The Secret Keeper (Home to Hickory Hollow #4) by Beverly Lewis

This is the first book in this series I have read, but the story didn’t leave me missing anything from the previous books. Beverly Lewis is on my favorite authors list. I have never read one of her books I didn’t enjoy.
The story line was very different. While so many stories involve Amish who want to leave the life and become “Englishers”, this one is about an “Englisher” that to wanted to leave the world and become Amish!
From the time she was young, Jenny Burns had been drawn to the Amish faith. Everything about them and their way of life deeply touched her. The wealthy, materialistic, fast paced life of Jenny’s family always left her at odds with them and not fitting in. This made her long for the simple life even more.
After corresponding for many years with an Amish friend, Marnie, she met on vacation; she feels she is ready to make the move. She saves her money, sells her earthly possessions, and quits her job. Marnie arranges for her aunt and uncle, the Lapps, to welcome her into their home and help her during her year of “Proving”.
Being a “seeker”, someone from outside desiring to become a church member, the community meets her with distrust or open arms, there doesn’t seem to be a happy medium. Jenny struggles to adapt, learning the language and all the skills she must have to be a true Amish woman. While she is very happy, she finds the way of life more difficult than she thought, but most of all her image of the Amish people being “perfect” is shattered. She finds they are just as human as she is.
Accidentally she stumbles on a secret of another’s that she would have to reveal when she joined the church or she would not be holding true to the Ordnung. That combined with her homesickness for her family, whom she never thought she’d miss nor would miss her, makes her begin to question if she can stay. She had grown to love the people and one young man in particular. What should she do? The ending has an unexpected twist!
I always enjoy the details about daily Amish life but this book gave me something extra. It looked not only into the hearts and minds of the Amish characters but also through the eyes someone outside of the faith seeing it from the inside for the first time. I look forward to reading the other books in this series.
I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

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Taste of Home Recipes Across America: 735 of the Best Recipes from Across the Nation by Taste of Home

Taste of Home has done it again! Another fantastic cookbook and great value! This hardback cookbook is a great addition to my collection. Taste of Home cookbooks are a favorite of mine. I can use the recipe knowing they have been thoroughly tested to make sure all runs smoothly in my preparation. I especially like this because I am not wasting my time or food investment throwing out a recipe “flop”.
Taste of Home Recipes Across America opens the door to a whole new experience in learning about and cooking family favorites from different regions in the U.S. that is different from your own. This way I won’t get in a rut of just “southern” cooking. I love the fact that the recipes come from 100’s of other cooks just like me all across the U.S., not just recipes from one person. This adds so much variety and creativity for my meals!
Northeast, South, Midwest, Southwest, West Regions are well represented with Main dishes, Sides and More, and Sweets. The color pictures of recipes are excellent. Recipe lay outs are easy to read and follow. I enjoyed the “dishing out about food” boxes on the pages that interesting information and history on different foods. Also included are color pictures from each region highlighting yearly special events and locations in those areas. This cookbook would be fun just to curl up in a chair with and browse through. There is so much to read and see!
The back of the book had two handy indexes. One listed the recipes in alphabetical order. The other was quite extensive and you could find the recipe by ingredient, regions, and type (appetizers, etc.). Finding it by ingredient is a bonus for me because I might have unthawed chicken and can’t decide what to fix, or I am craving something with eggplant and haven’t a clue what to make. These features make the cookbook very user friendly. Positively a cookbook you will want to own!
I received this book free from FBS Media. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Bible and Prayers for Teddy and Me by Christina Goodings

Here is the perfect gift for the preschooler in your life! The cover is softly padded and washable with sturdy pages, making it perfect for those times when you snuggle together with your little one to share about God. I really liked the concept of “Teddy and me”. Most children have their favorite stuffed animal that is a comforting companion and very important to the child. The idea of this favorite “friend” sharing a special time is very appealing to children.
Old and New Testament stories are both included. Simple concepts and short stories make it easy for a young child to understand and help with short attention spans.
Engaging, colorful illustrations with the characters having a childlike quality, helps young ones further relate to the stories. At the end of each story is a rhyming poem or prayer related to the story’s lesson, and of course a picture of a child with their beloved Teddy bear. Not only do children love rhyming but it helps them to memorize and remember material.
This book is an excellent way to start a child on the way to loving God’s Word and understanding His love and care for them. The short prayers are a wonderful tool in teaching them they can talk to God. It is a beautiful book for the family library!
I received this book free from Kregel Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Under the Rainbow A Mother’s Experience of the Promises of God By Catherine Campbell

