Everyday Tidbits...

Be Kind. Do Good. Love is a Verb.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Reviewing Burnout

Many of you might have noticed a lack of posting on my blog or visiting other blogs.  Here's my confession: I haven't read a book since October.  That is seriously unheard of for me.  I have just reached a point of reviewing burnout.  As much as I love reading and reviewing, I've gotten to the point where I don't love reviewing to a deadline.

I love to read and I want to get back to the enjoyment of reading, rather than the drudgery that sometimes comes with reviewing.  I have a backlog of reviews that I have committed to and I apologize to those authors and publicists.  I appreciate your willingness to have sent me books and scheduled blog tours with the expectation that reviews will be posted. Rest assured, I will read those books and I will post my reviews, I just can't guarantee when that will be.   My life has its challenges right now and I don't have the emotional energy necessary to continue reviewing to deadlines.  I apologize and ask for your patience.

I'm not accepting new books for review unless I know I will get them read in a timely manner.  I will try and get back to visiting and commenting as well.  Google Reader going away seriously put a dampener on my blog reading and I went to Feedly, but I have to make an effort to go there, where Reader was just part of my Google account, so visiting and commenting was definitely affected.

I am not going anywhere and I will continue to read and hope to get back to regular reviewing.  But for now, I am going to read on my own time and schedule and for my own enjoyment.

Thank you for your visits and comments and recommendations.  And thank you for your friendships.  I wish you all a happy and blessed holiday season!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Lessons Learned from a Middle School Football Team

This is amazing. It's 3 minutes of your time and it will totally make your day. I have such a tender heart for those who include and embrace children with special needs. When it is kids who do the including and embracing, it just warms my heart to realize that there really are some incredible people in this world.

The link to the original article is here.

Have a wonderful day.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Glittering Promises...Review

About the book: 
Wealth cannot buy peace … or direction.

For Cora Kensington, the Grand Tour was to be the trip of a lifetime. She discovered the family she never knew she had, and may have even found the love she longs for in Will. And yet her life has just become infinitely more challenging.

Hounded by journalists chasing the beguiling story of the newest American heiress, Cora fights to remain true to her past, reconcile her present, and still embrace her future. But as Will struggles with her newfound wealth, she begins to wonder if their love is strong enough to withstand all that threatens to pull them apart.

Complicating matters is the stubborn pursuit of Pierre de Richelieu and the increased demands on her time and attention. Cora must stand up for what she believes—regardless of how that might challenge current family and cultural norms—in order to remain true to who she really is.

And as she glimpses the end of the tour, Cora knows it’s time to decide Who and what defines her … and who and what does not.

Glittering Promises isn't all sunshine and Italy and has its fair share of suspense and more than enough drama to last a lifetime. While not my favorite of the Grand Tour series, this is a fitting end to the trilogy.  I am late with my review because this one just took me a long time to finish. The drama of the previous books all comes to a head here and, honestly, it became rather tiresome.

Cora comes to terms with her relationships with her father, her siblings and Will.  Those who would harm her are still on her trail and Rome beckons.  The historical aspects is fascinating and I loved seeing early 20th century Rome. Vivian has completely redeemed herself from the first story and I appreciated her growth and change.

For those interested, while you can read each book as a stand alone, each also picks up directly as the previous one left off and having the back story and history really is essential to your enjoyment.

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

Read 10/13

* * *
3/5 Stars

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Under a Blackberry Moon...Review

About the book:
Which wilderness is more treacherous--the one she must cross to find her home . . . or the one she must traverse to find love?

Just a few days after she gave birth alone in the northwoods, a recently widowed young Chippewa woman stumbled into a nearby lumber camp in search of refuge from the winter snows. Come summer, it is clear that Moon Song cannot stay among the rough-and-tumble world of white lumbermen, and so the camp owner sends Skypilot, his most trusted friend, to accompany her on the long and treacherous journey back to her people.

But when tragedy strikes off the shore of Lake Superior, Moon Song and Skypilot must depend on each other for survival. With every step they take into the forbidding woods, they are drawn closer together, until it seems the unanswerable questions must be asked. Can she leave her culture to enter his? Can he leave his world to enter hers? Or will they simply walk away from a love that seems too complicated to last?

Get swept into a wild realm where beauty masks danger and only the truly courageous survive in a story that will grip your heart and your imagination.

After giving birth alone, Moon Song finds her way into Robert Foster's lumber camp.  There she is allowed to stay and recover, learning English and making friends.  After spending the winter there, however, Moon Song knows she wants to return to her people.  Skypilot, one of Robert's closest friends, volunteers to travel with her and her baby to make sure they arrive safely. The journey is arduous and more than once they find themselves in circumstances that force them into survival mode.  Moon Song's abilities to live off the land are what sustain them as they journey northward and with every step, Skypilot finds himself falling in love with her.  Moon Song realizes that she loves Skypilot, but is reluctant to give him her heart. She assumes that like all the white men she has known, he will tire of her and leave.  Skypilot knows that once he has her love, he would never leave, but convincing Moon Song and her people of that fact, is difficult.

