December 8, 2014

Reviewing "Swept Away" plus a Kindle Fire Giveaway!

       "Swept Away" by Laura V. Hilton and Cindy Loven, is a contemporary romance novel that I had a hard time putting down. The "Quilts of Love" series is always enjoyable, and although you sometimes kind of get a hint of what's going to end up happening shortly into the first couple chapters of the book, the authors always do a great job of putting that little bit of skepticism into the reader's mind that keeps you feverishly reading to find out what happens.
     Sara Jane Morgan is used to dealing with a roomful of students, but her grandmother is another story. Grandma has big plans to teach Sarah how to quilt, while Sara doesn't want anything to do with it for the most part. She is more concerned with her Grandmother's diminishing health and her unpredictable behavior, which sometimes puts Sara into difficult situations.  Drew the handyman, is a very complex character with a complicated past.  When he meets Sara, he is immediately enthralled by her beauty, but their relationship gets off to a very rocky/tricky start.  Their encounters throughout the book are sometimes cringe-worthy, but I found myself rooting for love to win all the way until the last page.
     I really enjoyed "Swept Away" and I would recommend it to anybody who enjoys Christian, contemporary romance with an underlying theme of quilting and crafting.   The only thing I was not happy with was the bad light that was placed on foster care in a couple quick moments of the book.   My husband and I are certified foster parents and while we know that there are some "bad apples" out there, the foster families we know have really big hearts for kids.  Our country desperately needs more good, loving foster families so the more encouragement there is out there for that, the better.  Ok, I will get off my soapbox now. :)   Anyway, like I said, this was a very enjoyable book. It's a fast, fun read and it will keep you turning the pages late into the evening.  The characters are well developed and complex, and the plot deals with a lot of real life issues such as dealing with elderly loved ones in kind and caring ways.  Read this book! :)

Disclaimer: I received this book for free in from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for an honest review

Don’t miss the newest Quilts of Love book, Swept Away by Laura V. Hilton and Cindy Loven. November’s QOL release is a spark of romance and fun just in time for the holidays.

Enter to win a Kindle HDX, and RSVP for the “Merry Quilted” Quilts of Love Facebook party on December 9th. 
qol-sweptaway2-400
One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • Swept Away by Laura V. Hilton and Cindy Loven
  • Hidden in the Stars by Robin Caroll
  • Quilted by Christmas by Jodie Bailey
Enter today by clicking the button below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on December 9th. Winner will be announced during the "Merry Quilted" Christmas Facebook party on December 9th. RSVP today and connect with some of the Quilts of Love authors (Jodie Bailey, Laura V. Hilton, Cindy Loven, Cathy Elliott, and Gina Welborn) for a "merry" evening of book chat, Christmas traditions, prizes, and more!
qol-sweptaway-enterbanner
{NOT ON FACEBOOK? ENTER HERE.}

RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on December 9th!

December 1, 2014

Reviewing "A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home"

   "A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home"by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman, is a fun and beautiful look at DIY crafts and projects you can do to brighten and liven up your home decor.   Elsie and Emma are the sisters behind the very popular blog "A Beautiful Mess".  Their specialty is crafty, fun projects anyone can do without breaking the bank.
    The book is organized into home categories such as dining rooms, bedrooms, and small spaces.  Each chapter contains an array of projects with bold colors and design. (Eye candy for anybody who loves to decorate.)  The sisters make a point to say that these projects are created using their own personal style and taste, and that each one can serve as a jumping off point for your own decorating ideas.  So even if your taste doesn't quite match up with theirs, I guarantee you will find something that will inspire you to try something new in your house.
     I really enjoyed this book and all the ideas that popped into my head while reading it.   It's always nice to get a fresh perspective on decorating and this book is full of inspiration.   Even the projects that may not have been my style, planted seeds in my head for future decorating opportunities. I've been itching to do a little redecorating at our house and this was the perfect thing to get my brain going.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. 

Reviewing "Buttermilk Sky" by Jan Watson


   "Buttermilk Sky" by Jan Watson,  is based in early 1900s Kentucky.  The main character, 18-year-old Mazy Pelfrey, leaves her home in the Kentucky mountains to attend Secretarial school in Lexington.  While she's eager to leave her hometown and get a taste of city life, she finds lots of challenges along the way, not the least of which being some mean girls in her school. I could definitely identify with how mean school-age girls can be toward one another so I felt her pain in those moments.  
     The main story line revolves around a choice Mazy must make between a man named Chanis, a young sheriff from her hometown, and a man named Loyal Chambers who comes from a very wealthy family and lives in the city.  Mazy's vision gets clouded by the charming Loyal and all of his determination to marry her. When Chanis comes to visit, all of Mazy's friends are smitten by him and can't understand Mazy's reluctance to go home and marry him. 
    I definitely enjoyed portions of this book but found my mind wandering at times.  I really enjoyed the Cinnamon character and thought she would be an integral part of the plot since she's the first character we meet. But she remains on the sidelines for a lot of the book.   I think Jan Watson is a wonderful writer but didn't get into the plot of this one as much as I have in other books she's written. But if you are a Jan Watson fan or a fan of early 1900s historical fiction, I would definitely give it a try.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. 

