©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Echoes of Mercy

Kim Vogel Sawyer always writes a great novel; every single book of hers has been compelling, riveting, interesting, and just plain good. So with great excitement, I read Echoes of Mercy and was not disappointed. Kim's writing in this novel gave each of the main characters a voice and a point of view, which made the novel quite intriguing, to say the least.

Carrie is an investigator for the state labor commission sent to the Dinsmore Chocolate Factory to find out how the previous investigator died on the premises. She has quite a soap box that she stands on where child labor is concerned. She can't stand the thought that any child would be deprived of fresh air, sunshine, and an education.

Ollie is actually Oliver Dinsmore, but he's masquerading as Ollie Moore, mild mannered janitor. His purpose in this factory is to learn the candy making business to eventually take over the Dinsmore Chocolate Empire. He's not the best janitor, but he enjoys watching the candy being made, talking to the other employees, and most of all, trying to figure out Carrie.

Noble is Carrie's boss who has raised her like his own daughter. He and his wife, Annamarie, were never able to have their own children, but delighted in Carrie, teaching her about God, to read and write, and giving her the life her own parents declined to give her.

Gordon is the manager of the factory and he is the prototype of a bad guy. He's embezzling from the factory, he wants no intervention in his management of the factory, and he's a womanizer. He's not above other illegal acts to achieve what he wants, no matter what.

Letty is the daughter of a man who makes his children work instead of going to school. She has two younger brothers who go out and collect tin for their father. When their father dies of a ruptured appendix, Letty is forced to find ways to take care of her brothers.

Each character and each plot twist deepen the story and make it one of the most compelling I've ever read. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a box of the fanciest chocolates ever made.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sarasota Dreams

So Mary has noticed Abe, but Ruthie is crushing on Abe and flirts with him at every opportunity. But Mary doesn't know that Abe has noticed her, and she doesn't think that any man ever will--she hasn't been entirely welcomed in Sarasota, because her mother left the church and had her out of wedlock. She feels she's the object of all the gossip in the area because of her mother's past.

Jeremiah has his own past, but he's come back to the church, and now he wants to prove himself to Shelley and her family. Shelley's easier to win over than her mother, but he's persistent because the road to both of the women's hearts is not easy by any stretch.

Charles wants to join the Mennonite church, but there are opponents to him and his family joining the church. Ruthie and her family have the opinion that anyone who wishes to grow closer to God should never be turned away. Even though there are threats against his family, and accusations about something that was entirely an accident, the family stays faithful to their convictions, and Charles stays faithful to Ruthie.

Debby Mayne has put together a really enjoyable series of novellas centered in the Mennonite town of Sarasota, Florida. Sarasota Dreams will allow you to while away a cold wintry afternoon or three as you dream about vacations in small Mennonite towns in sunny Florida. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a day on the beaches of Florida.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Calling

I went through a time when I would read any Amish fiction, then I kind of got tired of it and wouldn't read it at all--for one, I didn't think what I was reading was true-to-life; and for another, a lot of the early Amish fiction was a bit smarmy. Suzanne Woods Fisher changed my mind about that. She is easily joining that elite group of my favorite authors.

The Calling is her latest contribution to the genre and I must say, it's worthy of the time it takes to read it. Suzanne chronicles Bethany Schrock's journey into adulthood and into a world that doesn't feel really comfortable to her. She's lived through her father's business failing, his suicide, a broken heart from a faithless boyfriend, and trying to help her stepmother hold onto the family farm. She is employed by five sisters who are part of a quilting group, who hoard everything,who are becoming rather forgetful, and who live out not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing. Bethany grows up right before the reader's eyes and finds her place in the world.

Suzanne also writes an integrated, parallel story of the English youth pastor, Geena, who has been fired from her last church because she's not much of a preacher, even though she's a wonderful youth pastor. Geena comes to Eagle Hill, the bed and breakfast run by Bethany's stepmother, to regroup and to listen to God and hear His desires for her life.

Suzanne knows how the Amish fit technology into their lives, yet keep it from polluting them; how the Amish community works to reach out even to the English world as much to others in the Amish world; and she knows how to weave a seamless story that grips the reader from the very first page and engages every single emotion the reader has. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a word from God.

The Dancing Master

Julie Klassen is one of my very favorite authors, who writes historical romance with a bit of difference. She takes on unusual topics in her books and treats them all with the quality of writing that hooks the readers and reels them into the world she is creating with her words.

Julie's newest offering is The Dancing Master, recounting the story of the romance of Alec Valcourt and Julia Midwinter. I found this not to be Julie's best book, but it is still good, nonetheless. Julia hit me as a kind of flibbertigibbet. I thought her characterization was a bit shallow, and her mother's characterization was a bit too abrasive. Alec was a bit self-martyring in his stance not to defend himself against the accusations leveled against his father.

Those are the bad things about the book. Now for the flip side of the coin: In Alec, there is a bit of a rebel in that he defies the understood ban on dancing in the town of Beaworthy in the Devonshire countryside. He opens a dancing and fencing school and even takes on private students. He wants to bring back the traditional May Day dance and bring joy back to the town. Julie's description of the dances reminded me of my folk and square dance class in college and even had me wishing I'd taken ballroom dancing. I recognized some of the dances she described so beautifully. As the story goes on, Julia loses some of her flighty ways and matures. She realizes who she is and who she wants to be and works to accomplish the latter. Her mother also loses some of her acerbity in response to her growing past her bitterness of former events. Overall, Four solid stars!