Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Review: The Newcomer by Suzanne Woods Fisher

The Newcomer, Amish Beginnings book 2 by Suzanne Woods Fisher is the book everyone who read Anna's Crossing has been waiting for. I enjoyed reading Anna Konig's story about crossing the Atlantic in the Charming Nancy.  In the end I wanted to know more about this resilient young woman who fled religious persecution in Germany to an unsettled land so far from the beloved grandparents she left behind.

Our story begins in October 1737 in Philadelphia.  Anna and her fellow church family are waiting to disembark and move to the land their bishop Jacob Bauer purchased just a year before.

In additions to Anna, the church passengers include:
 Jacob's wife Dorothea and his youngest son Felix; Christian Muller, the Amish minister and his wife Maria and daughter Catrina; Isaac Mast and his grown son Peter as well as Josef Gerber and his wife Barbara along with their twin toddler boys and Simon Miller.

Product DetailsOn board ship, Anna met and fell in love with Bairn, the ship's carpenter.  As it turned out, Bairn is the son of Jacob and Dorothea, who was thought to have been lost at sea on Jacob's first Atlantic crossing.

One thing I enjoyed about the story to begin with is that it is historical fiction. Suzanne is a master story teller and her research is superb. I like how she can weave historical characters like Benjamin Franklin into her stories. In this book in particular, she captures what we know is his jovial nature when he befriends 8-year old Felix. He encourages Felix and the boy learns first hand the importance of learning the language of his new home to keep his inquisitiveness alive.  Felix, whose mischievous nature thirsts for excitement leads us on antics that help to neatly tie up the story as he brings people together.

Bairn, for his part, long separated from his family and church is indecisive about what his future holds.  Can he avoid the call of one more call from the sea?  Can he go back to the Amish ways he was removed from so many years ago?  Is his love for Anna enough for him to stay for a life with her?

Complicating matters is the arrival of a newcomer, Henrik Newman who arrived on another ship from Germany. He is charming and he is eager to please everyone  he meets. He is a take charge man who seems to have answers for everything. He is taken with Anna but can she give her heart to him when she has already given it to an absent Bairn?

When the party is finally on land they are separated from Jacob once more as he and Dorothea journey ahead to their new settlement in the wilderness near the  top Schuylkill River.  When the others followed, joined by the newcomer only to arrive at an empty cabin. Nothing, so far turned out to be what everyone thought it would be.

It would be unfair of me to truly give away the whole story. I will say though that continues to amaze me how our country was settled. In a land so vast and unsettled it would have frightened me to be so removed from the life I was accustomed to.  Resilience, courage and a strong faith kept them going. Among all that were real people.  I thank Suzanne for bringing their stories alive. Suzanne Woods Fisher is an award winning, best selling author, who is well known for her works in Amish fiction and non-fiction. I heartily recommend this book along with book 1 of this series, The Charming Nancy.  Each book can be read as a standalone copy but it if you are like me you want more to the story.

Who gets the girl you wonder?  Read the book to find out. It is available at your favorite bookseller.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Leslie Gould's Amish Weddings

Whenever I read a book written by Leslie Gould I am immediately hooked by the characters she creates. If the book is part of series it is even better!  Amish Weddings, Neighbors of Lancaster County series book three is a book I heartily recommend if you enjoy stories of faith, love and forgiveness.

Set in Lancaster County, the story begins with the upcoming wedding plans for Lila Lehman and Zane Beck. I enjoyed their story in Amish Sweethearts and was pleased to tag along for their upcoming wedding.  Their plans are disrupted, however, when Lila is critically injured in a buggy accident. With a long recovery looming she must recover not only her bodily strength but also her spiritual strength.

Zane's love pours itself out in numerous ways as this man who gave up his Englisch life navigates a system that is far different in the plain world.  Uncertainty is like a shroud that threatens their future happiness.

