• Life Outside the Pages

    Those who can’t: Collect!

    I have a little problem; I rescue afghans from thrift stores.

    Not Afghan Hounds…though they are very pretty! But I don’t think my house could hold very many of them; they’re biggish.

    I’m talking about small blankets made for cuddling under on the couch while reading a book or watching television. Traditionally made of wool, they now come in more affordable options, such as acrylic and cotton. The debate rages on about which is better when it comes to making afghans: knitting or crocheting. I say either produces a cozy throw you can snuggle under while enjoying some down time.

    I can’t stand to see a pretty one in a thrift store. This may be because I have never made one, so am somewhat in awe of the time and skill it takes to do so.

    In a household with two people and one undersized sofa, how many of these things do you need?

    So I regularly resolve not to buy any more; but then inevitably I find myself standing in a thrift store, gazing in wonder and, yes, pity at a gorgeous, discarded piece of handmade folk art.

    I imagine the time and effort that went into creating each lovely throw, and wonder why it ended up tossed into the donation bag.

    The time consideration, and even the cost of materials, is daunting. But it’s the love that goes into making an afghan that gets me right in the feels. I look at a colorful, intricately-designed little blanket and picture some old auntie or grandma – or hey, a devoted granddad or papa – spending many a winter’s evening, yarn running over her fingers, cat grabbing the ends by her feet, as she creates a cozy bit of comfort for someone she loves.

    How does such a thing get tossed away?

    Maybe there are just too many of them. A prolific crocheter could make a couple dozen a year. I suppose after a while, all her loved-ones are up to their eyeballs in afghans.

    Or maybe the gift went to someone who just isn’t into country kitsch in the first place and it quickly found its way to Goodwill.

    Or maybe the creative lady in question just kept making them as personal therapy long after all her friends, relatives and church charities had all the throws they could use. So she hoarded them lovingly in boxes and bags and bins until she died. Imagine the treasure trove someone discovered upon cleaning out her home! I am grateful that her heirs donated them instead of simply tossing them in a dumpster.

    I have one my grandmother made for my wedding, nearly 40 years ago. It was fashioned from cream yarn, knitted with intricate Swiss dots and cross-hatching in the pattern. I used and displayed it for many years, but now it is old and yellowed. Of course, I’ll never discard it; I wonder if I could dye it a lovely sage green to give it a new lease on life?

    So, back to me standing in the thrift store looking at another beautiful bit of discarded folk art. You know I’m buying it, right?

    Just last weekend I added to my collection. I was at a lovely Christian thrift store in Strasburg, Ohio, when the colorful geometric blanket complete with fringes caught my eye.

    I picked it up and examined it, expecting stains or holes. Nope. It was perfect. I took it up front and asked the price, thinking it had to be at least $50.

    The two young Mennonite women manning the counter looked at each other questioningly. “No price tag?” one asked. I shook my head. They consulted silently again, and the other turned to me and said, “It’ll be $4.”

    I hope my mouth didn’t drop open. “Sold” I said, placing it on the counter.

    And I brought it home, where it will be appreciated and loved for another generation.

    If I get too many, I guess I could rehome them like one does with kittens and doggies.

    But for now, I’ll cherish each one, and wonder who made them and to whom they were originally given.

    I hope they know their art is appreciated and cherished. As one who can’t (or doesn’t have time to lean, honestly) create these handstitched works of art, I’ll collect them! And no apologies.

    Aren’t the giant, blue corner tassles fun?
    My newest “rescue”, from the thrift store in Strasburg, Ohio.
    So cozy! And it pairs well with the ginger cat pillow my son gave me for Christmas!
    The work that went into this piece of art steals my breath! Who made it? Where? When? Why did it end up discarded? I’ll never know, but I love it as if it had been given to me by a favorite friend.
    I simply couldn’t leave this nuanced blue beauty behind when I discovered it in an area Goodwill!
  • Reviews

    Publisher’s Weekly Lauds “Mary’s Calico Hope”

    When my first book, “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise”, was released, it received a very favorable review from the industry’s leading reviewer of new releases, Publishers Weekly. I was over the moon!

