Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dear Nancy: Answers to Letters from Girls Like You


About Dear Nancy...:

You’ve got mail … lots of it! Author Nancy Rue loves getting letters from her readers, but finding the time to answer them has always been a challenge. Dear Nancy was born from a desire to connect with readers in-depth by really answering their questions, particularly the ones she gets asked over and over, like, “How did you become a writer?” and “What’s your favorite Scripture verse?” for example. Readers want more than just tips on writing, though—they want to know about Sophie and Lily, about boys and friends, about growing up, and even more about Nancy herself. So here’s a peek into Nancy’s mailbox with answers on topics that are closest to tween girls’ hearts.

My thoughts:

This in-depth Q&A about Nancy, her life as an author, the books she writes, and her thoughtful advice about growing up both physically and spiritually was such a delight to read. She has such a personable, down-to-earth style - it makes you feel like you're having a one-on-one conversation with her in a cozy corner somewhere.

If your daughter is hung up on either Sophie or Lily (or both), be sure to get them a copy of this book. They'll enjoy getting to read all the behind the scenes info about their favorite characters, and they'll find out that the voice behind Sophie and Lily is someone who understands them and what they're going through, and thinks that it's perfectly okay to just be yourself.


Check out Nancy Rue online.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fall into Reading Wrap-up



Well, another reading challenge has come and gone, and I have successfully completed my original list (see below). Yippee!

The Longing by Beverly Lewis
Home Another Way by Christa Parrish
*The Rook by Steven James
*Bon Appetit by Sandra Byrd

Get Cozy, Josey by Susan May Warren
Out of Her Hands by Megan DiMaria

Since it is election season...

America the Beautiful by Laura Hayden
*The Election by Jerome Teel
The Candidate by Susan Wales and Robin Shope


Christmas themed books...

let them eat fruitcake by Melody Carlson
Jamaican Me Crazy by Debbie DiGiovanni
An Irish Christmas by Melody Carlson
*Engaging Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn
White Christmas Pie by Wanda Brunstetter


Bonus Books...

The Faith of Barack Obama by Stephen Mansfield
Romancing Hollywood Nobody by Lisa Samson
Goodbye Hollywood Nobody by Lisa Samson
Mixed Bags by Melody Carlson
Sarah Palin * A New Kind of Leader by Joe Hilley
Plain Perfect by Beth Wiseman
My Mothers Wish by Jerry Camery-Hoggatt
*The Paper Bag Christmas by Kevin Alan Milne
Dear Nancy by Nancy Rue
Lucy Doesn't Wear Pink by Nancy Rue
All I Have to Give by Melody Carlson
Liberty Letters: Attack at Pearl Harbor by Nancy LeSourd
Matt Hoover's Guide to Life, Love, and Losing Weight by Matt Hoover
The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck


Now for the wrap-up:

Did you finish reading all the books on your fall reading list? If not, why not?

Yes, I finished my whole list, and also read an additional 14 books as well.

Did you stick to your original goals or did you change your list as you went along?

I did stick to my original list - just added extra books in the end.

What was your favorite book that you read this fall? Least favorite? Why?

Didn't have a single favorite - I starred the ones above that I enjoyed the most. As far as least favorite, I didn't have one. There were a few that took me a little longer to get through, but I think that was due to the fact that I have been pretty busy and I was having to read a snippet here and there and really couldn't get as engrossed in each book that I wanted to.

Did you discover a new author or genre this fall? Did you love them? Not love them?

I've had the books by Steven James and Jerome Teel on my shelf for a while and decided to add them to my list. I really enjoyed both of these authors and look forward to reading more from them.

Did you learn something new because of the Fall Into Reading challenge — something about reading, or yourself, or a topic you read about?

I didn't really learn anything new about myself or reading, but I did enjoy reading the books with a political bent this election season, and seeing the behind the scenes working of campaigns and politics.

What was your favorite thing about the Fall Into Reading challenge? Would you like to participate in another challenge here this spring?

I enjoyed focusing on and achieving my goal - and getting some books off my shelf that I can pass along to others. I'm *definitely* looking forward to the spring challenge.

Thanks again to Katrina for getting us all together to challenge ourselves and encourage each other in one of our favorite pasttimes...reading. See ya'll next spring!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Berenstain Bears are back!

About The Berenstain Bears and the Golden Rule:

When Sister Bear receives a locket for her birthday with the Golden Rule inscribed on it, she wonders what the verse means. And although Mama Bear explains it, it isn’t until she befriends a lonely newcomer at school that she understands what the rule looks like in action.



About The Berenstain Bears Go to Sunday School:


When Mama Bear decides its been too long since they’ve attended church at the Chapel in the Woods, the Bear family works to get back in the habit. It isn’t long before the family remembers what a wonderful place the church is and finds that going to church is something they look forward to every week.



My thoughts:

The Berenstain Bears books have been published since the 1960's, so I would guess that many of us remember reading them as children. These books have stood the test of time for many reasons - the entertaining antics of the rambunctious bear children, the book's colorful pages, and the life lessons taught on a level where the youngest of readers get the message. It's nice to see these stories take on Christian themes such as going to a place of worship as a family and treating others as you yourself would want to be treated. Children of all ages will enjoy a visit with the Berenstain Bears - some seeing them with fresh eyes, and others with fond memories of yesteryear.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tiny Bear's Bible


About Tiny Bear's Bible:

TINY BEAR'S BIBLE is a warm, friendly, furry Bible in rhyme for pre-schoolers (reading age 6 and up) with the comforting message: God loves them.
Together with their friend Tiny Bear, children discover comforting truths from God's word in 11 Bible Stories and best of all, in a format they can cuddle!
The closing story leaves them with this loving reminder: "No matter what, no matter where, God is with us, Tiny Bear."



Check out the girl version, which is due out in March 2009.









About Author Sally Lloyd-Jones:

Sally Lloyd-Jones is a leading writer of inspirational books for children, with an expertise in conveying biblical truth to young children. She is the author of three bestselling children's Bibles, including the Gold Book Award-winning Baby's First Bible and, most recently, The Jesus Storybook Bible. A native of England, Sally lives in New York City.

About Illustrator Igor Oleynikov:

Igor Oleynikov has been drawing since early childhood. He grew up in Lubertsy, Russia, a satellite town of Moscow where he lived with his mother, a carpet designer, and his father, an engineer. Oleynikov has illustrated more than 25 children’s books from publishers around the world. He now lives Moscow with his wife and is a proud father and grandfather.

My thoughts:

How could any pint-sized person resist the urge to put his arms around the soft, cuddly cover of this amazing book. With it's sturdy board book pages that will endure countless hours of handling, this book is a winner for any adult looking to instill God's unbending truth to their littlest loved ones. The Tiny Bears Bible presents the message of God's love amidst eyecatching pictures and lyrical verse that is easy to read as well as listen to. No child is ever too young to hear the Word of God, and this adaptation for wee ones is one that no home should be without.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Where Do I Go? by Neta Jackson


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Where Do I Go?

(Thomas Nelson - December 9, 2008)

by

Neta Jackson



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

As a husband/wife writing team, Dave and Neta Jackson are enthusiastic about books, kids, walking with God, gospel music, and each other! Together they are the authors or coauthors of over 100 books. In addition to writing several books about Christian community, the Jacksons have coauthored numerous books with expert resource people on a variety of topics from racial reconciliation to medical ethics to ministry to kids in gangs.

