Everyday Tidbits...

The first day of school is always so bittersweet. Love being back on a schedule. Miss my boys.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Maman's Homesick Pie...Review and Giveaway

About the book:
For Donia Bijan’s family, food has been the language they use to tell their stories and to communicate their love. In 1978, when the Islamic revolution in Iran threatened their safety, they fled to California’s Bay Area, where the familiar flavors of Bijan’s mother’s cooking formed a bridge to the life they left behind. Now, through the prism of food, award-winning chef Donia Bijan unwinds her own story, finding that at the heart of it all is her mother, whose love and support enabled Bijan to realize her dreams.

From the Persian world of her youth to the American life she embraced as a teenager to her years at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris (studying under the infamous Madame Brassart) to apprenticeships in France’s three-star kitchens and finally back to San Francisco, where she opened her own celebrated bistro, Bijan evokes a vibrant kaleidoscope of cultures and cuisines. And she shares thirty inspired recipes from her childhood (Saffron Yogurt Rice with Chicken and Eggplant and Orange Cardamom Cookies), her French training (Ratatouille with Black Olives and Fried Bread and Purple Plum Skillet Tart), and her cooking career (Roast Duck Legs with Dates and Warm Lentil Salad and Rose Petal Ice Cream).

An exhilarating, heartfelt memoir, Maman’s Homesick Pie is also a reminder of the women who encourage us to shine.

I had no idea who Donia Bijan was before I read her memoir, but I certainly loved her story.  After the death of her mother, Donia reflects on her life as she begins the task of sorting through her mother's things.  Those reflections take us to her childhood in Iran, her family's subsequent exile to America and their new life here and Donia's own experience opening her own restaurant.

Relationships and memories often involve food: the preparing, the eating and the sharing of it.  Maman's Homesick Pie is a heartwarming journey through one family's memories and recipes.  Donia's reflections and narrative are warm, eloquent and vibrant.  Donia's love for her family is tangible, as is her love of good food and cooking. Her mother's influence on her life and the lessons she learned at her mother's table are inspiring.

The book also includes family recipes; exotic Persian dishes that sound delicious.

Thanks to Lisa at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Dona Bijan here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Monday, October 10th:  Books, Movies, and Chinese Food
Monday, October 17th:  girlichef
Wednesday, October 19th:  Melody & Words
Thursday, October 20th:  Unabridged Chick
Monday, October 24th:  Luxury Reading
Monday, October 24th:  Unabridged Chick – author interview
Wednesday, October 26th:  Chocolate and Croissants
Thursday, October 27th:  Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity
Friday, October 28th:  Peeking Between the Pages
Monday, October 31st:  2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews
Tuesday, November 1st:  A Bookish Libraria
Thursday, November 3rd:  Mockingbird Hill Cottage
TBD:  Chick Lit Reviews

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GIVEAWAY:
Because I enjoyed Maman's Homesick Pie, thanks to the publisher, I'm offering a giveaway.

It really bugs me when you have to jump through tons of hoops in order to enter giveaways, so a comment with your email address will suffice.

However:
If you change your profile to have your email address visible, if it isn't already, you will gain an additional entry.

I ask this because it's so annoying to have someone leave a comment you would like to respond to, but can't, because their email is hidden. This is especially annoying if a question is asked in said comment.

If you choose to become a follower or tell me you already are, you can gain an additional entry too.

If you wanted to blog or tweet about it, that's great too, and you'd get an extra entry for that.

Just tell me in your comment if you've done any of the extras. You don't need to leave separate comments for each thing (too annoying!).  Seriously though, just commenting is enough for me.

U.S. or Canada addresses only and no P.O. Boxes. Sorry!

This giveaway is now closed.


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Read 10/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I Am In Here...Review by the Doctor

About the book:
Elizabeth Bonker is profoundly affected by autism and can’t speak, yet she illuminates the inner world of autism through poems that she types one finger at a time. I Am in Here: The Journey of a Child with Autism Who Cannot Speak but Finds Her Voice by Elizabeth Bonker and her mother Virginia Breen is the story of Elizabeth’s courage, determination, and optimism, and the relentless love of a mom who knew her daughter was "in there."

Over many years, Elizabeth learned to type independently on a letterboard and computer. Because the process is tedious, she began to write poetry, and has since written more than 100 poems. This child, who had been diagnosed as mentally retarded, is at last able to reveal her gifted mind in I Am in Here. The book is about:

Faith: Elizabeth’s poetry reveals a deep spiritual life, "contemplating God in a way that went beyond what she learned in Sunday School," Virginia says. "The burden of autism has helped us both understand one of life’s great mysteries. The most tangible way we experience God is through the presence of the people God has placed in our lives."

Clinging to Hope: "Autism Moms must find a way to cling to hope with a tenacity that is stronger than autism’s grip on our children," Virginia says. "My answer is finding the joy in the smallest of moments…a conscious choice to seek these small flowers of joy in the crannied wall."

Drawing Inspiration from 'How' People: 'How' people ask, 'how can I move forward?' rather than 'why me?' Elizabeth, with her overwhelming challenges, is the ultimate 'How' Person. The book also includes a gallery of the 'How' people whose inspiring stories are told in the book. "Elizabeth is my little flower, relentlessly breaking through autism with her poetry," Virginia writes. "Like the flowers in the sidewalk cracks, she is a quiet miracle."

There are some books that you read that you can't put down. You race from page to page desperate to know the ending. These books are the best sellers, because they give us a chance to escape reality for a while, to forget the trials and tribulations of our everyday lives as we drown our sorrows in the magic of a mythical happy ending.

However, sometimes you read a book that deserves to be a bestseller because it's not about a happy ending, and it's not a chance to escape reality, but an understanding of how to live your life better.

As a father of a boy with an autism spectrum disorder, I didn't think reading this book would be easy. And in large measure it isn't, not because it is a well-written (because it is) and not because it isn't heartwarming (because it is).

At its heart, this is a book about the harsh realities of life, and the struggles of a mother and a daughter to rise above diagnoses and despairs, and transform their lives into something wonderful, meaningful and illuminating.

Elizabeth Bonker is a young woman who cannot speak, but her words speak volumes of the power of the human spirit. Her mother, Virginia, redefines the role of what it means to be a mother, a friend, and a fierce champion for her daughter in the face of daunting and difficult odds.

As we are led through Elizabeth's life, Virginia gives us a side-by-side comparison of her works on behalf of Elizabeth, and on behalf of autistic children everywhere.

This book will move you to both tears and laughter, joy and sadness. Rarely does a book come along that reflects the humanity of our struggles everyday, and gives us hope that we too can rise above our own limitations, and become something more in the lives of others.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book. It will change how you feel about those with autism, and it'll give you hope for the struggles you have to fight every day.

