Posts Tagged ‘Christian fiction’

When the Soul Mends is the third and final book in the Sisters of the Quilt series by Cindy Woodsmall.WhentheSoulMends_001

Here’s the synopsis:

Rumors and lies left Hannah’s life in tatters; can the truth possibly stitch it back together?

Having fled in disgrace more than two years earlier, Hannah finally has found happiness in the Englischer world, as well as love with Martin Palmer, a man with whom she can safely entrust her heart. But almost immediately after her arrival in Owl’s Perch, the disapproval of those who ostracized her reopens old wounds.

As Hannah encounters former fiancë Paul Waddell, truths unknown to her surface about the events during her absence and she faces an agonizing decision. Will she choose the Englischer world and the man who restored her hope, or will she return to the Plain Life-and perhaps her first love?

I enjoyed When the Soul Mends the most out of this series. More than just the loose ends being tied up, you get to see more character development in Hannah and her relationships. She returns home after a desperate call from her sister, who she finds is suffering mental instability, and is forced to work with her former fiancee, the only one who is able to help Hannah’s sister.

As the story progresses, Hannah comes to know about what happened after she left particularly with Paul, whom she thought deserted her. It’s interesting as Hannah is faced with choices between her old way of life and family with the new life and family she’s made for herself. Even more so as Woodsmall pits her two loves against each other in a battle of character, which makes you wonder why Hannah choose one of them in the first place. One man is revealed to be more shallow and self-absorbed, while the other is humble and faithful.

The ending was very satisfying and, I felt, ended the way it should have albeit a bit predictable, but that’s the genre! If you like Amish fiction I’d definitely recommend the Sisters of the Quilt series as  a read.


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When-the-Morning-Comes_002The Sisters of the Quilt series continues in When the Morning Comes by Cindy Woodsmall. Here’s the synopsis:

When the Morning Comes is the sequel and continuation of the best-selling novel When the Heart Cries. Her relationship with fiance Paul Waddell in tatters, Hannah Lapp has fled her secluded Old Order Amish community in hopes of finding a new home in Ohio with her shunned aunt. Hampered by limited education and hiding her true identity, Hannah struggles to navigate the confusing world of the Englischers.

Will the countless opportunities in her new life persuade Hannah that her place is amongst the Englischers or will she give in to her heart’s call to return home and face the past?

It seems to me that the second book in trilogies (or at least Amish trilogies) is little more than a holding pattern for the third book. When the Soul Mends continued right where the first book left off and added a new set of characters, while maintaining the storyline with those introduced in the first book.

When the Morning Comes was good in that it continued the Hannah’s story without missing a beat and kept up with the details that were going on in her community. Where I felt it fell short was with the new characters. Relationships were introduced, but as the reader you didn’t get to see how they developed. I would have liked to see how Hannah got to know her long-lost aunt. Another aspect that seemed inconsistent with the first book was how quickly Hannah became accustomed to and embraced the Englischer ways.

Overall it was a good book for the genre. Definitely a holding place.

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It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for Amish fiction. As you can tell, from time to time, I step off the beaten path (aka, my book list 5105oZ3P8ULfor the year) and devour a few Amish fiction novels. For awhile I’ve had When the Heart Cries by Cindy Woodsmall on my PaperBack Swap wish list, but decided to see if the library had it instead. I knew it’d be a quick read and it isn’t likely I’ll read it again, and who wants to waste a good PBS credit on a book you can easily get from the library?

Of course, they had it. It’s a good thing they have the whole series, because I read it in one day. It’s one of those quick, refreshing reads you need (or at least I do) between heavier reading. It fits the bill for me.

(I just have to say that my son has been sitting for at least 10 minutes now flipping the pages of his little board books back and forth, over and over again. He’s so quiet that I keep going to check on him thinking he’s getting into something he shouldn’t, but he’s being a good little boy.)

On to the review…

Here’s the synopsis:

Hannah Lapp was born and raised in an Old Order Amish home, without electricity, a telephone, or the right to follow her heart. Without her parents’ knowledge, she’s been in love with Mennonite Paul Waddell for years. When he asks her to marry him, she accepts, even though to do so will cause her family to avoid her for the rest of her life.

Before Hannah and Paul reveal their relationship, tragedy strikes. In one unwelcome encounter, all that Hannah has known and believed is destroyed and she faces losing everything: her family, her fiancé, and even her faith in God. (from CindyWoodsmall.com)

I enjoyed the book, but what I was surprised at was that the synopsis happens all in the first chapter with a tragedy that progresses throughout the novel.  It’s hard to review the book without being a spoiler. It keeps you hanging on as one bad thing after another is added on to the initial tragedy, which Hannah has to deal with in near secret. As she tries to leave the past and move on in her future life with Paul there is a hindrance at every corner that puts her against her family, community, and faith.

The writing is well-crafted, better than the Sisters of Holmes County series, and the plot keeps you hooked sympathizing with Hannah and her pain as she’s posted closer and closer to being unofficially shunned. I even cried a bit.

What story does is highlight the how living under the law of the Old Order isn’t always the right thing. It’s amazing to see how such a community that is so tight-knit and willing to help others in their time of need is also the same one that with turn and shun a person if they don’t follow the Ordnung or if there is even a hint of suspicion, even their families. They’ll  stick closer to the Ordnung than to family.

It was interesting to see how Woodsmall pitted the letter of the Ordnung against the spirit of Ordnung throughout the novel. In this community of faith little forgiveness is freely given and compassion is replaced with abandonment.

I’m looking forward to reading the next installment of the series, When the Morning Comes.

