“Forever Hilltop” by Judy Baer

 Alex Armstrong is a newcomer to Hilltop Township, and he just might be labeled that way for a few decades.  Rural North Dakota doesn’t get many people moving in, so it has a culture all of its own – as does each of the two churches Alex will be leading.  With disgruntled parishioners, warring congregations, and single women on the prowl, can Alex bring peace to Hilltop?

Baer’s characters are honest and real, people with real problems, but even the curmudgeons are presented as challenges, not impossibilities.  If only all of us viewed those around us this way!  This perspective on life and problems gives the series a sweetness that is rare.

I thoroughly enjoyed Baer’s writing style.  Smooth, funny, dramatic in all the right places, she makes me long for my own piece of Hilltop.

Judy Baer was born and grew up on a farm on the prairies of North Dakota, experiencing many of the same things as her Hilltop characters. An only child, she spent most of her days with imaginary people-either those she read about or those she made up in her head. 
Baer graduated from Concordia College with majors in English and education and a minor in religion. While at the time, she was simply studying what interested her, Baer later realized that she was educating herself for her future career as a Christian writer. She certainly put her education to use as she is the author of more than 75 books. 
A certified professional life coach now certified in three coaching disciplines, Baer coaches primarily professional and aspiring writers. She is also a faculty advisor in the Department of Human Development at St. Mary’s University in Minneapolis, MN. Baer has two daughters and three step children. She and her husband live in Minnesota. 
She invites you to visit her at her web site www.judykbaer.com for more information on her and her books. 

@JudyKBaer is giving away a Kindle for YOU … and one for a Friend in her Forever Hilltop Giveaway! Celebrate with Judy by entering to win a Kindle for you and a friend!

One lucky winner will receive:

  • Brand New KINDLE with Wi-Fi
  • Brand New KINDLE with Wi-Fi to Giveaway to a Friend!
  • Forever Hilltop by Judy K Baer for you and a one for a friend

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 22nd. Winner will be announced 5/24/12 on Judy’s Blog.

Enter via E-mail Enter via Facebook Enter via Twitter

Don’t miss a moment of the fun. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 21st!

To buy your own copy of Forever Hilltop, click here.  You can read other reviews on the blog tour here.

I received a free copy of Forever Hilltop from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“Five Miles South of Peculiar” by Angela Hunt

Five Miles South of Peculiar Cover
Five Miles South of Peculiar is the story of the three Caldwell sisters and how they mature in their relationships with each other and with God.  Darlene is the happy homemaker type, a pillar in their small Southern town of Peculiar, and she rules the inherited family estate with an iron hand.  Her twin Carlene, a Broadway singer, decides to visit the family home after experiencing a personal tragedy and stirs up lots of past issues – especially jealousy from Darlene.  There’s also Nolie, who lives a simple life with her dogs and her flowers, sewing personalized aprons for everyone in town – but will she ever recover from being jilted at the altar and move on with her life?  Throw in a boyfriend/mayor, a jealous daughter, a fired hunk of a pastor-turned-handyman and 17 puppies, and you’ve got one creative story!
I really enjoyed this novel.  Hunt’s characters are quite creative, and their depth makes each story especially unique.  They’re easy to relate to – I could totally understand why Darlene would be upset when Carlene tries to move her furniture and why Nolie would choose to stay with her simplified lifestyle despite everyone’s urging to leave the nest.  They’re all fun and unique women with the same kind of crazy issues that the rest of us have, and that makes you want to run next door and invite them over for chocolate.  
Hunt wrote primarily about what was happening now to each woman, but she also explored how their past affected their ability to deal with their present and their futures.  This added depth to the story, but it also added a great deal of mystery as we didn’t learn about the special way that Darlene and Carlene’s pasts are entwined until near the very end.  While I thought I had a pretty good idea of what had happened, not knowing the details – or even if I was right – kept me guessing about how the women would handle this issue when it was revealed.
Romantic entanglements added fun drama to the story, as well.  While it was pretty obvious who would be paired off, this lighthearted element sweetened the mood of the drama and made for a very happy ending – and who doesn’t love that?  
All things considered, Five Miles South of Peculiar is definitely a cut above your dime-a-dozen romance novels.  Full of spiritual truths, the kinds of family spats we’ve all experienced, and summer romance, Hunt has penned a great read.
I received a free copy of Five Miles South of Peculiar from Glass Road in exchange for an honest review.
With nearly 4 million copies of her books sold worldwide, Angela Hunt is the bestselling author of more than one hundred books, includingThe Tale of Three Trees,Don’t Bet Against MeThe Note, and The Nativity Story. Her nonfiction bookDon’t Bet Against Me, written with Deanna Favre, spent several weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. She and her husband make their home in Florida with their dogs. Learn more about Angela atAngelaElwellHunt.com.

