One of my favorite pastimes is reading -- almost exclusively Christian fiction. Because I read a lot, I have enjoyed countless awesome books from many great authors. Here is where I share them with you for your enjoyment!
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
A diverse collection of Amish stories -- An Amish Harvest (with a giveaway)
(GIVEAWAY ENDED!!! Be sure and read to the end of this post for a chance to win a copy of the book.)
For the most part, I enjoy full-length novels, and even series of novels, where you really get to know the characters and follow their stories in detail. I have found, though, that the Amish novella collections that come out periodically are usually great for a change of pace from the longer books.
An Amish Harvest is no exception to that rule. Of course, I expected good things, having read and enjoyed multiple books by each of these four authors.
The connecting element of the four novellas is the setting in autumn, around the time of harvest. Although they all involve Amish characters and locales, the individual stories are diverse in style and subject matter. They also each bring in the flavor of their varied geographical settings.
Beth Wiseman's and Kathleen Fuller's stories deal quite sensitively with what could be difficult topics -- domestic abuse and special needs. It was not surprising to find that Vannetta Chapman's story revolved around a mystery; and the historical details were an added bonus. Amy Clipston's story highlights some of the conflict between Amish and English ways of handling difficult events. Each novella included a romantic thread, something that has to be rushed a little in the shorter format, but which each author did an excellent job at developing. And several recipes appear at the end of the book for the readers' enjoyment.
Fans of Amish fiction should enjoy this sampling of great stories. If you haven't read anything by these authors, the book will provide an excellent introduction to some of the best in the genre.
I was provided a copy of An Amish Harvest in exchange for my honest review.
About the Book:
Faith, hope, and love remain forever in season in this collection of four richly absorbing novellas set amidst the wonder of an Amish autumn.
Under the Harvest Moon, by Beth Wiseman
When Naomi Dienner is suddenly widowed, she never expects to find love again . . . until she meets Brock Mulligan, an English family friend hired at harvest time. As a sinister presence begins to threaten Naomi, Brock seeks to prove himself trustworthy while struggling with growing feelings for Naomi and her children. Will God open Naomi’s heart—and give Brock his own second chance at love?
Love and Buggy Rides, by Amy Clipston
Janie Lantz is a cashier at Lancaster Souvenirs and Buggy Rides, where Jonathan Stoltfuz is a buggy driver. A frightening accident brings Janie and Jonathan together in a blossoming friendship, yet daunting obstacles stand between them and something deeper. Can love kindle into flames that burn away fear and regret—and lead them to a life together?
A Quiet Love, by Kathleen Fuller
Dinah Hochstetler, quiet and bookish, longs for marriage but hides in her shyness. Amos Mullett, a simple farmer, knows he’s different but aches for a loving wife. As Dinah and Amos navigate a budding romance, will the power of love—and the blessing of God—be enough to overcome their doubters?
Mischief in the Autumn Air, by Vannetta Chapman
When items start going above market value at his auction house, Eli Wittmer is first thrilled, and then puzzled. But when the house is broken into, Eli and his new bookkeeper, Martha Beiler track down a trail of clues. Will they solve the mystery before the fall festival ends—and discover an unexpected new love?
About the Authors:
Beth Wiseman is the best-selling author of the Daughters of the Promise series and the Land of Canaan series. Having sold over 1.5 million books, her novels have held spots on the ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) Bestseller List and the CBA (Christian Book Association) Bestseller List. She is a two-time winner of the Carol Award in, a three-time winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, and an INSPY Award winner. In 2013 she took home the coveted Holt Medallion. This is Beth’s fifteenth novel, and she has also published thirteen novellas that appear in various Thomas Nelson collections.
Amy Clipston is the award-winning and bestselling author of the Kauffman Amish Bakery series. Her novels have hit multiple bestseller lists including CBD, CBA, and ECPA. Amy holds a degree in communication from Virginia Wesleyan College and works full-time for the City of Charlotte, NC. Amy lives in North Carolina with her husband, two sons, and three spoiled rotten cats. Visit her online at amyclipston.com Facebook: AmyClipstonBooks Twitter: @AmyClipston
Kathleen Fuller is the author of several bestselling novels, including A Man of His Word and Treasuring Emma, as well as a middle-grade Amish series, the Mysteries of Middlefield. Visit her online at www.kathleenfuller.com, Twitter: @TheKatJam, and Facebook: Kathleen Fuller.
