Where the Fire Falls
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Olivia Rutherford has done everything in her power to shed the past and her old identity. She's changed her hair, her style, and her name. She has assumed a socialite persona and is trying to move in the right circles to allow her art career to take off. No one must ever truly get to know her. Her hard work might be beginning to pay off, but then she's commissioned to capture artwork for the one place she believes she must wholeheartedly avoid: Yosemite National Park.

Despite her protestations, her manager Frank insists that this Yosemite gig will set her on a fast track towards success and fame. While all Olivia really wants is to find a way to provide for the needs of herself and her teenage sisters, she feels like she has no choice but to follow through on the opportunity.

Having spent nearly three years trying to recover from the gossip that forced him to leave the ministry, Clark Johnson loves his work as a trail guide. He might not have a congregation, but he still communes with God every day through His beautiful creation. When he's tasked with escorting an artist who looks like nothing more than a shallow flapper and a small entourage of her friends, Clark realizes he's going to need all his faith and plenty of patience to put up with the citified group.

As we all know, the past often refuses to stay buried, especially if you're treading on familiar paths. Olivia comes to recognize the call of real beauty, real authenticity as she explores the grandeur of Yosemite. She's never been in more danger of being exposed, and quickly realizes that more than financial harm may come her way if her secret becomes known.

I enjoyed everything about this book. It's set in 1929 at a beautiful location, so it's got all the right points for this reader. I loved Clark's sustaining faith despite his own questions, and Olivia's strength in the midst of her brokenness had me cheering for her right away. This book has compelling characters, a fair amount of action, and a mystery that will keep you guessing. I'd recommend it for all historical fiction fans.

Check out the video below for a view of the natural Firefall at Yosemite, or click here if you're interested in purchasing this book.

Christmas Remedy


Holly Zook has respectfully pressed beyond the Amish social norms to become a pharmacy tech, and she is even pursuing further education with the support of her bishop. She sees the need for her people to realize that consistent medical care can save lives and reduce physical suffering. Understanding that this strange passion may lead her to a life of singleness, since working outside the home is frowned upon once a woman marries, Holly is willing to make the sacrifice.

Working at Greene's Pharmacy has been fulfilling for her, not just because she's able to help people, but also because pharmacist Lyle Greene has become a father figure in Holly's life after her own father's early passing. As our story opens Lyle is facing a health crisis of his own, and the complications that come with it may mean that the pharmacy has to permanently close its doors.

While fighting for her friend and the business close to her heart, Holly must work with Lyle's son Brandon, who is on the verge of receiving his pharmacist's license himself, and Joshua Smucker, a young Amish man from a neighboring district who has liked Holly from afar. As Christmas approaches, can they save Greene's Pharmacy and bring better awareness of medical care to Holly's beloved Amish people?

I appreciated Holly's determination to help her community and her willingness to push past tradition. I confess I found it hard to get into this book at first for a few reasons, but the more I got into the story the more I enjoyed it. I liked that the obstacles our characters faced all carried weight and were not easily overcome, because it gave the story a level of reality as they worked for a good outcome through all the trials.

If you enjoy heartwarming Amish fiction or holiday stories, this might be one for you to pick up!

I received an advanced reading copy from the publisher. All thoughts in this review are my own.

No One Ever Asked


As far as I am concerned, Katie Ganshert is in a class by herself when it comes to tackling sensitive issues in fiction. If you haven't read her books yet, please consider checking them out!

"No One Ever Asked" tells the story of three women whose lives are connected by the merging of two school districts. Camille Gray is a go-getting mom of 3 whose life seems to be unraveling by the seams. Her husband is pulling away, her oldest is about to drive her to distraction, and when she speaks up at a school meeting she is branded as a racist.

Jen Covington's dreams of motherhood finally came true when she and her husband brought home their daughter from Liberia, but being Jubilee's mom is more difficult than anything she could have imagined. Was international adoption really the right choice for them?

Anaya Jones is just beginning her career as a teacher, and feels like she's turning her back on her father's legacy by accepting a position at a more upper class, mostly white school. She wonders if she can find her voice and make a difference or if she'll be marginalized and unheard.

