Sunday, January 31, 2016

Cold Shot by Dani Pettrey



Cover ArtFour Best Friends. 
And Then One Went Missing . . . 

In college, Griffin McCray and his three best friends had their lives planned out. Griffin and Luke Gallagher would join the Baltimore Police Department, Declan Grey would head to the FBI, and Parker Mitchell would study to become a crime scene analyst. But then Luke vanished before graduation and their world--and friendships--crumbled. 

Now years later, Griffin has left the police and his friendships behind. Still trying to forget a case that went bad when he was a SWAT team sniper, he's living a quiet life as a park ranger at Gettysburg. Quiet until skeletal remains are uncovered near Little Round Top--and they aren't Civil War-era. 

Griffin just wants the case to go away, but charming forensic anthropologist Finley Scott discovers evidence pointing to the work of an expert sniper. When FBI agent Declan Grey steps in to take over the case, past and present collide. Griffin soon realizes he'll need to confront some of the darkest days of his life if he--and those he cares about--are going to escape a downward spiral of crime, danger, and murder.

My Thoughts:
Book one in Chesapeake Valor by Dani Pettrey is a book that you don't want to miss, especially if you love books full of suspense, crime and danger. This book will have you turning the pages, especially if you're a nail biter. You'll be wanting to solve the case the entire time, and it will keep you on your feet. If you thought you had it figure out, which believe me, I figured I did... Well, forget it! Only a great author could throw her readers for the loop of a lifetime to keep us guessing. Just as you think it's time to take a breath, you won't because nothing is safe. There were moments where I felt my heart racing. This book is full of intensity and "Oh my gosh" moments.  Not only that but a tale of romance, humor and a great overall arching theme, which I will not give away. I anticipate book two to be just as excellent and am super excited for it! 
 Readers, if you are looking for high suspense, romance, a great series and life lesson to be learned, look no further, Cold Shot is not to be missed. You'll fall in love with the characters; you'll stay up way too late, and you'll be thinking about this story long after you've finished. For all these reasons and more, I give this book 5/5 stars. 
Thank you to Bethany House for providing me a complimentary copy for review purposes only. I was not compensated for a positive review.

About the Author: 
Dani Pettrey
Photo Credit: Michael Pettrey Photography
Dani Pettrey is a wife, home-schooling mom, and the acclaimed author of the Alaskan Courage romantic suspense series, which includes her bestselling novels Submerged,ShatteredStrandedSilenced, and Sabotaged. Her books have been honored with the Daphne du Maurier award, two HOLT Medallions, two National Readers' Choice Awards, the Gail Wilson Award of Excellence, and Christian Retailing's Best Award, among others.  

She feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves--the thrill of adventure, nail-biting suspense, the deepening of her characters' faith, and plenty of romance. She and her husband reside in Maryland, where they enjoy time with their two daughters, a son-in-law, and a super adorable grandson. 
You can find her online at danipettrey.com.

The Secrets of Humming Bird Cake Book Review

Image provided by Publisher
The Secret to HummingBird Cake is the best book I have read in a long time, which says a lot for an avid reader and reviewer. First, I will disclaim this; many readers will be off put by this book because of the REAL life junk that happens in the book. Yes, I said REAL life, you know the thing you and I are living. This book isn't some sweet fairy tale, but it's sassy, painful, messy and downright lovable. The Secret to Humming Bird Cake will make you laugh so hard and cry tears you didn't know existed. Your husband will look at you, and question if he made you upset or if you ate something funky? Any book that makes you cry and laugh simultaneously is a book well worth reading more than once, which is what you will find here. The characters aren't perfect and in fact, have faults, just like readers, which makes this book a breath of fresh air.

The Secrets to HummingBird Cake has a Southern charm of a small town, but don't mistake that for the beautiful friendships these three women have. Their friendship is a once in a life time and God Bless their hearts, we'd be lucky to have true friendship like these three women. They can call each other about their mistakes, but pull them by the boot straps to carry them through the mud. And if you give this book a bad review because you're gawking at three words used in this book, look behind you, you have one too, move on. Life isn't perfect, I still love Jesus, and no, I'm not the condoning language, but you've missed the point of the book if you're off put three-word choices. This book isn't about that. Chances are, you're probably offended by the C- word, but those are just my thoughts. This book hit close to home as so many of friends have children battling ALL and EWIGS Sarcoma. In my opinion, The Secrets to HummingBird Cake touches on the things that matter most to me; Marriage, friendship, faith, giving in the unseen, Cancer and love. When the final page has been turned, you will be thinking about this book and wishing you had friends like Laine, Ella Rae & Carri. I want to see this book made into a film, and I wish Ms. McHale the very best in her writing. You gained me as a reader for life.