Available October 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Donna Hausler of Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Elizabeth and Virginia here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 10/11

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Friday, October 28, 2011

Don't Sing at the Table: Life Lessons from My Grandmothers...Review and Giveaway

About the book:
New York Times bestselling author Adriana Trigiani’s gift for illuminating the profound challenges and issues defining women’s lives has propelled her novels to the top of bestseller lists and earned her a wide, devoted readership. Now, she shares the roots of those insights—the wisdom handed down to her from her unforgettable grandmothers, Lucia and Viola, which she began collecting for her own daughter—with readers everywhere.

Filled with practical, sage advice, and infused with Trigiani’s trademark warmth, love, and humor, Don’t Sing at the Table introduces a pair of feisty, intelligent, and strong forces of nature whose lives embody the story of 20th-century America itself. Between them, the extraordinary Lucia and Viola lived through the century from beginning to end, surviving immigration, young widowhood, single motherhood, four wars, and the Great Depression. Culled from their remarkable experiences, this heartfelt guide, at turns hilarious and poignant, offers answers to the seminal questions in a woman’s life, from getting married to saving money, nurturing the soul to keeping calm in a crisis, raising children to finding private comfort.

This is a warm, poignant tribute to the author's grandmothers.  That Adriana loved and admired her grandmothers is very apparent.  The life lessons learned are relevant to us today.  I have not read anything by Adriana Trigiani and wasn't familiar with her at all before I read this book and so to me, this was simply a lovely accolade to two women who lived normal, ordinary lives but who, to one woman, were exceptional.  I love memoirs and family histories and this tribute was poignant and thoughtful.  I have a great deal of love and respect for my grandmothers, I learned many life lessons from them and I miss them.

Many of the life lessons in this book are simply rooted in common sense, but Adriana shares stories and anecdotes that emphasize and enrich them.

I have two complaints about the book. First, for a book that is so vividly rich and descriptive, there were annoying grammatical issues.  I just have a thing with verbs and tenses agreeing. Second, towards the last part of the book, the author became preachy on her views and ideas of religion and raising children.  That tone really disappointed me. Overall though, this is a sweet tribute by a granddaughter to her grandmothers.  The inclusion of some favorite recipes is a bonus.

Thanks to Trish at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Adriana Trigiani here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Tuesday, October 4th: Books Like Breathing
Wednesday, October 5th: Life In Review
Thursday, October 6th: Write Meg!
Tuesday, October 11th: Bookstack
Wednesday, October 12th: The Bodacious Pen
Thursday, October 13th: Book Hooked Blog
Monday, October 17th: Among Stories
Tuesday, October 18th: Good Girl Gone Redneck
Wednesday, October 19th: A Bookish Libraria
Thursday, October 20th: Laura’s Reviews
Monday, October 24th: Alison’s Book Marks
Wednesday, October 26th: The Road to Here
Thursday, October 27th: Amusing Reviews
Friday, October 28th: 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews
Monday, October 31st: Redlady’s Reading Room
Tuesday, November 1st: Chocolate & Croissants
TBD: StephTheBookworm


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GIVEAWAY:
Because I enjoyed Don't Sing at the Table, thanks to the publisher, I'm offering a giveaway.

It really bugs me when you have to jump through tons of hoops in order to enter giveaways, so a comment with your email address will suffice.

However:
If you change your profile to have your email address visible, if it isn't already, you will gain an additional entry.

I ask this because it's so annoying to have someone leave a comment you would like to respond to, but can't, because their email is hidden. This is especially annoying if a question is asked in said comment.

If you choose to become a follower or tell me you already are, you can gain an additional entry too.

If you wanted to blog or tweet about it, that's great too, and you'd get an extra entry for that.

Just tell me in your comment if you've done any of the extras. You don't need to leave separate comments for each thing (too annoying!).  Seriously though, just commenting is enough for me.

U.S. or Canada addresses only and no P.O. Boxes. Sorry!

This giveaway is now closed.


----------------------------------------


Read 10/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wings: A Novel of World War II Flygirls...Review

About the book:
Sally Ketchum comes from dirt-poor farm folk. She has little chance of bettering her life until a mysterious barnstormer named Tex teaches her to fly—and becomes the first person worthy of her love. But Tex dies in a freak accident, leaving Sally to make her own way in the world. She enrolls in the U.S. military’s Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program, and in a special school located in West Texas begins learning to fly the biggest, fastest, meanest airplanes the military has to offer. She also reluctantly becomes involved with Beau Bayard, a flight instructor and aspiring writer, who seems to offer her everything she could want. But many people see no place for a “skirt” in the cockpit, and Sally soon finds herself pitted against a high-powered Washington lawyer who wants to disband the WASP once and for all. Their battle is a story of extraordinary women who broke society’s rules and became heroes, and of men who stood in their way.

Sally's life is inherently unhappy, except for her brief time with Tex, the man who taught her to fly and the man with whom she fell in love.  After his death, she learns about the WASP program and enrolls to become a female military pilot.  Once at school, however, she learns that there are those who want the program disbanded and of one individual, in particular, who has a personal vendetta against her.


While historically, this is a very rich novel, it's not a particularly happy story.  Sally's life is hard and it never gets easier, although she's tough and plucky and manages to overcome obstacles and adversity.  She meets an a assortment of young women in the WASP program, all of whom have their own secrets and reasons for joining up.  Their collective story is fascinating.  Moderate profanity and innuendo is noted.


I think Karl Friedrich has done a terrific job of portraying a time in our history that was difficult for all: those who went to war and those who were left behind. Women rose to the occasion and took on many jobs that until the war came, had been male only jobs, including flying military jets.  I'm appalled at the treatment these women received at the hand of our government and I'm proud of them for the pathway they paved for future women.



Thanks to Lisa at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Monday, October 3rd:  A Bookish Librarian
Tuesday, October 4th:  Life in Review
Wednesday, October 5th:  Acting Balanced
Monday, October 10th:  The Life (and lies) of an inanimate flying object - guest post
Tuesday, October 11th:  Diary of an Eccentric
Wednesday, October 12th:  “That’s Swell!”
Thursday, October 13th:  Man of La Book
Saturday, October 15th:  Man of La Book - author Q&A
Tuesday, October 18th:  Reviews from the Heart
Wednesday, October 19th:  A Bookish Affair
Thursday, October 20th:  Bags, Books & Bon Jovi
Friday, October 21st:  Flight to Success
Monday, October 24th:  Melody & Words
Tuesday, October 25th:  Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, October 26th:  Staircase Wit
Thursday, October 27th:  2 Kids and Tired Books
Tuesday, November 1st:  Joyfully Retired
Wednesday, November 2nd:  The House of the Seven Tails
Thursday, November 3rd: Life on the Road as a Pilot
Date TBD:  A Cozy Reader’s Corner

Read 10/11

* * *
3/5 Stars

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Necessary Deception...Review

About the book:
When young widow Lydia Gale helps a French prisoner obtain parole, she never dreams she will see him again. But just as the London Season gets under way, the man presents himself in her parlor. While she should be focused on getting her headstrong younger sister prepared for her entrée into Society, Lady Gale finds herself preoccupied with the mysterious Frenchman. Is he a spy or a suitor? Can she trust him? Or is she putting herself and her family in danger?


