Plain Haven (Plainly Maryland-Book 1) by Susan Lantz Simpson (review by Cathy) We also have an interview with the author.

Plain Haven

About the book:

Lilly Brandt was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now she is running for her life—straight into a small, obscure Amish community in Southern Maryland,
Now as Hannah Kurtz, she knows she won’t be staying in Cherry Hill long enough to form any attachments, but she hadn’t counted on meeting and being attracted to the kind, young man with the amazing blue eyes.

Jacob Beiler, a skilled young furniture maker, has made a vow of his own. After being jilted by the girl he trusted right before he was about to propose, he decides to focus strictly on honing his craft and guarding his heart from any future injury. When Hannah Kurtz enters his world, she drops into his mending heart as well. Against his better judgement, he allows himself to care again and to trust another woman.

When the Amish community discovers Hannah is not really Amish and that she is not even Hannah Kurtz, Jacob feels betrayed yet again. Will he be able to forgive Hannah’s necessary deception, or will he walk away from love forever?

 

My review (5 stars)

I was intrigued when I first learned of this book, as its set in Maryland and the story takes place in Amish community that I’m very familiar with.

I think I was more curious as to what the author could base even one book, let alone an entire series on in this tiny community.  I’m so glad that I was curious because this book is pretty awesome!

This book has the perfect blend of suspense and Amish fiction.  The author crafted strong believable characters and an interesting storyline.  I loved Lilly/Hannah and admired her strength and courage.  There were a few times when I was on the edge of my seat as she spots the man on the bike who seems to be following her.  I adored the family that she stayed with and how she helped them as much as they were helping her.

Jake is a character that had my heart from the beginning.  He’s trying to forget about the woman who left the Amish community and shattered his dreams.    When he and Hannah become friends, I wasn’t too sure how he would handle finding out that she isn’t really who she pretends to be.

We all have decisions to make in life and Hannah has to grapple with one that will change her life completely.

Plain Haven has a plot that is is engaging and moves at a great pace.  I had a hard time putting this book  down.  If you like Amish fiction or are looking for a new author, I recommend Plain Haven.  I am eagerly anticipating the second book in the series.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and have given my honest opinion.

 

Interview with author Susan Lantz Simpson!!!

 

Gathering the Threads (The Amish of Summer Grove #3) by Cindy Woodsmall (review by Cathy)

Gathering the threads

About the book:

After three months ofdraus in da Welt, Ariana has returned to Summer Grove, the Old Order Amish community where she was raised for twenty years, and life with her Brenneman family.

Skylar Nash, the Englisch-raised young woman is working in Ariana s cafe while getting to know her birth family and their Plain way of life. Skylar’s time in Summer Grove has changed her outlook, just as Ariana has grown to see her personal faith in God in a different light than the manner she was taught while growing up.

Both women will have to make decisions about their paths and Ariana must decide what role her childhood friend, ex-Amish Quill Schlabach, will play in her life.
Gathering the Threads is the third and final novel in the Amish of Summer Grove series.

 

My review (5 stars)

In the conclusion to the Amish of Summer Grove series, Ariana returns to her Amish home and family.   If you have read the first two books, Ties that Bind and Fraying at the Edge, you’re aware that she was not born into an Amish family.     Although this can be read as a stand alone, I encourage everyone to read the series in order to fully appreciate the story.

It was difficult for Ariana to return after she has experienced living in the Englisch world, where she had the  freedom to question things and learning is encouraged.   Things are definitely different in her Amish home and community, where women are more submissive.

Skylar, having been raised by an Englisch family has been fighting her own personal battles and has hated being forced to live with her Amish family.  I haven’t always liked her, but as she matured, I actually became fond of her.   It was unimaginable to me to have your world turned upside down like theirs was.

I wondered throughout the series if relationships would survive, if there would be forgiveness and if there would be genuine healing for everyone that went through such anquish.   There are so many life changing decisions that the characters had to make all because of a mistake made twenty years ago that effected so many people.

The author has penned another amazing series with amazing characters.  She is one of my must read authors and one I highy recommend.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher and have given my honest opinion.

 

 

 

 

Hold the Light by April McGowan (review by Cathy)

 

Hold the Light

 

To an artist, the light is everything. So what is Amber supposed to do when facing blindness?

Amber spent her life adapting first to being abandoned by her birth mother as a toddler, and then to the death of her adoptive father in her teen years. Now she’s moved past all that, loving life as an independent woman: she has a job as an art instructor and the perfect apartment.

