Sunday, August 13, 2017

Amish meet Indians -- The Return (with a Giveaway)

(Read to the end of this review for a giveaway that ends soon!)

Suzanne Woods Fisher has long been one of my favorite Amish authors.  Her stories have such a welcoming quality, drawing you in for a nice visit with friends, new or old.

The Return draws you back into the earliest days of Amish settlements in America.  While many of the characters and events are fictional, they are based on historical events.  The Amish settlers are just finding their way in the new world, working their way through challenges of the unknown, including how to get along with Indians and other settlers.  Suzanne does an awesome job of filling her story with complex characters, showing both the good and bad sides of humanity.

The Return is the third book in the Amish Beginnings series.  It could work as a stand-alone, but knowing the back stories of the characters from the other books adds to the interest level.

Thanks to Celebrate Lit for providing a copy of the book.  I am happy to share my own thoughts in this review.

About the Book:

In a wild country, the true cost of love may be more than they can bear.

Beautiful and winsome, Betsy Zook never questioned her family’s rigid expectations, nor those of devoted Hans—but then she never had to. Not until the night she’s taken captive in a surprise Indian raid. Facing brutality and hardship, Betsy finds herself torn between her pious upbringing and the feelings she’s developing for a native man who encourages her to see God in all circumstances.

Greatly anguished by Betsy’s captivity, Hans turns to Tessa Bauer for comfort. She responds eagerly, overlooking troubling signs of Hans’s hunger for revenge. But if Betsy is ever restored to the Amish, will things between Hans and Tessa have gone too far?

Inspired by true events, this deeply layered novel gives a glimpse into the tumultuous days of pre-revolutionary Pennsylvania through the eyes of two young, determined, and faith-filled women.

About the Author:

Suzanne Woods Fisher is an award-winning, bestselling author of more than two dozen novels, including Anna’s Crossing and The Newcomer in the Amish Beginnings series, The Bishop’s Family series, and The Inn at Eagle Hill series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace and The Heart of the Amish. She lives in California. Learn more at www.suzannewoodsfisher.com and follow Suzanne on Twitter @suzannewfisher.

Guest Post from Suzanne Woods Fisher

The Three Sisters’ Garden: Corn, Squash & Beans!

Corn was a new food to the immigrants to the New World, introduced to them by Native Americans. Soon, it became an essential part of their daily diet, in one form or another. Growing it brought yet another new discovery: companion planting in the form of the Three Sisters’ Garden.

ThreeSistersGarden2
According to Iroquois legend, corn, squash and beans were three inseparable sisters who only grew and thrived together. 18th century Native Americans wouldn’t have understood the science behind why companion planting worked, but they knew it did. Beans, like all legumes, have bacteria living on their roots that help them absorb nitrogen from the air and convert it to a form that plants can use. Corn, which requires a lot of nitrogen to grow, benefits from the legumes and provides a pole support for the beans to climb. Low growing squash leaves shade the soil and prevent weed growth. Their sharp and prickly leaves deter pests. This tradition, of planting corn, beans and squash in the same mounds, became a sustainable system to provide long-term soil fertility among Native American tribes that farmed.

ThreeSistersGarden
The wisdom of planting Three Sisters’ Garden was adopted by the immigrants, including our own Betsy Zook from The Return. Betsy learned of the technique while a captive among a tribe of Indians and later, after she had been returned to the Amish, shared her knowledge with Anna and Bairn.

Have you ever considered growing a Three Sisters’ garden? All you need is the right kind of seeds, a mound of dirt in a sunny spot, and to not forget to water. Mother Nature will do the rest.

Suzanne Woods Fisher is a bestselling, award-winning author of novels about the Old Order Amish. Her interest in the Plain People began with her grandfather, who was raised as a Dunkard (German Baptist) on a farm in Pennsylvania. Suzanne loves to connect with readers! You can find her on-line at www.suzannewoodsfisher.com.


