Wishing on Willows by Katie Ganshert

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Title: Wishing on Willows15759952

Author: Katie Ganshert

Published By: WaterBrook Press (2013)

Synopsis:

Does a second chance at life and love always involve surrender?

A three-year old son, a struggling café, and fading memories are all Robin Price has left of her late husband. As the proud owner of Willow Tree Café in small town Peaks, Iowa,  she pours her heart into every muffin she bakes and espresso she pulls, thankful for the sense of purpose and community the work provides.

So when developer Ian McKay shows up in Peaks with plans to build condos where her café and a vital town ministry are located, she isn’t about to let go without a fight.

As stubborn as he is handsome, Ian won’t give up easily. His family’s business depends on his success in Peaks. But as Ian pushes to seal the deal, he wonders if he has met his match. Robin’s gracious spirit threatens to undo his resolve, especially when he discovers the beautiful widow harbors a grief that resonates with his own.

With polarized opinions forming all over town, business becomes unavoidably personal and Robin and Ian must decide whether to cling to the familiar or surrender their plans to the God of Second Chances. (Taken from Goodreads.)


Review: 

I loved this book! I loved the characterization, the setting, the feel, the romance, everything! 

This book did take me a while to get into—but once I was attached to the characters, there was no putting it down. The premise and thematics of this novel were AMAZING. A woman pursuing her dream in the form of owning her own coffee shop where she keeps her piano and plays for customers whenever inspiration strikes? I just LOVED it. The depth in Robin’s character—from her flawed and beautiful motherhood, to her longing for Micah, to her tender growing love for Ian—created a living, breathing fictional character I loved. 

And Ian was another phenomonal character because he was one I hated at the beginning. I really did not like him and wanted him to LEAVE! But by the end I was rooting for him. It takes very impressive talent to pull off these type of character arcs, but Ganshert nailed it. 

The plot *could* be seen as a little slow, but it was yet definitely there, pulling us along even when we couldn’t even see it entirely. I never once grew bored. Her fight to keep the cafe was honestly so inspiring, and the whole story, despite its depth – one aspect is Robin recovering from her husband’s sudden death – was yet so sweet.

Negative Content/Notes:

This is an adult book. There are mentions to adult things, though not in the wrong light, and it never goes into anything in detail. Nothing that waved a red flag for me, the content was just a little more mature.

Overall: 

Altogether, this was an incredible book. The setting was unique and sentimental, the depth was masterfully painted, the characters alive and breathing, and a gentle yet intriguing plot guiding it all together to create a truly beautiful tale. Highly recommended.

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0

Recommended to: Ages 14 & up.

Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly

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Title: Seventeenth Summer

Author: Maureen Daly

Published: 1942

Synopsis:

Until the summer before college, Angie Morrow didn’t really date. Her mother didn’t like her to go out much. But no one — not even Angie’s mother — can resist the charm of strikingly handsome Jack Duluth. His good looks grab Angies’s attention from the moment in June when Jack throws Angie a smile at McKight’s drugstore. And on their first date sailing under the stars — when Jack leans in and whispers to Angie, You look nice with the wind in your hair, the strange new feeling s begin. Tingles, prickles, warmth: the tell-tale signs of romance. It’s the beginning of an unforgettable summer for Angie, full of wonder, warmth, tears, challenge, and love.Maureen Daly had created a love story so honest that it has withstood the test of time, winning new fans for more than six decades. Today, this classic is enjoyed by many who think of it as the quintessential love story, and as a glimpse of love in the 1940’s; a refreshing alternative to modern love stories, reflecting the beauty and innocence of new love.  (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

This was such a beautiful old book and I absolutely inhaled it. Though nothing drastic or dramatic happens over the course of the story, the characters and the beautiful ways the reader was pulled into their minds was sweet and captivating enough to hold me. The descriptions were lucious and thoughtful; in a normal book I might have said there were too many descriptions and not enough story, but considering the spirit and feel of this book, I thought it was fine. The romance as told by Angie was tangible and explored in an innocent way. I thought Angie was a really real character and it just seemed like a perfect snapshot of one teenage girl’s mind.

Of course I loved the time period and the authenticity—the book was written in the time period it takes place in! I loved seeing a glimpse into that time and what it was like for teenagers and the author did a great job capturing her time period.

Negative Content/Notes:

There were absolutely no sexual elements whatsoever; they kiss maybe twice. Just sweet, innocent romance that I loved. There were some elements that in today’s culture would be seen as “negative,” or “mature,” content such as drinking and smoking, but in that period it was completely normal and that’s all the author was doing when she wrote it—communicating normal teenage life in 1940s. So I had zero problem with it because it did not come from the wrong spirit, such as to promote it or glorify it, but rather was just there because it was just that way back then.

Overall: While nothing much happened over the course of this story and the plot could be seen as dull, I was enthralled by the beautiful ease the author narrated of a teenage girl’s mind and the sweet romance that played in with it. If you are looking for a sweet and happy read, with more than a touch of history, look no further!

