Thursday, June 30, 2016

Book Review of Hidden Agendas by Steve Brown {Excellent Resource!}

Here are some "titles" I carry: Pastor's Wife, Small Group Leader, Women's Bible Study Small Group Leader, and Children's Ministry Nursery Assistant. So to say my life contains leadership roles within the Church at times feels like an overwhelming understatement. I can't tell you enough how much I appreciate the phenomenal resource that Hidden Agendas [Dropping the Masks that Keep us Apart] is for Christian leaders. Whether you hold a leadership position within the church or within a Christian setting via pastorship, lay leader, paid position, counseling or simply by default (and don't we all feel that way sometimes?), Hidden Agendas is a "must read". Steve Brown brings a very honest and refreshing look not just at the masks we wear, but also addresses which masks we may want to leave & the importance of timing when we decide to take off a mask. The authenticity that Brown brings to this work is to be commended; it strips away our tendency to "muscle it" when we are dealing with various situations because we know what our Christian outward response 'should' look like. It's hard as a leader to find resources that allow you to view your life from a different angle. Brown's work allows you to adjust your perspective, shift your spiritual focus from merely spewing head knowledge to examining your need for a heart transformation. I appreciate the way Brown includes many areas of Scripture throughout Hidden Agendas, and he even has me wanting to do an in-depth study on Paul.

I will, however, say that this book could be "dangerous" in the hands of those who are arrogant or ignorant (this is a slightly tongue-in-cheek comment, by the way...but once you read it you will understand what I am saying). But I definitely recommend it to those who lead in any capacity, and also think it would be a great discussion book for those in leadership to walk through together.

*I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review*

Hidden Agendas
Hidden Agendas: Dropping the Masks that Keep Us Apart (New Growth Press, May 2016)
We like to pretend that hidden agendas are just for self-important bosses or egotistical politicians, but we all have them. Deep down, we all have a secret plan for getting from where we are to where we want to be, even if we refuse to admit it to ourselves.
And if our hidden agendas aren’t enough, we wear masks to obscure the truth even more. We put on these masks—like religion, appearance, power, politics, or protection—to drive our agendas. But all of this leaves us feeling phony, ashamed, guilty, and afraid. It’s killing us and hurting those we love. But for most of us, it will be a cold day in a hot place before we will be fully honest with anyone else.
There is so much more to life than hiding, pretending, and never being loved. In fact, there is already one person who sees behind the masks we wear and the hidden agendas that drive us. It does no good to tell God that you’re sick when you’re drunk, that you love him when you don’t, or that you didn’t steal and eat an apple (with apple juice dripping down your chin). God always recognizes and loves the “you” behind the mask.
So what can we do about the hidden agendas we have and the masks we wear? How can we gather the courage to be real? “Being real” has to start with your relationship with your heavenly Father. God already knows you inside and out. But God doesn’t know you in order to “out” you to your friends. His unconditional love for his own is reason we can pray to our Father without fear of rejection or judgment. Knowing God’s love, knowing that your heavenly Father is for you not against you is the only reason to give up your masks and develop the type of authentic relationships you never thought you could have.
About the Author:
Steve Brown is a radio broadcaster, author, and the founder of Key Life Network. A former pastor, he also sits on the board of Harvest USA and devotes much of his time to the radio broadcasts "Key Life" and "Steve Brown, Etc."

Book Review of 'The Seed' {Mythical Fiction}

It's been a while since I've read a book best described as 'mythical fiction', so I thought I'd take a gander back into the realm I would consider Tolkien-esque. The Seed is full of wonderful imagery and description, but I had a difficult time connecting with the book and it's characters. I began very intrigued and liked the initial quick-pace of the novel, but as it went on I knew I was missing some connection to the characters and the symbolism. I think if this is a genre you enjoy and are able to sit and read the book in one sitting (or fairly close to it), then you will probably connect with this book more than I was able. But as a mom of 6, who gets interrupted while reading or had a few days in between readings, I had a trickier time (part of this is due to the main characters names changing throughout the novel--which I completely understood, but made it harder for me to see them in a more personal way). I'm still glad I read this and tried something different! It just wasn't for me.

