Category Archives: Christian Fiction

The Week in Reviews: ReadLove Recap For the Week Beginning February 29, 2016

 

Another week has come and gone at ReadLove ! Here’s what you may have missed:

Monday:

Christian Chapters: Hannah’s Choice by Jan Drexler

3.5 of 5 Hearts. An Engaging, Yet Somber View of Amish Life in Conestoga, Pennsylvania, 1842.

Jan Drexel gives the reader a carefully researched, historically rich look at the forces which may have led Amish settlers, including some of her own ancestors, to leave Lancaster County and travel westward to Indiana. Though somber, Hannah’s Choice never loses hope while carrying its message that nothing is more important than faith and family.

[Read the full review]






Tuesday:

Non-Fiction Shelves – You’re Already Amazing LifeGrowth Guide by Holley Gerth

5 of 5 Hearts. An Encouraging, Empowering, Scripturally-Sound Guide To Becoming the You God Created You To Be.

If you’re feeling lost, broken, unloved, imperfect, insignificant, overwhelmed, or all of these things, don’t fret. Holley Gerth’s You’re Already Amazing LifeGrowth Guide can help. You might say it’s like a road map, or, if you’re directionally challenged like I am, a GPS for your heart. What’s more, it’s as comforting as chocolate, hot cocoa, coffee, or ice cream! My advice? Set down your burden, dry your tears, pour a cup of tea or grab a cookie, and sit down for a “talk” with Holley!

[Read the full review]

 

 

 

Thursday:

Christian Chapters: A Reluctant Bride by Kathleen Fuller

5 of 5 Hearts. A Beautiful Testament to God’s Ability to Rebuild, Renew, and Restore.

A Reluctant Bride is not a fairy-tale romance or swoon fest, but it demonstrates clearly how God can take broken pieces of shattered hearts and create something not only beautiful but unbreakable. For that reason, it may just be the perfect love story.

[Read the full review]

 

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That’s everything that happened on ReadLove this week. See you next week!

Until then, I’d love it if you shared a bit about your week in the comments!

Christian Chapters: A Reluctant Bride by Kathleen Fuller

A Beautiful Testament to God’s Ability to Rebuild, Renew, and Restore

A Reluctant Bride
by Kathleen Fuller


Series: Amish of Birch Creek (Book 1)
Publication Date: September 8, 2015
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Length: 304pp
ISBN-13: 978-0718033156

Related Links:
Kathleen Fuller’s Website

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Buy the Book

  AmazonBN






Publisher Synopsis

She never wanted to marry. He hopes to make amends for past wrongs. Can love find a way to heal both of their hearts?

Sadie Schrock swore she would never marry. Her Amish friends could court and marry — she was content to manage the family business and eventually take it over when her parents were ready to retire. But all that changes when a reckless driver kills her parents and seriously injures her younger sister. With mounting hospital bills adding to the pile of debt her parents left behind, Sadie is left with no choice: she must marry. And not just any man — the man who saw her at her weakest and walked away.

Aden knows what his brother did to Sadie years ago was inexcusable. And every day since that incident, Aden has lived with the guilt for not intervening sooner. When he is faced with the chance to protect Sadie once again, he can’t let her down — even if it means living with the scorn of the woman he loves for the rest of his life.

Working alongside Aden at the store, Sadie realizes he isn’t the same boy who once betrayed her. Just when Sadie starts to let her guard down and perhaps develop feelings for her new husband, dangerous secrets are revealed. Now everything Sadie has worked so hard to protect is threatened, and she must find a way to save her family — and herself.


My Review

A book title could never be at once more true and yet more understated than A Reluctant Bride. To say Sadie is a reluctant bride makes it sound like she has a case of cold feet. Not Sadie. She wants to run for the hills! And she’d run like the wind if only her feet weren’t frozen with fear.

Honestly, I have cold feet – literally – because Kathleen Fuller has knocked my socks off! A Reluctant Bride is the first work of Amish fiction where I’ve feared not only for someone’s physical safety but for his/her life. It also boasts the distinct honor of recording the fastest time, in my memory, in which a book has made me care about both its principal characters, Sadie and Aden. Kathleen Fuller’s writing is active and vital. She grants such close access to her characters’ thoughts that it’s almost as if you can hear their hearts beating.

Amish communities, like any other, are not immune to problems. In Birch Creek, Fuller reveals a community burdened with secrets, shame, abuse, heartache, pain, and grief. Yet despite its heartbreaking circumstances, A Reluctant Bride never loses hope. Instead, the novel uses adversity to teach powerful lessons about our loving God.

