Thursday, December 19, 2013

This one hurt

          Perhaps it is the curse of having such a wonderful first book in a series that leads to the second book being a bit of a let down and to the third being completely the opposite of what was looked for, but for whatever reason, Cindy Woodsmall's third book in her Amish Vines and Orchards series, For Every Season, was completely painful. After reading the first book in literally one sitting, it seemed odd to have to work a little harder on the second book, and completely shocking that the third book was such a struggle.  The writing is still stellar; however, the characters that were so wonderful in the first book seem to be becoming watered down or losing who they were.  Jacob and Samuel, for instance, seem to completely switch personalities (this began in the second book but blossomed into full swing in this third book).  The fear is to be judging this book too harshly as Woodsmall is a wonderfully skilled writer, but the disappointment in what she's done with Jacob and Rhoda is acute.  The basic storyline still moves along nicely with the right mixture of the reader being able to guess the direction it moves in while the details are still little gems to be discovered.  The side characters are developing in fun ways, which shouldn't be a surprise considering how well she developed Jacob, Rhoda, and Samuel in the first book; however, even given the opportunity to review the fourth book from waterbrook multnomah publishing it is uncertain if the free read would be worth the effort to get through the next book.  Readers who are not such a fan of Jacob in particular should still read this book, but those who love Jacob should likely stick with book one.  His character is changed the most, and it is not believable exactly how he changed.  Apologies to Woodsmall for such a regard for her third book, but it became just too difficult to enjoy.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Winnowing Season winnows more than just plants

     Just as Book One in Cindy Woodsmall's Amish Vines and Orchards series was a real page turner and a book easy to fall in love with so was Book Two The Winnowing Season a well written book that was hard to put down.  The reader can look forward to reading about the same step off the page characters he or she already fell in love with in the first book A Season for Tending and to the continued saga of them as they work to make up for what was lost in the end of that last book, but unlike the first book there are more strains from within the relationships that make for a more painful read.
     Cindy Woodsmall's skill in setting a scene, plot, relationship, and letting her characters take on life is still there so this is a good book.  However, this book is similar to the heart-breaking Book Two of other series.  She sets up the reader for book three while bringing the pain in her characters up from a low simmer to a full blown raging boil.  Mysteries are set up to, hopefully, be explained and resolved in the next book and there are many opportunities for the reader to yell his or her advice at the characters as they choose their actions and each deal with their personal dilemmas, demons, and prejudices in the ways that they choose.
     What appeals perhaps the most besides the realness of the characters is the family love.  The family love is there for siblings and sibling-in-laws of course, but what is also wonderful is that the characters find they do not have to be related by blood or law to come to carry and nurture that same familial love.  Truly a good, if sometimes painful, read.  Hats off to Cindy Woodsmall.  And now it is time to wait with abated breath for the delivery of the third installment of Amish Vines and Orchards.  Drive quickly, postman, or in honor of these characters: Ride swiftly postman.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Season for Tending more than tends to be a must read

          "God used the oddest situations to line people up and gt them involved in each other's lives" (Woodsmall 297).  The journey the characters in Cindy Woodsmall's book A Season for Tending Amish Vines and Orchards, Book 1 is sometimes as gnarled as an old abandon apple tree left to face the elements and storms and survive the best it can.  And the journey is sometimes as beautiful as that same apple tree cared for and fed so that it's full of the rich, abundance of a bountiful harvest.  What is truly magnetic in this book is Woodsmall's way of writing these two realities so that they can be seen as the two sides of the coin of life.
         The life flowing out of Woodsmall's pen, it is an Amish book and so it would be poorly done to reference computer, is not just apple trees, ways of life of Amish and non-Amish people, and events, but the characters.  Yes, most writers create characters that are alive, it does seem to work easier to have a story about living characters, but Woodsmall seems to have the truly amazing gift of taking these "living" characters and allowing them their own lives.  This is a must read for anyone looking for characters that, more than being just ink on a page, spring from that page and have a life of their own.
          The story has its ups and downs as any good book, and the motion of the plot definitely drive it on.  For a reader who never reads even the smallest novel in less than a week, this was an exceedingly quick read--just over twenty four hours.  At times, it was easy to mentally screech the protagonist is going to be with the wrong guy! And then at the same time it is easy to either laugh aloud or cry from the beauty of a moment.  Though the events were in an Amish community and it was confusing at first to place book in a specific time period it eventually came out, and in spite of that, or perhaps because of that it felt easy to see where the plot seemed merely a mirror held up to the reader's own life; a mirror that allows one to get a much clearer view.  God is intrinsically a part of this piece, but more so than merely because it involves Amish people.  No, God is part of this book because He is part of the characters' lives.  It is all so natural and unforced.  Even the ending line, talking about not getting in the way of what God wanted to accomplish felt so natural because the character had become so real that it made perfect sense for him to think that. Perhaps the one real complaint was that the book ended... it seemed it ended too soon, but instead of being a flaw as it sometimes tends to be, it is instead a fire lit under this reader to find and read the next book in the series.
          Therefore, for readers with passions for orchards, gardens, horticulture, family, comedy, exploring the relationship between siblings, encouragement, reader about God loving characters, romance, or just straight strong characters this book should move to the front of the queue for books to purchase, read, and fall in love with.