Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Book Review, Tour, and Giveaway: "Blueberry Cupcake Mystery" by Naomi Miller

About the Book

Blueberry Cupcake Mystery
Click to purchase
In the small town of Abbott Creek, mystery is as much a part of daily life as The Sweet Shop’s sugar cookies.
Katie Chupp spends her days at The Sweet Shop, taking care of customers and baking delicious treats . . . not exactly a profession where one expects to be thrown into the midst of mysteries and mayhem.
But when the bakery is broken into, someone has to find the thief . . . besides finding another place to do the baking and get the orders to the customers.
Is this a random theft, or is the thief trying to ruin the town’s Independence Day celebration?
My Thoughts
This was a cute story.  The characters aren't very developed, but with it being as short as it is, you don't expect them to be as developed as in a longer book. There was a little talk about the Plain folk, but overall, if it weren't for the inclusion of the Amish words, it didn't really feel like an Amish story. It did include a nice amount of references to God and prayer. There really wasn't much in the way of a mystery and it was solved very quickly. To me, the story felt like it was meant for middle graders.

About the Author

Naomi Miller mixes up a batch of intrigue, sprinkled with Amish, Mennonite, & English characters, adding a pinch of mystery – and a dash of romance!
Naomi’s day is spent focusing on her writing, editing, and blogging about her experiences with writing. When she’s not working diligently to finish the next book in her Sweet Shop Mystery series, Naomi tries to make time for attending workshops and writers conferences. One of her favorites is the four-day event that the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) organization holds annually.
Naomi also enjoys traveling with her family, singing inspirational/gospel music, taking a daily walk, and witnessing to others of the amazing grace of Jesus Christ.

Guest Post from Naomi Miller

Hello! I’m Naomi Miller — and I’m honored to be featured on Celebrate Lit!
I want to share with you how the title and cover for my debut book, Blueberry Cupcake Mystery, was chosen. This is a story I haven’t shared with anyone else — yet. The story behind the blueberry cupcake…
I was actually writing an Amish suspense novel last winter, when God placed it on my heart to write a shorter story — a cozy mystery, with no suspense, no danger, but plenty of faith, family, compassion and community.
While thinking of the best way to begin the story, my daughter made a batch of blueberry cupcakes, which happen to be one of my favorite treats. Of course, the idea to use a favorite treat was too good to resist. Then, during the early days of writing, I began experimenting with the idea of baking cupcakes — but adding blueberries before baking. Two favorite treats in one!
And there you have it . . . once we had a picture of a blueberry cupcake, the designer quickly sent back a cover I fell in love with (although there were a few more tweaks before the final cover was approved).
I actually began writing many years ago — 1990 to be exact. But I had just become a single mom and I didn’t have time to pursue it. I wrote notes, letters, articles, short stories, and I occasionally thought about a career as a novelist, but not once did I consider that dream to ever become a reality.
Several years ago, after my children were grown, my daughter challenged me to write a novel. I began a sweet, Amish fiction story about a young girl—but about halfway into the story, someone was almost murdered! Needless to say, I was surprised, but kept going. Once done, I went back to the beginning to do a major re-write on what was now an Amish suspense novel.
And that’s . . . the rest of the story.
I’m also excited to be doing two special giveaways — 1) a gift bag full of treats and 2) an advanced reader digital copy of Christmas Cookie Mystery (but you’ll have to wait for it)!
In the meantime, here’s the recipe for those delicious blueberry cupcakes
Blueberry Cupcakes
Ingredients1 white or yellow cake mix
2 cups fresh blueberries
3 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1 1/3 cup water

Prepare cake mix according to the directions. Add blueberries and fold into batter. Bake following instructions on cake mix box.
Icing1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp. milk
additional milk as needed

DirectionsPrepare icing, mixing small amounts of confectioner’s sugar with milk to desired consistency. Spread onto cooled cupcakes.