Through her Birch Creek cast, Fuller shows that all emotions need to be expressed and validated. If you put up walls to stave off grief or other unwelcome feelings, or conversely, if you hold too tightly to negative emotions, you make it difficult, if not impossible, to feel positive emotions – like love.

Another lesson is delivered through a wonderful analogy. Aden’s a beekeeper, and for a long time, his bees are his only friends. There’s a key scene where Aden tells Sadie about bees: Honey bees, he explains, are complex, yet simple creatures. While it’s true that they can deliver a painful sting, they only strike when threatened. A hive, he points out, has “a complex hierarchy. All the bees have to work together for the colony to survive.” Indeed, the characters in A Reluctant Bride learn that it’s not just okay but necessary to ask for and accept help. We are stronger together than apart.

Aden feels he’ll never meet his father’s expectations or earn his approval. Sadie also feels burdened with responsibility – she needs to work hard to do right by her parents’ memory by caring for her sisters and managing both the home and the family store. Ultimately, both take strength from knowing that God’s love is unconditional, His help ever-present, and His favor the only one they need seek.

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

5 of 5 Hearts. A Beautiful Testament to God’s Ability to Rebuild, Renew, and Restore.

A Reluctant Bride is not a fairy-tale romance or swoon fest, but it demonstrates clearly how God can take broken pieces of shattered hearts and create something not only beautiful but unbreakable. For that reason, it may just be the perfect love story.

Christian Chapters: Hannah’s Choice by Jan Drexler

An Engaging, Yet Somber View of Amish Life in Conestoga, Pennsylvania, 1842

Hannah’s Choice
by Jan Drexler


Series: Journey To Pleasant Prairie (Book 1)
Publication Date: January 19, 2016
Publisher: Revell
Length: 384pp
ISBN-13: 978-0800726560

Related Links:
Jan Drexler’s Website
Publisher’s Website (with Excerpt from Hannah’s Choice)
Interview with Jan Drexler at USA Today
Visit Jan Drexler on Facebook


Buy the Book

AmazonBN





 


Publisher Synopsis

When love and family conflict, will she listen to her head . . . or her heart?

Hannah Yoder loves her quiet life on the banks of Conestoga Creek. In 1842, this corner of Lancaster County is settled and peaceful — yet problems lurk beneath the placid façade. Hannah strives to be the one person who can bind the threads of her family together in spite of her father’s worries, her mother’s depression, and her sister’s rebellious ways. But her world threatens to unravel.

When two young men seek her hand in marriage — one offering the home she craves and the other promising the adventure of following God’s call west — Hannah must make a choice. Will she stay true to the faith of her family or defy her father and abandon her community?


My Review

Death is rarely a welcome visitor. When it enters a family’s home, it can leave destruction and despair in its wake. When diphtheria invades the Yoders’ home, some lives are taken, still others are broken, but no one is left unchanged.

Nine years later, Hannah still feels responsible for bringing death into their house. Her mother Annalise, remains inconsolable and consumed by grief, and seems fated for permanent imprisonment by spiritual darkness. Her father Christian, mindful that their traditional Amish community has fallen victim to outside influences from the progressive ideas of neighboring Mennonites and Quakers, decides that the only way to safeguard his family and preserve their values is to move West. Given Hannah’s closeness to Adam, the Mennonite boy next door, and her sister Liesbet’s capricious and rebellious ways, could it be that Christian’s decision has come too late to keep his family intact?

Jan Drexler has clearly done much research to show her readers what life in 1842 might have been like for an Amish family on the Conestoga. If you enjoy history, you’ll be pleased — Drexler has packed a lot of historical detail into Hannah’s Choice: Amish history, including reasons for their emigration to America, the inclusion of a redemptioner (something I learned!), as well as a look at the Underground Railroad and how views of this particular civil disobedience varied among different Anabaptist sects.

The well-drawn and ever present setting is a character unto itself. So much so that it nearly overshadows the rest of the cast. Along with her vivid setting, Drexler immediately establishes a deeply melancholic tone. Were it not for Hannah’s descriptions and recollections of happier days growing up, the novel might be too heavy.

Thematically, Hannah’s Choice explores loss, faith, and family, as well as the definition of home. Theological discussion touches on the importance of trusting in God’s will and living according to His plan. When faced with the potential risk inherent in journeying west (Indians, wilderness, dangerous travel, etc.), one character suggests fear or asking “What if…?” should not preclude you from stepping out in faith and taking a risk. After all, there are “what ifs” everywhere.

