Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Art of Arranging Flowers by Lynne Branard

The Art of Arranging Flowers epitomizes everything that should be found the genre called "gentle reads."  The story follows several months in the life of Ruby Jewel, the town's only florist.  In a quiet and almost invisible manner, Ruby creates the floral arrangements that save marriages, move an anonymous admiration to spoken words of love, and even offer healing and hope.  Despite a rough childhood and crippling loss of her younger sister, through the art of her flowers, Ruby has created a good life for herself.  Ruby's heart is as tender and beautiful as her name, yet she always kept it sheltered from love and has instead lived vicariously through her customers.  The Art of Arranging Flowers is packed with interesting secondary characters which make this an ensemble book, not merely a story about one woman.  The pace and the style of narration fit the story, unfolding quietly and tenderly, but as warm as a summer's eve.

Lynne Branard has written several other successful titles under the name Lynne Hinton, Pie Town and Welcome Back to Pie Town being among my favorites.  While those books had my mouth watering for fresh homemade pie, The Art of Arranging Flowers had me imagining each bouquet and its unique blossoms.  I actually wished there had been illustrations or photos to accompany the text. And the fragrance of those blooms.  How can we as readers capture that?  And I read the book, I began to think about the wonderful arrangements my own mom created with the glads, zinnias, and dahlias she grew in her large flower beds.  Only now that she's gone, do I truly appreciate what love she put into those vases.

For a good read with a light touch, perfect for that summer afternoon on the deck, I recommend  The Art of Arranging Flowers.  It'll be as refreshing as your raspberry ice tea.  I received an e-copy of this book from NETGALLEY for my honest review.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

Novels of friendship abound on bookstore and library shelves, but first time novelist Nickolas Butler is one of the few authors who has tackled the story of childhood male friendships that survive into adulthood. That he successfully set his story in fictional Little Wing, Wisconsin (near Eau Claire) makes the story all the more appealing to me.  An abandoned and shuttered large feed mill/grain elevator where the teenage boys and their dates hung out plays both a symbolic and physical role in the lives of the men as they enter their thirties.  Almost anyone who has grown up in a rural area can name a ramshackle mill, silo, barn, school or other building they remember from their childhood.  Perhaps,
dreams of being the hero that brings it back to life fill your mind, just as they did Kip.

So let's meet Kip first.  Gone from Little Wing the longest, Kip spent a decade in Chicago conquering the commodities market.  Now he's returned with his fiancee with two goals in mind: throw a wedding that will outshine anything ever witnessed in Little Wing and restore the dilapidated feed mill into an area attraction.   It will take Kip a long time to realize what his ego-fed dreams are doing to his marriage and his friendships.

Lee is probably the most famous citizen to come out of that area of Wisconsin, ever!! The early years after high school were spent on the road with one small bit band after another.   Then came SHOTGUN LOVESONGS his first successful solo album and Lee became an "instant success."
While his buddies watch from a distance, Lee travels the world, dates movie stars, and makes the cover of every tabloid magazine.  The old schoolhouse home and its acreage he keeps in Little Wing is his retreat, his only place of sanity.

Ronny, like Kip and Lee, also left Little Wing before his teen years were played out.  His reason - a chance on the rodeo circuit.  And for a few years, his name was right at the top, along with the best, but too many broken bones and concussions and too many empty booze bottles sent him back to Little Wing, a damaged man.  Best friends, Lee and Henry see that Ronny stays sober and safe, but he lives a mere shadow of what life should be for a thirty-something.

The final member of the quartet is Henry, the only one who has remained in Little Wing.  In his mid-twenties he took over the family farm from his father and married his high school sweetheart despite a brief break-up.  Two kids later, they are settled into the hard work sacrifice routine required by most farm families.  That Beth and Henry realize that they still love each other is a strength that both will need as four seemingly best friends gather once again in Little Wing.  Life has changed the four men; gone are the four inseparable buddies, but then maybe not.  Why not take a trip to Little Wing and find out?

Bookclubs, consider this for a future read, especially Wisconsin bookclubs. I love that the main characters were men which I think just underscored the major themes of friendship and loyalty.
Life may change us, but we need a sense of home and belonging, no matter who we are.  That sense of belonging does NOT mean we all have to move back to our home towns, nor should we consider it (as Kip will learn).  Although women, except for Beth, play background roles in this book. each one was a skillful creation who added just the right depth to the novel.
I look forward to Butler's next book.  Check out Butler's website to learn more about the book and the author.
Shotgun Lovesongs

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Great American Slow Cooker Book by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough

The Great American Slow Cooker Book: 500 easy recipes for every day and every size machine is the perfect cookbook for the adventuresome cook who may think slow cookers are old school and boring.  Why do I say that?  Too often most of us think of the slow cooker are the appliance necessary to keep items warm at pot lucks or it's what we grab when we plan to smother a hunk of meat with a can of soup, some onions, and if we're adventuresome some mushrooms.  None of that appeals to those who are into fresh herbs, ethnic tastes, and borderline gourmet.

