Monday, December 31, 2018

Review: Death and Daisies by Amanda Flower

Death and Daisies
By Amanda Flower
A Magic Garden Mystery #2
Crooked Lane Books, 2018


Florist Fiona Knox left behind her gloomy life for a magical garden in Scotland, but a murder on her shop’s opening day spells doom.

Fiona Knox thought she was pulling her life back together when she inherited her godfather’s cottage in Duncreigan, Scotland—complete with a magical walled garden. But the erstwhile Tennessee flower shop owner promptly found herself puddle boot-deep in danger when she found a dead body among the glimmering blossoms. One police investigation later (made a trifle less unpleasant by the presence of handsome Chief Inspector Neil Craig), and Fiona’s life is getting back on a steady, though bewitched, track. Her sister Isla has just moved in with her, and the grand opening of her new spellbound venture, the Climbing Rose Flower Shop in Aberdeenshire, is imminent.

But dark, ensorcelled clouds are gathering to douse Fiona’s newly sunny outlook. First, imperious parish minister Quaid MacCullen makes it undeniably clear that he would be happy to send Fiona back to Tennessee. Then, a horrific lightning storm, rife with terribly omen, threatens to tear apart the elderly cottage and sends Fi and Isla cowering under their beds. The storm passes, but then, Fi is called away from the Climbing Rose’s opening soiree when Kipling, the tiny village’s weak-kneed volunteer police chief, finds a dead body on the beach.

The body proves difficult to identify, but Kipling is certain it’s that of the parish minister. Which makes Fiona, MacCullen’s new nemesis, a suspect. And what’s worse, Isla has seemed bewitched as of late…did she do something unspeakable to protect her sister? The last thing Fiona wanted to do was play detective again. But now, the rosy future she’d envisioned is going to seed, and if she and Craig can’t clear her name, her idyllic life will wilt away in Death and Daisies, national bestselling author Amanda Flower’s second enchanting Magic Garden mystery.


My thoughts

Death and Daisies is a wonderful cozy mystery, book #2 in an equally wonderful series by the talented Amanda Flower. After reading the previous story, Flowers and Foul Play (click on title to see my review), this series has become a “must read” for me. Setting, characterization, and storyline all combine in a flowing narrative that is difficult to put down. Amanda Flower has also written other series that I hope to eventually read.

A good foundational background is provided so that Death and Daisies can stand alone, but turning to the first page feels like coming home to a beloved village and its sometimes quirky characters. Scotland … what can I say but that there’s just something special about Scotland and its people. For Fiona Knox, new business owner of the Climbing Rose Flower Shop in Aberdeenshire, it’s all about friends like Raj and his sister Presha, Hamish MacGregor, and Chief Inspector Neil Craig. I adore the slowly simmering romance between Fiona and Neil, subtle and very well done.  This story also brings Fiona’s sister, Isla, into the mix, creating even more drama.

The mystery itself is well crafted and believable, but best of all is the rich characterization. Rather than taking second place to the mystery, character development is strong and foundational to the storyline, which elevates this story even more. I also loved how secondary characters and suspects alike are introduced one at a time so as not to be confusing, and this gives readers time to get to know them. Paranormal elements involving the magic garden, of which Fiona is now the caretaker, aren’t featured as prominently as in the previous book, yet this garden is at the heart of everything.

Death and Daisies is an engrossing story, a clean read, and I recommend it highly. “Best of the best” for me. May this series continue for a long time!

I received a copy of this book through the Review Crew. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


Amanda Flower, a USA Today bestselling and Agatha Award-winning mystery author, started her writing career in elementary school when she read a story she wrote to her sixth-grade class and had the class in stitches with her description of being stuck on the top of a Ferris wheel. She knew at that moment she’d found her calling of making people laugh with her words.