Blog Stops

August 23: Blogging With Carol
August 24: cherylbbookblog
August 25: A Greater Yes
August 25: A Holland Reads
August 25: Mary Hake
August 26: Gypsy Road
August 27: Bigreadersite
August 27: Bibliophile Reviews
August 28: Lighthouse Academy
August 28: Book Babble
August 29: Karilyn Putt
August 30: Daysong Reflections
August 31: Quiet Quilter
September 1: Lights in a Dark World
September 1: Just Commonly
September 3: Bukwurmzzz
September 4: Ashley’s Bookshelf
September 4: just the write escape


To celebrate her tour, Naomi is giving away a gift bag full of treats and an advanced copy of her new book Christmas Cookie Mystery! Click here to enter:
"Blueberry Cupcake Mystery" is available in paperback:
  • Series: Amish Sweet Shop Mysteries
  • Paperback: 154 pages
  • Publisher: S&G Publishing; First edition (May 27, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0692701370
  • ISBN-13: 978-0692701379
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 8 inches

and in Kindle edition:
  • File Size: 3241 KB
  • Print Length: 156 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: S&G Publishing; 1 edition (May 31, 2016)
  • Publication Date: May 31, 2016
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01E3A1ATC

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review during the Celebrate Lit blog tour. All thoughts and opinions are my own and no other compensation was received.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Book Review: "Finding Love in Big Sky, Montana" by Angela Ruth Strong

Paisley Sheridan needs a little help getting the ranch she inherited fixed up to be a camp and retreat center. She doesn't count on that help coming in the form of Josh Lake who broke her heart in high school. Will she be able to keep her heart sealed until he goes away again? 

Josh Lake doesn't expect to run into Paisley Sheridan at a coffee house in Montana. He is embarrassed to admit he doesn't have any money and works out a trade with her for his room and board at her ranch. The longer he is there, the less sure he is of what he wants in life. Will he be able to find a treasure this Christmas more valuable than all the possessions he had?

"Finding Love in Big Sky, Montana" is the 2nd book in the "Resort to Love" series by Angela Ruth Strong. The main characters from the first book show up in this book, but it's more of a cameo appearance so this book could be read as a standalone. (But I say, "You want to read the first one because it's really good, too!" **and at the time of my review, it is free for Kindle**) Paisley and Josh were very easy to relate with. I didn't totally understand some of their reasoning at first, but as the book progressed, I came to understand why they felt and acted the way that they did. Dot and Annabel were hilarious and added just the right amount of humor into the story. I liked getting to know Sam Lake a little better, too, and am impatiently waiting for his story. I liked the way that the author worked the star theme throughout the book and weaved in Bible truths in a smooth and easy manner. I laughed, I cried, I wanted to shake some of the characters... I had to force myself to put the book down to do things like make food, clean, sleep. I could easily see this as a made for TV movie. The scenery was beautiful and the characters believable.

"Finding Love in Big Sky, Montana" is available for Kindle:
  • File Size: 3058 KB
  • Print Length: 273 pages
  • Publisher: Mountain Brook Ink (September 1, 2016)
  • Publication Date: September 1, 2016
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01GIML1H4

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and no other compensation was received.

First Day of School

Our school district again got a waiver from the state to be able to start school before Labor Day. They also changed the teacher training days from 1 all day session to 2 half day sessions. This makes the same amount of teaching time count as 2 school days with the state instead of just 1. Hopefully these changes will keep us from having to go past our currently scheduled last day of school (June 7).

Sarah in front of the school sign

Sarah at her locker 

We saw my nephew as we were getting ready to leave 

Andy in front of his locker

Andy with his teacher, Mrs. St. Denis (a new to us teacher)

Andy at his desk

William by his locker

William with his teacher, Mrs. Baker (both girls had her, also)

Emily by her locker

Emily with her teacher, Mrs. Zank (Sarah had her, too)

Emily at her spot

Sarah getting off the bus for the first time

Will getting off the bus for the first time

Andy getting off the bus for the first time

Emily getting off the bus for the first time

Sarah getting on the bus for the first time

Will getting on the bus for the first time

Emily getting on the bus for the first time

Andy getting on the bus for the first time

Monday, August 29, 2016

Book Review: "Garden of Eden: Beautiful Bible Scenes to Color and Inspire"

"Garden of Eden: Beautiful Bible Scenes to Color and Inspire" is a coloring book for adults that tells the story of the Garden of Eden from the Bible. There are Bible verses on all but 5 sets of pages that tell the story of creation and then the eating of the forbidden fruit and ending with Adam and Eve's banishment from the garden.There are a variety of types of pictures to color from very detailed and realistic, to fanciful and fun. Most of the pages feature a two page spread where both pages make up one picture, but there are some that have individual pictures on either side. I really liked the pictures in the book except for the fact that Adam's neck seems really long and unnatural looking. The pictures are tasteful and nothing shows that would be inappropriate for children. (ie, Eve has a lot of hair)

"Garden of Eden" is available in paperback:
  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan; Clr Csm edition (June 28, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310759757
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310759751
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 0.4 x 10 inches

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through the zblogsquad in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and no other compensation was received.

