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text 2019-03-22 00:17
A Seat by the Hearth (Amish Homestead #3) by Amy Clipston
A Seat by the Hearth (Amish Homestead #3) - Amy Clipston

Priscilla Allgyer left the community to escape the expectations of Amish life. Now, years later, she is forced to return—along with her six-year-old son—to the place she thought she’d left behind forever. Though once estranged from her family, Priscilla is welcomed by her mother, but her father is cold and strict. He allows Priscilla to stay with them provided she dresses plainly, confesses her sins, and agrees to marry within the community. Once again, she feels suffocated, trapped, and alone. As Priscilla reluctantly completes her shunning, she catches the eye of Mark Riehl, a farmer with a playboy reputation. Wary of Mark, Priscilla barely gives him the time of day—while Mark, unused to being ignored by the women of Bird-in-Hand, won’t give up the pursuit of her friendship. Priscilla desperately needs a friend in Mark, even if she doesn’t realize it—and after Priscilla’s father and the bishop catch her and Mark in a compromising situation, their relationship becomes more complicated than ever. As affection quietly grows between them, Priscilla struggles to open her heart and reveal the painful secrets of her past. As Mark works to earn her good faith, can they both learn the hard lessons of love and trust? And can two friends discover a happiness that only God himself could have designed? The third book in the Amish Homestead series, A Seat by the Hearth invites us back to the Lancaster community where friendships are forged and love overcomes all.






Several years ago, Priscilla Allgyer, a childhood best friend of Laura Riehl (one of the main characters of Book 2 in this series) made the decision to leave her Amish community. Now she's back in town with young son Ethan in tow, a child born out of wedlock. Feeling limited in options, Priscilla puts aside her pride and returns to her parents' home, hoping they will be gracious enough to leave the past in the past and let her stay, at least until she can come up with another solution. 


Priscilla's mother is overjoyed to see her and gladly welcomes her in with open arms. Not quite the same story with her father. He agrees to let her and Ethan move in with them, but he's got some conditions: Priscilla is to 1) return to wearing Amish clothes 2) confess her sins and become a full fledged member of the church and 3) get herself an Amish husband ASAP. Hearing her father lay out his terms, Priscilla is quickly reminded of the restrictive aspects of Amish life that led her to flee town in the first place all those years ago, but for the sake of her son, she begrudgingly agrees to his rules. While she might have started out fleeing her Amish life, now she was escaping Ethan's alcoholic, abusive Englischer father, so returning to THAT life wasn't really an option... at least not one she even remotely wanted to consider.


While settling back into her old Amish ways, Priscilla becomes reacquainted with Laura's twin brother, Mark Riehl, the community's local ladies' man. While inwardly she can't deny how physically attractive she finds him, outwardly she keeps her distance. Being well aware of his reputation of fickle affections towards the ladies, that's the last thing she needs in her life right now. But Mark claims he's just here to be a good friend to her. He tries to be patient with her, sensing she's "going through some things right now"... but at times gets frustrated that she allows only minimal interaction between them, even on a platonic level.


While Mark might claim he only wants to be a good friend to Priscilla, everyone else in town immediately sees these two are clearly headed for a future romance. Or so Clipston wants the reader to believe. Much like the problem with the first book in this series, we're being TOLD these two have a growing romantic warmth between them, but the bulk of their actions / interactions barely revv up beyond good, solid friendship. In fact, the whole big drama that does end up forcefully pushing these two together comes about because Mark is honestly and innocently comforting Priscilla as she releases some pent up emotional pain. However, his nearness to her, when seen by outside eyes, is deemed inappropriate. To save face -- and potential expulsion from the church -- Priscilla and Mark are forced to come together to make a difficult choice about their respective -- and possibly combined -- futures.


Without any real heat between them developed, the will-they-won't-they element of the plot was a little dragged out, but the novel still has a worthwhile story in Priscilla's personal journey, navigating a life dictated by men who prove to be letdowns. Growing up with an verbally abusive father, she has little to no self esteem / respect cultivated in her, so out in the Englisch world it's no great surprise that she ends up being targeted by a similar kind of man. Tricked by initial kindness, she gets caught up in an unhealthy relationship she has no clue how to leave. The only idea she has is to come back home to the life she tried so hard to break free from.


