April 4, 2015

Reviewing "Mrs. Grant and Madame Julie"

"Mrs. Grant and Madame Julie" by Jennifer Chiaverini is historical fiction based on the life of Mrs. Grant, the wife of Ulysses S. Grant, and her slave Jule.  A Missouri belle, Julie Grant rose to the pinnacle of Washington society as First Lady.  Unbeknownst to Grant's abolitionist followers Julie and Jule were together for 37 years. During the Civil War, Julie would travel with Jule and their four children to be near her husband's side.  However, Julie and Jule saw two different wars.  Even though Julie was speaking out for women's rights, she was still secretly keeping Jule as a slave.  Once the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, Jule claimed her freedom and became a very successful businesswoman. 
While a lot has been written about The Grants, hardly anything has been written about Jule.  This book is the imagining of what life would have been like between to the two women in the midst of the Civil War era.  Jennifer Chiaverini, as always, does a wonderful job constructing the story of Julie and Jule's relationship.  It is a thought provoking read, with great insight into what may have been happening behind closed doors in such a prominent family. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with a Civil War setting and strong female characters. 

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

Reviewing "Snuggle Time Devotions"

"Snuggle Time Devotions that end with a hug!" is a cute devotional book for kids with adorable illustrations and short daily devotions. Each day has an overall theme, a Bible verse, a rhyming story to accompany the verse, a "takeaway" section to examine what we have learned, an activity to go along with it, and a hug to complete the devotional time.
The book is very thoughtfully put together and is targeted toward preschoolers to help them get accustomed to spending a daily time with God.  The Bible stories sections are sometimes a little bit lacking in some of the details but they are written in a cute, rhyming way.  The activities are fun and add a good element to the devotional that gets the kids doing things with their hands. I would recommend this book to families with preschool aged kids looking to find a new way to learn about the Bible together.

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

April 3, 2015

Reviewing "Blessings for the Morning" by Susie Larson

"Blessings for the Morning", by Susie Larson, is yet another gorgeous, wonderful book created by this gifted author. I already own "Blessings for the Evening" and it's remained an important item in my nightstand ever since I received it. Similar to the first one, this book is full of amazing photos, wonderful Bible verses and lovely encouraging words, which makes it a perfect way to start your day.  Each day has a new photo and a new theme which will bless your morning and encourage you to live the life you've been called to live.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a daily devotional full of encouragement. It would also make a perfect gift for your loved ones for any special occasion.

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

Reviewing "Like a Flower in Bloom"

      "Like a Flower in Bloom", by Siri Mitchell is a pleasant novel set in Victorian Era England about a woman named Charlotte who has a love for Botany and has found fulfillment in assisting her Botanist Father. When a meddling relative comes to town and suggest that Charlotte needs to find a man and get married, her world is turned upside down. One of Charlotte's father's correspondents returns to town and her dad sees this as the perfect time to set Charlotte free from her job so she can find a man. She refuses to abandon her job without a fight and comes up with all kinds of ways to get her job back.  But as she spends more and more time with her father's new assistant, she finds herself not wanting to live life without him.
      I would recommend this book to people who enjoy the Victorian Era and have a fondness for plants and botany. There is a lot of scientific language in the book so if you want to learn a bit about botany, here's your chance!  The characters are also very likable and there is a lot of humor in the book which keeps the story entertaining.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Baker Publishing group in exchange for an honest review. 

Reviewing "The Trouble with Patience"

      "The Trouble with Patience" by Maggie Brendan is a good example of well-written historical fiction. Set in a Montana Gold Rush boom town, the story is filled with lots of good thematic elements you'd expect to find in such a setting. Cowboys, cattle rustlers, romance, and angst combine to create a story you can't stop reading.
       Patience was gifted a bed and breakfast in her Grandmother's will and since her plans for her future seemed to be crumbling, she decided she to make a change in her life and renovate the dilapidated structure on her own.  Although she desired solitude and didn't have any friends to speak of, she quickly finds herself with some suitors in town who vie for her attention. There's a twist though, in that both men have secret things in their pasts that could threaten any hope of a long term relationship with Patience.
       I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction in a western gold rush setting with suspense and romance. It's an enjoyable book and will allow you to travel back to this fascinating era.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Baker Publishing in exchange for an honest review. 

