I wasn't a massive fan of the format of this book, where little snippets of information on totally unrelated topics were often inserted into the middl...moreI wasn't a massive fan of the format of this book, where little snippets of information on totally unrelated topics were often inserted into the middle of a long narrative, but the book itself was fairly interesting. I hadn't actually watched the Duggars TV show until I was halfway through this book, and I hunted down a few recent episodes on YouTube. I particularly liked the sections of the book that discussed their methods of raising and educating their children, but there were some sections that were significantly less interesting, like Jim Bob's foray into politics. I was pleasantly surprised to discover how financially stable the family is, and how well-behaved and functional their children were, despite (or because of?) their unusual family. The one thing I really didn't like was the horrific recipes scattered throughout the book. Do they ever eat any vegetables that don't come out of a tin, and that aren't coated in three cups of cheese? I'm sure it's possible to create healthy recipes for a large family, especially when you have so many older children to help with cooking. Ultimately, this isn't the sort of book I would have ordinarily looked at, if a friend hadn't lent it to me, but it was an interesting insight into an unusual family, and I may end up implementing some of their child-rearing tactics when I have kids of my own. I know some people have said that they don't like the "blanket-training" idea, but if you have a couple of small kids I can see the benefit of training a child to sit still long enough for you to throw a load of laundry in the machine or change a nappy without worrying that the child has crawled off. 3*(less)
I didn't enjoy this book as much as the first one in the series, but it was still a fun, light read. I appreciate the fact that Laura allows her young...moreI didn't enjoy this book as much as the first one in the series, but it was still a fun, light read. I appreciate the fact that Laura allows her young adult characters to dabble in the English world without making her plots over-dramatic, as some authors have a tendency to do. Matthew learned to drive in his rumspringe, and Shanna went to college and worked at McDonalds, but neither of them gave up their values and morals. This seemed appropriate considering their upbringing and their ties to their families. Sometimes it seems unrealistic for an Amish person who was so grounded in their faith as a child to drop it all once they become a teenager, so I think Laura stuck a good balance. It was also interesting seeing how older Amish people involved some English things in their lives, like going to the drive-thru at McDonalds and having cans of Coke in their fridge. I guess I'm more conservative than them, since I do neither ;)
As for the plot, I felt that the romance moved rather fast. I know that Matthew and Shanna are rather young, and relationships can move at a quicker speed at that age when hormones are flying all over the place, but they seemed to fall in love within a couple of weeks of meeting each other. Matthew seemed incredibly forward with his decision to marry Shanna so early on, and telling her his intentions.
As I said, I did genuinely enjoy this book, but I found Shanna and Matthew a bit immature and too impulsive for my liking. I think that's why I struggled to relate to them. Maybe it's just that the young adults in other Amish novels behave more like grown adults, thinking about marriage and starting families, and although Matthew and Shanna did think about these things, their attitudes seemed more like that of teenagers than adults. I can see this book appealing to a more teenage audience - which is good, as there isn't exactly a teenage equivalent to the typical Amish book - but I guess it didn't suit my tastes. Becky and Jacob, from the previous book, felt more mature, if I'm remember correctly.
I did enjoy this book, and I'd happily recommend it to younger readers of Amish fiction, but it's not among my favourite Amish reads of this year. It was a nice, easy read for the end of exams, so it fit the bill perfectly. 3*(less)
This was a nice, easy read but I didn't find it quite as compelling as the first book in the series. Part of my problem might just have been that I fi...moreThis was a nice, easy read but I didn't find it quite as compelling as the first book in the series. Part of my problem might just have been that I finished Love Comes to Paradise by Mary Ellis, which I absolutely adored, right before I started this book, and nothing really would have lived up to the previous book. I liked the unique details in the story, such as Jeremiah's ice-cream shop and the historical context of the depression and how it affected the Amish community. It was also interesting to find a book that acknowledged that abusive relationships can exist among Amish communities, even if it was sad that the community knew how Merle was treating his family and never had intervened. But ultimately, the romance itself wasn't as engaging as others I've come across in the LIH line, and I felt that the final conflict just stretched the story out rather than adding to it. I have enjoyed reading the Amish Brides of Celery Fields series and would quite like to find out what happens to Greta and Lydia, even if Pleasant's story wasn't as interesting as Hannah's. Ultimately, this wasn't the sort of book that gripped me, making it very easy to put down, but it was still a relaxing read and a solid addition to the LIH line. 3*(less)
There are some reasonable ideas on this book, but a lot of them would only work if you a) lived in the US, b) had a tight-knit local community who all...moreThere are some reasonable ideas on this book, but a lot of them would only work if you a) lived in the US, b) had a tight-knit local community who all also worshipped Jesus or c) actually enjoyed putting obnoxious, flashing Christmas decorations on your front lawn. A lot of the ideas I liked were ones I had already decided to do before reading this book, so I suppose that makes them rather obvious. The suggestions for towns to do are obviously rather out of our reach, and we don't have that much control over what our church does at Christmas, so most of the ideas I liked were from the first few chapters.
