Wednesday, July 25, 2012

"Covenant Child" by Terri Blackstock

Covenant Child
Author: Terri Blackstock
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
ISBN-13: 978-1401686970
Paperback: 336 pages

About the Book:
Amanda’s heart broke as she watched them drive her beloved twins away. She resolved to hope . . . and to fight for them to her last breath.

Kara and Lizzie are heiresses to one of the largest fortunes in the country. But when their father dies suddenly, the toddlers are ripped from the arms of Amanda, their loving stepmother, and given to their maternal grandparents, who only want the children’s fortune for themselves.

While even the stipend their guardians get for supporting them is squandered, the children are left to raise themselves. Kara and Lizzie grow up believing they are worthless . . . until the day when they learn the truth.

My Thoughts:

Gripping me from the first page, this book would have been devoured in one sitting if I had not had to tear myself away for other obligations. I just could not put it down! Terri Blackstock is a true master of storytelling and will keep the reader captivated from beginning to end. She had me gasping more than once at the realism of the abuse that Kara and Lizzie suffered - heartrendingly done by their own grandparents!

This novel has such a wonderful story line of unconditional love and forgiveness, although not apparent at first. As it unfolds, there is such a powerful message of unending love and faith. This book is going to be with me for a long, long time and comes highly recommended. This is one novel that should be on everyone's TBR list! 

I received this book through the Booksneeze program. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Energizer Weatheready Rechargeable 2AA 3-LED Safety Flash/Power Failure Light

Measuring 5" x 1-3/4" x 1", this handy safety light/nightlight/flashlight combo is something that everyone needs in their home. All you need to do is open the package, flip up the prongs and plug it into your outlet, and you're set to go! Since this safety light can stay plugged in all the time, you always have a flashlight that works on hand, and when the power goes out, the light automatically comes on. No more searching in the dark for candles and that evasive flashlight when the powers goes out!

This unit has 3 lumen settings: a nightlight setting and 2 brightness settings for the flashlight. If you use this unit for a nightlight, you will need to manually turn it on and off. Personally, I find that a bit of a pain, so I don't use the nightlight feature. It works wonderfully as a flashlight. Just pull it out of the socket, fold down the prongs, and go. With its small size, it easily and comfortably fits into the palm of your hand. When you're finished using it, just plug it back in.

This unit runs about an hour on a full charge.

For more information about the Energizer Weatheready Rechargeable 2AA 3-LED Safety Flash/Power Failure Light, please visit Amazon's product page.

I received this product through the Vine program. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"Faithful to Laura" by Kathleen Fuller

Faithful to Laura
A Middlefield Family Novel
Author: Kathleen Fuller
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release Date: August 7, 2012
ISBN: 9781595547767
Paperback: 304 pages

About the Book:
Laura’s Amish faith requires her to forgive, but she can only think of revenge.

Laura Stutzman leaves her Kentucky community for Middlefield, Ohio, with one purpose: to find Mark King, the man who pledged his love to her, then left. She can’t move on with her life until he explains why.

Sawyer Thompson is a Yankee who spent his teen years in an Amish home. Now an adult, he has to make a decision—go back to the life he knew as a child or join the church. Having suffered loss at a young age, he understands Laura’s anger, but is determined to follow God’s will and forgive. As their friendship grows, Laura begins to let her guard down.

New information about Sawyer’s past threatens the couple’s budding relationship. Both Laura and Sawyer will need to release the anger they’re storing in their hearts and forgive the people who’ve harmed them. As Laura struggles to trust God, will Sawyer do whatever it takes to remain faithful to Laura?

My Thoughts:

This is the second in the Middlefield Family series and I would not recommend starting with this one, but to read them in order starting with "Treasuring Emma". I did not realize this, and was quite lost in the beginning as there was no real backstory given. This book seems jump in where the previous book left off.

As the story continues, one does learn what happened previously to Laura and Sawyer, but the story would have been so much more enjoyable if I had started with the first book. Even so, I found myself totally immersed in the story and really liking the characters.

This was not the typical Amish story, but instead had some dark and unusual secrets that are revealed. Sawyer has to struggle with an introduction of a new person in his life, and Laura has to struggle with her scars. Both have to face issues of trust, love and forgiveness and do what is right.

This turned out to be a very good read and I'm looking forward to getting the first book to see exactly how things had unfolded to get both Laura and Sawyer to the point they are now. I can't wait for the next book in the series as I must know what happens next!!

