(Review) An Amish Christmas: December in Lancaster County by Beth Wiseman, Kathleen Fuller, Barbara Cameron, Kelly Long

Publisher and Publication Date: Thomas Nelson. 2009.
Genre: Amish fiction. Christian fiction. Christmas stories.
Pages: 448.
Format: Trade paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of Amish stories.
Rating: Good for A Choice to Forgive. The other 3 stories are okay.

Link @ Amazon

An Amish Christmas holds 4 stories.
1. A Choice to Forgive by Beth Wiseman is the story of a young widow named Lydia. She has 3 children. A man who she once loved re-enters her life.
2. A Miracle for Miriam by Kathleen Fuller is the story of a young woman who doesn’t feel pretty. She actually has low self-worth. A young man who once meant a great deal to her when they were younger is now interested.
3. One Child by Barbara Cameron is the story of a young couple struggling with infertility.
4. Christmas Cradles by Kelly Long is the story of two women who are mid-wives in the Amish community.

My Thoughts:
I want to 1st begin by saying I am not an avid Amish fiction reader. This is not a genre I enjoy reading. I visited my sisters in the region west of Houston a few years ago. I was browsing in an old general type store in Fayetteville, TX. This signed copy book was for sale in an area marked out for the author Beth Wiseman who lives in this town. An Amish Christmas has been in my TBR stack a few years.

My favorite story is A Choice to Forgive for several reasons.
1. I feel this is the most well-developed story. It is longer.
2. The main characters have a long history that has a “present” offering a reopening. But, in reopening, old wounds must be healed.
3. Lydia is a cautious person. After all, she has 3 children who depend on her, plus she is dealing with past betrayals.
4. I have empathy for her. I feel an investment in her story because I can relate. She is believable and real.
5. Lydia is heroic because she is a single mom with 3 children. One of them is a teenage daughter with her own issues.

One of the reasons I am not a fan of Amish fiction is the characters are often too squeaky clean. In An Amish Christmas, I feel the authors try to show a believable and imperfect side of the Amish people. Some more than others.


(Review) The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Publisher and Publication Date: WaterBrook Press. September 15, 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction. Christian fiction.
Pages: 368.
Source: I received a complimentary eBook NetGalley copy, I was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Reader’s of Christian fiction.
Rating: Okay.

Amazon link

1936. The Great Depression.
Addie Cowherd is a college student getting ready for final exams. She is summoned to the school office and is subsequently expelled for lack of funds. Addie is shocked her parents have not paid tuition. She returns home to find out her father lost his job and their home. Addie’s life has abruptly changed.
Addie takes a job with the WPA program delivering library books to the rural people of Boone’s Hollow, Kentucky.
Emmett Tharp has just graduated from college. He returns home to Boone’s Hollow and is unable to find a job with his degree. He first works in a coal mine. He then is able to work for the WPA program as a librarian.

My Thoughts:
It isn’t that I don’t like this story. I do. But not enough to give it a good rating.

I’ve written this statement before and I probably will again. Sometimes secondary characters are more interesting to me than the main characters. I want to know more about the secondary character. I want that person to be further developed. To be fleshed out and breathing. The secondary character in this story is a young woman named Bettina Webber. Bettina was born and raised in this hollow. She has her “cap” set on marrying Emmett. Her mother died. She doesn’t have siblings. She has an abusive father. She is lucky to have a good job as a rider on horseback delivering library books to her people. Now, my question is does Bettina want to marry Emmett because she feels he is her savior from her “world?” Possibly. He is a person who is safe and secure. Does the idea of marrying Emmett give her hope? Does the idea of marrying Emmett give her mind somewhere to go besides the stark reality of her own life? All these are interesting questions for further development.
Bettina is the person who is in trouble. She is the person who desperately needs help. She is the person who is in a dire situation.
Whereas, Addie Cowherd has a college background. She has supportive parents. She has experience working in a library. She has the promise of life beyond the hollow and Kentucky.
While reading the story I felt an investment in Bettina and not so much Addie.
Emmett seems more like a bookend to hold up a part of the story. To me he is expendable.
One of the things I love about this story is the environment of the hollow. I love the descriptions of the land and the town. I love the culture of the people. I love the added background story of Nanny Fay. The people don’t understand her. When people don’t understand something or someone they can turn it into fear. This too is an idea to be explored in-depth.

The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow is Christian fiction. Some of the themes are faith and trust in God, being kind to people who are not kind, bravery, courage, and perseverance.