But when a routine eye appointment reveals she’s losing her sight, life comes to a halt. Pressures come at her from all sides. Her mother, her boss, her boyfriend and her closest friend, Shannon, all have ideas about what’s best for her.

Even after her blindness counselor, Ethan, befriends her and opens her eyes to new opportunities and the possibility of a deeper relationship, one haunting question remains: How could the God she loved all her life turn everything upside down again?

Paperback, 300 pages
Expected publication: August 15th 2017 by WhiteFire Publishing
My review (5-stars)

I was immediately caught up in the story of Amber as she received a devastating diagnosis from her eye doctor and begins her emotional journey.

I could understand her feelings and also the feelings of her mother and close friends.  I have firsthand knowledge that when someone is facing a life changing situation like that, it’s hard for them to give up their independence.  It was heartbreaking what Amber was going through, especially for someone so young and with such a bright and promising future.

As she comes to terms with the inevitable, I cried with her and for her.

Fortunately, she is blessed with the love and support of her friend, Shannon. I adored Ethan and if I ever needed an advocate outside of my family, I’d welcome someone like him.

There are some unexpected twists in the story that caught me by surprise and made me appreciate the story so much.  

Ms. McGowan penned a wonderful novel with realistic flawed characters.  I loved the inspirational thread throughout and I’m looking forward to reading more of her work.

I recommend this to readers of Christian fiction and those looking for a well written book.

I received a complimentary copy of Hold the light from the publisher and have given my honest opinion.

Click the link to purchase a copy of Hold the Light

Amazon

 

 

The Promise of a Letter (Amish Letter #2) by Kathleen Fuller (review by Cathy)

The Promise of a Letter

About the book:

A letter brings him back to his Amish family. It will take someone truly extraordinary to make him stay.

Roman is on the verge of leaving the Amish ways. Feeling confined by the strict rules, he longs to do something more with his life. But when things don’t go as planned, Roman’s prospects outside of the community dwindle. Upon learning that his beloved grandmother has died and left a letter urging him to reconcile with his brother in Birch Creek, Roman decides to return home. But he doesn’t plan to stay for long.

Leanna Chupp has always made her own way in her small community of Birch Creek. Though some may call her unconventional–strange, even–Leanna is happy. Her unique outlook on life has meant she’s never had many suitors pursuing courtship, which Leanna doesn’t mind. She is content being single.

But when Roman and Leanna find themselves working together again, everything changes. Though neither fit squarely within the strictures of the Amish faith, their differences could be the very thing to help them form a deeper connection to their community and to each other. The question remains: will this strengthening bond be enough to make Roman stay for good?

 

My review (5-stars)

This book is so easy to love!  I really enjoyed the first book, Written In Love, but this one was my favorite of the two.

That’s in large part because I loved Leanna.  I was drawn to her immediately and could easily imagine her skating to and from work and greeting her neighbors along the way.  I liked that she works in a typically male dominated profession and is not too concerned with her lack of domestic skills.  I think it is her confidence that I find appealing.

I was so happy to catch up with Phoebe and Jalon.  Actually, we catch up with many characters in Birch Creek, which I loved since I’ve  grown so fond of them. Of course there has to be conflict to make things interesting.  Leanna is the subject of gossip within the community which creates all sorts of problems for not only her, but her friends as well.

When Roman returns home things become interesting and complicated.  I found myself liking him much more than I expected to once I saw that he has a good heart and good intentions.

There are storylines in this book that will make you experience different emotions and that will make you realize that Kathleen Fuller is  not only a terrific story-teller, but she creates unforgettable  characters   I’m already looking forward to the third book in the series.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and have given my honest opinion.

 

A Harvest of Thorns by Corban Addison (review by Kristi)

a harvest of thorns.jpg

About the book:  A beloved American corporation with an explosive secret. A disgraced former journalist looking for redemption. A corporate executive with nothing left to lose.

In Dhaka, Bangladesh, a garment factory burns to the ground, claiming the lives of hundreds of workers, mostly young women. Amid the rubble, a bystander captures a heart-stopping photograph—a teenage girl lying in the dirt, her body broken by a multi-story fall, and over her mouth a mask of fabric bearing the label of one of America’s largest retailers, Presto Omnishops Corporation.

Eight thousand miles away, at Presto’s headquarters in Virginia, Cameron Alexander, the company’s long-time general counsel, watches the media coverage of the fire in horror, wondering if the damage can be contained. When the photo goes viral, fanning the flames of a decades old controversy about sweatshops, labor rights, and the ethics of globalization, he launches an investigation into the disaster that will reach farther than he could ever imagine – and threaten everything he has left in the world.