I received this book through the Booksneeze program. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Interview with C. W. Gortner #QueensVowVirtualTour

I am so very pleased to have been able to have the chance to interview one of my favorite authors, C. W. Gortner. Mr. Gortner has written some of the most captivating and realistic novels about amazing women like Catherine de Medici and Isabella of Castile. Writing from a first person point of view, he not only brings these women to life but has the ability to make the reader believe that they are not reading fiction, but truly inside the head of these great and powerful women!!

Mr. Gortner, it is such a pleasure to have this chance to learn a little more about the man behind these amazing novels. I won't lie - I'm gushing all over the place as you are one of my favorite authors. Your work is completely mesmerizing and impossible to put down!

Enough gushing...

Thank you so much. I’m very honored. And flattered. And blushing . . .

Please tell us about yourself.

In a nutshell: I was born in the US and raised in Spain (my mom is from Spain); I have always been an avid reader but didn’t always think I’d be a writer. I love animals and do as much rescue work as I can, especially pledging money to help get dogs out of high-kill shelters. Oh, and I’m addicted to shoes.

Could you give us an overview of "The Queen's Vow?"

The Queen’s Vow is the dramatic but rarely told story of young Isabella of Castile’s tumultuous struggle to win her throne, from her childhood as a forgotten princess to her dangerous adolescence when she was branded a traitor to her transformation as the famed warrior-queen who irrevocably changed Spain and the world. Here, Isabella tells us her story, starting with the death of her father and culminating in the most triumphant year of her reign: 1492.

What inspired you to want to write about Isabella?

My first novel, The Last Queen, covers the final twelve years of Isabella’s life as seen through the eyes of her daughter, Juana. I didn’t want to repeat that story; however, Isabella’s youth is relatively unknown to most readers, a fascinating story about an obscure princess who was ill-prepared to rule yet somehow found the strength to do it anyway. Though Isabella is one of history's most famous figures, responsible for sending Columbus to America, revered by some as a devout leader who transformed Spain into a world power and reviled by others as a fanatic who ushered in an era of persecution, very few of us know her as a neglected child contending with a mentally ill mother, as a passionate woman willing to risk her life to marry her true love; as a Renaissance leader, patron of the arts, and scholar, whom no one believed was destined for greatness. Growing up in Spain, Isabella was a tangible part of my life: I lived near a castle she once owned and visited Granada, where she is entombed. Also, many readers of The Last Queen wrote to me to say how fascinating they’d found Isabella as a character; when the time came to present a new proposal to my editor, following my second novel The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, I thought Isabella would be a great choice. Not only did I want to return to her world but I had a unique story to tell, about a woman who is very different from my previous ladies.

I have read all your Queens novels and I am amazed with how realistic every woman is. You seem to climb right inside their heads and know exactly how they would feel in their situations. Being male, do you find it difficult at times to give them such a real voice?

I don’t really find it difficult, perhaps because I was raised in a family of strong women; I grew up hearing their stories, their secrets, the ways women communicate. I was the little boy under the table when my aunts sat down for cigarettes and coffee; I absorbed their language in the same way that children absorb any language. So, it doesn’t feel strange to me to write in a woman’s voice. In addition, our emotional makeup isn’t defined by gender: men and women, we feel the same emotions, but we’re taught by society how we should or should not express them. The challenge is to not inject my personal bias or opinions onto these women. While I often don’t agree with what they think or do, it’s who they are that matters, not who I think they should be. In a way, I must restrain my own personality in order to inhabit the character I’m writing. The reader shouldn’t see me; they should see Juana, or Catherine, or Isabella. Another challenge is to build an emotional portrait that is true to what we know about these women and expand on often few facts in a realistic manner, so that the women become to you, the reader, complex and plausible, with their particular strengths and flaws. I also never want characters to be carbon copies of each other: they must each have their own voice, because these are distinct women, with different personalities. I work hard to ensure that they can stand on their own.

How long does it take to research each woman before you are comfortable enough to start writing about them?

I’m always researching, even when I’m writing. It’s hard to say exactly how long it takes because I’ve been studying my subject matter since I was a boy, long before I thought I’d publish a novel. History enthralls me: I read history for fun. So, in a way, my research has been going on for many years, and when a subject comes up, it’s a matter of refreshing and deepening my focus. When I’m starting to work on a project, I do spend at least two months developing a psychological and emotional blueprint for my character, after the bulk of the main research is done. I’m also the kind of writer who researches as I go; I cram enough in to start, and when I hit a block or obstacle, I return to my sources for inspiration. But I do have to know enough about the character’s inner life first: I have to know who she is when she starts her story and who she’ll be when it ends. Facts are easy enough: she was born on X date, she went here on X date, this happened, then that happened, etc. How she felt is a different matter.

