Monday, April 29, 2013

A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund

From the publisher: "Recently widowed Annalisa Werner has the feeling her husband was murdered but can't prove it. Alone with her young daughter in 1881 Michigan, she has six months left to finish raising the money needed to pay back the land contract her husband purchased, and the land is difficult to toil by herself. She needs a husband. With unmarried men scarce, her father sends a letter to his brother in the Old Country, asking him to find Annalisa a groom.

For nobleman Carl von Reichart, the blade of the guillotine is his fate. He's been accused and convicted of a serious crime he didn't commit, and his only escape is to flee to a small German community in Michigan where he'll be safe. He secures a job on Annalisa's farm but bumbles through learning about farming and manual labor. 

Annalisa senses that Carl is harboring a secret about his past, yet she finds herself drawn to him anyway. He's gentle, kind, and romantic--unlike any of the men she's ever known. He begins to restore her faith in the ability to love--but her true groom is still on his way. And time is running out on them all."

I really enjoyed reading this book.  Jody Hedlund does a very good job with weaving in mystery, tension, and romance all together without the reader feeling overwhelmed by any of the aspects of the story.  The romance was sweet and both characters learned to put each other before themselves.

What I really liked about this book was how Carl talks about God.  Through out the book he shares how God cares about our small daily requests, or the fact that we are each made in the image of God.  Jody allows Carl's character to speak to each person who reads the book to find value in themselves and to see that God cares for each of us--even when it might seem that He is silent for a time being.  

I also enjoyed getting to know more about 1880-1882 and the connection between American and Germany.  I love when authors take history and really make it a part of the novel.  The ideas of rank, station, and equality were very thought provoking.  Jody shows how people can change their ideas and perceptions, but how that sometimes takes the person being in a new situation.

I really enjoyed this book for many reason and highly recommend it.

I received this book free from Bethany House Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Bees in the Butterfly Garden by Maureen Lang

From the publisher: "Raised in an exclusive boarding school among Fifth Avenue’s finest, Meg Davenport has all she’s ever needed . . . but none of the things she’s wanted most, like family or dreams of a future that include anything other than finding a suitable match. So when her distant father dies, she seizes the chance to throw etiquette aside and do as she pleases. Especially when she learns that John Davenport wasn’t the wealthy businessman she thought, but one of the Gilded Age’s most talented thieves.

Poised to lead those loyal to Meg’s father, Ian Maguire knows the last thing his mentor would have wanted is for his beloved daughter to follow in his footsteps. Yet Meg is determined, and her connections to one of New York’s wealthiest families could help Ian pull off his biggest heist yet. But are they both in over their heads? And in trying to gain everything, will they end up losing it all?"

Honestly, when I saw this cover I had no interest in reading this book.  It didn't look engaging or any different from another light-hearted Christian romance novel.  Happily I was quite wrong! So if the cover has deterred you from reading this, don't let it.  Ignore it a read on.

I haven't read any other stories that dealt with thieves as Maureen Lang has in this book.  This book was quick paced and fun to read.  Ian and Meg are both likeable characters.  Meg is determined to have control of her life and in doing so finds that perhaps she doesn't know her heart well at all.  Ian is trying to do what is right but is still caught up in his own need for power and money.  Their character flaws and understandable.

I thought the Pemberton supporting characters were lively and wonderful was well  The roll that Maureen Lang created for the Pembertons in this story caused the readers to enjoy their subplots as well as the main plot.

The picture of Christ with the two thieves is something I wish I could see in real life.  The way Maureen Lang describes it makes me want to see it myself.

I enjoyed this book very much and only wish that the ending had more details of what happens next.

I received this book free from  All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Winnowing Season by Cindy Woodsmall

From the publisher: "On the eve of their departure to begin a new Old Order Amish community outside of Unity, Maine, Rhoda Byler is shocked to discover that choices made by her business partner and friend, Samuel King, have placed her and her unusual gifts directly into the path of her district’s bishop and preachers. She is furious with Samuel and is fearful that the Kings will be influenced by the way her leaders see her, and not what they know to be true—that Rhoda’s intuition is a gift from God.

Jacob King won’t be swayed by community speculation. He loves Rhoda, believes in her, and wants to build a future with her in Maine. But when the ghosts of his past come calling and require him to fulfill a great debt, can he shake their hold before it destroys what he has with Rhoda? Samuel has a secret of his own—one he’ll go to great lengths to keep hidden, even if it means alienating those closest to him. Throwing himself into rehabilitating the once-abandoned orchard, Samuel turns to a surprising new ally.

Book 2 of the Amish Vines and Orchards series asks: can the three faithfully follow God’s leading and build a new home and orchard in Maine? Or will this new beginning lead to more ruin and heartbreak?"

This is the second Cindy Woodsmall book I've read.  The first was A Season for Tending, which is the first book fo the Amish Vines and Orchard series.  While I enjoyed that book, I think I enjoyed this one more because I already knew and understand the characters.  However, if a reader hasn't read the first book, I recommend reading the other one to set the stage for this book.

The title for the book is a perfect fit.  It is a winnowing season and afterwards you feel like you have been through the winnowing process.  This book leaves a lot hanging...and I cannot wait for September to come so I can read the third book.  I honestly can't figure out how Cindy Woodsmall will decide to conclude certain events but I still can't wait to read it.

Woodsmall has an amazing ability of having you empathize with each of the characters.  Whether is Leah- uncertain about her future, or Samuel- wrestling with his feeling, or Jacob- fighting the dark past and trying to do what is right, or Rhoda-trying to find out what God's will is---each character draws you in.  This is hard to do with a novel that has so many characters but Woodsmall does an amazing job.

