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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

An Amish Country Christmas--Review and Interview

An Amish Country Christmas
About the Book:
“The Christmas Visitors”: For spirited Martha Coblentz and her twin Mary, the snow has delivered the perfect holiday and birthday present to their door—handsome brothers Nate and Bram Kanagy. But when unforeseen trouble interrupts their season’s good cheer, it will take unexpected intervention—and sudden understanding—to give all four the blessing of a lifetime.
“Kissing the Bishop”: As the New Year’s first snow settles, Nazareth Hooley and her sister Jerusalem are given a heaven-sent chance to help newly widowed Tom Hostetler tend his home. But when her hope that she and Tom can build on the caring between them seems a dream forever out of reach, Nazareth discovers that faith and love can make any miracle possible.
Purchase your copy at AMAZON or at Kensington Books.

My Review:

This is a book that combines Charlotte/Naomi's two series, the Cedar Creek Series and the Willow Ridge Series.  The first story is The Christmas Visitors, the Kanagy boys, Nate and Bram, travel to Cedar Creek to pick up their new buggy and sleigh.  They meet the Coblentz twins, Mary and Martha.  Mary and Martha invite the boys to stay over the Christmas holiday and to celebrate their birthday.  I didn't really care for any of the characters in this story.  I thought they were all selfish and immature. 
The second story in this book, Kissing the Bishop, was a lot better.  It is the story of the Hooley sister's, Jerusalem and Nazareth.  The Hooley sister's are maidel women who think they will never find love.  They are helping out Preacher Tom Hostetler, who Nazareth has feelings for.  But Tom is not free to marry because his wife left him and divorced him, and in Amish Culture, divorce is not allowed and Tom cannot remarry.  His friend, Vernon Geingrich comes for a Bishops meeting.  Sparks fly between Vernon and Jerusalem.  While the foursome is snowed in, Tom receives a letter that gives him some unexpected news.  Will the Hooley sisters finally find love at their age?  I enjoyed this story and read it in no time.  I liked all of the characters in this one. 
All in all this was good Christmastime book.  Great job Charlotte/Naomi.
I received a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

About the Author:
I’ve called Missouri home for most of my life, and most folks don’t realize that several Old Older Amish and Mennonite communities make their home here, as well. The rolling pastureland, woods, and small towns along county highways make a wonderful setting for Plain populations—and for stories about them, too! While Jamesport, Missouri is the largest Old Order Amish settlement west of the Mississippi River, other communities have also found the affordable farm land ideal for raising crops, livestock, and running the small family-owned businesses that support their families.
Like my heroine, Miriam Lantz, of my Seasons of the Heart series, I love to feed people—to share my hearth and home. I bake bread and goodies and I love to try new recipes. I put up jars and jars of green beans, tomatoes, beets and other veggies every summer. All my adult life, I’ve been a deacon, a dedicated church musician and choir member, and we hosted a potluck group in our home for more than twenty years.
Like Abby Lambright, heroine of my Home at Cedar Creek series, I consider it a personal mission to be a listener and a peacemaker—to heal broken hearts and wounded souls. Faith and family, farming and frugality matter to me: like Abby, I sew and enjoy fabric arts—I made my wedding dress and the one Mom wore, too, when I married into an Iowa farm family more than thirty-five years ago! When I’m not writing, I crochet and sew, and I love to travel.
I recently moved to Minnesota when my husband got a wonderful new job, so now he and I and our border collie, Ramona, are exploring our new state and making new friends.
You can visit her website at
Her latest book is An Amish Country Christmas.
Visit her website at
Connect & Socialize with Charlotte!

Interview Questions for An Amish Country Christmas
How did the idea for AN AMISH COUNTRY CHRISTMAS materialize?
This anthology was my Kensington editor's idea! She thought it would be fun, since both of my Amish series are set in Missouri, to have a story set in each of my fictional towns, with a little mix-and-match between characters. Amish and Christmas are an unbeatable combination, far as generating salesand I thought it would be a lot of fun to write shorter, perkier stories for the holiday.
 The trick? I chose secondary characters whose romances wouldn't confuse readers about the chronology of each series (although having Preacher/Bishop Tom fall in love does affect the story arc of the Willow Ridge series a bit). And by matching up the redheaded Coblentz twins from Cedar Creek with the Kanagy brothers, I had  a "young and restless" story to counterbalance "Kissing the Bishop," where the maidel Hooley sisters, Jerusalem and Nazareth, meet fellows who are worthy of them in midlife. They were fun stories to write.
Who are your favorite characters from you two Amish Series?
That's a tough question! From the Seasons of the Heart series, I love Miriam, Ben, and Jerusalem and Nazareth Hooley the bestthey're people I could count on when times get tough. Abby and James from the At Home In Cedar Creek series have remained favoritesalthough in the newest book, AMANDA WEDS A GOOD MAN (which comes out this November 5th) I have had a ball writing five-year-old Simon Brubaker and Amanda's four-year-old twins, Cora and Dora. Kids that age really liven up a story, and you never know what they'll say or do next.
How do you celebrate Christmas?
We've celebrated Christmas in many ways over the years. We don't have kids, so it's always been easier for us to hit the roadand we've been young/able enough to make the drive to various relatives' homes. I have family near Pittsburgh, PA as well as in Kansas City, MO, while Neal's family lives mostly in southwest IA. Our jobs have taken us away from those areas, so if we're to gather with family, we have to drive or fly. Now that we've moved to St. Paul, MN, the closest relatives are six hours awayand now that we have a recently remodeled home, we encourage family members to visit us, because their kids are grown now and they're better able to travel.
Our celebration always centers around December church services, because I sing in our choir. In our present church, we celebrate at a late candlelight service on Christmas Eve, as well as with a "sacred music" Sunday earlier in December. At home, we decorate with two Christmas treesone with ornaments from our various vacation trips over the years, and one with ornaments family members, friends, and I have made. I've already baked most of the cookies for this year, because I'll begin sending them to my agent, editors, and far-away family members in early Decemberabout 75 dozen cookies are stashed in my deep freeze right now, and I'll make peanut clusters and peppermint bark to go with those. For me, it wouldn't be Christmas without making those goodies, even during these past few years when I've been so busy writing these two Amish series.
What is your favorite Christmas cookie to bake? 
Even though they take a lot of time, I most enjoy baking the cut-out sugar cookies and the cut-out gingerbread cookies (both of these recipes are in the Sugar and Spice section of AN AMISH COUNTRY CHRISTMAS, so you can bake them, too!) I only get out my cutters at this time of year, and because I make about 13 dozen sugar cookies and about 7 dozen of the gingerbread, I make and chill the dough ahead, bake them one day, and decorate them on a Saturday when nothing else is going on. I consider them edible art!
What is your favorite Christmas cookie to eat?
 Oh, that's a hard question! Over my years of baking so many kinds of cookies, I've narrowed my baking marathon to only the ones I really love, and the ones that disappear first when I take cookie trays to events. One of my very favorite cookies is a cream cheese macaroonmoist and chewy with lots of coconut! But I also really love the ones with an Andes mint buried inside a soft cookie, frosted in bright colors, with sprinkles! And then there are the sugar cookies and the spicy gingerbread, aboveI could go on and on! These recipes are also in AN AMISH COUNTRY CHRISTMAS.
What do you like best about Christmas?

