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: 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: Dating, Dining and Desperation (a Dear Daphne novel) by Melody Carlson

20140301-231459.jpg Newly released book two in a series, Carlson’s Dear Daphne novel is just as fun as book one. Dating, Dining and Desperation is exceptionally written with heartwarming characters, flawless dialogue, and a thread of faith in God.

In this installment, Daphne tries her hand at dating a few men one after the other. Her dating capers felt real — and I sympathized with Daphne having to endure some of those guys! When she finally re-focuses, an old friend takes notice and opens up about his feelings for her. Before he does, Daphne rounds out her life by spending time with her neighbors, befriending a neglected little girl, and trying to finish her novel.

I am charmed and completely won over by Daphne. She is good-hearted, keeps mostly to herself, is willing to step out of her comfort zone (with a nudge), and can be a little bit goofy. Her faith in letting The Lord sort out her life is exemplary, and she sticks to her values no matter what is going on around her. But Daphne is no goody two shoes. Carlson shows us what’s in Daphne’s head: insecurities, jealousy, complaining, hopelessness, uncertainty. And while we the readers hear Daphne’s inner sighs and see her eye-rolls, she makes sure she puts her best and most Godly step forward whenever possible.

Carlson says book 3 will be out soon. I’ve already googled (in futility) looking for a release date. I’m going to have to practice some patience while I await Home, Heart and Holidays, as well as the fourth and final book.

–Calliope

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Review: Once Upon a Winter’s Heart by Melody Carlson

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Emma’s Poppi died, and with him all romance and true love – or so Emma thought. When she left Seattle to go home and take care of Nona, Emma was jaded as. Watching her parents’ marriage crumble and her sister Anne’s neglect of her marriage, Emma was set to start the new year in mourning.

Then Emma began helping at Poppi’s bookstore, spending time with her young nephew Tristan, and having fun with friends – especially Lane, Poppi’s protĂ©gĂ©. She remembered Poppi’s wisdom and open heart, and tried to do what would make him proud – and make herself happy. Lane joined her on the journey.

Emma and Lane had a roundabout way of realizing that romance and true love was alive and well. Once they did, it warmed my heart. This was a well-written novella with nice, drama-free main characters, and a family feel. I especially liked Nona’s cooking lessons and the spontaneous singing of That’s Amore!

-Calliope

Buy it now Once Upon A Winter’s Heart

Review: Lock, Stock, and Over a Barrel (a Dear Daphne novel) by Melody Carlson

20131005-230242.jpgThis is a charming novel set in the fictional small town of Appleton. Daphne grew up there, and after more than a decade in New York City, she moves back to Appleton due to a death in the family.

Daphne doesn’t expect to fall in love with her hometown, nor does she expect to fall in love with a man. But Daphne does realize she is surrounded by loyal friends and family — as well as several potential suitors. While Daphne negotiates the terms of her aunt’s will, she begins to appreciate old friends, fresh faces in town, and the start of a new career. She meets more than a handful of attractive men – and has to decide just how much flirting she’s going to do!

Lock, Stock, and Over a Barrel is a straightforward, quaint story of a contemporary 30-ish woman’s life. Carlson shows us broken hearts, jealousy, discontent, the need to refocus as life throws curveballs, and finally, the benefits of simple living.

Lock, Stock is the first in a series. I want to read the next one to find out who Daphne falls in like with, how Daphne’s writing career takes off, and how the little town of Appleton continues to grow.

If you’re a Melody Carlson fan, liked the “Green” series by Judy Christie, or the Aggie’s Inheritance books by Chautona Havig, you’ll enjoy this!

–Calliope

Buy it now Lock, Stock, and Over a Barrel