©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Seasons of Tomorrow

Cindy Woodsmall has completed her Amish Vines and Orchards Series with Seasons of Tomorrow, and it was such a satisfying novel. I have wept and laughed and been aghast all the way through this series. There are times I get angry with the characters or with seeming injustice, times I laugh out loud at some of the things that happen, times I cry when something goes so horribly wrong and there seems to be no remedy, times I breathe deep sighs of relief, and times I shake my head with incredulity. Cindy writes to cover a gamut of emotions and keeps the reader involved in an almost personal way. All of the ends that have been left hanging are tied up neatly and with great satisfaction.

Rhoda and Samuel continue to work the Maine orchard, they seem to have weathered the storms life has thrown at them. At the same time, Samuel's sister, Leah, is creating a couple of storms on her own in her courtship with Rhoda's Englisch assistant, Landon. Steven and Phoebe are expecting their third child, but illness disables Phoebe to the point her life may be at stake, as well as the life of her unborn child. Jacob is working with his uncle Mervin doing construction, and meets an intriguing woman named Esther who likes to do salvage and restoration work. It gives her great peace to take something old and make it new and useful again. And, it supports her home for unwed mothers and gives them a place of refuge.

One of the funniest parts of the book is when Rhoda is trying to cook a casserole and the dogs wouldn't even eat it. She is notorious for her cooking disasters, yet extremely competent and creative in her canning endeavors.

Cindy has a gift for telling a story and leaving nothing out--every end is tied up, and nothing is left hanging. It was a privilege and a pleasure to read her final installment in this series. I almost didn't want it to end. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a special apple salsa.

Find Cindy here on Facebook too!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Shining Light

It may seem that almost all of the books I review are five star books, and it would appear that I am far too easy on the authors. But, after some serious thought, I've come to the conclusion I choose books by authors I know I will enjoy, I choose content I know I will like, I choose books that appeal to me to begin with. It's easy to give five stars under those conditions, however, sometimes I do miss my own mark. This is not the case with the book I am reviewing today, I chose well with author, content, and appeal.

Judith Miller has written a series of books taking place in the Amana Colonies in Iowa. The residents of the Colonies live simple lives, in community, in cooperation, with each of them working according to their interests and gifting. While living simple is one of the tenets of the Amana Colonies, living efficiently is also one of their tenets, and above all helping out one another.

Andrea and her son Lukas have found their way to the Amana Colonies after hearing that her husband has been lost at sea and presumed dead. Her intent was to reconnect with her father whose farm abutted the Colonies. Upon arrival she finds that her father's farm house has burned down, the land has been sold to the Colonies, and she has nowhere to go. The members of the colonies take her in, give her a place of refuge, and work to do in exchange for her room and board. They gave her dignity and friendship, especially a young man named Dirk--the tinsmith, who becomes her shining light.

But, . . .

Andrea's husband, Fred, shows up, ill and injured, and just as nasty as he'd been before. He takes his time to overcome Lukas' fear of him and make an ally of him, for reasons of his own making.

There is so much more to this story than the few words I've written here. There's growth in faith, overcoming fear, growth in love and friendship, and on the flip side, deception, and evil intent. Judith presents just enough conflict to keep the reader engaged, enough sweetness to let the reader relax, just enough gospel to show a realistic growth in faith, and just enough of everything to make this a five star book, with two thumbs up, and a place to be when there is no other place.

Friday, April 18, 2014

For Such a Time

Kate Breslin is making a tremendous debut in the world of authorship with a compelling story that has the reader white knuckled all the way through. For Such a Time is a retelling of the story of Esther during a time just as devastating for the Jewish race--the holocaust in Germany during World War II.

Beginning in Dachau, the novel follows Stella from the firing squad to Theresienstadt to Lvov in the Ukraine, from captivity to freedom; but at the same time, it follows the Jews interred at Theresienstadt and their fight for freedom despite overwhelmingly horrid conditions.

Kate has done a masterful job melding these two historic events into one novel, from her play with names--Esther and Stella, Morty and Mordecai, Haman and Hermann, Artaxerxes and Aric, to delving into the unfortunate and uncanny similarities between these historic atrocities. While she played a bit with the actual dates and events, the seamlessness of the story makes a riveting read that is very hard to put down. Stella's soft heart contrasts with Hermann's lecherous evil. Morty's role as an elder among the Jews in the camp puts him in an untenable position of deciding who goes to Auschwitz and who stays. Aric's position as Kommandant of the camp is one he fell into, but he uses it to save just a couple of people who have been traumatized by the holocaust; he needs Stella's love to spark his heart back to life. There is one other major player in this: Joseph, the houseboy, ten years old, and able to pass messages between Morty and Stella without being caught. He's wildly protective of Stella and truly understands far more than it would seem possible for a boy of his young years.