Reviewing "Mothering From Scratch"

     "Mothering from Scratch" by  Melinda Means and Kathy Helgemo is a refreshingly honest book about being a mom. It doesn't set out to create perfect moms, but instead acknowledges that none of us are perfect and our kids aren't perfect.   The book provides wonderful tools to help us with issues we might struggle with while bringing up our kids, and reminds the reader that close relationships with Christ and with our husbands are key to being the best moms we can be.
      I like how the book approaches a lot of different topics, and emphasizes the different strengths and weaknesses we all have. It empowers moms to not worry about fitting into some perfect parenting style that someone else may have thought up, but rather to be the mom God created you to uniquely be.  In a culture today that focuses on pretending to be perfect on Facebook, and struggles to make our home life look like something found on a  Pinterest board, this book is a great take on motherhood that will cause moms across the country to breathe a collective sigh of relief.
    I would recommend this book to moms young and old who might like some encouragement, and some tools to make us stronger and more fulfilled overall.

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

Reviewing "The Beekeeper's Son"

      "The Beekeeper's Son" by Kelly Irvin is a wonderful Amish Romance novel filled with suspense and drama. As you know from reading my other reviews, I am an admirer of Amish fiction. This book takes it to a whole new level to the point that I can't wait to read the rest of this new series.  Kelly Irvin has clearly outdone herself and gained a fan. 
      The main characters, Deborah and Phineas, have come to terms with the fact that their lives haven't quite turned out how they had planned.  As the go about their daily lives with the expectations that they are stuck where they are, they begin to find out that God's plan for their lives is much better than anything they could have thought up for themselves.  Only by working through the past and moving ahead, can they really experience what God has in store for them. 
   I would definitely recommend this book to anybody who likes Amish fiction with romance and suspense.  I didn't know that there were Amish communities in Texas and that added a new and interesting aspect to the book. I'm looking forward to reading the next one, and the one after that and after that. :)

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

Reviewing "Bonhoeffer Abridged"

      "Bonhoeffer Abridged" by Eric Metaxas is an amazingly insightful and moving biography.  The abridged version makes his story more accessible to the reader who might be overwhelmed by the extremely long original version.  I don't normally pick biographies as my reading material of choice, but this one drew me in very quickly.
      As Adolf Hitler rose to power, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was becoming a gifted and influential pastor. He had such strong faith and such enormous courage, he fearlessly became one of the first to speak out against Hitler.   He felt so strongly about the evil that was sweeping through Europe, he became a double agent and joined in the very dangerous plot to assassinate Hitler.
      Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of most interesting historical figures I have ever read about.  He was a very complex man and his story intrigued me from page 1.    He is a great example of someone who held onto his strong faith through the most extreme of difficult circumstances, spreading the gospel and standing up for truth all the way to the end of his life.  I would recommend this book to anybody who enjoys history and is looking for a book that will move you. It's not light reading, but it's very well written.

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

February 24, 2015

Reviewing "The Beauty of Grace"

   "Tbe Beauty of Grace" is a collection of amazing, inspirational short stories written by some of today's popular writers and arranged into a wonderful book by Dawn Camp.  The book is arranged into sections such as "Worship", "Trust", and "Purpose" and each section is filled with short stories written by different authors.  The stories are about 2-3 pages in length and range in style from poetry to journal entries to stream of consciousness.  Each writer pours their heart out onto the page in hopes of encouraging the reader with a meaningful thought for the day accompanied by a Bible verse.
    I found myself completely sucked in as I started paging through the book and immediately decided that this was something I should highly recommend.  It's almost a devotional book but more like a collection of experiences, feelings, and ideas that will line your heart up to face your day and let God take on the troubles of the world for you.   Though everyone may not identify with each story, there is something for everyone in this collection.  It will inspire you, make you think, and make you want to continue reading it tomorrow.

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

February 17, 2015

Reviewing "Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family" by Michelle Anthony

         As parents, we all have hopes of raising our kids in an environment that will mold them into wonderful, godly young adults some day.  But sometimes, the way we were raised or the environment we grew up in, or simply the fact that we are living in a fallen world results in less than stellar first instincts of what it means to be a good parent.  "Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family" is a great tool to help parents identify the 6 dysfunctional parenting styles that they might be susceptible to falling into, and provides a guide for increasing the health of your family life in general. The topic based chapters include scripture references and reflection questions, as well as ideas for creating special moments that will be meaningful for your family for years to come.
       I would definitely recommend this book for Christian families who want to make sure their homes are grace-filled and Christ centered. The book doesn't delve incredibly deeply into the different parenting styles but gives you a general understanding of behaviors and attitudes that parents should avoid. It's a good starting point for further research, especially if you see yourself in any of the dysfunctional categories. Its also a good resource to make us aware of things we should look out for in our daily lives,  and lifestyles we should work toward attaining for our families.

