Her Heart’s Desire by author Shelley Shepard Gray is the first book in her new series, A Season in Pinecraft. This is a contemporary Amish Christian fiction book that is delightful. I was quickly invested in the story and the lives of the characters.
This is the tale of some young people individually going to Pinecraft, Florida for a winter vacation. Mary Margaret Miller eagerly takes the bus by herself from Trail, Ohio for a Florida excursion. Her bus made an emergency stop in Georgia placing Mary with two other Amish girls, Betsy and Lilly, in a hotel room. The girls become fast friends.
They meet two Amish men and sparks begin to fly. All of them are staying at the same Bed and Breakfast. A fourth girl happens to come to Pinecraft and has history with Mary Margaret. Will this cause trouble? What happens when the vacation is over as two couples are dating?
This is a sweet story that has themes of faith, hope, trust, and forgiveness. The characters are likable and realistic. Their conversations were true to the Amish. I loved the innkeeper. She was so lovable and a great mentor to those staying at her place. After the story, there is a sample from the next book in the series.
This was an enjoyable read, but it was different than most Amish books that I’ve read. I don’t recall reading a book where the young people were on vacation far from home. While I did like the story, I did miss the everyday family life. The author did an exemplary job whisking me away to Florida and the Amish community there. It was almost like being there myself.
I highly recommend this book and new series to anyone. There is so much to love about it. It gets a five out of five star rating from me. A copy was provided, but these are my honest words.
About the Author
Shelley Shepard Gray is a NYT and USA Today bestselling author. She’s published over a hundred novels and has over a million books in print. She currently lives in northern Ohio and writes full time.
Shelley lives just an hour from Holmes County, where many of her Amish-themed novels are set. She currently writes contemporary romance and Amish fiction for a variety of publishers. When not spending time with her family or writing, she can usually be found walking her two dachshunds on one of the many trails in the Cleveland area.
She also bakes a lot, loves coconut cream pie, and will hardly ever pull weeds, mow the yard, or drive in the snow.
Shelley also spends a lot of time on line! Please visit her website, http://www.shelleyshepardgray.com to find out her latest news or to sign up for her newsletter. Shelley can also be found on FaceBook, Instagram @shelley.s.gray, or on Twitter @ShelleySGray.
Anything but Plain by award winning author, wordsmith extraordinaire, Suzanne Woods Fisher is a contemporary Amish Christian novel that is beautifully written and emotionally charged. I was immediately involved in the story and the lives of the characters.
There is so much to love about this book beginning with the information I gleaned from it. The author took on some huge family and life issues and dealt with them exemplary. From contrary family members to medical disorders this book had beautiful suggestions for resolutions. It even dealt with lying, making poor choices, using people, reconciliation, and forgiveness.
This is the story of Bishop David’s daughter, Lydia Stoltzfus, a nineteen year old unmarried girl. She seems to be an accident waiting to happen and is usually late wherever she goes. She and her neighbor, Nathan Yoder, also nineteen years old, have a special friendship. He wants to be an organic farmer, but is met with resistance from his father and brother.
Author Fisher has done extensive research in preparing for this book. I learned a lot about Lydie’s disorder, family reconciliation, and gardening/farming. This entire novel was so interesting and entertaining at the same time. There are so many interesting subplots that this was a real page turner. I had trouble putting it down because I wanted to see what would happen next. When it was over I still wanted more! I loved the story and characters that much.
At the beginning of the book, there is a listing of characters with a little about them. After the story are discussion questions, author notes, and recommended resources for additional help on Lydie’s medical disorder. I highly recommend this amazing book. It gets a 5 star rating from me. A copy was provided by the publisher, but these are my honest words.
About the Book
Book: Anything But Plain
Author: Suzanne Woods Fisher
Genre: Amish fiction
Release date: October 4, 2022
It’s not easy being the bishop’s daughter, especially for Lydie Stoltzfus. She’s not like other Amish girls, as much as she wishes she were. The only thing she does well is disappoint others. Leaving her family and church seems unbearable, but staying might be worse.
Knowing Lydie is “between” jobs, the local doctor asks her to fill in at the front desk for a few months. To Lydie, this is a boon. It gives her time to figure out how she’s going to say goodbye to her neighbor, Nathan Yoder–the main reason she needs to leave Stoney Ridge. Nathan claims he’s in love with her, but she knows she’s not good enough for him. If in doubt, Nathan’s father reminds her frequently.
As Dok spends time with Lydie, she recognizes symptoms of an uncommon disorder among the Amish. She offers treatment for Lydie. But will it be enough to make her stay? Or has help come too late?
