Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Review: Dreaming on Daisies


Dreaming on Daisies
By Miralee Ferrell
Love Blossoms in Oregon, #4
David C. Cook, 2014


Summary

The ranch wasn’t all she could lose . . .

Fiery redhead Leah Carlson will do whatever it takes to save her family ranch. Somehow, she must cover her father’s debts, brought on by his drinking—even if it means asking handsome banker Steven Harding for a loan. When he must decline, Steven vows to assist this captivating woman.

After a mining accident destroys his home, serving as her part-time ranch hand seems the ideal solution. Until Leah’s family secrets, and the pain of her past, come to a head. They could destroy everything she’s fought for, including the spark of love that may never have a chance to flame.

This is western historical romance that offers hope and healing to the deepest wounds in a woman's past.


My thoughts

It's great to return to Baker City, Oregon in 1881 for the story of Leah Carlson and Steven Harding - and also reunite with previous characters from Miralee Ferrell's Love Blossoms in Oregon series:  Katherine and Micah, Beth and Jeffery, Beth's aunt Wilma Roberts, and Katherine's mother, Frances Cooper. In fact, I think Wilma and Frances are two of the most colorful and intriguing characters I've come across in a long time. They are a perfect example of how a deep friendship can grow between two people who, on the surface, seem unlikely ever to connect.

Readers of the series might remember Leah from the quilting circle in book one, Blowing on Dandelions, and Steven is Beth's brother who we met in book two, Wishing on Buttercups. One of the best things about a series is that we can reconnect with beloved characters and see how they are doing, but also be introduced to new characters and storylines. I was immediately drawn to Steven and Leah, who are so easy to identify with, and loved the sweet romance between them. Miralee never fails to deliver an interesting storyline, a setting you can easily imagine, character depth, and strong spiritual themes.

Dreaming on Daisies is thoroughly entertaining as a historical romance, while successfully incorporating serious themes at the same time - the pain of alcohol addiction, abandonment, depression, pride, deceit, a child's feelings of being unloved. I also appreciated that while many books are simply written from a Christian worldview, Miralee is always able to gently bring in the sweet gospel message.

One thought in the narrative really jumped out at me, and that is the idea that someone can be physically present, yet absent from the relationship. I've been blessed with loving family relationships, yet that is something I've often seen in the lives of those around me.

This conversation between Steven and Leah also spoke to me, maybe because it hits a little too close to home! It alludes to the fact that God always answers our prayers, but not necessarily in the way that we might have asked:

Steven:  "You said God will make a way. Don't you suppose God has the ability to answer in a way that's not what you expected?"
Leah:  "It's not up to me to question the Almighty."
Steven:  "But it is up to you to listen when He offers other provision."

I wanted to end with Miralee's words in describing how she came to write this story:  "In my years of counseling women, I've discovered that alcoholism, abandonment, and depression impact even the strongest Christian families, leaving deep scars that can linger for a lifetime. My hope is that women who have encountered a similar situation might find some aspect of the story that would minister to their heart. Jesus is our Great Physician and is able and willing to heal every broken and wounded heart that's brought to Him."

I enjoyed Dreaming on Daisies and hope many more readers discover the writing of Miralee Ferrell. Recommended to all who enjoy inspirational historical fiction.

Click on the following titles to see my reviews of the previous books in this series:  Book #1, Blowing on Dandelions, Book #2, Wishing on Buttercups, and the novella, Forget Me Not.

Dreaming on Daisies can be purchased online at CBD, DeeperShopping, B&N, and Amazon.


Miralee Ferrell

Miralee Ferrell is multi-published in contemporary and historical romance, is a speaker, accredited counselor, and American Christian Fiction Writers chapter president. She and her husband enjoy horseback riding, sailing, and family gatherings around their eleven-acre property in Washington State's beautiful Columbia River Gorge.

Meet Miralee online at miraleeferrell.com, Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter.

