Monday, July 26, 2021

Reviewing: Fallen by LInda Castillo

From the Publisher:

When a young woman is found murdered in a Painters Mill motel, Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is shocked to discover she once knew the victim. Rachael Schwartz was a charming but troubled Amish girl


who left the fold years ago and fled Painters Mill. Why was she back in town? And who would kill her so brutally?

Kate remembers Rachael as the only girl who was as bad at being Amish as Kate was—and those parallels dog her. But the more Kate learns about Rachael's life, the more she's convinced that her dubious reputation was deserved. As a child, Rachael was a rowdy rule breaker whose decision to leave devastated her parents and best friend. As an adult, she was charismatic and beautiful, a rabble-rouser with a keen eye for opportunity no matter who got in her way. Her no-holds-barred lifestyle earned her a lot of love and enemies aplenty—both English and Amish.

As the case heats to a fever pitch and long-buried secrets resurface, a killer haunts Painters Mill. Someone doesn’t want Rachael’s past—or the mysteries she took with her to the grave—coming to light. As Kate digs deeper, violence strikes again, this time hitting close to home. Will Kate uncover the truth and bring a murderer to justice? Or will a killer bent on protecting a terrible past stop her once and for all—and let the fallen be forgotten?

My Thoughts:

Fallen is the first book I have read by Linda Castillo.  It is very different that I expected. Although this book is #13 in a series, I found it to stand on its own nicely. It opens with a hook that will keep you reading. It is full of suspense with a few chapters that flashed back to other times in the lives of those involved.  The Chief of Police, Kate Burkholder is a former member of the Amish community where the murder occurred.   Knowing what she knows about the families involved certainly helped solve the crime but she soon learned that she didn't really know them at all.

 No spoilers allowed on my watch but I will say that although I can usually solve the mystery before the end of the story, this one took me nearly to the end.  I was stunned by the ending, but as it was all unfolded, it made sense.  I was just very surprised.  Well written and definitely not your usual Amish fiction.  It was a good read as I relaxed on a much needed vacation.  This book will appeal to those who enjoy a good mystery.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

The Return to the Big Valley by Wanda E Brunstetter, Jean Brunstetter and Richelle Brunstetter

 ...from the publisher...

The Brunstetters Return to a Unique Amish Setting for Three New Stories of Love
 
Journey back to an area of Pennsylvania that is home to three distinct Amish communities and meet three young women who face heartfelt disappointments in romance.
 
Wilma’s Wish by Wanda E. Brunstetter

Wilma Hostetler has been courted by Israel Zook for the last year, and he’s recently proposed marriage. But when his sister dies, leaving him to care for five young nephews who openly dislike Wilma, she has second thoughts of starting with a ready-made family and decides to call off the wedding. Can anything be done to restore the relationship, or will Israel seek another wife?
 
Martha’s Miracle by Jean Brunstetter
Martha Yoder is different from other Amish women in her love of hunting and the outdoors. Meeting Glen Swarey, who is working with the local fire department, seems to be a good match. But can Martha accept Glen’s thoughts of leaving the Amish faith, or will she walk away from a chance at love?
 
Alma’s Acceptance by Richelle Brunstetter
Alma Wengerd is a young widow who leaves her home in Kentucky to stay with friends in Pennsylvania. Soon she is speeding into a renewed romance with Elias Kurtz and raising the brows of the older church members. When Alma is waylaid by some unexpected news, could putting her happiness with Elias on hold be her only option?

...my thoughts...

Return to the Big Valley is a delightful collection of three novellas written in collaboration by Wanda E Brunstetter, Jean Brunstetter and Richelle Brunstetter.  Three generations of Brunstetter women have once again taken u to the Big Valley and the lives of three Amish women.  

Wilma's Wish is a test of strength for Wilma, who wasn't keen on the idea of a ready made family when her fiancee Israel becomes guardian for his five nephews. Taking on responsibility of this sort would give anyone pause, but these five boys give her a run for the money and Wilma can't seem to do anything to help the boys adjust to their new home let alone accept her as their future aunt and mother figure.  The situation seems hopeless, but long favored Amish author Wanda E Brusntetter wrapped this story up with a charming conclusion that will warm the reader's heart.

