Saturday, December 27, 2014

Swept Away by Laura V. Hilton and Cindy Loven Quilts of Love Litfuse Blog Tour

About the book: 

Sara doesn't think she wants love. But her grandmother has other plans.
Sara Jane Morgan is trying to balance teaching with caring for her ailing, stubborn grandmother. When school lets out for the summer, the plans are for Grandma to teach Sara Jane to quilt as they finish up the Appalachian Ballad quilt Grandma started as a teenager. But things don't always go as planned.
Andrew Stevenson is hiding from his past---and his future. He works as a handyman to pay the bills, but his heart is as an artisan, designing homemade brooms. When Sara Jane's grandmother hires him to renovate her home, sparks fly between Drew and his new employer's granddaughter.
Still, it doesn't take Sara Jane long to see Drew isn't what he seems. Questions arise, and she starts researching him online. What she discovers could change her life---and her heart---forever.

Learn more about this book and the series at the Quilts of Love website.

Landing page: 

My thoughts:  Sara Jane and Drew are both dealing with their own feelings of survivors guilt from the loss of loved ones, each in his or her own way.  Because of the large amount of pain that has not been dealt with, neither of them has been able to move forward in their personal lives or been able to open up to others.

Sara Jane's grandmother forces the issue with them both due to her stubbornness and her ailing memory.  Drew has been hired as her handyman, but it uncomfortable with the assumption that he will date and marry Sara Jane just because he has been told to.  Sara Jane is worried about her grandmother and embarrassed by her not so subtle matchmaking.

The two find that they have some interests in common, top among them keeping Sari safe and cared for, but there is a big stumbling block for them.  Drew has found comfort in his faith and shares his beliefs freely, while Sara Jane goes to church out of obligation, but feels no connection with God  and lacks faith.  Before they can move ahead and work on connecting with one another, Sara Jane needs to find forgiveness and faith herself to move past her feelings of guilt.

I would have loved to have seen a picture of the quilt, just a sketch of each of the squares that belonged to the song!

About the Authors: 

Laura V. Hilton is an award-winning author and a professional book reviewer. A stay-at-home mom and home school teacher, Laura lives with her family in Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas. Cindy Loven is active in the church and writes from her home in Conway, Arkansas, where she lives with her husband and their son.

About Quilts of Love: Quilts tell stories of love and loss, hope and faith, tradition and new beginnings. TheQuilts of Love series focuses on the women who quilted all of these things into their family histories. A new book releases each month and features contemporary and historical romances as well as women's fiction and the occasional light mystery. You will be drawn into the endearing characters of this series and be touched by their stories.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Quilted by Christmas by Jodie Bailey (Quilts of Love- Litfuse Blog Tour)

Quilted by Christmas A grandmother's last wish is to communicate God's love through an Irish chain quilt.

Taryn McKenna believes she's easy to forget. Abandoned by her parents and left behind when her high school sweetheart joined the army, she vows to never love again and throws herself into her love for the outdoors and the pursuit of a college degree---something no one else in her family has ever accomplished. Her goal, as a young teacher in the hills of North Carolina, is to leave a legacy in the lives of the middle-schoolers she teaches. When Taryn's grandmother Jemma, the only other person who ever held her close, has a heart attack that reveals a fatal medical condition, Taryn is corralled into helping Grandma work on a final project---an Irish chain quilt that tells the story of her history and the love Jemma knows is out there for Taryn. As the pieces of the quilt come together, Taryn begins to see her value. Can she learn to believe that God will never leave her behind even though others have?
Jodie Bailey is Tarheel born and bred. After 15 years as a military spouse, she settled with her family back in North Carolina. She is the author of the military suspense novel Freefall and is a contributor to Edie Melson's devotional for military families, Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home. While not working on her next novel, she teaches middle-schoolers to love writing as much as she does (if she's lucky that day and they're actually listening...). Jodie loves to bake, ride the Harley with her husband, and fish the Outer Banks with their daughter. 

Connect with Jodie: websiteFacebookTwitter

Landing Page:

My thoughts:
I enjoyed this story of faith and heartache.  Taryn has been hiding something for years, something she was counseled by her father and grandmother to keep to herself, and it has haunted and narrowed her life.  On the day her best friend and boyfriend, Justin, leaves to join the army they have a fight that colors how she sees herself for the next ten years.  Faced with losing the person she knows the best and loves the most, she tries to convince him to stay instead of go, causing him to make her feel like she is needy and manipulative.  That whole exchange leads to a chain of events neither of them could imagine.

