Christmas Remedy

Holly Zook has respectfully pressed beyond the Amish social norms to become a pharmacy tech, and she is even pursuing further education with the support of her bishop. She sees the need for her people to realize that consistent medical care can save lives and reduce physical suffering. Understanding that this strange passion may lead her to a life of singleness, since working outside the home is frowned upon once a woman marries, Holly is willing to make the sacrifice.

Working at Greene's Pharmacy has been fulfilling for her, not just because she's able to help people, but also because pharmacist Lyle Greene has become a father figure in Holly's life after her own father's early passing. As our story opens Lyle is facing a health crisis of his own, and the complications that come with it may mean that the pharmacy has to permanently close its doors.

While fighting for her friend and the business close to her heart, Holly must work with Lyle's son Brandon, who is on the verge of receiving his pharmacist's license himself, and Joshua Smucker, a young Amish man from a neighboring district who has liked Holly from afar. As Christmas approaches, can they save Greene's Pharmacy and bring better awareness of medical care to Holly's beloved Amish people?

I appreciated Holly's determination to help her community and her willingness to push past tradition. I confess I found it hard to get into this book at first for a few reasons, but the more I got into the story the more I enjoyed it. I liked that the obstacles our characters faced all carried weight and were not easily overcome, because it gave the story a level of reality as they worked for a good outcome through all the trials.

If you enjoy heartwarming Amish fiction or holiday stories, this might be one for you to pick up!

I received an advanced reading copy from the publisher. All thoughts in this review are my own.

As The Tide Comes In

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About the Book:

When an unthinkable loss sends Tara Abbott's life spiraling out of control, she journeys from North Carolina to Georgia's St. Simons Island. Although confused and scared, she hopes to find answers about her past - her life before the years of foster care and raising her two half-brothers as a young adult. Will she find steady ground on the island, surrounded by an eccentric-but-kindhearted group of older women called The Glynn Girls and a determined firefighter? Or will the truth splinter what's left of her identity into pieces?

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There's been a good amount of excitement as Cindy Woodsmall has teamed up with her daughter-in-law Erin to write a non-Amish Christmas story. Readers were excitedly awaiting this release to see a new side of a beloved author, and I was thrilled when I was contacted about writing a review.

Our story starts with Hadley, a teenager in foster care who has been accused of arson. Her boyfriend Monroe comes from a wealthy, privileged background and wants to help in any way he can, even if that means running away with Hadley to evade authorities. But his parents pitch him a deal he cannot resist: they will pay for the finest lawyer and set up a full-ride scholarship for Hadley's higher education if he will agree to never have contact with her again. Monroe believes he is doing the best he can, but Hadley's heart is broken and she cannot understand why he left when she needed him most.

The plot jumps nearly ten years into the future. Hadley and Monroe are once again living in the same city and even working in the same field. They unexpectedly come face to face in caring for one of their speech therapy patients, and everything from their past comes to the forefront again. Monroe still feels bound by hard choices and Hadley still feels angry and betrayed. Can they work through it to help this child, and even have a chance at friendship again?

I felt as though this book broke several industry standards. It starts with a three-chapter flashback, which is strongly frowned upon, and leads directly into a second problem: It establishes our characters as turbulent, moody, angry teenagers. I had a hard time believing them to be anything else even after the jump to the main story. Therefore neither Hadley nor Monroe were particularly likable, and even though it was mentioned that they had become Christians in the intervening years, there was not really a faith aspect to the plot. Additionally, even though the title and cover would lead you to believe this is a Christmas story, there are no scenes involving Christmas until Chapter 21, which is 85% of the way through the book.

When I read the Acknowledgements at the end, I have to admit I was surprised to see that two editors and four proofreaders were listed. Being an English teacher, I cannot overlook clunky wording or grammatical errors. Here's an example from page 108 (emphasis mine): "And once Chloe was better... Hadley would no longer have to deal with the ache that crept into the deepest recesses of her whenever she was reminded of what could have been." This could use a rewording, something like "her deepest recesses" or "the deepest recesses of her heart," because otherwise it sounds awkward. This is one example, but there were many places throughout the book where I shook my head and mentally corrected errors or reworded sentences that did not flow well.