 I guarantee that Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough have not included a single recipe calling for canned soup.  Instead, the savory dishes often call for fresh herbs and definitely a wide array of spices with precise directions.  No plopping and dumping here.  That doesn't mean the recipes are difficult.  I made PORK LOIN WITH APPLES AND THYME this weekend and it was delicious -- browned pork, tart apples, white wine, honey, fresh thyme (from my herb garden) and a little seasoning.
EASY PEASY.   Some recipes are more complicated but like the title states most are just plain easy but rely on fresh ingredients.

 What I like best about this cookbook is that each recipe includes three ingredient lists -  2.5-3 quart, 4 -5.5 quart, 6 quart or larger.  Now when I find a recipe I like I can use the smaller recipe in my small crockpot for just hubby and me, but I also know the right proportions for making the same dish for a larger group of people.  I also like the wonderful narrative that runs throughout the cookbook.  I have collected cook books for decades and I DO read them like they are regular books.  This one has so many extra comments that it kept me entertained well beyond looking at the recipes.  The two guys really get into the science of how a slow cooker works and how the flavors will develop-- very interesting.

There are some colored photos, but not every recipe has a photo.  In other words, this is not a coffee table cookbook, meant to be eye candy.  This is meant to be used to prepare meals.  With 500 recipes, you are sure to find plenty that you want to try.  How about Raspberry Chipotle Chicken Drumsticks or
Chicken Leg Quarters for Tomatoes and Basil for dinner with a Lemon Buttermilk Pudding Cake for dessert?  The Great American Slow Cooker Book would make a great gift, especially if you couple it with a new slow cooker.    I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books for my honest review.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Blind Trust by Sandra Orchard, Book Two of Port Aster Secrets

Kate Adams is still reeling from her best friend's murder when she learns that suspected murderer has been suddenly released.  Confident that she is making the right decision Kate continues to vocally oppose GPC Pharmaceuticals decision to open a plant in Port Aster, but her credibility takes another blow when she is caught passing counterfeit twenties at the local grocery store.
Her bewilderment over the money turns to pure embarrassment when Detective Tom Parker arrives to investigate.  Evidently, sparks were igniting between the two as Parker worked on Daisy's murder case, but both felt they could not pursue a love interest.  As Kate assures Parker that the bills came from her elderly neighbor who could not be involved in any counterfeiting scheme, strange emails and letters make it clear that Kate is not involved in any crime, but IS definitely in danger.  All this escalates when she learns a little more about her father's death twenty years ago and the miracle plant he was supposed to be bringing to GPC Pharmaceuticals.

Blind Trust is a suspenseful read.  Sandra Orchard got that part right.  As other reviewers have pointed out, this is book two,  and while it can be read as a stand alone, it takes up where book one left off.  Orchard does fill readers in on necessary facts, but I felt the emotion and fear of that story just didn't carry forward into Blind Trust.  I feel obligated to point out that there will be a third installment to the story coming out in 2015.  My recommendation would be to plan reading Deadly Devotion first, followed quickly by Blind Trust. Hopefully by then, book three will be ready and you will be able to piece together the great mystery of Kate and her father's disappearance twenty years ago, as well as find out what exactly are the properties of the South American miracle plant.
To learn more about Sandra Orchard's other books check out

I received a copy of Blind Trust from Revell Reads for my honest opinion.Releases June 1st

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Silenced by Dani Pettrey

Silenced is the fourth book in Pettrey's Alaskan series centered around the large McKenna family.
Adventure is the key is this romantic suspense series.  Diving, skiing, mountain climbing - the McKennas embrace it all, and with the law enforcement and rescue piloting careers of some family members, danger seems to always be present.  Like earlier books, Silenced begins strong as rock climbing Kayden out for a some exercise and fun scales a difficult mountain face only to discover a body.  Soon she is in the midst of a possible murder investigation when it becomes clear that the dead climber's chalk had been sabotaged.  Romance is never far from the surface in this series, and in Silenced it is Kayden's turn.  Her love interest?  Jake Westin Cavanagh who readers learned in the last book has come to Alaska to escape the death of his wife by the hands of a murderer Jake was trying to capture.  Although both Kayden and Jake try to keep their minds on their first case together, everyone around them can clearly see the sparks flying between them.  They do solve the mystery of the dead climber, but I was slightly disappointed in that story line.  It seemed to wrap up too conveniently, clearing the way for the book to move in another direction, a more dangerous and sinister one.  As I got pulled into that storyline, I kept expecting the original crime investigation to reappear with a new twist, but it didn't.  The developing relationship between Jake and Kayden follows the expected path which will please those who love a romantic happy ending.