Lila's sister Rose is a lively young woman who enjoys a good time but is ready to settle down with Reuben Byler, the bishop's son.  Reuben is waiting to settle on announcing a marriage to Rose until after Lila and Zane are wed. Rose is captivated by a young man who served in Afghanistan with Zane. He is as exciting to Rose as the bright red sports car he drives.  He is the opposite of Reuben and quick to declare how he feels about Rose.

Tim Lehman, the girls' widowed father enjoys keeping company with Beth Yoder.  He would marry her in a heartbeat if not for her long ago divorce. The divorce is like a shadow over the relationship because the church does not recognize divorce.

This is Rose's story and the journey she completes toward becoming a woman in her own right. Her mother died when she was just a little girl and she was raised by Lila who was just a girl herself. Her father was busy keeping them fed and housed as a single parent. She is an impetuous young woman who faces consequences that bring her full circle to the woman she was meant to be.  At times I was angry with her and  others I felt she was just a young woman who lost her mother's love and guidance far too soon.  I was happy with the ending of the story and am happy to recommend Amish Weddings without reservation.










Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Reviewing Moonbow Night by Laura Frantz


A Moonbow Night by [Frantz, Laura]Laura Frantz' latest book Moonbow Night is set in the days of Daniel Boone when our country was largely unexplored.  With a lush backdrop one could hardly expect trouble to find its way into peaceful meadows and spectacular waterfalls.  Yet, in 1777, the Revolutionary War was being fought on the one hand and surveyors were marking off land to be taken by settlers eager to own acreage. Danger surrounds the world of Temperance Tucker and  her family.  Fronting the Shawnee River, her family built the Moonbow Inn, a haven for travelers and traders alike.  Her father had trouble with surveyors and lived well hidden beyond the inn. He trained Tucker to hunt, shoot and track better than most men. Her brother, mother and dear friend cooked and cared for weary travelers.

Sion Morgan led a surveying team over the dangerous territory. Weary and hungry his team stopped at the Moonbow and here is where the story really begins.  As fate would have it, the group needs a guide into dangerous areas filled with Native Americans who have no patience for these  surveying "land stealers." Temperance is charged with guiding the team at the behest of her father.  The danger is great but it doesn't take long for Sion to realize she can hold her own to his skill with tracking and shoots as well as he.  She is an unwilling guide but the story provides her a rich journey and the love of a man worthy of her.  

I received a copy of Moonbow Night from Revell for an honest review and I enjoyed many hours reading it.   I was intrigued by the title and all the more so when I learned that "Moonbows or lunar rainbows are rare natural atmospheric phenomena that occur when the Moon’s light is reflected and refracted off water droplets in the air."   
I would love to see a moonbow!  Laura Frantz is a wonderful story teller, weaving history into the lives of the rich characters she creates.  If you enjoy historical fiction I recommend you reserve a copy of this book for your collection. I am in awe of the men and women who settled our country and faced countless trials with more courage than I can imagine. 








Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Primary Decision Is full of Intrigue and Suspense

A Primary Decision by Dr. Kevin Leman and Jeff Nesbit is sure to please anybody who likes intrigue found in the political arena.  The story centers on the powerful Worthington family from New York. The intrigue is supplied by forces who want to take this family down with lies and corruption. I discovered that A Primary Decision is book three in the Worthington Destiny series but nonetheless it can stand alone if you don't mind missing a little of the family background.

Sarah Worthington, the youngest child and only daughter of Bill and Ava Worthington has been tapped by the President of the United States to be the next Attorney General.  One who is forthright and able to give better than she gets, Sarah sails through the hearings and is sworn into office.   Once in office she sets her cap on the conspiracies rampant in Washington and begins proceedings to prosecute the same man who chose her to be the nation's number one attorney.  Truth, justice and nothing less than is the people's due propels her forward on her quest.

In the meantime, her brothers Will and Sean have their own agendas that keep the story lively.  Topping off the family story are the secret messages relayed between two unnamed sources who seem to be puppeteers holding strings above it all.