Thank you to Thomas Nelson for providing me a complimentary copy for review and my honest opinion, which I have given. 

The Duck Commander Devotional for Couples by Al & Lisa Robertson

Image courtesy of Howard Publishing
About the Book: With the ongoing popularity of A&E’s Duck Dynasty, the much-loved Robertson family has more to share about family, faith, and love than ever before. Alan (the beardless brother) and his wife Lisa have created a devotional combining their hard-won wisdom about love and marriage to help bring couples closer together and closer to God.

Alan and Lisa Robertson had a failing marriage. But with unwavering faith and the unconditional love of their ever-present family, they got through the tough times and rekindled their love. Now the Robertsons want to share what they’ve learned. Combining the spiritual with the practical, The Duck Commander Devotional for Couples has a simple purpose: to bring couples closer to God and to each other. Designed with busy couples in mind, this devotional encourages husbands and wives to set aside time weekly to enhance their relationship. Spending spiritually meaningful time together every day is often impossible, but Al and Lisa arranged this devotional with realistic goals, allowing you to experience success and the desire to meet together regularly.

Each devotional includes inspirational messages, relevant scriptures, thoughtful questions, and prayer suggestions. Whether you are happy in your marriage or struggling to hold it together, setting aside time to focus on each other and deepen your connections will improve your relationship and bring you closer to God. 
My Thoughts:
As we look forward to Valentine'S Day, this may be a gift that many of you would enjoy as you seek to develop a closer relationship with your spouse. I liked that each week contained a different devotional on  various topics with the intention of bringing you and your spouse closer together with God being the center in the devotional. These devotional topics are very relevant to the culture we live in and give guidance in a Biblical understand.  Each devotional contains discussion questions for the couple to go over, which is a great way to get discussion. Afterwards, the devotional provided space for her thoughts and his thoughts to continue to shape growth within the marriage. I can see this being so beneficial in marriages today. This devotional would only require 10 minutes a day with our spouse and the fruits in our marriages, families  and life would be so much more than the ten minutes that we invest. I would highly recommend this devotional simply for the content, the way it is written and the opportunity it provides for couples to draw closer together. 

Thank you to Howard Publishing Company for providing me the opportunity to review this book. I was not compensated for a positive review, but provided a copy of the book for my honest opinion, which I have given here. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Fed Up

During the month of January, our church does a fast called Daniel. It primarily involves no wheat, no meat, and no sweets. Most of the foods you eat are fresh and do not contain preservatives. Nothing can have added sugar, but must only contain natural sugar. Many of the foods have high fiber content, and the purpose of the Daniel Fast is not the food aspect, but it is more of a spiritual discipline.  Many people ask me about the Daniel Fast and each year we see growth in our lives as a result of this spiritual discipline.


Daniel Walnut Tacos


So, why would my title be Fed Up? Well, I want to talk about to you about something that we've become a little weary about since doing our Daniel Fast. Its name: SUGAR. This one little ingredient KILLS Americans every year and yet, we are not informed. When you go 21 days without processed food and sugar, your taste buds change and you start to enjoy real food. Food without preservatives and pumped with junk that isn't supposed to last in your cupboard for six months.   The first week is terrible as you go through the detox process undergoing headaches,  tiredness, and MASSIVE mood swings. Did you know that food has the power to bring on such terrible things? Yes, our grocery bill increased and we were going to the store weekly, which was a pain, but YOU feel a LOT better. Now, for a while, I thought who cares? Right!  Life is in the balance. I don't need to care about food, this is just temporary, until after that first meal post- Daniel. 

Then...

