Amish Cooking Class: The Celebration by Wanda E. Brunstetter ~ Review

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Amish Cooking Class: The Celebration by Wanda E. Brunstetter

The Celebration is the third book in the Amish Cooking Class series. While it is part of a series, I don’t think anyone would have trouble reading this as a stand alone book. There are only a few carry over characters from the other books and their parts are casual and not really needed to make the story line smooth.

Heidi and Lyle Troyer have decided to take in foster children when they discover they may never be able to have children of their own. So now the story picks up from the second book a few months later with two young children whose parents were killed in an automobile accident. For the first six months, the state decided to wait and see if family will come forward to claim responsibility for the two children, Randy and Marsha. In the meantime, Heidi wanted to help her young charges adjust to their new life. She decides to teach another cooking class, but with children this time. A wide variety of families are represented in this class, and little by little we learn a bit of back history for each family.

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Many topics pertaining to children were covered in this book, such as showing kindness to others, teasing, a complaining attitude, adoption as a topic, the value of friendship, reaching out to help someone in dire circumstances, caring for pets and other animals, and so on. And of course, cooking. What I enjoy most about these books is the subtle ways Heidi is able to reach out and help total strangers in their struggles with daily life. Most of us want to make a difference in someone’s life, but we often have no idea how to go about doing this. Ms. Brunstetter’s books demonstrate through fiction good examples of how to touch lives. We don’t have to make a major impact, but even an encouraging word can work wonders for a person on any particular day. The fact that this is a lesson even children can learn, is what makes this such a touching book to read.

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The author does a wonderful job of pulling the reader into the drama with the children and their respective families. There were times when I felt the frustration Heidi must have felt when she couldn’t do much to help a hurting child. At other times, I felt the aggravation when a child is deliberately rude and misbehaving, especially to the younger children. I could relate to the helpless feeling some of the parents felt in their circumstances, to the point where I shed a few tears when things went so wrong. Then again, there were also tears of celebration when finally something came together and worked out well, either for a family or for their children or both. If you enjoy a good Amish story, or a bit of family saga with a little romance, then I highly recommend this book to you.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Barbour Publishing on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

 

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Ties That Bind: The Amish of Summer Grove Book 1 by Cindy Woodsmall ~ Review

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Ties That Bind: The Amish of Summer Grove Book 1 by Cindy Woodsmall

On the surface, Ariana’s Amish family was typical for their small community of Summer Grove. Many siblings, in their teens or older milled about the kitchen in the early mornings getting ready for a full day of activities either with small children in tow or assisting those families with small children. Some like Ariana were preparing breakfast and others were getting ready to do chores. A contentedness pervaded the atmosphere most of the time. They enjoyed each others’ company. But under the many layers of familiarity lay some rumblings of discontent. No one spoke openly about these feelings, but they were there nonetheless. It was a vague awareness that something disruptive could dispel their peace at any moment and change the entire family dynamics. What would be the trigger?

This is the first of three parts in the series. It features an unexpected twist of fortune that seems plausible, and possibly even probable. There are many great and positive things in this family saga, such as relationship building that I absolutely love. However, it seems inevitable that tension builds and two worlds collide with Ariana’s good friend caught up in the middle. Don’t expect a major resolution of the primary tension by the end of this first book, because it builds and leads directly into the next book. You definitely need to prepare to read the second book right away because of the high amount of suspense and heart break. This was so well written, that I was feeling with the Brenneman family when circumstances broke wide open.

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It’s getting to the point where I will read any book by this author because they are that good. Ms. Woodsmall puts her entire heart into what she writes. What she creates is impactful, both heart warming and heart wrenching, view shifting, and absolutely real. She’s a writer that knows how to pull heartstrings with what she writes. In this particular series, she plays on misunderstandings that come between close friends when one party must keep secrets for the sake of confidentiality. The secret he must keep makes Quill look bad in the eyes of the Amish. Such is the misunderstanding that it rocks Ariana’s world because she has lost trust in her good friend. And other circumstances are wearing her trust in others very thin.

