Monday, March 29, 2010

Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa by Melanie Dobson

This week, CFBA would like to introduce Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa by Melanie Dobson.


Times are hard in 1894. Desperate for work, former banker Jacob Hirsch rides the rails west from Chicago with his four-year-old daughter, Cassie. When a life-threatening illness strands the pair in Homestead, Iowa, the local Amana villagers welcome the father and daughter into their peaceful society.

Liesel, a young Amana woman, nurses Cassie back to health, and the Homestead elders offer Jacob work. But Jacob's growing interest in Liesel complicates his position in the Amanas. Will he fight to stay in the only place that feels like home, even if it means giving up the woman he loves? Or will Liesel leave her beloved community to face the outside world with Jacob and Cassie at her side?


I really enjoyed Melanie's book. I could easily feel the attraction between Liesel and Jacob, but also felt Liesel's struggle to remain true to her Amana roots.

When Jacob is suspected of embezzlement, the relationship is tested on all sides.

Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa was a nice, afternoon naptime read. The characters were believable and likeable, and the financial crisis in Chicago (the whole US, really) added a fresh dimension to a usual love story.

I also enjoyed reading the Author's Note regarding the Amana's history (yes, eventually, the well-known Amana Appliances were founded in Middle Amana, Iowa)! I found their history interesting, although I do not believe their additional "revelations" by which they base much of their lives are God-given.

Check out the first chapter of Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa below:


July 1894, Chicago

The morning fog lingered in the alleyways and draped over the iron palings that fortified the row of saloons along Harrison Street. At the corner of Harrison and LaSalle, a gas lamp flickered in the mist, its yellow flame spreading light over the alley tents. Only a few more blocks until they were safe in the depot.

In the distance, the station’s clock tower glowed like a beacon, beckoning him to hurry, and Jacob Hirsch patted the back of his daughter, asleep on his shoulder, before checking his breast pocket. The two train tickets were tucked safely inside.

Adjusting the strap on his satchel, he took a deep breath and hur¬ried toward the train that would take him and his daughter far away from Chicago.

Cassie squirmed against his chest and lifted her head. “My throat hurts, Papa.”

“I know, Pumpkin.”

She tried to smile. “I’m not a pumpkin.”

“You’re my pumpkin,” he replied softly. He put her down for a moment to shift his satchel to his other arm before he picked her up again. Laying her head back on his shoulder, her breathing deepened as she drifted back to sleep.

Shivering in the morning air, he pushed himself to walk even faster to get her into the warm station. Almost a week ago Cassie had started complaining of a sore throat, and he felt useless to help her. His money was almost gone, and they were just two among thou¬sands who had no place to sleep tonight.

This city was the only place Cassie had ever known, but there was no future for them in Chicago. Tens of thousands were unem¬ployed—strong men willing to work and educated men who could no longer provide for their families. These men walked the dirty streets during the day, searching for work, and a tent housed them and their families at night.

A tramp lay sprawled across the sidewalk in front of Jacob, inches from the door of a saloon. He stepped over the man, but a familiar queasiness clenched his gut. So many people were struggling to sur¬vive while others tried to drown the country’s economic depression by drinking themselves to death.

He’d considered the latter himself, using the last of his money on liquor instead of train tickets, but the streets in Chicago were already crowded with children who’d lost both of their parents—he couldn’t think about what would happen to Cassie if he weren’t here to protect her from the scum who patrolled for orphans.

Jacob’s stomach rumbled, but he ignored it. Cassie was the one who needed to eat. Cassie and the other young victims of the finan¬cial tsunami that had hit the East Coast last summer and swept across the plains and mountains, devastating families and businesses and farms in its wake.

Jacob checked his pocket again for the train tickets. They were still there. He’d pawned the last of their furniture along with Katha¬rine’s wedding ring to buy these tickets and garner two additional dollars to buy Cassie food during their journey west.