I've enjoyed Pettrey's other books.  Her suspense and family dynamics remind me of Dee Henderson's writing and also that of Terri Blackstock.  Since all these titles read quite quickly, I suggest someone new to Dani Pettrey that you plan to read all four books in quick succession. That way you will keep the siblings, their careers, and their romances straight.  Clearly there is another adventure awaiting the McKenna family as "black sheep" brother Reef has returned to Alaska with the promise that he has changed.  In Silenced he brought home a girlfriend but as he settles down into life with his siblings, it is clear that his friend is not meant for the wilderness.  I predict the next book will explore the bumpy relationship between himself and the island's veterinarian.

NetGalley provided me with an e-copy of this book for review purposes. Silenced by Dani Pettrey

Monday, June 16, 2014

One Light Still Shines by Marie Monville with Cindy Lambert

October 2, 2006 Marie Roberts received a phone call from her husband Charlie telling her that he would not be home.  In that instant, Marie knew her world was about to change for herself and her three small children.  Within the hour she would learn just how much when police officers arrived with the news that her husband had barricaded himself and several young Amish girls in the Nichols Mine schoolhouse, ultimately taking five innocent lives and his own, as well as critically wounding several others.  Now seven years later, Marie, remarried and settled into a blended family, has chosen to share how God has guided her life beyond that horrific shooting.

It is almost inconceivable to see how one can move past such trauma and again embrace life, but when thinking about that impossibility is when you realize that indeed it takes God to orchestrate the healing that was needed in that small community.  You'll be amazed that immediately family and community pulled together to shelter all the victims -- and Marie and her children were among the victims.  As Marie says several times, the actions of the community and the spoken words of forgiveness by the Amish were examples of Jesus "with flesh on."  While I kept stumbling with my own "need" to know why her husband Charlie chose such violence on such innocence, especially when he left behind  a note saying his heart had been broken by the death of their infant daughter years before,  I finally had to accept what Marie had to accept that fateful fall --- It is done, no answers will come, but God will not abandon those affected.  In fact, as Marie tells it, she is shored up with strength and faith she never experienced before.  Counselors help her deal with her children and she is able to bury her husband without destroy their memories of a loving father and caring husband.
Dan Monville and his children enter her life and that of her children, bringing not a "fairy tale" romance but an opportunity for stability, new beginnings, and proof again that God would not let them continue to suffer.  Out of that comes love.

Anyone who remembers that terrible event at Nichols Mine School probably also remembers the media's coverage of the Amish families affected who chose to speak of forgiveness.  Many of us saw the fictionalized movie based on the event. While Marie's book doesn't really cover the story of the Amish families affected in detail, you will certainly see that their decisions to speak those words are based on the same faith in action as the kindness of the larger community.  It is the same faith that directed Marie as she chose to avoid media and instead seek guidance from her loving family and the Lord.  Marie herself describes the book as a love story; only by reading the book can you see what she means.

I checked out ONE LIGHT STILL SHINES from our library system.    

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Hatmaker's Heart by Carla Stewart

Note:  I am part of a blog tour for THE HATMAKER'S HEART, but am posting my review one day early as family obligations will take me away from the computer for the weekend. When I rely on the automatic schedule feature of blogger, it seems to not work.  

About the book: 

For Nell Marchwold, bliss is seeing the transformation when someone gets a glimpse in the mirror while wearing one of her creations and feels beautiful. Nell has always strived to create hats that bring out a woman's best qualities. She knows she's fortunate to have landed a job as an apprentice designer at the prominent Oscar Fields Millinery in New York City. Yet when Nell's fresh designs begin to catch on, her boss holds her back from the limelight, claiming the stammer she's had since childhood reflects poorly on her and his salon.
But it seems Nell's gift won't be hidden by Oscar's efforts. Soon an up-and-coming fashion designer is seeking her out as a partner of his 1922 collection. The publicity leads to an opportunity for Nell to make hats in London for a royal wedding. There, she sees her childhood friend, Quentin, and an unexpected spark kindles between them. But thanks to her success, Oscar is determined to keep her. As her heart tugs in two directions, Nell must decide what she is willing to sacrifice for her dream, and what her dream truly is.

Purchase a copy:

About the author: 

Carla Stewart is the award-winning author of four novels. With a passion for times gone by, it is her desire to take readers back to that warm, familiar place in their hearts called "home." She and her husband live in Tulsa and have four adult sons and six grandchildren (with one on the way!). 

