Monday, May 25, 2015

Book: Called to be Amish

Fewer than one hundred outsiders have joined the Old-Order Amish---and stayed---since 1950. Marlene C. Miller is one of them.

In this rare memoir, Marlene recounts her unhappy and abusive childhood, how she throws herself into cheerleading and marching band, and how she falls in love with Johnny, the gentle young Amish man who helps her lace her ice skates.

Against the wishes of both sets of parents, Marlene and Johnny get married and begin a family. Follow the author on this unusual journey to find out how God's love called her out of bitterness and depression and into the warm embrace of her new Amish community.

Accompany her as she dons an Amish dress and prayer covering and gets baptized. Learn how she endures the strain of ten children, a hundred-acre farm, and accidents and tragedy, and find out how she comes close to walking away from it all. Turning Amish has proven to be anything but plain and simple for this former majorette. But nearly fifty years later, Marlene is still living out God's call as an Old Order Amish woman.


I have so many thoughts about this book I'm not even sure where to start!  For one, I was kind of amazed that an Amish person would write a book, but then I discovered it was hand written and this publisher specializes in the stories of Amish people.

At first I was kind of put off because it felt like I was just sitting down for tea with someone and listening to them ramble about their life.  Eventually I realized it worked for this kind of a story.  Essentially it is a ramble, through someone else's life.

There's not a lot of suspense, but I think the intrigue is in getting a picture into a lifestyle that is pretty foreign to most of us.  Marlene doesn't ever really explain much of the "Why" they live this way, perhaps because she joined as an adult and even then didn't speak the language well enough to understand the classes they took before joining.  Which is not to say that her conversion was a sham at all, only that if you're wondering about the reasons why the Amish live the way they do you won't find it in this book.

I did find her personal story of her intersection with God that changed her life really authentic.  To go from being "English" as they call outsiders to being Amish would take something more than just a desire to experience something different.  This is why so few people join and truly stay for life.

There are things about the Amish that bug me, like not owning cars, yet hiring people to drive them around.  Or not using electricity, but having gas powered generators.  But I think the focus of this story was more on the relationships in her life and how living in the Amish world is truly living in community.  That's something we could use a lot more of in our lives today.

Overall, a pretty fascinating and easy read.  In the Q and A at the end the author talks about having seen some reality show about the Amish and being appalled at what a poor representation if was.  Can't be too surprised, it's Hollywood!  But it did remind me that during the summer of 2004 when I was in grad school there was a short run of a show called Amish in the City in which they had 4 or 5 Amish kids, before they'd decided if they were going to join the church, living with 4 or 5 "normal" American kids (probably all in their late teens and early 20's).  It was interesting as they were trying to get the Amish kids to have all kinds of new experiences.  I just remember coming away from it thinking how normal the Amish kids were though compared to the crazies they managed to have representing average Americans!


Find other reviews or purchase your own copy.

Marlene C. Miller joined the Amish as an adult and has been a member of the Old Order Amish for almost 50 years. She and her husband of 48 years live on a farm in Ohio surrounded by their nine children, more than 40 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

I received this book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tea Collection's Memorial Day Sale: We Go There!

*This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated a small amount if you make a purchase after clicking on one of my links.

Tea Collection
has a unique slogan, We Go There, and in their India collection founder Emily took her family to India to experience it firsthand (links to blog).

The India inspired collection is complete now and this weekend you can get 20% off your entire purchase and free shipping on any amount by using code: WEGOTHERE

You can also enter to win your own 5 night trip to India by entering the sweepstakes!

Designs may sell out quickly and this collection will be gone by the end of July so don't wait!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Book: The Art of Losing Yourself

Just like in my dream, I was drowning and nobody even noticed.

Every morning, Carmen Hart pastes on her made-for-TV smile and broadcasts the weather. She’s the Florida panhandle’s favorite meteorologist, married to everyone’s favorite high school football coach. They’re the perfect-looking couple, live in a nice house, and attend church on Sundays. From the outside, she’s a woman who has it all together. But on the inside, Carmen Hart struggles with doubt. She wonders if she made a mistake when she married her husband. She wonders if God is as powerful as she once believed. Sometimes she wonders if He exists at all. After years of secret losses and empty arms, she’s not so sure anymore.

Until Carmen’s sister—seventeen year old runaway, Gracie Fisher—steps in and changes everything. Gracie is caught squatting at a boarded-up motel that belongs to Carmen’s aunt, and their mother is off on another one of her benders, which means Carmen has no other option but to take Gracie in. Is it possible for God to use a broken teenager and an abandoned motel to bring a woman’s faith and marriage back to life? Can two half-sisters make each other whole?


I started this one last week, got one chapter in, and then life happened.  So I plan to finish it soon, but in the mean time let me just say, this one will probably hit you in all the feels.  I think it will be a really good book and can't wait to read it, but not a fluff book at all.


If you would like to read the first chapter of The Art of Losing Yourself, go HERE.

Award-winning author, Katie Ganshert, graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison with a degree in education, and worked as a fifth grade teacher for several years before staying home to write full-time. She was born and raised in the Midwest, where she lives with her family. When she’s not busy penning novels or spending time with her people, she enjoys drinking coffee with friends, reading great literature, and eating copious amounts of dark chocolate.

Wordless Wednesday: Daddy's Crew

Poor Cory was developing a royal headache, but the rest of the crew was enthralled by the airport.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Book: A Love Like Ours

Former Marine Jake Porter has far deeper scars than the one that marks his face. He struggles with symptoms of PTSD, lives a solitary life, and avoids relationships.

