Thursday, December 29, 2011

Seek Me With All Your Heart(A Land of Canaan Series) by Beth Wiseman



Book Description:  What would cause the Amish to move to Colorado, leaving family and friends behind?  Some Amish are making the trek to Colorado for cheaper land. Others are fleeing strict bishops with long memories. For Emily Detweiler and her family, the move is more personal. Tragedy struck Emily in Ohio, shaking loose everything she believed was firm, including her faith. Her family took the bold step of leaving Ohio to resettle in a small Amish community in Canaan, Colorado, where they hope the distance will help erase painful memories. David Stoltzfus's family moved to Colorado for reasons he doesn't understand. But Canaan is turning out to be something other than the promised land they all anticipated. Fearing that a health condition will cut his life short, David plans to return home to Paradise, Pennsylvania, as soon as he can. But then he meets Emily, who stirs feelings in his heart despite his apprehension about the future. Emily's growing love for David surprises her, but she fears that he will find out the truth about her past and reject her. But what if the truth is that they are made for each other? And that God longs to give them the desires of their hearts if only they will seek Him first?

My Review:  This is a new, refreshing read about the Amish coming.of.age! Emily is ready to leave the tragedy and sadness of Ohio.  So off to Canaan, Colorado she and her family go to join other Amish families on a trek for affordable land and a new start.
Emily has a strong inner will that seems to get her through the toughest times but yet at times she questions her worth.  
Then David also comes to town with his family.  David has poor health and fears that his life may not have worth.  Thus, David and Emily find out that God has other plans.
David plans to return to Paradise, Pennsylvania for he thinks that's where he needs to be; however, he meets Emily.  Intrigued David's heart is stirred by Emily.  Emily has "unwanted" feelings for David.  If he really knew her and her past could he truly love her?  But yet she finds herself drawn to David.  
So, now Emily and David are in Canaan.  Canaan, Colorado that is!  And wonderful things are in store for those who have traveled and made it to Canaan!  
There are other well developed characters in this read who give strong support to this very believable read about the Amish community and their beliefs.  Love, humor, tribulations and faith are all aspects of this hard.to.put.down.read!
This is a fantastic 5 star story that probes and brings out the issues that people struggle with in life whether one is Amish or English.  Those who seek Him with all their heart will find peace and love!
Don't miss this great new series by Beth Wiseman.  Looking forward to the next book, The Wonder of Your Love.
*This book was provided by Thomas Nelson/BookSneeze*

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

WOW {Warm Oven Wednesday} A great Relish Tray for New Year's Eve or New Year's Day!

Pretty Simple!  Choose your veggies, make a dip, cut out a head of lettuce,  and spoon veggie dip into bowl of lettuce ... presto!       a beautiful relish tray!  Add a cheese, sausage and fruit tray! 
Now that's good and simple for the holiday!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

COTT: Clash Of The Titles . . . Christmas Cover Images Winner




*by COTT Sr. Editor, April W Gardner


Cover Images Clashes are becoming hugely popular at the literary contest site, Clash of the Titles. Voters have been turning out by the droves to give their opinion about which cover they find most eye-catching.


Their latest Clash featured three Christmas cover images, all of which would have been worthy winners. There’s just something about holiday d├ęcor that warms the heart! A book cover with Christmas dressings is no different.


Here’s what hostess Gail Pallotta had to say about the three covers. “The mountain scene in A Log Cabin Christmas took away my breath and sent a peaceful feeling over me.  The lovely smile on the young lady on the cover of Christmas Belles of Georgia brightened my day and spoke to me of Christmas joy. Christmas Pearl stood out and proclaimed this holy season.”


But the voters decided, and the winner of the 
Christmas Cover Images Clash is:






 A HEARTY CONGRATULATIONS TO BOTH THE 
AUTHOR AND THE COVER ARTIST!


This is what voters said about Christmas Pearl:

*'Christmas Pearl' simply struck me as beautiful & I sank right in as I read the blurb.
*I think all three are charming, but 'Christmas Pearl' does it for me!
*"Christmas Pearl" is just plain lovely. I love the way the pearl imitates a tree ornament. Very well done cover and quite evocative of Christmas.


Well said!


