Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Little White Horse rides away with my heart

After watching the movie, The Secret of Moonacre Valley, it seemed like the next logical choice to read the book that it was loosely based upon.  The Little White Horse was at first a shock in the sheer difference from story line and characters; however, the characters were deep and well thought out, the plot intricate and attention catching.  Robin was perhaps my favorite character and in particular there was some great scenes with him and Maria.  There were messages that were taught gently throughout and it seems like it would be a good read for either children, young adults, or adults looking to be entertained.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cloak of the Light reveals a brilliant story

     After reading a reviewers copy of Cloak of the Light by Chuck Black, given for free by Multnomah publishers, it is easy to see that Black has an amazing talent at creating both a story and characters that are so real as to fully draw the reader into their world.  The world and the hidden dimensional world especially is so compelling that it is sometimes hard to pull out of the story and return to normal reality.  It is easy to expect to see beings from this other dimension around every corner.  That being said, the book is painful to get into because the main character, Drew Carter, goes through so much loss in his young life before the reader gets to the meat of the story.  All of the loss comes together to help make Drew who he is but that doesn't make it any easier to see Drew experience it.  The side characters are created in such an absolutely brilliant way that they strengthen both Drew and the plot, ever adding more and ever taking the story deeper.  Everyone seems to be organic to the plot and nothing seemed to be author imposed.  This was indeed a wonderful read.  If the rest of the series is as good as this first book it is sure to become a new favorite, which is saying a lot as that would put it on a level with Wheel of Time and League of Jewelled Men--two other favorite stories.  The emotional ride this book provides and the powerful feelings it causes to well up in the reader are on par most award winning books out there.  Well done Chuck Black.  Looking forward to the rest of the series!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Dawn of a Returned love for this author

          In Cindy Woodsmall's The Dawn of Christmas, she returned to her brilliance from the first book in her Vines and Vineyard series.  This was yet another book of Woodsmall's that couldn't be put down.  Her turn of phrase and beautiful creation of characters aside, Woodsmall writes dialog with such skill that it feels as though the characters are actually speaking instead of their lines being read.  Cindy Woodsmall has such a way with creating believable characters that have been damaged in life and are scarred in varied ways that it truly is a joy to read.  Also, she is quite skilled at letting God's light shine through both the plot and her characters in such a way that it is realistic.  In The Dawn of Christmas,Woodsmall takes a woman, Sadie, who has been betrayed and broken, and brings her together with a man, Levi, who has lost all trust in women and uses them to help each other heal.  Their romance is a lovely surprise to them and in no small means a miracle for those who love them.  Levi feels like a man everyone should be so lucky to know; he has his faults but he's such a good, loving man that he's amazing.  And Sadie, is a perplex woman full of so much love to share but afraid to do so and chance being broken again.  Woodsmall's writing takes readers who were not previously Amish fiction fans and creates fans.  Thanks, to the opportunity to read the eidtion for free from Waterbrook Press, The Dawn of Christmas has rekindled this reader's love for Cindy Woodsmall's writing and hope in love.  It is a real gem and a worthy read.  Buy it.  Enjoy it. Cheers!

Halfling Halfway does it

     The novel, Halfling, by Heather Burch had an intriguing cover.  The story line was compelling and two of the main guy characters were amazing.  This novel dealt with the hardly spoken of Genesis 6 Nephilim: off-spring of fallen angels and human women.  It's the first in a series and is so well done that characters Mace and Raven seemed to be real life young men and were actually in the running to become an all time new favorite character, threatening to displace Matrim Cauthon, Treve DiVillars, and even Lord John Roxton from their tied position of favorite literary character.  However, in the last eighty pages the protagonist, Nikki, makes an incredibly stupid and unbelievable move that causes her dog to be killed.  That is when this reader lost interest but still finished the book in fairness.  It continued to get worse from there and no real answers were supplied at the end.  The characters, especially the male characters, are brilliantly created, but the story left much to be desired and Nikki's unbelievable stupid decision felt entirely too author imposed.  This in mind, this reader will not be likely to continue with the series, which is sad because the book had the makings of a favorite.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

