With Winter’s First Frost – Kelly Irvin –Relatable, Insightful and Memorable

Kelly Irvin is an author whose work is relatively new to me.  With Winter’s First Frost is the fourth book in the Every Amish Season Novels and I absolutely loved this book.

Laura Kauffman was one of my favorite characters, the kind of woman you would love to have as a mother or grandmother.  I could relate to her physical aches and pains that come with getting older, understood the grief she felt even after being a widow for so many years and appreciated her willing, loving and helpful spirit to so many of her family and friends.  I came to appreciate, understand and care about Zechariah Stutzman through Laura’s eyes.  He wasn’t just a difficult cranky old man.  He was funny and intelligent and a man who grieved the loss of his beloved wife.  Because of Parkinson’s his body wasn’t cooperating with him and it made daily life difficult, so much so that this family tried to protect him and even seemed to treat him like a child.  Was he just a burden to his family now or was he still useful?  Dare these older people think about or ever hope to find love again so late in life?

A part of the story I found interesting was Laura’s two great-granddaughters, Tamara and Hannah.  Both were facing critical decisions in their young lives that would impact their futures.  Not to get off track, but I wondered how the Amish could biblically justify banning a member of their community when the person genuinely repented of their sin and sought forgiveness.  I found the way that the older parents were treated somewhat bothersome.  I appreciate that the Amish care for their elderly family members, but in this story, it seemed as if they were treated in a manner like you would a child, instead of respected intelligent adult.

Kelly is gifted writer and is able to weave a story and capture, in a very relatable way, what characters are thinking and feeling in their season of life.  I could understand the memories, fears, sorrow, hopes and desires that these characters expressed.  Kelly is very insightful in bringing these characters to life and they are very memorable, I found myself thinking about them even when I wasn’t reading the book.  She paints a picture of the Amish community with her words that is beautiful, interesting and intriguing.

I’ve not read too many Amish themed books, but I love Kelly Irvin’s writing and I highly recommend With Winter’s First Frost.  It’s a beautiful story with rich, loveable and relatable characters in a season of life that many of us may face.

I would like to thank BookLook and Zondervan for the opportunity to read With Winter’s First Frost by Kelly Irvin in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

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On Magnolia Lane by Denise Hunter – If you like a good love story, time to step away for little while and read.

On Magnolia Lane is the first book that I’ve read by author by Denise Hunter and I really enjoyed it.  This is the third book in the Blue Ridge Romance Series.  Though it’s part of a series, it’s good as a standalone book.

The story is about Jack McReady who happens to be the local Pastor.  One of his congregants is Daisy Pendleton and she’s been meeting with Jack for counseling over a couple of years now.  He’s pretty much head over heals in love with Daisy and she is oblivious.  Will she ever be able to see Jack as something more than her Pastor?  Will Jack ever be bold enough to ask Daisy out on a date?  Or will this romance need a little help from their friends?

I really liked the characters in this book.  They weren’t perfect, but they were kind, descent and caring people that I’d like to spend time with.  The story takes place in the small town of Copper Creak, Georgia and after reading this book I wish it really existed because I’d like to visit.

One of my favorite characters was the mystery woman Julia.  I found myself drawn into her quest and appreciated how understanding and gracious she was.  I liked the friendship that developed between Daisy and Julia.

Denise’s style of writing is very inviting.  She has a way of helping the reader to visualize the places and people, but without being too wordy.  She leaves room for imagination.  I thought Denise was insightful in bringing out what was going on within the characters, their insecurities and wounds from the past that haven’t quite healed, that still impacted relationships.

I really enjoyed On Magnolia Lane.  I appreciated that the Christian faith was included in the character’s lives and that it was a clean novel and free from filthy language and sexual immorality.  There are some details about a character’s past that comes out, but the sinful choices were not glorified or made light of.

In today’s world, where every where you turn there’s more bad news, it’s really nice to be able to step away for a little while, into small town with a little romance.  If you like a good love story, be sure to read On Magnolia Lane by Denise Hunter.  I look forward to reading more of Denise’s novels.

I would like to thank BookLook and Thomas Nelson Publishers for the opportunity to ready On Magnolia Lane in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Delayed Justice by Cara Putman – Law, Justice, Intrigue – A Delicate Topic Handled with Care

When I first read the description of Delayed Justice by Cara Putman there was a part of me that wanted to read it.  I love books about the law and justice that are filled with intrigue.  But the subject matter, sexual abuse of children, almost made me shy way.  I’m glad that I didn’t let that stop me, because this was a really good book.

Delayed Justice is about a public defender, Jamie Nichols, who has finally come to a place of healing in her own life.  She has found her voice to speak up and bring to justice the man who took away her childhood.  But she will be up against political forces who will stop at nothing to shut her up.  Chandler Bolton, a former Vet, has scars of his own but now works to help former Vets integrate into life back home in the United States.  Together they will have the opportunity to help a young girl get justice and begin to heal, in part through the use of a therapy dog Aslan.

