Other People’s Children by R. J. Hoffman

Pages: 384

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Published: April 6, 2021

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Hardback from Library

Available Formats: Digital, Audiobook, Hardback, and Paperback

My Review: This is not a book I would have picked out at the library. The cover and spine are bland so I would have kept scrolling. One of the librarians, Connie from Hillview Branch, suggested it and I am so glad she did. I was riveted from page to page.

We follow a couple on their adoption journey. I will warn you it is heartbreaking for all parties involved.

The reason it was not 5 ⭐ was the ending was a tad unbelievable for me. Still an excellent read.

From Goodreads: Gail and Jon Durbin moved to the Chicago suburbs to set up house as soon as Gail got pregnant. But then she miscarried—once, twice, three times. Determined to expand their family, the Durbins turn to adoption. When several adoptions fall through, Gail’s desire for a child overwhelms her.

Carli is a pregnant teenager from a blue-collar town nearby, with dreams of going to college and getting out of her mother’s home. When she makes the gut-wrenching decision to give her baby up for adoption, she chooses the Durbins. But Carli’s mother, Marla, has other plans for her grandbaby.

In Other People’s Children, three mothers make excruciating choices to protect their families and their dreams—choices that put them at decided odds against one another. You will root for each one of them and wonder just how far you’d go in the same situation. This riveting debut is a thoughtful exploration of love and family, and a heart-pounding page-turner you’ll find impossible to put down.

An Amish Schoolroom: Three Stories by Amy Clipston, Kathleen Fuller, and Shelley Shepard Gray

Pages: 336

Publisher: Zondervan

Published: August 3, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Source: NetGalley

Available Formats: Digital, Audiobook, and Paperback

My Review: A collection of three wonderful Amish stories to make your heart warm and fuzzy. Perfect for a fall getaway.

A Class for Laurel by Amy Clipston
Even though this story made me mad a lot of times I did enjoy seeing the representation that even Amish families can be jealous when a family member falls in love with someone they may not like at first. Change is hard for everyone and sometimes that fear clouds our judgment and can hurt others without us intending to.

A Lesson on Love by Kathleen Fuller
My favorite lines: ” We all have paths to travel in life. Some are straighter than others, some more exciting. As long as God is with you during the journey, the rest doesn’t matter.”
I have to remind myself of something similar over the last several years as my son finds his way in life.

Wendy’s Twenty Reasons by Shelley Shepard Gray
This story made me think about the things I wish I could change in my life and how all it has done is make me regret other things instead of looking at the blessings those times gave me.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Zondervan, through NetGalley. All opinions expressed above are entirely my own.

From NetGalley: Three charming stories of new school years and new romance. 

A Class for Laurel by Amy Clipston 

Adventurous Laurel Weaver leaves Pennsylvania to answer a newspaper ad for a teaching position in Colorado. She stays with handsome Glen Troyer’s family, and they become close. However, she never intended to stay in Colorado, and his family worries Glen may choose to follow her back to Pennsylvania or be left with a broken heart. Now she can’t bear to think of leaving Glen and her beloved students, but she’s beginning to feel like she’s out of options. Will Laurel and Glen push through the obstacles and fight for love? 

A Lesson on Love by Kathleen Fuller 

Priscilla Helmuth left her Amish community twelve years ago to pursue her dream of being a country singer, but she’s missed her faith and her family. Now, she’s moving to Birch Creek to be a schoolteacher. Micah Wagler recently moved there as well to put the past behind him. As the community comes together to build a new schoolhouse, Priscilla and Micah are thrown together. They bond over their love of music, but soon it appears that Priscilla’s dreams of fame just might be coming true. She has to give up something, and Micah worries that it will be their faith . . . and his heart. 

Wendy’s Twenty Reasons by Shelley Shepard Gray 

Wendy Schwartz is used to people underestimating her, but she’s sure she can be a great teacher. Unfortunately, it’s a disaster not long after she starts, and soon her job is in jeopardy. To make matters more complicated, she worries that she’s falling for the son of the older couple she’s boarding with. Lewis Weaver knows he shouldn’t have a romantic relationship with a tenant, but he can’t help but be drawn to Wendy. When a dangerous ice storm traps Wendy in the schoolroom with her students, uncomfortable truths will have to be faced by the town that just might change the future for everyone. 