    With my second book releasing on June 1, again from Barbour, and in the same “Heart of the Amish” series as my first book, I asked my publisher whether I was likely to get another review from the industry giant, whose opinion is sought and valued by all sorts of industry pros, including booksellers looking for likely titles to sell.

    She warned me that it was possible, but unlikely that I’d be reviewed twice in row.

    Well, bless me, they reviewed “Mary’s Calico Hope“, and they loved it! I’m beyond thrilled.

    Here is the review from Publishers Weekly:

    Mary’s Calico Hope

    Anne Blackburne. Barbour, $14.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-63609-855-5

    Mary's Calico Hope

    “Blackburne’s latest Heart of the Amish romance (after Ruth’s Gingersnap Surprise) unspools a tender love story between an injured Amish woman and the Mennonite doctor who wants to help her heal. Since a buggy accident more than 25 years ago killed her father and left her badly hurt, Mary Yoder has spent her days in near-constant pain, though she keeps busy breeding chickens, weaving and selling baskets, and caring for her younger brothers. When Reuben King, the handsome new doctor for the nearby Willow Creek community, takes an informal interest in Mary’s case and suggests she undergo a surgical procedure (performed by another doctor) that might improve her mobility, Mary’s resistant. Eventually, she warms to the idea as she spends more time with Reuben, sparking an attraction that’s forbidden by her community. Mary turns to prayer to sort out her thoughts about her health and love life, but when advice arrives from an unlikely source, she’ll have to trust herself to follow it, and to take a few risks along the way. The chemistry between the two leads is palpable, and it’s easy to root for the spunky, independent, and dauntless Mary as she fights to carve out a life of her own choosing. Blackburne’s fans and series newcomers alike will delight in this sweet and energetic tale. (June)DETAILSshare”

    Isn’t that wonderful? I wish I could personally tell the reviewer how much I appreciate his or her take on my book! Publishers Weekly reviewers are anonymous, though, to encourage honesty, so that’s not possible. But if he or she happens to read this . . . thank you thank you thank you! You made my day!

    Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise (which was just named a best seller for March by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) in new releases for March) also received an excellent Publishers Weekly review. It’s available for purchase wherever fine books are sold online and in book stores nationwide. If your book store doesn’t have it, please request it. They shouldn’t have any trouble ordering it for you!

  • Reviews

    All Things Come to an End: Celebrate Lit Virtual tour of Amish Romance, “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise” Final Day!

    Today we say so long, farewell! to the wonderful people at CelebrateLit, who have worked hard to promote my debut novel this month. There are two remaining blog posts for you to read, and be sure to click on the links below for your final chance to enter to win a print copy of the book and a $25 Amazon e-gift card!

    Check back soon to see who won!

    First today is Wendy from the blog, “Life on Chickadee Lane”.

    My Review: by Wendy from Life on Chickadee Lane:

    “This is such a sweet, enjoyable story. Of course, any story including a cat is my kind of story. (My daughter would agree!) I enjoyed reading how Ruth and Jonas prayed about any decision which needed to be made. I look forward to reading Anne’s next book!

    If you enjoy sweet stories set in an Amish community, you will want to read this one.

    I received a complimentary copy through Celebrate Lit and these opinions are my own.

    Thanks, Wendy! (By the way, Wendy has a cool list of all the birds she has spotted on her blog. I love this!)

    Next is Renee from the blog, “Little Home School on the Prairie.”

    Here’s what Renee had to say!

    My Review:

    “Anne Blackburne is a new author who did an amazing job with her debut novel.

    The main characters Ruth and Jonas have both lost their spouses. Jonas has a young daughter. Ruth isn’t able to have children.