Dave and Neta live in Evanston, Illinois, where for twenty-seven years they were part of Reba Place Church, a Christian church community. They are now members of a multi-racial congregation in the Chicago area.

They're trying something new! Not just new for them, but something completely new in Christian fiction: “Parallel novels,” two stories taking place in the same time frame, same neighborhood, involving some of the same characters living through their own dramas and crises but interacting with and affecting one another … just the way it happens in real life.

It’s something that only a husband and wife writing team could pull off. While Neta has Where Do I Go?, her husband Dave has written Harry Bentley's Second Chance.



ABOUT THE BOOK:

A story of seeking-and finding-God's will in unlikely places.

Gabrielle Fairbanks has nearly lost touch with the carefree, spirited young woman she was when she married her husband fifteen years ago. But when the couple moves to Chicago to accommodate Philip's business ambitions, Gabby finds the chance to make herself useful. It's there she meets the women of Manna House Women's Shelter; they need a Program Director-and she has a degree in social work. She's in her element, feeling God's call on her life at last, even though Philip doesn't like the changes he sees in her. But things get rough when Philip gives Gabby an ultimatum: quit her job at the shelter or risk divorce and losing custody of their sons. Gabby must take refuge, as in the song they sing at Sunday night worship: "Where do I go when there's no one else to turn to? . . . I go to the Rock I know that's able, I go to the Rock."

Romantic Times Book Reviews says, “Exquisite characters coupled with God's mercy and love emanate from each page.”

Publisher's Weekly adds, “Jackson's Yada Yada series has sold half a million copies, and this new offshoot series ... promises the same.... The book's dramatic ending ... leav[es] readers eager for the next installment in the series.”

To read the Prologue and first Chapter of Where Do I Go?, go HERE

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Engaging Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Engaging Father Christmas

(FaithWords - October 30, 2008)

by

Robin Jones Gunn



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Robin grew up in Orange County, California and has lived in all kinds of interesting places, including Reno and Hawai’i.

She and her husband currently live near Portland, Oregon and have been married for 30 years. They spent their first 22 years of marriage working together in youth ministry, and enjoying life with their son and daughter who are now both grown.

As a frequent speaker at local and international events, one of Robin’s favorite topics is how God is the Relentless Lover and we are His first love. She delights in telling stories of how God uses fiction to change lives.

Robin is the recipient of the Christy Award, the Mt. Hermon Pacesetter Award, the Sherwood E. Wirt Award and is a Gold Medallion Finalist. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Media Associates International and the Board of Directors for Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writers’ Guild.



ABOUT THE BOOK:

Miranda Carson can't wait to return to England for Christmas and to be with her boyfriend, Ian. She has spent a lifetime yearning for a place to call home, and she's sure Carlton Heath will be it, especially when a hinted-at engagement ring slips into the conversation.

But Miranda's high hopes for a jolly Christmas with the small circle of people she has come to love are toppled when Ian's father is hospitalized and the matriarch of the Whitcombe family withholds her blessing from Miranda. Questions run rampant in Miranda's mind about whether she really belongs in this cheery corner of the world. Then, when her true identity threatens all her relationships in unanticipated ways, Miranda is certain all is lost.

And yet...maybe Father Christmas has special gifts in store for her after all.



My thoughts:

I have been anticipating this book ever since I finished the first book, Finding Father Christmas, last year. You can't help but love the characters in this book, from the endearing Miranda completing her search for family and home; her new found niece and nephew, the fun-loving Julia and the insightful Mark; to Ian as a Father Christmas who is nothing if not MacDreamy! So as Christmas nears, find yourself a nice cozy spot next to the fire, with a cup of tea, and take a journey with Miranda and Ian to Carlton Heath, or as Miranda would say - home!

If you would like to read the first chapter of Engaging Father Christmas, go HERE.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Quills and Promises by Amber Miller


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Quills And Promises

(Barbour Publishing, Inc - May 28, 2008)

by

Amber Miller



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Hi, I'm Amber, but my friends call me Tiff, short for Tiffany, my first name. I am in my 30's, married the love of my life in July 2007, and live in beautiful Colorado just east of the Front Range of the Rockies, but I love to travel and visit new places. Ultimately, my dream is to own horses and live in a one-level rancher or log cabin nestled in the foothills of the mountains. For now, I will remain where I am and do what I love—design web sites and write.

Amber's very first book, Promises, Promises, released in February 2008. It's a historical fiction set in Delaware during the Colonial period and the Great Awakening. The other 2 books in the series are this current one, Quills And Promises (July 2008) and Deceptive Promises (December 2008). In 2009, they will be repackaged for a state set entitled Delaware Brides. She has also sold another series set in historical Michigan during the Industrial Revolution. The 3 books in that series will begin releasing in May 2009 and will be repackaged in 2010 as Michigan Brides.


ABOUT THE BOOK

-- Separated from Madison when he leaves to fight the French and Indians, Elanna Hanssen must choose between her heart and her head, especially when Madison's integrity is questioned. --

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not until thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths." ~Proverbs 3:5-6

Innocence paired with wisdom beyond her years. With these traits, Elanna Hanssen unwittingly captures the attentions of Major Madison Scott. Her honest desire to understand the war fascinates him, and he resolves to get to know this perspicacious young lady better. When his military duty separates them, they begin a correspondence, cautiously baring their hearts to each other. Elanna has never known emotions like this before, but she is drawn to the integrity she sees in her major. When a local news reporter questions the major's credentials and activities, however, will she allow her heart or her head to rule? Can true love grow over such distance and around such obstacles?

If you'd like to read the first chapter of Quills And Promises, go HERE.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bill Myers' Bug Parables

About Stink Bug Saves the Day:


This retelling of The Good Samaritan teaches the importance of being a good friend. Mom and Pop Roly Poly and their little Rolies, Junior and Sissy, find themselves face-to-face with some biker flies. It looks like big trouble for Pop! Will anyone stop to help him? Someone will—the last person anyone expects.



About The House that Went Ker-Splat:


This retelling of the wise and foolish builders deals with two paper wasp buddies who take very different approaches to building a wasp house. Willie wisely follows the blueprints, chooses good materials, and picks a smart place to build. Lazy Ray cuts corners all the way—and learns there’s a cost to pay for foolishly ignoring the rules.



My thoughts:

These books have got to be one of the most entertaining and colorful ways to convey the parables of Jesus to the smaller set that I've ever seen - and I guarantee you'll love them too, Mom and Dad. You will want to read each of these books out loud, again and again, as the text is so lyrical and the illustrations are so detailed you'll find something new every time you turn the page. I am definitely including these books in someone's Christmas stocking this year.

And just an FYI - be on the lookout for another Bug Parable coming in March 2009 - Freddie's Fast Cash Getaway, the parable of the Prodigal Son.

Learn more about author Bill Myers and illustrator Andy J Smith.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dark Pursuit by Brandilyn Collins


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Dark Pursuit

(Zondervan - December 1, 2008)

by

Brandilyn Collins



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Brandilyn Collins is known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. She is currently working on her 20th book. For chances to win free copies of her work, join her Fan Club on Facebook. Here’s what Brandilyn has to say about why she wrote Dark Pursuit:

In John Milton’s Paradise Lost Satan’s followers, kicked out of heaven, boast about storming the gates and reclaiming their territory. Beelzebub scoffs at their boasting as merely “hatching vain empires” and suggests a different revengeful scheme: seduce mankind away from God. So Satan visits the Garden of Eden to teach humans the very thing he and his cohorts have learned to be futile—the dark pursuit of hatching their own vain empires instead of following God. He presented man with this “gift” of death, disguised as life. And man fell for it.