Discover a world of elegance and intrigue, balls and masquerades as Laurie Alice Eakes whisks you into the drawing rooms of London Society on this exciting quest to let the past stay in the past--and let love guide the future.

Lydia's husband went to war with France after a week of marriage.  After his death, she received cryptic instructions which told her that one day she would have the chance to help a friend of her husband's.  When that time comes, she's surprised to find out that she's helping to free a French prisoner.  With unanswered questions she, nevertheless, fulfills her obligation.  As she then travels to London to prepare her younger sisters for one's entrance into society and another's marriage, she's surprised to once again meet this mysterious Frenchman.  Lydia has no idea that her actions have drawn her into a dangerous game of intrigue and secrets.

I grew frustrated at times with chapters that ended and then didn't pick up again, but went onto something different.  I'm sure it was the author's attempt at suspense, but I often felt like I'd missed something.  Lydia's family was difficult to like and it was easy to see her frustrations with them.  Her parents left her sisters' lives and futures in her hands and we never really understood why.  The story has its moments, but I felt like there were too many unanswered questions and not enough detail.

I read Eakes' Lady in the Mist and while I didn't love it, I was curious about this new one as I enjoy the regency time period.  However, both books were rather ordinary and unexceptional and I've decided that this is just an author who doesn't resonate with me.  Fans of the regency time period and Laurie Alice Eakes, however, should enjoy this.

Available October 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Donna Hausler of Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.   You can learn more about Laurie Alice Eakes here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 10/11

* * *
3/5 Stars

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Story of Beautiful Girl...Review

It is 1968. Lynnie, a young white woman with a developmental disability, and Homan, an African American deaf man, are locked away in an institution, the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded, and have been left to languish, forgotten. Deeply in love, they escape, and find refuge in the farmhouse of Martha, a retired schoolteacher and widow. But the couple is not alone--Lynnie has just given birth to a baby girl. When the authorities catch up to them that same night, Homan escapes into the darkness, and Lynnie is caught. But before she is forced back into the institution, she whispers two words to Martha: "Hide her." 

And so begins the 40-year epic journey of Lynnie, Homan, Martha, and baby Julia--lives divided by seemingly insurmountable obstacles, yet drawn together by a secret pact and extraordinary love.

Locked away in an institution, circumstances arise that force Lynnie and Homan to attempt escape.  They find themselves seeking shelter at Martha's farmhouse and when she opens the door to them, Martha has no idea the future that awaits her or how her life will forever be connected to theirs.

The story moves between characters over the course of 40 years.  Admittedly, I found Homan's viewpoint hard to follow at times because of his deafness but, at the same time, I was enthralled with his perspective and how he related to people and situations.  I loved these characters, especially Lynnie and Kate and their relationship.  As the story progresses and we see where time and experience take everyone, I didn't want to put the book down.  I will admit to both liking and disliking the ending though.

Rachel Simon did a fantastic job in her setting and in her treatment of these people who might be delayed, but by no means were unintelligent.  Homan, especially, was a wonderful character: a man who was simply hearing impaired and who communicated with a form of sign language not understood by others, ended up in an institution. I don't begin to understand the psychology and reasoning behind these institutions and schools, although I can see why people would be afraid of those with disabilities.  Even with our enlightened understanding of disabilities today, there are still misconceptions and judgments.  In her writing, the author showed us both the good and bad in humanity and the difference that perseverance, love and a sprinkling of charity can make in a person's life.

I loved the author's note and acknowledgments at the end of the book where she explains why she wrote the book and her personal connection to it.  This is a captivating story and I one I wholly enjoyed.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 10/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The What's for Dinner? Solution...Review

About the book:
For many women, dread turns to panic around 4:00 in the afternoon. That’s when they have to answer that age-old question, “What’s for dinner?” Many resort to another supermarket rotisserie chicken or—worse yet—ordering dinner through a drive-thru intercom.

In The “What’s for Dinner” Solution, popular author and speaker Kathi Lipp provides a full-kitchen approach for getting dinner on the table every night. After putting her 21-day plan into action, women will

* save time—with bulk shopping and cooking
* save money—no more last-minute phone calls to the delivery pizza place
* save their sanity—forget the last-minute scramble every night and know what they’re having for dinner

The book includes real recipes from real women, a quick guide to planning meals for a month, the best shopping strategies for saving time and money, and tips on the best ways to use a slow cooker, freezer, and pantry.

With Kathi’s book in hand, there’s no more need to hit the panic button.

I don't know any woman responsible for a home who hasn't, at some point in her life, stood in the middle of her kitchen at 5:30 and wondered what she was fixing for dinner.  I think this scenario happens to most of us on a very regular basis.  I'm a fairly organized homemaker who plans menus, and I still hit 5:30 on some days and have no idea what I'm doing.

Kathi Lipp has put together a terrific resource for not only the experienced cook, but also the novice.  She has a very straight forward way of writing and the book is short and easily read in one or two sittings, or by chapter.

In a nutshell, we're better cooks when we take the time to plan and organize.  It's as simple as that.  It's not new information.  It's not the proverbial light bulb.  It's something we all know.  Here, however, Kathi gives us solid ideas and ways to be more organized and on top of things.  With chapters covering grocery shopping and shopping strategies, using your slow cooker and your freezer, organizing your kitchen and pantry and planning for leftovers, Kathi shares tips and tricks and lots of family-friendly recipes.

As I read this book, I noticed a lot of things I already do (planning menus according to my family's schedule, using my crock pot and freezer cooking) and I discovered a few new helpful hints and suggestions, as well as more than one recipe I want to try out.

I think this would be a great gift for any cook/homemaker, and it would be a terrific resource for someone out on their own for the first time.  Wrap it up with a dish towel and casserole pan for a cute presentation.

Thanks to First Wildcard and Harvest House Publishers for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Kathi Lipp here.  You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here
.
Read 10/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Beyond All Measure...Review and Giveaway

Add caption
About the book:
Unless she can trust God's love to cast out her fears, Ada may lose the heart of a good man. 

Ada Wentworth, a young Bostonian, journeys to Hickory Ridge, Tennessee, in the years following the Civil War. Alone and nearly penniless following a broken engagement, Ada accepts a position as a lady's companion to the elderly Lillian Willis, a pillar of the community and aunt to the local lumber mill owner, Wyatt Caldwell. Ada intends to use her millinery skills to establish a hat shop and secure her future.

Haunted by unanswered questions from her life in Boston, Ada is most drawn to two townsfolk: Wyatt, a Texan with big plans of his own, and Sophie, a mulatto girl who resides at the Hickory Ridge orphanage. Ada's friendship with Sophia attracts the attention of a group of locals seeking to displace the residents of Two Creeks, a "colored" settlement on the edge of town. As tensions rise, Ada is threatened but refuses to abandon her plan to help the girl.

When Lillian dies, Ada is left without employment or a place to call home. And since Wyatt's primary purpose for staying in Hickory Ridge was to watch over his aunt, he can now pursue his dream of owning Longhorns in his home state of Texas.

