Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Marriage of your dreams: A woman's guide to understanding her man by Rick Johnson








Men are fairly simple creatures with fairly simple needs. Yet women often find themselves frustrated trying to understand those needs in order to improve their marriages. Many wonder, "What does he expect from me? I'm doing everything the best I can. Doesn't he know I'm at the end of my rope here?" Relationship expert Rick Johnson ends the guessing game, giving women an open and honest look inside the world of a man's needs and helping them understand how best to use their influence to have a satisfying and exciting relationship.Rick delves into the not-so-mysterious-after-all world of a man, highlighting his need for respect and admiration, his sexual desires, his communication style, his work, his emotions, and even his relationship with the "other woman"--his mother. Women will appreciate Rick's candor, humor, and insight as they discover that the marriage of their dreams is closer than they ever thought it could be.



I've read a fair amount of relationship books and thought this one was a nicely paced, easy to understand, and generally accessible, addition  to the self-help genre.

I liked the length-just over 200 pages-because too much wordiness or over explanation of key points, tends to frustrate my attention span. Mr. Johnson has an engaging, straightforward, way of expressing himself but still manages to keep a sense of humor throughout. While he doesn't go into inappropriate detail about  certain subjects like sex, he also doesn't shy away from answering some of those burning questions women have always wanted to know about guys:

his need for respect and admiration
his sexual desires
his communication style
his work
his emotions
his relationship with the "other woman" in his life (his mother)


Being able to get an  honest "inside" perspective on what men think and feel is a valuable asset to any relationship, and I appreciated the observations shared. The question and answer sections at the end of each chapter were also great, as what was asked seemed to be what most women  usually want to know.

As I said, this book isn't super long and I was able to finish it in one sitting, so if you're looking for a quick, yet insightful read, The Marriage of Your Dreams should be right up your alley.


"Available October 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group."

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion. 


Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Love Surrendered by Julie Lessman








Orphaned in Iowa, Annie Kennedy moves to Boston to stay with her spinster aunt. She longs for romance to fill the void left by her parents' death. But when she falls hard for Steven O'Connor, the man who broke an engagement to her sister, Annie is worried. Will he break her heart too when he discovers who she really is?With heart-pounding romance, intense family drama, and emotional twists and turns, A Love Surrendered is everything Julie Lessman's many fans have been waiting for.


A Love Surrendered is book three in the Winds of Change Series, and you definitely don't want to read it out of order or you just might be scratching your head over who's who and what's what in the O'Connor clan.

If you have read the previous 5 books-the first three being part of The Daughter's of Boston series about the same family- then you'll know that this one's about Steven, the youngest son.

If I'm already confusing you, it's because this is one big group of Irish/Catholic relatives we're talking about. (And, not to worry, plenty of that infamous passion/temper to go with it.)

As A Love Surrendered starts, we're introduced to Susannah, who prefers to be called Annie, and more than anything wants to land her first kiss. So with the encouragement of her friend, Peggy, she sneaks out at night hoping to meet a cute guy, up for some canoodling.

Well, she does meet a handsome man, but not in the way she planned and, needless to say, the circumstances leave her kinda mortified. Because Steven O'Connor, straight laced lawman, thinks of her as nothing but a naive, brainless, "kid" in need of saving from herself. Not exactly the image she's looking to cultivate as a mature, kissable, woman of the world.

Despite, or perhaps because of, their lack luster first encounter, Annie is determined to make Steven see her as more than a child, because his "brotherly" instincts to protect her from those who would take advantage, initially irritate her. Since Annie is only seventeen and Steven twenty five, he tells himself she's too young for him-plus he already holds enough guilt over the ruined innocence of a girl from his past. He can't stand to think the same could happen to the sweet Annie, so he distances himself. But he can't seem to shake her from his thoughts, even though he knows he's only asking for trouble by even contemplating a relationship...

Whew, what a finale to the whirlwind O'Connor saga! After six books of them, it's hard not to feel as if you're family, and Julie does an incredible job of seamlessly involving us in the stories of each of their lives. I so love the continued updates we receive on other siblings who we've previously read about, and how they are handling relationships, kids, marriages, work, etc. rather than just ending at the typical "happily ever after."

In terms of Steven and Annie's saga, it definitely kept my attention throughout-maybe a little too well at times. At one point near the end, I dropped my book on the floor after a major spoiler occurred and said, "You've got to be kidding me, Julie!" (I won't tell you if she was or not.) But, yes, I was angry, tense, and in shock for a full minute at least before I could continue on. And weirdly enough, that's a good thing because I LOVE an angsty read, despite near constant worry for my poor, sky rocketing, blood pressure.

I so didn't see that particular twist coming, along with several other ones, so kudos for some great plot planning!  I would have liked to see more of Steven and Annie's dating/relationship moments, as I felt like I didn't get quite as deep of an overall connection between the two of them as I was hoping for. I suppose, a few trivial, "down time," fun, couple interactions may have been what I missed to completely cement their feelings for each other in my mind. For me, it seemed as if most of their scenes together were tense/emotionally draining, and I definitely love some good tension, but appreciate the softer, romantic, stuff to balance it all out as well.

I'll admit, I was sad to pick up this book knowing it was the beginning of the end, but I couldn't resist because Julie is really a phenomenal writer who I can always tell  puts her heart and soul into every page she types. That passion comes across vividly in each character, phrase, setting, and detail-straight down to the smell of chili mac simmering on Marcy's kitchen stove. She immerses her readers in a world so realistically drawn, that you emerge back into real life reluctantly, not wanting to leave behind your book friends mid conversation.

I can't say enough about how blessed, uplifted, entertained, challenged, and honored I've been to share in the O'Connors' journey from Faith all the way to Steven. I feel as if I've come to know and care about each of them intimately which is a gift I'll forever cherish. And, you better believe, I'll be re-reading these classics in the future, and passing them down to my kids one day.

If you want a series that's passionate about relationships-both spiritual and emotional-then these are the books for you.

P.S. Just to help you out, I'm including the reading order and a link to each book:


The Daughters of Boston


-A Passion Most Pure

-A Passion Redeemed

-A Passion Denied


The Winds of Change


-A Hope Undaunted

-A Heart Revealed

-A Love Surrendered



I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.






Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fall is right around the corner!





Who else likes loves is totally obsessed with fall like me?

(C'mon, I know I'm not the only one.)

It's my favorite time of year-something about the cool temperature, leaves blowing, and sense of anticipation in the air gets me every time. Also, the knowledge of acceptably unlimited amounts of pumpkin food products excites me almost as much as an unlimited shopping spree to Target.

(Almost.)

Yup, I'm a total sucker for Autumn. If there was ever an official "fall approved" groupie t-shirt, I'd be wearing it. Like every day. No joke. Justin Bieber, who?

(Of course, I'd buy multiple T's in case you wonder about unspecified hygiene issues.)

I'd also bottle up the months of October/November and keep them with me all the time, like one of those weird little purse dogs that holly wood bimbos carry around as a fashion statement.

Eh, all right, that squeemed me out a bit. No, I wouldn't. Really. Stop staring at me like I'm a total wacko! Tee-hee. :)

Anyhow, if you're crazy, scary, horror movie like, obsessed with fall as I am, here's a slammin' high five from me to you.

If not, forget the high five-but I'll give you a polite finger wave anyhow. 

So, do tell. What is your favorite season of the year, and why?


Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Blog Tour for Love's Reckoning by Laura Frantz




Love's Reckoning is book one in the Ballantyne Legacy series and here's the scoop:

On a bitter December day in 1785, Silas Ballantyne arrives at the door of master blacksmith Liege Lee in York, Pennsylvania. Just months from becoming a master blacksmith himself, Silas is determined to finish his apprenticeship and move west. But Liege soon discovers that Silas is a prodigious worker and craftsman and endeavors to keep him in Lancaster. Silas becomes interested in both of Liege's daughters, the gentle and faith-filled Eden and the clever and high-spirited Elspeth. When he chooses one, will the other's jealousy destroy their love?
In this sweeping family saga set in western Pennsylvania, one man's choices in love and work, in friends and enemies, set the stage for generations to come.. "Love's Reckoning" is the first entry in The Ballantyne Legacy, a rich, multi-layered historical quartet from talented writer Laura Frantz, beginning in the late 1700s and following the Ballantyne family through the end of the Civil War.


Wow, this was a fantastic start to Laura's new series and thrillingly sets the stage for, what I'm sure, is much more delicious drama to come!

If you enjoy emotional, nail biting, angsty, tension filled, reads then this book will be right up your alley. I loved every second, even as my fingers were itching to slap a few very deserving people. I won't drop names, but you'll know who I'm talking about.

(Because this story is very plot driven with several twists and turns I don't want to ruin for anyone,  I'm going to be careful not to give any spoilers but instead focus on what I felt while reading.)

The various family dynamics are vividly etched and explored with sensitivity, yet realism. I honestly felt like a fly on the wall during the conversations, dinners, scheming, personal moments, and social functions Silas and Eden are part of. I held my breath when certain events unfolded, kisses were stolen, tragedy occurred-I really felt each emotion the characters did. 

I thought the growing relationship between Silas and Eden was nicely paced and not rushed, which I appreciated. They took their time getting to know each other before romance came into play, and the foundation of a spiritual connection was formed naturally rather than forced into awkwardly. Silas endeared himself to me in all the thoughtful ways he left scripture notes for Eden in unexpected places, brightening her day just a bit more. The play on your typical "love notes" was original and incorporated a really sweet religious element to the story, while strengthening the plot/storyline also. 

Love's Reckoning is not a light read and contains some darker elements that are handled without any unnecessary  detail, but just enough to make clear what's happening. The fallout from one such incident involving Eden was truly heart breaking, and I ached for what she was going through by no fault of her own. That tragedy can be overcome despite the loss of something we hold dear, is captured here movingly. Beauty can come from the most unexpected places and our past doesn't have to define out future, as this story so succinctly shows. 

The finale doesn't exactly end on a cliff hanger but it definitely leaves you wanting more, especially after you've read the sneak peek from book two! Every Laura Frantz book I've read has been exquisite, like the finest delicacy that you want to savor again and again. She just has a way of writing straight to your heart while also consistently engaging your imagination. The combination of earthy reality yet almost ethereal dreaminess, is stunningly combined to create an unforgettable novel. Love's Reckoning is, for lack of a better term,  hauntingly good.


“Available September 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”



I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.


If you'd like more information about author Laura Frantz, you can visit her blog here


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Chocolate chip coffee cake





One of my friends makes a chocolate chip coffee cake that's super delicious and yesterday I was in the mood for some of that deliciousness, so I came across this recipe that looked like just the thing I was wanting.

And it was!

If you've never had chocolate chip coffee cake, then you're in for a real treat! It didn't take long at all to throw together and you probably have the ingredients on hand already.

Even though coffee cake is generally thought of as a breakfast/morning treat, I think it can be eaten as a regular dessert also. Especially this coffee cake, because the addition of chocolate chips adds a lot of extra richness to the taste.

Anyhow, if you get a chance, try this yumm-ilicious chocolate chip coffee cake recipe! :)


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

All I want...





Or I'd totally settle for unlimited hours of uninterrupted reading time on my Kindle.

(Preferably in a cozy pillowed nook with delectable frappuccino in hand.)


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Summer Craziness!



Does anyone else get behind on things in the summer?

(Well, for me it's not only then...but yeah, it's an excuse and I'm claiming it.)

Anyhow, I've been super bad about blogging and hanging out with my blogger friends lately, so this is a big, fat, apology from me to whoever's reading this.

(And if you're not, it's probably because there hasn't been much to read here lately. So, yeah...)

But I really do love writing, blogging, and spending time with everyone in this awesome world, so I'm going to make an effort to schedule my time better and get on here more often.

(And catch up on my book reading-I'm convinced some publishers may resort to stalking me or hiring a private investigator that specializes in tracking down past due review delinquents. I may have to go into the overdue book review witness protection program. Yes, I'm sure there is one somewhere.)

But, anyhew, without further ado, I hope you all are having a fabulous summer and doing better on your blogging/reading than yours truly.

(P.S. Also, hope you enjoy somewhat creepy/wacky pictures of little dogs snuggling in coconuts-in otherwise pretty normal photos.)


Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Proof of Your Love

I just recently became aware of the band For King and Country and this song, Proof of Your Love, has been stuck in my head all day.

So I thought I'd share in the hope that it will be stuck in your head too, because I'm unfailingly thoughtful like that. :)

Anyhew, if you haven't listened to this one before-or even if you have-hope you enjoy!

(P.S. If you're on the prowl for a new CD, I just bought their album, Crave, and it's 100% a-mazing!)


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mexican Pizza


Ever had the Mexican Pizza from Taco Bell?

(Or as my hubby likes to call it, Taco Hell, for reasons having to do with typical stomach discomfort after consuming a heavy, but still totally worthwhile, meal from  the glorious TB.)

Anyhow, I've always loved their Mexican Pizza so I'm excited to try this recipe that I came across, especially since it looks pretty easy to make.

And I'm all about the simple and tasty...

Anyhow, if you make this before I do, let me know what you think. Or if you're also a fan of Taco Bell's Mexican Pizza.

(Or, perhaps, you just prefer to avoid this restaurant chain for reasons previously mentioned...) :)

Mexican Pizza

Friday, June 08, 2012

Interrupted: Life Beyond Words by Rachel Coker



Can love really heal all things? If Sam Carroll hadn't shown up, she might have been able to get to her mother in time. Instead, Allie Everly finds herself at a funeral, mourning the loss of her beloved mother. She is dealt another blow when, a few hours later, she is sent from Tennessee to Maine to become the daughter of Miss Beatrice Lovell, a prim woman with a faith Allie cannot accept. Poetry and letters written to her mother become the only things keeping Allie's heart from hardening completely. But then Sam arrives for the summer, and with him comes many confusing emotions, both toward him and the people around her. As World War II looms, Allie will be forced to decide whether hanging on to the past is worth losing her chance to be loved.

I really enjoyed this YA novel, especially as it was written by a sixteen year old debut author. Pretty impressive and ambitious!

The story centers around Alcyone, or Allie, as she prefers to be called. Allie has spent her childhood taking care of her mentally failing mother, while dreaming of penning poetry and escaping from the ever polite yet irksome neighbor boy, Sam Carrol.

Her existence is rather difficult, but she perseveres on, in hopes that her mother's declining health will spiral back up. Although, Allie is told Christianity is a crutch for the weak, she still prays for a miracle in case there's any chance God isn't a total myth.

But, Allie is broken hearted and utterly alone when her Mom passes away and she is forced to relocate to Maine under the guardianship of a complete stranger. The years pass, and Allie's heart has stayed closed to any love or attempted warmth given by her new "family."