Three months had passed since he’d lost his job at the bank, and almost a year had passed since he’d lost…

He shook his head, focusing on the depot’s bright clock tower instead of drowning himself in the past, for Cassie’s sake.

They would take the early morning train to Minneapolis and then on to Washington State, where there were jobs waiting for men willing to work. He was more than willing.

Someone tugged on his trousers, and he looked down to see a young girl not much older than Cassie’s four years. Her hair was matted against her head, and tattered rags hung over her shoulders.

“Can you spare a nickel?” she whispered.

Behind the child was a row of tents in the alley. “Where are your parents?”

Her scrawny finger pointed toward one of the tents. “Mama’s in there.”

“You hungry?”

She nodded, blinking back her tears. The New York Stock Exchange was eight hundred miles away, yet the impact from its crash trickled down to the least of these on the streets of Chicago. The pain wasn’t in their wallets. It was in their bellies.

He couldn’t spare a nickel but—

Cassie lifted her head in her sleep and snuggled into his other shoulder. What if it was his daughter begging for food?

The girl stepped back, her head hung with resignation, and he couldn’t help himself. Digging into his pocket, he pulled out one of his precious nickels and handed it her. “Buy some bread when the bakery opens.”

“Yes, sir,” she replied, the strength returning to her voice as her fingers clenched the coin. “Thank you, sir.”

During the colder nights, swarms of homeless slept in the hall¬ways of city hall or in the basements of the saloons, and when those got overcrowded, the chief of police opened the doors to the station and crammed people young and old into cells alongside the criminals for the night.

A jail cell was no place for a child.

He shifted the leather bag on his shoulder again and Cassie stirred, coughing against his suit jacket. He rested his hand on her back until she stopped coughing and then turned the corner toward the station and the passenger train that would take them west.

A half dozen people crowded together on the corner in front of him, and Jacob shuffled across the street to avoid them. He’d read plenty about rings of thieves that stalked the night hours on the Near West Side. He couldn’t afford a confrontation this morning, nor could he afford to lose the last of his money or his train tickets.

A rough laugh passed through his lips at the irony of clinging to the two dollars in his waistcoat. A year ago, he’d been bringing home sixteen dollars and forty cents every week while employed as a clerk at Chicago’s prestigious Second National Building and Loan, and he’d been on his way up the ladder with his sights on becoming president one day.

“A promising future,” the president of the bank had told him in the spring of ’93, and Jacob believed the man. Back then, his future was full of promise. More responsibilities were ahead. A reputable title. And, if he kept working hard, a lot more money.

For most of his life, he’d respected the power of a dollar. Even more than providing for his family, it was his livelihood, and he thought he’d understood its worth. But he didn’t truly understand it until most of the bank’s reserves were washed away in the Panic of ’93 along with his salary. Never before had he known what it was like to have the future obliterated, to have only two dollars to his name. Nor had he understood real desperation—the need for money because of the love for his daughter and the hunger in his own belly.

And now here he was, on this chilly summer morning, afraid that thieves might steal a measly two dollars from him. And even more afraid that he might be tempted to steal like them if he didn’t find work soon and provide for his daughter.

Cassie moaned against his shoulder, and he kissed the lopsided part between her braids. The train station was only three more blocks away, straight down LaSalle. When she woke again, he’d feed her the crackers and apple his kind neighbor gave them last night.

The bell in the clock tower chimed five times. The train wasn’t scheduled to depart for an hour, but even so, he hurried toward the depot. They would be ready to leave whenever the conductor called for them to board.

Nothing would stop him from getting on this train.

Dim rays of sunlight began to clear the gray fog, and the LaSalle Street Station rose through the mist like an ancient castle. The place spoke of a time past. A time of money and power and prestige, when more people wanted to visit their great city than run away.

Ahead, forty or so men crowded around the depot, and at the front of the mob, a man in a black overcoat shouted and raised a shovel in the air. Jacob’s entire body tensed when the crowd raised their voices in response.