This story deals with a lot of deep and delicate issues. How race is perceived in America. Adoption. Violence. Assumption of guilt. Marital problems. Sexual harassment. This is not a book to curl up and read on a rainy day. It's a book that will make you think, that will make you weep over divisions and preconceived notions between people. It's a book that aims to tear down walls and facilitate both self-reflection and discussion. 

This is a book everyone should read. And then let it make a difference in their lives.
As The Tide Comes In



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About the Book:

When an unthinkable loss sends Tara Abbott's life spiraling out of control, she journeys from North Carolina to Georgia's St. Simons Island. Although confused and scared, she hopes to find answers about her past - her life before the years of foster care and raising her two half-brothers as a young adult. Will she find steady ground on the island, surrounded by an eccentric-but-kindhearted group of older women called The Glynn Girls and a determined firefighter? Or will the truth splinter what's left of her identity into pieces?


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 How to be a Perfect Christian


This is a work of satire.


That's important for you to understand right off the bat. As a work of satire, it's brilliant and ingenious. It shows the foibles of American cultural Christianity in a way that will make you laugh out loud on one page and feel punched in the gut on the next when you realize that you may be guilty of some of this wayward thinking. 

The first part of the book is dedicated to helping the reader find the perfect you-centered church. There are helpful tips like making sure the church's name "sounds like either a retirement community or a natural disaster," a check list for what to look for in a worship leader, plus a quick breakdown of every denomination and what is acceptable to find in a statement of faith. I loved the section on how to avoid getting involved in ministry, or if you do give in to peer pressure and find yourself serving somewhere, listing out the highlights and low points of various ministries within the church. 

There's a whole section about how to convey your holiness and spirituality online. You're given tips for all the right hashtags to use and how to choose a profile picture that best portrays your Christian maturity. Don't forget to engage with everyone who disagrees with you so you can show your superior knowledge on all matters - "It's well known that the majority of converts to Christianity came to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior after a Christian friend just went nuclear on them online." (Chapter 5) 

The last part of the book details becoming the perfect Christian in your home and social sphere, and I didn't enjoy this as much because unfortunately it hit a little too close to home. For example, I didn't laugh when I read in Chapter 10 that Jesus's true intention in coming to earth was "to establish His kingdom through a political party, namely, the Republicans." I happen to know people who really and truly believe things like that, and I was actually raised in a home that comes close to matching the suggestions laid out in Chapter 8. It's different if you've lived it and have had to navigate those waters.

My favorite part of the book were the fake quotes from famous Christians through the ages, as well as the variety of charts and graphs creatively sprinkled in. Overall I'd recommend this title to everyone with a sense of humor, especially if you've been in the trenches of church ministry. This book will be making the rounds among our church staff!

I received my copy of the book from the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.
It's always fun to look back at my favorite books on the year! It was hard to select only one for each genre, as there were so many good reads from 2017. You can click on any of the titles below to read my full review.

Historical Fiction




The Road to Paradise by Karen Barnett


This story set in 1927 in Mt. Rainier National Park has all the charm of classic literature, including a heroine who is a true lady while also standing up for what she believes. 


Young Adult Fiction

kids playing basketball


The Lewis & Clark Squad Series by Stephen Bly


I revisited these childhood favorites and thoroughly enjoyed them! This is a six-book series about a group of teens participating in a summer basketball league. It's all about fun, faith, and friendship!


Contemporary Fiction




"Life After" by Katie Ganshert

The sole survivor of a terrorist bombing tries to come to terms with her new lease on life while being wracked with guilt that she lived when others did not. Very thought-provoking and well-written.


Non-Fiction




"Women Who Move Mountains" by Sue Detweiler


While this is supposed to be a book on prayer, I found it more to be a book on walking confidently and securely as God's child. So much good encouragement!


Classic Literature




"A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens


This tale may be short, but it is packed full of wonderful lines and thoughtful reminiscing. Ebeneezer Scrooge's gratefulness to be alive and able to change his ways gets me every time!


