Friday, November 19, 2010

Review: The Missing

The second book in the Beverly Lewis series Seasons of Grace The Missing answered a few questions that still lingered for me from the first book The Secret. Still away from her family in Ohio, Lettie Byler is looking for answers. Forced to give away the child she had as a teenager, Lettie stumbles upon an Amish woman her takes her into her home. There in Baltic, Ohio she is able to find the midwife that helped her deliver her baby. The midwife isn't able to give her any of the answers she is looking for other than that she should contact the doctor who arranged the adoption.

Back at home in Bird-In-Hand, Pennsylvania, Grace must deal with her mother's absence by picking up the extra weight at home. After the end of her engagement, Grace is unsure where her love life should go. When Yonnie, a young man who has recently moved from Indiana, begins to help out on the family farm. Yonnie is different than other Amish boys. He is outspoken and believes in a sort of equality for man and wife. This interests Grace, but her best friend's feelings for Yonnie may get in the way. Yonnie also tells Grace that a family member saw her mother at an Amish home in Ohio. Grace is excited by the news and knows she must head to Ohio as soon as possible.

 Heather is an Englisher who is visiting seeking alternative treatment for her cancer. While visiting she strikes a friendship with Grace. Both girls soon realize that they have a special bond. When Heather over hears the conversation between Grace and Yonnie about the discovery of her moth, Heather realizes she must offer to drive Grace to her mother. Grace quickly accepts the offer.

Is there another reason why Grace and Heather have a strong connection? Will Heather's father accept her illness and the form of treatment she has chosen?

I look forward to reading the conclusion to this series and am excited to see how Grace's mother will accept her arrival. I am also interested to see how Heather's treatment ends up. I thought this book was good, but not the best Beverly Lewis book I've read.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Review: The Sister Wife

This first novel in the Brides of Gabriel series by Diane Nobel, The Sister Wife, details the love affair of Mary Rose and her husband Gabe. By a chance of fate they meet on the cross Atlantic voyage to America. Mary Rose, granddaughter of a large land owning Earl in England, makes the journey because of her Grandfather's belief in a new religion, Mormonism. Mary begins the journey skeptical of the new religion, but when she falls in love with the Gabe, mastermind of the ship's construction, they together witness a miracle as Mary's friend on the trip, Browyn, experiences a difficult birth. As Brigham Young, a high ranking official in the church, touches Brownyn's pregnant belly and prays, the baby miraculously turns. Mary and Gabe take this as a sign that indeed the church is legitimate and they in turn should join the movement.

When polygamy rumors begin in the settlement, Mary, like most of the women, begin to worry what this will mean for their marriages. Will Mary's marriage withstand this new found belief? What will happen as a tragedy strikes Bronwyn's family?

I thought the writing style of this novel was fabulous. I enjoyed learning about the Mormon church and felt that the Diane Noble did a great job of accurately portraying the church and outsiders feelings of the church during this time. I was inspired by Mary Rose's dedication to her family, even at her own expense. Her faith in God is apparent, even when she struggles to discover where this faith should take her. She often struggles with creating this new church and set of beliefs, even when it contradicts with the religion she learned as a child. I look forward to seeing where this series will head as well as the fate of the new church.  

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Review: Leah's Choice

The first book in the Pleasant Valley Series, by Marta Perry, Leah's Choice begins by introducing us to some of the residents of Pleasant Valley. After her first love, Johnny leaving the Amish community for the English world, Teacher Leah decides that she has no desire to marry and will just teach for the rest of her life. When Johnny suddenly returns to help work at a local genetics lab, studying genetic disorders in the Amish population, Leah must face her past. When Johnny requests Leah's help with his work at the lab, she must decide whether or not she can work with her former sweetheart and whether the work will pull her too close to the English world. 

Leah's sister Anna is in her time of rumspringa. Being the youngest she seems to be taking full advantage of this time where her family turns their heads to her sometimes unacceptable behavior. Leah tries to convince Anna that she needs to be more careful and think about the decisions she is making. Is Anna being pulled farther from the Amish world, rather than being pushed closer? What will it take for her to make her decision about where the rest of her life will lead?

Widower Daniel Glick moves to Pleasant Valley to start a new life. No one knows his past and his hope is that his three children will find a sense of comfort among the community who is not judgmental of their pasts. What will Daniel's secret mean for his future in the community as well as his attraction with Teacher Leah? He knows that his children are having problems adjusting, but do they need more than just a father's love?