Carla can be found at: websiteFacebookTwitterPinterest,Goodreads

Check it out; it's worth the effort.


The Hatmaker's Heart by Carla Stewart takes readers to New York City and London in the 1920's era, a time when the world of high couture meant not only wearing fashionable dresses, it also meant topping the outfit with just the right hat, itself a creation worthy of a designer label, much the way the today's fashionistas select elite shoes and bags.  Prunella (Nell) Marchwold has been given the opportunity to apprentice at the New York Oscar Fields Millinery.  When her unique creations, each styled to flatter a woman's best features, begin to be noticed by the fashion industry, Nell begins to believe that someday she may have her own designer label.  Her boss, Oscar Field, has other ideas, and Nell finds herself the subject of first his impatience and criticism, especially regarding her frequent stuttering, but later she becomes the center of his oppressing attention.  The tension between the two escalates when Oscar Fields Millinery is summoned to London to create one of a kind hats for the social event of the year, a royal wedding.

Readers will enjoy their look into the millinery world and the twenties in general, as Nell works, travels, and even visits a speakeasy.  The story behind her stuttering and her attempts to overcome it add another layer to the story, as does her childhood friendship with Quentin, now a London banker.  The part of the book which takes place in 1922 London, with its flutter of excitement over the royal wedding, has the flavor of Downton Abbey, post WWI era, while the New York segments signal the changes women will demand over the next few years. All these social change and cultural references are so smoothly integrated into the overall story that it is only when one stops to discuss the book does a reader realize just how much there is to process.
If you check other books written by Carla Stewart, you'll see she is the type of author who makes each book its own unique creation with characters, plot, and details carefully chosen to best capture that particular story, much the same way Nell selected her fabric and beads to capture each woman's own beauty.  I suggest you read them all.  I received a copy of The Hatmaker's Heart from Litfuse and the publisher for my honest review.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Through the Deep Waters by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Through the Deep WatersHaving written over 33 novels since 2006. Kim Vogel Sawyer is both prolific and successful.  Mennonite, historical, contemporary and YA -- she has tackled all of these and delighted her readers with each endeavor.  Through the Deep Waters, set in 1883, is one of her newest titles.  Dinah, the young daughter of a Chicago prostitute, has never really known love, except through the kindness of the Yellow Parrot's cook, Reuben.  When he suggests that she flee her surroundings and try a new start as a waitress in a Harvey Eating House, she listens. Despite being only 17 when the waitresses need to be 18 or over, Dinah leaves Chicago for Kansas and a chance for a new life.  When the manager says he must strictly adhere to Mr. Harvey's rules and cannot make an exception for Dinah's, Dinah quickly accepts his offer of a temporary job as a hotel maid.  As she settles into her job, Dinah hides from everyone her past, especially the shame of the one decision  which she fears leaves her forever tainted and damaged. She certain that the Harvey establishments which require workers of good moral character would never give her a chance if they knew the truth. Despite her plan to keep her distance from everyone, she feels herself being drawn to Amos, the farmer desperately trying to build up a flock of chickens large enough to supply the Harvey Hotel.  While others may be put off by his limp, she sees his kind smile, gentle nature, and essential goodness.

In a way, this book is a retelling of Dinah in the Old Testament, but essentially it is a romance novel.
Its Christian message of second chances through Christ's forgiveness and the subsequent acceptance of one's past is strong, although I felt the book moved a little slow. (I feel this about many "quiet" books, so keep that in mind.)  While this is the story of Dinah and Amos, I really liked that Sawyer included strong secondary characters. Ruthie, Dinah's roommate at the hotel, could have been a minor character.  Instead she has a major role in introducing Dinah to the community church.  While it is clear that Ruthie is sweet on Amos, Sawyer did not take the common road of creating a "love triangle" with Ruthie being a jealous saboteur. Instead, Ruthie grapples with her feelings, seeks the help of her preacher father, and makes the decision to be a true friend to both Dinah and Amos.