I believe many readers would enjoy this romance and overlook my objections. Something I appreciated about the novel was how it explored several issues that are not common in fiction, such as the emotional needs of those raised in foster care and the struggle of children who have apraxia of speech. I love it when authors incorporate unique things into their stories!

I received my copy of the book from the authors. All opinions in this review are my own.
an Amish woman drinks coffee

This conclusion to the Amish of Summer Grove series continues the story of Ariana and Skyler, two young women who were switched at birth. In Book One the mistake was uncovered, and in Book Two the women traded places, with Ariana going out into the world to learn new things and Skyler experiencing the Amish way of life for the first time. Ariana managed to reach an agreement with her biological family to go back to the Brennemans before the end of their one-year deal, but now that she is home she's met by a cacophony of inner voices telling her who she is and what she should believe. Has she lost herself in the midst of trying to navigate both Amish and English worlds? 

Meanwhile Skyler has remained on the farm, recovering from her bad choices in the past and learning about the joy of hard work and family togetherness. She isn't really thinking of joining the faith that binds her Amish family together, but she has come to value much about it. She gains clarity about her goals and dreams through the love and support the Brennemans offer her.

Though Skyler is flourishing, Ariana feels like she's drowning. Her district ministers are in a hurry for her to renounce any form of worldliness she came across while she was away, but she refuses to lose contact with her biological family or turn her back on the things she's learned. She would like to see reform within the Amish church to bring the Old Ways more into balance with the Bible, but that's a tall order for any twenty-year-old woman.

This book felt a bit like the series had become larger than the author originally intended. For example, in the first two books I felt like Lovina was a valuable point of view character to help us understand the anguish she felt at finding out the daughter she raised was not her own. In "Gathering the Threads," the scenes from Lovina's perspective were more confusing than anything, because all but one of them seemed like they would have made more sense if they had been presented from Ariana's viewpoint. I nearly felt the same way with Abram as a point of view character, although I did enjoy the wrapping up of his storyline. It just seemed like too many characters for this particular story.

I also did not like how the passage of time was portrayed in the later chapters of this novel. It seemed like it was the quickest way to show the progression of time, but was rather clinical and put distance between me as a reader and the journey of the characters. While I do believe the series ended as it was always meant to, I felt like we missed the joy of coming to Ariana's final conclusions alongside her. After the jump of so much time, we were reintroduced at the point of  Ariana's making decisions, rather than shown her growth and struggle to reach them. It felt rushed and was disappointing to me in that aspect.

That said, I still enjoyed this whole series and feel that this book in particular delves into some of the very real problems in the Amish faith. Cindy Woodsmall did an excellent job exposing them in an understandable way through Ariana's unique experiences. I look forward to Cindy's next release and all she'll bring to her readers in the future!

I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.

Life could not have changed more dramatically for either Ariana Brenneman or Skyler Nash. In this sequel to "Ties That Bind," the two twenty-year-old women who discovered they were switched at birth are now trying to fit in with their biological families. Ariana has agreed to leave her Amish home for a one-year trial period in exchange for her father not suing the midwife who made the mistake, while Skyler chose a year with her Amish family rather than going to rehab for a drug addiction.

Ariana has a sincere desire to do her best in getting to know her new family, but she is quickly overwhelmed by all they ask from her. Her biological father is an atheist who challenges the beliefs she was raised with, and he gives her a 'bucket list' of experiences she can pursue in order to earn points towards a visit with her boyfriend. The title of this book perfectly describes the confusion and self-doubt Ariana goes through as she navigates the changes that have been thrust upon her.

Meanwhile Skyler is determined to be as insolent and difficult as possible towards the Brennemans, feeling like her parents disowned their troubled daughter in exchange for a chance to bring home a brand new innocent one. She believes she can still find suppliers to keep her drug habit going, and as soon as she can manage it she plans to run away. Yet as she unwillingly helps around the farm and in the cafe that Ariana bought just before finding out about her heritage, something begins to change inside Skyler. If this is what working together and truly loving others looks like, maybe she could begin to accept the love and care the Brennemans are offering.

We also continue following Quill, the former Amishman who helps families who want to leave the Amish community. Having facilitated Ariana and Skyler reuniting with their biological families, he is the last person Ariana wants to reach out to, but he is also the only one who can help her make sense of all she is thinking and feeling.