Then a chance encounter with her old childhood pest Sam Carrol begins to shift Allie's world and thaw the coldness within her soul. But after so much pain, will she allow anyone in or choose to move away from her past?

As I said, I think Ms. Coker did a great job on this, her first novel, especially for someone still in their teens. I liked the internal monologues and somewhat humorous/snarky thoughts Allie had throughout the book and thought she came across in a realistic manner. I could remember what it felt like to be that age while reading.

Sam was a total sweetheart and it was hard seeing Allie give him the cold shoulder like 99% of the time-I just wanted to give him a big hug. The relationship between he and Allie was slow and mellow. Nothing too angsty or intense, but pleasant still.

I suppose that was my reaction to the story overall. I didn't feel it hit a lot of heavy emotional peeks, but rather that it moved along in an understated, thoughtful, sort of way. I was compelled to keep reading, but the writing also had a sparse, not terribly descriptive feel to it that left me feeling slightly disconnected rather than completely engrossed in what was happening between the characters.

The end seemed a bit rushed to me, but I did like how the religious aspects were handled, and not overblown in dramatic detail. Interrupted: Life Beyond Words shows that Rachel Coker has a talent which I'm sure will only continue to grow with experience.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zondervan Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

If stress burned calories...



This made me lol.

I'm guessing there would be a lot more skinny people, me included, if this were true... :)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Revell Blog Tour: The Pursuit of Lucy Banning by Olivia Newport




Lucy Banning may live on the exclusive Prairie Avenue among Chicago's rich and famous, but her heart lies elsewhere. Expected to marry an up-and-coming banker from a respected family, Lucy fears she will be forced to abandon her charity work--and the classes she is secretly taking at the newly opened University of Chicago. When she meets an unconventional young architect who is working on plans for the upcoming 1893 World's Fair, Lucy imagines a life lived on her own terms. Can she break away from her family's expectations? And will she ever be loved for who she truly is?

 I always enjoy reading debut novels and discovering new authors, so was happy to read The Pursuit of Lucy Banning; along with the fact I really enjoy historical fiction.


First off, the book cover is quite eye catching and I commend the art department who designed it. I was instantly intrigued to learn what the story was about after just a glimpse of the outside. 


The premise was an interesting one, and I found the characters of Lucy, Charlotte, and Will to be likeable/easy to sympathize with. I also appreciated that they didn't come across as overly stuffy or snobbish in how they spoke to or interacted with others. I felt I could connect with their feelings and understand where they were coming from. 


The story, while focused more on Lucy, also features the household maid, Charlotte, in a fairly prominent role as well. While some of her past is talked about, there is a lot more that I found myself curious about, so I'm looking forward to the next book in the series. 


While I found myself enjoying this book, I was a bit disappointed with the romance between Will and Lucy. As I said, I was fond of the characters, but didn't feel there was enough tension or interactions between the two of them to sufficiently convey their growing attraction/love for one another. They seemed overall content to be friends, then rather suddenly without much shift in intention, were quickly pledging a love connection without much prior buildup. I was happy to see them together, but thought their relationship happened too quickly to be entirely believable.


That said, The Pursuit of Lucy Banning was a sweet, thoughtful, light, read that I could recommend to anyone who enjoys historical novels.


I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.


“Available May 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Monday, May 14, 2012

God Gave Us Love by Lisa Tawn Bergren




As Little Cub and Grampa Bear’s fishing adventure is interrupted by mischievous otters, the young polar bear begins to question why we must love others… even the seemingly unlovable.

In answering her questions, Grampa Bear gives tender explanations that teach Little Cub about the different kinds of love that is shared between families, friends, and mamas and papas. Grampa explains that all these kinds of love come from God and that it is important to love others because…

“Any time we show love, Little Cub, we’re sharing a bit of his love.”

This sweet tale will warm the hearts of young children as they learn about all the different sorts of love, while the gentle explanations of each provide a valuable opportunity to encourage children to share with others a “God-sized love.”


God Gave US Love is a really sweet, endearing, story which explains how important various kinds of love are in each persons life.

Grampa bear and Little Cub are out fishing and their conversation turns into the ways we can show God's love by sharing with others, just as Grampa wants Little Cub to share his fishing spot with some lively otters who unknowingly keep scaring away the fish.

Family and parental love are also touched on and talked about in easy to understand language, that any child can appreciate. And at the end of it all, Grampa brings the focus back on  God's ultimate love for us as the most important of all.

With lots of useful lessons, and a concise yet tender way of explaining things, the author once again delivers another classic children's book that should delight the heart of any little one.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Waterbrook/Multnomah Publishers in exchange for my honest opionion.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Winner of As One Devil to Another by Richard Platt

The giveaway for As One Devil to Another is over ...



                                                     AMBER!

Congrats! I hope you really enjoy your copy of this book as much as I enjoyed reading it. I'll send out an email to you soon with the details! :)

(Winner was chosen by Random.org)

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Harvest Hamburger Casserole



This was always a favorite casserole of mine when I was a kid and it's one I still make today. It's nice and hearty with meat and lots of veggies, with a unique blending of flavors all together in one pot.

And it's from Taste of Home so you know it's good. :)

Harvest Hamburger Casserole

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Book review and Giveaway of As One Devil to Another by Richard Platt



As One Devil to Another is an astonishing debut work that C. S. Lewis’s biographer and foremost Lewis authority Walter Hooper calls “a stunning achievement, the finest example of the genre of diabolical correspondence to appear since this genre was popularized by C. S. Lewis.” Enter into this chilling and diabolical tale, one that reveals the very tricks and strategies of Hell. Through a series of letters between devils created by Platt, senior devil Slashreap trains his young protégé, Scardagger, to win an individual soul away from Heaven and into their clutches. As the devils plot their way to triumph, they reveal the spiritual dangers and risks we face in today’s society. Their frighteningly accurate perspective on issues such as contemporary technology and sexual mores is interwoven with timeless matters such as the power of prayer, the purpose of suffering, and the promises held out by Heaven . . . and Hell. Destined to become a modern classic, As One Devil to Another is a brilliantly written, deeply unsettling perspective on twenty-first-century society . . . a glimpse of ourselves through the eyes of those who have embraced their underworldly existence.




If you like C.S. Lewis' book The Screwtape Letters, then you're going to want to read As One Devil to Another.

If you haven't yet read The Screwtape Letters, you're still going to want to read As One Devil to Another, because it's seriously good.

Richard Platt does an excellent job of  communicating a realistic correspondence between the fiendish devil, Slashreap, and his protege, Scardagger. It feels very real, chillingly so, and never once do you doubt the diabolical nature of their intention to corrupt mankind for their ultimate benefit.

The points Mr Platt touch on are valid ones that hit close to home, and may leave you examining all the ramifications behind every day activities that typically seem harmless. (It also helps that this was written with our current society in mind, and covers issues that we all face on a regular basis.)

As One Devil to Another cleverly illustrates the ways Satan uses any means, especially technology, to draw us away from what we should be focusing on. Occupying our minds is his central mission, and he'll do anything to get what he wants.

I don't know that I'd say this is exactly a fun read, but it's definitely captivating, and one you won't soon forget. It possesses some dark humor, and also some very real darkness that comes just from knowing there are truly forces out there who wish us harm, like the devils referenced here. I found myself mentally and spiritually stimulated by this novel, that while fiction, fairly trembles with realism.

I think this book has the potential to become an enduring classic, much like The Screwtape Letters has, and I say kudos to Richard Platt for creating this fiendishly entertaining, eye opening, piece of literature.

For more info on this book, here is a link that will take you directly to Tyndale House Publishers.

