Beyond the Ashes by Karen Barnett (review by Kristi)

Beyond the Ashes

I wasn’t sure when I started this book if I would like it or not. The book started out slow and I had a bit of trouble staying interested in it. Soon though I was easily transported to post-earthquake San Francisco and was engrossed in the story.

I don’t want to go into details about the book and spoil anything for other readers, but I will say this book had me on the edge of my seat at times. I soon came to care for the characters and was very interested in how things would turn out for them. The characters seemed genuine and likable.

The author wrote about life in San Francisco after the earthquake in such a way that I felt as if I was experiencing things first-hand. It was interesting to read about the camps where the displaced lived.

This book had a perfect mix of seriousness and light-heartedness. The subject of cancer, as we all know, can be depressing and very sad. The author mixed humor into the story in a way that fit and kept the book from being overly sad.

Although this is the second book in the series and I hadn’t read the first I didn’t feel lost. This book is well written and can easily be read as a standalone. I would easily recommend this book to anyone looking for a good, gripping read.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion which I have given.

Missing by Shelley Shepard Gray (review by guest reviewer Angela Wodkowski)


In such a small town where everyone knows everybody you don’t think you are going to hear about a murder, especially the death of an Amish teen. And yet this is exactly the setting for this particular book and the two that follow. Perry Borntrager has been missing for a few months. He had gotten himself into some tangled relationships with the wrong crowd, and the citizens of his small Kentucky town had assumed he ran off with them. Little did they all know until Abby Anderson runs across Perry’s body. Perry had been murdered, and no one knows exactly why. Up until he had met his new “friends” Perry had been your all around good kid. He had a girlfriend, Lydia Plank. He had a job, and had good friends, including Abby’s brother (the Englischer), Walker. Now that Perry is gone, the talk of this small town is who could have done this and why? Two of the main people that are questioned and is the center of the storyline is Lydia and Walker. They have Perry as a common thread and together they have to battle their own feelings about Perry, as well as their own personal struggles with life in general. As they walk down this path together the realize they have more in common than they thought even though their backgrounds are so different.

Just like all of her other writings and stories, Shelley Shepard Gray truly has a way to get you sucked into her books and not want to let go. She writes about believable and beautiful characters, so much so that you could see them as friends. And in a way, they are. She has caused you to open a page and automatically fall in love with these wonderful people. I have a small confession: I am not a mystery reader and yet, this series is one of my favorites that Shelley has done. From the first page of Missing until the last page of the third book, Found..I was hooked. A must read for sure!!

And now for a “Missing” extra from Shelley Shepard Gray: My favorite part of the series was Aaron’s store. Because the whole series was so dark, I wanted some kind of comic relief and Aaron’s love for those animals never failed to make me smile. I don’t remember which book in the series featured guinea pigs for sale, but I remember grinning like a fool when I wrote about them. The most difficult part of the novel was keeping the timeline straight. Missing takes place over fourteen days, which the second book in the series starting the very next day. I ended up writing the date and time at the beginning of every single scene so I wouldn’t drive my editors crazy. 😉

Missing is the first book in The Secrets of Crittenden County series (published 2012).

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This week’s Throwback Thursday reviewer is Angela Wodkowski.  Angela lives in Michigan. Angela loves to spend time with her nephew, Elijah, cook, read, and travel. Angela has a huge admiration of Shelley, and thinks everyone should read her books.

Her Brother’s Keeper by Beth Wiseman (review by Kristi)

Her Brother's Keeper

Things aren’t always as they seem and when Charlotte Dolinsky searches for the truth about her brother’s death she soon finds this to be true. Charlotte goes “undercover” as Mary Troyer to the Amish community of Paradise, PA to find out what really happened to her brother but what she finds there is what she least expected.

Beth Wiseman did a wonderful job in writing this story that has so much substance but remains entertaining. This book deals with some serious subjects like depression, but the tone is kept light with Charlotte’s, or Mary’s, attempt at being Amish. Charlotte and the rest of the cast are likable characters and I felt an instant connection to them.