With their feelings for each other growing, Ada must decide whether she can trust God with her future and Wyatt with her heart.

Having lost her fortune, family and fiance during the Civil War and its aftermath, Ada Wentworth answers an ad for a position as a lady's companion and finds herself in Tennessee, a long way from Boston.   While her greatest desire is to own her own millinery shop, she realizes she must first fund it and Wyatt Caldwell wants her to put her full attention toward caring for his crotchety aunt.  Ada also has a painful past and must learn what it is God wants her to do.  Naturally, Ada and Wyatt are attracted to each other, but a jealous school teacher wants Wyatt only for herself.

I enjoyed watching Ada and Lillian's relationship grow and it was refreshing to see the townspeople begin to soften towards Ada as they put aside their Yankee prejudices.  This is a book packed full of adventure and experiences and the KKK aspect and overt racism brought a different perspective.

Beyond All Measure is a charming, clean Christian novel.  While I enjoyed the novel, I found some of the characterizations a bit extreme. However, this is a story that does draw you in and I'm glad to know it's the first of a series.  I look forward to the next installment.

Thanks to Lisa at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Dorothy Love here. You can purchase your own copy here. You can see other tour stops here.

Monday, October 17th:  A Fair Substitute for Heaven
Tuesday, October 18th:  2 Kids and Tired
Wednesday, October 19th:  Reviews by Molly
Thursday, October 20th:  A Chick Who Reads
Monday, October 24th:  Reviews from the Heart
Tuesday, October 25th:  All Grown Up? 
Wednesday, October 26th:  I Am A Reader, Not A Writer  author Q&A
Thursday, October 27th:  Luxury Reading
Friday, October 28th:  Life in Review
Tuesday, November 1st:  Deb’s Book Bag
Wednesday, November 2nd:  Cheryl’s Book Nook
Thursday, November 3rd:  Life in the Thumb
Friday, November 4th:  Southern Sassy Things
Monday, November 7th:  By the Book
Wednesday, November 9th:  Christian Bookshelf Reviews
Monday, November 14th:  The Overweight Bookshelf
Wednesday, November 16th:  Peeking Between the Pages

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GIVEAWAY:
Because I enjoyed Beyond All Measure, thanks to the publisher, I'm offering a giveaway.

It really bugs me when you have to jump through tons of hoops in order to enter giveaways, so a comment with your email address will suffice.

However:
If you change your profile to have your email address visible, if it isn't already, you will gain an additional entry.

I ask this because it's so annoying to have someone leave a comment you would like to respond to, but can't, because their email is hidden. This is especially annoying if a question is asked in said comment.

If you choose to become a follower or tell me you already are, you can gain an additional entry too.

If you wanted to blog or tweet about it, that's great too, and you'd get an extra entry for that.

Just tell me in your comment if you've done any of the extras. You don't need to leave separate comments for each thing (too annoying!).  Seriously though, just commenting is enough for me.

U.S. or Canada addresses only and no P.O. Boxes. Sorry!

This giveaway is now closed.
----------------------------------------


Read 10/11

* * *
3/5 Stars

Monday, October 17, 2011

The What's for Dinner Solution?...Wildcard!

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Karri | Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Kathi Lipp is a busy conference and retreat speaker, currently speaking each year to thousands of women throughout the United States. She is the author of The Husband Project and The Marriage Project and has had articles published in several magazines, including Today’s Christian Woman and Discipleship Journal. Kathi and her husband, Roger, live in California and are the parents of four teenagers and young adults.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

For many women, dread turns to panic around 4:00 in the afternoon. That’s when they have to answer that age-old question, “What’s for dinner?” Many resort to another supermarket rotisserie chicken or—worse yet—ordering dinner through a drive-thru intercom.

In The “What’s for Dinner” Solution, popular author and speaker Kathi Lipp provides a full-kitchen approach for getting dinner on the table every night. After putting her 21-day plan into action, women will

* save time—with bulk shopping and cooking
* save money—no more last-minute phone calls to the delivery pizza place
* save their sanity—forget the last-minute scramble every night and know what they’re having for dinner

The book includes real recipes from real women, a quick guide to planning meals for a month, the best shopping strategies for saving time and money, and tips on the best ways to use a slow cooker, freezer, and pantry.

With Kathi’s book in hand, there’s no more need to hit the panic button.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736938370
ISBN-13: 978-0736938372

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Girl Meets Kitchen, or Not

Necessarily a Love Story

“Happy and successful cooking doesn’t rely only on know-how;
it comes from the heart, makes great demands on the palate and needs enthusiasm and a deep love of food to bring it to life.”

Georges Blanc, from Ma Cuisine des Saisons


I was not the kind of kid who grew up at my mom’s knee, helping her chop carrots for Sunday night’s chicken soup. I never really helped with any meal preparation, preferring to turn my attention in the kitchen to baking. There was always some social event with friends or a youth group party where I needed to bring brownies. The one memorable time I tried to make instant potatoes? Instead of the specified one-quarter tablespoon of salt, I used a quarter cup salt. That incident happened over twenty-five years ago, and I have yet to stop hearing about it from my loving and encouraging family.

Suffice to say, I was a bit ill-prepared for the cooking adventures that lay ahead as I lived on my own for the first time. And to complicate matters? My first apartment was in Uji, Japan, approximately seven thousand miles from my mother’s loving embrace and her pot-roast recipe (as if I could afford beef in Japan).

The recipe cards were stacked against me. No cooking skills to speak of, living in a foreign land where most of the time I couldn’t identify what I was eating much less figure out how it was prepared, a kitchen the size of my coat closet back home, and an oven so small it made me long for the Easy-Bake one of my childhood.

I was terrified going to the supermarket without an escort and a translator. I didn’t speak the language (as a short-term missionary teaching conversational English, speaking Japanese was actually a disadvantage in my job), and as unfamiliar as I was with food shopping in the U.S., shopping in Uji was like watching a foreign movie without subtitles and then having to write a paper on the plot.

Oh, and eating out? So not an option. While my cooking skills were limited, my food budget was near nonexistent.

A few things were easy to recognize. The bread in Japan was amazing. It was buttery and flaky and perfect. And there was some really lovely cheese and ham. So, for the first three months of exploring this exotic new culture, I ate ham and cheese sandwiches every single night for dinner.

As I started to get to know some of my students and coworkers better, I had this urge to invite them over to hang out with me. But I had a sneaking suspicion they would want to be fed. I knew that my students would love some authentic American dishes. The question was, Who would I get to cook them?

Another short-term missionary, Diana, had a cookbook called More-With-Less. This wonderful little book produced by the Mennonite community had tons of recipes that used simple ingredients most cooks would have in their kitchen. While I didn’t have a lot of pantry staples in my four-story walk-up, I was now armed with a grocery list as well as an English-to-Japanese dictionary for my trips to the store.

I started to look for simple things I could make: salads, sandwiches, curries, and mini-pizzas out of English muffins and ketchup. (I promise, my culinary skills and taste have gotten better over the years.) As I grew braver in all things cuisine, I started to ask my mom to send some of my favorite recipes from back home.