Giveaway

To enter for your chance to win a copy of As One Devil to Another, simply leave a comment below in the comment section, with your email included, so I can contact the winner for their mailing address. This drawing will be open for a little over a week, so you have plenty of time to join, and I'll be announcing the results next Friday, May 4th.

As a way of saying thank you, I'll also award a bonus entry to anyone that already is a follower, or decides to start, following my blog. 

(I'll only be accepting entries within the U.S.)

Thanks so much for stopping by!


As a disclosure, I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for my honest review. I also received a certificate for one complimentary copy of this book to be given to the winner of this giveaway.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rosemary Ranch Chicken


Last summer when I went to visit my sister and her family, she made this chicken dish for dinner one night. Omw, it's addicting and lick your plate good!

Grilled squash, zucchini, and a bowl of Jasmine rice were a perfect compliment to go with the chicken and there were definitely no left overs. :)

You also don't need to use skewers-if you prefer, you can simply cook or grill the cut up pieces of meat without turning them into kabobs.

Rosemary Ranch Chicken

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Halflings by Heather Burch


After being inexplicably targeted by an evil intent on harming her at any cost, seventeen-year-old Nikki finds herself under the watchful guardianship of three mysterious young men who call themselves halflings. Sworn to defend her, misfits Mace, Raven, and Vine battle to keep Nikki safe while hiding their deepest secret---and the wings that come with. A growing attraction between Nikki and two of her protectors presents a whole other danger. While she risks a broken heart, Mace and Raven could lose everything, including their souls. As the mysteries behind the boys' powers, as well as her role in a scientist's dark plan, unfold, Nikki is faced with choices that will affect the future of an entire race of heavenly beings, as well as the precarious equilibrium of the earthly world. 

Halfling is the first book in author Heather Burch's Halflings series-and it cranks up the action right away. We start off by meeting Nikki Youngblood, who is currently being chased by some pretty nasty, smelly, creatures called hell hounds.

Why?

Well, we really have no idea, and neither does she.

But then the weird factor is upped a notch upon discovering there are three Lost Boys-half angel/half human males-watching the action from a slightly more elevated, and less dangerous, vantage point than Nikki finds herself in.

Why?

Well, we really have no idea, and neither does she.

But, thankfully, the pieces start coming together in a relatively swift fashion the quicker you turn the pages and the faster you read.

(And you won't want to slow down because the story kinda sneaks up on you and grabs your attention without letting go.)

Heather Burch has created an interesting, addicting, thrilling, sweet, other worldly, romantic, fun story that, while considered to be in the YA camp, is adult friendly reading too.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the Halflings history, as well as each of the boys individual personalities. Mace is a conscientious all around good guy, while Raven is tormented with inner badness, and Vine is totally sweet-both literally and figuratively. (He frequently stops Mace and Raven from multiple "petty" fights, while habitually guzzling down enough Twizzlers to rot his teeth at least a few dozen cavities.)

Nikki's character is a nice combo of motorcycle chick feminine girl emotions that plays well off both Mace and Raven. And that's good, or more likely bad, because they both like her. Which complicates the already complicated things even more. But the most important complication? As a rule, neither of the boys can fall in love with Nikki, unless they want to consign themselves to an eternity of hell. (And by hell, I don't mean the shudder inducing prospect of eternal teenage angst.)

I won't say anything else about the plot because I hate giving away too many spoilers, but the end of Halflings definitely made me want to read the second book, Guardian, which comes out later this year.

This was definitely an interesting novel, one that I'm sure I'll pick up and re-read again in the future.

So, for all you paranormal romance, angel loving, entertainment seeking fans, grab a copy of this book-and maybe some non-sugar candy to nibble on.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zondervan Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Prize of My Heart by Lisa Norato


An unsolved mystery separates ex-privateersman Captain Brogan Talvis from his lost son--his only living relation, his only family. Shortly before her tragic demise, his wife abandoned their infant to strangers, refusing to reveal the child's whereabouts. Now, three years later, Brogan has discovered the boy at the home of a shipbuilder's daughter, Lorena Huntley.

Lorena guards a dark secret about her young charge. She finds herself falling for the heroic captain who has come to claim his newly built ship, unaware his motive for wooing her is to befriend the boy he plans on reclaiming as his own--until the day another's evil deceit leaves her helplessly shipbound, heading toward England.

As the perfect opportunity to reclaim his son unfolds, Brogan is haunted by thoughts of Lorena in her dire circumstance, and he is forced to make a heartrending choice between his child and the woman who has begun to capture his heart. But only his unselfish sacrifice can win him the greatest prize of all--love. 



I won this book several months ago on a blog giveaway, and was excited because I always enjoy reading new authors.

Prize of My Heart was a sweet story, with empathize-able characters who you hope will get their happy ending. Lorena was a mixture of propriety with a bit of spunk thrown in, while Brogan came across as gentlemanly with a few mildly rough edges. I found Lorena's young charge, Drew, a charming lad that you can almost picture wanting to squeeze up, with his plump cheeks and somewhat precocious personality. I also liked the way Lisa handled the faith aspects, as it seemed natural how the character's personal relationships with God were explored throughout.

While there was a nice twist toward the end of the story, I did find the pace a bit slow for my taste. Likewise, there were a few charming moments between Lorena and Brogan, but I didn't feel a lot of "chemistry" between them so to speak. The romance was more of a slow, inward, nature rather than intense sparks/passion.

However, for those who enjoy a calmer, gentler, love story, with a bit of action thrown in, Prize of My Heart may be just what you're looking for. And as I said, it had several twists and turns which made me want to read and find out what the ultimate conclusion would be. 

All in all, Lisa Norato has penned a thoughtful, delicate, novel that most are sure to enjoy.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Triple Layer Lemon Pie


Mmm, this was really yummy and ridiculously simple to make! All you need is a graham cracker pie crust, lemon pudding, lemon juice, milk, and cool whip.

I love refreshing desserts, and this kind of reminded me of a lighter "cool whip" version of lemon meringue pie. (One of my favs, btw)

Here's the recipe for Triple Layer Lemon Pie.

Hope everyone had a great Easter! :)

Friday, April 06, 2012

What does Easter mean to you?



“There is a stage in a child’s life at which it cannot separate the religious from the merely festal character of Christmas or Easter. I have been told of a very small and very devout boy who was heard murmuring to himself on Easter morning a poem of his own composition which began ‘Chocolate eggs and Jesus risen.’ This seems to me, for his age, both admirable poetry and admirable piety. But of course the time will soon come when such a child can no longer effortlessly and spontaneously enjoy that unity. He will become able to distinguish the spiritual from the ritual and festal aspect of Easter; chocolate eggs will no longer seem sacramental. And once he has distinguished he must put one or the other first. If he puts the spiritual first he can still taste something of Easter in the chocolate eggs; if he puts the eggs first they will soon be no more than any other sweetmeat. They will have taken on an independent, and therefore a soon withering, life.” – C. S. Lewis

This really hits home for me, as I think Christians often struggle with that tricky duality which holidays bring. 

The spiritual side of us recognizes, and wants to celebrate, the part Jesus represents, while our human instincts want to get caught up in the fun aspects that most of society partakes in.

But, really, do we have to choose only one or the other? Is there a law saying Christians shouldn't decorate hard boiled eggs, hide Easter baskets, or snap a picture of their kids next to a giant, furry, rabbit? Those are all pretty harmless activities in and of themselves, right? 

Just like too much of anything tends to be a bad thing, I think moderation and balance are key.