Though I enjoyed the author’s careful attention to setting, tone, and historical detail, I would have liked more character development. So much is stuffed into the novel that perhaps it needed to be longer in order to give adequate attention to its many characters, relationships, and plot lines. Still, while character development and, especially, romantic aspects, suffered somewhat, Hannah’s Choice maintained my interest from beginning to end.

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

3.5 of 5 Hearts. An Engaging, Yet Somber View of Amish Life in Conestoga, Pennsylvania, 1842.

Jan Drexel gives the reader a carefully researched, historically rich look at the forces which may have led Amish settlers, including some of her own ancestors, to leave Lancaster County and travel westward to Indiana. Though somber, Hannah’s Choice never loses hope while carrying its message that nothing is more important than faith and family.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Jan Drexler for providing me with a copy of this title in exchange for a fair and honest review. 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.”

 

The Week in Reviews: ReadLove Recap For the Week Beginning February 22, 2016

 

Another week has come and gone at ReadLove ! Here’s what you may have missed:

Monday:

Christian Chapters: The Imposter by Suzanne Woods Fisher

5 of 5 Hearts. An Inspiring and Lyrical Look at an Amish Community Facing Modern Issues.

The Imposter is impossible to categorize. Calling it a romance ignores the mystery. Calling it a mystery doesn’t fit either. There are many elements to this tale — romance, mystery, drama, humor, and faith to name a few. Just as our lives can’t be summed up with one label, neither can this story, and that’s what makes it so appealing. The Imposter incorporates everything readers of Amish fiction love about the genre, while steeping its setting and characters in modern realism, to a richly satisfying result.

[Read the full review]


Tuesday:

Kids Corner: Nightborn by Lou Anders

5 of 5 Hearts. A Smash-Hit Fantasy Sequel Bursting With Action, Adventure, Worldbuilding, Humor, Gaming, and (Most of All) Heart.

The perfect fantasy series follow-up, Nightborn pushes all the right buttons while breaking the walls of its own world wide open! As the maps of the Thrones & Bones world expand, interest in the series is guaranteed to grow. If you’re hunting for a quality middle-grade adventure series, your search ends here!

[Read the full review]

 

 

 

Thursday:

Kids Corner – American Girl: Kit Story Collection by Valerie Tripp

4.5 of 5 Hearts. An Illuminating, Kid’s-Eye Look at the Great Depression.

Kit Kittredge is everything you want from a heroine — intelligent, spunky, indomitable. As her story progresses, it’s easy to root for her and share her happiness, as well as her anxieties when hard times threaten. And those truly depressing times are rendered vividly by author Tripp, who never forgets that she is teaching as well as entertaining.

[Read the full review]

 

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That’s everything that happened on ReadLove this week. See you next week!

Until then, I’d love it if you shared a bit about your week in the comments!

Christian Chapters: The Imposter by Suzanne Woods Fisher

An Inspiring and Lyrical Look at an Amish Community Facing Modern Issues

The Imposter
by Suzanne Woods Fisher


Series: The Bishop’s Family (Book 1)
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Publisher: Revell
Length: 320pp
ISBN-13: 978-0800723200

Related Links:
Suzanne Woods Fisher’s Website
Publisher’s Website (with excerpt)

 


Buy the Book

AmazonBN







 


Publisher Synopsis

A heart once deceived should not be easily fooled again . . .

Katrina Stoltzfus thought she had life and love all figured out: she was going to marry John and live happily ever after. But as her plans crumble before her eyes, she struggles to face an uncertain future. When a widow asks for help starting a new business, Katrina quickly agrees. She needs time to heal her broken heart, to untangle her messy life, to find a purpose.

What she doesn’t need is attention from Andy Miller, a farmhand who arrives at the widow’s farm just when help is most needed — and who always seems to say the right thing and be in the right place, at the right time. Is Andy for real or too good to be true? She’s been deceived once before, and she isn’t planning on experiencing it again.

Bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher invites you back to Stoney Ridge for a tale of love, uncertainty, and trusting God to write your story.


My Review

The prologue of The Imposter imparts how David Stoltzfus came to Stoney Ridge. “Surprises,” we are told, “come in two shapes — good and bad. This one, though, felt indeterminate.”  Though he knew not why, David woke in the night feeling led by God to leave the comfort of his known surroundings and enter the wilderness. After months of prayer, a letter came from Elmo Beiler, a bishop, inviting him to come and pastor with him, “Go, came the prompting.” The ‘wilderness’, it turns out, was Stoney Ridge, Pennsylvania. So faithful and trusting, David packed up his family and moved to what seemed to be not a wild land, but Eden. Mere months later, Elmo, stricken with a massive heart attack, warns “Beware, David. A snake is in the garden.” And thus our story begins.