COTT  is currently taking a Christmas break, but please visit  January 9 for a new clash that will – literally – take your breath away! If you're an author, don’t forget to check upcoming open clashes and submit.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Clash of the Titles!!

Monday, December 26, 2011

First Date by Krista MeGee


Book Description:  Addy Davidson is the last girl in the country who wants to be on the new reality TV show to win a date to prom with the President's son. She's focused on her schoolwork so she can get a scholarship to an Ivy League college, uncomfortable in the spotlight, never been on a date, and didn't even audition for it.

My Review:  I loved this read!  A quick, light but filled with "meat" read!  
This is a modern day Esther story.  Addy is a great, all American girl and the last girl who wants to be on a reality show AND, to boot, a show she never even watches! But Tampa Christian School in Florida is randomly selected to send a student for competition on First Date, a reality show in which the grand prize is attending prom with Jonathon Jackson, the president's son. Tampa Christian's principal picks the quiet, academic Addy Davidson, a reluctant contestant at best, who agrees so the financially struggling school might get national attention but still hopes to be one of the first girls cut. 
Addy is the orphaned daughter of missionaries and lives a relatively quiet life with her uncle.  She goes to school, studies hard, leads a Bible study and has a wonderful BFF.
Jonathon, is the First Son, the son of the president.  Addy isn't very nice when her first impressions are presented on TV, for all of America to see.
After Addy meets Jonathon and they "hang" together for awhile, Addy begins to think that he isn't so bad after all. Well, Jonathon is cute, well mannered, and funny.  What's not to  like.
Addy never really questioned God's plan for her life but like Esther can she make a difference in another world, another place and in some other person's life?
This is a fun YA read but some adult readers will enjoy it too!  A great book for a rainy afternoon!  Or just a "smile card" to cheer someone.
*This book was provided by BookSneeze/Thomas Nelson Publishing*

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Holiday Break
See you next week!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

COTT: Clash Of The Titles . . . by Gail Pallotta

Thank you to our blog alliance partners

Jessica Keller works from an office her husband set up for her in their Chicago home. Using a bright orange laptop she posts five days a week. She blogged big-time in college, garnering a huge following. She says, “It got to the point where people I didn’t know would walk up to me and start talking…about my life because they were addicted to my blog.” 
After graduation she ended that blog and went to work in the records department of law enforcement. She figured her blogging days were over, but she started writing novels. She thought about author blogs she loved and wanted to “create a place like that so…someday when a novel-length piece is published…” she’ll already have a blog.
Her blog reflects her love of baking, her communications and Biblical studies degree and her enthusiasm for books. She’ll read over one hundred this year. On Mondays she muses about life in general. Tasty Tuesdays give cooking advice and recipes. On Writing Wednesdays she shares her writing struggles and advice or hosts experts. Thick-of-it-Thursdays feature a spiritual message, and Fridays for Readers introduces new writers. At least once a month there’s a cookie give away. Yum.
During the past nine years she’s written articles, short stories and a novella and recently made the finals in three contests. When she isn’t writing she runs in 5K’s and mentors college-aged women. When asked for a random fact about herself she said, “I have two cats named for super heroes, Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent.”
Visit Jessica's blog here.

Carol Moncado blogs about life and writing from a big cushy chair in a basement in the Ozarks. She says the area “is slowly becoming my office/library.” She’s written on and off ever since she was a kid, seriously for the last two years. She blogs everyday attracting readers, other writers and friends who want to know a little more about her, her writing and the authors she likes. She says, “I try to have humor – and we all know laughter is the best medicine!I love to get comments.”
As for her writing, she’s currently blogging her way through NaNoWriMo. When she isn’t blogging or working on her own writing projects, she takes care of four children, reads and watches television. Her all time favorite show – NCIS.
When asked to share a random fact about herself she said, “When we moved into our first house, we moved on Friday the 13th to a house on Elm Street. We found and put an offer on our second [current] house on 06/06/06.”
Visit Carol’s blog here.
Marianne Evans started her blog, A Minute with Marianne, a little over two years ago. She says, “I loved the idea of chronicling my thoughts and expanding my writing platform…Call it ‘keeping up with the times.’” An added bonus. “It’s a blast…”
She posts almost once a week. A Minute with Marianne introduces readers to writers and books they may not otherwise hear about. Marianne says, “There are so many wonderful inspirational, Christian themed books out there. I love shining a light on them and getting the word out on new and exciting authors.” Her blog also covers writing inspirations, motivational tidbits, reviews and publishing news.
She keeps her blog casual with highlights on having fun, getting to know people and sharing a passion for great writing. When Marianne isn’t blogging, she writes.  She’s A Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence winner for Hearts Crossing. She was a 2011 finalist for Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year for Hearts Surrender. Marianne says she made the jump from secular romance to Christian Inspirational romance/fiction when “the call on her heart matched the ideas in her head.” Visit her blog here.

