Review: An Amish Gathering by Beth Wiseman

An Amish Gathering
Title: An Amish Gathering
Author:
 Beth Wiseman
Publication Date: December 22, 2009
Genre: Christian Fiction, Amish
Rating:4 Stars


Join three Amish couples as they experience love amidst life’s seasons. As Rebecca mourns her twin sister, Ben seeks to break through her grief. Leah would rather write than be a good fraa, but her spirit captures Aaron’s heart. And when Josiah falls for Amanda, he learns about letting go of the past.

 


Review_I mentioned in my review of An Amish Cradle that I had already started listening to another collection spearheaded by Beth Wiseman – here it is!

These books are just so stinkin’ fun to listen to! Just like the last collection, all of the stories revolved around Amish couples. This time, instead of babies, there were gatherings of one type or another – usually a ‘singing’ which is a get together for Amish young adults after church. The gathering was the turning point in the relationship of the two main characters.

I absolutely adored these stories. In the last book there were four short stories, and the first two were my favorite by far. This time, they were all amazing! I connected to all of the main characters and they all had backstories that were really well fleshed out given the short length of the stories. Maybe having three stories instead of four gave the plots more room to breathe. I do have to confess, Beth Wiseman’s story (the first) was my favorite again. I really enjoy her writing style and I’d like to pick up some of her solo work eventually.

I did notice when I was searching for another to listen to – none were immediately available through my library, boo! – that there were some repeat stories in other compilations. It’s no big deal since I can just skip over what I’ve already heard, but still a bummer since I want more!

4 Stars

Review: An Amish Cradle by Beth Wiseman

An Amish Cradle
Title: An Amish Cradle
Author:
 Beth Wiseman
Publication Date: February 17, 2015
Genre: Christian Fiction, Amish
Rating:3.5 Stars


In His Father’s Arms by Beth Wiseman

Ruth Anne has been dreaming about motherhood her entire life. Now she is doubly excited that she and her best friend are due with their children the same week. But when Ruth Anne’s baby is born with Down syndrome, she and her husband struggle to understand God’s plan.

A Son for Always by Amy Clipston

Carolyn and Joshua are thrilled to be pregnant with their first child together. Carolyn was just a teenager when she had her son, Benjamin, and she still feels solely responsible to secure his future. As Joshua watches Carolyn struggle to accept his support, he knows he has to find some way to convince her that she–and Ben–will always be taken care of.

A Heart Full of Love by Kathleen Fuller

Ellie’s mother hasn’t stopped meddling in her personal life since Ellie lost her sight–and she’s taken it up a notch now that Ellie’s pregnant. When Ellie gives birth to twins, her mother insists on moving in to care for them. But when her mother’s behavior becomes unbearable, Ellie is forced to take a stand . . . and finally find out why Mamm can’t let go.

An Unexpected Blessing by Vannetta Chapman

At 42, Etta discovers she’s pregnant again. After a frightening labor, Etta births a baby girl. That joyful moment is followed by months of worry. Will their estranged son, David, return home? Can Mose save the farm or will they be forced to move? Etta must hold tightly to the promise that God will watch over each of her children–and that He does have a plan for their future.


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I came across An Amish Cradle when I was scrolling through my library app for a new audiobook. I wanted something short, sweet, and easy to listen to – I didn’t want to have to keep backing up because I’d missed a single sentence or zoned out for 30 seconds.

An Amish Cradle was the perfect pick. This book is actually a set of four novellas by top Amish fiction authors. Obviously, each one tackles the issues that come along with having a child (either pre- or post-delivery) and the road that the parents have to walk to prepare themselves for the new addition.

As much as I love a fleshed out story, I’m also a big fan of the novella format. I’ve been wanting to expand into Amish fiction because I have quite a few on my shelf already and this was a great way to peak my interest. All four stories were well-written and entertaining but the first – In His Father’s Arms – was my favorite of the collection. Children with down syndrome and other disabilities present at birth aren’t often discussed in fiction, let alone Amish fiction. It was interesting to see how the mother and the father each processed the unexpected news differently, especially given that they were SUPER young. Of the four, In His Father’s Arms is the only one I thought jeez, I wish that was a full length novel.

The other three were a little slower to me but not slow enough that I didn’t stay interested and tuned in. I was thrilled to see that there are quite a few more collections like this and I’m already listening to the next one!