A reader can't help but feel for her. It's almost like she has to pay triple-fold for her life path --- fleeing first the abusive father, then a physically abusive boyfriend, THEN having to regain her place within the Amish church... and she's not even accepted right away. She has to go through a process of taking classes, attending services, extra confessions and meetings, gradually working her way out of shunning status. She can't eat with her family or neighbors, can't use her own money at Amish stores until she's cleared of the shunning ... and for what "crime"? Wanting a little breathing room in her life? Wanting to seek out and experience deep-down soul contentment, in whatever form that took? The process breaks her heart time and again, yet she fights to stay strong for  her son, who needs this safe space away from his dangerous father.


Clipston gives a hint that a little over five years has passed between the first book in the Amish Homestead series to now, and there's one more to go. Several of the characters in the previous book hinted that they'd like to see flirty Mark maybe try to settle on one girl and here we are trying out that storyline! While the romance was flat for me, I cheered every time Mark stood up to Priscilla's verbally abusive father! 


Oh, and the running joke between Laura and Allen featured in Book 2 gets an extra little nod in this story as well. :-)


The final book in the series, due out this May, is set to feature Laura and Mark's baby sister, Cindy Riehl. 


NOTE TO READERS: Clipston does do a good job giving readers refresher information within these novels so you can catch up with characters between installments, but given that there ARE crossover characters, inside jokes, and a definable timeline moving along (within the Riehl family especially) throughout the stories, I would recommend reading the series sequentially.


FTC DISCLAIMER: BookLookBloggers.com and Zondervan Publishers kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.





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review 2019-03-15 18:44
Book Review: Mattie Pledge
Mattie's Pledge: A Novel (Journey to Pleasant Prairie) - Jan Drexler

When I read this it about Mattie and her family getting ready to journey west. We follow Mattie and her family. Not all are going West for more land and affordable prices. We learn that another family is going to join them to go west.

Mattie has her dreams of see the Western horizon. Will she go and see the country or will she keep her pledge. Jacob see her and see Mattie after few years. It been a while. Is there love between Jacob and Maddie?

There are some surprises along the way. Will happen with Schrock family and will they be happy. Mattie got her dreams and Jacob has his. What will happen. This is the story of Mattie. Will she be tempted to follow as Englisher or will she keep her pledge?


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review SPOILER ALERT! 2019-03-14 22:55
Room on the Porch Swing (Amish Homestead #2) by Amy Clipston
Room on the Porch Swing - Amy Clipston

Laura Riehl is no stranger to heartache. Less than a year after her mother’s death, Laura finds herself burying another loved one: her best friend, Savilla, who has died after a brief and sudden illness. Laura feels heartbroken and alone, but her pain is nothing compared to that of Allen, the husband Savilla has left behind. He now faces a life so different from the one he imagined—plus a baby to care for on his own. When Laura offers to help Allen with baby Mollie, he jumps at the opportunity until a permanent solution can be found. She’d do anything to lend a hand to Allen and to honor her best friend’s memory. Rudy, Laura’s boyfriend, is initially supportive of her plan, but the more time Laura spends with Allen, the more jealous and frustrated Rudy seems to become. As Laura and Allen face hardships together, their friendship takes a surprising yet comforting turn—and she discovers an attraction she’s never felt with Rudy. Would falling for Allen betray the people she cares about most, or would denying those feelings betray her heart? This latest installment in the Amish Homestead series returns us to Lancaster County, home of the beloved Riehls, where a family’s strength—and advice from a new friend—may help Laura find God’s direction.








In the first installment of Clipston's Amish Homestead series, readers witnessed the Riehl family navigating through the unexpected loss of their matriarch. While the first book focused on the life of Jamie Riehl, Room On The Porch Swing, the second book of the series, opens with Jamie's sister, Laura, suffering the unexpected death of her best friend, Savilla, only months after her mother's passing. 