An Unlikely Match (An Amish Inn #2) by Beth Wiseman

Pages: 336

Publisher: Zondervan

Published: June 8, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Source: Library Book

Available Formats: Digital, Audiobook, Hardback, and Paperback

My Review: Are you ready for a book that will make you laugh but at the same time dig deep into your soul? If so, this book is for you.

We continue to get to know Esther, Lizzie, and Grumpy Gus as the ladies run their Amish Inn and Gus lives on their property and continues to be…well…a grump. A film crew has rented the Inn while they are in town to film scenes for a movie. Joyce, the director’s son, meets Evelyn and sparks fly. Can their two worlds mesh into one?

This is a clean Christian Amish romance. If you like clean romances but not the Bible verses every other page this series is perfect. This book does discuss religion more than book 1 but was done very tastefully and informational.

From Goodreads: When sparks fly between a good Amish girl and a hunky member of the Hollywood elite, even matchmaking innkeepers Esther and Lizzie know better than to fan the flames.

Evelyn Schrock has dismissed the attempts of every young man in her small Amish community to court her. She’s willing to wait for a suitor who shares her curiosities about life and faith. 

The only reason Jayce Clarkson is in Amish country hefting equipment for his famous father’s movie production company is for the paycheck. The homestyle cooking at the Peony Inn is a perk though, as is his friendship with Evelyn Schrock. If Jayce can endure his dad’s put-downs for a month, he’ll finally be in a position to make a fresh start—somewhere away from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles and the shadow of his checkered past. 

To matchmakers Esther and Lizzie, the widowed sisters who operate the inn, Jayce seems like a good man stuck in a life he doesn’t want. But the boy isn’t Amish, and that leaves far too much room for broken hearts. Despite that, Jayce and Evelyn start to realize that they can’t deny their growing attraction. Any path forward seems impossible, and they will have to learn what the future will look like when they leave their fate in Gott’s hands. 

Pray for Silence (Kate Burkholder #2) by Linda Castillo

Pages: 304

Publisher: Minotaur Books

Published: June 22, 2010

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Source: Hardback from Personal Library

Available Formats: Digital, Audiobook, Hardback, and Paperback

My Review: Wow, book two was as gripping as the first. Again, I alternated between reading and listening to the audiobook as I didn’t want to stop.

It is very violent in the beginning but unfortunately, that is true to life. The language is a little much but again true to life. If you have issues with the “F” bomb then you will have issues with this book. Lots of bombs.

It is sad that there are predators out there of young teens and especially young Amish teens who aren’t as wise to the cruel world. I cried thinking of what the Plank family experienced.

I’m ready for book three.

From Goodreads: The Plank family moved from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to join the small Amish community of Painters Mill less than a year ago and seemed the model of the Plain Life—until on a cold October night, the entire family of seven was found slaughtered on their farm. Police Chief Kate Burkholder and her small force have few clues, no motive, and no suspect. Formerly Amish herself, Kate is no stranger to the secrets the Amish keep from the English—and each other—but this crime is horribly out of the ordinary.

State agent John Tomasetti arrives on the scene to assist. He and Kate worked together on a previous case during which they began a volatile relationship. They soon realize the disturbing details of this case will test their emotional limits and force them to face demons from their own troubled pasts—and for Kate, a personal connection that is particularly hard to bear.

When she discovers a diary that belonged to one of the teenaged daughters, Kate is shocked to learn the girl kept some very dark secrets and may have been living a lurid double life. Who is the charismatic stranger who stole the young Amish girl’s heart? Could the brother—a man with a violent past, rejected and shunned by his family and the Amish community, have come to seek out revenge? As Kate’s outrage grows so does her resolve to find the killer and bring him to justice—even if it means putting herself in the line of fire.