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas| Day 4 - Why I Decorate for Christmas by Elizabeth Musser


Enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from some of today’s most beloved writer’s (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.
AND just for fun … there’s also a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 – 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.
If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.
***
Why I Decorate for Christmas
By Elizabeth Goldsmith Musser
An old cassette tape of Christmas carols—received in a package twenty years ago when we had first arrived in France as missionaries—fills our den with delightful piano music as I place one more ornament on the already over-laden Christmas tree.  This one is a little white wooden rabbit with pink ears that move back and forth.  It actually doesn’t look much like a Christmas ornament, but I bought it for our baby Andrew when my husband Paul was in seminary, and I was working for less than minimum wage in the library.  This ornament was literally all I could afford.
As I hang it on the tree today, I get goose bumps and then a rush of warmth.  And that’s why I decorate for Christmas.  Not to impress but to remember.  I remember those lean, lean years, and God’s faithful provision for us.
There are the cross-stitched ornaments I made our first year in Montpellier—for the boys (for by now we had two sons) and Paul and me.  How I ever had time to do that, I don’t know.  I remember our puny little tree—the kind they sold in France back then—in a pot so that it could be replanted later.  We perched that tiny tree on a small table out of baby Christopher’s reach.  I guess I watered it too much, because about halfway through December, it started smelling and then stinking, and it rotted there on Christmas Day!
I smile with these memories.

I look at the other ornaments on the tree.  Many were purchased—one for each boy—when we attended conferences around Europe, and that makes me smile too.  Getting to travel on a missionary’s budget to exotic places!  There are the waxed red bear and red baby carriage from Wales, the brightly painted clay sun and moon from Portugal, the blue and white porcelain windmill and wooden shoes from Holland, the hand-blown glass Snoopys sitting on gondolas from Venice, and the delicately decorated eggs from Prague.
Other ornaments include the little pinkish shiny ball ornament with Paul’s name written in glitter—I think he made it when he was about six , and the little red velvet bows, bought at Michael’s after Christmas one year for a dollar.  They bring a unifying theme to the tree.  I say this, smiling, because our tree is, and has always been throughout the years, a hodge-podge of our life.  And I like it that way.  I don’t think I could ever have a ‘theme’ tree.  Mine is a ‘memory’ tree.
The music plays softly in the background and I smile through tears, remembering God’s incredible faithfulness to call and keep us here in France for so many years.  Heart-breakingly hard years, overwhelmingly joyful years—the same years, the same amazing God, our keeper.
Before we left for the mission field, I memorized Psalm 121 in English and in French, and over the years I have held on tight to those last beautiful words of the psalm:  The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever. (NASB)

Of course He will.  He is God with us.
We decorate to remember Christmases past, our lives, our legacy, and mostly, for those of us who have embraced Christ, we decorate to honor and praise Him for coming to us—Emmanuel!  We make our homes ready to receive the Christ Child, with soft music and candles burning and the sweet flickering of angel wings on an over-laden evergreen.
***
ELIZABETH GOLDSMITH MUSSER, an Atlanta native and the bestselling author of The Swan House, is a novelist who writes what she calls ‘entertainment with a soul.’  For over twenty years, Elizabeth and her husband, Paul, have been involved in missions work with International Teams.  They presently live near Lyon, France. The Mussers have two sons and a daughter-in-law. The Sweetest Thing (Bethany House, 2011) is Elizabeth’s eighth novel. To learn more about Elizabeth and her books, and to find discussion questions as well as photos of sites mentioned in the stories, please visit www.elizabethmusser.com and her F
acebook Fan Pagewww.elizabethmusser.com