As C.S. Lewis says, we can have our egg and eat it too. (Ok, that was a bit paraphrased, but you get the picture.) 


Without acknowledging the true reason for Easter, we take away the power of its actual meaning, leaving behind a shallow, rather silly, holiday. Yet when we allow the depth of the Resurrection its rightful first place in our heart, we can also enjoy the trivial parts for exactly what they are.

Because they truly aren't the reason we set aside this particular Sunday once every year. 

No, that honor goes to a man who spent 30 some years of His life as a sinless human being. And then one agonizing day, suffering incomprehendable pain just because the rest of us aren't perfect. 


I always thought the reason Jesus sweated tear drops of blood in the garden was because He knew the torture awaiting Him for hours on end. But I don't think that's true anymore. 


Yes, He knew it would be physical agony, but probably most terrifying of all was having to go from no taste of sin, to bearing the offenses of every single person in the world on His shoulders. While nailed to a cross, no less.

Imagine that for a minute. It would be like taking your healthy newborn baby and heaping the diseases of everyone in existence into their perfect body which had previously known no sickness.

Pretty horrifying.

And God the Father had to watch that happen to His beloved child without intervening.

Had to watch pure evil, anguish, darkness, sorrow, separation, and eventually death, take hold of His Son.


Until three days later, that same death brought about life, eternity, rejoicing, forgiveness, restitution...



Resurrection.




That one word is what I'll be celebrating this Sunday, what Easter means to me.


(And in the spirit of that, I'll probably have a chocolate egg to sweeten the day just a tad bit more.)

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Garden of Madness by Tracy L. Higley



Wow, this is an intense read-and I mean that in the best of ways! I started Garden of Madness last night around 8:00 pm and finished it at 4:00 am. I couldn't put it down, even though I knew I'd be seriously tired in the morning. There is just so much intrigue, mystery, and breathtaking, edge of your seat moments, that I had to see how everything turned out...

Here's the storyline:

For seven years the Babylonian princess Tiamat has waited for the mad king Nebuchadnezzar to return to his family and to his kingdom. Driven from his throne to live as a beast, he prowls his luxurious Hanging Gardens, secreted away from the world.
Since her treaty marriage at a young age, Tia has lived an indulgent palace life. But when her husband dies and a nobleman is found murdered in the palace, Tia must discover who is responsible for the macabre death, even if her own newfound freedom is threatened.
As the queen plans to wed Tia to yet another prince, the powerful mage Shadir plots to expose the family's secret and set his own man on the throne. Tia enlists the help of a reluctant Jewish captive, her late husband's brother Pedaiah, who challenges her notions of the gods even as he opens her heart to both truth and love.
In a time when few gave their hearts to Yahweh, one woman must decide if she is willing to risk everything-her possessions, her gods, and her very life-for the Israelite's one God. Madness, sorcery and sinister plots mingle like an alchemist's deadly potion, and Tia must dare to risk all - to save the kingdom, and to save herself.

I have to say, that for me, one of the strongest elements in this book is the way author Tracy Higley evokes a real sense of atmosphere throughout. As Tia experiences layers of various emotions, the reader also shares that same apprehension, tightness in their chest, and dread of events to come. The tension keeps escalating until near breaking point, and you wonder what else can possibly happen.

The descriptions of Babylonian splendor are vivid, and the garden scenes between Tia and the beast like King Nebuchadnezzar, poignant. I honestly dreaded Tia's journeys to the pagan temple, as each visit seemed to pull her further into darkness, a strange madness even. I really felt the spiritual warfare, as good and evil are battling for control of the princess' mind.

However, despite the heaviness of subject, there was welcome relief from the intense oppression as Tia is counseled and prayed over by her trusted Jewish friends Daniel and Pedaiah. (Well, Pedaiah might not exactly be considered "friend" material, as he looks on all Babylonians as unclean idolaters that are best avoided at all cost. Most especially Tia, as he finds himself annoyingly attracted to his late brother's wife, despite his disgust with her excessive lifestyle and false gods.)

I really enjoyed the growing relationship between Tia and Pedaiah, unlikely as it seemed at the beginning. There's a slow, grudging acknowledgement of their mutual, ill advised, attraction, that turns into something really sweet and deep. I loved it. Tracey Higley also balances the religious aspects just right; not coming across too heavy handed, but allowing Tia to gradually see things with her own eyes, rather than be told what to believe.

As I said, the tension is awesome, along with the shiver of foreboding which accompanies you further and further into each chapter. I truly haven't read anything else quite like Garden of Madness, and found it refreshingly unique to explore this biblical story through a new vantage point. I was completely immersed in the world within these pages, and didn't want to leave!

I've not read anything else by Tracy L. Higley, but will definitely be picking up more of her books soon! I highly recommend Garden of Madness as an entertaining, thought provoking, eye opening, read that will stick with you long after you close its cover.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Wildflowers from Winter by Katie Ganshert


Wildflowers from Winter is a debut novel by author Katie Ganshert, and it's one I really enjoyed!

While I don't generally pick up a lot of "women's fiction", I quickly found myself immersed in the world of Bethany Quinn and those who populate her home town of Peaks, Iowa.

Here's the back cover blurb:

A young architect at a prestigious Chicago firm, Bethany Quinn has built a life far removed from her trailer park teen years. Until an interruption from her estranged mother reveals that tragedy has struck in her hometown and a reluctant Bethany is called back to rural Iowa. Determined to pay her respects while avoiding any emotional entanglements, she vows not to stay long. But the unexpected inheritance of farmland and a startling turn of events in Chicago forces Bethany to come up with a new plan.

Handsome farmhand Evan Price has taken care of the Quinn farm for years. So when Bethany is left the land, he must fight her decisions to realize his dreams. But even as he disagrees with Bethany's vision, Evan feels drawn to her and the pain she keeps so carefully locked away.

For Bethany, making peace with her past and the God of her childhood doesn't seem like the path to freedom. Is letting go the only way to new life, love and a peace she's not even sure exists?


I think Ms. Ganshert does a great job of bringing Bethany to life, plus allowing the reader an honest, tangible, connection to painful circumstances from her past. The inner thoughts and emotions she experiences throughout the story are authentically explored, while not being cliche ridden. I also found the dialogue strong and easy to follow.

The relationship between Bethany and Evan is more of a gentle, steady, buildup rather than the more intense passion I generally go for, but it seemed to fit the flow of the story nicely. As I said earlier, I'd classify this in the women's fiction category, so it definitely covers more life issues, persay, versus placing a heavier focus on the romance aspects.

While Wildflowers from Winter is a slower, more thoughtful read, it definitely held my attention, and kept me wanting to find out how things would wrap up in the end.

I think Katie Ganshert's novel is a welcome addition to the contemporary inspirational genre, and I look forward to reading the continuation of Robin's story in Wishing on Willows.

Read an excerpt
Buy a copy of this book

I received a complimentary advanced review copy of this book from Waterbrook/Multnomah Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Above all else...


I definitely need this reminder often...sometimes hourly!

(Lol, as a side note, I just noticed the "b" is missing from Proverbs.) :)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Super Easy Fettuccine Alfredo





For one of my bridal shower gifts, I received an envelope of recipes that my friends had compiled, full of favorites they wanted to pass on to me as a soon to be newlywed.

This fettuccine alfredo was one of them, and is always a treat when I get a chance to make it.

I love how simple it is to throw together, and I usually have the ingredients right on hand.