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My favorite part of the book centers again around Ariana. She is stubborn and that persistence is what helps her family keep their heads above turbulent waters. She is determined to buy a cafe in downtown Summer Grove so that she can lift her family out of the poverty they have been in for years. She works hard and finally succeeds beyond even her expectations. I couldn’t help but root for her efforts to do something so thoughtful for her family.

 

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Gathering the Threads: The Amish of Summer Grove Bk 3 by Cindy Woodsmall ~ Review

Gathering the Threads

Gathering the Threads: The Amish of Summer Grove Bk 3 by Cindy Woodsmall

The series begins with Ties that Bind followed by Fraying at the Edge before concluding with this book. I have already read quite a few of Cindy Woodsmall’s series and each time I have believed that that one was the best one I have read, that is, until I would read the next series. This time I jumped in on the last book first. I don’t recommend doing that with this author, because when she writes a series, they are usually books that are closely linked to each other. Fortunately, before the first chapter, this book had a running summary of the previous two books that I haven’t read. It was so well summarized that I had no trouble reading this book by itself. But again, I really don’t recommended that. Cindy Woodsmall’s outstanding talent is to connect us deeply with her characters so that the reader forms an emotional bond and experiences the turmoil written about with the character. This is such a rare gift for a writer, so that when I find one I like to search for all their books and read them through.

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That’s how I feel about this series. When I read the summary, I had to chuckle. It read like a soap opera. I say that in the kindest manner possible. This series is intense, if all the books are like this one. There are several well-planned out plots, complex characters, schemes, turmoil, twists and turns, and just plain anguish laid out in the first two books that continue in this one. It was quite an amazing task to see how it all resolved. But it was definitely and happily resolved, in a way only this author can accomplish.

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There are so many characters that are important to the series. Ariana is the one that stands out the most. Skylar is also another but not as much the focus as Ariana. Book three resolves a long standing issue between Ariana and Quill, a neighbor she had known since her childhood who had left the Amish years ago for reasons no one in the small community of Summer Grove really knew about and thus was a forbidden friend. Nevertheless, he plays a prominent role all throughout the series.

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Among the complexity of details there arises a theme that may surprise the reader as it becomes clear. Ariana learned about bullying while she was “out in the world” with her birth father. Interestingly, bullying takes on a whole different shape and color when she encounters it in the Amish community after she returns. Had it always been there and she had never noticed before? The running questions then became how would she deal with it living at home with her parents while preparing for her upcoming marriage? This was not a cut at the Amish community by the author, but rather a commentary of society, that it can happen anywhere, even in places we don’t expect to find it.

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Finally, just like other books by this author, the spiritual elements of the story are authentic, realistic, respectful while helping us to gain some fresh perspectives on the character of human nature in general. Cindy Woodsmall’s series are some of the best faith-based books I have ever read. They are not filled with platitudes or pat answers. Real issues are realistically dealt with that touched my heart deeply. Even though I haven’t read the first two books, I know I will soon. So I can heartily recommend this series for you. If you like intense, complex characters who are not stereotypical Amish or non-Amish or former Amish, you’ll love this series.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Blogging for Books on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Amish Christmas Baby: Book One by Samantha Jillian Bayarr ~ Review

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Amish Christmas Baby: Book 1 of the Amish Secrets Collection

When I first purchased this book it was an individual short story on Amazon.com. Since then, it has been incorporated as part of a collection of three stories. That book is called Amish Secrets Collections. In that book, this story is the first one.

Ellie Fisher has a house full of boys–six of them. But she has always desired a daughter to make her brood complete. But now she’s older and still has no daughters. When the doctor tells her there will most likely be no more kinner in her life, she feels devastated. Then one cold winter night, a wailing baby is left on her doorstep. It’s a little girl.

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Did Ellie dare to think God had given her a gift this Christmas? But soon, Ellie believes she knows who the mother is, and being a midwife, she goes to her aid. Sure enough, she finds the mother at home, one of her neighbor’s granddaughters. She’s in distress, so she brings the girl home to tend to her.