Jinxed (Regan Reilly Mysteries #6) by Carol Higgins Clark

Pages: 264

Publisher: Scribner Book Company

Published: August 27, 2002

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Source: Hardback from Personal Library

Available Format: Digital, Audiobook, Hardback, Paperback, and Mass Market Paperback

My Review: I have been a fan of the Regan Reilly series for many years after I read several books CHC write with her mom, Mary Higgins Clark. Over the years my mom tried getting me the entire series. I’m missing three.

In Jinxed, Regan and her boyfriend had to cut their vacation short as soon as they got to the winery in Napa Valley. The next day Regan gets a call from one of the owners asking her to find her daughter or they will lose millions in inheritance. The case goes from missing daughter, to found daughter, to missing daughter again, possible art thief, and an aging actress getting married to a much, much younger man. Can Regan solve this star-studded case before the fire burns them all?

I altered between listening and reading this book. The author is the narrator herself, which I thought was neat but I preferred reading over listening.

The story moves nicely but isn’t as light and airy as some newer cozy mysteries. For some reason I felt I should read the book under the cover of darkness. Not much suspense. I don’t remember any cursing. No sex scenes. Not a hug “aha” moment.

I will continue the series.

From Goodreads: Carol Higgins Clark, bestselling author of Fleeced and co-author with Mary Higgins Clark of He Sees You When You’re Sleeping, returns in top form in her new Regan Reilly mystery, blending her talent for intriguing locales, eccentric characters, and fast-paced suspense laced with humor. In Jinxed, smart, saucy sleuth Regan Reilly faces a new challenge — the case of the missing wedding guest. Regan, an L.A.-based private detective, returns to her office after a vacation with her beau, Jack no relation Reilly. Their tour of the wineries in Napa Valley and Santa Barbara County is cut short when Jack has to fly back to New York City, where he is the head of the Major Case Squad of the NYPD. Their last stop had been at Altered States, a run-down winery owned by three siblings who are all former hippies — Lilac, Earl, and Leon Weldon. Not knowing how soon it would be put to use, Regan leaves her business card behind. Within minutes of being back to work, Regan gets an excited call from Lilac. The Weldon family has been invited to the wedding of ninety-three-year-old Lucretia Standish, a former silent-screen star, who made a killing in a dot-com before it went bankrupt. Lucretia had been married to the Weldons’ Uncle Haskell and had invested the money she inherited from Haskell in the dot-com. Lucretia’s maid, Phyllis, clues Lilac in on the fact that Lucretia plans to give the Weldons $2 million each — if they all show up at the wedding. The wedding is two days away, and there is only one problem — Lilac’s daughter, Whitney, aka Freshness, a young actress, has taken off on one of her go-with-the-flow weekends. Whitney is out of touch and goes where the wind blows. If itdoesn’t blow her back into town by Sunday morning, the Weldon family will be out $8 million. Regan’s job is to find Whitney. But unbeknownst to Regan, there’s someone else on the hunt. Lucretia’s fiance, the much younger Edward Fields, has hired an accomplice in crime to locate Whitney and keep her away from the wedding. Edward knows Whitney will recognize him as the con man she’d met in acting class in New York. He wants to say I do to Lucretia and her millions before Whitney can protest. When Edward finds out that Regan Reilly has been hired to find the missing Whitney, he gives the order to get rid of her as well. Meanwhile, Lucretia is befriended by a gang of bikers, the story of her upcoming nuptials is featured on national television news, and wildfires are threatening to consume the barn where Whitney is being held captive. As in her previous novels, Carol Higgins Clark has created a novel that is both exciting and vastly entertaining. As no less a master of suspense than Nelson DeMille has said, Clark’s writing is elegantly clear and concise, her characters are witty and engaging, and her plots and pacing are perfect. And in Jinxed, she is at her very considerable best.

The Walnut Creek Wish (Creektown Discoveries #1) by Wanda E. Brunstetter

Pages: 320

Publisher: Barbour Fiction

Published: August 1, 2021

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Source: NetGalley

Available Formats: Digital, Audiobook, and Paperback

My Review: Have you ever read a book that you didn’t really hate but didn’t really like? It was MEH???

