Let me just start by saying, “Oh, how I loved this book!”
Oh, and I should also warn you. This book is called Plum Upside Down, and my review is going to be just that – plum upside down – because I’ve just realized that I never actually reviewed the first four books in this series on this blog! I briefly mentioned the first two books here, but never really reviewed them, and I didn’t even mention the next two! What a ridiculous oversight!
And it feels nearly impossible to talk intelligently about this book without filling you in a little on the first four. So please indulge me as I do a little back-tracking here. I did warn you – plum upside down.
Plum Upside Down is, in fact, the fifth book in Valerie Comer’s Farm Fresh Romances, which are inspirational romance novels that follow the adventures – romantic and otherwise – of a group of young women who purchase an old farm together in northern Idaho to grow their own organic food and prove to those around them that they can make a difference.
It all starts with three young women – Jo, Claire, and Sierra – who buy the farm. They each take a turn as the main character in each of the first three books as they find love in their little corner of Idaho. I really enjoyed all three of these books. I loved that the girls were followers of Jesus – we rarely see or hear followers of Jesus talking about sustainability and using our planet wisely and I think we should! The books avoid being preachy, but allow the characters (and the readers) the freedom to grapple as believers with issues like environmentalism and sustainability. I loved the plot lines and the gentle romances.
You can get the first book, Raspberries and Vinegar, free for Kindle on Amazon. Books 2 and 3, Wild Mint Tea and Sweetened with Honey, are available for less than $4 each or you can buy all three of them as a set for less than the price of books 2 and 3.
When it came time for book four, Dandelions for Dinner, I was a little leery going into it as I wasn’t sure how it would work adding to the dynamic of the original three female characters, but I actually found that I enjoyed this book even more than the first three. I felt like the author dug even deeper inside herself to write this one. In it, she dealt extensively and really well with themes of forgiveness and redemption.
In all of the books, I’ve really enjoyed the author’s explorations of what it means to live in community. She does an excellent job of highlighting the joy and beauty of community without hiding from the fact that it can be hard and ugly and feel like people are always in your business!
OK, so finally, we have reached Plum Upside Down, the fifth book in this series. This book is about Sierra’s sister, Chelsea, and Keanan, a newcomer to the farm. I must not have a lot of faith as a reader because, after loving book four so very much, I was almost afraid to read this one. The author had successfully changed the dynamic once, but surely, she couldn’t pull it off again, I thought. Personally, I find it rare for a series to get better and better. You usually kind of know what an author is going to give after reading the first few books, but this series just keeps surprising me.
In Plum Upside Down, Valerie Comer has dug even deeper and, in Chelsea, bared parts of the spiritual journey of a kid who grows up in a Christian home that most of us are completely unwilling to think about, let alone talk about. In this book, Valerie tackles the question, “Does God actually love me personally or does He just love me as a part of the whole world?” She lays bare the longing many of us have experienced as we watch the passion of a new believer who knows what it’s like to live without Christ and can’t believe how amazing He is. And she boldly proclaims that those of us who can’t remember NOT knowing the Gospel can still be blown away by His love and His power in our lives.
And she does it in a way that DOESN’T make you feel like you’re studying theology!
This book has a really great story line with totally loveable characters. The themes of environmentalism and sustainability are continued and expounded upon. We even get to travel to South Africa for a bit! It’s all done so masterfully, I found myself a little in awe as I finished it, wiping away my tears and realizing I had not only just finished a really fun story, but that I had experienced an encounter with God and that there was a newness and a freshness about our relationship that hadn’t been there when I started the book.
This book touched me so much that I want to share it with two of my readers. I have two Kindle copies to give away. These aren’t from the author – these are from me because I just really want to share this book with people. If you’d like a chance to win one of these two copies, leave me a comment down below telling me what about the book appeals to you.
Before I go, I wanted to tell you that Valerie has shared quite a bit of her journey in writing this book on her blog over the past couple weeks. I particularly enjoyed the following posts:
She also told me a secret that she is having Hanna Sandvig, her daughter and the enormously talented illustrator who designed the covers for these books, make up a pdf file for her readers of cards for the verses that Keanan gives to Chelsea in the book. By printing these out, we’ll have our own stack of index cards with verses on them that talk about God’s deep love for us. I can hardly wait! I’ll be sure to let you know when they are available, and I’ll also be sure to let you know when the next and final book in this series comes out! Or you can go to Valerie’s website via any of the above links and subscribe so you won’t miss any of her posts.
Don’t forget to enter the giveaway by leaving me a comment below! I’ll announce the winners when the pdf of cards are ready so stay tuned for that blog post announcement coming soon!
UPDATE: Well, I waited two months for the pdfs to be ready and finally decided to just declare some winners already! 🙂 So congratulations to Crystal and Deana! I’ve emailed you with your gift codes. Enjoy!!!