In fact, when I threw a Christmas celebration with my friend Spenser in my micro-sized apartment, we managed to make a fondue-potless version of my mom’s Pizza Fondue. Shopping for the ingredients proved challenging, even for Spenser who spoke near-fluent Japanese. After several attempts to translate cornstarch into the native language (One would think corn + starch = cornstarch, right? Wrong. It’s pronounced korunstarcha.), we headed back to my kitchen and made one of the best meals I have ever eaten—lots of tomato sauce, some ground beef, loads of cheese, and just the right amount of korunstarcha.

Pizza Fondue
(Connie Richerson)

½ lb. ground beef

1 small onion, chopped

2 10½-oz. cans pizza sauce (I use marinara sauce)

1 T. cornstarch (or korunstarcha, if you prefer)

1½ tsp. oregano

¼ tsp. garlic powder

2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 loaf French bread

Brown the ground beef and onion; drain. Put meat, sauce, cornstarch, and spices in fondue pot. When cooked and bubbly, add cheese. Spear crusty French bread cubes, then dip and swirl in fondue. This is also delicious with breadsticks. Serves 4 to 6.

From that point on, I was hooked on collecting my favorite recipes. I bought my own copy of More-With-Less when I got back to the States, and when I got married a few months later, I received my very first copy of everyone’s favorite red-and-white-plaid Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, with every recipe an emerging home cook could want.

I think most of us home cooks have a similar story to tell. OK, you probably didn’t have your first significant cooking experience in Uji, Japan, but I bet the first few times you got dinner on the table all on your own, you might as well have been in a different country.

Maybe your mom had you peeling potatoes before you could walk. Maybe you have a rich heritage of recipes passed down from your grandmother. None of our cooking histories are going to look the same, but we do have one thing in common: We all need to get dinner on the table.

I am not a professional cook. Tom Colicchio will never be critiquing my braised kale and chocolate with bacon foam on Top Chef. But over the past twenty years I have put dinner on the table almost every single night. And while my family still likes a pizza from the neighborhood shop, our kids who have left home really look forward to coming back for a home-cooked meal.

That is all the reward I need.

Why This Book?

So, you discovered my deep dark secret—I’m not a professional chef. I don’t have my own show on Food Network, my own brand of spatulas, and I’m not going to be appearing on any morning show making a frittata for Kathie Lee Gifford.

Still, I’m required to feed our large family almost daily. So when I come across a cookbook, I have an unnatural need to own it. I’m always looking for new recipes to keep dinner interesting at our house. I have an entire bookshelf in my kitchen for my ever-growing collection.

But to be honest with you, most of the money I’ve spent on those cookbooks could have been better spent on a good set of knives or a heavy iron skillet.

I have found that most cookbooks are aimed at the fantasy life many of us aspire to—entertaining regularly, having unusual and exotic ingredients on hand, and hours and hours in the kitchen to create these masterpieces, from scratch.

And then there is my reality. Yes, sometimes I like to spend a Saturday afternoon cooking up a big feast for friends and family. But most days? I want to get a delicious, healthy meal on the table quickly.

My test when I’m purchasing new cookbooks? I flip to a half dozen or so recipes throughout the book and ask myself, Can I imagine cooking this recipe in the next couple of weeks? If most of the recipes fail the test, the book stays at the store.

I want the reality. I want dinner on the table every night without being seduced by pictures of stylist-arranged food that—let’s be honest—I’m never going to prepare.

While those books offer up a lot of grilled-chicken-in-a-peanut-sauce-in-the-sky dreams, I need some reality. It’s not just about the recipe; it’s about all the aspects of getting dinner on the table.

By the end of this book, my hope for you is that you will be able to:

save time, money, and energy when it comes to
preparing meals
have less stress when it comes to shopping
get your kitchen prepared for battle
learn some stress-free ways to get dinner on the table
get out of your cooking rut
This book is all about the process, the how of getting dinner on the table. It reflects the collective wisdom of hundreds of women who don’t have prep cooks or a crew of interns trying out new recipes. We are the women who spend a significant part of our days thinking about, shopping for, and preparing dinner. And all these wise, wonderful women are going to show you a better way to get dinner on the table no matter what your cooking background or skill level.

This is the book I wish I’d had when I first started cooking, as well as when I was raising my brood of pint-sized food critics.

Don’t worry, there will be plenty of recipes. We all love to find that one recipe that is going to become a family favorite! But this book has much more than that. My hope is that you will be able to use the recipes you already have, the ones in this book, and the new ones you find along the way to set a big, bountiful table for your family.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Baby, it's cold outside...Review and Giveaway

About the book:
Dottie Morgan has no desire to share her home or her heart over the Christmas holidays. After all, her Christmas spirit froze over when Dottie lost her son in World War II. But when a blizzard of the decade traps Dottie in her home with four near strangers, she just might discover that opening her door might also open her heart to a Christmas miracle and a new reason to celebrate Christmas.

Dottie has a life of regrets and a loss of faith over the death of her only son during World War 2.  Gordy has always loved her from afar.  Violet and Jake must learn to trust one another and little Arnie is lonely and lost in his imaginary world of Flash Gordon.  When a sudden blizzard brings them all together in Dottie's house, she's not sure she can handle the emotions that begin to come forth.  But, as each life touches the others, hearts are opened and feelings shared and a Christmas miracle brings them all home.

What a sweet story about faith and forgiveness.  Dottie was a bit prickly, but she really grew on me as her heart softened and she discovered herself again.  These are characters who you come to love and care for and this book is a perfect way to start off the holiday season.

Thanks to Amy at Litfuse Publicity for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Susan May Warren here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Read 9/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars



-------------------------------------

Warm up to Christmas early this year with Susan May Warren's Baby, It's Cold Outside! To celebrate the release of her new Christmas book with Summerside Press, she and the publisher are giving away a Kindle Fire and hosting an early Christmas Party on Facebook!

Read what the reviewers are saying here.



One festive winner will receive:
  • A brand new Kindle Fire
  • Baby, It's Cold Outside by Susan May Warren
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. Giveaway ends on 10/26!

But, wait there’s more! Join Susan May Warren on 10/27 for merriment and a few early Christmas presents at her Baby, It's Cold Outside Christmas party! Grab your Christmas sweaters, socks and pj’s and join Susan and a few friends for a fireside chat about her recent books (Heiress & Baby, It’s Cold Outside), holiday traditions, favorite Christmas recipes, a trivia contest and more! Invite your friends and don’t miss the fun!

RSVP here and we'll see you on October 27th at 5 PM PST / 8 PM EST!

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Alias...Review

About the book:
After a long and difficult divorce, Jacey thinks the worst is over. Little does she know she'll soon be forced to go undercover to protect her family, and in the process, she'll risk losing her identity, her future, and her heart. With a lightning pace, a good dose of humor, and a plot that's full of suspense, this thrilling novel is an edge-of-your-seat read.

