Thursday, July 2, 2015

Amy Clipston's 4th of July Weekend Giveaway





Amy Clipston is offering a great Amish-themed giveaway with an assortment of prizes. These three books are included . . .



Audio copy of A Life of Joy
Autographed copy of A Gift of Love
Autographed copy of A Simple Prayer


Other prizes included are an authentic Amish winter bonnet, a cookbook, Bakery Bunch tote bag, and pen & bookmarks.



Click on this link or above images to enter:


Share your favorite 4th of July tradition/memory in the comment section of Amy's post (do not enter here). Contest ends Saturday, July 4. Winner will be announced on Monday, July 6.




Amy Clipston is the award-winning and best-selling author of the Kauffman Amish Bakery series. Her novels have hit multiple best-seller lists including CBD, CBA, and ECPA. Amy holds a degree in communication from Virginia Wesleyan College and works full-time for the City of Charlotte, NC. Amy lives in North Carolina with her husband, two sons, and four spoiled rotten cats.

Connect with Amy online at amyclipston.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Review: A Simple Prayer


A Simple Prayer
By Amy Clipston
Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel, #4
Zondervan, 2015


Summary

Linda is no stranger to hardship. Now she dares to hope for a chance at love and a new beginning.

As the sole survivor of a buggy accident that left her orphaned at age four, Linda Zook was reluctantly raised by her Uncle Reuben. She longs to be worthy of someone, but the lasting trauma of her injuries and embittered upbringing have destroyed her self-worth. When Hannah Peterson asks her to work at the Heart of Paradise Bed & Breakfast, she’s finally able to realize some confidence.

Aaron Ebersol left the Amish community seventeen years ago when he could no longer bear the restrictions or the constant tension with his father. Despite years of unanswered letters to his parents and the roots he’s put down in Missouri, Aaron rushes back to the Amish community of Paradise, Pennsylvania, after receiving word of his mother’s stroke. Hesitant to get too close to the family he was once a part of, he decides to stay at the Heart of Paradise Bed & Breakfast. Talking with Linda allows him to explore his feelings about his family and his position in the Amish community.

As Linda and Aaron open up to each other, their feelings for one another turn into more than friendship, and Aaron must make a decision about his future as an Amish man.

Can Linda and Aaron forgive the family members who have deceived and forsaken them? And will Aaron be able to convince Linda that she is worthy of his love?


My thoughts

A Simple Prayer is a sweet Amish story, one that I greatly enjoyed - as is the case with all of Amy Clipston's stories that I've read so far. Amy has the ability to convey a sense of place and pull me right into the story, making me easily connect with the characters. The setting is in Paradise, Pennsylvania, and several scenes take place at the Heart of Paradise Bed & Breakfast run by Hannah and Trey from book #1. "Simple" may be in the title, but there's a complexity to these characters and all that they have to work through. Each book in this series can stand alone, but it was good to see characters from previous stories. Series readers will also enjoy seeing a conclusion to storylines involving both Hannah/Trey and Madeleine/Saul.

Aaron and Linda are such endearing, down-to-earth characters! Both were raised Amish and had a similar longing for a real family, which is something to which most of us can relate. Their relationship started in a way that is so easy to build upon - with simple friendship through conversations where they shared feelings and events from their past. Often it takes another person to open our eyes to things we've been unable to see, and I loved how Linda and Aaron were able to offer godly wisdom to each other. The unyielding resentment of Aaron's brother, Solomon, and Aaron's desire to return home, coupled with fear, were very real.

This story mirrors certain aspects of the Prodigal Son parable, contrasting both the anger and unforgiveness of Aaron's older brother with the unconditional, undeserved welcome and acceptance of his parents. I actually gained a deeper appreciation for how the biblical older brother might have felt, for while Solomon's bitterness seems to be related to concern for his mother's health and happiness, the root of his anger goes much deeper. He first reflects that his parents "seemed so happy to see Aaron, as if they had been broken the whole time he'd been away," and then later confesses, "I was the one who had to give up my dreams to take care of the mess Aaron left behind."


