Friday, October 7, 2022

Anything but Plain by Suzanne Woods Fisher: More from Author, Review, & Giveaway!

 

About the Book

BookAnything But Plain

AuthorSuzanne Woods Fisher

GenreAmish 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?

Click here to get your copy!

About the Author

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.

My Thoughts

Anything but Plain by Suzanne Woods Fisher is a special Amish tale.  I thought the story was well-written with realistic, developed characters.  I liked returning to Stoney Ridge with its familiar characters (can be read as a standalone).  There are some amusing characters.  I would put Hank near the top of the list.  I can just imagine him with his loud voice (he always shouts).  Lydie Stoltzfus is a great character.  She is lighthearted, lively, and scattered.  Lydie has trouble staying focused and following through on things (starts one project and then goes off to another, leaving cupboard doors open, always late).  Lydie feels like a round peg being pushed into a square hole.  I thought the author did a wonderful job at showing how ADHD can affect a person's life.  I can tell the author did her research on ADHD.  It was interesting learning about the techniques that can help people with ADHD (something besides medication).  

I loved the humor scattered throughout the story.  Lydie’s grandmother is a force of nature.  People would rather flee their home than deal with her.  I enjoyed learning about organic farming and the different types of produce.  There were some varieties that I had never heard of before.  I like that the author showed how pesticides can affect people (an example is individuals with asthma).  The romance progressed slowly which suited the story.  There are a couple of different storylines in the book involving various characters in Stoney Ridge.  It makes for a more engaging book.  The ending left me with a smile on my face.  I appreciated that there was a cast of characters at the beginning of the book. Anything but Plain was an entertaining story.  I hope this is not our last visit to Stoney Ridge.  Anything but Plain is a diverting tale with a speedy scooter, an undulating pasture, a meddling Mammi, a fleeing family, missing magazine pages, a big blast, and a surefire solution.

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Suzanne is giving away the grand prize of a $50 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book.  Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click here to enter.  Good Luck!

Are you ready to read Anything but PlainAnything but Plain is available from Amazon*.  You can find Suzanne Woods Fisher's other novels here.  Thank you for joining me today.  I will return on Monday with The Story of Love by Beth Wiseman.  It is the second book in The Amish Bookstore Novels.  I hope that you have a relaxing weekend.  We all need time to decompress.  Do not forget to enter the giveaway and leave a comment for an extra entry.  Take care and Happy Reading!


Kris

The Avid Reader 

Blog Stops


The Avid Reader, October 7

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, October 7

She Lives To Read, October 8

The Write Escape, October 8

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, October 9

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, October 9

Vicky Sluiter, October 9

lakesidelivingsite, October 10

Texas Book-aholic, October 10

Lighthouse-Academy, October 11


Simple Harvest Reads, October 11 (Guest Review from Marilyn Ridgway)

Locks, Hooks and Books, October 11

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, October 12

Inklings and notions, October 12

Southern Gal Loves to Read, October 12

Library Lady’s Kid Lit, October 13

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, October 13

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, October 14

Blogging With Carol, October 14

Elly Gilbert, October 14

deb’s Book Review, October 15

For Him and My Family, October 15

Holly’s Book Corner, October 15

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, October 16

Jeanette’s Thoughts, October 16

Splashes of Joy, October 16

Empowermoms, October 17

SusanLovesBooks, October 17

Mary Hake, October 17

Bigreadersite, October 18

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, October 18

Blossoms and Blessings, October 18

Cats in the Cradle Blog, October 19

Pause for Tales, October 19

Spoken from the Heart, October 19

Little Homeschool on the Prairie, October 20

Cover Lover Book Review, October 20

The Adventures of a Travelers Wife, October 20

*This post contains affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Ode to Murder by Nicole Dieker

 Ode to Murder

Book Summary

Join Larkin Day on her first mystery!

Larkin Day just moved back home—at 35 years old. With no money, no job prospects, and nowhere to live except her mother's guest bedroom, Larkin is pretty sure this is the worst thing that's ever happened to her.

Then her mother signs her up for community choir.

Then the accompanist asks her out—and stands her up.