Why are they so angry?

Skirting around the group, Jacob pushed open a side door and shuffled into the marbled lobby of the train station. Golden ceiling tiles towered above them with a crystal chandelier that cascaded light onto the granite pillars below. Dozens of people slept on the stiff benches around the station, wrapped in blankets or covered with overcoats.

Cassie squirmed in his arms, lifting her head to take in the gran¬deur. “Where are we, Papa?”

His heart softened at her voice. “At the train station, sweetheart. You keep sleeping.”

“I don’t wanna sleep,” she said, nestling her head back into his shoulder.

“Of course not.” He laughed softly as her breathing slowed again.

Long glass windows overlooked the train platform on the far wall, and near the windows was the train counter. He rang the bell, and then rang it again when no one came to the counter.

A stout man slipped up beside him, a cigar hanging out the side of his mouth. His nose was swollen and red. “They’re all outside.”

Jacob turned toward him. “What’s happening?”

“The railway strike.”

“I thought the workers were striking down in Pullman.”

“That was last week.” The man blew smoke in Jacob’s face. “The bigwigs down there ain’t budging an inch, and now the union is wailin’ mad.”

“The trains—”

“A few of them are still moving.” The man slid the cigar out of his mouth and twirled it in his fingers. “Where you headed?”

“Minneapolis and then Spokane.”

He pointed his cigar toward the glass windows. “You best get yourself onboard. They’ll be leaving early today.”

Early? Jacob slid back from the counter, the man’s words propel¬ling him through the station and back out into the morning air. On the other side of the platform, five trains were lined up on a maze of tracks, and the train closest to him was a passenger train. The train taking them to Minnesota.

He scanned the platform for a brakeman or conductor to open the closed doors, but he didn’t see one. Turning, he watched the darkly cloaked man march onto the platform, thrust his shovel into the air, and shout about the Pullman dogs. The leader would be frightening enough by himself, but this morning, an entire crowd mimicked his tirade.

Dozens of men marched onto the platform brandishing shovels and pitchforks, and they were all chanting. “Strike. Strike. Strike.”


Jacob glanced into his daughter’s frightened eyes. He had to get her out of here.

The whistle blew on the passenger train, and he hopped onto the steps and tugged at the locked door. Something whizzed by his head, and the window beside him shattered. Floundering backward, he protected Cassie with his arms, and his chest muffled her cries.

More rocks followed the first one. More glass splintered onto the platform and the tracks. A rock clipped his ear, and he stumbled away from the firing line.

Shovels plunged into the windows of the depot, glass pouring to the ground—and then the train in front of him started to quake. Turning to the right, he sucked in his breath.

“Dear God,” he whispered. The mob was rocking one of the Pull¬man sleeping cars, trying to tip it over. No one from the station was even trying to stop them from overturning the car.

His ear stinging from the rock, he tried to back away from the madness, but they were trapped on the platform. A gunshot blasted through the station, and the throng of men spun into a rage. People scattered in all directions, screaming, but whoever was rocking the train car didn’t stop.

Steam puffed out of the engine on the far side of the tracks, and Jacob glanced around at the unruly mass. No one seemed to notice the steam. Covering Cassie’s head, he ducked through a pelting of rocks as he cut between the train cars. He didn’t care where the other train was headed. He’d get Cassie on it, and they’d escape this madness.

The freight train was thirty feet in front of him, the wheels already turning. He tripped over the tracks as he raced for an open boxcar, and Cassie cried out as they hit the ground. Quickly, he pushed up from the gravel, but as he started running again, someone shouted behind him. The mob had spotted the moving train.

The train’s speed escalated as it fled the station, and Jacob ran harder than he’d ever run in his life, over the gravel and rails, toward the boxcar at the end. His hat flew off his head, but he didn’t turn around. The crowd was swarming behind him now. He couldn’t stop, nor could he do anything to stop Cassie’s tears. He would get her on that train, and then she’d be all right.