I adored everything about The Measure of Katie Calloway and one reason was Serena's supporting cast of characters. Skypilot and Moon Song captured my heart then and I was thrilled to see that they have their own book.  While the novel stands alone, I recommend reading Katie Calloway first.  And like Katie, this is one story I will reread.   The story is filled with romance and adventure and heartwarming surprises.

Thanks to Lanette of Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Serena B. Miller here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Monday, October 7, 2013

Slimmer: The Mediterranean Way to Lose Weight...Preview

About the book:
In just one year, Harry Papas gained 110 pounds. Then he lost it all for life. Papas, a certified dietitian in Greece, shed the pounds by creating a simple yet revolutionary nutrition plan: a delicious, low-fat Mediterranean diet coupled with the self-awareness he needed to combat the triggers that contributed to his weight gain.

Unlike other diets, Slimmer's three-cycle, richly varied meal plan doesn't restrict you from enjoying carbs, sugars, or fats, and it doesn't enforce calorie counting. Rather, the nine-week program is designed to help you stay slim while actually enjoying what you eat, encouraging you to adopt a simpler lifestyle and lifelong healthy habits. This easy-to-follow plan will allow you to get rid of those unwanted pounds with incredibly flavorful and satisfying meals, full of sustaining, wholesome foods—such as fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil, and yogurt—that have been enjoyed for centuries by those in the Mediterranean.

Packed with recipes and practical nutritional advice, Slimmer also helps you understand why you gained weight and provides the psychological support and encouragement you need to successfully lose weight and permanently retain the loss.

About the author:
Harry Papas, author of Slimmer: The New Mediterranean Way to Lost Weight, is a leading certified dietician and bestselling author in Greece, specializing in overweight and obesity issues. The founder of one of Greece's top diet and weight-loss centers located in Athens, Papas created the Slimmer nutrition system to lose weight permanently, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and help others do the same.

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

Full of fresh flavor with a hint of spice, not to mention a good amount of healthy fiber, this salad will satisfy any size appetite, just as it has at Maria and Eleni's Taverna for years!

One 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 scallion, trimmed and thinly sliced
½ small cucumber, seeded and diced
2 Tablespoons diced green bell pepper
1 plum tomato, cored, seeded, and diced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon capers, drained and rinsed
A dash of cayenne pepper
Juice of ½ a lemon
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
A pinch of dried oregano

1. In a medium bowl toss together the chickpeas, scallion, cucumber, bell pepper, tomato, parsley, capers, cayenne pepper, and lemon juice. Set aside.

2. In a small bowl stir together the remaining ingredients and pour over the chickpea mixture. Toss well to coat and allow to marinate, stirring occasionally, for at least 1 hour before serving.

Makes 1 serving

Thanks to Leyane at FSB Associates for the opportunity to preview this book.  You can learn more about Harry Papas here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Friday, September 27, 2013


About the book:
Kate Worthington knows her heart and she knows she will never marry. Her plan is to travel to India instead—if only to find peace for her restless spirit and to escape the family she abhors. But Kate’s meddlesome mother has other plans. She makes a bargain with Kate: India, yes, but only after Kate has secured—and rejected—three marriage proposals.

Kate journeys to the stately manor of Blackmoore determined to fulfill her end of the bargain and enlists the help of her dearest childhood friend, Henry Delafield. But when it comes to matters of love, bargains are meaningless and plans are changeable. There on the wild lands of Blackmoore, Kate must face the truth that has kept her heart captive. Will the proposal she is determined to reject actually be the one thing that will set her heart free?

Set in Northern England in 1820, Blackmoore is a Regency romance that tells the story of a young woman struggling to learn how to follow her heart. It is Wuthering Heights meets Little Women with a delicious must-read twist.

I read Julianne's first novel, Edenbrooke, and thought it a nice debut and so I was curious to read this new story.  The setting is Regency and a dark castle on the moors.  Kate has always longed to visit Blackmoore, the manor home of Henry, her closest friend.  When her opportunity finally arrives, there are selfish meddlesome mothers and unwelcome new friends who stand in the way of her enjoyment of visiting Blackmoore and who may inhibit Kate's future chance for happiness.

I didn't like Kate at first, but she grew on me.  I adored Henry.  But, the rest of the characters?  Wow, not a likeable one in the bunch.  Both mothers were extreme caricatures and odious.  I believe her mother's inappropriate behavior would have had her shunned from polite society and Kate really needed to find her backbone sooner than she did.

The novel alternates between Kate's current story and flashbacks which are necessary to explain the history and experiences that have brought her to this point in time.  I thought the ending was abrupt and there were some unanswered questions.  I wanted closure and to know what happened with some of these horrible people as well as the fall out from Kate and Henry's decisions.

Like Edenbrooke, howeverthis is a sweet, clean romance; entertaining and a nice diversion.  Fans of Regency romance will enjoy it.