Upon this theme of man’s fall and spiritual blindness, I created the characters and events in Dark Pursuit. The story clips along at a fast pace, with much symbolism running underneath.


ABOUT THE BOOK:

Dark Pursuit—A twisting story of murder, betrayal, and eternal choices

Novelist Darell Brooke lived for his title as King of Suspense—until an auto accident left him unable to concentrate. Two years later, reclusive and bitter, he wants one thing: to plot a new novel and regain his reputation.

Kaitlan Sering, his twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, once lived for drugs. After she stole from Darell, he cut her off. Now she’s rebuilding her life. But in Kaitlan’s town two women have been murdered, and she’s about to discover a third. She’s even more shocked to realize the culprit—her boyfriend, Craig, the police chief’s son.

Desperate, Kaitlan flees to her estranged grandfather. For over forty years, Darell Brooke has lived suspense. Surely he’ll devise a plan to trap the cunning Craig.

But can Darell’s muddled mind do it? And—if he tries—with what motivation? For Kaitlan’s plight may be the stunning answer to the elusive plot he seeks...

Read the first chapter of Dark Pursuit, HERE.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

One Perfect Day by Lauraine Snelling


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

One Perfect Day

(FaithWords - October 22, 2008)

by

Lauraine Snelling



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Today, Lauraine Snelling is a member of the more than Two Million Books In Print club, but when she first began, she was a mother of three teenagers with a simple dream to write “horse books for kids.”

All told, she has over 50 books published. She thinks. She’s not sure. She’d rather write them than count them. Lauraine’s work has been translated into Norwegian, Danish and German as well as produced as books on tape.

Awards have followed her dedication to “telling a good story”: the Silver Angel Award for An Untamed Land and a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart for Song of Laughter.

Helping others reach their writing dream is the reason Lauraine teaches at writer’s conferences across the country. She mentors others through book doctoring and with her humorous and playful Writing Great Fiction tape set. Lauraine also produces material on query letters and other aspects of the writing process.

Her readers clamor for more books more often and Lauraine would like to comply, if only her ever-growing flower gardens didn’t call quite so loudly over the soothing rush of the water fountains in her back yard and if the hummingbirds weren’t quite so entertaining. Lauraine and husband Wayne have two grown sons and a cockatiel named Bidley, who loves to tease their Basset Hound named Chewy.


ABOUT THE BOOK:


Two mothers end up more closely connected that they could dream...and yet they are strangers to one another.

The first has two children--twins, a boy and girl, who are seniors in high school. She wants their last Christmas as a family living in the same home to be perfect, but her husband is delayed returning from a business trip abroad. And then there's an accident--a fatal one involving a drunk driver.

Meanwhile, the other mother has a daughter who needs a new heart, and so the loss of one woman becomes the miracle the other has desperately prayed for. While one mother grieves, and pulls away from her family, the other finds that even miracles aren't always easy to receive.

If you would like to read the first chapter of One Perfect Day, go HERE

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mary's First Thanksgiving: An Inspirational Story of Gratefulness


About Mary's First Thanksgiving:

Most days, Mary loves her new home in America. But now it’s Thanksgiving time, and her family has little food. Mary begins to wish she could go back to Ireland. Life isn’t fair. Even the gift of a pumpkin pie from a kind neighbor doesn’t cheer her.

So, Father tells Mary a story of how the Pilgrims struggled when they first came to America. The seeds they brought with them wouldn’t grow. Native Americans showed the new settlers how to make the soil grow crops. That instruction helped, but the Pilgrims still faced hardships. There were times when they had barely enough food. But five kernels of corn helped the Pilgrims survive and made their faith stronger.
Will the legend of the five kernels help grow a new faith in Mary too?

About Author Kathy-jo Wargin:

Author Kathy-jo Wargin has earned national acclaim through award-winning children's classics such as Michigan's official state book, The Legend of Sleeping Bear, Children's Choice Award winner The Legend of the Loon, The Edmund Fitzgerald: Song of the Bell, and many others. Kathy-jo enjoys writing about nature and its effect on all our lives, and is a frequent guest speaker throughout the country. She is also a faculty member of the Bear River Writers Workshop, sponsored by the University of Michigan. She lives in Petoskey, Michigan.

About Illustrator Robert Papp:

Because Robert Papp's childhood drawings of his favorite superheros were such a pleasure, it was only natural that he would wind up an illustrator. Nowadays, his award-winning artwork appears on book covers and in magazines instead of on the refrigerator. He has produced hundreds of cover illustrations for major publishers across the United States. Robert lives in historic Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

My thoughts:

With it's bounty of beautiful life-like pictures that are truly a feast for the eyes, and a text rich with teaching points about being grateful with even the smallest of blessings, Mary's First Thanksgiving is a book you'll want to pull off the shelf time and again no matter the season. As many these days suffer in some way with our uncertain economy, this book is a powerful reminder to each of us that God's provision can come to us in many ways, both big and small - and sometimes in ways we least expect it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving today.

A few things I'm thankful for...

1. My great husband (he cooks, ladies *grin*) and two beautiful, healthy, smart daughters.

2. The fact that my husband has a good job and that I can afford to stay home to take care of my family.

3. My Grandma - she turns 95 today. Other than some symptoms of dementia, she is in pretty good health, and had been able to live on her own up until about a year ago.

4. A roof over our heads, food to eat, a reliable vehicle (& cheaper gas), a wonderful church family...and the way it's looking, a day of beautiful weather this Thanksgiving.

5. Books, books, and more books...now if I only had more time to read them...

How about you? What are you thankful for this year?

Monday, November 24, 2008

We have a winner...

and that is Doreen. Congrats to you and an email has been sent to get your mailing address.

I apologize it's taken this long to announce the winner. I have this wonderful thing called dial-up and yesterday it seemed to be on the outs with blogger.

Thanks to all who took the time to comment - I really appreciate you stopping by. Blessings...and Happy Reading!

Beloved Captive by Kathleen Y'Barbo


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Beloved Captive

(Barbour Publishing, Inc - November 1, 2008)

by

Kathleen Y’Barbo



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

There’s never a dull moment in the Y’Barbo household! From hockey and cheer mom to publicist to bestselling author, Kathleen Y’Barbo somehow manages to do it all - and well. While wearing her publicist’s hat, Kathleen has secured interviews with radio, television, and print media for clients at NavPress, Hatchette, Integrity, Barbour Publishing, and Broadman & Holman, to name a few. She also brings her own unique blend of Southern charm and witty prose to the more than 350,000 award-winning novels and novellas currently in print. Her novels have been nominated for American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year in 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2006; and 2007 will see the release of her 25th book.

Kathleen is a tenth-generation Texan and a mother of three grown sons and a teenage daughter. She is a graduate of Texas A&M University. Kathleen is a former treasurer for the American Christian Fiction Writers, and is a member of the Author’s Guild, Inspirational Writers Alive, Words for the Journey Christian Writers Guild, and the Fellowship of Christian Authors. In addition, she is a sought-after speaker, and her kids think she’s a pretty cool mom, too…most of the time, anyway.

The first book in this series is Beloved Castaway.


