Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Long Amish Boat Ride

Anna’s Crossing
Suzanne Woods Fisher
An Amish Beginnings Novel

On a hot day in 1737 in Rotterdam, Anna K├Ânig reluctantly sets foot on the Charming Nancy, a merchant ship that will carry her and her fellow Amish believers across the Atlantic to start a new life. As the only one in her community who can speak English, she feels compelled to go. But Anna is determined to complete this journey and return home--assuming she survives. She's heard horrific tales of ocean crossings and worse ones of what lay ahead in the New World. But fearfulness is something Anna has never known. 

Ship's carpenter Bairn resents the somber people--dubbed Peculiars by the deckhands--who fill the lower deck of the Charming Nancy. All Bairn wants to do is to put his lonely past behind him, but that irksome and lovely lass Anna and her people keep intruding on him.

Delays, storms, illness, and diminishing provisions test the mettle and patience of everyone on board. When Anna is caught in a life-threatening situation, Bairn makes a discovery that shakes his entire foundation. But has the revelation come too late?

Anna’s Crossing was such a wonderful view of the Amish coming into America. When I was first introduced into the world of Christian Fiction, it started with Beverly Lewis. I read so much that I couldn't deal with another Amish novel for the next few years. I needed a book to read, and so I picked up Anna’s Crossing, and I loved it! It totally renewed my love for Amish fiction. 

The characters were intriguing and hadn't developed the same odd system of belief that we see in more modern fiction. Today they seem to be a relic, in the book they were a god bound people seeking freedom in a new land. It  was inspirational! I highly recommend it to anyone. This book was super good, and I don't want to spoil. Totally worth it for anyone into romance, ships, historical fiction, and Amish fiction.

One thing, just to be clear, we spend the majority of the book prepping for the journey across the sea, not all in one place and not stagnant, but not making great headway either. The plot didn't slag, but you felt the same anxiousness to get across the ocean as the characters did, which I thought was an absolutely fantastic addition.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. Enjoy reading! And don't forget to click on the cover to read an excerpt.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Let's Go On a Cruise

Where Trust Lies
Janette Oke & Laurel Oke Logan
Return to the Canadian West #2

She loves her friends and students in the West, but family obligations have called her home. Where
does she truly belong?
After a year of teaching in the Canadian West, Beth Thatcher returns home to her family. She barely has time to settle in before her mother announces plans for a family holiday--a luxurious steamship tour along the eastern coast of Canada and the United States. Hoping to reconnect with her mother and her sisters, Beth agrees to join them, but she quickly realizes that things have changed since she went away, and renewing their close bond is going to be more challenging than she expected. 

There's one special thing to look forward to--letters and telephone calls from Jarrick, the Mountie who has stolen her heart. The distance between them is almost too much to bear. But can she give her heart to Jarrick when it will mean saying good-bye to her family once again--and possibly forever? And will she still want to live in the western wilds after the steamship tour opens up a world of people and places she never imagined?

Then comes a great test of Beth's faith. Someone in her family has trusted the wrong person, and suddenly everything Beth knows and loves is toppled. Torn between her family and her dreams, will Beth finally discover where her heart truly belongs?

Walking into this book I thought that it was going to be a sequel that kind of picks up in the same general setting. I was thinking we were going to see Beth in another (or maybe the same) small, rural town teaching with her cute Mountie somewhere in the region. For this reason I found the whole book disappointing. To be fair, I realized my mopey-colored glasses about halfway through the book. I finished, and reread it without my expectations. Whole lot better!

Where Trust Lies picks up where it is actually most logical, Summer Break. We spent a whole novel learning about Beth as she got to grow up away from her family, and now we get to see how she interacts with them after her life changing experiences. I thought it did wonderful things developing her as a character.

Beth and the Handsome Mountie are official now. While she is on her summer break, on a cruise no less, he is still doing whatever it is that Mounties do. We still get pretty swell interaction between him and Beth in the form of telegrams and letters being sent. They are fairly regular in their correspondence, and it is  so cute! I really enjoy reading letters in books, it breaks up the boring monotony of the typical setup.

