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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Blue Christmas by Diane Moody ~ Review

Blue Christmas by Diane Moody

Blue Christmas pic

Have you ever heard of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events? Things start out fine, but then get worse and worse. Well, this story is a bit like that with events that begin very well, but then there are surprise twists and turns that seem to get worse and worse. But the best part about this book is that it is the Christian version and so much more upbeat, with a terrific ending. You will not be disappointed.

Hannah was alone this Christmas. Her family was off enjoying a Colorado ski trip where she should be, but since she was assistant manager at the local grocery store, and the manager had just had a family emergency, she was next in line to supervise. On this Christmas Eve, she was feeling a bit sorry for herself when a kind, motherly customer she saw in the store regularly invited to attend Christmas Eve services with her. She wouldn’t take no for an answer either. That was the beginning of an incredible journey for Hannah.

Jason McKenzie is a star. His rock band, Out of the Blue, was a teen favorite. But living on the road was exhausting and from time to time he’d come home for a respite. He showed up on Christmas Eve and was immediately enchanted with Hannah.

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One of the things I like most about this story, besides the fact that it’s a Christmas story, is the humor infused in the tale. There’s a laugh around every corner. It’s good clean humor and makes this story just perfect.

Second, this story means more when you read the history behind the writing of this tale. I love reading where authors get their ideas. This one has a wee bit of truth and a bunch of fun fabrication. And this is one of those books that doesn’t lose its appeal when you read it the second time or third time. That’s my kind of book!

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Cinderella Texas by Molly Noble Bull ~ Review

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Cinderella Texas by Molly Noble Bull

Cinderella Texas by Molly Noble Bull is one of the newest published books by this author (2017). Both main characters love the Lord and are Christians, but have chosen vastly different lifestyles for themselves. The disparity makes this a unique type of story. The issues are not a matter of right and wrong; rather their choices are what places a wall between the two. The conflict/resolution issue in this story is still emotional, a matter of finding a place, a middle road, in which to meet. How they do this is what drives this story forward.

Alyson Spencer was a city girl, through and through. She was born, reared and educated in Dallas, TX and preferred living there. She never expected to get work anywhere else. When nothing else she wanted turned up, she took a job teaching a rancher’s children at his home. But she was not prepared for the desolation of the location in southern Texas and the distinct lifestyle of the family there. There were no modern conveniences at all. She’d signed a contract for a year of teaching without knowing this ahead of time, so how would she be able to endure the deprivation?

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Quatro Greene, Alyson’s employer and widowed father of her two new students, looked too young to have children. What was unsettling was his wealth. Yet he didnt live like a wealthy man. Neither did his family. They chose this nearly Amish-like lifestyle as a means of practicing their faith. Alyson respected that. It even intrigued her. Yet she just wasn’t certain it was a lifestyle she could adapt to within a year. The only thing she and Quatro had in common were a love for his children and a love for God. Quatro on the other hand, was a confusing person. His feet were planted in two different worlds: his personal life and his business life. How did he live with that?

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I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The author’s writing style mixes well the serious issues with humor at the quandry Alyson finds herself in. If you like Amish fiction reads, then some aspects of this genre may be familiar to you. However, the mixing of two worlds is the main issue, making this book more unique. That’s the feature I like the best.

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Alyson’s character is well developed in this story. I wish, however, we could see a little more inside Quatro’s head. It would flesh out the development of characters more thoroughly than was there. I wanted to know more about his struggles and how he balanced his worlds. The resolution put forth in this book could make an interesting part two. I can also see how you could develop a sequel to this book by amplifying any resolution with more details. I hope the author will consider this idea.

 

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12 Saturdays by F.P. Lione ~ Review

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12 Saturdays by F.P. Lione

Twelve Saturdays is like an “everything” bagel; it has a little bit of everything in it. The setting is New York City: Staten Island and Manhattan. It has a little bit of suspense and tension with a few bad guys thrown in. There’s fun humor and a few giggles. Some romance, some psychology, some tragedy, some adventure, and lots of relationship dynamics. All this is blended very well into an unforgettable storyline.

The premise is about family relationships. Jenna had been out on a date when she learned that her father was in the hospital. By the time she got there, it was too late, and she was overcome by so many regrets. She had not known he had a brain tumor. Then she learned that her father had some rather odd requests for her after his death. And that’s the beginning of an unforgettable series of 12 Saturdays.