ABOUT THE BOOK

In this sequel to Beloved Castaway, Emilie Gayarre is learning to accept her mixed race heritage while finding fulfillment in teaching children of the key. There is no denying the attraction between Emilie and the handsome young naval commander, Caleb Spencer, who is shadowed by his own flock of secrets. But if her heritage is found out, even greater things than his career are at risk. Enjoy this historical romance full of risk and redemption.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Beloved Captive, go HERE.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My Mother's Wish by Jerry Camery-Hoggatt - and a Giveaway!


About My Mother's Wish:

A grandfather’s song turns a diner into hallowed ground, like a church. A contrary girl with a gypsy heart feels the tug of home. A mother, far away, confronts impossible expectations. And a truck driver named Jedidah keeps his foot on the gas to sweep you into an unforgettable story of belonging and grace.

Readers looking for a meaningful, powerful read on a winter’s evening or with the family will love the rich 1960s nostalgia captured in the Midwest of Jedidiah’s and Ellee’s story; the peace found when family strife boils over, and the gentle reminders of the influence and effect every life has on another.

My Mother’s Wish is an unforgettable, powerful tale that ends on a memorable Christmastime note, but will be cherished and reread year-round for its bold message of grand hopes, impossible expectations, and the gift of grace that comes in between.

About Jerry Camery-Hoggatt:

Jerry Camery-Hoggatt, Ph.D., is professor of New Testament at Vanguard University, in Costa Mesa, California. A professional storyteller, he is the author of the highly-acclaimed Christmas stories When Mother Was Eleven-Foot-Four (in trade adult and children’s picture book editions) and Givers of Gifts; plus Irony in Mark’s Gospel and Grapevine: A Spirituality of Gossip. His passion is theology and storytelling, which he believes are meant to go together. Jerry and his wife, Shaleen, are the parents of three children.

My Thoughts:

My Mother's Wish is the endearing story of Ellee McKutcheon, a young girl who seeks to express her individuality but whose spirit is crushed mercilessly again and again by her demanding mother. As Ellee grows up, she is still unable to conform to meet her mother's expectations, so she runs away from home only to be transported on a journey she never expects. She finds herself in a seemingly mundane place, a small-town diner, with equally mundane participants...a waitress, a grandfather, and a truck driver...where she receives a message that is so simple it's profound. The insightful rendezvous ends with Ellee returning home at Christmastime, to find out that she's not the only member of the family who has had a life-changing epiphany.

I read this book through a first time and wasn't quite sure what to think of it, especially at the spot where Ellee starts her journey. I decided that I would mull the book over for a few days and then reread it. It seemed like the pieces came together much better for me as I reread it that second time. I immediately fell in love with Ellee...she is a character you can't help but feel tenderness towards. Jerry Camery-Hoggatt does a wonderful job at not just showing the reader the emotions that Ellee is experiencing at her mother's injustice, but making the reader feel them as well. This book is definitely thought-provoking, and well worth the read...and would make a great stocking stuffer this holiday season.

Would you like a chance to win a copy of this book?

Multnomah Publishers was kind enough to send one copy for me to give away, so US residents please leave your comments with contact info (you at yoohoo dot com) by midnight Saturday, November 22nd, 2008, to be included in the drawing. I'll draw a name and notify that person sometime on Sunday.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips by Stephen Baldwin & Mark Tabb


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips

(FaithWords - November 5, 2008)

by

Stephen Baldwin
&
Mark Tabb


ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

STEPHEN BALDWIN - actor, family man, born-again Christian - makes his home in upstate New York with his wife and two young daughters.

Equally adept at drama and comedy, Baldwin has appeared in over 60 films and been featured on such top-rated television shows as Fear Factor and Celebrity Mole. He has his own production company that is developing projects for television and the big screen. These days, however, his role as director, co-producer and host of Livin' It - a cutting-edge skate video is bringing out his white hot passion for evangelism.

Writer and communicator MARK TABB calls himself an “internationally unknown author.” Although his books have been published around the world, he is best known for his collaborative works. His 2008 release, “Mistaken Identity”, written with the Van Ryn and Cerak families, hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list for two weeks, and remained on the list for over two months. He and actor Stephen Baldwin teamed up on their 2005 New York Times bestseller, “The Unusual Suspect,” and with their first work of fiction, “The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips,”


ABOUT THE BOOK:

Even years of experience haven't prepared Officer Andy Myers for this case---

When Officer Andy Myers met Loraine Phillips, he had no interest in her son. And he certainly never dreamed he'd respond to a call, finding that same boy in a pool of blood. Even more alarming was the father standing watch over his son's body. Myers had never seen a man respond to death-particularly the death of a child-in such a way. When the father is charged with murder and sentenced to death, he chooses not to fight but embrace it as God's will. Myers becomes consumed with curiosity for these strange beliefs. What follows is the story of the bond these two men share as they come to terms with the tragedy and the difficult choices each one must make.


If you would like to read the first chapter of The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips, go HERE

*STRONG LANGUAGE*


Monday, November 17, 2008

White Christmas Pie by Wanda Brunstetter


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

White Christmas Pie

(Barbour Publishing, Inc - September 1, 2008)

by

Wanda E. Brunstetter



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Fascinated by the Amish people during the years of visiting her husband's family in Pennsylvania, WANDA E. BRUNSTETTER combined her interest with her writing and now has eleven novels about the Amish in print, along with numerous other stories and ministry booklets. She lives in Washington State, where her husband is a pastor, but takes every opportunity to visit Amish settlements throughout the states.

This year Wanda also published A Sister's Hope, book three in her Sisters of Holmes County series.


ABOUT THE BOOK:

Step into Amish country for this bittersweet holiday romance. Here you'll meet Will Henderson, a young man tortured by his past, and Karen Yoder, a young woman looking for answers. Add a desperate father searching for his son, and you have all the ingredients for a first-class romance that will inspire and enthrall.

Abandoned by his father, Will Henderson was raised by an Amish couple. Now he's about to marry Karen Yoder but is having second thoughts. Can Will overcome the bitterness of his past in order to secure his future? Karen cannot break through the barrier her fiance has suddenly constructed around his heart. When she seeks the advice of an old boyfriend, Will begins to see green. Has he already lost his chance for happiness?

When an accident threatens Will's life, the strength of blood ties is tested. Will a recipe for White Christmas pie contain the ingredients for a happily-ever-after?

If you would like to read the first chapter of White Christmas Pie, go HERE

Watch the book trailer:



My Thoughts:

Wanda Brunstetter has cooked up another great story in 'White Christmas Pie'. I was hooked from the very first page and the story's resolution comes in a delightful and unexpected way. I'll definitely be passing this one along.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

One Holy Night by J M Hochstetler


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

One Holy Night

(Sheaf House - April 1, 2008)

by

J. M. Hochstetler



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


J. M. Hochstetler writes stories that always involve some element of the past and of finding home. Born in central Indiana, the daughter of Mennonite farmers, she graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Germanic languages. She was an editor with Abingdon Press for twelve years and has published three novels.

One Holy Night, a contemporary miracle story for all seasons, released in April 2008. Daughter of Liberty (2004) and Native Son (2005), books 1 and 2 of the American Patriot Series are set during the American Revolution. Book 3, Wind of the Spirit, is scheduled for release in March 2009. Hochstetler is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, and Historical Novels Society.



ABOUT THE BOOK:

In 1967 the military build-up in Viet Nam is undergoing a dramatic surge. The resulting explosion of anti-war sentiment tears the country apart, slicing through generations and shattering families. In the quiet bedroom community of Shepherdsville, Minnesota, the war comes home to Frank and Maggie McRae, whose only son, Mike, is serving as a grunt in Viet Nam.