Thank you to Miralee Ferrell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Review: The Stress Cure


The Stress Cure
By Linda Evans Shepherd
Revell, 2014


Summary

We live in a world filled to the brim with advice, and when it comes to dealing with stress, there's plenty of advice to go around. Sleep more, eat better, avoid this, seek out that. But more ideas about how to cope are not necessarily what we need if we're stressed and anxious.

What we need is a cure.

The true remedy to stress, Linda Evans Shepherd says, is prayer. In this inspiring book, she shows you how to recognize God's continual presence in your life and yield your troubles to the Prince of Peace. Through captivating stories, explorations of fascinating biblical characters, and examples of deeper-than-ever prayers, she brings within your grasp the peace that passes understanding. If you are overwhelmed by all of the urgent demands on your time, this book offers you a lifeline to true peace.


My thoughts

I enjoyed The Stress Cure by Linda Evans Shepherd and think it offers much of value. Stress is something that I suspect most of us struggle with, and rather than a "quick fix," The Stress Cure offers easily-remembered guidelines which can be practiced over a period of time until they become part of a daily lifestyle.

The 12 chapters are designed for devotional reading or Bible study and journaling, with topics like overwhelmed, frustrated, burdened, anxious, distracted - and ending with peace. Specific prayer guides are provided at the end of each chapter topic. I also found Linda's retelling of some familiar biblical stories very inspiring.

Linda's writing style made me feel like we were sitting across from each other at a coffee shop - easy to follow, applicable personal stories, values clearly communicated, and prayer guides at the end of each chapter. An excellent study guide is also provided here.

The Stress Cure is a book that most any believer would find helpful, and I think new believers would especially benefit from it. Here are just a few quotes that spoke to me:

"Jesus is not offering to make our problems disappear; He's offering to give us rest for our souls while He does our heavy lifting."

"What the enemy uses to distract you from God's presence or purpose, God uses to keep you closer to Him than ever."

"We want to stay focused on Jesus not only because He is powerful, but also because He is our power."

The Stress Cure can be purchased online at CBD, DeeperShopping, B&N, and Amazon.


Linda Evans Shepherd

Linda Evans Shepherd is the author of over thirty books including When You Don't Know What to Pray: How to Talk to God about Anything and When You Can't Find God: How to Ignite the Power of His Presence, and the co-author of the popular series the Potluck Club and the Potluck Catering Club. Linda is an international speaker and media personality and is the creator of RightToTheHeart.tv and appears as a frequent host of Daystar's Denver Celebration.

She's the leader of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and president of the nonprofit ministry Right to the Heart, which has seen over 500,000 people come to faith. She's married and has two children.

For more information, visit www.sheppro.com and gottopray.com/prayer-cures-for-stress.

Thank you to Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Christmas at Rose Hill Farm


Christmas at Rose Hill Farm
By Suzanne Woods Fisher
Revell, 2014


Summary

Bess Riehl is preparing Rose Hill Farm for her Christmas wedding, but her groom isn't who she thought it would be. Billy Lapp is far away from his Amish roots working as a rose rustler for Penn State and wants nothing to do with Stoney Ridge, his family, or Bess. And that suits Bess just fine. Why should she think twice about a man who left without a word, without any explanation? It's time she moved on with her life, and that meant saying yes to Amos Lapp, Billy's cousin and best friend. But as Bess and Amos's wedding day draws near, her emotions tangle into a tight knot. She loves Amos. Yet she can't forget Billy.

When a "lost" rose is discovered at Rose Hill Farm, Billy is sent to track down its origins. Get in, identify the rose, and get out. That's his plan. The only catch is that he's having a hard time narrowing down the identity of the lost rose, and he can't get those tropical blue eyes of Bess Riehl out of his mind.

As the history of the lost rose is pieced together, it reminds Bess and Billy---and Amos, too---that Christmas truly is the season of miracles.


