Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Reviewing: The Road Home by Beverly Lewis

...notes from the back cover....

"As the sun began to rise, Lena Rose leaned against the cool pane of the bus window and gazed out at the familiar landscape of her life. I'm leaving my family and everything I know behind. She sighed, trying to keep her composure.
Grieving the death of her Amish parents and the separation from her nine close-knit siblings, Lena Rose Schwartz consoles herself that her new life in Lancaster County won't be forever. Surely someday soon she will return to her beloved Michigan settlement, including her beau. But even as she holds on to hope for a reunion with those she loves most, she discovers that Lancaster holds charms of its own. Will she find the courage to open her heart to other possibilities?" thoughts...

The Road Home by celebrated author Beverly Lewis was even better than I expected.  The story was easy to get into and hard to put down.  Lena Rose Schwartz is an amazing young woman who has a special gift of giving to others without hopes of anything in return.  She spreads joy in surprising places even through the pain of losing her parents and a long distance separation from her younger brothers and sisters.  

She was welcomed so warmly into the home of her father's second cousin Harley and his wife Mimi.  She soon felt like a member of their own family.  Her talents as a seamstress helped Mimi with her home sewing business.  People in her new community soon became attached to her as she touched their lives with unselfish kindness. It wasn't long before she caught the eye of handsome cabinet maker Arden Mast.  A relationship with him was not in her plans. She was determined to return to her family in Michigan as soon as a door opened to make that possible  Arden knew his home and family were in Pennsylvania and didn't plan to leave them.  She knew a friendship with him was safe.  

Yet even with the happy circumstance of being reunited with her family and her responsibilities towards them she felt as though she left part of her heart in Pennsylvania.  Oh I can't say how it ends but this is a good story you may just want to read twice!  I heartily recommend this book.  

I received my copy of The Road Home from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review but my thoughts are mine.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Announcing the Winner of Together Forever Giveaway!

We have a winner!

What could be better than purchasing a copy of the latest book by your favorite author?  Why winning a copy, of course.....

Congratulations to Kay Garrett, who won of a copy of Together Forever by Jody Hedlund!  I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did.

Watch your mailbox Kay and thank you for being a loyal reader of my blog!  Stay tuned all summer long as I give away more books by our favorite Christian fiction authors!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Together Forever On Tour With Celebrate Lit Plus A Sweet Giveaway!

About the Book

 Title: Together Forever, Orphan Train Book 2
Author: Jody Hedlund
Genre: Inspirational historical romance
Release Date: May, 2018
Determined to find her lost younger sister, Marianne Neumann takes a job as a placing agent with the Children’s Aid Society in 1858 New York. She not only hopes to offer children a better life, but prays she’ll be able to discover whether Sophie ended up leaving the city on an orphan train so they can finally be reunited.
Andrew Brady, her fellow agent on her first placing-out trip, is a former schoolteacher who has an easy way with the children, firm but tender and friendly. Underneath his charm and handsome looks, though, seems to linger a grief that won’t go away–and a secret from his past that he keeps hidden.
As the two team up, placing orphans in the small railroad towns of Illinois, they find themselves growing ever closer . . . until a shocking tragedy threatens to upend all their work and change one of their lives forever.

Click here to purchase your copy!

my thoughts....

I waited for nearly a year to read this book.  When I finished reading With You Always , book 1 in this series I knew there was more to the story.  The book is captivating enough that it has stayed with me for quite some time. Together Forever is Marianne Neumann's story.  A story of her courageous search for younger sister Sophie, who was last seen boarding one of the trains.  If only she could find Sophie, she would feel like she hadn't let her family down.  Along the way, she put her heart into working with the children under her charge, helping them adjust to starting a new life.  Along the way she couldn't help but get attached to them.

In a way, she, too was starting a new life.  She had never done anything remotely similar to guiding these children on the train.  It helped that she was assigned with handsome Drew Brady, who had more experience.  They worked well together and their friendship grew.  They both found their faith tested and a resilience beyond measure as a tragic situation occurred and they learned they could rely on one another.

