Everyday Tidbits...

Be Kind. Do Good. Love is a Verb.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Weekend Reflections 3/30

Looking outside...spring is coming.   The trees are budding, my roses are budding and tulips and lilies are poking their heads out of the ground.

Listening...to family starting to rise.  The boys were up late with their cousins and so every one has slept in a bit.

Loving...that my sister and her children are here.

Thinking...that we will do our Easter egg hunt today, so our focus on Sunday will be about the true reason we celebrate Easter, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In my kitchen...some Monkey Bread for breakfast.

Wearing...purple and white jammies and a daisy print apron.

Needing...to sneak in some transcription and have fun with my family.  And stuff some Easter Eggs.

Reading...Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by The Countess of Carnarvon

Today...finalizing the big editing project to mail off on Monday. Woo hoo!

Hoping...
still hoping to get in some reading time.  I'm way behind in the reading.

Planning...for the next week, always. Spring break is over and it's back to school on Monday.

Gratitude...that I was able to spend 10 days with my mom while she recovered from hip replacement surgery.  I'm grateful that she is doing well and that I came home this week to a clean home and happy family.  I'm grateful that the boys are old enough that I could leave and they handled everything responsibly and were such a big support to their dad so I didn't have to worry.

From my world...sorting through vintage patterns at my Mom's house.  My niece loved counting them. I loved the walk down memory lane.



What about you?  What are you reflecting on today?

Friday, March 29, 2013

Tres Leches Cupcakes...Review

About the book:
For Sadie Hoffmiller, going undercover as an informant for the Bureau of Land Management on an archaeological site in Santa Fe, New Mexico, seems like the perfect way to stay safe and busy while a threat against her life remains unresolved. Sadie’s days are spent digging up artifacts in the middle of nowhere while also digging up information on her fellow “dirt geeks.” With the help of her baking prowess—no one can resist those amazing dulce de leche bars—and Pete’s cousin, Caro, who takes to the detective work wholeheartedly, Sadie is finding herself again.

But the bright Southwestern sunshine only serves to illuminate the danger that lurks in the shadows. When recent burials are found on an ancient site, Sadie finds herself in the middle of an unexpected—and unwanted—investigation. The more she digs for the truth, the more secrets she uncovers—secrets that people would kill to keep hidden.

Before Sadie knows it, she’s arrested for starting a bar fight (which was totally not her fault), her new friend is missing, and she’s worn out her welcome in Santa Fe in more ways than one. A trip to the annual hot air balloon fiesta in Albuquerque is supposed to give her a break, but before long, she learns that when you’re dealing with the black market antiquity trade, you’re not really safe anywhere you go.

After leaving Hawaii rested and back in the detective game, Sadie finds herself in Santa Fe, New Mexico working undercover.  Pete is still concerned about threats made against Sadie and, while he's pursuing those threats, wants her to stay under the radar.  That's impossible for Sadie to do and soon she finds herself arrested in a bar fight, unearthing dead bodies and embroiled in the black market antiquity trade.  Of course, being Sadie, she also discovers new recipes and excuses to cook and bake.

The Sadie Hoffmiller books are just delightful.  They're clean, Christian, funny, compelling and easy to read.  I found the premise of black market antiquities interesting and something I am unfamiliar with.  The setting was fascinating.  I have never been to Albuquerque and the Balloon Festival, but I think it would be a fun trip.

I love that Sadie is her own person and does things her own way.  For all her love of detective work, she still seems to fall into these mysteries by accident. I would like to get back to seeing Sadie and Pete together.  They're a terrific pair and really work well together.

I read my personal copy, but you can purchase your own here.

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Unrivaled...Review

About the book:
Lucy Kendall returns from a tour of the Continent, her luggage filled with the latest fashions and a mind fired by inspiration. After tasting Europe's best confections, she's sure she'll come up with a recipe that will save her father's struggling candy business and reverse their fortunes. But she soon discovers that their biggest competitor, the cheat who swindled her father out of his prize recipe, has now hired a promotions manager-a cocky, handsome out-of-towner who gets under Lucy's skin.

Charlie Clarke's new role at Standard Manufacturing is the chance of a lifetime. He can put some rough times behind him and reconnect with the father he's never known. The one thing he never counted on, however, was tenacious Lucy Kendall. She's making his work life miserable...and making herself impossible for him to forget.

Desiring to save her father's candy business, Lucy wants to create a new, inspired candy that will rock the candy world. I loved Lucy's spunk and tenacity and while I laughed at some of her actions, I cringed at others. I liked Charlie a lot.