Here are the ideas I liked: 1. Officially open the Christmas season in your home with prayer.
2. Use Christ-focused Christmas decorations rather than ones predominantly featuring Santa and reindeer. Also #6 for tree decorations.
5. Use an advent calendar that includes scriptures. (Might have to visit the Christian bookstore in Dundee to do this or see if they're sold in the church cafe in St Andrews).
7. Fill your home with reverent and inspiring Christmas music during the eason.
21. Bake Christmas cookies for events. (Suggests using nativity cutters, would have to invest in some). Also #27, to give as gifts.
23. Make purchasing a Christmas tree or wreath a family event. (We got our tree for free from our landlady, and we can't use a wreath, but we are going to purchase special decorations together every year as a couple, and as a family when we have kids. There's a really great store in St Andrews that has a brilliant collection of unique decorations).
26. Have a family Christmas movie night.
34. Before opening presents on Christmas Day read Scripture aloud together and dedicate the occasion to Jesus.
Ideas that I like that aren't plausible right now: 10. Hang a Christmas wreath on front door that includes a scripture or message written on a ribbon. (We don't own our house, so we can't put any nails on the door to hang anything on).
11. Keep a fire going at all times to make a place to contemplate the season, complete with Biblical ornaments. (Our fireplace runs off electricity so this would become very expensive).
24. Make your own ornaments and reuse them every year.
29. Hang a Christmas stocking at the start of the season and fill with small gifts over the month to donate to the needy. (This would probably be for a shoebox campaign or other charity; giving things to a specific "needy" family wouldn't really work in my culture. People don't like to admit they're in need and often reject such offers of charity, unless they are anonymous. I'd like to do this at some point, but it's probably not something we can afford to do until we have an actual income).
33. Attend your church's Christmas Eve or Christmas Day service. (We attend a church in another town and don't have a car, so we can't do this this year as we have no way of getting there as buses don't run at Christmas. We may visit a more local church if we find one suitable).
40. Neighbourhood ornament or cookie exchange. (We don't know our neighbours well enough to do this, having only moved here in August, but maybe good for a church small group or something similar). (less)
The blurb for this book really intrigued me, but I'm afraid I wasn't terribly impressed with it. I know that novellas are shorter and often have less...moreThe blurb for this book really intrigued me, but I'm afraid I wasn't terribly impressed with it. I know that novellas are shorter and often have less space for development, but I've read some wonderful Christmas novellas with great character development and this one just didn't match up. It felt like something was lacking all the way through. I never really got to know Carol or Jonathan enough to care about whether their conflict got sorted out, and I spent a lot of the book just being frustrated with them not talking about their problems.
I guess their storyline is pretty standard for a lot of families--newlyweds struggling to get by on one salary, having difficulty getting through the Christmas season, etc. I kept feeling like I should relate to them, since I'm in exactly the same situation, but a lot of the conflict in this book felt forced and blown out of proportion. I will freely admit that my frustration stems from my dislike of plots that revolve around the hero and heroine just not communicating properly, so if you don't mind this, it probably won't bother you.
Potential spoilers below:
I understood the message of surrendering your desires to God and letting him lead your life. I really do get that, especially as I'm an artist, like Carol. I know that I've been called to write, but I'm trying not to push too many of my own opinions of what that means on to my calling. Right now I'm writing romance novels and pursuing publication, but if God leads me down another road with my writing, I'll embrace that. I wouldn't have minded if this book had ended with Carol giving up her dream of going to Nashville to be a country western singer for something better, but still related to her singing. But it kind of felt like she abandoned her gift altogether. I completely understand the need to put a dream aside temporarily to have a family, but it felt like Carol was giving up her singing altogether to have a family, and I wasn't sure what kind of message that gave. Why would God give Carol an amazing musical gift but not ask her to pursue it? It's possible to raise a family and pursue a career or artistic dream.