November 28, 2014

Reviewing "The Christmas Story for Children"



     "The Christmas Story for Children" by Max Lucado, Randy Frazee and Karen Davis Hill, and illustrated by Fausto Bianchi, is a neat children's book that can easily be used as a teaching tool in your household all year round. Even though it's called "The Christmas Story", it actually includes the story of Christ's life through his baptism and beginning of his teaching.  It's very Biblically accurate and paraphrases scripture well.  
     There is quite a bit of small print on many of the pages so it seems geared toward a slightly older age group of kids, but reading it out loud to the little ones would probably work well too.  The illustrations are very unique and not necessarily done in a typical children's book style.  I would describe it as a comic book style mixed with Italian Renaissance art. Although I probably would prefer the sheep to look a little cuter, I can see what they were going for style-wise, as it makes this book stand out from the rest.  I would recommend this book to anybody who has young kids in the house and is looking for a tool to tell the story of Christ's birth and start of his ministry.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

November 25, 2014

Reviewing "The Legend of the Candy Cane"


     "The Legend of the Candy Cane", written by Lori Walburg and Illustrated by Richard Cowdrey, is a beautifully illustrated board book with an inspirational tale about the symbolic meaning behind candy canes.  The book begins with a stranger arriving into town and renovating a dilapidated store.  All of the townspeople are speculating as to what kind of store it will be, and the children are delightfully surprised to find out that it's an adorable candy shop.  Lucy, the main character helps the store owner unpack his boxes and put the store together.  Upon opening the last crate, Lucy finds a sugary treat she's never seen before, a candy cane.  The store owner, Mr. Sonneman, proceeds to explain the story behind this special Christmas candy, an illustration of Christ's birth, death on the cross, and how He wiped away the sins of humanity.
     While the legend of the candy cane has unknown origins, it is a sweet way to talk about the true meaning of Christmas with your children.  The illustrations are sure to grab their attention and the fact that it's a board book makes it very durable for little hands.  Although the part about Christ being beaten and bloody may be a little mature for the toddler set, judging the mindset of your kiddos and  leaving that short part out until they are ready would be very easy to do.  I would recommend this book to families with young kids who want some fun ways to talk about the meaning of Christmas, and create some family traditions around a tasty treat.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Booklook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. 

November 24, 2014

Reviewing "Christmas at Rose Hill Farm"


       When you combine roses, Christmas, an Amish love story, and an Author like Suzanne Woods Fisher, you have a recipe for the sweet smell of success. Pun intended.  The main character, Bess Riehl, is preparing for a Christmas wedding to a man she never expected to marry. Instead of following her heart, she is doing what she feels is the sensible thing, and marrying a nice sensible man who she knows will provide a good life for her.   But when she finds an unidentified rose growing in a pot in her family's greenhouse and her father calls in a rose rustler to identify it, everything changes and life becomes very exciting... and confusing.
       I enjoy Amish fiction and I love Christmas.  So it's not surprising that I really enjoyed reading this book.  The characters were relatable and I also found the overall theme of rose farming to be very interesting. I had no idea how many kinds of roses existed in the world, and it made me want to learn more and grow more roses on our patio. We have a large rose bush on our patio and this book made me realize that I don't even know what kind it is! My next assignment: patio rose identification.  I would recommend this book to anybody who enjoys Amish fiction with a love story as the main plot line.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Revell Reads for free in exchange for an honest review.

November 16, 2014

Reviewing "The River" by Beverly Lewis


     "The River" by Beverly Lewis is extremely heartwarming Amish Fiction that I would recommend to anybody who enjoys the genre.  Two sisters, Tilly and Ruth,  left the Amish community to become "Fancy" and basically had cut ties from their family.  They each left for different reasons, one escaping heartbreak, and one escaping a life of feeling like she didn't belong.  When they unexpectedly received a call from their bother inviting them to their parents' Anniversary party, they were both hesitant to re-enter that life they had run from.  But upon their return they find that life in their community is different from what they had left, and they spend a week working through their pasts and creating new ties with some members of their family.
     If you know the author "Beverly Lewis" it won't come as a surprise that this was an enjoyable read. She has authored more than 90 books and is a New York Times Best Selling Author.  She has a knack for making the reader feel entrenched in the Amish culture, to the point where you can picture the Amish life pretty easily.  I enjoyed the characters in "The River" and felt so bad about the pain they had experienced in their lives.  I was hoping for a breakthrough for each of the main characters as they were reintroduced to Amish life. The family seemed very realistic to me, with members who were welcoming of the women and others who will probably never forgive them for leaving the plain life.  I really enjoyed how it ended and won't spoil it, but I will say it is definitely a worthwhile read.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. 

November 15, 2014

Reviewing "Quilted By Christmas"



       "Quilted by Christmas" by Jodie Bailey is a fun Christmasy novel full of a Grandmother's love with romance and quilting as the backdrop.  The main character Taryn has had some rough things happen in her life that have lead her to believe that she is pretty unloveable. She nonetheless has made a life for herself as a teacher and is intent on impacting the lives of the kids she works with. She also has a very close relationship with her Grandmother and when her Grandmother falls ill, she is forced to figure some things out about her life in general and about love.  
         I am always a fan of books that have quilting themes because I feel that it adds heart and substance to the storyline. I enjoyed the way the author cleverly intertwined the quilting theme throughout the book and I found myself wanting to see the quilts in person.  Gifting a quilt to someone is like giving someone a piece of you, and the general theme of quilt gifting in this book is a sweet one. I enjoyed the book and finished it in about a day, so it's perfect for that plane ride home for the holidays or sitting in front of your fireplace for a couple cozy evenings. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys quilting related books with some romance and a lot of love thrown in.  Click on the link below for some fun opportunities!