Then he turns up dead.
Larkin didn't kill him, of course—but she quickly learns that there are plenty of other women who might have wanted him gone. Although Larkin never planned on becoming an amateur detective, she finds herself getting more and more involved with the death of Harrison Tucker—while making new friends, setting her mother up with a local police officer, tackling six figures of student loan debt, discovering the benefits of protected bike lanes, and learning what ingredients are (and aren't) in a scotcheroo.
Scotcheroo
A fast-paced, cleverly plotted mystery that includes both Beethoven and baking, Ode to Murder is for cozy fans who have been hoping to find a Millennial-aged amateur detective who practices old-fashioned sleuthing in a world of smartphones and social media.

My Thoughts

Ode to Murder by Nicole Dieker is the debut of A Larkin Day Mysteries.  Larkin Day has moved back home to figure out her life. Larkin’s mother signs her up to participate in a local community choir.  One evening the accompanist, Harrison fails to return to rehearsal after the break.  At the end of the evening, Larkin finds Harrison dead.  Larkin decides to investigate Harrison’s death in the hopes it might help her get her life on track (makes total sense).  Larkin with help from her new friend Anni sets out to get answers.  

I struggled to finish Ode to Murder.  It seemed to go on forever.  I was not a fan of Larkin Day.  She is thirty-five and has no clue what to do with her life.  Larkin is supposed to be working on her dissertation, but she spends more time lounging then writing.   The murder happens early in the book.  The mystery progresses slowly.  Larkin questions her fellow choir members on what has not been ruled a murder.  She gets help from fellow choir member Anni.  In the end, Larkin identifies the killer (if you make it that far).  There are clues to help readers solve the crime ahead of the reveal. Larkin makes friends along the way, finds some romance, and, maybe, her purpose in life.  After the crime is solved, the chapters following are lethargic (a good cure for insomnia).  It would have been better with peppy pacing.  I can tell the author is a musician from the many musical references.  I felt that the characters lacked development.  It was difficult to know the age of the secondary characters.  Their clothes, though, are described in detail.  I believe Ode to Murder is supposed to be amusing, but I failed to find the humor.  There is a lot of repetition especially about Larkin failing to notice details.  As you can tell, Ode to Murder was not for me.  Ode to Murder is a midwestern cozy mystery with a community choir, a departed pianist, mounds of debt, cups of coffee, and a caught killer. 

Ode to Murder is available from Amazon*.  While Ode to Murder was not for me, I suggest you obtain a sample to judge for yourself.  You can find Nicole Dieker's other novels here.  Thank you for joining me today.  I have been busy since Hurricane Ian cleaning up the garden, putting the awnings back up, and other clean up tasks.  I was very lucky compared to those who live south of me.  Tomorrow I am a stop on the Celebrate Lit Tour for Anything but Plain by Suzanne Woods Fisher.  I hope that you have a happy day.  Take care and Happy Reading!


Kris

The Avid Reader 

*This post contains affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

A Match Made at Christmas by Patricia Davids: Q&A with the Author, Review, & Excerpt!

 A Match Made at Christmas

Book Summary

USA Today bestselling author Patricia Davids continues her Amish romance series set in Harts, Haven, Kansas, with this emotional story about a cancer survivor and a grieving widower who are brought together at Christmas by the matchmakers of Harts Haven who have a little help from the hero's daughters.

With Christmas just around the corner, an Amish cancer survivor moves to Harts Haven for a fresh start as the new schoolteacher. She wants to escape the pity that she felt from the people back hom eand throw herself into her new job. She's worried her illness might return at any moment and isn't looking for love. Neither is a local widower with two daughters. The loss of his wife devestated him, and he never wants to feel that kind of pain again. The matchmakers of Harts Haven set their sights on the pair, by having them work together on a living Nativity for the school Christmas program. With three elderly matchmakers, a school full of rambunctious children, a handsome widower, rowdy sheep and one cantankerous donkey, Harts Haven is about to witness an unforgettable Christmas Eve where two unlikely people discover healing love is the true Christmas gift.

About the Author
USA Today best-selling author Patricia Davids was born in Kansas. After forty years as an NICU nurse, Pat switched careers to become an inspirational writer. She now enjoys laid back life on a Kansas farm, spending time with her family and playing with her dog Sugar, who thinks fetch should be a twenty-four hour a day game. When not throwing a ball, Pat is happily dreaming up new stories where love and faith conquer all.

Author Links
Author Q & A

Are any of the holiday scenes in this book inspired by your own holiday traditions?

