Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Letters of Wisdom by Wanda E. Brunstetter

 Letters of  Wisdom
Book Summary

Friendship Letters Series — Doretta Schwartz has always enjoyed writing letters and feels her letters can be a bit of a ministry to her friends. In this series, exchanging letters that contain open and honest feelings and struggles helps Doretta and two of her best friends through the darkest challenges of their lives.
Letters and Prayers Between Friends Become a Balm for Healing
Irma Miller thought having a family of her own would bring her joy and a sense of accomplishment, but she struggles with memories of the abuse she suffered as a child at the hand of her stepfather. When she becomes physically and emotionally abusive to her own children, she reaches out to her friend Doretta for prayer and wisdom. But Irma may find herself at an even darker emotional place before she will admit she needs professional help to heal the past traumas. Will Doretta’s letters of wisdom help Irma and her family, or will too much be broken to ever be repaired?
Find out in the third book of The Friendship Letters series by New York Times Bestselling Author Wanda E. Brunstetter.

My Thoughts

Letters of Wisdom by Wanda E. Brunstetter is the third book in The Friendship Letters series.  It can be read as a standalone, but I believe it is best to read the series in order.  This will allow you to know the characters and their backgrounds.  I thought the story was well-written with realistic, developed characters.  Irma Miller struggles to take care of her children while her husband is away auctioneering.  She has three children, and the two boys are active.  She looks forward to receiving letters from her dear friends, Doretta and Eleanor.  They send words of encouragement along with helpful books.  Irma had a pleasant childhood until her father passed away and her mother remarried.  Her stepfather was abusive, and Irma never understood why her mother did not intervene. 

We get to see how a victim of abuse can become an abuser.  Those who have suffered mental and/or physical abuse may find the story hard to read.  There were portions that I was unable to read.  Irma’s husband, LaVern, is a gem. It is obvious that he loves his wife and kids (and wants what is best for them).  I like how the abuse was addressed.  I was not aware that there were Christian counselors.   Abuse, guilt, self-worth, bitterness, resentment, and forgiveness are themes addressed in the story.  Letters of Wisdom is a character driven story.  I liked how the characters told the story.  I enjoyed catching up with the characters from the first two books.  Letters of Wisdom is an emotional tale with an overwhelmed mother, helpful letters, a hardworking husband, energetic tykes, finding forgiveness, and a gracious God.  

Letters of Wisdom will be out March 1 and can be preordered from Amazon*.  The first two books in The Friendship Letters series are Letters of Trust and Letters of Comfort.  Wanda has The Protector coming out August 1.  It is the first A Mifflin County Mysteries. You can find Wanda Brunstetter's other novels here.  Thank you for joining me today.  I am a stop on the Celebrate Lit Tour tomorrow for The Quilt Room Secret by Lisa Jones Baker.  It is the third book in The Heart of the Amish series.  I hope you will stop by to learn more about the Amish story and to enter the giveaway.  I am off to sort another closet.  I am slowly getting each closet organized.  I found a travel bag of  new Halloween t-shirts in the back of my closet along with two pair of sandals still in their boxes.  I hope that you have an uplifting day. Take care and Happy Reading!


The Avid Reader

*This post contains affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Trapped in Yosemite by Dana Mentink

 Trapped in Yosemite
Book Summary

When a massive earthquake levels the region, secrets and unknown dangers are exposed…

The ground in still-icy Yosemite National Park isn’t stable, and K-9 handler Von Sharpe fears the worst. But his worries are pushed aside when he sees an SUV viciously forced off the road…with his ex-fiancée at the wheel. It’s only when Stella Rivers steps out of the vehicle that the very ground under their feet cracks and breaks with the onslaught of a terrifying earthquake. 
When her meeting with a mysterious client is ambushed, Stella witnesses the man being gunned down by a sniper and becomes a target herself. With the threat of aftershocks triggering landslides and floods, the new mom has no choice but to run to save her baby girl—even if it means teaming up with the man who has no idea he fathered her child.
Trapped in a dangerously unstable wilderness with a killer closing in, Von and Stella are running out of time to get to safety. And every fissure reveals a new secret that will shake them to their foundation…
My Thoughts