We watched a documentary on Netflix entitled FED Up, which is all about the food industry primarily dealing with sugar and processed food. It made me disgusted!  I have complete disdain for the lack of governmental regulations on sugar! Why? Simply because we are not informed about the choices we make daily. One interesting fact we learned: On every food item you pick up at the grocery store it will tell you the daily recommended amount of an item such as fiber.   For Example: on a box of Cheerios it may say contains 3 grams of fiber and in percentage form, it will say 12% which means that 12% of the daily recommended amount of fiber you should eat. HOWEVER, it will NEVER tell you how much sugar is recommended daily. WAIT? WHAT?

The United States Government does not SET guidelines on how much sugar AMERICANS should be eating every single day. Now, we can have two schools of thought on this:
 1) The government has no business telling me how much sugar I should eat every single day. No standard should be set.

2) I should be informed about what the proper amount of sugar is to be consumed every day to decrease heart disease, stroke,obesity, heart attacks, diabetes, etc.  The government should set a standard. It's up to me choose my food, but a standard should be set based on advice from top medical experts, doctors, etc. 

My husband and I were floored to find out the very same food companies you and I both consume are the very same companies making us obese, pumping us with preservatives, claiming healthier options and yet lying straight through their teeth. Now, do I blame them entirely? No. They are a business that employs people;  they need a profit to keep their large corporations sustainable and marketing to young kids, to get them hooked and continue the trend. If they were honest, they wouldn't be the number one brands in America that we all recognize, love and are addicted too. It's just a fact. 

Sugar is found in everything. Yogurt, Juices, Soups, Salad Dressings, Crackers, Cookies, Chips- You name it; the contains sugar. High Fructose Syrup (Sugar) has 56 names, and chances are if you don't know what the label means, you might not want to buy it. We've researched food labels in the grocery store to find out the "healthier" options utilized ingredients that are also in household cleaning supplies. GROSS! 

Now, after 21 days sugar detox and watching Fed Up, we've become more educated about food and continue to glean more information about the food industry, alternative healthy food choices and what moderation means. Will I never have a cookie again? Heck no! However, I am convinced that sugar and processed food is NOT helping us live longer, and if we want to change, we have to drop the supply/ demand down for these types of foods. I would highly recommend watching the documentary titled Fed Up because it will MESS you up! 




Education and knowledge can be powerful, but life is about finding balance, and I don't think it's in all those boxes!


From one sweet tooth to another, Happy Friday!

What do you think about sugar? Have you seen Fed Up? Would you watch it or rather not know what's in your food? 





Where She Belongs by Jonnie Alexander

Cover Art
Image provided by Revell Publishing
Can love redeem a broken past?

Shelby Kincaid is ready to move forward after the death of her husband left her devastated. With high hopes for the future, she longs to purchase her family's homestead, Misty Willow, so she can raise her young daughters in the only place she ever truly belonged. She plans to transform the abandoned house into the perfect home of her memories. But she has her work cut out for her.

AJ Sullivan never wanted Shelby's family homestead in the first place. His grandfather left it to him as punishment for not following his wishes, and he's let it fall into ruin. AJ's more than happy to unload it to this spitfire of a woman. But even after angry exchanges over the state of the house, he can't get her off his mind.

With writing that evokes a strong sense of place and family history, Johnnie Alexander deftly explores the ties that bind us to home--and the irresistible forces that draw us to each other.

My Thoughts: 
First, If you miss anything about this review, don't miss this! Go and BUY this book! Honestly, at first, I was frustrated and not understanding what the heck was going. It could have been me being moody or my brain not working, but man did this book pick up SPEED, and I could not put it DOWN! "Where She Belongs" is a page-turner filled with DRAMA from your MAMA, tension in the romance department and family history that you won't believe! All along, you'll be shaking your head, your mouth will be hanging open, and when this book is done, you'll be mad that Ms. Alexander did not provide you the second book in this series because your mouth is watering for book number two!  Get ready to fall in love with two cute little girls, a single momma and Misty Willow. It all starts when you open the pages of "Where she Belongs." This is beyond a 5-star book! Thank you to the Publishers for providing me a copy for my honest review, which I have provided here. 
                    


Johnnie Alexander
Image Provided by Revell Publishing 
Johnnie Alexander is the award-winning author of Where Treasure Hides and Where She Belongs. Johnnie is an accomplished essayist and poet whose work has appeared in the Guideposts anthology A Cup of Christmas Cheer. In addition to writing, she enjoys reading, spending time with her grandchildren, and taking road trips. She lives near Memphis, Tennessee.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Shake It Off

Well, you've made it to the middle of the week! Things are looking great! 