A crashing sound exploded through the station, shaking the ground. For an instant, the noise seemed to paralyze the crowd. They stopped running. Stopped shouting. And then they began to cheer. The mob had crippled the passenger train.

“Stop that freight!” another voice yelled over the roar.

The train in front of him increased its speed, and Jacob sprinted beside the boxcar, sweat pouring off his face. No matter what, he would protect his daughter.

Swinging the bag off his shoulder, he thrust it into the open door.

Cassie clung to his neck, sobbing against his shoulders.

“C’mon, Cassie!” he shouted over the commotion.


There was no time to hesitate. He pried Cassie’s fingers and arms from his neck and swiftly pushed his daughter onto the train.

Many thanks to Melanie, Summerside Press, and CFBA for sending me a copy to review!

Also reviewed on Amazon and Christianbook.

Recommend: YES

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**Disclaimer: I was given a free product for review purposes only. My reviews are not monetarily compensated and have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way, unless otherwise disclosed. Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family.**


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Songbird Under a German Moon by Tricia Goyer

I’ve read several of Tricia’s books and have enjoyed them all. Songbird Under A German Moon was no exception.

Anxious to feel as if she’s done her part for the war effort, Betty signs up for the USO and is shipped overseas to sing for the soldiers.

Combat photographer Frank Witt is also sent to post-war Germany, on an unknown assignment.

Betty feels out of place among trained and talented musicians, and Frank doesn’t understand the importance of pictures of the singers or the Festspielhaus. When Betty’s roommate goes missing, everyone realizes that despite the war’s end, safety is not guaranteed.

Although I had my suspicions of the “bad guy,” his true story still surprised me when he was revealed. I was also surprised to learn how much Wagner’s music played into some of Hitler’s strong beliefs. I thought the musical aspect gave an interesting angle to this WWII era book.

Songbird Under A German Moon was an enjoyable read. Tricia maintained a good balance with history and love and mystery.

If you’re a fan of Tricia’s books, you’ll likely enjoy Songbird Under A German Moon. Oh, as a side note, I really loved the cover design!

Thank you, Tricia and litFUSE, for sending me a copy of Songbird Under a German Moon to read and review!

Also reviewed on Amazon and Christianbook.

Recommend: YES

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**Disclaimer: I was given a free product for review purposes only. My reviews are not monetarily compensated and have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way, unless otherwise disclosed. Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family.**


Monday, March 22, 2010

Exergen Thermometer WINNER!

We have a WINNER!
Temporal Scanner

Congratulations to {MELISSA} on winning a Temporal Artery Thermometer from Exergen!! I hope you love it...but, I also hope you don't have to use it very often!!

We've had a stretch of very beautiful spring-like weather the last week or so! Our family also has some (serious!) remodeling plans in the works, so blogging has definitely taken a backseat - although I'm working hard at keeping up with my stack of review books!

I don't see things slowing down in the very near future, but I hope to cook something other than pizza and hamburgers that I can blog about...soon. :-)

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Heart of Stone by Jill Marie Landis

My mailbox has been bulging with review books lately. I'm having a hard time keeping up!! This week, CFBA is introducing Heart of Stone by Jill Marie Landis.


My heart couldn’t help but go out to “Widow” Laura Foster. How many children, even today, are forced into an unspeakable life? And even though Laura was able to escape, her new life built on deception is continually shadowed by her fear of the truth.

The town parson begins to fall in love with her, increasing Laura’s guilt. When two different strangers arrive in town, revealing secrets on both sides of the fence, can Brand or Laura find forgiveness, peace, and love?

It appears that Heart of Stone is the first of Jill Marie Landis’ “inspirational” novels. Meaning, I don’t believe she has authored so-called “Christian” books in the past. This was evidenced in some scenes that I found a little too edgy.