The flow of this story is perfect and the pace is fast. I was quite surprised when I realized I had read half the book in one sitting. Once I started reading I was so interested in the story and people I just couldn’t quit. I had to know what happened.

If you have never read a Beth Wiseman book this would be the perfect one to start with. If you have already read one (or more) or her books and enjoyed them this one will be no different. Grab a copy of this book and settle in for a great read!

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion which I have given.

Her Brother’s Keeper by Beth Wiseman(review by Cathy)

Her Brother's KeeperHer Brother’s Keeper

An Amish Secrets Novel
Book 1

Sometimes a love is so strong it propels you to go outside of your comfort zone to find answers and to get closure as to what happened to the one you love. As is the case with Charlotte Dolinsky as she sets out to find answers as to what happened to her beloved brother, Ethan.

The story is multifaceted and fast paced. It held my attention from the first page until the very end.
The characters were both humorous and at times heart wrenching.

The journey this young woman started out on, was to find answers about her brother, but she ultimately found answers to help others along the way.

A truly well written story by Beth Wiseman and I’m eagerly looking forward to reading more in this series.

Hearts Made Whole by Jody Hedlund (review by Kristi)

Hearts Made Whole

About the book: After her father’s death, Caroline Taylor has grown confident running the Windmill Point Lighthouse. But in 1865 Michigan, women aren’t supposed to have such roles, so it’s only a matter of time before the lighthouse inspector appoints a new keeper–even though Caroline has nowhere else to go and no other job available to her.

Ryan Chambers is a Civil War veteran still haunted by the horrors of battle. He’s been given the post as lighthouse keeper, and the isolation where he can drown in drink and hide from his past is appealing. He’s not expecting the current keeper to be a feisty and beautiful woman who’s none-too-pleased to be giving up her position. They both quickly realize he’s in no shape to run the lighthouse, but Ryan’s unwilling to let anyone close, ravaged by memories and guilt. Caroline’s drawn to this wounded soul, but with both of them relying on that single position, can they look past their loss to a future filled with hope…and possibly love?

My review: Wow!!! This book was amazing. It is a wonderfully written story of sorrow, hope, recovering, moving on, and love. This book is so well written that I was soon engulfed in the story and forgot these were fictional characters. The author did a fantastic job weaving all the elements of the story together into a book that I didn’t want to put down but at the same time didn’t want to read too quickly as I wanted to savor every moment between the two main characters.

Caroline and Ryan were the perfect couple and I loved how their story progressed in a very natural way. They are two people who are facing challenges and soon discover that they are stronger together than apart. Their relationship progresses in a very natural way and seems authentic. I don’t want to spoil the story so I will just say Ryan’s treatment of Caroline will leave readers swooning. I just loved these two characters together and wanted the best for them.

This was the first book I had read by this author and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Her writing style is great and the story had such a good flow to it that it was easy to read and stay interested in. I definitely recommend this book!

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion which I have given.

Hidden by Shelley Shepard Gray (review by guest reviewer Toni Ferrell)


Hidden is the first book in the Sisters of the Heart series. This is one of the first Amish books that had captured my heart and will never be forgotten! Anna needs to get away from an abusive boyfriend, but then she realizes he is well liked with the community. Anna realizes she has nowhere to go until she remembers her friend Katie. Katie is Amish and assists in running the Brenneman bed and breakfast a place her family owns. Anna knowingly has nowhere to go so she secretly runs off to Katie and the bed and breakfast where she knows is safe. Katie and her family takes her in and soon have her disguised in Amish clothes! Of course there is one person in the family that is unsure of Anna and her intentions! You will not be disappointed with this book or any one of Shelley’s books! This is one book that touched me and in its own way allowed me to relate. I cried, I laughed, I felt Anna’s pain and felt her accomplishments. Thanks Shelley for such a fantastic series! This is one series that will always hold dear to me!

