BOOK REVIEW: The Promise of a Letter by Kathleen Fuller

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?

Back to Birch Creek with Jalon and Phoebe and their new fledgling family and a host of community and friends.  Jalon's sister Leanna is still working for their friend and neighbor Daniel in his small engine repair shop.  Not a normal occupation for a female but as a confirmed bachelor (her words not mine) it's what she is passionate about and what she loves.  In the first book, 'Written in Love', where it all started, we met Daniel's brother Roman, briefly.  We knew enough that he was a thorn in Leanna's side as well as his brother's.  After the passing of their Grossmammi he's back to attempt to make amends and reconcile with his brother.  For better or worse, for the love of this woman he is bound to make this work.  But regaining trust is hard, and Roman's ability to stick with it is lacking.

I'll be honest, the brewing romance (come on it's not like you didn't know it was coming) between Roman and Leanna was a bit awkward.  I frequently feel this way in more romantic type books.  Why is so hard to translate the beginning of falling for someone into words?  But then again, we are talking about two awkward adults.  Two people who had sworn off traditional roles of family and marriage and kidlets.  For two sorta, almost different reasons but still.  It's not only finding their way after the disaster that was their first meeting but also dealing with new feelings for themselves and deciding if it's worth the potential hurt to put their trust into another.  It's complicated.  And hard.  And well, it's real life.  

I really really liked this book.  I love these characters, I love seeing these two specifically come into their own and find a way.  I feel like their romance was too fast and the wedding too quick but then I usually do.  I loved the side story of Adam and Karen too.  I can't wait to see where the next book is going to take us, though I've got a gut feeling it's with Ivy.  You know, Leanna's bestie.  Six months, I can wait six months right?

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by Kathleen Fuller and Thomas Nelson Publishing.  I was not compensated for this review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.  I was not required to write a positive review.

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The Promise of a Letter (Amish Letter #2)

About Kathleen Fuller

Kathleen Fuller is the best-selling author of over thirty books, including the Hearts of Middlefield series.
1. I started writing January 1, 2000. New year, new millennium, new career.
2. I’m a former special education teacher, specializing in teaching the blind and visually impaired.
3. I was born in New Orleans, LA, raised in Little Rock, AR, and call Geneva, OH my home.
4. On June 12, 2013, my husband and I will celebrate twenty years of marriage.
5. We have three awesome kids.
6. I love chocolate. ‘Nuff said.
7. I’ve written and published over twenty-five novels and novellas.
8. I also write nonfiction–interviews, devotionals, Bible studies, essays, blog posts…
9. We have three dogs–Biscuit, Mollie, and Chief. And one cat, creatively named Kitty.
10. If I could go anywhere in the world I would go to Ireland.

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BOOK REVIEW: Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

A sinister, sexy noir about art, motherhood, and the intensity of female friendships, set in the posh hills above Los Angeles, from the New York Times bestselling author of California.

High in the Hollywood Hills, writer Lady Daniels has decided to take a break from her husband. She’s going to need a hand with her young son if she’s ever going to finish her memoir. In comes S., a magnetic young artist, who will live in the secluded guest house out back, care for Lady’s young toddler son, and keep a watchful eye on her older, teenage, one. S. performs her day job beautifully, quickly drawing the entire family into her orbit, and becoming a confidante for Lady. But as the summer wears on, S.’s connection to Lady’s older son takes a disturbing, and possibly destructive, turn. Lady and S. will move closer to one another as they both threaten to harm the things they hold most dear. Darkly comic, twisty and tense, this mesmerizing new novel defies expectation and proves Edan Lepucki to be one of the most talented and exciting voices of her generation.

This book has me a bit tied up in knots.  It as a lot darker than I expected, which is saying a lot, but it wasn't bleak.  I wasn't sure what I should expect honestly, but it riveted my attention when I saw it available on Blogging for Books so I snagged it.  I'm really glad I did, however it didn't quite live up to the expectation.