A year later, in Washington, D.C., Joshua Griswold, a disgraced former journalist from the Washington Post, receives an anonymous summons from a corporate whistleblower who offers him confidential information about Presto and the fire. For Griswold, the challenge of exposing Presto’s culpability is irresistible, as is the chance, however slight, at redemption. Deploying his old journalistic skills, he builds a historic case against Presto, setting the stage for a war in the courtroom and in the media that Griswold is determined to win—both to salvage his reputation and to provoke a revolution of conscience in Presto’s boardroom that could transform the fashion industry across the globe.

Published January 24, 2017, by Thomas Nelson

 

My review:  I found this story to be a fascinating read. It is an inside look at the supply chain of the clothing retail world. I found the book, while fiction, to be shocking, informative, and revealing. It definitely made me think differently about the clothes I wear.

This story takes place over a few years and in different countries around the world. Thankfully the author broke the story into different parts and put the location of the story at the beginning of each chapter. There is a lot of information packed into the story from a legal standpoint and also the business side of the story. There is also a very personal element to the story as the reader gets to know the victims.

There are two main characters in the book. The first is Cameron, the legal counsel for Presto. He gets to see firsthand the conditions of the workers in the factories overseas and does what he can to change things and wants more changes to take place. The second main character is Joshua, the journalist who is encouraged to pursue the story and perhaps bring it to trial to get changes in place. Cameron and Joshua are both likable characters and we get to see their flaws through their personal lives. The most likable characters in the book were the workers at the factories. Thinking about the conditions these people worked in and what they suffered on a daily basis made them easy to have empathy for.

Even though this book is published by Thomas Nelson it is not a clean read. This is a contemporary fiction book and includes adult subject matter and some mild language. However, this story is well-written and thought-provoking. Once I started reading this book I couldn’t put it down.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher and was not required to write a review. All opinions are mine.

 

About the author:  Corban Addison holds degrees in law and engineering from the University of Virginia and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He began to experiment with writing at the age of fifteen, about the same time he developed an interest in international travel. His early works were mostly essays, reflections and travelogues, but his true love was fiction. For eight years he searched for a story with wings. In the end, the story found him.

In the summer of 2008, Addison’s wife gave him an idea that he found irresistible—a novel on the global trade in human beings. Despite the increasing demands of career and family, he embarked upon an odyssey that took him to India and Europe and into the corridors of power in Washington, D.C. In immersing himself in the world of modern-day slavery, he spent time with experts and activists in the field and went undercover into the brothels of Mumbai to meet trafficking victims firsthand.

Out of this journey, A Walk Across the Sun was born. It is a novel that brings together three of Addison’s great passions—storytelling, human rights, and the world and its cultures—in a narrative that enlightens while it entertains. Addison is a supporter of international justice causes, including the abolition of modern slavery, and he is committed to broadening this support through the publication of A Walk Across the Sun.

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The Promise of Dawn by Lauraine Snelling (review by Kristi)

the promise of dawn

About the book:  When Signe, her husband, Rune, and their three boys arrive in Minnesota from Norway to help a relative clear his land of lumber, they dream of owning their own farm and building a life in the New World. But Uncle Einar and Aunt Gird are hard, demanding people, and Signe and her family soon find themselves worked nearly to the bone in order to repay the cost of their voyage. At this rate, they will never have land or a life of their own.

Signe tries to trust God but struggles with anger and bitterness. She has left behind the only life she knew, and while it wasn’t an easy life, it wasn’t as hard as what she now faces. When a new addition to the family arrives, Signe begins to see how God has been watching over them throughout their ordeal. But after all that has happened, can she still believe in the promise of a bright future?

Published August 1, 2017, by Bethany House Publishers

 

My review:  This was my first book by this author and I wasn’t sure what to expect. At first, I was a little worried that I wouldn’t care for the story. All those Norwegian names were difficult to pronounce and I wasn’t sure if I was even close. (Sorry but it is a quirk of mine to pronounce names correctly, even in books.) After I got past the deciding to come to America part and the voyage over started I really got into this story and couldn’t put the book down.

Lauraine Snelling writes in a way that made me feel I was a part of the story. From the stuffy, closed-in feeling on the ship coming to America to the day-to-day activities once they were here, I felt like I was experiencing everything right along with Signe, Rune, and the boys. I feel like through her writing style and descriptions, the author gave us a realistic glimpse of life for a family immigrating to America and having to learn the ways of family they didn’t really know and adjusting to life in a different country. Heck, she even inspired me through her descriptions to put the book down and go pull weeds from my flower garden!