    It’s been only a year since Ruth lost her husband and she is trying her hardest to keep up with the farm by herself. The farm is dear to her as it has been in her family for generations. Life is about to get complicated for Ruth. Bishop Troyer visits her concerning her farm. He gives her two options. One is to sell the farm to one of the men in the community. Her farm has a lot of amenities that would be good for a family. The second option is to marry Bishop Troyer. The Bishop recognizes that he is much older than her and that it would be a marriage of convenience as they are both lonely. Ruth isn’t interested in selling or marrying for convenience. She wants to expand her business with her goat’s milk products.

    Jonas has a four-year-old daughter. He starts helping Ruth with chores around her farm. He loves Ruth’s interaction with his daughter. Ruth is getting fond of both Jonas and his daughter.

    The story is fun with the mischievous goats, a guard dog, and a kitten named Ginger Snap. The characters are well-developed and realistic. You can’t help to not find yourself immersed in their lives. The plot is well-developed and kept my attention to the last page. I look forward to more books from Anne Blackburne.

    Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through Celebrate Lit Bloggers in exchange for my honest thoughts.

    Thanks, Renee!

    Well, that’s it for this part of my writing journey. I sure appreciate all the help from the amazing folks at Celebrate Lit! Did you find a new blogger to follow? I know I did!

    Merry Christmas, and thank you all for supporting my writing!

  • Reviews

    Last Two Days of Celebrate Lit! Reviewing my new release Amish Romance, “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise”

    Today and tomorrow I’ll list a couple of blog posts each day so you can optimize your chance of winning the giveaway!

    Remember to click the links for each blogger for your chances to enter!

    Holly’s Book Corner

    Here is what Holly has to say:

    Thanks, Holly!

    Next up is Cheri, from her blog “Finding Jesus in the Everyday”

    My Review of Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise

    by Cheri of Finding Jesus in the Everyday

    “This is a new author to me and I thoroughly enjoyed this story – beginning to end. What drew me to this book was the fact she raised goats. Reminded me of a great friend who loves stories about goats and it made reading the story that much more enjoyable. Great characters, I felt as though I was part of the community with Ruth. This story captured my attention and kept me reading. I didn’t have a chance to read the first book, but will be reading that one too. I hope there will be more in this series. I love this author’s style.

    I received a complimentary copy of this book but was under no obligation to review it. All opinions are mine.”

    Finally today, let’s see what the blogger from “Because I Said So – And Other Adventures in Parenting” has to say! (She has an orange kitten too, and the same kind of dog as my protagonist, Ruth!)


    My Thoughts

    “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise is written by Anne Blackburne. This is the first book that I have read by this author, and it will not be my last. This book is well written with an engaging storyline. This book is part of the Heart of the Amish Series, but can be read as a stand alone.

    Ruth has worked hard to keep body and soul together since her husband, Levi’s, death. She tends her herd of goats, making her living from the milk and fiber she gets from them, all while running a farm and household by herself. She was never able to have kids – and when she meets fellow widower, Jonas Hershberger and his adorable daughter, her heart melts.

    Can the two of them work together? What will happen when the bishop’s granddaughter sets her sights on Jonas?

    Ruth is very relatable. She is determined and she had some similar things in her life that I have in mine. I love the orange kitten on the cover. I recently also have gotten an orange kitten, Grover. I loved the kitten throughout the story. She also has two Great Pyrenees that protect the goats, and I have one also.

    Thank you to the author, publisher and Celebrate Lit for allowing me to read a copy of this book -all thoughts are my own.”

    Thanks to you, Because I Said So!

    Come back tomorrow for your last chance to enter the giveaway for a print copy of my book and a $25 Amazon e-gift card!

  • Reviews

    “The Quintessential Sweet Amish Romance”

    So says Celebrate Lit Blogger Erin from the blog “For Him and My Family” in her review of “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise.” In addition to being a popular blogger, Erin is a homeschooling mom of 12, and a homesteader, along with her husband and children. I enjoyed her take on my book! Thanks for taking the time, Erin.

    Be sure to click through to her blog in the link below so you can enter to win a print copy of the book and a $25 Amazon e-gift card!