This morning, I would like to publicly and openly address an email I received from a reader. I welcome criticism, and I'm open to an honest conversation about life. However, I don't hide behind my blog or emails. When you open yourself up on a public forum, you welcome these kinds of conversations. I received an email from a reader who felt that my last post regarding suffering did not warrant the opportunity for me to discuss my own sufferings. I have decided to address that email openly.

First, we can't quantify suffering over another person's suffering. My suffering isn't more important that another individual. Second, my personal suffering is dealing with the fact that I have had to endure physical pain in my knee and leg without answers, beyond my limitations as a runner and human. While I'm waiting for these results, I'm losing a love for something dear to my heart that I've been doing for ten years. It would be like dating someone 10 years to find out they never wanted to have children. You would feel devastated if you always dreamed of a family. That's what it feels like to be without running for almost three months. Runners are always dreaming of races, goals, PRS and new runner friends to meet. While I respect you, and I welcome your email, suffering cannot be quantified. Thank you for giving me your personal perspective and I hope you can respect mine.

Second, let's talk about my visit to the Sports Medicine doctor who was AWESOME! I had my appointment with Dr. Kern's office yesterday, and I was incredibly grateful for the how much time the staff took with me. I am blown away at the level of care they give their patients. They spent 1.5 hours with me, which is hard to come by these days. I finally felt heard, and while I don't have a diagnosis, we have a course of action. For starters, they took three different blood panel draws because as of this point, my knee checks out fine regarding injuries. One of the blood draws had to be free of light after it was taken. I've never had that before. {Insert Weird}



I am free and clear of a meniscus tear or ACL issues. However, they were moving my foot around, and my knee popped several times, which is not something you want. I should not be having the pain I'm incurring in my knee based on no injury. They also discovered my right leg is just a tad longer than my left. She was looking to see if something was not adjusted correctly in my back, shoulder, spine or hip. Additionally, they are concerned about the discoloring in my leg.





The game plan & concerns:
Blood work- Wait for results
Doppler Ultrasound on my right leg to look at blood flow 
Monitor Cardio Vascular System for a possible condition (Lupus, Reynaud's Disease or Autoimmune)
Physical Therapy for Knee and Plantar Fasciitis. 
Possible Shots for the PF after exhaustion of PT

Dr. Kern is fantastic and is on top of this for a Sports Doctor. I say that with the utmost respect.  She said none of this is textbook, but she is willing to go the extra mile to make sure everything is okay and to figure this medical stuff to the best of her capability, which I appreciate. She could just push me off to another doctor and say sports medicine is her specialty, not all this other weird stuff, but she is putting forth a lot of effort and for that, I'm grateful. If all checks out well, she will have a plan B as physical therapy happens to see if all the pain is connected. For now, we will wait and see how the test results come out because we have nothing else to go off of. 


Honestly, as my friend Taylor Swift says, "Just Shake it Off" and that's how I feel right now. Even though I have a zillion appointments over the next week, I'm shaking it off because I feel like we're going somewhere now. We have a starting point and soon, we will have an ending point. I can't wait to start PT. Thursday, I have a consultation appointment, and I can't wait for them to hurt me. Let's get back to running! I have a FLYING Pigs HALF Marathon to start mapping out a training schedule and also a charity bike ride that I would like to get raising money for once I'm cleared, but for now, I'm focused on healing. Until then, I'm shaking it off and feel like I've got the world in my hands because someone knows what they're doing! YAHOO! 

Have you ever been to a physician where they took the extra time? Or have you had a bad experience? What happened? 


