Review: Huckleberry Hearts by Jennifer Beckstrand

  
This is the perfect book to read around Thanksgiving – when you’re full and happy, and maybe a little nostalgic… or when you’re remembering the dearly departed and hoping new memories fill up the empty spaces. 

Amish grandparents Anna and Felty use their matchmaking skills – and love! – to bring Cassie together with her meant-to-be. Nevermind that Cassie’s mom wants her to marry an Amish guy.  And come back home. And rejoin the church. What?!  While Cassie wants to remain in the modern world and find a moral Englischer, she doesn’t fight her family. But while Cassie tries to keep the peace, her soul mate is going through a crisis of faith.

I love all of the Huckleberry Hill books, but I especially appreciated the messages in this one. Beckstrand touches on love, loss, death, staying true to yourself, freedom of religion, and the popular question of why evil exists and why God doesn’t stop it.  

I stayed up late, I bawled my eyes out, and even though Beckstrand is taking a break from the series, I’ll be stalking her page to see if she changes her mind. Excellent read, with plenty of laughs, some tears at the end, and a whole lot of warm hearts. 

-calliope

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Review: Huckleberry Harvest by Jennifer Beckstrand 

 

This is book 5 in a series, but no need to read the books in order, nor start at the beginning. Grandparents Anna and Felty join forces yet again to make a love match between a beloved young relative and a Bonduel citizen. 

The story depicts young love at its sweetest, and mature love at its best. Beckstrand writes with humor, tenderness, and honesty. I love the characters and dialogue, and always, always the adventuresome comedy! 

I highly recommend the Huckleberry series for young and old alike, especially those enamored with Amish culture. 

-calliope

To read more detailed reviews of other books in the Huckleberry Hill series, CLICK HERE.

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Review: The Love Letters by Beverly Lewis

 

Like much Amish fiction, The Love Letters ties together family love, religious obligations, and personal faith. Beverly Lewis successfully illustrates these themes when young Marlena agrees to move in with her grandmother and care for her baby niece. During this time Marlena finds conflict between her parent’s church and her new community’s way of worship… And it doesn’t bode well for her courtship with Nat back home. 

The plot, subplots, characters, and dialogue were all on point, and what I expected from a well-known and -loved author. However, I struggled with the uneven pace. The beginning was slow and drawn out, with each day taking several pages to describe. When I approached the last 20% of the book, the plot suddenly fast-forwarded. Lewis described several months’ time in one page, and then another length of time on the next page. I wish the beginning of the book had gone a little faster (editors! so much could have been tightened up)! If it had, there would have been plenty of room for a fleshed-out ending. 

The story was satisfying, though. Beautiful sub-plots surfaced in the middle of The Love Letters: a boy’s readiness to grow up, a wife’s love for her flawed husband, and a father’s heart softened by God. Lewis’ characters demonstrate a peace and love that truly comes from Above. 

You know I’m a fan of the romantic happily-ever-after, right? Well, I was pleasantly satisfied with Marlena’s new romance, the doctor’s reunion, and the rekindled love of a long-married husband and wife. 

-calliope

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Review: Where Secrets Sleep by Marta Perry

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I just love when my three favorite genres converge. Amish life, suspense and romance all play a part in this novel about Allison Standish, a city girl who inherits her estranged grandmother’s fancy house-turned-small-shops-building near Amish country.

While the conditional inheritance trope might not be original, it’s the perfect foundation for mysterious shadows, doors ajar, and electrical problems. The protagonist moving to a different town also provides impetus for a love story. I always enjoy the novelty of watching a new relationship grow.

I found this story comforting and homey. The Amish characters provided serenity and hope. Nick, the love interest, lent an easiness and a smile. His interactions with his dad, brother, and son warmed my heart and made me laugh. The mystery moved the plot forward and gave me plenty to ponder and wonder about.

I’ll always be a fan of Amish fiction, suspense, and romance as individual genres. But it’s a nice surprise to find them all together in a well-written novel. Three fixes in one. #addictedtoreading

-calliope

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Review: Huckleberry Spring by Jennifer Beckstrand

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So, Book 4 in the Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series. Oh that grandmother Anna can be sly. And grandfather Felty is definitely not on board with the deceit. But the matchmaking keeps succeeding, so they keep on doing it.

Spring brings Emma to the farm to help grow a pumpkin. Then Anna tells a few white lies to get her grandson Ben back to Wisconsin from Florida. He had escaped there after breaking off his engagement to … yes, Emma. And the re-matchmaking begins.

This time, it’s more than just hearts on the line. Ben has a medical issue he’s not willing to share. Emma has strength of spirit but also a will to not get her heart broken again.

I just love the innocence and Godly love in Beckstrand’s Huckleberry Hill books. I appreciate the family loyalty and the harmless jokes. And there’s always a sense of adventure!

I found this book especially romantic, because I could truly feel the love between Emma and Ben… and they could too.

Thanks again, Ms. Beckstrand.