My thoughts

It goes without saying that Suzanne Woods Fisher is one of my very favorite Amish fiction writers, but that "favorite" status also holds true in the general fiction area because of her ability to create rich, character-driven stories with multi-layered plots. Christmas at Rose Hill Farm, Suzanne's 25th novel, develops an unfinished love story from one of her previous novels, The Search - and although I've not yet read Suzanne's earlier books, this story easily stands alone. With a family rose farm, familiar characters in Stoney Ridge, a heartrending love triangle, and a mysterious character named George, this story thoroughly entertains and inspires.

The characters are realistic, easy to engage with, and the setting of Rose Hill Farm is so vividly described that I could see and almost smell Bess's roses. Although I've never tried to grow roses, their beauty is unsurpassed and I found this aspect of the story fascinating. Billy, a "rose rustler," hunts for forgotten old roses that have survived for generations and tries to preserve them. And with his arrival at Rose Hill Farm, old feelings and hurts are resurrected. The story is set in 1977 and Suzanne very effectively interweaves their back story from the late 1960s with Bess's feisty and loveable grandmother, Bertha Riehl.

I love how Suzanne has created a sense of community throughout her Stoney Ridge novels, the way characters and settings overlap. Something else that I especially enjoy is her use of descriptive phrases that poignantly convey a character's feelings, such as Bess's thoughts about the way Billy had changed over the years:  "He had hardened into manhood. Yet he was stunted somehow . . . like a crop that had suffered an unexpected frost." Amos was conflicted over his best friend Billy's return, trying to smile "though his chest tightened with a sharp sadness that felt like the crisp snap of a twig."

I'm always intrigued by the idea of divine appointments - a seemingly "chance" meeting with someone that was actually orchestrated by God - and that theme was beautifully illustrated when Billy is called to identify the rose Bess discovered in her greenhouse. Another message that I never tire of is the reminder that God is faithful, even when we are not.

Christmas at Rose Hill Farm will fill readers with the spirit of Christmas, but is perfect for any time of the year as well. The back story of this lost rose will be unveiled in Anna's Crossing, a story of the first Amish who crossed the Atlantic in 1737 on the Charming Nancy ship. Due out in March 2015!

Christmas at Rose Hill Farm can be purchased online at CBD, DeeperShopping, B&N, and Amazon.



Suzanne Woods Fisher

Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of the Inn at Eagle Hill series, Lancaster County Secrets series, and the Stoney Ridge Seasons series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. She is also the coauthor of a new Amish children's series, The Adventures of Lily Lapp. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne is a Carol Award winner and a Christy Award finalist. She is a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazines. She lives in California.

Connect with Suzanne online at suzannewoodsfisher.com, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. You can also learn more at the Litfuse blog tour page.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

CHRISTMAS AT ROSE HILL FARM iPad Bundle Giveaway & sign up to host a Book Club Brunch!

Join best-selling, award-winning author Suzanne Woods Fisher for an Amish Christmas to remember. Filled with heart-twisting moments amid the sweet anticipation of love, Christmas at Rose Hill Farm will charm readers into the holiday spirit.

Suzanne is hosting a "Christmas Rose" iPad bundle giveaway and a nation-wide Christmas at Rose Hill Farm Book Club Brunch in November. Enter the giveaway below and sign up to host a brunch HERE.