Novella





"One Enchanted Noel" by Melissa Tagg

Delightful characters with emotional depth set in a charming fictional small town. The whole Enchanted Christmas Collection is a real gem!



 


The Ohio-Kentucky frontier was a fierce and often frightening place to be in 1774. Clare Inglesby is reluctantly traveling west with her adventure-seeking husband when tragedy strikes. Philip is killed, their four-year-old son Jacob disappears, and she is left alone in the wilderness with a brand new baby. Determined to find Jacob no matter the odds, Clare is forced to depend on the kindness of one man to escort her into the foreign world of the native Indians.

Jeremiah Ring has a past full of mystery and is now able to fully blend in with either Indian or white man. He can't abandon Clare after he finds her in the middle of the woods, not when he may be the only one who can help her. Especially not once he realizes that his Indian family may be the key to discovering Jacob's whereabouts.

I have heard so many good things about Lori Benton's books! While I love historical fiction, I must admit I'm most drawn to nineteenth and twentieth century tales, so the intense wilderness theme and strong Native American plotline did not engage me as it might other readers. Another thing that detracted from the novel for me was the fact that the author took so long in spelling out the characters' backstories that I felt like I did not know them, and had stopped caring by the time the revelation came. I also could not relate to Clare at all. My favorite relationship within the story was Jeremiah's devotion to baby Pippa, which I felt was sadly under-utilized.

This novel is a deep well of loss, pain, fighting, determination, and learning to trust God and others when everything in life is beyond our control. I can see why its depth would speak to many.  Due to how interested I became in some of the minor characters I will definitely be reading more of this author's work in the future.

I received my copy of the book from LitFuse Publicity. All opinions in this review are my own. If you would like to see what other people are saying about "Many Sparrows," click here.


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an Amish woman drinks coffee


This conclusion to the Amish of Summer Grove series continues the story of Ariana and Skyler, two young women who were switched at birth. In Book One the mistake was uncovered, and in Book Two the women traded places, with Ariana going out into the world to learn new things and Skyler experiencing the Amish way of life for the first time. Ariana managed to reach an agreement with her biological family to go back to the Brennemans before the end of their one-year deal, but now that she is home she's met by a cacophony of inner voices telling her who she is and what she should believe. Has she lost herself in the midst of trying to navigate both Amish and English worlds? 

Meanwhile Skyler has remained on the farm, recovering from her bad choices in the past and learning about the joy of hard work and family togetherness. She isn't really thinking of joining the faith that binds her Amish family together, but she has come to value much about it. She gains clarity about her goals and dreams through the love and support the Brennemans offer her.

Though Skyler is flourishing, Ariana feels like she's drowning. Her district ministers are in a hurry for her to renounce any form of worldliness she came across while she was away, but she refuses to lose contact with her biological family or turn her back on the things she's learned. She would like to see reform within the Amish church to bring the Old Ways more into balance with the Bible, but that's a tall order for any twenty-year-old woman.

This book felt a bit like the series had become larger than the author originally intended. For example, in the first two books I felt like Lovina was a valuable point of view character to help us understand the anguish she felt at finding out the daughter she raised was not her own. In "Gathering the Threads," the scenes from Lovina's perspective were more confusing than anything, because all but one of them seemed like they would have made more sense if they had been presented from Ariana's viewpoint. I nearly felt the same way with Abram as a point of view character, although I did enjoy the wrapping up of his storyline. It just seemed like too many characters for this particular story.

I also did not like how the passage of time was portrayed in the later chapters of this novel. It seemed like it was the quickest way to show the progression of time, but was rather clinical and put distance between me as a reader and the journey of the characters. While I do believe the series ended as it was always meant to, I felt like we missed the joy of coming to Ariana's final conclusions alongside her. After the jump of so much time, we were reintroduced at the point of  Ariana's making decisions, rather than shown her growth and struggle to reach them. It felt rushed and was disappointing to me in that aspect.