Singing the carols! Going to midnight candlelight service! Opening presents with my Border collie, Ramona, who really rips into her gifts and then helps the rest of us open ours, as  well. And on good days during the Christmas season, I enjoy the more light-hearted, happy sentiments that folks are more likely to express. I have a lot of wonderful memories of when we crammed our family around a crowded table, when I was the only kid there among twenty-some adults...and now it's just an aunt and me left on Dad's side, and I am the eldest left in my mom's family. No matter where we go or whom we see, however, I cherish the holidays I've spent with my husband of more than 38 years. We've come such a long way since we celebrated our first Christmas as broke newlyweds, and we've been truly blessed.

I wish you all a joyous Christmas and holiday season, whatever you celebrate! Thanks so much for spending this time with me, reading about my books
Kissing the Bishop
Charlotte Hubbard
              Tom Hostetler opened his mailbox out by the snow-packed road and removed a handful of envelopes. A quick glance revealed a few pieces of junk mail and a letter from an attorney whose name he didn’t recognize before the clip-clop! clip-clop! of an approaching buggy made him look up.
            “Morning to you, Tom. And Happy New Year,” Jeremiah Shetler called out as he pulled his Belgian to a halt. “Enos isn’t far behind me. Saw him coming up the highway from the other direction as I turned down your road.”
            “Glad to see you fellows, too,” Tom replied as he stepped up into the carriage with the bishop from Morning Star. “Who could’ve guessed Hiram would disrupt Miriam and Ben’s wedding? He’s set Willow Ridge on its ear—not to mention throwin’ my life into a tailspin—now that we’ve excommunicated him.”
            “Never seen the likes of it,” Jeremiah agreed. He drove down the snowy lane past Tom’s house to park beside the barn. “I still feel God’s will was done, though. Hiram brought this whole thing on himself when he didn’t make his confession. The rumors are flying about that town he’s starting up, too. What’s he calling it?”
            “Higher Ground,” Tom replied with a snort. “But we’re pretty sure he’s got the lowest of intentions, after his dubious ways of raisin’ the money for it. A real sorry situation, this is.” He looked up to see Enos Mullet, the bishop from New Haven, turning his buggy down the lane. “Vernon Gingerich is drivin’ in from Cedar Creek, too.”
            “The four of us will figure things out. Wherever two or more gather in the Lord’s name, He’ll be present.” Jeremiah gazed steadily at him as they paused in the dimness of the barn. “I’ve prayed over this a lot, Tom, and I believe God’s ushering in a new Heaven and a new Earth here in Willow Ridge. And He’s prepared you to handle whatever comes along, my friend.”
            Tom raised his eyebrows. As one of the two preachers for the Willow Ridge district, he was a candidate to become its next bishop . . . a huge responsibility for a man who milked a dairy herd twice a day. “Hope you’re right, Jeremiah. A lot of fine folks are dependin’ on what we decide today.”
            Tom walked out of the stable, noting the gray clouds that gathered in the distance. When the approaching buggy stopped, the man who stepped down from it looked pale. Enos Mullet seemed to get thinner every time Tom saw him, too, what with taking chemo treatments after a nasty bout of cancer. “Enos, it’s gut of ya to come ,” he said as shook the bishop’s bony hand. “You fellas will be glad to hear the Hooley sisters have been helpin’ me get ready for ya. The kitchen smells like they’re cookin’ up something mighty gut for our dinner.”
            “Well then, we certainly won’t starve!” Enos remarked. “Seems like they’ve fit themselves right in amongst you folks. Nice addition to your town.”
            “That they are.” Tom smiled to himself as they led Enos’s Morgan into a stall. He didn’t let on to folks, but Nazareth Hooley had been a lot of company to him this winter, and it was too bad she couldn’t become more than his friend. His wife Lettie had divorced him last Spring, and Old Order Amish couldn’t remarry until their former spouses passed on.
            But his spirits lightened as they stepped into a kitchen filled with the aromas of the fresh pastries and cookies Nazareth and Jerusalem had baked early this morning. As Jeremiah and Enos greeted the sisters and accepted hot coffee and treats, Tom was glad he’d asked them to hostess for him today.
            “Here comes Vernon,” he said, pointing toward the road out front. “And would ya look at that sleigh he’s drivin’, too! You fellows make yourselves comfortable in the front room, and we’ll be right in.”
            What was it about a sleigh that made him feel like a kid again? Tom hurried outside again, delighting in the merry jingle of the harness bells and the proud way Vernon’s Percheron pulled the vehicle.
            “Whoa there, Samson,” the bishop called out. “And gut morning to you, Tom! I’ve had a fine ride, even if those clouds make me think more snow’s on the way.”
            “Jah, I’m glad you’ve come to visit for a day or so. We’ll get right to our business so the other two fellows can be safe on the roads.” Tom stroked the horse’s black neck, grinning. “This looks to be a fine old sleigh, Vernon. Brings to mind the one my dat got from his dat, back when we kids prayed for snow so we could ride in it.”
            “This one’s of the same vintage. And thanks to our James Graber’s way with restoring old vehicles, it’s a beauty again.” Vernon patted the deep maroon velvet that covered the high-backed seat. “Three of the best pleasures in this life are spirited horses, fine rigs, and a gut woman—not necessarily in that order. Guess I’ll be happy with having two of the three.”
            Tom laughed. “Jah, that’s how we have to look at it sometimes.”
