The Covenant by Beverly Lewis

Title: The Covenant

Author: Beverly Lewis

Published By: Bethany House Publishers (2002)

Synopsis: Book 1 of Abram’s Daughters series from bestselling author Beverly Lewis. Years of secrecy bind the tiny community of Gobbler’s Knob together more than the present inhabitants know, and the Plain folk who farm the land rarely interact with the fancy locals. So when Sadie is beguiled by a dark-haired English boy, it is Sadie’s younger sister, Leah, who suffers from her sister’s shameful loss of innocence. And what of Leah’s sweetheart, Jonas Mast, sent to Ohio under the Bishop’s command? Drawn into an incomprehensible pact with her older sister, Leah finds her dreams spinning out of control, even as she clings desperately to the promises of God. The Covenant begins a powerful Lancaster portrait of the power of family and the miracle of hope. (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

Loves: The Amish culture was fascinating to read about. The characters were well rounded and likeable, and I enjoyed seeing the world through these character’s eyes in such a vivid way, even if their perspectives weren’t ones I necessarily share or agree with.

Analyzation: The story was a little slow. Strongly character-driven, nothing big happens until almost halfway through the book. However, I found every character to be very unique and I always wanted to know more. The story jumped around quite a bit, but still found focus in Leah and Sadie’s plotlines, with Mary Ruth and Hannah weaving their way in as well. Generally, it was the interpersonal conflicts that drove the story, and I felt the author penned it very skillfully, keeping each struggle unique, but still tying it together. 

Cleanliness/Negative Content: One hundred percent clean. <SPOILER> Sadie becomes pregnant by an English boy, but it is handled so carefully—in tune with the Amish culture—and there was absolutely nothing even remotely close to being dirty.<SPOILER>

Overall: I really found myself enjoying this book, despite its lack of strong conflict. I found myself intrigued by the three-dimensional characters and their struggles, all against the backdrop of the Amish culture. I’m already excited to return to this world and continue following these characters in the sequel!

NOTE: There were some Christian thematics, as following God is apart of the Amish culture. However, they were not all necessarily thematics I agree with. I would not classify this book as Christian fiction because a lot of the teachings are not ones I follow or recommend following. Just a disclaimer:)

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 

Recommendation: Anyone looking for insight into Amish culture or just a strong character-driven story.

At Her Fingertips by Kellyn Roth

Title: At Her Fingertips (The Chronicles of Alice and Ivy, #3)

Author: Kellyn Roth

Published By:

Synopsis: Debutante ​Alice Knight has a plan: have her first social Season in London, meet her husband, and marry him. As the Season begins, Alice’s feelings and common sense both begin to undermine her goals. But she must stick to her plan—and everyone, including God, had best stay out of it.

The plan looks even less appealing when a childhood friend reappears, an American author shows her a different kind of faith, and a charming gentleman is not all he should be.

The life she longs for is finally at her fingertips, but how can she know it’s the right one? (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

First Thoughts: AAAGAGAHAGH

Loves: Two main loves: one, the richness of the characters–for example, there’s Alice, all grown up but still the same Alice we know and love. And two, the adorable, sweet, clean romance that was impossible to not like. EEEEEK. The sweetness of this book is on overload.

Dislikes: I didn’t like Alice’s interactions with Ivy; she didn’t treat her sister the best in this novel, and I wish we could have seen her taking care of Ivy more, or realizing in the end that Ivy deserves just as much as she does. In this regard Alice became a little snottish, and I hope in future novels to see Ivy taken care of. Despite my frustration with Alice, though, it was so cool to see her all grown up and still the same Alice at the same time; she truly is a remarkable character.

Analyzation: The author’s talent keeps improving with each book, and this one is definitely my favorite yet. How she managed to pull off not a love story, not a love triangle, but a love square, is beyond me, but she did and I can’t say I didn’t like it. Each character is rich and alive, different in their own way.

I really liked that we got Gibson’s perspective, even with him being the so-called “bad guy,” and that we really felt for Kirk even though we know him and Alice can’t be together. There were some beautiful themes that weren’t blatant but simply there. The author writes way above her years, and it blew me away how she carefully crafted these concepts without being preachy. Instead of simply telling us that we are designed for love, to wait for the one we really love to marry, and to be very careful with that choice, she shows us this through many options and examples. SPOILER>>There’s Gibson, who Alice thinks she’s in love with and who she thinks loves her, but who is actually very disrespectful to her and will become abusive; Kirk, who loves Alice but whom Alice doesn’t have feelings for (I love this one because it demonstrates that even if someone shows you affection and attention and seems genuine, you don’t have to marry him because you “should”); and then, finally, Peter, who we see a true connection with Alice. Juxtaposed next to Gibson and Kirk, the reader can clearly see what love is and that it is worth waiting for. <<SPOILER

Cleanliness/Negative Content: SPOILER>> Gibson, Alice’s lover, kisses her against her will. <<SPOILER

Nothing I would label as “dirty” or “inappropriate”; everything is handled well.