Blog Stops

August 1: Quiet Quilter
August 1: Remembrancy
August 2: Bigreadersite
August 3: Genesis 5020
August 3: Book by Book
August 4: Carpe Diem
August 6: Artistic Nobody
August 7: Pause for Tales
August 7: Splashes of Joy
August 8: Live.Love.Read.
August 9: Mary Hake
August 9: Simple Harvest Reads (Spotlight)
August 11: The Power of Words
August 11: Karen Sue Hadley
August 12: Cafinated Reads
August 12: TinaTruelove
August 14: Vicky Sluiter
August 14: By The Book

 Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Suzanne is doing an amazing giveaway from August 1 through 14! 
Check it out:
Four winners will receive one of the prizes below:
An Amish Gift Basket and a copy of The Return
Amish popcorn sampler and a copy of The Return
The Amish Beginning 3 book set series
One grand prize winner will receive:
An iPad Mini
You can enter at Suzanne’s website (http://suzannewoodsfisher.com/contests/) or on her Facebook page (http://gvwy.io/q1kb9u4)

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Interesting mystery -- Manuscript for Murder


Manuscript for Murder is the first book I've read by Chautona Havig, and I certainly hope to give some of her others a try.

There were several things I enjoyed about the book.  Alexa Hartfield was an intriguing character to follow, lots of layers to get to know.  The story jumped right into the mystery from early on, building up an strong interest level from the beginning.  There were other fascinating characters as well, and getting to know them kept the story moving.

Then there were things that I didn't enjoy so much.  The quirkiness of Alexa and her wardrobe was a fun part of who her character was.  However, details of her obsession on occasion seemed to overshadow other elements of the story.  There was a sense of "scattered-ness" in the story that sometimes made it hard to keep up with both details and people.  Even the ending seemed rather scattered as the details of the mystery were tied up.

All in all, I consider the story worth my time spent reading, and I hope to read other books by Chautona.  I would recommend this book if you enjoy light mystery with some unconventional characters.

Thanks to Celebrate Lit for providing a copy of Manuscript for Murder.  I was happy to share my thoughts in this review.

About the Book:

Alexa Hartfield. Author, local celebrity, fashion connoisseur. She chose Fairbury for its close proximity to Rockland, its small town atmosphere, and its low crime rate.

Then someone made her life a literary clichĂ©. A mysterious accident with a light bulb sparked an interesting idea for her latest novel—and for Fairbury’s new serial killer. The first replication infuriated her. The second left an even worse taste in her mouth. The third blasted more than her self-confidence, and the fourth beat her down so far she’s considering giving up writing completely.

Guest Post by Chautona Havig:

How Arrows & My Obsession with Vintage Clothes Inspired Murder
A swath of fabric cut across my bedroom at an odd angle but that angle ensured that I could stretch it all out. With painstaking precision, I pinned every last piece to the fabric, disgusted at the enormous waste stretching out before me.

The pattern called for three and a half yards. I’d crammed it into two at most.

Just as I picked up the scissors for the first cut, Mom popped her head in the door to see how I was doing. I pointed out the waste. “Grandma said patterns always told you to buy way too much, but I’ve got enough to make another dress!”

Mom stepped closer. I want to say a cigarette hung from her lips, but let’s face it. No way would Mom ever allow the ashes to drop on the carpet. But it felt like one was there, nonetheless. Mom pointed. “Chautona, I don’t know anything about sewing, but I think those arrows are there for a reason.”

And with that, she turned away.

I stared down at the pattern. My arrows zig-zagged all over the place. A glance at the directions showed all arrows going exactly the same direction. Straight up and down the fabric.

You know, if I’d been doing this for the first time in 2017, I could have just zipped on over to “the Google,” as Mom calls it, and looked up why. Instead, I grabbed a thick sewing manual I’d bought for a buck at Pick-N-Save and flipped through it until I found a section on laying out patterns.

A couple of minutes later, I flew down the stairs. “The book says that the long, smooth edges are called selvages. The arrows are supposed to run parallel or the dress might hang wonky.”