XOXO,
Sarah 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

An Amish Year by Beth Wiseman

Spend a year in Amish country with four sweet romances.
Rooted in Love (previously published in An Amish Garden)
Rosemary Lantz is doing her best to run her family’s household. She excels at all her tasks except one: gardening. Saul Petersheim has pursued Rosemary for years, but Rosemary keeps turning him down. What Saul doesn’t know is that she has good reason—something no one can know—especially not him.
A Love for Irma Rose
The year is 1957, and young Irma Rose has a choice to make. Date the man who is “right” for her? Or give Jonas a chance, the wild and reckless suitor who refuses to take no for an answer? Irma Rose steps onto the path she believes God has planned for her, but when she loses her footing, she is forced to rethink her choice.
An Amish Year
Images provided by Thomas Nelson
Patchwork Perfect
Eli Byler has been a widower for two years when he chooses to make a fresh start in Paradise, Pennsylvania. As Eli juggles the admiration of two women, he meets Miriam Fisher—the most unconventional Amish woman he’s ever met. She doesn’t fit the mold for what Eli is looking for, but it isn’t long before Eli realizes that Miriam is everything he wants. But Miriam has no plans to get married—ever. Will Eli be able to change her mind?
When Christmas Comes Again (previously published in An Amish Second Christmas)
Katherine knows the first Christmas without Elias will be hard for her and the children. But when a mysterious Englischer appears with photographs of her late husband, Katherine begins to wonder what other blessings Christmas could have in store.
About the Author
Award-winning, bestselling author Beth Wiseman is best known for her Amish novels, but she has also written several successful contemporary novels, set primarily in her beloved Texas, including Need You Now and The House that Love Built. Both have received glowing reviews. Beth's The Promise is inspired by a true story.

My Review
If you've never read a book by Beth Wiseman, you are missing out. Don't take my opinion, or do because she is a fantastic author and you will find yourself staying up way too late to finish her beautiful books! However, no complaints from me as that is what a great author and excellent book should do.  An Amish Year is composed of four novella's, which were previously written, but I had not read them except one; When Christmas Comes Again and put together all in one book. Honestly, I can appreciate the compilation of each of these stories one book because it saves room on the shelf and it has all of Beth's stories in one book, which is a very nice set. 
Overall, these were short stories that could be read within an hour and would make you think long about the characters after you had finished. My personal favorite was "When Christmas Comes Again", but I did also enjoy "A Love for Irma Rose."  I related to Irma in so many ways because we can all think about times where we've had to face situations where we can do the think that is logical or the thinG that our heart is saying to do. I also enjoyed reading When Christmas Comes Again because it reminded me of how painful a Christmas can be without someone you love, but the hope for something new. Each one of these stories is sweet and enjoyable. Thank you to Thomas Nelson for providing me a complimentary copy for review, which I have provided. 


Monday, January 25, 2016

Suffering.

Good Morning and Happy Monday! I know many of you across the country have experienced the unusual weather of WINTER! I hope you have enjoyed the beautiful snow and were able to create some special memories this past weekend.

Nausea. 
Have you experienced the sensation of an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach? You feel like you're either going to vomit or pass out. It's uncontrollable, and it can be the worse feeling in the world when a wave hits you. And worse, the waves of nausea come crashing, and they slowly stop enough for you to catch a breath, before the next wave hits. You just want it to stop and pray for it end soon because your body can't handle the sensations. You snack on some crackers or drink a glass of Sprite to slow it down, but the waves keep coming, and you just wait for it to pass. You crawl onto the couch with your eyes close just waiting for it to end.

Isn't that how suffering goes? It's like waves of this uneasy feeling that will leave you with a pit in your stomach for days, weeks, months and even years.  It's unexpected. Sometimes it's a wave that is slow and other times it feels like the waves are pounding. Seldom you can barely stay on shore and other times you're swept right into the water. It sneaks up on you, knocks the wind out of you, and you're left trying to figure out how to stand again. It can intensify and become intolerable. Somedays it's dark and other days it's bright. Suffering is complicated, messy and beautiful. Suffering doesn't define us, but our attitude through suffering shapes us. 

Why would I bring up suffering today? This past weekend, I've had the privilege and opportunity to talk with some of my great friends, and they are suffering. Life is hard. One wave crashes, just in time for another to form and I am reminded as I watch their seasons of life, that our attitude is everything. Suffering is messy and some days it's plain awful, but other days, it's beautiful to see how they walk through it. Some moments they have more grace and pose than others, but they certainly celebrate life despite their hardships. Their attitudes are remarkable, and the patience they demonstrate is something I could write a book on. Sometimes I wonder if they're human? 

I certainly am not exhibiting that kind of patience when it comes to running or suffering. Tomorrow, I go to the sports doctor, and I can't wait to see her. I hope we can have answers, a game plan, and a treatment plan because I feel like I might not make it. Once a runner, always a runner.