Who or what was your biggest influence in your decision to become a writer?

I’d have to say my father. I’ve always written; my mom remembers me making up stories in my childhood and writing them down in spiral notebooks, and illustrating the covers, too. But I never took it seriously, in the sense that I wrote for myself, never thinking I might actually make a living at it. However, in my mid-twenties, after writing a few contemporary novellas and trying my hand at a fantasy epic, I decided to write my first historical novel. My father wanted to read it and so I eventually gave him the manuscript. He called me up after he read it to say he thought I had talent and I should consider finding an agent so I could publish my book. My father wasn’t given to idle flattery, so I took his suggestion seriously. I didn’t know the first thing about publishing or agents, but because of his encouragement I set out to learn. Nearly fourteen years would pass until, after much trial and error, two of my historical novels were sold at auction to Random House. I often think that if my dad hadn’t said, “Hey, why don’t you try to get published?” I might never have had the courage to do it, or to keep at it even when it seemed as if it would never happen.

I know some authors have strange or unusual rituals they must follow when they write. What's yours?

Nothing exotic: I need quiet; I can’t even listen to music. I also drink lots of strong, sweet tea. I used to smoke, but since I quit, tea has become my new vice. I also like writing in a familiar place, such as my study at home, with my research at hand, and my dog at my feet. I am disciplined: I write every day, and I fret if I’m not writing or feel as though I’m not doing a good enough job. The first draft of a book is always a mess, so the real fun doesn’t happen until I get that first draft done. For me, the joy of writing is re-writing; I love deepening a story, cutting what doesn’t work, conjuring what does, polishing and refining and finding cadence in the words. Writing is very tough because you can feel that a book is never finished, never fully realized. There’s always another layer, another path not taken, choices you must make; but it’s also the exciting part for me. Every book is its own monster, which you wrestle to the ground and mold into the story you hope to tell.

What things do you enjoy doing when you aren't working?

I love to read; I still manage to read at least 20 novels a year, in addition to my research books. I also love to walk with my dog, yak on the phone with my friends, go out to eat with my partner, travel, and, of course, shop! Though my lifestyle doesn’t have much call for fashion these days, I still love it.

If you could spend one day with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

My father; I would love to see him again. He passed away when I was twenty-nine. Now that I’m in my forties, I miss him more than ever. I’m nearing the age he was when he died and I often wonder how our relationship might have evolved, how much more we might have found to talk about and share.

Would you share one thing most people don't know about you?

I never drink alcohol, except for the very rare glass of wine. I don’t like the taste.

Please tell us about your next project.

I’m currently writing the story of Lucrezia Borgia, covering her so-called Vatican years, from her indulged youth as the illegitimate child of an ambitious Spanish churchman to her thrust into notoriety as the pope’s daughter and dangerous struggle to survive her family’s lethal ambitions. Once again, I’ve found myself drawn to a woman who’s been vilified by history. The book will be published by Ballantine, Random House, in 2014.

I’m also preparing the outline for the third book in my Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles; the second book (after The Tudor Secret) is titled The Tudor Conspiracy and is scheduled for publication by St Martin’s Press in the US, and Hodder & Stoughton in the UK, in 2013.

Thank you, Mr Gortner, for taking time out of your busy schedule. It has been a real pleasure getting to know you!

Thank you for having me. I hope your readers enjoy The Queen’s Vow. To learn more about my books, please visit my website:

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Promise for Miriam by Vannetta Chapman

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen, Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


Vannetta Chapman has published more than 100 articles in Christian family magazines. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace in Albion, Pennsylvania. Vannetta is a multi-award-winning member of Romance Writers of America. She was a teacher for 15 years and currently resides in the Texas Hill country. Her first two inspirational novels—A Simple Amish Christmas and Falling to Pieces—were Christian Book Distributors bestsellers.

Visit the author's website.


Amish schoolteacher Miriam King loves her students. At 26, she hasn’t yet met anyone who can convince her to give up the Plain school at Pebble Creek. Then newcomer Gabriel Yoder steps into her life, bringing his daughter, an air of mystery, and challenges Miriam has never faced before.