Trapped in Yosemite by Dana Mentink starts off with a bang.  I thought the author captured the setting of Yosemite National Park.  I was unable to connect with the two main characters, Stella and Von.  I did not like Stella’s deceit and her justifications.  Vonn was a tough nut to crack.  I did like seeing the characters grow (personally, emotionally, and spiritually) by the end of the story. There are a number of characters introduced.  It takes time to learn about them and keep them straight (which does not help the pacing).  The way the characters talked and acted, it made me believe that Trapped in Yosemite was part of a series (it’s not). 

After the action at the beginning, the story slowed down for a spell. I was happy that the pace picked up in the second half along with the suspense.  I did not enjoy the scenes where the two main characters evade discussing their feelings and Stella avoids telling Von about their baby (while everyone around them knows about it).  There is tension, lies, gunshots, and extreme weather.  Stella and Von work to uncover why someone wants to kill Stella. Faith is woven throughout the story.  Two of the main themes are redemption and second chances.  My favorite character in the story was Von’s dog, Bear.   Trapped in Yosemite had an uplifting and satiating ending.  

Trapped in Yosemite is available from Amazon*.  Dana Mentink has Tracking the Truth coming out on March 26.  You can find the author's other novels here.  Thank you for joining me today.  Tomorrow I will be featuring Letters of Wisdom by Wanda E. Brunstetter.  It is the final book in the Friendship Letters series.  I hope that you have gratifying day.  Take care and Happy Reading!


The Avid Reader

*This post contains affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Miracles at Promise Lodge by Charlotte Hubbard

Miracles at Promise Lodge 

Book Summary

Returning to the fan-favorite world of Promise Lodge, the small-town Missouri setting for her beloved Amish inspirational romance novels, Charlotte Hubbard charms readers with a Mother’s Day themed tale perfect for fans of Shelley Shepard Gray and Beth Wiseman!

A season of change has blessed the Amish of Missouri’s Promise Lodge, as mothers-to-be anticipate the arrival of their little miracles and one young man’s life is about to take an unexpected turn as he sheds his bad boy reputation and embraces the value of faith and hard work.

Long-time residents of Promise Lodge welcome a wave of newcomers that includes a pretty potter who’s come to help an expectant couple, and a hard-working dairy expert ready to manage the herds on the expanding Burkholder farm. Then there’s Isaac Chupp, the handsome, charming son of a notoriously unyielding Bishop from nearby Coldstream. Isaac has recklessly rebelled against his dat, and his bad boy reputation precedes him. Now he seeks a fresh start, applying for work at Dale Kraybill’s bulk store.
Proving himself reliable while Dale takes off for his wedding trip is Isaac’s bold first step. But more miraculous awakenings may come as he settles into the warm new light of the faithful community. And while Promise Lodge celebrates an abundance of newborns as summer turns to fall, Isaac discovers a kindred soul who has her own share of challenges. In helping her, he just may find his true purpose in loving selflessly, building up, and giving back . . .

My Thoughts

Miracles at Promise Lodge by Charlotte Hubbard takes us back to the quaint community of Promise Lodge.  It was great to catch up with the characters that started the community and who have moved into it since its creation.  I like that it is a community started by women (I wonder if the Amish will ever allow women to be deacons or bishops).  Isaac has come to Promise Lodge for a fresh start.  Unfortunately, members of his old community live in the area and are fully aware of his misdeeds.  Isaac has a temper as well as impulse control issues. There is one scene that I found particularly troubling with Isaac.  It can be a trigger for individuals who have been abused or assaulted.  Maria Zehr’s arrival is quite vociferous, and the timing is inopportune. Maria is a piece of work.  I would not have had the patience to deal with her.  