All you need is:

-1 pound fettuccine noodles, cooked
-8 ounces cream cheese
-1 stick butter
-i cup milk
-3/4 cup parmesan cheese

Then:

Melt cream cheese and butter in sauce pan. Next, add milk plus parmesan cheese, and stir till well combined. Finally, pour sauce over fettuccine pasta, and you're done!

If you want to make it more hearty, you can also add cooked broccoli or chunks of cooked chicken as well. I also like to season my alfredo to taste with garlic powder, salt, pepper, and parsley flakes.

Enjoy! :)


Monday, March 26, 2012

Falling for the Fireman by Allie Pleiter



I recently won a copy of this book on a blog giveaway, and was looking forward to receiving it, especially as I've never read anything from the "Love Inspired" collection of inspirational fiction before.

Here's a summary of the story:

There's something achingly familiar about the look in fire marshal Chad Owens's eyes. Widowed mom Jeannie Nelworth knows firsthand what it is: loss, hurt and yes—bitterness. Ever since the fire that changed their lives, Jeannie's young son has borne that same look, pushing everyone away. So she's grateful when Chad tries to get through to the boy with the help of his trusty fire station dog.

But the man who's all about safety and prevention keeps himself protected—from loving and losing again. Seems as if Jeannie will have to add his kind, guarded heart to her rebuilding efforts.


I think Falling for the Fireman is a lovely novel, and I enjoyed getting to know the characters Allie created. For a shorter story, she does a great job of keeping the plot thoroughly cohesive and involving.

Chad and Jeannie are very likeable and their gradual romance sweet to witness, especially after what they've gone through in the past. Jeannie's son, Nick, also adds some nice tension to the story, as he continues to struggle with the aftermath of losing his dad in a house fire. His actions seem consistent with those of a typical thirteen year old, and the ways he tries to cope by acting out, made me feel for him.

The issues Allie brings to light in this book are important ones that don't get covered all the time, so I commend her for handling the subjects here sensitively and honestly. It's nice to see that a shorter length novel doesn't have to necessarily mean "fluff only" reading, but, in case you're wondering,  there are still lighter moments in here as well.

All in all, I really enjoyed my first venture into the Love Inspired line and look forward to reading more from this author.

Friday, March 23, 2012

You know you're a history fan when...



I do this all the time.

Also, quite possibly I...

Wonder what it would be like to have Daniel Day Lewis' Hawkeye from The Last of the Mohicans corner me by the nearest waterfall and utter: 

"You stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you."

(Picture included for your sighing pleasure. Although, sadly, the actual hug is not.)

 


If you're contemplating rolling your eyes at me, go ahead. :)





Despite my silly musings, I really do love history-and not just the kind that includes stoic, fit, men covered in leather.

But, no, I won't lie; that is a plus.

Honestly, I'm always astounded that what we read in books has actually occurred, and that what's happening right now will someday be considered future history.

Kinda weird, but cool, right?

If you're a history fan/buff, do you have a favorite era, well known figure, event, etc. that intrigues you? And if you could go back in time, what period would you choose?

I find the 1920's fascinating, and think I'd love the big bands, bobs, and flapper dresses. But maybe not all the violent gangsters so much. Native American history totally intrigues me, so I'd love to observe their customs, rituals, etc. Also, the 1700's/Revolutionary War era is another favorite of mine.

On a shallower final note, if there ever is a Last of the Mohicans-the sequel-with Daniel Day Lewis, I'll happily stand in for Madeleine Stowe as Cora Munro. :)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Peachy Delight!



This is a recipe I've had in my binder for a while, and one that I tend to pull out every summer. 

I love peaches, so this cool, refreshing, dessert is one of my favorites in warm weather...

Here are the directions to make this peachy delight:


 -1/2 box yellow cake mix
-3/4 cup melted butter
-1 pound of peaches, sliced and sweetened (can use canned or fresh)
-2 cups sour cream
-1/4 cup sugar
-3 egg yolks
-cinnamon to taste

Combine cake mix and butter in bowl and stir well. Spread in bottom of lightly greased 9 by 13 pan. Layer peaches over top. Blend sour cream, sugar, and egg yolks in bowl, then spoon over peaches. Sprinkle cinnamon on top.  Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, or until set. Refrigerate until cool.

Enjoy! :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sixty Acres and a Bride by Regina Jennings



I wasn't sure what to expect from Sixty Acres and a Bride, but what I discovered was a talented debut author who has crafted a truly engaging novel!

Regina Jennings caught my attention from the first page, and continued to hold it throughout this loose re-telling of the biblical Ruth and Naomi story.

The prologue starts out like this:

At an hour when every other God fearing woman of Caldwell County was either elbowing her snoring husband or sleeping undisturbed in her spinster bed, Rosa found herself sneaking toward a barn that was not her own. She was a trespasser whose goal was to get caught-a terrified stalker whose prey held her future in his hands...

Intriguing, right?

And here's the plot:

With nothing to their names, young widow Rosa Garner and her mother-in-law return to Texas and the family ranch. Only now the county is demanding back taxes and the women have only three months to pay.

Though facing eviction, Rosa can't keep herself from falling in love with the countryside and the wonderful extended family who want only her best. Learning the American customs is not easy, however, and this beautiful young widow can't help but catch wandering eyes. Where some offer help with dangerous strings attached, only one man seems honorable. But when Weston Garner, still grieving his own lost love, is unprepared to give his heart, to what lengths will Rosa go to save her future? 

As I said, this story really grabbed me, and kept me turning the pages. It's been a while since I stayed up till 5:00 am finishing a book, but this one made me do just that. I was totally caught up in the world Regina created and didn't want to leave. One of my favorite scenes included a spicy dance between Rosa and an unwilling Weston-lots of sparks and great dialogue ensued! I really felt the chemistry between these characters and couldn't wait to see what would happen next in their growing awareness toward each other.

I was also pleasantly surprised by Rosa, and really grew to fall in love with her generous spirit, work ethic, determination, and passion.  What a fun, original, female character-and I appreciated that she embodied a different culture than the typical Texan. I also loved that Regina included Rosa's realistic misunderstanding of certain American phrases, etc. and thought that made for some uniquely humorous/dramatic situations.

And Weston...While he was definitely flawed, there were also some pretty wonderful traits there as well; which endeared him to more than just one lady... Sigh.

So many things to love about Sixty Acres and a Bride, but you'll have to find out for yourself when you grab a copy. Regina Jennings has gotten herself a new fan here, and I look forward to reading the next book in her series!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Yogurt drops



I saw these fun little things on Pinterest and thought I'd share!

Now that it's getting warmer, it's perfect weather for light snacks and lots of fruit, right?

(Ok, we should be eating light snacks and lots of fruit all the time; but you get the picture.) :)

Anyhow, these are so simple to make, I can't believe I never thought to do them before!

All you have to do is follow the picture tutorial, and you're set. Frozen yogurt drops in about an hour.

Enjoy!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Winner of Miracle for Jen by Linda Barrick

Thank you to everyone who entered my book giveaway this week.

I really appreciate each of you taking the time to stop by and leave a comment!




                                                     Michelle!!!

Congrats! I'll be emailing you to get your address, etc. I hope you really enjoy Miracle for Jen. :)

(Winner was chosen by Random.org)

P.S. I'll be having another giveaway next month, so take heart, those of you who didn't snag a copy of this book. If you like C.S. Lewis, you'll definitely want to check out what's coming up... :)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hangry much?



I always knew there had to be a word for this condition, so imagine my relief when I came across it.

On a pillow, no less.

You know the one I mean.