            As they stabled Samson and then entered the warm kitchen, Tom felt better about their morning’s mission: Vernon Gingerich was known for his down-to-earth faith and simple wisdom, and his sense of humor made even the most difficult tasks easier to accomplish.
            “My stars, I must’ve stepped into Heaven,” the bishop from Cedar Creek said as he inhaled appreciatively. “Don’t tell me you baked the goodies on this sideboard, Tom!”
            “The credit for that goes to Nazareth and Jerusalem Hooley,” Tom replied as he gestured to each of the women. “Two more generous, kind-hearted gals you’ll never find, Vernon.”
            As the women greeted their final guest, Jeremiah and Enos replenished their plates and made Vernon welcome, as well. It did Tom’s heart good to hear these voices filling his kitchen, to feel the presence of friends who would put their faith and best intentions to work today in behalf of Willow Ridge. Living alone this past year had taught him to appreciate the company of those who had seen him through some rough months.
As Vernon chose from the array of treats, Tom closed his eyes over a pastry twist that oozed butterscotch filling onto his tongue. When he looked up again, Nazareth was beaming at him, pouring him a mug of coffee. “It’s going to be a gut morning for all of us, Tom,” she assured him. “If you fellows need anything at all, we sisters’ll be right here in the kitchen.”
Denki for all you’ve done,” he murmured. “Couldn’t ask for better help, or a better friend than you, Naz.”
Her sweet smile made Tom wish the snow would pile up around the doors so they couldn’t get out for days—after Enos and Jeremiah had gotten safely home, of course. But he set such wishful thinking aside and led the way into the front room. It was time to determine who would lead Willow Ridge into the New Year . . . into a future no one but God could foresee.
“Have you ever seen blue eyes that twinkle the way Vernon’s do, Sister?” Jerusalem whispered. She peered through the doorway at the four men who sat around the table where Tom usually carved and painted his Nativity sets—except she and Nazareth had cleared the wooden figures from it earlier today. Jerusalem ducked back into the kitchen when the white-bearded bishop from Cedar Creek smiled at her.
Nazareth laughed softly. “Seems like a nice fellow, Vernon does. A far cry from the sort of man Hiram Knepp turned out to be.”
Jah, you’ve got that right. I’m thankful the gut Lord opened our eyes to his underhanded ways before I let myself get sucked in.” Jerusalem stirred some barley into the pot of vegetable beef soup on the stove. Truth be told, she had been attracted to Hiram Knepp from the moment she’d set foot in Willow Ridge last fall—and he had taken to her right off, too. But as time went by, she’d realized the bishop was more interested in having her keep track of his four younger children than he was in hitching up with an outspoken maidel who’d become set in her ways . . .
Is it too late for me, Lord? Jerusalem watched the emotions play across her sister’s face as she set places around the kitchen table: it was no secret that Nazareth and Preacher Tom were sweet on each other despite that fact that they couldn’t marry. Surely there must be a fellow who would appreciate her own talents for cooking and keeping up a home . . . a man who could tolerate her tendency to speak her mind and do things her way. Was it such a sin to be competent and efficient enough that she’d never needed a husband?
“What do you suppose they’ll decide on today?” Nazareth asked as she took six soup bowls from the cabinet. “What with Preacher Gabe havin’ poor Wilma to look after while he’s gettin’ so frail himself—”
Jah, I thought it was the wise thing for him to tell Tom, right out, that he couldn’t handle bein’ the new bishop,” Jerusalem agreed. “That leaves Tom as the only real choice, because I can’t see folks wantin’ a totally new fella from someplace else to take over. Tom’s perfect for the job, too.”
Nazareth’s brows knit together. “It’s a lot to ask of a dairy farmer who’s got such a big herd to milk, especially since his kids all live at a distance and he’s got no wife. Some districts back East wouldn’t even consider a divorced man.”
“Everyone knows it’s not Tom’s doing that he’s alone.” Jerusalem held her sister’s gaze for a moment. “Not that he’s really by himself, what with you helpin’ him every chance you get.”
“Folks might frown on me spendin’ so much time here, after he’s ordained,” Nazareth replied in a shaky voice. “Bishops are expected to walk a higher path. Can’t appear to live outside the Ordnung—especially after the way Hiram went rotten on us.”
Jerusalem set down her long-handled spoon and placed her hands on her younger sister’s shoulders. Nazareth was slender and soft-spoken; had chosen a brilliant green cape dress that looked especially festive today. But her quivering chin told the real story, didn’t it? “So you’re worried that if Tom’s to be the new bishop, he’ll have to forget his feelings for you? I don’t see him doing that.”
“But—but we’re to devote ourselves to God first and foremost,” Nazareth reminded her. “No matter what Tom and I feel for each other, we’re to follow the Old Ways. I’d begun to believe that God had led me here from Lancaster to find him. . . to be his helpmate someday. But now—”
Chairs scooted against the floor in the front room. The men’s louder talk made Jerusalem embrace her sister quickly and then step away. “It’s in the Lord’s hands, Sister. Let’s not worry these molehills into mountains before we see what comes of today’s meeting.”
Jah, you’re right.” Nazareth swiped at her eyes and began taking food from the fridge. “I’m just being a silly old maidel. Until we came to Missouri, I’d been so certain God meant for me to be a teacher rather than a wife, so maybe I’m just confused.”
Silly? Confused? Those were hardly words Jerusalem associated with her sweet, hard-working sister, but she certainly understood Nazareth’s sentiments. She, too, had spent her adult life believing she had a different mission from most Plain women. If Hiram hadn’t upset her emotional apple cart, why, she would still be staunchly convinced that teaching—and then coming to Willow Ridge with their three grown nephews—was what she was meant to do. Now she had a bee in her bonnet and she buzzed with a restlessness she didn’t know how to handle. And her longing wouldn’t disappear just because Hiram had.