Vannetta Chapman is author of the best-selling novel A Simple Amish Christmas. She has published over one hundred articles in Christian family magazines, receiving over two dozen awards from Romance Writers of America chapter groups. In 2012 she was awarded a Carol Award for Falling to Pieces. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace of Albion, Pennsylvania. Visit Vannetta's website: www.vannettachapman.com Twitter: @VannettaChapman Facebook: VannettaChapmanBooks
GIVEAWAY ENDED!!! Giveaway! I have an extra copy of An Amish Harvest that I would be happy to share with a lucky reader. Comment below by midnight Sunday, September 4, and I will randomly choose a winner. Be sure to leave your email address so I can contact you if you are the winner.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
Trio of sweet Amish stories -- The Honeybee Sisters
In the world of Amish fiction, it is interesting to find the special twists and turns the various authors put into their stories. Jennifer Beckstrand has a delightful approach to her stories -- providing fun and unexpected characters and plots in the Plain setting. She definitely lives up to that model in her new Honeybee Sisters series!
From the first short chapter of Book 1, it was obvious that these books would be just as much fun as Jennifer's Huckleberry Hill series -- some of my favorite stories. The Honeybee Sisters -- Lily, Poppy, and Rose -- are trying their best to grow into good Amish young ladies and -- hopefully -- wives. But with their somewhat unusual occupation of beekeeping and their eccentric, far-from-traditional-Amish Aunt Bitsy -- well, there are some challenges to be faced. The sisters are blooming into lovely young ladies and catching the eyes of the young men in their community. Each book focuses on one of the sisters and deals sweetly with issues such as love, faith, confidence, guilt, and forgiveness.
Some elements of the plot are pretty obvious from the beginning, but it is a joy to go along on the ride to see how they play out. These books really need to be read in order, as the characters and relationships develop throughout the series. And there is an ongoing thread of trouble that plays itself out as the stories progress. As a bonus, there are honey-themed recipes at the back of each book.
If you're looking for entertaining Amish fiction, stories that will make you smile -- and maybe even shed a tear or two -- I highly recommend Jennifer Beckstrand's Honeybee Sisters.
I was provided digital copies of these books in exchange for my honest review.
About the Books:
Sweet as Honey:
Smart, kind, and good-hearted, the three Christner girls are affectionately known as The Honeybee Sisters in the beloved Wisconsin Amish community where, under the care of their aunt, they've grown into skilled beekeepers--and lovely, sought-after young women.
Though she has blossomed into a beauty, Lily Christner doesn't really believe it. Deep down, she still feels like a lonely, gawky teenager. Maybe that's why she's all but promised herself to Paul Glick, the one boy who never teased her in her awkward girlhood-- unlike Dan Kanagy, whose creative name-calling left her in tears many a time. Now he's back in town after two years away-- and being surprisingly sweet, suspiciously attentive-- and making Lily unsettlingly yet deliciously nervous. It seems Dan wants Lily's forgiveness--and her heart. But can he convince her-- not to mention her protective schwesters and aendi-- that despite the past, her future lies with him?
A Bee in Her Bonnet:
Lively, determined, and independent, Poppy Christner isn't about to let some vandal keep making mischief on her family's farm. She' s been outrunning boys and standing up for picked-on children ever since she was a girl-- no matter how much her prideful, arrogant schoolmate Luke Bontrager insulted her. So Poppy certainly doesn't need his interference now, especially since he's made it plain he prefers demure, ladylike companions. In fact, if Luke doesn't stop helping her find the culprit-- and growing humble and remorseful-- she'll be forced to notice how handsome his change-of-heart is making him. And that could mean falling in love-- maybe for a lifetime.
Like a Bee to Honey:
Shy, skittish Rose Christner is more comfortable tending to the beehives on the family farm and keeping her aunt’s unruly cats in line than attending social gatherings with the rest of the die youngie. A childhood trauma and secret shame keep her heart under lock and key, and Rose just can’t accept the sweet attention she’s receiving from a handsome neighbor. But the more she shies away from Josiah Yoder, the more their families sneakily plot to bring them together. And when a vandal who’s been plaguing the Honeybee Farm starts targeting Rose, Josiah’s steadfast protection—and patience—just may lead her into his waiting arms.
Guest Post from Jennifer Beckstrand:
Lily, Poppy, and Rose Christner are known as the Honeybee Sisters in their Wisconsin Amish community because they keep bees and sell the honey they pull from their beehives. The orphaned sisters came to live with their aunt Bitsy when they were very young. Aunt Bitsy was an Englischer for twenty years, but she is trying to raise her nieces to be gute and devout Amish girls.
Still, Aunt Bitsy is a bit eccentric and has brought some of the Englisch ways with her to the Honeybee Farm. She wears her dangly earrings when she’s in a bad mood, sports temporary tattoos just for fun, keeps a shotgun by the front door, and has a cat named Farrah Fawcett. (Bitsy simply adored “Charlie’s Angels.”)