Charlie's relationship with his father bothered me immensely.  I never found that it ever appropriately resolved.  Mr. Clarke wasn't a likeable character and he gave reasons and excuses as to why he left Charlie's family, but it was all brushed under the table too easily.  Lucy's mother was a disappointing and unlikeable character as well.
The story is told from the alternating perspectives of Charlie and Lucy.  While not my favorite way to narrate, I liked reading both voices and I enjoyed the conclusion.

Of the three Siri Mitchell novels I've read, this is probably my least favorite, but I still enjoyed it and will always look forward to more.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Siri Mitchell here. You can see other reviews and tour stops here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/13

* * *
3 Stars

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Love in the Balance...Review

About the book:
Handsome Cowboy or Debonair Tycoon.
How's a Girl to Choose?

Molly Lovelace dreams of a life without cares in Lockhart, Texas. She also dreams of handsome wrangler Bailey Garner, her ardent but inconsistent beau. The problem is, with Bailey's poor prospects, she just can't fit the two dreams together.

Then mysterious stranger Edward Pierrepont sweeps into town-and her life-and for the first time Molly wonders if she's met the man who can give her everything. But he won't be in Lockhart long and while it certainly seems like he talks about their glorious future together, she can't quite get Bailey out of her mind.

What's a girl to do with all these decisions when love is in the balance?

I really enjoyed Sixty Acres and a Bride. It was a fantastic debut novel with a spunky heroine and memorable characters.  So, I was really disappointed with the second book, Love in the Balance.  The Garner family returns and we get to know Bailey in this story. Bailey was the only one I remotely liked.  I couldn't find any sympathy for the rest of the cast.  Molly was a spoiled little rich girl, her family was manipulative and controlling. 

Once Molly had her fall from grace and came down into the real world, she started showing more compassion toward other people and I liked that.  The whole Edward character and his situation seemed very contrived and I felt like that storyline was never really resolved or his character explored and developed.

The entire premise/story never seemed to flow smoothly and I really had to force myself to finish it. This is a sequel to Sixty Acres and a Bride, but the story stands alone just fine.  While not my favorite, I do look forward to more from Regina Jennings.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Regina Jennings here. You can see other reviews and tour stops here. You can purchase your own copy here .

Read 3/13

* *
2/5 Stars

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mailbox Monday 3/25


It's time for another Mailbox Monday which was created by Marcia at The Printed Page, and this month is hosted by Caitlin of chaoticcompendiums.

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week... Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish list

This is what showed up at my house this week.


The Secret of the Nightingale Palace by Dana Sachs (giveaway win from Diary of an Eccentric)
A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund (for review, from Litfuse Publicity)

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

What new books did you receive?  For more Mailbox Monday posts, check out chaoticcompendiums.

Friday, March 22, 2013

For What It's Worth...Review

About the book:
Twenty-four year-old, Abby Benson has dreams of owning her own wedding cake shop. An inheritance from her aunt gives her the ability to make those dreams come true. She hires Dane, a handsome contractor, to help her get the bakery up and running and soon they’re moving toward their own happy ending.

Unsure what to charge for her cakes, Abby has a crazy idea to let the customers decide what they think their cake is worth. This plan has its ups and downs, but the novelty of the idea makes her a local celebrity. When she is interviewed on television about the unusual idea, business booms and Abby has cake adventures she never dreamed possible. But as her fame grows, Abby is swept up in a whirlwind that threatens everything she values. With the challenges that face her, will she be able to determine what is worth the most?

When Abby opens her dream wedding cake shop, she has no idea what to charge for her cakes.  When she comes up with the idea to let her customers pay what they think the cake is worth, her family thinks she's nuts.  But, Abby sticks with it and soon finds that she has more business than she can handle.  Falling in love with the contractor who helped her get the bakery open wasn't part of her plan, but he's certainly a wonderful consequence.  When her success begins to affect every other aspect of her life, including her relationship with Dane, Abby must decide what her own life is worth.

Opening a bakery and letting people pay what they think their cake is worth is a unique idea and one that I loved seeing explored.  I thought Karey White's take on it was terrific.  I loved the exploration of not only paying for what you think a product or service is worth, but discovering what a life and experiences and family and friendships are worth and what you're willing to give up to keep those.

While LDS in theme, this isn't a Mormon book and the LDS elements are subtle as the characters simply happen to be LDS.

As with many LDS themed romances, everyone is a little too perfect and everything falls into place a little too easily, but it's a sweet story and one I thoroughly enjoyed.  I'd love to see more from Dane and Abby.

I won this as a giveaway from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/13

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Booking Through Thursday...Spring

Happy Spring Equinox, everyone! What book are YOU choosing to celebrate with?

