The Week: 18th – 24th November

Spring Sunset Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 15th November 2019 Sky Nature

Bushfire Sunset Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 21st November 2019 Sky Sun Garden Nature

Dust Storm Drought Tuggeranong Valley Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney Friday 22nd November 2019 Smoke Haze

Our crazy weather in three images:

  1. Our usual late-spring sky.
  2. Sunset with smoke from all the bushfires ravaging Australia at the moment.
  3. There should be mountains clearly visible, but after the fires came the dust storm on Friday. It covered huge parts of eastern Australia.

It’s a little hard to not think we’re in the middle of some apocalypse at the moment, with disaster after disaster …

Jane Austen’s Emma

Emma_poster Jane AUsten 2020

Romance.com.au Christmas Competition

Romance.com.au Christmas Competition 2019

Cover Love

The Hope Book 2 in The Amish of Cedar Grove series. Coming in December from Author Patricia Davids

The Week: 18th – 24th September

Spring Flowers Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 21st September 2017 Garden Nature Red

Spring in Canberra

Mostly gorgeous week here. We had temperatures up to 30 degrees, which makes it nearly ten degrees warmer than Barcelona a couple of weeks ago. The difference? In Barcelona everyone dresses for summer. In Canberra a lot of people dress like it’s mid-winter. People are weird.

We booked a group family trip to Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains this week. We’ll be going over New Year. It will be summer here, so hopefully the mountains won’t be too snowy at that time of year!

Yesterday the highway between Canberra (as in Australia’s capital city) and Sydney (as in Australia’s biggest city) was closed because of a bushfire. We knew people who had to turn around and come back to Canberra.

In September.

Just after winter.

We also had the hottest September day in history, and they are predicting a catastrophic bushfire season (yes, here “bushfire season” is actually a thing) for us. But – hey – climate change doesn’t exist…?!

Floriade is in full swing, but I haven’t been this year (so far). I really need to go earlier one year before half the flowers have died!

New (AWFUL!) cover for Lisa Kleypas

My review of Amish Christmas Twins by Patricia Davids

Hunger Games and Twilight are getting theme park lands in South Korea

Truth?

Pride and Prejudice Anniversary

Amish Christmas Twins by Patricia Davids

Amish Christmas Twins Christmas Twins by Patricia Davids

The Widower’s Christmas Wish

With Christmas just around the corner, widow Willa Chase will do anything to retain custody of her twin girls and unborn baby–even if it means escaping to her childhood Amish home. After her grandfather turns her away, Willa finds herself stranded at the home of blacksmith John Miller. A widower, John buries himself in work–until Willa’s vibrant twins become impossible to ignore. And before long, John is smitten with their beautiful mother, too. But when Willa’s past secrets are revealed, will they prevent John’s Christmas wish for a happily-ever-after from coming true?

Amish Christmas Twins: Christmas Twins by Patricia Davids

Yes, the Christmas books are now out!

Due to my aversion to books with kids on the cover, I skipped this one initially – and then noticed it was written by Patricia Davids, who I consider to be one of Harlequin’s best authors, across all of their lines.

I am glad I read this one. Davids focuses more on Amish culture than their religion, so her books are interesting reads for Christian and secular readers alike. She also knows this world inside-out, and it shows in the detail she includes about the world the characters live and work in.

It was also interesting to have a heroine who was dragged out of an Amish lifestyle as a teen, and so returns as someone from a totally different culture. I liked hero and heroine, and I liked that there were characters rediscovering – or just discovering (in the case of the twins) – the Amish lifestyle.