In addition to being an author, Amanda is librarian in Northeast Ohio.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Review: Daisy's Search for Freedom by Bertha Schwartz

Daisy’s Search for Freedom
By Bertha Schwartz
The Searchers #1
Ambassador International, 2018


It’s the 1850s and Daisy, a slave girl from Alabama, is thrilled when her Mama is brought to her plantation to be the new cook. Six Oaks Plantation has been Daisy’s home for years, and the future looks bright now that she and her Mama have been reunited. The happiness doesn’t last, though, when a dangerous encounter with a notorious slave hunter endangers Daisy’s life. She has no choice but to run. Leaving behind everything she has ever known, Daisy strikes out alone on the Underground Railroad.

Daisy’s search for freedom leads her deep into the woods. Along the way she is joined by Simon, a four-year-old boy and his pet kitten. Pursued by dogs, uncertainty, and a slave tracker determined to capture them by any means necessary, Daisy starts to wonder if she will ever be safe again. Does Jesus care about runaway slaves lost in the woods?

Daisy's Search for Freedom contains thought-provoking discussion questions for young readers.


My thoughts

Opening in Alabama during the 1850s, Daisy’s Search for Freedom is a suspenseful, emotional, educational, and inspirational read. It brings history to life for young readers and introduces us to the young slave girl, Daisy, who captured my heart. The author put a lot of care into the writing of this novel, for it touches on the atrocities of slavery without going into great detail or being overly graphic, and is definitely age appropriate for middle-grade readers. I enjoyed this story personally and loved seeing the people of the Underground Railroad in action.

Because Daisy had been taught to read, a crime for slaves, she was able to decipher code and pass on messages related to the Underground Railroad. Cruelty was prevalent, but so was kindness and courage. There are several twists and turns, right up to a surprise ending that I loved.

Daisy’s courage and simple trust in God are an inspiration for us all. She exemplifies how, with God’s guidance, we can rise to meet a need, doing more than we’re normally capable of. Thought-provoking discussion questions are also provided, making this story an excellent teaching tool.

Recommended for readers in the middle grades and also as an educational tool – book reports, home-school curriculum, etc. There are two more books in the Searchers series which are well worth looking into: Kelly’s Search for Family and Sarah’s Search for Treasure.

I received a copy of this book through JustRead Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


Bertha Schwartz is a Swiss Amish transplant to the beautiful farmland of Nappanee, Indiana. She loves spending time with family and friends, including fifty-two nieces and nephews. Her hobbies include scrapbooking, sewing, and reading.

Raised near the lovely Swiss city of Berne, Indiana, Swiss is her mother-language. Languages and different dialects are a special interest of hers.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Review + Tour GIVEAWAY: This Homeward Journey by Misty M. Beller

About the Book

Title: This Homeward Journey  
Author: Misty M. Beller  
Genre: Christian historical romance  
Release date: January 1, 2019

After her husband’s death, Rachel Gray is finally free from the turmoil his addictions caused. She wants nothing more than a new life with her twelve-year-old son. If she can reach her brother in the wilderness of the Canadian territories, they’ll have help to start over in peace. She knows better than to put her life in the hands of another man, but she never expected the Montana mountains to be so treacherous. When two brothers invite her to join their small group traveling to the same area, she refuses. After she and her son narrowly escape a bear attack, she’s forced to admit they need the safety of numbers in this untamed land. If the men prove dangerous, she can always leave with her son and strike out alone again. 

Seth Grant has made some bad choices in his life, but God healed him from the addiction that mired him in his sins. Now, he’s determined to live the life God called him to, starting with a journey northward to see the Canadian mountain both his brother and sister have fallen in love with. When he discovers the woman and boy who plan to travel the same mountain trail, he can’t fathom why she refuses to join in the safety of their larger group. Though her decision seems unwise, he has no other choice but to pray God provides her protection. 

Despite Rachel’s best efforts, she can’t seem to fight her attraction to the Seth—until a secret from his past proves he’s not at all the man she thought. When a new peril threatens her son’s life, she must choose between trusting in what she can control, or the man who her heart says is trustworthy, no matter his previous sins. The path she chooses just may determine whether she can step into the new life God has in store for them all.