When Justin comes back to town and seems to want to be her friend again, she is confused and worries that the longer she takes to tell him about what she did in his absence the harder it is going to be to do it, but at the same time she fears that once he knows he won't want to be around her anymore.  When her grandmother ends up in the hospital with a broken arm, it comes down to Taryn to finish her cousin's surprise wedding quilt.  Surprisingly, Justin offers his help with hand piecing the quilt.  Working together night by night they are able to rebuild their old rapport, but the secret is still there.

I love stories about Christmas and about people finding their way through tough situations that are true to life.  Nothing is easy or simple or solved right away, these characters work through their issues together and separately finding out who they are and what they really care about, while trusting in their faith.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Vineyard by Michael Hurley TLC Blog Tour

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Dory Delano, Charlotte Harris, and Turner Graham have been drifting through life since their days as roommates at Smith College, ten years ago. Dory is resisting taking the reins of her family's legacy and fortune even as she relishes the fabulous lifestyle it affords her in the fashionable seaside resort of Martha's Vineyard. She invites her old friends to join her for a summer on the Vineyard in hopes of rediscovering the innocence of old days and healing new wounds. But hidden in their midst and unknown to all but a few, a reclusive--some say dangerous--fisherman wanders alone, fueling wild speculation about his purpose and his past. None of these women can imagine the events their encounter with the fisherman will set in motion, the shadow he will cast over their destinies, or the transformation that awaits the world they know.

My thoughts:
After a slightly slow start, this book sucked me in and kept me wondering what was going to happen next.  Charlotte Harris shows up at Dory's Martha Vineyard home planning to end her own life to spend purgatory with her unbaptized daughter.  I had a rough time with the depth of her depressions and despondency at the beginning of the novel.  Getting to know these women, who are getting reacquainted after their separate lives for the past ten years, you feel like you are there on the island with them.  No one is quite how they seem and the past is never totally in the past, but what is really important always seems to come through.

These women are straining against what is expected of them, the sacrifices they feel they need or must make to achieve their goals and the idea of faith.  Each of them has had a different experience with the church and faith, Charlotte believes in the church teaching so forcefully that she is willing to make many sacrifices to make sure her daughter's soul will be able to ascend to heaven while Turner has very little faith in things she can't see and touch and is looking for something to believe in without even knowing it.

These women are drawn together and become closer during their summer, after Charlotte tells her how the fisherman saw her savior when she had reached rock bottom.  Turner writes about the incident on her blog and all of a sudden a spark is lit. When he also intercedes on Dory's behalf and Turner again records it something is set in motion that cannot be stopped and the pace just picks up.

It is hard to write about the book without revealing where the story is going, but it is so satisfying as it goes along that I would hate to rob anyone of the surprises.  This book kept me up late for the past two nights because I got into it so deeply that I forgot to pay attention to the time.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780976127567
  • Publisher: Ragbagger Press
  • Publication date: 11/25/2014
  • Pages: 384

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Where Treetops Glisten by Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman and Sarah Sundin Litfuse Blog Tour

Book Description:

The crunch of newly fallen snow, the weight of wartime.

Siblings forging new paths and finding love in three stories, filled with the wonder of Christmas.

Turn back the clock to a different time, listen to Bing Crosby sing of sleigh bells in the snow, as the realities of America's involvement in the Second World War change the lives of the Turner family in Lafayette, Indiana. 

In Cara Putman's White Christmas, Abigail Turner is holding down the Home Front as a college student and a part-time employee at a one-of-a-kind candy shop. Loss of a beau to the war has Abigail skittish about romantic entanglements---until a hard-working young man with a serious problem needs her help. 

Abigail's brother Pete is a fighter pilot hero returned from the European Theater in Sarah Sundin's I'll Be Home for Christmas, trying to recapture the hope and peace his time at war has eroded. But when he encounters a precocious little girl in need of Pete's friendship, can he convince her widowed mother that he's no longer the bully she once knew? 