Woodsmall also writes Amish living in a way that few other authors can or do.  Her books are not "light-fluffy" reading and nor do they follow the same patterns as many other Amish books.  Her books are written so well and it keeps the reader wanting to know more.

After reading these two books I want to definitely read more by Cindy Woodsmall.

 "I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review."

Monday, April 22, 2013

Letters to Katie by Kathlee Fuller

From the publisher: "Katherine Yoder has loved Johnny Mullet since the two were children, but he’s never returned her affections.
Now Johnny is trying to forge a new life for himself by purchasing a farm and building a business of his own. But times are tough, and he soon learns that he can’t take anything for granted—especially Katherine.
Before Johnny has the opportunity to tell Katherine his true feelings, she’s struck by a serious illness. While Katherine struggles to recall recent memories of Johnny, a surprise visitor comes back into her life, claiming that his letters speak of a history and a future for the two of them.
With the two men vying for her attention and her memory still elusive, Katherine has never felt so torn. But will the solutions to both Johnny’s and Katherine’s problems lie in places neither one has ever considered?"

This book is a Middlefield family novel and there are two other books in this series as well as other books that talk about Middlefield.  I have not read anything else by Kathleen Fuller.  That being said some of the story lines seemed confusing.  There were a lot of characters and dynamics happening in the book.  If a reader had read other Middlefield books this might have been interesting and fun to read about--however, to only read this book, it made it a bit confusing.  Also, the story about Katherine and Johnny felt like 1/3 of the story instead of being the main story told.  

I appreciated the idea that both of Johnny and Katherine had to let go of their own ways and let God lead.  That is something we can all learn from.

I found it a bit hard to believe that the other two men who showed interest in Katherine were the leering, angry type and only Johnny was good.  That being said, I was rooting for Johnny.

If you want a light-hearted read this could be a good book for you.  And if you have read the other Middlefield family books and enjoyed them then this would be a good book to pick up.

I received this book free from Booksneeze in exchange for my honest review.  

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Fireflies in December by Jennifer Erin Valent

From the publisher: "2010 Christy Award winner!
Jessilyn Lassiter never knew that hatred could lurk in the human heart until the summer of 1932 when she turned 13. When her best friend, Gemma, loses her parents in a tragic fire, Jessilyn's father vows to care for her as one of his own, despite the fact that Gemma is black and prejudice is prevalent in their southern Virginia town. 

Violence springs up as a ragtag band of Ku Klux Klan members unite and decide to take matters into their own hands. As tensions mount in the small community, loyalties are tested and Jessilyn is forced to say good-bye to the carefree days of her youth. 

Fireflies in December is the 2007 winner of the Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest, and a 2010 Christy Award winner."

This book is a keeper.  Jennifer Erin Valent writes her first novel with beauty and clarity.  I enjoyed reading this book and recommend it to anyone!  This book is for a broad range of ages.  I believe that middle school students through adults would enjoy and benefit from reading this book.

Valent handles the tough time period and issues that surrounded it in a way that allows the reader to be placed there and absorbed in the story.  I felt that Valent did an excellent job of showing the different sides and opinions of people during that time.  Some were filled with hatred, others fear, and she even shows that those who did wrong were not totally filled with all evil.  It was an intense setting and I felt that Valent did an amazing job of handing it.  

Admist all the intensity Valent weaves in a beautiful story of love and friendship that goes beyond skin color and hard circumstances.  There are times you laugh at Gemma and Jessie's relationship and the real-ness of it.  Both are young teenage girls dealing with normal things like crushes and growing up, as well as the difficulties of prejudice and injustice.      

From the dedication it is clear that Jennifer Erin Valent has a real relationship with Christ.  However, this book is not "preachy" in the least.  The theme of Christ in each person is not something that is prominent preached throughout the book, but at the end of the book when Jessie's father is talking to her about God being the only one to keep the bad out of us, it really pulled the whole book together.  Valent did an excellent job of showing Christ, not just telling about the difference He makes in lives.

I cannot wait to read more by Jennifer Erin Valent.  

I received this book free from  All opinions are my own.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Unrivaled by Siri Mitchell

From the publisher: "Lucy Kendall always assumed she'd help her father in his candy-making business, creating recipes and aiding him in their shared passion. But after a year traveling in Europe, Lucy returns to 1910 St. Louis to find her father unwell and her mother planning to sell the struggling candy company. Determined to help, Lucy vows to create a candy that will reverse their fortunes. 

St. Louis newcomer Charlie Clarke is determined to help his father dominate the nation's candy industry. Compromise is not an option when the prize is a father's approval, and falling in love with a business rival is a recipe for disaster when only one company can win. Will these two star-crossed lovers let a competition that turns less than friendly sour their dreams?"

This was a unique book. The rivalry of two candy companies might not seem ruthless but it definitely could be.  Mitchell wrote a story that captures the time period's emotions and feelings very well.  It was also easy to picture St. Louis and the city's candy factories.  

Both Lucy and Charlie were fun characters to read.  Lucy got a little annoying, however I think the author did it to show how ridiculous she got with her single-mindedness.  The reader could relate to the struggles of Lucy and Charlie as they deal with family expectations  their own dreams, and learning about forgiveness and truth.

Mitchell talked about the character's need for God and it seemed as if this was going to be further developed but it wasn't.  I wish this had been brought out more fully.

I am looking forward to reading  more by Siri Mitchell.

I received this book for free from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.