I especially liked the friendships that Jamie had with Caroline, Hayden, Emilie and Savannah.  They were the kind of friends you want in your corner.  They were there for Jamie when she needed them and even when she didn’t know it.  I appreciated how Jamie’s parents responded when hearing for the first time what their daughter endured as a child and how they came alongside her to be there for her as she sought justice.  I loved Chandler and his patient and tender approach as he sought to get to know this intriguing and heroic young woman.

Cara did a great job in handling a sensitive and delicate topic which has affected far too many people and left indelible scars.  She was able to tell the stories of Jamie and Tiffany and what happened to them without going into graphic details.  She kept the focus on the people and used the story to help make known some of the ways child sexual abuse may impact survivors long after childhood.  Seeking justice and healing the emotional and cognitive scars can happen.  It takes time and support.  I appreciated how Cara included the Christian faith and wove it into the characters and storyline.

I highly recommended Delayed Justice by Cara Putman.  Her legal background and research came through to help make a really good novel.  Cara’s writing is new to me and I look forward to discovering her earlier work.

I would like to thank BookLook and Thomas Nelson Publishers for the opportunity to read Delayed Justice in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock – Relatable & Heartwarming

Terri Blackstock is on my list of writers, that when they write a new book, I want to read it.  I’m so glad I had the opportunity to read her newest book Catching Christmas.

This story is a little different than most of Terri’s books.  The book centers around three people, Finn, Sydney and Callie, who don’t have a lot in common.  But circumstances have a way of creating some unusual bonds, especially around Christmas.

Take Finn for example, he’s a cab driver and for him, time is money.  His life is about to get more complicated when he picks up his next fare.  Callie, an older woman in a wheelchair, seems to be taking a little nap when Finn arrives and she needs transportation to a doctor’s appointment.  Who in the world sends their grandmother to the doctor via a cab?  Meet Sydney, Callie’s granddaughter, who is burning the candle at both ends and just trying to keep her new job, thus the cab for her grandmother.

Terri has way of making her characters very relatable and real.  My favorite character was Finn, a little gruff on the outside, but deep down he has a tender heart, a guilty conscience and wants to get it right this time.  Callie reminds me of my mom in her latter years.  Only with Callie…I could laugh at some of the embarrassing uncomfortable moments.  I related to Sydney too and felt like I had walked in her shoes.

The Christian faith is talked about some in this book.  Callie is a Christian and she loves Jesus and talks to Him and about Him to others.

Catching Christmas is a heartwarming book to read for the Christmas holiday season.  It’s a short book, so even if your schedule is busy, you’ll be able to find time to read Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock.

I would like to thank BookLook and Thomas Nelson Publishers for the opportunity to read Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

Through the Autumn Air by Kelly Irvin – A Real Gem and Lovely Read

One of my favorite things is when I find a book that I love by an author whose work is new to me.  I found a gem in Through the Autumn Air by Kelly Irvin.  I absolutely loved this book, from the moment I first started reading it.  I haven’t read a lot of Amish themed novels, but there was something about storyline that caught my attention.

Mary Katherine Ropp is a sixty-year-old widow and her last daughter is getting married.  Most in the community would have her living with one of her married children and helping to raise her grandchildren.  But Mary Katherine isn’t like most Amish women.  She’s little bit spunky, independent, she likes to read, write stories and even dares to dream about opening a book store with her English friend Dottie.  Also, part of the community is Ezekiel Miller who has been widowed for many years.  In spite of grief, he kept family going through his business the Purpose Martin Café.  Both Mary Katherine and Ezekiel can’t imagine getting married again so late in life, especially since they had wonderful marriages.  But Ezekiel can imagine hiring another cook to help at the restaurant.  In to the storyline steps the not so skilled, but very hungry burglar, Burke McMillan, who has a late-night encounter with Mary Katherine.

What I loved best about this book were the characters.  They were very likable people that I would enjoy knowing.  Mary Katherine was my favorite and I loved her ongoing conversations with her husband Moses.  I loved Ezekiel’s tender caring heart, tender for Mary Katherine, open to help and give a new start to a stranger, loving to his grandchildren, especially Kenneth.  Burke is a man of mystery.  Is he just a down on his luck kind of guy, is he the thief that’s been plaguing the Amish community or is something more going on with him?

Kelly Irvin is a wonderful writer.  She knows how to make characters interesting and very likeable, even in plain every day ordinary life.  She gives insight into the characters and what they are going through at this stage in their lives.  The Amish community setting is interesting but doesn’t overwhelm the story, instead it’s the background and reveals how these characters live their lives.  I could identify with many of the feelings that Mary Katherine was expressing.

The one person, I wasn’t too keen on was her son Thomas because he was so disrespectful to his mother.  I would think as a Christian, he would have tried to honor his mother, but instead he treated her more like a child who has misbehaved.