3.5 Stars

Review: Bingo Love by Tee Franklin

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Title: Bingo Love
Author:
 Tee Franklin
Publication Date: December 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Rating: 2 Stars


Bingo Love is a story of a same-sex romance that spans over 60 years. A chance meeting at church bingo in 1963 brings Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray together. Through their formative years, these two women develop feelings for each other and finally profess their love for one another.

Forced apart by their families and society, Hazel and Mari both married young men and had families. Decades later, now in their mid 60’s, Hazel and Mari are reunited again at a bingo hall. Realizing their love for each other is still alive, what these grandmothers do next takes absolute strength and courage.


Review_

*Since this book is so short, it’s impossible not to include spoilers!*

Before I get into the review I have to confess…. I don’t really read graphic novels. I read a couple of The Walking Dead graphic novels a few years ago because I’m a massive fan of the show, but that’s the extent of my comic book/graphic novel knowledge. This was 100% a book blog hype read for me.

I really, really enjoyed the artwork in Bingo Love. I don’t have a whole lot to compare it to, but it was bright and clear and clean. It complemented the story really well and kept my eyes from wandering.

The story itself was a little contradictory to me. I absolutely LOVE the concept of the story – falling in love at the bingo parlor, being separated, finding each other in the same place – it’s all so romantic and angsty. But Hazel…. she was something else. After Mari left she married to a man she said was ‘great’ and that she loved, but then a few pages later she refuses to sleep with him and says that she could count on her hand the number of times they’d been intimate. She’s the one turning him down in the situation, by the way, claiming that each time they’d been intimate she’d had a kid and she didn’t want any more.

Fast forward, and Hazel and Mari see each other in the bingo hall and instantly share a kiss, right there in front of Hazel’s daughter who has no idea about her mother’s prior relationship with Mari. She’d just seen her mom cheat on her dad so she was understandably upset, but Hazel gets mad that her daughter is mad! Then later, when it’s more convenient for her, she claims that her husband was the one who never wanted to sleep with her… even though we’d seen her turn him down. Huh?

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Her husband finds out about the kiss and gets mad because, like, his wife had just cheated on him but she refuses to talk about it with him until he’s calm. She calls him an idiot twice for yelling at her… but then…. she yells at him? And it’s okay? The way it’s written it’s like she’s trying to flip the narrative and make herself the victim in all of this when she definitely isn’t. The inconsistencies in the story line really got under my skin. First yelling makes you an idiot, but then she does it and it’s justified. She doesn’t want to be intimate and refuses to be with her husband, but then later it’s his fault because he was only interested it if would produce a baby. Then, to make the husband seem just as responsible for the marriage falling apart, we find out out of nowhere that 50 years ago he cheated on Hazel and fell in love with another woman who’s his true love, the way Mari is Hazel’s. Instead of delving into that and really using that to show how, maybe, Hazel and her husband weren’t actually in love, there’s a panel saying that’s a separate story and we can check it out if we want. It made the pacing feel even more disjointed than it already did and left me wondering why I have to go hunt down another book just to get the full Bingo Love story. I went to find it and…. the story never got made. So now we just don’t get to find out what was going on?

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As much as I love the art style, I really think this story needed to be fleshed out. Hazel’s responses and decisions didn’t make sense half of the time and the affair the husband had comes out of nowhere and isn’t ever mentioned again. We find out how Hazel’s family adapts to Hazel and Mari getting together, but Mari’s children and husband are never mentioned. The story slowed down for moments we didn’t need and sped past moments we did for characterization and for understanding why characters were acting the way that they were. Like, in one instance, Hazel’s daughter went from furious with Mari for ruining her family completely accepting on the same page? I wanted to like this so bad because the plot itself was so unique but it just didn’t work for me.

2 Stars

Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why
Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author:
 Jay Asher
Publication Date: October 18, 2007
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars


You can’t stop the future.
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.


Review_Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher has been getting TONS of attention lately thanks to the Netflix adaptation. As a matter of fact, that’s why I decided to pick this book up. I got about 6 episodes in to the Netflix show before I decided to stop and read the book (that was a year ago – oops). The show and book together garnered a lot of negative hype about glorifying mental illness and suicide, so I broke one of my cardinal rules and read some reviews before I started reading. As if watching part of the adaptation and reading reviews weren’t odd enough, I actually listened to this as an audiobook! My first audiobook ever!