I like Vera.  She is a kind, forgiving young woman.  Vera is also artistic and allowed to express her creativity through her pottery.  It was good to see Dale and Irene so happy.  Jealousy and envy were two of the themes in the story.  Faith was nicely woven into the story.  It is great how the people who live in Promise Lodge help each other and are welcoming to new people (I wish all communities were like that).   I like the author’s writing style (makes the story easy to read).  There is good plot and character development.  I have read all the books in the series, so I am familiar with the characters and the setting.  New readers would not have that knowledge (it is best to read the series in order). One of my favorite phrases from the book is, “One of the best things about the Bible is the way we can read a passage again and again throughout our lives, yet those verses can take on a different meaning—often depending upon our circumstances.”  I look forward to my next visit to Promise Lodge.  

Miracles at Promise Lodge is available from Amazon*.  Miracles at Promise Lodge is Charlotte Hubbard's final novel.  The author has announced her retirement.  You can find the other novels in the Promise Lodge series here and the rest of Charlotte Hubbard's Amish tales here.  Thank you for stopping by today.  I will return on Tuesday, February 27 with Trapped in Yosemite by Dana Mentink.  I hope that you have an enjoyable weekend.  Take care and Happy Reading!


The Avid Reader

*This post contains affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

A Smoking Bun by Ellie Alexander

 A Smoking Bun

Book Summary

Another delicious installment in the Bakeshop Series set in Ashland, OR!

The mountains are calling in Ashland, Oregon, where pastry chef turned amateur sleuth, Jules Capshaw, is baking up a bevy of spiced curry buns and chai cookies for a moonlit snowshoe tour. Ramiro’s family is visiting from Spain and Jules can’t wait to take them up to her beloved Mount A with its charming and rustic lodge, backcountry trails, and star-filled skies that stretch for miles. Their winter wonderland adventure is nothing short of magical and the merry party opts to return to the slope the next day for the Downhill Dummy.

The annual competition is a favorite amongst snow lovers. Contestants strap makeshift dummies to skis and send them hurling down a death-defying ski jump in hopes of catching big air. The team at Torte is in the mix this year with their own replica of a tiered cake and a baker who closely resembles their fearless leader. It’s a fun and festive atmosphere as dummies sail past the crowd to huge cheers and applause. Until one of the dummies takes a deadly detour and lands atop Fitz Baskin.
Fitz is a guide on the mountain and his icy dealings have made for frosty relationships with everyone he encounters. Suddenly there are more suspects than snowdrifts as Jules dives into the investigation. She unearths a web of secrets and motives that threaten to shake the rustic mountain lodge to its core. Can she catch the killer before they strike again, or will the truth be buried forever under fluffy layers of fresh snow?

My Thoughts

A Smoking Bun by Ellie Alexander is the eighteenth A Bakeshop Mystery.  It can be read as a standalone if you are new to the series.  The story was not as easy to read as the others in the series.  We are introduced to a number of new characters plus there are the regular characters (hotel staff, Ramiro’s family, ski patrol, bakery staff, contest participants, townspeople).  It can be a challenge to keep them all straight.  I found the pacing to be languid (little action, but plenty of chatting and eating). 

Moonlight Snowshoe Tour

The mystery was uncomplicated.  The victim, of course, was not well liked.  You do not get to know any of the suspects very well.  The mystery is not at the forefront of the story.  A couple of details give away the killer’s identity.  I like that we get to learn about a few of the outdoor activities available around Ashland.  Jules arranged for the family to go on a midnight snowshoe trip on Mount Ashland (I bet the stars were beautiful) with a late-night feast.  They also went skiing.  Mount Ashland’s annual downhill dummy competition is certainly different.  As usual, there is plenty of baking, cooking, eating, and drinking wine. A Smoking Bun had a cheery ending.  There was a tidbit at end regarding the obnoxious Richard Lord that had me chuckling.  A Smoking Bun is a light, upbeat tale with a visiting family, a slain skier, a snug lodge, tasty pastries, downhill dummy competition, and sunny news. 