Quilts of Love Quilted by Christmas Jodie Bailey

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for an honest review. 

Reviewing "Where Treetops Glisten"


    "Where Treetops Glisten", by Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman and Sarah Sundin is a collection of three novellas, each taking place during Christmas time around World War II.  With Christmas as the backdrop, each story focuses on one of three siblings who are each attempting love after going through betrayal, loss and everything else that wartime brings. Each novella has a very different theme as each sibling is in a different life stage and has had their own life experiences.  Just to give you an idea, in the first novella, "White Christmas" Abigail Turner is a college student working in a candy shop who meets a man with some big problems, while in the third novella "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", Meredith Turner, is a combat nurse on the front lines of the war in the Netherlands. 
     I found the characters in each novella to be realistic with believable emotions and "baggage" in their lives.  I was constantly rooting for love to win and I won't spoil it by telling you how the stories end.   A couple of the novellas were faster reads but each had their own charming, heartwarming moments.  I think this is the perfect book to get anyone in the Christmas Spirit and get your mind in the right place as the holidays approach.  The main message I took away from this book is that love, family and faith are so much more important than gifts and all the peripheral craziness that sometimes accompanies Christmas.  I am encouraged to soak in all the magic of this fun season to the fullest. 

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for an honest review. 

October 17, 2014

"Parenting with Scripture" by Kara Durbin


       "Parenting with Scripture" by Kara Durbin is an excellent tool for parents looking to use scripture to teach and instruct their children.  The beginning of the book is a guide for finding and responding to teachable moments, including learning to identify a teachable moment in your everyday life.  Durbin discusses using opportunities such as TV shows or commercials, or time in the car when you have a buckled-in audience. She also stresses the importance of using positive moments and reinforcing good behavior like when your child shows kindness to others, or demonstrates honesty in a tough situation.
       The rest of the book is a very useful topical guide. The topics range from friendship to giving, to honesty and self-control. Durbin lists a topic at the top of the page, gives the definition, and then lists several scripture verses that deal with the topic. Then, there is a list of discussion questions and a "Take Action" segment which gives the family some goals for working on the specific topic.
        I would recommend this book to all Christian families with children. It's a wonderful tool for everyone in the family to study and use in the midst of all those everyday life moments. I think it's not only a great reference tool but would also make a fantastic family devotional study. The emphasis on the memorization of scripture is wonderful and important, especially with the ease that little minds learn new things.  Those verses will stay "hidden in their hearts", and encourage them to live in a way that honors God and loves others for the rest of their lives.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

October 14, 2014

Reviewing "Bible Study for Busy Mamas, Thirty Days in 1 Corinthians 13"


Pam Forster's "Bible Study for Busy Mamas, Thirty Days in 1 Corinthians 13" is a gem of a book.  It breaks down a very in-depth study of one chapter of the Bible into manageable 5 minute bits which makes studying scripture regularly a very doable practice for busy moms of little ones. 
She uses underlining, highlighting and symbols to deeply examine each verse. I like this a lot because I find that adding a memorable visual aspect is something that helps cement what I learn during a study into the recesses of my brain. 
A really neat part of this book that I've never seen before is the children's study that parallels the adult study. In the introduction of the book Forster explains that there is no pressure to complete the kids study, but that it is available for moms who want to include their whole family in the practice of Bible Study. Her ideas are tailored very well toward kids with short attentions spans who need to be involved in a project or working with their hands in some way to keep them engaged.  The Author suggests that the kids' study can be used as a completely separate entity during family worship time at night with Dad. 
I would definitely recommend this book to moms who have their hands full with little ones and may struggle to find that regular Bible study time.  It's a pretty book with inviting pages, and the fact that each study portion takes about 5 minutes may just lead to a wonderful habit of always finding time to study no matter how busy we are. 

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher through BookCrash in exchange for an honest review. 

Reviewing "DIY Type" by Dana Tanamachi


"DIY Type" by Dana Tanamachi is a very unique book filled with two sizes of beautiful typographic stencils.  The book cover is actually one of the neatest crafty book covers I've seen as it has fun cut-outs that allow you to see through it.  I also love colorful hombre style.
The first 14 pages of the book first include the story of the author's journey toward a passion for artistic lettering, followed by pages of project ideas with supply lists and example photos.  I love her ideas for the multitude of projects inspired by the stencils, and actually would have liked to see 20 or 30 more pages of fun projects.  My favorite sections are the "Party" and "Home" sections, and I also like the idea of decorating the front of my journals or perhaps some stationery.
This book is very much on trend, as the phenomenon of chalk lettering has exploded along with the Pinterest boom. Since the practice of freehand fancy lettering isn't in my wheelhouse, I find these stencils to be a very helpful and fun tool that I look forward to using for parties and for home decor.  I would recommend this to anybody looking to do some DIY lettering projects, even if you've never tried it before.  The book will inspire you to get started on all of those fun things you've seen as you were scrolling through Pinterest.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. 