I also found it hard to believe that in the late 1800’s, the Reverend’s children (however uncontrollable and misbehaved) would have been allowed to call an adult by their first name!

However, the final straw for me: I was thoroughly appalled that Zondervan approved a swear word in the book (p. 191)! Shame on you, Zondervan!!

I thought most of Heart of Stone was okay and appreciate Jill, through CFBA, for sending me a copy to review. But, knowing that Zondervan published profanity has made me realize, once again, that finding true God-honoring fiction is becoming almost impossible.

Recommend: NO

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**Disclaimer: I was given a free product for review purposes only. My reviews are not monetarily compensated and have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way, unless otherwise disclosed. Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family.**


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Here Burns My Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs

This week, CFBA is introducing Here Burns My Candle authored by Liz Curtis Higgs and published by WaterBrook Press.


A mother who cannot face her future.

A daughter who cannot escape her past.

Lady Elisabeth Kerr is a keeper of secrets. A Highlander by birth and a Lowlander by marriage, she honors the auld ways, even as doubts and fears stir deep within her.

Her husband, Lord Donald, has secrets of his own, well hidden from the household, yet whispered among the town gossips.

His mother, the dowager Lady Marjory, hides gold beneath her floor and guilt inside her heart. Though her two abiding passions are maintaining her place in society and coddling her grown sons, Marjory’s many regrets, buried in Greyfriars Churchyard, continue to plague her.

One by one the Kerr family secrets begin to surface, even as bonny Prince Charlie and his rebel army ride into Edinburgh in September 1745, intent on capturing the crown.

A timeless story of love and betrayal, loss and redemption, flickering against the vivid backdrop of eighteenth-century Scotland, Here Burns My Candle illumines the dark side of human nature, even as hope, the brightest of tapers, lights the way home.


First of all, I have to say that I enjoyed the period setting of Here Burns My Candle. The Scottish background gives a slightly different flavor to a typical British regency era novel. My mind was given quite a workout however as Liz Curtis Higgs frequently uses unfamiliar (to me) Scottish terminology, like “ilke” and “mercat” and “cauld.” Most words I could figure out in context, but wish I’d discovered the glossary BEFORE I finished the book!

It appears that Here Burns My Candle was inspired by the story of Naomi and Ruth. Lady Marjory is the mother-in-law who has left her family, eventually loses everything, and has nowhere left to turn but home. Lady Elisabeth Kerr is the pagan daughter-in-law who begins to follow (not really, in my opinion) the God of her mother-in-law and desires to take care of her husband’s mother when all seems lost.

Although I enjoyed the setting – and even the inspiration -- of Here Burns My Candle, I was disgusted in the time spent on Lord Donald’s extramarital activities. I was equally disappointed in the detail given to Lady Elisabeth’s “auld” ways (moon worship).

Although I appreciate WaterBrook and CFBA for sending me a review copy, I’m afraid that Here Burns My Candle will not be finding a permanent place on my bookshelf.

Also reviewed on Amazon and Christianbook.

Recommend: NO

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**Disclaimer: I was given a free product for review purposes only. My reviews are not monetarily compensated and have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way, unless otherwise disclosed. Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family.**


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer REVIEW & GIVEAWAY!

Thankfully, my children have been very healthy. However, on the few occasions that I thought they might be ill, taking their temperatures was the worst part of it all!

I could never stomach getting a rectal reading, so since both kids were babies, I've had an ear thermometer. The ear thermometer seemed like it should be so simple.


As babies, their ear canal is so small, making readings inaccurate. And, then, if you don't position the probe correctly, you continue to get inaccurate results.

Even though I still whipped out the ear thermometer when I thought they were warm, I basically relied on my mama wrist or lips feeling their foreheads if I thought they had a temperature.

Exergen Logo
Temporal Scanner
When Mama Buzz asked if I'd like to test a Temporal Artery Thermometer by Exergen, I couldn't say no.


