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Friday, November 30, 2012

Lola's Secret...Review

About the book:
Magic can happen in every family

Nestled in a picturesque corner of southern Australia, the Valley View Motel has been run by the Quinlans for years—and nobody adores the place more than Lola, the family’s lovable and mischievous Irish-born matriarch. So when she insists that her relatives spend their Christmas elsewhere, the close-knit bunch can’t help but be a bit curious. Lola has always had a knack for clever schemes; after all, she once slyly reunited her three feuding granddaughters, whom she nicknamed the Alphabet Sisters. And with the holiday season fast approaching, Lola decides it’s time to stir up some extra excitement.

Plotting in secret and online, Lola thinks it would be fun to invite a select group of strangers to stay at the motel for Christmas. Will these guests become friends, ignite sparks, fall in love? As she counts down the days until their arrival, Lola’s own family dramas threaten to upend her best-laid plans. Yet amid moments of humor, heartache, and unexpected twists of fate, Lola finds that she’s the one who’s in for the biggest surprise of all.

A sweet novel about love and life and family.  Lola Quinlan, the 84 year old family matriarch has sent her family away at Christmas and secretly invited strangers to stay at her motel.  As she plans her secret, she is also drawn into the lives of her family and must listen and counsel and reconcile. The story alternates between Lola's narrative and that of the expected guests.  It was well done especially how the whole plan eventually unfolds.  I did't love the ending, I was a bit disappointed, but the story is well written and lyrical.  I highlighted and underlined as reading caused me to think and reflect, which is the mark of a great novel

My only complaint was the unnecessary profanity.  It never improves a story or conversation.

A sequel to The Alphabet Sisters, this stands alone well.  Reading a series in order always makes for a richer story, but I hadn't read the first one and there was enough back story given here that I didn't feel like I'd missed much.  Perhaps reading the first story would have given me some sympathy toward Geraldine because I really didn't like her!

A charming, thoughtful story.  Loved the Australian setting.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Program for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Monica McInerney here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 11/12

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Booking Through Thursday...Being a Reader

I love BEING a reader and simply can’t imagine what it’s like to go through life without being one.

Am I the only one who feels this way? That wonders at how other people can simply NOT do something that should be so essential? Who feels almost sad that so many people seem content to go through their lives without stretching their mental wings at all?

Can you imagine NOT being a Reader? How does it shape your life? Your perception of it? How does being a Reader affect your relationship with all those folks who are looking at it from the other side and simply can’t understand how you can sit and READ all the time?

I love this question.  My earliest memories involve reading.   There is a reason that my favorite elementary teacher was the school librarian.  I would get all my work done in class, just so I could read a book.  One year, my teacher called my mom because I was reading in class and she wanted me to stop because, to the other children, it looked like I was reading and hadn't done my work.  My mother's response was incredulous, "You have a child who loves to read and you want her to stop?"  My mom's suggestion was to just send me to the library when I finished all my work.  I had my favorite books memorized before I could read and I always got a new book in my Easter basket, in my Christmas stocking, for a reward or accomplishment.

The books I read so completely shaped me and affected me and my perceptions of people as I was growing up.  I learned a lot about personal interaction by the way book characters behaved.  I loved reading because I could connect with book characters.  Sara Crewe, in A Little Princess, for example.  I was a pretender, just like her.  I had a completely different life inside my head most of the time and so did Sara and it was ok!

I don't remember reading as much in high school, but I'm sure I did and I read all the time in college.  My major was English, but my roommate and I would read romance novels as a way of escaping the required reading and we were regular visitors to a small, used bookstore where we could trade in books for credit.

I have some girlfriends who I share books with, because I get so many for review and I love loaning them out and having friends who love to read, just like I do.

My boys are readers and so is my husband.  It's not uncommon to see a couple of us sitting in the living room, each reading our own book, but still together.

I can't imagine not being a reader.  I can't imagine not wanting to read.  It's so much a part of my soul.  I often hope that there is a great big library in Heaven, because I imagine I will still want to read!

Go here for more interesting Booking Through Thursday posts.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

No Safe Harbor...Review

About the book:
She came to America searching for her brother. Instead all she's found is a web of danger.

Cara Hamilton had thought her brother to be dead. Now, clutching his letter, she leaves Ireland for America, desperate to find him. Her search leads her to a houseful of curious strangers, and one man who claims to be a friend-Rourke Walsh. Despite her brother's warning, Cara trusts Rourke, revealing her purpose in coming to New York.