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736946128
ISBN-13: 978-0736946124


Pebble Creek, southwestern Wisconsin
Three years later
Miriam King glanced over the schoolroom with satisfaction.
Lessons chalked on the board.
Pencils sharpened and in the cup.
Tablets, erasers, and chalk sat on each desk.
Even the woodstove was cooperating this morning. Thank the Lord for Efram Hochstetler, who stopped by early Mondays on his way to work and started the fire. If not for him, the inside of the windows would be covered with ice when she stepped in the room.
Now, where was Esther?
As if Miriam’s thoughts could produce the girl, the back door to the schoolhouse opened and Esther burst through, bringing with her a flurry of snowflakes and a gust of the cold December wind. Her blonde hair was tucked neatly into her kapp, and the winter morning had colored her cheeks a bright red.
Esther wore a light-gray dress with a dark apron covering it. At five and a half feet and weighing no more than a hundred and twenty pounds, Miriam often had the unsettling feeling of looking into a mirror—a mirror into the past—when she looked at the young woman who taught with her at the one-room schoolhouse.
In truth, the teachers had often been mistaken for family. They were similar in temperament as well as appearance. Other than their hair, Esther could have been Miriam’s younger sister. Esther’s was the color of ripe wheat, while Miriam’s was black as coal.
Why did that so often surprise both Plain people and Englischers? If Miriam’s black hair wasn’t completely covered by her kapp, she received the oddest stares.
“Am I late?” Esther’s shoes echoed against the wooden floor as she hurried toward the front of the room. Pulling off her coat, scarf, and gloves, she dropped them on her desk.
“No, but nearly.”
“I told Joseph we had no time to check on his cattle, but he insisted.”
“Worried about the gate again?”
Ya. I told him they wouldn’t work it loose, but he said—”
“Cows are stupid.” They uttered the words at the same time, both mimicking Joseph’s serious voice, and then broke into laughter. The laughter eased the tension from Esther’s near tardiness and set the morning back on an even keel.
“Joseph has all the makings of a fine husband and a gut provider,” Miriam said. “Once you’re married, you’ll be glad he’s so careful about the animals.”
Ya, but when we’re married I won’t be having to leave in time to make it to school.” Esther’s cheeks reddened a bit more as she seemed to realize how the words must sound.
Why did everyone think Miriam was embarrassed that she still remained unmarried? Did it never occur to them that it was her own choice to be single?
“Efram had the room nice and warm before I even arrived,” she said gently. “And I put out your tablets.”
Wunderbaar. I’ll write my lessons on the board, and we’ll be ready.” As Esther reached to pull chalk from her desk drawer, Miriam noticed that she froze and then stood up straighter. When she reached up and touched her kapp as if to make sure she was presentable, Miriam realized someone else was in the room.
She turned to see who had surprised the younger teacher. It was still a few minutes before classes were due to start, and few of their students arrived early.
Standing in the doorway to the schoolroom was an Amish man. Pebble Creek was a small community, technically a part of the village of Cashton. Old-timers and Plain folk alike still referred to the area where the creek went through by its historic name.
Miriam was quite sure she’d never seen the man standing in her classroom before. He was extremely tall, and she had the absurd notion he’d taken his hat off to fit through their entryway. Even standing beneath the door arch, waiting for them to speak, he seemed to barely fit. He was thin and sported a long beard, indicating he was married.
In addition to clutching his black hat, he wore a heavy winter coat, though not the type worn by most Wisconsin residents. The tops of his shoulders, his arms, and even parts of his beard were covered with snow. More important than how he looked standing in her classroom was the fact that he held the hand of a small girl.
Gudemariye,” Miriam said, stepping forward and moving past her desk.
The man still didn’t speak, but as she drew closer, he bent and said something to the girl.
When Miriam had halved the distance between them, he returned her greeting as his somber brown eyes assessed her.
The young girl next to him had dark-brown hair like her father. It had been combed neatly and pulled back into a braid, all tucked inside her kapp. What was striking about her wasn’t her hair or her traditional Plain clothing—it was her eyes. She had the most solemn, beautiful brown eyes Miriam had ever seen on a child.
They seemed to take in everything.
Miriam noticed she clutched her father’s hand tightly with one hand and held a lunch box with the other.
“I’m the teacher of the younger grades here, grades one through four. My name is Miriam King.” The girl’s eyes widened, and the father nodded again. “Esther Schrocks teaches grades five through eight.”
He looked to the girl to see if she understood, but neither replied.
“And your daughter is—”
“Grace is eight years old, just this summer.” Almost as an afterthought, he added, “I’m Gabriel Miller.”
“Pleased to meet you.” Miriam offered her best smile, which still did not seem to put the father at ease. She’d seen nervous parents before, and obviously this was one. “You must be new to our community.”
Ya. I purchased the place on Dawson Road.”
“Dawson Road? Do you mean the Kline farm?”
Ya.” Not quite rude, but curt and to the point.
Miriam tried to hide any concern she felt as images of Kline’s dilapidated spread popped into her mind. It was no business of hers where this family chose to live. “I know exactly where you mean. My parents live a few miles past that.”
“It’s a fair piece from here,” he noted.
“That it is. Esther and I live here at the schoolhouse during the week. The district built accommodations on the floor above, as is the custom in most of our schoolhouses here in Wisconsin. We both spend weekends at home with our families.”
“I don’t know I’ll be able to bring Grace in every day.” Gabriel Miller reached up and ran his finger under the collar of his shirt, which peeked through the gap at the top of his coat.
Miriam noticed then that it looked stiff and freshly laundered. Had he put on his Sunday best to bring his daughter to school on her first day? It said something about him if he had.
“A man has to put his farm first,” he added defensively.
“Some children live close enough that their parents can bring them in the winter, and, of course, most everyone walks when the weather permits.” Miriam paused to smile in greeting as a few students began arriving and walking around them. “Others ride together. Eli Stutzman lives past Dawson road, and he would be happy to give your dochder a ride to school.”
“It would be a help.” Mr. Miller still didn’t move, and Miriam waited, wondering what else the man needed to say.
She looked up and saw one of the older girls, Hannah, walking in the door. “Hannah, this is Grace Miller. She’s new at our school. Would you mind sitting with her and helping her this week?”
“Sure thing, Miriam.” Hannah squatted down to Grace’s level and said something to the girl Miriam couldn’t hear.
Whatever it was, Grace released her dat’s hand and took Hannah’s. She’d walked halfway down the aisle when she turned, rushed back to where they stood, and threw her arms around her father’s legs.
One squeeze and she was gone again.
Though it was fleeting, Miriam saw a look of anguish pass over the man’s face. What could be going through his mind? She’d seen many fathers leave their children for the first time over the last eight years, but something more was going on here.
“She’ll be fine, Mr. Miller. We’re a small school, and the children look after one another.”
“It’s that…” he twirled his hat in his hands once, twice, three times. “Before we moved here, Grace was…that is to say, we…well, her grossmammi homeschooled her.”
“I understand. How about if I write a note letting you know how Grace is doing? I’ll put it in her lunch box at the end of the day.”
Something like relief washed over his face.
Danki,” he mumbled. Then he rammed his hat on his head and hurried out the door.
Esther caught her attention from the front of the room and sent a questioning look toward the man’s retreating back, but Miriam shook her head. She’d explain later, at lunch perhaps. For now they had nearly forty children between them to teach. As usual, it would be a busy morning.

