Friday, September 27, 2013

A Tale of Two Books

{I received free copies of these books from Bethany House in exchange for my review.  The links below are my affiliate links.}

Living within driving distance of "Amish Country," I have sampled a smattering of Amish and Mennonite fiction over the years. As the genre has expanded, and in an effort to keep my reading list manageable, I've stuck with a couple authors that I know I love and skipped the rest.
September in Amish Country

Beverly Lewis is my favorite Amish-genre author.  One of my pet peeves with Amish fiction, or fiction in general, is stilted or unnatural dialogue, but the conversation in a Beverly Lewis novel feels normal.  You can believe you are listening to characters talk they way you would talk to a friend. 

I also enjoy the character development in Beverly Lewis books.  There are not lengthy (tedious, boring...) descriptions of characters, but details are shared throughout the pages so that you gradually come to know the people you are reading about.

That being said, I did not love her latest book, The Secret Keeper.  The plot seemed a bit dry.  While I was interested in reading though to the ending, it did not grip me.  In fact, I was more than halfway through the book before I understood the direction the book was going, and even then I wondered how it was going to stretch out into the remaining pages.  Beverly Lewis often weaves a twist or conflict into her writing, but this book was lacking. I was expecting a big secret (hence the title), but the secret aspect of the story was disappointing.

Perhaps the problem was that this was a stand-alone novel.  Often Beverly Lewis publishes 3- or 5-book series that introduce and develop a plot in book 1. By the end of that first book,  some minor plot points are resolved without revealing what you really want to know.  Then  the book ends, leaving the reader hang until book 2.  Book 2 is more of the same... and by the time you reach the final book, you are 100% invested. 

Will I continue to read Beverly Lewis?  Absolutely.  Will I recommend this particular book to others?  Only if they are already Beverly Lewis fans.

tobacco drying in a barn: September 2013

Unforeseeable by Nancy Mehl was a more engrossing story.  It takes place in a conservative (think buggies and minimal electricity) Mennonite town.  When a body is found in a secluded wooded area, residents begin to fear each other.  The suspense builds as another body is found and the list of suspects grows.  Several side stories are woven through the books to give it a softer, personal tone. 

My biggest problem with the book, though, was the dialogue.  As I said, unnatural conversation rubs me the wrong way.  Nancy Mehl relies too much on conversation to explain her characters' background information which comes across as phony.  For example, instead of explaining that a character moved into town two years ago, in the middle of a conversation someone will say, "Remember when she moved here two years ago and how we didn't know much about her until she opened her button shop?"  I don't know.  It just feels off. 

Will I read more from Nancy Mehl?  Probably not, because my book list stays too full as it is.  Will I recommend this particular book to others? Maybe, if I know they enjoy the genre. 


  1. I had never read Beverly Lewis before The Secret Keeper. I decided to try it after seeing it in your post last week. I was also disappointed in the "secret" aspect but wasn't too bad otherwise. I am now a Beverly Lewis fan!

  2. If you want to try more Beverly Lewis, you should read Abram's Daughters series! So, so good and each book keeps you wanting to read the next.

  3. I started with the Heritage of Lancaster County series becuase it told the story of Katie, who they refered to multiple times in The Secret Keeper. However, I think once that series is finished, I will start with Abram's Daughters. It looks interesting being set back in 1946.


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