I’m not here to comment on whether this book handled mental illness correctly or not – frankly, I’m not qualified and wouldn’t have an informed opinion. Personally, I thought Asher did a great job of conveying the snowball effect in a relatable way. The tiniest thing can take on a life of it’s own and grow and grow and grow, spawning other organic experiences that come together to slowly eat a person alive. That’s what happened to Hannah Baker, and I think it was made all the more powerful by the fact that Hannah was an average teen. She didn’t start her school year depressed, she hadn’t actually done any of the things that people claimed, etc. but by the time the weight of all of the tiny incidents had settled it was too much for her to handle and she was ready for a permanent way out.

The tapes she left each focused on a person, and the person we follow through the story is Clay Jensen. He was far and away my least favorite part of this story. I totally get why he was there and I know he was meant to show the other side of suicide – the people who are left to deal with what happened, and wonder if they could have stopped it – but I found his commentary disruptive. It was a 50/50 shot as to whether or not the reason he was pausing the tapes was valid, or the things he was saying offered any insight into what Hannah was telling him. I really just wanted to hear what had happened to Hannah, colored only occasionally by Clay’s reactions to new information, but it seemed like he broke in every few seconds which made it a lot harder to immerse myself in Hannah’s monologue.

I also found his interactions with his mom and Tony a little strange, but that could be influenced by the fact I’ve watched part of the show. If I remember right I don’t remember his mom being very present, and Tony had a MUCH bigger part in the show than in the book.

This was a really polarizing read for a lot of people, but I ended up falling right in the middle. It wasn’t my favorite thing, and I probably won’t watch the Netflix show, but I’m glad I picked it up.

3 Stars

Review: The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

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Title: The Last Olympian
Author:
 Rick Riordan
Publication Date: May 5, 2009
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5 Stars


All year the half-bloods have been preparing for battle against the Titans, knowing the odds of victory are grim. Kronos’s army is stronger than ever, and with every god and half-blood he recruits, the evil Titan’s power only grows. While the Olympians struggle to contain the rampaging monster Typhon, Kronos begins his advance on New York City, where Mount Olympus stands virtually unguarded. Now it’s up to Percy Jackson and an army of young demigods to stop the Lord of Time.

In this momentous final book in the New York Times best-selling Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the long-awaited prophecy surrounding Percy’s sixteenth birthday unfolds. And as the battle for Western civilization rages on the streets of Manhattan, Percy faces a terrifying suspicion that he may be fighting against his own fate.


Review_

I made it. I got to the end of the Percy Jackson series.

I always get a tiny bit nervous when I pick up the last book in a series because sometimes they go off the rails (*ahem* Breaking Dawn), but this books wrapped up the series so well. All of the major and minor plot points were wrapped up, all of the characters from the previous four books were accounted for, and there was action galore.

This book went by the fastest out of the five, probably because there was a lot more action and a lot less ‘we need to figure out what’s going on here because we don’t actually know yet.’ Between the pacing and knowing that I was getting closer and closer to the final resolution I couldn’t put this book down. But….

There were two things I didn’t like. I didn’t particularly care for the minor cliffhanger at the end. It wasn’t the worst and it definitely served it’s purpose – I’m now a lot more interested in reading the next Riordan series than I was – but my type A heart loves for book series to end in a neat and tidy fashion. The other thing was the characters ages. I’ve been griping about this from the beginning. As Percy’s leading the 40 odd campers in battle against actual Titans and ridiculous monsters, it’s reallllllly hard to believe he’s 15. Like before, even though I knew the prophecy was supposed to come true on his 16th birthday, I had one of those OMG moments at the end of the book when Percy talks about starting his sophomore year of high school.

I’m really looking forward to reading some of the other series Riordan’s come out with. I have it on good authority that the Egyptian series is ahhhhhmazing.

5 Stars

 

Review: Thy Son Liveth by Grace Duffie Boylan

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Title:
 Thy Son Liveth
Author:
 Grace D. Boylan
Publication Date: 1918
Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: 3 Stars


Grace Duffie Boylan’s first edition of Thy Son Liveth was written anonymously for fear that she would be ridiculed by her peers. This book is very different from her other works. It is non-fiction…about her son who had just been killed in Flanders fighting in World War I. Furthermore, it is an exact transcription of their conversations via Morse code on a telegraph machine…after he died.