A Smoking Bun is available from Amazon*.  Sticks and Scones is the next A Bakeshop Mystery and it will published on August 20.  You can find the other A Bakeshop Mysteries here.  Thank you for joining me today.  I will return tomorrow with Miracles at Promise Lodge by Charlotte Hubbard.  It is the last book in the Promise Lodge series and Charlotte Hubbard's swan song.  I am off to organize one of my hall closets.  It has gotten to the point that I can barely close the door.  It is time to take everything out, sort through it, and put the items back in neatly.  Wish me luck!  I hope that you have a positive day.  Take care and Happy Reading!


The Avid Reader

*This post contains affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Undercover Colorado Conspiracy by Jodie Bailey

 Undercover Colorado Conspiracy

Book Summary

An undercover mission

turns into a fight for survival

To expose a crooked adoption agency, military investigators Thalia Renner and Phillip Campbell pose as a married couple at a mountain resort. But when they become the target of unknown enemies and deadly assaults, they wonder if their cover has been blown. As they investigate, they learn the truth is far more sinister…and the consequences could cost them their lives.
My Thoughts

Undercover Colorado Conspiracy by Jodie Bailey starts off with a bang, but then the pace slows down for a while.  I liked the conspiracy in the story.   There was a twist or two along the way.  The characters were likeable.  The Christian element was present.  The main theme was letting go and letting God take control.  Undercover Colorado Conspiracy had a good ending.  

Undercover Colorado Conspiracy is available from Amazon*.  Jodie Bailey has Mountain Abduction Rescue, which is the fifth book in the Mountain Country K-9 Unit series, coming out July 23.  You can find Jodie Bailey's other novels here.  Thank you for stopping by today.  I will return tomorrow to share my thoughts on A Smoking Bun by Ellie Alexander.  It is the latest A Bakeshop MysteryThe Last Word by Gerri Lewis, Miracles at Promise Lodge by Charlotte Hubbard, and Ill-Fated Fortune by Jennifer J. Chow are a few of the books that were released today.  I hope that you have joyful day.  Take care and Happy Reading!


The Avid Reader

*This post contains affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

The Heart's Shelter by Amy Clipston

 The Heart's Shelter
Book Summary

Kira has no interest in dating and putting down roots in Pennsylvania—that is, until she finds a kindred spirit in Jayden Bontrager.

Kira Detweiler doesn’t plan to be in Lancaster County for long. She’s left her family in Indiana to help her aunt after the birth of her fourth boppli. Or at least that’s what she tells people. Deep down, she’s trying to escape the heartache of a broken engagement and has no plans to date again anytime soon.

Jayden Bontrager watches his older brothers with admiration, and he prays that someday he’ll have the kind of life they do. Even so, he’s only twenty-three and not in a hurry to marry and start a family. He’s content to watch from the sidelines and is happy to see his brothers enjoying a close relationship once again.

When Jayden and Kira strike up a friendship, they are each drawn to the other’s gentle and humble demeanor, and they feel things for one another unlike anything they’ve felt before. But Kira is torn between her heart and her home. She sees no point in pursuing a relationship with Jayden when she doesn’t plan to put down roots in Pennsylvania. The last thing she needs is another heartbreak.

Will Jayden and Kira be able to overcome the obstacles in their path to find the future they both dream of?

In this fourth and final book of the Amish Legacy Series, readers will find out if the youngest Bontrager brother will get his happily ever after.