As the four men entered the kitchen, however, Jerusalem set aside her worrisome thoughts. “You fellas ready for some dinner? It’s nothing fancy, but we thought soup and hot sandwiches would taste gut on a winter’s day.”
“Ah, but fancy isn’t our way, is it?” Jeremiah quipped. “You’ve had my mouth watering all morning.”
“The snow’s startin’ to blow, so we decided Enos and Jeremiah should be gettin’ on the road as soon as we eat,” Tom said. “We’ve pretty much settled our business for today.”
As the men took places around the table, Jerusalem opened the oven to remove the pan of open-faced ham and cheese sandwiches, which looked like little pizzas. She had picked right up on the fact that Tom hadn’t said Vernon was heading back. Although Cedar Creek was a lot farther away than Morning Star or New Haven, he wore an unruffled expression, as though driving home was the least of his concerns. Nazareth dipped up big bowls of the steaming soup, chockfull of vegetable chunks and beef, while Jerusalem set butter and jelly alongside a basket of fresh whole-wheat rolls.
“Looks like a feast,” Enos said in his raspy voice.
Jerusalem took the empty chair across from her sister, wishing she could feed that poor man enough to fill out all his hollows. They bowed in a silent prayer and then Tom passed the platter in front of him. “You fellas are gettin’ a real treat here,” he remarked. “Naz and Jerusalem made the cheese on these sandwiches from their goats’ milk.”
Vernon’s face lit up as he took two of them. “So those goats in the stable are yours? They seem right at home among the horses.”
“Oh, jah,” Jerusalem replied, “goats and horses are natural companions. We brought those four from Lancaster with us, well . . . as a gift to the bishop.” She paused, wishing she hadn’t gone down this conversational path. “But when we informed Hiram we wouldn’t be joining him in Higher Ground, we took them back.”          
“And Preacher Tom’s been kind enough to let us keep them here,” Nazareth continued. “Our does will be havin’ kids this spring, and we couldn’t take the chance that they’d not be properly tended.”
Jeremiah helped himself to the hot sandwiches. “You folks are in the prayers of all the districts around you,” he said in a solemn voice. “Enos and I suspected, back when Hiram confessed to us about his car, that other issues might come to light someday. We can only trust that God has a reason for all the trouble Hiram’s caused.”
“We also believe, however, that Willow Ridge will be in capable, compassionate hands with Tom as its spiritual leader.” Vernon took a big bite of his open-faced sandwich and then closed his eyes. “My goodness, ladies, what a treat you’ve blessed us with today. I’m ready to buy myself a few goats so I can enjoy more of this marvelous cheese.”
Jerusalem’s heart fluttered. “Thank you, Vernon. It’s been our pleasure to provide you fellas a meal while you’ve been here on such important business.”
“So it’s settled then?” Nazareth asked. “Preacher Tom is to become the bishop?”
“It’s what our prayers and discussion have led us to, jah.” Jeremiah smiled at the man who sat at the table’s head. “What with you folks needing two new preachers now, we feel Tom will provide the continuity—the leadership and spiritual example—to bind up the wounds Hiram has inflicted. It’s not the usual falling of the lot, the way we Amish let God select our bishops, but in your case it’s the most practical solution.”
Jerusalem noted the way her sister nipped at her lower lip before biting into a roll she’d slathered with butter and jam. Well they knew the blessing Tom Hostetler had been to them and to this entire community, even if it meant Nazareth must put aside her hopes for romance. And while Tom’s expression suggested he had his share of doubts and questions about the role he would assume, he was accepting this new wagonload of responsibility as God’s will for his life.
Tom’s faith—his willingness to serve without complaint or question—will be an inspiration to us all, Jerusalem thought. Give me the grace to follow where You’re leading me, as well, Lord.
When Jerusalem looked up, Vernon Gingerich was studying her, and he didn’t lower his eyes for several seconds. It felt unseemly—downright brazen—to return his gaze, yet she indulged herself in this fascinating man’s silent attention anyway. Hadn’t Tom mentioned that the bishop of Cedar Creek was a widower?
The conversation continued along the lines of farming, shepherding of human flocks, and other topics of common interest as Jerusalem refilled soup bowls and Nazareth brought the goody trays to the table. What a blessing it was to be surrounded by the wisdom and experience these three bishops had brought with them . . . a balm to her soul, after the way Hiram had condemned them when they hadn’t followed him to Higher Ground. It was such a delight to watch the men devour the cookies they’d baked, too. All too soon they were scooting back from the table.
“Can we send goodies home with you fellas?” Jerusalem asked. “It’d be our pleasure, after the help you’ve given our district today.”
Jeremiah’s dark eyes flashed with pleasure. “Jah, I’ll take some! Not that I promise they’ll all make it to Morning Star.”
Enos laughed until his bony shoulders shook. “You’ve got a bottomless pit for a stomach, Jeremiah. These days nothin’ I eat seems to stick. But I’d be happy to relieve Tom of the burden of having to force the rest of them down.”
“None for me, thanks,” Vernon said as he slipped into his coat. “Tom invited me to stay over, and by the looks of those huge snowflakes he’s a pretty fine weather forecaster. I’ll be back in a few, so don’t put those cookies away yet.”
A schoolgirl’s grin overtook Jerusalem’s face. Vernon was staying over! And wasn’t that the best
news she’d heard in a long, long while?