Don’t let the cover and book jacket fool you — The Imposter is not your run-of-the-mill Amish romance. The publisher synopsis suggests this release, Suzanne Woods Fisher’s first in a new series, The Bishop’s Family, is all about Katrina’s broken heart. If you go into this thinking you’ll find another sweet story of a heartsick young woman who meets her match, courts him, and finds her happily ever after, you’ll be mistaken. Fisher is telling a much more complicated tale. It’s David’s story, Katrina’s story (his daughter), and Jesse’s story (his son). Though summarizing it that way is a gross oversimplification. Fisher has combined several plot lines which will introduce you to many of the residents of Stoney Ridge. But don’t worry — she includes a helpful cast of characters at the front of the book, ensuring that a reader unfamiliar with her previous Stoney Ridge works can jump right in. I sure did!

This is a character-driven novel and you’ll love the characters — sweet earnest Katrina; wise and independent Thelma; tall and gawky, yet beautiful and bright Birdy; rebellious yet refreshingly funny Jesse; quirky but lovable Hank; steadfast and faithful David; and the rest!

Thematically, the novel explores many of life’s largest concerns, sometimes from both sides: love and loss, truth and lies, secrets, and uncertainty. Most of all, through her characters and their grappling for meaning and certainty, Suzanne Woods Fisher shows readers that it’s by trusting God that we’ll find peace and purpose.

I can’t go into more detail without venturing into spoiler territory, but I must say that in The Imposter Fisher’s Stoney Ridge vividly comes alive. In no time at all, you’ll feel at home in this community. It’s impossible to find a fitting comparison, but the vibrant strokes with which Fisher paints Stoney Ridge remind me of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Avonlea. Fleshing out both her characters and her setting, Fisher creates such verisimilitude that you’ll need to check the urge to consult maps of Lancaster County in hopes of meeting the residents of Stoney Ridge yourself.

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

5 of 5 Hearts. An Inspiring and Lyrical Look at an Amish Community Facing Modern Issues.

The Imposter is impossible to categorize. Calling it a romance ignores the mystery. Calling it a mystery doesn’t fit either. There are many elements to this tale — romance, mystery, drama, humor, and faith to name a few. Just as our lives can’t be summed up with one label, neither can this story, and that’s what makes it so appealing. The Imposter incorporates everything readers of Amish fiction love about the genre, while steeping its setting and characters in modern realism, to a richly satisfying result.

The Week in Reviews: ReadLove Recap For the Week Beginning February 15, 2016

 

Another week has come and gone at ReadLove ! Here’s what you may have missed:

Monday:

Christian Chapters: The Brontë Plot by Katherine Reay

4.5 of 5 Hearts. Enjoyable and Edifying. A Literary Field Trip Turned Journey of the Soul.

Come along with Lucy and Helen as they fly to London and traipse through literary landscapes, examining history and their own lives. Katherine Reay uses her own realistically imperfect characters, and draws on inspiration from some of her literary favorites, to shape The Brontë Plot into an engrossing and thoroughly satisfying journey of heart and soul.

[Read the full review]



 

Tuesday:

Christian Chapters: Amish Sweethearts by Leslie Gould

4.5 of 5 Hearts. A Lesson About Deep Faith, True Love, and What Both Really Mean.

Amish Sweethearts tells the complicated story of what happens when two people from very different worlds fall in love. Though unsure whether God’s plan for their futures has them together or apart, each sets forth on his/her own path, trusting in Him to guide their steps.

[Read the full review]

 

 

 

Thursday:

Christian Chapters: The Forgotten Recipe by Amy Clipston

4 of 5 Hearts. A Story as Sweet and Satisfying as Veronica’s Raspberry Pie.

With The Forgotten Recipe, Amy Clipston begins her new Amish Heirloom series by introducing Veronica Fisher and Jason Huyard. If their sugary-sweet romance is any indication, readers will be as eager for the next installment as Veronica’s customers are for another yummy slice of her raspberry pie!

[Read the full review]

 

 

Friday:

DVD Review – When Calls The Heart: Complete Season 2 (Collector’s Edition)

5 of 5 Hearts. Television For All Ages: Hope Valley Continues To Make Viewers Feel Like Family.

There is nothing on modern television like When Calls the Heart. It’s high quality storytelling, with a host of talent, both in front of and behind the camera. That’s why as the show moves forward, fan engagement continues to grow — so much so that Forbes magazine recently published a piece about the formidable influence of the combined voice of the enthusiastic viewers (#Hearties)!

