Friday, 28 October 2011

August: What else have I been reading?

Earlier this week I shared my summer reading from July, so today I'll be revealing August's version. Like the rest of the summer, I did most of my reading on my Kindle while travelling two and from work so I've only written short books of these books, but I'd still like to share my thoughts and recommend some great reads to you!

READ: AUGUST 8 - 9, 2011

Katy has always enjoyed life in her small Mennonite community, but she longs to learn more than her school can offer. After getting approval from her elders, Katy starts her sophomore year at the public high school in town, where she meets new friends and encounters perspectives much different than her own. But as Katy begins to find her way in the outside world, her relationships at home become restrained. Can she find a balance between her two worlds?

Loved this! Any preteen Christian girl would adore this book. I could totally relate to Katy's embarrassment at standing out from the crowd at her new school and her friendship issues. Although she's Mennonite, I think her struggles would appeal to many girls of a similar age. Definitely one I'll be recommending to friends with preteen daughters. I'll be looking out for the rest in the series. My only complaint would be that the issues with Jewel seemed to be wrapped up a bit too conveniently; I felt it might have been more realistic if everything hadn't gone smoothly at the birthday party. 

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READ: AUGUST 15 - 16, 2011

Carley Marek experiences culture shock when she visits her friend Lillian's family on their farm deep in Amish country. She'll get an article out of the visit--and maybe some of Lillian's newfound peace will somehow rub off on her. 

Just when Carley is getting used to the quiet nature of the Plain community, Lillian and Samuel's son falls ill. But the local doctor who can offer the most help has been shunned by the community and forbidden to intervene. 
As David's condition deteriorates, Dr. Noah determines to do whatever it takes to save the boy's life. Carley is caught in the middle--drawn to Noah, wanting to be helpful in the crisis--and confused by all their talk about a God she neither knows nor trusts. 
Carley must decide what in life is worth pursuing . . . and what to do when she's pursued by a love she never expected.

Beth Wiseman produces consistently good Amish romantic fiction. This is the second of her full-length novels that I've read, although I've also read a couple of her novellas, and I've yet to be disappointed. I felt that this one was a bit slow to start and I got irritated by how stubborn Samuel could be, particularly as I loved his character in the previous book and felt he'd kind of morphed into the generic Amish male stereotype. Samuel's mood eventually relaxed and the shunning disputes were somewhat alleviated throughout the book, which enabled me to enjoy this book a lot more. I actually got a bit teary-eyed in a few places (a bit embarrassing when you're having your morning cup of tea in the cafeteria at work!) and towards the end I was grinning ridiculously (while on the bus heading back from work, I tried not to make eye-contact with the woman next to me in case she thought I was raving mad). While I did have some reservations at first I ended up being really touched by this book. I particularly liked the fact that while this book features Amish characters and a romance, this isn't the typical "English woman meets Amish man and converts to marry him" plot. Carley and Noah were both Englishers who happened to have friends and relatives in the Amish community and therefore spent a lot of time with them. I also loved the introduction of Dana and Jenna to the story, and the chance to catch up with Lillian's family. I'll admit that I still feel that some issues weren't entirely dealt with - why should Lillian always follow her husband's requests even if she doesn't feel comfortable with them or doesn't agree with his views? Is it okay to bend the rules and disobey the Bishop? What should you do when you believe the Christian thing to do isn't what the Bishop is ordering? - but I hope that maybe these are covered in more depth in later books. I was planning to keep #3 in the series until later but I think I'll start it now as I'm on a definite Amish kick!

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READ: AUGUST 16 - 18, 2011

Young Amish widow, Sadie Fisher, leads a simple life in the quiet countryside of Lancaster County--selling Amish goods to a steady stream of tourists. Though it is a good life, lately she's wondered if it is God's will for her to remain without a husband and a family.Winters can be brutally cold and lonely in Pennsylvania, so Sadie rejoices when a renter signs up for a three month stay in her guest cottage. But when wealthy, impulsive Englischer Kade Saunders arrives, she isn't sure she wants him around that long. Sadie feels the stress of the bishop's watchful eye, expecting her to act in accordance with the Ordnung, the understood behavior by which the Amish live. To complicate things, Kade is soon surprised with sole custody of a child he barely knows--his five-year-old autistic son, Tyler.Sadie and young Tyler form an immediate connection. As she grows to love and understand this exceptional child, her feelings for Kade grow into something that both terrifies and exhilarates her. And while Kade seems to feel the attraction to her as well, their worlds couldn't be farther apart.Sadie must stay true to her Amish roots, but denying the love she feels is impossible. Could it be that God has the improbable in store for Sadie? And will she have the faith to step into a love bigger than she's ever dreamed possible?

I absolutely adore this series, and I think this is my favourite book so far. I got so involved in the lives of Sadie and Kade, it was almost as if I was experiencing events alongside them. Sometimes stories about Englishers who convert to the Amish faith feel a bit fake and forced, but Beth handled Kade and his conflicts very well, making it seem natural for him to settle into the Amish community and want to remain there. I got so annoyed at Sadie for not following her heart and trying to do what she thought the "right" thing was, even if it didn't make her happy! But I do love a book that connects with me emotionally and makes me get upset or angry with the characters and their actions. I can't wait to read the next book in the series, but unfortunately I borrowed the first three from a friend who bought the rest of her series on her Kindle. As the UK doesn't have Kindle-lending yet, I'll have to get hold of the books myself. I don't normally read books in a series one after another, but I just couldn't resist jumping on to the next book. Beth Wiseman is definitely becoming one of my favourite Amish authors. 

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READ: AUGUST 27 - 28, 2011

Kate's family life is never straightforward. Her parents have engaged a new French au pair, Belle, who is lovely but lazy and soon has all the local boys at her command. Kate's mum, struggling with young twins, appears withdrawn and depressed. Kate's boyfriend, Chas, has new problems of his own. In her new novel Meg Harper again displays her gift for pacy comic writing with a serious touch. We follow Kate's emotional roller-coaster ride through the latest batch of family troubles from which she emerges ultimately unscathed and a little wiser.

I loved these books when I was a preteen, so I had to buy this when I saw it in a charity shop. I didn't realise this series had four books in it, and while the fourth and final book wasn't quite as good as the first two in the series (or maybe I just prefer those because they have a nostalgic factor to them?) but it was still an excellent book. It was a nice change to read a British preteen book, with characters named Kate and Greg. Definitely one I'll be keeping for when I have preteen girls! This is a book that I think can be enjoyed by both Christians and non-Christians as the spiritual aspect is very light. Kate's mum is an unconventional vicar, and Kate herself is struggling to come to terms with her own beliefs, and whether what she believes is the same as what her mother teaches on Sundays. My local library used to stock the first two books in the series so they were able to be enjoyed even by people who don't have a personal relationship with God. Overall, a fun coming of age series.

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