Written in the voice of the two main characters, Lady and S, the book jars between their two stories.  It didn't transition all that seamlessly.  So many times I was lost as well as their stories blended together and it was hard to remember which story belonged to whom.  Lady has loved and lost and blames her mother.  Her oldest son is diagnosed with selective mute-ism and while he is not technically an adult she's not quite ready to cut that cord.  She hires the nanny for her youngest son, not quite a preschooler.  S is a recent college graduate trying to reinvent herself.  She's an artist, sort of, and has chosen to take on a project that honestly, I guess I'm too old to understand.  She is trying to recreate who her mother was, before she had a child.  Or even when S was just a child.  She's obviously got her own Mommy issues as well.  The supporting cast does an excellent job of helping these two women tell their stories, and possibly change the direction of their lives.  Not always in for the positive.

The characters are so well developed that I grew to care about them, even the supporting cast.  The story flowed well that even with the Minions of Mayhem interrupting at every turn it wasn't a difficult book to read. Just difficult to keep their stories straight.  Though it did tend to drag at times.  It's not going to sit on the favorite shelf any time soon but I do think that it has a lot of potential and it is definitely worth a reread.  In the right library, it would be a well loved book.

WARNING: This book does have some language and some sexual content.  It is not for every reader.  Just sayin'.

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by Blogging for Books.  I was not compensated for this review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.  I was not required to write a positive review. 

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Woman No. 17

About Elan Lepucki 
Edan Lepucki is the New York Times bestselling author of California, as well as the novella If You're Not Yet Like Me. Her next novel, Woman No. 17, will be published by Hogarth/Crown in May of 2017.

She is a graduate of Oberlin College and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and her short fiction and nonfiction have been published in McSweeney's, Narrative Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. She is a staff writer for The Millions and the founder of Writing Workshops Los Angeles.

She likes cooking, reading and filling out forms.

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BOOK REVIEW: Gathering the Treads by Cindy Woodsmall

After three months of draus 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' ends where 'Fraying at the Edge' left off as the third book in the Amish of Summer Grove series.  If you have not yet read the first two books then I must insist that you do.  The story builds on each beginning book.  It might be doable as a standalone but I highly discourage it!  Seriously, read the series!  Ariana is back in Summer Grove where she always thought she wanted to be and Skylar, for now has decided to remain as well.  But, it's not all sunshine and roses as Ariana tries to navigate the life she thought she always wanted with her newfound understanding of life from the outside world.

I truly grew to love Skylar, until about page 226.  She dog-eared a book.  The love was over.  I still liked her but who does that?!? I like that she knows herself enough to know that she doesn't know herself at all.  I respect that she finally finds herself and knows that while she will never be Amish she also can never go back to who she was and then finds the perfect way to blend those together.  The trips, as Skylar has come to refer to herself along with Ariana and Abram, have all grown through this experience.  The entire family has grown and that spills over to their community.  Abram found his voice, literally and figuratively.  He's no longer the retiring shy young man he started as.  He found his voice and he found his future.  Honestly he is one of favorites and I'd love to see the rest of his life sometime.

Ariana however, she tries my patience.  At first I was clueless as to why she was so dang attached to that phone but I get it.  It wasn't the phone but what it represented.  She put herself, her family, her community and me through a lot of trouble for a stinkin' phone.  Seriously, I'd decided she was Skylar in reverse and I really couldn't stand her.  She was petulant and whiny and I was over it.  Eventually it all made sense but geez she was still a bit over the top.  This book, this entire journey, did not end how I anticipated and at first I wasn't certain I was OK with how it turned out.  I had to sit and stew it for a bit.  Eventually I came to terms with how it all turned out and actually respected and appreciated that sometimes hard choices aren't as hard as them seem, nor as easy as they appear.  I came to be OK with the conclusion though obviously want no need more.  I'd like to see the stories of the supporting characters to continue on another time in another book.  Or even another series. 

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by Cindy Woodsmall and WaterBrook & Multnomah Publishing.  I was not compensated for this review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.  I was not required to write a positive review.  