October 13, 2014

Reviewing "Andi Under Pressure" by Amanda Flower



"Andi Under Pressure" by Amanda Flower, is a great mystery novel for kids, based on cute, realistic characters and an intriguing plot.  Twelve-year-old Andi Boggs and her friend Colin are thrilled to be attending a prestigious science camp at a university in Kildeer, Ohio.  But from day one, the camp is plagued with a series of pranks which slowly escalate to the point of being dangerous.  Andi and Colin, being extremely curious and fairly fearless, decide to put their investigative prowess to good use, and in true Nancy Drew-esque fashion, they get themselves into pickles and seemingly impossible situations pretty often.
I would recommend this book to anybody who has kids who enjoy a good mystery novel.  The plot is interesting and draws the reader in right away. (I read the whole thing on a 3 hour flight this past weekend). The characters have good hearts and positive goals and the book is clean and safe for young readers.  Lessons about integrity and honesty are sprinkled throughout the story but they are underlying themes more than overt lessons.  In addition to the mystery, there are good moments of both humor and drama, creating a very well rounded reading experience for any kid.  This was my first Amanda Flower book and I would definitely be eager to read more of her work.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

October 5, 2014

Reviewing "Treasury of Bible Stories" by Kelly Pulley

   "Treasury of Bible Stories", by Kelly Pulley, is a beautiful collection of Rhyming Bible stories written for children ages 4-8. Almost every page is fully covered with fun and bright illustrations that will keep your children completely enthralled.  The stories range from about 10-20 pages and cover popular sunday school lesson topics and characters such as Adam and Eve, Noah, Joshua and Daniel.      
        The rhyming style used throughout the book is really fun and easy to read. I predict that nightly story time with the family would become extremely popular using this as your material, which would also promote great conversations with your kids about each story.  In addition to being wonderful for kids, it would be great resource for parents, especially those who may have a harder time with scripture reading comprehension.  The simple details included in these stories make them very easy to remember.  I would recommend this book to every Christian family with little kids around.  It will definitely be one we look forward to reading for years to come.
Click here for more info: http://litfusegroup.com/author/kpulley Also, check out my previous blog post for info about a fun giveaway!

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Litfuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

Celebrate the Treasury of Bible Stories by entering the Rhythmical Rhymes Kindle Giveaway!


Part of the Magnificent Tales series, Treasury of Bible Stories: Rhythmical Rhymes of Biblical Times will delight children ages 4–8 with rhyming Bible stories pairing spiritual truths with playful illustrations.

Enter the Rhythmical Rhymes Kindle Giveaway 9/15 – 10/12.
Treasury of Bible Stories Kelly Pulley
One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle HDX
  • Treasury of Bible Stories by Kelly Pulley
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on October 12th. Winner will be announced October 13th at Kelly's blog.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to visit Kelly's blog on the 13th to see if you won!

September 28, 2014

"Game Changer" by Kirk Cousins


Washington Redskins' Quarterback, Kirk Cousins, is a class act.  Prior to reading this book, I admit I didn't know very much about him.  After all, I come from a long line of Green Bay Packers fans. :)  But after reading this, I think I may have just become an instant Washington Redskins fan. 
Cousins comes from an extraordinarily supportive and wonderful Christian family. He was raised to make good decisions in life, and it turns out that making good decisions is one of the most important parts of being a successful quarterback  In "Game Changer", Cousins takes the reader through his football backstory.  We get a very real and transparent description of how God lead him through the ups and downs of his journey toward a successful career in the NFL. And in the process of telling his own story, he guides the reader toward how to be a success using God's standards and guidelines for our everyday living. 
I found this book to be a very interesting and encouraging read. About half of the book is really directed toward young students, but the principles he teaches in the book can be applied to us not-so-young people very easily as well.  I would recommend this book to families- especially those with teenage boys.  Reading it together could lead to some very good discussions about good life decision making, including where we as Christians should place our trust, and how to not let ourselves get off track.   

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Booklook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. 

September 26, 2014

Reviewing "940 Saturdays"


"940 Saturdays" is a cute, hard cover journal by Harley A. Rotbart, MD, which includes a small booklet filled with ideas for activities to do with your children.  The idea behind this large journal is that there are 940 Saturdays between the day your child is born and the day they leave for college. There is a space for each one of those Saturdays in the book, where you are supposed to write the date and then write what you did that day.  In the back of the book there is a pocket which holds the small booklet of ideas.  Each idea is grouped into an age range, so that within a category of ideas there are age appropriate activities to complete with the child.
I think the idea of chronicling every Saturday you get to spend with your child is a great and lofty goal.   For some moms and dads this would be a wonderful gift to get at a baby shower and they would completely eat it up. I'm sorry to say that I'm probably not one of those people, because I am more likely to write about something we did when I feel compelled to write, and not when I'm forced to write. Being "forced" to write every single Saturday's activities down is a slight turnoff for me because I would feel guilty looking at all the blank Saturdays I didn't remember to fill out.  I'm also wondering how it would work with multiple children. Buying one of these large (2 inch thick) journals for each child and then filling them each out separately and finding a place to store said journals doesn't seem realistic.  I would probably rather blog about our special activities with photos and with the whole family included. That said, it is a sweet idea and I would recommend this book to anyone who really enjoys keeping daily journals, because you would probably be more likely to keep up with it.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. 