*I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review*

The Seed
The Seed (New Growth Press, May 2016)
Young Madeline and Roark are desperately running from the shadow that destroyed their home and is threatening their lives.
One day, they encounter Tatus, an older man who has sworn to avenge the death of his family at the hands of the shadow, and they form an alliance with him. Tatus promises that he can keep them safe from the shadow if they will help him build a fortress. So they build.
But as fortress-building consumes their lives, Madeline and Roark are increasingly filled with anger and fear, and an unseen evil threatens to ultimately destroy them. When they finally face the shadow, he presents them with an unthinkable offer that will reveal shocking secrets of the forgotten past, the unseen present, and the unimaginable future.
We’ve all had the feeling that something’s not quite right with our lives. It’s bigger than any specific failure or disappointment. It’s bigger than any person. No matter what you achieve or how much you drink or sleep, you can’t shake it. It haunts you-night and day-and propels you to do something. So you build. You build and build the maze that is your exhausting life. Sound vaguely familiar?
The Seed: A True Myth is a journey into the personal labyrinths we create to protect ourselves and those we love from the pain of living in a broken world. Guzman’s “true myth” takes the reader on an unforgettable journey that is, in essence, the grand narrative of God’s redemptive work in the world. This page-turning Christian fantasy tale is packed with mystery and drama, and readers will feel the weight and power of redemption as they journey alongside Guzman’s characters in their epic battle. The Seed deftly communicates the heart of Trinitarian theology through story-without using theological language or Christian terms-and reinforces biblical themes such as God’s character and man’s true identity and calling.
About the author:
Erik Guzman is Vice President of Communications and Executive Producer at Key Life Network. He’s the cohost of the nationally syndicated talk show Steve Brown, Etc. and announcer for "Key Life." His writing has been featured in Key Life's magazine and online at,, Burnside Writers Collective, and Sojourners ( He is also a Lay Eucharistic Minister, a drummer, and a 5th degree black belt in Aikido. Erik, his wife, and three children live near Orlando, Florida.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Review of 'Whispering to Horses' {And a link to a Giveaway!}

Whispering to Horses is a delightful novella, and a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon. I have not read any previous works by Thomas Nye, but it is clear he writes both from the heart as well as from first-hand knowledge about Amish to non-Amish friendships. It is extremely refreshing to read a fictional work that contains so many authentic elements!

The novella begins in the past, when life on the Amish farm wasn't very different from life on the neighbor's farm...neighbors who aren't Amish. If you love history, you'll enjoy the transformation that occurs over time, with one farm gaining a tractor, electricity, television, and many other conveniences. The differences become more apparent, and the Amish farm takes on a more isolated environment--it is the quiet among the busy, bustling neighborhood that has replaced the surrounding farmland.

Present day arrives, and the reader gets to see the interaction between Matt, who now lives in the modern home where his mom was raised, and the young Amish boy Eli, who lives on the farm where his grandparents and mom have lived. In many ways, Matt represents the future while Eli represents the past. Nye takes a deeper look at the "past v future" element, and flips it--as Matt's viewpoint changes (modern=cool past=lame), the reader's viewpoint changes, too. In addition, Nye adds a surprise twist that opens the door not just to potential romance for Matt, but also the potential for this novella to be the first in a series involving Matt and Eli. I don't want  to spoil any of that plot, but I do hope you get this book and discover the fun twist yourself.

*I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review*
whispering to horses smaller
To celebrate his tour, Thomas is giving away an entire set of his Amish Horses Series! Click here to enter:
About the Book
To purchase your copy, click here
An old fence separates a modern community from their Amish neighbors, until a little boy opens the gate and breaks down barriers between them. Main characters, Matt and Eli, find friendship, hope, and a future through a mutual need, which creates an opportunity for them to learn to understand each other. Eli and his little sisters will touch your heart by Whispering to Horses.