Frank despises all Asians because of what he witnessed as a young soldier fighting the Japanese in the south Pacific during WWII. The news that his son has fallen in love with and married Thi Nhuong, a young Vietnamese woman, shocks him. To Frank all Asians are enemies of his country, his family, and himself. A Buddhist, Thi Nhuong represents everything he despises. So he cuts Mike out of his life despite the pleas of his wife, Maggie; daughter, Julie; and Julie s husband, Dan, the pastor of a growing congregation.

Maggie is fighting her own battle--against cancer. Convinced that God is going to heal her, Frank plays the part of a model Christian. Her death on Thanksgiving Day devastates him. Worse, as they arrive home from the gravesite, the family receives news of Mike s death in battle. Embittered, Frank stops attending church and cuts off family and friends.

By the time a very pregnant Thi Nhuong arrives on his doorstep on a stormy Christmas Eve, Frank is so filled with hate that he slams the door in her face, shutting her out in the bitter cold. Finally, overcome by guilt, he tries to go after her, but driving wind and snow force him back inside. With the storm rising to blizzard strength, he confronts the wrenching truth that what hate has driven him to do is as evil as what the Japanese did all those years earlier, and that he needs forgiveness as desperately as they did ...

Frank doesn't know that what God has in mind this night is a miracle. As on that holy night so many years ago, a baby will be born and laid in a manger--a baby who will bring forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing to a family that has suffered heart-wrenching loss.

If you would like to read the first chapter of One Holy Night, go HERE.

7 Random Book Related Things About Me...


The 7 random facts have to be...

1. The most books I've read in one year is 164.

2. If you catch me reading anything other than Christian Fiction, more often than not it will be a biography or a non-fiction book about some current event.

3. I got my reading genes from my mother, and have passed them on to my 8 yo daughter. My daughter started reading shortly before she turned three and has a larger library than I do (hers is probably around the 350 book mark - mine 250+).


4. I used to be a big historical CF fan, but have found myself turning into a contemporary womens fiction/lit loving fiend. Throw in some suspense and I'm happy as can be.

5. We have a fabulous Christian bookstore here in town that often gets some super authors (Colleen Coble, Tracey Bateman, Wanda Brunstetter, Beverly Lewis, and Lori Copeland just to name a few) in for booksignings, but I am such an introvert (or insert the word chicken - take your pick) that I've never gone up to any of them. You're more likely to find me star-gazing at them over the tops of shelves.


6. I have never read any books by Jane Austen or CS Lewis. Ditto on the Left Behind series.


7. I am not a re-reader, even with my favorite books. I've got too many books and too little time. *grin*


I'm not much of a tagger, but if you care to share any random facts about yourself and books, that'd be great!


Happy Veterans Day

Just wanted to give a sincere THANK YOU to all the veterans and members of our Armed Services today. My dad is a Viet Nam vet, and he, as well as millions of others who have proudly served or are proudly serving this great nation, deserve nothing less than our utmost respect and gratitude for keeping this land that we love FREE. God bless you all and God Bless America!

Monday, November 10, 2008

FIRSTWildCard: Plain Perfect by Beth Wiseman



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!





Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Plain Perfect

Thomas Nelson (September 9, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Writing has always been a part of Beth Wiseman’s life. When she was introduced to the Amish, she gained an appreciation for their simpler way of life and began writing novels featuring this endearing group. Her first novel was Plain Perfect. She and her family live in Texas.

As a newspaper reporter, Beth has been honored by her peers with eleven journalism awards in the past four years - most recently, first place news writing for The Texas Press Association. She has been a humor columnist for The 1960 Sun in Houston and published articles in various publications. However, writing novels is where her heart is. Following completion of five manuscripts, Wiseman's inspirational fiction series set in Pennsylvania Dutch Country is where she found her voice.

"It took me a while," she says. "But I knew right away that Plain Perfect was the one. Writing about the Amish lifestyle within a fictional love story has been a wonderful experience. The Amish and Mennonite contacts I have established in Lancaster County help me to keep the books authentic. These very private people might dress differently, avoid the use of electricity and modern conveniences, but they are just like everyone else. They love, hurt, have daily challenges and struggles, and strive to be the best they can be. An often misunderstood sect of people, it has been a privilege to learn about their ways."

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 14.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (September 9, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595546308
ISBN-13: 978-1595546302

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


LILLIAN PEELED BACK THE DRAPES AT THE FRONT WINDOW and squinted against the sun’s glare. She’d called the taxi almost an hour ago. If her ride didn’t show up soon, she would have to forego her plan and spend another night with Rickie. Biting her lip, she worried if she would have enough cash to change her flight if she didn’t make it to the airport on time.

She lowered the drape and paced the living room in Rickie’s house, silently blasting herself for ever moving in with him in the first place. Her stomach writhed at the thought of one more day under the same roof with him. And yet her window of time for her departure was closing, she realized, glancing at her watch.

She tugged at the drapes again. Relief fell over her when she saw the yellow cab pull into the driveway. Snatching her red suitcase and purse, she bolted for the door, shuffling toward the driver as he opened the trunk.

“Please hurry,” she said to the driver, handing him her suitcase.

The driver stowed her luggage without comment and was climbing into the driver’s seat when she saw Rickie’s black Lexus rounding the corner and heading up the street. Her heart sank.

“Where to?” the driver asked.

“Intercontinental Airport,” she answered. “Hurry, please.”

As the driver made his way down Harper Avenue, Lillian watched out the rearview window. Rickie’s car slowly neared the house.

The cab driver turned at the corner. She’d made it. A clean getaway.

Irma Rose Miller couldn’t help but notice the bounce in her husband’s steps. The cancer kept him down and out on most days, but not today. Today Lilly was coming, and his anticipation and joy were evident.

“Danki,” Jonas said as Irma Rose poured him another cup of coffee.

“You’re welcome.”

Her tall husband, once muscular and strong as an ox, sat hunched over the wooden table between them. His healthy load of gray locks and full beard were now thinning and brittle. Dark circles under his eyes and sunken features revealed the many sleepless nights of pain he had endured over the past few months. God had given her husband of forty-eight years a challenging road to travel, and he was making the trip with dignity and grace.

“Our Lilly will be here this afternoon.” Jonas smiled and raised the cup to his mouth. His hands trembled, but his eyes twinkled with a merriment Irma Rose hadn’t seen since the first mention of their granddaughter coming to stay with them. She hoped he wouldn’t be disappointed. They hadn’t seen the girl in seventeen years, since she was ten years old.

Irma Rose stood to retrieve some donuts from a pan atop the wooden stove.

“It will be wunderbaar gut to have her here.”

Irma Rose placed two donuts on her husband’s plate. “Ya, that it will. But, Jonas, you must keep in mind how different our ways are. We will seem like foreigners to our Englisch granddaughter.”

“These donuts are appeditlich,” Jonas said.

“Danki. But, Jonas, you need to prepare yourself. Sarah Jane raised Lilly in the outside world. We don’t know her. As a matter of fact, we don’t know exactly how Sarah Jane raised her.”

The thought twisted Irma Rose’s stomach in familiar knots. It had been hard enough when her daughter chose to leave the Old Order Amish community at the age of eighteen, but even more difficult when she wrote to tell them she was in a family way soon thereafter . . . with no husband.