Book Review, Tour, and Giveaway: "The Honeybee Sisters series" by Jennifer Beckstrand

"The Honeybee Sisters" series by Jennifer Beckstrand contains three books, each following one of the Christner sisters who are known as the "Honeybee sisters" because of their bee keeping business.

"Sweet as Honey" is Lily's story. She thinks she has her life figured out until Dan Kanagy comes back to town and causes confusion when he acts friendly one minute and calls her names the next. Her boyfriend, Paul Glick, has protected her since they were in 8th grade, but she starts to wonder who to believe when stories don't match up.

Dan Kanagy has loved Lily since they were in 8th grade, but he hasn't been able to get past Paul Glick. When Dan sees that Paul is crushing Lily's spirit, he decides to try and win Lily away from him. Will he get the girl before it is too late?

I really enjoyed reading "Sweet as Honey" and finished it in a day. Dan's enthusiasm was contagious and I found myself smiling at his antics. You could feel Lily's pain and confusion. Aendi Bitsy was a hoot and you never knew what to expect from her. The dialog flowed well and I felt as if I was in the room with the characters. I enjoyed the little glimpses of what would be to come in the other sisters' stories based on the conversations between Dan and his best friends. I liked the little comments that went along with the recipes in the back.

"A Bee in Her Bonnet" is Poppy's story. She jumps in to do whatever is  necessary to protect her sisters and aunt. She has even punched boys in the past for hurting her sisters. She is trying to stay under control, but Luke Bontrager is arrogant and thinks his way is the best way.

Luke Bontrager can't stand Poppy's stubborn ways. He much prefers quiet, submissive girls like Dinah Eicher--until he realizes he doesn't. Will he be able to win Poppy's heart after messing up so many times?

I enjoyed watching Poppy and Luke's relationship grow two steps forward and one step backward. (or in their case, one step forward and two steps backward!) "A Bee in Her Bonnet" starts a week after the events in the first book and can be read as a stand alone book, but you get more out of it by reading it after "Sweet as Honey". The troublemaker is back from the first book as the sisters still don't know who it is that has been tormenting them. Paul Glick makes an appearance and having read "Sweet as Honey" helps to understand the interactions with him. I liked the Christian growth that the characters experienced. This book was fun and fast to read.

"Like a Bee to Honey" is Rose's story. Rose is tired of being frightened by everything, but she also doesn't want to be pitied, or to be anyone's charity project. She is sure that Josiah Yoder is being kind to her because he feels it is his Christian duty to be nice to poor, frightened Rose.

Josiah Yoder has been in love with Rose for four years, but he knows he has to move slowly or she will be scared off. Can he win her heart or will she hide away?

I liked watching Rose open up and work on being braver. Josiah was sweet and gentle. There were times I cried while reading "Like a Bee to Honey". I liked how the storyline of the troublemakers was carried through the series and finally resolved in this book. This book starts a week after the 2nd book ends and can be read as a stand alone, but I think it would be best to read them in order to gain the full experience of the series. I appreciated the gospel being woven through the book and how the characters learned more about themselves and changed for the better. As with the other two books, there are recipes included at the end of the book along with notes from Rose.

I liked how the books had the three sisters on each one wearing their favorite color with the sister who's story it was in the front holding the flower that matched her name.

About the Author

Jennifer Beckstrand is the bestselling Amish romance author of The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hillseries for Kensington Books. Huckleberry Summer was nominated for the RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Award and the 2015 RITA® Award, and Huckleberry Hill won the 2014 LIME Award for Inspirational fiction. Both Huckleberry Hill and Huckleberry Christmas appeared in list of top ten inspirational books for 2014.
Jennifer has always been drawn to the strong faith and the enduring family ties of the Plain people and loves writing about the antics of Anna and Felty Helmuth. Jennifer has a degree in mathematics and a background in editing. She and her husband have been married for thirty years, and she has four daughters, two sons, and four adorable grandchildren, whom she spoils rotten.

