©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Ella: An Amish Retelling of Cinderella

Sarah Price is writing fairy tales set in Amish Communities and using the morals of the story to show how it would play out in real life in the Amish world. In this book, Ella is the orphaned step-daughter whose step-mother has moved in with her daughters and taken over Ella's home, her life, and they try to break her spirit. 

Ella is responsible for keeping the house clean, fixing the meals, sewing for her step-sisters, weeding the garden and putting up the produce, and working in the family store when the step-sisters don't want to. 

When Henry Clemens comes to town, with the hope of buying of the general store, Ella's step-mother starts wrangling for him to court one of  her two daughters and tries to hide Ella from him. He meets Ella accidentally and wants to know more about her.

The more Henry gets to know Ella, the more he sees how she's treated by her family and gets his uncle and aunt involved in the situation--they are deacon and his wife.  Her step-mother's actions came to light after the community's fund raiser pie auction.

This is a great retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale that reminds me of one of my favorite movies--Ever After.  In that movie Cinderella pleads for her step-family's lives but with one condition, that they be treated with the same respect they treated her with. 

This is a five star, hard to put down book, two thumbs up, and an apple crisp pie for dessert.

My thanks go to Kensington Books for allowing me to read and review this book.

Arms of Mercy

Catherine has loved Elijah for a long time, but he moved away and married someone else.  Since then, she's been dating Zach, but she senses something wrong.  When she finally gets the gumption to ask Zach to marry her, he puts her off for financial reasons.   Her emotions get truly mixed up when Elijah comes back to town.

The store she works in closes for the winter at the same time her cousin asks her for help in the bakery in Florida.  She decides to go to Florida, buys her bus ticket, and waits for her departure date.

When the time comes, Elijah shows up to go to Florida too.  That's when the adventure starts.  On the way, the bus driver has a heart attack.  When they get a new bus, the new driver got them into a wreck that left Elijah searching for Catherine for months.

Ruth Reid writes unusual Amish Fiction, using God's special messengers (angels) guiding her characters through the rough parts of life.  Arms of Mercy utilizes this trope in its plot development.  It doesn't override the plot, but gives the reader just enough to understand what the angel character is doing, and that is drawing his receivers closer to God.  Catherine is always aware of his presence by the scent of lilacs around him.

This is a wonderful book, hard to put down, with a fast moving plot that can guide the reader closer to God, if the reader allows it. 

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and some lilacs to scent your day. 

My thanks to Zondervan Fiction for allowing me to read and review this book.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Where Hope Begins

I don't recall reading any books by Catherine West, but I must say Where Hope Begins is hard to put down.  There is one caveat:  there is so much angst in this book that the reader needs to keep blood pressure medication nearby.  The tension is enough to ring the bell on the sphygmomanometer.  

Savannah Barrington is in the position of being the wife, while her husband has been having an affair with a coworker.  In order to clear her mind, she goes to her parents' home in the Berkshires in upstate New York.  Next door to that home, lives Clarice, her nephew Brock Chandler, and his daughter Maysie.  The first time Savannah sees Maysie she's reminded of the daughter she lost years ago.  

Svannah and Brock really hit it off almost to the point of starting an affair, but they both realized it would not be appropriate and stopped.  They both have secrets and they find in each other someone to confide in and someone to receive comfort from. 

This is not the kind of book you can jump ahead to the end and find out what's going to happen, because it just won't make sense.  The tension among all of the characters builds to the very last page and all of the book has to be read in order to come to any sensical conclusion.  

This IS the kind of book that the reader will need a box of tissues or a very large hankie at hand.  It is somewhat traumatizing, but the characters are empathetic and sensitive.  There are many spiritual applications that are demonstrated in the book, including grace and forgiveness. 

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a puppy named Hope. 

My thanks to Thomas Nelson for allowing me to read and review this book.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Love Letter

The main players:

Present Day:
Chloe--the actress who was born to die from her very first movie

Jesse Gates--the man who has written his first screenplay and is watching it being made into a movie.

Esther Longfellow Hobart--an ancestor of Chloe's and the subject of the movie Jesse wrote

Hamilton Lightfoot--an ancestor of Jesse's and the writer of the love letter that is the key to the movie.