Here, I can guarantee Mom took a puff of that cigarette. Man, I hated those things. “Well, like I said. I don’t know anything about sewing, but they looked important.” She blew a puff of smoke.
That’s when I suspected that Mom knew more about sewing than she’d let on.
What does this little sewing lesson have to do with mysteries and murder?
Well, see. This was a test dress. I’d only decided to learn to sew because I’d also decided that I wanted Nancy Drew’s wardrobe. In 1982, you couldn’t buy trim, neat clothing from the 50’s. I had Gunne Sax skirts and preppy tops with ruffles that my parents hated. When they found out I wanted a sewing machine to make clothes like that, they got me one.

Yep. I cut my reading teeth on Nancy Drew and didn’t stop there. I read all the youth mysteries—Bobsey Twins, Trixie Belden, Hardy Boys, Meg Duncan (she was a fave, too), and when I got a little older, Phyllis Whitney.

I loved the challenge of seeing events play out—and figuring out why. Why told me who. You get to where you can figure out things rather easily. But if you make me doubt my ideas, that’s good enough. I love that.
Is it any wonder that one of the first books I conceived was a mystery? I’d never put the ideas together until I began working on this post, but really… is it any wonder that I gave that author a love of vintage fashion? Too funny. But those arrows on that pattern? They taught me pretty cool lessons as a kid. Like Mom said:
“Those arrows are there for a reason.”
Isn’t that what God’s directional arrows in His Word are like? They’re there for a reason. They keep us from getting all wonky. It’s why Alexa writes the kind of books she does. I never could, but as she says when she describes telling someone why she writes horror/suspense,
“I tried to describe a world where we never see justice—where sin surrounds us, but the only response we see is a sweet romance or a heartwarming tale of doing good to our neighbors… And God is a God of more than love and mercy. [He’s also a God of] justice.”
Alexa writes what she does to help people sort out those crossed arrows and see that there is a point to it all—that eventually justice and mercy converge paths into one rather than criss-crossing all over the place, trampling each other. She doesn’t write Christian fiction, but I don’t know how a Christian can write fiction without some part of faith shining through. In Alexa’s, and I hope in mine as well, there’s an overarching theme that illustrates that the Lord hasn’t forgotten the people He created.

About the Author:

Chautona Havig lives and writes in California’s Mojave Desert with her husbnd and five of her nine children. Through her novels, she hopes to encourage Christians in their walk with Jesus.






Blog Stops

July 28: Bigreadersite
August 1: Mommynificent
August 3: Carpe Diem
August 5: Lots of Helpers

Giveaway


In honor of her Manuscript for Murder Celebration Tour, Chautona is giving away a mystery prize package worth over $100. Enter here: https://promosimple.com/ps/bc16

Would you like to know what’s in it? Find the first clue within the giveaway image below, then hop on over to Chautona’s website to begin the search for more clues and you might find a special giveaway just for clue hunters! Can you find all the clues before Augusta Septemus does?



Saturday, August 5, 2017

Great story! Great history! -- To Wager Her Heart

For great southern historical fiction, I just don't believe you can find any better than Tamera Alexander's stories. To Wager Her Heart, the third and final book in her Belle Meade Plantation series, is just one more piece of evidence to back up that statement.

As soon as I began reading the story, I felt that I had stepped back into the 1870s world of Nashville, Tennessee, where people from all kinds of backgrounds were learning to live in the new realities of post-Civil-War life. The authentic history that forms a major backdrop for the story is a huge element of what makes Tamera's writing so engaging. You can count on her to do have carefully done her research as she weaves together beautifully those real details and characters with others from her own imagination. The personal struggles, faith, and romance between her characters round out a lovely story that made it almost impossible to put down the book until reading the very last word.

The Belle Meade Plantation stories have some carry-over in characters and story lines, but each can easily be read as a stand alone. In each of the stories, I have run across some pieces of American history that I had not known earlier. It was fascinating in this book to learn some of the background of Fisk University and the Jubilee Singers as freedmen first began to have educational opportunities.