She's then thrust into a world of subterfuge, veiled threats, and attempted murder, including political revolutionaries from the homeland out for revenge. Her questions guide her ever nearer to locating her brother-but they also bring her closer to destruction as those who want to kill him track her footsteps.

With her faith in tatters, all hope flees. Will her brother finally surface? Can he save Cara from the truth about Rourke... a man she's grown to love?

Cara Hamilton arrives in New York city hoping to find her missing twin brother.  His letter told her to trust no one, but Cara finds herself at the mercy of a kind gentleman on board her ship who directs her to a boarding house and Rourke Walsh, a mysterious man she meets when she arrives at Ellis Island.  Even though she was warned not to trust anyone, Cara somehow trusts Rourke, even as danger and mystery seem to find her.

This is the first in a series but I will admit that there were times I felt like I'd missed out on some back history.     The historical aspect of Irish/American relations at the turn of the century was fascinating although I didn't always understand what drove these characters to their actions or how easily some of them took the lives of others.  I did enjoy the story and I do look forward to the rest of the Edge of Freedom series as I often end up enjoying subsequent books more than the initial one.

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

Read 11/12

* * *
3/5 Stars

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

We love reading

We have raised readers.  Being a book lover myself, I cannot tell you how happy this makes me.

The Brother loves reading by lamp light in bed, with all his stuffed animals.  His latest book obsession is Bone.

The Boy prefers the loveseat, propped at odd angles and then he wonders why his neck hurts.  Good thing dad is a chiropractor!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mailbox Monday 11/26

It's time for another Mailbox Monday  which was created by Marcia, and this month is hosted by Kathy at Bermudaonion.

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 lists.

I haven't done a Mailbox Monday for quite awhile and I've wanted to get back to it.  I don't remember what all came this week, but I will leave you with a picture of my current TBR stack.

Simply Christmas CD by Robin Harper (for review, from the author)
Five Days of Fear by David Kovach (for review, from TLC Book Tours)
Blackberry Winter by Sarah Gio (for review, from Penguin)
The Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony (for review, from Sourcebooks)
Slimmer: The New Mediterranean Way to Lose Weight by Harry Papas (for review, from FSB Associates)
Lone Star Trail (The Texas Trail Series) by Darlene Franklin (for review, from MP Newsroom)
Crossing on the Paris by Dana Gynther (for review, from Simon & Shuster)
The Shortest Way Home by Juliette Fay (for review, from FSB Associates)
Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden (for review, from Bethany House)
The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro (for review, from Amazon Vine)
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (for review, from Simon & Shuster)


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

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday Serenade

I am honored and touched to be serenaded today at The Novel Source.

Stop by and learn a little more about me and meet Stacy, who is kind and generous and makes me sound a lot better than I am in real life!

Have a blessed Sunday.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Weekend Reflections 11/24

Looking outside:  The leaves have fallen and need to be raked.

Listening: To the silence.  I'm the only one up so far and the silence is lovely.

Loving: Pajamas, fuzzy socks and hot chocolate.

Thinking: How excited I am about the new Les Mis movie.  It's already receiving stellar reviews in the previews.

Kitchen:  Mexican Chicken Corn Chowder for dinner.

Learning:  I canned turkey broth yesterday, using my pressure canner for the first time.  It totally rocked.

Needing: To finish the Christmas decorating so I can put away all the boxes.

Reading: Lola's Secret by Monica McInerney.

Today:  Some work, some laundry, haircuts and picture taking for our Christmas card.

Wanting: To be kinder and have love in my heart.

Planning: My Christmas lists

Gratitude: For my family and my home with a warm fireplace.

From my world:  Even Godzilla likes the M&Ms

I found a delightful MEME at Inside the Miles from another Holly.  It reminded me of Peggy's Simple Woman's Daybook that I've participated in before.  I combined a bit of everything that applied to me, added my own title and I love it.  I may do it every week.  I am finding the need to not only express gratitude for my blessings daily, but to reflect on my life.

What about you?  What are you reflecting on today?

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Wreath of Snow...Review

About the book:
Christmas Eve 1894

All Margaret Campbell wants for Christmas is a safe journey home. When her plans for a festive holiday with her family in Stirling crumble beneath the weight of her brother’s bitterness, the young schoolteacher wants nothing more than to return to the students she loves and the town house she calls home.