Reviewing "Miracle in a Dry Season"

"Miracle in a Dry Season", by Sarah Loudin Thomas, is a wonderful book about the practice and art of forgiveness.  Forgiveness gives us freedom, spreads love, and releases us from the bondage of our past. Thomas does a beautiful job of illustrating the effects of forgiveness, both in the forgiveness of others and ourselves, in this, her first book.
When Perla Long arrives in the town of Wise, West Virginia, she is looking to escape a life of scorn and live a quiet life with her sweet daughter Sadie. However, as soon as she arrives she realizes that turmoil has followed her and that this sleepy town is capable of causing a large amount of hurt.  But in spite of the hurt and the stares, Perla continues to use her gifts to bless others, causing a ripple effect through the hearts of the people of Wise.
The lessons of forgiveness in this book are deep and far reaching.  The profound effect of the simple words "I forgive you" is exhibited through many different story lines in the book, and the act of being able to forgive oneself is shown to be one of the hardest things to do. God shows us incredible grace by forgiving us over and over for our shortcomings, and if we can learn to free ourselves from the guilt of the past, we can move on to bless others in even bigger ways.  I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys great Christian fiction. I will definitely be on the lookout for Thomas' next works. She has a wonderful gift.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Bethany House for free in exchange for an honest review. 

September 22, 2014

A Creative Outlet For Busy Moms and Dads







I have recently rediscovered the amazing and fun, artsy and creative hobby of coloring.  But instead of using crayons I'm using a ginormous box of colored pencils that my sweet husband bought for me and a bunch of really fun gel pens. And instead of coloring in Strawberry Shortcake or Care Bears books, I've found a wide array of beautiful artist coloring books on the market right now. My favorite has to be "Secret Garden" by Johanna Basford. If you find any enjoyment in coloring whatsoever you must pick this book up ASAP.
Having a cute little six-month-old at home, my creative outlet needed to be something that was easy to clean up quickly and easy to set up quickly. (For those times when he's napping and I have a little time to myself for some creative fun.) It turns out coloring is absolutely a perfect fit because not only is it easy to set up and clean up, it's also portable and can be done on the floor in the living room, on the kitchen table, or even sitting in our recliner. If the baby happens to be napping in the swing, I can pull out my book and my pencils and sit right down next to him on the floor as he sleeps.  I would highly recommend the exercise of coloring to anybody who has short bursts of free time and is craving an artsy fix. 

Reviewing "Love's Fortune"


     "Love's Fortune" by Laura Frantz is an angst-filled story of love and loss that takes place in mid- 1800's Kentucky and Pennsylvania.  The main character, Wren, spent most of her growing up years sheltered by her father in Kentucky. But her life changes in dramatic ways when her father gets a letter asking him to return to his roots in Pennsylvania.  Suddenly Wren finds herself in the midst of High Society where not only does she meet her entire extended family, but she finds out that many expectations have been immediately placed upon her and her future.
      Even though this book takes place in a slightly earlier time period, I felt like the story lines and lavish gowns could be taken right out of a "Downton Abbey" episode.   Being a huge "Downton Abbey" fan, I also really enjoyed this book and setting that the book takes place in.  I loved reading the descriptions of all the elaborate affairs, beautiful clothing and extravagant homes.  Though I'm thankful not to have lived in that time period, it's fun to visit it through a novel such as this one.
     I do have a confession to make, though. I turned to the last page of the book when I was about halfway through because I couldn't stand the suspense. Even knowing how it ended, my anxiety level was quite high throughout the book. The amount of drama, intrigue and hardship kept me wanting to know what happened next, and thus kept me up late at night. :)  I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Christian historical fiction with romance as a main theme.


Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Revell in exchange for an honest review. 

September 17, 2014

Reviewing "Cowgirl Trail"

        "Cowgirl Trail", by Susan Page Davis, is the fifth book in the Texas Trails series. I have read the whole series leading up to this one and have enjoyed them all. That said, there was something special about this book in particular that really captivated me.  It was different from the rest in that the main character was a very strong girl/woman named Maggie who was the only child of the founders of Rocking P Ranch.  In an effort to save her family's ranch, she was forced to lead a cattle drive through some rough and dangerous terrain, with a wonderful all-female group of drovers.
        I thoroughly enjoyed this book and believe it would actually make a great movie.  The concept was unlike any historical western fiction I had ever read, and because of that fact it drew me in even more.  The group of women who banded together to get this job done was full of many different character types, each with their own gifts.  It was neat to read about how they took care of the job and took care of each other under such tough circumstances.
        I would recommend this took to anybody who enjoys Christian historical fiction, especially western themed fiction.  The storyline is very empowering to women and is extremely unique.  I would enjoy a whole series based on the Maggie character alone.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review. 

September 13, 2014

Reviewing "A Grand Design" by Amber Stockton

"A Grand Design" by Amber Stockton is a very sweet book that would be perfect for a summer or vacation getaway read. I actually finished the book in one evening and I felt like I had just spent the night watching a romantic comedy, with a hint of drama.

When I was in Junior High I was addicted to the "Babysitter's Club" books and the "Nancy Drew" series.  My parents would get me a stack of those books for Christmas and I would finish them all in a week. I felt the same way about "A Grand Design", in that it was so entertaining, fun and captivating, I wasn't able to go to bed without finding out what happened.  If I had a pile of books written by Amber Stockton, I would probably find myself sleep deprived in a matter of days.