I must say I'm pretty impressed!

Baby Scanner

Placing the thermometer's probe in the middle of the forehead and taking a 2-second slide over to the hairline is all it takes to use Exergen's TemporalScanner.

And while that seems simple, it does take a bit of coordination and practice to keep the probe in contact with the skin. (Either that, or my kids have bumpy heads)! ;-) Breaking skin contact will give inaccurate readings.

I found it easier to take my children's temperatures if they placed their heads as if lying down.

Temporal Scanner 2

The thermometer works by "capturing the...heat from skin over the temporal artery, which runs across the forehead and is directly connected to the heart via the carotid artery."

After a little practice, I received consistent 98.4-98.6 readings over and over from me, my husband, and kids. I even tested the thermometer on my wrist, just to see if it was really giving a "real" temperature. Yep, my wrist was a much cooler 97.something.

I hope I don't have to use the Temporal Artery Thermometer very often. I definitely prefer healthy kids, don't you?! ;-)

BUT... knowing I have the simple-to-use-super-fast-results Exergen TemporalScanner in my medicine cabinet, I won't have to rely on my wrist anymore! (The kids will still get my forehead smooches, though)!

Ready to BUY one? The Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer ($30-$50) can be found nationwide at Walmart, Walgreens, Costco, Babies R Us, Toys R Us, and Sam's Club or through online retailers like Amazon.

The Exergen TemporalScanner would make a fantastic baby shower gift!

Click HERE for a $5 rebate coupon!

Want to WIN one? Exergen has generously agreed to give one of my readers their own Temporal Artery Thermometers!

To enter, tell me why you want this thermometer.

For additional entries (must do above to qualify for extra entries!),
  • Follow my blog publicly via a feed reader or subscribe by email (must confirm subscription). Comment and let me know! If you're already a follower/subscriber, comment and let me know! (1 entry)
  • Blog about my giveaway and leave me a link to your post! (1 entry)
  • Enter my giveaway URL into another blog's giveaway McLinky and send me the link so I can see it! (1 entry)
  • Snag my blog button (in the far right column) and leave a comment with the link! (1 entry)
  • Become a fan of Exergen on facebook and leave me a link with your facebook user name (1 entry)
Entries accepted until Thursday, March 18, 11:59 PM.

Also reviewed on Amazon and

Recommend: YES

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**Disclaimer: This is a Mama Buzz review. I was given a free product by Exergen for review purposes only. My reviews are not monetarily compensated and have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way, unless otherwise disclosed. Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family.**


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Life is busy, but...

...I've actually had time to dabble in my old hobby! Digital Scrapbooking!

I made a small book for my daughter of her birth story, and realized that I haven't even STARTED one for my little guy!

Front cover:

page 1:

page 2:

back cover:

I haven't gotten very far - but, as I was working on the pages, I realized how much I enjoy doing it! I can't wait to finish it! I was even emailed a discount coupon code for an 8x8 book....provided I finish by the end of April. Hm, can I do it?! ;-)

All of my supplies are from free digital kits I've downloaded over the years. I believe for these pages, most things were from Nicole Young Designs and Kristin Aagard Designs.

You can find so many freebies and tutorials all over the web to get you started! My favorite place to look for layout inspiration is HERE.

I started out using Microsoft Digital Image Pro...then graduated to Photoshop Elements...and now use Photoshop CS2. I found an amazing deal on ebay for the software!

I've been so busy trying to keep up with reading the review books that keep coming in the mail, I haven't had much time for cooking. Well, trying NEW recipes to share, I should say! :-)

And, the weather has been teasing us of spring, making me want to do other things besides cooking!

Just wanted you to know I'm still here... but mostly with my nose in a book!

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hearts Awakening by Delia Parr

CFBA is introducing another book this week: Hearts Awakening by Delia Parr. Although I consider myself to be a super fast reader, I haven't been able to personally review the book as I received my copy only yesterday!