I greatly enjoyed the second book in The Amish of Summer Grove series. Cindy Woodsmall has a way of drawing you in with characters you can't help but cheer for. If you would like more information about this story, please click here.

I received an advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.

We wrap up the Amish Vines and Orchards series as the community in Maine faces much scrutiny. Although new families are moving into the area, the original community members are being held accountable for letting their English assistant grow too close to Leah King. Now either Leah or Landon will be forced to leave the farm. Orchard Bend Farms also faces a crisis of a different kind as young preacher Steven Byler's family goes through a major health emergency.

Now that the love triangle between Rhoda Byler and brothers Jacob and Samuel King has been resolved, the brother who gave Rhoda up seeks to forget her by throwing himself into his work. When he meets a fascinating woman with an unusual skill set who runs a home for unwed Amish mothers, he finds that his heart might make a faster recovery than he expected. But can she set aside past hurts and independence to think of a happy future with a King brother?

Through the ups and downs, the Bylers and Kings learn lessons about following God above and beyond the laws of man. Although all cherish their Amish upbringing, not all will choose to remain within the fold. Those who do realize that they are willing to suffer consequences if they choose to live and love as Christ set the example, rather than blindly go along with a list of rules.

I enjoyed this interesting and complex series. Cindy Woodsmall is a gifted author, and I look forward to the upcoming release of her next book, which will be the sequel to Ties That Bind.

Book 3 in the Amish Vines and Orchards series skillfully picks up the story from where Book 1 and Book 2 left off. The new Amish settlement in Maine is working hard to establish its roots, and it hasn't been an easy task as legal troubles have kept Jacob King off the farm. His girlfriend Rhoda, gifted in horticulture and intuition, has struggled with his absence and unintentionally grown close to his brother Samuel. Now alternately kicking himself for getting caught up in the wrong crowd when he was younger and dealing with irrational jealousy, Jacob tries to ease back into a farmer's life while his heart longs to return to carpentry.

Samuel never meant to fall in love with Rhoda, but that's exactly what has happened. Dedicated to keeping King's Orchard growing, giving Rhoda and Jacob the freedom to be together, and still being a friend and support to both keeps Samuel on his guard and on his knees to seek God's strength for everything on his shoulders.

Relieved that Jacob is back home at last, Rhoda is determined to put any awkwardness behind and give 200% effort to rebuilding their relationship. All she wants to do is become Jacob's wife and see King's Orchard become successful and part of her future for years to come. When it becomes apparent that she may have to choose between the two, Rhoda realizes she has hard choices ahead of her.

As other individuals and families begin to join their small community, pressures mount to see their endeavor flourish. Meanwhile Rhoda feels called to help to help their English neighbor find her granddaughter - a granddaughter the woman doesn't even know exists. Rhoda begins to make peace with her unusual gift of intuition, although there is still quite a bit of prejudice towards her in regards to it.

This is a very well-written and engrossing series by Cindy Woodsmall, and I look forward to finishing Book 4 and reviewing it soon!

What if everything you believed about yourself and your family was a lie? 20-year-old Ariana Brenneman loves her Amish heritage and is looking to the future, working hard alongside her twin brother to save enough money to open their own cafe. Her mother, Lovina, watches them with pride and joy, but a niggling doubt finally causes her to investigate further into the night her twins were born. The birthing center had caught on fire while two mothers gave birth just a minutes apart; was it possible that in the chaos the baby girls had been switched?

One night, while checking on a sick neighbor, Ariana comes across a friend from her childhood whom she hadn't seen in five years, not since he left the Amish faith with another girl and broke her heart. When Quill apologizes and hints at more heartache ahead for Ariana, she realizes that he has been the mysterious figure helping young men and women leave the Amish faith quickly and quietly, whisking them away and helping them establish footing in the outside world. Knowing his apology means that one of her nine siblings must be considering leaving the fold, Ariana makes it her personal quest to find out which one and convince them to stay.

Quill firmly believes that every person has the right to choose their own life path, whether Amish or not, without condemnation from others. He had planned to remain Amish and marry Ariana someday until circumstances forced him to make a hard choice. Now that he's gotten involved in secretly helping Amish people navigate the English world, he's privy to a lot of hidden secrets. When Lovina and her husband come to him for help in tracking down the girl who may be their biological daughter, he knows it could destroy the life of one whom he still loves very much.

