Saturday, September 21, 2013

For Every Season

Working hard to develop a new Amish community outside of Unity, Maine, Rhoda Byler is fully committed to rehabilitating an orchard with business partner Samuel King. But an impulsive decision has created an unexpected strain in her relationship with her beau, Samuel’s brother, Jacob, threatening plans for the orchard. Amidst mounting tension in matters of the heart and business, Rhoda finds that this fledging settlement feels like the home she has always longed for, and she begins to embrace the God-given, heightened intuition that has always felt like a burden to her. She longs for Jacob to fully be free of his past, so they can work towards the future together.
But as Rhoda uses her gift to unpack an old secret with her Englisch neighbors, it is not her beau but an unlikely ally that cheers her on. With the orchard on shaky ground and Jacob’s plans in question, Rhoda is determined to see things through to harvest. But can she trust her insight to direct her path in matters of the heart?

I have been enjoying Rhoda Byler's journey thus far and was excited that For Every Season was available through the Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review. I was expecting the conclusion of the storyline and was surprised when it ended promising another edition in 2014. Rhoda and her friends and family have been through a lot of ups and downs throughout the first two books, and it seemed like perhaps things would finally settle down for them, but things just keep coming up that throw them all into a tailspin. This book continues with that trend, keeping the reader guessing about how each character will react to the new trials. I am looking forward to the next installment of the saga.

Harriet Beamer Strikes Gold

This story of a senior citizen daring to stand up for herself will resonate with Christian fiction readers everywhere.
In Harriet Beamer Strikes Gold by Joyce Magnin, Harriet settles into a new life in Grass Valley, California, and gets caught up in another adventure when she decides to lease a gold mine. After listening to the pleas of a desperate teen whose daddy needs money right away—and happens to have a gold mine to lease—Harriet falls hook, line, and sinker into the venture. Although she is nervous about her investment, Harriet chooses to keep it a secret from her son, Henry, and his wife who have just learned they are expecting a baby. And besides, this just may be the ticket to a golden windfall.
But when Harriet’s friend Martha comes for a visit, she convinces Harriet to come clean because she is suspicious and just doesn’t buy that the operation is legit.
Harriet may never see an ounce of gold, but it is the fate of the young teen that really begins to matter. And it takes an emergency with her daughter-in-law, Prudence, for Harriet to learn where her true treasure lies.

This book sounds like so much fun, I just had to request a complimentary copy from Thomas Nelson Publishing's Booksneeze Blogger program in exchange for an honest review. I anxiously awaited my copy in the mail and started it right away. It completely lost me quite quickly, however. I was looking forward to a spunky, sassy elderly character and was greeted by a sad, depressed woman that felt trapped in her life; too young for a retirement home but too old to be on her own she was living with her son and his wife in a tiny room where she couldn't even have all her stuff with her. She's resentful of her situation and her daughter-in-law and wishing for a way out. I made it four or five chapters into the book before I gave up on Harriet. She was not the spunky, gold mining character I was looking forward to meeting, and the book felt like it was getting nowhere fast. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Winnowing Season

The tornado that devastated Kings’ Orchard pushed Rhoda, Samuel, and Jacob to make a new start in Maine. Are they strong enough to withstand the challenges of establishing an Amish community—and brave enough to face the secrets that move with them?

On the eve of their departure to begin a new Old Order Amish community outside of Unity, Maine, Rhoda Byler is shocked to discover that choices made by her business partner and friend, Samuel King, have placed her and her unusual gifts directly into the path of her district’s bishop and preachers. She is furious with Samuel and is fearful that the Kings will be influenced by the way her leaders see her, and not what they know to be true—that Rhoda’s intuition is a gift from God.
Jacob King won’t be swayed by community speculation. He loves Rhoda, believes in her, and wants to build a future with her in Maine. But when the ghosts of his past come calling and require him to fulfill a great debt, can he shake their hold before it destroys what he has with Rhoda? Samuel has a secret of his own—one he’ll go to great lengths to keep hidden, even if it means alienating those closest to him. Throwing himself into rehabilitating the once-abandoned orchard, Samuel turns to a surprising new ally.
Book 2 of the Amish Vines and Orchards series asks: can the three faithfully follow God’s leading and build a new home and orchard in Maine? Or will this new beginning lead to more ruin and heartbreak?

I have not read the first book in this series, but the second book sounded good, so I requested a complimentary copy from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing's Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review. 

The plot of this story was very engaging. There was a lot going on at all times, and it became difficult to see anything turning out favorably for the characters. So many things went wrong for almost every character that I couldn't wait to figure out how the author would resolve everything. But she didn't. I was really angry about that at first-I realize it's a series, and I'm glad the next book is already out because if I had to wait, I'd be kept in intense suspense for way too long. It was a great book, and I am looking forward to the next one. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Outcast

Raised in an Old Order Mennonite community, Rachel Stoltzfus is a strong-willed single woman, content living apart from mainstream society until whispers stir the moment her belly swells with new life. Refusing to repent and name the partner in her sin, Rachel feels the wrath of the religious sect as she is shunned by those she loves most. She is eventually coerced into leaving by her brother-in-law, the bishop. 

But secrets run deep in this cloistered community, and the bishop is hiding some of his own, threatening his conscience and his very soul. When the life of Rachel’s baby is at stake, however, choices must be made that will bring the darkness to light, forever changing the lives of those who call Copper Creek home.