“Fired Up” by Mary Connealy

Dare Riker is a doctor who saves lives, but someone seems determined to end his. It may have something to do with the traitors he dealt with during the Civil War, or it might be related to the recent incident with Flint Greer and the ranch. Whoever the culprit is, he or she seems really fired up, and Dare can’t let his guard down for a moment, which is a challenge, since right now he’s trying to win the heart of the recently widowed Glynna.

Glynna Greer came west as a mail-order bride and ended up in a bad situation. Now her husband, Flint, is dead, and she’s determined to care for her son and daughter on her own. She wants to believe Dare Riker is as decent as he seems, but she’s terrified to lock herself into another marriage. She plans to support her small family by opening a diner—never mind that cooking is not her greatest talent. The men in Broken Wheel, Texas, are so desperate for home cooking that they seem willing to overlook dried-out beef and blackened biscuits.

Glynna can’t help but notice that danger follows Dare wherever he goes. There’s the avalanche. And then the fire. But things really get out of hand when someone plunges a knife from Glynna’s diner into Dare’s back. Are Flint’s cronies still plotting revenge? Is Glynna’s son engaged in a misguided attempt to protect his mother? Is a shadowy outsider still enraged over past injustices? And can Dare survive long enough to convince Glynna to take another chance on love?

The men of this story make the series.  I generally try not to drool over characters, being quite happy with the one that I’m married to, but these men are the cream of the crop.  They’re manly men, if you know what I mean:  honest, hard-working, protective of others, chivalrous, and kind.  They’re not afraid of a good fight and they’ll do what it takes to defend those they love.  That’s how they rule in this series – because everyone around them needs defending in some way, and so they’re really knights in cowboy hats charging off to save the day.

I don’t know a woman alive who wouldn’t swoon at that.

Although Glynna’s no fainting lily herself.  She’s been married to two cruel men, and she’s had it rough.  She knows how to take care of her own, but she’s tired of the burden and wants to share it.  Her strength but tentative trust makes her a winner here.  She doesn’t back down when life gets hard, but she still hopes for a better tomorrow, and she’s not afraid to work hard to get it.

Plotwise, Connealy always writes winners.  The action and drama never stop in this story, except for the occasional one-liner that adds levity to the emotionally-charged pages.  I couldn’t stop turning pages from the first to the last – once you start, you just can’t stop.

Morally, I’ve always enjoyed the faith lessons in Connealy’s books, although that’s not necessarily why I read them – I just love the stories.  This one’s a bit different, though.  While there’s lots of romantic tension and mystery solving, there are also mentoring lessons between Dare, his Regulator friends, and Paul.  I appreciate the way that these men take the time to try to reach this troubled teen and the lessons that they pass along to the reader by proxy.  Personally, I can’t imagine too many teen boys will reap those lessons from the pages of this book, because while it IS full of masculine fighting, it’s primarily a love story. Moms, learn those lessons and pass them along, okay?  😉

As usual, I’m pretty sure that Vince’s story is coming up next, and I can’t wait to read it.  Connealy teases the reader with the beginning of his story in this one, and it, too, promises to entice.