[Read the full review]

 

 

Saturday:

CD Review: Winter In Hope Valley by WordHarmonic

4 of 5 Hearts. Music That Brings the Peace of the Valley Home.

Winter In Hope Valley may not transport you physically to the Canadian west of the early 1900s, but it will bring the peace of that wonderful little wilderness town to you.

[Read the full review]

 

 

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That’s everything that happened on ReadLove this week. See you next week!

Until then, I’d love it if you shared a bit about your week in the comments!

Christian Chapters: The Forgotten Recipe by Amy Clipston

A Story as Sweet and Satisfying as Veronica’s Raspberry Pie

The Forgotten Recipe
by Amy Clipston


Series: Amish Heirloom (Book 1)
Publication Date: December 8, 2015
Publisher: Zondervan
Length: 320pp
ISBN-13: 978-0310341994

Related Links:
Amy Clipston’s Website
Amy Clipston at Zondervan
FacebookTwitter


Buy the Book

  AmazonBN







Publisher Synopsis

Veronica Fisher is devastated when her fiancé, Seth, is killed in an accident at work. Seth’s friend, Jason Huyard, was with him and blames himself for Seth’s death. Although Jason has never met Veronica, he feels as if he knows her because Seth talked about her constantly. After the accident, he can’t seem to get Veronica out of his mind.

Two months later, Veronica is cleaning the attic and comes across her mother’s old hope chest. She finds an old recipe and soon discovers that baking helps her cope with her grief, so she opens a bake stand to sell her pies.

Jason starts visiting the stand weekly and their friendship grows, but Veronica isn’t ready to court again. And Jason harbors his secret regret of not being able to save Seth.

Veronica’s mother must convince her that she can’t completely give up on love. But when the truth is revealed, can she forgive Jason for not telling her he was there on that fateful day?


My Review

Some say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. If that’s true, then I reeled my husband in the first time I baked him a batch of chocolate chip cookies. And I guess you could say his love grows each year with every slice of my pumpkin pie! In Amy Clipston’s The Forgotten Recipe, the path to love is paved with raspberry pie!

The opening prologue of The Forgotten Recipe allows a vivid look into a somber scene in the Lapp family living room. There we find Jason Huyard attending the funeral of his best friend Seth. The pair worked together in construction, and Jason blames himself for the accident that took his friend’s life. As we watch Jason witness the grief of both Seth’s mother and Seth’s fiancee, Veronica, our hearts break for all three. Seth talked constantly of Veronica, so although Jason’s never met her, he feels he knows her. Burdened with guilt and responsibility, and convinced that his own carelessness is the cause of her pain, Jason’s determined to talk to Veronica and apologize — only he’ll have to wait ’til he can do it without breaking down.

Next, we look in on Veronica at home, two months following Seth’s death. Afraid that if she stops to rest her grief will consume her, Veronica is in a cleaning frenzy! Consumed with her need to clean, she decides to take on the family attic. There, tucked away in an old cedar hope chest, she finds a recipe written in her grandmother’s hand — a recipe for raspberry pie.

Just like that, Veronica’s fallen on the perfect way to keep busy. Before you know it, her pies are such a hit that she sets up her own road-side bake stand. When word of the delicious raspberry pies spreads into neighboring districts, Jason and his brother are sent on an errand to bring pies home to their mother. Only Jason doesn’t realize that the baker of the pies is the same girl he’s been unable to forget since the funeral.

What follows is a tale of love and loss, healing and forgiveness. Clipston sets the framework by establishing two characters whom you genuinely want to see happy, and she does a wonderful job allowing their relationship to develop slowly and naturally. There are tender moments and adorably cute scenes where you’ll find yourself smiling and sharing their secret giggles. I liked Jason and Veronica, and though, at times, I was frustrated with each, it was good fun rooting for them!

As she builds the groundwork for her new series, Clipston seems content to take her time and narrow her focus. Although I would have liked a little more complexity and unpredictability, in the end, the limited plot didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the novel. Jason and Veronica’s tale is a sweet love story of two hurting, heartbroken people who learn not only how to smile again, but how to love again. So grab a second helping of pie and give thanks that, when it comes to love, God allows second chances!

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

4 of 5 Hearts. A Story as Sweet and Satisfying as Veronica’s Raspberry Pie.

With The Forgotten Recipe, Amy Clipston begins her new Amish Heirloom series by introducing Veronica Fisher and Jason Huyard. If their sugary-sweet romance is any indication, readers will be as eager for the next installment as Veronica’s customers are for another yummy slice of her raspberry pie!

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Fiction Guild and Zondervan for providing me with a copy of this title. 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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