Click here to purchase your copy.

My Thoughts

With her ability to intricately blend character, setting and plot, Misty Beller ranks among my favorite authors of historical fiction. Each book that I’ve read has rich character depth, a world that you can literally feel, and great chemistry between the lead characters. This Homeward Journey, #5 in the Heart of the Mountain series, introduces us to two more Grant siblings, twin brothers Seth and Samuel.

Released from an abusive marriage by the death of her husband, Rachel’s driving goal is to start afresh, making a new home for herself and her twelve-year-old son close to her brother in Canada. But Rachel’s sense of freedom is merely physical, not emotional or spiritual. She is determined not to feel or be enveloped in what was happening around her, and I would probably have felt the same in her situation.

In my imagination, I could literally see the rugged beauty of the Montana and Canadian territories of Rachel’s journey and smell the fresh mountain air. Yet a depth of courage that I can hardly comprehend comes to mind, for the awesome beauty is also fraught with danger from terrain, weather, and wildlife. Forced to seek protection by joining up with twin brothers, Seth and Samuel Grant, I loved watching Rachel gradually respond to the goodness and kindness of Seth.

Seth is my kind of hero – tender, thoughtful, and caring – and grateful to God for personal redemption. I loved how we see not only God’s forgiveness and grace through Seth’s addictive struggles, but spiritual transformation. Seth’s easy conversation with God through prayer is also something that resonated with me.

One of the best things about this story is that, upon reaching their destination, we are reunited with beloved characters from previous books – Simeon and Emma, Joseph and Monti, Noelle and Daniel. This Homeward Journey ends with Samuel riding out in search of Rachel’s brother, so I anticipate much more to come in this exciting series.

Highly recommended.

I received a copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

About the Author

Misty M. Beller writes romantic mountain stories, set on the 1800s frontier and woven with the truth of God’s love. 

She was raised on a farm in South Carolina, so her Southern roots run deep. Growing up, her family was close, and they continue to keep that priority today. Her husband and daughters now add another dimension to her life, keeping her both grounded and crazy.  
God has placed a desire in Misty’s heart to combine her love for Christian fiction and the simpler ranch life, writing historical novels that display God’s abundant love through the twists and turns in the lives of her characters.

Guest Post from Misty

Why Christian Historical Romance? 

I don’t know about you, but my life can get crazy…busy…chaotic. Historical fiction gives me a haven, allowing me to immerse in a simpler time and place. Add in remote mountain settings—log cabins and horses and snow…what could be better? Sometimes I wish God had let me live a couple centuries ago, but then I remind myself He knew exactly what He was doing. I don’t do well without a shower every day. 😊 And He even lets me go back to that simpler time through stories! 

If you’re reading this, you probably enjoy immersing yourself in a good book, too. Story can be such a powerful thing! Becoming an intimate part of the characters’ lives, feeling their struggles—the desperation, the elation, the emotions, the love. 

I enjoy reading and writing Christian fiction because it provides a place where I don’t always have to be concerned about inappropriate language or too-graphic love scenes. It’s a “safe zone” where my imagination can escape, living out exciting times and experiencing God-orchestrated happily-ever-afters—without having to clean-up at the end of the day. Can you relate? 

I’m excited to share my latest Christian Historical Romance story with you, and hope you enjoy it as much as I loved writing it!


To celebrate her tour, Misty is giving away a grand prize of a $50 Amazon gift card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the image above or the link below to enter.

Blog Stops

The Power of Words, December 29
Carpe Diem, December 30
Splashes of Joy, December 30
Mary Hake, December 31
Pause for Tales, January 1
Simple Harvest Reads, January 2 (Guest post from Mindy Houng)
Among the Reads, January 3
Connect in Fiction, January 5
Creating Romance, January 8
Texas Book-aholic, January 8
Wishful Endings, January 10
Cafinated Reads, January 10
Bigreadersite, January 11

Friday, December 21, 2018

Review: Swimming in the Deep End by Christina Suzann Nelson

Swimming in the Deep End
By Christina Suzann Nelson
Kregel, 2018


A moving novel entwining the many faces of motherly love...