About the Author

thomasnyecroppedThomas Nye, author of the Amish Horses Book Series, Lives near an Amish community where he grew to know and respect his Amish neighbors. During grade school Thomas developed an interest in history and loved reading anything he could find about the 1800s. His love of farm, history, and horses all came together in real-life experiences with his Amish friends, who also happen to share his Christian faith.  He purchased draft horses from Amish farmers in his neighborhood and set out to learn the art of working with horses in harness.  After years of buying, selling, and trading work horses with Amish farmers in his community, Thomas had many wonderful memories of those experiences. His novels based on those adventures. Learn more about Thomas Nye on his website.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Review of 'The Amish Firefighter' {And enter to win a Prize pack!}

Click Here to enter to win a prize pack from Laura Hinton!
Arson. Attempted murder. Sex. A hidden past. A current banishment. Confusion. Betrayal. Mistrust.

These aren't words typically used to describe a Christian Amish Fiction novel, and yet they are just a few of the amazing ways that Laura Hilton draws the reader into the complex plot she has created in 'The Amish Firefighter'. Not only does she create a very detailed and complex storyline, but she executes the final chapters in brilliant fashion, wrapping up the mysteries, plot lines, hidden secrets, and potential romances fully and completely.

The novel focuses on two main characters-Abigail and Sam. Abigail has just been shipped off to live with relatives she has never met. She is confused, hurt, and grieving. All she wants is a friend and a quiet life as she waits for her mom to let her come back home. Sam is living life on the wild side, with half his heart connected to his Amish community, and the other half half enjoying the pleasures of the world. When their worlds collide due to a fire, their hurt and distrust collide, too...and that initial collision causes each of them to examine themselves as well as the other person, and begin shifting their perspective on the people around them.

There is one final thing that Hilton does that adds another tremendous element to 'The Amish Firefighter': she adds God to the mix. Seeking and following God has been an area in which Sam has been growing, and the more chaos that enters his life, the more He turns to God for wisdom, guidance, and forgiveness. For Abigail, God has feel cold & distant. She has felt betrayed not only by her family, but by Him as well. But the darker Abigail's situation becomes, the more she begins to see the changes in Sam. Can she, too, see God in a more personal way, and accept Him as her Lord and Savior?

I definitely recommend this book, and look forward to reading more of Hilton's works.

*I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review*

About the Book

Purchase your copy of The Amish Firefighter here
Beautiful Young Woman Banished from Home
Abigail Stutzman thought it was bad enough being dropped at the nearest bus station and sent to live several states away with some relatives she’d never even heard of, much less met. But now, just a week after her arrival in Jamesport, Missouri, she finds herself at the scene of a barn fire. An intentional barn fire. And all fingers are pointed at her. She’s desperate to prove her innocence and protect her reputation, but nobody’s making that easy to do. And God certainly doesn’t seem willing to help.
A Brave Firefighter with an Agenda of His Own
Sam Miller is in the process of turning over a new leaf. Determined to atone for the follies of his past, he is a volunteer firefighter, an EMT, and a doctor-in-training. With suspicious barn fires escalating, and the Miller family being among the victims, no one is more determined to see the perpetrators brought to justice than Sam.
A Kindled Flame Neither One Could Have Anticipated
When their paths first cross at the site of a barn burning, the emotional intensity rivals the warmth of the flames. Soon, they must decide whether this fire is one they should feed or fight. And they’ll discover that the truth can prove more dangerous than a blazing inferno.