The main character, Alyssa Denham, and her best friend Libby, embark on a summer trip to a fancy hotel on an island on which Alyssa's sweet grandmother happens to live. They find adventure and some romance as soon as they arrive, and the trip gets more and more interesting as it progresses. Alyssa's grandmother assigns her to retrieve some quilt blocks her friends have made over the years, and in the midst of this challenge,  Alyssa revisits her history on the island.  I don't want to give away too much because it would take away the fun, but I will say that this trip is one that Alyssa will never forget.

Being that I read this book in one evening it won't be a surprise when I say that I enjoyed it.  The quilting theme of the book really takes a back seat to all of the relationships that develop  but the theme is there nonetheless. I would recommend this book to anybody looking for a fun summer romance type read which will transport you to an island paradise, even just for one night.


Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Litfuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

September 12, 2014

Reviewing "The Case for a Creator: Student Edition"


"The Case for a Creator: Student Edition" by Lee Strobel and Jane Vogel, is a wonderful tool for students to use in their investigation into where the universe came from.  Having read the full edition years ago, I knew that the book would be full of fascinating and convincing scientific evidence for the Creator.  Lee Strobel has written a plethora of wonderful materials for adults and I think it's great that his books are being transformed into a form that is even more accessible for students.

The small/skinny book (only 95 pages) is the perfect size for a teen to be able to handle without getting overwhelmed with the feeling that they are reading a text book. There are 7 concise chapters exploring such topics as the Big Bang and DNA. Each chapter contains interesting illustrations, charts and side bars which are done in a style that is stylistically targeted toward the student.  While flipping through the book those neat features catch your attention and draw you into the chapters even more.

I was pleased to see how well this student edition was planned out and would definitely recommend it for families with kids who are in Junior High or older.  I would also recommend it for anybody who doesn't have the time to read the full edition and wants to get an overview of the most important themes and ideas, or as a gift to pass along to your friends who may have questions about God and where we came from.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

September 8, 2014

Reviewing "Home to Chicory Lane" by Deborah Raney


"Home to Chicory Lane" is a charming and eventful book about a family embarking on a new and exciting business venture, The Chicory Inn Bed and Breakfast. Although the plot centers around the Whitman family as a whole, it mainly focuses on daughter, Landyn, and her new husband, Chase.  The family has no idea about the turmoil the newlyweds are facing until Landyn shows up at the Whitmans' door with a U-haul on the day of the Inn's Grand Opening.
I really enjoyed this book and actually finished it in under 24 hours. The Whitman family comes across as a normal, large, Christian family dealing with all that life throws at them on a daily basis. The characters are charming and real, having all of their own faults and struggles they are dealing with.  Since this is the first book in the series, there also appear to be several plot lines being set up for future books.
Throughout the book, I found myself rooting for the main characters, drawn into their personal struggles, and hoping for the best. The suspense built all the way until the end, and it has left me wanting to read to the next book as soon I can get my hands on it.
I would recommend this book to anybody who enjoys modern day Christian fiction based on family life with some romance thrown in.
Also, please take a look at my previous post for information about entering a great contest!

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Litfuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

September 7, 2014

$200 B&B Weekend Getaway Giveaway & 9/9 Facebook Party with Deborah Raney!


The first book in Deborah Raney's new Chicory Inn series, Home to Chicory Lane, introduces us to Audrey Whitman, a mother who has launched all her children into life and now looks forward to fulfilling some of her own dreams during her empty-nest years. However, not all of her children are ready to stay out of the nest quite yet.

Deborah is celebrating the release of her new series with a $200 B&B Weekend Getaway and a Facebook author chat party.

chicory-400-click
 
  One winner will receive:
  • A B&B Weekend Getaway (via a $200 Visa cash card)
  • Home to Chicory Lane by Deborah Raney
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on September 9th. Winner will be announced at the Home to Chicory Lane Author Chat Party on 9/9. Deborah will be hosting a heartfelt book chat, giving away prizes, and answering questions from readers. She will also share an exclusive sneak peek at the next book in the Chicory Inn series!

So grab your copy of Home to Chicory Lane and join Deborah on the evening of September 9th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 9th!

Suspense and Romance- Reviewing "Truth Be Told"


"Truth Be Told", by Carol Cox, is a suspense filled Christian novel, with a side of romance, which takes place in the late 1900s Wild West.  When Amelia Wagner heads out on a trip to visit her father in Granite Springs, Arizona, a whole world of uncertainty awaits her.  Instead of balking at the challenges and succumbing to her fears, she pushes forward taking control of the local newspaper and vowing to uncover the truth behind what is happening to the town.
Never having read a book by Carol Cox, I had to idea what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised.  Some historical fiction I have read in the past had felt a bit bogged down with dates, places and facts. This book didn't feel that way at all. In fact, the suspense kept me turning the pages late into the night.  Even though the town that the book is based on is fictional, the business of what it was like to run a newspaper in the late 1800s seems very much based in fact.  The book is well researched and I found myself wanting to look even deeper into what the machinery would have looked like.
The characters are well developed and regularly draw strong emotions out of the reader.  Just when I thought  I could predict what would happen, another jaw dropping turn of events would occur, drawing me in even further.
I would recommend this book to anybody who enjoys Christian historical fiction, especially if you enjoy books based in the Old West.  If you haven't read any books in that genre before, this would be a great place to start. Except for the fact that it will leave you with high expectations for whatever you read next in the genre. :)

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. 