When Jacey Grayson is finally able to divorce her abusive husband, she finally believes she will be able to move on with her life.  However, when the FBI shows up and begins asking questions about her ex-husband's mob ties, she has no idea what they're talking about.  Fearing for her life and the life of her son Blaze, Jacey assumes her best friend Melissa's identity and flees to rural Utah.  As Jacey and Blaze are welcomed by Melissa's family, Jacey is torn from the need to lie and protect her son, and the desire to reveal her secrets to the wonderful people who have sheltered them.

The Alias has terrific elements:  a charming hero, a sweet heroine, a precocious child, suspense and intrigue.  I thought that the author covered the issues of spousal abuse well.  Jacey's situation wasn't handled with a heavy hand, nor was it glossed over.   The LDS elements are subtle and woven into the story in a natural, non-preachy way.  And Grant and Helen?  Fantastic characters, and just like everyone's favorite aunt and uncle.

While I liked these characters, I did find some of them to be somewhat one-dimensional, especially the ex-husband and the FBI agents.  I also, personally, hate the endearment "babe".  It always sounds wrong to me and Jacey uses it quite often, especially when referring to her son, Blaze, which is a name that I'm really curious about.  It sounds like the name for a romance novel hero, not a sweet, precocious child.  But, the author seems to like different names and unique spellings and both of those things are certainly more common these days.  I think I'm just old.

Those issues are mine, however, and I think that this is a terrific debut novel from an author with a fantastic potential.  I look forward to more from Mandi Slack.

Thanks to Virtual Book Tours by Tristi Pinkston for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Mandi Slack here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  The Kindle version is currently $3.99!

Read 10/11

* * *
3/5 Stars

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Coming Up for Air...Review

On the coast of Alabama, there is a house cloaked in mystery, a place that reveals the truth and changes lives...

Ellie Calvin is caught in a dying marriage, and she knows this. With her beloved daughter away at college and a growing gap between her and her husband – between her reality and the woman she wants to be – she doesn’t quite seem to fit into her own life.

But everything changes after her controlling mother, Lillian, passes away. Ellie’s world turns upside down when she sees her ex-boyfriend, Hutch, at her mother’s funeral and learns that he is in charge of a documentary that involved Lillian before her death. He wants answers to questions that Ellie’s not sure she can face, until, in the painful midst of going through her mother’s things, she discovers a hidden diary – and a window onto stories buried long ago.

As Ellie and Hutch start speaking for the first time in years, Ellie’s closed heart slowly begins to open. Fighting their feelings, they set out together to dig into Lillian’s history. Using both the diary and a trip to the Summer House, a mysterious and seductive bayside home, they gamble that they can work together and not fall in love again. But in piecing together a decades-old unrequited-love story, they just might uncover the secrets in their own hearts…

This was one that I really wanted to like.  It was meant to be a heartwarming and beautiful novel about a woman searching for truth about her family and discovering what she really wants out of life.  Unfortunately, Ellie wasn't someone I really connected with.  Her mother was a shrew and her husband was a one-dimensional selfish jerk.

I liked the southern beach setting and I enjoyed Ellie's discovery about her mother's past and how it explained Ellie's relationship with her mother.  I just wish I could have liked Ellie.

Thanks to Emily from Wunderkind-PR for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Patti Callahan Henry here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 10/11

* *
2/5 Stars

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Autumn Song...Review

About the book:
Why does everyone think a girl’s only lot in life is to find a husband and settle down?

Kathleen Muldoon is twenty-three and tired of ranch living. Fiercely independent and determined to become a nurse, she has left her family’s ranch to study medicine under Old Doc Jensen and live in town with her Aunt Mae, who runs a boardinghouse. Daniel Monroe has just arrived in Porterfield to set up his law practice. Sparks fly when he is introduced to Kate at the boardinghouse, but the initial attraction quickly dissolves into an argument—the first of many. Daniel is enamored with Kate but uncomfortable with her independent spirit and dreams of becoming a nurse. 

When trouble erupts between the ranchers and lumberjacks over timber rights, Kate is furious to learn that Daniel has worked out an agreement she believes will destroy her father’s land. Can they overcome their pride and help each other become everything God wants them to be? Set in the late 1800s, the Seasons of the Heart series follows the lives of four women and their families, weaving together their stories of faith, life, and love as they bond in friendship only God could orchestrate.

Kathleen wants nothing more than to be a nurse.  She doesn't want to get married, she doesn't want to fall for the town's new lawyer and she wants her family to let her be.  Daniel just wants a chance to practice law and finds himself attracted to Kate even as he struggles with her desire for independence.  As the two get to know each other, sparks fly and so do challenges.  Together they must manage to figure out their own paths in life and how to merge those paths into one that is pleasing to God.

Second in the Seasons of the Heart series, this is a sequel to Summer Dream.  While it adds depth to have read the first one, it's not necessary and this stands alone well. Like Summer Dream, the language was a bit stilted and formal, but easy to get past.  Kathleen was quite prickly and prone to over reaction which grew a bit tiresome.  However, I liked her and I really liked Daniel.  I enjoyed their story and while somewhat predictable, it was still charming and an entertaining, light read.  I look forward to the third book, Winter Promise.

Thanks to First Wildcard and Charisma Media for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Martha Rogers here.  You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here.


Read 9/11

* * *
3/5 Stars

Autumn Song...Wildcard!

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Realms (October 4, 2011)
***Special thanks to Kim Jones | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Martha Rogers is the author of Becoming Lucy; Morning for Dove; Finding Becky; Caroline’s Choice; Not on the Menu, a part of a novella collection with DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo; and River Walk Christmas, a novella collection with Beth Goddard, Lynette Sowell, and Kathleen Y’Barbo. A former schoolteacher and English instructor, she has a master’s degree in education and lives with her husband in Houston, Texas.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Why does everyone think a girl’s only lot in life is to find a husband and settle down?
Kathleen Muldoon is twenty-three and tired of ranch living. Fiercely independent and determined to become a nurse, she has left her family’s ranch to study medicine under Old Doc Jensen and live in town with her Aunt Mae, who runs a boardinghouse.

Daniel Monroe has just arrived in Porterfield to set up his law practice. Sparks fly when he is introduced to Kate at the boardinghouse, but the initial attraction quickly dissolves into an argument—the first of many. Daniel is enamored with Kate but uncomfortable with her independent spirit and dreams of becoming a nurse.

When trouble erupts between the ranchers and lumberjacks over timber rights, Kate is furious to learn that Daniel has worked out an agreement she believes will destroy her father’s land. Can they overcome their pride and help each other become everything God wants them to be?
Set in the late 1800s, the Seasons of the Heart series follows the lives of four women and their families, weaving together their stories of faith, life, and love as they bond in friendship only God could orchestrate.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (October 4, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616384573
ISBN-13: 978-1616384579

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

August 1889

Kate Muldoon, I simply can’t understand why you haven’t found yourself a husband among all the eligible men in this town.” Sarah picked up a book from the bedside table in Kate’s room. “You’re twenty-three now, and hiding yourself away to read and study all the time will not help you find the right man.”