Read other reviews in this blog hop here, or click here to purchase your own now.

Mary Connealy writes fun and lively “romantic comedy with cowboys” for the inspirational market. She is the author of the successful Kincaid Brides, Lassoed in Texas, Montana Marriages, and Sophie’s Daughters series, and she has been a finalist for a Rita and Christy Award and a two time winner of the Carol Award. She lives on a ranch in eastern Nebraska with her husband, Ivan, and has four grown daughters.
Connect with Mary: http://maryconnealy.com/
I received a free copy of Fired Up from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.


“Finding Our Way Home” by Charlene Ann Baumbich

Sasha Davis fell – and now her career as a principal ballerina, her lifelong dream – has been cut short.  Back in her childhood home to recover, Sasha must come to terms with this change in her life’s plan.  Her live-in assistant, the young and vibrant Evelyn Burt, takes the brunt of Sasha’s pain as she blooms with first and forbidden love.  Can both women come to terms with a reality that doesn’t match her dreams and find God’s grace in the middle of their trials?

This book reads like Sasha’s favorite beverage:  a hot cup of tea, slowly steeped, warming your insides and calming your nerves.  At no point will the plot spike your blood pressure or make your toes dance, but the fluidity of the character development and the slow reveal of information will keep you reading.

Sasha and Evelyn complement each other well.  The women exhibit a near Naomi-and-Ruth relationship, stumbling at times, but each caring deeply for and investing in the other.  By the time I finished this book I felt as if I had done a study in personality types, as each character was detailed and in so many different ways.

If fast rides and action-packed adventure is your style, then this is not the book for you; however, if you’ve ever been hurt, needed to forgive, felt a dream die, or just felt the sweet gift of God’s grace in the middle of a trial, then curl up in a rocker and enjoy Sasha’s journey.

You can read an excerpt of Finding Our Way Home here.

I received a free copy of Finding Our Way Home from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for a free review.

“The Final Summit” by Andy Andrews

David Ponder is old.  Having recently lost his wife after amassing a fortune, going bankrupt, and acquiring an even larger one, he no longer cares about his growing fortune or place on this earth.  It’s while contemplating his purpose as a single man in his 70s that he’s visited by the archangel Gabriel, who whisks him away to a final Summit of other humans who have time traveled as he once did.  Ponder is charged with leading the meeting and finding the answer to restoring all of humanity’s individual and collective purpose before the current civilization self-destructs.  In only five attempts, can Ponder and his team of Travelers save civilization?

This is a sequel, and knowing that, I first sought out the initial book before reading this one.  Both are fascinating.  They sound deep and serious, and they are; but the books are written in a way that blends humor and history with deep thoughts and questions.  I love how Andrews pulls key people from history and dusts them off to share their stories and help Ponder find his answers.  Most of this book is one huge conversation, but because of the introduction of various historical figures and their quirks, it comes across as one big adventure with an important goal.
The best thing about “The Final Summit” is that Andrews teaches truth through the story.  His points are valid and apply to us all.  
This book would make a great gift – even better if given as a set with the first book, “The Traveler’s Gift.”
I received a free copy of this book from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review. 

“The Fiddler” by Beverly Lewis

The Fiddler, Home to Hickory Hollow Series #1
Amelia Devries is a world-renowned violinist in the midst of an identity crisis.  Michael Hostetler doesn’t want to be Amish, but he doesn’t want to disappoint his family.  When Amelia gets lost in the middle of a huge storm, her detour leads her directly to Michael – and the possibility of a peace she’s always longed for.  Can they find their way to their dreams – together?

Beverly Lewis writes a distinctly different type of Amish book than most out there.  Not a thriller, not a mystery, not your usual to-be-or-not-to-be-Amish type, Lewis pens a story of young adults seeking peace with their chosen paths in life – and of gaining the courage and the voice to reach for it.