Suzanne Woods Fisher is a Christy finalist, a Carol Award winner, a two-time ECPA Book of the Year finalist, and the Publishers Weekly, ECPA, CBA, bestselling author of more than thirty books. Her genres include contemporary and historical romances, Amish romance, and women’s fiction. She and her husband live in a small town in California, where everyone knows everyone else, knows what they are doing and why. Most folks act a little nervous around Suzanne because they usually wind up in one of her novels. She has four grown children and enough grandchildren to keep her young. Visit Suzanne at www.suzannewoodsfisher.com
More from Suzanne
Easily Distracted? 8 Strategies to Help Stay Focused
Anything but Plain is a story about a young Amish woman with undiagnosed ADHD. Lydie Stoltzfus feels like a square peg in a round hole. She just doesn’t fit in and, to make matters worse, she’s the bishop’s daughter. At this point, the only path forward she can see is to leave Stoney Ridge. Leave her church, her friends, her family, her neighbor Nathan Yoder. It’s better to leave, Lydie decides, than to keep disappointing everyone she cares about. I won’t say anymore so that I don’t spoil the story for you.
ADHD is not a common diagnosis among the Amish and many might assume it’s not a real thing. Of course, they’re mistaken. ADHD is a real thing. While I don’t have ADHD, I do have many friends and family members who have been diagnosed. It’s challenging! And something we should all take seriously. Here’s why:
Evidence is mounting that a growing dependence on digital devices could be giving all of us some ADHD-like symptoms. Have you wondered if distractibility is becoming a problem for you? Or has a spouse or child or friend remarked on how often you pick up your phone to check a text message or scroll Instagram? You might remain physically present but your mind has wandered away. For me, the answer is, regrettably, yes.
There’s a recurring phrase in Anything but Plain that comes from an old-fashioned farming term: Walking the beans. Literally, it means weeding by hand. Figuratively, it means paying attention to our priorities. To pull the weeds before they take root.
One of the takeaway lessons of this book is to “walk the beans” of technology’s role in my life. So…I’ve been working on a few strategies. When I practice, I see a difference. Life is calmer. More manageable.
So…I wanted to pass these tips along to you. (If you have little children, these might not work for you. Not when your little ones are awake, anyway.) Hopefully, you’ll find them to be useful, and maybe spark some strategies of your own.
Make a plan. I start the day with an index card and write down the day’s priorities. And I check off tasks as I finish them!
Go off-line. Create an environment that helps you stay focused. Turn your cell phone to silent. If working on the computer, close your email app. Put yourself in distraction-free mode until you’re accomplished what you need to do
Finish one task before moving on to the next. Even little tasks.
Distractibility is at its peak during transitions. Build in margin. For example, arrive a few minutes early instead of rushing in a few minutes late.
When distractions are high, make tasks smaller and break down your large projects into smaller tasks to help you concentrate and give you a sense of accomplishment and progress.
When I’m facing a big task, I’ll break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces.
Set a deadline for a task. Beat the clock! Use a timer.
Rewards! When I beat the clock, I’ll take a break from computer work and pop up to the garden, text a friend, walk the dog. Something that feels good.
Trusting Her Amish Heart by author Cathy Liggett is a delightful Amish tale. It is the story or Leah,Ivan, and Zach. The author knew about the Amish lifestyle because this story sounded authentic. It was engaging and progressed well. Her characters were likable and believable, that were strong in many areas yet had issues and insecurities in others.
Zach and Leah both have secrets that they are carrying around like heavy bags. Their characters were easy to like. Their conversations were timely and sounded correct for the Amish culture. I enjoyed the horse farm setting.
There are so many life and spiritual lessons in this heartwarming story. Characters deal with their past, forgiveness, humility, pride, faith, family, hope, and fear. Zach is like the prodigal son returning home after years away with no contact. However, his welcome was much different. The faith element and message are woven throughout the entire story. They bring hope and encouragement.
I highly recommend this sweet story. Fans of Amish Fiction will enjoy it. I received a copy of Trusting Her Amish Heart: An Uplifting Inspirational Romance from the Celebrate Lit but these are my honest words.
About the Book
Book: Trusting Her Amish Heart
Author: Cathy Liggett
Genre: Amish Inspirational Romance
Release date: August 1, 2022
Her heart may learn to love again…
But can it trust?
Running from betrayal, Leah Zook finds purpose caring for the older owner of an Amish horse farm. But when he’s injured and his estranged son returns home looking for redemption, Leah’s resolve is tested. The mysterious Zach Graber has all the power to fix the run-down farm— and Leah’s locked-down heart. But together will they be strong enough to withstand his secret…and hers?
ACFW award-winning author Cathy Liggett is an Ohio girl who never dreamed writing would take her across the world and to Amish country, too. But she’s learned God’s plans for our lives are often more creative than the ones we imagine for ourselves. That includes meeting her husband at a high school reunion and marrying three months later–forty years ago. Together, they enjoy visiting kids.
More from Cathy
Trust. It’s a small word with huge implications, isn’t it?
When I think of trust, the first thing that comes to mind is our dog Chaz. We – or rather she – rescued us when she was a little over one year old. At the time she first came into our home the poor pup was too scared to even sleep. She’d start to doze off, then jerk and open her eyes, looking all around trying her utmost to stay on guard. Now, at 13 years old, our furry gal has cushy dog beds in every room in the house. Which makes perfect sense since she undoubtedly rules our roost. It’s been our joy to be able to spoil her all these years. But I have to say, Chaz isn’t the only one who has had trust issues.