I cannot recommend this book more highly. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a train ride to freedom.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Beaches and Brides Collection

I guess because spring is slow in coming and I am so ready for warmer weather, I chose this book from my list of reviewable books to read. The Beaches and Brides Collection is a great choice for a mental getaway when you can't leave your daily life. Most of these novellas are not new to me, as I have read them before in previous publications, I still enjoy them all.

A Time to Embrace by Lynn Coleman--Bea is Richie's nanny, and commissioned with seeing the boy safely to his uncle on Key West, Florida. While there, Ellis tries to find ways to convince Bea to stay and be more than Richie's nanny, but to also be his wife.

The Captain's Wife by Mary Davis--Vivian was Connor's best friend's wife, but he was in love with her and didn't know how to deal with that. When his friend died on a voyage to Alaska, he was free to pursue his love for her, but her past was something he couldn't reconcile in his mind.

The Castaway's Bride by Susan Page Davis--Edward had been shipwrecked and presumed dead for the last four years. When he returns home, he hopes to renew his courtship with Abigail where it left off, but Abigail is in love with his business partner. Because of this, he takes a closer look at Abigail's sister, Deborah. In Debbie he sees a mate much better suited to him, now to convince her.

The Lightkeeper's Daughter by Paige Winship Dooley--Hollan has been keeping the lighthouse going in her father's absence, even though she really can't see. Jacob has been gone from the area chasing his father and brothers who have ravaged the area, murdering and thieving as they go. Jacob wants justice, Hollan wants her sight back, and to stay on her island keeping the lighthouse. Now if there was a way to bring these two together, Uncle Ed would know.

Restoration by Cathy Marie Hake--Russell is back from World War I, wounded in body and soul. He's been left a ramshackle mansion by his great-great-uncle Timothy, along with enough money to bring the mansion back to her former glory. He's also been left two renters in his caretaker's cottage--a mother and daughter who also happen to be German. He's not all that certain he wants to keep renting to them, but he's not so cruel as to leave them with nowhere to go or a means to make a living. In striking a deal with Lorilei and her mother, he might just find the healing he so desperately needs.

I've loved these stories and they are still worth Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a stroll down the beach at sunset.

Christ in the Sabbath

I am harking back to my senior year of high school and the vocabulary list my English teacher, Mrs. Shehane gave us. I won't be pusillanimous about my thoughts on this book, I might be a bit obsequious in many of my reviews--though heartfelt they may be, this one will be quite erudite.

Rich Robinson has written Christ in the Sabbath as a rather complicated discussion of the Sabbath in history, in tradition, in the Mosaic Law, and in the New Testament. I was rather looking forward to reading this book, hoping it would illuminate how Christ has existed in the Sabbath from the very Creation of the world. Unfortunately, I didn't find this to be the case. I felt I almost needed a degree in legalese to decifer all of his explanations. I don't wish to abrogate anything this author is trying to do with this book, but I didn't find it to be what I'd hoped for, until the very last chapter of the book. As much as I would desire otherwise, the book just failed to fulfill what I felt it had promised.

Three Stars.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lost Loves

I was asked to take a friend to a doctor's appointment yesterday, so while I sat in the waiting room reading the last of this trio of novels, I blubbered. There are parts of all three novels in this collection that brought tears to my eyes.

Katia tells of lost siblings, and she's now old and alone and wants to tell her story. She hires Madeline, a journalism student to write it all down for her. As Katia reveals her past, more and more things are revealed as well. Madeline begins to think about her life and what she wants from it as Katia tells of the hardships she's gone through, survived, and even thrived through.

For Maria not only tells of lost siblings, but lost children. Madeline has taken it upon herself to find Kammbrie and Lili-Anna, Maria's twin girls she lost during the holocaust. When she finds one of the twins, Madeline sets up a meeting between Maria and Kammbrie, which doesn't go anywhere near what Madeline expected.

Bruce Judisch has done such a wonderful job weaving these two stories together. I've never read any of his writings before, but I will be looking for more of his books to read.

The last book in this trilogy is called The Train Baby's Mother by Sharon Bernash Smith. This is the one that had me blubbering in the clinic waiting room. From the very beginning, the reader knows that Hadassah is going to die. She begins to tell her story in a journal for her son to read after she's gone. In the telling of her story, she reveals that Michael is not her only child, that she'd had two children when she was taken to Ravensbruck Women's Interment camp. On the way, her husband, Avram threw Esther, the baby from the train, hoping that someone would find her and take care of her.

I can't really tell much of the stories of these Lost Loves of World War II because that would give too much away, but these stories are all well written, intriguing, and exciting. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and an urgent encouragement to read the book.