Martha's Miracle, by Jean Brunstetter is a unique story in that Martha is not your typical Amish woman, well versed in home keeping, quilting or preserving the garden bounty.  It would seem that she is in danger of becoming a spinster but for the chance to be courted by a charming fireman intent on leaving their faith. I enjoyed this story first off because Martha is not your typical Amish woman. It is an intriguing story.

Alma's Acceptance by Richelle Brunstetter introduces to yet another young Amish woman who has what seems like an impossible dilemma.  Widowed, she returns to her childhood community, hoping a change of scenery can help her recover from the loss of her husband.  Ironically, she happens to reconnect with an old friend she hadn't seen since her family moved to Kentucky when she was a young teen.  He has never forgotten Alma, nor connected to or married anyone.  This story has a twist that has bishops from both communities conferring until a solution is met that satisfies all.

I enjoy reading this type of fiction not only for the entertainment, but for the glimpse into the Amish way of life.  Not saddled with the cares of the "modern" way of life, they still live, love and enjoy life in their own community.  Wanda E, Brunstetter, her daughter-in-law Jean and now granddaughter Richelle have long standing ties to the Amish community.  While these stories are fiction, they are entertaining and often have a bit of a life lesson inside. 

 

Monday, June 7, 2021

Radar Girls Sara Ackerman

 ...from the publisher...

An extraordinary story inspired by the real Women’s Air Raid Defense, where an unlikely recruit and her sisters-in-arms forge their place in WWII history.

Daisy Wilder prefers the company of horses to people, bare feet and salt water to high heels and society parties. Then, in the dizzying aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Daisy enlists in a top secret program, replacing male soldiers in a war zone for the first time. Under fear of imminent invasion, the WARDs guide pilots into blacked-out airstrips and track unidentified planes across Pacific skies.  

But not everyone thinks the women are up to the job, and the new recruits must rise above their differences and work side by side despite the resistance and heartache they meet along the way. With America’s future on the line, Daisy is determined to prove herself worthy. And with the man she’s falling for out on the front lines, she cannot fail. From radar towers on remote mountaintops to flooded bomb shelters, she’ll need her new team when the stakes are highest. Because the most important battles are fought—and won—together.

This inspiring and uplifting tale of pioneering, unsung heroines vividly transports the reader to wartime Hawaii, where one woman’s call to duty leads her to find courage, strength and sisterhood. 

...my thoughts...

What an incredible story! I had the pleasure of listening to Red Sky Over Hawaii, by Sara Ackerman at the same time I was reading Radar Girls.  Two very good books about WWII set in Hawaii.

Radar Girls is the story of the brave women who stepped into the roles vacated by the men who left to fight in WWII.  The training was intense and it took a lot of courage and skill to guide the pilots home under trying the most trying circumstances.  The research for this book was impeccable and the author has you on the edge of your chair as the Rascal calculates distance, altitude and weather conditions for the safe return of pilots who were nearly lost to sea.  The brave WARDs were an unknown entity in the beginning and came to earn the respect and admiration of men who thought the women were treading into a man's world.

The story takes on several turns, for it wouldn't be a good story without the personal stories of romance, coming of age, sorrow and loss mixed in with a devastating war.  I encourage anyone who enjoys a well written war romance to pick up a copy of Radar Girls.  What an amazing role in our history these unforgettable women shared.

Reviewing: The Pleasure of His Company by Dutch Sheets

...from the publisher...

With profound biblical insights and personal stories, bestselling author Dutch Sheets takes you on a 30-day journey to cultivating--and enjoying--deeper intimacy with God.

...my thoughts...