 About the Author

Laura V. Hilton
 Hilton3Amish fiction lovers responded positively and immediately to Laura V. Hilton’s debut novel, Patchwork Dreams, when she burst on the scene in 2009 with her unique series, The Amish of Seymour, set in the tiny town of Seymour, in Webster County, Missouri. Fans of the genre immediately recognized Hilton’s insider knowledge, not only of the Webster County community, but Amish culture in general. Her natural speech and writing patterns, she says, are uniquely “Amish,” acquired from her Amish maternal grandparents. The Amish of Seymour, includes Patchwork Dreams, A Harvest of Hearts, and Promised to Another. Her second series, The Amish of Webster County, is comprised of Healing Love, Surrendered Love, and Awakened Love. A stand-alone title, A White Christmas in Webster County, was released in September 2014. The Birdhouse concluded Laura’s 2015 series, The Amish of Jamesport, includes The Snow Globe, The Postcard and The Birdhouse. Laura is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and a professional book reviewer. Laura and her husband, Steve, have five children, whom Laura homeschools. The family makes their home in Arkansas.
For more about Laura, her latest book, the books she’s written and those she’s reviewed:
Laura Hilton’s Website:

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

'A Daughter's Dream' {A Terrific Amish Fiction Read!}

'A Daughter's Dream' is the 2nd book in Gray's "The Charmed Amish Life" series, and I have to be honest....I really enjoyed the first book, but I like this second book a lot more! My liking it more took me by surprise, as I had anticipated who the main characters would be for book 2, and was disappointed when I was wrong. My disappointment did not last long! While the recently married Darla & Lukas (book one followed their journey) are still very solid characters in "A Daughter's Dream", it's Lukas's sister Rebecca (a rather minor character in book one) who takes center stage in this most recent novel. Jacob Yoder joins Rebecca front and center in creating the major storyline, and Jacob's niece Lilly takes her spot within a very solid 2nd storyline that overlaps nicely with Lukas & Rebecca.

Loss, Love, and Life pursuits drive all of us, and Gray expounds on that beautifully within 'A Daughter's Dream'. Many characters have experienced the loss of one or both parents. Some have experienced the loss of a sibling, either through death or leaving the area. One character, school teacher Rachel, is preparing for loss as she will have to step away from her teaching job as she is expecting a baby. Love--either already established or growing throughout the novel, allows a chance for bravery in following dreams, learning new things, or discovering contentment in what one already has...and love mixed within those life pursuits brings a depth to the characters in unique and personal ways.

I really don't want to say much about the can gain insight from Gray's own highlights of the book within the description she provides. But as far as recommending....Christian Amish Fiction was not previously a genre I read, but after reading "The Charmed Amish Life" series, I am absolutely hooked on Shelley Shepard Gray's writings. A very good balance of Amish living and the similarities found within my own life.

**I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review.**

A Daughter’s Dream
A Daughter’s Dream (Avon Inspire, May 2016)
A young teacher and farmer discover they have much in common, especially when it comes to healing old wounds from the past . . . and finding love in one another.
Rebecca Kinsinger has always dreamed of being a teacher. But when she’s given the opportunity she’s been waiting for at Charm Amish School, she’s dismayed to discover that teaching is hard work—work she’s afraid she’s not very good at.
That is, until Lilly Yoder joins the class. A thirteen-year old who’s just lost her parents, Lilly is in need of someone like Rebecca. For the first time since starting her new job, Rebecca feels a sense of purpose. But when she meets Lilly’s uncle, Jacob, his good looks and sweet, easy-going temperament are hard to ignore. How can she even entertain romantic thoughts of Jacob when his niece is her student?
Suddenly becoming Lily’s sole caregiver, Jacob Yoder never thought he’d be a single parent—or a farmer. Having been living in Florida as a carpenter, Jacob feels more at home wielding a hammer than a backhoe. The only bright spot in his life is Rebecca Kinsinger. As Lily and Rebecca develop a bond, Jacob’s fondness for the pretty teacher grows, too.
But when a fateful accident brings them together, Rebecca and Jacob must choose between duty and desire. Will they follow the path before them? Or set out to find true happiness . . . and true love?
Shelley Shepard Gray is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town’s bike trail.