Thanks to Shadow Mountain for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Julianne Donaldson here.  You can see other review and tour stops here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/13

* * *
3/5 Stars

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking...Review

About the book:
A celebrated food writer captures the flavors of the Soviet experience in a sweeping, tragicomic, multi-generational memoir that brilliantly illuminates the history and culture of a vanished empire.

Proust had his madeleine; Narnia's Edmund had his Turkish delight. Anya von Bremzen has vobla-rock-hard, salt-cured dried Caspian roach fish. Lovers of vobla risk breaking a tooth or puncturing a gum on the once-popular snack, but for Anya it's transporting. Like kotleti (Soviet burgers) or the festive Salat Olivier, it summons up the complex, bittersweet flavors of life in that vanished Atlantis called the USSR. There, born in 1963 in a Kafkaesque communal apartment where eighteen families shared one kitchen, Anya grew up singing odes to Lenin, black-marketeering Juicy Fruit gum at her school, and, like most Soviet citizens, longing for a taste of the mythical West. It was a life by turns absurd, drab, naively joyous, melancholy-and, finally, intolerable to her anti-Soviet mother. When she was ten, the two of them fled the political repression of Brezhnev-era Russia, arriving in Philadelphia with no winter coats and no right of return.

These days Anya lives in two parallel food universes: one in which she writes about four-star restaurants, the other in which a simple banana-a once a year treat back in the USSR-still holds an almost talismanic sway over her psyche. To make sense of that past, she and her mother decided to eat and cook their way through seven decades of the Soviet experience. Through the meals she and her mother re-create, Anya tells the story of three generations-her grandparents', her mother's, and her own. Her family's stories are embedded in a larger historical epic: of Lenin's bloody grain requisitioning, World War II hunger and survival, Stalin's table manners, Khrushchev's kitchen debates, Gorbachev's anti-alcohol policies, and the ultimate collapse of the USSR. And all of it is bound together by Anya's sardonic wit, passionate nostalgia, and piercing observations.

This is that rare book that stirs our souls and our senses.

I have always had a fascination with Russia.  The Russia I grew up with was Soviet, communist and forbidden.  The Cold War was in full swing and there was a mystique about the country that simply captivated me.  Glimpses of icons like St. Basil's Cathedral seemed so stark in contrast to what we viewed as the dreary, monotone gray of every day Soviet life.

In her memoir, food writer, Anya von Bremzen blends the politics of the time with her family experiences as she recounts her life in Soviet Russia before she and her mother immigrated to America.  As with many who emigrated from oppressed cultures, Anya's family stories aren't all happy. But, they are thought-provoking and honest.

I wasn't a big fan of her writing as it tried too hard to be literary and it wasn't a book that I could read quickly. I would have liked to see the recipes included in each chapter, rather than at the end of the book. Unfortunately, few sounded very appetizing, but I may still try one or two.

Memories and life experiences revolve around food and the enjoyment of it as well as the lack of it and Anya's story brings that concept to life.

Thanks to Amazon Vine for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Anya von Bremzen here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/13

* * *

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Love's Awakening...Review

About the book: 
The path to true love lies somewhere between two feuding families.

In the spring of 1822, Ellie Ballantyne leaves finishing school and returns to the family home in Pittsburgh only to find that her parents are away on a long journey and her siblings don't seem to want her to stay. Determined to stand her ground and find her place in the world, Ellie fills her time by opening a day school for young ladies.

But when one of her students turns out to be an incorrigible young member of the Turlock family, Ellie knows she must walk a fine line. Slaveholders and whiskey magnates, the Turlocks are envious of the powerful Ballantynes and suspicious of their abolitionist leanings. As Ellie becomes increasingly entangled with the rival clan--particularly the handsome Jack Turlock--she finds herself falling in love with an impossible future. Will she betray her family and side with the enemy?

Laura Frantz is one of my favorite storytellers.  I anxiously look forward to each of her books.  When the first book in the Ballantyne series came out however, I was a bit disappointed.  I liked it, I didn't love it. However, I knew that there was more to the Ballantyne family and I wanted to see what happened to them. In Love's Awakening, I was happily encouraged to discover just that.

The youngest of Silas and Eden's children, Ellie Ballantyne is the favored child.  When she returns home from finishing school, she wants to find her place.  Her older siblings are involved in their lives and in their efforts to protect her, leave her feeling unwanted.  However, Ellie is determined.  As she starts her own school, she finds herself teaching the wild youngest Turlock child.  Ignoring the longstanding disagreements between the two families, Ellie is determined to teach Chloe and drawing closer to the girl also brings her closer to Jack Turlock.

Historically, I loved the inclusion of the Underground Railroad. And, Ellie is a fantastic heroine, right on par with Laura's other heroines, Morrow and Roxanna.  I adored her and she and Jack are fantastic together.  Getting to know Silas and Eden as parents and seeing how much they were still in love was enjoyable. And, as she does in Love's Reckoning, Laura shows the reader that love rises from the ashes of suffering and hurt and that forgiveness is a beautiful thing.