    Erin’s Review:

  • Reviews

    CelebrateLit Blog Tour of “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise” Continues with a review by Gina Holder of StoriesbyGina

    Today’s blog is actually an interview with me! I’m author Anne Blackburne, and this is my very first book, an Amish romance with a very Happy Ever After ending. Be sure to click through to Gina’s blog post, below, for a chance to win a print edition of my book, and a $25 Amazon e-gift card.

    Gina Holder, Author and Blogger


    Thanks, Gina!

    Be sure to come back tomorrow for more reviews from bloggers. The Celebrate Lit Virtual Tour of Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise ends in a couple days. But you’ve still got time to enter to win a book and e-gift card!

  • Reviews

    Celebrate Lit Tour Continues!

    Today, Cheryl from Cover Lovers Book Reviews, reviewed my book. I’ll post her review here, but be sure to click her link so you can enter to win a print copy of the book, and a $25 Amazon e-gift card.

    Cheryl freely admits she is often drawn to a book by its cover – and aren’t we all? And she LOVES the cover of Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise! Hooray!

    Here’s what Cheryl has to say about my book!

    MY REVIEW: Cheryl from Cover Lover Book Reviews!

    Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise” by debut author Anne Blackburne is a sweet, heartwarming story with elements of love, resilience, and faith within an Amish community. The story revolves around Ruth and Jonas, both widowed and facing challenges in their lives. 
    Ruth is independent and resilient. As she strives to maintain her farm, she is determined to defy the community’s expectations. Jonas is running a business and raising his daughter, Abigail after his own loss. As they navigate grief, opportunities arise and lead them to solace and love in each other.
    There is a balance of joy and sadness, so I appreciate the inclusion of humor and sentimentality. Most of all, I love the central themes of overcoming grief, finding love, and trusting in God’s plan in this story of second chances.

    First Line: “Just stop blowing for one minute and I’ll be done!” Ruth Helmuth spoke around a wooden clothespin clenched in her teeth, the wind nearly whipping the damp, snowy-white apron out of her hands as she secured it to the line. 
    Series: The Heart of the Amish book 2
    Genre: Amish Romance
    Author: Anne Blackburne
    Page Count: 256

    #CoverLoverBookReview received a complimentary copy of this book. 

    Opinions are 100% mine. Cover Like ❤❤❤❤

    Thanks, Cheryl!

  • Reviews

    Celebrate Lit Tour Continues!

    Today’s Blog Post comes from “She Lives to Read

    Here is the link to her blog; remember to click through to enter for another chance to win a print copy of the book and a $25 Amazon e-gift card! There are still nine more bloggers who will review Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise by December 22. If you read my book and enjoy it, I’d love to hear from you! You can leave comments on my Facebook page.

    And remember, leaving a positive review, even just a few words long, on Amazon.com or Goodreads, is so helpful to an author! It’s the gift of your time, and we authors really appreciate it!

    My review:

    “This story is filled with faith, hope, and love!  Ruth Helmuth is a faithful and  resourceful young Amish widow who has worked hard to maintain her family farm after the death of her husband.   When her bishop begins to pressure her to sell the farm to another Amish family, Ruth becomes determined to find ways to keep her family home.

    Ruth never stopped looking for ways to help others, and she also kept a great balance of faith and hope as she allowed God to direct her in the right way.  There’s also a very sweet romance that blooms for Ruth between her and widower Jonas Hershberger.  This storyline flows so well, and it was a fun to see how Ruth’s life takes a turn that she could never have imagined.

    This is the first book that I’ve read by this author, and I love her writing style.  She created a beautiful Amish community in this book, and I’m hoping that I’ll be reading more from her soon.

    I voluntarily received a copy of this book from Celebrate Lit.  All opinions are my own.”

  • Reviews

    Days 5 & 6, Celebrate Lit Virtual Tour!

    I got a little behind on telling you all about Days 5 and 6 of the Celebrate Lit virtual book tour of Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise. I had a book signing yesterday, and movie night with my daughter. But here we go with two days worth, and three amazing bloggers’ opinions/reviews of my book!