While penning Leah and Zach’s story, I was so happy because it took me back to Sugarcreek, and not just in spirit or through sweet memories. As it happened, my critique partners (and dear friends) decided Ohio Amish country would be the perfect spot for a writing retreat. How could I disagree?
In the four days we spent in a rustic cabin we got ideas flushed out and chapters written too. But we also laughed, shared, celebrated, and ate more snacks and sweets than we should have.
I’m telling you this because coming home I thought how the chance to know and share with these special women may have never happened. Many years ago, I almost didn’t say ‘yes’ to their invitation to join their critique group. I’d been working in a creative field but writing a book was something new, and they were so far ahead of me. Can I tell you that as I sit typing this, that I’m so thankful I shared my writing and myself with them?
As just noted, like Leah and Zach, I know it’s not always easy to open up and to trust. But, also like the two of them, I’ve learned when I do trust God and the special people (and pups) He sends into my life, those relationships can be beyond rewarding.
Oh! And lastly – if you’re in the mood for something sweet like the characters in this book, here’s the recipe for the “Chocolate Chip Cake” they all raved about. It’s quick, easy and delicious. Trust me!
Chocolate Chip Cake
1 box Duncan Hines yellow cake mix
½ cup oil
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 package vanilla instant pudding
6 oz. package of chocolate chips
4 oz. bar of Baker’s German Chocolate grated
3 Tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
Floured tube pan
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour tube pan and line bottom with wax paper.
Set aside 3 Tablespoons of confectioner’s sugar. Mix everything else together except for chocolate.
After mixed, fold in all chocolate chips and ¾ of the grated German chocolate.
Add to pan and bake for 1 hour (a little prior to 1 hour, check for doneness).
Mix the remaining ¼ of the grated German chocolate with the 3 Tablespoons of confectioner’s sugar. Sprinkle this chocolate sugar mixture on top of cake. Bake 3-4 minutes longer.
Remove from oven and cool thoroughly. Remove from pan.
The Apple Creek Announcement is book three in the Creektown Discovery series by best selling author Wanda Brunstetter. This is a Amish contemporary series that is so interesting. If you have not read the first two you will be able to follow this one easily. The other two are just as marvelous as this one.
Two of the series favorites are back again. I love Lois and Orley as well as their antique store. In fact, they are so lovable I wish they had a series dedicated to their back story and future.
This book is the story of Andrea and Brandon. He is a veterinarian and she is a piano teacher and artist. They are newly engaged and have a few issues. Some of the hiccups are minor and others are not. They each write a letter to the newspaper advice column Dear Caroline wanting help. Brandon strikes up a friendship with Orley and asks for his advice, also.
Author Brunstetter has written another page turning story. I was immediately captivated and because engrossed in the tale and characters. At times I even wanted to offer advice. I loved the fact that the engaged couple had a cat and dog that spatted. The author writes believable characters and situations. The dialog was authentic for Amish and taught me a few new words. There are mystery, redemption, humor, conundrums, family issues, adoption, wedding issues, and cute animals.
There are so many life and spiritual lessons in this book. This is a story of love, hope, faith, family, forgiveness and perseverance. As you read make sure you let those messages sink in. After you have read the book, you will want to go back and ponder the lessons. Be sure to catch the recipes at the end after the story.
I highly recommend this book and the other two. It would make a nice selection for a book club. The entire series would be a great choice for that. Fans of contemporary fiction will enjoy this book. I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars. A copy was provided but these are my honest words.
Author Molly Jebber has written an outstanding Christian Amish historical romance with Magdelena’s Choice. This is Book 5 in her The Amish Charm Bakery series, but it can be read as a stand alone. It is so different from usual Amish stories. My interest was captured early, and I became invested in the story and characters.
Set in early 1900’s Charm, Ohio, this is Magdelena Beachy’s story. She is a lovely Amish girl, works in the bakery, and helps her family as all dutiful Amish daughters are taught to do. She and Toby Schlabach have had eyes for each other for a long time. She is from a wealthy Amish family but he is just an average guy. He wants to be able to support her before he proposes. Her father does not think Toby will ever be able to do that.
A new family moves into town. They have a lot of money and a son, Zach, that is interested in Magdelena. Her father seizes this opportunity to make some decisions that should be Magdelena’s.
The author has written a story full of timeless life lessons about greed, character, priorities, obedience, submission, love, hope, and trusting God. Characters are vibrant and come to life on the pages. It was easy to become engrossed in the story and be taken to Charm. I felt like I was there as I cheered in some places and shook my head in others.
I highly recommend this Amish novel. Any lover of Amish fiction will be delighted with it. Author Jebber writes realistic Amish books that are fascinating and this one is no exception. I rate it 5 out of 5 stars. A copy was provided by Celebrate Lit but these are my honest words.
About the Book
Book: Magdelena’s Choice
Author: Molly Jebber
Genre: AMISH HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Release date: January 25, 2022
As the daughter of a wealthy rancher, Magdelena Beachy may not truly need her job at the Amish Charm Bakery, but she enjoys tending to customers, be they neighbors or curious Englischers. Only one thing would make life sweeter, and that’s if Toby Schlabach would court her. It’s not just his dimples and smile that warm Magdelena’s heart—she admires his kindness and values. Yet she worries their chance may slip away . . .