And now for a “Hidden” extra from Shelley Shepard Gray:  This was my first Amish book and it was written and revised without the prologue. One Friday night around 5 my time, I got a call from my editor. She said a couple of readers felt that we needed a scene of Anna with her mean boyfriend so everyone would understand why she ran. I was asked to write a prologue that night. I wrote it in less than an hour, emailed it back to her, she edited, emailed it back to me, and I fixed it up. Two hours later, the book went into production. Talk about stressful!

Hidden is the first book in the Sisters of the Heart series (published 2008).

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This week’s Throwback Thursday guest reviewer is Toni Ferrell.  Toni resides in Ohio and claims to be the “world’s biggest nerd”.  Kristi has met Toni and can assure you all she is not a nerd but a very cool person 🙂

A Change of Heart by Molly Jebber(review by Cathy)

This is a new to me author, but I love Amish fiction,so I decided to give the book a try. I’m very glad I did.

I found the characters appealing, the storyline fast paced and the time period of 1899 quite interesting.

The main character, Becca Yost is a midwife and is very sweet and likeable. I liked the character of Matt Carrington because I found him charming and sincere.

It;s a story of endings and new beginnings.

There are twists and turns in this the story, some were unexpected and that kept me interested in this book.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

A Change of heart

Now and Forever by Mary Connealy (review by Kristi)

now and forever

Mary Connealy is a new author to me and I soon found that her books are full of action. The first action scene in this book seemed like it went on for chapters and I will admit I was starting to get bored with it and almost put the book down. However, I stayed with it and was glad I did.

This book has action, suspense, mystery, and romance. It was a fast-paced read though at times it seemed as if the flow of the writing was off. I thought this slowed the story down a bit and I struggled to stay interested. I did like the main characters and most of the secondary. There were no characters in the book that weren’t relevant.

If you are into stories about people living in the Wild West than this book is for you.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion which I have given.

Snowfall by Shelley Shepard Gray (review by guest reviewer Connie Ruggles)


“Snowfall” was the absolute perfect book! It’s a very simple story, really, about some people who need some change in their lives, and then the Lord moves in His gentle ways to give each person what they need.
This book reminded me of everything I love about being part of a family. Sometimes it’s messy and inconvenient, but there are glimmers of joy, hope and comfort in the simplest of moments.
I highly recommend this book. It’s like a warm hug!

And now for a “Snowfall extra” from Shelley Shepard Gray: When I was half-way through the book, I kept getting all the kinner mixed up. That’s when I decided to write the quotations that appear at the beginning of each chapter. Oh, and they read A Christmas Carol in honor of my sister who loves that book.

Snowfall is a Days of Redemption Christmas novella (published 2014).

To purchase from Amazon click here.

To purchase from Barnes and Noble click here.

This week’s Throwback Thursday guest reviewer is Connie Ruggles. Connie lived most of her life in Vermont, but ten years ago moved to Maine, where she lives with her husband. She works as a pharmacy technician to fund her love of reading….especially Shelly Shepard Gray books. She considers her life especially blessed when she spends time with any of her four grandchildren, who are the lights of her life.

The Midwife’s Tale (review by Kristi)

The Midwife's Tale

If only the content of the book would have lived up to the cover! This book has left me torn. I really wanted to like the book and there were parts I did like. However, there were things about the book I didn’t care for.

After beginning the book, I wasn’t quite sure the direction the author was trying to take with the story. The book focuses on Martha Cade, a midwife and healer to the women and children of her area. She is also mother to Victoria who runs off while her mother is away assisting in a birth. If this isn’t enough Martha is also going up against the new town doctor, whom she believes is threatening her position, and trying to assist a new “family” in town, solving a mystery of missing items, repairing a friendship, and perhaps falling in love with an old flame.

There is just too much going on in this book for me with no clear direction of where things are going. At times, the book was easy to read and at others I felt like I was not giving my total attention to the book because I just wasn’t that interested.

Another thing that bothered me was the book is 336 pages and with all the things going on the everything is wrapped up suddenly and neatly in the end. It’s as if the characters are living their lives when suddenly the author gets tired of them and wants to wrap everything up.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, which I have given.