Kate grabbed the book from her sister-in-law, who had wandered into her room for a chat. As usual, the talk had turned to men. “I don’t need a man,” Kate declared.

“How can you say that?” Sarah gasped.

Kate shook her head. Marriage and family ranked last in the things she wanted out of life right now. Kate fought against the swelling tide of anger that had landed her in trouble on more than one occasion. Why did everyone think a woman’s only role was that of a wife and mother? Sarah meant well, but then she loved living on a ranch and taking care of her husband Donavan Muldoon. Sarah believed everyone should be in love, as did her other sisters-in-law.

Once again Kate tried to explain. “Sarah, I do not intend to marry a rancher or anyone connected with cattle. I was born on a ranch, grew up on a ranch, and have lived around cattle and horses all my life so far, and I don’t plan on spending the rest of it on one.” Despite her love of horses and riding, the ranch held no pull or fascination for her as it once did when she was younger. Kate hugged her textbook to her chest. “Why do you think I’ve studied everything about Florence Nightingale and nursing and moved into town to help Aunt Mae?”
Sarah waved her hand airily, dismissing Kate’s plans. “I don’t know about that, but I do know Auntie Mae’s boardinghouse is full of men who are not ranchers. Why, there’s my cousin Seth who just moved out here to pastor our church, and then there’s Doc Jensen’s nephew who came to town to assist his uncle with the infirmary. They’re both unattached. Sometimes I think you’re just too picky.”

Picky wasn’t exactly the word Kate would choose, but preachers and doctors held no interest for her other than as people she could work with. She did enjoy working with Doc Jensen and his nephew, Elliot Jensen, but they were teaching her to be a nurse. Besides, Elliot wasn’t really a friendly sort even if he did have an excellent bedside manner with his patients.
Kate sighed. Her sister-in-law was raised in an upperclass family in Boston, where the entire focus of her life in the last few years had been on her whirlwind romance, marriage to Donavan, then moving to Texas and having Jeremy. How could she possibly understand Kate’s dreams? “I’m learning all I can about nursing and treatments so I can work more with Doctor Jensen,” she explained with as much patience as she

could muster. “He lets me help with some of the lighter cases and says I’m getting good at recognizing symptoms. Besides, I was thinking that the preacher would make a wonderful match for Erin.”

Sarah brightened at the thought. “That might not be a bad idea now that she is of marrying age. Erin would be a good wife for Seth and a good mother for their little ones. She loves little Jeremy and has been a big help to me in taking care of him.” She turned to leave. “I’ll look for you Sunday at church and then afterward for dinner out at the ranch. Now I need to rescue Auntie Mae from Jeremy.”

As if Aunt Mae needed rescuing. Kate waved her hand in the air to say good-bye. Dinner with the Muldoon clan meant much food and lots of laughter, but it also meant another boring afternoon listening to talk of cattle drives and auctions and horses by the men, and talk of babies and mothering by the women—none of which held any interest whatsoever for Kate.
Three older brothers—Brody, Donavan, and Ian—had ranches of their own, and that’s all they talked about. The fourth older brother, Cory, had his sights set on being a lawman and had moved into town to be a deputy for Marshal Slade. Erin, the baby of the family, still lived on the ranch. She’d just turned nineteen and was by far the prettiest of the Muldoon clan.
Kate welcomed Cory’s company and his presence at the boardinghouse. At least he wasn’t interested in finding a bride, and he didn’t pester her about finding a mate. He had his sights set on being a marshal himself one day and figured that job too dangerous to take a wife. Kate snorted. So it was OK

for a man to be unmarried and pursue his dreams, but not a woman.
She laid aside her book and sauntered down to the hallway to find the mail from Aunt Mae’s boarders. One of her jobs at Aunt Mae’s included taking care of the mail. With a start, she realized she’d have to hurry to get there before the afternoon train arrived.

One afternoon train from the west would be picking up mail headed for the East Coast. An earlier train had dropped off its delivery, and that mail waited for her now at the post office. Ever since the railroads had been completed, Kate had seen more men coming to town to work the ranches around the area as well as find their own land and start farming or ranching. All the land around Porterfield belonged to ranchers

and farmers, but in a state as big as Texas, there seemed to be plenty of land to go around.

She donned her wide-brimmed straw hat to ward off the sun’s rays and hurried out to complete her task. The Grayson General Store and Post Office beckoned her to hurry. The train would be here any minute. Her feet kicked up puffs of dust as she walked. Her shoes would need a good cleaning later, but she didn’t mind as she enjoyed the four-block walk to the general store that housed the post office.

When Kate stepped into the store, the balding proprietor grinned and tilted his head. “Is that mail from the boarders at your aunt’s house?”

Kate plopped the letters on the counter along with coins

for stamps. “Yes, it is.”

Mr. Grayson affixed a two-penny stamp to each envelope. “How many boarders are there now?”

Kate closed her eyes to vision the count. “Counting Cory and me, there’s eight. All but one of the rooms is filled, and Aunt Mae is happy as a lark. For some reason, men come to this town, like it, and stay.”
Mrs. Grayson joined her husband. Her blue eyes sparkled as she gazed at Kate. “And when are you going to choose one of these men here for your own?”
Heat rose in Kate’s cheeks. Everyone thought they had to ask that question. “I don’t plan on marrying anytime soon. I’m studying to be a nurse, and besides, who’d help Aunt Mae take care of the house and all the meals if I wasn’t around?”

The plump, rosy-cheeked Mrs. Grayson laughed. “She’d do fine without you, and I’ve seen how Mr. Fuller over at the bank looks at her. Wouldn’t surprise me if she takes a husband one of these days.”
“That’s hard for me to imagine.” The very idea of her aunt with another man after the love she shared with Uncle Patrick caused Kate’s insides to quiver like the branches of a justfelled tree. Aunt Mae did have a few of the men, including Mr. Fuller, looking her way, but she paid them no mind. If Aunt Mae did decide to marry, Kate wouldn’t interfere, but she’d have no part in bringing about that possibility.
As soon as Mr. Grayson dropped the envelopes into the outgoing mail bag, he headed outside and toward the depot. Mrs. Grayson handed her mail from the boardinghouse box. “Thank you.” Kate slid the envelopes into her pocket and wiggled her fingers at Mrs. Grayson. “Bye, now. It’s time to get things started for dinner at Aunt Mae’s.”
On her way back to the boardinghouse, the idea of Aunt Mae marrying danced through her head. Would Aunt Mae give up running the boardinghouse if she married? Kate knew how much her aunt loved visiting with the boarders and preparing their meals. It was impossible to think of her ever leaving the place. Certainly she had found her calling, and for once in this town it didn’t focus only on being a wife and keeping house! Still, when Uncle Patrick was alive, Aunt Mae had combined being a wife and managing all those boarders without much trouble. Perhaps Kate could do the same sometime in the far distant

future.
Daniel Monroe finished his letter and sealed it in an envelope. In a few days he’d leave for the greatest adventure of his life, and he wanted Seth to know when to expect him. He reread the post from his friend telling him that the mayor was more than willing for Daniel to come to Porterfield, Texas, and practice

law as they had no lawyers in the town. If lawyers were needed in Porterfield, then that’s where he’d head.