If you have not read any Kim Vogel Sawyer books and you like Christian fiction, I suggest you seek out some of her work.  Her website includes information on most of them, as well as a link to her blog.
I found my copy of Through the Deep Waters through our library system.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Patio Magic on a Dime

We have a very small patio right below our deck, and it looks out on our large backyard.  Overall, our lot is almost two acres, a size that now seems overwhelming to care for, but when we moved from a long time home nestled in 50 acres of woods and fields, the prospect of living in "such a confined space" near neighbors and a road was a little frightening to me.  Well, almost nine years later, I love our choice.  Both hubby and I continue to have landscaping and gardening ideas.  Our trees are doing well and so are our perennials and raised garden beds.  Maybe I will post photos of them another time.
Today I am showing a few budget redo's we've done and the stories behind them.
1.  Patio table
2.  Turtle planter
3.   Patio swing
4.  Chair cushions

A few years ago we were asked to be in a garden tour in mid-July and that summer we went overboard on our annuals since few perennials were in bloom at the time.   I really wanted some new patio furniture, but just couldn't find the right set for the money I felt I could spend.  Since we already had two lovely wicker chairs in the sun room, I moved them to the patio and set about finding a table to go with them.  In desperation, I purchased a wooden 60s era early
American coffee table at a local thrift store for $10 or so. After a little sanding, I painted it with exterior white paint.  Surprisingly, it has held up for four summers.  We do store it for the harsh Wisconsin winters, but otherwise it sits outside through heat and rain. I noticed a few scuffs on it this spring, so yesterday I touched up the paint job. At the same time, I let my 9 year old granddaughter paint a ceramic turtle planter I recently picked up at a garage sale for a buck.  Turtles are her FAVORITE animal so I had bought it specifically with her in mind.  As BG was getting the paints out of our craft box, I noticed a sheet of paper tucked in the box.  On it were a list of garden-related sayings I had gathered for making clever garden signs for that garden walk.  Most of the signs I made then have faded or broken, but sometime I may make some more.  Yesterday, my eyes were drawn to this phrase - Come sit with me on my patio!  So when the white table paint job was done,  I used a very wide permanent marker to write that quote on the table corner along with a flower.  Hope you can see it in the photos.
Wicker chairs with the white table

Come sit with me on my patio!
Mr. Turtle before painting

Mr. Turtle all finished

Now, on to the bright blue patio swing.  Bright blue is our accent color for our yard.  We have a dumpster-rescued Adirondack chair painted in that color placed in our raised bed garden area and throughout the yard we have several blue obelisks hubby constructed.  So naturally that was the color we chose for the swing.  This swing, originally with a natural finish, was constructed by local Amish and had been a prize in a raffle fund raiser.  The winner did not take care of it, never kept up the finish nor stored it inside in the winter.  In fact, it sat in flood waters for one entire spring.  Then the person tried to sell it and it sat for weeks and months without anyone buying it.  Finally, hubby offered a sum (maybe 25 or 35) and brought it home.  He disassembled it and let all the wood pieces dry for months.  Some boards had to be replaced.  He sanded off all the old failing finish, but decided the wood below was too dark and discolored to leave natural, so he chose to paint it.  Everytime I swing in it, I smile because it is so happy looking.

Last, let's talk about the chair cushions for my wicker chairs.  When I bought the chairs, they had no cushions, and being late summer, store supplies were depleted.  I finally ordered some on clearance from Penneys.  Although they were a good buy, I always felt the depth of the cushions was puny, so the next summer I recovered them with some fabric I had and added a little extra batting in the process.  Those cushions worked fine for several years, but eventually the fabric faded, not being intended for sun.  Last summer I fully intended to replace the cushions with ones covered in sun resistant fabric. But I just couldn't find a design I liked, and let's face it, I didn't want to spend the money.  A week before my dad's 95th birthday, we were sprucing up the backyard for the little party we intended to have when I again realized I needed to do something with the chairs.  The next day, I went to Goodwill and scored three oversized pillow shams.  One I used to cover cushions for the plastic white chairs we pull out when we need extra outdoor seating.  The other two (in blue and turquoise stripes) were just perfect for covering my existing wicker chair cushions. All I needed to do was pull out some stitches and make them a little shorter. Cost for all of that - $6.

Did you happen to notice the painted window above the swing?  I scored that at a library silent auction fundraiser.  It was painted by a friend.  I also have another painted window right around the corner, also "won" at that same silent auction.  That one is featured on the wall area beneath our deck and was painted by our niece.  Here's one final photo of that area.
Poppies are done blooming here and the phloz haven't started but the space is still eye-catching.

  Hope you enjoy my patio.  I plan to be there this afternoon, reading the next book on my pile.
What does your favorite outside reading space look like?

Monday, June 9, 2014

An invitation from a fellow blogger

I was tagged by Shannah at Book reviews by Shannah to be part of the SUNFLOWER BLOGGER
Here are the rules:

  1. Share 11 facts about yourself
  2. Answer the 11 questions the previous blogger asked
  3. Tag 11 bloggers and ask them 11 new questions

Eleven facts about myself
Wow, I'm not sure I can think of 11 significant things to say about myself, so hope you don't
minds a few silly ones.