The other girl born on that fiery night twenty years ago is Skyler Nash, an aspiring actress who has big dreams but an even bigger tendency towards making bad decisions. With an unsavory boyfriend and a growing drug dependency, Skyler feels like her world is falling around her when her grades make her ineligible for performing in the college theatre program.

This is a novel with many deep storylines. It's an excellent start to Cindy Woodsmall's new series, but be prepared that it's just the beginning. You are definitely going to want to read the second novel when it comes out next year! As the puzzle pieces start coming together your heart will be tugged in many different directions. Joy, sadness, fear, love, and resolve are on full display. I really enjoyed this story, which is no surprise with this author. If you'd like more information about this book, please click here.

I received my copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.
Love Undone

Jolene Keim was 19 years old when her parents died. Not wanting to see her five younger siblings parceled out to relatives, Jolene decided to accept the responsibility of raising them herself, even if it meant postponing her wedding and setting aside all of her own dreams and hopes.

Ten years later, Jolene is still single and the youngest of her siblings are now teenagers. Her brother Ray was struck by lightning when he was a small child and still deals with the effects of that, including unstable emotions. Ray is one of the point of view characters and we get to watch him struggle with making good choices, choosing friends wisely, and how to recover when you really mess up.

Although Jolene has done a remarkable job adjusting to the demands that life thrust upon her, she still carries grief and a little bitterness over her engagement that ended not long after her parents' deaths. The commitment of raising five youngsters was too much for that relationship to handle, and she's had to watch as Van has moved on in ways that really hurt her. Now she and Van must work together for the first time in all these years, helping a friend who has agreed to let the Humane Society use his property as a shelter for horses rescued from abuse situations.

Also helping with the rescued horses is an Amishman from another district. Andy Fisher has been raising his son by himself for several years, ever since his wife walked out on him. Jolene misunderstands the explanation of Andy's marital status and thinks he is a widower, and she begins to allow herself to hope that the friendship blossiming between them can grow to be more. Andy greatly admires Jolene but he knows he can never be anything but a friend. With the inevitable revelation that Andy is married, and the situation with Van bursting with frustration, Jolene's heart may know greater brokenness than any it has felt before.

I felt a kinship with Jolene, because I have also chosen to help raise my younger siblings, although it's for other reasons than my parents' death. It is a very non-traditional path, holding its own sorrows and fulfilling joys. It gave me a little more emotional investment in the book, because I wanted Jolene to have a happy ending the way I hope I will have a happy ending. I can't tell you how it ends, but I do know that our God sees every sacrifice that we make for the behalf of someone else. He sees and knows, and He loves those under our care far more than we ever could. For those of us still waiting and wondering how our stories will unfold, He is worth trusting.

Click here to read the first chapter of "A Love Undone".

I received my copy from the publisher in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.
Winnowing Season

Gifted horticulturist Rhoda is on the verge of setting off to the new Amish settlement in Maine when Samuel King's well-meaning efforts put the whole move in jeopardy. Her church leaders have never felt comfortable with Rhoda's keen intuition, and decide at the eleventh hour to hold an open meeting in an attempt to discredit and shame her. Stalwart Rhoda has faith that things will work out the way they are supposed to, but she is sad her new friends the Kings will finally see the way her community has treated her ever since she was young.

Samuel only desired to help Rhoda in getting the church leaders involved, but now feels terrible that he unintentionally put his friend and business partner in hot water. He has staked everything on starting the new colony in Maine and restoring the apple orchard there.

Meanwhile, Samuel's brother Jacob, who is courting Rhoda, finds he cannot be there to support her in her hour of need because the secrets of his past are calling him away. Why did they have to come up now, when he was beginning to believe he could have a fresh start with Rhoda? Will he ever be free of his sins? His absenses begin to stretch into weeks and months, and Rhoda's penchant for finding herself in trouble have her needing a friend more than ever. As they fight to weather their respective storms, their relationship may not be strong enough to survive.

This second book of the "Amish Vines and Orchards" series focuses on faithfulness through trials. Rhoda, Jacob, and Samuel all desire to do the right thing and for their struggles to be tools which draw them closer to God. I'm really not sure where the final two books will take our characters! It will be a while before I'm able to read them, but I look forward to seeing their stories through to conclusion in good time.
Season for Tending

Cindy Woodsmall's "Amish Vines and Orchards" series kicks off with the story of Rhoda, a young woman with a few distinctive gifts. She is a green thumb extraordinaire, and she has uncanny intuition which has gotten her into much trouble. People are very distrustful of Rhoda's "seeings," and she feels isolated because of their superstition and fear. She takes great solace in growing berries and herbs, and has a thriving canning business called Rhode Side Stands.