Friday, December 16, 2011

12 Pearls of Christmas – Sandy Ralya


Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!
Enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from some of today’s most beloved writer’s (Tricia Goyer, Babbie Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.
AND just for fun … there’s also a giveaway!  Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 – 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.
If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.
***
Where is Comfort and Joy Found?
By Sandy Ralya
The year 2006 ushered unwelcome emotions into my life. My husband was unhappy in his job, two of my grown children were making poor choices, my mother-in-law was showing signs of Alzheimer’s, extended-family issues were surfacing, and I was writing a book. Things only got worse. Much worse.
Early in 2007, I was asked to represent the mentoring ministry for wives I founded, Beautiful Womanhood, and lead a women’s conference in Uganda, Africa. My husband wasn’t sure if traveling to Africa was a good idea, so we committed it to prayer. While we were listening for an answer, I sensed God asking me to fast from spending, except for groceries, for thirty days. Sometimes you know that you’ve heard God’s voice because you’d never have come up with those words on your own. This was one of those times. I’d never heard of a fast from spending. Tom needed no convincing that a fast from spending came directly from the mouth of God. He still gets excited just thinking about it!
During the fast, it became clear I had used spending as a way to gain a comfort fix. When I was spending money, I felt carefree and lighthearted. Instead of dwelling on the unpleasantness in my life, I was thinking of my purchases and how they would bring me pleasure. Not until I stopped spending did I realize how short-lived the fix really was. During the fast, when I felt the urge to spend—to anesthetize my pain—I pictured myself running into the arms of Jesus, the Great Comforter. Oh, what comfort I received!
One night, I told good friends my experience of gaining comfort through the power of the Holy Spirit rather than money. I exclaimed that I had never felt so comforted. One friend then told us about a dream he’d had shortly after hearing about the invitation from Uganda. After the dream, he had awoken and recorded the following thoughts:
“. . . this is for Sandy. Christ’s redemption of women is beautiful. Beautiful Womanhood is a result of redemptive wholeness. The visuals the ministry uses on the books, etc., are like a piece of beautifully veneered furniture. There is something going on with the ministry to the brokenness of abused women. In Uganda, there are hurting, abused women, and something is connecting their need and Beautiful Womanhood. Though there is nothing wrong with veneer, it is only the topping—the covering, and without good structure it is shallow and will not hold up. It is time to add a new depth to the ministry.”
Then these verses came to my friend’s mind:
All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. You can be sure that the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NL
When my friend was finished sharing, everyone in the room broke down in tears, praising God for His work in my life. I’d learned to listen and God had spoken. I’d obeyed, and He’d acted. When He acted, I was changed.
Needless to say, I packed my bags and experienced some of the best days of my life in Uganda—offering God’s comfort to His troubled women.
***
Sandy and her husband Tom have been married since 1980 and live near Grand Rapids, Michigan. They have three adult children and a growing number of grandchildren. When not writing and speaking, Sandy enjoys shopping at yard sales for vintage clothing, cooking, travelling, and drinking really good coffee (black is best) with her husband. For more information, contact Sandy at sandy@beautifulwomanhood.com. Subscribe to Sandy’s blog at www.beautifulwomanhood.com/blog. Find Sandy on Facebook at Beautiful Womanhood. Follow Sandy on Twitter @MentoringWives.



Winner is . . .