This was one of the better Amish-themed books I’ve read, with so much more to it than kids or Christmas. But then I have enjoyed everything I have read by this author.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Amish Witness by Diane Burke

The Amish Witness by Diane Burke

After witnessing the murder of her best friend, Elizabeth Lapp flees to the Amish community she left years ago, hoping the killer won’t find her. But the murderer follows Elizabeth, trapping her in her family’s barn, and she’s sure she won’t survive—until an Amish man rushes to save her. As the attacker runs off, Elizabeth sees her rescuer is none other than Thomas King, the handsome farmer she left behind with her dreams and her heart. Now widowed with two small children, Thomas vows to keep her safe…despite not being ready to forgive her. And suddenly, the man whose love she longs for—but can’t allow herself to accept—is all that’s standing between her and a cold-blooded killer.

The Amish Witness by Diane Burke

This book has a great opening scene – just as described in the blurb, but then it stalls a bit. The heroine is attacked when she returns to her Amish home; the hero rescues her.

And then? After nearly being murdered by an intruder who has already killed another woman? What does everyone do?

Well, they go about their morning chores for hours, like there isn’t a murderer on the property, before sitting down to a meal and a chat! No contacting the police. No trying to hunt down a murderer. No worrying he might still be around. No warning other people.

I was VERY confused!

My thought process when it came to The Amish Witness was: I want to read something historical, but I’m all out of review books. Amish people act like it’s three or four hundred years earlier – close enough! I’m heading overseas and don’t have time for a long book; this one is short.

So I went with it.

The writing is solid, but the characters make no sense. You don’t react to a murder by just getting on with your day. And – surely – even Amish people see how crazy it is to simply say: “God will look after us. If we die, it’s because He willed it.”

In the end I needed the characters to act like actual human beings with human thought processes, and I felt that instead they were acting in ways that made them fall into place with the plot the author had already planned.

Good writing, but nonsensical behaviour from everyone.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Second Chance Amish Bride (Brides of Lost Creek #1) by Marta Perry

Caring for her late cousin’s young kinder is Jessie Miller’s duty–even if it means seeing their father again. Years ago, she thought Caleb King might be her husband–until he met her cousin and Jessie’s dream was cut short. Laid up with a broken leg and a demanding dairy farm, Caleb needs her. But Caleb wants no woman around…and no reminder of the wife who abandoned her family before her death. Especially since he fears Jessie will throw a wrench in his plan to remain a single dad. She’s gentle and kind, and if Caleb isn’t careful, she may be just what his little Amish family needs.

Second Chance Amish Bride (Brides of Lost Creek #1) by Marta Perry

This is a well-written, quick little Amish romance. Harlequin’s Christian line makes the most sense when the characters are Amish; the occasional praying is completely appropriate and doesn’t happen at odd times.

I liked the heroine, who had thought she might have married the hero years earlier, but because she wasn’t as pretty or immediately appealing, he married her cousin instead. I liked that the hero had to completely change his views on a lot of things, and see what he should have known all along.

I didn’t find the children too irritating or cutesy, but perhaps the little boy was a bit too advanced for his young age. However, they felt like real characters, not accessories, and had their own personalities.

Really, the only thing I didn’t love was that the characters finished half their sentences with ‘ain’t so’ – it might be accurate, but they said it a lot!

It has been a while since I’ve read much Amish-themed stuff, and Second Chance Amish Bride is a good example of why these books can be good little comfort reads.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

An Amish Match (Amish Hearts #2) by Jo Ann Brown

An Amish Match (Amish Hearts #2) by Jo Ann Brown

A Convenient Wedding

With a baby on the way, a toddler son to care for and a run-down farm, Amish widow Rebekah Burkholder is worried for her family’s future. So when a kind, hardworking Amish widower with three children proposes marriage for sensible reasons, Rebekah accepts. She’ll oversee Joshua Stoltzfus’s household, be a loving mother to his children and try to reach his rebellious teenager. Joshua will make a wonderful father to her young son and the little one soon to be born. But as Rebekah unexpectedly falls for her new husband, dare she hope that Joshua will reopen his heart to love, too?

An Amish Match (Amish Hearts #2) by Jo Ann Brown

This is a nice little Amish story that tackles the issue of domestic violence – something I have not read about in this subgenre before. I like Jo Ann Brown’s writing style, and didn’t find the book overly religious. It did, however, need another couple of chapters at the end because the story cut out before the issues were resolved.