With his daed ill and his mother and sister depending on him, Toby can’t yet offer Magdelena the future she deserves. But even as he nears his goal, he learns her father has arranged a match with another suitor. Magdelena risks shunning if she goes against her family. Choosing a path will take courage as well as faith—in God’s plan, and in this steadfast, tender love . . .
Molly Jebber is a best-selling and award-winning author of Amish Historical Romance. Molly’s books have been featured in Publisher’s Weekly Best Ten lists, USA Today’s HEA, featured in live video on Naples News, many media outlets across the U.S. You’ll find her books on most stores the first three months of their release across the U.S, UK, Canada, and more. She’s been interviewed on television, and she’s a touring speaker for Women’s Christian Connection, other women’s professional organizations, and she offers presentations on writing, agent or no agent, publishing, and marketing. She also speaks about the Amish lifestyles and traditions. She says the most rewarding part about writing stories is meeting wonderful readers who become friends through social media and at her speaking events. Please visit her website: http://www.mollyjebber.com for a full list of her books, speaking events and recipes.
She loves God, her family, and friends and Florida sunshine. She says yes to swimming, the beach, golf, and time with her family and friends, and no to coconut, onions, and skydiving!
More from Molly
Magdelena faces difficult decisions when having a difference of opinion with her parents. If she goes against them, she’ll face serious consequences. Sometimes we have family situations that arise, and they require us to search our heart for how to deal with them. Toby also faces hardship, tragedy, and being judged wrongly by others. Toby and Magdelena are sure God has a plan for their lives, but they’re not sure if they are following his will. They pray for guidance. You’ll enjoy their friends and how they come into play in this story. We all have friends we love, and memories we make with them. They root for us. The same goes for this couple. You’ll wonder what will happen next, and just when you think things are better, something else happens. I hope you enjoy the story. Don’t forget to sign up for a chance to win the grand prize at the end of this tour!
The Amish Outcast’s Holiday Return by author Lacy Williams is a Christian contemporary Amish fiction. Reading this reminded me why I am intrigued with the Amish and their lifestyle of forgiving others. I loved this book.
This is the tale of Zach Miller. Through unfortunate circumstances in his life, he left the Amish and ended up in the care of his Uncle Paul. There he made some terrible choices which ended him in prison for a few years.
It is also the story of Grace Beiler and her family. They are a loving, strong Amish family but one member’s life was changed by Zach’s poor choices. As the story progresses we see forgiveness, redemption, grace, and mercy lived out as Zach comes home to his Amish roots.
Author Williams has written a captivating story. I was able to engage with the characters and became invested in them and the story immediately. The secondary characters are wonderful, too. I loved watching their relationships with each other and God grow throughout the story.
This is a well planned, well organized, and well written book. The author has included a few surprises to keep readers on their toes. I highly recommend this and rate it 5 out of 5 stars. A copy was provided by Celebrate Lit, but these are my honest opinions.
About the Book
Book: The Amish Outcast’s Holiday Return
Author: Lacy Williams
Genre: Contemporary Christian romance / Amish romance
Release date: November 1, 2021
Torn between family loyalty
and her dreams for the future…
Grace Beiler’s shocked when Zach Miller arrives at her family’s farmhouse seeking forgiveness for his teenage mistake that cost her sister’s fiancé his life. But when her father gives Zach a job, Grace gets to know the man he’s become…and starts to want more than friendship. Can love bloom amid hidden secrets and family grief, and give them a fresh start at Christmas?
Lacy Williams wishes her writing career was more like what you see on Hallmark movies: dreamy brainstorming from a French chateau or a few minutes at the computer in a million-dollar New York City penthouse. In reality, she’s up before the sun, putting words on the page before her kids wake up for the day. Those early-morning and late-night writing sessions add up, and Lacy has published fifty books in almost a decade, first with a big five publisher and then as an indie author. When she needs to refill the well, you can find Lacy birdwatching, gardening, biking with the kiddos, or walking the dog. Find tons of bonus scenes and reader extras by becoming a VIP reader at http://www.lacywilliams.net/vip .
More from Lacy
The Best Part of a Barn Raising
Have you ever had your community rally around you? Maybe some of your friends threw you a baby shower. Maybe your church helped with a meal train when you were ill for a time. Maybe you played sports and raised money together as a team.
Has your community ever built you a house?
I’ve written lots of historical books. I’ve written a barn-raising or two into my books. Until I started researching for THE AMISH OUTCAST’S HOLIDAY RETURN, I didn’t realize that community “raising” events still happened in 2021. They do!
In some Amish communities, builders will gather all the materials for the house or barn and on (usually) a Saturday, the entire community will gather to build the whole structure. There’s a really cool timelapse of a barn raising on YouTube that you can check out.
