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.