I read The Pleasure of His Company A Journey to Intimate Friendship with God by Dutch Sheets along with the author's during a 30-day journey through Dutch's daily Give Him 15 posts. I looked forward to this special time each day.  The book is easy to read, entertaining and very profound.  Dutch's humor and wisdom shine through the written words but it is his deep faith and dedication to teaching that makes the book come alive.  I recommend this book to anyone who desires a closer relationship with the Lord.  This book is filled with insights from the bible and ways to get away from the bustle of the outside world for a while to recharge and restore  the spirit. Well Written and timeless!

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Rachel Fordham A Lady in Attendance

...from the publisher...

Five years in a New York state reformatory have left a blemish on Hazel's real name. So when she takes a job as Doctor Gilbert Watts's lady in attendance in 1898, she does so under an alias. In the presence of her quiet and pious employer, Hazel finds more than an income. She finds a friend and a hope that if she can set her tarnished past in order, she might have a future after all.

As Gilbert becomes accustomed to the pleasant chatter of his new dental assistant, he can't help but sense something secretive about her. Perhaps there is more to this woman than meets the eye. Can the questions that loom between them ever be answered? Or will the deeds of days gone by forever rob the future of its possibilities?

Rachel Fordham pens a tender tale of a soft-spoken man, a hardened woman, and the friends that stand by them as they work toward a common purpose--to expunge the record of someone society deemed beyond saving--and perhaps find love along the way.

...my thoughts... 

I enjoyed reading A Lady in Attendance!  What a novel idea for it's time, to have a lady in attendance at a dental office in 1898.  This is the second book by Rachel Fordham for me and she is becoming a favorite author for me. I like her style and this book hooked me from the beginning. 

Shy Gilbert had no idea what he was getting into when  he engaged Hazel as his Lady in Attendance.  Happily, she was much more than he could have dreamed of for efficiency and congenial personality with his patients.  Too shy for much of a chairside manner, she made up the difference.  Efficiency and quick thinking on her feet made him look forward to each morning when they began their day together. 

The dark side of the story was formidable, but wrapped up neatly in the end.  A little faith, compassion and love ruled the day and strategic writing made this book one you should add to your reading pile this summer!

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Letters Across the Sea by Genevieve Graham

 ...from the publisher...

1933

At eighteen years old, Molly Ryan dreams of becoming a journalist, but instead she spends her days working any job she can to help her family through the Depression crippling her city. The one bright spot in her life is watching baseball with her best friend, Hannah Dreyfus, and sneaking glances at Hannah’s handsome older brother, Max.

But as the summer unfolds, more and more of Hitler’s hateful ideas cross the sea and “Swastika Clubs” and “No Jews Allowed” signs spring up around Toronto, a city already simmering with mass unemployment, protests, and unrest. When tensions between the Irish and Jewish communities erupt in a riot one smouldering day in August, Molly and Max are caught in the middle, with devastating consequences for both their families.

1939

Six years later, the Depression has eased and Molly is a reporter at her local paper. But a new war is on the horizon, putting everyone she cares about most in peril. As letters trickle in from overseas, Molly is fored to confront what happened all those years ago, but is it too late to make things right?

From the desperate streets of Toronto to the embattled shores of Hong Kong, Letters Across the Sea is a poignant novel about the enduring power of love to cross dangerous divides even in the darkest of times—from the #1 bestselling author of The Forgotten Home Child.

...my thoughts...

I enjoy historical fiction and Letter Across the Sea was a captivating story.  The glimpse into how the war affected our Canadian neighbors shows how far this terrible war truly spread its web across the world. I was taken aback at the way lifelong friendships were impacted not only by anti-antisemitism but also political ideology.  

The book starts out during the Great Depression leading up to the war.  Growing up my parents spoke of the depression.  Their sacrifices led to lifelong habits where nothing was wasted, especially food.  Reading the accounts written by Genevieve Graham brought their plight to life.

This story is not about victory gardens and ration books.  The harsh realities of Max and Molly's story and the aftermath of the riots in Toronto are compelling.  Letters Across the Sea is one of those memorable books that lingers long after it is been closed.  The characters are rich with the life they bring to the story. They are heroic whether they fought in a battle facing death, wasted away in a P.O.W. camp constantly under duress or writing of the war and the conditions it leaves the world.  