In Tricia Goyer's Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Meredith Turner, "Merry" to those who know her best, is using her skills as a combat nurse on the frontline in the Netherlands. Halfway around the world from home, Merry never expects to face her deepest betrayal head on, but that's precisely what God has in mind to redeem her broken heart. 

The Turner family believes in God's providence during such a tumultuous time. Can they absorb the miracle of Christ's birth and His plan for a future?

Purchase a copy:

About the authors: 

TRICIA GOYER is a prolific author of nearly forty books, includingChasing Mona Lisa, and a speaker and blogger. 

CARA PUTMAN is the author of twenty books including Shadowed by Grace. She is the winner of the 2008 Carol Award for historical fiction. 

SARAH SUNDIN is the critically-acclaimed author of the Wings of the Nightingale series, the Wings of Glory series, and the forthcoming Waves of Freedom novels.

My thoughts:

I love interconnected stories and Christmas.  Having the two together in one book is a special treat.  I liked the short introduction story, especially with the way it introduced the grandmother and her desire to have traditions upheld, even during a time of war.

Set during WWII, three siblings have different experiences with loss and love, but they all rely on their faith to lead them during the hardest times.  Along with the elements of faith there were those of humor and family.  Who can imagine Christmas with all three of those things to bring people together and to remember what is truly important in life.

Tapenum's Day: A Wampanoag Indian Boy in Pilgrim Times by Kate Waters, Russell Kendall (Photographer), Russ Kendall (Illustrator)

Tapenum's Day: A Wampanoag Indian Boy in Pilgrim Times

About the book from Barnes and Noble:
Written by Carolyn Phelan
"Waters and Kendall, who showed the lives of Pilgrim children in "Sarah Morton's Day" 1989 and "Samuel Eaton's Day" 1993, offer a useful companion book, a study of a Wampanoag Indian boy in the 1620s. Clear, full-color photographs, taken at the Plimoth Plantation historical site in Massachusetts, make this an unusually vivid visual presentation of Native American life. In the fictionalized story, young Tapenum, disappointed that he has not yet been chosen to become a warrior, hunts for food, shoots a rabbit for his mother, and goes fishing with a companion. Later he befriends a wise man, who teaches him about making arrows and learning patience. The story seems a bit purposeful at times in its inclusion of information, but it does a good job of dramatizing what life might have been like for the Wampanoags, who are often studied in elementary school because of their connection with the Pilgrims."

My thoughts:
I have used "Samuel Eaton's Day" in the classroom for years, but was pleased to discover this book as well as Sarah Morton's Day when I went to the library recently.  I used this book with a cub scout group to meet some electives about Native Americans.  I loved that the children got to see what the clothing looked like, what a typical day was like and the jobs and chores the children had during that time period.  The pictures really helped to make it all more real for them and to raise their understanding.

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780590202374
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/28/1996
  • Pages: 40

Friday, November 14, 2014

Peggy: A Brave Chicken on a Big Adventure by Anna Walker

Peggy: A Brave Chicken on a Big Adventure

Overview from Barnes and Noble:

Peggy the hen is contented with her quiet existence and daily routine. When a powerful gust of wind sweeps her up and deposits her in the midst of a busy city, she explores her new surroundings, makes new friends, and cleverly figures out how to get home—with a newly kindled appetite for adventure. Evocative full-color paintings follow Peggy’s journey, offering comical details that reward repeated viewing. This reassuring tale and its unruffled heroine invites discussions of exploration, safety, and resourcefulness

My thoughts:
I loved seeing the city through Peggy's eyes, it was new and wondrous and full of things to explore and people to meet.  The illustrations were very nicely done and the pages had a really nice feel, not too glossy, not too matte just right.  For children, the world can be this way, so many new things to see and explore and people to meet, but at the same time all that newness can be overwhelming, so this is a reassuring book.  Keep your head and don't panic, enjoy the experience, but know that your safe home is still there, waiting for you and you can always find your way back.