Chloe is known as the actress who dies well.  She has died in every movie she's acted in. She wants one movie where she lives at the end of it.  She also believes in romance and finding "The One" perfect mate for her.

Her world falls apart when a new studio owner comes in and orders the director to either finish the movie in two weeks with some hard edits or hand it over to another director.  Jesse refuses to do the edits and walks off the set and goes home.

Rachel Hauck's technique of moving between the history of the movie characters and her present day characters keep the readers on their toes. In some places the changes are pretty tight, but in other places, the switch between history and present day are just too abrupt to follow easily.  All in all, this is a solid four-star book, entirely entertaining, and worth the time to read.

My thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishing for providing the book through NetGalley.com, for me to read and review.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Starting from Scratch

In so many romances, it is easy to tell who will be the bride and groom from the very beginning.  Kate Lloyd has written a book that doesn't give away this secret until the very end. 

Eva Lapp is still living at home and single at the age of twenty-nine.  She had a love once but he left town and "jumped the fence" as the Amish put it. Now Eva hears he's back in town since his father's had an accident.  The Amish grapevine says that he has a beard which means he's married, that he brought a girl home with him who is pregnant and that he's the father of her babe. 

Eva knows the speed at which the grapevine moves, since they've already declared that the few months she spent with her aunt were so that she could have a baby and give it up for adoption. 

When the opportunity comes for her to work as the cafe manager that's associated with the greenhouse nursery, Eva finds herself with more male attention than she ever anticipated, but still her heart longed for Jake.

Kate has woven together a story like no other Amish story I've ever read, there is a bit of mystery, a bit of romance, and growing friendships that add color to the novel. 

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and an African violet for your kitchen shelf

My thanks to Harvest House Publishing for allowing me to read and review this book.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

A Mother's Gift

Leah is going to marry Jude, a widower with teenage twin daughters, and a young son.  Her mother is against the marriage, her bishop is against it, and his brother (also a bishop) doesn't approve.  The biggest fear is that she won't fit into his family and will have a hard time adjusting because she didn't know much about the housekeeping portion of life.  She had livestock and raised them for money.

Jude's twins, Alice and Adalain, are in their rumspringa, but they are living a dangerous life and have become rude and disrespectful, thinking that they don't have to abide by any family or church rules.  They are involved with two wild boys who seek their attention.

Jude's young son does not take to Leah right off, but when the girls run to town and Leah has him all to herself, she finds herself breaking through his walls. He's fascinated with her animals and wants to learn to care for them.

Jude does not see how his daughters are treating Leah and doesn't know the pain she's in until he hears her crying in the middle of the night.  This is the turning point of the book where Jude takes on his daughters and encourages his son.

Charlotte Hubbard writes sweet Amish stories that show that even the Amish have the same kinds of conflicts in their lives that we Englishers have in our lives.  A Mother's Gift takes on teenage rebellion, babies born out of wedlock, revenge, and forgiveness that witnesses to a rebellious world.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a goat to milk.

My thanks to Kensington Books for allowing me to read and review this book.

The Sea Before Us

Sarah Sundin writes World War II fiction and I love it.
She includes actual historical events along with believable characters and imaginative dialog that fills in the dry facts with interesting interaction. 

The Sea Before Us tackles the history of the D-Day invasion and the work that had to have happened leading up to it. By inserting the characters of Wyatt and Dorothy, Sarah fleshes out the events of D-Day with an interpersonal relationship that is fraught with as much conflict as D-Day itself. 

When I first began the book, I was afraid that Sarah was going to be using the romance writing formula, but she didn't write it that way.  The growth of the relationship between Dorothy and Wyatt is an organic process that brings them together in spite of the obstacles in front of them.  Part of the obstacles included family conflict for both Dorothy and Wyatt.  In fact, family conflict brings a surprise that was totally out of the blue.  The spiritual growth that Sarah has provided through her characters is also very comforting to read.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a restored relationship

Revell Publishing provided the galley for me to read on NetGalley in exchange for a review using only my own opinion.