If you like mystery and politics, you will enjoy A Primary Decision. I received my copy from Revell for an honest review of the story. You decide if this book is ultimately your kind of thriller but this one, while full of corruption leaves out the x-rated fare Christian fiction lovers like to avoid.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Reviewing: Where Two Hearts Meet by Liz Johnson

Prince Edward Island is the setting for Where Two Hearts Meet and I have to admit that is what first caught my attention. After all I am a big fan of the Anne of Green Gables Series so naturally I wanted another glimpse of this beloved place.  It takes more than a lovely setting, however, for a book to hold its own. The characters need to come alive and resonate with the reader.

Caden Holt is the heroine of our story and like many who we encounter in our lives, she could be just that sweet shy young lady who is a fantastic cook.  She is so much more as Adam Jacobs discovers when he arrives at her kitchen door.

Adam is a journalist on sabbatical and is mistaken for the promised visitor from a renowned travel magazine that could fill up the inn for the next year. Caden is charged by her boss Marie to show Adam the island and all its charms. The problem is, Caden doesn't feel she has any charm to charm the journalist. 

I enjoyed this story, not just for the glimpse into the location but for the insight into two lives overcoming challenges that kept them 
This is the first time I have read a book written by Liz Johnson. I received my copy from Revell to provide an honest review and honestly, this was a good story for the message as well as the wonderful characters.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Journey to Blessings North Dakota in From This Day Forward

From This Day Forward (Song of Blessing Book #4) by [Snelling, Lauraine]From This Day Forward (Song of Blessing Book #4) by Lauraine Snelling is yet another fine tuned story of the wonderful people who settled in the fictional town of Blessings North  Dakota at the turn of the twentieth century.  This story is centered on Deborah MacCallister and Toby Valders.  Friends since their days at school, they have both come far as adults. She is now head nurse at the Blessing hospital and he is one of the leaders in the fast paced construction of the numerous buildings planned for a community that is bursting at the seams.  Deborah has long had feelings for Toby, who seems oblivious to anything beyond their long standing friendship.  She has always been there and he takes it for granted that she will remain his friend.  As she yearns for more, he is merely going through the motions of his life as his career catapults him from bed each day to work and back to bed again.  If it weren't for friends like Deborah and her mother keeping food in his icebox and doing his laundry he would have gone hungry and unkempt.

The hospital is also feeling the pinch of a growing community with shortages of doctors and nurses keeping the staff on hectic rotations.  Deborah is offered special training in Chicago that will give her many of the administrative skills that would ease the burden of the doctor and nurses who could better serve their patients using their medical skills.

The story has all the flavor of an old-fashioned town full of folk attending box suppers and raffling off quilts to support the community. At one such supper a handsome young teacher vies for Deborah's box supper,  outbidding Toby with an outrageous bid of $10.00.  Anton Gendarme out-maneuvered Toby with his charm and thick wallet.  Can he also steal Deborah's heart?

These events cause Toby to look at his life and to examine what he wants it to look like.  As Deborah travels to Chicago she leaves a bit of her heart in Blessing.  When she returns home after completing her training her heart is open to change. The change comes from a surprising source and makes her heart whole.

A trip to Blessing, home many Norwegian immigrants reminds me of how it must have been in the small German communities in Minnesota where my relatives settled in the same era. How it must have been a rich potpourri of culture melding together to build churches, schools and little towns where my farming family came to live and pray.  What a wonderful country we have and how fortunate to have authors such as Lauraine Snelling to keep these stories alive in her writing.  While our ancestors have come from all over the world I am sure their stories are similar. I recommend this book and the rest of the series for a look at the extraordinary ordinary days of those who came before us.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Reviewing: The Devoted by Suzanne Woods Fisher

The Devoted (The Bishop's Family Book #3): A Novel by [Fisher, Suzanne Woods]I recently read The Devoted by Suzanne Woods Fisher. This is book 3 in  The Bishop Family series and I have enjoyed watching David Stoltzfus' family grow through the years of the series. This story is no exception as we learn more about Ruthie who has grown into a desirable, loving yet independent young lady.  We also get to know David's Englisch sister Dr. Ruth for whom Ruthie is named. The two women's lives parallel as they go from caring for men who tug at their heart yet aren't necessarily good for them.  Both are at a crossroad in their lives. Ruthie has earned top scores on the GED test she secretly took and feels there must be more than living in her sleepy Amish community.  Her aunt is faced with leaving a hectic career as and emergency room doctor after taking the heat for another doctor's mistake.  Private practice could be the answer to her prayers to get back to making a real difference in people's lives.

