Thursday, May 31, 2012
I'm not a great Amish fiction fan, but I have enjoyed two of Cindy Woodsmall's Ada's House books. So, I was happy to receive and review The Scent of Cherry Blossoms by Cindy Woodsmall.
Annie is an Old Order Mennonite who has long been friends with Aden, an Old Order Amish. When Annie returns to her grandfather's farm and spends more time with Aden, their friendship blossoms and changes. But, a relationship between the two is forbidden. The Scent of Cherry Blossoms follows their romance, along with the lives and spiritual revelations of their family members.
This was a very short read. I'm a quick reader, but this was fast even for me. It is almost a novella. I like the characters in Woodsmall's stories. There are always several "main" themes happening at one time. Sometimes I like this. In this read, because of the super short length, it was almost a distraction. The story seemed to go quickly, and I didn't really feel like I got to know the characters well.
Even though I've been enjoying Cindy Woodsmall's books, this one wasn't a favorite. I was interested at the end of the story in the potential relationship developing between Aden's brother and a girl. So, I may have to look at the next book in this series just to find out what happens.
I would give this one a 3.5 star rating and a G rating for clean reading for all.
I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Press for review purposes. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
My mother-in-law recently recommended a new author. And, when I went to look into her books, I discovered that I already owned one as a free Kindle read and had read it- Paper Roses. The same week, I came upon Summer of Promise as a free Kindle read.
I enjoy Amanda Cabot's spunky female characters. The stories are interesting- a little drama with some light suspense. They are certainly not deep reading. The conversations and reflections of the characters are rather surfacy. The stories have a spiritual emphasis but are not overtly preachy. The romances are sweet but light and rather shallow.
I would recommend this for a good quick beach read, something you want to enjoy without much thought or depth. I give it a 3.5 star rating and a G for a good, clean read.
Friday, May 25, 2012
I'm honestly not sure why I picked this book to review. The book description caught my eye. It's about World War 2, one of my favorite historic time periods about which to read. It is published by Disney/Hyperion Press and marketed as a young adult book. I'm always looking for good reads to pass on to my middle schoolers. But, when I began my reading, I was close to admitting I had made a mistake. Thinking I wasn't going to like the book made me a little sorry that I had chosen it. I don't ever want my bias to cause me to give a bad review. But, I just wasn't feeling it.
And then I was drawn in. Code Name Verity is written as a diary, two diaries actually. Two diaries of two dear friends. Julie, code name Verity, we find from the beginning, is being held captive by the Germans in German occupied France. While my heart went out for this young woman, held and tortured by Nazi leaders, I still wasn't really into the story. There were technical flying terms thrown in (her best friend was the pilot of the plan that crashed leading to Verity's capture). There were names and places thrown in. I just wasn't feeling a connection. But, as I read the diary, I began to feel it. I was drawn to this beautiful, intelligent, young woman. I wanted a happy ending for her. I knew her.
And the story shifts. And we get to read Maddie's story. Maddie was the pilot of the fateful flight that crashed causing her best friend Julie to bail out over German occupied France. And then I know Maddie. I felt her pain and anguish also. I felt her fear.
I don't normally have such a physical response to a story, even a very well written one. I often cry at a sad (or happy) ending. But, my response to Code Name Verity was overwhelming. I knew these girls. I felt what they were feeling. I experienced what they were experiencing. I cried, uncontrollably. I smiled through my tears. I won't reveal any of the (VERY) dramatic twists and turns. But, I was drawn in, beyond my control.
To make the story even more real (and perhaps to give me time to settle my raging emotions) the author has included some historical information and a bibliography to show the reader that, although this story may be fiction, there is definite historical fact that it could have happened. To remind us that horrible atrocities did happen. To bring to our attention the brave men and (especially) women who fought against them. Lest we forget.
I give this one an overwhelming 5 stars. I would give it a PG13 rating. I plan to give it to my middle schoolers but only with much discussion. It is violent and dark in many places. There is some bad language. But, it is necessary. The story needs to be heard.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
I was introduced to Kristen Heitzmann several years ago by my mother in law. I fell in love with her style and her books, and have since read everything she has written- often more than once.
Freefall was one I had read before. But, when I saw it offered as a free Kindle read, I grabbed it. I had borrowed the hard copy I read a few years back, so I didn't own this one. I reread it over the last few days, finished last night, and still can't get it out of my system. I read about P.A.B.D. on this blog, and I definitely have it over any of Kristen Heitzmann's books.
In Freefall, Jade stumbles out of the forests of Hawaii and into the lives of Nica and her brother, Cameron. Jade has a head injury and suffers from amnesia. Cameron, a fraud investigator who is always suspect, has trouble believing her story. But, as Jade remembers her identity, all of the characters find themselves facing their past and struggling with danger in their future, even as they build new relationships.
Heitzmann's characters are always vastly deep. The story shifts, so that we are allowed a glimpse into each character's life and thoughts and perspective. I love the way she does this. The characters are always deeply spiritual, but never goody goody. They are real, flawed, lovely people. When I read Heitzmann's writing, I come away wanting a closer relationship with God. I come away entertained by a wonderful story. And I move slowly away wanting the tale to never end.
Those are all the earmarks of an amazing book to me. I guess I'll just have to find more to reread.
I give this one 5 stars. I would also give her books a PG13 rating. They are clean and the characters all seek to do the right thing, but they are also very deep, sometimes dark, and sometimes imply various sexual relationships.