Review_A few days ago I went to see the documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old” in theaters. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s WWI footage that’s essentially been remastered, colorized, and dubbed so that the 100 year old film appears and sounds much as it would today. When I came out of the theater I was dying to pick up a book about WWI, so I rummaged through everything I owned and realized pickings were slim. I had about 3 non-fiction books and 2 historical fictions to pick from. This was the smallest, so I grabbed it first.

I didn’t quite know what I was getting into with Thy Son Liveth. I thought it was fiction, a collection of letters that an author had penned and tacked together to offer some hope or comfort to the grieving mothers, wives, and children of WWI and beyond, but in fact, it claims to be an entirely true account of communication from the afterlife. Given the nature of this book and the polarizing subject matter, this’ll probably read less a review and more a discussion. Boylan was widowed and raised her son largely by herself. He was fascinated with wireless communication and became an aficionado, eventually piecing together an antenna and other necessary equipment and fixing it to the roof. So he could practice his craft, he urged his mom to learn Morse code. She did, and would often receive and send messages with him. Before long, WWI began and Bob (the son) was shipped to France where he was promptly gunned down and killed by the Germans – although, according to his communications, he wasn’t dead in the traditional way of thinking. 

I only want to start this whole propaganda of comfort on the one sure thing: there is no death.

Immediately after being killed, and a month before the notice that he’s “dead” comes through the mail, Bob sends his mother a message via Morse code. Within a few messages, they realize that with some concentration Bob can talk to his mother directly through her mind and she begins using automatic writing to take down his messages. He describes the afterlife to her as best he can, but his main focus is in stressing the fact he’s as alive as ever, just on a different plane of existence. He wants his mother to spread the word to her friends and encourage them to try to communicate with their dead sons because tears and grief trouble them in the plane they’re at. Plus, it’s unnecessary since lines of communication could be opened if everyone suspended their disbelief. 

We look as we did in the flesh. It seems almost as though we had only slipped out of our skins, as the snakes do.

 

Review: When Will This Cruel War Be Over? by Barry Denenberg

When Will This Cruel War Be Over
Title:
 When Will This Cruel War Be Over?
Author:
 Barry Denenberg
Publication Date: November 1, 2003
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating:4 Stars


The peaceful, traditional Southern life that Emma Simpson and her family know is shattered when the Civil War reaches their soil. Soon, Emma’s father and brother are called to battle, but her family is confident the South will quickly win the War between the States.

As the months drag on, though, the harsh realities of war set in. Death and hardship are all around Emma, and food, medicine, firewood, and ink for her to write in her diary become increasingly scarce as troops from the North march deeper into the South. Finally, even her home is commandeered by the Yankees.

Still, with a brave spirit and the knowledge of what is most important, Emma never loses hope that the war will end.


Review_

The Dear America books never fail to impress me! They were my favorite as a child and still are now, as I slowly read (and in most cases, reread) them as an adult.

The story opens the day before Christmas as Emma Simpson’s brother is deposited at her home in a coffin, his death the product of a wound and disease. That singular event sets the tone for the rest of the book as Emma struggles with profound loss after loss, the supposed sanctity of the south, and gradually realizing that life will never be the same. She feels the first stirrings of love, but wrestles with the concept of something pure and happy when so many lives – including her own – are in turmoil. Most of all, she rocks back and forth between melancholy and hope.

The Civil War is such an intricate topic, with so many different facets that Dear America could have featured 20 diaries from 20 girls with different vantage points to the war, but somehow this book surmised most of them. Emma is from the south, but in under two hundred pages we meet Southerners that are abusive and determined to keep slavery alive and others that are fighting for their homeland out of a sense of honor and responsibility. There are Yankees that loot and burn and terrorize, and others that help feed the people who have nothing left. Slaves that steal and rebel, and slaves that maintain the work they were doing before the war. Basically, I think this book was incredibly well balanced given the breadth of the topic. A lot of Dear America books act more like a snapshot and, let’s be real, deal with much less controversial topics. This one nailed it!

4 Stars

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