Then an unexpected detour places her in the path of Gordon Shaw, a handsome newspaperman from Glasgow, who struggles under a burden of remorse and shame.

When the secret of their shared history is revealed, will it leave them tangled in a knot of regret? Or might their past hold the threads that will bind their future together?

As warm as a woolen scarf on a cold winter’s eve, A Wreath of Snow is a tender story of love and forgiveness, wrapped in a celebration of all things Scottish, all things Victorian, and, especially, all things Christmas.

I love Christmas novellas because they're short and sweet and easily read in one or two sittings.  I've enjoyed Liz Curtis Higgs in the past but this was one that I just didn't connect with.  I liked Margaret and Gordon well enough and I loved the Scottish setting.  The estrangement with Margaret's brother Alan was a bit extreme and he was so unlikeable that even though I understood his purpose in the story and the need for redemption and forgiveness, I just couldn't stand him.  I know this was intended as a novella, but I think the story would have been a lot richer if it was a full length novel.

Overall, I liked the story, but I just didn't love it. Fans of Liz Curtis Higgs will undoubtedly enjoy this, however.

Thanks to Waterbrook Multnomah for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Liz Curtis Higgs here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 11/12

* * *
3/5 Stars

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Thank you for visiting 2 Kids and Tired Books this year.  May you have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

Booking Through Thursday...Thankful

It’s Thanksgiving here in the U.S., so … what are you thankful for this year, reading-wise? New, favorite books? New gadget for reading? New comfy chair? Bonus time to read? Just the mere fact of BEING a reader? Having the internet to share ideas/recommendations/conversations about books?

I am grateful for books, for publishers who send review copies, for a library that lends them, for bookstores where I can browse and buy them. I am grateful for my vision which allows me to read.  I am grateful for a couch in front of a fireplace, where I can curl up under a blanket and read.  I am grateful that my children are readers just like their Dad and I are and that they get just as excited over a new book as we do.

There are many things to be thankful for and I will leave you with my FB post for today which shares what is in my heart:

Today, I am so grateful for family and friends. My amazing husband and sons. My wonderful mother and my sweet father who I miss every day. My sisters and brother-in-law and my adorable nieces and nephews. Good conversations and lunch dates. The Gospel of Jesus Christ and a free country that allows me to worship as I please and those men and women who continue to serve and keep it free. A warm home, food on my table and books to read. Love and friendship. I count each of you a blessing in my life and wish you all a happy and blessed Thanksgiving.

Go here for more interesting Booking Through Thursday posts.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Christmas Roses...Review

About the book:
Celia Anderson doesn't need anything for Christmas except a few more boarders, which are hard to come by in this small mining town. She certainly doesn't have a husband on her Christmas wish list. But when a wandering carpenter finds lodging at her boarding house, she admits that she might remarry if she found the right man--the kind of man who would bring her roses for Christmas. It would take a miracle to get roses during a harsh Wyoming winter. But Christmas, after all, is the time for miracles . . .

Set in Wyoming Territory in 1882,  Celia Anderson is a young widow trying to make ends meet for herself and her infant daughter.  Mark Williams is a man who has spent two years on horseback moving from town to town, looking for the father who abandoned him years before.  When Mark walks into Celia's boarding house, he arrives in the midst of an emergency.  Without hesitation, he steps in and together they work through her daughter's medical emergency.  With winter settling in, Mark decides to stay in town, much to the dismay of two residents who believe themselves to be courting Celia.

It's not long before Mark begins to find answers to his years of questioning and searching and it's only a matter of time before he and Celia must finally admit to themselves what their feelings for each other really are.

I adored Celia and Mark.  Truly, they were two remarkable people and their story was wonderful. I adored this charming little novella and I read it in one sitting.  I literally didn't want to put it down.  Christmas Roses is an enchanting Christmas story, perfect for curling up with in front of a fire with a cup of cocoa.

Available September 2012 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 Amanda Cabot here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 10/12

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Declutter Now! Uncovering the Hidden Joy and Freedom in Your Life...Review

About the book:
We all have too much STUFF! Not just tangible things, but also the harmful clutter we allow to take up residence in our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls. Every area of your life must be decluttered for you to live with the joy and freedom God desires!

We’ll clean out closets, relationships, and finances.
We’ll share ideas on decluttering your children’s lives from the get-go, and how to instill tools they’ll need to keep them that way.
We’ll navigate through challenges at work and critical career decisions.
Are you burdened by emotional ties that bind or physical problems which keep you in bondage?
We’ll tackle those too! Does your spiritual life feel empty or stalled?