I loved this book for the characters who were so well developed they transported this reader onto that clickety-clackety train full of eager, excited and frightened children.  It would be wonderful if the ride on the train was an easy trip but that is not how the real world works.  It is what we do with situations we are given that make up the difference in the end.  I give this book 5 well-deserved stars.

Thank you for stopping by. I received my copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  My thoughts are entirely my own.

About the Author

Jody Hedlund is the author of over a dozen novels, including Love Unexpected, Captured by Love, Unending Devotion, The Preacher’s Bride, and A Noble Groom, winner of the 2014 Carol Award for historical romance. She received a bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, both in social work. She lives in Michigan with her husband and five children. She loves hearing from readers on Facebook and on her blog at

Guest Post from Jody Hedlund

30,000 Abandoned Children
By Jody Hedlund
Imagine a city where 30,000 abandoned and homeless children live on the streets.
Sounds like something from a futuristic dystopian novel, doesn’t it? Or something that might happen after a war or apocalypse or major disaster, right?
This exact thing actually happened in the 1850’s. And the city was New York City.
It’s hard to believe, but an estimated 30,000 homeless children roamed the dirty city streets and alleys of New York City.
30,000. Children. Let that sink in for a minute. That’s the size of a town.
Historians look back on that time and try to make sense what led to such horrific conditions for children. Of course, the influx of immigrants was at an all time high. Jobs and housing were scarce. Diseases were rampant. Hunger and poverty became a norm. (Orphan Train Depot)

As more and more people became aware of the enormous problem within the crowded slums, courageous heroes rose up and attempted to do their part to make a difference.
While we may not always agree with the methods that were used to save the thousands of homeless children, we can admire the men and women who could no longer sit idly by.
The Children’s Aid Society was started by Charles Loring Brace as one such attempt to help the hordes of homeless children. His “Emigration Plan” is better known today by the term “Orphan Trains.”

My latest series tackles various elements of the orphan train movement. Together Forever, releasing in May, highlights the placing agents, those devoted people who rode the trains with the orphans. The agents spent weeks and months on the road caring for the children, all the while trying to place them in loving homes.
(If you’d like to try out the series, start with my FREE novella, An Awakened Heart.)
Like the brave men and women who came before us, may we always strive to do our part to make a difference!

Blog Stops

By The Book, May 22
Genesis 5020, May 23
Radiant Light, May 26
Mary Hake, May 27
Carpe Diem, May 27
Simple Harvest Reads, May 28 (Guest Post from Mindy Houng)
Bigreadersite, May 30
Vicky Sluiter, June 2


To celebrate her tour, Jody is giving away a grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card!!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Lessons Abound In The Amish Teacher's Gift: Celebrate Lit Bloggers Tour and Giveway


About the Book

Title: The Amish Teacher’s Gift, Book 1 of the Love &
Promises Series

Author: Rachel J Good

Genre: Amish Romance
Release Date: April 24, 2018
Widower Josiah Yoder wants to be a good father. But it’s not easy with a deaf young son who doesn’t understand why his mamm isn’t coming home. At a loss, Josiah enrolls Nathan in a special-needs school and is relieved to see his son immediately comforted by his new teacher, a woman whose sweet charm and gentle smile just might be the balm they both need.

With seven siblings to care for, Ada Rupp wasn’t sure she wanted to take on teaching too. But the moment she holds Nathan in her arms, she realizes she’ll do all she can to help this lost little boy. Plus, it gives her a chance to spend more time with Josiah. Falling for a man in mourning may be against the rules, but his quiet strength is the support Ada never knew she needed. Yet with no time to court and a family secret holding her back, how can she allow herself to fall in love?

my thoughts....

Ada Rupp is much more than just a gifted teacher...she also has a special gift caring for her seven brothers and sisters, one of whom has special needs.  She runs a tight household that is organized in just such a way that the siblings work together in harmony.  Ada grew up quickly during her mother's illness and single-handedly raised her siblings when her father could no longer live in their home.  She is such a dutiful young woman, whose priority was seeing to the needs of others.