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"Be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
 - Ephesians 4:32
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Themes of home and family, forgiveness and compassion are the framework for this story, as evidenced in the bishop's words to Aaron:  "You didn't have to leave. There's nothing so bad that it can't be solved with some prayer and your family's support." A Simple Prayer reflects the very real struggles that the Amish face, which are no different from ours, but with the effect of faith, prayer, love and forgiveness in their daily lives.

A Simple Prayer was an enjoyable, compelling read for me and I highly recommend it to all fans of Amish fiction.


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Amy Clipston is the award-winning and best-selling author of the Kauffman Amish Bakery series. Her novels have hit multiple best-seller lists including CBD, CBA, and ECPA. Amy holds a degree in communication from Virginia Wesleyan College and works full-time for the City of Charlotte, NC. Amy lives in North Carolina with her husband, two sons, and four spoiled rotten cats.

Connect with Amy online at amyclipston.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

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




Sunday, June 21, 2015

Review + GIVEAWAY: Two Roads Home


Two Roads Home
By Deborah Raney
Chicory Inn Series, #2
Abingdon Press, 2015


Summary

What if it’s too late for dreams to come true?

Minor-but-nagging setbacks continue to sour Grant and Audrey Whitman’s initiation into the world of innkeeping, but larger challenges brew when an innocent flirtation leads to big trouble for the Whitmans’ son-in-law, Jesse. Jesse Pennington’s friendly, outgoing personality has always served him well, especially in a career that has earned him and his wife Corinne a very comfortable lifestyle. But Corinne and Jesse are both restless—and for similar reasons, if only they could share those with each other. Instead, too many business trips and trumped-up charges of harassment from a disgruntled coworker threaten their marriage and possibly put their three precious daughters at risk.

With their life in disarray, God is tugging at their hearts to pursue other dreams. Can Corinne and Jesse pick up the pieces of what was once a wonderful life before it all crumbles beneath them?


My thoughts

Deborah Raney's Chicory Inn series is excellent - well written with lots of family drama that kept me eagerly turning the pages. Women's fiction is one of my favorite genres and I wish there was more of it in the CBA. This series reminds me of the family saga format that I have always loved - the exception being that instead of following a family through several generations, the stories are grounded by the parents, Grant and Audrey Whitman, and each sibling gets their own story.


Trumpet Vine
Two Roads Home, book #2 in the series, returns us to the Whitman family that we met in Home to Chicory Lane (click on title for my review), and focuses on the oldest daughter, Corinne, as she and Jesse deal with their first real crisis. With themes of greed, lust, jealousy, and lack of total communication within marriage, this story mimics real life, but in an honest and uplifting way. Even Audrey, often caught between the pressures of running an inn and the demands of her children, isn't immune from conflict . . . "She hated how often she felt torn between her new career and her family - most of whom were supposed to be grown and independent, but apparently some of them had yet to get the memo."

Corinne and Jesse live in a beautiful house and have three precious girls, giving the outward impression that they have it all - but does anyone ever really "have it all"? Jesse has the outgoing qualities that are an asset in sales, yet he feels trapped in his job and craves a major career change, one which will require a lot of lifestyle sacrifices for his family. Corinne is devoted to Jesse and her girls and especially loves being the stay-at-home mom that his income affords. I was frustrated with Corinne for a large part of the book, until I stopped to wonder if there were times in life where I hadn't been all that different.


Chicory Inn
This is one of those novels where you won't find a lot of overt spiritual references, yet I felt God's presence throughout the story. Sacrifices are made, battle wounds result in greater strength as a couple, and unfulfilled dreams lead to a seeking of what God's dream or will might really be. Love and commitment to family is also a major theme and I think it would be a blast to be present one Tuesday night when the whole Whitman clan gathers for a meal in their charming Chicory Inn.