Brenda is the winner of this fabulous book!
{Winner has been contacted}

Thursday, December 15, 2011

12 Pearls of Christmas – Sibella Giorello


Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!
Enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from some of today’s most beloved writer’s (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.
AND just for fun … there’s also a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 – 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.
If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.
***
Advent
By Sibella Giorello
Consider the bride’s walk down the aisle. We all know where that woman in the white is going but somehow waiting for her to arrive at the altar is an essential part of the ceremony. In fact, the waiting is so essential that even cheapskate Vegas chapels include wedding marches.
Why?
Because the wait adds meaning to the moment.
At Christmas time, we tend to forget this essential truth about anticipation. We’re lost to shopping malls and checklists, rushing toward December 25th so quickly that we forget the quiet joy of the month’s other 24 days — and then we wonder why we feel so empty on the 26th, amid ribbons and wrapping paper and our best intentions.
Because the wait adds meaning to the moment.
And that is why Advent is so important to Christmas.
I’m as guilty as the next harried person. This Advent was particularly tricky because just six hours before it started, I was still trying to finish a 110,000-word novel that was written over the course of the year — written while homeschooling my kids, keeping my hubby happy, and generally making sure the house didn’t fall down around us.
It’s an understatement to say my free time is limited. But waiting adds meaning, and Advent is crucial to Christmas, so I’ve devised several Advent traditions that are simple, powerful and easy to keep even amid the seasonal rush.
When my kids outgrew the simple Advent calendars around age 7, I stole an idea from my writer friend Shelly Ngo (as T.S. Eliot said, “Mediocre writers borrow. Great writers steal.” Indulge me.)
Here’s how it goes: Find 24 great Christmas books, wrap them individually and place then under the tree. On the first day of Advent, take turns picking which book to open. When we did this, we would cuddle under a blanket and read aloud — oh, the wonder, the magic! We savored “The Polar Express,” howled with “How Murray Saved Christmas,” and fell silent at the end of “The Tale of The Three Trees” (note: some of the picture books I chose were not explicitly about Christmas but they always echoed the message that Jesus came to earth to save us from ourselves and to love us beyond our wildest imagination. In that category, Angela Hunt’s retelling of The Three Trees definitely hits the Yuletide bull’s eye).
This Advent tradition lasted for about five years. It gave us rich daily discussions about the season’s real meaning, without being religious or legalistic, and it increased family couch time. But like the lift-the-flap calendars, my kids outgrew the picture books.
Because the wait adds meaning, and Advent is crucial, I prayed for another way to celebrate anticipation of Christmas. By the grace of God, last year I found an enormous Advent calendar on  clearance at Pottery Barn. Made of burlap, it has large pockets big enough to hold some serious bounty.
But my husband and I didn’t want the kids focusing only on the materialist stuff for Advent — we already fight that on Christmas day. We decided to fill the daily pockets with simple necessities and small gift cards. We also printed out the nativity story from Luke 2:1-21 in a large-sized font and cut each verse out. From Day 1 to Day 21, there is one verse to read aloud. The kids memorize it, then get to open their present (again, on alternating days for each person). Then we tape the verse to the wall in order. By Day 22, all the verses are on the wall, in order, and the kids now try to recite the entire nativity story from memory. That’s not as difficult as it sounds because they’ve been memorizing one verse each day. Still, the entire recitation — verbatim — usually requires Day 23 and Day 24. Whoever does memorize the entire thing — without mistakes —  earns a bonus gift of $25.
Does that sounds extravagant?
It is.
Because we want our kids to understand that God came down and humbled himself and taught us about love right before He suffered and died on behalf of the undeserving — which is every one of us.
“That’s” extravagant.
And in the waiting, we find even more meaning.
***
Sibella Giorello writes the Raleigh Harmon mystery series which won the Christy Award with its first book “The Stones Cry Out.” She lives in Washington state with her husband and children, and often wishes there were 36 hours in a day.



Call Me Mrs. Miracle .... An ALL time favorite Christmas Read!