Josiah has the capacity to love his son but is at a loss as he looks on as Nathan bonds with Ada.  His heart wrenching pain pours out of the pages.  I can't imagine the loss he suffered losing a wife he loved coupled with the love and patience he had for his son. It was through this love and the knowledge of Ada's gift as a teacher that led him to discover how to reach Nathan.  His tireless strength fueled by his deep faith allowed him to give back to the school.  In the long run the lessons he learned were immeasurable. 

As I read the story I was struck by the very real the difficulties Ada and Josiah faced.  The characters Rachel J. Good created in this book are very well developed and the research was amazing.  I recommend this book for anyone who loves Amish fiction but all the more so for someone looking to go just a little deeper into situations that test our faith and unconditional love.   

I received a complimentary copy of The Amish Teacher's Gift in exchange for an honest review.  

Click here to purchased your copy!

About the Author

Rachel J. Good grew up near Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the setting for her Amish novels. Striving to be as authentic as possible, she spends time with her Amish friends, doing chores on their farm and attending family events. Rachel loves to travel and visit many different Amish communities.
Rachel is the author of several Amish series in print or forthcoming – Sisters & Friends series, Love & Promises series, and two books in the Hearts of Amish Country series – as well as the Amish Quilts Coloring Books and the contemporary novella, Angels Unaware, part of the Hope Chapel series. In addition, she has stories in the anthologies Springs of Love and Love’s Thankful Heart.
She’d love to have you visit her website, or connect with her on FacebookInstagramPinterestTwitter, and Bookbub. Rachel also enjoys meeting readers and will be doing talks and book signings around the country this year. To find out more about Rachel and her books, you can sign up for her newsletter:

Guest Post from Rachel J. Good

Heart-Tugging Research
Sometimes as an author, stories call to you and beg you to write them. This story first tugged at my heart after I spent time with an Amish friend’s special needs child. I thought about writing a book to show how the Amish treat each child as a gift from God. After meeting a hearing-impaired teen girl with Down’s syndrome and seeing how she was encouraged to live up to her potential, the idea grew stronger. This girl later became Martha in the book.
Then at an auction, I watched a young Down’s syndrome boy help the auctioneer by delivering the goods to the bidders. His straw hat tilted a little crookedly, but with a broad smile on his face, he carefully matched items with the correct bidder. He looked so proud of himself and proud to be able to do such an important job. I sat there at the auction and jotted notes for the novel.

Once I knew the topic of the novel, I began my research by visiting Amish schools for special needs, attending auctions to support them, and touring the Community Care Center, where Amish and Mennonite children and adults with special needs get amazing help. The young man in the wheelchair who showed us around was an awesome guide. We peeked into an exercise room, a therapy room, a craft room, several classrooms, a cafeteria, and my favorite—a multi-sensory environment. This room with dark walls lit only by a small row of twinkling Christmas lights had a ball pit (with the plastic balls like some fast food restaurants have in their play areas), a plush recliner, blankets, headphones, and a hammock. Autistic children at the center found this room a great calming atmosphere. I knew this room had to have a place in the book.

I visited a teacher who taught autistic children and learned a lot about programs, therapies, and teaching techniques. After learning the cutting edge techniques she used, I was surprised to realize that the Amish had adopted quite a few of them for their classrooms.  I chose a hearing-impaired boy for the hero’s son because I had a nephew with hearing problems, so I could incorporate some of the struggles he had into the story.

I wanted this series to be about the healing power of love, so each book will deal with a different type of healing. When something touches my heart like this, I always pray it will touch the readers’ hearts too.

Blog Stops

Carpe Diem, May 8

Mary Hake, May 15
Artistic Nobody, May 18 (Spotlight)
margaret kazmierczak, May 18 (Interview)
Quiet Quilter, May 19
Bigreadersite, May 20
Simple Harvest Reads, May 20 (Spotlight)
Vicky Sluiter, May 21


To celebrate her tour, Rachel is giving away a grand prize package of a tote, an autographed copy of The Amish Teacher’s Gift, and an autographed copy of Hearts Reunited!!

Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

An Interview With Author Jody Hedlund Plus....A Giveaway!