I really liked this book. I liked how the story also focused on a male character and some of the problems that would arise. I also liked that Leah was not the average character in an Amish novel. She's a little older, given up on love and has made teaching her life. When love does arrive in Leah's life she has some choices to make and must face some of her past.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Review: Blessings

Blessings, by Kim Vogel Sawyer, and the third installment in the Sommerfield series centers around Trina Muller, a member of an Old Order Mennonite community in Kansas, has a love of animals and a desire to further her education so that she can some day become a veterinarian. Attending college is not an option in this community and Trina struggles with how she can follow her God given dream and calling, while remaining in her community. Trina's parents are strict and believe in the old ways, will they change their minds about their daughter's dreams? Or will she be forced to choose between her family or her dream?

Graham has been courting Trina and knows that she is the one he wants to marry. Why must she have this desire to be something other than a faithful mother and wife. According to the Bible, that's a woman's highest calling, right? Graham must choose whether his love for Trina can overcome her own, radical desires.

I liked this book, however I thought that it was a little hard to get into at first. I really enjoyed the first two books in the series and felt that the story picked up a little sooner. As the story progresses, a tragedy strikes that I didn't see coming as a reader at all. I think that this book is a nice, inspirational story that leaves readers with a desire to follow their dreams and their hearts.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Review: The Secret

Was pretty sick earlier this week, so my reading's been a little slower than normal, but I did finish The Secret by Beverly Lewis. This is the first in the Seasons of Grace trilogy and is centered around the disappearance of Lettie Byler. For the past few months, Lettie has been seen leaving the house late at night and acting rather depressed. Everyone in her family has noticed, but most of her family thought it may have something to do with the death of her sister, Naomi, a few years prior. Lettie's daughter, Grace, is most profoundly affected by her mother's disappearance. Not only are her responsibilities at home increased, but her mother's goodbye letter was written directly to Grace. Grace is unsure why her mother has left, or wrote the letter to her, but she is determined to come to the bottom of her mother's strange disappearance.

Judah, Lettie's husband, knows that he hasn't been the best husband, but had no idea that his wife would take off in the middle of the night. Not only is he feeling pressure from the church as to why she has disappeared, but Lettie's mysterious withdraw of $5000, has not made life on the farm any easier, especially during the difficult time of lambing on the Byler farm.

Heather, an Englisher, has just discovered she has been diagnosed with cancer, the same disease that took her mother 18 months before. Unsure what to make of the diagnosis, she decides to go against the advice of the doctor and refuse traditional treatment. Instead, she makes the bold move of taking homeopathic treatment in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, a place close to her and her mother's hearts. When her fiance breaks off their engagement from Iraq, she knows that this is the perfect opportunity to get away from her hectic life. She seeks refuge in an Amish home, neighbor's to the Bylers.

What will happen to Heather's health, and will she finally tell her dad of her terrible diagnosis? Will Grace be able to find her mother and the potential secret she is carrying? Will Lettie be able to find some peace? Read this novel and the rest of the Seasons of Grace trilogy to find out.

I enjoyed the beginning of the Seasons of Grace series. There are a lot of questions that are unanswered for me so I am excited to read the other two novels. I liked that there are a couple of stories going on to keep me interested and while I had a good feeling about Lettie's secret, I am unsure what will become of Heather, as well as Grace's love life. I liked that a love story wasn't the main theme of this book, but that it was intertwined as more of a back story. I think that because the story was not about a "perfect" Amish family it kept me engaged even more. Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Review: When the Heart Cries

When the Heart Cries by Cindy Woodsmall is an engaging novel about 17 year old Hannah Lapp. In recent years, she's fallen in love with a young Mennonite named Paul Waddell, grandson of an elderly Mennonite woman she works for. The summer before his senior year of college, Paul asks Hannah to marry him and she accepts. Raised in a strict Old Order Amish home, Hannah has received pressure from her father to join the church and stay Amish. With Paul's reassurance she believes that her father's ideas about the Mennonite boy will change and she will be able to keep a relationship with her family, even after marrying Paul.

On the evening of their engagement, Hannah is raped. Unsure of what has happened to her, she staggers home and tells her parents of the events that have taken place. Almost ashamed, her father is unsure of how to handle the situation. Hannah refuses to tell the Bishop and wants to forget the night ever took place.

