Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Winnowing Season

by Cindy Woodsmall

Water Brook Press

Rhoda Byler and her business partners, Samuel and Jacob King, have finally come to an agreement on what to do after the devastating tornado that destroys King's Orchard. With no way to restore the orchard to it's productive state, Rhoda's friend Landon, offers them a solution and new start in Unity, Maine where his grandmother lives. Finding an apple orchard to restore is no easy task however; and with plans to leave young Eli King in charge of the dying orchard in Pennsylvania, they are ready to start a new life in Maine. 

Their intentions to start a new Amish community where there are none is daunting, but they are determined to succeed as they have no other choice except to turn back. Steven Byler, his wife Phoebe, and their two children are the only complete family coming along. Leah King is tagging along to help with as much as she possibly can. Landon is there as their English liaison and guide. But the evening before their scheduled departure finds Rhoda and Samuel under the inquisition of her church leaders. Will her uncanny ability to perceive things before they happen cause the church to not allow her to leave for Maine as planned? And what secrets do the King brothers have to hide?

This was a long-anticipated sequel to Woodsmall's first book in the Amish Vines and Orchard Series. Amish novel are a dime a dozen, but I couldn't help but get sucked into this series. While I think Rhoda tends to get upset very easily towards the King brothers - to the point of unnecessary drama; her character has been second guessed all her life, feared, and disrespected at every turn, so I can understand why she reacts to authority the way she does. All in all a wonderful novel, and I can't wait to find out how everything turns out!

This book was provided for free by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013


by Siri Mitchell

Bethany House Publishers

Lucy Kendall takes it for granted that she is going to take over her father's candy business. Back from the European trip that was supposed to mark that she'd "grown up", she finds that life at home is in absolute disarray. Not only is the candy business dying a slow death, her father is no longer able to keep the factory alive. While they are currently producing the candy that saved them from closing down when their bestselling candy recipe got stolen by the Clarke family, things aren't looking good for the future. Lucy is determined to keep the business alive and create a candy that will change everything for the better. 

But Charlie Clarke is also determined. He wants to connect with the father who walked out of his life and never looked back. Charlie wants to give him a second chance, but in order to do that, he must find out how his father acquired his company and the famous candy recipe that the Kendall's used to produce. When the truth is discovered, will it be too late to salvage the relationship with a girl he only knew as Lucy? And will Lucy be able to succeed in creating an unrivaled candy that is going to save her family?

When Anne Matter said she ate a whole pan of brownies the day she read this book, I secretly scoffed that any reading material could make you hungry for candy. She was clearly on the right track. Mitchell takes you on an amazing journey into the hopes and dreams of two families in St. Louis in 1910. The way she describes everything makes you feel as if it is real, and all you have to do is reach out your hand and touch it. It is amazing how far people will go for their families and to save their livelihoods, but Mitchell portrays it in such a way that you sympathize with both sides. A fresh Romeo and Juliet story that will delight and inspire you to believe that the greatest commandment is to love.

This book was provided for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Cast of Stones

by Patrick W. Carr

Bethany House Publishers

Errol Stone is good at one thing: drinking himself into oblivion. Having the reputation of the town drunk of Callowford, his one goal in life is making another coin to pay for another night of loose living in the local tavern. Doing any and every odd job for the advancement of his vice, his ears perk up immediately upon the arrival of a nuntius who wishes to deliver letters to a hermit priest who lives in the forest. Despite everyone's doubts, Errol is determined to deliver his messages, collect his other half crown, and spend a week in the tavern nursing his habit. 

But along his journey, he meets an assassin that will stop at nothing to take Errol's life. Bewildered and confused, Errol runs as fast and as far as he possibly can. Barely escaping with his life, he stumbles into the home of the hermit priest, Martin and his servant, Luis. Once he recounts his story and tells them the messages were ruined along the way, Martin and Luis begin packing to leave. Stunned at the turn of events and having no other choice but to go along with them, Errol is sucked into the mysterious quest that leaves him with more questions than answers. Compelled into service for the church, Errol has no choice but to go along for the ride. Will he prove himself to be a reader of stones and worthy to cast lots to save the kingdom? Or is he really just the useless drunkard that everyone believes him to be?

I was quite impressed by this novel, simply because whether you like fantasy fiction or not, you're going to love this tale of redemption, forgiveness, and second chances. I've always avoided this genre simply because of the magic, sorcery, superstition, and nonsense that seems to accompany this kind of story. But Carr made this a humorous, believable tale that kept my interest up till the last page. I am anticipating the next installment in the series, and would recommend Carr's first novel to teenagers and adults alike. 

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Fortress of Mist

by Sigmund Brouwer

Water Brook Press

Thomas is now the ruler of Magnus, the city won with a bloodless battle. He has everything he could ever dream of, and possess knowledge from his mother, Sarah and her ancient library that greatly surpass the military knowledge of his time. He sits on the wisdom from centuries past, but there is a dark, unknown power that seems to follow his every step. An evil he can't begin to understand haunts his every move and every breath he takes. 

As the Orphan King, Thomas is seemingly beginning to loose his grip on the power that holds his impenetrable city together. The Earl of York asks him to join leagues with him and fight the Scots, and Thomas takes the men of Magnus with him to do battle. But along the way, mysterious events serve to confuse Thomas even more concerning his role as the leader of Magnus, and enemies are encamped all around him. Will he unknowingly concede to the side of evil? Will the decision he makes cost him his control over the city that his mother spent a lifetime trying to teach him how to win back as an Immortal? 

As always, Brouwer leaves us with a wonderful conclusion to the story, but also leaves a few crumbs to interest us in the next installment to the series. As I've said before, this time period always leaves me with much to be desired. But Brouwer makes everything so real, it as if you were there beside Thomas, Katherine, Hawkwood, the Earl - all of them. My favorite realistic description is the little flea cages, because while it's impossible to conjure up something we will never experience; Brouwer makes it all happen from his pen to our couch. All in all a wonderful novel, and though short, it makes you want to just start it all over again. 

This book was provided for free by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Orphan King

by Sigmund Brouwer

Water Brook Press

It is 1312 AD and all Thomas knows about his past history is that he was raised for the first ten years of his life by a woman named Sarah. When a fever took her too soon from him, he was placed in a tiny monastery and cared for by four greedy monks. Not one to question his lot in life, he clings to the stories of the Immortals his nursemaid passed down to him and practices all the things she taught him. The library she has knowledge of and shares with him, and all the wonderful powers he can have with the simple study of herbs and powders. Chafing under the injustice of the monks who were supposed to be his guardians, he holds back all his studying and tends to the endless task of the garden for their gluttonous bellies.

On the night of his planned escape, things go wrong. Forced to reveal his knowledge of their wrong deeds, he barely escapes the monastery with all he needs to make is journey. His destination is the castle of Magnus; a formidable, unconquerable and legendary place of evil. To become king of such a fortress it must be taken from another; but Thomas has a clever plan to make it his. Among his companions there is the knight he recused from the gallows, a beautiful, silent girl and a young pickpocket sentenced to hang for his crimes. Sure of his destiny, he is completely unprepared for the challenges he is about to face. Will the mysterious knight be able to make Thomas the great king he is supposed to be? Or is destiny ever truly enough?

While I enjoy watching films from the medieval time period, I cannot say I've ever enjoyed reading about this time period. So coming into this novel, I was hoping to be at least mildly entertained at best. But I discovered instead an author who does more than entertain and amuse; he actually takes you to the time and place of the story. I am now staunch supporter of the mystical/fantasy/medieval genre, and I highly recommend this book for anyone.