Seth Winston had gone to Texas last year to pastor the church where his cousin Sarah and her family were members. The idea of going to Porterfield had grown more appealing as Seth had described it when he’d returned to Briar Ridge for his sister Rachel’s wedding this past spring. True, Texas was a long way from Connecticut, but images of the untamed West and all the adventures Daniel could have outweighed the

distance.
He envisioned cowboys, gunfights, saloon brawls, and train robberies. The tales he’d heard about Texas rolled through his mind in an endless stream of pictures. All the action and excitement sounded much better than the quiet town of Briar Ridge where he spent most of his time writing wills and taking care of legal documents for land sales or contracts for service. He’d already reassigned all his clients to other lawyers in

Briar Ridge, and none had truly complained, which only served to emphasize the fact that he wasn’t really needed here. Daniel cleaned out his desk and put it all in a box to carry home. He planned to have the desk, a gift from his parents, shipped to Texas with him. Now all he had to do was purchase his train ticket and say good-bye to family and friends. Since his parents, especially his mother, didn’t approve the move, he didn’t expect a going-away party.

Father seemed on the verge of understanding Daniel’s desire to travel to new frontiers and make a life for himself. Mother, on the other hand, wouldn’t and couldn’t accept the fact that her only son wanted to leave home and move thousands of miles away. His sister, Abigail, would hardly speak to him, but that did not keep Daniel from making arrangements to leave. After his twenty-fifth birthday last month, the desire

for a change came over him, and Texas seemed the best place to do just that.
On the way home he stopped at the depot and purchased a ticket that would begin his trip. He’d have stops in Philadelphia, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, and Dallas before the last leg of the journey to Porterfield.
The ticket agent handed Daniel his passage. “That’s a mighty long trip. I take it you’re heading out West to join Seth Winston. I can see the need for a preacher out west, but what’s a fancy lawyer like yourself going to do there?”

Daniel laughed. His mother had asked the same question. “Not sure, but I hope to help tame some outlaws.” How he’d do that he had no idea, but it sounded good when he said it.

“Well, now, just don’t go and get yourself shot by one of ’em.”
“I don’t plan to, Mr. Colley.” He tipped his hat and walked back out to his rig. At least he knew how to ride a horse well. With all his many long trips to Hartford by horseback, he figured he’d have no trouble riding in Texas. The rig today was simply a convenience for carting home his personal belongings from his office. Tomorrow the desk would be crated and shipped westward.

He entered the foyer of the comfortable, two-story home he still shared with his family. At his age, many other men had places of their own, but Ellie’s cooking and the free lodging had tempted him to stay.
After handing over his hat to Stevens the butler, Daniel turned toward the voices he heard in the drawing room on his left. He knocked then pushed open the doors. “Good evening, Mother, Father.”

His mother stood and hurried to him. She wrapped her arms around him. “Oh, Daniel, please tell me you’ve changed your mind and are staying in Briar Ridge. I can’t bear for you to leave us.”

He patted her back and glanced at his father, who simply lifted his gray bushy eyebrows and shrugged. He turned back to his mother. “I’m sorry you feel this way, Mother, but I purchased my train ticket on the way home this evening and will leave the beginning of next week.”
She pushed away from him and held a handkerchief to her nose. “I simply can’t believe it. I don’t understand why you have to go all the way to Texas to practice law. New Haven and Hartford are much closer. Why, even Boston would be better than way out West.”

“We have a multitude of fine barristers in the cities here in the East. As I’ve said many times, this will give me the opportunity to travel and see what is happening in the rest of our great country.” No matter how many times he explained, his mother would never truly understand his desire to move on. She had grown up in this town, as had his father, and she would never leave it or her beautiful home.
Stevens appeared in the doorway. “Mr. and Mrs. Monroe, dinner is served.”
Mother hooked her hand into Daniel’s arm. “Thank you, Stevens. Tell Ellie we’ll be right in.” She patted Daniel’s hand now resting on hers. Although she held her head high, he noted the slight tremor in her voice as she spoke. “I had Ellie prepare your favorite meal tonight. She’ll be serving all your favorites until your departure.” She swallowed hard as she walked beside Daniel into the dining room.
Daniel’s younger sister, Abigail, bounded down the stairs but stopped short when she saw her parents and Daniel. Her next steps were much more sedate. “Good evening, Daniel. I didn’t know you were home.”

Father waited to escort her into dinner. “And what is your great hurry, my dear girl? Is Ellie’s food that tempting?”

“No, Father, I’m just happy about my trip to see Rachel and Nathan in Hartford next week. I haven’t seen her since the wedding, and I’m anxious to visit and talk with her.”

Daniel assisted his mother in her chair at the table. “I’m sure you two will have much to talk about. What’s it been? Two, three months since the wedding?”
She turned to glare at him. A month ago she wouldn’t have minded the teasing, but since his decision to leave, she had been less than sisterly. “Three, if you must count, but it may as well be three years.” Abigail dismissed him and turned to her mother. “I truly miss having Rachel here in Briar Ridge.”

Father held her chair while she seated herself. He bent and brushed his lips across her hair. “Then I’m glad you will have this chance to visit Rachel in Hartford.”

After his father said grace, Ellie brought in a platter emanating the most delicious aroma. His favorite roast beef as Mother had promised. Along with it came perfectly creamed potatoes, buttered asparagus, carrots, fresh baked bread, and his favorite sweet pickles. “What, no soup tonight?”

Mother pressed her lips together. “You said you didn’t care for soup at every meal, and since this is your meal, we skipped it.”

“Thank you, I prefer to fill up on the main course and not the first one.” He glanced over at Abigail, who scrunched up her nose as the asparagus was passed to her. “Not to worry, dear sister, after I’m on my way to Texas, you won’t have to worry about asparagus. Ellie only cooks it because she knows how much I like it.”

“Humph, that will be one good aspect of your leaving.” She placed two stalks on her plate and handed the bowl to their father.

As his parents began discussing their day, he noted the total lack of reference to his leaving the coming Monday. His mother believed if she ignored it, that perhaps it wouldn’t really happen. Father cast a wistful eye Daniel’s way a few times, as though he wanted to talk with his son. Perhaps after dinner he and Father could have a conversation.
Daniel gazed around at the opulent surroundings. Sparkling crystal, fine china, silver cutlery, and damask table cloth and napkins reminded him of his parent’s wealth. He would find nothing like this in Texas.
Then he glanced again at his mother and swallowed a lump in his throat along with a bite of potato. He didn’t want to hurt her, but he could see in her face and the way she only moved the food around her plate without actually eating it that he had done just that.

How could he make her understand his desire to move away and seek a new life? Somehow between now and Monday he must convince her that God had called him to the frontier. He had spent many hours in prayer over this move, and now he gladly embraced the future and all it held in the grand state of Texas.