I'm not choosing to celebrate anything, really.  Here in California, where I'm visiting my mom, it looks a lot more like spring than back home in Idaho, where it may be below freezing for the next couple of nights!

As far as what book I'm reading, I just picked up the next book in my TBR stack.  The Bracelet by Roberta Gately. 

What about you?

Go here for more BTT posts.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Scent of Lilacs...Review

About the book:
Before Ann H. Gabhart became well-known for her much-loved Shaker novels, she wrote three poignant novels centered on the loveable Jocie Brooke and her family, who lived in 1960s small-town Kentucky. Once named as one of "Booklist"'s Top Ten Christian Novels and now featuring a brand new cover, Scent of Lilacs is poised to capture the hearts of new readers everywhere.

Life-changing events rarely happen here, and when they do, they are few and far between. But for Jocie Brooke and her family, they happen all at once. Jocie has questions that need answers. As she digs into her family's past, she finds a whirlwind of discoveries, and everything begins to change. In the end, will Jocie find the answers everyone so desperately needs, or will her questions lead to truths that were better left uncovered?

Combining unforgettable characters, true-to-life struggles, and the perfect dose of humor and nostalgia, this riveting story takes readers through the universal experiences of true love, new life, and renewed faith. With a beautiful new cover, Scent of Lilacs is poised to capture the hearts of readers everywhere.

Jocie lives in small town Kentucky where not much happens on daily basis.  But, the summer of her thirteenth year she learns a great deal about family, secrets and answered prayer.  I have enjoyed Ann H. Gabhart's books and I was curious to read what appears to be one of her first books.  I loved Jocie's voice, but I did find the storyline a bit contrived. The family secrets were somewhat surprising, but dealt with well.

With some quirky characters, but a lot of love, the story is compelling although it took me awhile to get into it. While this won't ever be on my favorites list, I did enjoy the story and I'd like to see what happens to the Brooke family and will look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.

Available March 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Donna at Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Ann H. Gabhart here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/13

* * *
3/5 Stars

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Tempted Soul...Review

About the book:
Carrie Miller longs for children, but after ten years of marriage, that blessing eludes her. So she fills her days with caring for her home, making artistic gifts and fancy cakes, and caring for her flock of chickens, every one of whom has a name and who under no circumstances will go in the soup pot. Carrie also finds support in the friendship she shares with her two best friends Amelia and Emma, and relishes the weekly afternoons they share working on their quilts.

Carrie and her husband Melvin love each other, and together have survived many lean years. If not for the kindness of their church community, they would have had to miss more than one meal a day. But now, Melvin has found work that finally provides a good living. Carrie hopes that having more to eat will finally allow them to start a family. Yet month after month, they remain childless. So when Carrie overhears two English women talking in the fabric store one day about medical options available to non-Amish women in her situation, she takes it as a sign from God. Melvin and the bishop see it differently, however. Is it really God's will that she pursue this, or is her longing to be a mother tempting her to stray from her Amish beliefs?

All Carrie wants is to be a mother.  She loves her husband and her life, but her heart aches at the thought that she might never have a child of her own.  When she learns of medical interventions that could aid her quest for children, she is at first excited, but her husband and the church leaders shoot those desires down.  When a young girl in their community becomes pregnant, Carrie and other women in the community attempt to help her, but Carrie's husband isn't pleased with the idea of adoption either.

As I did with the first book in this trilogy, A Wounded Heart, I really struggled with the attitudes and how Carrie's feelings were so easily disregarded by the church leaders and even her husband.  My personal belief is the fact that medical intervention is available, within reason, to aid in pregnancy and childbirth is a blessing rather than a sin.  I was glad to see that Melvin came around to accepting adoption because I am a huge advocate of adoption and have seen countless lives blessed because of it.

Given my limited understanding of the Amish, I respect their faith, but I can't begin to understand it. I am always curious about it and how modern-day issues are addressed within their beliefs and culture. I enjoyed this fitting conclusion to the Amish Quilt trilogy.

Thanks to Sarah at FaithWords for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Adina Senft here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/13

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Friday, March 15, 2013

Below Stairs...Review

About the book:
Brilliantly evoking the long-vanished world of masters and servants portrayed in Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs, Margaret Powell’s classic memoir of her time in service, Below Stairs, is the remarkable true story of an indomitable woman who, though she served in the great houses of England, never stopped aiming high. Powell first arrived at the servants' entrance of one of those great houses in the 1920s.

