Little Battles by N.K. Smith


Published: April 28, 2011
Publisher: TWCS Publishing House
Source: Free review copy from Publisher

From Goodreads: Spending time with Elliott instills a faint whisper of hope within Sophie Young; hope that both terrifies her and promises redemption. But the demons of her past are never far behind, and old habits are hard to break. The more she tries to push him away, the stronger the pull towards him becomes. As Sophie’s broken heart continues to seek comfort in Elliott, can she put aside her destructive ways and take the most dangerous risk of all?

For many years, Elliott Dalton had lived a solitary existence, keeping his emotions under tight control. But as his feelings for Sophie grow and her life spins further out of control, his carefully built facade begins to crack.

He is determined to protect her at all costs, just as he protects the hidden secrets of his past. Secrets that threaten everything. For if she knew, he would lose her forever…

My Thoughts: Smith’s writing is so brilliantly natural, raw and beautiful. There was nothing about the narration in this story that felt forced or contrived and I think that is why this book affected me as much as it did, it was just so unbelievably real.

Smith wrote Sophie and Elliott’s characters with such authenticity that it literally hurt me to read their stories at times. I did not feel as though I was reading a novel, I felt like I was watching these two kids try to come to terms with their past traumas and understand how they were affecting their present lives. In Little Battles we as readers are given a painfully close look at Sophie’s past and how it has affected every detail of her life, from her drug use to her inability to be close with anyone. The explanations given for Sophie’s behaviors and attitudes are heart wrenching and I couldn’t help but feel for this girl.

What was so interesting to me is how Sophie and Elliott were able to connect with each other when they either had difficulty or no desire to connect with others. How Elliott’s character developed and changed surprised me and throughout the novel I was dying to read more about him. There was so much that he wanted, or needed to say, but just couldn’t. I am absolutely sitting on pins and needles waiting for the 3rd installment of this series Weight of the World to come out on August 25, 2011! I think that this is the book that will give me the answers that I so desperately crave about Elliott.


I am giving Little Battles 4 Hands and Home stamps of approval!

Paradise Valley by Dale Cramer

Genre: Amish Fiction Pages: 359
Published: January 1, 2011
Publisher: Bethany House
Source: Review copy from publisher

From Goodreads: An Amish settlement in Ohio has run afoul of a law requiring their children to attend public school. Caleb Bender and his neighbors are arrested for neglect, with the state ordering the children be placed in an institution. Among them are Caleb’s teenage daughter, Rachel, and the boy she has her eye on, Jake Weaver. Romance blooms between the two when Rachel helps Jake escape the children’s home. Searching for a place to relocate his family where no such laws apply, Caleb learns there’s inexpensive land for sale in Mexico, a place called Paradise Valley. Despite rumors of instability in the wake of the Mexican revolution, the Amish community decides this is their answer. And since it was Caleb’s idea, he and his family will be the pioneers. They will send for the others once he’s established a foothold and assessed the situation.

Caleb’s daughters are thrown into turmoil. Rachel doesn’t want to leave Jake. Her sister, Emma, who has been courting Levi Mullet, fears her dreams of marriage will be dashed. Miriam has never had a beau and is acutely aware there will be no prospects in Mexico. Once there, they meet Domingo, a young man and guide who takes a liking to Miriam, something her father would never approve. While Paradise Valley is everything they’d hoped it would be, it isn’t long before the bandits start giving them trouble, threatening to upset the fledgling Amish settlement, even putting their lives in danger. Thankfully no one has been harmed so far, anyway.

My Thoughts: It is no secret that I love Amish fiction but when you read a lot of one specific genre, the stories can sometimes get overdone, tired and predictable. This is why I was thrilled to discover that Paradise Valley was a completely unique look at Amish fiction. The characters and the story line were all written in the lovely tradition of Amish fiction but they shone with new life and really were a breath of fresh air.

In Paradise Valley we travel with the Bender family as they leave Ohio for Mexico in the hopes that they will be allowed to live their lives as their religion requires. The family faces unbelievable struggles as they attempt to start their lives over in a country which is itself trying to recover from war and revolution. The enormous emotional strength of each character is evident but I was pleased to see how it was the Bender women who were portrayed as some of the most brave, independent and capable members of the family.

Cramer takes some of the more traditional elements of Amish fiction (ie. the idea of forbidden love and longing) and puts a completely new spin on them. Amish fiction (In my opinion anyway) typically has a lot of expectations placed on it in terms of how characters will act and types of problems they will face. I think that it is really special when an author can take a genre like this and turn it on its head without alienating, frustrating or disappointing readers. I really loved Paradise Valley, as I am sure is evident by my gushing, and hope that you love it too!