Once again, I say these books make being Amish look like a curse – everyone is widowed in their twenties! I know it’s a good way to create some drama, but who would want to be Amish – or get married – if you have a fifty percent chance of being dead before your thirtieth birthday?!

That aside, I thought the balance between the relationship and the family aspects was good. Sometimes in these books so much time is given to the children that the author forgets they are writing for the romance genre.

I don’t know if it’s just that I’m more familiar with Amish culture now, but I thought we were eased in the world in a way that makes the book accessible for newbies.

It might have been nice if the big secrets were revealed just a little bit earlier in the book, because there weren’t many pages left to deal with the domestic violence issue, but at least we were given a realistic amount of time for the characters to fall in love.

I think this was one of the better Amish books I’ve read so far.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 11th – 17th January

Friday Summer Sunset Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 15th January 2016 Nature

Friday sunset in Canberra

My computer died! I have two new devices to set up and learn now (tablet and laptop). I lasted 1.5 days with Windows 8 and the stupid kiddies’ coloured box start menu. After a lot of swearing and a few tantrums I upgraded to Windows 10. Now I’m almost in the 21st century!

I have lost some important documents, but am still hoping to recover them.

This week was mostly enormously hot, and then it rained one day. There were emergency and flood warnings (for thee towns surrounding our city), but in the end we didn’t get much more than a sprinkle! The river in Queanbeyan, where I have always had family, regularly floods. It’s scary for us because our Ukrainian Catholic church (that my family both helped build and provided the chandelier above the altar for) is on the banks of the river.

It was Ukrainian New Year this week, but we celebrated a day late because of stuff.

Excited about in 2016

 Marrying Winterborne (2016) by Lisa Kleypas

My review of Amish Homecoming by Jo Ann Brown

Amish Homecoming by Jo Ann Brown

My review of The Clandestine Betrothal by Alice Chetwynd Ley

 The Clandestine Betrothal by Alice Chetwynd Ley

My review of An Unexpected Wish (A Lady’s Wish #1) by Eileen Richards

 An Unexpected Wish (A Lady's Wish #1) by Eileen Richards

A whole new level of awful…

The Devil in Winter Lisa Kleypas US Cover Stepback

For the Outlander fans…

 Too Much Frank in Outlander New Poster

Amish Homecoming by Jo Ann Brown

Amish Homecoming by Jo Ann Brown

Ten years ago, Amish quiltmaker Leah Beiler and her twin brother left their community and family without a word. Now she’s finally come home—with her orphaned young niece. Leah has much to explain to so many, including Ezra Stoltzfus. Before she left, she dreamed of marrying the handsome dairy farmer. But now that she’s lived among the English and is raising a child who knows nothing of Amish ways, Ezra worries she’ll leave again. Leah will have to prove to Ezra that her future is in Paradise Springs—and with him—forever.

Amish Homecoming by Jo Ann Brown

I read somewhere recently that the reason people are attracted to Amish fiction is that it’s all about entering another world. Just like historical romances or paranormal fiction, there’s a whole different set of rules, which makes reading feel like an escape.

What makes Amish Homecoming interesting is that it’s not just about a woman returning to the Amish community, but also about a young girl joining the community for the first time. One thing that drives me insane about Amish fiction is the way the modern world is made out to be an awful place, but in this one I think there were only two offhand comments implying that.

Overall, I think it was handled well.

This is quite a simple story, as many Amish books are, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. I like this author’s voice and I liked the characters. The romance was believable and the girl’s gradual acceptance of her new lifestyle was written realistically.

I think Jo Ann Brown is one of the better writers I’ve come across in this subgenre.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

 

An Amish Year: Four Amish Novellas by Beth Wiseman

An Amish Year Four Amish Novellas by Beth Wiseman

An Amish Year: Four Amish Novellas by Beth Wiseman

I have no idea what that exclamation mark is doing up there ^^ but I can’t get rid of it!