“She was a glorious child,” Jonas said. “Remember how quickly she learned to ice skate? What a joy she was. What a gut Christmas holiday we all had.”

Irma Rose shook her head at her husband’s ignorance of the obvious. Lilly wasn’t a child any more. She was a grown woman. Jonas had talked about that last Christmas together until the next season came and went. When Sarah Jane and Lilly didn’t show up the following year, he merely shrugged and said, “Maybe they will visit next year.” And each Christmas thereafter Jonas anticipated a visit that never happened.

Jonas never uttered a negative word about Sarah Jane’s choices. But she’d seen the sadness in his eyes when their daughter left home, and she knew the pain dwelled in his heart over the years. But he only said it was impossible to always understand God’s direction for His children—their child. Their only child. The good Lord had only seen fit to bless them with one. A beautiful daughter who had chosen a life rife with hardship.

Irma Rose had prayed hard over the years to cleanse herself of any discontentment with her daughter. Sarah Jane’s choice to leave the Amish faith was prior to her baptism and church membership. Therefore her daughter was never shunned by the community. She had chosen to avoid visits with her parents. From the little Irma Rose gathered over the years, Sarah Jane and Lilly had lived with friends and moved around a lot.

An occasional letter arrived from her daughter, to which Irma Rose always responded right away. More times than not, the letters were returned unopened. It was less painful to assume Sarah Jane had moved on and the letters were returned by the postal service. Although sometimes it cut Irma Rose to the bone when she recognized her daughter’s penmanship: Return to sender.

She was thankful her last letter to Sarah Jane had not been returned. She couldn’t help but wonder if the news about Jonas’s cancer had prompted her granddaughter’s visit. When Lillian’s letter arrived over a month ago, Irma Rose had followed her instructions not to return a letter but to call her on the telephone if at all possible. She wasted no time going to the nearby shanty to phone her granddaughter. The conversation was strained and the child seemed frantic to come for a visit.

“I’m a teacher and when school is out in May, I’d like to come for a visit,” her granddaughter had said on the phone. “Maybe stay for the summer. Or maybe even longer?” There was a sense of urgency in the girl’s tone.

Irma Rose feared her faith had not been as strong as her husband’s and that a tinge of resentment and hurt still loitered in her heart where Sarah Jane was concerned. She didn’t want any of those feelings to spill over with her granddaughter. She would need to pray harder.

As if reading her mind, Jonas said, “Irma Rose, everything will be fine. You just wait and see.”

It wasn’t until the plane was high above the Houston skyline that the realization of what she’d done hit Lillian. After landing in Philadelphia, she caught a train to Lancaster City and hopped a bus to Paradise, which landed her only a few miles from her grandparents’ farm. She was glad there was a bit of a walk to their property; she wanted to wind down and freshen up before she reacquainted herself with her relatives. Plus, she’d had enough time on the plane to wonder if this whole thing was a huge mistake. Her mom hadn’t wanted to be here, so why think it would be any better for her?

Not that she had much choice at this point. She had no money, no home, no job, and she was more than a little irritated with her mother. When her mom had begged Lillian to loan her the money she’d painstakingly saved to get away from Rickie and start fresh, Lillian reluctantly agreed, with the stipulation she got her money back as soon as possible. But her mom had never repaid a loan before. Lillian didn’t know why she thought it would be any different this time. When the promised repayment never came, Lillian quit her job and made a decision to distance herself from her mother and Rickie by coming to a place where she knew neither of them would follow: Lancaster County.

Lillian shook her head, wondering if she was making a bigger mistake by coming here. She didn’t know if she’d ever understand what ultimately drove her mother from the Plain lifestyle. From what she read, it rarely happened—Amish children fleeing from all they’d ever known. The circumstances must have been severe to drive her mother away.

Although . . . it didn’t look so bad from Lillian’s point of view, now that she was there. Aside from having a dreadful wardrobe, she thought the Amish men and women strolling by looked quite content. They seemed oblivious to the touristy stares. The women wore simple, dark-colored dresses with little white coverings on their heads. The men were in cotton shirts, dark pants with suspenders, and straw hats with a wide brim. Box-shaped, horse-drawn buggies were abundant.

Ironically, it all seemed quite normal.

She took a seat on a bench outside the Quik Mart at the corner of Lincoln Highway and Black Horse Road and watched the passersby. Clearly, Paradise was a tourist town, like most of Lancaster County, with everyone wanting to have a look at the Amish people.

Watching them now, she wondered if the Amish were all as peaceful as they appeared. Despite her initial thoughts, she decided they couldn’t be. Everyone had stress. Everyone had problems. Surely the Plain People of Lancaster County were not an exception.

But they could have fooled Lillian.

Samuel Stoltzfus gave hasty good-byes to Levina Esh and Sadie Fisher and flicked his horse into action, hiding a smile as his buggy inched forward. The competitiveness of those two widow women! First Levina had presented him with her prize-winning shoofly pie. Not to be outdone, Sadie quickly offered up her own prize-winning version. Stalemate. The two of them had stood there glaring at each other while he tried to think of ways to escape unhurt . . . and unattached.

He might have to rethink his shopping day. Both women knew he went to the farmer’s market on Thursdays . . . Once he cleared town, he picked up the pace. The road to his farm near the town of Paradise was less traveled, and he was particularly glad of that on this day. It was a glorious sunny afternoon, perfect for a buggy ride through the countryside.

Pleased he had chosen his spring buggy instead of his covered one, he relished the warmth of the late afternoon sun. Rachel had loved this time of year, when spring gave way to summertime and all the world felt full of promise.

God’s soil was tilled, and corn, alfalfa, and grain had been planted. Life would be busy as he awaited the bountiful rewards of spring’s labor. There was the garden, with peas to pick. The strawberries would be ready. Lots of canning and freezing. Much time went into preparing a garden for harvest.

And Rachel’s garden had always been lush and plentiful. Gardening was work for the womenfolk, but Samuel had done the best he could the past two years. He was thankful his sisters took care of most of the canning and freezing.

He closed his eyes, his shoulders lifting with his sigh. He missed Rachel the most this time of year.

Lillian felt like a fool. Didn’t “down yonder a spell” mean right down the road? The friendly Amish boy had pointed down Black Horse Road and uttered those exact words when she’d asked for directions to her grandparents’ farm. She’d thought the walk would do her good—help her shed some of the calories she ingested while sitting at the Quik Mart with a large cinnamon roll and cola.

Evidently, she’d mistranslated “down yonder a spell.” There wasn’t a farmhouse in sight.

She really should have considered the strappy sandals she was wearing before opting to venture down the road to nowhere. Her capri blue jeans and short-sleeved pink-cotton shirt were good choices, however. The clement sun mixing with a soft breeze made for a perfect day. An excellent day for a walk . . . if only she’d had better shoes.

Setting her red suitcase on the grassy shoulder of the paved road, she plopped down on top of it and scanned the farmland surrounding her. It was so quiet. Peaceful. She could only hope that some of the peacefulness the Amish were known for would rub off on her during her stay. She needed it. Life had not been easy to her the past few years.

Her mom’s idea of parenting had left much to be desired— jumping from one man to the next looking for something she never seemed to find. All the while she’d toted Lillian along. Lillian had grown up changing schools, saying good-bye to friends, and continually hoping Mom’s next boyfriend would be better than the last. At the first chance, Lillian had bailed on the situation, telling herself she could do better.