Patrick Kelly is new to the area and captures Ruthie's attention. He wants to learn all he can about becoming Amish and he will only be there for thirty days. She is considering leaving the Amish community.  He hires her to teach him Pennsylvania Dutch while her brother Jesse will teach him how to drive a buggy. 

David enjoys many long talks about the faith with Patrick and soon learns things about his community that he was unaware of.  While the people seem to be living out their faith, some things seem to be letting small things go by the wayside. Business on Sunday? Driving golf carts? The bishop is growing concerned as word of how his community is sliding away from their way of life. It is inspiring how he comes to a solution for problems he could easily have simply put his foot down.  He is not one to rule with the iron fist of an old school bishop. His lessons are well worth the read
The story is a wonderful reminder of how important values are no matter your faith.  I enjoy going back to Stoney Ridge and reading of how favorite characters have evolved from story to story. Best selling author Suzanne Woods Fisher is a gifted writer whose stories keep us coming back for more. 


Monday, November 7, 2016

The Christmas Angel Project....An Inspiration for Your Christmas Season!

The Christmas Angel Project is just what I needed to read in the midst of the most difficult election cycles of my life. When you are surrounded by technology as we are today an inspirational spot of fiction offers relief and pleasure you just can't put a price tag on. That quiet corner where you comfortably sit and slow down to read is a haven from the outside world.

This review is late by my own admission but comes with my heartfelt recommendation. I didn't want this one to be buried with Halloween, Thanksgiving, or the latest trendy love story. This book is important. Melody Carlson once again delivers with this 2016 Christmas story that I believe will be worth reading again every holiday season.

Follow five very special women who share life through their book club. Abby, their unofficial leader has a special touch on every member's life. This year, she has made each member a special gift. As we open our story on  Thanksgiving evening she is finishing up her last special angel ornament for her beloved friends'. Each gift is intentional and speaks to each woman't special spiritual gift. Each woman has something to offer everyone yet has a need to develop that gift.

As fate would have it, Abby dies in her sleep that evening and her loving husband delivers her heartfelt gifts to the women of her club.  Stunned at Abby's sudden passing, the women try to determine the future of their unique group.  As they open their gifts they realize that their group is much more than just meeting every month to discuss the current book selection. They are so much  more than just what they see and Abby knew this.  This is a story about women we may have encountered in our lives with normal, every day problems and that is why it is so full of impact.

Please join me this season by reading this wonderful book about life and the simple things we do that have a large impact on the world we live in. Simple, complicated and guaranteed to make you cry and put you in the mood for an inspirational Christmas season.
Five stars for this wonderful, heartwarming book. I had a hard time putting it down and read late into the night.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Wish, A Story of Friendship, Love and Coming Home

Product Details
Renowned author of Amish
Fiction, Beverly Lewis has hit home once again with her latest book The Wish.  This time, her story centers on two  young ladies, Leona Spreicher and Gloria Gingerich.  Leona was a lonely girl, born late in life to parents who were quiet and reserved. She may as well  have been an only child with her much older married brother Mahlon.  She longed for a friendship. A friendship with someone her own age who she could confide in and have fun as only girls can have fun.  Her life seemed so quiet and ordinary. One day, a family from an Arkansas community became her neighbors. It was a lucky day for Leona when she met Gloria who was just the friend she longed for. She began spending time at the Gingerich home when her own mother was stricken with a debilitating case of pneumonia and couldn't care for Leona. Gloria's family was everything Leona's family was not with younger, fun loving parents and brothers to play games with.  This was the family she felt she should have been born into. Until one day, the family suddenly moved away from Colerain Township.  Gloria's father, Arkansas Joe had been expelled from the Old Order Amish church under mysterious circumstances.  The girls were both heartsick and Gloria vowed to stay in touch with Leona.