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Wanderers by Paul Stutzman

About the Book:
An Amish Love Story About Hope and Finding Home
Everything in God’s nature, Johnny observed, did what it was created to do. Everything, that is, except the human race. Johnny was born into an Amish family, into a long line of farmers and good businessmen. He is expected to follow the traditions of family and church as he grows to adulthood. But even as a boy, he questions whether he can be satisfied with this lifestyle. He wants “more” — more education, more travel, more opportunity.
His restlessness leads him down a dangerous road where too much partying and drinking result in heartbreaking consequences. He’s adrift, and no one seems to be able to help him find his direction.
Then he meets spunky Annie, who seems pure and lovely and devoted to her God. Her past, though, holds sin and heartbreak. She was a worm, she explains, but God has transformed her into a butterfly. Johnny falls hopelessly in love; and eventually he, too, finds the power of God to transform lives.
Settling down on the family farm, he forgets about the questions and the restlessness, thinking that he is happy and at home, at last.
But in a few short hours, tragedy changes his life forever, and he is again wondering… and wandering on a very long journey.
Entwined with Johnny and Annie’s story is the allegory of two Monarch butterflies, worms who have been transformed into amazing creatures specially chosen to carry out the miracle of the fourth generation. They, too, must undertake a long journey before they finally find home.
Purchase your copy at AMAZON.
My Review:
This is a very different type of Amish Novel.  I liked how it shows that the Amish aren't perfect and that they have struggles just like anyone else.  This is the story of Johnny and his coming of age, then he meets Annie.  She seems perfect, but she also has secrets.  They fall in love, but then tragedy strikes.  Annie is fascinated with Monarch butterflies and the butterflies play an important part in this story.  Johnny sets out on a journey to try to figure out his life.  This is a very well told story, but it is a little deep. 
I received a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.
About the Author:
Paul Stutzman was born in Holmes County, Ohio in an Amish family. His family left the Amish lifestyle soon after Paul was born. They joined a strict Conservative Mennonite Church where Paul was raised to fear God and obey all the rules the church demanded. Paul continued to live among and mingle with his Amish friends and relatives his entire life. Paul married a Mennonite girl and remained in the Amish community working and raising a family. After Paul lost his wife to cancer, he sensed a tug on his heart- the call to a challenge, the call to pursue a dream. With a mixture of dread and determination, Paul left his job, traveled to Georgia, and took his first steps on the 2,176 mile Appalachian Trail. What he learned during the next four and a half months changed his life-and can change yours too. After completing his trek Stutzman wrote Hiking Through—a book about this life changing journey.
In the summer of 2010 Stutzman again heeded the call for adventure and pedaled his bicycle 5,000 miles across America. He began his ride at the Northwest corner of Washington State and pedaled to Key West, Florida.  On his journey across America he encounters people in all circumstances, from homelessness to rich abundance. The people he meets touch his life profoundly. Stutzman writes about these encounters in his book Biking Across America.
Recently Stutzman released his first novel entitled The Wanderers. The Wanderers is a story about Johnny, a young Amish boy growing up in a culture he is not sure he wants to embrace. A young Amish girl named Annie wins his heart and life is great for a time. Entwined with Johnny and Annie’s story is the allegory of two Monarch butterflies, worms who have been transformed into amazing creatures specially chosen to carry out the miracle of the fourth generation. They, too, must undertake a long journey before they finally find home.
In addition to writing, he speaks to groups about his hiking and biking experiences and the lessons learned during these adventures. Stutzman resides in Berlin, Ohio and can be contacted through his website at or
Stutzman resides in Berlin, Ohio and can be contacted through his website at or 
Title: The Wanderers
Author: Paul Stutzman
Genre: Amish Fiction
Publisher: Carlisle Printing
Pages: 374
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0984644911
ISBN-13: 978-0984644919
First Chapter:
I was ten when I had my first taste of beer. A late start, to be sure, but I was never bothered much by peer pressure. My friends had all sampled the stuff two or three years before, but I had felt no desire or need. There was only one reason I drank on that hot August day. I was thirsty.
Finished with my morning chores, I started across the hayfield with an armful of boards ripped from the old washhouse. Previous generations had scrubbed and soaked and steamed in the one-room shack in front of our farmhouse; my parents, though, had upgraded to a new kerosene washer, and now the women worked in the coolness under the long front porch. An old kettle still hung above the brick fire pit, but the washhouse sagged like a tired old work horse.
My dad had assigned me the task of dismantling the washhouse. That was fine with me; I had plans for that scrap lumber. I wanted to enlarge the deer stand at the edge of the distant woods. The stand was my hideout, where I spent countless hours contemplating life. It was a haven for my wondering mind, and I called it my institution of higher learning.
Eight years of school at Milford Elementary, in the little village several miles east of our farm, were not enough for me. While most Amish children were happy to be finished with formal education, I wept when I could not attend the local high school.
The English students sometimes mocked us Amish as backwards farmers, but I enjoyed school, excelled in sports, and had the gift of gab. Although I was known as something of a "charmer," I never liked the word. It's true, I could talk myself into or out of anything. You do have to make the most of whatever talents God's given you.