However, here's a little tidbit about Hearts Awakening to tide you over until I can post my own review:


Two people in desperate circumstances. Life has left few choices for Elvira Kilmer. Her hopes for marriage and a family of her own have long since passed her by, and her arrival on Dillon's Island, nestled in the Susquehanna River, is not of her choosing, either.

She needs work. And Jackson Smith needs a housekeeper. Yet Ellie never imagined the widower would be so handsome. Jackson, on the other hand, has never met anyone quite so...plain. But he quickly comes to realize that Ellie's presence may solve his own problems--both the rearing of his young boys and the scandal that surrounds his first marriage.

When Jackson offers her something quite out of the ordinary, will Ellie look beyond mere necessity and risk opening her heart?

Yet what options does she have? To marry would mean a home and stability. So despite the rumors circling Jackson and his first wife, Ellie accepts this unlikely proposal...

Here's the first chapter for you to enjoy:

Hearts Awakening
Bethany House (March 1, 2010)
Delia Parr

Chapter 1

August 1840 Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

While other women her age were busy preparing a hearty breakfast for their families in snug, warm homes that crowded the city or dotted the outlying farms, Elvira Kilmer was hurrying down an unfamiliar roadway, hugging the woods along the eastern shoreline of Dillon’s Island to meet a total stranger.

The air was heavy with the sweet scent of apples that grew in the orchards filling the interior of the island. But it was not enough to ease the heavy resentment that beat in Ellie’s heart, and her thin, well-mended cape did little more to ward off the uncommon nip in the air than her tattered faith could warm the chill in her spirit.

Yawning, she caught a brief glimpse of the Susquehanna River through a break in the trees that lined either side of the roadway and wondered what it would be like to simply drift away to a place where she was the only one who had control over her life.

Ellie snorted, tugged her cape tighter, and trudged forward. She had just taken a couple of sidesteps to avoid a deep ridge in the roadway when a raccoon darted out of the woods right in front of her. Startled, she swirled about, tripped over her own skirts, and toppled into the brush, snagging her cape on a low branch in the process.

Thankfully, she found the wherewithal to grab on to a small sapling to keep from pitching forward and landing flat on her face. Swaying a bit, she gasped for air and wondered if her heart would burst before it stopped pounding in her ears.

When she finally caught her breath, she glanced down and saw that she had landed smack in the middle of a patch of blackberries. Relief that the thorns on the brambles had not pierced through her cape and skirts was short-lived, however, once she got back to her feet to see what damage she had done to her garments.

Her gloves, which had kept her hands from being scraped, were sticky with tree sap, and the mends she had made just the other day had torn open again, which meant the gloves were now destined for the trash pit. To make matters worse, there was a wide tear in her cape, just above the hem, and she groaned out loud. She could mend that tear easily enough, but the blackberry stains on her cape and her gray skirts would be almost impossible to remove.

Ellie yanked off her gloves and stuffed them into her pocket before easing back to the roadway. “I needed to ruin my cape and my work gown and my gloves? Now? When I’m due at Mr. Smith’s? I look like a . . . a ragamuffin!”

Chest heaving, she swiped at her tears and stomped both of her work boots free of dirt before resuming her journey. “I thought you were going to help me, Lord. I’ve trusted in you all my life, yet no matter how hard I’ve prayed or how hard I’ve tried to live by your Word, I always end up with . . . with nothing but disappointment,” she cried, giving voice to the despair that seemed to have found a permanent home in her spirit.

Apparently frightened by her cry, a trio of small birds burst out of a nearby tree and soared up toward the clouds. She paused to watch them, flying side by side, until they disappeared from view. And, despite the frustration and uncertainty that welled within, she prayed she might one day fully embrace His promise to protect all of His creations, even a trembling follower as she had become.