Funny you should ask. My brother puts on a living nativity for his church with sometimes hilarious results. I’ve added a few of them to my story.

What are the key elements of a holiday romance?

I think the holiday must have some special significance to the character. For teacher Sophie, she is forced to come up with a school Christmas program on short notice at a new school. The event is the highlight of the Amish community and much anticipated. Is she up to the task? As things go wrong, can Karl help save the day?

Is it difficult to come up with a specific Holiday themed novel every year?

Oh my goodness yes. Amish Christmas themed stories are hugely popular, but the Amish don’t celebrate the way we do. No trees or lights, only small gift exchanges. Portraying the Christmas spirit really comes from inside the characters.

Do you decorate your writing room when you are writing a holiday book?

No, the Christmas story I’m working on is usually due 6 to 8 months before the holiday. My office is where I work but I do bling out the rest of home for the holidays.

 What is the best gift you've ever given? Recipient's reaction?

I hid clues around my home and let my daughter and my grandchildren search for them in a scavenger hunt. When all the clues were gathered, they assembled them into a picture of a fishing lodge in Montana. Then I sent them on an all-expense paid road trip the following summer. They were thrilled and talked about making the trip for weeks.

 What is the best gift you've ever received?

The year I moved back to the farm to take care of my elderly dad after my mom passed away, I got to spend many hours with my youngest brother who managed the farm for our dad. Being eight years older, I had moved away before he left grade school. It was wonderful getting to know him. That Christmas he gave me a gold and silver heart-shaped necklace to thank me for taking care of our father. I was overwhelmed. He’s not a hugger but he got hugged that night.

What’s next for you?

Amazingly, another Amish Christmas story. Christmas on His Doorstep releases on November 29th from Harlequin’s Love Inspired line. 

My Thoughts

A Match Made at Christmas by Patricia Davids is a heartwarming Amish tale.  It is the second novel in The Matchmakers of Harts Haven series.  It can be read as a standalone.  However, I recommend reading the entertaining The Inn at Harts Haven.  I thought A Match Made at Christmas was well-written with steady pacing.  Rose Yoder has that gleam in her eye again.  Sophie Eicher and her sister, Joanna are new to Harts Haven.  Sophie has been hired as the new schoolteacher.  She wanted to get away from her hometown because she could not stand the looks of pity.  Sophie is a breast cancer survivor.  She beat the odds, but Sophie does not believe it.  She wants to make sure her sister, Joanna is happily settled before she dies.  Rose comes up with a clever scheme to match Sophie with widower Karl Graber.  Karl has two young daughters as well as his farm and the hardware store.  He needs help, but Karl is not ready to open his heart again.  This was a cute story.  There is some repetition of details.  

I enjoyed catching up with Abby and Joseph Troyer from The Inn at Harts Haven.  I liked the characters in this story.  There is a close-knit community.  They help each other out as well as spread gossip.  The school Christmas pageant was entertaining.  I liked the theme and how they went about creating the props they needed.  It was wonderful how the play captured the true meaning of Christmas.  Love has the power to heal if you let it.   That is what we get to experience in A Match Made at Christmas.  There is humor sprinkled throughout that will have you chuckling.  I am looking forward to the next story in The Matchmakers of Harts Haven seriesA Match Made at Christmas is a lively Christmas tale with a meddling matchmaker, galloping goats, a delightful dog, burned bread, a determined donkey, pageant problems, and a cozy Christmas.  

Excerpt

“Oh, Karl. Yoo-hoo!”

Karl Graber cringed at the sound of Rose Yoder calling his name. He was in no mood to deal with her this morning.

After burning the oatmeal at breakfast, he discovered his renter had moved out in the night without giving notice or paying his back rent. Now Karl was going to be late getting to the store because his buggy horse was limping.

He pretended he hadn’t heard Rose. Maybe the elderly Amish woman who claimed to be the most successful matchmaker in Harts Haven would go pester some other poor fellow.

Bent over Checker’s front foot, Karl noticed that a stone lodged between the horse’s steel shoe and his hoof was the gelding’s problem.

“Hallo, Karl! I must speak with you.”

The tenacity of the eighty-four-year-old romance peddler was another difficulty Karl had to face this morning.

“I’m not interested in meeting your latest hopeful,” he muttered under his breath.