Two Roads Home reaches a satisfying conclusion, but it's obvious there is a lot more to come. I greatly enjoyed this story and the only thing I wished for was greater character depth for Jesse and Corinne. I look forward to book #3, Another Way Home, which releases in October 2015. Highly recommended.

Thank you to Deborah for creating a lovely Pinterest board for this series (from which I borrowed a couple of pictures).


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Deborah Raney’s books have won numerous awards, including the RITA, National Readers Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, and the Carol Award, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. She and her husband, Ken, recently traded small-town life in Kansas—the setting of many of Deborah’s novels—for life in the (relatively) big city of Wichita, where they enjoy gardening, antiquing, movies, and traveling to visit four children and a growing brood of grandchildren who all live much too far away.

Connect with Deborah online at deborahraney.com, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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


Litfuse landing page:

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GIVEAWAY

To enter the drawing for Two Roads Home . . .

1) If you're on Facebook, please visit ThePowerofWordsBookReviews and "like" my page if you would care to (not required).

2) Answer the following fun question:

How do you plan to celebrate the July 4 weekend?

If you'd like to receive e-mail notifications of reviews, author interviews and giveaways, please subscribe to my blog in the upper right corner.

BE SURE to leave your name and your email address in a safe format - [at] and [dot] - for the drawing. E-mail required for entry. Contest ends at midnight PST on Monday, July 6. Winner will be chosen by Random.org and contacted by e-mail. 

Eligibility: US residents, 18 and older

The JOY of Art - Happy Father's Day!


Artist unknown


I was blessed with a wonderful Dad and while I miss him every day, I am thankful for his legacy that lives on through my children. I wanted to share these words from Susie Larson's Father's Day blessing (her complete thought can be seen at http://on.fb.me/1fqIeSF):  "Whether you had a father who loved you or a father who was absent, know this: you have a Father in heaven who is very much taken with you."

These artists have done a great job conveying loving relationships between fathers/grandfathers and children. Do any of these paintings bring up sweet memories for you - or just make you smile?  [Click on images to enlarge]




"In His Steps" / "You've Got What It Takes"
Mark Keathley



"The New Boss"
Sonya Terpening



"Day with Grandma & Grandpa II" - Trevor Mitchell
"The Train Set" - HY Hintermeister



"Family Night" / "Roger's Car" / "The Fishermen"
Robert Duncan



Alexander Sharpe Ross



"First Jar of the Year" - Jim Daly
"Father's Day" by John Sloane



"Three Generations" - Dan Hatala


"Going Home"
Leonid Afremov



"John Deere Restoration" / "John Deere, Our Family's Heritage"
Charles Freitag



"The Good Book"
Jack Sorenson

Friday, June 19, 2015

Review: Summer's List


Summer's List
By Anita Higman
River North, 2015


Summary

After breaking her engagement with a rising politician, Summer Snow is adrift in life and love. Again. Summer's wise grandmother---hoping to help her granddaughter---offers her a list of goals and adventures to fulfill, telling her that she must carry out the list with her long-lost childhood friend, Martin Langtree.

Some of the items on her grandmother's list are---take a hot air balloon ride, build a tree house, sing in public, find a treasure, befriend a dog, learn how to whistle, and kiss someone you love. Martin is happy to help Summer with the list, but unfortunately, his two younger brothers---who are addicted to the lavish lifestyle given to them by their older brother---will do anything to keep Martin from following through with the life-list and falling in love with Summer.

In the end, God helps Martin learn how to deal with his overindulged brothers, and the list of adventures helps Summer to find her true calling in life. She also discovers that her dearest childhood companion, Martin Langtree, who made the ideal friend when they were growing up, could now make the ideal husband.


My thoughts

I have read several of Anita's books and always find them entertaining, often containing a little nugget that challenges or gives me cause for reflection - and Summer's List is no exception. This story has a quirkiness about it, some might say it has a modern-day fairytale or allegory feel - and I find that a refreshingly different quality. Sometimes the dialogue seems a little formal, but the story is very touching overall. Poignant, humorous, bittersweet, heartwarming, uplifting - and with a touch of mystery -  Summer's List has a unique flavor that I appreciated.