To read more about the WPA program: History.com.

(Review) The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright

Publisher and Publication Date: Bethany House. 2017.
Genre: Christian fiction. Mystery. Suspense. Romance.
Pages: 364.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Christian fiction readers.
Rating: Okay.

Amazon link

The House on Foster Hill has been in my TBR pile a few years. I’m determined to catch-up on this stack.

Two time periods with a main character in each period.
Kaine Prescott is the modern day main character. She’s a widow. She doesn’t have children. She relocates from California to Wisconsin to start a new chapter in life. She wants to break free from sad memories and start afresh. She buys an old house unseen in the hometown of her grandfather. The town is Oakwood, Wisconsin. Kaine feels her husband’s death was not an accident, but she’s been unable to convince the police. Meanwhile, Kaine believes she is being stalked.
Ivy Thorpe is the main character from the early 1900s. Ivy lives in Oakwood, Wisconsin. A young dead woman has been found in the cavity of a tree on the Foster Hill House property. Ivy helps her father who is a doctor with the medical examination. Ivy feels a duty to preserve with dignity the dead. She keeps a journal of deceased people. She feels this is a calling or a mission. Meanwhile, a young man arrives back in Oakwood as an investigator. His name is Joel Cunningham.

My Thoughts:
The House on Foster Hill is a chronological narrative structure.
The House on Foster Hill is a plot driven narrative.
The antagonists are both people and an agenda.

The House on Foster Hill uses the plot and subplots as the thrust of the story. They are the engine that propels the story forward.

What I like about the book:
~The cover. It’s gothic looking. The cover is haunting and enticing.
~The idea and setting of the story is wonderful. A mysterious house with a strong history of unexplainable events. Two women who are grieving. Both women have a pull to understand the secrets of the house.
~Ivy is a woman from the early 20th century, but she is the assistant to her father on a post mortem woman. I feel this is a rare job for a woman of this time period. I feel her experience working alongside her father made her a unique and interesting main character.
~Kaine’s working career had been in social work. She worked with women who had been victimized and abused. I feel her education and experience gives her a knowledge and wisdom most people don’t have. I feel this made her an interesting and valuable main character.

What I don’t like:
~There are too many subplots. I count 11. I don’t feel it is necessary to have so many subplots that the reader is wandering off in different directions and wondering how all of them or some of them will be reconciled by the last page. I feel some of the subplots need trimming.
~I don’t like the name Kaine. It is pronounced like Cain. I spent at least half the book wondering how to pronounce the name and the other half being reminded of Cain and Able.
~Kaine doesn’t respond in certain situations as I’d expected. She had years of education and training as a social worker. Her work placed her in crisis situations. In her career, Kaine would have attended further training. In The House on Foster Hill, she behaved as a cliché in a crisis situation instead of her training. I didn’t like this. I didn’t feel it was believable.

(Review) The White Rose Resists: A Novel of the German Students Who Defied Hitler by Amanda Barratt

Publisher and Publication Date: Kregel. May 26, 2020.
Genre: Christian historical fiction.
Pages: 336.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of the underground movement during World War II.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link

In German: Weiße Rose.

Christian fiction can be undeveloped in areas and this is a negative for some readers. This is the first thing I want to mention, because a reader may see this book and realize it’s Christian fiction and immediately dismiss it. Please give this book a chance. It does not have a thinly veiled storyline and plot. If you know the history about the White Rose underground/resistance movement in Germany during World War II, then you know how the story ends for several of the people involved. Instead, the people involved in the White Rose is the focus of their story. How they came to know one another? How they became willing to sacrifice their young lives for the cause? How they interacted with one another and the deep relationships that developed? All these questions are answered in this beautiful and moving story.

Several other books have been written. One of them I’ve read, Long Live Freedom! Traute Lafrenz and the White Rose by Peter Normann Waage. The link is for my review at Goodreads.

Other books on this subject (links to Goodreads):
A Noble Treason: The Story of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose Revolt Against Hitler by Richard Hanser
The White Rose Munich 1942-1943 by Inge Scholl, Dorothee Solle, Inge Aicher-Scholl
At the Heart of the White Rose, Letters and Diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl by Hans and Sophie Scholl, Inge Jens, J. Maxwell Brownjohn
Sophie Scholl and the White Rose by Annette Dumbach and Jud Newborn
We will Not Be Silent, The White Rose by Russell Freedman
Defying Hitler: The Germans Who Resisted Nazi Rule by Gordon Thomas and Greg Lewis
An Honorable Defeat: The History of German Resistance to Hitler 1933-1945 by Anton Gill
Alexander Schmorell: Saint of the German Resistance by Elena Perekrestov
The Short Life of Sophie Scholl by Hermann Vinke and Hedwig Pachter

Additional links of interest:
The Holocaust Encyclopedia
Jewish Virtual Library
National World War II Museum

Monument to the White Rose at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

Several students at the University of Munich work together in secret to create pamphlets that are distributed to the public. These pamphlets describe a movement of people rising up against Hitler’s ideology. They condemn Hitler and all people who act inhumane, oppressive, and violent.