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0

Recommended to: Ages 12+!

Wings of the Wind by Connilyn Cossette

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Title: Wings of the Wind

Author: Connilyn Cossette

Published By: Bethany House Publishers (2017)

Synopsis: Alanah, a Canaanite, is no stranger to fighting and survival. When her family is killed in battle with the Hebrews, she disguises herself and sneaks onto the battlefield to avenge her family. The one thing she never counted on was surviving.


Tobiah, a Hebrew warrior, is shocked to find an unconscious, wounded woman among the Canaanite casualties. Compelled to bring her to a Hebrew healer back at their camp, he is soon confronted with a truth he can’t ignore: the only way to protect this enemy is to marry her.

Unused to being weak and vulnerable, Alanah submits to the marriage—for now. As she comes to know and respect Tobiah and his people, however, she begins to second-guess her plans of escape. But when her past has painfully unanticipated consequences, the tentative peace she’s found with Tobiah, the Hebrews, and Yahweh is shaken to the core. Can Alanah’s fierce heart and strength withstand the ensuing threats to her life and all she’s come to love? (Taken from Goodreads)

Review: 

This series is truly a work of literature. A very mature work of literature, however; I would not recommend any reader younger than fourteen reading this. The author does not skip over more mature scenes, but instead narrates them with delicacy and yet not ignorance.

This story tells the tale of Alanah, a Canaanite woman who disguises herself as a soldier in order to fight the Hebrews, who, in her eyes, took everything from her. Blind to the true atrocities around her, she embarks in battle and imagines how wonderful the feeling will surely be of striking down her Hebrew nemeses. However, it doesn’t go quite as planned and as she’s lying dying on the field, she gets rescued—by a Hebrew man who decides to take her as his wife in order to follow the Law. Will Alanah continue to fight against the Hebrews or will her eyes be opened to a truth she’s been missing?

First of all, I love Biblical fiction, and this series has cemented that fact in my mind. I learn so much and I love the opportunity to see our faith through such a different angle. The author does such a phenomenal job reimagining the lives and journeys of everyday Hebrews based only on few accounts in the Bible. I loved the tie in with Rahab’s story; it was so striking and emotional down to the core.

This book took my breath away. Seeing God’s glory through the eyes of the Hebrews was magnificent, and experiencing firsthand the horrors of Canaan had me nearly in tears. The horrific city is not glorified or described in endless detail, but not skirted around, either. All in all, I came away with a better understanding of not only the Bible story, but of the God whom I serve.

The characters arcs are magnificent. I loved the tie-ins with the previous books, of course; I love how every book is connected but separate at the same time. Alanah became such an incredible woman over the course of the story, and Tobiah was fantastic. Moriyah was a little underdeveloped at first, but she grew fast.

Negative Content/Notes:

No negative content, but some dark themes. Prostitution is discussed/addressed several times, though not dirtily. The book does not avoid discussing things such as temple horrors where there were sacrifices of infants and women. The author handles everything gently, but she does not skirt away from anything. Reading about all the awfulness that took place in Canaan was almost too much for me.

Overall: To all mature readers who want to understand these familiar Bible stories in a whole new eye opening way: read it.

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0

Recommended to: Ages 14 +. Maybe even older.

 

The Gifting by K.E. Ganshert

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Title: The Gifting (Gifting, #1)

Author: K.E. Ganshert

Published By: CreateSpace (2015)

Synopsis: “If science is right, then I am crazy. And crazy is dangerous.”

In a world where nothing supernatural exists, Tess Eckhart is positive she’s going crazy. After her complete freakout at a high school party, her parents worry she might be right. So much that they pack their bags and move across the country, next to a nationally-renowned facility for the mentally ill.

Tess is determined to fit in at her new school, despite the whispers and stares. But when it comes to Luka Williams, a reluctantly popular boy in her class, she’s unused to a stare that intense. Then the headaches start, and the seemingly prophetic dreams that haunt her at night. As Tess tries harder to hide them, she becomes increasingly convinced that Luka knows something—that he might somehow be responsible.

But what if she’s wrong? What if Luka Williams is the only thing separating her from a madness too terrifying to fathom? (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

I was very disappointed in the Gifting. The author has recently become one of my new favorites, and when I saw she had written a dystopian trilogy, I became very excited—for surely it would be another spectacular work of fiction and this time I would have three books to love!

This book, though, pales in comparison to the author’s other works. It doesn’t even compare. I felt the author was trying way too hard to break into the YA world, but what she didn’t realize is that it being the standards are already so preposterously low in YA, there really isn’t anything to “break into.” Anything goes in YA. The author toned down her writing a ton, and it irked me. There was so much potential here!

What I liked: I really liked the spiritual thematics and messages. A LOT. It might be that alone propelling me to keep reading the series. I think it is a message that is very applicable to today’s culture and one that needs to be told. On the flip side, it was confusing and hard to keep track of, presenting more confusion than clarity, though that very well may be tied up better in the next few books.