I appreciate the new perspective this book has given me.  Many thanks to #NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book.  My opinions are mine


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

At LIghthouse Point by Suzanne Woods Fisher

...from the publisher...

Blaine Grayson returns to Three Sisters Island with a grand plan--to take Camp Kicking Moose to the


next level. Her dream starts to unravel when she discovers Moose Manor's kitchen has been badly remodeled by her sister, Cam, who doesn't know how to cook. Added to that blow is the cold shoulder given by her best friend, Artie Lotosky, now a doctor to the unbridged Maine islands.
 
As old wounds are opened, Blaine starts to wonder if she made a mistake by coming home. Little by little, she must let go of one dream to discover a new one, opening her heart to a purpose and a future she had never imagined. 

Bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher invites you back to the coast of Maine for a story that reminds you to release what doesn't matter and cling to what does: faith, family, and friendships.

...my thoughts...

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Coming back to this island off the coast of Maine was like visiting one of those special places where the folks are genuine and thunderstorms are like the legendary storms from childhood.  Those storms just don't seem to last as long as those of old.  Lessons are learned on this trip and they impact the entire extended Grayson family.  At Lighthouse Point is the third book in Suzanne Woods Fisher's Three Sisters Island series.  I have read and reviewed each book in this series, beginning with book one, On A Summer Tide and continued with On a Coastal Breeze and culminating with At Lighthouse Point. Paul Grayson has three daughters so it was fitting that Three Sisters Island was named for Cam, Maddie and Blaine.  The series tells each daughter's story as they come into their own under the magic of this island and their unwavering faith.

As the family is reunited with Blaine's return from Paris, there is also a surprise visit from Paul's estranged father. On the surface, the family is a united front.  Within the separate rooms of the big house, everyone has something weighing on their minds.  Suzanne's talent at sorting things out shines through especially in this novel.  I won't add any spoilers but I will share that this is a fitting end to a wonderful series about a family that rediscovers what it means to "be there" when you are needed most.

I thank #NetGalley and #Revell for an advance copy of this book.  My opinions are mine to write and share.  I recommend this book to all who enjoy contemporary Christian fiction. 


Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Robin's Greeting by Wanda E Brunstetter is Fitting Solution to the Amish Greenhouse Mysteries!

...from the publisher... 

A Season of Hope Is Coming 

For the past two years Belinda King, along with her two grown daughters and teenage son, has been

struggling to keep the family greenhouse running. Despite disconcerting events that have threatened to put them out of business, they have survived two growing seasons. And now Belinda can focus on the two suitors vying for her attention. Herschel Fisher, a new acquaintance, makes her feel relaxed, and Monroe Esh, an admirer from her past, reminds her of her youth.

But just when Belinda thinks she can choose between her suitors, life throws more trials her way. Her son, Henry, becomes bitter about the idea of her dating anyone, and attacks on the greenhouse start again.

When can Belinda hope to experience the peace and love her weary heart longs for?

...my thoughts... 

I eagerly awaited for this book to be published and it did not disappoint me. For so many reasons, Wanda E Brunstetter hit the target on this series.  The sorrow from the beginning of the series to the joy that returned to the King family as they struggled to keep the greenhouse a vital business for their livelihood was a testament of faith and hope.  Each member of the family grew as they were stretched to their limits and their resilience was inspiring.

Challenge after challenge kept Belinda going when she could have easily closed the business and moved in with one of her married children. I admired her courage and willingness to keep moving ahead in spite of everything.  I also enjoyed her bit of romance.  I have read a lot of Amish fiction through the years and there are not many that include romance for widows with grown children.  It seems they just get moved to the Dawdi house.  Her suitors, Herschel Fisher and Monroe Esh offered a bit of pizazz to the story. It was down to good writing that one could see each man for who he was and I was pleased to see who won her heart.