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TWO grand prize winners will receive:
  • An iPad
  • A Rose-patterned iPad case
  • A Rose-patterned phone case (for any model phone)
  • A Christmas wreath
  • A set of Christmas hand-towels
  • Christmas at Rose Hill Farm by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Five second place winners will receive:
  • Christmas at Rose Hill Farm by Suzanne Woods Fisher
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on September 28th. All winners will be announced September 29th at Suzanne's blog.


rosehill-brunchbuttonHost a Christmas at Rose Hill Farm Book Club Brunch! This fall Suzanne is inviting book clubs across the nation to throw a Christmas at Rose Hill Farm Book Club Brunch. Sign up here between now and September 29. If you’re selected as one of the 50 hosts, you’ll receive a copy of the book plus two other Revell titles (give them away as party prizes or door prizes or keep them for yourself), a complete party kit, and a discount code to purchase copies of Christmas at Rose Hill Farm for your book club at a discount. Suzanne is also encouraging each book club brunch to collect non-perishable items for their local community shelter. She will be making a donation to her favorite charity (helping abused women and children) for every brunch that meets their goal. Click here for more details and to SIGN UP!


Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to visit Suzanne's blog on the 29th to see if you won one of the great prizes! (Or better yet, subscribe to her blog and have the winner announcement delivered to your inbox!)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Shelley Shepard Gray is heading back to Sugarcreek in JOYFUL! {Book giveaway.}

Don't miss Shelley Shepard Gray's newest book in the Return to Sugarcreek series, Joyful. USA Today raved: "A sweet, straightforward story about how love can be tested by family, faith, and personal insecurity. Enjoyable and heartwarming."


Click the banner for a chance to win books 1-3 in Shelley's Return to Sugarcreek series! 
Winner announced on Shelley's blog on 9/30.


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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Author Spotlight + GIVEAWAY: Dee Yoder


I am glad to welcome Amish fiction author, Dee Yoder, to The Power of Words! Dee's debut novel, The Miting, is moving, compelling, informative, uncomfortably real at times - and a story that I think Amish fiction fans will find very interesting. You can see my review here.

But what I found most fascinating is Dee's passion for helping the formerly Amish and her involvement with the Mission to Amish People organization, which she tells about in her interview. Dee is also giving a copy of The Miting to one of you, and if you have any thoughts or questions about this ministry, don't hesitate to ask. Now meet Dee . . .


Q:  Please share a little bit about yourself, Dee. Married with kids? Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?

I am married and have one young adult son. My son’s father passed away from cancer when our son was three. I re-married Arlen Yoder and we will celebrate 18 years of marriage soon. Most of my husband’s extended family is Amish from the Holmes County, Ohio area. My husband grew up in Berlin, Ohio. I keep busy with writing, doing our small church bulletin, writing the former Amish bi-annual newsletter, Dee’s News, for Mission to Amish People, mentoring and helping the former Amish who come to our area, and enjoying my family. And the exciting news this year is I’m a new grandmother! My informally adopted ex-Amish daughter and son-in-law just had their first little boy. What a joy and a blessing!


Q:  What are three "fun" or "unique" things about you?

My son thinks I’m unique and funny, according to him, and finds these experiences “interesting” about my life:

        1) I used to work in research and handled studies with thousands of rats and their little babies because my job was to observe for birth defects and reproductive problems in successive generations. I was bitten only once by a mama rat, and made friends with lots of beady-eyed critters. I always knew, as soon as I stepped into my study room, when a rat had escaped his cage by how his comrade’s eyes focused on their renegade pal trying to hide along the wall. Then all eyes would swing to me at the door. They seemed to be thinking “Uh oh. What’s she going to do now?” I learned to open the door and close it quickly behind me, just in case one had “gone over the wall”. Contrary to popular belief, rats can be fun. But my study buddies were all white. When I see a wild brown rat now, I scream and run, like any other sane person.
        2) When I was in third grade, my uncle had a job helping to construct the John Hancock building in Chicago. He took us to the top floor of the building on the freight elevator before any walls or windows were put in! It was scary. I clung to the existing back wall with my mom, but my sister, brother and dad ventured to the edge and looked down. Even from where I stood hovering near safety, I could actually see the building swaying. Two summers ago, my husband, son, and I went back to the building for the first time since I was a little girl. As the elevator doors opened to the top observation floor, the view was exactly the same! With walls. And windows, of course.
        3) I went on a disco on the Rhine in the hey-day of disco. The boat with loaded with military and it was smoke-filled and noisy. I ended up outside, in the rain, on the top deck, to escape the partiers. I met a soldier up there from Oklahoma who knew someone living within a few miles of my home in Ohio! We had great fun, and stood up to salute and sing the star-spangled banner when we passed a US flag along the way. I got wet, but it was wonderful to see the sights from outside and meet with a patriot when both of us were so far from home. On that same trip the summer of 1978, I was in Versailles Palace outside of Paris when gendarmes came rushing inside, guns at ready. After returning to what was then West Germany that evening, I learned a terrorist bomb had been detonated, destroying many of the Napoleon rooms I saw that day. Thank God He protected all visitors from harm.
        My son claims the many more odd events in my life give me great fodder for my writing, and, indeed, there are some stories that made it into the flash fiction I wrote at FaithWriters and some are included in my coming-of-age novel The Powerful Odor of Mendacity. I plan to work on that poignant and funny manuscript once I complete my Amish series for Kregel Publications.