That said, I still enjoyed this whole series and feel that this book in particular delves into some of the very real problems in the Amish faith. Cindy Woodsmall did an excellent job exposing them in an understandable way through Ariana's unique experiences. I look forward to Cindy's next release and all she'll bring to her readers in the future!

I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.
 book cover featuring Mt. Rainier


Naturalist Margaret Lane is seeking refuge and refreshment in her new post at Mt. Rainier National Park. Leaving behind an engagement to a master manipulator, Margie hopes to reconnect with God and share the joy and beauty of His creation with those around her. It's not what might be expected of a senator's daughter, but Margie is perfectly content and ready to embrace the mountain she has loved all her life.

Having a woman on staff was not Chief Ranger Ford Brayden's idea, especially not one with so little practical experience who sees the Almighty in every leaf and flower. Ford isn't interested in faith, especially not after the accident that claimed his faithful father's life. Yet there's something pure and alluring about Margie and her sincere approach to life.

Margie has hardly settled in before it becomes clear that her former fiance has become aware of her location. Philip Carmichael will stop at nothing to reclaim Margie, or destroy her life if her cannot have her. His attention soon turns to wrecking everything she loves about Mt. Rainier and the beautiful national park. It's a battle of heart and determination in this first novel in Karen Barnett's Vintage National Park series.

I found this book thoroughly delightful. Margie seemed wonderfully old-fashioned even for the 1927 setting, with all the best qualities of classic heroines. She's a mix of quiet strength and gentle conviction. There is plenty of action to keep the reader glued to the pages, cheering wholeheartedly for Margie and Ford to find a way to beat Philip and his suave machinations. This unique and captivating story will appeal to historical fiction fans.

I received my copy of the book from the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.
A woman sits by a pond 


Willow Tree Cafe represents everything to Robin - her plans, her dreams, her hopes. She opened it after her young husband's unexpected death, and it has kept her going through her grieving process. Now condominium developer Ian McKay wants to buy out Willow Tree and the surrounding businesses in order to put in a new project for his father's company. Robin's a fighter who isn't about to give up everything so quickly.

One thing I liked about this novel was that it took the main characters a while to come to understand each other. This isn't a "love at first sight" story, which felt refreshing. One thing I didn't like about the book was that it seemed to be lacking the Katie Ganshert depth and insight I've come to expect from her more recent releases. A Broken Kind of Beautiful is about a fashion model who finds herself floundering when the only identity she's ever known is slipping from her grasp. The Art of Losing Yourself is the story of two sisters raised by an abusive mother and how each took their pain and let it shape them in very different ways. Life After tells of one young woman's journey after being the sole survivor of a bombing. Each of those stories so unique and packs an emotional intensity that I felt was lacking here. This was Ganshert's sophomore release and I can tell she has grown since then.

I would highly recommend each and every one of the novels linked above, and I can't wait to see what Katie is going to publish next!



I have been drawn to Katie Ganshert's vulnerable writing style ever since I was first introduced to her, and "Life After" is a wonderful addition to her published works. With much depth and feeling, Katie explores what it means to continue living when your reality has been shattered beyond recognition.

Autumn Manning was taking the train home one spring evening when a bomb went off. Twenty-two people were killed in the blast. Autumn was the only survivor. This novel picks up on the one-year anniversary of the bombing, and while Autumn has healed physically, she remains broken and scarred emotionally. She feels unable to move on with life in any form, even though circumstances are going to force her to confront certain things, like the fact that after next month she will no longer be able to pay her rent. The time has come to consider getting a job and going out in public again.

Her reintroduction to society is sped up when a 12-year-old girl knocks on her door. It's Reese, a girl who lost her mom in the train explosion and who has been writing letters to Autumn all throughout the last year. Desperate in her own way for help and healing, Reese has come to Autumn in hopes that they can find something in a relationship with each other. 

Reese's father, Paul Elliott, can't believe his daughter has chosen Autumn Manning, of all people, to seek out. The more he tries to refocus his daughter away from the woman she has obsessed over, the more Reese shuts him out. He wants to help his daughter, yet is Autumn really the right person? 

