The More the Merrier by Linda Byler

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Pages: 200

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Published: October 1, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley: A Heartwarming Christmas Romance Set During the Great Depression

It’s 1931, and times are tough for the Miller family, who are raising eight children in the midst of the Great Depression. When Eli Miller passes away unexpectedly, and then a fire destroys their barn, Annie has no idea how she’ll make ends meet. The Amish community rallies around her and the children, as is their custom, but as days turn into weeks and then into months, Annie’s friends and neighbors return to their own routines and seem to expect Annie to do the same. Annie knows she needs to stay strong for the children and figure out a way to keep everyone warm and clothed and fed, but she is heartbroken and exhausted. She reminds herself that God will provide, but every day feels like an uphill battle.

When Annie receives a letter from a widower with six children of his own, she tries to put it out of her mind. Her critical mother reminds her that it’s too soon to start a new friendship with a man, and warns her that blending a family will be complicated. In the weeks and months to follow, Annie must learn to make her own decisions—and accept the consequences, good and bad—face her past, and embark on a new journey that will transform her and her large, complicated family. When life seems especially complicated one summer, she finds herself saying that by Christmas everything will start to come together, but she has no idea the challenges—and ultimately blessings—headed her way.

My review: My dad was born in the depression and the stories he tells of growing up with little to nothing is heartbreaking but the love his family had was beautiful. Annie’s story is one of heartache and despair but also one of resilience and love.

This is a beautiful Christmas read that is worthy to read no matter the season. An Amish love story from a real Amish author.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Skyhorse Publishing, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

All He’ll Ever Need (A Little Child Shall Lead Them #1) by Loree Lough

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Pages: 288

Publisher: Kensington

Published: August 27, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley: Among the New-new Order Amish of Oakland, Maryland, children bring precious hope, joy—and sometimes an unexpected second chance at love . . .

For Amish widower Phillip Baker, providing for his family in the wake of his wife’s death means backbreaking work and renewed dedication to his faith. Still, his strength can’t help him relate to his little son’s struggles. It seems a godsend when new doctor Emily White is able to treat Gabe’s shyness and fear even as she helps heal him. But no matter how strongly Phillip is drawn to the caring Englisher from the city, their differences may be too great to overcome . . .

Reeling from her own tragic loss, Emily keeps loneliness at bay through her clinic work. Somehow, though, Gabe and his gentle, sad-eyed father are making her want to risk opening her heart again. But can she find acceptance in their Plain world—and a way to turn their separate lives into a family forever? . . .

My Review: Amish romance is one of my favorite genres. I like it because I’m guaranteed a clean romance with unnecessary sex scenes and crude language.

Loree Lough has delivered that in the first in a new series. Emily and Phillip’s story is one of heartache, loss, and hope. A story that makes you cry and smile.

My only issue with it was I felt the romance was rushed into way too soon. I wish it had taken more time to develop. Does it hurt the story? No. Does it make me like the story any less? No.

I love the premise behind this series of “a little child shall lead them.” I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Kensington, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

Christmas Cow Bells (A Buttermilk Mystery #1) by Mollie Cox Bryan

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Pages: 336

Publisher: Kensington

Published: September 24, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley: The first novel in Mollie Cox Bryan’s brand new mystery series, set in the Blue Ridge Mountains, will keep you guessing until the cows come home . . .

Christmas is a time for new beginnings, so after her big breakup, Brynn MacAlister takes the gouda with the bad. With her three Red Devon cows, she settles in bucolic Shenandoah Springs, eager for a new life as an organic micro-dairy farmer and cheese-maker. Then her dear cow Petunia’s bellows set the whole town on edge. But it isn’t until Brynn’s neighbor, Nancy, dies in a mysterious fire that her feelings about small-town life begin to curdle . . .

It seems some folks were not happy with Nancy’s plan to renovate the Old Glebe Church. But is a fear of change a motivation for murder? As a newcomer, Brynn can’t ignore the strange events happening just on the other side of her frosty pasture—and soon on her very own farm. Suddenly Christmas doesn’t feel so festive as everyone demands she muzzle sweet Petunia, and Brynn is wondering if someone wants to silence her—for good . . .