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I enjoyed reading this book so much. There were moments of levity which balanced out the revelatory nature of the story. The one driving character, Jenna, was a real, living, breathing person to me. I found myself relating to her on so many levels. The more her background was revealed, the more her life spoke to me.

One element of the book I really enjoyed was the “girl power” feel of Jenna’s friendships. The best of the humor as well as the best of her strength came from these close ties. There were also a few twists and turns as the book progressed that kept me turning the pages.

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Finally, this is a faith-based story. Jenna wasn’t exactly the picture perfect Christian; she was a work in progress, just as we are. I took comfort in the growth in her character shown to us through her trials and triumphs. At a crucial point in the story, she knows where she belongs. I felt a great deal of satisfaction in this conclusion.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from CKN Christian Publishing on behalf of 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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The Hope of Refuge: An Ada’s House Novel by Cindy Woodsmall ~ Review

The Hope of Refuge Cindy Woodsmall book1

The Hope of Refuge: An Ada’s House Novel by Cindy Woodsmall

The Hope of Refuge by Cindy Woodsmall is the first 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.

Two of the main characters are Cara and Ephraim. Cara had been running since she was 15. She found respite once she married Johnny. The best thing that ever happened to her was their daughter Lori. But Johnny had cancer. And now she is on the run again, with Lori in tow. The one thing she has from her past that has brought her peace and direction is her diary from her mother. In it, she recently found a clue to past memories that were fleeting now. Acting on those clues, she left the city she grew up in and found herself without cash, out in the country, with Amish all around her.

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Ephraim found the mother and child in his old rickety barn. His first impulse was to chase them away. But eventually he learned that Cara had a reason for being in his barn. It had to do with memories from twenty years before. They couldn’t stay in the barn, and no one else seemed to want to help the two. So he took a risk, and did something that was dangerous to his standing in the Old Order Amish community. He let them stay in his house while Cara worked to get enough to set out on her own.

This isn’t a simple Amish tale. The author includes some truly heart-wrenching details, with twists and turns I didn’t anticipate. In spite of Cara’s rough background, and desperation at facing so many wrong turns, I had to admire her for her desire to care for her daughter and keep her safe; and what Ephraim had to do to protect this mother and daughter may also take you by surprise. I absolutely loved this book. It was so well written, I had difficulty finding a place to stop reading just to do normal every day tasks. Their story resolves nicely at the end. Be sure you have a box of tissues on hand toward the final chapters; you may need them!

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Looking ahead to the second book, the subplot in this book involving Ephraim’s sister, Deborah, and one of his good friends, Mahlon, becomes one of the main plots of the next book.

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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The Naomi Chronicles Book 2: Choosing to Be by Paula Rose Michelson ~ Review

Naomi Chronicles Choosing to Be new cover

The Naomi Chronicles Book 2: Choosing to Be by Paula Rose Michelson

This is book two of the series, The Naomi Chronicles. Both books are very closely tied, so even though they are complete books and can be read on their own, this second book closely continues the story begun in the first book and resolves much of it. I recommend you purchase them together and read them one right after the other.

The focus of this book divides between Naomi and her husband, Chaz. They are separated after only one week of marriage at the beginning of this story. What’s unique about this book is that the first book emphasized how most of life’s choices had been removed from Naomi’s life in her first thirty years. How many of us readers can identify with that? Stuff happens, and sometimes leads us places we hadn’t originally wanted to go. But now, she is at a crossroads and begins to realize she has many choices to make. The choices do not come easy to her, so this is her opportunity to learn many truths, find her inner peace, especially coming to peace with her past, and figure out how to proceed. Does she go back into hiding, or will she become like a butterfly, finally released from her cocoon?

Also in this second book, we become more acquainted with Chaz as an individual. We only get to know him briefly in the first book, so now his character becomes a little more developed and we see why he does the things he does. There is a twist in the plot here that may surprise you. I know it certainly knocked me for a loop when I learned more of his background. All I will tell you at this point is that there is a resolution for Naomi and Chaz. But the twist and the means of resolution is what makes this part of the tale so interesting.

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Meeting with God

There is so much to love in this second book. First, the author does a remarkable job of fashioning an old world atmosphere in the way Naomi dresses, talks and thinks that’s charming. But it is also in stark contrast to the rest of this new world, and it takes her time to adjust to the American way of life. I find that so endearing. The author uses a small boy to make that transition more palatable for Naomi. As the saying goes, “out of the mouth of babes…”

Second, the same little boy brings in comic relief while Naomi grapples with heavy life issues. How true to life! Often when we are trying to take in what God is speaking to us about, distractions are a way of bringing relief to the intensity of the moment. Either it becomes a way to take our minds off the issue and leads us away, or it helps us focus better on the point God is trying to make. I enjoy seeing how the author uses this feature for Naomi’s good.