It can come upon you more suddenly than a leaping mountain lion, and twice as ferocious.

You feel the grumbling of your stomach intensify, just as an unearthly roar comes out of your mouth to match it.  Before you have time to think, the word vomit just continues to spew out, frothing, and unstoppable.

And the unlucky person who happens to be the unassuming recipient (most often of the male variety) stares as if you've turned into a full fledged monster.

And perhaps you have.

Because, gasp, the hangry beast has taken over.

And won't stop until it's fed.

Who knew our stomachs were so connected to that little anger trigger in our head?  Or that lack of food could set it off so easily?

(Or that morphing into The Hulk doesn't just happen to Lou Ferrigno?)

Blessedly, the cure is pretty straightforward and doesn't require expensive pills to treat. The nearest Tim Hortons can tame the wildest hanger craving in mere minutes, leaving us relieved to feel semi in control of our faculties once more.

And thankful for the excuse to chow down on fattening doghnuts.

(But that is for another post entirely...)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Scent of Cherry Blossoms by Cindy Woodsmall



I've previously read several of Cindy Woodsmall's books and have really enjoyed them.

Her full length novels are a bit more "meaty" and cover more in depth issues, while she also writes shorter length stories as well.

The Scent of Cherry Blossoms is more of a novella, which doesn't allow quite as much time for story arcs, character development, etc.

Here's the plot:

Annie Martin loves the Plain ways of her Old Order Mennonite people, like those revered by her beloved grandfather. Retreating from a contentious relationship with her mother, Annie goes to live with her Daadi Moses in Apple Ridge.

But as spring moves into Pennsylvania and Annie spends time amongst the cherry trees with the handsome Aden Zook, she wishes she could forget how deeply the lines between the Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonite are drawn.

Can Annie and Aden find a place for their love to bloom in the midst of the brewing storm?


While the main storyline revolves around Annie and Aden's romance, I actually found myself more drawn to and interested in Aden's older brother, Roman. I thought Cindy did a great job with his character, making him very three dimensional and likable, despite the frustrations he faces. I wanted to read more about him and find out what would happen to him in the future. Possible sequel? :)

For some reason, I just had a hard time truly investing in Annie and Aden's relationship and really believing they shared a deep connection. I guess I felt more like it was stated they were in love, rather than my actually feeling it. I didn't get the "spark" of attraction they supposedly had for each other, even though I wanted to. I will commend Cindy for being willing to give both Aden and Roman physical, as well as mental, limitations to overcome on their individual road to happiness. That added a sense of realism to the story.

In short, I did find The Scent of Cherry Blossoms to be a sweet, thoughtful, book though it's not my favorite by this author.

(And I would definitely read a continuation of Roman's story!)

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Waterbrook/Multnomah Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Book review and giveaway of Miracle for Jen by Linda Barrick



I'm so excited to be giving away a copy of Miracle for Jen to one lucky reader!

But before I go into any more detail, here's a trailer for the book:



And the synopsis:

On the night of November 5, 2006, the Barrick family was driving home from church when their van was struck by a drunk driver. Fifteen-year-old Jen suffered multiple skull fractures and severe brain trauma and was not expected to survive the night. But against all odds, she did. As she lingered in a coma, doctors warned that if Jen ever woke up, she would be cursing and screaming in confusion due to her brain injuries. Instead, after five weeks she opened her eyes and began praying and praising God. Jen didn’t remember her middle name, recognize her parents, or recall that she had a little brother—but she remembered Jesus and every word to every praise song and scripture she had hidden in her heart before the accident. As any loving mother would, Jen’s mother Linda wanted God to heal Jen—make her like she was before. Normal. But a loving God had something else in mind—instead of making her normal, God is making Jennifer—and the whole Barrick family—extraordinary, miraculous. Miracle for Jen is the remarkable true story of a family who overcame tragedy and learned to trust God's plan for their lives in a whole new way.


I finished reading Miracle for Jen about two weeks ago, but the story has stuck with me since then.

One of the things that truly impressed me most, is Jen's fervent heart for God.

There's a bible verse in Luke that says, "The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks."

After the accident, Jen didn't recall most of the outward details that define a person. Yet, her spirit remembered the most important thing of all. Because she had already been storing up scripture, praise songs, and prayers, they flowed from the abundance of her heart, despite lack of previous memories.

It made me think seriously about what would come out of my heart and mouth should I be in a similar circumstance. It challenged me to take a good look at myself and ask "how can I live more for Christ?"

And it also encouraged me to realize  how God can take the most seemingly hopeless of situations and turn them around for His ultimate glory. Yes, Jen's life will never be the same as before, but she has accepted that and embraced the role God has called her to, despite daily limitations, pain, and frustration.

There are many other insights to be gleaned from Jen's story, as told through her mother, Linda's, eyes. Through her perspective, we understand her heart break of exchanging the daughter she once had, for the new Jen with a completely different personality.

I could definitely relate with her struggles, and thought she expressed herself well. The writing style was engaging, keeping me turning the pages to find out where Jen's story was headed. I also enjoyed that Linda included quite a few of her daughter's journal entries, which really gave us glimpses inside Jen's thoughts, before and after the accident.

In short, I found Miracle for Jen to be moving and powerful; a story I won't soon forget.

Giveaway

To enter for your chance to win a copy of Miracle for Jen, simply leave a comment below in the comment section, with your email included, so I can contact the winner for their mailing address. This drawing will be open for a week, so you have plenty of time to join, and I'll be announcing the results next Friday, March 16th.

As a way of saying thank you, I'll award a bonus entry to anyone that already is a follower, or decides to start, following my blog. 

(I'll only be accepting entries within the U.S.)

Thanks so much for stopping by!


As a disclosure, I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for my honest review. I also received a certificate for one complimentary copy of this book to be given to the winner of this giveaway.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

My happy spots...


Do you have a favorite place, somewhere that you'd call your "happy spot?"

I love libraries.

Something about the serenity, atmosphere, and stacks of bookshelves waiting to be explored, fills me with delight.

I just feel at home around books, I suppose, so it makes sense that I'd enjoy a building full of them.

Barnes and Noble is another favorite hang out of mine.

Which is why:


I've gotten better about window, or rather chair shopping, but it's still a struggle for me to leave totally empty handed.

Especially if one of my favorite authors has just released a new book.

(Oh, the torture!)

But, on the bright side:


An all you can read buffet in heaven?

Ok, probably not; but it makes me smile. :)

What are some of your happy spots?

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Applesauce cookies with caramel frosting



We recently had a recipe exchange at church and I decided to bring these cookies, which I found on Pinterest!

(Again, love that site.)

I had never had applesauce cookies until I met my husband and he introduced me to them. I couldn't find his recipe, so I decided to try this one; and was very pleased with the results!

(Plus the caramel frosting was an added bonus...) :)

I also used chunky applesauce, instead of regular, so that's an option if you want bits of apple in your cookies.

Enjoy!

Applesauce cookies with caramel frosting

Monday, March 05, 2012

Do you get MMG?



Ok, so maybe you can relate to this unhappy little boy who has one hand slapped over his right eye, leaving the other free for intense, prolonged, glaring.

What's he channeling death rays at? Why, Monday morning, of course.

(Before I say any more, if you find this behavior overly odd, then I wholeheartedly suggest you stop reading now.)

In general, mornings and I don't have the best track record. We've never really gotten along, despite a few half hearted attempts at civility. While I've grown better at masking my animosity, sometimes I still can't totally control my reactions.