The school of higher education that I did attend was built in a stately oak that stood sentinel at the edge of our woods. Two gnarled branches cradled my hideout, ten feet off the ground, overlooking the fields that my family had owned for generations. Years ago, my grandfather had secured several boards across the limbs and nailed short slabs up the oak's trunk, a ladder ascending to the platform. Over time, the trunk swallowed up most of the rungs, but edges still protruded far enough for deer hunters to clamber up and lie in wait for the quarry.
My first hunt with my dad and my brother was also my last. Finally, I was deemed old enough to go hunting with the men. I climbed the ladder and settled into waiting, tense with excitement. Very soon, a doe came through the woods, paused at the spring to drink, then walked slowly down the side of the ravine. One shot echoed through the quiet morning. We scampered down the ladder rungs and approached the deer, lying bleeding on the hillside. It struggled to its feet, took another tumble, and lay still.
My excitement vanished. I felt only sadness and pangs of remorse. The doe's brown eye was open, staring at me, asking, "Why? What did I do to deserve this?"
Dad had a knife in his hands; I knew what must come next. Backtracking, I was violently sick behind a bush. I was not meant to be a hunter, and no one would ever shoot another deer from that stand if I had any say at all.
I did have my say. Well, my mom did. Although Dad was the authority and power in our house, Mom often held the reins. With tears streaming down my face, I unloaded my sad description of the dying deer. "We can't shoot them anymore. We just can't."
Soon the NO HUNTING signs were posted, and the woods, deer stand, and all of God's nature on our 120 acres were mine.
Well, perhaps not quite everything fell under my protection. Every year, we butchered a pig, a horrible sacrifice for the betterment of our family. My dad and brother would select the offering. I always wondered how the selection was made, but I never asked. They'd grab the unlucky swine by the hind legs, lift it over the fence, and carry it away as it squealed in terror. As the surviving porkers looked on in great relief, I'd run to the house, up the stairs, and cover my head with my pillow. I'd hear the shot anyway.
While my family processed the departed, I'd venture to the pig pen. I knew each hog by distinguishing marks; and, in dread, I checked to see who was missing. Spotty had survived. Curly was still here. Snort made the cut. We would be eating Limpy. A wild dog or coyote had wriggled through the board fence one night and taken a bite out of Limpy. Our German shepherd, Biff, had heard the commotion and chased the intruder away before he could get a second bite. On the day of Limpy’s demise, I reminded myself that I must take caution; I must never injure myself in any way that might cause my own lameness.
My usual route from the washhouse to the deer stand followed the cow path leading from the barn to the pasture field and traveled twice a day by our herd. On this day, the hay field between the house and the woods had been mowed and I took advantage of this shorter route. I might have chosen the hay field even if the route were longer; as a ten-year-old, I drank in the sensory gifts of summer: the aroma of new mown hay, the sweetness of warm strawberries, the smell of an August rain on dusty ground.
"Johnny, go get us some Stroh's!" my older brother Jonas called. He and his friend Jacob were in the field, making hay. Jacob had been recruited to help my brother today because Dad was on a lumber buying trip, and the clouds warned there would be rain by tomorrow. I dropped my boards reluctantly and retraced my steps back to the farmhouse.
My great-grandparents had built this house over a spring, and the cool waters flowed through the basement, filling a concrete trough where my mom stored crocks of butter, fresh milk and cream, eggs, watermelon, and any kind of dish she was preparing for the next meal. Those amber bottles of Stroh's were chilling in a corner of the trough just inside the door. I grabbed two by the necks and rushed back outside, leaving a wet trail of spring water.
The Stroh’s stash belonged to Jonas. Dad was bishop of our Amish church, and I had never seen him drink beer. As a church leader, he was very much aware that anything misused, misread, or mistaken could affect his reputation and influence in the community.
Jonas, on the other hand, had no such reputation to protect. Sixteen, he had recently concluded his formal education and he knew exactly where his future lay. He was not yet a member of the church, but he would join in a few years, get married, and settle down right here in our valley. He had big plans to take over the sawmill that my dad ran as a part-time operation. I was the younger of Dad's sons; my father's hope was that I would be farming the Miller family land someday.
"You thirsty?" Jonas handed his half-empty bottle to me. I was thirsty. But that first taste was not good.
Still, that swallow in the hay field meant that now I was one of the men. I may have been a Miller boy, but now I was a Stroh's man.
Yes, I admit, many bottles of Stroh's beer would find their way to the deer stand in the years to come. For a while, it was not only my thinking stand, it was my drinking stand. More of a beer stand than a deer stand. Stroh's beer would get me into so much trouble; but it would also lead to meeting Annie. And then, for a short time, I had it all. I was an Amish man living the dream.
Until it was all taken from me.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

To Know You--Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel

About the book: Julia Whittaker's rocky past yielded two daughters, both given up for adoption as infants. Now she must find them to try to save her son.

Julia and Matt Whittaker's son has beaten the odds for thirteen years only to have the odds---and his liver---crash precipitously. The only hope for his survival is a "living liver" transplant, but the transplant list is long and Dillon's time is short. His two older half-sisters, born eighteen months apart to two different fathers, offer his only hope for survival.