I am thrilled to share a recent interview with author Jody Hedlund today. And....I am giving away one copy of Together Forever to one lucky reader.  In order to win, you must live in the United States.

1. What is the inspiration behind your orphan train series?

I have long been fascinated by the era of the 
Orphan Trains and the heart-wrenching stories of the homeless and helpless young orphans that were taken from the streets of New York City and other eastern cities and shipped west by the dozens. I was familiar with stories of those scared orphans who were placed out in what was thought to be a more wholesome, healthy environment of the newly settled Mid-Western states. Some of the orphans found happy endings and were adopted into loving families. Others experienced great abuse and heartache in their new homes.

While stories of the orphans who rode the trains have been told—and rightly so—the stories of the women who were involved in the movement are not as well known. One of the things I particularly like to do when telling my stories, is focus on women who have been overlooked by the pages of history. I consider it a great privilege to be able to bring forgotten women to life for our modern generation. Thus, throughout this series, I’ll be focusing each book on a different aspect of the Orphan Train movement, particularly from the perspective of women who experienced riding the trains in one form or another.

2. How did you come up with the idea for the second book in the series, Together Forever?

Since the first book in the series centers around the jobless and homeless adult women who rode the orphan trains, I decided for this second book to show the orphan train experience through the eyes of placing agents who worked for the Children’s Aid Society.

The Children’s Aid Society (CAS), started by Charles Loring Brace, was the major placing organization of orphans in New York City from its inception in 1853 well into the twentieth century. CAS hired numerous ministers, single men and women, as well as married couples, to escort orphans from the east to their new homes in the west. The agents spent weeks and months on the road caring for the children, all the while trying to place them in loving homes.
Thus the main characters for Together Forever take on the role of the placing agents, giving readers a glimpse into the lives of these dedicated men and women who wanted to make a difference to the many homeless children living on the streets of NYC.

3. What special research did you do in writing Together Forever?

In researching the roles of CAS placing agents, I came across one of the most well known placing agents, Clara B. Comstock, who traveled west with children from 1911 to 1928. During her years as a placing agent, she made seventy-four trips and wrote about her experiences.

I drew from her notes about what it was like before the trip, the clothes the orphans were given, to the detailed lists of supplies and food she packed. She also spoke of what it was like during the journey west along with what happened once they arrived at their destinations, including an incident where she was quarantined with a young five year old boy who contracted diphtheria.

At the end of her life, Clara Comstock said this about her experiences: “The work was a great adventure in Faith. We were always helped and grew to expect kindness, deep interest and assistance everywhere. A sense of responsibility was keenly felt by all the workers. My life has been greatly enriched by the varied experiences found in everything the Children’s Aid Society and the contacts made. It is an honor to have followed from afar, the founder of this work.”

4. Usually readers are more sympathetic to the orphans and less forgiving of the charity organizations who placed the orphans in the west. How do you elicit reader empathy for the placing agents?

In Together Forever, I hoped to portray the struggles that placing agents felt right along with the struggles of the orphans. I have no doubt what the orphans experienced was far more emotional and painful; nevertheless, the job of the placing agent was not an easy one. It consisted of weeks of demanding traveling, difficulty in placing children, as well as the logistical challenges in revisiting each child before returning to New York City.

The agents not only faced the ups and downs of handling such a wide variety of children, but they also faced the challenges of the job itself. Since nothing had ever before been done like the placing out, the agents basically had to learn on the job and make up the rules as they went.

In the early years, record-keeping was inconsistent, placements irregular, and the screening process non-existent. While many of the agents meant well and truly cared about providing better lives for the children in their care, the lack of consistent practices provided further hardships to many orphans. Overall, I hope readers are able to gain a better appreciation for the well-meaning efforts, even if things didn’t always turn out the way everyone wanted.

5. You make the conditions of New York City and the orphans sound so bleak. Was it really as bad as you portray in your books?

It’s hard to believe, but an estimated 30,000 homeless children really did roam the dirty city streets and alleys of New York City in the 1850’s.
30,000. Children. Let that sink in for a minute. That’s the size of a town.
Historians look back on that time and try to make sense what led to such horrific conditions for children. The influx of immigrants was at an all time high. The financial disaster of 1857 caused even more problems. Jobs and housing were scarce. Diseases were rampant. Hunger and poverty became a norm.