We desire to help! Declutter what you don’t need to make room for what really matters. Less can truly be more!

When I start underlining and marking pages within just the preface, I know this is going to be a good book.  Declutter Now!, written by a husband and wife team, is full of tips and suggestions for getting ride of not only the physical clutter in our lives, but the clutter that comes from complacency, bad habits, relationships and more.

The book is broken down into chapters and is easily read in a couple of sittings and you can just pick it up and work on a chapter or two at a time.  We don't collect clutter in a day and getting ride of the excesses in life isn't something that is going to happen in a day, each area takes work.  Much like remodeling a house, you work on one room at a time and Lindon and Sherry advocate that.  The narrative is easy and you feel like you're having a conversation with the authors as they share their insights with scriptures and biblical principles.

Thanks to Ambassador International for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Lindon and Sherry Gareis here.  You can see other tour stops and reviews here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 11/12

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Friday, November 16, 2012

Taste of Home Best Loved Recipes...Review

Real recipes from real home cooks—they’re what make Taste of Home one of America’s most popular—and most trusted—names in home cooking. Over the years, we’ve featured tens of thousands of recipes in our magazines and websites. But what makes this book so special is that it features not just great recipes. Not just award-winning recipes.

These are our best-loved recipes: The ones that conjure up heavenly aromas, that bring you back to Sunday dinner tables, summer picnics and holiday parties, that call vividly to mind the special cooks who made them. The ones that make you close your eyes, smile and say, “Mmmmm!” They’re all here—cook-off winners and bake-sale favorites, must-have comfort foods and secret family recipes, regional specialties packed with flavor and style.

This collection contains 1,485 of the most requested, most beloved dishes, all submitted by Taste of Home readers. Recipes for all occasions are included from Blueberry Cheesecake Flapjacks to Caramel Apple Bread Pudding, mouthwatering main dishes from Creamy Seafood-Stuffed Shells to Chicken with Rosemary Butter Sauce, and delicious dessert recipes from Magnolia Dream Cheesecake to Chocolate Ganache Tarts. Here’s what else is included:

Top 100 favorites recipes
Prep/Cook Times
Recipe comments from our web community
Everyday ingredients
Easy-to-follow directions
How-to photos
Cooking tips
26 chapters
20 photo sections with 400 full-color photos

The most cherished magazine features are included: Mom Made it Best, Our Favorite Contributor’s Meals, Mealtime Express, Cooking for One or Two, Grand-Prize Winners and Potluck Picks. Besides special features, the remaining chapters cover everything from appetizers and beverages to entrees and sides and breads and desserts.

This is a big cookbook and it's bulky.  It took several evenings for me to look through the entire thing and mark recipes I wanted to try and there were a lot.  One cold evening, however, I remembered a soup recipe I'd seen and I found it easily in the Index.  And, like you've come to expect from Taste of Home recipes, I had all the necessary ingredients on hand which was nice.

One thing I have always loved about the Taste of Home magazines is the photos.  Nearly every recipe in a magazine will have a photo.  Here, there are about 400 photos for 1485 recipes and those photos are bunched together in sections.  Not my favorite structure.  I prefer photos with the recipes.

The Mealtime Express section is cool, with the whole menu planned by theme: Mexican, Sandwiches, etc.  The Index is good and something that will be well used, as it's the quickest way to find a particular recipe and you can search by alphabet or main ingredient or recipe type.  There's also an index where you can search by year, but I'm not sure why you would. I also liked that there were suggestions from people who had commented online after preparing some of the recipes.

One of the recipes I've prepared is Mexican Chicken Corn Chowder and it was a hit.  You can see the recipe on my cooking blog.  It will go into our soup rotation.

Overall, this is a cookbook I like.  It's one that I know will get a lot of use.

Thanks to Leyane at FSB Associates for the opportunity to review this book.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 11/12

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Lost Art of Mixing...Review

About the book:
National bestselling author Erica Bauermeister returns to the enchanting world of The School of Essential Ingredients in this luminous sequel.

Lillian and her restaurant have a way of drawing people together. There’s Al, the accountant who finds meaning in numbers and ritual; Chloe, a budding chef who hasn’t learned to trust after heartbreak; Finnegan, quiet and steady as a tree, who can disappear into the background despite his massive height; Louise, Al’s wife, whose anger simmers just below the boiling point; and Isabelle, whose memories are slowly slipping from her grasp. And there’s Lillian herself, whose life has taken a turn she didn’t expect. . . .