Overall: I don’t think this book could have been any cuter. Aaaagh. It was the sweetest, most heartwarming romance I’ve read in a long time. 

Rating: 5/5 stars

Recommendation: Probably ages 13+…anyone looking for a different, but sweet, romance.

There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones

Title: There You’ll Find Me

Author: Jenny B. Jones

Published By: 

Synopsis: Grief brought Finley to Ireland. Love will lead her home.

Finley Sinclair is not your typical eighteen-year-old. She’s witty, tough, and driven. With an upcoming interview at the Manhattan music conservatory, Finley needs to compose her audition piece. But her creativity disappeared with the death of her older brother, Will.

She decides to study abroad in Ireland so she can follow Will’s travel journal. It s the place he felt closest to God, and she’s hopeful being there will help her make peace over losing him. So she agrees to an exchange program and boards the plane.

Beckett Rush, teen heartthrob and Hollywood bad boy, is flying to Ireland to finish filming his latest vampire movie. On the flight, he meets Finley. She’s the one girl who seems immune to his charm. Undeterred, Beckett convinces her to be his assistant in exchange for his help as a tour guide.

Once in Ireland, Finley starts to break down. The loss of her brother and the pressure of school, her audition, and whatever it is that is happening between her and Beckett, leads her to a new and dangerous vice. When is God going to show up for her in this emerald paradise?

Then she experiences something that radically changes her perspective on life. Could it be God convincing her that everything she s been looking for has been with her all along? (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

First Thoughts: I loved this novel!

Loves: I loved the side plot with Mrs. Sweeney (Jones just loves her grandma characters, doesn’t she?). I really liked Finley of course, and I thought the romance was very sweet.

Dislikes: The one downside I had was that I found the writing a little stitled at times. Jones’ strength is obviously in wit and sarcasm, and with this being a book carrying some heavier themes, the lighter jokes and sarcasm that snuck in felt out of place and out of character, stilting the story a bit. If the story was a little more lighthearted, I think it would have worked a little better, but with the themes so heavy, it felt out of place to me.

Analyzation:  I really liked it overall. Jenny B Jones is doubtlessly a very good writer and she did an impressive job of capturing anxiety in words. Though I do not struggle with this personally, I found myelf getting anxious and worried as I read, truly able to feel Finley’s emotions. The romance subplot was unexpected, challenging, sweet. I seriously would read romance every day if they were all written how Jenny B. Jones writes hers. 

Cleanliness/Negative Content: No negative content that I recall.

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0

Recommendation: Recommended to ages 13+ and for Jenny B Jones fans for sure.

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

Title: Girl in the Blue Coat

Author: Monica Hesse

Published By: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Synopsis:

Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days procuring and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, her nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the Germans invaded. She likes to think of her illegal work as a small act of rebellion.

On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman’s frantic plea to find a person – a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such dangerous work, but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations that lead her into the heart of the resistance, open her eyes to the horrors of the Nazi war machine, and compel her to take desperate action.

Beautifully written, intricately plotted, and meticulously researched, Girl in the Blue Coat is an extraordinary, gripping novel from a bright new voice. (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

I thoroughly enjoyed this historical fiction novel! The thematics were unique and powerful, the characters strong and relatable, and overall I found it an original WWII story full of life.

Hanneke was such a fantastic character and from the first page she leapt alive. I was fascinated by her story, her black market smuggling, her quest to find Mirjam. Some of the other characters were hard to keep straight and lacked as much development compared to Hanneke, but it wasn’t impossible.

I didn’t see any of the twists coming and the themes they sent had me gaping in amazement. I was in awe of the talent of the writer to smash so much together into just one novel. It was authentic and alive.

Negative Content/Notes:

There few negative elements, but nothing that dominated the story. Characters swear once or twice. One character comes out as homosexual and there is a scene or two focused on Hanneke wishing for freedom for him; but it wasn’t overtly preachy in the way some books today are. It was a very small part of the story.

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0

Recommended to: Ages 13+.

The Wondrous World of Violet Barnaby by Jenny Lunquist

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Title: The Wondrous World of Violet Barnaby (Izzy Malone, #2)

Author: Jenny Lundquist

Published By: Aladdin (2017)

Synopsis: Violet Barnaby searches for the joy in life after losing her mother in this sweet and funny follow-up to The Charming Life of Izzy Malone.