Saturday, May 19, 2012
Harlequin romances have a reputation for being twaddle romances full of lame love stories and sometimes a little steamy intimacy. But, recently I have read a few books from the Love Inspired line from Harlequin. The Love Inspired books have a faith element. The books are clean. The steamy scenes are lacking. The characters face moral and spiritual growth as well as a new relationship. I still wouldn't consider them deep and meaningful reads, but they are an enjoyable (and clean) light read.
In Threat of Darkness, Samantha finds herself in the middle of a mystery when a teenager in her ER has supposedly handed her an unknown package. She is aided by her former boyfriend, John. As the two face the danger that Samantha has stumbled into, they look for a way to renew their former relationship.
It was a rather trite and often predictable romance. It was clean and somewhat inspiring. It's the kind of book to take to the beach and read through in one sitting out on the sand. Don't expect anything earth shattering. But, it is a light, enjoyable read.
I give it a 3.5 stars, and a G rating for a good, clean read.
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes.. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Amish fiction is not always my favorite genre. But, I was pleasantly surprised by Arms of Love.
Unlike most Amish fiction, this novel was set during the Revolutionary War. Instead of focusing primarily on a couple that was Amish and could not work out their relationship because of difficulties within their faith or on a couple with one Amish and one non Amish member struggling to be together, Arms of Love focused instead on the plight of the Pacifist during the war and on the cycle of family abuse.
Adam and Lena have been in love for a long time and everyone assumes they will one day marry. But, when Lena's dying mother persuades Adam to make her a difficult promise, their relationship must end.
I really enjoyed the colonial times setting in the novel. There was quite a bit of historical background here about the time and the role of the Amish. The characters of Adam and Lena were strong and interesting, and there were several compelling secondary characters and story lines also.
There were a few times in reading the story that I was frustrated by the things conspiring to keep our hero and heroin apart. And there were a few situations that I found unbelievable and not really flowing with the rest of the story. I wanted to hurry the tale along in a few places.
But, I really enjoyed the read. I liked the distinct flavor that set this Amish fiction apart from some that I have read. I enjoyed the struggles and dramas and relationships between the characters. There is also a Bible study at the end of the novel that does a very good job of exploring some of the deeper themes from the reading.
I give it a 4 out of 5 stars and a PG rating (for some violence and references to married life).
I received a free copy of this book from BookSneeze for review purposes. All opinions are entirely my own.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Jason and I had the privilege of hearing Voddie Baucham speak in person at the Teach Them Diligently homeschool convention. I had heard of Voddie Baucham and had heard a few snippets of his messages recorded, but it was my first time to hear him in person. He is a powerful speaker with a convicting message about the condition of today's youth and families.
In Family Driven Faith, Voddie Baucham shares his convictions about the priority that family should be, what it takes to pass on a Biblical worldview, and the journey his family has taken to get there.
As homeschoolers, we are already moving against the cultural tide with our priority of family and the way we have chosen to educate our children. So there were quite a few things in the book that we are already doing. There were many things that we already know, already "got." But there were a few chapters that made me pause also: chapters about idols in our lives and the life of our family, chapters about family worship and making it a priority. And I especially appreciate Voccie Baucham's vision of a family-integrated church. It isn't where we are right now. But, I can definitely see where he is coming from. And it is very thought-provoking.
This one is a great read for Christian parents. It is well-written and easy to read. But, it is also convicting and thought-provoking. I plan on keeping it around as a reference and one to lend to friends asking for advice.
I give this one a five star rating and a G for good reading for anyone.
Saturday, May 5, 2012
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Summary: Set in the 1900s, farm girl from Montana, Cora Deihl comes home from a term at teacher college and finds herself thrust into a new life. As secrets about her past are revealed, she leaves the farm where she and her family have always struggled to get by and goes on the Grand Tour to Europe with siblings she never knew she had. The Grand Tour becomes one of self-discovery as Cora learns struggles to make sense of the changes in her life.
In the beginning of the read, I had very high hopes for this one. The dramatic way in which Cora learns of her new family was interesting. Cora herself was a very appealing heroine with spunk and determination. She was a very likable character. The point of view change from one character to another contributed to the appeal of the tale. (Even though I usually hate those point of view changes in a story.) I liked the introduction of the hero of our story, Will. He was also a likable character, the lower class struggling to go to college and make a life for himself. The time period in the story also made for an interesting read. There is much in the story about the lifestyle of the lower class and the wealthy in the 1900s. The characters sail on the famous Olympic, the White Star Line's ship that followed the ill-fated Titanic from the previous year. The Grand Tour itself is a very unique experience to read about. The story is rich in historical information.
Unfortunately, my interest waned as I read. I like some self-reflection on the part of the main characters, but in Glamorous Illusions, there is constant self-reflection which made me feel as if there was just too much drama and angst. Sometimes I just found myself wanting them to do something, not just reflect! I thought there were places where the story dragged. And then, the book wasn't complete. I knew the book was the first in a series, but there really was no end. There was a major dramatic happening at the end, and then the book just ended abruptly. I really don't like that in a story. I know it is supposed to serve to leave the reader wanting more, but I just want some kind of closure- even if I know there is more to come.
I just can't give this one any higher than a 3.5 stars. I would probably rate it a PG. There are a few places of intense conversations and references to infidelity that would caution me when determining who could read the book.
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley. All opinions are entirely my own.