I don't believe I've ever come across characters quite like Summer and Martin, both of whom I came to quickly care about, but it was Summer's grandmother that I fell in love with. Wisdom comes with age, and Granny had a wealth of godly wisdom, using it to set things in motion that would bring healing, purpose and acceptance to several characters. As an avid reader, I loved her bookshop called Once Upon a Time and the way she made it a lifetime ministry outreach to children.

Martin is kind of awkward, but lovable guy who works for a think tank, and I was pulling for him to apply his problem-solving skills to his dysfunctional family. Anita very skillfully brings classic books into the narrative, one example being how Dracula was Martin's favorite novel growing up because he "enjoyed reading about people who were more messed up than my own family."

Summer comes across as impulsive and a bit fickle at times, yet she is wonderfully generous and kind-hearted, and slowly moves beyond the need for attention. The love and close relationship she has with her grandmother is one of the story's strengths. Referring to an ice storm in the past, Granny described Summer as a woman who "looks beyond the cold to see a miracle."

I loved how a once-broken heirloom vase is used in this story to convey this important spiritual truth:  "What was hidden had now become known. What was broken was now - by the grace of God - made whole again."

Summer's List is a gentle, uplifting story that will leave readers feeling good. Recommended to all who enjoy inspirational romance.





Best-selling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has forty books published. She's been a Barnes & Noble "Author of the Month" for Houston and has a BA in the combined fields of speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita loves good movies, traveling to exotic places like Australia, the Alps, and Newfoundland.

Connect with Anita online at anitahigman.com and Facebook.

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

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Interview + GIVEAWAY: Amanda Cabot


I love sharing about books that I enjoy and am therefore honored to welcome Amanda Cabot to The Power of Words today. While many of you probably associate Amanda with historical romance, she has written a delightful contemporary series that I am greatly enjoying and wanted to spotlight.

The beauty of the Texas Hill Country is vividly conveyed in Amanda's Texas Crossroads series, and she has done a wonderful job creating realistic, endearing characters in a family-like setting - while at the same time, dealing with some serious life issues that add much depth. Quality writers craft characters that we want to revisit, and that is what Amanda has beautifully achieved in these stories.

Book #2 in this series has just been released, In Firefly Valley (click on title to see my review), and Amanda will tell us about this book today. She is also graciously offering one of our readers a copy of book #1, At Bluebonnet Lake. Details are at the end of this post.


Q:  Please share briefly about your writing, Amanda . . . For instance, do you write full time? What genres do you write in?

        From the time I was seven, I wanted to be a writer, and though the road has had its share of twists and turns and has included both fiction and non-fiction, I’m happy to say that I’ve been a published author for quite a few years.
        Fulltime or part-time?  You’d think that would be an easy answer, wouldn’t you?  I guess you could say that I’m a fulltime writer, because I’ve retired from my day job, but reality is that I write only about three hours a day.  So, does that make me a part-timer?  You decide.
        As for what I write now, that’s easy: Christian romance.  My first two series were historical romances, one set in Texas in the 1850s, the other in Wyoming in the 1880s, but now I’m writing full-length contemporary romances and historical novellas.


Q:  Just a few fun short answer questions, Amanda . . .

Introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in between . . .
In-between

One of my favorite research trips was . . .
To the Eastman Museum in Rochester, NY.  I wanted to get “up close and personal” with cameras that were used during World War One.  When the curator took me into the vault, I got much more than I’d expected, including the opportunity to see Ansel Adams’s camera and the one that took the first pictures on the moon.  That was a definite goose-bump moment.

You may not know this about me, but I . . .
Enjoy sewing and make most of my clothes.

A recently-read book that I would recommend is . . .
Daughter of the Regiment by Stephanie Grace Whitson

I love to _______ in my spare time.
Read. (How predictable is that?)