Totally a worthwhile read for fans of Janette Oke.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my review. Don’t forget to click on the cover to read an excerpt.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Forgiveness During Extraordinary Circumstances

Where Rivers Part
Kellie Coates Gilbert
Texas Gold 2

Dr. Juliet Ryan has devoted her considerable scientific acumen to corporate America, providing safe drinking water for millions--and affording her plenty of perks along the way. It's not the path her estranged father would have her take, but then Juliet finds it difficult to maintain respect for a man she cannot trust. She's on her way up in the world, and she's not going to let anything drag her down.

But when a fast-moving disaster sweeps Juliet into a whirlpool of corporate scandal, lives are at risk--including those of some of the people closest to her. As she scrambles to find answers, Juliet must face her deepest wounds and join forces with the one who has hurt her most in order to expose a far-reaching conspiracy.

Like a mighty river with twists and turns and hidden rocks, this engrossing story will sweep you relentlessly along as it fearlessly explores the seduction of success, the fear of giving up control, and the redemptive power of learning to forgive.

    I was kind of nervous going into this book, because the first one in the series had some really uncomfortable moments. Thankfully, I found the book to be really smooth, and yes there were the heart-wrenching face-hiding moments, but they didn't dominate the book. 

     Juliet was in a couple positions throughout the book that I felt I could really relate to. Situations where I paused for a quick moment and thought Would I be that gracious? Could I forgive someone who did that to me? etc. I really loved the message about forgiveness, it was both subtle and bold. Forgiving loved ones during extraordinary circumstances seems to be the theme running through both books in the series.

     I really enjoyed reading this book, it kept me on the edge of my seat and constantly guessing about the characters, their motivations, and the plot. I also loved the romance. Where Rivers Part was about so much more than her relationship with the man that she would marry, and I felt that the background movement towards the relationship made it all the sweeter. 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. Enjoy Reading!

Don't forget to click on the cover to read an excerpt. 


Monday, March 9, 2015

Barely Dead in the Ground

Love Unexpected
Jody Hedlund
Beacons of Hope 1

All Emma Chambers ever wanted was a home, but when her steamboat sinks just outside Presque Isle, she’s left destitute and with no place to stay.

An unlikely solution arises when the lighthouse keeper arrives in town. He’s just lost his wife and is having a difficult time caring for his child. So a traveling preacher gets the idea that the keeper and Emma might be the answer to each other’s dilemma. After a hasty marriage, she finds herself heading to the lighthouse with this handsome but quiet stranger. Nothing in her aimless life, though, has prepared her for parenting a rambunctious toddler, as well as managing a household.

Emma soon suspects Patrick may be hiding something from her, and then she hears a disturbing rumor about the circumstances surrounding his late wife’s death. It seems as if her wish for a home and family of her own could end up leading her once more into turbulent waters.

Discussion Point the First: When you read the blurb, and it says Patrick just lost his wife, you think maybe two weeks to two months ago. Right? How about not? Emma stumbles upon her FUNERAL. When they mean just, they aren’t stretching. It kind of took me back, I mean his new-to-be wife was talking to his two-year-old while they were putting dirt over the coffin. Just wow.

I really enjoyed the characters and their dynamics. Emma seemed pretty chill throughout the majority of the book. She spent a good portion of her young years in Ireland during the starving period. She witnessed a lot of crimes and the fact that it became normal is apparent. She gets stressed when it comes down to toddlers behavior though. She has one younger brother, but she never had any practice taking care of little ones. Her problems with obedience are both amusing and annoying. Amusing because she has such problems, and annoying because she can’t control him. Just discipline him. He is a child. On the bright side it isn't one of those annoying stories where she gets no support from Patrick when it comes to toddler. He supports her, and I loved it.