Thanks to Lanette from Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Laura Frantz here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/13

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Invention of Sarah Cummings...Review

About the book:
Sarah Cummings has one goal in life--to break into Chicago's high society. Desperate to stop serving dinner and to start eating at society tables, Sarah alters cast-off gowns from the wealthy Banning women to create lustrous, flattering dresses of her own. On a whim at a chance meeting, she presents herself as Serena Cuthbert, weaving a fictitious past to go with her fictitious name. But as she gets closer to Simon Tewell, the director of St. Andrew's Orphanage, Sarah finds that she must choose between the life she has and the life she dreams of. Will she sacrifice love to continue her pretense? Or can Simon show her that sometimes you don't have to pretend for dreams to come true?

Olivia Newport brings us back to Prairie Avenue to explore the place where class, social expectations, and romance come together. Readers will enjoy following the intrepid Sarah as she searches for true love in a world of illusions.

Olivia Newport is a fantastic storyteller. Her grasp of the historical and blending fact with fiction is terrific. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this series. The Pursuit of Lucy Banning and The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow. Lucy and Charlotte were terrific characters and both of them return to this story.  I never liked Sarah in the other books.  Seriously, she had no redeeming qualities and I was concerned about her being the center of this book.  Her resolve to better herself is noble and her ability to create beauty from cast offs was admirable.  Her pretenses and lies however, weren't.

And while Sarah still isn't my favorite, she did redeem herself to a point and I appreciated that she grew up and recognized what was good and right in her life.

For me, it was the supporting characters that made this book enjoyable.  Lillie was fantastic.  I'd love to see her story.  And I loved getting to know Simon better. Not my favorite of the series, but still a heartwarming story.

Thanks to Lanette at Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Olivia Newport here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/13

* * *
3/5 Stars

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country Kitchen...Review

About the book:
When author Julia Ibbotson and her husband first saw the old Victorian rectory in dire need of renovation, a mile out of the nearest village in the midst of the English moorlands, they fell in love with it and the lifestyle it represented, with its farmhouse kitchen range at its heart. This delightful memoir describes the trials and tribulations of their quest to make their vision come true.

They hoped they could make the sad, neglected house glow again and that they could integrate themselves into the small traditional village, with its cottages, hall and outlying farms. The Old Rectory focuses on the centrality of the kitchen as the pulse of the family and home, and shows the importance of food and cooking throughout the changing seasons, history and moods of the countryside as the couple strive to live the dream.

An engaging book that evokes similar feelings to Under the Tuscan Sun.  Like Frances Mayes in Italy, Julia Ibbotson and her husband purchase an English property that needs serious restoration. As they begin that restoration, they discover the rectory's rich history, as well as a delightful village and neighbors.  In researching the home's history, Julia also researches and discovers new Victorian era recipes that become part of her cooking repertoire as she imagines they could have been prepared years past in the old rectory's kitchen.

As the author and her husband became part of the community, the tales of the villagers, both past and present were charming.  The book follows the natural progression of the renovation and the author has divided it into seasons, with the recipes corresponding.

I loved the Englishness of the book; the language, the descriptions, the recipes.  I appreciate that the recipes contain U.S. measurement conversions. While the book contains some lovely sketches, I found myself longing to see what the house itself looks like.  There are no photos in the book or on the author's website and I would love to see a before and after.

A lovely memoir and quick enjoyable read.  Perfect for curling up in front of your fireplace with a cup of cocoa or tea!

Thanks to Pump Up Your Book Promotion for the opportunity to read this book.  You can learn more about Julia Ibbotson here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Read 9/13

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Warm Up Your Winter...Review

About the book:
Snuggle up next to the fire!

While winter rages outside, nothing beats a steaming mug of hot chocolate or cider. Warm up Your Winter includes delightful recipes for Classic Hot Cocoa, Pumpkin Pie, White Hot Chocolate, and Hot Caramel Apple Cider. Don’t just survive the winter—warm it up!

For many people, hot chocolate is a cold weather drink.  For me, it's a daily occurrence.  I have a daily cup of cocoa like many people have their daily cup of coffee.

I've enjoyed the cooking blog Real Mom Kitchen and so I was happy to see that Laura has put out this booklet full of hot chocolate and cider recipes.  I love the idea of adding caramel syrup to hot cider!

Laura rightfully explains that hot chocolate is usually made with actual chocolate and hot cocoa is made with cocoa powder. I believe that hot cocoa made with prepared packets is sacrilege. In my experience, most commercial hot cocoa mixes contain more sugar and powdered milk than they do actual cocoa.  Even those brands that are labeled Gourmet. And to make hot chocolate with water instead of milk is blasphemy. Complete and utter blasphemy.