I read Wanda Brunstetter for her Amish stories and The Walnut Creek Wish was more Englisch (non-Amish) than Amish focused. The two main characters were selfish individuals who were unlikable. I groaned and Mohamed aloud about their issues than I ever have reading.

I try to write only positive reviews but it was hard to do for this book.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Barbour Publishing, Inc., through NetGalley. All opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

From NetGalley: Book 1 in the Creektown Discoveries Series from NYT Bestselling Author Wanda E. Brunstetter

An Antique Store Becomes a Place of Healing for Broken Hearts

Welcome to Walnut Creek, Ohio, where Orley and Lois Troyer own an antique store they call “Memory Keepers.” Though knowledgeable in antiques and their repair, their real talent is in mentoring folks who are hurting and don’t even know it. Enter Jeff, a restaurateur, and Rhonda, a hotel manager, who recently moved to Amish country for the slow pace, but the change of scenery puts even more stress on their already strained marriage. Will an antique sled be the last straw, or will it lead to unexpected revelations and the fulfillment of dreams?

Shelter in the Storm (Johns Mill Amish Romance #1) by Laurel Blount

Pages: 336

Published: Berkley Books

Published: May 25, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Source: Paperback from the Author

Available Formats: Digital, Audiobook, and Mass Market Paperback

Review: I have a new favorite Amish book for 2021.

This book is chock full of emotion and love. It will tug at your heart, make you gasp, make you cry, and curl your toes in excitement. Read with tissues on hand.

I enjoyed that it takes place in Tennessee as it gives us Amish genre readers a different view from the traditional Pennsylvania, Ohio, or Indiana.

A very clean read with no sex and no cursing. I would have no issues giving a copy to an older teenager. A great book to show how with determination and faith you can overcome adversity thrown your way.

I’m excited to read more by this author.

From Goodreads: In this moving Amish romance, two broken hearts find hope in each other after a terrible loss.

Unspeakable tragedy strikes the Amish hamlet of Johns Mill when an unstable Englischer opens fire in the Hochstedler’s General Store. In the aftermath, and under the media’s spotlight, Joseph Hochstedler struggles to hold his shattered family together, drawing unexpected comfort from a faithful childhood friend.

Born with a serious heart defect, optimist Naomi Schrock has always longed to live a life of service. She rolls up her sleeves, determined to help Joseph cope with this terrible crisis. But dare she hope that his friendship will finally deepen into love?

As the media’s obsession with the Hochstedler shooting escalates, Joseph and Naomi find themselves caught between tradition and compromise, lingering sorrows and uncertain hopes. And in the end, two people who’ve already lost far too much must find the courage to trust their hearts one last time.

Still Life and Death (A Shepherd Sister Mystery #3) by Tracy Gardner

Pages: 213

Publisher: Hallmark Publishing

Published: August 10, 2021

Available Formats: Digital, Audio, and Paperback

Source: NetGalley

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Review: Still Life and Death is great on audio. I lost track of time listening to it. I will miss these characters.

This has been a fun series and I really wish there would be more than 3. Solid mysteries with a hint of romance.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Hallmark Publishing, through NetGalley. All opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

From NetGalley: A murder at the flower shop.

An uncle suspected by the cops.

Savanna and her sisters are on the case.

Savanna Shepherd, a former art authenticator turned grade school art teacher, is delighted when her Uncle Max and Uncle Freddie move to Carson. Uncle Max takes a job at Libby’s Blooms, where Savanna teaches a still life painting class for adults. But one morning, Uncle Max finds a dead body in the rooftop greenhouse…and even worse, it looks like an inside job.

Savanna and her sisters—Skylar, a lawyer, and Sydney, the owner of a pet shop and grooming salon—dig in to find the real murderer. With their connections to the community and Savanna’s keen eye for details, they uncover longstanding resentments and horticultural clues. Meanwhile, Savanna’s dating local doctor Aidan Gallager, but she worries it’ll cause a scandal, since his daughter is in her class. As Savanna’s investigation leads her into thorny situations, the killer may be arranging another murder: her own.