But can Julia ask a young woman---someone she surrendered to strangers long ago and has never spoken with---to make such a sacrifice to save a brother she's never known? Can she muster the courage to journey back into a shame-filled season of her life, face her choices and their consequences, and find any hope of healing?

And what if she discovers in her own daughters' lives that a history of foolish choices threatens to repeat itself? Julia knows she's probably embarking on a fool's errand---searching for the daughters she abandoned only now that she needs something from them. But love compels Julia to take this journey. Can grace and forgiveness compel her daughters to join her?

In To Know You, Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel explore how the past creates the present . . . and how even the most shattered lives can be redeemed.

Purchase a copy:
My Review:
This is a very deep and moving story, it took me a while to finish it  because it is so emotional, I finished wiping tears from my eyes.  This is a story of a woman, Julia Whittaker, who gave up two daughter's, by two different fathers, for adoption.  She seeks them out because her son is dying from liver failure.  She finds them to see if they would be possible matches, and would be willing to donate part of their liver for Dillon.  First she finds Destiny, who lives in LA and has just broken up with her boyfriend.  She them goes to North Carolina, with Destiny in tow, to find Chloe, who she had named Hope.  Chloe is married to a very controlling man.  The two girls agree to get tested if Julia takes them to meet their birth fathers.  There is los of drama and a few mistakes on this journey, it is a journey of discovery and healing for all the characters.  I won't give away the ending, I'll just say again it left me in tears, but were they happy tears or not, I highly recommend you read this wonderfully captivating book to find out.  Great job!  I look forward to more!
I received a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.
About the authors: Shannon Ethridge is a best-selling author, speaker, and certified life coach with a master's degree in counseling/human relations from Liberty University. She has spoken to college students and adults since 1989 and is the author of 21 books, including the million-copy best-selling Every Woman's Battle series. She is a frequent guest on TV and radio programs and mentors aspiring writers and speakers through her BLAST Program (Building Leaders, Authors, Speakers & Teachers.)

Learn more about Shannon:

Kathryn Mackel is a best-selling author and acclaimed screenwriter for Disney and Fox. She was on the screenwriting team for Left Behind: The Movie, and Frank Peretti's Hangman's Curse. She is the acclaimed author of "The Surrogate", "The Departed", and "The Hidden" and resides in Boston, Massachusetts, with her husband.

Learn more about Kathryn:

Shannon Ethridge is celebrating the release of  To Know You (co-written by Kathryn Mackel), by giving away a $100 gift certificate to Lisa Leonard Designs and a personal coaching session, as well as throwing a Facebook Author Chat Party!


One winner will receive:

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 19th. Winner will be announced at the "To Know You" Facebook Author Chat Party on the 19th. Connect with Shannon and friends for an encouraging evening of fun chat, book club discussion, giveaways, and a chance to win a PERSONAL COACHING SESSION WITH SHANNON!

So grab your copy of To Know You and join Shannon on the evening of November 19th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)
Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by clicking JOIN at the event page. Spread the word — tell your friends about the giveaway and party via FACEBOOK or TWITTER or Pinterest and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on 11/19!

Granny Hooks A Crook--Julie Seedorf--Review and Guest Post


Granny Hooks A Crook (Fuchsia, Minnesota)
Book Details
File Size: 294 KB
Print Length: 200 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1939816122
Publisher: Cozy Cat Press (July 10, 2013)
Cozy MysterySynopsis
Granny leads a secret life in the small, unique community of Fuschia, Minnesota. It’s not just her all junk food diet, multiplying pets, or her shocking bedtime attire that makes Granny one in a million. No, Granny is an undercover cop, charged by “the Big Guy” (the town’s police chief) of preventing theft in local stores. Granny takes her job seriously and daily foils many shoplifters using her trusty spiked umbrella and amazing acting skills. When some startlingly brazen burglaries begin to occur that Granny can’t solve, along with mysteriously appearing bad guys, disappearing clerks, and misplaced Corvettes, Granny begins to wonder if she isn’t ready for the wrinkle farm. Maybe, it’s fortuitous when she accidentally-on-purpose falls in the lap of an attractive older gentleman who is soon roped into her wild adventures, as they try to figure out what’s happening in their little town.
My Review:
This was a really lite an whimsical story, I absolutely loved it.  If you are looking for a lite, quick, fun read, then this is definitely the book for you.  Granny is definitely not your typical "granny".  She likes to sleep in sexy lingerie and read Fifty Shades of Gray, all without her three children, Penelope, Starshine, and Thor, not knowing.  She lives in the town of Fuschia, MN.  This is just such a quirky and fun read.  But Granny is also works undercover for the stores in the town "hooking crooks".  Is she losing her mind and does she need to be sent to the wrinkle farm when she starts seeing a good looking young man that disappears and things that have been stolen from around town starts showing up at her house.  I recommend this book, it will lessen your stress, for sure.  Great job Julie, can't wait to read more about Granny and the whimsical town of Fuschia, MN.
I received a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