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

February 14, 2015

Reviewing "Hope Crossing" by Cindy Woodsmall

        Cindy Woodsmall is one of my favorite Amish Fiction writers, so it's not a surprise that I really enjoyed this book.  It is comprised of "The Complete Ada's House Trilogy" and includes three full length novels. It's quite a weighty paperback to lug around! But it's worth it because you get three great books to read in one. The three novels are titled, "The Hope of Refuge", "The Bridge of Peace",  and "The Harvest of Grace."
        The characters' stories are continued through each novel with the addition of new characters along the way.  They are likable although each has their own issues to deal with, and they draw the reader in pretty quickly.  Even though there are three different novels, you may end up reading them all as one because you can't wait to see what happens next.  Throughout each book, themes of grace, faith and hope abound. If you are a fan of Amish fiction, you should definitely give this one a try.  If you can set aside an entire weekend and read the whole thing, I imagine that would be perfect!

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

February 12, 2015

Reviewing "Beyond All Dreams" by Elizabeth Camden and a Kindle Fire Giveaway

"Beyond All Dreams" by Elizabeth Camden is a fantastic book.  It's one of those books that you mention to other people when they ask you if you have read any good books lately.   Not only is it a wonderful story, it is expertly written in a way that makes you feel like you've read a classic when you're finished. Needless to say I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.
Now for the synopsis.  The main character, Anna O'Brien is a map librarian at the Library of Congress, which, by the way, sounds like an amazing job.  She stumbles across some mysterious information when researching a ship that disappeared at sea, but when she brings it up to the people in charge of such things, she is met with anger and harsh words, and sent on her way without any answers. Meanwhile, Congressman Luke Callahan, a lover of libraries and an admirer of Anna, finds himself in his own scandal. In an effort to get his mind off of his own problems, he agrees to help Anna solve her mystery, but end up finding way more than he bargained for.
As I mentioned above, you should read this book.  It is so enjoyable, so well written, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Read it. :)

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

Check out this great giveaway!

Travel back in time to the U.S. Capitol and the Library of Congress in Elizabeth Camden's newest release, Beyond All Dreams. From the gilded halls of the Capitol where powerful men shape the future of the nation, to the scholarly archives of the nation's finest library, Anna and Luke are soon embroiled in secrets much bigger and more perilous than they ever imagined. Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they've ever dreamed for their futures?

Elizabeth is celebrating the release of Beyond All Dreams with a Kindle giveaway and Facebook party on February 17.
One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • One copy of Beyond All Dreams
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on 2/17. Winner will be announced at Elizabeth's 2/17 Beyond All Dreams Facebook author chat party. RSVP for a chance to connect with Elizabeth and historical fiction fans, as well as for the opportunity to win some great prizes!

RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK, TWITTER, or PINTEREST and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 17th!

February 7, 2015

Reviewing "A Stitch in Crime" by Cathy Elliott

"A Stitch in Crime", by Cathy Elliott, is a cozy mystery novel centered around a historical quilt. The main character, Thea, has accepted an assignment to act as co-chairperson for her town's first quilt show and related activities. To Thea's dismay, strange things keep happening and the police end up being called to come to every event she's in charge of.   Meanwhile, her so-called best friend is treating her horribly and some of the people who are supposed to be helping her with all of the events keep disappearing.
I enjoyed "A Stitch in Crime" and found the mystery to be very unpredictable up until the very end of the book.  The characters were very believable and Elliot's writing style makes them jump right off the page. I could picture much of the interpersonal drama happening at any quilt guild, not just the fictional "Quilt-Without-Guilt" guild described in the book.  
As I always enjoy books from the "Quilts of Love" series, this one did not disappoint.  I love mysteries and the quilting community so this book was right up my literary alley. Check out the promotional materials below for more information about a fun giveaway.

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

Don’t miss the newest Quilts of Love book, A Stitch in Crime by Cathy Elliott. Thea's first quilt show begins to fall apart at the seams. Will she be able to piece the mystery together and save the town’s investment in the quilt show before another attack happens . . . with far worse results.
Enter to win a Kindle HDX!