Q:  You seem to have a heart for the Amish. Tell us a little about your experience with the Mission to Amish People organization.

I have a connection to the Amish through my husband, and I also grew up in the area where The Miting is set. I had Amish neighbors as a child, but nothing prepared me for what I learned about the Old Order and Swartzentruber Amish, the strictest of the Amish groups. I met Joe Keim through my husband’s interaction with Joe’s former Amish young men’s Bible study. They began to meet in our home on Saturday mornings and I decided to go to the MAP website to learn about Joe and the ministry. The more we got to know the former Amish who were coming to our area from all over the US, the more their stories broke my heart. Over the years, there were, and are, so many things to celebrate about our former Amish friends and how they go on in life. Many do so in spite of the shunning, much of it unofficial, since many left before joining the church. Yet, there is heartbreak, too. Being associated with MAP also led to our family becoming involved in the videoing of two documentaries filmed at our home: PBS’s American Experience: The Amish, Parts 1 and 2, and National Geographic’s Amish: Out of Order with Mose Gingerich. Mose gave his heart to Jesus at our dining room table and it is a moment I will never forget. The Lord was very present as His love wrapped us all in peace.



Q:  Tell us a little about the novel we are featuring today, The Miting.

The Miting is a book based on my former Amish friends’ stories. I have included many of their experiences in the tale of Leah and her friends. Leah is made up from three young ladies I especially love. One of those young ladies is our adopted daughter—she’s so precious to us. I wanted to show both sides of what it means to have a shunning, or miting, in the strictest groups of an Amish family. I prayed every time I sat down to write because my goal was not to cause controversy, though I knew controversy would be unavoidable in the sharing of such an honest story, but to shed light. To let the story of the former Amish, with all its joys and struggles, be the priority. It was a labor of love and conviction. And my prayer has always been that readers not only learn something, but open their hearts to both sides of what it means to be Amish. Being Amish is not simple, nor is it uncomplicated, as we so often believe it is while viewing the lifestyle from the outside looking in. I sincerely hope my goals were accomplished.


Q:  Describe The Miting in 5 adjectives.

Powerful. Honest. Heart-breaking. Joyous. God-breathed.


Q:  What are some things that will draw readers to Leah?

I believe readers can relate to Leah’s maturing into adulthood. I wanted to show her curiosity and desire to know more about the whys of her life and where God fits into it. I’m sure many of us have wondered if Amish teens do yearn for something more, just as English teens do at that age. I know I certainly had a longing at eighteen to find out what God meant to me, personally, when I was entering my young adult years. It’s a story about the human need to fill that hole in the soul, and it’s a story about how religion alone often falls short of filling that emptiness with what only God can give. I also wanted her to be a little bit like each of the young ladies I based her character on. Fun. Adventurous. Quiet. She’s steadfast, as well as often unsure of herself and how to fit into her world. I hope they are able to empathize and sympathize with her in her struggles, and not just because she is Amish, but because she is human.