I feel really conflicted about this book, especially since I was sure I was going to enjoy it. The story never really captivated me, and I didn't care all that much about the characters. I really thought I would relate more to Carol, and while I appreciated the message of surrendering your dreams to God and letting him guide you, I kind of ended the book thinking, "Wait, that's it? Shouldn't there be more?" I'm kind of imagining my own ending where Carol does get to use her musical gift while enjoying her family. Maybe my personal situation is just too close to this storyline for me to objectively enjoy this story. 2*(less)
Wanda E. Brunstetter is a very popular author in the Christian market, particularly when it comes to Amish and historical fiction, but I'm afraid I ju...moreWanda E. Brunstetter is a very popular author in the Christian market, particularly when it comes to Amish and historical fiction, but I'm afraid I just don't see the appeal. This is the third book of hers that I've read and I must be missing something because I simply find her plots predictable and her characters one-dimensional. I feel like I'm being cruel, but there was very little that pulled me into this story and made me want to keep reading. I enjoyed learning about the canal and Kelly's painting, particularly the details of how she made her own watercolours. A few reviewers have commented that the canal descriptions were a bit confusing, and I suppose that if you weren't familiar with canals then they may be. I grew up very close to a town which still has canal boats on it today, and the good old British children's TV show "Rosie and Jim" also proved to be very educational on this subject, so I may not be your average reader. That said, aside from the inclusion of Kelly's hobby and occupation as mule-driver, there was very little that I felt was truly original about this book. Yes, I enjoy traditional romances, but this one felt rather flat.
There were a few occasions where I really felt I was starting to care about Kelly and Mike, but their conflicts never rang true. Kelly finally decided to let go of her preconceived ideas about men and marriage, but this was all very sudden at the end of the book, and it was never explained why she let go of them. Mike conveniently forgot why Kelly was hurt by her father, causing a Big Misunderstanding and argument between them, which was then cleared up about ten pages later. Their slow moving romance seemed to culminate in a big explosion about twenty pages before the end of the book, and then everyone ever so conveniently got over their problems and lived happily ever after. It just seemed rather unbelievable. Not to mention that Kelly's distrust of men and marriage was never really explained, just vaguely related to her issues with her father. Yes, we are told that she doesn't want to marry someone just to get away from her father - but where's the shame in marrying someone for love, and happening to get away from her father at the same time? And while for the majority of the book Kelly insists that she wants to earn money so she can leave the canal boat, about two-thirds into the book she suddenly changes and says that she wants to use the money to open an art gallery. This seems to come completely out of nowhere, and seems a bit unrealistic for the time. And the epilogue was just ridiculously perfect, especially with Betsy and Kelly finally getting along and her father starting to turn to Christ. It felt unnecessary to try to wrap up every conflict in the book. Oh, and not to forget the very unrealistic references to the Bible and God. I do enjoy the inclusion of everyday Christian values in my books, but nobody goes around quoting scripture, down to the verse and chapter, the way that these characters did. It all felt very forced, even to an avid reader of Christian fiction, almost as if the author was including verses in order to make the book more Christian.
I really did try to like this book, and while I enjoyed some of the historical details and the occasional cute snippets of Kelly and Mike's relationship, I can't say that I'll be able to remember much about this book in the days to come. I'll probably pass this on to my pastor's thirteen year old daughter, but I don't think I'll be recommending it to any of my friends. 5/10(less)
I didn't enjoy this quite as much as "Mrs Miracle" but it was a lot better than "A Cedar Cove Christmas". For a novella, this book included a signific...moreI didn't enjoy this quite as much as "Mrs Miracle" but it was a lot better than "A Cedar Cove Christmas". For a novella, this book included a significant amount of character development, enough to make me really care about the characters and their struggles. And as with "Mrs Miracle", I really liked the quotes at the start of each chapter. Obviously, this is a fairly predictable, romantic Christmas tale but it didn't verge on being cheesy at any point, and had interesting secondary characters to keep the story original. My one complaint would have to be the fact that the main character agreed to buying her nephew a £250 Christmas present! The only time I've had a present that cost that much was when my parents bought me a laptop when I went to university, never as a child. Whatever happened to dolls and bricks and footballs? Although the rest of the message was good, this present seemed to matter far too much to the main characters and it didn't seem like a reasonable thing to be spending money on, especially when Holly was struggling financially. While I did really enjoy this story, the obsession with the expensive robots did irk me. 7/10(less)
Sweet, enjoyable story but very predictable. I don't usually mind reading books where I can immediately guess the ending, but this one just seemed a b...moreSweet, enjoyable story but very predictable. I don't usually mind reading books where I can immediately guess the ending, but this one just seemed a bit too simplistic for me. I think that's sometimes the downfall with novellas - there's not enough substance to make you connect with the characters. 6/10(less)