With the honey they pull from their hives, the Honeybee schwesters make all sorts of appeditlich, delicious, things to eat. Their baking and their beauty attract boys to the Honeybee Farm, so Aunt Bitsy has to keep her shotgun handy to ward off the would-be suitors.
Many of the Honeybee Sisters’ recipes are included at the back of the three Honeybee Sister novels. Many more can be found in The Honeybee Sisters Cookbook available on Amazon and other online bookstores.
I hope you’ll fall in love with the Honeybee sisters, Aunt Bitsy, and their incomparable Bienenstich (Bee Sting) Cake—which recipe is included in both the cookbook and Sweet as Honey.
Here is a recipe the Honeybee Sisters would definitely make. My dear friend gave me some of these caramels for Christmas last year, and they are heavenly. The honey is used in place of the more-common corn syrup and gives the caramels a rich, deep flavor. My favorite thing about these caramels is the coarse sea salt that gives the caramels a salty crunch. Yummy!
Honey Vanilla Caramels
1 ½ cup sugar
½ cup honey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup salted butter, cut into bits
Coarse sea salt
Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a clay, enamel, glass, plastic, or stainless steel (non-reactive) pot, combine the sugar, honey, and vanilla extract. Mix everything together using a large rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Cook over medium-low heat until the sugar melts. When the sugar has melted, increase heat to medium and cook until the mixture caramelizes and is a deep amber color. Do not stir the mixture once it starts to boil. Instead, swirl it around occasionally with the pan’s handle. (This will help the caramel cook more evenly.)
While the caramel is cooking, place the heavy cream in a small saucepan on low heat. As soon as it reaches a simmer, remove pan from the heat and set aside.
When the caramel has reached a deep amber color, reduce heat to low and slowly whisk in the bits of butter. Whisk well until the butter is completely melted.
Add the warm cream and whisk until smooth.
Turn the heat back up to medium and cook until the caramel reaches a temperature of 245°. Carefully pour the hot caramel onto the parchment-lined cookie sheet. Let it rest for about 8 minutes, then sprinkle with desired amount of sea salt.
Cool completely (about three hours), before cutting into squares and wrapping with parchment paper.
(Adapted from http://www.unegaminedanslacuisine.com)
About the Author:
Jennifer Beckstrand is the bestselling Amish romance author of The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series for Kensington Books. Huckleberry Summer was nominated for the RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Award and the 2015 RITA® Award, and Huckleberry Hill won the 2014 LIME Award for Inspirational fiction. Both Huckleberry Hill and Huckleberry Christmas appeared in Examiner.com list of top ten inspirational books for 2014.
Jennifer has always been drawn to the strong faith and the enduring family ties of the Plain people and loves writing about the antics of Anna and Felty Helmuth. Jennifer has a degree in mathematics and a background in editing. She and her husband have been married for thirty years, and she has four daughters, two sons, and four adorable grandchildren, whom she spoils rotten.
To celebrate her tour, Jennifer is giving away five copies of The Honeybee Sisters Cookbook! Click here to enter: https://promosimple.com/ps/a20d
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Author Guest Post -- An Amish Harvest
I love these novella collections that come out periodically from some of my favorite Amish fiction authors. Here is a treat from the newest collection -- a special blog post from one of the authors. Kathleen Fuller shares about her inspiration for the novella she contributed, A Quiet Love.
What inspired you to write a particular story? I’m often asked this question, and the answer varies. I find inspiration in a lot of things, but when it came to writing A Quiet Love, my novella in An Amish Harvest, my inspiration was fairly close to home.
First, a little background on Amos, the main character in A Quiet Love. We first meet Amos in my young adult book, Hide and Secret. He’s a burly, sweet fourteen-year-old who is clearly “different”. He’s loved by his family, especially his younger brother Jeremiah and their best friend, Anna Mae. Anna Mae and Jeremiah’s story is continued in my novel A Faith of Her Own, with Amos as a secondary character. By this time, I wanted him to have his own book. More importantly, he needed his own happy ending.
In a Faith of her Own we find out that Amos is autistic. As a special education teacher I’ve worked with a variety of kids on the autism spectrum, and they all have a special place in my heart. I’m positive they have taught me more than I taught them. While Amos’s autism isn’t clearly defined and he didn’t get the education and therapy he needed when he was younger, he still has hopes and dreams, just like everyone else. He loves God, he wants to be happy, and he has a lot of love to give.
My hope in writing this story is to show that we all need to look beyond the surface. Amos and his love interest, Dinah, both have their own issues and challenges (honestly, don’t we all!). But God loves them, just as he loves us all. We are each an individual with a purpose. We make our own unique stamp on the world and on those we encounter. We have love to give and we are worthy love, regardless of the labels society gives us.
Open minds and open hearts bring Amos and Dinah together. The bigger question is: What can an open mind and an open heart do for you?
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