Q:  In The Miting, Leah says:  "I just couldn't go back to living under the Ordnung. I knew I couldn't give up on God." Is it possible for the Ordnung and personal relationship with Christ to co-exist?

It’s important for readers to know that there are many, many Amish sects. Some are more open to the gospel message of Jesus being our gate to heaven. But some are strictly adherents to the forefathers and tradition, and their Ordnungs reflect that belief. All Amish consider themselves born into Christianity by birth. Some readily accept that Jesus is their way to heaven, and good works are just the fruit of that relationship. But the ones we are familiar with count highly on living the good works as a means to gaining a heavenly home. Because of this, the Ordnung letter is often filled with rules that are nearly impossible to keep, day in and day out. This form of religion can lead to fear and reporting on one another. It’s nothing new. We’ve done this with religion since we’ve been born on the earth. The Bible is filled with examples of how we humans fall into relying on what we can do, in our human strength, to make ourselves worthy of God’s gift of heaven. Unfortunately, we humans have never succeeded in our works alone. But God’s mercy and love for us sent His Son Jesus so we could rely on Christ’s one good work to free us from sin’s grasp. For those Amish who cling to Jesus as their way to heaven, life is still not simple, but the fear of failure is greatly relieved.


Q:  What do you hope your readers will take away from The Miting?

I hope readers take away a better understanding of what living and being Amish means. How it is a reflection of their hope of heaven, and not just a simple way of life. I hope readers learn that not all Amish know Jesus. And that rejecting the lifestyle can mean serious consequences for family and community relationships in the orders that practice strict shunning. I also pray the message of God’s peace and contentment by faith in Christ comes through as a shining and remarkable hope for all of us.


Q:  What stories can readers expect from you in the days ahead?

I am now working on book 2 of the Amish series, continuing Leah and Jacob’s story as they begin anew in Holmes County, Ohio among the New Order Amish. I am halfway through that manuscript. I also have book 3 in that series in mind, though it is only roughly outlined at this point. Look for more in book 3 about Leah and Jacob, and a reappearance of other characters featured in The Miting. And I am also anxiously awaiting the chance to have The Powerful Odor of Mendacity ready for publication. The manuscript won FaithWriter’s Page Turner competition in 2011. I love the main character, Annie Thomas, like a mamma loves her baby. The setting is the 1960’s Boomer era. It’s a wonderfully fun read.


Q:  How can we support and/or pray for you, Dee?

        Prayers are most coveted and appreciated because the writing of this Amish book series is deeply personal to me and a labor of love. I pray for before each writing session that God will use me and my words to craft the story He wants to tell. Knowing I have the support of readers is such a blessed and precious gift!
        In more hands on ways, reviews like yours are also a gift to authors in this day and age of Internet dominance. Now, more than ever, our book sales are dependent on good old word of mouth, so reviews on blogs, Amazon, and other social networks are whole-heartedly appreciated.
        Thank you for taking the time to read and review The Miting, Carole. And thank you to the readers who give life to my words.



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GIVEAWAY

To enter the drawing for The Miting, simply leave a meaningful comment based on Dee's interview (something more than "I'd like to read this book") or a question for Dee - something about her ministry to the former Amish, for example. E-mail address are required for the drawing and be sure to leave them in a safe format - [at] and [dot]. If you're willing, it's also helpful to share about this giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter.

Please "like" my Facebook page, ThePowerofWordsBookReviews, if you haven't already. And new followers of this blog are always welcome!


  • E-mail required, one entry per person. Odds of winning are based on number of entries.
  • Contest ends at midnight PST on Sunday, October 5. No purchase necessary.
  • Winner will be chosen by Random.org and contacted by e-mail on Tuesday, October 7. Respond within 48 hours of notification or another winner will be chosen.
  • Eligibility: US residents, 18 and older