I’ve always loved writing about these events because of the community aspect. We need human connection and there’s something special about having your community surround you and show their love in a tangible way. Imagine walking into your home that your friends built for you. Every time you walked over the threshold you could remember the friend who built the door frame. When it storms, you could appreciate the roof over your head that many friends helped stretch the frame for. What an amazing feeling of belonging.
Of course, barn raisings and house raisings wouldn’t be complete without the food. Typically, the women and girls put together a giant potluck for the men and boys who are doing the physical work of building the structure. Brainstorming for this always makes me remember church potlucks when I was a child. Our church met at the local 4-H building. We would stretch out folding tables and chairs in long rows. And the food. Pasta salad. Fried chicken. Chocolate cake!
(I also remember roller skating in the back of the massive building with my friends, but that is a whole other story…).
Memories and friendships are forged at church potlucks and barn raisings. And when you are on the inside, it creates a lovely sense of belonging. But the hero in THE AMISH OUTCAST’S HOLIDAY RETURN, Zach, is not on the inside. He’s an outsider who has come home and is searching for a place to belong. The barn raising/potluck is the moment when heroine Grace sees a hint of vulnerability in Zach—because he wants to belong. It changes everything in their new acquaintanceship.
Want to know more about this book? Check out the “read inside” feature and try Chapter One on your favorite retailer.
Christmas Grace by author Mindy Steele is a poignant Contemporary Amish tale. She is a new author to me and I really enjoyed her style and storyline. The author was able to put a twist on a trial that is often used. It captivated me immediately.
This is the story of Grace. She is sent from her home in Indiana to stay in her aunt’s community in Kentucky. Her father has sent her there to live under her aunt’s supervision. Grace has made a grave mistake and her father will not allow her to remain at home. Grace barely remembers her aunt, and those memories are not of a happy woman.
Author Steele has written a unique plot filled with many twists and surprises. My interest was captured immediately and not released until I read the last page. The characters were a combination of lovable, quirky, and despicable people. Some were so easy to love, and other so easy to dislike. Not only was this a romance, but it had a mystery that had me guessing.
The author skillfully wove timeless life and spiritual lessons all throughout her story. This is a lesson in family, love, forgiveness, redemption, trusting God, and hope. It is about doing the right thing even when it is difficult.
I highly recommend this beautiful, moving story. It will give you all kinds of emotions and things to ponder. This would be an excellent choice for a reading group. I gladly rate it 5 stars. A copy was provided by Celebrate Lit but these are my honest words.
About the Book
Book: Christmas Grace
Author: Mindy Steele
Genre: Amish Romance
Release date: October 26, 2021
Second chances and the Christmas spirit abound in Mindy Steele’s heartwarming novel, one of faith, love, and the power of community.
Grace Miller believed herself in love with the charming Englischer who eventually broke her heart. Now alone except for the secret life growing inside her, she arrives in the unfamiliar small village of Walnut Ridge, Kentucky, to hide and hopefully gain forgiveness. She is pleasantly surprised, however, to find a tight-knit, welcoming group who help her heart grow right alongside her belly. And with the holidays around the corner, there’s plenty of preparations to occupy her mind. Also occupying her mind? Her strong, protective neighbor, Cullen Graber, the town’s blacksmith, who seems intent on not allowing her to ever suffer alone.
Cullen Graber gave up on love after too many losses early in life. He planned to live out his days focusing on his smithy business, yet the beautiful and mysterious Grace refuses to leave his thoughts. But can they open their hearts to God’s grace and create a new family together before Grace must return home?
Mindy Steele writes sweet Amish fiction as well as romantic suspense. She is an author of 7 novels. The Miller’s Creek Amish series, Christmas Grace, Christmas in Cranberry, His Amish Wife’s Hidden past, and An Amish Flower Farm, releasing 2021. If not gardening or visiting her Amish neighbors, she is on the family farm writing her newest inspiration.
More from Mindy
Behind the scenes with Christmas Grace:
Many are fascinated with the Amish. Their lifestyle, their faith and family. They are talented craftsman, extraordinary bakers, and wonderful stewards of the land. For me, it was their community as a whole. The Amish are some of the best examples of community. How they tend to one another and work alongside each other even without the need of a disaster or tragedy to occur. I didn’t even realize until a close friend who reads my manuscripts pointed it out, but every book I have written thus far has been mostly centered around community. ( I thought that was cool) Walnut Ridge was the first community I ever fictionalized and I still find myself wanting to go back and writing more about the wonderful people who live there.
As an avid reader of Amish fiction I wanted to write a story that wasn’t so…perfect, because none of us are. Grace Miller made a mistake, and finds herself having to face the consequences of that. I think we all can relate somewhat to her. Getting to know the three local communities near me, I find myself drawn more to the imperfect and how they carry on more than the upright and grounded. There is a scene where a group of women share their imperfections with Grace. It became a turning point in her life.
Walnut Ridge, Kentucky is completely fictional, as are all of my book settings currently. I have a love for setting a stage, building a place from the ground up. Although my hero, Cullen Graber was born and raised in Walnut Ridge, Grace Miller was not. Getting to know a character like Grace was a pleasure, but required a lot of research. Although I have seen much of our great country I live less than a half an hour from my birthplace.