About The Author
Julie Seedorf owns her own computer repair business, but her secret undercover job is writing. Her column “Something About Nothing” for a Minnesota newspaper is about nothing, which is what we talk about most of the time, always with something underneath the conversation. Julie has been a wife, mother, grandmother, housewife, barmaid, salesperson, activity director, full time volunteer and more. Her motto is, “If you dream it, you can do it.” Her Fuchsia Minnesota, published by Cozy Cat Press is her first journey in her undercover career. Having lived in small communities in Minnesota all her life, she knows the richness and uniqueness that only a small town can bring and with a little humor and imagination, she transforms those experiences into her imaginary Fuchsia community.
Goodreads: Julie Seedorf,
A Book Excerpt 
Granny didn’t always like to get up in the morning. It seemed a waste of a good bed to get out of it so early in the morning. First, Granny would wallow in the warmth. She would squirm a little and enjoy the softness of the mattress. Granny would then open one eye to see if it was light yet. If it appeared that the sun was up, she would open the other eye very slowly, not wanting to get too excited. Getting up too fast always made her head spin.
Granny would then stick her big toe out of the blanket, trying to determine the weather. Her big toe was a good barometer. If it started turning blue, she knew it was cold and her toe was going to throb on and off for the day. If it stayed red, Granny knew that it would be a good day for her flip flops, even though she wasn’t supposed to be wearing them. Her kids harassed her about wearing her flip flops, something about not walking properly and being at risk of falling. She couldn’t make them understand that at her age she was always at risk for falling, so why not live dangerously in her flip flops.
Granny always looked around first before attempting the final lift out of her bed. She had to make sure there weren’t any kids or grandkids visiting before she threw off the covers. At her age it was easy to forget if her kids and grandkids had stayed over. Occasionally, she forgot they were there even before she climbed into bed. It didn’t bother her that her memory was a little foggy. It was a good excuse to use when she needed to get out of something she didn’t want to do, or if she got caught somewhere she wasn’t supposed to be.
Usually, if Granny remembered before she went to bed that her kids and grandkids stayed over, she would dress in her granny gown pajamas. It was what they expected of someone her age and she didn’t want to ruin their expectations. But when Granny was by herself, she occasionally slept in the nude and occasionally she wore her hot pink, silk shortie nightgown with red hearts on it. Or she might wear her purple leather PJ’s that stated Sexy Granny and I Know It.
Granny’s secret PJ’s always made her smile before she went to bed. It made the creaky body and the saggy skin feel better. She still felt like that sexy granny inside. Her mind never did keep up with her body.
There were times her kids would visit unexpectedly in the morning and have breakfast waiting for Granny when she stumbled into the kitchen from her warm bed. She could see the horror on their faces if they caught her in anything other than her granny pajamas. She would be sent to the wrinkle farm faster than she could lose her flip flops.

Guest Post:


I am not a list person. I should be. I have tried to be but I have failed. I am sure if you looked inside my head you would find those lists but you would have to put the list together, because the items on the list would be floating in all directions.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to make to do lists for each day. I had beEn multi-tasking and zipping from one task to another, trying to cover all the bases of my business, my writing, my household and taking care of me so that I stay healthy. There was a place on the list for phone calls, errands, correspondence, projects and miscellaneous tasks. I put this together on my computer so I could change it each day.

The first day I tried it, it worked very well.  I was able to check off everything on the list except for writing and prayer and meditation. The next few days the same thing happened. It appeared that this list was working except for those three items. Why was it so hard to get to those when I had been doing them in my chaotic days? There now was an order to my day.  A strange thing happened, I was having a harder time getting up in the morning when my alarm clock kitties would scratch on my door. I was having a harder time walking into my office. I was having a harder time answering my office phone (I own my own computer repair business).

Of course I knew, I was missing the important elements of my list, writing and meditation and prayer. For some strange reason, with this list each day that brought order to my life I didn’t feel like writing and I didn’t feel like praying the spontaneous prayers that often pop out of my mind. What was happening to me? I was organized but I couldn’t find anything. I was getting my office and business work done but I couldn’t come up with an idea for my weekly column. My house was cleaner, which made my husband happy, but the creative juices were gone. I had been driving myself crazy with my multi-tasking and my disorganization but there was life and energy in that craziness and now it was gone.

One of the reasons I felt I needed to do the list thing was the fact that at times I forgot to call people back. There were times I was paying my bills at the last minute in my fractured multi-tasking. There were times I forgot to eat which didn’t harm my weight any because the size 12’s became the size 10’s. But now in spite of the calm organization and clean office and house, I felt less peaceful and more anxious.

Then I read a quote by Tom Barret that says “Chaos in the world brings uneasiness, but it also allows the opportunity for creativity and growth.”  That was it. The chaos in my life that had me multi-tasking and doing different things at one time fed me. My creativity thrives in chaos.

For the most part of my adult life I followed what was expected of me and hid the inner creativity, because it wasn’t understood in my world. I had finally learned to quit hiding me, and I found the words, no matter how silly, flowing on paper with my books and my columns. I felt alive and accepted that not all people would like me, or my writing, or my crazy decorating techniques in my home. I will never have what most people call a tasteful home.

Chaos again rains in my home and office. I can find the work order I need in the middle of the pile. The words, ideas and prayers are flying out of my head. I warned my daughter one day when we were having lunch that I was a little distracted and to expect me to babble about one thing and then a different thing, because the creativity was steaming out of my brain. It’s my creativity. Others might call it silly. Others might not understand it. The things I do and write about might not sell but it doesn’t matter as long as I am experiencing life with imagination, joy and hope.

I am accepting that lists don’t work for me. They stifle something inside of me. I am accepting that this is who I am. It is who God made me to be and it is ok. There is room in this world for all of us.

I did buy a book of lists. It is called Lists to Live By, The Second Collection compiled by Alice Gray, Steve Stephens and John Van Diest.  I enjoy other people’s lists and this book. I enjoy it because they are not my lists and I can pick and choose which I read or like on any given day. I never follow a whole list, that would be too organized but I choose one or two that speak to my heart. There is one list in this book that I would follow. It  is called “10 Rules To Live By”. My favorite rule is number 1 and it is one thing on a list that I will follow every day. Number One: Count Your Blessings.