This is the first time that I read Dale Cramer and I highly recommend him to any fan of Amish fiction, or really to any fan of contemporary fiction for that matter. I look forward to reading the rest of the books in The Daughter’s of Caleb Bender series when they come out and while I’m waiting I will definitely be picking up his earlier novel, Levi’s Will.

The Union Quilters by Jennifer Chiaverini

From Goodreads: In 1862 Water’s Ford, Pennsylvania, abolitionism is prevalent, even passionate, so the local men rally to answer Mr. Lincoln’s call to arms. Thus the women of Elm Creek Valley’s quilting bee are propelled into the unknown. Constance Wright, married to Abel, a skilled sharpshooter courageous enough to have ventured south to buy his wife’s freedom from a Virginia plantation, knows well her husband’s certainty that all people, enslaved and free, North and South, need colored men like him to fight for a greater purpose. Sisters-in-law Dorothea Nelson and Charlotte Granger wish safe passage for their learned husbands. Schoolmaster turned farmer Thomas carries Dorothea’s Dove in the Window quilt with him. Charlotte’s husband, Dr. Jonathan Granger, takes more than a doctor’s bag to his post at a field hospital. Alongside the devotion of his wife, pregnant with their second child, Jonathan brings the promise he made to his unrequited love, Gerda Bergstrom: “My first letter will be to you.”

Together with the other members of the circle, the women support one another through loneliness and fear, and devise an ingenious business plan to keep Water’s Ford functioning. That plan may forever alter the patchwork of town life in ways that transcend even the ultimate sacrifices of war

My Thoughts: Right away The Union Quilters struck me as more of a stand alone historical fiction novel then an Elm Creek Quilts novel. Since I love historical fiction this is just fine (and lovely, and perfect) by me! If anything I would compare this book to The Sugar Camp Quilt by Chiaverini (hands down my favourite book in the series) as it wasn’t quite as light as the other Elm Creek Quilts books. The actual quilting theme was secondary in this novel and I found that the story really was focused upon the various battles in the civil war, the ones fought on the battlefield and off.

I found the story surrounding Able and Constance Write to be particularly interesting. Able was a free-born man in the North of the Union and Constance had been born into Slavery in the south having had her freedom purchased by Able. Able was desperate to fight for the union cause but was denied the opportunity time and time again. Constance was torn between supporting her husband’s desires to fight for the union and her need to have him safe at home with his family.

Another dynamic that I found to be complex was the relationship between Anneke and Hans. Hans being a staunch pacifist and Anneke a devoted Unionist who could not understand nor accept her husbands beliefs. She felt guilty and ashamed that while her friend’s husbands were fighting and dying for the Union, and while others like Able wanted to badly to fight for the cause but couldn’t, her husband was safe at home by his own choice.

The women who eventually formed The Union Quilters were deeply loyal to the Union cause and use their quilting ability to raise money for their local regiments and veterans as well as to supply quilts to various field hospitals. As much as it was a historical fiction novel about The Civil War, The Union Quilters was also a story of female strength, and the impact of war on those left at home. Many fans of the Elm Creek Quilts novels have complained that this book missed the mark but I think the opposite. The Union Quilters by Jennifer Chiaverini paints a sometimes horrifyingly vivid picture of the social context surrounding The Civil War and how women (many of them quilters) used their talents to support the Cause as well as the men who fought for it.


I received a free copy of The Union Quilters from Penguin Group (Canada). I was not required to write a positive review and all opinons are my own.

On my sewing table…

I have been so busy working on some major projects this last month that I haven’t actually done a whole lot of sewing. One of those projects was this fancy new blog over on WordPress thanks to my great friends at Innovative Software Solutions and Stephanie Canada Photography (the other project is still being perfected).Tonight I felt as though I just needed to get in there and sew a few stitches.

Since I don’t have anything finished to show you I thought I would share what is on my sewing table right now.

Multi-bags. Lots and lots of multi-bags.
The beginnings of Sweetpea’s quilt. I anticipate this being a fun, quick sew and I am very happy to finally be working on it!
What about you? What are you working on?

The Storyteller by Sharon Tillotson

From Goodreads: Sarah is a Soul who is trying to guide Suzy along her path of rediscovering herself… Or is it redefining? Reinventing? Sarah thinks it might be better defined as remembering, but it’s only Suzy who is concerned about the semantics. Sarah just wishes Suz would get on with it. A rather spirited Spirit, Sarah often finds herself rolling her eyes at Suzy’s antics and the walls she has built up following the death of her husband. Sarah knows the body/mind/spirit energy who is currently housed in the human called Suzy has faced far more difficult challenges than the one she chose for this reincarnation.