Samuel King lives in the next district over, and is the young owner of Kings' Orchard, which is struggling to keep afloat after a few years of bad harvests. When Samuel meets Rhoda and sees what a strong mind she has for horticulture and business, he begins to wonder if she might be the answer to helping Kings' Orchard become all it can be. He's pretty sure his longtime girlfriend Catherine wouldn't like him seeking a business partnership with a woman, so he decides to keep it from her until he knows for sure that Rhoda will accept his proposition.

Other prominent characters in the story include two more King siblings. Brother Jacob spent a few years out in the English world and has a multitude of secrets which he is trying to keep anyone from uncovering. Sister Leah is a headstrong 17-year-old who wants to leave the Amish faith, but her bad decisions may catch up to her and force her hand in unexpected ways. When Jacob becomes interested in courting Rhoda, Samuel makes him promise not to mix romance with his hopes of a business alliance.

This book had so many characters that it took me a long time to sort everyone out and get a feel for each one. Once I started connecting with them, however, it was hard to put the story down and I finished it quickly. The plot was woven together well and I was glad that I had the sequel on hand when I finished. One thing I really liked about the book was that hope and new beginnings were strong themes. Life isn't easy but knowing God is in control leaves us with so much hope. I look forward to following Rhoda's continuing adventures throughout the rest of the series!
Christmas in AppleRidge cover

Ever since I heard that Cindy Woodsmall wrote a book about a cake decorator, I've been wanting to read it. I love cake decorating! So I jumped when I had the chance to review this novella collection which happened to feature said story. I don't read a lot of novellas on general principle, as I'm a fan of fully developed plots and nearly all novellas I've read feature very simple ones. But I must say that these were extremely well-done and did not disappoint in the slightest!

"The Sound of Sleigh Bells" was the first story, and it was downright amazing. Our heroine, Beth, lives with a dark secret that surrounds the death of her  fiance some years earlier. A woman now given to business with a heart closed to love, she feels stirrings when she comes across a beautiful carving.  Unbeknownst to her, the artist also knows about loss, having been in an accident which nearly cost him his life and left him with physical limitations. When Beth's aunt discovers who the artist is and that he is close to Beth's age, she begins to orchestrate a friendship in hopes that Jonah's wisdom can help
Beth heal. When Beth finds out that Jonah isn't the grandfatherly man she had pictured, she must choose between reacting and retreating further inside herself, or opening her heart to truth, healing, and love.

We meet cake decorator Mattie in "The Christmas Singing." Mattie runs a bake shop and has a serious boyfriend in Ohio, where she had moved to escape the pain of another boyfriend's jilting her a few years before. But when disaster strikes and Mattie must move back to her parents' house in Apple Ridge for a few weeks, she comes face to face with Gideon again. Gideon has never stopped loving Mattie, having only left her to protect her from his scary leukemia diagnosis. Now that it is in remission and he sees Mattie again, he wants to rekindle their friendship, if not their romantic relationship. The struggle of steadiness versus passion is at hand: will Mattie return to Ohio and the reliable Sol, or choose to stay with the uncertainty and love in Apple Ridge?

"The Dawn of Christmas" is the new release that finishes out this collection. Sadie is a young woman whose heart was broken by an unfaithful man but she's now found a purpose in life through mission work. During a visit home with her family, she saves the life of a man after a horseriding accident. Levi has seen enough marriages and relationships fall apart that he has vowed to never fall for a woman, but he begins rethinking things when Sadie enters the picture. In order to get both sets of parents to stop pressuring them in the relationship department, Sadie and Levi agree to pretend to date until Sadie's next planned mission trip. When the lines of pretense and reality begin to blur, choices about where their lives are going can either unite them or tear them apart.

Three very satisfying stories! My favorite was the first one, and I would even go so far as to say it's my favorite of Woodsmall's stories to date. Click here if you'd like to check out the first chapter! Thanks to the publisher for my copy, which I received in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.