Many books and films paint a picture on the meaning of shunning, but it doesn’t happen as often as you think or to the severity portrayed. I met a woman the year this book was wrote and learned a lot from her own personal plight. She had been shunned from her community and never returned, but still speaks to her mother and siblings, often. Grace was shunned for a time in her community, but even after confessing her sin, asking forgiveness and receiving it from her church and community members, her father sent her away from his house out of shame. As a parent to five, there are few times in those teenaged years I wanted to bann a kid or two, but my heart went out to Grace here.
I love creating characters who are realistic and relatable, but also swoon worthy and Cullen Graber is one I have had in my back pocket for a while. The gentle giant, slow to speak, fast to listen, and has a past too. I hope you come to find him as stoic yet imperfect as I wrote him.
There is a scene in the book where Grace finds herself completely alone and facing monsters. (No, I’m not giving out a spoiler here) I have found myself in such a place a time or two as I imagine many have. That moment when fear and bravery collide. This scene was actually inspired by a horrible nightmare while writing Christmas Grace. After reading, I bet you can guess what I’m afraid of.
I am a panster, not a plotter, but even I was shocked that I wrote this book in three weeks while working full time. I have tried my hand at plotting, but find once my characters start to reveal themselves, I have no more control over the story than I did my children’s choice in careers. My process is scary actually, according to Mr. Steele that is. (wink wink) I get an idea, start drafting out characters, setting, and pace or walk for two days while my head figures it all out. Then its pen and paper until that first draft is complete.
When you hear the word Amish, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Yep, food. I happen to be a food lover and an expert on the subject. Grace found herself unable to work at the job her aunt had set up for her but found she had a purpose, and a place to fit in. We all have a purpose, and a place in our community.
When I first signed with my amazing agent, Julie Gwinn, we both had hopes for the first book I wrote. She had planned on pitching it two months later so there was time to polish it until it shined. Then she called me up and asked me how quick I could write a second book to pitch too, not wanting to simply go in with one book I assume, but I know nothing about the stresses of a agents work. My mother insist this is who I am, the one who best performs under pressure, without time to prep, think. I tend to disagree. But in three weeks Christmas Grace was finished and ready for editing. I have wrote two contemporaries in short time spans, but Grace’s book, my first contracted book, will always be that one I always remember. Mostly because of I ran out of coffee twice, forgot to shower and eat a few days and learned it’s alright to talk to yourself if you really need someone to hear your thoughts. Oh, and the publisher bought a second book too. I can’t wait to share A Cranberry Christmas with you.
A Season on the Wind by award winning, best selling author Suzanne Woods Fisher is a fascinating Contemporary Amish novel. It is set in Pennsylvania and tells the story of sibling birdwatchers, Micah and Penny Weaver. This was such a fascinating story and taught me so much. Even if you are not an Amish fan, you will love this book. Trust me on this.
It is also the story of Amish fence jumper Ben Zook. He is a renowned bird expert and author of multiple books. He travels back to his Amish hometown after reports of a rare bird sighting. His cousin, Natalie, accompanies him. They stay in the Weavers’ guest house.
I adore books written by author Fisher. A Season on the Wind captured my attention immediately. I was invested in the story and the lives of the characters. Each character was unique and relatable. After a few chapters they became my friends, and I could picture myself in their little community. The author transported me into her story as I was reading. Her vivid descriptions took me behind the lenses of bird lovers and gave me a better understanding of them. There were many surprise twists as well as heartfelt moments.
I have read other bird watching books. This one by far educated me more on our feathered friends. After reading it I found myself lingering longer at the kitchen window after making coffee looking at them. I love it when a novel moves me in such a personal way.
There is so much good in this poignant tale. Life lessons on forgiveness, trusting God’s timing, faith, redemption, family, and love are just a few. The spiritual message is inspiring. If someone does not make a television series or movie out of this phenomenal masterpiece, it will be a shame.
This magnificent story earns a solid five stars from me, unless I may sneak in another star and give it a six. Yes, it is that good. Perfect for a reading group, the author has included Questions for Conversation before her Author’s Notes. I highly recommend it for lovers of nature, contemporary fiction, light romance, Amish, and inspirational fiction. A copy was provided by Celebrate Lit but this is my honest opinion.
About the Book
Book: A Season on the Wind
Author: Suzanne Woods Fisher
Genre: Amish Fiction
Release date: October 5, 2021
Ben Zook had only two loves in his life: books and birds. In a stroke of good fortune, he’d stumbled onto a way to cobble together those two loves into a career, writing books about rare birds. He was as free as a bird–until a chase for a rare White-winged Tern takes him to the one place on earth he planned to never return: his Amish home in Stoney Ridge.
Desperate for photographs of the elusive tern, Ben hires a local field guide, Micah Weaver, and boards at Micah’s farm, planning to “bag the bird” and leave Stoney Ridge before anyone recognizes him. But he neglected to plan for Micah’s sister, Penny. One long-ago summer, Penny had introduced Ben to birding, even sharing with him a hidden eagle aerie. That eagle became his spark bird–the one that inspired his lifelong love.