 Storyteller is the most common role this body/mind/spirit has chosen for its human lives and Sarah chooses to tell the story of Suzy’s spiritual awakening as it unfolds, interweaving compelling stories of past lives and how these individual energies accomplished their shifts in awareness.

Suzy’s journey takes the reader from the lush shores of Seattle to the deepest heart of Africa where humanity is said to have made its first appearance.

My Thoughts: The story begins after Suzy’s husband dies and she finds herself on the verge of losing everything including the business she and her late husband built together, as well as a sense of who she is. The reader is taken on Suzy’s journey to rediscover herself and this includes flashbacks of her soul’s past experiences and lessons learned.

The Storyteller was a bit of a difficult read for me, at times I loved it (usually when I was reading about the flashbacks of Suzy’s soul) and at other times I felt as though I really had to work to get through each page.

The transitions between the present the Suzy’s “souls” past were awkward at best. The narration of her soul seemed so out of place and read rather amateurish. Had a little more time been spent making more of a connection between Suzy’s present and the lessons learned in her past I’m sure this voice could have been eliminated all together (at least I would have preferred to read it this way).

I just could not get pulled into this story. I found the flashbacks to be quite interesting and well written. Tillotson painted a vivid picture of these ancient times and the lessons Suzy’s soul learned but they came at what felt time random times in the story. While I enjoyed reading about the flackbacks the way they were interspersed into the story of Suzy’ present made the whole story feel disjointed. I could absolutely see where the author was going with this but it didn’t work for me.

I really wanted to love this book, the concept grabbed me instantly but the rest of the book didn’t hold my attention the same way. That being said it was still an interesting and thought provoking read and I would recommend this book to someone looking for a slower paced novel about self discovery and reinvention.

I received this book free from the author in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review and all thoughts are my own. 

Release Date: July 30, 2010
Publisher: Two Moons 
Source: Free Review Copy From Author
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2 Years and Counting

Two years ago today, at exactly this moment, our little Ladybug entered the world quickly and with lots of excitement. We woke up to an unexpected blizzard and a few feet of snow on the driveway… and the beginning signs of labour.

Ladybug at 1

Ladybug has been making life exciting ever since and I am blessed to have witnessed her journey over the last two years and look forward to watching her grow more and more every day!

An almost 2 year old Ladybug doing what she does best… being a goof!
Happy birthday sweet baby girl. You are loved… oh how you are loved!

A Gift of Grace by Amy Clipston

From Goodreads: Rebecca Kauffman’s tranquil Old Order Amish life is transformed when she suddenly has custody of her two teenage nieces after her “English” sister and brother-in-law are killed in an automobile accident. Instant motherhood, after years of unsuccessful attempts to conceive a child of her own, is both a joy and a heartache. Rebecca struggles to give the teenage girls the guidance they need as well as fulfill her duties to Daniel as an Amish wife.

Rebellious Jessica is resistant to Amish ways and constantly in trouble with the community. Younger sister Lindsay is caught in the middle, and the strain between Rebecca and Daniel mounts as Jessica’s rebellion escalates. Instead of the beautiful family life she dreamed of creating for her nieces, Rebecca feels as if her world is being torn apart by two different cultures, leaving her to question her place in the Amish community, her marriage, and her faith in God.

My Thoughts: A Gift of Grace was an interesting read. At the beginning of the book Clipston prefaces her story with the warning that just as Amish culture varies from community to community some of the language and behaviors in the book might surprise readers who are used to a specific picture of Amish life. There were a few places in this book where I had to re-read and thought to myself “did that really just happen”. This wasn’t necessarily bad but it did challenge the view that I had in my head of the ‘typical’ Amish man or woman.

Above all A Gift of Grace was a sweet story about two teenage girls struggling to find their place in the world. There was definitely an underlying theme of truly listening to God and following His plan instead of one’s own. This is something that most every character struggled with at some point and it was interesting to see how each character reacted to the obstacles placed in their path.

Clipston did a great job of portraying her characters for who they were. I got a sense of actually knowing them, and I found myself really becoming invested in them especially with Rebecca. Her struggles really pulled at my heart.

This is the first in the Kauffman Amish Bakery Series and I am looking forward to reading the next book. I am very interested to see what happens next as A Gift of Grace closed with a bit of a cliff hanger and certainly didn’t end the way I expected it to.

Release Date: April 20, 2009

Publisher: Zondervan
Series: Kauffman Amish Bakery Series Book #1
Source: Library
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