As you go throughout this week, let us be aware that we never know what someone is going through. Sometimes people don't let us see the full picture, so mercy, grace and kindness are things we can give freely. I know I will work towards bringing more joy and kindness this week wherever I go. I hope you will too because this world can use it. We never know the real suffering behind the mask people put on their face. 

XOXO,
Sarah 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Bronner: A Journey to Understand


BronnerSherri Burgess and Rick Burgess are amazing people who write and tell the senseless tragedy of losing their son Bronner. Bronner is the story of a little boy who drowned one evening in their backyard swimming pool, but what his life did went far beyond his two years of life. 

While the Burgess family would do anything to have him back, they alway know that God always has a plan, and they witness his mercy, grace and plan time and time again.  One of these times was the night Bronner passed away, and Rick had the opportunity to minister to the nurses and doctors. Later, Rick found out that the head doctor gave his heart to the Lord. 
While their journey through grief wasn't easy, these two showed strong courage and faith in the Lord. This is a beautiful story of how people who trust in God can get through the most difficult circumstances even when they don't understand. 


Their story is an encouragement to anyone walking through a difficult road. This is a difficult read, but very easy to connect with the Burgess family as we have all gone through difficult pain in our lives. 

I highly recommend this book as you will find your own suffering amidst their pain and you will also find healing through their journey within your suffering.  It is a beautiful how God weaves our stories together because suffering was never meant to be walked along.

Thank you, New Hope Publishing and Litfuse Publishing for providing me a complimentary copy for review purposes. I was not compensated for a positive review. 

About the Author:

Sherri BurgessSherri Burgess’ life is a beckoning for you to know a Holy God like you have never known Him before. The wife of Rick Burgess of The Rick and Bubba Show, a nationally syndicated talk radio show, Sherri is someone who now passionately pursues holiness and inspires others to do the same. A seasoned Bible teacher, writer and blogger, she has in recent years answered God’s call as a women’s ministry speaker. This mother of five stays active with her family in Birmingham, Alabama.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Beyond the Silence by Tracie Peterson & Kimberley Woodhouse

Beyond the SilenceLillian Porter accepted a job as a nanny to a boy who has mutism and no longer speaks due to the murder of his mother, in Angels Camp in California. She decided to leave her home with her grandfather in hopes of pursuing a new life as she no longer wants to be a prisoner in her own home. Her grandfather disowns her after this "hasty" decision, but the staff still very much loves her and keeps connected with her as she moves on with her new life. 

Woody Colton, the father of little Jimmy, is completely grieving the loss of his wife. The entire town blames him for his wives murder as the killer was not found. His son, Jimmy will not talk after the trauma and Woody does not know how to help him. 

This story is more that just Lillian moving in with Woody to nanny and take care of Jimmy, but a story of forgiveness and the deep wounds that gossip can have on someone's life. It is a beautiful story of redemption, healing and the story of how God can show up to help any difficult situation. 

"Beyond the Silence" is a remarkable novel about love, forgiveness, and healing. I loved this book and never had ready a book by Tracie Peterson. I read it in one sitting because I could not put it down. Having never read anything by Kimberly Woodhouse, I enjoyed her sense of style of writing as well. I hope to read many more books by both of these authors. I also enjoyed the character Harry and cannot wait for you to meet him! 

Thank you to Bethany House for providing me a copy through Litfuse. I give this book five stars! 

About the Authors: 

Tracie Peterson is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than 100 novels. Tracie also teaches writing workshops at a variety of conferences on subjects such as inspirational romance and historical research. She and her family live in Montana. 

Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse**||** Kimberley Woodhouse is a multipublished author of fiction and nonfiction. A popular speaker/teacher, she's shared her theme of Joy Through Trials with over 150,000 people at more than a thousand venues across the country. She lives, writes, and homeschools with her husband of twenty-plus years and their two awesome teens live in Colorado.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Hannah's Choice by Jan Drexler


Cover Art
Photo Provide by Revell Publishing

About

When love and family conflict, will she listen to her head . . . or her heart?

Hannah Yoder loves her quiet life on the banks of Conestoga Creek. In 1842, this corner of Lancaster County is settled and peaceful--yet problems lurk beneath the placid fa├žade. Hannah strives to be the one person who can bind the threads of her family together in spite of her father's worries, her mother's depression, and her sister's rebellious ways. But her world threatens to unravel.