Thanks to Tamera Alexander for providing a copy of To Wager Her Heart for review.  I was delighted to share my thoughts in this review.

About the Book:

With fates bound by a shared tragedy, a reformed gambler from the Colorado Territory and a Southern Belle bent on breaking free from society's expectations must work together to achieve their dreams—provided the truth doesn't tear them apart first.

Seeking justice . . . 

Sylas Rutledge, the new owner of the Northeast Line Railroad, invests everything he has into this venture, partly for the sake of the challenge. But mostly to clear his father's name. One man holds the key to Sy's success—General William Giles Harding of Nashville's Belle Meade Plantation. But Harding is champagne and thoroughbreds, and Sy Rutledge is beer and bullocks. Sy needs someone to help him maneuver his way through Nashville's society, and when he meets Alexandra Jamison, he quickly decides he's found his tutor. Only, he soon discovers that the very train accident his father is blamed for causing is what killed Alexandra Jamison's fiancĂ©—and has broken her heart. 

Struggling to restore honor . . . 

Spurning an arranged marriage by her father, Alexandra instead pursues her passion for teaching at Fisk University, the first freedmen's university in the United States. But family—and Nashville society—do not approve, and she soon finds herself cast out from both.

Through connections with the Harding family, Alexandra and Sy become unlikely allies. And despite her first impressions, Alexandra gradually finds herself coming to respect, and even care for this man. But how can she, when her heart is still spoken for? And when Sy's roguish qualities and adventuresome spirit smack more of recklessness than responsibility and honor? 

Sylas Rutledge will risk everything to win over the woman he loves. What he doesn't count on is having to wager her heart to do it. 

Set against the real history of Nashville's Belle Meade Plantation and the original Fisk University Jubilee Singers ensemble, To Wager Her Heart is a stirring love story about seeking justice and restoring honor at a time in American history when both were tenuous and hard-won. 

About the Author:

Tamera Alexander is a bestselling novelist whose works have been awarded or nominated for numerous honors, including the Christy Award, the RITA Award, and the Carol Award. After seventeen years in Colorado, Tamera and her husband have returned to their native South and live in Tennessee, where they enjoy spending time with their two grown children.

Tamera invites you visit her website, her blog, on Twitter, or Facebook.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Love is in the Air -- Weddings at Promise Lodge (with an excerpt and a GIVEAWAY)




As always, Charlotte Hubbard gives us an engaging story of the unusual community of Promise Lodge in her latest installment -- Weddings at Promise Lodge.

The women and men of Promise Lodge continue to find their way through joys and sorrows, exciting developments, and apparent obstacles as their new way of life evolves from the various backgrounds from which they came.  Characters who have been present from the beginning of the series, as well as new ones who find their way to the old church camp turned Plain community, learn to live and work together for the mutual benefit of the residents.  Wedding plans come and go amidst growing love and unexpected miscommunications.  You just never know who will show up at Promise Lodge and what new direction life will take upon their arrival.

While many aspects of these books are considerably different from some other Amish romance novels, the flow is a very natural and interesting one.  I highly recommend Weddings at Promise Lodge -- as well as the rest of the series -- to fans of great Amish fiction.

Thanks to Charlotte for providing a copy of her book and to Goddess Fish Promotions for allowing me the opportunity to be a part of this tour.  I was happy to share my thoughts in this review.


Blurb:

When Bishop Monroe is forced to confess the truth about his relationship with young Leola before the entire congregation, he can only pray that open hearts and minds will allow him a future at Promise Lodge—with Christine. 

Excerpt from the Book:

“You look lovely in that deep red dress, Christine. It was all I could do to keep my mind on marrying Amos and your sister.” 

When Christine turned, Bishop Monroe was standing so close she nearly bumped into him. She smiled up at him a little nervously, for he was tall and broad and extraordinarily handsome—and his dimples had come out to play. “Mattie wanted Rosetta and me to have new dresses with some color to them,” she explained. “And since Christmas was only a couple of weeks ago, we decided this red would be more cheerful than, say, the usual dark blue or gray or teal.”