Violet Barnaby is a having a blue Christmas. She’s still grieving the loss of her mother, and to make things worse, her dad has just married Melanie Harmer, a.k.a. the meanest teacher at Dandelion Hollow Middle School. But on the day Violet and her dad are packing up and moving into the new house they’ll share with Melanie and Melanie’s two children, Violet finds a letter her mother wrote to her before she died, asking Violet to enjoy Christmas, along with a Christmas Wish List—things her mom wants her to do during the holiday season. On the list are exactly the kinds of things Violet doesn’t want to do this year, like Be Someone’s Secret Santa; Give Someone the Gift of Your Time: Volunteer; and Bake Christmas Cookies.

Violet shows the letter to her friend Izzy’s Aunt Mildred, who calls a meeting of the Charm Girls, a club Izzy and Violet belong to along with their friends, Daisy and Sophia. Aunt Mildred decides she will give them each a charm to put on their bracelet if they do all of the tasks on the Christmas Wish List, which Violet is not too happy about. She’d rather forget about the list completely, but feels compelled to honor her mother’s wishes.

And when Izzy’s crush confides a big secret to Violet, Violet feels like she is stuck between her best friend and the boy who she just might have a crush on, too… (Taken from Goodreads).

Review:

I loved this book! It was similiar in feel to its predecessor, but so different—though connected, it could easily be a standalone. I loved Violet; she was such a fantastic protagonist and so relatable, too. We so easily see the world through her eyes and understand her and why she does the things she does. We groan when she makes mistakes, but we understand why, too. We laugh with her, we cry with her, and we love her. 

I loved seeing her interactions with the Charm Girls, and loved the friendship themes with both Izzy and Olivia; I found it very authentic to middle school dynamics. The novel dealt with some harder themes—such as death and stepfamiles—but ultimately handed it in a gentle, yet genuine, way. It was a highly inspiring and encouraging novel of hope and friendship, full of beautiful themes and I would highly recommend it to ages 8+.

Negative Content/Notes:

None.

Overall: I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, even though I am definitely above the recommended age range. It was clean and free of negative or questionable aspects, and it promoted a message of hope and strength amid struggles in a relatable way that I believe will be very impactful to younger audiences.

Rating:  5.0 / 5.0 

Recommended to: Ages 8+.

The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate

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Title: The Story Keeper

Author: Lisa Wingate

Published By: Tyndale House Publishers (2014)

Synopsis: When successful New York editor Jen Gibbs discovers a decaying slush-pile manuscript on her desk, she has no idea that the story of Sarra, a young mixed-race woman trapped in Appalachia at the turn of the twentieth century, will both take her on a journey and change her forever. Happy with her life in the city, and at the top of her career with a new job at Vida House Publishing, Jen has left her Appalachian past and twisted family ties far behind. But the search for the rest of the manuscript, and Jen’s suspicions about the identity of its unnamed author, will draw her into a mystery that leads back to the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains . . . and quite possibly through the doors she thought she had closed forever. (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

I was so impressed by this book. I was drawn in from the first chapter. A book about an editor and the publishing world? I’m in! The author’s talent is so admirable. She effortlessly weaves together so many plot strands, characters, themes, and it works. It was easy reading, while still fun.

I LOVED the aspect of the two separate stories intertwining together—our main character, Jen, finds a manuscript of a story, and we get to read the manuscript in the book as well as Jen’s story. I found it incredibly impressive how the author managed to pull off both stories and also intertwine them. A lot of work and thought went into this story, and it paid off.

I really liked how the author used real locations and places, real facts and real history—it made reading the book that much more interesting. The characters were vivid and alive. The parts about Lane’s Hill were eye opening and thematically, done excellently. I LOVED the sneaky Christian themes that snuck in and yet never took over. I was fascinated by Jen’s family life and the twisted version of Christianity contrasted with the world and the questions presented—“Why did [Lane’s Hill] not line up with the Bible when I read it?”

Sarra and Rand’s story, the story in the manuscript Jen finds, was a little harder to keep track of. The characters were just as alive, and the historical context was strikingly accurate and the story of Melungeons absolutely fascinated me—but some of the action was a little confusing. I couldn’t figure out exactly what was going on all the time. Overall it did not lessen my appreciation for the story, but I did have to flip back several times to catch up.

Negative Content/Notes:

Toward the beginning of the story, Jen asserts that she doesn’t date because she doesn’t want to be accused of “sleeping her way to the top” in the industry. I was fine with the line but just figured I should just mention it for the sake of younger readers here, though even then I don’t think it’s a problem. Regardless, I’d recommend this for older readers, just because of the depth.

Overall: This is an eye-opening tale of history, family and loyalty, and it blew me away. I loved reading about the publishing world and I loved the thematics of the importance of stories. I found the story talentedly told and the characters real and living. It was both humorous and serious, delicate yet raw. Highly recommended.

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0

Recommended to: Ages 14 & up