When two young men seek her hand in marriage--one offering the home she craves and the other promising the adventure of following God's call west--Hannah must make a choice. Will she stay true to the faith of her family or defy her father and abandon her community?
My Review:
This book is about the Yoder family who are like every family who has it triumphs and setbacks. Hannah bears many of the burdens of her family, especially since she is the oldest. This is especially the case when her mother becomes depressed, and she is unable to care the other kids. Hannah wants to be the peacekeeper and the one who holds everything together despite the severe hardships her family faces. Two men, one she has known since she was a child and another who promises her a lifetime of adventure pursue her hand in marriage. The problem is that Hannah isn't sure what to do. The book was this banter back and forth about what which man would be the smart decision and who would be the more unwise individual to marry. This prolonged the book for me and at times I enjoyed it, but I felt there were moments where it dragged on.
This book also had a thread of history woven into it with aiding to help slaves to escape. During this time, there was a lot of controversy, which make made this book interesting. All in all, I found this book to have moments where it was moving and other times where it was slower. I give this book four stars because it was a slower pace for me, but I am ready to read the second book in this series and to see what happens next. 
Thank to the publishers for allowing me to review this book for my honest opinion, which I have expressed here. 


Jan Drexler
 brings a unique understanding of Amish traditions and beliefs to her writing. Her ancestors were among the first Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren immigrants to Pennsylvania in the 1700s. Their experiences are the basis for her stories. Jan lives in South Dakota with her husband, their four adult children, two active dogs, and a cat. When she isn't writing, she enjoys hiking the Black Hills and the Badlands. She is the author of the Love Inspired novels The Prodigal Son Returns, A Mother for His Children, and A Home for His Family (September 2015).  

Jan Drexler
Photography by 

Magnified Photography

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Son's Vow by Shelly Shepard Gray

A Son’s Vow
Image provided via Publisher
Three months ago, everything changed for Darla Kurtz and her family.
Darla’s father was responsible for a terrible fire at Charm’s lumber mill which killed five Amish men. And though he, too, lost his life, the town of Charm hasn’t looked at her family the same since. Even Lukas Kinsinger—with whom Darla used to have a close friendship.
Now her brother’s anger at the town is spilling over onto Darla, and she has the bruises to prove it. The accident already cost five lives, but if something doesn’t change soon, Darla fears it will cost her—and her family—even more.
Lukas Kinsinger wants to mourn the loss of his father, but he can hardly find the time to breathe. Suddenly the head of his father’s lumber mill and responsible for taking care of his three siblings, he’s feeling the pressure. He has also never felt more alone—especially with the new tension between he and Darla. But when he learns of her troubles at home, Lukas knows he can’t simply stand by and watch. Someone has to help her before another tragedy occurs.
As Lukas and Darla attempt to repair their families, they discover something deeper than friendship growing between them. But will Lukas and Darla’s love be accepted after so much loss? Or will the pain of the past overcome any chance of future happiness?
Shelley Shepard Gray’s first book in her Charmed Amish Life series is set in the quaint Amish village of Charm, Ohio, and tells the stories of the Kinsinger siblings who are each struggling to find both forgiveness and love in the face of tragedy.
My Review:
 Shelley Shepard Gray is known for great fantastic writing and this book continues to be a testament to her unique story telling. A Son's Vow is the first book in the Charmed Amish Life series and is about a small town dealing with a tragedy of an accidental fire at the town's mill, which leaves five employees dead.  There is a tremendous amount of blame going on and the town is having a difficult time moving forward. This book has a couple of different themes going on that are interesting and make this book move at a fast rate. First, Shelley tackles the topic of domestic violence, which is a dangerous and challenging issue to deal with, especially as one brother is dealing with a tremendous amount of grief and anger.  Shelley also wove the theme of forgiveness throughout the entire novel, which was imperative as the town was very resistant. Finally, I liked the sideline story of Hannah Eicher and her "job" helping the Englisher couple. I hope to see more of her story in another book tied to this series.
I give this book a 4/5 star review. 
Thank you to the publisher for allowing me to review this book in exchange for my honest review. 

About the Author: 
Shelley Shepard GrayShelley Shepard Gray is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town’s bike trail.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Consumerism: The Year without purchasing STUFF

I've decided if we've made it 18 days; we can make it a whole year through this thing, so why not let you into the thing that is messing up our world. Remember I said I would make a big announcement, here is the big thing WRECKING our life, in the best way possible! 