I was glad to see that only one of these recipes actually calls for using hot cocoa packets. I don't buy prepared packets.  My preference, if I'm not using actual chocolate, is Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa. Ghirardelli is one of my favorite brands of chocolate and this cocoa mix does not include powdered milk. Thank goodness, because powdered milk doesn't make cocoa creamier, it makes it weaker.  If I use cocoa mix, I often add chocolate to my cocoa, such as a Ghirardelli square, or some shaved unsweetened chocolate and a peppermint candy or candy cane.

Most of these recipes are made for 4+ servings, but the ideas for add-ins are terrific and it's easy to adapt many to make an individual cup.  This recipe is included in the book and is one of my favorite recipes.  (I would add Ghirardelli squares to it!)  I don't put marshmallows in mine and I don't put canned whipped cream on it either.

Classic Hot Cocoa

1/2 cup sugar
1/4-1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup half and half
4 cups whole milk
Whipped Cream or Mini Marshmallows

Stir together sugar, cocoa and salt in medium saucepan; add half and half. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Simmer 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add milk; stirring constantly, heat to desired serving temperature. Do Not Boil. Remove cocoa from heat; whisk or beat until frothy. Top with whipped cream or marshmallows.

Serves 4

The quality of your drink is only as good as the quality of your chocolate.  Use real chocolate or real cocoa whenever you can and always use half and half along with real whipping cream.

Thanks to Cedar Fort for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Laura Powell here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/13

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Friday, September 13, 2013

Rebellious Heart...Review

About the book:
Because she's a woman, higher learning was always closed to Susanna Smith. But her quick mind and quicker tongue never back down from a challenge. And she's determined to marry well, so she'll be able to continue her work with the less fortunate.

Growing up with little to his name, poor country lawyer Benjamin Ross dreams of impacting the world for the better. When introduced to the Smiths he's taken by Susanna's intelligence and independent spirit, but her parents refuse to see him as a suitor for their daughter.

When the life of a runaway indentured servant is threatened, Susanna is forced to choose between justice and mercy, and Ben becomes her unlikely advisor. But drawing closer to this man of principle and intellect lands her in a dangerous, secret world of rebellion and revolution against everything she once held dear.

I love strong heroines.  I love reading about women who stand up for their beliefs, their rights and others. Susanna was just that.  Inherently good, she helps the poor and the widowed and educates their daughters even when she herself can't attend school because she's a woman.  When an abused indentured girl comes across her path, Susanna knows she must help her. The redcoats who patrol their community however, are vicious and mean and will not even stop at death to punish those they see as bad.

The historical setting was fascinating: colonial, pre-revolution when resentment and rebellion toward England was brewing among the colonists.  I loved these characters.  They were strong, intelligent and unafraid to stand up for themselves and others  even at danger to their own lives.  The romance is passionate, but clean and the story Christian, but non-preachy.  I'd love a sequel.

Jody drew inspiration from the courtship and history of John and Abigail Adams and fictionalized their story here.  If they were at all like Ben and Susanna, I'm curious to read more about them.

Thanks to Bethany House for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Jody Hedlund here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/13

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Road Home...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 (September 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***


 Patrick E. Craig is a lifelong writer and musician who left a successful songwriting and performance career in the music industry to follow Christ in 1984. He spent the next 26 years as a worship leader, seminar speaker, and pastor in churches, and at retreats, seminars and conferences all across the western United States. After ministering for a number of years in music and worship to a circuit of small churches, he is now concentrating on writing and publishing both fiction and non-fiction books. Patrick and his wife Judy make their home in northern California and are the parents of two adult children and have five grandchildren.

Visit the author's website.


Author Patrick Craig continues the story of Jenny Springer, the child rescued in A Quilt for Jenna. Now an adult, Jenny begins a search for her long-last parents. As she opens doors to her past, she finds the truly surprising answer to her deepest questions.

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Series: Apple Creek Dreams Series
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736951075
ISBN-13: 978-0736951074


 “Du Schlecht’r!”

“Jenny Springer! You should not say such bad words! You should be ashamed.”

Jenny’s face burned as she reached behind the quilting frame with her left hand and pushed the errant needle through the quilt to complete her stitch. The finger of her other hand, showing a tiny red drop where she had pricked herself, went into her mouth. She stared angrily at the quilt she was working on. The design was awkward, and the edges of the pattern pieces were puckered where she had attempted to sew them together.

“Oh, Mama, I will never, ever be a quilter like you. I just can’t do it.”

Her mother’s shocked expression softened somewhat, and she put her arm around the girl’s shoulder. “Quilting is a gift from God, and it’s true that you don’t yet seem to have the eye for it. But you’re gifted in so many other ways. Don’t be disheartened. Sometimes you’re a little eigensinnig und ungeduldig, and these qualities do not fit well with quilting. You must learn to still your heart and calm the stream of thoughts rushing through your head.”

Jenny reached behind her head and rubbed her neck. She took a deep breath and stuck the needle back into the pincushion with finality.

“I need to stop for a bit, Mama. This quilt is making me vereitelt!”

Even in her present state, Jenny was a lovely girl of nearly twenty. Her reddish gold hair framed a strong brow and deep violet eyes that could flash with annoyance in an instant or radiate the most loving kindness a moment later.