Savilla leaves behind a husband, Allen, and a newborn, Mollie. Initially, Allen's mother-in-law comes in to help with Mollie, but when a fall leaves her with a broken leg AND hip, Laura steps in and offers to help Allen with childcare and other domestic needs. The more time Laura spends at Allen's house, the more suspicious her boyfriend, Rudy, becomes. It's all very innocent at first; Laura's focused on looking after Mollie, cooking meals and helping with the laundry and household cleaning / upkeep. But as the months pass, Laura begins to realize she is in fact developing feelings for Allen, feelings that go much deeper than anything she's ever felt for Rudy. But there's also a sense of guilt mixed into that... how can she possibly allow herself to fall for her best friend's widower, especially only months after Savilla's passing? Laura tries her very best to keep things professional and platonic, but regardless of her intent, little Mollie makes it clear to everyone that Laura is the one she prefers above anyone (except maybe dad and grandma). 


The chemistry between Laura and Allen --- even at the friendship stage --- was infinitely better than that of Jamie and Kayla from the first book (Jamie and Kayla do get a few brief appearances in this second one, btw, for those curious how their story progresses).  The pace and depth of the growing bond between Laura & Allen seemed much more believable than that of Jamie & Kayla. There's also an extra layer of interest provided in the form of Rudy's aggravation / jealousy. It keeps the reader invested, waiting to see in what way(s) his frustration will manifest itself once his patience does finally run out.


Another wonderful element to the story is the sweet, supportive relationship between Laura and her twin brother, Mark. Sure, he spends a bulk of the novel being the lighthearted jokester character who loves being the town ladies' man... but there's also some great scenes where he turns into the protective and concerned brother when he sees his sister hurting. Laura makes a mention in this book of how she'd love to see Mark settle down with a great girl, so that may be addressed in the remaining two books in the series. 


One of the best takeaways from this story is how Laura's experiences with men illustrate the differences between a relationship where you are truly valued, and missed when you are away, versus being involved with someone who is not so much invested in you specifically but merely uses you as a relationship placeholder or afterthought... a possession to have there because society tells the person SOMEONE should be in that spot... "might as well be this person here". It's a clever lesson in self respect and the importance of being truly appreciated Clipston leaves her readers with at the close of this book! 


FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.

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review 2019-03-12 09:47
A Place at Our Table (Amish Homestead #1) by Amy Clipston
A Place at Our Table (An Amish Homestead Novel) - Amy Clipston

Kayla Dienner has suffered her fair share of heartache, which is why she vows to protect her heart at all costs . . . until she meets Jamie Riehl. Along with his volunteer work at the local fire department, running his Amish farm keeps Jamie Riehl busy. He barely has time to eat at the family table, never mind find someone to date. But when he meets Kayla Dienner, he is smitten. Kayla tries hard to deny her attraction to Jamie. After all, she’s spent the last year discouraging her younger brother, Nathan, from becoming a firefighter. The death of their older brother in a fire a year ago is fresh in her mind—she can’t bear the idea of putting her heart on the line every time the sirens blare. Then tragedy strikes, and Jamie wants to extinguish any flame between him and Kayla. Can Kayla set aside her own fears to save the love she was determined to deny? The first book in the Amish Homestead series, A Place at Our Table invites us to a quiet community in Lancaster County where love burns brightly no matter the cost.





Jamie Riehl has his hands full trying to find balance between his work as a part-time volunteer firefighter and his duties at the family's dairy farm. Now, at twenty-five, his parents are heavily hinting that he should be looking to settle down with a nice girl, but where is he supposed to fit that in?


Meanwhile, Kayla Dienner is still mourning the loss of her eldest brother, also a firefighter, who lost his life during a call last year. This year, Jamie's crew is called out to the Dienner home (Kayla shares with her parents and fourteen year old brother, Nathan) after a lightning strike sets the barn on fire. Nathan had rushed out to the barn to try to get the animals out but got trapped inside when a beam fell. 


Jamie's crew are able to rescue Nathan. Full of gratitude, Nathan confesses to Jamie and Kayla his own desire to become a firefighter. Kayla is vehemently against the idea but Nathan is not one to give up easily, spending the rest of the novel getting the rest of the Dienner family to come around to his way of thinking. 