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Out of all the Sisters of Holmes County books A Sister’s Hope (Sisters of Holmes County, Book 3) is my favorite. I enjoyed the youngest sistern270531, Martha, probably more than either of the older sisters. Her spunk and determination to not simply sit back while her family continues to be attacked and receive threats, as well as her persistence to not just settle down and get married but pursue her own business set her apart from the other sisters.

Here’s the synopsis:

Martha is the youngest of the Hostettler sisters and the most daring. While her main focus has been on her dog breeding business, Martha has also been troubled about the continuing attacks against her family and home in an Ohio Amish community.

When the prime suspect turns out to be Luke Friesen–the man she loves–Martha decides to play detective. But what will the search for truth cost?

Luke seems to have taken the wrong road in life. With a definite motive and a myriad of methods, he looks guilty as sin. Will Martha’s hope in his innocence be enough to bring the real criminal to justice?

Roman Hostettler disapproves of the love blossoming between his daughter and Luke. In his determination to drive the couple apart, discord and dissension grow within the family.

The author, Wanda Brunstetter, never really tells the reader why Martha falls in love with Luke. She doesn’t really have any interactions with him in the previous books and he’s been painted as a “bad boy” up until this book. So, that aspect didn’t really make sense. Although once they begin working together and seeing more of each other you can see how their relationship and affection develops.

Like I said, this was my favorite in the series but it still had its faults in my opinion. Grace was still whiny and a worry-wart although less so than in A Sister’s Test (Book 2). The dialogue often feels unnatural, very scripted as if the characters (usually the more minor characters) were reading lines rather than being themselves. A few times the Martha’s actions seemed a little too “wild,” I guess is the way to put it, to be Amish–but, hey, what do I know!

I did enjoy seeing Ruth’s story develop and the resolution with the attacks on the family. In the final chapter where the attacks are resolved I felt there was some good depth to the characters and their conversation about God followed naturally, rather than feeling like an obligatory insert as is often the case in Christian fiction.

Overall, I enjoyed the series and recommend it if you’re interested in Amish fiction and looking for a quick read.

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Sisters-Test_02I have a little secret to confess: I have a soft spot for Amish Christian fiction. Give me a book on a fictional Amish family and I’ll devour it in a few hours. If it’s in a series, which most are, I’m likely to finish it within a week.

Why do I like them so much? Like I said before, the culture is fascinating. It’s so foreign to my life and anything I’ve ever known which adds a romantic aspect to the stories.

I was able to get A Sister’s Test (Sisters of Holmes County, Book 2), from PaperBack Swap. Like the A Sister’s Secret, it was a quick read. The story follows Ruth, the middle daughter of the Hostettler family, as she is courting and then married to her beau. The plot continues where Book 1 left off with the attacks on the family still continuing by an unknown perpetrator.

I have to admit I peeked ahead in this one, but it was an accident–honest! I was just trying to see how many pages the story was without the ads, author bio, etc in the back of the book and I saw a detail that turns the story in a way I wasn’t expecting and didn’t want. I quickly flipped through the book to see why it was ending the way it did and what happened. I found out, but I won’t tell.

Here’s the synopsis:

The Hostettler family continues to face an unseen enemy who randomly attacks their property. Despite the unrest, Ruth, the second oldest sister, is about to realize her greatest dream–to marry and raise a family with Martin Gingerich. But in a flash, her world is shattered. Can Ruth stitch together the pieces of her life, with faith and heart intact, or will she forever question her value as a wife?

Overall, I enjoyed the story. I liked the continuation with the family. You’re able to see a bit of development in the main characters of Book 1, but it wasn’t as developed as I would have liked. Grace, the eldest sister, was very whiny, characterized by worry,  and seemed to overreact too much. It was a disappoint to see the main character from the first book fall like that.

It felt lacking, although I can’t exactly put my finger on what I feel it lacked at the moment. It almost seemed to be just the stopping point for the series.

I’ve finished the final book in the series, A Sister’s Hope. You can look for that review in the next day or so.

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I don’t know why, but I find fiction about Amish culture and life fascinating. It’s something foreign and real, but distant. There’s something about 1_sisterssecretthe plain and simple life that is inviting and alluring. Even with the manual labor and living without many modern day technologies, I think I might enjoy the lifestyle (which is probably why my husband and I plan to build a cob house and raise chickens and goats one of these days). Besides, my husband would fit in nicely with his beard.

Every once and a while I pick up a piece of Christian fiction and enjoy. I saw A Sister’s Secret by Wanda E. Brunstetter on the new books section of my library and was lured by the Amish-theme,

Putting her rumschpringe (running-around years) behind her, Grace Hostettler returns to Holmes County, Ohio; joins the Amish church; and begins a new life with a new romance. The next four years are nearly idyllic for the oldest Hostettler child–except for the hidden pain she bears from a carefully harbored secret.

Her peaceful world is shattered the day she runs into Gary Walker–an Englisher who knows enough about her past to destroy her future. Gary’s arrival in Holmes County coincides with a seires of startling attacks against the Amish community–and the Hostettler’s in particular. Is Gary at the root of this evil?

Amishman Cleon Schrock plans to marry Grace but is unaware of her past. When evidence of Grace’s deception arrives on her family’s doorstep, will Cleon feel compelled to desert the woman he loves?

Oh, it was good.

There’s enough intrigue, love, and honest emotions to keep you going and hold you on. There are a few things left unsolved, but continue in the next book. I quickly finished and looked to see if my library carried the second book in the series, A Sister’s Test, they don’t! So I’ll have to find it somewhere else.

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