Jerusha Springer reached down and enfolded Jenny in her arms. “Sie sind meine geliebte dochter,” Jerusha whispered softly into the curls that refused to be controlled by the heavy hairpins and happily tumbled out from under the slightly askew black kappe on Jenny’s head. Jenny turned on her stool, and her arms crept around her mother’s waist. She held on as though she would never let go.

“Are you ever sorry that you got me instead of Jenna, Mama?” Jenny whispered.

Jerusha paused before replying. “I was given Jenna, and then I was given you, my dearest. Jenna was a wonderful little girl, and your papa and I were blessed beyond measure by having her. When she died, we didn’t know how we would ever go on with our lives. But God in His mercy sent us a wonderful child to fill the emptiness in our hearts. That child was you. Sorry? No, my darling, I will never be sorry that you came to us. There will always be a place in my heart for Jenna, but now I have you to love and hold. I couldn’t hope for a better dochter.”

Jenny clung even tighter to her mother. Her mother’s arms had always been a safe haven for her since the day Jerusha rescued her from the great snowstorm so many years ago. Jerusha had kept Jenny alive by holding the child next to her heart all through the long nights until Papa and Uncle Bobby had rescued them. That was the earliest memory Jenny had of her mother. The calm, steady beat of her mother’s heart comforted her, and it was always in this place of refuge and life that she felt the most secure. But today, even in her mother’s arms, she couldn’t still the turmoil in her heart. She pulled away from Jerusha and began to talk in a rush.

“Mama, don’t you ever wonder where I came from and who my birth mother was? Maybe I’m the daughter of criminals or murderers. Maybe there’s a bad seed in me that will come out someday. It makes me afraid sometimes.”

Jerusha stroked her daughter’s hair. “There are some things we can never know, and you must not worry or fret about them. ‘Be careful for nothing—’ ”

“I know, I know, Mama, but sometimes I do worry. I would never want to do anything that would bring shame on you or Papa. But sometimes I think that I’ll never find real peace until I know…and yet that’s impossible.”

Jenny released her grip on her mother and grabbed up a scrap of material. She wiped another drop of blood from her finger, crumpled the cloth, and threw it down.

Jerusha took a breath and then answered. “You are so standhaft in all your ways. Many times your papa and I have had to pick you up and dust you off when you went too far. But that same quality has helped you to overcome difficulties. The accomplishments in your life are proof of that.”

Jerusha reached over and softly stroked Jenny’s cheek. “You’re a gut student. No one in our community has such a grasp of the history of our people as you do. Someday you will be a teacher who can pass down to your children the things that keep the Amish separate and distinct from the world.”

Jenny looked away and shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t think I will ever have children, Mama.”

Jerusha stiffened, and a fleeting frown passed over her face. “Why not, my darling?” she asked quietly.

“I don’t think any man could put up with me, for one thing, and for another, I think I’m just too independent. I’m not sure I could ever submit to a husband ruling over me.”

Jerusha’s mouth tightened slightly. “If I were true to our ordnung, I would tell you what my grandmother told me when I was a girl, and insist that you follow it,” Jerusha said. “She used to say that marriage is not built first on love but on the needs of our community and our faith.”

“But, Mama…” Jenny said.

“Let me finish, dochter,” Jerusha said quietly. “I loved your father very much before we were married, and someday that may happen for you. You’ll meet a man whom you will love so deeply that you will gladly surrender everything of yourself into his care and protection. I used to be so bound up in my quilting that I thought there was no room in my life for love or marriage. But the first time I looked into your father’s eyes, I was lost forever.” Jerusha’s face softened, and she smiled at a secret memory.

“Why, Mama! You’re blushing,” Jenny laughed. “I can understand why you lost your heart to Papa. He’s a handsome man.”

“Did I hear someone talking about me?” Reuben Springer came into the room. His face was stern, but there was a smile behind his eyes.

“Papa!” Jenny broke free from her mother and ran to her daed.

Reuben took the girl into his arms. “This is always the best part of my day, when I come home to my girls,” he said as he kissed his daughter on the forehead. “I used to have to bend down so far to reach you. Now you’re all grown up.”

Jerusha smiled at him, a tinge of pink in her cheeks.

“I can still make you blush, eh, Mrs. Springer?” he asked.

Jerusha turned away with a reluctant smile.

A frown passed over Jenny’s face like a small dark cloud, and her father noticed it.

“What is it, dochter?”

“Jenny was asking me about her birth parents,” Jerusha said. “Not knowing about her past troubles her.”

“Jenny, you mustn’t concern yourself with things that can’t be known,” Reuben said. “When your mother found you, there was no identification or any means to discover who you were. The police found a man’s body in Jepson’s pond the next spring, but he had been in the water far too long to make a clear identification. The car was stolen in New York, so there was no way to trace the man. You must be content with the wisdom of God. He sent you to us because He knew you needed us and we needed you. That’s all we need to know.”