Their lives collide and mix with those around them, sometimes joining in effortless connections, at other times sifting together and separating again, creating a family that is chosen, not given. A beautifully imagined novel about the ties that bind—and links that break—The Lost Art of Mixing is a captivating meditation on the power of love, food, and companionship.

I adored.  Absolutely and utterly adored The School of Essential Ingredients.  It came as part of a package when I received The Lost Art of Mixing so that I could read it first.

While food features so prominently with the relationships in The School of Essential Ingredients, it doesn't here.  There, the story revolved around the recipes; the cooking and ingredients.  Smell and aroma were very evocative.  Here, we see remembrances of days past and how they blend into the future.  Relationships that seem to be whispers and fleeing touches instead mix together into a rich tapestry of friendship and love.

Like the first novel, the characters here tell their stories in alternating chapters and they all come together in the end.  Lillian, Chloe, Isabelle and Tom all return and we see new characters added and unexpected surprises.  I particularly enjoyed Isabelle who is more central to this story than Lillian.  The peek into Isabelle's world of forgotten memories is so bittersweet and yet, her influence on others is felt in so many subtle ways. I love Erica Bauermeister's grasp of language.  Her writing is expressive and lyrical and truly a joy to read.

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

Friday, November 2nd:  Life in the Thumb
Monday, November 5th:  She is Too Fond of Books
Monday, November 5th:  Savvy Verse and Wit
Tuesday, November 6th:  Savvy Verse and Wit - The School of Essential Ingredients
Wednesday, November 7th:  Book Chatter
Thursday, November 8th:  Books and Movies
Friday, November 9th:  Book Club Classics!
Monday, November 12th:  Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, November 13th:  girlichef
Wednesday, November 14th:  Library of Clean Reads
Thursday, November 15th:  2 Kids and Tired
Friday, November 16th:  Adventures of an Intrepid Reader
Monday, November 19th:  WV Stitcher
Tuesday, November 20th:  Joyfully Retired
Wednesday, November 21st:  Silver and Grace
Friday, November 23rd:  A Chick Who Reads
Monday, November 26th:  Diary of an Eccentric
Tuesday, November 27th:  Mom in Love with Fiction
Wednesday, November 28th:  Book Dilettante
Thursday, November 29th:  Southern Girl Reads
Friday, November 30th:  Peppermint Ph.D.
Monday, December 3rd:  Just Joanna
Tuesday, December 4th:  No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, December 5th:  HopefulLeigh
Thursday, December 6th:  Sidewalk Shoes
Friday, December 7th:  Book Addiction

Read 11/12

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Courting Cate...Review

About the book:
When Amish farmer Pete Treger moves to Paradise Township, Pennsylvania, seeking a better life, he meets sisters Cate and Betsy Miller. Both are beautiful, but older sister Cate is known more for her sharp tongue and fiery temper than her striking appearance. Betsy, on the other hand, is sweet and flirty--and seems to have attracted most of the bachelors in Lancaster County.

However, the sisters' wealthy father has made one hard and fast rule: elder sister must marry first, before the younger can even start courting. Unfortunately for poor Betsy, and for the men who want to court her, her older sister, Cate, doesn't have any suitors--until Pete comes to town, that is.

Though he finds both sisters attractive, something about Cate's feisty demeanor appeals to him. Soon the other bachelors in the district convince Pete to court Cate. She hardly seems receptive to his overtures, though. Instead, she's immediately suspicious of his interest.

The premise was plausible, but not completely believable, although even in this day and age, I suppose an Amish father could make a proclamation like Cate's father did here.  I liked Cate and Pete well enough, but the rest of the main cast of characters, I didn't care for or connect with.  I thought Betsy was one of the most selfish young girls I've ever read about. Her treatment of Cate was downright mean at times.  Cate's development and progression were believable however and I did enjoy seeing her progress from feisty, angry Cate to sweet Cate.

There were times when I almost felt like this was part of an established series, rather than the first in a new series with some of the character discussions and explanations. While I can appreciate the Taming of the Shrew theme here, this was one that I almost didn't finish, because I just didn't like some of the secondary characters and their treatment of Cate.  I will look into the rest of the series and hope future books capture my attention more than this one did as sometimes happens with series'.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Leslie Gould here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews here.

Read 3/5

* * *
3/5 Stars