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

Amish Baby Amish Secrets Collection pic

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

Beloved Christmas Quilt pic

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

Harvest of Grace pic

 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

Bridge of Peace pic

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

Amish Cooking Class book 2: The Blessing by Wanda E. Brunstetter

Amish Cooking Class The Blessing

The Blessing is the second book in the Amish Cooking Class series. I read this book without knowing about the first one, and didn’t have any feeling of missing something vital. So I would say this book can stand alone on its own. But I am intrigued now that I have read this one; I want to go back and read the first book. That is how well written this book is.

The story’s premise is about an Amish couple, Heidi and Lyle Troyer, living in Walnut Creek, Ohio. They have been married about 9 years and do not have children. Lyle is an auctioneer while Heidi teaches cooking classes in her kitchen. At the opening of the story, Heidi is anticipating the birth of her friend’s baby, which she and Lyle were going to adopt. Kendra had been living with them for several months now. Kendra really wanted to keep her baby, but she was a single young person and it wouldn’t be the best thing for the little one if she couldn’t support it.

Just as Heidi had decided not to teach another class, in preparation of the babe’s arrival, Kendra’s parents reversed their decision not to help her rear the child, and suddenly Heidi finds herself bereft of the baby she wanted to adopt. She decided to go ahead and teach another cooking class to help her stay mentally occupied while she grieved her loss.

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We eventually become acquainted with the six members of this new cooking class, and they are as diversified as they come! There’s an overburdened high school student, a custodian, a food critic, a mother in a shaky marriage, a widower, and a caterer. It’s the clashing and meshing of these lives that makes this an intriguing read.

What I appreciate most about this book is that regardless of Heidi’s background, she is centered on honoring God with her life. She is genuine and caring, someone that her class of students need in their lives. Without being preachy or overly Amish in her behavior with her students, she quietly relayed to them what each person needed at this point in their life journey, even for the one who cared nothing for God. I loved how all these individual stories wrapped up neatly at the conclusion of the book. If at first you feel the story moves along slowly while we become acquainted with all the characters, be patient. The character development is worth the wait.

God heals broken hearts

The second thing I enjoyed about the book are the cooking tips and recipes included in the back. I am always open to learning something new, and I wasn’t disappointed. If you enjoy cozy character-driven stories that warm your heart, then this is the book for you. I enthusiastically recommend it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Barbour 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, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Torn Asunder by Alana Terry ~Review~

Torn Asunder by Alana Terry

Torn Asunder

In the book, Torn Asunder by Alana Terry, we are faced with the hard facts of life in North Korea. To be a believer in Jesus Christ is a death sentence, or a sentence of condemnation to life in a labor camp or torture, or at the very least, living a secret life filled with the fear of discovery. In the book, Slave Again, the reader is introduced to an American businessman and his wife, Roger and Juliette Stern. They run a Secret Seminary where they train North Korean refugees who want to return to their country with the gospel of Christ as missionaries. It is the most dangerous mission field in the world. Slave Again tells us a little about the men and women who volunteered to return to their homeland.

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Even with the references to the Sterns and their training program, Torn Asunder still stands on its own very well. Rather than being a sequel to Slave Again, the reverse is more true; Slave Again is better described as a pre-quel to Torn Asunder. In this suspenseful story, we follow Simon and Hannah, two of the Sterns’ pupils, as they enter North Korea, their first missions and subsequent capture. The story is gritty and sometimes difficult to read. But it is also inspiring.

Simon had fallen in love with Hannah the first day he met her at the Stern’s home in Sanji. His love for her grew during their year of training together, learning to become secret missionaries in their homeland. When the Sterns attempts to disuade Hannah from re-entering North Korea failed, he tried to convince her to do something safer. But she remained adamant. It was the Sterns’ policy to send out each missionary out alone. They were not to work together as partners because of the dangers of betraying each other under duress. Simon knew this but he was determined to follow Hannah once she crossed the river. It wasn’t long before he regretted this decision. Only two days into her mission, Hannah was captured and taken to the local jail where she was interrogated. Broken-hearted, Simon completed Hannah’s mission and warned the recipients of the Bibles of her fate. Just as he was about to begin his own assignment, he was taken and placed in the same jail. After their grueling experience, they were separated. Simon was taken to Camp 22, while Hannah was somehow placed in a safe house where her wounds would heal. Hannah had been chosen by the mysterious and legendary “Moses” for work in the underground church.

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This is an exciting and chilling tale of native North Koreans and how God used them to encourage other members of the underground church. I just couldn’t put this book down once I started reading it. The nail-biting suspense kept me glued to the pages. It isn’t a pretty story, although the love between Simon and Hannah is endearing and uplifting. Their love for God and for each other sustains them through many painful encounters and long days of solitary confinement. Hannah often repeated hymns and Scripture to herself to keep her morale up, while Simon had vast reserves of Bible verses hidden away in his heart. But what kept Simon sane most were his dreams of a life with Hannah some time in the future.

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While this book may be tough to read because of the realistic descriptions of their suffering, it is well worth reading. The reader gets to view the ugly underbelly of a nation’s efforts to squelch Christian voices. We see through Hannah and Simon’s eyes what happens to people whose only guilt is to be discovered loving God and their fellow believers. For me, this was an eye-opener. It has given me a closer look at the way many people bear unfair treatment for Jesus. I have a newly formed empathy and love for these believers. This book has played a part in reforming my prayer life.

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The third thing I like about this book is the author’s writing style. The subject matter Ms. Terry has chosen to write about isn’t an easy one to convey without crossing over the invisible line of what is acceptable to put into a book of the Christian genre. But I feel that lines need to be crossed if we readers are to be shaken out of our safe, secure, and unfortunately complacent worlds. In my opinion the author has accomplished this fragile balance. I can only hope many people will read her books, feel the pain of empathy, and be compelled to reach out to help. There are many ways available. In addition, I hope many will become prayer warriors in earnest for those suffering for Christ. May we also display more gratitude for the blessings in life that already surround us every day.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author. 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, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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