Month: November 2019

Book Review: The Roll of the Drums by Jan Drexler

“The Roll of the Drums” by Jan Drexler is the second book in this series, but can easily be read as a standalone. I had not read the first book, and didn’t feel that I had missed anything by starting with this one.

At its heart, the book tells the story of an Amish couple realizing their true feelings for each other. However, because of the storyline details, this is much more than a typical Amish romance. The male lead (Gideon) is already married with four children when the book opens. The family takes refuge in Ruby’s community, and the stage is set.

This story will take you on an emotional roller coaster ride. First, you’ll experience the fear and frustration of a family fleeing a war-torn area. Then, it’s on to the joy of new friendship, quickly followed by tears brought on by the death of a friend/wife/mother. As you move closer to the final chapter, you’ll be treated to happiness again as everyone involved seeks the healing that they need. (Not spoilerish: this info can be found on the book jacket.)

The emotions evoked by the events in this story are genuine. As a reader, you’ll honestly believe what each character is feeling, as each individual reaction makes perfect sense given what you’ve come to know about the characters. As a person, you’ll feel many of the emotions yourself…the story and dialog are THAT well written.

Ruby, the female lead, is a breath of fresh air. She is loving, devout, and sincere in her faith, as most Amish heroines are. However, she is also focused, creative, and believes in herself enough to realize she doesn’t need a man to be fulfilled in life. It’s nice to see an Amish woman willing to step out of the box a bit (while in NO WAY going against her religious beliefs) to stand up for herself and her own wants and needs.

In addition to the Gideon/Ruby storyline, the reader will be exposed to lots of information about the daily life of the Amish, including plenty of local dialect and vocabulary. I found this refreshing, as some Amish novels don’t reach for this level of historical accuracy.

Smaller side plots involving other members of the community add to the depth of the story, giving the reader a stronger sense of involvement. I look forward to future installments of this series to learn more about things that were only hinted at in this volume.

There are some wonderful religious lessons to be gleaned from the story as well. The theme of trusting the Lord despite difficult circumstances flows throughout. The issue of self-blame when bad things happen to loved ones is also addressed, with a particularly insightful character tactfully explaining the link between self-blame and pridefulness.

Head into this book expecting a great story, and some valuable life/faith lessons. You will not be disappointed!

Five out of five chunks of creamy mozzarella!

Book Review: Always Look Twice by Elizabeth Goddard

I truly enjoyed reading “Always Look Twice”, and can’t imagine how I didn’t discover this series when book 1 (“Never Let Go”) came out in February! First off, you absolutely CAN read this and follow everything without having read the first book in the series. I did, and didn’t feel like I was missing anything…the author did an AMAZING job of making sure I had all the information I needed in terms of background.

I connected with main character Harper immediately. She comes across as a real person, with unique talents and abilities, as well as unique challenges that stem from her past experiences. Harper is a woman who is aware of her issues, and is actively working to overcome them.

The book is set in Wyoming, an area that the author obviously knows well. Her descriptions of the wilderness made me want to visit and see the natural beauty for myself. Harper is a photographer, so we get to see a lot through her eyes and (and the eye of her camera). The author even includes (through the characters’ experiences) some helpful tips on staying safe in terms of terrain and wildlife.

The romance between Harper and part-time deputy (and full time tourist ranch manager) Heath McKade adds an integral level to the story. When Harper sees something she wasn’t intended to, she is in danger, and it’s up to Heath to protect her and help solve the mystery. What makes the romance unique is that the two were childhood friends, and very close ones. They helped each other through some difficult times when they were too young to be thinking about romance. They’ve been apart ever since, and now have the opportunity to reconnect as adults, with no “former enemy” or “failed relationship” dynamic between them to pull them down into trope territory.

The mystery itself is also very well written. What Harper initially witnesses provides very few clues. Regardless, she is determined to solve the case. As she and Heath keep pushing to figure out what actually happened, the danger to Harper escalates. What started out as a single, fairly straightforward crime quickly expands to include other acts of violence. Long-hidden secrets from the past are also linked to current events, providing a nice, unifying element to the story.

When all is revealed in the end, everything makes perfect sense. The reader was provided with enough clues along the way to feel a part of solving the mystery, but not enough to make the answer obvious. To avoid spoilers, I won’t say more, beyond the fact that the ending is satisfying in multiple ways.

Five of five slices of American cheese!

Book Review: Stitches in Time by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Overall, “Stitches in Time” by Suzanne Woods Fisher is a lovely book. Ms. Fisher does a wonderful job of describing the daily lives of the Amish people in enough detail to allow the reader to learn quite a bit, but not enough to cause you to lose interest. I truly enjoyed the personal glimpses into Amish life I got by following the lives of Mollie, Sam, Luke, Izzy, and others over a period of a few months.

The intertwined storylines were all interesting in their own right, and all worked together well to form the overall fabric of the novel. The reader watches as Sam and Mollie start to explore their fledgling feelings for each other, Luke tackles his new role as a deacon, Luke and Izzy try to strengthen their marriage, and the community (led by Luke) steps in to help when a local foster care home has to temporarily shut down, leaving a group of teenage girls with nowhere to go.

There are a lot of really nice things about this book:

1. Each character has a unique and well-drawn personality, and it was enjoyable to get to know all of them, and try to guess what will happen to them next.
2. The Amish community itself is almost a stand-alone character. It was interesting to see how each person fits into the group as a whole.
3. There were some nice, subtle lessons about the value of forgiveness and trusting God’s plan for your life.
4. Izzy’s journey to a stronger personal faith was particularly inspirational to me. I loved how this young newlywed shepherdess discovered all the sheep-related Biblical references and applied them to her own life. Proof positive that there is something special and personal in the Bible for everyone.

One note: This book CAN be read as a stand-alone. “Stitches in Time” is the first book I have read in this family of books, and I WAS able to follow everything. That being said, it’s probably best to start with book 1 of “The Deacon’s Family”, “Mending Fences”. It’s possibly even better to have also read some of Ms. Fisher’s other books set in the Stoney Ridge community. This book starts right off with considerable name-dropping of characters that had presumably been introduced in earlier volumes. At first, I tried to refer to the helpful list of characters included at the front of the book, but quickly gave up trying to figure out who everyone was, and how they related to each other. If you start with this book, I recommend not worrying about any of that. Just keep reading, and the characters who are important to this book will become clear as you go.

All in all, four chunks of smooth, mild cheddar.