“But, Papa, sometimes I feel like a stranger, as if I don’t really belong here.” Jenny saw the pain in her father’s eyes and stopped. “I’m sorry, Papa. I didn’t mean it exactly that way. I don’t know why it’s so important to me to find out these things, but it is. Sometimes I think I’ll never be who I’m supposed to be until I find out who I really am. It doesn’t help that I’m so stubborn.”

“Your Mama was just as stubborn when I first met her,” Reuben said. “Even twenty-four years later, I feel the sting on my face where she slapped me the first time I kissed her.”

“Husband!” Jerusha exclaimed as her cheeks once again turned rosy pink.

Reuben smiled at his wife and then looked at Jenny. His voice took a sterner tone. “Your mama has changed over the years, and you will change too. For the good of our family, you must put these things out of your mind.”

Jenny felt a small flash of anger at her father’s words. She wanted to speak but wisely stayed silent. Then she decided to take a different approach.

“Papa, maybe if I did know, I could be more peaceful inside and not be so much trouble for you and Mama. Maybe if you helped me to find my birth parents I could be a better dochter to you and—”

Jenny’s papa stiffened at her words. “Jenny, I love you very much, but I am still the head of our home, and until you’re married and under the care of your husband, I will decide what’s best for you. There’s much in the world that you’re too young to understand. God has entrusted me with your care and safety for a good reason. The man you were with may have been your father, or he may not, but judging by what the police found in the car, he was not a good man. There were drugs and alcohol—”

“But what if he wasn’t my father and he just kidnapped me or—”

“Dochter! That’s enough! I know what’s best for you. Asking questions that can’t be answered will only cause you heartache and sorrow. I want you to put these wild ideas behind you. We will not discuss this further!”

Jenny stared at her father, and he stared back at her. She started to speak, but her mother placed her hand on Jenny’s arm and squeezed a warning. “Your father is right, Jenny. You must listen to him and obey. Now, is anyone hungry, or should we go on working on this quilt?”

Jenny took a deep breath, looked at her masterpiece, and smiled ruefully. The star design she had labored over for so many hours was crooked and wrinkled, and the colors she had chosen clashed.

“I think we’d better have dinner, Mama. I don’t think there’s anything I can do to fix this mess.”

“Well, let’s go then,” Reuben said. “I need kindling for the stove, and Jenny can go out and close in the chickens.”

“All right, Papa,” Jenny said, still stinging from Reuben’s rebuke. “Do I need to bring in any milch, Mama?”

“Yes, dear,” Jerusha said, “there’s some fresh in the cooling house.”

When Jenny had banged out the back door, Jerusha turned to Reuben. “She’s so impetuous. I worry there’ll come a time when she crashes into a predicament we can’t get her out of. But you must not be so hard on her. She’s still young.”

“I know. But young or not, her curiosity worries me,” Reuben said. “She’s headed for disappointment if she keeps searching for answers that don’t exist. I want to keep her from that as long as I can.”

Jerusha nodded. “I want her to be happy, but in my heart I’m afraid that if she does somehow find her birth parents, she’ll want to be with them more than with us. And their way would be so different from ours. The world out there is filled with danger, and I don’t know if she would be able to understand it. I’m afraid for her, Reuben.”

“I’m afraid for her too, Jerusha,” he said quietly, taking his wife in his arms. “And that’s why I want her to forget about her past. I’m trying hard not to crush her spirit, but the girl doesn’t think things through. She thinks she’s all grown up, but she still has many kindisch ways about her. There may soon come a day when she goes her own way, and the thought of what she might choose…”

Jerusha felt a momentary chill grip her heart, and she pulled herself deeper into the circle of Reuben’s arms.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Depression and Your Child: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers...Review

About the book:
Seeing your child suffer in any way is a harrowing experience for any parent. Mental illness in children can be particularly draining due to the mystery surrounding it, and the issue of diagnosis at such a tender age. Depression and Your Child gives parents and caregivers a uniquely textured understanding of pediatric depression, its causes, its symptoms, and its treatments. Author Deborah Serani weaves her own personal experiences of being a depressed child along with her clinical experiences as a psychologist treating depressed children.

Current research, treatments and trends are presented in easy to understand language and tough subjects like self-harm, suicide and recovery plans are addressed with supportive direction. Parents will learn tips on how to discipline a depressed child, what to expect from traditional treatments like psychotherapy and medication, how to use holistic methods to address depression, how to avoid caregiver burnout, and how to move through the trauma of diagnosis and plan for the future.

Real life cases highlight the issues addressed in each chapter and resources and a glossary help to further understanding for those seeking additional information. Parents and caregivers are sure to find here a reassuring approach to childhood depression that highlights the needs of the child even while it emphasizes the need for caregivers to care for themselves and other family members as well.