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Gathering the Threads

About Cindy Woodsmall
Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times and CBA best-selling author who has written nineteen (and counting!) works of fiction and one of nonfiction. She and her dearest Old Order Amish friend, Miriam Flaud, coauthored the nonfiction, Plain Wisdom: An Invitation into an Amish Home and the Hearts of Two Women. Cindy’s been featured on ABC Nightline and the front page of the Wall Street Journal, and has worked with National Geographic on a documentary concerning Amish life. In June of 2013, the Wall Street Journal listed Cindy as one of the top three Amish fiction writers.

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Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren's Page Turners. To take part, you simply choose a random book from your TBR and show it off. Don’t forget to check out her blog and link back to Lauren’s Page Turners.

I'm on vacation this week so perhaps it's the perfect time to dig this off my Kindle, where it's sat for just over 4 years and actually read it.  Or better use it for it's intended purpose.  Or not, I mean it's vacay time right?
 Organizing your home is essential to enjoying your home. You can live in an architectural masterpiece, but if you can’t see the floor, it is hard to appreciate it. How to Organize Your Life (At Home) takes you room-by-room through your house and shows you how to organize and enjoy your home again.

The first book in this series, How to Organize Your Life (Every Day), provided detailed steps for organizing your daily routine. This sequel helps you bring that kind of order to your home space. Both books are for people who want to live an organized life, but are not sure exactly where to start.

How to Organize Your Life (At Home) also includes tips for people who live in small spaces, have limited time, or have roommates. So whether you own a mansion or rent a room, this book can help you take your home from chaos to order.

How to Organize Your Life (At Home)

Your turn!  Pick a book that's been waiting for you to actually make use of it for entirely too long.  Make use not enjoy, they aren't always the same thing~

BOOK REVIEW: Egypt's Sister by Angela Hunt

Five decades before the birth of Christ, Chava, daughter of the royal tutor, grows up with Urbi, a princess in Alexandria's royal palace. When Urbi becomes Queen Cleopatra, Chava vows to be a faithful friend no matter what--but after she and Cleopatra have an argument, she finds herself imprisoned and sold into slavery.

Torn from her family, her community, and her elevated place in Alexandrian society, Chava finds herself cast off and alone in Rome. Forced to learn difficult lessons, she struggles to trust a promise HaShem has given her. After experiencing the best and worst of Roman society, Chava must choose between love and honor, between her own desires and God's will for her life.

This book is so hard to review right now.  When I saw it come across the available titles at Bethany House and NetGalley it captured my attention and I HAD to read it.  Biblical fiction is a favorite genre of mine (well, lets face it there's so few genres that aren't a favorite!). While not exactly Biblical the synopsis definitely fits into the genre.  There's the added bonus of Angela Hunt who is just amazing.  However, the execution didn't quite hit the expectation, at least for me.  Set during the 'Silent Years', this book tells the story of a young Jewish girl, Chava, who is raised with and envisions a lifelong friendship with Cleopatra VII.  The appearances of Cleopatra were few, which was disappointing in a book about her, but Chava's story had potential to be interesting.

There are several things, if you haven't figured out yet, that fell flat for me with this book.  I felt like I was reading a historical text as opposed to a novel about the lives of two historical women, one of which is quite famous as the subject of books, movies and documentaries.  There was so much historical 'filler' that took away from the story.  Just an example, referencing that the battle with Caesar in Alexandria would become known as the Alexandrian War seems out of place for a character to reference something that would come later, most likely after her time.  With all the extra research filler the story tended to drag along.  It read quickly but the story was sluggish.  I don't to pick about everything but another thing that struck me as beyond odd was how quickly Chava became a midwife and trained another midwife.  It felt like 'hey look at me, I successfully delivered a baby and read a scroll, put me in coach!'.  There were a few things that just didn't add up or were just too much that brought this down for me.

It wasn't all drawbacks and sluggishness.  Honestly, my favorite portrayal was of Agrippa.  He was a gentleman, kind, honest and accommodating.  He didn't just look at for number one but for all those he cared about.  Chava, when she was simply telling of her life was engaging.  When the story slipped into research mode that was lost but she kept me in the story.  I promise I didn't totally fall flat on the book.  It left a lot to be desired for me but I love the premise, I adore the author and I think in the right hands this book will be a blessing and become well loved.

