Ivy Zook is Old Order Amish and is tired of milking cows when what she really wants is to leave her old life behind and get her party planning business off the ground. But it’s hard to build her business when she’s stuck without internet and other modern tools. Even worse, if she leaves too soon, she’s afraid she’ll ruin her sister, Holly’s wedding.
When a car crashes into Greene’s Pharmacy, where Holly works, things get even worse. The driver is Arlan, a Swartzentruber (ultra-conservative) Amish, and his sister Magda, who is very ill. Arlan and Magda are hiding a secret, but he’s determined to keep his sister safe, even if it means staying on the Zook’s dairy farm and working. Arlan wants to return to his home and Ivy wants to leave hers, but soon they realize what home really means.
I must admit, I had never heard of Swartzentruber Amish—I didn’t even realize the Amish had more sects than Amish/Old Order Amish, so this was an interesting read just for that reason alone. But the characters in this novel are wonderful, and I loved the journeys they all took: Ivy, Arlan, Magda, and even Holly (I think I liked her strength, courage, and faith the best). A wonderful read!
Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times and CBA best-selling author who writes Amish fiction. A Christmas Haven is one of her newest releases.
(Galley courtesy of WaterBrook via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Christiana Kurtz loves to bake but using her family’s kitchen to run her roadside bake stand is a bit hectic—and customers stop by the house even when the bake stand is closed. When her mother encourages her to move her stand to the local marketplace, Christiana agrees. She’s eager to spend time with her cousins, have more room—and a little bit of freedom.
Jeffrey Stoltzfus has the leather and woodcraft shop next to Christiana’s bake shop. He opened his shop while still reeling from a personal tragedy, and he knows he’ll never get over it. Now his shop is failing, and the crowds for the bake shop are blocking him even more. Jeffrey’s never been good with words, and everything comes out all wrong when he tries to talk to Christiana about a solution.
Eventually the two become friends, but when Christiana’s father makes a surprise visit to the marketplace one day and realizes Jeff uses electricity for his personalization machine, he forbids Christiana from speaking to Jeff again. Between that and the fire in the marketplace, there are far too many obstacles for Jeff and Christy to overcome on their own.
I enjoyed The Bake Shop so much and can’t wait to read more stories in the series. I’m fascinated by Amish romances—and this one was sweet, simple, yet complex. The characters struggle with their pasts, their families, their insecurities, and their culture, resulting in a compelling and uplifting story.
Amy Clipston was born in New Jersey but has lived in Virginia Beach and North Carolina. The Bake Shop is her newest novel, the first in the Amish Marketplace series.
(Galley courtesy of Zondervan via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
In 2161, the world changed. The first chimera appeared, and a year later, twelve billion people were dead. Those that remained called it the Reckoning, and as they struggled to survive in their hostile new world—the World That Is—they became different. More withdrawn. Less tolerant of anyone who was different, anyone who might harbor the Nothing within themselves, bringing danger to all inside the walls that encircle their villages.
Root is the daughter of a Weaver—a village guardian—and her blindness isn’t the only thing that sets her apart. So does her curiosity, her questions about everything around her. For the tradition-bound people she knows, that is her worst offense. Until one day Root hears a voice no one else hears, and soon she’s on a journey to find out the truth about herself, her world, and what happened in the Reckoning that shapes who she is now.
It took me a little bit to get into The Nothing Within. Dystopian fiction set in Amish country? I’ve never even considered the idea, and it kept me hooked. The world here is so unique that it kept my attention, even when I was a bit confused early on. Root is a fascinating character. Her blindness doesn’t stop her, and even gives her more abilities than she’d otherwise have. This is a great read for anyone who just wants to settle into a longer story and get to know a new world.
Andy Giesler lives in Wisconsin. The Nothing Within is his debut novel.
(Galley provided by Humble Quill LLC in exchange for an honest review.)