Jillian Cline has the perfect daughter: loving and smart, she's an Olympic hopeful with a bright future. But when Izzy becomes pregnant, Jillian fears that future is lost. Worse, she must confront her own secret past and hope the decisions she's made don't drown their whole family.

Izzy can't believe God let this happen to her. She knew the risks, but who thinks about that when they're in love? Now she has to face the consequences--and the disappointed stares from everyone who thought she was the perfect Christian girl. At least she has the baby's father, Travis. Nothing can tear them apart, right?

Margaret Owens had determined dreams for her son. She's furious that Izzy's pregnancy jeopardizes his college baseball scholarship and terrified that Travis will be trapped in a life of struggle and poverty--the life she's tried so hard to save him from. She'll do anything to protect him--even if it means forcing him to leave Izzy.

Stacey Frey is aching for a child of her own. But the son she was meant to adopt was taken before she could hold him in her arms. It feels like she'll never stop mourning; even the move to this new town hasn't distracted her from the pain. How can she and her husband find peace? Is there any hope of a family in their future?

And in the midst of all this . . . an unborn baby. Whose arms will hold him in the end?


My thoughts

Everyone I’ve loved slips through my fingers,
and the harder I hold on, the faster I lose them.
– Jillian

Emotionally gripping, bittersweet, compelling and heartwarming … Swimming in the Deep End is an engrossing read that I highly recommend. In a realistic and thought-provoking way, it shines the light on emotional themes of teen pregnancy, abortion, infertility, and adoption.

I grew up loving women’s fiction and have long been frustrated at the lack of these stories in Christian fiction. With the release of Swimming in the Deep End, Christina Suzann Nelson has joined the ranks of a handful of authors who write quality fiction in this genre – right up there with Cynthia Ruchti and Kellie Coates Gilbert.

The use of four different voices works very well – mothers of soon-to-be-parent teens (Jillian and Margaret), the teenage girl herself (Izzy), and an infertile young woman (Stacey) – and gives insight into all their thoughts and struggles in a personal way. This story plumbs the depths of almost every emotion imaginable and I never wanted to put it down. Guilt, regret, and fear are major themes – emotions that we can all identify with, even though the root cause might be different.

Christina Suzann Nelson is a gifted writer, with a prose that flows effortlessly, complex characters, and multilayered storylines. Jillian, with her guilt-ridden secret from 20 years ago and her craving for control as her comfortable world fell apart, is a character that I wanted to wrap my arms around. Another character that grabbed my heart is Irene, manager of the home for teenage girls in a crisis pregnancy, a home filled with love, acceptance, faith and hope. The characters interconnect in such a creative way and there's a heartwarming twist toward the end that I loved.

For the first time in my life, God is truly real.
I can feel Him. All I held between us is gone.
He sent it into some dungeon. And I am free.
- Jillian

It was impossible not to shed some tears while reading, many of which were tears of happiness. This story is filled with imperfect Christians, just like us, who learn that God works to fulfill His purpose in every situation. These words, spoken to Jillian by her husband, especially spoke to my heart: “Sometimes, especially in the tough times, we have to come to God even if it’s only in obedience.”

Swimming in the Deep End is a story of the highest quality, a “best of the best” read for me. I hope many more stories flow from the pen of Christina Suzann Nelson.

Very highly recommended.

I received a copy of this book through JustRead Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


Christina Suzann Nelson, inspirational speaker and award-winning author of If We Make It Home, is celebrating the release of Swimming in the Deep End on September 25, 2018.

Her first novel was honored as one of Library Journal’s top five inspirational novels of 2017. She was named the 2017 OCW Cascade’s Writer of Promise. Her stories have been published in the Cup of Comfort for a Better WorldCup of Comfort for Adoptive Families, as well as other publications. She writes and speaks about hope after dysfunction.