September 5, 2014

Reviewing "Let's Sew Together"



"Let's Sew Together" by Rubyellen Bratcher is an adorable book full of fun sewing projects that parents and kids can make together. Filled with a great assortment of projects, Bratcher's step by step instructions, colorful pictures and special attention to detail will enamor any sewing and crafting enthusiast. Each chapter is based on a particular part of a typical family's day. Getting dressed, eating, learning, playing and celebrating are all things we are all quite accustomed to. Bratcher took these familiar and routine aspects of daily life and provided the readers with a wonderful assortment of crafts, recipes and even theme specific books to read with your kids if they don't feel like participating in a particular sewing project.  Each chapter also has a no-sew project made from things that you can probably find around the house.
Each project lists a summary, skill level, materials, seam allowance and finished measurements along with tips to make the project extra special.   The directions are very clear and even include photos and drawings when needed.  I really love that the author included book lists with the projects.  It makes it very home school friendly if a parent is trying to plan a day around a certain theme.
I would definitely recommend this book to any family who enjoys making kid friendly projects together, or to any crafters out there who like to make fun gifts for kids.


Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

August 30, 2014

Reviewing "Undetected" by Dee Henderson


      "Undetected" by Dee Henderson is a very enjoyable and worthwhile read. I didn't know what to expect in regards to the theme of the book because I don't read much military based fiction, but I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I became enthralled with the story.  The enormity of research the author must have done in the process of writing this book is mind boggling and resulted in a very believable, informative and interesting story based on the lives of Nuclear Submarine Commanders and crew.  As I read,  I felt like I received a very interesting eduction on the practices and operations of submarines in general.  The science behind sonar was also explored in depth, as well as the study of solar flares and I enjoyed it more than I would ever have expected. It was fascinating.  To top it all off, all of this fun science serves as a great backdrop for a sweet romance.
        The book spends most of its time concentrating on the work and personal lives of Commander Mark Bishop and scientific genius Gina Gray. Bishop is in charge of the ballistic missile submarine USS Nevada, and Gina Gray is a scientist specializing in ocean science research.  I don't want to give too much of the plot away, but I will say that I loved both of these characters. They would be people I would like to be friends with in real life and they also serve as great role models in many ways.
         I haven't read any other Christian romance novels based on submarines and science, so this is definitely a unique book. Even if you don't think you are interested in the science and feel skeptical about how interesting the book could be, I would recommend this book to anybody who likes Christian novels with romantic themes.  It really is fascinating to think about all that is going on in our oceans every day. It's a world that few are privy to and it was fun to get a little window into what that life is like.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Bethany House for free in exchange for an honest review.


August 8, 2014

Book Review for "Under the Heavens" by Thomas Nye

"Under the Heavens"  by Thomas Nye is the first book in his Amish Horses Series and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Nye is an extremely gifted writer, and I found myself sharing some beautiful quotes from this book with family and friends on several occasions.
Being a fan of Amish fiction, I was excited to try this new series.  Many of the Amish fiction books I have read in the past have a style and voice that I have become accustomed to, but Nye brings a fresh new perspective to the genre.  It didn't feel like all the other Amish books I had read, and that made it even more interesting to me.
Although the book does focus at times on relationships between the Amish family members, the majority of the book focuses on the main character Lenny who leaves modern society to live with his Amish relatives for the summer.  His Grandfather puts him to work on the farm and teaches him the art of farming with draft horses. At first very intimidated, Lenny second guesses himself and lacks confidence, but with the help of his wonderfully invested Grandfather, he overcomes his fears and  blossoms into an expert horseman. His relationships with the individual horses are very endearing to the point that the horses themselves become much loved characters for the reader.
There are all sorts of twists and turns throughout the book which add both levity and drama, and more sweet moments between Grandfather and Grandson than can be counted. "Under the Heavens" is a heartwarming, thoughtful and worthwhile read.  I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys Amish fiction, or Christian fiction in general.
A quick note about the cover: My copy arrived looking very dark and foreboding (darker than the photo above), but that does not at all represent the wonderful contents of the book. I think it was a printing issue.  Click here to check it out on Amazon: "Under the Heavens"

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookCrash in exchange for an honest review.

July 24, 2014

"Beautiful on the Mountain" Book Review


"Beautiful on the Mountain" by Jeannie Light is a true story about a woman who left the fancy life she was used to and followed God's lead to minister to a tiny rural community in the Blue Ridge Mountains called Graves Mill.  After suffering the heartbreak of her husband leaving her, she was weighing her possibilities and trying to figure out how she was going to rebuild her life. She had big plans to raise sheep on some property she owned near Graves Mill, and while investigating her options, was asked to help the town re-open their inactive Baptist church.   She was petrified at the idea, and felt like she didn't have the tools to succeed at such a large task, but as time went on God led her to be the person that town desperately needed.

Jeannie Light has her Masters in Literature and also taught English. Her appreciation for words definitely comes across boldly in this text as she describes the details of her life in Graves Mill. Although very well written, it took me a while to get through the book. I enjoyed meeting the characters of Graves Mill and learning about Light's very interesting life there, but I probably would have enjoyed it a little bit more if the superfluous details were pared down a bit.  That aside, it was inspiring to read about Light's journey to follow God's calling in her life, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Memoirs with colorful characters and a good message.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for an honest review.