-calliope

By the way, Book 1 in this series is on sale for $1.99. buy Book 1

Book 4 buy HUCKLEBERRY SPRING

Review: Trading Secrets by Melody Carlson

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I loved this sweet YA novel about two teenagers – Amish Zach and Englisch Micah. They start out as pen pals, have a big misunderstanding, and end up as friends (with a hint of maybe more).

This is a perfect, clean, appropriate relationship story for ages 11 and up. Carlson makes the dialogue come to life, and shows authentic teenage emotions and behavior. I was invested in Zach and Micah’s relationship. I wanted their friendship to work out. Carlson provided a wonderful balance of heartbreak, emotional baggage, family obstacles; and authoritative understanding, blessings, and reaping what you sow.

I especially enjoyed the contrast in the dynamics between Zach/his mom and Micah/her dad. Zach’s actions showed integrity and courage! And even despite teenage angst, mutual respect and a happily ever after won in the end.

Trading Secrets is a fun, smart, contemporary take on the Amish and their relationship to the Englisch world. Its characters are relatable and flawlessly written. It’s neither preachy nor smarmy. I certainly hope this is the beginning of a series so I can keep reading – and then place on the coffee table for my pre-teen daughters.

-Calliope
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Review: Huckleberry Christmas by Jennifer Beckstrand

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Aaah. The coolness of autumn, the crunch of the leaves, the brisk wind at night… It’s all preparation for winter. And winter means Christmas novels. I’ll be reading and reviewing more over the next couple of months, but here’s the first taste of Christmas, Amish-style.

Beth endured verbal abuse from her first husband. When he died, she vowed to grow stronger and more independent for the sake of herself and her son. But Beth didn’t count on falling in love with mellow Tyler. He had Beth’s best interests at heart, but needed to be persistent if he wanted to gain a place in her heart.

I’ve enjoyed all of Beckstrand’s Huckleberry Hill books, and I certainly loved this one. Beckstrand balances the stereotypical sober Amish lifestyle with lighthearted fun that comes from being unencumbered by modern distractions.

I laughed a lot at Tyler’s facial expressions (great descriptions, because I could virtually see his face). I sympathized with Beth as she tried to decide whether to follow her head or her heart. And I rejoiced every time little Toby reached into the hearts of his mom, grandparents, and Tyler.

I recommend this book as an Amish novel, a taste of Christmas, and an overall feel-good read. You’ll be uplifted, and who couldn’t use a little of that these days?!

-Calliope

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Review: Huckleberry Summer by Jennifer Beckstrand

20140612-125512-46512637.jpg Aahhh, young love! The tension, the fun, the sighing when you re-live a good date, the well-intentioned interference of the matchmaking grandparents…. Yeah.

Anna and Felty were successful in the match of their grandson Moses, and now they’ve moved on to shy Lily and brazen Aden. Beckstrand totally cracked me up with Lily blushing all the time, Aden the bad boy trying to be good, Felty and Anna bantering and giving sidelong glances. She writes likeable characters and strong dialogue. The story is meaty enough to sink into, but easy enough that I could read without working at it.

Aden and Lily’s love story was charming and believable. I liked how Aden kept persisting, even when Lily’s dad rejected him over and over again. The best part was when Lily used the strength of Aden’s love for her to stand up for herself. Brava, Lily!

I’ve fallen in love with these contemporary Amish young adults and their search for fun, friendship, and godly love. Bring on Book Three!

-Calliope

Read my review of book one, Huckleberry Hill.

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Review: A Simple Christmas Wish by Melody Carlson

20140408-222046.jpg A Simple Christmas Wish is about a family broken apart by tragedy, an Amish family who tries to fix it, and Aunt Rachel, whose love for niece Holly is like a mother’s love.

I enjoy Amish fiction, and this story had an excellent balance between the Amish and English worlds. I loved the glimpses of Amish fun and farmwork, as well as the challenges of managing a household without electricity!

Though it begins with a tragedy, this is a feel-good story with a heavy dose of family love. Because I’m a romance junkie, I can’t help but denote my favorite part when Aunt Rachel decides to explore a romantic possibility… a happily ever after in its own way. 🙂

-Calliope

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Review: Sarasota Dreams by Debby Mayne

20140228-144652.jpg Sarasota Dreams is the compilation of three novellas. Each novella focuses on a Mennonite man and woman and their search for romance.

I like Amish/Mennonite fiction, and Debby Mayne writes it well. I appreciated that we could see what the men AND women were thinking. Abe had to figure out how to make Mary trust him. Jeremiah had to prove his faithfulness to God before Shelley would let herself fall in love, and Charles had to commit to becoming Mennonite so Ruthie’s reputation wouldn’t suffer.

Besides the romances being very well written, Mayne illustrated her knowledge of the Mennonite lifestyle without making the novellas feel like documentaries. The reader gets more than a glimpse of small business management (diner and souvenir shop), farming, and church life.

These were three lovely, realistic, fun, clean romances. The loyalty to family and community was comforting, and the food sounded delicious. Bring on some coconut cream pie!

–Calliope

New Release March 1!

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