I received a complimentary copy of Jolina Petersheim's The Outcast through the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for an honest review. 

The fine print of this title states "A Modern Retelling of The Scarlet Letter," which I did not notice when I requested this book from Tyndale. I read The Scarlet Letter in high school, but it's been too many years to remember the details and notice the parallels between the two books other than the main storyline. It took me a couple of chapters to really get into the book, but once I did I found myself entranced with the complexities of the situations within the book. Each character has a heartbreaking history to overcome in order to feel they are worthy of continuing with their lives. Secrets that lay buried under layers of lies must come to light despite the risk of loosing everything and at the bottom of it all lies a baby's life that is in danger. I really enjoyed Petersheim's retelling of this story, and it almost makes me want to re-read The Scarlet Letter.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bending Towards the Sun

Divided between the love of her father and the desires of her heart, Emilie Heinrich must rely on the love and wisdom of the women in her quilting circle for support. Since Emilie is dedicated to her education and to helping her father in his general store, she is convinced she doesn't have time for love. But when a childhood friend returns to St. Charles, Missouri, after serving in the Civil War, his smile and charm captures Emilie’s eye and her heart. 

Quaid McFarland has a gentleness and humor that causes Emilie to question her indifference toward romance. But her German father sees only one thing when he looks at the young man: an Irish teamster. And Johann Heinrich is not about to let such a man court his beloved daughter.
Her father’s prejudices test Emilie’s faith in God’s ability to mend the patchwork pieces of her life. Will she be forced to choose between honoring her father and a future with a husband and family of her own?

The second book in Mona Hodgson's The Quilted Heart Series, Bending Toward the Sun is more of a novela than a full novel. It was a quick, easy read following the best friend of the main character in the first book as she tries to find love without upsetting her father and his judgmental tendencies. I enjoyed this book, and will most likely keep an eye out for more books in the series. I did feel it ended a bit abruptly, but didn't feel cheated in the conclusion. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Though My Heart is Torn

Settling into a simple life in the majestic Blue Ridge mountains, Lonnie and Gideon O’Riley have finally found happiness after the rocky start to their marriage. The roguish bluegrass musician has fallen in love with his gentle wife and the God she serves, and Lonnie rests secure in his tenderness for her and their young son. A heartless ruse interupts their peace, bringing them back to Rocky Knob—and forces them to face the claims of Cassie Allan, a woman who says she is Gideon’s rightful wife.
As Gideon wades into the depths of his past choices, Lonnie is stunned by the revelations. She has no choice but to navigate this new path, knowing that surviving the devastating blow will take every ounce of strength  she has.
While Gideon’s guilt  and his bitterness towards Cassie threatens to burn up his fledgling faith, Lonnie wrestles to find the courage to trust the God who brought them together in the first place. Will their hard-earned love be able to conquer all? 
Lonnie only wanted her husband’s love. Now that he belongs to another, can she surrender Gideon to a God with a bigger plan?

The first book in The Cadence of Grace Series, Be Still My Soul was a moving tribute to how powerful God's love is in life when people give God their full faith and trust. I was overjoyed to see that the second book of the series was available through Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing's Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review. I jumped on the chance to review it, and was not disappointed. Lonnie and Gideon have overcome amazing trials and managed to not only begin a family, but fall deeply in love with each other and explore God's love. When news from home comes to them, urging them to return their lives are completely shattered. Though My Heart is Torn is an emotional book, that had me crying along with both Lonnie and Gideon as they attempted to move on with their lives and learn to trust that God always has a plan, and it is always better than our own. While I was a little disappointed that I didn't get to read an emotional reunion at the end, I am also excited for a book three to pick up where this one leaves off and see where these characters go from here. Another great book from Joanne Bischof!

Rock Harbor Search & Rescue

In Rock Harbor Search and Rescue, a middle grade fiction novel based on Colleen Coble’s bestselling Rock Harbor series for adults, kids will enjoy the mixture of pets, adventure, suspense, and a mystery.
Emily O’Reilly is obsessed with all things Search and Rescue. She volunteers with the team and goes on rescue missions with her stepmom. She is even selling homemade jewelry to save up for her own Search and Rescue puppy. But when an expensive necklace is stolen from a renowned jewelry artist at Rock Harbor’s fall festival and Emily is accused of the crime, it looks like she’ll never get her puppy and be able to join the Rock Harbor Search and Rescue team.
Emily isn’t willing to give up on her Search and Rescue dreams that easily, and she sets out to find the real culprit and to restore her reputation. With a few suspects in mind, Emily is determined to uncover the truth, but she isn’t prepared for the secrets she and the Search and Rescue dogs sniff out in the process. This exciting mystery is filled with twists and turns that will keep readers on the edge of their seats and have them pining after a Search and Rescue puppy of their own!
I received a complimentary copy of the eBook, Rock Harbor Search & Rescue through the Thomas Nelson Publishing Booksneeze Blogger program in exchange for an honest review. I loved this book. I read it in one day, and was kept guessing who stole the necklace throughout the entire novel. Emily is lovable, and the reader feels for her as she is unjustly accused of stealing. I also enjoyed that this book is geared for a younger audience, but involves the same characters as Coble's other search and rescue books. I felt like I was returning to a familiar place, yet focused on Emily and her pre-teen problems and concerns. Sometimes it's nice to not have to be an adult. All in all, a great, quick read that will keep you wondering how Emily will figure everything out.