At Reese's suggestion, Autumn begins putting together a video tribute for the victims of the bombing. This means contacting each family and sitting down for an interview. To Autumn's surprise this actually goes much smoother than she is expecting, but Paul pulls Reese away from the project and is adamant that their family will not be taking part. As the big day approaches for the video memorial's big screening, will Paul and Autumn be able to get on the same page? Will Reese be able to accept the things she can change and the things she can't?

I had a very hard time putting this novel down. It was very thought-provoking and gripping, even with such somber subject matter. Secrets and pain played a big part in the plot, but so did learning about life in the midst of tragedy. This is a story I won't be forgetting, and one I look forward to rereading in the future.

I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.



John Newton is best known as the man who penned the lyrics of the classic hymn "Amazing Grace." In her new release, Jody Hedlund offers a look into Newton's eighteenth century life, and the story behind the woman who inspired him through many tumultuous years.

Still a teenager when he met steady and sensible Polly Catlett, Newton fell head over heels in love with her. Though he was scheduled to leave and take up a job for his father's friend in Jamaica, he overstayed and missed his boat's departure by several weeks, causing him to eventually find other employment as a sailor. This wasn't the only time the rather irresponsible Newton missed out on work because of a desire to stay close to Polly. He really believed that with his charm he could recover from any setback and in time become a man worthy of Polly's hand.

Polly struggles with trying to be "good enough" to earn God's favor through a pious life and charitable actions. While she can admit that John's attentions turn her head, she doesn't think he would make a proper husband and provider. Her goals to further her education and find a suitable husband are somewhat in jeopardy by her father's resistance to the local smuggling ring and her cousin's abolitionist antics.

When Newton finds himself press-ganged into the navy, his lack of personal diligence soon puts him at odds with his captain and shipmates. Through whippings and storms and time spent in Africa, God is yet calling John to Himself. It is the remembrance of beautiful and pure Polly which helps Newton not completely give up on life, and eventually return to England as a changed man to try to convince her to marry him.

I was impressed with the restraint Jody Hedlund showed with this novel. The romance was gentle and not over the top. While by necessity she had to discuss and describe things relating to Britain's slave trade, it was not glorified in any way and kept to a minimum. As usual, the author did a wonderful job keeping things historically accurate. If you'd like more information about this novel, please click here.

Thank you to the publisher for my copy of the book. All opinions in this review are my own.



The year is 1915 when we rejoin the Ramsey family, whom we have followed in The Governess of Highland Hall and The Daughter of Highland Hall. With England embroiled in the Great War, many men are joining the armed forces, including Alex Goodwin, longtime friend of Julia and Jonathan. A fearless pilot, Alex agrees to correspond with Penny Ramsey when he is shipped off to France.

With Zeppelins bombing London, Penny and her sister Kate retreat to the safety of their family home in the country, bringing with them Kate's large family of adopted children. Helping with the boisterous youngsters keeps Penny busy, but not so busy to keep from missing her new friend and praying for his safety.

As Alex goes on missions and builds up a reputation, he takes great comfort thinking of Penny's sweetness and growing affection towards him. After a turbulent home life while growing up, it seems too good to be true that he could have a hope for a happy future. If he survives the war, that is. With the short life expectancy for pilots, Alex knows there's no guarantee for tomorrow.

While this book almost seemed to have too many characters, I would have missed any storyline that was left out. The novel was fascinating from a World War I standpoint, with an emphasis on the new ways war was being waged in the sky, with Germany thinking they had superior air technology with their Zeppelins. I also had not realized there were German internment camps in England during World War I, and the story of Marius being imprisoned for his heritage was very touching. I love learning history through a well-written story!

Through all the long and uncertain days, Penny, Alex, Marius, and the rest face challenges that will shake their faith. I greatly enjoyed this series by Carrie Turansky and would definitely recommend it to all historical fiction fans.