Shortly after Hannah's brutal attack, her brother, Luke and his soon to be wife, Mary are in a terrible buggy accident. Luke blames Hannah for the accident because she refused to go along to singing. If she had been with them, another route would have been taken home. Mary, also Hannah's best friend has months of rehabilitation and Hannah vows to help her recover.While caring for Mary, Hannah realizes that changes are beginning to take place within her body. She hopes that it is just because of the shocking events that have taken place lately, but could it be something more?

The community begins turning on Hannah, misinterpreting events that have taken place. Her sister also adds to the rumors and the community's distrust in her sister when she tells others her opinion of her sister. Will Hannah be able to save the relationship with her family and her community? Or have the events that have take place enough to break even the strongest relationship in Hannah's life?

I really enjoyed this book. While this was not always a happy book, I felt that it accurately described the character's feelings and perhaps the judgment that may follow in such a tight knit community. I also liked how the book stressed how events in ones life can often be twisted by others so that they may assume the worst. I loved the vivid description of the character's feelings and emotions. I am excited to read the rest of the series to see how things work out for Hannah.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review: The Thorn

Just finished reading Beverly Lewis' newest novel The Thorn. This book is the first in the trilogy and centers around the family of Rose Ann Kauffman in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Much of Rose's young life revolves around caring for her mother who was involved in a tragic buggy accident years prior and has since been in a wheel chair. When she's not caring for her mother, Hen is often found helping take care of the families horses with the adopted Bishop's son, Nick, who works for Hen's father. Nick is still resistant after many years of living in the Amish community and while many in the community feel he will never be Amish, Rose feels a strong friendship with Nick. Could this relationship threaten her relationship with her new beau Silas?

Rose's sister Hen, leaves the Amish to marry an Englisher, but when her own daughter, Mattie Sue, takes up some not flattering habits, Hen wonders what her life would have been like if she had been raised Amish. Hen makes the difficult decision to move home with her daughter to sort out her feelings. Will she be able to mend the relationship with her husband?

I enjoyed this book, but felt the beginning was a little slow. I felt that there were a few good story lines beginning, but it took awhile for things to happen. The end of the story picked up pace, and left me wanting to know what is going to happen to the characters. I'm anxious to read the next book in the series, too bad it's not released until April 2011.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Review: Shadow's of Lancaster County

I recently finished Shadow's of Lancaster County by Mindy Clark Starns. This mystery novel Anna Bailey is faced to deal with her past and the tragic accident that took place when she was just a teenager. Raised in Lancaster County Pennsylvania, Anna sought a new life when she and friends were blamed with the fire that killed an Amish family. When Anna's brother, Bobby, goes missing and a long time friend is dead, Anna realizes she must return home to solve the mystery. While searching for her brother, Anna realizes she herself is being targeted by someone. An old love interest also comes to town to aid Anna in her search, but can he be trusted again? Is Bobby dead and can Anna use his mysterious clues to solve the mystery?

I love that this book includes very modern issues such as DNA research and modification. This book was well written and I found it an enjoyable read. After reading a number of Amish inspirational novels, I found Shadow's of Lancaster County a refreshing read, while the religious aspect wasn't completely absent, it also was not the main focus. I'm excited to read more of Mindy Clark Starn's novels.

Review: Blood of the Prodigal

Blood of the Prodigal by P. L. Gaus is a mystery story that takes place in and around Millersburg, Ohio in the heart of the Amish country. Many of the places in the story were real, although the college which plays a major part in the story, is fiction. Shunned by his family years before, Jonah Miller returns to Holmes County to kidnap his son for the summer. Since his shunning, Jonah Miller has lived a rough life, having an illegitimate son, drinking heavily and moving to the state of Texas. When the child's mother dies, Jeremiah goes to live with his Old Order Amish family. When Jonah learns of his sons existence, he returns and leaves a note saying he will have the boy for the summer and will return him before harvest. When Jonah's father, a Bishop in the district, believes there may be something more to the boy's kidnapping he decides to involve some local Englishers, professor Michael Branden and Pastor Caleb Troyer. When Jonah is found dead along the side of a quiet, country road shortly after the Englisher's involvement, the men decide that this may be more than just a simple kidnapping case. Who is behind the mysterious death of Jonah Miller and has Jeremiah been returned home safely? Read this novel to find out.

I enjoyed reading this book, it was written in a little bit different manner than the traditional Amish fiction. Some more complex vocabulary was used and dialogue was not as prevalent. This novel also does not have the inspirational undertone of many other Amish fictions. I did however, like the mystery aspect of the story and felt that the characters were well developed. While this novel could be a stand alone, there are a