Ben. He was Penny’s spark bird. That was when she knew true love. She’d always hoped Ben would come back to Stoney Ridge. Back to his Amish roots. Back to her. The only problem? Ben has absolutely no memory of Penny.
With over one million copies sold, Suzanne Woods Fisher is a bestselling, award winning author of over 30 books, ranging from novels to children’s books to non-fiction. She is a Christy Award finalist, a Carol and Selah award winner, and a two-time finalist for ECPA Book of the Year. She writes stories that take you to places you’ve never visited—one with characters that seem like old friends. But most of all, her books give you something to think about long after you’ve finished reading it. Suzanne lives with her very big family in northern California.
More from Suzanne
Did You Know? 8 Facts about the Christmas Bird Count
1) The year 2021 marks the 122nd National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) which, ironically, wasn’t always about counting live birds.
2) In 1900, the first CBC was launched as an alternative to the traditional Christmas “side hunt.” This holiday tradition encouraged people to go out into the woods on Christmas Day, choose “sides” to team up with and then, in the words of Frank Chapman, “kill everything in fur or feathers that crossed their path – if they could.” The winner was the “side” with the largest pile of dead birds. (Ugh!)
3) Frank Chapman was a prominent ornithologist, conservationist, and writer/editor who published Bird Lore magazine. He led the charge to end to this senseless slaughter and invited his readers to begin a new holiday tradition of counting, rather than shooting, birds.
4) Twenty-seven people participated in 25 counts that first year (in 1900). They counted 90 species of birds.
5) The idea caught on. Big time.
6) During December and January of each year, thousands of Christmas Bird Counts take place across the U.S., Canada, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands. The purpose of the CBC is a scientific census—to assess the health of bird populations and help guide conservation action.
7) Each CBC has an established 15-mile diameter circular count area. On a pre-arranged date, registered teams go out (with an assigned volunteer observer) and count the number of birds of each species they can identify within their assigned area. Each count has a volunteer compiler who sums up all of the lists and inputs the total numbers for each species into Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count database.
8) The CBC is the longest-running citizen science project and wildlife survey in the world. In fact, the CBC is considered the gold standard in citizen science.
And you don’t have to be an experienced birdwatcher to participate in the CBC! Bird lovers of all skills are welcomed. Even me! I’m a very enthusiastic amateur.
The Walnut Creek Wish by award winning author Wanda E. Brunstetter is a Christian Amish contemporary, romance, fiction. This is the first book in the Creektown Discoveries series. In it we meet Amish antique store owners Orley and Lois Troyer and struggling married English couple Jeff and Rhonda Davis.
The author takes on real life issues in this novel. Her characters will face personal and marital issues that most all of us have faced. If we have not, we know some family or friends who have. True to her unique style of writing, Brunstetter weaves life and inspirational messages throughout her story. I became invested in the characters and what was happening in their life. I rejoiced when they were happy and became sad when they were. The faith messages of turning to God, trusting Him, and the power of prayer were encouraging.
Two of my favorite things are that after her tale concludes, the author treats readers to recipes we have read about previously and a list of questions for group or individual study. This book would make a nice choice for a reading group. It gets a 5 star rating from me. A copy was received from the Publisher but these are my honest words.
About the Book
Book 1 in the Creektown Discoveries Series from NYT Bestselling Author Wanda E. Brunstetter
An Antique Store Becomes a Place of Healing for Broken Hearts
Welcome to Walnut Creek, Ohio, where Orley and Lois Troyer own an antique store they call “Memory Keepers.” Though knowledgeable in antiques and their repair, their real talent is in mentoring folks who are hurting and don’t even know it. Enter Jeff, a restaurateur, and Rhonda, a hotel manager, who recently moved to Amish country for the slow pace, but the change of scenery puts even more stress on their already strained marriage. Will an antique sled be the last straw, or will it lead to unexpected revelations and the fulfillment of dreams?
About the Author
New York Times bestselling and award-winning author, Wanda E. Brunstetter is one of the founders of the Amish fiction genre. She has written close to 90 books translated in four languages. With over 10 million copies sold, Wanda’s stories consistently earn spots on the nations most prestigious bestseller lists and have received numerous awards.
Wanda’s ancestors were part of the Anabaptist faith, and her novels are based on personal research intended to accurately portray the Amish way of life. Her books are well-read and trusted by many Amish, who credit her for giving readers a deeper understanding of the people and their customs.
When Wanda visits her Amish friends, she finds herself drawn to their peaceful lifestyle, sincerity, and close family ties. Wanda enjoys photography, ventriloquism, gardening, bird-watching, beachcombing, and spending time with her family. She and her husband, Richard, have been blessed with two grown children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Shielding the Witness by USA Today Bestselling Author, Mary Alford is a Christian Amish Romance Suspense that will have you turning page after page to see what will happen next. It is one of the Love Inspired Suspense line of books.
I was immediately invested in the story and characters. This book starts off with a lot of action and keeps up the pace. There are twist and turns to keep readers interested.