Book Description:  This Christmas, Emily Merkle (call her Mrs. Miracle!) is working in the toy department at Finley's, the last family-owned department store in New York City. And her boss is none other than…Jake Finley, the owner's son.
For Jake, holiday memories of brightly wrapped gifts, decorated trees and family were destroyed in a Christmas Eve tragedy years before. Now Christmas means just one thing to him—and to his father. Profit. Because they need a Christmas miracle to keep the business afloat.
Holly Larson needs a miracle, too. She wants to give her eight-year-old nephew, Gabe, the holiday he deserves. Holly's widowed brother is in the army and won't be home for Christmas, but at least she can get Gabe that toy robot from Finley's, the one gift he desperately wants. If she can figure out how to afford it…
Fortunately, it's Mrs. Miracle to the rescue. Next to making children happy, she likes nothing better than helping others—and that includes doing a bit of matchmaking!
My Review:  As I began reading I was immediately caught up in the lives of Holly, Jake, Mrs. Merkle (Miracle) and Gabe (Holly's nephew).
This sweet story begins with Holly concerned that she won't be able to provide a great Christmas for her nephew, Gabe, who is staying with her while his father is deployed overseas in the military.
Holly has never been married or had children so having Gabe live with her is a totally new experience!  She learns to cook mac -n cheese!  Not a single woman's menu choice.  
Then enters handsome, kind Jake.  Unknowingly Holly enters into a "somewhat" relationship with Jake after meeting him at the corner coffee shop.  Jake wants to get to know Holly but she is concerned with taking care of Gabe and trying to save enough money for his Christmas present....enter Mrs. Miracle (named spelled wrong on her employee badge Merkle-Miracle). 
Holly's boss becomes like Scrooge-mean and tight fisted making it harder for Holly to make ends meet.  But as life would have it Holly scrimps and saves because Gabe wants a small robot from Jake's store.  
There are family issues that Holly and Jake see differently with the help of Mrs. Merkle aka. Mrs. Miracle.
This is a wonderfully sweet Christmas story.  That includes a short entrance of Mrs. Miracle's friends-Shirley, Goodness and Mercy!  Don't you just love their names!
Debbie Macomber is a new author for me but I hope to read more of her books.  Her books aren't classified as Christian fiction but as I read this book I didn't find any off color references, bad words, or loves scenes that were overly descriptive.  
I found this read to be a lovely 5 star addition to my Christmas collection!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Merchant's Daughter by Melanie Dickerson

Book Description:  An unthinkable danger. An unexpected choice. Annabel, once the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is trapped in indentured servitude to Lord Ranulf, a recluse who is rumored to be both terrifying and beastly. Her circumstances are made even worse by the proximity of Lord Ranulf's bailiff---a revolting man who has made unwelcome advances on Annabel in the past. Believing that life in a nunnery is the best way to escape the escalation of the bailiff's vile behavior and to preserve the faith that sustains her, Annabel is surprised to discover a sense of security and joy in her encounters with Lord Ranulf. As Annabel struggles to confront her feelings, she is involved in a situation that could place Ranulf in grave danger. Ranulf's future, and possibly his heart, may rest in her hands, and Annabel must decide whether to follow the plans she has cherished or the calling God has placed on her heart.
My Review:  Do you love to read about medieval times?  Love the story of Beauty & the Beast?  Great!  Then you'll love The Merchant's Daughter!
The story is about seventeen year-old Annabel, a mom who wants her to marry for riches (the richest husband possible!) and an "ugly" man.
Annabel finds that the "ugly" man, Lord Ranulf, actually has a heart...has she judged to harshly?
So Annabel decides being a nun is probably the best life task for her.  But her family just WILL NOT give up that she WILL marry and marry a man who is very wealthy.
Annabel has a kind and generous heart...a heart that looks into the soul and sees the better in everyone.
The choices that Annabel makes and the risk she puts herself in because she follows her heart makes for a heartwarming tale to be enjoyed by young and old readers!
The one thing that I took away from this read is that it isn't outward beauty that counts, it's "heart" beauty that counts!  The "ugly" man doesn't become incredibly handsome at the end of the story but he does become handsome to Annabel.
The cover of this book is great, too!  If you look closely you'll be able to see Lord Ranulf in the mirror.  
*This book was provided for review by Zondervan*
Meet the Author:
Melanie Dickerson is the author of The Healer's Apprentice, a Christy Award finalist and winner of The National Reader's Choice Award for Best First Book. She earned her bachelor's degree in special education from The University of Alabama. She has taught children with special needs in Georgia and Tennessee, and English to adults in Germany and Ukraine. Now she spends her time writing and taking care of her husband and two daughters near Huntsville, Alabama. Visit her on the web at www.melaniedickerson.com.