    First is Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy. Be sure to click on all the links below for three chances to win a print edition of my book, and a $25 Amazon e-gift card!


    Scroll down, as my book’s review is not the first you’ll see.

    Here is what Patti Pierce of Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy has to say!

     “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise by Anne Blackburne is a work of Amish Christian fiction. A widow, Ruth tends her goats and makes a living by selling their milk and fiber. But the bishop believes she should sell her family’s farm to a family who can fill the rooms and marry again. Enter widower Jonas Hershberger, who has an adorable daughter, a basket-making business, and a pair of dimples that grab Ruth’s attention.

    Truly, this book will draw you in and keep you reading. I found myself unable to put the book down. Oh yes, read this book to learn about some adorable kittens and the bishop’s pushy granddaughter add to this story. The Amish typically do not keep house kittens or cats, but you need to read this book to find out who Ginger Snap is and its role in the story.

    So, if you enjoy Amish/Christian fiction, check out  Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise by Anne Blackburne for yourself.

    I received a complimentary copy of this book, but this in no way influenced my review. All opinions are my own.”

    Thanks, Patti!

    Next is Hannahbandanarama, who said this on her Instagram blog:

    Next up on the winter reads: I had the opportunity to read Anne Blackburne’s debut novel, Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise. As a true labor of love – a dream the author describes as being 30 years in the waiting – this book is a great read if you’re looking for a happily-ever-after story to get lost in on a long winter’s night. Not to mention two big dogs, a cat, and a few goats (clearly you see why I loved it now!). It is the first novel in a series she is working on, and I can’t wait to read the rest of them!

    What is even better is that to celebrate, Anne is giving away the grand prize of a print copy of the book and a $25 Amazon eGift card!! Click the link below to enter (also found in my bio!) – and comment on the blog stops below for nine extra entries!

    Thanks, Hannah!

    Finally today is a lovely post from Kendra at her blog, Happily Managing a Household of Boys.

    Here is what Kendra has to say:

    “Amish Fiction is my favorite Genre of books.  Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise by Anne Blackburne is Book 2 in The Heart of the Amish Series. The series is written by various authors and they can be stand alone books. I read Book 1 in the series and was excited to read Book 2. 

    WOW, Jonas and Ruth’s story is hearbreaking yet heartwarming . I am glad I had an afternoon to sit and read, as I read until I was done, about 3hrs. Ruth and Jonas have been lost their spouses in recent years. Jonas has a daughter, Abigail, and runs a business. Ruth never had children and she focuses her time keeping up with tasks at her Farm. I really LOVE how both, Jonas and Ruth, live life day by day, even through the difficulties of life. Ruth is a very independent woman and her strength and determination throughout the book is awe inspiring.  The 2 begin a working relationship and they realize they have feelings for one another. I truly enjoyed watching Ruth and Jonas keep their faith and realize God’s plan is greater then their own plans. A VERY Sweet Romance blossoms! This is a WONDERFUL Story and anyone who enjoys Amish Fiction will enjoy this book! FANTASTIC BOOK!”

    And she gave it five stars! Thanks so much, Kendra!

  • Book Signings

    Dayspring Christian Bookstore Signing Tomorrow!

    Tomorrow, Saturday, Dec. 16, I’ll be at Dayspring Christian Bookstore in New Philadelphia, Ohio signing copies of my book, Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise. I hope you’ll come out and say hello, and maybe buy a book!

    Dayspring has many lovely books, as well as beautiful gifts and all sorts of Christian-related merchandise.

    And New Philadelphia is a sweet little town with beautiful murals painted all over the place! There are some fabulous shopping opportunities, too.

    Plenty of good places to eat, too. Oh, and you might win a little painting I’m doing of Ginger Snap!

    So come on out and say hello! I’ll be there from noon to 2 p.m.

    The store is located at 143 West High Ave. in New Philadelphia. Hope to see you tomorrow! And if not, you have a Merry Christmas!