I loved Through the Autumn Air by Kelly Irvin and I look forward to reading more of her books.  I highly recommend this story, it was lovely!  I read this book during a very difficult time in my life and I found it to be a very comforting place to escape to for a while.

I would like to thank BookLook and Zondervan Publishers for the opportunity to read Through the Autumn Air in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

The House at Saltwater Point by Colleen Coble – Implausible

The House at Saltwater Point by Colleen Coble is the second book I’ve read by this author.  What drew me to the book was the setting along the coastline of Washington, the mystery of what happened to the missing sister, a little romance with some home renovation mixed in.  I wanted to like this book more than I actually did.

The story is about two sisters Ellie and Mackenzie Blackmore, one of whom is missing and presumed dead.  She leaves behind a mystery of a life that wasn’t what it seemed.  Thrown into the mix is Grayson Bradshaw, an investigator for the US Coast Guard, who is looking into a missing shipment of illegal drugs that has ties to a terrorist.  One of the prime suspects is Mackenzie and that news doesn’t sit too well with Ellie who just wants to find her sister.

What I liked about The House at Saltwater Point:

  • Grayson was very honest, forthright, nice and likeable.
  • I kind of liked his relationship with Ellie, but they went from an adversarial relationship to romance and I wasn’t quite sure how they crossed that bridge.
  • I liked the subplot of Grayson finding out that he was adopted and had biological sister and family whom he knew nothing about.
  • I enjoyed the setting of Lavender Tides, the description of the town, the townspeople and friends, waterfront, beaches and scenery.
  • I liked the home renovation career of Ellie.

What I wasn’t too keen on:

  • The storyline was rather convoluted and had too many subplots going on.
  • The story and characters weren’t very realistic. Especially, the two small town sisters trying thwart a terrorist attack.  There were times that the sisters did a better job than the FBI and Coast Guard in trying to stop the terrorists.  There sure didn’t seem to much of a police presence considering the seriousness of what was going on.
  • Early on in the book Ellie takes in a helpless small kitten. Periodically, the kitten would be mentioned but for the most part it wasn’t part of the story.  I found it distracting.  That part of the story was unnecessary and didn’t contribute to the storyline.
  • At times the story seemed the drag.
  • The characters weren’t very realistic. My favorite was Grayson, a very nice man…but he was a little too perfect.

Colleen is really good at setting a scene and describing the place and helping the reader see it in their mind.  However, the storyline was not plausible and the characters weren’t deep or realistic…much of it was very surface level.  I think that’s where it lost me, I didn’t connect with the characters.

If you just want to read a mystery to escape for a while you may enjoy The House at Saltwater Point.

Colleen Coble is a Christian author, but there nothing much about faith included in this book.  It’s clean, no profanity and or sexual immorality, and I appreciate that.  But nothing much regarding faith and characters talking about God or praying or faith being lived out in their everyday lives.

I wanted to like The House at Saltwater Point by Colleen Coble.  There were parts I did enjoy, but I think the implausible storyline and lack of depth the characters were too much to overcome.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and BookLook for the opportunity to read The House at Saltwater Point for free in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Hurricane Season by Lauren K Denton – A Simple Treasure

One of my favorite things is finding new authors whose books I love.  I found a wonderful book and author when I read Hurricane Season by Lauren K Denton.  Wow…loved this book!

The storyline is what first caught my eye.  A couple, Betsy and Ty, own a dairy farm in Alabama and they are always busy with the day to day operations of the farm.  In recent years they’ve struggled with infertility and it’s taken it’s toll on Betsy and Ty’s relationship.  Entering into the equation is Jenna when she suddenly springs a surprise on her sister, watching her two young children, while she heads off to Florida to work on photography as part of a mentorship program.  It’s something she’s longed to get back into for years.  The threat of a hurricane may not be the only storm brewing on the horizon.

Hurricane Season was simple, yet deep.  It was beautiful but dealt with the difficult and hard things of life.  It showed the beautiful and extraordinary things about ordinary lives.  I loved the characters, their relationships and looking back at what’s shaped them.  I loved the beauty of the farm and the retreat in Florida, captured so beautifully by the author.  The characters were decent good people who I would want to know.  There were some profound thoughts and observations shared throughout the book that made me think about my own life.

I loved reading Hurricane Season by Lauren K Denton and I look forward to reading her future books.  I want to go back and read her first book, The Hideaway.  I would describe Lauren as a safe writer.  What I mean by that is that she takes the time to develop a story and lets the readers get to know the characters.  She doesn’t manipulate the storyline and characters don’t make stupid thoughtless decisions, just to advance the story or grab the reader’s attention.  Lauren knows how to make the ordinary both interesting and beautiful.

It’s with pleasure I highly recommend Hurricane Season by Lauren K Denton.  I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and BookLook for the opportunity to read Hurricane Season in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.