As a kitchen maid – the lowest of the low – she entered an entirely new world; one of stoves to be blacked, vegetables to be scrubbed, mistresses to be appeased, and bootlaces to be ironed. Work started at 5.30am and went on until after dark. It was a far cry from her childhood on the beaches of Hove, where money and food were scarce, but warmth and laughter never were. Yet from the gentleman with a penchant for stroking the housemaids’ curlers, to raucous tea-dances with errand boys, to the heartbreaking story of Agnes the pregnant under-parlormaid, fired for being seduced by her mistress’s nephew, Margaret’s tales of her time in service are told with wit, warmth, and a sharp eye for the prejudices of her situation.

Margaret Powell's true story of a life spent in service is a fascinating “downstairs” portrait of the glittering, long-gone worlds behind the closed doors of Downton Abbey and 165 Eaton Place.

There has always been a fascination between the classes and the differences between the upstairs and downstairs lives of those living in the great houses of England.  I'd seen Below Stairs pop up here and there as Downton Abbey grew in popularity and I was curious to read it.

Margaret Powell's story is honest and straight forward.  She writes simply with no embellishments and no pretenses.  Just the story of her life told in a forthright, honest manner.  People entered service because they had few options. It wasn't an easy life and the differences in service life between houses is as strong as the differences between the servants and their employers.  Some employers treated their staff poorly and others were more generous.  A nice social commentary of the time (early 20th century).

There's a blurb on the back of this book that is written by Julian Fellowes, who is the creator of Downton Abbey and he speaks of the inspiration that this book provided him when he began to write Downton Abbey.  It's very easy to see similarities between Margaret's story and situations in the show.

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

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

To Whisper Her Name...Review

About the book:
Olivia Aberdeen, destitute widow of a murdered carpetbagger, gratefully accepts an invitation from “Aunt” Elizabeth Harding, mistress of Belle Meade Plantation and the dearest friend of Olivia’s late mother. Expecting to be the Harding’s housekeeper, Olivia is disillusioned once again when she learns the real reason why Elizabeth’s husband, Confederate General William Giles Harding, agreed to her coming.

Caring for an ill Aunt Elizabeth, Olivia is caught off guard by her feelings for Ridley Adam Cooper, a southern-born son who—unbeknownst to her and everyone else—fought for the Union. Determined to learn “the gift” that Belle Meade’s head horse trainer, Bob Green, possesses, Ridley is a man desperate to end the war still raging inside him while harboring secrets that threaten his life. As Ridley seeks to make peace within himself for “betraying” the South he loved, Olivia is determined to never be betrayed again…

Set within the remarkable history of Nashville’s historic Belle Meade Plantation, comes a story about enslavement and freedom, arrogance and humility, and the power of love to heal even the deepest of wounds.

Choosing a book by its cover isn't always the best way to find good novels, but To Whisper Her Name is as terrific as its cover is gorgeous.  I love Nashville and I love reading about historical Nashville.

Post Civil-War, Olivia Aberdeen's husband was an abusive liar and cheat and after his murder at the hands of disgruntled citizens of Nashville, she is an outcast as people refuse to believe that she was innocent of her husband's business dealings.  Her aunt, mistress of the Belle Meade Plantation and Thoroughbred Farm invites her to live at Belle Meade.

As her aunt's companion, Olivia feels out of place, but soon finds friendship among the Belle Meade employees, most of whom were former slaves. As she searches for a purpose to her life, she befriends Ridley Cooper, a southern man who fought for the North and who arrives at Belle Meade wanting to become a horse trainer and desiring to be trained by Belle Meade's head hostler.  Knowing he will be branded a traitor for fighting with the North, Ridley strives to keep his past secret.  As Ridley and Olivia get to know one another, the discover unknown strength, friendship and faith in God.

These were fantastic characters and a compelling story set against a brilliant historical backdrop.  Well written with ups and downs and love, laughter and tears, this was one novel that I did not want to see end.

Thanks to Zondervan for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Tamera Alexander here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 2/13
* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The One Good Thing...Review

About the book:
For as long as Halley Steen has known her husband Nathan, he has carried a handful of stones in his pocket. Each day he uses those stones to remind him to follow the Golden Rule, moving a stone from one pocket to the other with each act of kindness. So it's not unusual that Nathan stops to help a stranger on the side of the highway while on his way to his son's football game one Friday evening. But that one act will change all of their lives forever, when a car hydroplanes off the road, killing Nathan instantly.

As Halley and her children Ty and Alice struggle with their grief, Nathan's spiritual legacy lives on. A Facebook page appears, where countless stories about Nathan's selfless acts are shared. But among them is one that stands out, from a woman who says that Nathan saved her life. Neither Halley nor her children have ever heard of Madeline Zuckerman. But soon Halley discovers years of e-mails from this woman to her husband on his computer that refer to "our little girl." How could her husband have kept the secret of this other child for their entire marriage? Why had he lied to her? Was he not the man she thought he was?