If the stubborn stone would come out, he could be on his way before the elderly woman reached the end of the block and crossed the wide street.

“Daed, Granny Rose is calling you.” His six-year-old daughter, Rachel, stood up and waved. Rose wasn’t related to Karl, but due to her advanced age most of the children in Harts Haven called her Granny.

“She’s coming this way,” Clara informed him from the front seat of the open buggy. His ten-year-old daughter wasn’t any more excited to see Rose than Karl was. She suspected the same thing he did. Rose was on a matchmaking mission.

“Hallo, Granny Rose,” Rachel shouted happily. “We’re taking our puppies to the store so someone can buy them. Would you like to see them?”

The offending stone popped loose. Karl dropped Checker’s hoof. “Got to get the store open, Rose. Can’t take time to visit.”

When he spun around, it was already too late. She had reached the buggy ahead of him. How did someone her age move so fast? She didn’t even look winded.

“Guder mariye, Karl. I’m so glad I caught you. There is a chill in the air this morning, isn’t there?”

It was the second week of November. Of course the air was cool. Rose hadn’t intercepted him for idle chitchat. He moved to step around her since she was blocking the buggy door. “Customers will be waiting for me.”

Rose didn’t budge. Other than picking her up and setting her aside, he had no hope of leaving until she finished having her say. He resigned himself to hearing who she thought would be perfect for him this time. As if any woman could take the place of his Nora.

“Did you find us a new mother?” Rachel’s hopeful tone stabbed his heart. Rachel was too young to remember much about the mother who died when she was three. She only knew other children had both mothers and fathers, and she wanted the same thing.

Clara scowled at her sister. “We don’t need a new mother. Ours is in Heaven. No one can replace her.”

Clara understood. She was old enough to remember what Nora had been like. A sweet, gentle, bright and loving woman. The world was a darker place without her.

Rose’s cheerful expression softened with sympathy. “I’m still looking for someone special to join your family. Clara is right. She won’t be your mother. Instead, she will be your stepmother, but she will love you and take care of you as if you were her own.”

Rachel sighed. “I hope you find her soon.”

“That’s enough, Rachel,” Karl said. “What do you want, Rose?”

“I’m here to tell you about the new teacher. She arrived yesterday. She and her sister are staying at the inn for the time being. They are Grace Sutter’s nieces from the Amish side of her family.”

Grace was another elderly widow, Old Order Mennonite, and co-owner of the Harts Haven Inn along with Rose and Rose’s widowed daughter, Susanna King. The trio were all fond of meddling. A single man stood little chance of remaining unattached in this Amish community unless he avoided the widows. Rose’s knowing smile put Karl on his guard.

Rachel clapped her hands. “Yay, the new teacher is here. Now I can go back to school and be in the Christmas program. I hope I get to be an angel like Thea and Miriam Bachman last year. Their mother made the most beautiful wings for them.”

Rose grinned. “Your teacher’s name is Sophie Eicher. Her sister is Joanna. They are lovely young women.”

“Also single and hoping to find husbands in Harts Haven. I know what you’re doing, Rose. Not interested!” If his cutting tone didn’t drive his point home, maybe his scowl would.

Rose puffed up like an angry little hen. “Don’t take that tone with me, Karl Graber. For shame.”

He was thirty-two years old, but she made him feel like an errant toddler. “I’m sorry.”

She inclined her head. “You are forgiven. I stopped to tell you we are hosting a welcome party at the inn on Saturday so folks can meet Sophie and her sister. Would you kindly spread the word?”

He eyed her suspiciously. Where was the catch? “Sure. What time?”

“We’ll start at noon, but folks can come and go as they please.” She turned to his daughters. “I know you girls must be excited to go back to school.”

A Match Made at Christmas is available from Amazon*, BookshopBarnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, and Harlequin.  The first book in The Matchmakers of Harts Haven series is The Inn at Harts Haven.  Patricia Davids has Christmas on His Doorstep coming out on November 29 and it can be preordered from Amazon.  You can follow Patricia Davids on Amazon to receive an email when she has a new book release.  Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my latest review.  Tomorrow I am sharing my thoughts on Ode to Murder by Nicole Dieker.  It is A Larkin Day Mystery.  I hope that you have a peaceful day.  Take care and Happy Reading!

Kris

The Avid Reader 

*This post contains affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.