If you would take a moment to rate this review, it would be greatly appreciated! Just click here. Thanks!
An Old Order Mennonite girl with a troubled family background falls in love with an Old Order Amish young man, burdened with a stutter and responsibilities within his own family. Strictly forbidden by their two different religions, Annie and Aden must decide if they are willing to risk everything to be together or if they will choose to honor vows made to their churches. Also figuring into the equation is Aden's twin brother, Roman, who was injured in a farming accident and is paraplegic. Aden functions as Roman's legs and Roman has often functioned as Aden's mouth.

There's a reason that I tend to stay away from short stories and novellas. They just aren't satisfying to me in the same way a full-length story with plenty of plot development is. Everything just seems too easy because it happens too quickly; the life struggles that I identify with do not come into play. In this story the biggest hurdle was religious ostracism and, really, how many readers can relate to that? At first I thought that this story was going to be about two families as much as two people, and that would have been much more interesting, from my point of view. I'm used to Cindy Woodsmall tackling real and heart-breaking challenges and these just didn't strike me the same way.

That said, Woodsmall is still an amazing wordsmith. I'll continue to read and hope to see more of what I've found in the Sisters of the Quilt and Ada's House series.

"The Scent of Cherry Blossoms" releases to bookstores everywhere tomorrow, Feb. 21. You can already read the first chapter here. Thank you to Waterbrook Multnomah for my copy and for partnering with bloggers in so many ways!

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I just found out today that one of the few Amish fiction writers I will read, Cindy Woodsmall, has written a book about an Amish cake decorator! That's really cool, given that I have a cake decorating small business that I run out of my house. :-) And the reason I'm picky about Amish fiction is because I like it to be realistic and high quality, and nobody tops Cindy Woodsmall in that department! You can read the first chapter of "The Christmas Singing" at this link.

Still looking for a gift for a special reader in your life? Between now and December 20 you can receive 30% off list price as well as free shipping on any book at Just use the coupon code CHRISTMAS11. I love free shipping... hurry on over and see what you can pick up!

Don't forget to check out "The Christmas Singing"!

I just love it when you can find a series that is good all the way from beginning to end. The “Ada's House” novels by Cindy Woodsmall fit that bill perfectly. Three stories about three lovely and very unique young ladies, and the people who fill their lives.

Harvest of Grace introduces us to Sylvia, the oldest of 9 sisters. Although it was by necessity that she learned how to run her father's dairy farm, she truly has a deep passion for the land that will one day become her own. She wants to be a farmer and a wife and mother... until she experiences a deep betrayal and must leave her family home.

Being the oldest in a large family myself, I could relate to Sylvia on a big sister level. I know how hard and yet how fulfilling it is when you are the right hand man of your mom or dad. It's tough when there are disagreements and stressful when you share the responsibilities of your home and family yet you're still one of the kids. That's the lot of the oldest child. :-) The joy of sharing or helping shape the life of your siblings, though... you can't beat that!

Sylvia is able to find a new home on the Blank farm. Deep in debt, with their only son most definitely not interested in inheriting the land, Michael and Dora are trying to keep their livelihood together. Sylvia is a welcome and valuable edition into their lives.

Aaron Blank returns to his parents' home with fresh dreams for life. A stint in rehabilitation has helped him with his alcohol addiction. He's ready to convince his parents to sell the dairy and move into town so he can take care of them while operating his new appliance shop. He is unprepared to find that he will not only have to fight his stubborn father but also the new hired help: the dark-haired girl who is determined to not be driven off of this farm.

A story of pain, dreams, and two hearts at cross-purposes. I really enjoyed it and had a hard time putting it down. You can read the first chapter for yourself at this link.

And don't worry, we still get to keep up with Cara from The Hope of Refuge and Lena from The Bridge of Peace. Their lives and loves still hold a prominent place as the plot ties up.

I received this book from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.