Leona still missed her dear friend after three years but her strong faith led her to become baptized. She had also become engaged and worked part-time in her sister-in-laws gift shop.  Her life was whole. One day, however, a letter came from Gloria that rocked her world. Her dear friend needed her and Leona was determined to go to Gloria and help in any way she could.  Gloria's new life leads Leona to take a leap of faith and with her fiancee's blessing becomes determined to bring Gloria back home.  She only hopes she is not too late.

This is an inspiring story of resilience where two young women never forgot their old childhood friendship.  It is also a story of true forgiveness and lessons learned when we forgive and move forward.  I enjoyed the book for the story but also the lessons. Sometimes when we think the grass must be greener in the neighbor's yard we need only to look at what we are growing at home and appreciate what we have.  I had a hard time putting this book down. As with every book I have read by Beverly Lewis, this story is well grounded, has well developed characters people can identify with, brings tears to my eyes and makes me happy I read it!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Mattie's Pledge: An Amish Woman's Journey to Indiana

Our world is full of dreamers looking for that magical place just beyond the mountains or across the river.  Mattie's Pledge (book 2 in the Journey to Pleasant Prairie series ) by Jan Drexler is the story of a young Amish woman who is seduced by wanderlust. Mattie Schrock left Brother's Valley in Pennsylvania with her family to settle in Indiana.  She loved the lure of seeing new places and longed for adventure and yearned to see what was just beyond the mountains.  Not new to pulling  up stakes, Mattie's father had moved the family to Brother's Valley from the Conestoga area just seven years before.

It was 1843 and Americans were involved with the westward movement, including the Amish people. Farmland was getting scarce and the promise of cheaper land and the opportunity to build a larger community moving west appealing.  We often read of the great migration to the Oregon but the Midwest was still largely unsettled at the time.

Jacob Yoder's family from the Conestoga area, former neighbors and friends of the Schrock's joined in to complete the group.  As old friends, Jacob and Mattie enjoyed reconnecting that travelling by wagon afforded them time to get to know each other as young adults with dreams and plans ready to unfold.  Jacob planned to purchase land and build a future home for a wife and family. Mattie was committed to adventure and had no desire to settle down in one place for the rest of her life.  Two hearts so close yet with such different dreams.

Traveling on any trail wouldn't be complete without danger. The Bates brothers added that element of danger with their determination to steal the beautiful Conestoga horses from the Amish camp.  Cole Bates was intrigued by Mattie and had just enough charm to give her romantic ideas to dream of going further to Oregon.  He was determined to have those horses and capture Mattie's heart for his own.

Product DetailsThis story shows the example of forgiveness of the Amish people. When Cole is caught red-handed trying to steal the horses, he is told to take just one team and leave the rest. Unable to figure out whether that was a trick, he let them be, at least that night. He was also offered food which was also an unexpected kindness.

Cole's greed and determination to have those horses keeps Jacob Yoder on guard throughout the trip.  His patience and vigilance throughout the story shows great patience and courage.  He used these traits with Mattie, knowing she was searching for something to fill up her life beyond her simple life.

Jan Drexler has painted the characters of her story with care. The development of  their characters and how they grew in the story are a compliment to the author. It was good to read of the ups and downs of their nature and see how they used their given strengths to get through their trials.  While the story focuses mainly on Mattie, Jacob and Cole, we can't overlook the other stories being told within the lives of these young people.  They are woven into the daily life on the trail and play active roles in shaping our main characters.

We can get as impatient as Mattie as the story plods along through a black marsh or becomes difficult as a tragic storm hits them on the road. Yet the resilience of all the people in this story are a testament to the strength men and women possessed to keep our country growing.  The Amish are an important part of our society, living out their Anabaptist faith still today.  America is a potpourri of culture and religions, the very thing our founders embraced.