Review: The Proving by Beverly Lewis

I really adore Amish fiction. Beverly Lewis is a pro at delivering believable plot lines, excellent writing, and characters so real that I start mimicking their facial expressions when reading dialogue. 

Mandy is a capable girl who left her Amish community because she was emotionally hurt. I was so glad Mandy ended up with a reason to return to her home – even if it wasn’t her first choice to do so. Though she had some family struggles and some uncertainty with the community and faith she grew up with, Mandy’s sister helped her see the truth about herself and her true home. 

I love all things B&B-related, so I was in my element with Amish baking on the inn’s farm table, sheets drying on the line, and guests who came for respite and left refreshed.  Getting to know the guests is always fun, and the carriage rides aren’t bad either. 

I read The Proving after a slew of September mediocrity, and I was very relieved to be able to effortlessly enjoy the inn, the sisterhood, and the faith of Mandy and her family.  
-calliope

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Review and Giveaway: Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

“So many people dream of living in a house with a white picket fence. Little do they know, there’s no such thing as a perfect family, no matter how white the picket fence is.”

I am always so excited when I get to read a new Colleen Hoover book. I’m so anxious to see what she’s going to do to my heart. From the very first sentence I knew I was going to like Merit. From the second one, I knew this family was going to be different. So I orderd pizza for the kids and I settled in to spend the evening reading. Best night of my year.

Without Merit is a story about a girl who keeps all the many secrets of her family. She hates it but she does it. But everyone has their breaking point, and when Merit reaches hers, the Voss family won’t know what hit them.

After the emotional book, It Ends With Us, Colleen switched gears and went back to her Slammed roots and gave us this fabulous story. This is a book that I recommend you read along with your teens. It deals with some tough and very poignant issues that many of them, and us, face today. I personally, will be having my kids read this. In fact, this will be their first CoHo book and I’m rather excited over this fact. While they may not have to deal with many of the issues being faced in this book, they may find that Merit is just like them.

This story is a mass bundle of quirkiness and emotion. I was drawn in by the over the top idiosyncrasies of each member under the Dollar Voss roof. I wish I knew this family. They’re as unique as their names. I don’t wanna say anymore, because you need to just dive in and immerse yourself in this world.

Without Merit isn’t a romance story really. It’s a life story. At first I thought Merit wasn’t the “usual” character, but then I got to thinking, “What is the usual character?” She stressed over and struggled with daily life. She feels her family is a bunch of crazies. She wishes for peace in her world but doesn’t know a healthy way of finding it. I don’t know about you, but she sounds pretty “usual” to me.

“It used to feel like I was on top of the world. Then one day, I noticed that it felt like I was no longer on top. I was just floating around inside of it. And then eventually, it felt like the world was on top of me.”

Colleen, thank you for writing a story that hit me right where I needed to be hit. Thank you for giving me lots to think about in my children’s and my own life. You bury me.

~Melpomene
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Review: The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr

This reminded me of Beaches. Yep, the movie. The plot wasn’t the same, but it just had that same kind of feel. 

Sister and cousins all return to a beach house one summer to share memories from their childhood summers, and to spend time with Megan who has cancer. 

The beginning of the book pretty much focuses on Megan and her needs. Then we hear about Charley and her current life problems as they relate to her childhood problems… but Megan kind of fades away in the background. I was like Hey! Don’t forget about that Megan character! 

Sadly, it happened again when we are introduced to Krista, the ex con. Megan is barely mentioned, and Krista totally overshadows the Charley character. I had just gotten invested in Megan and Charley… and they were dropped like a hot potato. 

Carr’s Virgin River series illustrated how to have a developed protagonist as well as an ensemble cast. I was hoping for the same in The Summer That Made Us. Had the character development been more balanced, and had the characters not been such stereotypes, this novel would have an extra star!

I enjoyed the somewhat predictable plot, I appreciated the well-written dialogue, and I was impressed that Robyn Carr still comes up with fresh ideas for new novels. This one just wasn’t for me. 

-calliope

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Review: All That Makes Life Bright by Josi S. Kilpack


I’ll admit, I had no idea who Harriet Beecher Stowe was before I picked up this book. Thank you, Google, for enlightening me. Once I started reading, I realized that this was not the usual fictional account of her entire life, but more of her life as a mother and wife.

Harriet wanted to be a writer, but when she finds herself a mom of three children under the age of 2, it’s more than she can handle. At first I was a little mad at her for not “stepping up” and being a mom first, but the more I read, the more I realized that she was doing the best she could. And when she could do no more, her body gave up for a while and she was forced to step back and relinquish her duties and recoup. Times were different back then. You were “supposed” to do it all and not complain, but I bet there were many struggling just like her, but were too afraid to do anything about it.

Her marriage was again, just like many marriages at the time. The man expected to walk in and the house be clean and food on the table, but without having to do any of the household duties. As I was reading, I wanted to ring Calvin’s neck for not helping, but then I had to remember the times were different. But, I will say that after a while he stepped up and did what needed to be done, in order to have a healthy wife and a happy family.