July 23, 2014

Reviewing "Penny Wise" by Neta and Dave Jackson

"Penny Wise" by Neta and Dave Jackson is the third book in the "Windy City Neighbors" series.  I haven't read the first two, but I will definitely be picking those up after reading this one! The "Windy City Neighbors" series is written in a parallel novel style where each book can be read individually but some of the same characters lives are intertwined.
The main characters in this book are Michelle Jasper, her husband Jared, and their 3 teenage children.  Michelle is a social worker and Jared is an air traffic controller, both very demanding jobs. Juggling all the "good things" that life has brought them along with the demands of raising teenagers proves to be quit a challenge.  When things start getting out of control a series of crises begins to affect the entire family.
 The charming characters feel very real and draw the reader in right off the bat. It feels like you are reading a story about a family you might meet at church or live next door to, and that makes reading the book even more pleasurable. This shouldn't be surprising considering how much success the Jacksons have found in writing novels, and if you are a fan of the Yada Yada Prayer Group series, I would highly recommend this book.
With faith being a prominent theme in this book. it encourages the reader to be persistent in prayer and to live a life focused on serving God and serving others. It's always refreshing to read a novel in which the characters can be role models for your real life.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for an honest review. 

July 17, 2014

Growing Herbs in the City


Attention city dwellers with only a small patio or a window sill: I was recently given a cute little herb garden growing kit for my birthday, and it's making me realize how fun it is to exercise your green thumb on a small and tiny scale.  This isn't an ad for herb garden kits, and I'm not getting paid for sharing this with you. I just thought it was fun and cute, and both of those adjectives automatically qualified this as a blog worthy subject.
Each little mason jar holds a different herb, and with the layered combination of perlite, pebbles and soil, each jar environment is self-watering.  Any word proceeded by "self-" frees up time in our busy schedules so that makes me a fan. While we work, play and do laundry, these little jars of genius are cooking up some healthy home-grown herbs that we can harvest as needed.
I planted these little cuties on Saturday, and by Tuesday, two of them had already sprouted! Here's the adorable little basil plant.

Now that I know how to make these, I think they would be pretty easy to replicate with many different kinds of herbs and veggies.  If you want to get this exact kit, head over to http://makerskit.com.  

July 11, 2014

Reviewing "Teen Study Bible, NIV"


The "Teen Study Bible, NIV" was edited by Lawrence O. Richards and Sue W. Richards and would be a good resource for the older teens in your life.  Containing many special features, I think this Study Bible would be a helpful supplement to your Teen's Bible collection. I am a fan of having several translations of the Bible, as well as some good Bible commentaries and Study Bibles. As you are reading through your chosen version of the Bible, if you come upon a verse or collection of verses that seems confusing, it really helps to have different versions to compare. 
In this case, this Study Bible has a lot of supplemental discussion sidebars.  The "Instant Access" sections apply certain verses to the life of a teen, and help them see how what has been written relates to their daily lives. The "Dear Jordan" sections are kind of like Biblical "Dear Abby" letters, in which teen ask questions about specific problems relating to their faith that they may be facing in their lives and get advice from the editors.   Each book of the Bible also has a nice introduction section which highlights key themes and previews the major events in that particular book via bullet points.  This would be very helpful to those of us who aren't teens as well.  There are Q & A sections that test your knowledge of Bible trivia and pop out sections of text called Bible Promises which highlight important verses that would be good to memorize. 
All in all, this has the makings of a great Study Bible for teens. As usual, use your own judgment when purchasing this for your teen. Some of the "Dear Jordan" sections may be a little on the mature side for a 13 year old, but would be perfect for your 15 or 16 year old.  


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

July 10, 2014

Reviewing "Seasons of Tomorrow"



"Seasons of Tomorrow" by Cindy Woodsmall is the fourth book in the "Amish Vines and Orchards" series. I've read each book in the series and this one is definitely my favorite.  It's the longest of the four books, and for good reason, since there are several very intriguing plot lines. When I got to the end, I didn't want it to end!  Woodsmall's characters are always very relatable and realistic. The raw emotions that go along with dating, marriage, family life and faith are practically seeping out of this book. I found myself reading very quickly at times so I could find out what happened next. Here is short summary from the publisher:

"More settled in her heart than ever before, Rhoda Byler feels a newfound confidence living in the Old Order Amish settlement she helped establish in Orchard Bend, Maine. Time has helped to heal the wounds of Rhoda’s recent severed relationship, and she finds that even her unusual gift of profound intuition is less of a burden as she continues to seek God’s wisdom for her future. She is happy to be working alongside the King family and the love of her life as they tend and nurture the settlement’s orchard.
Yet when Leah King’s involvement with Englischer Landon Olson becomes known outside of the Maine community, her disregard of the Ordnung could threaten all the Orchard Bend Amish are building. In the midst of addressing the discord, a shocking tragedy challenges the young settlement like never before, threatening to uproot Rhoda’s peace and the future of everything she holds dear.
When several members of Orchard Bend Farms are displaced, the estranged King brother is called upon to return. Can those who founded the new Amish community in Maine unite Or will the lingering pain of past hurts and present struggles result in the end of their dreams?"

As you can tell from my book review history, I am a fan of Amish fiction.  This series is a particularly good representation of the genre.  I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys Christian fiction with lots of great characters, life lessons, and youthful angst.  It's a great summer read, and I would recommending picking up the entire series. If you've never read any Amish fiction, this would be a good place to start/ get sucked in. 

Head over to the Author's website to find out more fun info: http://www.cindywoodsmall.com



Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.