Gabe did stop to talk to Eli Stutzman. He wanted to make sure he trusted the man.
It helped when three girls and a boy who were the last to climb out of the long buggy stopped to wish their father a good day. The littlest girl, probably the same age as his Gracie, wrapped her arms around her daddy’s neck, whispered something in his ear, and then tumbled down the steps into the chilly morning.
“That one is my youngest—Sadie. Always full of energy, but she’s a worrier. This morning it’s about a pup she left at home in the barn.” Covering the distance between them, the older man removed his glove and offered his right hand. “Name’s Eli Stutzman. I take it you’re new here, which must mean you bought the Kline place.”
“I am, and I did. Gabriel Miller.” Gabe stood still in the cold, wishing he could be done with this and back on his farm.
“Have children in the school?”
“One, a girl—about your youngest one’s age.”
Eli nodded, and then he seemed to choose his words carefully. “I suspect you’ll be busy putting your place in order. It will be no problem giving your dochder a ride back and forth each day.”
“I would appreciate it.”
Stutzman told him the approximate time he passed the Kline place, and Gabe promised he’d have Gracie ready at the end of the lane.
He turned to go and was headed to his own buggy when the man called out to him.
“The Kline place has been empty quite a while.”
Gabe didn’t answer. Instead, he glanced out at the surrounding fields, covered in snow and desolate looking on this Monday morning.
“If you need help, or find something that’s worse than what you expected, you holler. We help each other in Pebble Creek.”
Gabe ran his hand along the back of his neck but didn’t answer. Merely nodding, he moved on to his buggy.
He was accustomed to people offering help. Actually delivering on it? That was often another story, though he wouldn’t be judging the people here before he knew them.
Still, it was in his nature to do things on his own if at all possible.
Was his new home worse than he had expected?
Ya, it was much worse.
The barn was falling in on itself, and the house was not a lot better, but he knew carpentry. He could make them right. At least the woodstove worked. He’d been somewhat surprised to find no gas refrigerator, but he had found out who sold blocks of ice carved from the river. The icebox in the mudroom would do.
Gracie would be warm and fed. She’d have a safe place to sleep and to do the drawing she loved so much.
He didn’t think he’d be calling on Eli for help.
He’d see that Grace Ann made it to school and church—he’d promised her grossmammis as much. But other than that he wasn’t looking to make freinden in Pebble Creek. He wanted to be left alone. It was the reason he’d left their community in Indiana.
He could do without any help.
His parting words to his parents echoed back to him.
“I can do it on my own.”
As he drove the buggy toward home, Gabe looked out over high ridges and low valleys. Dairy farms dotted the snowcapped view. Running through it all was Pebble Creek, no doubt a prime place for trout fishing most of the year. He’d heard the call of wild turkeys and seen deer. It was a rich, blessed area.
Pebble Creek ran through the heart of Cashton, the closest town. It also touched the border of the school grounds and meandered through his own property. It bound them together.
As he approached home, Gabe’s mind was filled with thoughts of the day’s work ahead of him. He wondered where he’d find the energy to do it all, but somehow he would.
For Gracie he would.
His parents had offered to send his youngest brother along for the first year, but Andrew was needed on the family place. And, truthfully, Gabe preferred to be alone—just he and Grace.
“I can do it on my own.”
“Just because you can doesn’t mean you should,” his mother said. She had reminded him as he was packing their things that pride was his worst shortcoming, though the Lord knew he had many to choose from when it came to faults.
Was it pride that scraped against his heart each day? He couldn’t say.
He only knew he preferred solitude to company, especially since Hope died.
That seemed ironic, even to him. She had been his hope, his life, his all, and now she was gone. Her death had happened so quickly—it reminded him of one of the Englisch freight trains barreling around the corner of some bend.
A big black iron thing he hadn’t seen coming. A monstrosity with the power to destroy his life.
Which wasn’t what the bishop had said, or his parents, or his brothers and sisters.
He slapped the reins and allowed his new horse, Chance, to move a bit faster over the snow-covered road. He’d left Indiana because he needed to be free of the looks of sympathy, the well-intentioned words, the interfering.
So he now had what he’d wished for—a new beginning with Grace.
If it meant days of backbreaking work, so much the better. Perhaps when he was exhausted, he would begin to sleep at night.