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780544259003
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 3/4/2014
  • Pages: 32

Meet the Author

Author and illustrator Anna Walker has won numerous children’s book design and writing awards, including several accolades for Peggy, in her native Australia. The artwork and stories she’s created in her Melbourne studio have reached young readers worldwide. Visit her website at

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Landline by Rainbow Rowell


Overview from Barnes and Noble:

New York Times Best Seller! An Indie Next Pick!
From New York Times bestselling author of Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell, comes a hilarious, heart-wrenching take on love, marriage, and magic phones.
Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply—but that almost seems beside the point now.
Maybe that was always beside the point.
Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her—Neal is always a little upset with Georgie—but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go without her.
When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.
That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts. . . .
Is that what she’s supposed to do?
Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?
My thoughts:
Life is always a balancing act and in a marriage things are not always equal.  When Neal and Georgie had their children it was Neal who decided to stay home with them because Georgie was following her screen writing dream and he couldn't seem to find his dream path or job.  This worked for them, but somehow Georgie started to feel on the outside of her family because her girls went to Neal whenever they needed something because he was there.  Her writing career was plugging along, and right before Christmas a great opportunity came up, but it meant working through Christmas and she just couldn't go to Omaha and write with her team.  Being alone throws Georgie for a loop.
I loved the landline phone from the past that lets her talk to Neal, but it the past, because this separation is so much like the one they had right before the Christmas that Neal proposed to her, but she never knew why he came back and what changed his mind about their problems and issues.  Why he didn't go back to his high school girlfriend next door but chose to deal with all their issues instead.  She can't reach her current Neal on his cell phone, her battery keeps dying and every time she calls the girls or his mother answer and he is no where to be found, but on the landline she gets him almost every time, but not now him but then him.
What would you say to someone from your past?  Would you admit that things were going to be hard?  That at times you wanted to quit and he wanted to quit and you wonder if things would be better if you just did quit.  Would you risk not having the you your are now and the kids you have now if you could take away some of the stress and fights and problems.  Would you still want to have it all knowing what you know now?  Is there a different way to have a life or was this the best one, even with the bad parts, because there were so many good? 
 I loved being inside Georgie's head as she wrestled with all the issues and emotions from the show, from the separation that might be just for Christmas or might be for good, and with what she should be telling past Neal about the future.

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250049377
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 7/8/2014
  • Pages: 320

Meet the Author

Rainbow Rowell
RAINBOW ROWELL lives in Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband and two sons. She's also the author of FangirlEleanor & Park, and Attachments.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford Litfuse Blog Tour

About the book: 

Scotland, 1860.
Reverend Alexander Ferguson, naive and newly-ordained, takes up his new parish, a poor, isolated patch on the Hebridean island of Harris. His time on the island will irrevocably change the course of his life, but the white house on the edge of the dunes keeps its silence long after Alexander departs. It will be more than a century before the Sea House reluctantly gives up its secrets. Ruth and Michael buy the grand but dilapidated building and begin to turn it into a home for the family they hope to have. Their dreams are marred by a shocking discovery. The tiny bones of a baby are buried beneath the house; the child's fragile legs are fused together --- a mermaid child. Who buried the bones? And why? Ruth needs to solve the mystery of her new home --- but the answers to her questions may lie in her own past.
Based on a real nineteenth-century letter to The Times in which a Scottish clergyman claimed to have seen a mermaid, The Sea House is an epic, sweeping tale of loss and love, hope and redemption, and how we heal ourselves with the stories we tell.

Purchase a copy:
Landing page:
My thoughts:  I was intrigued by the idea of a mermaid baby having her remains buried under a house where a reverend lived.  From the discovery of the bones Ruth begins to delve into the history of the house she and her husband are working hard to make a home and business, while trying to ignore her own history and unhappy childhood.  The chapters alternate between Ruth in her present, during the 1990's to Alexander and his rescued housemaid Moira in the 1860's.  At the same time, Ruth also looks back at her own years growing up and how she got through growing up an orphan.
Scotland has intrigued me for years and I love stories set there, but I don't often get a chance to read ones set in the islands.  Seeing what life was like and how the poor were relocated and forced to board ships to Canada reminded me of the forced relocation of other groups of people, like the Native Americans, because someone with more money and power wanted the better land. 
Many people have obstacles in their path to happiness, some huge and external and some huge and internal, and many of these characters had to overcome bleak circumstances.  Seeing how some made it and others didn't really makes it apparent that attitude and a willingness to look for answers are both needed.
I loved the stories about mermaids and  Selkies and the possible explanation for what people were seeing when they believed they were seeing the two. 
About the Author: 

Elisabeth Gifford grew up in a vicarage in the industrial Midlands. She studied French literature and world religions at Leeds University. She is the author of The House of Hope: A Story of God's Love and Provision for the Abandoned Orphans of China and has written articles for The Times and the Independent and has a Diploma in Creative Writing from Oxford OUDCE and an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway College. She is married with three children. They live in Kingston on Thames but spend as much time as possible in the Hebrides.