Christina is over the top about her passions, including the stories created somewhere in the twists and turns of her less-than-focused brain. When she’s not writing, she’s working with the Every Child initiative, chasing escaped steers, reading, breathing in the sweet smell of her horse, hiking with her dog, or enjoying her just-as-crazy family.


Sunday, December 16, 2018

Review + Tour GIVEAWAY: Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock

About the Book

Book: Catching Christmas  
Author: Terri Blackstock  
Genre: Christian Fiction, Romance, Christmas  
Release Date: October 9, 2018  

This Year, Christmas Comes Just in Time

As a first-year law associate, Sydney Batson knows she will be updating her resume by New Year’s if she loses her current court case. So when her grandmother gets inexplicably ill while she’s in court, Sydney arranges for a cab to get her to the clinic. 

The last thing cab driver Finn Parrish wants is to be saddled with a wheelchair-bound old lady with dementia. But because Miss Callie reminds him of his own mother, whom he failed miserably in her last days, he can’t say no when she keeps calling him for rides. Once a successful gourmet chef, Finn’s biggest concern now is making his rent, but half the time Callie doesn’t remember to pay him. And as she starts to feel better, she leads him on wild goose chases to find a Christmas date for her granddaughter. 

When Finn meets Sydney, he’s quite sure that she’s never needed help finding a date. Does Miss Callie have an ulterior motive, or is this just a mission driven by delusions? He’s willing to do whatever he can to help fulfill Callie’s Christmas wish. He just never expected to be a vital part of it.

Click here to purchase your copy.

My Thoughts

Catching Christmas is a beautiful and awesome read for the Christmas season – or anytime, for that matter, because it’s message of hope and redemption knows no season. Terri Blackstock has written a gem of a book – quirky, emotional, romantic, and downright funny at times – and totally different from anything I could have ever expected. Jesus is clearly seen in this story.

Callie has made herself a daily fixture in my life. She’s like
gum on the bottom of my shoe. There’s no way
to get it off without making a mess.
- Finn

Catching Christmas revolves around three characters: Sydney, a young lady with a stress filled, thankless job at a cutthroat law firm; Finn, the reluctant hero, a gourmet chef turned taxicab driver; and Callie, Sydney’s grandmother. Callie is the heart and soul of this story, and when Finn responded to the dispatcher’s call that sent him to Callie’s home, there’s no way he could have anticipated what a pivotal moment in his life that would be.

In the hands of Blackstock’s skilled writing, a story that has the potential to be sad doesn’t come across that way at all. There’s a good balance between humor and poignancy, with some delightfully funny moments – such as the day Finn took Callie shopping.

I feel like I’m getting to know Callie’s Jesus a little better,
even though I’m doing all the talking.
But he speaks volumes in the way he listens.
- Finn

An anonymous quote that I’ve frequently heard so aptly applies to Callie: “Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” Catching Christmas reminds us of what’s most important in life, the value of savoring relationships, and of the far-reaching testimony our everyday interactions with people can have.

Normally a writer of suspense, this is Blackstock’s first Christmas story, and I hope many more will follow.

Highly recommended.

I received a copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

About the Author

Terri Blackstock has sold over seven million books worldwide and is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author. She is the award-winning author of Intervention, Vicious Cycle, and Downfall, as well as such series as Cape Refuge, Newpointe 911, the SunCoast Chronicles, and the Restoration Series. Catching Christmas is her first Christmas romance. 

Visit her website at 
Facebook: tblackstock 
Twitter: @terriblackstock

From Terri Blackstock

Enjoy this premium excerpt from Catching Christmas: 

To get you in the Christmas mood, here’s an early holiday playlist: 
“White Christmas” sung by Bing Crosby 
“I Heard the Bells” sung by MercyMe 
“Light of the World” sung by Lauren Daigle 
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” sung by Amy Grant 
“Don’t Save it All for Christmas Day” sung by Avalon 
“Till the Season Comes ‘Round Again” sung by the Katinas


To celebrate her tour, Terri is giving away a grand prize of a finished copy of Catching Christmas and a Christmas Tree Ornament!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the image above or the link below to enter.