Ellie continued on her way and spied the rear of the small farmhouse at the southern end of the island, where a single wisp of smoke curled up from a chimney on the near side of the building. She approached the house with the hope that Jackson Smith would be so grateful she had arrived he would not be put off by her unkempt appearance and send her right back to the city—where she would no doubt receive another less-than-gracious welcome.

When she reached the kitchen door at the back of the house, she swallowed hard and paused to straighten the folds on her cape to try to hide the blackberry stains, but there were so many she soon gave up. After smoothing her hair one last time, she took a deep breath for courage and knocked on the kitchen door.

And then again. She was about to knock a third time but dropped her hand when she finally heard the sound of heavy footsteps approaching the door. Her mouth went dry, but she kept her back straight and her shoulders square as she planted a smile on her face.

When the door finally swung open, she took a step back and stared up at the very attractive man standing there. To her surprise, he appeared to be only in his late twenties—a good three or four years her junior—but as she suspected, he wore the weathered tan of a man who carved his way through life by working outdoors in the orchards that covered the tiny island. His summer-bleached brown hair was cropped short, and the dark blue eyes staring back at her beneath heavy brows were fierce with pride and determination. The heavy crease across his brow, however, testified to his weariness, if not the sorrow of losing his wife scarcely six months ago.

“Mr. Smith? I’m Elvira Kilmer. I believe you were told to expect me this morning,” she said in a clear, steady voice, though her heart pounded against the wall of her chest. Either he would allow her inside or he would send her straight back to the city, where she would no doubt end up homeless and penniless by the time the sun set.


Recommend: After I read it, I'll let you know!

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**Disclaimer: Bethany House sent me a free book for review purposes only. My reviews are not monetarily compensated and have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way, unless otherwise disclosed. Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family.**


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Somewhere to Belong by Judith Miller

This week, CFBA is introducing Judith Miller's newest book, Somewhere to Belong, published by Bethany House. Unfortunately, my copy hasn't arrived yet, so I haven't been able to do a personal review in time for the tour!

I've read several of Judith's books, including those co-authored by Tracie Peterson, and am looking forward to reading Somewhere to Belong!


Johanna Ilg has lived her entire life in Main Amana, one of the seven villages settled by devout Christians who believe in cooperative living, a simple lifestyle, and faithful service to God. Although she’s always longed to see the outside world, Johanna believes her future is rooted in Amana. But when she learns a troubling secret, the world she thought she knew is shattered. Is this truly where she belongs?

Berta Schumacher has lived a privileged life in Chicago, so when her parents decide they want a simpler life in Amana, Iowa, she resists. Under the strictures of the Amana villages, her rebellion reaches new heights. Will her heart ever be content among the plain people of Amana?


Most readers want to know how authors 'got started' writing. My first novel, Threads of Love, was conceived when I was commuting sixty miles to work each day. I had absolutely no idea how publication of a book occurred and had given no thought to the concept. However, through a co-worker, I was directed to Tracie Peterson who, at that time, worked down the hall from me.

With a graciousness that continues to amaze me, Tracie agreed to read my story, directed me to a publisher, and gave me information on a Christian writers conference. Since that first encounter many years ago, I have been blessed with the publication of numerous books, novellas and a juvenile fiction book. Joyously, Tracie and I had the opportunity to develop a blessed friendship. In fact, we have co-authored several series together, including The Bells of Lowell, the Lights of Lowell and The Broadmoor Legacy. In addition, I have continued to write several solo series.

Note: Judith Miller is an award-winning author whose avid research and love for history are reflected in her novels, two of which have placed in the CBA top ten lists. In addition to her writing, Judy is a certified legal assistant. Judy and her husband make their home in Topeka, Kansas.

Recommend: Sounds good, but I haven't read it yet! Will recommend (or not) when I do! ;-) When CFBA posts the first chapter, I'll share that with you, too!

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**Disclaimer: Bethany House will be sending me a free book for review purposes only. My reviews are not monetarily compensated and have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way, unless otherwise disclosed. Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family.**

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