What I disliked: The rest of the book. Okay, maybe I’m being a little harsh. The plot was….a plot. Kinda predictable. A little stereotypical. A little repetitive. I did like how the author wrote the romance between Luka and Tess, though.

What I really disliked: (spoiler!) I really didn’t like how when they went to save her grandmother everything went just perfectly for them, and I hated the scene where they “have” to tie up the person who caught them. It was just so contradictory to their characters and to the attitude of the story as a whole. It made the author appear desperate, like she didn’t know what to do. I also disliked how after saying hi to the grandma they just leave and go home. I didn’t get it at all. It felt very anticlimatic.

I didn’t really get a lot of emotional depth at all from any of the characters. Yes, there were emotions, but nothing compared to the author’s other works. Tess has emotions, but I didn’t feel them the same way I felt emotions in the author’s other works. It was just so disappointing. I expected a lot more, and it doesn’t measure up at all. It was flat and repetitive and the more I think about it, the less I like it.

Also, can we talk about how the phrase Tess is told—“You are the Gifting” is grammatically incorrect?

Negative Content/Notes:

Romance doesn’t go beyond a kiss. Some violent content, as Tess sees huge monsters around and thinks they will attack her.

Overall: I love Katie Ganshert. This book was not all bad by any measure. It just did not live up to my expectations. I mean, by default of course I like the book because of the author. It just wasn’t what I expected at all and because of that I was very disappointed.

Rating: 4.0 / 5.0

Recommended to: Not recommended, unfortunately.

Esther Ashton’s New Dress by Kellyn Roth

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Title: Esther Ashton’s New Dress

Author: Kellyn Roth

Published by: Kellyn Roth (2017)

Synopsis: Recently-orphaned Esther Ashton doesn’t expect much from Christmas with her brother away fighting in the South Pacific, her sister-in-law hospitalized with a new baby, and her job at the department store providing little to no profit. Will Esther have any sort of a Christmas or will it be another dud?

Esther Ashton’s New Dress, a Christmas short story, is sure to delight any fan of Christmas, the 1940s, and brevity. (Taken from Goodreads.)

Review:

I thought this was super sweet, but at the same time kind of confusing. I loved all the characters, and I was captivated by the beautiful writing style. It had a sweet theme and a lighthearted feel. However, I was also confused by a lot of it. The aspect of the brother in the war seemed a little out of place, and I still don’t understand why the dress was important. I felt like it was supposed to filfull a cool theme, but I missed it. It had a lot of potential but a lot felt left unsolved. Nevertheless, I did enjoy it and thought it was a short and sweet read.

Negative Content/Notes:

None.

Rating: 4.0 / 5.0

Recommended to: Anyone looking for a sweet story!

*I exchanged a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

Shadow of the Storm by Connilyn Cossette

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Title: Shadow of the Storm (Out From Egypt, #2)

Author: Connilyn Cossette

Published By:

Synopsis: Having escaped Egypt with the other Hebrews during the Exodus, Shira is now living in freedom at the foot of Mt. Sinai, upon which rests the fiery glowing Cloud containing the shekinah glory of God. When the people disobey Yahweh and build a golden idol, the ensuing chaos gives Shira an unexpected opportunity to learn the arts of midwifery. Although her mother wishes for her to continue in the family weaving trade, Shira’s gifts shine brightest when she assists with deliveries. In defiance of her mother, Shira pursues her heart’s calling to become an apprentice midwife.

When a delivery goes horribly wrong, Shira finds herself bound to a man who betrayed her, the caretaker of three young children, and the target of a vengeful woman whose husband was killed by Shira’s people, the Levites. As contention between the Hebrew tribes and the foreigners fans the flames of another dangerous rebellion, Shira will come face-to-face with the heartbreak of her past that she has kept hidden for so long. How can she let go of all that has defined her to accept the love she’s denied herself and embrace who she truly is? (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

I. Loved. This. Book.

Engaging and insightful, incredibly accurate, and gorgeous, I liked this book more than its predecessor. The last book was amazing as well, but by the end it had gotten dragged out a bit and I wasn’t sure how the sequel was going to go…but it went amazing. I was SO excited when I opened the first page to see “Shira” glimmering there. I loved getting a glimpse into my favorite character’s mind… Shira was such a beautiful and strong character, written very talentedly. I liked watching her interactions with her family as well as of course seeing her own love story unfold. The author is truly gifted in weaving together such a masterful story and placing it all with astounding accuracy right in the middle of a Bible story we thought we knew so well.

I liked seeing Dvorah’s character arc as well; I thought it was a skillful tie in and added a lot to the story. I loved seeing Kiya again, of course, as well as seeing her happily wed. There were so many trials and struggles explored in the pages of this novel, with clear messages and strong themes that will undoubtedly inspire and encourage.

Negative Content/Notes:

Some sexual implications, but nothing that waved a red flag.

Overall: Aaaah! I loved it.

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0

Recommended to: Ages 14+.