Life could not have changed more dramatically for either Ariana Brenneman or Skyler Nash. In this sequel to "Ties That Bind," the two twenty-year-old women who discovered they were switched at birth are now trying to fit in with their biological families. Ariana has agreed to leave her Amish home for a one-year trial period in exchange for her father not suing the midwife who made the mistake, while Skyler chose a year with her Amish family rather than going to rehab for a drug addiction.

Ariana has a sincere desire to do her best in getting to know her new family, but she is quickly overwhelmed by all they ask from her. Her biological father is an atheist who challenges the beliefs she was raised with, and he gives her a 'bucket list' of experiences she can pursue in order to earn points towards a visit with her boyfriend. The title of this book perfectly describes the confusion and self-doubt Ariana goes through as she navigates the changes that have been thrust upon her.

Meanwhile Skyler is determined to be as insolent and difficult as possible towards the Brennemans, feeling like her parents disowned their troubled daughter in exchange for a chance to bring home a brand new innocent one. She believes she can still find suppliers to keep her drug habit going, and as soon as she can manage it she plans to run away. Yet as she unwillingly helps around the farm and in the cafe that Ariana bought just before finding out about her heritage, something begins to change inside Skyler. If this is what working together and truly loving others looks like, maybe she could begin to accept the love and care the Brennemans are offering.

We also continue following Quill, the former Amishman who helps families who want to leave the Amish community. Having facilitated Ariana and Skyler reuniting with their biological families, he is the last person Ariana wants to reach out to, but he is also the only one who can help her make sense of all she is thinking and feeling.

I greatly enjoyed the second book in The Amish of Summer Grove series. Cindy Woodsmall has a way of drawing you in with characters you can't help but cheer for. If you would like more information about this story, please click here.

I received an advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.



We wrap up the Amish Vines and Orchards series as the community in Maine faces much scrutiny. Although new families are moving into the area, the original community members are being held accountable for letting their English assistant grow too close to Leah King. Now either Leah or Landon will be forced to leave the farm. Orchard Bend Farms also faces a crisis of a different kind as young preacher Steven Byler's family goes through a major health emergency.

Now that the love triangle between Rhoda Byler and brothers Jacob and Samuel King has been resolved, the brother who gave Rhoda up seeks to forget her by throwing himself into his work. When he meets a fascinating woman with an unusual skill set who runs a home for unwed Amish mothers, he finds that his heart might make a faster recovery than he expected. But can she set aside past hurts and independence to think of a happy future with a King brother?

Through the ups and downs, the Bylers and Kings learn lessons about following God above and beyond the laws of man. Although all cherish their Amish upbringing, not all will choose to remain within the fold. Those who do realize that they are willing to suffer consequences if they choose to live and love as Christ set the example, rather than blindly go along with a list of rules.

I enjoyed this interesting and complex series. Cindy Woodsmall is a gifted author, and I look forward to the upcoming release of her next book, which will be the sequel to Ties That Bind.



Book 3 in the Amish Vines and Orchards series skillfully picks up the story from where Book 1 and Book 2 left off. The new Amish settlement in Maine is working hard to establish its roots, and it hasn't been an easy task as legal troubles have kept Jacob King off the farm. His girlfriend Rhoda, gifted in horticulture and intuition, has struggled with his absence and unintentionally grown close to his brother Samuel. Now alternately kicking himself for getting caught up in the wrong crowd when he was younger and dealing with irrational jealousy, Jacob tries to ease back into a farmer's life while his heart longs to return to carpentry.

Samuel never meant to fall in love with Rhoda, but that's exactly what has happened. Dedicated to keeping King's Orchard growing, giving Rhoda and Jacob the freedom to be together, and still being a friend and support to both keeps Samuel on his guard and on his knees to seek God's strength for everything on his shoulders.

Relieved that Jacob is back home at last, Rhoda is determined to put any awkwardness behind and give 200% effort to rebuilding their relationship. All she wants to do is become Jacob's wife and see King's Orchard become successful and part of her future for years to come. When it becomes apparent that she may have to choose between the two, Rhoda realizes she has hard choices ahead of her.