1.  In just a few weeks, my husband and I will have been married for 43 years.
2.  Can't imagine my life without him all those years.
3.  In our years together, we have built 3 houses and 1 cabin.  We are done with building!
4. I have always loved books and made them my career.
5.  I taught English and was a school librarian.
6. I've been blogging for almost 3 years.
7. I started collecting cookbooks when I received a Betty Crocker "cooky" book as a gift when I was a preteen.
8. My aunt helped me with my first sewing project when I was about 10 or 11, and I've been sewing ever since.
9.  I recently opened the box in which my wedding dress was stored.  It was the first time I had seen it since I wore it 43 years ago.  By the way I made that dress.
10.  I am not athletic, never have been, but I am trying to be a little more fit and healthy.
11.  I get great peace from being outside in God's creation.

The questions I was asked by Shannah  and my answers. Also, check her blog to see the other bloggers she tagged.

  1. Where is your favorite place to read?  On the covered porch of our cabin. I also love to take a book to the hammock by the water, but I always end up watching nature instead of reading.
  2. What are you looking forward to doing this summer? Fishing
  3. Do you prefer e-books or paperback/hardback books? I read them all; it's the story that matters.
  4. If you could meet one historical person, who would it be? I would like to meet 
  5. You are on a desert island. You can have wish for three things. What would they be? A means of escape, a boat in case the first doesn't pan out, and a very good satellite phone.  I have no intentions of staying on a deserted island!
  6. Who is your favorite fictional character of all time? Atticus in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
  7. What is the greatest lesson you have learned from reading a fiction book? To be empathetic, compassionate, and to withhold judgment.
  8. Do you love your job? Yes, I loved being a librarian and I miss the people I worked with and all the kids.  I especially miss opening a shipment of new books.  It was like perpetual Christmas.
  9. What is your favorite quote? I honestly don't have one.  I admire author's exceptional craft when I read it, but I just don't commit things to memory anymore.
  10. Do you like to buy new books or are you ok with used?  See question 8.  Of course I love new books, but I also treasure finding a good deal on used books.  Although I know I should love old books, I am allergic to dust and I just can't read older books.
  11. What have you learned about yourself lately?  I've always easily accepted what age I was, but I REALLY, REALLY do not like this age group I am approaching. 


1.  Why did you start blogging?
2.  What was your most memorable vacation?
3.  Dine in or dine out?  Casual or fancy?
4.  Best read of 2014 so far?
5.  Do you belong to a book club?
6.  What is your earliest reading memory?
7.  Do you listen to audio books?
8.  What do you think is the best movie adaptation of a book?
9.   When not reading, how do you spend your time?
10.  Do you have a goal to learn something new this year or try a new activity?  What?
11.  If you came to my house, would rather have tea and homemade pie or coffee and dark chocolate?

 These are the 11 bloggers I am tagging to be part of the Sunflower Blogger Award.  Check  out their book reviews and other blog entries.  I hope you enjoy their blogs.  And bloggers, I hope you take part in this Sunflower Blogger Award, but of course that is your choice.  If you take part, copy the award photo for your blog, then copy the questions, answer them, and select 11 new bloggers to continue with your new questions.  And as always, keep reading.  

Lost Lake by Srah Addison Allen

Kate says she has returned from the dead for her daughter's sake; what she means is that she has emerged from the deep year-long grief after her young husband's death.  Now having sold her house at her head strong, realtor wanna-be politician mother-in-law's insistence, Kate and her ten year old daughter Devin are set to move in with Kate's mother-in-law.  But when the movers take the last of her stuff, Kate does not drive to her supposed new home.  Instead, prompted by an old postcard she finds while packing, she and Devin take an unplanned trip to Lost Lake, Georgia in hopes of finding the secluded cabins her Aunt Eby owns.  Not having communicated since Kate was a child, Eby knows nothing about Kate's marriage and her husband's death, nor does Kate realize that this very month Eby plans to finally sell the run down little resort that has been her home for decades.

Kate and Devin will not be the only guests at Lost Lake as several others show up for one last stay.
The common denominators among the guests, Eby, and her cook --- they are all, in some way, misfits with the need for fresh starts, mended hearts, and self-acceptance.  While the nearby town prepares a good-bye barbeque for Eby, readers will be hoping that SOMEONE finally realizes that the old resort should not close, and then young Devin begins getting messages from an elusive alligator that only she sees.

I ordered this book from the library system after I had seen it recommended somewhere.  Although I enjoyed the book, my praises are not as strong as some professional reviews I've read.  I found the life story of Eby and her husband along with the mute French cook who has been by their side since their honeymoon the most original and fascinating part of the book. Their decision to make Lost Lake their home is what makes the Georgia setting worth a visit.