Guest Post from Jennifer Beckstrand

Lily, Poppy, and Rose Christner are known as the Honeybee Sisters in their Wisconsin Amish community because they keep bees and sell the honey they pull from their beehives. The orphaned sisters came to live with their aunt Bitsy when they were very young. Aunt Bitsy was an Englischer for twenty years, but she is trying to raise her nieces to be gute and devout Amish girls.
Still, Aunt Bitsy is a bit eccentric and has brought some of the Englisch ways with her to the Honeybee Farm. She wears her dangly earrings when she’s in a bad mood, sports temporary tattoos just for fun, keeps a shotgun by the front door, and has a cat named Farrah Fawcett. (Bitsy simply adored “Charlie’s Angels.”)
With the honey they pull from their hives, the Honeybee schwesters make all sorts of appeditlich, delicious, things to eat. Their baking and their beauty attract boys to the Honeybee Farm, so Aunt Bitsy has to keep her shotgun handy to ward off the would-be suitors.
Many of the Honeybee Sisters’ recipes are included at the back of the three Honeybee Sister novels. Many more can be found in The Honeybee Sisters Cookbook available on Amazon and other online bookstores.
I hope you’ll fall in love with the Honeybee sisters, Aunt Bitsy, and their incomparable Bienenstich (Bee Sting) Cake—which recipe is included in both the cookbook and Sweet as Honey.
Here is a recipe the Honeybee Sisters would definitely make. My dear friend gave me some of these caramels for Christmas last year, and they are heavenly. The honey is used in place of the more-common corn syrup and gives the caramels a rich, deep flavor. My favorite thing about these caramels is the coarse sea salt that gives the caramels a salty crunch. Yummy!
Honey Vanilla Caramels
1 ½ cup sugar
½ cup honey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup salted butter, cut into bits
Coarse sea salt
 Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a clay, enamel, glass, plastic, or stainless steel (non-reactive) pot, combine the sugar, honey, and vanilla extract. Mix everything together using a large rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Cook over medium-low heat until the sugar melts. When the sugar has melted, increase heat to medium and cook until the mixture caramelizes and is a deep amber color. Do not stir the mixture once it starts to boil. Instead, swirl it around occasionally with the pan’s handle. (This will help the caramel cook more evenly.)
While the caramel is cooking, place the heavy cream in a small saucepan on low heat. As soon as it reaches a simmer, remove pan from the heat and set aside.
When the caramel has reached a deep amber color, reduce heat to low and slowly whisk in the bits of butter. Whisk well until the butter is completely melted.
Add the warm cream and whisk until smooth.
Turn the heat back up to medium and cook until the caramel reaches a temperature of 245°. Carefully pour the hot caramel onto the parchment-lined cookie sheet. Let it rest for about 8 minutes, then sprinkle with desired amount of sea salt.
Cool completely (about three hours), before cutting into squares and wrapping with parchment paper.
(Adapted from
Blog Stops
August 25: A Reader’s Brain
August 28: The Power of Words
August 31: cherylbbookblog
August 31: Quiet Quilter
September 1: Rhonda’s Doings
September 1: Book Babble
September 2: Lighthouse Academy
September 4: Bukwurmzzz
September 5: Donna’s BookShelf
September 7: Blogging with Carol


To celebrate her tour, Jennifer is giving away five copies of The Honeybee Sisters Cookbook! Click here to enter:  (I have this book and will be reviewing it on my blog October 2nd. It is nice!)

"Sweet as Honey" is available in paperback:
  • Series: The Honeybee Sisters (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Zebra (June 28, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1420140205
  • ISBN-13: 978-1420140200
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.8 inches

and in Kindle edition:
  • File Size: 1358 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Zebra (June 28, 2016)
  • Publication Date: June 28, 2016
  • Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0165HUVPK

"A Bee in Her Bonnet" is available in paperback:
  • Series: The Honeybee Sisters (Book 2)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Zebra (July 26, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1420140221
  • ISBN-13: 978-1420140224
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 6.8 inches

and in Kindle edition:
  • File Size: 813 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Zebra (July 26, 2016)
  • Publication Date: July 26, 2016
  • Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B017G7HDJU

"Like a Bee to Honey" is available in paperback:
  • Series: The Honeybee Sisters (Book 3)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Zebra (August 30, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1420140248
  • ISBN-13: 978-1420140248
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 6.8 inches

and in Kindle edition:
  • File Size: 988 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Zebra (August 30, 2016)
  • Publication Date: August 30, 2016
  • Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0190HGU5C

I received free copies of these books through Netgalley in exchange for my honest review so I could participate in the Celebrate Lit blog tour. All thoughts and opinions are my own and no other compensation was received.