I liked the fact this was a story about family and new beginnings and not a romance. While romances aren’t bad it’s just nice every now and then to read a book that doesn’t focus on romance but has a really good storyline like this book did. I thought of this book as a Little House on the Prairie for grownups. This book didn’t have a really strong faith element to it until closer to the end of the book. Until the almost the end there is only a casual mention every now and then of God and going to church. However, this didn’t bother me because the story is so good and well-written.

As far as characters go I liked Signe and felt a bit sorry for her for all she had to do. She had a lot on her shoulders but handled it wonderfully. Rune and the boys were all likable as well and Mrs. Benson was a delight! She added a breath of fresh air to the story to lighten it up from time to time. At first, I didn’t like Tante Gerd but as she changed throughout the story my feelings for her changed. Now, Onkel Einar is a completely different story. He was mean and my one complaint about the book is that we never found out why. Perhaps that part of the storyline will be revealed in the next book which I definitely plan on reading.

This author and the rest of this series is on my to-read list. I will be looking for more of her books, too. She has a great writing style and reading this book was effortless. This was one of those books I began to read and before I knew it I was 100+ pages into the story. Not all authors are able to pull readers into a story so easily and when they do their work must be appreciated and savored.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher and was not required to write a review. All opinions are mine.

 

About the author:  Lauraine Snelling is the award-winning author of over seventy books, with sales of more than 2 million copies.

She also writes for a wide range of magazines, and helps others reach their writing dreams by teaching at writers’ conferences across the country.

Lauraine and her husband, Wayne, have two grown sons, and live in the Tehachapi Mountains with a watchdog Basset named Winston.

They love to travel, most especially in their forty-foot motor coach, which they affectionately deem “a work in progress”.

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To Wager Her Heart (A Belle Meade Plantation Novel) by Tamera Alexander (review by Cathy)

To Wager Her Heart

 

About the book:

With fates bound by a shared tragedy, a reformed gambler from the Colorado Territory and a Southern Belle bent on breaking free from society’s expectations must work together to achieve their dreams—provided that the truth doesn’t tear them apart first.

Sylas Rutledge, the new owner of the Northeast Line Railroad, invests everything he has into this venture, partly for the sake of the challenge. But mostly to clear his father’s name. One man holds the key to Sy’s success—General William Giles Harding of Nashville’s Belle Meade Plantation. But Harding is champagne and thoroughbreds, and Sy Rutledge is beer and bullocks. Sy needs someone to help him maneuver his way through Nashville’s society, and when he meets Alexandra Jamison, he quickly decides he’s found his tutor. Only, he soon discovers that the very train accident his father is blamed for causing is what killed Alexandra Jamison’s fiancee—and what has broken her heart.

Spurning an arranged marriage by her father, Alexandra instead pursues her passion for teaching at Fisk University, the first freedmen’s university in the United States. But family—and Nashville society—do not approve, and she soon finds herself cast out from both. Through connections with the Harding family, Alexandra and Sy become unlikely allies. And despite her first impressions, Alexandra gradually finds herself coming to respect, and even care for this man. But how can she, when her heart is still spoken for? And when Sy’s roguish qualities and adventuresome spirit smack more of recklessness than responsibility and honor?

Sylas Rutledge will risk everything to win over the woman he loves. What he doesn’t count on is having to wager her heart to do it.

Set against the real history of Nashville’s Belle Meade Plantation and the original Fisk University Jubilee Singers ensemble, To Wager Her Heart is a stirring love story about seeking justice and restoring honor at a time in history when both were tenuous and hard-won.

 

My review (5-stars)

This is the third and final book in the Belle Meade Plantation series.  I’m going to state the obvious here, the cover is absolutely gorgeous, isn’t it?    Having said that, let me say that the story is rich in history, has engaging characters and is beautifully written.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Fisk University and  Jubilee Singers.   Ms. Alexander captured my heart in her writing of the freedmen and their desire for an education and the struggles the university faced financially.

I will always remember Alexandra and admire her for her strength and determination making her one of my favorite fictional characters in recent memory.  Sylas and Ella are both amazing characters that I adored.

As sad as I am to see this series end, I must say that it has a wonderful ending.  To Wager Her Heart is a book that I will want to read again.   If you read this book even one time, I think you’ll be glad you did.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher and have given my honest opinion.