This was a solid if not spectacular collection of novellas, all a little bit different, including one set in 1957. The stories are not connected as far as I know, so can be read with long gaps between them.

Every author has a different take on Amish culture, which I suppose is because every Amish community is different. It’s funny, for example, how in some books the characters have phones and in others they’re completely banned.

I’ve noticed the average Amish fiction author’s favourite trope is the young widow or widower. Who would want to be Amish if half the population regularly dies in their twenties?! I’m guessing this is NOT a fact!

I do like that Amish fiction allows different kinds of heroes. If you read romance, it can get tiring with every single man looking and acting exactly the same.

One thing I noticed very quickly was that the author had a few expressions that kept being repeated. All authors have these, but I couldn’t figure out why all the characters – all ages and genders – kept “scratching their forehead” before talking. Who does that?

Rooted in Love

Rosemary Lantz is doing her best to run her family’s household. She excels at all her tasks except one: gardening. Saul Petersheim has pursued Rosemary for years, but Rosemary keeps turning him down. What Saul doesn’t know is that she has good reason—something no one can know—especially not him.

This first novella was interesting, and right at the start I thought I’d guessed the big drama that broke our hero and heroine up when they were teenagers. However I got it wrong. I was expecting something MUCH bigger, and in the end, when the Big Misunderstanding was revealed, I wanted to slap the heroine for her stupidity!

At one point, hero and heroine’s father bump into each other in the street, and somehow this is a bad enough accident to put people in the hospital with serious injuries. This was utterly unbelievable! Maybe they should have had a buggy accident instead.

There seem to be a lot of Amish books where a poor young guy is pursuing a woman who outwardly shows no interest in him. I do find it makes the characters hard to like sometimes.

A Love for Irma Rose

The year is 1957, and young Irma Rose has a choice to make. Marry the man who loves her? Or go after Jonas, the high-spirited, yet noncommittal man her heart loves?

The second novella, the one set in the 50s, was the sweet one with the best character relationships.

Amish life has barely changed from then to now, so it’s only when the characters mix with the rest of the community that you notice the different time period!

I did like the characterisation, and the way our hero was so sure from the outset who and what he wanted in life, and that he went for it against the odds. This was my favourite of the four – by far.

Patchwork Perfect

Eli Byler has been a widower for two years when he chooses to make a fresh start in Paradise, Pennsylvania. Eli’s children are determined to keep their family the way it is, but they aren’t in Paradise long before the available ladies begin to show an interest in Eli.

As Eli juggles the admiration of two women, he meets Miriam Fisher—the most unconventional Amish woman he’s ever met. She doesn’t fit the mould for what Eli is looking for, but it isn’t long before Eli realizes that Miriam is everything he wants. But with two children constantly trying to sabotage his efforts, will he ever be happy again?

The third novella was much more about family than romance. It’s about dealing with the realities of being a teenager, no matter what culture you’re in, and it’s about nine thousand Amish widows and widowers (seriously, stay away from an Amish marriage; it will only last a couple of years and then one of you will die!).

I enjoyed it. It was my second favourite, even if the relationship came out of nowhere.

When Christmas Comes Again

Katherine knows the first Christmas without Elias will be hard for her and the children. But when a mysterious Englischer appears with photographs of her late husband, Katherine begins to wonder what other blessings Christmas could have in store.

The fourth novella is entirely different. It’s a bit of a mystery, and again focuses on teen relationships as much as adult relationships. Concluding the “Amish year”, this is a winter story, and is about family love, not love of the romance variety.

If you read Amish fiction, I’m sure you’ll like this. They’re not all as good as each other, but you get an idea of the author’s style. The second one, my favourite, is apparently attached to a series that I might be interested in reading.

Also I love the cover!

Review copy provided by NetGalley.