My Review:

I am enamored with the beginning of this series. I have a soft spot for cows and found myself wishing I could meet Petunia and her sisters.

This is the first book by the author I have read and am already looking to see if my local library or Hoopla carries her other series. If you like strong female characters this is the book for you. There are four strong females. One is briefly mentioned but I think she will make plenty of appearances in future books. If not it would be a great shame.

Opening the series at Christmas time was perfect for me. Where I live we are still in a terrible summer heatwave and drought even though it is almost October. I found myself shivering thinking of the bone-chilling cold Brynn experiences and I appreciated that! The author uses the perfect amount of descriptive words without overdoing.

This perfect if you love Christmas, cows, and murder. Available now from your favorite bookseller.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Kensington, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

 

An Amish Second Christmas by Shelley Shepard Gray, Patricia Johns and Virginia Wise

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Pages: 320

Publisher: Kensington

Published: September 24, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:

For the Amish, the day after Christmas is for family, feasting, and exchanging simple gifts. And for three different couples, it will bring another precious chance for love . . .

THEIR SECOND CHANCE
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Shelley Shepard Gray
Amish nanny Hannah Eicher never thought she’d ever see Rob Prince again. There was no way a relationship between her and the handsome English fireman could overcome her family’s objections—and their personal differences. But when he saves her from a sudden blaze, Hannah longs to see if they can turn holiday hope into a lifetime of happiness . . .

HIS AMISH ANGEL * Patricia Johns
She’s too outspoken to be a proper Amish wife. So as advice columnist “Miss Amish,” Maggie Lapp helps Amish and English with their romantic problems. But when her tradition-minded former fiancé accidentally reveals her secret, Maggie will need more than a miracle to make things right—and find a perfect love for all the Christmases to come . . .

AN HEIRLOOM CHRISTMAS * Virginia Wise
Rachel Miller won’t let her disability keep her from selling heirloom plants and proving she can be independent. She certainly doesn’t need reckless Joseph Webber working at her greenhouse to pay off a disastrous Rumspringa stunt. But she and Joseph have more in common than they think—and their surprising holiday partnership might just blossom into forever joy . . .

My Review:

THEIR SECOND CHANCE
Shelley Shepard Gray

I was so happy to finally get the rest of the story between Hannah and Rob. It will make you smile and cheer out loud.

HIS AMISH ANGEL
Patricia Johns

My favorite sentence in the entire book, “married people realize what they have to lose and it is only then that they choose to bend for each other.” I find this beautiful and so true.

AN HEIRLOOM CHRISTMAS
Virginia Wise

A good reminder that sometimes the time we speak in and our actions are not always how we truly feel. A harsh tone may be covering a lot of pain. This is my first Virginia Wise book and won’t be my last.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Kensington, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

Strands of Truth by Colleen Coble

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Pages: 337

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Published: September 10, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:

Strands of Harper Taylor’s childhood are resurfacing—but will the truth save her . . . or pull her under?

Harper Taylor is used to being alone—after all, she grew up in one foster home after another. Oliver Jackson finally took her under his wing when she was a runaway teenager, and now Harper pours her marine biology knowledge into Oliver’s pen shell research. But she’s never stopped wishing for a family of her own.
So when a DNA test reveals a half-sister living just two hours away, Harper is both hopeful and nervous. Over warm cinnamon rolls, Harper and Annabelle find striking similarities in their stories. Is it just a coincidence that both their mothers died tragically, without revealing Harper and Annabelle’s father’s name?

Oliver’s son Ridge still sees Harper as a troubled teen even all these years later. But when Oliver is attacked, Ridge and Harper find themselves working together to uncover dangerous secrets that threaten to destroy them all. They must unravel her past before they can have any hope for the future.

My Review:

Wow, Coble has made me think twice about doing a DNA test to see my ancestry. I never thought about it being used maliciously. I’m a little scared now.

The mystery is a page-turner and interesting. I appreciate how Coble keeps the romance and the language clean.