This one hurt

          Perhaps it is the curse of having such a wonderful first book in a series that leads to the second book being a bit of a let down and to the third being completely the opposite of what was looked for, but for whatever reason, Cindy Woodsmall's third book in her Amish Vines and Orchards series, For Every Season, was completely painful. After reading the first book in literally one sitting, it seemed odd to have to work a little harder on the second book, and completely shocking that the third book was such a struggle.  The writing is still stellar; however, the characters that were so wonderful in the first book seem to be becoming watered down or losing who they were.  Jacob and Samuel, for instance, seem to completely switch personalities (this began in the second book but blossomed into full swing in this third book).  The fear is to be judging this book too harshly as Woodsmall is a wonderfully skilled writer, but the disappointment in what she's done with Jacob and Rhoda is acute.  The basic storyline still moves along nicely with the right mixture of the reader being able to guess the direction it moves in while the details are still little gems to be discovered.  The side characters are developing in fun ways, which shouldn't be a surprise considering how well she developed Jacob, Rhoda, and Samuel in the first book; however, even given the opportunity to review the fourth book from waterbrook multnomah publishing it is uncertain if the free read would be worth the effort to get through the next book.  Readers who are not such a fan of Jacob in particular should still read this book, but those who love Jacob should likely stick with book one.  His character is changed the most, and it is not believable exactly how he changed.  Apologies to Woodsmall for such a regard for her third book, but it became just too difficult to enjoy.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Winnowing Season winnows more than just plants

     Just as Book One in Cindy Woodsmall's Amish Vines and Orchards series was a real page turner and a book easy to fall in love with so was Book Two The Winnowing Season a well written book that was hard to put down.  The reader can look forward to reading about the same step off the page characters he or she already fell in love with in the first book A Season for Tending and to the continued saga of them as they work to make up for what was lost in the end of that last book, but unlike the first book there are more strains from within the relationships that make for a more painful read.
     Cindy Woodsmall's skill in setting a scene, plot, relationship, and letting her characters take on life is still there so this is a good book.  However, this book is similar to the heart-breaking Book Two of other series.  She sets up the reader for book three while bringing the pain in her characters up from a low simmer to a full blown raging boil.  Mysteries are set up to, hopefully, be explained and resolved in the next book and there are many opportunities for the reader to yell his or her advice at the characters as they choose their actions and each deal with their personal dilemmas, demons, and prejudices in the ways that they choose.
     What appeals perhaps the most besides the realness of the characters is the family love.  The family love is there for siblings and sibling-in-laws of course, but what is also wonderful is that the characters find they do not have to be related by blood or law to come to carry and nurture that same familial love.  Truly a good, if sometimes painful, read.  Hats off to Cindy Woodsmall.  And now it is time to wait with abated breath for the delivery of the third installment of Amish Vines and Orchards.  Drive quickly, postman, or in honor of these characters: Ride swiftly postman.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Season for Tending more than tends to be a must read

          "God used the oddest situations to line people up and gt them involved in each other's lives" (Woodsmall 297).  The journey the characters in Cindy Woodsmall's book A Season for Tending Amish Vines and Orchards, Book 1 is sometimes as gnarled as an old abandon apple tree left to face the elements and storms and survive the best it can.  And the journey is sometimes as beautiful as that same apple tree cared for and fed so that it's full of the rich, abundance of a bountiful harvest.  What is truly magnetic in this book is Woodsmall's way of writing these two realities so that they can be seen as the two sides of the coin of life.
         The life flowing out of Woodsmall's pen, it is an Amish book and so it would be poorly done to reference computer, is not just apple trees, ways of life of Amish and non-Amish people, and events, but the characters.  Yes, most writers create characters that are alive, it does seem to work easier to have a story about living characters, but Woodsmall seems to have the truly amazing gift of taking these "living" characters and allowing them their own lives.  This is a must read for anyone looking for characters that, more than being just ink on a page, spring from that page and have a life of their own.
          The story has its ups and downs as any good book, and the motion of the plot definitely drive it on.  For a reader who never reads even the smallest novel in less than a week, this was an exceedingly quick read--just over twenty four hours.  At times, it was easy to mentally screech the protagonist is going to be with the wrong guy! And then at the same time it is easy to either laugh aloud or cry from the beauty of a moment.  Though the events were in an Amish community and it was confusing at first to place book in a specific time period it eventually came out, and in spite of that, or perhaps because of that it felt easy to see where the plot seemed merely a mirror held up to the reader's own life; a mirror that allows one to get a much clearer view.  God is intrinsically a part of this piece, but more so than merely because it involves Amish people.  No, God is part of this book because He is part of the characters' lives.  It is all so natural and unforced.  Even the ending line, talking about not getting in the way of what God wanted to accomplish felt so natural because the character had become so real that it made perfect sense for him to think that. Perhaps the one real complaint was that the book ended... it seemed it ended too soon, but instead of being a flaw as it sometimes tends to be, it is instead a fire lit under this reader to find and read the next book in the series.
          Therefore, for readers with passions for orchards, gardens, horticulture, family, comedy, exploring the relationship between siblings, encouragement, reader about God loving characters, romance, or just straight strong characters this book should move to the front of the queue for books to purchase, read, and fall in love with.