My Thoughts:

"A Promise for Miriam" is a delightful read from beginning to end and a wonderful beginning to The Pebble Creek Amish Series. Filled with characters that one can easily relate to, it is easy to get involved in the story and eager to read the next book in the series.

The main character, Miriam, is spirited and doesn't follow the "normal" standard of an Amish woman. She's 26 and still has no interest in getting married because she loves being a teacher and being involved in her students' lives. When she comes across Gabriel Miller and his sweet non-speaking daughter, Grace, she finds herself becoming more involved than she should be.

As the story unfolds, Miriam, Gabe and Grace all face some difficult challenges and revelations that  will change their lives forever. A book full of challenges, faith, love and healing, "A Promise for Miriam" is one that needs to be added to every Amish fiction reader's "Must Read" list!

Highly recommended!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Canning Broccoli Soup

Broccoli Soup (middle)

Broccoli crowns were on sale at our local grocery store, so I decided to try the Broccoli Soup recipe in my Fagor "Home Canning Cookbook" to see if it would be something I'd like to stock on the shelves for this winter. I canned my first batch of 4 jars, let it stand for a few days, and then we ate it. The verdict: Everyone really liked it! In fact, the kids LOVED it and have asked for me to put up "tons" of it. LOL It's a really nice recipe, good alone, or if you want broccoli and cheese, just sprinkle some cheddar on it and let it melt - just yummy.