My Thoughts:
~Beautiful and enticing front cover.
~Great opening sentence: “My future is waiting, a spark in the distance burning steadily brighter as the train approaches the city.”
~The Scholl family is independent-minded and intelligent. This gave the brother and sister team an edge from other young people. Amanda Barratt gave a solid view of the Scholl family that is convincing, necessary, and believable.
~Strong descriptions. I love the descriptions of two mothers. One smells like “fresh bread and soap.” The other has skin smelling “like faded lavender.” It’s in the olfactory of sense that the young women feel a comfort.
~I easily visualized the young people. Whether it was a young man who smoked a pipe or cigarettes, or a change in how the girls wear their hair after attending the university. The students transition from children to young adults in a short period of time.
~After a young man shares what he witnessed, the group began to make plans to actively rise up against Hitler’s regime. They will not just talk among themselves in secret but actively do something. This created for me the building up of their courage and resistance. It is also a pivotal point in their lives and the story. This leads to my favorite reason for loving this book: it captures the characters unique calling.
~A second favorite reason for loving this book is the special bond-perfect unity-strong connection in the group. This wasn’t an average type group of friends who hung out together, but a special group of people. I kept thinking about a verse from the book of Esther: “…for such a time as this.”
~Lastly, the book showed me the group understood (as best they could) the tragic and unfair loss of their young lives.

Scripture reference from Bible Gateway.

(Review) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Publisher and Publication Date: Square Fish/Farrar Straus Giroux. 1962. My paperback copy was published in 2007.
Genre: Science fiction. Fantasy fiction. Young adult fiction.
Pages: 247.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: This book is a gem for young adult to adult.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link
The paperback today is $5.35. The Kindle eBook is $6.99.

Goodreads link shows the rest of the series.

A Wrinkle in Time is book one in the Time Quintet Series.

A Wrinkle in Time won the John Newbery Medal in 1963.

The book was made into a film in 2018. It doesn’t have good reviews. Such a big undertaking for a story that’s fantasy and possibly hard to recreate in a film.

Madeleine L’Engle website

Link @ Biography to read about L’Engle
or @ Britannica

Link @ Amazon for a biography on Madeleine L’Engle. I have this eBook but haven’t read it. The title is A Light So Lovely.

The Murry family has an absent family member: the dad. He is a scientist and disappeared on a mystery assignment. The mother is also a scientist. The children are Meg, Sandy and Dennys (twin boys), and Charles.
Charles seems to know what Meg and their mother is thinking, and what they need. He is a young child but has a mature countenance; and, he has remarkable and uncanny abilities. Charles introduces Meg to the three Mrs. W’s. Later, a teenage boy named Calvin joins the group in their adventure.

My Thoughts:
I’ve read this book a few times. I’ve lost track with how many times I’ve read it. At least twice as an adult.
Why do I reread books? I read them again, because with each reading I learn something I didn’t know previous. Plus, I love them and they are a joy to read. Reading a book as an adult definitely gives me a different perspective than when I was a child.
Meg is a character I can relate to at any age. She wants to connect with another person. Meg is lonely. She needs a comrade. She needs a friend. She needs a person who will enjoy being with her through shared experiences. The absence of her dad is troublesome, embarrassing, and it adds to the other stressful stuff in life.
Meg is a character who has not found the right place to fit. She feels different, and is not exactly sure who she is yet.
Meg also needs a purpose.
All of her needs and desires will be examined, explored, and met in the adventure.
What I learned in this book….this reading, is the loneliness of the mother. It is easy to focus on the children, but what about their mother. She has a purpose, she has a job/career, she has a home, but she misses her helpmate, friend, and partner in life.
Later in the book Bible verse references are included. This is something people may find unexpected. However, they are not pasted, they have a purpose.
I love the imaginative story.
I love the wise quotes left here and there.
I love the teachings in the story.
I love the bond of love in the family and through friendship.