Lost Lake

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Place in His Heart by first time author Rebecca DeMarino

I admire the courage of first time authors.  No one has bought their books yet they have the confidence that they can spin a story unique enough that publishers and readers will want it.
Rebecca DeMarino is one of those newly published authors and she is promoting her book with a giveway (like so many authors today).  Unfortunately, I didn't make any connection to her or her publicity to get a copy of her book to review before publication, but I am passing on a link to her blog
and her giveway.  This tiny blurb about the book is enough to put the title on my TO READ LIST.
Imagine knowing that your ancestors made to the US when it was the NEW WORLD!   

This heartfelt tale of love and devotion is based on debut author Rebecca DeMarino's own ancestors, who came to Long Island in the mid-1600s to establish a life--and a legacy--in the New World


If you've read this title, offered by Revell books, let me know what you thought.

A Place In His Heart

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Be Still my Soul: The inspiring stories behind 175 of the most loved hymns by Randy Peterson

Be Still My Soul by Randy Peterson tells the behind the music story of 175 different hymns.  I've read other books like this and always found them interesting.  We've used them as devotionals and I've taken some of the stories and used them as the starting point for a special musical worship service at church a few years back.  So when I had the opportunity to receive a copy of Randy Peterson's new anthology of some more hymn stories, I was pleased.   I like that there are some longer biographies for certain hymn writers such as
Charles Wesley, Ira Sankey and Fanny Crosby.  While many hymns included were familiar to me, their histories were not; and I also found hymns with beautiful lyrics that I've never known before. The tune to one of those unfamiliar hymns, FACE TO FACE, was inspired by a simple jar of jelly; and the words came from a poem written by a busy mother of five who said she often wrote hymns while rocking babies, mending, or even sweeping the floor.

This book or any of the other hymn story books which have been published would make wonderful gift books, perhaps as an appreciation gift for the organist or choir director.  Since so many of the long lasting hymns were inspired by God's faithfulness in tough times, this book would also be great for sharing with someone who is homebound, hospitalized, or in the nursing home.
I received a copy of this title for review purposes from  Tyndale Blognetwork

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What the Moon Said by Gayle Rosengren

Gayle Rosengren, who currently lives near Madison, WI, has done what most children's librarians only dream about.  She has written a children's historical novel aimed at that those readers that she helped find books for many years.  WHAT THE MOON SAID is set in the 1930s, those years of economic depression when life was so uncertain for millions of Americans.  Ten year old Esther may not understand what is causing the depression, but she is certainly affected by it.  When her father looses his job in Chicago the family makes a move to a ram shackled farm in Wisconsin.  Her frugal mother has accumulated enough "emergency" money that they can make the down payment on the small acreage and the animals left behind by the last unsuccessful owner.

The move from Chicago to rural Wisconsin brings big changes -- no longer do they have electricity so the family's well loved radio is no longer a lifeline to the outside world.  Running water and indoor plumbing are no where to be seen.  Esther is far from her best friend and from her older sisters, the ones she often turns to for advice and comfort.  Violet, the sister just slightly older than Esther sees her sister as a nuisance and that is one thing that doesn't change with the move to Wisconsin, at least not at first.  Also the heavy feeling that Esther always has that her mother doesn't really love her seems to follow the young girl wherever she goes.

What Esther does get from her mother are many, many lessons about luck -- both good and bad. Her mother, an immigrant from Russia, lets superstition rule all family decisions, even forbidding Esther from being friends with a neighbor because the little girl had a predominant mole on her face.  As the book progresses, readers will begin to understand, along with Esther, why her mother is so emotionally restrained and superstitious.  Like many preadolescent books, this one shows readers that love within a family can survive and even grow in difficult times.  At the same time, it shows how childhood misconceptions and fears can be resolved.  I wasn't too fond of the constant references to superstitions in the first part of the book (just not my thing) but by the ending I saw the purpose of those references and I was pleased with the resolution.
Rosengren's writing reminded me of Sharon Creech and others who have successful tackled the stories of lonely children in struggling families.  I look forward to Rosengren's next book, as I think she has the right heart for writing for this age group (9-12)  Check out to learn more about the book and Gayle Rosengren.