Despite her good intentions, she’d ended up close to following in her mother’s footsteps. After putting herself through college while living with three other girls in a small apartment, she’d landed a teaching job. There had been boyfriends, and she’d definitely made her own share of mistakes.

But always, something had whispered to her that there was another way to live. Sometimes she’d listened, sometimes not. But she never felt comfortable enough to ask herself just where that voice was coming from—she just didn’t know enough to form an opinion. She didn’t listen to the voice when it cautioned her not to move in with Rickie. But when the voice became too strong to ignore, she knew it was time to get out of that situation.

Despite the complete lack of religious upbringing, she always suspected there might be a God looking down on her. But in light of her mom’s thoughts on church, she couldn’t ask her about it. Her mother seemed angry at religion. While she heartily encouraged Lillian to attend various churches with her friends when she was a child, she herself would have no part of it. It was a huge contradiction in parenting, and Lillian didn’t understand it to this day.

Now, knowing the Amish to be solid in their faith, Lillian decided it might be best to keep her suspicions about a possible God to herself around her grandparents.

“Guess I better get moving and find out how far ‘down yonder a spell’ really is.” She jumped off the suitcase, gave it a heave-hoe, and started back down the paved road, gazing to either side where the acreage stretched as far she could see. The sun pressing down on the horizon left her a tad worried about how much further the farm was.

“Whoa, boy!” Samuel yelled to his horse. The animal slowed his pace to a gentle trot, bringing the buggy alongside an Englisch woman cumbersomely toting a bright-red suitcase. She was minus a shoe . . . if you called a flat-bottom sole with two small straps a shoe. Certainly not a good walking instrument.

“Can I offer you a ride?” He pulled back on the reins and came to a complete halt, as did the small-framed woman. When she turned, he was met by radiant green eyes in a delicate face.

Delicate, that is, until she grimaced and blew a tendril of hair out of her face.

Then she smiled, and her face transformed, lighting up like the morning sun. He was momentarily struck dumb.

It didn’t matter. The woman was focused on his horse. Deserting her suitcase on the side of the road, she stumbled over to Pete and reached out to stroke his nose without so much as a “May I?”

Thankfully, Pete was a gentle giant.

“He’s beautiful,” she said, glancing briefly in Samuel’s direction, eyes sparkling.

He cleared his throat. “Ya. And a fine work horse too.”

What an interesting woman this was. Unafraid. And beautiful, he had to admit. He watched as her long brown hair danced in the wind, framing her face in layers. She wore no makeup and seemed lacking in the traditional Englisch look, although her brightly colored blouse and calf-length breeches certainly gave her away. A tourist, most likely. But a tourist walking alone down Blackhorse Road?

The woman’s mouth curved upward in delight as she cooed over Pete. The horse gently snorted, nudged her, and she laughed heartily, her head thrown back. It was a thoroughly enchanting scene.

Suddenly uncomfortable at his thoughts, he straightened and coughed. It was enough to bring the woman’s attention back to him.

“I would love a ride!” With a final kiss on the old horse’s muzzle, she went back for her suitcase. “Where should I put this?”

“Ach, my manners.” Samuel jumped out of the buggy and made his way to the woman. “Let me.” He took the suitcase from her, quite surprised at how heavy the small bundle was. After stowing it behind the double seat, he offered his hand to assist her into the buggy.

“Thank you.” Now she was studying him . . . seemingly from head to toe. At her open glance, he felt a flush tint his cheeks.

“I’m Samuel Stoltzfus,” he said, extending his hand but avoiding her questioning eyes.

“I’m Lillian Miller.”

Her hands were certainly that of an Englisch woman, soft and void of a hard day’s work. The Plain women in Lancaster County tilled gardens, shelled peas, kneaded bread, and a host of other necessary chores uncommon to Englisch women from the city. City women’s hands were not only smooth and manicured, but pleasing to the touch.

Returning to his seat, he started up the buggy again. The woman was obviously tired and happy to be resting; with a slight groan she stretched her legs out. He found his eyes wandering her way and silently remonstrated himself.

“Where are you from, Lillian? Or, more important, where are you going?”

“I’m from Houston.”

“Ya, Texas,” he said, slightly surprised. They didn’t usually get Texans walking the roads out here. “Lots of farms in Texas. What brings you to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania?”

“I’m coming to stay with my grandparents for a while.” She smiled. “They’re Amish.”

Amish? He was once more at a loss for words. Not to worry— the Englisch woman wasn’t.

“Actually, I guess I’m Amish too,” she added.

Discreetly glancing at her Englisch clothes, he wondered how that could be so.

“My grandparents are Irma Rose and Jonas Miller. I’ll be staying with them for a while.” She looked his way as if waiting for a response that never came. “I’d like to adapt myself to the Amish ways. I need a peaceful, calm lifestyle away from the city. Anyway, I’ve decided to be Amish for a while.”

Samuel had been trying to connect this vivacious outsider with the staunch Irma Rose and Jonas he knew, but these words jostled him out of his musings. “You’d like to be Amish for a while?”

“Yes. Although I don’t plan to wear one of those dark-colored dresses or white caps like the women I saw strolling by earlier.”

In spite of himself, Samuel chuckled. “Do you even know what being Amish means?” He didn’t mean the remark as harshly as it sounded.

Lillian slanted her eyes in his direction, as if slightly offended.

Unexpectedly, the buggy wheel hit a rut. With an oomph, his new friend bounced in her seat. She was a tiny little thing. Luckily, she didn’t catapult right off the seat and onto the pavement.

“Yikes!” she said when her behind returned to the seat. And then she giggled. As Pete’s ears swiveled back to catch the commotion, Samuel couldn’t help but grin. The woman’s enthusiasm was contagious.

He decided to drop the subject. He knew Irma Rose and Jonas well enough to figure they’d set her right about being Amish and what it really meant. Samuel reckoned they’d have their hands full with their granddaughter.

As Samuel righted the buggy, he asked, “When is the last time you saw your grandparents?” He hadn’t even known Irma Rose and Jonas had a granddaughter.

“When I was ten. Seventeen years ago. It was the first time I saw snow. Real snow.” Her eyes twinkled from the memory.

“Anyway, I know things will be different from what I’m used to. But I can live without television. There’s too much bad news on TV anyway. And I know Amish women cook a lot. I’m a great cook.” She shrugged. “I’m a hard worker in general. I know Amish get up early and go to bed early. I know they work hard during the day. And if that’s what it takes to feel peaceful and calm . . . I’m in!”

Samuel found her enthusiasm charming, no matter how misdirected it was. “Lillian, I’m sure Irma Rose and Jonas will appreciate you helping with household duties, but it will take more than chores and giving up worldly things to provide you with the peacefulness you’re lookin’ for.”

“Well, it’s a start,” she said, sounding optimistic.

As for that . . . who was he to argue?

Lillian remembered the Christmas visit with her grandparents at their farm, especially the snow. Unlike the icy mix of sludge found rarely in her hometown state, snow in Lancaster County glistened with a tranquil purity. Almost two decades later, she could still recall the towering cedar trees blanketed in white and ice skating on the crystalline pond in her mother’s old ice skates.

The presents had been few. She remembered that. And while she recollected her grandparents as warm and loving, she also remembered the tension between them and her mother. Her grandfather had kept the mood festive, suggested the ice-skating, and seemed to make it his mission for Lillian to have a good time—even carting her to town and back in his gray, horsedrawn buggy. It had been the highlight of her trip.