Amelia and Michael each travel the road to maturity in a parallel way in this book, a road of searching their own hearts and then reaching out beyond themselves.  There are no mysteries, no stalkers, no pressure to be anything except what they are from anyone but themselves; yet this can be a hard lesson to learn.  Lewis writes about it with grace and depth, making this a story that anyone from their teen years on up could relate to.

I really enjoyed this story.  I felt that the romantic ending was somewhat predictable, but the quality characters and unusual circumstances – as well as the life lessons explored – made it a very worthwhile read.

I received a free copy of The Fiddler from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

“Falls Like Lightning” by Shawn Grady

Silas Kent made a mistake when he left pilot Elle during his early smokejumping days.  Both are shocked to be called in to work the same wildfire in the Sierra Nevadas after years without contact. While Elle’s daughter fights mysterious seizures in the hospital, Elle flies a crew of jumpers out on a seemingly routine drop, but instead crashes in the fire.  Silas and Elle soon realize that the fire is not their only enemy, but they must quickly unravel the mysteries of the downed plane, missing jumpers, and an elderly homesteader – before the fire burns them alive.

Grady’s experience is obvious from the very first chapter of this book.  Full of technical terms and descriptions, most are explained in a natural way through the story.  Grady’s writing is smooth and and the plot contains several unexpected twists.  The story opened between fires, so the action started slowly and accelerated rapidly through the climax, keeping me on the edge of my seat.  The ending was rather abrupt, however, and while it suited the story perfectly, I wish there had been a way to change up the sequence a bit.

The cover artwork grabs at you and makes you wonder how the handsome man starring in it will escape the glowing fire in the background.  It made the book so action-packed that my husband picked it up and started to read!

If you enjoy reading both action-adventure and romance stories, then this is the book for you!

To read the first chapter of Falls Like Lightning or to buy this book, go here.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

“Faithful” by Kim Cash Tate

Cyd’s world turns upside down on her fortieth birthday – and her friends aren’t having such an easy time, either. Cedric, the best man at her sister’s wedding, is attractive and smooth, but he doesn’t share her faith. Dana caught her husband in bed with another woman, and Phillis wants her husband to share her faith more than anything and is depressed by his unwillingness to even listen to her heart. The members of the Daughter’s Fellowship hold each other up through thick and thin – but will they be able to help each other through all of this??

Cash’s book was not what I expected, and at first, as each woman’s life fell apart, I was disappointed by the blunt and worldly view of sex that was presented. As the plot continued, however, more of God’s truth entered the picture. By the end, a realistic view of sin and how to handle temptation had been presented. Cash’s characters were believable and and real. I will definitely look for her next book!

I was given a copy of this book by Thomas Nelson in exchange for an unbiased review.

“Eventide” by Shelley Shepard Gray


 A young Amish woman harbors a difficult secret. Does she dare share the truth with the man she hopes to marry?

Elsie Keim doesn’t want to be left behind. Her twin sister, Viola, and her older brother, Roman, have both found love and are building lives of their own. But Elsie? She’s still stuck at home, being treated like a child. No one seems to consider her a capable woman-all they see are the thick lenses of her glasses, constant reminders that Elsie suffers from keratoconus and is slowly going blind.

Elsie knows there’s much more to her than her disease. That’s why when a new neighbor, Landon Troyer, shows some interest in her, she doesn’t want anything to scare him away . . . even if it means keeping her condition a secret.

Landon is ready to start a new life and feels like Elsie may just be the right woman to start it with. But when Roman steps in and shares the truth about Elsie’s illness, Landon is floored. His job is demanding and takes him away from home, sometimes for days at a time. How could he keep up with his responsibilities and take care of Elsie?

Eventide is an enjoyable story with a great faith lesson.  It’s a story of contrasts – an Amish family with more issues than a newspaper who find their way back to each other and to peace.

Most of the story is anything but peaceful, however.  With the full extended family trying to tell her what to do, Elsie has to figure out what she wants and how to get it – while dealing with her family at the same time.  Throw in a new love interest – a first love interest – and Elsie’s storyline alone will keep the pages turning.

