Monday, May 21, 2012

Book Review: The Scent of Cherry Blossoms by Cindy Woodsmall

In her newest novella, The Scent of Cherry Blossoms, Cindy Woodsmall treats the reader to a glimpse into differences between two communities – the Old Order Amish and the Old Order Mennonites.  But these two communities only seem identical to the outsiders. Cindy Woodsmall dares to plumb the depths of the differences between these theological “cousins” that date back to the 17th century.

 Annie Martin is an Old Order Mennonite girl who loves her heritage and her grandfather. To escape a difficult situation at home, Annie goes to live with him in Apple Ridge, Pennsylvania just as spring begins to show its face. While there, she becomes reacquainted with a childhood friend, Aden Zook. But Aden is Old Order Amish, and as their friendship grows into love, their families forbid the relationship, revealing just how deeply the boundaries between the two sects run.

Even though novellas are traditionally shorter and less complex than a novel, Cindy Woodsmall has also given the reader fully developed secondary characters, including a look at Aden’s twin brother, Roman, as he tries to regain his identity after being confined to a wheel chair due to a farming accident. Roman’s journey and his steps toward love with an outgoing, vivacious Amish girl are a delightful background to Annie and Aden’s story.

I have enjoyed all of Cindy Woodsmall’s books that I’ve read, and this one is no exception. In the growing sub-genre of Amish fiction, Cindy gives the reader a sweet, authentic story every time.

To learn more about Cindy Woodsmall, or to read an excerpt of this book, follow these links:
Cindy's website
Read Chapter One
Buy This Book from Waterbrook Multnomah Publisher 

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for my unbiased review.

Book Review: Brush of Angel's Wings by Ruth Reid

In Brush of Angel’s Wings, Ruth Reid’s second book in her “Heaven on Earth” series, we are treated to the story of Rachel Hartzler, a young Amish woman who doesn’t fit comfortably into her Michigan Amish community’s expectations. She meets a young man, Jordan Engles, who is only planning to stay with his Amish uncle for a short time to fulfill a promise made to his dying mother before he rejoins the English world. 

When Rachel’s father hires Jordan to help out on the farm, Rachel has to face feelings ranging from jealousy because this newcomer is taking her place working beside her father to renewed grief as Jordan’s presence reminds her of her brother who recently died. Jordan, in turn, is dealing with his own grief and finds himself searching for a connection to his mother through her Amish roots. In spite of this, Jordan and Rachel are attracted to each other, and as they learn to work together, they become friends.

The reader is also witness to the workings of an angel, named Nathaniel, and a demon named Tangus, both trying to affect Rachel and Jordan’s lives – Nathaniel to protect them, and Tangus to lead them away from God. The angel’s and demon’s interactions are woven into the story throughout the book.
I enjoyed this story and was caught up in the developing relationship between Rachel and Jordan, especially when a tragedy seems to force them apart. I wasn’t as interested in the angel’s part of the story - it could have been left out without affecting the story in any way. Even so, I’m interested in reading Ruth Reid’s other books, including The Promise of an Angel, the first “Heaven on Earth” book, and Angel at Her Side, the third book in the series, available January 2013.

I received a free copy of this book for my unbiased review.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Book Review: Beyond Hope's Valley by Trisha Goyer

The third in Trisha Goyer’s Big Sky Trilogy, Beyond Hope’s Valley doesn’t disappoint the reader who is looking for the continuation of Marianna Sommer’s story. At the end of the previous book, we knew Marianna would be returning to her Indiana home, leaving her parents and younger siblings in Kootenai, Montana, and her future seemed set. But when she arrives in Shipshewana, she realizes her time in Montana has changed her, and she sees her home community through new eyes.

As Marianna and Aaron make plans for their future, questions continue to arise, leaving Marianna unsettled and unsure. Will she live the life she had planned, or will a new future open up for her beyond this valley?

I enjoy Trisha Goyer’s books very much, but this one was disappointing. The conflict between Marianna and Aaron seemed shallow and rushed, and her portrayal of the Shipshewana Amish community didn’t ring true – one of the pitfalls of using a real place for a setting in a fictional work.

Don’t let that dissuade you from reading this book, however – the end of Marianna’s story is a sweet conclusion to this trilogy.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for my unbiased review.