I was able to meet Cindy Woodsmall at one of her book tour stops in August! She was very gracious and friendly, taking time to converse for several minutes with each fan who came by. It definitely enhanced my reading experience to have met the author! :-)
#1 "When the Heart Cries"
I had picked up this book on a trusted friend's review that Woodsmall's writing was superb. I had no idea what the story was about and was truly shocked and caught off guard at the early tragic twist. As the story progressed I wished, as I often do in stories which start with a horrible event, that I had been given the chance to get to know the main character before this crisis of faith and personality. This is a gripping story which is emotionally strong and I found it hard to put down. The wri...moreI had picked up this book on a trusted friend's review that Woodsmall's writing was superb. I had no idea what the story was about and was truly shocked and caught off guard at the early tragic twist. Hannah Lapp's world seems to just be coming together when it is violently ripped apart. As the story progressed I wished, as I often do in stories which start with a horrible event, that I had been given the chance to get to know the main character before this crisis of faith and personality. This is a gripping story which is emotionally strong and I found it hard to put down. The writing was as good as advertised and I was glad I had the sequel within reach when I finished it!

#2 "When the Morning Comes"
This book was quite a bit different than the first in the way it was paced. The first one takes place over 6 months and the heroine is in crisis mode the whole time; this second one takes place over almost 3 years and she is mostly at peace as she pursues her new life. The story is still very interesting and compelling and I can't wait to see what happens in the third book! Excellent writing, though deals with several sensitive subjects and would not recommend it for younger readers.

#3 "When the Soul Mends"

When I finished the second book in this series, I thought the third one was going to be so predictable. I was wrong! The plot kept going deeper as Hannah confronts her past, surprised at the amount of anger and hurt that is still in her heart even with the healing she's gone through. Can she truly forgive? Not your typical Amish story by a long shot! The choices which face Hannah make this a real page-turner and a satisfying conclusion to the series.

If you could take a moment and rank this review, it would be much appreciated. Click here, here and here! :-)

Cara Moore had a rough upbringing in the foster care system and life didn't treat her well after she ran away at age 15. Now on the run from an abusive stalker, Cara finds herself grasping for one small hint to her past which she found hidden in her mother's journal. When she arrives in Dry Lake, PA, homeless and exhausted, the Amish community doesn't quite know what to think about her. It turns out they know a lot more about where Cara came from than she knows herself! Yet only one steps up to ...moreCara Moore had a rough upbringing in the foster care system and life didn't treat her well after she ran away at age 15. Now on the run from an abusive stalker, Cara finds herself grasping for one small hint to her past which she found hidden in her mother's journal. When she arrives in Dry Lake, PA, homeless and exhausted, the Amish community doesn't quite know what to think about her. It turns out they know a lot more about where Cara came from than she knows herself! Yet only one steps up to show Christ's love to Cara and her daughter Lori... and it may end up turning the community upside down.

I was a fan of Amish fiction before it became hugely popular and now try to only stick with old favorites because some of what is being written just does not jive with the actual Amish I was privileged to live near and know during my teenage years. Woodsmall is an excellent author, although with this story I felt we got to the end and bam-bam-bam things wrapped up a little too nicely for the sequel coming up soon, unless the sequel is going to focus on a different set of characters.

(Note: I did read the second book and reviewed it here.)

If you could take a moment and rank this review, it would be much appreciated. Click here!

This second book in the “Ada's House” series picks up right where the first one left off. While the central character in this novel is schoolteacher Lena, others that we've come to know and love in “The Hope of Refuge” continue their stories through these pages as well.


Lena is plagued by self-consciousness because of the birthmark on her face. She is convinced that no one can see past the blemish into her warm and fun-loving heart. Despite her fears she is quite a spunky lady and has come under the censure of the school board for following her own instincts and not the Old Ways to reach the children under her care.


Someone in the community does not like Lena at all. A dark plot to destroy Lena's reputation and even her life takes form. Tragedies begin happening in the schoolyard. The community is soon polarized over this woman whose best efforts seem to fall flat on their face time and again.


Cindy Woodsmall is an excellent writer, and while her stories do not ring completely true with my own experience of living near an Amish community in the Midwest, my interest was definitely held all the way through. It was a little confusing keeping all the characters straight and I thought it would have been helpful to have had a recap of who was who at the beginning. I had to chuckle when I turned the last page and saw there was indeed such a cast of characters, only it was placed after the story when it was too late to do the reader any good. Oh well.


I've enjoyed this series and will be watching for the final installment coming in Fall 2011!


You can read the first two chapters of “The Bridge of Peace” here.


WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group provided this book to me for free in exchange for this honest review as part of their Blogging for Books program.

If you could take a moment and rank this review, it would be much appreciated. Click here!



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