My Thoughts

The Heart's Shelter by Amy Clipston is the fourth An Amish Legacy Novel.  We get Jayden’s story in this addition.  I have liked Jayden since the beginning, and I have been looking forward to his tale.  I find Jayden to be a kind man with a good heart.  I thought The Heart’s Shelter was a sweet story, but I found it to be repetitive.  I like the Bontrager family as well as Kira’s aunt.  I had trouble liking Kira.  She is older than Jayden, but he was the more mature person in the relationship.  I did like that Kira and her group of friends did kind deeds for those who were struggling in the community.  I thought the story lacked depth.  The same details are repeated in each chapter.  I liked catching up with the other characters in the series.  I have enjoyed seeing them develop and watching the Bontrager family grow closer.  The Heart’s Shelter can be read as a standalone as the author provided the necessary background information for new readers. 

The Heart's Shelter is available from Amazon*.  You can find the first three An Amish Legacy Novels hereAmy Clipston has the contemporary romance, Finding You coming out July 9.  Thank you for stopping by today and reading my latest book review.  I hope that you have a relaxing weekend.  Take care and Happy Reading.  


The Avid Reader

*This post contains affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

A Season of Harvest by Lauraine Snelling


A Season of Harvest

About the Book

Can her dreams for the future–and a budding romance–survive the trouble that comes calling?

Larkspur Nielsen is determined to keep her family homestead running and to fulfill their dream of starting a seed catalog, with or without her siblings’ help. With Isaac McTavish back in town, Lark finds herself at odds with her own heart and her determination to shoulder the burden of carrying her responsibilities alone. But Isaac is set on convincing her that he’s here to stay and she doesn’t have to carry everything by herself.

As a new romance blossoms between Lilac and an old schoolmate and the other Nielsen sisters are busy caring for their families, Lark bears more and more responsibility on the farm. When a long-feared threat returns and Lark approaches the breaking point, the life she has always dreamed of is in danger of disappearing forever.

Click here to get your copy!

About the Author

Lauraine Snelling is the award-winning author of nearly one-hundred books, fiction and nonfiction, for adults and young adults. Her books have sold more than five million copies. She makes her home in Tehachapi, California.

More from Lauraine

Please provide a brief summary of your new novel, A Season of Harvest.

Lauraine Snelling: With her three sisters all finding their own paths of life and love, Larkspur Nielsen determines to shoulder their family farm and business dream herself and stay single—even if drifter Isaac McTavish, claiming he’s back in town for good, now seeks her heart. When danger from the past comes knocking, Lark must choose whether to insist on going it alone or accept the love and support God—and Isaac—hold out.

Each of the previous books in your current series, Leah’s Garden, follows a different Neilsen sister as the main character. What led you to save Larkspur’s story for the series conclusion?

LS: I’d actually planned Larkspur’s story to be first since she’s the oldest. However, once The Seeds of Change started coming together, Forsythia took over the story! So the first book became hers.

Loyalty plays a key role in A Season of Harvest. Without giving spoilers, can you hint at why loyalty is at the core of the story?

LS: Loyalty threads through the whole series. These sisters are loyal to each other, to their friends, and to everyone they know. Through all the books, they take care of each other so faithfully. Even their initial departure from Ohio stems from drastic action they take to protect each other and their family. Loyalty then streams over into other characters in the series, especially Isaac McTavish, who really grows into loyalty in this book. Even our villain stays loyal to his purpose all the way through.

Which of the four Neilsen sisters do you personally resonate with the most?

LS: Truth be told, I resonate with each of them. But really, I tend to identify with whichever one I’m writing at the moment! 😊

A Season of Harvest returns to a major conflict from the first book in the series, The Seeds of Change. Was it always in your plan to circle back and address that conflict again in the series conclusion?

LS: It wasn’t always in our plan, but as the book came together, it became inevitable. One benefit of a great editor is that they sometimes contribute ideas, and my editor, Jessica Sharpe, pointed out how key it would be for Ringwald to confront Larkspur at the end of the series. As the book went on, it became so important to resolve that conflict, and we kept the villain in the stories just enough to keep readers from forgetting about him.

What do you hope readers learn or take away from this series?

