Plain Peace (review)

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Plain Peace (A Daughters of the Promise Novel)Plain Peace by Beth Wiseman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Eighteen-year-old Anna Byler has never been on a date. No one has asked her. She suspects it is because her grandfather and guardian, Bishop Isaac Byler is at least partly to blame. His gruff manner and strict enforcement of all their Amish colony’s rules is enough to keep even the most charmed young man at a distance. But Jacob Hostetler is new, handsome, and when he shows more than a passing interest along with the courage to talk to Daadi, she can’t help but be hopeful.

Their friendship is anything but a smooth affair, however in Beth Wiseman’s novel Plain Peace. In it Wiseman delves as well into the Hostetler family’s painful history, the strange behavior of Marianne Byler the bishop’s own wife, and Lucy Turner, a non-Amish woman whose life has become inextricably bound to the Amish community through an affair she has had with one of their own.

Wiseman tells the story through the eyes of several characters—Anna, Marianne, Cora (Jacob Hostetler’s mother), Jacob, and Lucy, and so we get lots of perspectives. Even so, I found the characters somewhat flat and one-dimensional.

The book has lots of plot turns and is entertaining enough. Theme-wise, though I felt its message was morally confusing. Marianne Byler takes on the role of credible spiritual advisor and confidante while busy hiding a secret of her own. Later, when she has a change of heart, her generosity seems to serve as a sort of cover-up or justification for her years of wrong-doing. As well, the habits she has formed are of the pathological sort. How she overcomes them almost overnight and with no distress on her part seems unrealistic.

The book is full of Amish-isms (explained in a glossary) so in that way it feels authentic. A collection of recipes (some of the foods mentioned in the book) and a set of discussion questions add value and round out the book’s offering.

Plain Peace is a quick, light read that I’m sure those who enjoy Amish fiction will want to add to their collections.

I received Plain Peace from the publisher, Thomas Nelson, for the purpose of writing a review.

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Made to Last (review)

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Made to LastMade to Last by Melissa Tagg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Miranda (Randi) Woodruff is the star of the handy-girl show From the Ground Up in Melissa Tagg’s debut contemporary Christian romance Made to Last. Though Randi is a celebrity of the how-to world, she’s managed to keep her private life private—sort of. But she has made one exception, referring often to the husband who taught her everything she knows about building.

Trouble is, that husband isn’t. Her live-in boyfriend Robbie walked out on her three years ago. From then on she’s kept hoping he’d reappear with an explanation, ready to set the date. Now, with the network threatening to cancel the show’s fourth season, revealing and showing off her husband will be the perfect device, her handlers figure, to arouse public interest in this tomboy sweetheart-cum-black sheep missionary kid (MK).

Matthew Knox, whose career in journalism has had its ups and downs-—lately mostly downs—-gets the assignment to sleuth out the truth about Randi and write about his discoveries on a daily blog. Of course his editor has promised a plum Today cover story in the future, after this pulp assignment is done.

Things get complicated, though, when Matthew and Randi discover there is chemistry between them, ghosts from the past reappear, and the web of lies grows tighter and more constricting by the day.

Randi and Matthew are likeable and complex characters.

The intricate plot with its high stakes for all involved makes for a taut read throughout—no sagging middle!

Tagg’s clipped and culture-savvy style suits the genre perfectly:

Mission: Smile. Access her inner Colgate commercial and convince everybody she meant it” (Kindle Location [KL] 18).

“‘You’re the one who went all Jeopardy on me'” (KL 550).

Randi’s MK issues along with Matthew’s non-existent relationship with his dad add depth to the characters, make them more sympathetic, and provide a good arena to explore matters of faith, repentance, forgiveness, and redemption.

This was a fun and at times thought-provoking read. It may leave you pondering questions (nudged by the discussion guide at the book’s end) like: “Have you ever had to let go of a dream? Have you ever had to face something hard in your past?”

I received Made to Last as a gift from Publisher Bethany House for the purpose of writing a review. Again my NetGalley Kindle version had “ff” issues: they were all missing and I was left to puzzle out sentences like: “The words burst from her, impatient pus of white air erupting from her lips” (KL 3954). Even technology glitches have their amusing moments, it seems.

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