As other individuals and families begin to join their small community, pressures mount to see their endeavor flourish. Meanwhile Rhoda feels called to help to help their English neighbor find her granddaughter - a granddaughter the woman doesn't even know exists. Rhoda begins to make peace with her unusual gift of intuition, although there is still quite a bit of prejudice towards her in regards to it.

This is a very well-written and engrossing series by Cindy Woodsmall, and I look forward to finishing Book 4 and reviewing it soon!



Set in Kansas during the Depression, this novel opens with Neva Shilling learning about her husband's death and double life all in the same moment. While she believed her husband was an upstanding traveling salesman, it turns out that she wasn't his only wife and he had less than ethical business practices. With the unexpected death of Warren and his second wife, Neva also learns she has been named guardian of Warren's other three children - children she never knew about until they were delivered to her door.

Neva struggles with the uncertainty of taking on Charlie, Cassie, and Adeline while raising her own teenage children and continuing to run the town mercantile. The little ones are a constant reminder of her husband's betrayal, but how could she send them to an orphanage? Neva also worries about how the town will react and treat all of them when they find out where the children came from.

New to town is sheriff Jesse Caudel, who befriends Neva and helps her navigate the immediate crisis of accepting the children into her home. Other point of view characters are Neva's son Bud and neighbor Arthur Randall, who thinks he finally has the open door to buy the mercantile and expand his own business.

Somehow this is the first book I've read by Kim Vogel Sawyer. I've known she is a respected author, but until this novel we'd never personally crossed paths. I enjoyed this book right from the start, being drawn into the setting and the hearts of the characters. I also really, really liked that this book did not play out as I expected and took me by surprise. The characters had a nice depth and reality about them. I'm sure this won't be the last book I read by this author.

I received my copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Click here to learn more about Blogging For Books.
2015 held so many good reads that I am allowing myself 10 books spread over the categories below. Such a good reading year! Click on any title to read my full review.

Historical Fiction



A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron

Set in Prague, London, and the Terezin concentration camp, this stirring World War II tale brings us the story of a young woman rising to the occasion to bring hope to the darkest of days. Captivating and inspiring.




The Curiosity Keeper by Sarah Ladd

Camille Iverness has known much unkindness in her life, but never more than when her London father disowns her. With a determined spirit that would rival Jane Eyre, Camille wants to stand on her own while yet learning the healing and beauty that comes with safe community.




With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin

Although this book was published a few years ago, it was new to me in 2015. It's a North African World War II version of "You've Got Mail" or "The Shop Around the Corner" - in other words, lots of great things combined into one! Instant favorite.



Young Adult Fiction



The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson

Rapunzel has always been one of my favorite fairy tale characters, and this much-anticipated retelling by Melanie Dickerson brought us lovely characters and a storyline that held true to the original tale while adding new twists along the way.


Speculative Fiction



The Methuselah Project by Rick Barry

When Roger Greene's plane is shot down over Germany in 1943, his Nazi captors force him to become part of a scientific project. As a result, Roger ceases to age. When he is finally able to escape the underground bunker more than 70 years later, Roger must adapt to the changes in the world and try to prove his identity.


Contemporary Fiction



The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert

Two sisters, raised by the same dysfunctional, drug-addicted mother. One becomes a perfectionist and the other a rebel. When they are thrown together and forced to forge a relationship, both will be changed for the better.


Non-Fiction



Tattered and Mended by Cynthia Ruchti

Cynthia Ruchti invites us to look straight into our tattered souls and ask the Master Craftsman, our Heavenly Father, to restore us in similar ways that human craftsmen restore priceless treasures and antiques. This is a book infused with hope and healing for all of our weary spirits.




The Finishing School by Valerie Woerner

There are a lot of things that we learn in life, but sometimes applying lessons and character traits can be a harder thing to grasp. Valerie Woerner shares her journey of living out what she's learned, and makes this a book that would benefit many young women.


Classic Literature



A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter

I was introduced to this book by my grandmother when I was about 10 years old, and rereading it this year was such a delight. The heroine, Elnora, is everything that is beautiful and virtuous while still being real and relatable.