12 Pearls of Christmas – Suzanne Woods Fisher


Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!
Enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from some of today’s most beloved writer’s (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.
AND just for fun … there’s also a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 – 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.
If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.
***
A Christmas of Kindness
By Suzanne Woods Fisher
“You can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.” Amish proverb
I do it every year.
I plan for a simpler, less stressful Christmas season and, every year, by Christmas Eve I’m exhausted! After our delicious and very-time-consuming-to-make traditional Swedish meal to honor my husband¹s relatives (think: Vikings), it’s time to head to church. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but the last few Christmas Eve’s, I have sent my husband and kids head off without me. The pull to spend an hour of quiet in the house feels as strong as a magnet.
It’s odd. My children are young adults now. Wouldn’t you think that Christmas would be simpler? Instead, it’s just the opposite. Jugging schedules to share the grandbaby with the in-laws, trying to include our elderly parents at the best time of day for them, dancing carefully around recently divorced family members whose children are impacted by the shards of broken relationships.
The thing is: you can simplify your to-do list, but you can’t really simplify people. We are just a complicated bunch.
Here’s where I borrow a lesson about simplicity from the Amish. It’s easy to get distracted with the buggies and the bonnets and the beards, but there’s so much more to learn from these gentle people if you’re willing to look a little deeper.
Yes, they live with less “stuff” and that does make for a simpler, less cluttered life. But it’s the reason behind it that is so compelling to me: they seek to create margin in their life. Not just empty space but space that is available to nourish family, community, and faith. Their Christmas is far less elaborate than yours or mine, but what they do fill it with is oh so right.
Christmas comes quietly on an Amish farmhouse. There is no outward sign of the holiday as we know it: no bright decorations, no big tree in the living room corner. A few modest gifts are waiting for children at their breakfast place settings, covered by a dishtowel. Waiting first for Dad to read the story of Christ’s birth from the book of Luke. Waiting until after a special breakfast has been enjoyed. Waiting until Mom and Dad give the signal that the time has come for gifts.
Later, if Christmas doesn’t fall on a Sunday, extended family and friends will gather for another big meal. If time and weather permits, the late afternoon will be filled with ice skating or sledding. And more food! Always, always an abundance of good food. Faith, family, and community. That is the focus of an Amish Christmas.
And it’s also how the story begins for A Lancaster County Christmas, as a young family prepares for Christmas. A winter storm blows a non-Amish couple, Jaime and C.J. Fitzpatrick, off-course and into the Riehl farmhouse. An unlikely and tentative friendship develops, until the one thing Mattie and Sol hold most dear disappears and then. Ah, but you¹ll just have to read the story to find out what happens next. Without giving anything away, I will say that I want to create a Mattie-inspired margin this Christmas season. Mattie knew inconveniences and interruptions that come in the form of people (big ones and little ones!) are ordained by God. And blessed by God.
Creating margin probably means that I won’t get Christmas cards out until the end of January, and my house won’t be uber-decorated. After all, something has to give. But it will mean I make time for a leisurely visit with my dad at his Alzheimer’s facility. And time to volunteer in the church nursery for a holiday-crowded event. And time to invite a new neighbor over for coffee. Hopefully, it will mean that my energy won’t get diverted by a frantic, self-imposed agenda. Only by God’s agenda the essence of true simplicity.
And that includes taking time to worship Christ’s coming at the Christmas Eve service. You can hold me accountable! This year, I will be there.
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Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of The Choice, The Waiting, The Search, and The Keeper, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, W. D. Benedict, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne is a Christy Award nominee and is the host of an internet radio show called Amish Wisdom and her work has appeared in many magazines. She lives in California. www.suzannewoodsfisher.com.

WOW {Warm Oven Wednesday} A wonderful holiday bread...Orange Cream Bread

A friend made this, sent me the recipe and said OH! So!Good!
It's on my holiday bread menu!

Ingredients

1-8 ozpackage cream cheese, softened
1/2 cshortening
1 2/3 cgranulated sugar
2eggs
2 1/4 call-purpose flour
1 tspsalt
1 Tbspbaking powder
1 cmilk
1/2 cchopped walnuts
2 Tbspgrated orange peel
1/4 corange juice

Directions

11
 Combine cream cheese and shortening, creaming well.
2
 Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy.
3
 Add eggs, beating well after each addition.
4
 Combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix well after each addition.
5
 Stir in walnuts and orange peel.
6
 Pour batter into 2 greased and floured 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 x 3 inch loaf pans.
7
 Bake at 375 degrees F for 55 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
8
 Let cool in pan for 10 mintues. Then sprinkle orange juice over loaves. Remove to wire rack to finish cooling