Blog Stops

Daysong Reflections, December 15
Genesis 5020, December 15
Back Porch Reads, December 15
The Power of Words, December 16
Quiet Quilter, December 16
Among the Reads, December 17
Kathleen Denly, December 17
By The Book, December 17
Lighthouse Academy, December 17
Cultivating Us, December 18
Simple Harvest Reads, December 18 (Guest Post from Mindy Houng)
Remembrancy, December 18
All-of-a-kind Mom, December 20
amandainpa, December 20
Multifarious, December 21
Cathe Swanson, December 21
Stories By Gina, December 21
Connect in Fiction, December 22
Have A Wonderful Day, December 22
Splashes of Joy, December 22
Bibliophile Reviews, December 22
Lis Loves Reading, December 23
Mary Hake, December 23
Bigreadersite, December 23
Book by Book, December 24
Pause for Tales, December 24
Vicky Sluiter, December 25
Inklings and notions, December 26
Captive Dreams Window, December 27
Texas Book-aholic, December 27
Older & Smarter?, December 28
Janices book reviews, December 28
Carpe Diem, December 28

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Meditations from The First Songs of Christmas

Just wanted to share some meditative thoughts from this excellent Advent devotional that I’m using this Christmas, The First Songs of Christmas by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth (available at And if you’re being blessed by a devotional this season, please share with us.

The First Songs of Christmas
Meditations on Luke 1 & 2
By Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth


“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God … For nothing will be impossible with God.”
(Luke 1:35,37)

The Ancient of Days became a newborn. The One who created the first woman was born of a woman.

Though heaven and earth cannot contain Him, He chose to be confined to a human body. He chose to be held in the arms of a teenage girl, even though His own arms, His “everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27), hold the entire universe in place. He whose voice is “powerful” and “full of majesty” (Ps. 29:4) was reduced to “speaking” with the coo and cry of a tiny baby. He who “sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord [who] sits enthroned as king forever” (Ps. 29:10) exchanged His lofty throne for an animal’s feeding trough.


Yet in this case, because the story of Jesus’ birth is so known and familiar to us, we do something we don’t do often enough. We believe the impossible. We sing with joyful acceptance about things that make no earthly sense unless God actually did what cannot possibly be done. We marvel at it, and we worship Him for it, despite our inability to understand it. Because since it’s baby Jesus, since it’s the Christmas story … it doesn’t sound so impossible anymore.

Imagine yourself in the heart of a young girl to whom the events of Luke 1 occurred on just another ordinary day, in a place where impossible things never happened. She didn’t wake up that morning expecting an angel to visit. She had no way of knowing ahead of time what God had chosen her to do, much less how He intended to do it. She was likely thinking of little else besides her plans for getting married and living happily into the future with her future husband. She held in her mind a simple little picture of what her life was to be like – a picture framed by nothing but possible outcomes.

Yet before her name became written in Scripture, before her likeness was carved and colored into countless nativity scenes – before Christmas became somehow easy for us to believe –

Mary believed. She believed the impossible.

“For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Whatever your task this season, like Mary’s task, it is meant to be made possible only by the power of the Holy Spirit. We must be willing to surrender ourselves by faith and let God take over, knowing He alone can do the impossible through us.

Lord, apart from You, I will accomplish nothing of eternal significance today or throughout this Christmas season. So I look to You to overshadow me, to fill me with Your Spirit, and enable me to accomplish all You have purposed for me to do. Help me not to trust in my own strengths, skills, or success, but only in You, for Your honor and glory alone.



- Deuteronomy 33:26-29
“Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord!” (v. 29)

- Psalm 29:1-11
“May the Lord give strength to his people” (v. 11)

- John 15:1-8
“For apart from me you can do nothing” (v. 5)