“I remember liking the way my grandparents talked,” she recalled to Samuel. “I didn’t understand a lot of things they said. Things like ‘Outen the lights until sunrise when we’ll redd-up the house.’ And ‘It wonders me if it will make wet tomorrow.’ Mom translated those to mean ‘Turn out the lights until in the morning when we’ll clean up the house’ and ‘I wonder if it will rain tomorrow.’”

“That would be right,” Samuel said.

Grandma and Grandpa both spoke another language she’d later found out was Pennsylvania Deitsch. Lots of times they would commingle their language with English. “Danki, Sarah Jane, for bringing our little kinskind for a visit,” her grandfather told her mother that Christmas. To which Sarah Jane Miller forced a smile and nodded.

“Grandma, why are you and Grandpa wearing those costumes?”

Lillian recalled asking her grandparents.

Grandpa had just laughed and said, “It is our faith, my kinskind. We wear these plain clothes to encourage humility and separation from the world.”

At ten, Lillian had little understanding of what that signified. Except somewhere in the translation she knew it meant they couldn’t have a television or a phone. Several times after their one and only trip, Lillian had asked her mother if she could call her grandparents. Mom reminded her no phones were allowed at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

“Evidently, my grandparents came to Houston a couple of times before our visit at Christmas, but I don’t remember,” she told Samuel. “That Christmas was my last trip to Lancaster County and the last time I saw my grandparents. Until now.”

“I reckon Irma Rose and Jonas are really looking forward to seeing you.”

“I hope so.”

Lillian tried to keep her gaze focused on the road in front of her. But her eyes kept involuntarily trailing to her left. Samuel Stoltzfus was as handsome a man as she had ever seen in the city. His plain clothes did little to mask his solid build and appealing smile each time she glanced in his direction. But it was his piercing blue eyes Lillian couldn’t seem to draw away from.

“So, how long have you been married?” Nosey, nosey. The astonished look on his face confirmed her worry. She was crossing the line. “I’m sorry. I just noticed that you have the customary beard following marriage.” She’d done her research before arriving here. “And . . . I was just . . . curious.” And curious why? He’s Amish, for heaven’s sake.

“I’m not married. I’m widowed.”

“Oh,” she said softly, thinking how young his wife must have been when she died. “ I’m so sorry. When did your wife die?”

“Mei fraa, Rachel, passed almost two years ago,” he answered without looking her way.

“Again, I’m so sorry.”

Samuel continued to stare at the road ahead. “It was God’s will.”

There was no sadness or regret in his tone. Just fact. Lillian knew she should leave it alone, but . . . “I’m sure you miss her very much.”

He didn’t glance her way. “There’s Irma Rose and Jonas’s farm,” he said, pointing to their right. “I better take you right up to the house.” He coaxed Pete down a long dirt drive leading from the road to the white farmhouse.

“Oh, you don’t have to do that. I can walk.” She wondered if Samuel Stoltzfus was ready to be rid of her. His eyebrows edged upward beneath his dark bangs and he glanced at her shoeless foot.

Point taken. “A ride to the house would be great.”

As Pete trotted down the dirt driveway toward the farmhouse, reality sank in. This would be her new home for the summer—or however long it took to accomplish her goal. At first glance, everything seemed lovely. The prodigious fields on either side of the lane were neatly mowed, and the white fencing in good repair. But unlike the farms she passed on the way, there were no signs of new life planted. It wasn’t until they drew closer to the farmhouse that she spotted a small garden off to her left enclosed by a wire-mesh fence. Parallel rows of greenery indicated vegetables would be forthcoming.


Also off to her left was a large barn, the paint weathered and chipping. Another smaller barn to her right also was in need of a fresh paint job. She recalled the barns they had passed on her journey down Black Horse Road. Most were a bright crimson color.

The white farmhouse appeared freshly painted, but with flowerbeds absent of flowers or shrubs. They must have been beautiful at one time. But now they—and the rest of the yard—lent an air of neglect to the farm.

A wraparound porch with two rockers looked inviting. But while the idea of curling up with a good book in one of the rockers was appealing, Lillian knew it was the inside of the house and its inhabitants she feared most. Her grandma had seemed pleasant enough on the phone, but what if she and her grandfather were too set in their ways to make room for her? And what if she couldn’t adjust to their ways? No electricity meant no hairdryer, curling iron, or other modern convenience she considered a necessity. How would she charge her cell phone? And she couldn’t imagine a summer without air conditioning.

Grimacing as the thoughts rattled around her head, she reminded herself why she’d come. She’d had a month to consider all of these factors. She thought she had. But as her fantasy of leaving everything behind for this became absolute, her tummy twirled with uncertainty.

She was still attempting to envision her new way of life when Samuel brought Pete up next to a gray buggy parked on one side of the house. Samuel moved quickly to get her suitcase from behind the seat and extended his hand to help her out of the buggy. Towering over her, he promptly released her fingers.

“Thank you for the ride. Maybe I will see you again.” She could only hope. But his lack of response as he quickly jumped back in the carriage left her wondering.

Lillian waved good-bye and watched until horse, buggy, and man were back on the paved road. She knew she was stalling. Her grandparents would be strangers to her, and she would be a stranger to them. Yet they had encouraged her to come and stay with them. “For as long as you like,” her grandmother had said.

Striving to cast her worries aside, she turned around, picked up her suitcase, and headed up the walk toward what would be her new home . . . for a while.


My Thoughts:

If you enjoy Amish-themed inspirational fiction, Beth Wiseman is an author to certainly check into. This story fascinated me, since I can't see how a person who has lived a life with every convenience can let go of worldly things to join with those who live the simple life. It's something I know I could not do. I am looking forward to see where this series heads. The next book, Plain Pursuit, is slated to come out in April 2009, with the third book, Plain Promise, to follow in October 2009.

Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Until We Reach Home

(Bethany House - October 1, 2008)

by

Lynn Austin



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

For many years, Lynn Austin nurtured a desire to write but frequent travels and the demands of her growing family postponed her career. When her husband's work took Lynn to Bogota, Colombia, for two years, she used the B.A. she'd earned at Southern Connecticut State University to become a teacher. After returning to the U.S., the Austins moved to Anderson, Indiana, Thunder Bay, Ontario, and later to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Lynn resigned from teaching to write full-time in 1992. She has published twelve novels. Three of her historical novels, Hidden Places, Candle in the Darkness, and Fire by Night have won Christy Awards in 2002, 2003, and 2004 for excellence in Christian Fiction. Fire by Night was also one of only five inspirational fiction books chosen by Library Journal for their top picks of 2003, and All She Ever Wanted was chosen as one of the five inspirational top picks of 2005.

Lynn's novel Hidden Places has been made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel, starring actress Shirley Jones. Ms Jones received a 2006 Emmy Award nomination for her portrayal of Aunt Batty in the film.

Among her lastest books are A Proper Pursuit and A Woman's Place


ABOUT THE BOOK:

Life in Sweden seems like an endless winter for three sisters after their mother's and father's suicide. Ellin feels the weight of responsibility for her sisters' welfare and when it circumstances become unbearable, she writes to her relatives in Chicago, pleading for help.

Joining sixteen million other immigrants who left their homelands for America between 1890 and 1920, Ellin, Kirsten, and Sophia begin the long, difficult journey. Enduring the ocean voyage in steerage and detention on Ellis Island, their story is America's story. And in a journey fraught with hardships, each woman will come to understand her secret longings and the meaning of home.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Until We Reach Home, go HERE