This is the story of Faith Cooper. Her husband was murdered by his brother. She doesn’t know where to turn. There is a lot of heartache, action, mystery, and suspense involved with the brothers and those that are associated with them.
Faith finds herself in danger and leaves to find shelter with another family member. She runs into an old friend. He wants to keep her safe, but will he be able?
Author Alford has a wonderful writing style. With well rounded, believable characters and a knowledge of the Amish lifestyle, she wove an action filled story that had me captivated. The surprises kept me on my toes and guessing. The spiritual and life lessons were timeless.
Spend some time with this riveting tale. It is entertaining and will keep you trying to solve what might happen next. I rate it 4 out of 5 stars. A copy was provided by Celebrate Lit, but these are my honest words.
About the Book
Book: Shielding the Amish Witness
Author: Mary Alford
Genre: Amish Romantic Suspense
Release date: April 1, 2021
Seeking refuge in Amish country puts everyone she loves in danger.
On the run after discovering her brother-in-law was behind her husband’s murder, Faith Cooper can think of only one safe place—her Amish grandmother’s home. But when danger follows Faith to the quiet Amish community, her childhood friend Eli Shetler is her only protection. And their survival depends on outlasting a relentless killer…one who has nothing left to lose.
USA Today Bestselling Author, Mary Alford, loves giving her readers the un-expected, whether it be in a rugged mountain setting or a peaceful Amish community.
Her titles have appeared on the USA Today Bestselling List, Publisher’s Weekly Bestselling List, and have been finalists in the Daphne Du Maurier award of excellence, The Beverly, The Maggie, and The Selah Awards.
Mary lives in Texas with her husband, two very spoiled cats, and a sweet rescue dog name Cody. Mary is very active online and would love to connect with readers on Face-book and Twitter or any social platforms listed at www.maryalford.net.
More from Mary
As a reader, I love books that are part of a series. There’s something comforting about being able to revisit characters that are special to me and meet new ones along the way. You get to go back to your favorite place and hang out with the people who make you smile.
It’s like coming home.
When I set out to write a series about five Amish brothers, I knew exactly where I wanted to set the series. The West Kootenai Amish community in Montana. West Kootenai is a remote community with sweeping mountain views surrounded by vast wilderness spaces. The perfect setting for suspense, along with a chance at redemption and a second chance for the hero and heroine. I love that.
In November, I introduced Covert Amish Christmas, the first book in the series that featured Aaron Shetler, the oldest of the five brothers.
In Shielding the Amish Witness, we meet Eli Shetler, a widower who has returned to West Kootenai to try to start over after his wife’s death two years earlier.
Eli is reunited with his childhood friend, Faith Cooper, who is running from a relentless killer who was once part of her family.
The book takes the reader through the breathtaking countryside of West Kootenai and into the homes of the Shelter family. We get to catch up on what Aaron and Victoria have been up since last we met and are introduced to some new family members. That’s the wonderful thing about series.
So, come with me on a trip to the beautiful community of West Kootenai, Montana where I hope my characters will make you feel right at home.
In writing about the Amish, I’ve come to love preparing their dishes. I’ve tried many recipes, from Amish Pizza to Friendship soup. But one of my all-time favorites is Amish Fry Pies. They are SO good!
Today, I thought I’d share the recipe for Amish Apple Fry Pies. I love this delicious desert and I hope you will as well.
To make the filling, combine the apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla in a small saucepan. Cook on medium heat until juices start to form, about 3 minutes. Make a slurry by whisking together the cider and cornstarch. Stir this into the pan, turn the heat up to high, and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened, about 3 minutes longer. Remove from heat and set aside.
For the dough, cut the butter into cubes then use a pastry cutter to work it into the flour. Continue to cut in the butter until it’s in small pea-sized lumps. In a small mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks and salt together. Slowly pour in hot milk, stirring constantly. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture. Stir together until a dough begins to form. Turn the dough out onto parchment or wax paper, and knead it until it smooths out, about 1 minute.
Divide the dough into 6 equal sized pieces and roll them each into a ball. Use a rolling pin to roll them out to about 6-inch circles. Fill each circle with 2 Tablespoons of apple mixture. Fold the dough in half over the filling and pinch the edges together to seal. You can flute the edges or use a fork to crimp them. If the edges aren’t sealing properly, wet them with a little water.
Heat the oil in a deep saucepan to 350 degrees. You can test to see if the oil is ready by sticking a wooden spoon into the center of the pot. If small bubbles form around the handle, you’re ready to go.
Place the pies in the hot oil one at a time and fry until golden brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to dry.
Repeat with remaining pies.
While the pies fry, make the glaze. In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk until smooth. It’s best to glaze the pies while they’re still warm. I use a pastry brush to brush the glaze on one side then let it dry, flip them over, and glaze the other side. You can put two coats of glaze on for extra sweetness if you like but wait for the glaze to harden in between coats.
Pies can be stored uncovered for 2-3 days. If you want the glaze to remain hard, do not place the pies in a plastic bag or sealed container. Just leave them on a wire rack or pan.