I was very surprised at the ending of the story when we finally learned who was behind the attacks on the greenhouse.  I can usually come close to solving a mystery but this one surprised me.  I enjoyed this book and recommend this series to those who like Amish fiction with a bit of mystery involved.   The Robin's Greeting neatly ties everything together.  Many thanks to #NetGalley and Barbour Publishing for an advance copy for an honest review.  All opinions, however, are mine.


Thursday, March 25, 2021

Blackberry Beach Another Wonderful Visit to Hope Harbor

 

...from the publisher...

Katherine Parker is on the cusp of having everything she ever wanted--fame, money, and acclaim. So why isn't she happy? In search of answers, she comes incognito to Hope Harbor on the Oregon coast for some R&R. Maybe in her secluded rental house overlooking the serene Pacific she'll be able to calm the storm inside.

Coffee shop owner Zach Garrett has found his niche after a traumatic loss--and he has no plans to change the life he's created. Nor does he want to get involved with his reticent new neighbor, whose past is shrouded in mystery. He's had enough drama to last a lifetime. But when Katherine and Zach are recruited to help rehab a home for foster children, sparks fly. And as their lives begin to intersect, might they find more common ground than they expected . . . and discover that, with love, all things are possible?

Bestselling and award-winning author Irene Hannon invites you to come home to Hope Harbor--where hearts heal . . . and love blooms.

...my thoughts... 

I have long been a fan of Irene Hannon's books, whether it be her suspense novels or a trip to Hope Harbor.  Needles to say, I enjoyed reading Blackberry Beach.  I can almost hear the Gladys and Floyd, the resident seagull couple and feel the sand in my toes as I walk the beach. Blackberry Beach is a novel about second chances and taking life at a slower, but meaningful pace.

 For Katherine the life she was leading was nearly out of control and she wanted to simply enjoy her time alone, escaping notice from any other being. She was beginning to think her incognito stay in a luxurious beach house was a success when she met Zach and his aunt Stephanie.  Not used to people she could trust, it was a blessing to find that things in Hope Harbor were truly different. 

 Zach's new life as a successful coffee shop owner is what he hoped it would be.  If only his father would see things his way and  understand that even though he left a big salary behind, he had everything he needed. Everything, that is except someone to share that happiness with him in peaceful Hope Harbor. 

Charley, the resident sage, fish taco chef and successful painter turns up at the most interesting times, sharing uncanny wisdom that is so in sync with others concerns to make them wonder just a little, how one man can possibly know....yet he does.

I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys good clean stories of the heart.  I received this book from the publisher, Revell and netalley. My opinions are my own.  

Sunday, March 21, 2021

...from the publisher...

When wild child Sophie Deiner--the daughter of an Amish bishop--is forced to return to Nappanee, Indiana, quilt-shop owner Jane Berger is one of only a few who welcome her back. It's the last place she wants to be, but Sophie's recent illness requires that she recover for a while.

As Sophie heals, she befriends a group of migrant workers and is appalled to learn of the wretched living conditions they're forced to endure. Sophie begins advocating on their behalf, but soon finds herself opposed by an ex-boyfriend who is the farm foreman.


Jane begins relating the story of an Amish couple who rescued survivors of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, many of whom were Irish immigrants. And Sophie is more convinced than ever that she needs to fight for the powerless. But when digging deeper makes conditions even worse, has she chosen a fight she can't win?

...my thoughts...

Coming back to Nappanee, Indiana, we learn Sophie's story. In ill health she has a lot of bridges to mend, some created by misunderstanding and gossip and others simply by the tangled web of feelings between mother and daughter.  It was good to see the story of her relationship between Sophie and her mother come to light.  The complications created by expectations and lack of understanding are complicated and the author did a good job revealing this, often through the family stories shared by Jane Berger around the quilting circle. 

 I am a fan of Amish fiction, and  have often enjoyed reading Leslie Gould's work. I was, however, disappointed in this book with it's political slant and nearly didn't finish it. However, I wanted to see how things turned out for Sophie and for Jane to finally finish her story on the Chicago fire. I received an advance copy of this book from Bethany House publishers from netgalley.com for an honest review.  My opinions are my own.