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It becomes clear that the girl wants to give her baby to Ellie to raise. But as elated as she is, Ellie feels conflicted. She struggles with her desire and what she believes is right for baby Grace.

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This is a wonderful, short Christmas story. It can easily be read in just a few hours. The plot is simple, so the characterization is limited. Yet Ellie’s plight will touch your heart as it did mine. I found her faith in God inspiring as well. I hope you enjoy this short read as much as I did.

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The Beloved Christmas Quilt: 3 Stories of Family, Romance and Amish Faith by Wanda E. Brunstetter, Jean Brunstetter & Richelle Brunstetter ~ Review

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The Beloved Christmas Quilt: 3 Stories of Family, Romance and Amish Faith by Wanda E. Brunstetter, jean Brunstetter and Richelle Brunstetter

This set of stories is very special. There is one quilt and three generations of stories related to this quilt. What makes the book original is that three generations of Wanda Brunstetter’s family wrote this story.

The first book written by Wanda is Luella’s Promise. Luella has been taking care of her friend Dena Zook since her heart troubles began. Luella took on the responsibility of taking care of the home, cooking meals and caring and watching over Dena’s 4 year old son. Just before she died, Dena gave Luella a beautiful quilt in gratitude for what Luella did to help the family. She also extracted a promise from Luella to continue helping her grieving husband with the care of their son. Luella promised and continued to cook, clean and care for Atlee’s little boy after her friend died. Eventually this led to some complications as the adults grew closer to each other. Atlee eventually realized he had grown to love Luella, but there was one pressing problem, he was sixteen years older than she was. Her parents would not consent to a relationship between them.

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Jean Brunstetter writes Karen’s Gift. Karen is Luella and Atlee Zook’s daughter. By the time the story begins, she is married to Seth Allgyer and has moved to another community with him while they start their family. When their third daughter Nancy Anne is born, the couple is worried because Karen was exposed to German Measles during the pregnancy. Eventually they discover that Nancy Anne is deaf, and the knowledge contributes toward a rift in their marriage which was amplified by stress in Seth’s job. The community and friends helped them through some of the roughest spots.

Richelle Brunstetter wrote the final book, Roseanna’s Groom. Roseanna is Karen and Seth Allgyer’s eldest daughter. She is about to be married. In fact, all her family is gathered together to celebrate with her and John. But just before the service started, John ran and Roseanna is faced with the fallout of a broken heart and a blow to her self worth. As the special Christmas quilt is passed from mother to daughter at Christmas, the Scripture embroidered on the quilt offers unique comfort to each woman going through trials.

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Each simple plot was endearing, poignant, and a delight to read. The stories captured well the simplicity of Amish life while dealing with the complexities of human nature. I enjoyed reading all of these short Christmas stories. If you are a fan of Wanda Brunstetter’s books, you’ll welcome these new treasures to your collection.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Shiloh Run Press, an imprint of Barbour Publishing, Inc. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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The Harvest of Grace: Book 3 by Cindy Woodsmall ~ Review

The Harvest of Grace by Cindy Woodsmall

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 The Harvest of Grace by Cindy Woodsmall is the third book of a three book series: Ada’s House. This trilogy reminded me how much I enjoy books by this author. Ms. Woodsmall creates tales with emotional dynamics that pulls me in, keeps me reading intently without wanting to put down the book, and connect with the well-developed characters so that I feel I have a vested interest in the outcomes.

The author begins this book with a new character, Sylvia. She is an Amish woman from a community further away from the communities this series focuses on. In her household, there are all daughters, with Sylvia being the oldest. She alone loves the dairy farming, and with the knowledge she gained from her grandfather, has built up her father’s herds over the many years. She has been engaged to be married for awhile, but suddenly her fiance declares his love for her sister and marries her. Living in the same household has become unbearable both because of her heartbreak and the deception of her closest friend and sister. She insists on moving to another community. She begins working for Michael Blank and his wife in Dry Lake.