Consumerism. 
Americans spend more than they make.
The average student comes out with 37K in debt. 
The average American has seven credit cards with a balance over $2500.


We have the most stuff, and yet, we suffer from the highest anxiety rates, comparison rates and unhappiness globally. We have the highest divorce rates; we suffer from "entitlement", from "want", "more" and "I can't live without it." I'm no exception from the above. I'm a selfish American, who has had the "entitlement" mentality who suffers from "more", "want", "greed" and "ooh, I need that." And yet, something deep inside me hurts every time I hit the store to buy something. Purchasing an item is trying to fulfill a void that it simply cannot do. It leaves a bigger hole, and the space in my heart continues to grow while emotionally there is a void.

And if we think it's about money. It's not. Don't get me wrong: money is important. Money is what makes our economy stable. It allows us to survive on necessities like food, water, heat, and shelter, but it bigger than that. There is this craving and addiction that has spread like a disease among our culture. 

Why do we need more stuff? 
More money? 
How come we spend less time with our families and more time at work? 
Is it okay that our National debt is the highest it's ever been?
 Have you completed a stress test lately? Americans are stressed out!  
Why do couples fight about money?
It seems unethical and should be illegal for students to walk out of college with the type of student loan debt Drew, and I face and yet, our culture tells you MORE, FASTER  and NOT ENOUGH! 






Maybe you're tired of the crap.
Are you sick of the stuffitis (inflammation of stuff)?
Maybe you've grown fed up and if you've hadn't that's okay because I invite you to join us for the next year as our life flips UPSIDE down. Join us on a life or social experiment as we look for a new standard. We are sick of the "stuff" the "entitlement" mentality, the "want", "more" and "greed" mindset. We have decided to trade it for something we think will add more meaning to our life, and I hope you'll stick around to see how this thing shakes out.  We are embarking on what we are calling the "The Year without Purchasing Stuff."


The Rules:
*Disclaimer*
In 2015, we had some loose ends that we didn't completely tie up, so we intend to keep those things in place. 
1) Flying Pigs Half Marathon if PT stamps approval on it. 
2) WAM Tour + Bike if PT will allow it.
3) Any gift cards that we have in place can be used to buy goods outside of the rules. 
4) I was asked to be in a wedding for 2016, so naturally I need to purchase a bridesmaid dress.
5) Should we get pregnant, baby items? 
6) School.

{These are things outside of the year without a purchase because they have already been set into motion, purchased, etc. } 

Acceptable Purchases:
Stuff that can be used in a year: Groceries, gas, cleaning products, paper goods, hygiene products, postage, etc.

We will fix stuff that breaks unless the cost to repair is greater. This will go with anything in our home, cars, etc.

We will not purchase any "stuff" such as clothing, DVDs, books, electronics, etc. 

We will not eat out at restaurants unless it's a special occasion celebrating a special event such as Birthday, Anniversary, Holiday, with friends, traveling or a once in a lifetime. We will not go out to eat as often anymore.Eating out will need to have a particular purpose in mind because it has become excessive in our household. 

We are trading stuff for experiences. We will be exploring the world at large. 

Anything pertaining to our personal health fits into anther set of guidelines. For example, all medications, vitamins, and medical expenses are a given to stay alive. However, running clothes do not fit the guidelines of a purchase, but running shoes could be a contender for discussion if the health of our legs and feet were in jeopardy as a result of wear. It simply will not be a purchase if it is based on color, cuteness, style, etc. We wear our current shoes until they break down, fall apart and need to be re-glued. We are pretty committed to this thing. 

As this experiment unfolds, I am sure hiccups will happen, and stories will be interesting. I can tell you one thing; this is harder already on me than it is my husband. Every time we go to the grocery store; it is a constant reminder that I can't buy anything other than groceries. Don't even bother looking at cute clothes;you can't purchase them! However, trips to the store are fewer; I am getting more stuff done, and I'm a heck of a lot happier. I haven't visited the mall and don't intent too. Everything I need will be a hand me down. This is going to be fun! 

"I have come that they may have life, and they have to to the full."John 10:10

Would you be willing to try this social experiment? Any rules you would add? Any you would take away?  Whatcha y'all think? Could you do this for a whole year?