I got this book through our library system.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Moms' Night Out: A Novelization by Tricia Goyer

USA Today best-selling author Tricia Goyer has written the novelization to the much-anticipated movie, Moms’ Night Out. Don’t miss this hilarious family comedy that celebrates real family life—where everything can go wrong and still turn out all right.
Look for the companion devotional written by comedian Kerri PomarolliMoms’ Night Out and Other Things I Miss: Devotions To Help You Survive.
Tricia and Kerri have teamed up for the “No More Frumpy Mommy” challenge.
Moms Night Out Tricia Goyer Kerri Pomarolli
Motherhood can sometimes seem like survival of the fittest. Every day brings its own troubles, and by the end of the day, you’re spent. Between school, soccer practice, cleaning, laundry, cooking dinner, putting away dishes, and keeping your kids from going at each others’ throats, the last thing on your mind is getting away for an evening. If that’s you, you’re invited to take part in Tricia and Kerri’s No More Frumpy Mommy challenge.
Tricia and Kerri will choose 10 winners to receive a Fandango gift card to see Moms’ Night Out, as well as copies of Moms’ Night Out (the book) and Moms’ Night Out and Other Things I Miss. One grand-prize winner will receive $200 to put toward her own moms’ night out or her own moms’ night out “ride” (getting her car detailed and cleaned).
Moms Night Out Novel PK


Moms’ Night Out is a novelization of the hilarious family comedy that celebrates real family life—where everything can go wrong and still turn out all right.
All Allyson and her friends want is a peaceful, grown-up evening of dinner and conversation . . . a long-needed moms’ night out. But in order to enjoy high heels, adult conversation and food not served in a bag, they need their husbands to watch the kids for a few hours—what could go wrong?
Chronicling one night out gone awry, three harried moms, their husbands, a sister-in-law with a misplaced baby, a tattoo parlor owner, a motorcycle gang, and a bewildered cabbie all learn to embrace the beautiful mess called parenting. This book spotlights the unfulfilled expectations and serial self-doubts many moms feel . . . then reassures us that the key is raising kids in a loving home. Mom’s Night Out is an endearing, true-to-life comedy.
The MOMS’ NIGHT OUT film features Sarah Drew (Grey’s Anatomy), Sean Astin (THE LORD OF THE RINGS), Patricia Heaton (EVERBODY LOVES RAYMOND, THE MIDDLE), Alex Kendrick (COURAGEOUS), Robert Amaya (COURAGEOUS), Andrea Logan White (REVELATION ROAD), Kevin Downes (COURAGEOUS), and platinum-selling country recording artist Trace Adkins (THE LINCOLN LAWYER).

Here is the trailer to the movie.
MY REACTION: Writing a novelization of someone else's screenplay must be a daunting task.  The characters are already there and so are their essential feelings, but all of that "stuff" that authors usually reveal in a carefully chosen blend of  characters'voice of self reflection, omniscient narrator's descriptive eye, and action has been defined by someone else through a camera's lens and action.  Much as I like movies, life through the camera lens usually means that much of a character's inner essence just isn't fully developed.    Viewers are left to assume much and sometimes that fails.  When the movie being viewed is based on a book I've read, I find myself relying on all those character nuances I'd read to help me better understand the movie. When reading MOMS' NIGHT OUT, I had almost the opposite reaction.  My mind kept wanting to start the play button.  I could hear and see the scenes, especially the closeups.  Not having yet seen the movie, I still had the feeling I was reading words that were trying to capture what someone else had filmed.  That does not mean I did not like the story or the characters; I did find MOMS' NIGHT OUT entertaining in a frantic, over the top way.  I especially liked Sondra who has spent her entire marriage trying to be the "perfect" pastor's wife, when being the real Sondra was all she needed to do.

I admire Tricia Goyer's busy literary career and I understand the film's creators selecting her to write the novelization, I am just not sure why we needed the novelization.  If its sole purpose was to promote the movie, then it succeeded because I kept thinking I should be watching this story, not reading it.  If the publishers really wanted a story about several moms-- overworked, under-appreciated, and lacking self-confidence, then I really think they should have given Tricia Goyer an open project and she would have created a story with all those voices of self-reflection, onmiscient narrators, and original actions scenes that more successfully define a worthwhile read.
 I am looking forward to seeing MOMS' NIGHT OUT which I think is one of those wildly over the top movies that can entertain us with its blown out of proportion view of life.  I've heard that there has been some controversy about the whole stay at home mommy crisis that prompts the night out in the movie.  In 2014, I think that is just a foolish criticism.  Motherhood is a 24/7 job whether you stay at home, work in a glass office, or serve drinks at the bowling alley (like Bridget in the book). Way back when our kids were little, we made the decision that I would stay home.  That required many monetary sacrifices, but we made it.  When our youngest was 4 or 5, I went back to work.  Let me say, there were days in both lifestyles when I felt the same as Allison in the book, especially since my husband worked a night shift for over 20 years!  Both working mothers and stay at home mothers need more support from their families, communities, and even their church homes.  I was delighted to see that a devotional book has been put together to support MOMS' NIGHT OUT.

I received a copy of MOMS' NIGHT OUT from LITFUSE for my honest review.