LS: A reminder of how important our families are. The Nielsens stood by each other in so many crises, and that’s what I would hope readers take away—just a reminder of how important your family is and how absolutely critical faith in Christ is. Salton becomes a place of healing, a place for people to recover joy. That we have so many joys and things to learn in this life is a theme that weaves through all my books.

What led you to set these stories in the homesteading period? How was the setting important to the story you wanted to tell?

LS: It’s one of my favorite periods! The homesteading era was such a time of change and adventure. As for why Nebraska, I hadn’t set stories there very much yet. For Kiersti, it was special to join in on The Seeds of Change and get to write about Nebraska homesteaders living in a soddy because her great-grandfather, a son of Danish immigrants, was born in a soddy in Nebraska in the late 1800s.

Is this truly the last your readers will see of the Neilsen sisters and the rest of their community?

LS: As far as we know!

Now that you’ve wrapped up the Leah’s Garden series, what are you working on next?

LS: A series set in 1889 near Decorah, Iowa. Six-year-old Ruth and twenty-one-year-old Amalia are thrown together on a ship crossing over from Norway when their families die of cholera. Ruth’s dying mother gives her daughter into Amalia’s custody, and the two orphans travel to Iowa to take over the family boardinghouse Ruth will inherit. They must battle a greedy relative trying to claim the property and somehow make ends meet for the motley band of orphans who gather under their roof, while finding a way to make this new land home.

My Thoughts

A Season of Harvest by Lauraine Snelling is the fourth novel in the Leah’s Garden series.  I do recommend reading the series in order as it will allow you to get to know the characters and their storylines.  I thought the story was well-written with developed characters.  I have enjoyed getting to know the Nielsen sisters.  The sisters are smart, strong, hardworking, and family oriented.  The Nielson sisters are industrious and have come up with good business ideas.  I thought the author captured the time period and the locale. I like that we get to see the characters struggle as well as thrive.  There are good life lessons in the story (control, pride, and fear).  Faith is a central part of the Neilsen’s lives.  We see the importance of prayer as well as letting go of our worries and turning them over to God.  The story is a slow starter, and I feel it would help if there was a list of the characters at the beginning of the book.   I enjoyed the heartwarming ending.  A Season of Harvest is an inspiring story with arduous farmwork, a grand store reopening, a blast from the past, a rebound romance, a new addition, and close sisters.  


To celebrate her tour, Lauraine is giving away the grand prize package of a $15 Amazon gift card and a paperback set of all four books in the Leah’s Garden Series: The Seeds of Change, A Time to Bloom, Fields of Bounty, and A Season of Harvest!! (US Only)  Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click here to enter.  Good Luck!

A Season of Harvest is available from Amazon*.  You can find the other three novel in Leah's Garden series here.  You can find Lauraine Snelling's other novels here.  Thank you for stopping by today.  Tomorrow I am sharing my thoughts on The Heart's Shelter by Amy Clipston.  It is the fourth An Amish Legacy Novel.  Do not forget to enter the giveaway! Good Luck!  I hope that you have a joyful day.  Take care and Happy Reading!


The Avid Reader

Blog Stops

Wishful Endings, February 5

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, February 5

Locks, Hooks and Books, February 6

Texas Book-aholic, February 7

The Avid Reader, February 7

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, February 8

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, February 9 (Author Interview)

Books You Can Feel Good About, February 9

She Lives to Read, February 10

Jeanette’s Thoughts, February 11

Mary Hake, February 11

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, February 12

For Him and My Family, February 13

Splashes of Joy, February 13

Holly’s Book Corner, February 14

Cover Lover Book Review, February 15

Connie’s History Classroom , February 16

Paula’s Pad of Inspiration, February 16

Live. Love. Read., February 17

Jodie Wolfe – Stories Where Hope and Quirky Meet, February 17

lakesidelivingsite, February 18

Pause for Tales, February 18

*This post contains affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.