The history surrounding the lighthouse and living on Lake Michigan was really engrossing. It made me curious about how a lighthouse is actually run, and gave me enough information that I didn’t feel the need to look it up, or put it down for a break. It brought to mind the new version of Yours, Mine, and Ours, when the wife woos her husband with their lighthouse. It also punctured my Boxcar children dreams. Oh well. Aside from the popping of dreams it was absolutely wonderful, and I’ve already reread it twice. I cannot wait for the next book in the series to come out (I think sometime later this year).

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.  Enjoy reading!

Don’t forget to click on the cover to read an excerpt.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

2500 Years and We're Still Laughing

Esther: Royal Beauty

Angela Hunt
Dangerous Beauty #1

An ambitious tyrant threatens genocide against the Jews in ancient Persia, so an inexperienced beautiful young queen must take a stand for her people. 

When Xerxes, king of Persia, issues a call for beautiful young women, Hadassah, a Jewish orphan living in Susa, is forcibly taken to the palace of the pagan ruler. After months of preparation, the girl known to the Persians as Esther wins the king's heart and a queen's crown. But because her situation is uncertain, she keeps her ethnic identity a secret until she learns that an evil and ambitious man has won the king's permission to exterminate all Jews--young and old, powerful and helpless. Purposely violating an ancient Persian law, she risks her life in order to save her people...and bind her husband's heart. 

Approximately 2500 years ago, a young Jewish woman named Hadassah was chosen by the Lord to be a spokesperson for her people in their time of need. Queen Esther is one of two women in the Bible whose actions were so important that they received their own books. Tonight at sunset, the Jews victory over Haman is celebrated. Tonight (and tomorrow) is Purim. I plan on celebrating Purim, and I thought it would be delicious that to celebrate I review Esther: Royal Beauty.

As I said, being one of two women with their own book (Esther and Ruth) in the Bible, they tend to appear pretty frequently in Biblical Fiction. Esther in particular has several movie adaptations, including a VeggieTales version. My personal favorite of these are One Night  with the King. As I started seeing more of Queen Esther I went back and scrutinized the book itself. The majority of fiction sees Queen Esther and King Xerxes (or  Ahasuerus) as being wildly in love with this fairy tale romantic love story (VeggieTales is actually more accurate). They might’ve been for a time, but their relationship was not characterized by true love.

Which was why I was so pleased that Angela Hunt stuck to the facts, and went beyond the fairy tale romance. I was entranced with this version because of this on many facets. King Xerxes in Jewish culture is generally known as a fool, and you saw it in this version. You also got to see what could’ve been the reasoning behind so many of the actions that they took to get to Purim. For instance, why did Esther have two banquets? Why wasn't one enough? Angela Hunt provides a reasonable and fulfilling explanation for a lot of these kinds of instances.

Another thing I liked was how it was written. Instead of being written in third person, she switches between two first person point of views. The first, the obvious, is Queen Esther. The second is slightly more surprising, Harbonah, the King’s eunuch chamberlain. Queen Esther is the narrator that can be relied upon to share the Jewish aspect, but Harbonah was an unusually good choice in that he isn’t as biased on the foolish king would be and he delivers the story in the scope of what would’ve been going on in the empire. I was surprised that Angela Hunt didn’t choose Hegai, the famous eunuch to whom Esther was entrusted, but it did make an appearance and was mentioned several times so all was well.

I also enjoyed how much story there was before Esther entered the palace. The story of when she was still a little Jewish girl. While it was mostly speculation, Angela Hunt based it off of Jewish laws and customs which made it extremely believable and enjoyable.

A word of warning: Eunuchs go through, at a very young age, a traumatic travesty. Harbonah isn’t explicit about it, but you do understand what happens. I found it very alarming. A few other things came up like idols, sacrifice of children, sex out of marriage etc. Xerxes was a Persian king and his morals and actions in the story reflect that.  

Don't forget to click on the cover to read an excerpt. Enjoy Reading!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.