(They've been known to include: muttering, groaning, possessive cover clutching, fist shaking, and eye slapping-as seen above. (Except it's not so cute on an adult.)

But I have at last acknowledged a diagnoses for these unsavory behaviors.

Monday + morning + dysfunctional relationship=MMG.

All right, in plain english, I have Monday Morning Grumpiness. Normally it's just regular MG, but Mondays are extra special, so I'm giving them due respect.

(I have to say, it was my sister who sweetly informed me of my "morning grumpiness" condition, so I can't take all the credit.)

Anyway, I've been slowly working on my "issues" and can now say with utter sincerity that...

Yeah, I still don't like Monday morning. We're not best buds-possibly nodding acquaintances-but I can tolerate them more when I realize it's simply their lot in life to be the bad guy almost no one likes.

(Again, if you're part of the MM admiration society, please disregard everything I've just said and happily continue on your merry way.)

In other words, Monday got stuck with the short end of the straw, while Friday perpetually has the cool end of the totem pole.

I have a heart. I like to root for the underdog. Admittedly, a little sigh escapes my throat every time I watch Napoleon Dynamite channel his inner LaFawnduh for two groovy, on stage, minutes.

So if I put MM in that category, it helps the tiniest bit. MM is just doing its job. MM is not out to get me.

MM does not have to equal MMG.

Maybe I should give it a break and move onto Friday instead.

FMG anyone?

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Cauliflower Casserole



This is one of my favorite casseroles...especially good on a cold winter night.

(I've even gotten non-cauliflower lovers to eat (and enjoy) this dish!)

So whether you're normally a veggie fan, or not, give the Cauliflower Casserole recipe a try.

Happy eating! :)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Stray Drop of Blood by Roseanna M. White



"Beautiful is a dangerous thing to be when one is unprotected."


A Stray Drop of Blood is the story of Abigail; Jewess slave and companion to Visibullis matriarch, Ester. Having been brought to the Visibullis household at a young age, she is treated respectfully and quickly earns a place in her owner's hearts.  She is taught all manner of book knowledge and continually proves herself an adept learner. It seems her life has fallen into a peaceful existence, until Jason Visibullis arrives back home after several years of military training in Rome.

As the handsome only child of respected General Cleopas and his wife Ester, he is willful, spoiled, and used to getting his own way; especially when it comes to the women he wants. And after one glance at the beautiful Abigail, she ends up on his immediate want list. With no real choice in the matter, Abigail is forced into an intimate relationship with her master's son, and a short time later, becomes pregnant.

Devastated, she despairs at the shattering of her future dreams, including those to wed. Jason will not hear of marrying a Jewish slave, despite his parents insistence that he be accountable for his actions, but he does agree to care for Abigail as his "wife in deed" responsibility. While not in love with Jason, she has slowly become comfortable in their relationship, and even welcomes his attentions over time. As she grows larger with child, Jason struggles with the development of strong feelings for her and eventually chooses, against his friends advice, to take her as his wife.

They marry, but unrest is permeating Jerusalem, as a man who has created quite a stir with his teachings, gains followers. Violent uprisings result, and the Visibullis men are summoned to quell the rebels by force. One night, during an especially heated insurrection, both Cleopas and Jason are brutally killed by the criminal Barabbas. Devastated, Abigail is determined to witnessed the crucifixion of their murderer, and ventures out on the appointed day. But, amidst the expected chaos and throngs of people, she experiences something else entirely unexpected.

A stray drop of blood that will change her life forever...

To briefly sum up my thoughts after that lengthy story description, I say:

Read this book!

Why?

Because Roseanna White is a gifted writer who really has a knack for getting emotions out onto the page in a realistic manner. She makes you connect with her characters deeply and leaves you caring about them long after turning the final page. Biblical stories aren't that easy to pull off convincingly, but Roseanna put in the effort plus research, and it shows.

The plot is thoroughly engaging, with plenty of intrigue to keep you from figuring out what happens next, and so much occurs from beginning to end, that it truly is an epic journey. Also, I thought the romantic scenes gave a nice amount of tension/edge/passion without going too overboard. I appreciated the honest struggles, both emotionally and physically, that Roseanna acknowledged between characters, which added to the overall story connection for me.

So, yes, definitely grab your own copy of A Stray Drop of Blood! I know I'll be adding this author's past and future books to my must read list.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Looking ahead...

I'll be having a week long giveaway of the book, Miracle for Jen, starting on Friday, March 9th!




Here's  a synopsis...

On the night of November 5, 2006, the Barrick family was driving home from church when their van was struck by a drunk driver. Fifteen-year-old Jen suffered multiple skull fractures and severe brain trauma and was not expected to survive the night. But against all odds, she did. As she lingered in a coma, doctors warned that if Jen ever woke up, she would be cursing and screaming in confusion due to her brain injuries. Instead, after five weeks she opened her eyes and began praying and praising God. Jen didn’t remember her middle name, recognize her parents, or recall that she had a little brother—but she remembered Jesus and every word to every praise song and scripture she had hidden in her heart before the accident. As any loving mother would, Jen’s mother Linda wanted God to heal Jen—make her like she was before. Normal. But a loving God had something else in mind—instead of making her normal, God is making Jennifer—and the whole Barrick family—extraordinary, miraculous. Miracle for Jen is the remarkable true story of a family who overcame tragedy and learned to trust God's plan for their lives in a whole new way.

I've just finished reading my copy of Jen's inspirational story and will be posting my review on March 9th, along with the giveaway, so I hope to see you then!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Yesterday's Tomorrow by Catherine West



Yesterday's Tomorrow is author, Catherine West's, debut novel; but you wouldn't know by reading it.

From the very first page, she creates vivid images and characters that you'll empathize with, root for, want to slap upside the head a few times, but, mostly, fall in love with.

Set in war torn Vietnam, here is a brief run down of the story:
She's after the story that might get her the Pulitzer. He's determined to keep his secrets to himself. Vietnam, 1967. Independent, career-driven journalist Kristin Taylor wants two things: to honor her father's memory by becoming an award-winning overseas correspondent and to keep tabs on her only brother, Teddy, who signed up for the war against their mother's wishes. Brilliant photographer Luke Maddox, silent and brooding, exudes mystery. Kristin is convinced he's hiding something. Willing to risk it all for what they believe in, Kristin and Luke engage in their own tumultuous battle until, in an unexpected twist, they're forced to work together. Ambushed by love, they must decide whether or not to set aside their own private agendas for the hope of tomorrow that has captured their hearts.

I guess the best way I can think to describe Yesterday's Tomorrow, is that it's unflinchingly, heart breakingly, sometimes painfully, realistic.

In other words, it's not a light read. But I'm glad, because this era in history is one that deserves to be explored and revisited by someone brave enough to do it justice. I applaud Catherine, especially, for tackling the subject of post traumatic stress disorder, as it's not an easy thing to delve into. She truly does an amazing job of allowing the reader glimpses into what it must have been, and for some, still must be, like to endure.

The writing completely engages you throughout. Each scene propels the story forward wonderfully, plus the interactions between Luke and Kristen fairly crackle with tension, passion, danger, and awareness. You're never quite sure what will happen next, which leaves you on the edge of your seat.  Also, I love the humor Catherine sprinkles into the dialogue, which helps to alleviate some tense moments and off set the serious circumstances which are ever present.

There honestly wasn't anything I didn't like about Yesterday's Tomorrow, and I highly recommend it as compelling storytelling at its finest. This book moved me deeply and I know I'll be putting it on my keeper shelf for future re-reading.
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