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Third, I love the way the author leaves an opening for further development near the conclusion of the book. It makes me look forward to reading more of this series.

If you enjoyed this review, see my review of The Naomi Chronicles Book 1: No Other Choice here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of book 1 (basically) from the author and purchased this book on my own but with the author’s knowledge. My intention is to write a completely honest review. 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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Irish Meadows: The Courage to Dream Bk 1 by Susan Anne Mason ~ Review~

Irish Meadows: The Courage to Dream Bk 1 by Susan Anne Mason

Irish Meadows

The author, Susan Anne Mason, has skillfully created a world into which we can feel comfortable. The two main characters, Brianna and Colleen, could be our sisters, realistically endearing and frustrating simultaneously. Brianna feels she has grown up in Colleen’s shadow, her father’s favored daughter. Nothing she did seemed to gain his respect. Colleen is the sister we love to hate. She is bold, brash, flirtatious, the apple of her father’s eye, and always on the prowl for rich, handsome bachelors. She played with them and even pit them against each other. Brianna, on the other hand, wanted to attend a university in the fall. She had no use for men at the moment, although her daddy wanted her to get married to a suitable (prosperous) gentleman as soon as possible.

But then Gilbert Whelan returned to Irish Meadows after three years at college. Gil grew up on the farm, the son of the O’Leary’s housekeeper. When she died, James O’Leary took in Gil and treated him like a son. He was big brother to all the rest of the five O’Leary children. Adam, the eldest son, resented Gil for that. Brianna wanted to enlist Gil’s aid in convincing her father to allow her to further her education. But it became a more complicated situation when she discovered her feelings for him were no longer brotherly. Gil himself has felt the stirrings of love for Brianna. When he finally gained the courage to approach James, his mentor and father figure, he was flatly refused. The reason shook him to the core.Irish Meadows quote1

One day a distant relative of mother 0’Leary’s came to stay with the family for awhile. Rylan Montgomery needed a place to stay for a few months while he worked on his internship. His goal was to become a priest. It was Colleen’s duty to ferry him around until he became familiar with the area. When her father caught her in a compromising position one evening, he “sentenced” her to working with Rylan at the orphanage. This was truly punitive for Colleen since she hated all things religious, including priests, church and orphanages. However, working with Rylan day after day brought about subtle changes to her heart. She began to enjoy working with the children. In introspection, she questioned her previous dubious behavior. And…she fell in love with Rylan. Colleen’s world was turned upside down. Family dynamics, secrets, disastrous emotional upheavals and more make this book an intriguing read.Irish Meadows quote2

There’s a lot to like in this book. First, the Point of View (POV) is key to how the author develops tension and suspense. There are four Points of View: Colleen’s, Brianna’s, Rylan’s, and Gilbert’s. This author manages to blend them so well that she avoids the disjointed feeling so common in books with so many POV’s. I feel these points of view are what keeps this storyline moving along without stalling for lack of physical action. That’s excellent characterization.Irish Meadows quote3

Second, the four main characters all have a crisis of heart to meet, deal with, and resolve. Even the secondary characters, Kathleen and James O’Leary, the parents, had to face issues themselves such as what really mattered in life, and how to handle secrets within a family unit. Each issue felt real, urgent, and relevant for today even if the source is a historical novel. I found each of the conflicts plausible and could relate to many of them myself. The author manages to create believable people we can become akin to and care for.Irish Meadows quote4

Third, this is a faith-based book. I love how each voice dealing with an issue was facing something that included a crisis of faith, as well as heart and home. When a faith issue has to be dealt with, even though it may be an entirely private matter between you and God, it does affect those around us because what we believe leads to how we live our lives. That is how this author presents each character’s conflicts. When we are privvy to their thoughts, feelings and the process of resolution within, we appreciate them more for their struggles, even if they are still a flawed individual. I enjoyed the process as I read along, because what they struggled with was thought-provoking and insightful. And since most of this was internal, none of it sounded even remotely like preaching or finger wagging. Rather, I felt blessed to gain a glimpse through the window of their souls. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series which will give us Adam’s story.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy (ARC) of this book from Bethany House Publishers. 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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