What I appreciated most by the end of the story, however, was how aptly named this book truly is.  Gray ties up all the loose ends with thoughtful, peaceful reflection, which contrasts starkly to the drama of the story and shows just how far everyone has come.  She paints a picture of relaxing in God’s grace that is both beautiful and hopeful.

Eventide is the perfect ending to this series – and I can’t wait to begin the next one.

You can read other reviews on this blog hop here.  Click here to purchase your own copy now.

Shelley Shepard Gray is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the “Sisters of the Heart”, “Seasons of Sugarcreek”, “Secrets of Crittenden County”, and Families of Honor series. 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.

Connect with Shelley here: http://www.shelleyshepardgray.com/

I received a free copy of Eventide from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“Duchess” by Susan May Warren

When her country needs her, will she have the courage to surrender her glittering world and her one true love?

The golden age of Hollywood is in the business of creating stars. Rosie Worth, now starlet Roxy Price, has found everything she’s wanted in the glamour of the silver screen. With adoring fans and a studio-mogul husband, she’s finally silenced the voices-and grief-of the past. Her future shines bright…until the fated Black Friday when it all comes crashing down. When Roxy loses everything, she finds herself disgraced and penniless. Her only hope is to join forces with Belgian duke Rolfe Van Horne, a longtime film investor. But Rolfe is not who he seems, and he has other plans for Roxy and her movies-plans to support a growing unrest in Europe, plans that could break her heart and endanger her life. Find out more about the series by clicking on these links. HeiressBaroness.
Duchess is all about Rosie Worth’s search for significance – and significant it is.  Written in a sweeping epic style, traveling through history with unforgettable movie star Rosie, she puts her value in all the wrong places.  As she makes mistake after mistake, chasing all that glitters in an attempt to find value and meaning, Rosie learns that nothing of this world will ultimately give us peace.
Warren’s way of crafting this story – and ultimately this series – is wonderful.  Rosie’s background and current fame allow her to meet a few famous people and to rub elbows with many others.  She is perfectly positioned to play a large role in world affairs, and in that way she begins to realize that joy is found in service.
I loved Rosie’s transformation in this book.  As interested as I was at the beginning to learn about Rosie’s choices and how they might play out, the Hollywood starlet angle holds little appeal for me.  The lifestyle – including Rosie’s choices – felt shallow and pointless, but as time passes for Rosie, her choices improve.  
The final third of the book is riveting.  Set in Europe, where the second book began, the family drama that begins to unfold alongside the world events will fascinate.  To this history buff, this was by far the best part of the series.  Matching Rosie’s story so closely with history, not just with one novel but three, was brilliant – the perfect ending to a dramatic and sweeping saga.
As a hobby-ist historian, I appreciate the attention to detail and historical lessons woven throughout this book.  As a Christian, I love the story for its redemptive quality and worthwhile lessons shared.  As a woman, I can relate to the lessons learned by Jinx, Lily, and Rosie as they crave love.  As a book reviewer, I think Duchess has wide appeal.  Don’t miss it.
To read more reviews in this blog hop, click here.  To order your own copy now, click here.


Susan May Warren is the bestselling, RITA Award-winning author of more than forty novels whose compelling plots and unforgettable characters have won acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. She served with her husband and four children as a missionary in Russia for eight years before she and her family returned home to the States. She now writes full-time as her husband runs a lodge on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, where many of her books are set. She and her family enjoy hiking, canoeing, and being involved in their local church. Several of her critically acclaimed novels have been ECPA and CBA bestsellers, were chosen as Top Picks by Romantic Times, and have won the RWA’s Inspirational Reader’s Choice contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year award. Five of her books have been Christy Award finalists. In addition to her writing, Susan loves to teach and speak at women’s events about God’s amazing grace in our lives. She also runs a writing community for authors. Visit MyBookTherapy.com to learn more. For exciting updates on her new releases, previous books, and more, visit her website at www.susanmaywarren.com

I received a free copy of Duchess in exchange for an honest review.