When Lyndie James, Jake's childhood best friend, lands back in Holley, Texas, Jake cautiously hires her to exercise his Thoroughbreds. Lyndie is tender-hearted, fiercely determined, and afraid of nothing, just like she was as a child. Jake pairs her with Silver Leaf, a horse full of promise but lacking in results, hoping she can solve the mystery of the stallion's reluctance to run.

Though Jake and Lyndie have grown into very different adults, the bond that existed during their childhood still ties them together. Against Jake's will, Lyndie's sparkling, optimistic personality begins to tear down the walls he's built around his heart. A glimmer of the hope he'd thought he'd lost returns, but fears and regrets still plague him. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend?


This is the third book in a series.  It's meant to be a standalone, but I think it would read better as part of the series.  I missed the first one, and read the second one and it just adds more depth to the stories.
That being said, you could read it alone for just the story... which I loved!

This is one of the styles of book I really enjoy.  Long enough to really get to know the characters (I still didn't want it to end), not too much suspense, characters that actually have depth, plots that aren't completely implausible!

Jake is struggling with PTSD.  Lyndie thinks she can help him heal if only he will open up to her.  They were childhood best friends, but they've brought some of that childhood dynamic with them when they meet again 20 years later.  Add in their own wounds in the meantime and you have a recipe for an explosive relationship where neither knows what's happening inside the other even if they think they do.

I found it interesting to think about the greater themes of knowing another person.  You can assume all you want, the reasons for why someone acts the way they do, but I bet oftentimes you would be wrong.  Everyone is unique and I think we have to be careful to treat them with care and not put our own experiences on them or limit them by how we think they should act based on what we know.

Get lost in Holly, Texas and find some clues to life!  Check out other reviews here.


Check out Becky's other books on her website, purchase a copy, and enter to win one below!

Love Like Ours Becky Wade

Becky Wade is a California native who attended Baylor University, met and married a Texan, and settled in Dallas. She published historical romances for the general market before putting her career on hold for several years to care for her three children. When God called her back to writing, Becky knew He meant for her to turn her attention to Christian fiction. She loves writing funny, modern, and inspirational contemporary romance! She's the Carol Award and Inspirational Reader's Choice Award winning author of My Stubborn Heart, Undeniably Yours, Meant to Be Mine, and A Love Like Ours.

I received this book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Puff Balls

Our yard is already taken over by dandelions so why not at least have a little fun with them...

Sunday, May 10, 2015

On Mother's Day

Almost 10 years ago we got married at Ohme Gardens. Today we took the kids up to picnic lunch and wander.

Only you don't really wander with kids in tow... you hoof it!

There was a good reason to have 3 adults to the 4 children!

Happy Mother's Day, Nana!

Hobbit's Bench

Water? Let's play!

They are slowly learning that if they will just give me a nice look/smile the first time we can be done and not have to stand there for 10 minutes!

Checking the maps to see where we should go...

Hey look, there are 6 of us now after 10 years!

Adventuring we will go...

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Book: To Win Her Favor

A gifted rider in a world where ladies never race, Maggie Linden is determined that her horse will become a champion. But the one man who could help her has vowed to stay away from thoroughbred racing forever.

An Irishman far from home, Cullen McGrath left a once prosperous life in England because of a horse racing scandal that nearly ruined him. He's come to Nashville for a fresh start, hoping to buy land and begin farming, all while determined to stay as far away from thoroughbred racing as possible. But starting over proves harder than he'd wagered, especially when Maggie Linden's father makes him an offer he shouldn't accept yet cannot possibly refuse.

Maggie is certain that her mare, Bourbon Belle, can take the top purse in the inaugural Peyton Stakes, the richest race ever run in America. Maggie only needs the chance to prove it. To give her that chance---and to save Linden Downs from being sold to the highest bidder---Maggie's father, aging, yet wily as ever, makes a barter. His agreement includes one tiny, troublesome detail---Maggie must marry a man she's never met. A man she never would have chosen for herself.


This is at least the third if not the fourth novel I've read by Tamera Alexander.  One thing I can say, her characters never disappoint.  They go deep and just don't let go.  The very first one I read was some years ago and it stands out above so many I've read since then.  This To Win Her Favor will also be a standout.

One of the reasons I love her writing so much is because she does her research.  You feel the time period, the setting, and the characters are firmly placed in that setting.

This story is about a woman in the man's world of racing, yet it is also a story of the South just after the Civil War.  The war changed the rules about slaves, but it couldn't change people's hearts.  The parallel story of the black people in Maggie's life is just as fascinating and heartbreaking as Maggie's story.  Maggie has never left her settled life just outside of Nashville, she also has never truly left the comforts of her home to see the way the slaves lived, just yards from her door.

This is the second book in a series apparently, but you would never miss anything.  Previous characters only make cameo appearances and this book stands alone just fine.  I HIGHLY recommend it!


Read other reviews, purchase your own copy, or win one below!

Click the promo photo to enter the contest

Tamera Alexander is the best-selling author of numerous books including A Lasting Impression and The Inheritance. Her richly-drawn characters and thought-provoking plots have earned her devoted readers worldwide. Tamera is a two-time Christy Award winner, two-time RITA winner, and a recipient of the prestigious Library Journal Award. Tamera and her husband recently returned to her Southern roots and now make their home in Nashville.

I received this book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for my fair and honest review.