One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle HDX
  • A Stitch in Crime by Cathy Elliott
  • Masterpiece Marriage by Gina Welborn
  • Swept Away by Laura V. Hilton and Cindy Loven

Enter today by clicking the button below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on February 8th. Winner will be announced on the Quilts of Love blog February 9th.

Enter today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

January 29, 2015

Reviewing "The Case of the Jewel Covered Cat Statues"

       "The Case of the Jewel Covered Cat Statues", by Cindy Vincent, is a really cute book for young readers.  It is based on a pair of cat detectives who have assigned themselves to the duty of protecting their family and their mom's antique business. No matter what drama unfolds, the cat detectives immerse themselves into the details of the mystery. They are smart and determined cats with special investigative talents that sometimes get them into trouble. But even when they get into trouble, their hearts are in the right place which makes this story so heartwarming for kids and adults as well. The action/adventure element of the book is continuous, and there is never a dull moment.  I like how each chapter is akin to an episode of a cartoon, where you can't wait to tune in next time to see what happens.
    I would recommend this book to be read aloud to elementary school kids. It is written for the younger set, but the length of the book (242 pages) might bog down the young reader if an adult isn't there to make it exciting and interactive.  The cats are very lovable, and would definitely entice young kids to find out what happens at the end of the book.  I think the cover art could be changed to look a little more mainstream and you'd have a real winner of a book.

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

January 28, 2015

Simplifying Your Life and Getting Rid Of The Clutter

         I find great delight in organization. I crave order in my everyday life to the point that I even enjoy organizing other people's rooms and collections.  My most recent organizing project is that cute little cart you see in the photo above.  I wanted to have a little collection of art supplies and games within arms reach of our dining room table, but I also wanted this little collection to be organized. So we invested in a couple (extremely adorable) carts from a large Swedish big box store nearby and now I consider them to be my trolleys of fun. This little story is to illustrate just how serious I am about loving to be organized.
       Now that you have an idea of how much I like organization, you can probably guess that I'm not a fan of clutter. Clutter is my nemesis. Today as I was perusing Pinterest, I came across a neat decluttering system that my husband and I decided to implement tonight.  I am so excited about it, I couldn't resist sharing it with you guys right away. The people over at Old World Garden Farms came up with this wonderful plan which they call the "One-A-day/365 Day Decluttering Experiment". The gist of the whole thing is that in order to live more simply and keep your house devoid of unneeded clutter, each person gets rid of one item a day for an entire year.  You can donate, recycle, sell or trash the item depending on what it is, and it can be as simple as a mug you don't use, or a pen that doesn't work. How easy is that? Click here to read their full story.
      Tonight I picked a long glass votive candle holder that we aren't using at all. It's going into our donation box and when that box gets full, we will take a short drive and drop it all off.  For the most part our house is pretty organized, but the closets are full, the cupboards are full, and the garage is full.  I know that we have a lot of stuff we aren't using that could be put to good use somewhere else, and the feeling of freeing up space in our home for things we do need is freeing in and of itself.
      I challenge you to join me in this journey of decluttering. I think we would probably all sleep better and think more clearly if everything in our homes was useful, enjoyable and had a place in our daily lives.

Reviewing "I Choose You Today: 31 Choices to Make Love Last"

     "I Choose You Today: 31 Choices to Make Love Last" by Deb DeArmond, is a great devotional style book designed to keep or get our marriages on the right track.   Each chapter focuses on something we should choose to do for our spouse, such as "I Choose To Be Generous With You", or "I Choose To Listen To You".  The chapters include a Bible verse to apply to the theme of the chapter, a story about a couple dealing with that theme, some discussion questions and a prayer.
      I think this book would be a great tool for any Christian couple, no matter how long they have been married, or how their marriage is doing.  The chapters are short and easily applied to daily life. One of my favorites was the "I Choose to Bless You" chapter.  It emphasizes the difference you can make in your spouse's day just by telling them how much they mean to you, and thanking God (out loud and in front of them) for them during prayer.  I'm definitely going to use this as a practical guide to bringing a renewed sense of closeness into our marriage.  I would recommend this to couples and to Bible Study Groups looking to strengthen their marriages in a Christ-centered way.

If you want to check it out, scroll down to take a look at the fun events related to this book release happening in February.

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

What’s the secret for hanging on to the happily-ever-after feelings from the day you said, “I do”? It could be as simple as four little words: I Choose You Today. Be sure to grab a copy of Deb DeArmond's latest release and find out how you can make the declaration “I Choose You Today” a regular part of your marriage communication.