Broccoli Soup

1 1/2 pounds broccoli, whole
1/2 onion, peeled and chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons margarine or vegetable oil (I used butter)
1/4 cup uncooked white rice
5 cups vegetable or chicken broth (this came out to 3 cans 14.5 oz size)
Tabasco sauce to taste
Salt & Pepper to taste

Cut broccoli florets from the stalks. Peel stalks and slice into 1-inch pieces. Saute broccoli, onions, and garlic, in butter. In a large saucepan, combine the sauteed vegetables with the rice and broth. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer gently until vegetables are very soft. Puree soup in blender. (I used my Braun handheld and blended it in the pot). Return to stockpot and add the Tabasco, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. Ladle into jars, leaving a 1 inch headspace. Cap and seal. Place in pressure canner with 2-3 inches of hot water (or amount recommended for your brand of pressure canner). Process for 40 minutes at 15 pounds (Fagor's HIGH setting).

Please note: There is no conversion for those at higher altitudes in this book. I'm just below 1000 ft. above sea level, so I don't have to worry about it. For those above 1000 ft. above sea level, please contact your local Cooperative Extension Office for advice on safe times and pressure settings.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"The Queen's Vow " by C. W. Gortner #QueensVowVirtualTour

The Queen's Vow
A Novel of Isabella of Castile
Author: C. W. Gortner
Publisher: Ballantine Books
ISBN-13: 978-0345523969
Hardcover: 400 pages

About the Book
No one believed I was destined for greatness.

So begins Isabella’s story, in this evocative, vividly imagined novel about one of history’s most famous and controversial queens—the warrior who united a fractured country, the champion of the faith whose reign gave rise to the Inquisition, and the visionary who sent Columbus to discover a New World. Acclaimed author C. W. Gortner envisages the turbulent early years of a woman whose mythic rise to power would go on to transform a monarchy, a nation, and the world.

Young Isabella is barely a teenager when she and her brother are taken from their mother’s home to live under the watchful eye of their half-brother, King Enrique, and his sultry, conniving queen. There, Isabella is thrust into danger when she becomes an unwitting pawn in a plot to dethrone Enrique. Suspected of treason and held captive, she treads a perilous path, torn between loyalties, until at age seventeen she suddenly finds herself heiress of Castile, the largest kingdom in Spain. Plunged into a deadly conflict to secure her crown, she is determined to wed the one man she loves yet who is forbidden to her—Fernando, prince of Aragon.

As they unite their two realms under “one crown, one country, one faith,” Isabella and Fernando face an impoverished Spain beset by enemies. With the future of her throne at stake, Isabella resists the zealous demands of the inquisitor Torquemada even as she is seduced by the dreams of an enigmatic navigator named Columbus. But when the Moors of the southern domain of Granada declare war, a violent, treacherous battle against an ancient adversary erupts, one that will test all of Isabella’s resolve, her courage, and her tenacious belief in her destiny.

From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and the intrigue-laden gardens of Seville, The Queen’s Vow sweeps us into the tumultuous forging of a nation and the complex, fascinating heart of the woman who overcame all odds to become Isabella of Castile.

My Thoughts:

After reading his previous historical novels,  Mr. Gortner quickly became one of my favorite  authors. His uncanny ability to climb into his character's head is astounding and leaves the reader both breathless and unable to forget the characters long after the book is finished. "The Queen's Vow" was no exception.

So here I sit again, after finishing a wonderful novel by Mr. Gortner, and like normal, I have no words that could ever do justice or even touch upon  the essence and beauty in which it was written. It is frustrating, because I need to do so, but the words just refuse to come. Yes, I can tell you what the book was about, but that's what the synopsis is for and that would instead be a book report.

What I can tell you is how wonderfully the characters were created, and how amazingly well described things were - so well that one could feel they were part of the story. The sights, the smells, the sounds were all so real that one could feel the dew in the early morning or smell at feast as it was set on the table. That is the power of the book I have a hard time describing!

I adored Isabella of Castile. She was portrayed as strong and willful woman that was known to buck the system and shake things up, but she also had a very human side to her - a side that makes Isabella's character easy to connect with. All that she went through and the things she did for love, country and God (or would religion be a better description?)

Written from Isabella's perspective, The Queen's Vow was a fascinating and totally captivating read and one that will be impossible to forget!

Please be aware - this is an adult book and contains things that might be considered objectionable. I would recommend reading before giving to an older teen.