I have a child who has Asperger's Syndrome and suffers from anxiety.  While we haven't seen signs of depression in him, that is still a possibility as he goes through his life.  As I went through this book, I was brought back to the early days of realizing that my son had some issues.  Our first diagnosis was Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and speech and language delays.  As our son was put into an early intervention program, The Doctor and I set out to educate ourselves and to learn about everything we could on SPD. The more we learned about the disorder, the more we filled our "toolbox" with techniques and knowledge and coping mechanisms and things we could do to help our son.  For instance, we learned that spinning helped to calm him down, we learned about how loud noises and crowds affected him, as well as other things.

As our son has grown older, we have seen his diagnosis finally evolve into Asperger's and he is quite a classic definition of it, although mild.  Again, we educated ourselves and we have continued to fill that toolbox as we learn about him and how he reacts to situations, how he learns, and somewhat how he thinks. We have a team of doctors and teachers who work with our son and together we do what we can to help give him the best possible situation in life.  When we started to see the signs of anxiety, we talked with his doctor and he began seeing a counselor who he loves.

As I read this book, I had the thought that this is a perfect book for those parents who are wanting to learn and educate themselves about depression.  It's a book full of resources, and is written in a straightforward manner. It's not full of big, undefined medical terms.  I liked the case studies that made things more relatable. The myth section was eye-opening and I loved the chapter on holistic approaches to depression.  Being married to a chiropractor, I have a firm opinion that all medicine should work together.  I have a couple of prescriptions I need to take regularly but I complement those with some homeopathic supplements.  I have a son who needed open heart surgery at birth and nothing else would have saved his life. So, my belief is that medicine, whether allopathic or homeopathic can and should all work together.  Here, Deborah talks about the importance of vitamins, touch, movement, music and more as well as explaining and addressing the use of traditional treatments like anti-depressants which are also effective in managing depression.

Overall, a great resource for parents who want to know and understand what their child is going through and how to help.

Thanks to Dorothy at Pump Up Your Book! for the opportunity to review this book.. You can learn more about Deborah Serani here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Read 9/13

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4/5 Stars

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Promise...Review

About the book:
For the last five months, Tom Anderson has been without a job, a fact he's been hiding from his wife Jean--and everyone else. He leaves each morning, pretending nothing has changed, and spends his disheartening day rotating through coffee shops and the library, using their wifi to search job listings online. The stress of keeping this secret is beginning to put serious strain on his marriage.

But Tom's not the only one hiding something. Jean Anderson has a secret of her own--one that will seriously complicate their situation. Will the promises they made on their wedding day hold firm?

Combining the literary talents of Dan Walsh and the relationship expertise of Gary Smalley, The Restoration Series pulls back the curtain of a family that has laid their foundation on shifting sand, but is slowly rediscovering genuine love and the power of forgiveness.

When I was offered this book to review, it was not clearly pitched to me as being part of a series.  I wish it had been. It's the second in The Restoration Series and I think it picks up right after the first book, which I have not read. I think the books should be read in order.

The formula for The Promise seems to be very similar, as near as I can tell, to the first book, The Dance.   That formula includes a difficult marriage, reconciliation and renewed faith in God.  While this book picked up towards the end, I just didn't like the characters.  Perhaps if I had connected with them in The Dance, it would have been better.  I did appreciate that the story addressed the idea that we carry our childhood issues with us and that unless a conscious decision is made to change, we tend to parent the way we were parented and we treat our marriages the way we observed in our own parents, family, etc.  I appreciated that the Anderson men learned to make those determined changes.

I have loved the previous Dan Walsh books I've read.  This one, however, was disappointing. My opinion is only one, though and there are many other more positive reviews and you can see some at Book Critiques, Radiant Light, and Found a Christian by His Grace.

Available August 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Lanette at Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Dan Walsh here.  You can learn more about Gary Smalley here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/13

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2/5 Stars

Thursday, September 5, 2013


About the book:
When Laura Griffith's sixteen-year-old sister disappears on a frigid February day, leaving only a brief note behind, Laura resolves to do whatever it takes to track down the runaway teen. That includes recruiting ATF agent turned private investigator James Devlin to help. Dev knows time is of the essence with runaways--just forty-eight hours can mean the difference between recovery and ruin.

But the deeper he and Laura dig, the more Dev begins to suspect that something sinister is at work in the girl's disappearance. And in the icy winter weather, the trail is going cold...

In her latest thrilling read, queen of romantic suspense Irene Hannon outdoes herself with a fast-paced tale of fear, deception, and just the right dose of romance.

When the police aren't the most cooperative after her teenaged sister disappeared, Laura turns to a PI for help.  As Dev and Laura follow leads and search out people , they discover that she was kidnapped and just didn't run away. Finding her, however, proves challenging and a bit dangerous.

Irene Hannon delivers again.  Her books, while somewhat formulaic, contain the perfect combination of romance, faith and clean suspense.  I think she's outdone herself with this story's villain.  He was truly chilling and her exploration of Darcy's kidnapping was well done with some twists I didn't exactly see coming.

Second in the Private Justice series, the story stands alone just fine. A terrific read.

Available August 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Lanette at Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Irene Hannon here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/13

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4/5 Stars