Deb is celebrating the release of her book with a Facebook author chat party on February 3rd.

Along with the February 3rd author chat party, you're invited to participate in two marriage-strengthening challenges: one beginning February 1 and the other beginning in March. Don't miss out on this opportunity to build your relationship with your spouse and enter to win some prizes along the way!

The Valentine's Challenge: February 1 – 28

Tell your spouse "I Choose You" every day of the month. Sign up online at www.ichooseyouchallenge.com and receive a free downloadable February calendar to mark off the days of the challenge.

Deb will also be emailing participants 1–2 times throughout the month with giveaway opportunities and "keep going" encouragement.
The "I Choose You" Challenge: March 1 – December 31, 2015

Sign up online at www.ichooseyouchallenge.com to receive 10 weekly emails, each teaching one of the choices from Deb's book along with practical applications. This challenge is broken up into three different sessions, covering all 31 choices from the book.

There will be giveaways and opportunities to win throughout the year. Participants can decide when to join—it's not required to do all three sessions. 

January 14, 2015

Reviewing "Quilts of Love- Masterpiece Marriage" and Kindle Giveaway


       “Quilts of Love- Masterpiece Marriage” by Gina Welborn, is a unique and interesting book that I enjoyed reading.  The themes were unlike any of the previous “Quilts of Love” books and it definitely isn’t your typical quilting themed Christian novel.
        When Zenus Dane’s textile mill floods, he turns to his Aunt who is a very experienced quilter for a way to repurpose his damaged textiles.  When he visits her he finds out that his Aunt’s time is already being used by the mysterious Englishwoman Mary Varrs to complete a series of plant drawings for her.  Mary Varrs on the other hand is roped into helping with a quilting bee in exchange for her plant drawings, and she finds herself in a group of women who immediately take her out of her comfort zone.  Adding a twist to the whole situation, Zenus finds himself very attracted to Mary, but Zenus’s aunt is acting as a matchmaker and trying to set him up with a different woman.  Of course, this creates a lot of relationship drama.  
          Welborn did a great job of illustrating the tension between Zenus and Mary and the weirdness that would surround the actions of a matchmaking aunt.  The conflicted feelings and confusion were very true to what people would be feeling in real life if placed in the awkward situations described in this book.  I liked the storyline and found all of the characters to have very realistic feelings and actions.  I liked Mary’s drive toward being a trailblazer for women in science and making a life for herself instead of succumbing to a the weird plans her family has for her back home.
            I would recommend this book to anyone who likes the “Quilts of Love” Series, as I have enjoyed all of them so far. This one is definitely worth picking up. It’s a quick and enthralling read.

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, Masterpiece Marriage by Gina Welborn. December’s QOL release celebrates the ebb and flow of marriage. Enter to win a Kindle HDX!
One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • Masterpiece Marriage by Gina Welborn
  • Swept Away by Laura V. Hilton and Cindy Loven
  • Quilted by Christmas by Jodie Bailey
Enter today by clicking the button below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on January 18th. Winner will be announced on the Quilts of Love blog January 19th.

Enter today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

Reviewing "All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes"

       “All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes” by Betsy St. Amant, is a fun, light read filled with lots of romance, drama, and sweets.  The main characters, Kat and Lucas, have been long time friends and from the beginning of the book it becomes quickly apparent that they are meant to be more than friends.   Kat is a talented baker, stuck working at her Aunt’s cupcake shop while wanting more out of life and Lucas is a High School Football coach, who is completely happy with where he is in life, except for the fact that he wants to spend the rest of his life with Kat.  In order to demonstrate how much he cares about Kat, he signs her up for a cupcake baking competition show in Los Angeles. But instead of being the fun and rewarding experience Lucas thinks it will be, the two are thrust into a whirlwind of TV cameras, stress, and cupcake craziness.
        I definitely enjoyed reading this book and found myself getting very caught up in the nuances of Kat and Lucas’s relationship.   At times the storyline got a bit frustrating when as a reader you can see how each character feels about the other, and you just want to scream into the pages “Start dating already!”   I was a little bit wary about the television show aspect of the book since that is the industry I work in, but as I read I was pleasantly surprised at how true to life the behind the scenes details were.  I also think it’s fun that the recipes are included in the back of the book, especially considering how I started constantly wanting cupcakes while I was reading.
          I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys modern Christian Romance novels, especially if you enjoy the theme of baking or reality competition shows.

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.”