Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A different kind of Christmas love story -- Promise Me

Tonight I finished reading one of my Christmas presents --  Promise Me by Richard Paul Evans (author of The Christmas Box, Timepiece, The Christmas List, among several others).

Richard Paul Evans has a unique writing style that draws you very personally into the story and makes you feel as though you are sitting and listening to the character tell his or her story.  From the very beginning, I anticipated learning Beth Cardall's secret -- and was quite surprised by the twist the story took as her secret was revealed.  The book left me with ambivalent feelings.  I enjoy a good love story, especially for someone who finds love and hope after having lost both; this story definitely has that.  But the particulars -- which I can't reveal without spoiling the story -- were kind of off the wall.  And the ending -- I'm not sure what to think about it.  Not awful, but not my favorite Richard Paul Evans book.

A great Amish story of love and forgiveness! -- The Search

On my way home from visiting family at Christmas, I read another great Amish book -- The Search  by Suzanne Woods Fisher.  This is the third book in Suzanne's Lancaster County Secrets series, and I consider it her best yet.  The characters are fun to get to know, and the story has several twists and turns as it develops.  Bertha Riehl is a tough lady -- with a soft heart as gentle as the delicate roses she grows.  Bess Riehl is a typical Amish teenager who learns and grows and matures in a single summer much more than she could have every imagined.  And Lainey O'Toole -- well, she never dreamed her life could be turned so topsy-turvy in such a short amount of time.  Reading the inter-related stories of these three and the men and boys in their lives brought at various times tears to my eyes and a smile to my face.

And Suzanne threw into the story some great lessons on forgiveness that really spoke to me.  Here are a couple of quotes:

"Jesus was teaching him that we don't live by careful bookkeeping.  Through God's mercy, bookkeeping has given way to extravagant generosity."

"I knew I couldn't forgive others without God's help.  He said that we fail in the work of grace and love when there is too much of us and not enough of God."

Good stuff!  I highly recommend this book.  This story does not depend on the previous ones in the series -- but why not enjoy them all!

Another Christmas Story -- Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by Donita K. Paul is a quick-read Christmas novella, easy to finish in an evening or a lazy afternoon.  I didn’t hate the story, but I didn’t exactly love it either.  This book had several elements that I enjoy:  a sweet Christmas story, a plot to bring together two lonely hearts into a romantic connection, a fantasy that couldn’t quite happen in real life, and my favorite of all – a clear Christian message.  But somehow this didn’t all gel – kind of like trying to put together several foods I like into one dish, when they really don’t taste so great together.  The attempts to pull the Christian message and the fantasy together just didn’t work too well for me and seemed pretty forced or awkward at times.

All that being said, though, there were things I enjoyed.  One of my favorite things about the story was Sandy.  Probably because she was a special-needs young lady, she seemed to have the innocence of a child and wisdom of one far beyond her years that added some real strength to the story.  Sandy’s character did more to tie the pieces together than anything else in the book.

(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.)

Friday, December 17, 2010

A great book! -- Fatal Judgment

Some time back -- I can't remember exactly when or how -- I discovered the Heroes of Quantico series by Irene Hannon.  She had me in the first chapter of the first book, and the stories only got better through the three-book series.

Just this week I received the first installment in her new Guardians of Justice series; this one is titled Fatal JudgmentAny doubts I may have had about this living up to the previous series were erased right away.  Irene has a great knack for pulling you into the plot from the very beginning and heightening the interest level as the story progresses.  The suspense of the crime drama, the romance, and the inspiration from the characters' faith all fit together for a great read.  Irene obviously does the necessary research to make the FBI agents, U. S. Marshals, and other characters come alive.  And it was a nice surprise to have the story, set in St. Louis, include some action right around my own town of Potosi.  For a moment or two, I wondered if my hunter husband had ever run across the location in the Mark Twain National Forest where some of the action took place!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Finished another Christmas book -- On Christmas Eve

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was reading On Christmas Eve, by Thomas Kinkade and Katherine Spencer.  I finished the book a couple of days ago.

This was book 11 in the Cape Light series.  I've noticed that sometimes when a series includes several books, it's easy to get bogged down in the characters and their stories, to start finding things too familiar.  In the last couple or so volumes in this series, I had felt a little that way.  I'm not sure what the difference was, but I enjoyed On Christmas Eve more than those last couple.  Betty's and Lucy's latest adventures drew me in from the beginning.  Maybe I have a soft spot for needy teenagers, but from her introduction into the story I saw through Zoe's tough exterior to the little girl inside and was pulling for things to go well for her.  If you want to enjoy a nice Christmas story, complete with romance, struggle, and Christmas miracles, I would recommend On Christmas Eve.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Books

In addition to watching Hallmark and GMC Christmas movies almost daily since they began back in November, I've enjoyed reading Christmas books during the past few weeks.  Here are brief summaries of some I've read.

GRACE, by Shelley Shepard Gray
If you have read some of Shelley's other Amish stories, you might recognize the setting of this story at Brenneman Bed and Breakfast.  The Brenneman family has their plans made for a simple family Christmas.  They are surprised when, through some mix-ups, unexpected guests arrive.  The family and their guests all have adjustments to make as they each deal with their personal challenges.  Watching hearts and attitudes change during the special time of year makes for a very good Christmas story.

A Plain and Simple Christmas, by Amy Clipston
Even though Anna Mae made the decision to leave the Amish lifestyle a few years earlier to marry an Englisher, she still longs for a relationship with her family.  She decides that Christmas is the time to try to restore the broken relationships.  The visit home doesn't go as planned, and Anna Mae is hurt and discouraged.  But this is a Christmas story, and Christmas surprises come through in the end.

Sarah's Christmas Miracle, by Mary Ellis
Sarah Beachy is happy with her Amish life and her job at an English bed and breakfast.  Before settling in to begin her life as an Amish wife, though, she believes she needs to find answers to questions about her brother who left her family and community a few years before.  Sarah's determination leads to some answers and helps her make make important decisions.  And, of course, it's Christmas -- so there are miracles!

On Christmas Eve, by Thomas Kinkade and Katherine Spencer
For a non-Amish Christmas story, right now I'm reading the latest Cape Light novel.  I'm about a fourth of the way through the book and am enjoying it as much as the previous ones.  I'll add a summary after I'm finished with the book.


OK, I'm just getting started with this blog and am not too sure of what I'm doing.  This much I'm certain of -- I love to read!   One of my favorite descriptions of a good time is being curled up in my recliner with a soft blanket and a good book. 

My favorite genre is Christian fiction -- I have over 400 in that category in my personal library.  I have pretty much everything written by several authors like Karen Kingsbury, Terri Blackstock, Dee Henderson, Francine Rivers, Brock and Bodie Thoene, Irene Hannon, Jan Karon, and others.  And almost a fourth of those books are Amish and/or Mennonite stories -- books by Beverly Lewis, Wanda Brunstetter, Amy Clipston, Cindy Woodsmall, Beth Wiseman, Shelley Shepard Gray, Barbara Cameron, Kim Vogel Sawyer, Kathleen Fuller, Mary Ellis, B J Hoff, etc.

I enjoy other types of books as well.  I just read Mary Beth Chapman's Choosing to SEE and was very touched by her openness about dealing with a variety of struggles, including the tragic loss of her daughter.  That type of book gives me encouragement to trust God to lead me through my own challenges.

So the plan here is to share my thoughts about books I read.  I would love to hear what others have to say about the same books and to hear recommendations of books I may have missed.  Feel free to visit often and share your thoughts!