There are many characters and some may find that a tad confusing but if you think about it when half-siblings come into play families get large very quickly. I would have loved to know more about Annabelle and Harper’s newfound sisterhood. Maybe someday we will see them in a future book as side characters.

If you are looking for a good mystery with family at the core Strands of Truth is a perfect read.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Thomas Nelson, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

Judy Moody Book Quiz Whiz (#15) by Megan McDonald

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Pages: 176

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Published: September 10, 2019

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:

Books, books, books! Judy’s got books on the brain as she prepares for a totally RARE trivia competition. Has reading always been this exciting?

Judy Moody is in it to win it. Win the Book Quiz Blowout, that is. Judy and her brother, Stink, are two-fifths of the Virginia Dare Bookworms, and they’ve been reading up a storm to prepare for Saturday’s face-off against second- and third-grade readers from the next town. Judy’s trying out all kinds of tactics, from hanging upside down like Pippi Longstocking to teaching herself to speed read The Princess in Black, and Stink has fashioned a cape of book trivia sticky notes to help him remember all the penguins in Mr. Popper’s Penguins. But when Judy, Stink, and their fellow teammates discover the other group has a fourth-grader (no lie!), they get a bit nervous. Are the Bookworms up to the challenge?

My Review:

I will definitely be buying this book for some kiddos in my life and me too. Since I learned to read I have been a bookworm. Reading about kids loving to read in a book for kids makes my heart sing.

I learned there are some pretty cool kids books that I need to read. I’m happy that the final copy will list the books mentioned in the back. What a great reference for parents.

The Judy Moody series continues with another fantastic installment.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Candlewick Press, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

The Long Call (A Two Rivers #1) by Ann Cleeves

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Pages: 382

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Published: September 3, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:

In North Devon, where two rivers converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his estranged father’s funeral takes place. On the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too.

Now, as he turns and walks away again, he receives a call from one of his team. A body has been found on the beach nearby: a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck stabbed to death.

The case calls Matthew back to the people and places of his past, as deadly secrets hidden at their hearts are revealed, and his new life is forced into a collision course with the world he thought he’d left behind.

My Review:

The Long Call is my first Ann Cleeves book and the first in a new series. I admit the first 30% or so was so slow. Mainly because of the introduction of all the characters. Once I got that under my belt I flew through the book.

I get the same feeling I do when reading The Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny. A dark, brooding detective that is quietly processing the crime and when he speaks you listen. He doesn’t waste words on unimportant things.

Perfect for fans of mystery and suspense. No detailed sex scenes but there are talks of rape. If you prefer not to read about LGBTQ characters this probably is not the book for you. The main character is gay.

I’m looking forward to continuing The Two Rivers series.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

Listening to Love (Amish Journey’s #2) by Beth Wiseman

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Pages: 321

Publisher: Zondervan Fiction

Published: September 3, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Listening to Love Amish Journeys #2)

NetGalley:

He’s Amish. She’s Englisch. They are best friends, despite what the gossips say. But could the rumor mill know more than they do?

Englischer Natalie Collins looks forward to Friday night suppers at Levi and Mary Shetler’s house every week: delicious food, wonderful conversation with her Amish friends, and, best of all, the presence of Levi’s older brother Lucas. Natalie and Lucas have become best friends despite their different backgrounds. They share a love of books, and he is teaching her about God in a way that she can understand.

But the closer they become, the more opinions everyone seems to have. Levi and Mary, Lucas’s family, and even Natalie’s mother—whose own life is a mess at the moment—have concerns about their relationship. Why can’t everyone understand that it’s possible to just be friends? Besides, they couldn’t be together even if they wanted to be. Lucas would never leave the Amish faith, and Natalie is Englisch and pursuing a degree in veterinary medicine.

But when a terrifying accident happens, Natalie and Lucas are forced to confront their true feelings and decide if they can stay true to themselves and each other.

My Review:

Wow, this book took a twist I NEVER expected. It was already a great book but the twist made it unforgettable.

A great example of forgiveness, humility and overcoming the many obstacles in life.