See what others on the tour are saying about this amazing book.

About the Author:

C.W. Gortner is the author of The Last Queen, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici and The Tudor Secret. He holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California.

In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall and experienced life in a Spanish castle. His novels have garnered international praise and been translated into thirteen languages to date. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights and environmental issues.

He's currently at work on his fourth novel for Ballantine Books, about the early years of Lucrezia Borgia, as well as the third novel in his Tudor series,The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles (US) or Elizabeth's Spymaster (UK).

Half-Spanish by birth, C.W. lives in Northern California

If you'd like to learn more about Mr. Gortner, you can visit his website at:
He can also be found on Facebook at:

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for this tour. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Monday, July 9, 2012

"Arms of Love" by Kelly Long

Arms of Love
Author: Kelly Long
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
ISBN: 9781401684969
Paperback: 320 Pages

About the Book:
The year is 1777. America is in turmoil. And Amish life is far different than today.

Pennsylvania in the late 18th century, once called William Penn’s Woods, was an assortment of different faiths living together for the first time in American history. Included in this tapestry was a small and struggling population called Amish.

Surrounding this peaceful people were unavoidable threats: both Patriots and the British were pillaging land and goods for the sake of the war, young Amishmen were leaving the faith to take up arms and defend freedom. A simple walk in the untamed forests could result in death, if not from bullet or arrow, then from an encounter with a wild animal.

Amid this time of tumult, Adam Wyse is fighting a personal battle. To possibly join the war efforts and leave his faith, which would mean walking away from the only woman he’s ever loved: Lena Yoder. But for that love he’s made a promise that may keep them apart permanently.

My Thoughts:

"Arms of Love" was an enjoyable story that I found quite captivating. I enjoyed the theme of doing what is right and trying to listen to God's intent. The story deals with some difficult subjects: death, child abuse, war, and sacrifice, but shows their purpose and demonstrates the power of God's love, forgiveness and healing. 

Yet, I'm torn with the historical setting. I had difficulty with the story centered around the Amish, because they didn't come across to me as anything different than any other colonist. They dressed a bit different and didn't fight, but there were so many things that seemed inappropriate and not what I would expect from the Amish sect. I have not looked into the practices of those that came to  Penn's Woods in the 1700's, but one of the things the Old Order Amish in PA have made clear is that they haven't really changed over the years. So my thought is that if anything, the Amish then would be even more strict then than they are now. That, and of course the language, just didn't work for me. I had to continue telling myself that these characters were Amish. Yet, at the same time I was pleased to see that the practices of foot washing and bundling were included in the story. It was nice to have these historical practices included!

If you are looking for a good and entertaining story and don't mind how historically accurate things are, you will find this an enjoyable read!

I received this book through the Booksneeze program. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Spirit Fighter by Jerel Law

Spirit Fighter
Son of Angels Book 1
Author: Jerel Law
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
ISBN: 9781400318438
Paperback: 256 pages

About the Book:
Percy Jackson, move over! Jonah Stone is here!

What if Nephilim—the children of angels and men—still walked the earth? And their very presence put the entire world in danger? In Spirit Fighter, Jonah and Eliza Stone learn that their mother is a Nephilim and that they have special powers as quarter-angels. When their mom is kidnapped by fallen angels, they must use those powers to save her. Along the way, they discover that there is a very real and dangerous war going on between good and evil and that God has a big part for them to play in that war.

My Thoughts:

Spirit Fighter is an action packed novel full of everything that would appeal to a tween male. The story moves along at a good pace, there's action and warfare and it involves a boy that is not totally perfect - just pretty much normal, or so one would think until the boy finds he has powers.

Sounds like a book every tween male would enjoy, but I personally wouldn't recommend it. It blurs the line between Biblical reality and fiction, as it uses scripture and fallen angels to do so. Although the main character, Jonah, uses his power for "good", Scripture says "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one." (Job 14:4) If a child is the grandchild of a fallen angel, he won't be the prize he is made out to be in this story.

Christian children know that magic is not of God, yet in this story we see things that can be done that fall under that magical category. What makes a child decide that since the Bible has been quoted here, that maybe there are others things that aren't quite real in the Scripture? I would much rather hand a child a copy of "Harry Potter" or "The Lightning Thief" because he knows it's pretend and an adult can discuss that with him. Even C. S. Lewis did not mix up Scripture with his children's stories.

I received this book through the Booksneeze program. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.