Novella




Three Little Words by Melissa Tagg

We first get introduced to Melissa Tagg's fictional town of Maple Valley, Iowa, in this short and sweet story. Tomboy Ava keeps running into closed doors as she pursues her dream, but when she connects with an old writing rival she may finally find a place to fit in and be at home.



Martin Luther revolutionized Christianity in the 1500s by challenging widely-accepted beliefs, translating the Bible into German, and putting forth many teachings and hymns. His marriage to Katharina von Bora helped set the standard for Protestant ministers to be married. In her newest book, Jody Hedlund explores the relationship between Luther and Katharina, a nun who escaped her convent to follow Luther's teachings about freedom in Christ.

Katharina's parents committed her to the convent when she was only 5 years old, and she was raised believing she would be a nun her whole life. When she and 11 others escaped from the convent in 1523, they made their way to Luther's home in Wittenberg, and he assisted in finding homes or marriages for all of them - except Katharina.

In this novel, Hedlund portrays both Katharina and Luther as very passionate people. Because Katharina had been regarded as a noblewoman even while a nun, she thought she would be able to find a marriage within her social class. She was not happy having to work as a servant or tutor and earn her living while waiting for a properly marriageable man to come along.

Reading books like this one really makes you appreciate again the sacrifices of those who worked to translate the Bible from Latin, risking their lives and being persecuted and often killed for their efforts. Luther's life was under constant threat, and he faced criticism from all sides. He thought it would be wrong to marry and bring a wife into the uncertainty that was his life, and also since Katharina felt herself to be of too high a social class for him, this seemed an unlikely pairing.

I would definitely not recommend this book for young readers. There are descriptions or torture and customs of the time which I feel would only be appropriate for older teens and adults. I would also recommend being familiar with Hedlund's other works before reading this one. I think the content and style might otherwise be an unwelcome surprise, as it seemed stronger than usual.

Please click here for more information about this novel. I received my copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.



What if everything you believed about yourself and your family was a lie? 20-year-old Ariana Brenneman loves her Amish heritage and is looking to the future, working hard alongside her twin brother to save enough money to open their own cafe. Her mother, Lovina, watches them with pride and joy, but a niggling doubt finally causes her to investigate further into the night her twins were born. The birthing center had caught on fire while two mothers gave birth just a minutes apart; was it possible that in the chaos the baby girls had been switched?

One night, while checking on a sick neighbor, Ariana comes across a friend from her childhood whom she hadn't seen in five years, not since he left the Amish faith with another girl and broke her heart. When Quill apologizes and hints at more heartache ahead for Ariana, she realizes that he has been the mysterious figure helping young men and women leave the Amish faith quickly and quietly, whisking them away and helping them establish footing in the outside world. Knowing his apology means that one of her nine siblings must be considering leaving the fold, Ariana makes it her personal quest to find out which one and convince them to stay.

Quill firmly believes that every person has the right to choose their own life path, whether Amish or not, without condemnation from others. He had planned to remain Amish and marry Ariana someday until circumstances forced him to make a hard choice. Now that he's gotten involved in secretly helping Amish people navigate the English world, he's privy to a lot of hidden secrets. When Lovina and her husband come to him for help in tracking down the girl who may be their biological daughter, he knows it could destroy the life of one whom he still loves very much.

The other girl born on that fiery night twenty years ago is Skyler Nash, an aspiring actress who has big dreams but an even bigger tendency towards making bad decisions. With an unsavory boyfriend and a growing drug dependency, Skyler feels like her world is falling around her when her grades make her ineligible for performing in the college theatre program.

This is a novel with many deep storylines. It's an excellent start to Cindy Woodsmall's new series, but be prepared that it's just the beginning. You are definitely going to want to read the second novel when it comes out next year! As the puzzle pieces start coming together your heart will be tugged in many different directions. Joy, sadness, fear, love, and resolve are on full display. I really enjoyed this story, which is no surprise with this author. If you'd like more information about this book, please click here.

I received my copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.

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