Jamie and Kayla begin to spend more and more time together, a moment here and there, mainly through the barn raising put together to replace the previous ruined structure. They butt heads from time to time but can't deny that they are drawn towards each other in some way, even if neither will admit these feelings go beyond friendship. Kayla gets a push towards love from an unexpected source: Eva, the widow of Kayla's deceased brother, Simeon. Eva, in so many words, urges Kayla to see that while it might be scary to risk one's heart, the experience, for better or worse, will be better than keeping the heart in a state of numbness. 


The story opens and (nearly) closes with a fire, there's a part about 9 1/2 chapters in where something mildly exciting happens, and then... well, that's about the most action you'll get out of the plot on this one. Everything else reads like a lot of filler, chapters and chapters full of little more than Do I / Don't I debates or "You like him /her!" "No, I don't!" back and forths. The plot just doesn't hold momentum well. 


Nathan was a well-written character EXCEPT the fact that his dialogue rarely sounded like the speech of a fourteen year old. More like he alternated between sounding about 9 or, suddenly, a 40 year old man LOL. I don't know, maybe that's not an uncommon trait for real Amish kids, but it read weird.


There was definitely a cute and heartwarming friendship between Jamie and Kayla, but IMO the romance there was FLAT. Flat, flat, flat. But of course you can expect to find an almost Insta-Love element here. While Kayla's character may read a little obnoxious to some, the way she wants Jamie to make her first priority over the fire department, there is an element of reality there. Being a fire wife myself, I can attest it is a very real concern in this type of relationship, one that takes years to come to terms with... the fact that no matter how much you love the man, you can never be top priority. You just can't. The nature of the fire department doesn't allow it. Until the day your spouse retires, you basically have them on loan from the department. Firefighters do the best they can, but if they made you top priority the way you want, every time you want, they'd likely be unemployed pretty quick. The structure of the job asks you to be available 24/7.


*Note: in her author's note, Amy Clipston mentioned that she did consult with the guys at Monroe, NC FD during the writing process, but no word if she also got some WIFE perspective on the job... because that definitely is a whole other animal with its own set of challenges that the firefighter would really only have an outsider perspective on.


And yes, on the wife's end, it IS aggravating. I still get mad about it some days, so I can understand Kayla's frustration. The demands she makes on Jamie are a little on the unreasonable side, but it's early on in their relationship when we meet them here. There are more books in the series where we may see Kayla mature into the position of dating / be married to a firefighter, where maybe she better understands the sacrifices that will be required of her to make the relationship work. Eva gives her some pointers on this as well, in this book. Jamie needs some time to mature some as well, at least mentally... it sounds odd at his age to have to ask "I'm sorry we fought, are you still my girlfriend?" Something I would expect a preschooler to ask! 


This first novel in the series does touch upon important themes of death, grief, and regret stemming from feeling like you didn't appreciate a loved one enough before their time came. I'm just hoping the storylines in the later books of the series prove a little more captivating. 


FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.


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review 2019-01-31 02:00
Review: The Forgiving Jar
The Forgiving Jar - Wanda E. Brunstetter

The Forgiving Jar is about Sarah. You learn a bit about Sarah in the first book called The Hope Jar? Wanda does a really well job writing Sarah story along with Michelle's. If you are not a fan of Wanda Brunstetter you will be once you have read on of her books.

The first book is about Michelle Taylor story. This book is about the English granddaughter's story of the Lapps. How would you feel if someone impersonated you? Well this is how it start in the second book with Sarah coming to stay with her grandparents. When you see the woman you pretended to be you and why she is allowed to stay there? Sarah feel really upset about it.

Will Sarah learn to forgive? We know she finds the Prayer Jars or at least one? She doe not know who wrote them or who they belong to? Michelle happens to find Sarah with one of the Jars and tell her she knew about The Prayer Jars and that there is one in the barn as well. 

We also get Brad who come back to visit during his Christmas break. He does not know the real Sarah. He thinks the one he meet was Sarah but doe not know it Michelle Taylor. Michelle has to tell him the truth and ask for forgiveness?

Wanda seem continue Michelle's story along with adding Sarah's story. Though this is mostly Sarah story we get to see Michelle live blossom and she how they interact. Will Michelle get to see her brothers Jack and Ernie Taylor? Will Sarah learn to forgive? Will Michelle and Ezekiel get married?
Source: nrcbooks.blogspot.com/2019/01/book-review-forgiving-jar-by-wanda-e.html
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