Levi and Natalie’s story will stay with me for a long time. Two vastly different worlds and they still became friends and so much more.

The Amish Journey’s series is a keeper for book collectors. You will want to revisit again and again.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Zondervan, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

Wonton Terror )A Noodle Shop Mystery #4) by Vivien Chien

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Pages: 300

Publisher: St. Martins Press

Published: August 27, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:

In the fourth in Vivien Chien’s Noodle Shop delicious mystery series, Ho-Lee Noodle House is ready to take the Cleveland night market by storm—until a brand-new food venue literally explodes onto the scene.
Lana Lee is all smiles when the first evening of Cleveland’s Asian Night Market kicks off the summer. The weekly festival is always good for business, packed with locals and tourists, and this year, some stiff new food-truck competition. Wonton on Wheels, run by old friends of Lana’s parents, promises to have customers lining up for their delicately wrapped delights—until the truck blows up at evening’s end.
Lana’s boyfriend, Detective Adam Trudeau, had been planning a birthday getaway for the two of them but, lo and behold, Lana must assume the role of amateur sleuth yet again. With one proprietor of Wonton on Wheels dead, it’s beginning to look more like murder and less like an unfortunate accident. And as they begin to unwrap layers of disturbing secrets, Lana’s own family erupts into new drama. Will Lana be able to solve this crime—or has she jumped from the wok right into the fire?

My Review:

This series started off entertaining and delightful and keeps getting more so as each new book is released. Lana and her family are what I consider a typical American family no matter the ethnicity. They have their drama and yes sometimes everyone within 20 feet hears that drama but at the same time, they love just as deeply as they disagree. Lana wants to be independent and live her own life but her mom has a hard time letting go. I think a lot of young woman from close-knit families find in their twenties that is a common growing pain. I know I did.

You will be craving everything from wontons and dim sum to Asian noodles as you read. I admit I have never had dim sum and it isn’t for lack of want. I’m just not sure where to get it in my city. Lana makes it sound very delicious.

The only wish I had for this series…recipes for some of the dishes. I am a sucker for trying recipes that are included in my cozy mysteries.

Whether you are looking for a delicious read or a murder mystery, Wonton Terror is the book for you.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

The Loyal One (The Walnut Creek series #2) by Shelley Shepard Gray

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Pages: 282

Publisher: Gallery Books

Published: August 13, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:

When Katie Steury hires her old friend Harley Lambright to remodel her rundown old house into a charming bed and breakfast, she does so with trepidation. Though they are longtime friends, they’ve always had a rocky relationship, thanks to her being partly responsible for his most recent breakup. But while they may not always get along, she needs someone to trust with her secrets, and Harley is nothing if not trustworthy and loyal.

Katie has always reminded Harley of a bright hummingbird—she is small and flighty, moves a mile a minute, and she possesses a very sharp beak. He’s hesitant to accept the job because of his history with Katie. But when he realizes that Katie’s been hiding her mother’s hoarding, he agrees to help her because it’s clear she needs someone on her side.

Both soon discover that clearing the debris in one old house also means they have to do some clean-up in their lives, forcing them to reevaluate their past and their future. This somewhat painful process reveals that Katie isn’t the only one with secrets. As the house gets a second chance, so, too, does their relationship. Now all they have to do is open their hearts—and hope and pray that their new bond will also stand the test of time.

My Review:

The Loyal One is my favorite of The Walnut Creem series. Katie’s story is filled with love and caring for others.

You cannot help but be moved by Katie’s story. I could not imagine having to live the way she did since her father died. Knowing you could not invite friends over afraid of what they would think and say to others. Even as an adult she had a hard time sharing with her closet friends what had been going on with her mother’s hoarding. The Eight showed us what it means to love someone unconditionally and when together there is nothing you cannot overcome.

The Loyal One had made me look at the “things” in my life and say, “Can I live without that?” There are many things that I can.

Each book in The Walnut Creek series can be read as a standalone but I would hope you would read from the beginning to get the feel of the characters.

I received a complimentary copy from the author and the publisher, Gallery Books, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.