Find Elisabeth online: website, Facebook

Friday, October 10, 2014

Magnificent Tales: Treasury of Bible Stories by Kelly Pulley Litfuse Blog Tour

Treasury of Bible Stories

Magnificent Tales: Treasury of Bible Stories || Magnificent Tale Collection (David C. Cook, September 2014)
Children ages 4-8 will be delighted by these rhyming Bible stories pairing spiritual truths with playful illustrations.
Featuring lyrical stories full of lighthearted moments, this colorful collection of Magnificent Tales is perfect for reading out loud. As families read these stories night after night, they will make memories together while learning about the Bible.
Learn more and purchase a copy at Kelly’s website.

Landing Page:

My thoughts:
I really enjoyed sharing this book with my children.  Each story is told in words and phrases that are easy for children to understand and to relate to.  Pulley takes some of the stories that don't make sense to young listeners and adds the right amount of description and illustrations to bring it to life for them.  My son looks forward to sitting down at night to read and talk about a story or two.  I love that they are on the short side as it gives us a chance to discuss what we read afterwards and leaves a logical break before beginning the next story.

Kelly Pulley works from his middle Tennessee home writing and illustrating children's picture books, most recently "Ten Unusual Features of Lulu McDunn" and "The Cycling Wangdoos." He is best known for illustrating dozens of books in the Beginner's Bible series, including "The Beginner's Bible" (over 1.25 million copies sold).

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue! (Origami Yoda Series #5) by Tom Angleberger

Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue! (B&N Exclusive Edition) (Origami Yoda Series #5)

Overview from Barnes and Noble:

At McQuarrie Middle School, the war against the FunTime Menace—aka test prep—wages on. Our heroes have one battle under their belts, and they’ve even found a surprising ally in Jabba the Puppett. But to defeat the Dark Standardized Testing Forces they’re going to need an even bigger, even more surprising ally: Principal Rabbski. But with great forces—aka the school board—pushing her from above, will the gang’s former enemy don a finger puppet and join the Rebellion—or will her transformation to Empress Rabbski, Dark Lord of the Sith, be complete?

With this timely episode in the blockbuster Origami Yoda series, Tom Angleberger demonstrates once again that his “grasp of middle-school emotions, humor and behavior is spot-on” (Scripps Howard News Service).

Praise for Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue!
"Fans will devour this satisfying and nicely realistic conclusion to the story set up in the previous volume. Characters grow, and non–Star Wars pop-culture references seep in. Readers new to the series are advised to go back to the beginning; they won’t regret it."
Kirkus Reviews
"These books are more popular than a working droid on Tatooine. Expect the usual army of young Jedis to come out swinging for a copy."

My thoughts:
I am not sure if I read book four or not, but that did not get in my way of enjoying this installment of the series.  This was a very quick read!  Angleberger takes a look at test prep series from the point of view of the students and made the test prep materials particularly annoying.  Because McQuarrie Middle School had the worst test scores last year the school board has taken away all of the electives the students formerly enjoyed, like music classes, drama club, and all sports and replaced them with video test prep and worksheets to prepare for the test.  The students are bored, they miss their electives and they hate the singing professor and his rapping calculator.  The teachers are less than thrilled too.  The origami owners get together to plan their own rebellion against this test prep.

How much of this parody is what is actually being done in some schools and classrooms?  How much of a rounded education with challenges and differences are students losing because of scores on tests?  I agree there needs to be accountability and some way to measure what the students have learned, but I have mixed feelings about our current system.  I've seen the tests from an educator's perspective and from a parent perspective and I think a change needs to be made.  My hope is that in the future something better comes into use, but while I agree that some review is necessary on a regular basis to maintain skills and knowledge, whole programs designed to prepare students for one test should not be the focus of the school day for students.  Learning and preparing for life should be the focus, not a test.

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781419710520
  • Publisher: Amulet Books
  • Publication date: 3/4/2014
  • Series: Origami Yoda Series , #5
  • Pages: 208