“Mattie’s a wise woman—with admirable taste in color and husband material, as well,” he added. He held her gaze with his glowing green eyes. “May I have the honor of sitting with you at dinner, Christine? And spending the rest of the day with you, as well? Once we’re alone, I’d like to discuss some important decisions.”

Christine wondered if Monroe could hear how rapidly her heart was beating. Was her face as red as her dress? “I’d like that a lot, Monroe,” she said breathlessly.

The crowd around them seemed to disappear as he offered her his elbow. All Christine could see was Monroe’s attractive face, framed by wavy brown hair and a neatly trimmed beard—and those deep green eyes that focused so intently on her. What decisions could he possibly want to discuss with her? Did she dare hope he wanted her to become a permanent part of his new home, his new life at Promise Lodge?

About the Author:

Many moons ago—like, in 1983 while she was still a school librarian—Charlotte Hubbard sold her first story to True Story. This launched her into writing around seventy of those “true confessions” stories over the years, and she’s been a slave to her overactive imagination ever since. Over the course of her writing career, she has sold nearly 50 books—most recently, Amish romance series she’s written as Charlotte Hubbard or Naomi King.
Charlotte lived in Missouri for most of her life, so her Amish stories are set in imaginary Missouri towns. These days she lives in St. Paul, MN with her husband of 40+ years and their Border collie, Vera.

WEBSITE   www.CharlotteHubbard.com

Facebook    www.Facebook.com/Charlotte.Hubbard1

Charlotte will be awarding a $15 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Fantastic Conclusion (with GIVEAWAY and author chat) -- My Daughter's Legacy

My Daughter's Legacy is a fantastic conclusion to the Cousins of the Dove series by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould.

This book, like the first two of the series, is a beautifully told story of a family's legacy -- and family secrets -- through multiple generations.  The surface level mysteries involve a group of modern-day cousins and their traumatic childhood memories.  Important pieces needed to solve the mystery, though, are found in the story of strong ancestors which unfolds during the difficulties of the Civil War.

As I understand the process, Mindy Starns Clark was responsible for most of the modern-day story and Leslie Gould for the historical elements.  These two authors did a remarkable job of collaborating and bringing together their stories which sprang from very different beginnings.  The characters from both time periods are well developed, and their stories are compelling.  They are masterfully weaved together to form a beautiful tale of strength, conviction, and faith.

Fans of great historical and modern fiction should thoroughly enjoy My Daughter's Legacy.  I would highly recommend that for the best enjoyment you read the entire series in order.  Click on the titles for my reviews of My Brother's Crown and My Sister's Prayer.
 
Thanks to Litfuse Publicity Group for providing a copy of My Daughter's Legacy.  I was happy to share my own thoughts in this review.

See what other reviewers have to say about the book here.

About the Book:

A thrilling tale of two women longing to follow God’s leading, make the most of second chances, and find true love at last

Virginia, 1864
Therese Jennings cannot abide the thought of owning slaves. When her widowed mother inherits a plantation, Therese flees to Civil War Richmond, where she works as a governess by day and tends to wounded soldiers at night. But when trouble befalls her family, can she reconcile her obligations with her beliefs? And will love—whether with an old beau or a handsome new suitor—ever fit in her broken world?

Virginia, present day
Nicole Talbot’s life is back on track after years of substance abuse. Home from college for the summer, she’s finally ready to share a shocking secret, one that raises new questions about a traumatic childhood experience. But when facts she uncovers cast doubt on her family’s legacy, she must risk all that she’s gained—her fresh start, her family’s trust, and her growing relationship with a new man—to unlock the secrets of the past.

Learn more and purchase a copy.