Only thirteen-year-old Alice maintains unwavering faith in her father. She knows there's an explanation. When she sets out to find Madeline and learn the truth, she will start to unravel the complex story of The One Good Thing Nathan Steen did that had the greatest impact of all.

Nathan is one of those people who is good and kind and every day he tries to do several acts of kindness.  Sometimes those acts are large, but very often they are small and seemingly insignificant except to the person who receives that kindness.  When Nathan is tragically killed helping someone else, his family struggles to move forward.  As they learn of many acts of kindness performed by Nathan, they learn of a woman from Nathan's past.  A woman who claims that Nathan saved her life.  As Halley learns more, she believes her husband to have been unfaithful to her.  Their daughter Alice believes in her father and sets out to prove that he didn't lie.  What the family discovers is an intricate story about a remarkable man.

I read this in a day and it's a book that I want to re-read and savor.  I thought I had things figured out and I didn't, completely.  I loved these characters and their experiences and growth and I loved the beautiful examples of the ripple effect of choices.

Sometimes you read a book that touches you and makes you want to be a better person.  Kevin Alan Milne's books do just that.  I want to find 7 small stones and keep them in my pocket.

Thanks to Sarah Reck and CenterStreet for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Kevin Alan Milne here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/12

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mailbox Monday 3/11


It's time for another Mailbox Monday which was created by Marcia at The Printed Page, and this month is hosted by Caitlin of chaoticcompendiums.

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week... Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish list

This is what showed up at my house this week.



Pressure Cooker Perfection by America's Test Kitchen(for review, from Amazon Vine)
Teen Cuisine: New Vegetarian by Matthew Locricchio (for review, from Etch Communications)
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What new books did you receive?  For more Mailbox Monday posts, check out chaoticcompendiums.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Weekend Reflections 3/9

Looking outside...the sun is shining and we have had highs in the 50's this week.  It's so warm!

Listening...to The Artist playing legos.

Loving...washers, dryers, hot water, showers and rose-scented body wash.

Thinking...about the things I need to do to get ready to go to California this weekend.

In my kitchen...Chocolate chip butterscotch cookies

Wearing...red and white jammies.

Needing...to run to the store.

Reading...The Scent of Lilacs  by Ann H. Gabhart

Today...making lists, cleaning bathrooms, doing laundry.

Hoping...
always hoping.

Planning...for the next week, always. I will be flying to California to be with my mom post-hip surgery, I'm just not sure if I leave next Saturday as scheduled or earlier.

Gratitude...that my mom's hip replacement surgery went well and that she's making progress in rehab.  Grateful to sisters who are with her until I can get there.

From my world...

What about you?  What are you reflecting on today?

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Return of Cassandra Todd...Review

About the book:
When the popular girl whose friends bullied him in high school suddenly reenters his life, little son in tow, Turner Caldwell must put the past behind him if they are to survive. 

Turner Caldwell works at a local motel as a handyman while attending college full-time. On his way to class one day, he is shocked to see Cassandra Todd and her young son in town. The sight of her brings back powerful memories of being bullied in high school—she was the popular head cheerleader and he the target of her friends’ mean-spirited pranks. 

When Cassandra and her son check into the motel where he works and she asks for his help in eluding her abusive husband, he finds himself entangled in a dangerous drama that will require him to forgive and draw on every skill he has if they are to survive.

High school doesn't hold many good memories for Turner Caldwell.  He was bullied and tormented and wanted nothing more than to leave those memories behind.  When Cassandra Todd reappears in his life, those memories come back.  But, Turner is a different man now and Cassandra is in trouble.  Her high school jock husband, Brad, is abusive and she has left him, but he has resources to find her.  Drawn to Cassandra and her son, Turner knows he can't turn away from her request for help.  As they find themselves on the run from Brad, they discover a new friendship and special bond.  But, if they survive, Turner wonders if there will be a future for them.

I couldn't put this down.  I loved it.  The characters were terrific, the adventure and drama were suspenseful and kept me turning pages well into the night.  Spousal abuse is becoming more common as a topic for writers and I thought Darrel did a fantastic job here as well as the longer-term effects of bullying. I'd love to see more of Turner and Cassandra and Justin. I really didn't want this book to end.

I read Darrel's first book, The Anniversary Waltz and enjoyed it, so I was thrilled to see that he had a second one out.  And, I loved this one even more than I did The Anniversary Waltz.

Thanks to LeAnn Hamby of Glass Road Media Management for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Darrel Nelson here. You can purchase your own copy here.

* * * * *
5/5 Stars