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There, she meets Aaron Blank after he has come home from rehab. Aaron’s purpose is to help his aging parents sell their dairy farm and move to his new community and work with him at a hardware store he is buying. He wants to take care of them. Sylvia’s at cross purposes with Aaron, because she wants to make the Blank dairy farm profitable again and build up the herd as she had done at home. This conflict is the core of the book.

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But as the third book in the series, other storylines that had begun in books one and two continue as well. So we find Deborah and Jonathan in a relationship, Cara and Ephraim continue their courtship and Cara makes progress toward joining the Amish faith, while Lena recovers from her emotional and physical injuries from the events of the previous book.

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Again, like all the other books in this series, this is not a stand alone book. It is integral to the entire storyline and you need to read the first two books in order to understand the direction and scope. Saying this, I found this book hard to put down. It very effectively wraps up all the loose ends of all the relationship dynamics covered in the three books. There are even new dynamics for Cara when her birth father shows up and the Amish leaders decide she must develop a relationship with him in spite of her feelings about him. This struggle so touched my heart. How can Cara overcome a lifetime of neglect and abandonment?

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If you enjoy living, breathing characters, especially relationship struggles and their resolutions, then you’ll love this story. This author does not do pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by type story telling. Her characters deal with real issues you and I can relate to. I was left feeling like I was part of the community, knowing the hearts of people I care about. The author writes this development so well, that I am compelled to read other books by her. I want more of this type of dynamic writing. And you can be sure I will be reading this trilogy over and over again, without feeling as if it were growing old. I highly recommend this series, and this author.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing). I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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The Bridge of Peace by Cindy Woodsmall ~ Review

The Bridge of Peace by Cindy Woodsmall

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The Bridge of Peace by Cindy Woodsmall is the second book of a three book series: Ada’s House. This trilogy reminded me how much I enjoy books by this author. Ms. Woodsmall creates tales with emotional dynamics that pulls me in, keeps me reading intently without wanting to put down the book, and connect with the well-developed characters so that I feel I have a vested interest in the outcome.

Cara and Ephraim’s story is continued from the first book into this one. We also get to know Deborah, Ephraim’s sister a little better since she, Cara and Ada live together in Hope Crossing now. Cara is helping Deborah recover when her fiance leaves her and his mother without support. It seems he even left the Amish lifestyle behind him. The three women eventually establish a good business as a bakery in their new setting in spite of a rough beginning, while Ada continues to mentor Cara.

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Meanwhile back in Dry Lake, where the story originated, Teacher Lena is having difficulties in school with a rebellious and angry student, a bull in the neighboring pasture threatens the school children, Grey is having marital difficulties, Jonathan is attracted to Deborah, Israel is beginning to see Ada, and Dwane is being downright creepy. While we don’t know these characters now, this authors manages to capture our interest in them quickly as our sense of community grows. Suspense builds, and so does the drama. I recommend you bring along a box of tissues when you read this book. The drama in this tale is just as heart-wrenching and touching as those in the first book.

Midst all the emotional valleys and mountain tops, this author holds it all together with great humor and meaningful life lessons. I found it helpful to read this book right after book 1 of the series. The three books together run seamlessly into each other, building on the storyline right at the beginning. You can read them independently, but you would lose some of the references to the action that went on before. Because of that, I recommend purchasing these books together.

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One other thing really attracts me to this author’s works. She weaves into her stories examples that steadfastly demonstrate God’s involvement in our everyday lives. These stories are like word pictures in action. We’re not preached at, but we see God’s principles enacted throughout the book in such a way that it has to touch our hearts. Whenever I read her books, I find myself delving into deep thoughts of spiritual meaning, how God can live through me more effectively, showing how much He loves His children. All this comes so naturally to the author’s pen, that we barely notice it while reading these tales. This is why Cindy Woodsmall is one of my top favorite authors.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing). I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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