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by Bethany House and NetGalley.  I was not compensated for this review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.  I was not required to write a positive review.  
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Egypt's Sister: A Novel of Cleopatra (The Silent Years, #1)

About Angela Elwell Hunt 
Christy-Award winner Angela Hunt writes for readers who have learned to expect the unexpected in novels from this versatile author. With over three million copies of her books sold worldwide, she is the best-selling author of more than 100 works ranging from picture books (The Tale of Three Trees) to novels.
Her books have won the coveted Christy Award, several Angel Awards from Excellence in Media, and the Gold and Silver Medallions from Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Award. In 2007, her novel The Note was featured as a Christmas movie on the Hallmark channel. Romantic Times Book Club presented her with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. 
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BOOK REVIEW: The Return by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Beautiful and winsome, Betsy Zook never questioned her family's rigid expectations, nor those of devoted Hans, but then she never had to. Not until the night when she's taken captive in a surprise Indian raid. During her captivity, Betsy faces brutality and hardship, but also unexpected kindness. She draws strength from native Caleb, who encourages her to find God in all circumstances. She finds herself torn between her pious upbringing and the intense new feelings this compelling man awakens within her.
Handsome and complex, Hans is greatly anguished by Betsy's captivity and turns to Tessa Bauer for comfort. Eagerly, Tessa responds, overlooking troubling signs of Hans's hunger for revenge. When Betsy is finally restored to the Amish, have things gone too far between Hans and Tessa?
Inspired by true events, this deeply layered novel gives a glimpse into the tumultuous days of prerevolutionary Pennsylvania through the eyes of two young, determined, and faith-filled women.

That moment when you are reading a book but you can't read fast enough (an it's way past bedtime so you are fighting burn-y eyes as well) but at the same time you need the book to last forever.  I just survived that moment and am trying to decide how to convince Goodreads and Amazon to make a 5+ stars rating option.  Perhaps I'm getting too ahead of myself, or yourself as the case may be.  'The Return' came up for tour with CelebrateLit and I KNEW I had to read it.  I've yet to meet a book by Suzanne Woods Fisher that I didn't adore.  The problem?  You know there's always a problem.  I'd not read the first two books in the series.  The almighty Ma to the rescue with a couple of well placed library books, and the reminder that I had the first book 'Anna's Crossing' in my Kindle library.  You don't have to read the first two books in this series to appreciate this story, it could be read as  standalone.  I don't recommend it since the series is amazing, but well ya know.

Anna and Bairn and even Felix are all grown up with families of their own now.  There's another family, the Zook's, who don't live nearby but play heavily into this story.  Hans, remember the adopted child of Dorothea and Jacob, has fallen in love with their daughter Betsy and makes regular trips to visit them.  However, the natives of the area massacre the family, steal two of their children (including Betsy) while one escapes unknown to the others and ends up with Bairn and Anna at their home.  Fisher does this amazing job of telling multiple stories within the timeline at different locations that blend so seamlessly and perfectly and 'right'.  Betsy's story of her capture.  Tessa (Bairn and Anna's daughter) and her life and unrequited love for Hans.  Felix and his intellectual laziness.  (It has to be true since Catrina said it right?)  Even some stories from 'Anna's Crossing' that come full circle. 

This cannot be the end of the series.  It can't.  I need to know what happens with Caleb (read the book already - I can't give everything away!).  I need to know what Betsy decides for her future.  What about the boys as they grow up?  'The Return' brings the story of this small church from Germany by ship to the new world and the next generation.  But it's not over yet, I refuse to believe it's over yet.  

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by Celebrate Lit and NetGalley.  I was not compensated for this review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.  I was not required to write a positive review.