Meet two women in different eras but both with unfailing conviction in Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould's new book, My Daughter's Legacy. Therese Jennings cannot abide the thought of owning slaves. But when trouble befalls her family, can she reconcile her obligations with her beliefs? Nicole Talbot's life is back on track after years of substance abuse. But when facts she uncovers cast doubt on her family's legacy, she must risk all that she's gained-her fresh start, her family's trust, and her growing relationship with a new man-to unlock the secrets of the past.

Celebrate the release of Mindy and Leslie's new book by entering to win the $75 Visa Cash Card Giveaway (details below) and by attending their author chat party on August 1!



One grand prize winner will receive:
  • One copy of My Daughter's Legacy
  • One $75 Visa Cash Card
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 1. The winner will be announced at the My Daughter's Legacy Facebook party. RSVP for a chance to connect with Mindy, Leslie, and other readers, as well as for a chance to win other prizes!


RSVP today and spread the word-tell your friends about the giveaway via social media and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 1st! 

About the Authors:

Mindy Starns Clark is the bestselling author of more than 20 books, both fiction and nonfiction, with over a million copies sold. Mindy and her husband, John, have two adult children and live in Pennsylvania. Find out more about Mindy at http://mindystarnsclark.com.



Leslie Gould, a former magazine editor, is the author of numerous novels, including "Beyond the Blue" and "Garden of Dreams." She received her master of fine arts degree from Portland State University and lives in Oregon with her husband, Peter, and their four children. Find out more about Leslie at http://www.lesliegould.com.


A new series, with a giveaway -- A Letter from Lancaster County

A Letter from Lancaster County is the first in a new series by Kate Lloyd.

The premise of the story -- sisters with a second chance at their relationship -- is a good one, and it does provide some interest throughout the book.  I have to say, though, that I found some problems with this book.

Reading a story told from multiple points of view is not usually a problem for me.  This story, however, was hard to follow as the view alternated between the two sisters.  The characters were not easy to "get to know" and did not draw me into their lives.  Many of the details seemed scattered and never quite pulled together, and the pace was rather sluggish.  And the element of faith, while hinted at on the back cover and briefly within the story, was almost non-existent.

There were some touching moments, especially involving Aunt Silvia, which helped keep me interested in finishing the story.  And the epilogue was a nice touch to finish up the book.  The book is set in Amish country and does have strong Amish/Mennonite elements, but it is not typical Amish fiction. 

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of the book.  The views expressed in this review are all my own.

See what other reviewers say about the book here.

Learn more and purchase a copy.

About the Book:

Two sisters get a second chance at life and love

Angela—Her mother’s untimely death, a struggling marriage, a strained relationship with her sister, Rose, and regrets over what might have been haunt her. Despite being a wife and mother, she feels she has little to show for her life.
Rose—Still single, she longs for a husband and children. But Angela has all that and still isn’t happy. Rose wants to be closer to her older sister, but she and Angela couldn’t be more different. Both strong women, will their sibling rivalry ever end?


Will their sibling rivalry get in the way of these two sisters' chances at life and love? Find out in Kate Lloyd's new book, A Letter from Lancaster County. When a letter arrives from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Angela and Rose decide to visit their mother's Mennonite sister in the heart of Amish country. Angela and Rose discover surprising family secrets that add to their strife and threaten Rose's romance with a new beau. Through it all, the two sisters must find the faith necessary to face their personal problems and allow God to restore hope and healing to their hearts and relationship as only He can.

Celebrate the release of Kate's new book by entering to win her Two Sisters, Two Winners Giveaway!


One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of A Letter from Lancaster County
  • A Kindle Fire
Another grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of A Letter from Lancaster County
  • A queen-size Amish quilt

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on July 27. The winner will be announced July 28 on the Litfuse blog.

About the Author:

Kate Lloyd is a bestselling novelist whose books include "A Portrait of Marguerite" and the Legacy of Lancaster trilogy.  A native of Baltimore, she enjoys spending time with friends and family in rural Pennsylvania and is a member of the Lancaster County Mennonite Historical Society.  She now resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband.

Find out more about Kate at http://katelloyd.com.