This was not my usual romance, in the sense that they were already married. I felt this story was more than about love, it was about life, real life. This touched me very deeply. I, as with many moms out there, struggle with finding a balance being a wife and mother while not losing our own identities. Harriet struggled with that greatly. Watching her was like looking in a mirror. Or better yet, being a fly on my wall, when my children were toddlers.

~Melpomene

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Review: The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert

This book reminded me of First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen: magical! It’s not wand and wizard type magical, but more like “can you believe this is happening I think it’s a miracle” type magical. And I loved it. 

Sanna is a tough nut to crack. She’s the primary worker on her family farm, the sole apple orchard and cider person, and very focused on keeping her farm and family intact. Sanna is protective, territorial, and averse to visitors. 

When Isaac and his son Sebastian appear at the farm and endear themselves to Sanna’s pa, Sanna is more annoyed than anything else. But Sebastian’s presence softens her heart a little … just enough to let Isaac in, too. 

Sanna’s love for the apples and love for her family save the farm from external threats. It’s that love that saves Sanna from herself, too, and provides room for Isaac and Sebastian in her life. 

I just couldn’t get over the specialness of  Sanna’s abilities with the apple orchard. It was nice to see someone care that much about their land and what grows on it. And I appreciated her loyalty to her family and the land. 

This novel was a lot of twinkles and touches and glances and fairy lights. Not my usual fare, and I’m kind of glad about that. The Simplicity of Cider is a special book that will stay with me for a long time. 

-Calliope 

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Review: Franco by Kim Holden

francoThis is a book about love, determination, friendship and family. The Bright Side family is the best family out there. In fact, I wish I was a part of this family. I want people in my life like this. They know when to joke, when to give advice and when to just be there. Gah! This story was filled with the full range of emotions. Plus, I loved seeing Gus and how he’s doing. I love him.

SYNOPSIS

Franco Genovese is the drummer for world renowned American rock band, Rook. He’s got it all. A killer smile. Tattoos. Talent. Razor sharp wit and humor. And a heart as big, and generous, as they come.
Life is good. Steady. Uncomplicated. Just the way he likes things.
Until one night at an unassuming L.A. bar changes everything.
Enter Gemma Hendricks.
She’s a successful young architect from Northern England with an adorable smile, sarcasm for days, and an unparalleled trusting heart.
The attraction is instant.
So is their friendship.
It’s also temporary because they’ll both be heading home, thousands of miles apart from each other, in a few days.
Or is it?
There’s something Gemma wants more than anything else.
And when Franco propositions her to provide what she’s looking for, everything changes.
Will it transform friendship into love, or will it be their ruin?

From the moment I was inside Franco’s head, I loved him. What attracted me to him was his attitude toward women and his friends. Seriously. He knows what he likes and isn’t shallow in his feelings. Immediately I was hooked and I wanted to see who he was going to end up with. Every girl should want a Franco in their life. And when he thinks about his friends, he embraces their differences and quirks and loves them for it. I want a Franco in my life.

Gemma was the absolute best. THE BEST. I want to meet her and be her friend. She is strong and resilient. She makes me think of Kate and how, no matter what life throws at her, she takes it head on and keeps going. I wanted to reach in a hug her so many times. She is going through something so difficult, I can’t even imagine how she’s hanging on. I don’t know if I could be that strong.

“Do you think dream are better left as dreams because they still hold possibility and wonder and there’s no room for failure.”

“No. I believe that dreams fuel life. And it’s when you’re chasing them that you’re most alive. There’s no reward in settling for status quo.”

Franco and Gemma’s connection was instant. Their relationship was both sexy and sweet. I had a blast watching them grow together and experience what life had in store for them. They were made for each other. The best of friends that grew into more.

She’s my other half. Like for the first time in my life, I know what being unquestionably whole feels like.
And I realize that the notion that my heart beats for me alone is a lie.
It beats for us.

This is one of those books that’s hard to review without saying to much. What I can say is that I woke up at 3:30 am to finish this book before I had to wake up my kids. I needed to know what happened. I laughed and cried and squealed at one certain part. You’ll know it when you read it, if you know me at all. It was so exciting. This story had my heart overflowing until it was a puddle on the floor.

~Melpomene

You don’t need to read Bright Side or Gus to fully enjoy this book, but I really wish you would. Your heart will thank you. Trust me.

Buy Franco HERE
Buy Bright Side HERE
Buy Gus HERE

Review: Written on My Heart by Morgan Callan Rogers

 
I loved this book about young newlyweds struggling to prioritize their marriage, children, employment, roots, and friendships. Dottie and Florine have a close, sisterly relationship based on honesty and support. Bud and Glen base theirs more on beer than honesty, and Morgan Callan Rogers outstandingly illustrates their desire to balance machismo and independence with responsibility and growth. I enjoyed seeing the men develop and regress, and then finally take the steps forward to become better men. 

The women change, too.  Through the grace and lovingkindness of her mother in law, Florine discovers the best way to demonstrate love to Bud… without compromising her values. Dottie grows in confidence and is able to be her authentic self — and a happier person. 

I adored this study on the ebb and flow of relationships, set in “local” down Maine. I liked the intertwined mystery, the ever-presence of Florine’s late mother, and the constance of children’s joy and a mother’s wisdom. 

-calliope

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