Small town or city girl?
City, although it might be more accurate to say suburban/city, since most of my life was spent in suburbs.  Now I live in a small city.



Q:  Please tell us about your newest novel, In Firefly Valley, and how it fits into the Texas Crossroads series.

I’m always challenged to tell a story in just a couple paragraphs, so why don’t I simply share the back cover copy with you?

        She’s lost her dream job—but has she found the man of her dreams?
        Devastated by a downsizing, Marisa St. George has no choice but to return to the small Texas town where she grew up. Though it means a giant step backward, she accepts a position as business manager at the struggling Rainbow’s End resort. The only silver lining: Blake Kendall, a new guest who might make her believe in love at first sight. But will Marisa’s dreams of happily-ever-after be turned upside down when she discovers Blake’s real identity?
        This warm and witty story of dreams deferred and mistaken identity will have you believing in second chances.


Q:  Through the character of Blake, you bring up the possibility of unintended or negative effects of an author's writing. Is this something to which you can relate as an author yourself?

Thankfully, not so far, or at least not that I’m aware of.  Although readers might think I based Blake’s challenges on some I’ve experienced, that isn’t the case.  Unlike Blake, I’ve never had writer’s block, nor have I had readers react as negatively as Marisa does to his books.  Of course, I also haven’t had my books turned into movies, nor have I gained vast wealth from royalties.  Blake’s story is fiction – pure fiction.


Q:  I love the depth you achieved with In Firefly Valley by dealing with some serious life issues. Is there a particular theme or spiritual message that spoke to you, Amanda?

I’ve always believed in the healing power of love.  Since I write romance, I focus on the love between a man and a woman, but since this is Christian romance, a more important focus is God’s love for us.  What I hoped to do in In Firefly Valley was to show how the characters – particularly Marisa – need to ask for God’s help if they want to experience that healing.


Q:  Of the Texas Crossroads heroes so far - Greg, Blake and Drew - which one would you favor as a son-in-law? Why?

That’s a difficult question, because each of them has his strengths … and his weaknesses.  But if I had to choose only one, it would be Blake, primarily because of his strong relationship with his father.  That would bode well for his relationship with my husband and me and our daughter, if we had one.


Q:  What stories can readers expect from you in the months ahead, Amanda?

        I’ve just finished the final edits for On Lone Star Trail, the third of the Texas Crossroads contemporary series.  As you might guess, it continues the story of Rainbow’s End and the people who are turning it from a rundown to a remarkable resort.  That’ll be released in February 2016.
        In the meantime, for those who prefer historical novellas, “The Fourth of July Bride” is part of the 12 Brides of Summer series and will be released in e-book format on July 1.  It’s also available in print right now as part of Prairie Summer Brides, which is available in select Walmart stores.  This fall, my “Christmas Star Bride” novella, which was released in e-book format last December, will be included in a deluxe print edition with the other eleven 12 Brides of Christmas stories.


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

I would ask you to pray that my books continue to touch readers’ hearts and deepen their faith.  That’s my prayer each day.


Carole:  Thank you so much for taking the time to visit with us, Amanda - and I loved getting to know more about you through the short-answer questions. From the next book in this series to your upcoming historical novellas, we certainly have a lot to look forward to. And please know that you are welcome here anytime.


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GIVEAWAY


Amanda, thank you for sharing a copy of book #1, At Bluebonnet Lake, with one of our readers. To enter the drawing . . .

1) If you're on Facebook, please go to this Facebook post and share about the giveaway.

2) Answer the following question that I asked Amanda:

Are you a small-town or big-city type of gal? Why?

"Likes" on my Facebook page, ThePowerofWordsBookReviews, are also greatly appreciated. BE SURE to leave your name and your email address in a safe format - [at] and [dot] - for the drawing. E-mail required for entry. Contest ends at midnight PST on Monday, June 29. Winner will be chosen by Random.org and contacted by e-mail. Respond within 48 hours of notification or another winner will be chosen.

Eligibility: US residents