense grows as the farm vandals grow bolder, and the climax brought more surprises and a resolution I didn't expect. This final book was more emotional and I loved the healing and empowerment Rose discovers within herself.

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.





Saturday, July 3, 2021

Book Tour, Review & Giveaway: Time's Dagger by Margot Hovley



My rating: 4 stars / I really liked it

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Synopsis

After a rough stint at work in the ER, Dillon Kelly is more than a little ready for a vacation when he packs his bags and sets off on a camping trip in the wilds of Ireland. But when a mysterious dagger covered in druidic markings appears in his backpack, Dillon finds himself hurtled into the fourteenth century. Thrust into the legends and politics of ancient Ireland, he is rescued from suspicious locals by a beautiful young woman named Ailish.

Ailish has always dreamed of being a bard, but there’s just one problem: women aren’t allowed. Determined to follow her heart, Ailish has fooled everyone into thinking she’s a boy—everyone, that is, except for Dillon. He’s agreed to keep her secret in exchange for her help in finding his way home to his own time. Despite the impossible barriers between them, feelings beyond friendship soon blossom. But more than just their budding romance is in danger. Ailish isn’t the only one who recognizes the dagger’s druidic significance, and there are those who would stop at nothing to harness its time-bending powers.


My Review

Time travel books can make me anxious, because I worry so much about how the romance will play out. I was instantly drawn in to this one with the characters and their individuality, and I appreciated Dillon's sense of humor and willingness to make the best of his unexpected circumstances. The setting of medieval Ireland is one I'm fascinated with, so it was fun to escape to that time period and enjoy the historical details. The adventure and intrigue with Ailish and the element of danger with the supernatural kept the pace of the book steady and I enjoyed reading and seeing where the story took me.

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.


About the Author

Margot Hovley grew up a country kid in Washington State, where she filled the tedious hours of farm chores with an overactive imagination. She loves her work with her church’s international magazines, but fiction writing is her favorite creative outlet. Time’s Dagger is her third published full-length novel. She lives in northern Utah at the foot of her beloved mountains, where she chases chickens and grandchildren and teaches piano to the somewhat willing. Helping run the family business is hectic, but she loves working with her husband, Art, and several of the Hovley children. How she finds time for writing is both a miracle and a mystery.
 
 
 
Giveaway

Friday, July 2, 2021

Book Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway: Love Blooms by Jennifer Faye

On Tour with Prism Book Tours

Love Blooms
(Bluestar Island #1)
By Jennifer Faye
Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 284 Pages
April 13, 2021

“With the bloom of springtime flowers…
comes the opportunity for new beginnings.”

He's an injured firefighter. She bakes the most delightful treats. When their worlds collide will the baker help heal the firefighter with a mix of blueberry muffins and her caring way?

The elegant baker, Hannah Bell, has always lived on Bluestar Island with her family. While still grieving for her father, who died in a fire, she focuses all of her energy on making her dream come true--opening her very own bakery. But when a broken water pipe washes away her carefully laid plans, she's on the verge of losing everything.

New York firefighter Ethan Walker's life is in a tailspin after he's injured on-the-job. When an urgent call detours him to Bluestar Island, he agrees to help his lovable but meddlesome great-aunt. But organizing the island's Spring Fling proves a lot harder than he originally imagined. He needs help...and fast.

Under the magic of Bluestar Island's sea breeze and warm sunshine, Hannah and Ethan must not only face their immediate obstacles but also their own turning points in life. Will they have to do that alone? With a leap of faith and a dash of romance, they might just find the perfect mix to make their dreams come true.

Includes a delicious recipe for The Elegant Baker's Blueberry Crumble Muffin!

(Affiliate links included.)

Excerpt
 
Hannah rushed out the door and moved toward her bicycle. It had come from her grandmother’s estate. With a rusty frame, two flat tires, and a torn seat, it’d been designated for the junk heap. But Hannah remembered her grandmother’s smile when she rode it around the island and knew she couldn’t part with it.

A little sanding followed by a coat of hot pink paint, new tires, and a replacement seat gave the bike new life. The woven basket on the front just needed to be cleaned and it looked like new. And just like her grandmother, Hannah couldn’t stop smiling when riding it.

She slung her backpack purse over her shoulders and then set off. It was finally time to check on the progress of the bakery. She hadn’t been able to make it there yesterday, as she’d had a large baking order and she’d been exhausted when she finished.

Each day the crew was making marked progress. A smile tugged at her lips. It was going to look amazing when it was finished.

As Hannah rode through town, she waved at everyone she passed. She couldn’t imagine there was any nicer place to live. Spring had blossomed in vibrant shades of red, purple, yellow, and so many other lovely colors. The tulips were in full bloom. They were such a welcome sight as the colorful flowers encircled the tree trunks lining the street.

This was going to be the best year ever. These days she felt as though she were walking on clouds—big, white, puffy ones. Yes, life was that good. And dreams did come true.

“Good morning.” Agnes Dewey’s weathered face lifted with a smile as she paused from sweeping the sidewalk in front of her house.

 
 
Other Books in the Series

Harvest Dance

Coming October 2021
Pre-order from Amazon (affiliate link included)

About the Author


Award-winning author, Jennifer Faye pens fun, heartwarming contemporary romances with rugged cowboys, sexy billionaires and enchanting royalty. Internationally published with books translated into nine languages. She is a two-time winner of the RT Book Reviews Reviewers' Choice Award, the CataRomance Reviewers' Choice Award, named a TOP PICK author, and been nominated for numerous other awards.



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