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Anna's Crossing (Amish Beginnings, #1)

About Suzanne Woods Fisher
Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling, award winning author of fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books, host of the radio-show-turned-blog Amish Wisdom, a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine.
Her interest in the Amish began with her grandfather, who was raised Plain. A theme in her books (her life!) is that you don’t have to “go Amish” to incorporate the principles of simple living.
Suzanne lives in California with her family and raises puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To her way of thinking, you just can't life too seriously when a puppy is tearing through your house with someone's underwear in its mouth.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Newcomer by Suzanne Woods Fisher

In 1737, Anna Konig and her fellow church members stagger off a small wooden ship after ten weeks at sea, eager to start a new life in the vibrant but raw Pennsylvania frontier. On the docks of Port Philadelphia waits bishop Jacob Bauer, founder of the settlement and father to ship carpenter Bairn. It's a time of new beginnings for the reunited Bauer family, and for Anna and Bairn's shipboard romance to blossom.
But this perfect moment cannot last. As Bairn grasps the reality of what it means to be Amish in the New World--isolated, rigid with expectations, under the thumb of his domineering father--his enthusiasm evaporates. When a sea captain offers the chance to cross the ocean one more time, Bairn grabs it. Just one more crossing, he promises Anna. But will she wait for him?
When Henrik Newman joins the church just as it makes its way to the frontier, Anna is torn. He seems to be everything Bairn is not--bold, devoted, and delighted to vie for her heart. And the most dramatic difference? He is here; Bairn is not.
Far from the frontier, an unexpected turn of events weaves together the lives of Bairn, Anna, and Henrik. When a secret is revealed, which true love will emerge?

'The Newcomer' starts right where 'Anna's Crossing' left off.  Anna and the rest of her community are waiting to be cleared to leave the ship, Jacob has met them at the dock with promises of the land he has chosen.  Not all are as certain of his choice to be so far from the trade routes and civilization but he's been there a year and believes it's the best opportunity for them.  Bairn comes across an opportunity for one last trip, one last sail, and money that he thinks is desperately needed to secure a hopeful future.  Anna is torn by his decision but accepts it with the promise that he would return in the spring with her Grandparents.  Before he leaves, Bairn finds another traveler who is looking for like minded Christians who wish to separate from society and follow God's will.  Bairn brought the New Comer back to the rest of the group and hence, we have a book.

I wasn't very fond of this New Comer, Henrik, from near the beginning.  I didn't appreciate his take-over attitude.  He wasn't take charge as in find his spot in the leadership but more a my way is better.  This story is set within 3 different environments that meshed together well and the story seamlessly integrated between the different story lines.  Jacob and Dorothea left before their church, mostly so Jacob could attempt to hid how unwell he had become.  Henrik capitalized on this absence to attempt to insert his way into a leadership position.  Even going so far as to take advantage of Anna to make it happen.   Felix found a way to stow himself away on the ship with his brother.  There was an entire story within a story there by the way.  Bairn had difficult choices to make and a reckoning to deal with.  However, Felix's penchant for mischief brought that to a satisfying conclusion.  By the end all were back where they needed to be and ready to step into the next direction on their New World adventure.

Fisher, again, does an amazing job of placing you in the moment with these characters.  I felt Anna's uneasiness with Bairn leaving 'one last time'.  I felt her panic when Felix could not be found.  I felt Christian's uneasiness at trying to lead their group in the absence of the bishop and trying to find ways to move forward in a way that suited everyone.  I even found myself in Maria with her overwhelming fear.  I felt Dorothea's strength as she met new people and attempted to nurse her husband back to life.  I appreciate what they have given up to get where they are and I am desperate to finish this journey with them all.

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The Newcomer (Amish Beginnings #2)

About Suzanne Woods Fisher
Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling, award winning author of fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books, host of the radio-show-turned-blog Amish Wisdom, a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine.
Her interest in the Amish began with her grandfather, who was raised Plain. A theme in her books (her life!) is that you don’t have to “go Amish” to incorporate the principles of simple living.
Suzanne lives in California with her family and raises puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To her way of thinking, you just can't life too seriously when a puppy is tearing through your house with someone's underwear in its mouth.

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