6. What do you hope readers take away from Together Forever?

I pray that in reading this story, not only will readers gain greater insights and a different perspective of the orphan train movement, but that they will also be encouraged to know God is present in their weakest moments.

He doesn’t necessarily promise to give us the courage of a lion or to make everything perfect. But He does promise that His strength is available and that His power will rest upon us. Perhaps that strength will be just enough to get out of bed for another difficult day. Or perhaps it will be just enough to face the illness or hurt or heartache we bear.

We can rest assured it will always be just enough. His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

Personal Q & A
7. How do you decide on names for all your characters?

The process of coming up with names is quite complicated, and I generally take a lot of elements into consideration. I keep a running list of all the heroes and heroines of my books and try not to duplicate anything too closely to a name I've already used. I also take into consideration names used doing the time period and the ethnicity of my characters. For example, in the orphan train series, I chose German names that were commonly used during the 1800's for my heroines since they’re from Germany. Sometimes I consider symbolism for names. Other times, particularly in my inspired-by-stories, I try to pick a name that is similar to the character from history that I'm portraying.

8. What is your favorite part of the writing process? Your least favorite?
As a writer, I love telling stories. I especially like the feeling that comes as I near the end of the book when everything looks hopeless, the characters are in big trouble, and somehow I’m able to wrap up the book in a satisfying way. I call it the first-draft love affair! I fall absolutely and madly in love with the story and think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written.
I struggle the most during the editing phase of each of my books. The love affair that started during the first draft comes to an end. I fall out of love with my books. By the last edit—called the Galley Review—I finally reach a point where I loathe the book, think it’s the worst thing I’ve ever written, and wish I could just throw it away.
9. Do you have any writing quirks?
I don't have too many quirks, other than needing a cup of coffee on hand while I'm writing (especially in the morning!).
One of the things I like to do to help me keep on track with my writing is give myself half hour word count challenges–a specific goal of how many words I can get written in a thirty minute time span. Doing these mini-challenges keeps me from getting too distracted by other things while I'm in a writing mode.

10. Is there a Scripture verse that has inspired you in your writing?
Among many, here’s one I aspire to live by: Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. (Ecc. 9:10) I believe in working responsibly and hard with the gifts we’ve been given.
11. What advice do you have for anyone interested in writing and pursuing publication?

Write a couple of books first and unleash your creativity. Then start reading books that explain how to write. Study techniques, practice them, and keep writing. When you begin reaching a level in your writing where you think you’re ready for publication, get a critique partner or two to read your work and give you feedback, vamp up your online presence, and immerse yourself in the writing industry by learning all you can about traditional and self-publication. Don’t rush into either! Make sure your writing craft and story-telling skills are ready first.

12. Together Forever is the second book you’ve released in 2018. How many other books are slated for publication this year?

This year, I’ll have a total of four books releasing. The first book, A Loyal Heart, released in March. It’s part of my young adult medieval romance series that started several years ago. I’ll be finishing this particular series with a final book in the fall.

Then in addition to Together Forever, the next book in the orphan train series, Searching For You, releases in December. The original plan for publication was next June, but when my publisher asked if I could turn it in for an earlier release, I decided why not? Then readers won’t have to wait quite as long to find out what happens next!

13. What are you working on next?

I’m in the editing phase of the third and final book in the orphan train series, Searching For You, which releases in December. It wraps up the story of the Neumann sisters by finally giving long-lost Sophie her happily-ever-after. I don’t want to give too much away, but I can tell you that Reinhold Weiss also has a major role in helping Sophie as she struggles to make a new life for herself.

14. Do you have any parting words?
I love hearing from readers! Make sure you stop by one of these places and say hello!
I hang out on Facebook here: Author Jody Hedlund
I also love to chat on Twitter: @JodyHedlund
My home base is at my website:
Find me on Instagram:
Come pin with me on Pinterest:

To be entered to win  your own copy of Better Together, leave a comment about why you want to read Jody's book.