This is a remarkable story and beautifully written. I can tell it came straight from Mrs. Campbell’s heart. In her midwife career and still a very young woman, Catherine Campbell was called upon to care for a severely handicap newborn until it died. She put her heart into it, showing all the love and compassion a heart could hold in giving this precious child comfort in its last days. Little did she know, the child she was carrying would face not days but years of suffering, and not only one, but two of her children.
Her first daughter Cheryl was born with microcephaly, rare neurological condition where the baby’s brain does not grow. After 7 months of denying something was wrong the diagnosis hit her like a freight train. Her baby would never be normal. She was blind, could not speak, walk or talk, or even be able to know her mother and father. Her husband was a pastor and she was a strong Christian, but in the face of this devastating news, she struggled with her faith in God. She continued to seek Him and He gave her the strength and peace she needed.
Their 2nd child was a healthy little boy, Paul, but their third child, Joy, also had microcephaly. She was stretched to the limit caring for 3 children, two of which needed round the clock care and were very sick. She worked hard at giving Paul the time and love he needed while meeting the many other health complications and challenges of her daughters. Cheryl lived until she was 13 and Joy until she was 10.
While it might seem like this book was depressing, but it was not. Yes, it was very sad, but the hope and peace of God rang loud and clear throughout it. It was very inspirational.
I loved the way Mrs. Campbell called the promises God gave her in His Word as “rainbows”, referring to the rainbow of promise after the flood of Noah. She did not sugar coat any of her heartaches or doubts. Her honesty helped me relate to the very human emotions and thoughts we have when faced with overwhelming loss in our lives, no matter how strong a Christian we are.
I was blessed to see how she valued her daughters. She did not look at them as burdens or children that should never have been born, but each one as person in their own right. She saw their lives with purpose and significance no matter how different it might be from others. This is how we should view all life given by God. Having lost my husband recently, I treasured the scriptures and poems she shared. Our losses were very different but there are certain common denominators in all grief that I related to. This book gave me courage for the road ahead that I face. I had been struggling in spending time in the Word since my husband died. She shared that was something she made sure she did daily to receive the strength and peace she needed. That spoke volumes to me and I now purpose to do the same.
No this story didn’t have a happy ending but it was an incredible testimony of God’s power and love working through a willing and submitting vessel. My heart is so full after reading this book, not with sorrow but with joy. There is so much more I could share. I strongly encourage everyone to read it, especially if you in a valley of life right now and questioning God. Thank you Mrs. Campbell for this wonderful book!
I received this book free from Kregal Publications. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own.
Please visit the author’s website at http://www.catherine-campbell.com to learn more about her and her other books.

WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE BY MIRAM NEFF

The Title of this book hit straight home with me as I was asking myself the very same thing after my husband died suddenly. “Where do I go from here?” Even more so, “How do I go on from here?” The change was definitely unwanted but I had no clue on how to go on boldly. Mrs. Neff understood as not only had she faced being a widow, but many, many more painful life altering experiences.
Her message was something that I definitely needed. She understood the path I have so unwillingly been placed upon. She not only understands but has traveled it ahead of me and come out on the other side! This gives me hope! It not only covers the loss of a loved one but other defeats people face. While losses may differ coping with each one is much the same. The author gives you the bare bones tools to help yourself move ahead and let God lead.
I have been reading many books on the death of a spouse, but this one was different. Mrs. Neff doesn’t just share the details of her hardships but also the healthy biblical way to look at them. She covers emotional, mental, and even physical pitfalls to watch out for. I liked the way she directly addresses wrong mindsets and ideas a grieving person accepts.
The book is filled with wonderful illustrations and biblical truths to guide you in the new way of thinking you need to embrace. I found it uplifting and refreshing. Even though my loss is so new and fresh, I got a glimpse that there is a future ahead for me. I realized that God still has a plan for me and will work that plan, but it is my choice as to whether allow Him to. While I would not make all the choices the author did in her life, the basic truths and skills she shared can be applied to anyone’s life. I am still grieving deeply but this book gave me a light at the end of the tunnel, and the hope of moving forward one small step at a time. A very different book on loss!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for my honest review. I am not required to write a positive review.

Secrets to a Happy Life: Finding Satisfaction in Any Situation by Bill Giovannetti

Okay I have to make room for another book on my bookshelf! This one is a keeper. It is one I will reread and study many times over. When I first read the title I thought, “Okay another pie in the sky, Pollyanna book about how to be happy.” I was so wrong!
The author does not promise some quick fix ideas to a happy life that everyone would like to find. I liked this as I do not believe there are any. Instead he turns to God’s word and opens the door to what true happiness and how to achieve it realistically, God’s way.
I liked his honesty in the fact that happiness doesn’t consist of our mood or circumstances. In fact, it means facing some hard truths, biblical and personal truths about ourselves and our relationship with God.
He uses the Bible story of Joseph’s life and all the mistreatment, setbacks, heartaches and tragedies he faced and overcame by relying on God. I have always found these scriptures inspiring and encouraging but Mr. Giovannetti opened my eyes to even more lessons and truths. There are many more scriptures and Bible examples to study and “renew” your mind. The eleven “secrets” aren’t secrets at all but “meat” right from God’s Word that presented in a new way. He helped me see that in trying to obtaining happiness the worlds’ way, we are working against God, and then shares how to work with Him.
I loved the stories he shared about people today and his personal testimonies. I was pleasantly surprised at the delightful humor throughout the book. This book was a double blessing to me. Not just in the sound Bible teaching and inspiration but with having just lost my husband it is an encouragement in finding true happiness with the Lord. A book you WILL want to read.
I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.