This cozy mystery includes a free original Hallmark recipe for Chocolate Pecan Brownies.

No Grater Crime (Country Store Mysteries #9) by Maddie Day

Pages: 310

Publisher: Kensington

Published: August 24, 2021

Available Formats: Digital and Paperback

Source: NetGalley

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Review:

It’s time for an annual trip to South Lick, Indiana. This time we visit during spring and wedding season. Robbie is preparing for her wedding to Abe and not everyone is happy with the wedding. Mainly, Abe’s ex who is Sean’s mom and a relation to the new antique shop owners across the street. When a Pans and Pancakes customer dies, Robbie is the prime suspect. As she starts investigating she learns of the tangled family web. Can she find out what is going on before she spends her wedding night in jail?

This series always makes me smile as I love the descriptions of the Bloomington, Indiana area. It is a beautiful area to visit. The real Story Inn is mentioned and if you ever get a chance to visit you must.

My only issue with the book (and I had the same issue in the previous book) is there a small political agenda feel. I read cozy to escape the real world. It wasn’t bad but it is there. I did appreciate the author writing the story as after the pandemic shut down and not during.

I look forward to the next book in the series.

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

NetGalley: Robbie Jordan’s Pans ‘N Pancakes boasts delicious eats and the best vintage cookware finds in South Lick, Indiana. And now, for a limited time, there’s a new special featured on the menu–murder!

Ever since meeting the wary owners of an antique shop opening across the street, Robbie has been scrambling to manage weird incidences plaguing her café and country store. Pricey items vanish from shelves without explanation, a fully equipped breakfast food truck starts lingering around the area each morning, and loyal diners mysteriously fall ill. When an elderly man dies after devouring an omelet packed with poisonous mushrooms, Robbie must temporarily close down Pans ‘N Pancakes and search for the killer with a real zest for running her out of business–or else.

The Secret Staircase (Victorian Village Mysteries # 3) by Sheila Connolly

Pages: 304

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books

Published: August 24, 2021

Available Formats: Digital, Audio, and Hardback

Source: NetGalley

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Review: In The Secret Staircase we join Kate as she works with the town renovation board of directors as they begin work on the Barton mansion. Before they can even get started a body shows up then someone is murdered on the property. Kate has more suspects than trusted workers.

If I’m being honest, this was a series that I wasn’t going to continue after the second book. The concept of renovating a town to be similar to a place like Colonial Williamsburg was interesting but the books moved very slowly for me. I requested the third book from NetGalley after I learned of the passing of Sheila Connolly in 2020. I wanted to see if the book ended on a “finished “ note or left the reader hanging. I was satisfied with the ending. Even if another author picks up the series I don’t think I’ll continue.

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

From NetGalley: From New York Times bestselling author Sheila Connolly, The Secret Staircase is the third Victorian Village Mystery, which finds Kate Hamilton discovering a long-dead body in a hidden staircase.

Kate Hamilton is feeling good about her plans to recreate Asheboro, Maryland as the Victorian village it once was. The town is finally on her side, and the finances are coming together.

Kate’s first goal is to renovate the Barton Mansion on the outskirts of town. Luckily, it’s been well maintained in the century since the wealthy Henry Barton lived and died there. The only substantial change she’s planning is to update the original kitchen so that it can be used to cater events in the building. But when the contractor gets started, he discovers a hidden staircase that had been walled in years earlier. And as Kate’s luck would have it, in the stairwell is a body.

After her initial shock wears off, Kate is relieved when the autopsy reveals that the man had died around 1880. Unfortunately, it also reveals that his was not a natural death—he was murdered. And serious questions remain: who was he and what was he doing there?

Kate begins a hunt to identify the man and figure out what he was doing at the Barton Mansion. But when a second body is found—this time from the present day—Kate realizes that real dangers lie in digging up the past…