Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Rose Harbor in Bloom (Rose Harbor Series #2) by Debbie Macomber

Rose Harbor in Bloom (Rose Harbor Series #2) (B&N Exclusive Edition)

Synopsis form Barnes and Noble:
Hailed as "the reigning queen of women's fiction" (The Sacramento Bee), #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber is known for novels of love, friendship, and the promise of fresh starts. Now Macomber returns to the Rose Harbor Inn, where each guest finds a second chance and every room comes with an inspiring new view.

 Since moving to Cedar Cove, Jo Marie Rose has truly started to feel at home, and her neighbors have become her closest friends. Now it's springtime, and Jo Marie is eager to finish the most recent addition to her inn. In memory of her late husband, Paul, she has designed a beautiful rose garden for the property and enlisted handyman Mark Taylor to help realize it. She and Mark don't always see eye-to-eye—and at times he seems far removed—yet deep down, Jo Marie finds great comfort in his company. And while she still seeks a sense of closure, she welcomes her latest guests, who are on their own healing journeys.

Annie Newton arrives in town to orchestrate her grandparents' fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration. While Annie is excited for the festivities, she's struggling to move on from her broken engagement, and her grandparents themselves seem to be having trouble getting along. Worse, Annie is forced to see Oliver Sutton, with whom she grew up and who has always mercilessly teased her. But the best parties end with a surprise, and Annie is in for the biggest one of all.

High-powered businesswoman Mary Smith, another Rose Harbor Inn guest, has achieved incredible success in her field, yet serious illness has led her to face her sole, lingering regret. Almost nineteen years ago, she ended her relationship with her true love, George Hudson, and now she's returned to Cedar Cove to make amends.

Compassion and joy await Jo Marie, Annie, and Mary as they make peace with their pasts and look boldly toward their futures. Rose Harbor in Bloom is Debbie Macomber at her heartwarming best.

My thoughts:
I always enjoy Debbie Macomber's books and the Cedar Cove series was one that felt like going home to visit old friends, so I like that this series is in Cedar Cove and that some of my favorite characters pop in now and then just as they do at times in the Blossom Street series.  That being said, this book focuses on Jo Marie and her guests. 

I liked how the chapters alternated between Jo Marie, Annie and Mary but I wasn't as keep in the first person writing for Jo Marie.  It makes sense, as this is Jo Marie's book and she wouldn't be able to know exactly what was going on with  her guests, but if felt jarring when Macomber went into Jo Marie's chapters.  That is my only real complaint with the book and I can't recall if the first book was the same way, I read it so long ago.  I know that the short in between book was probably in her voice, but that didn't feel odd because it was all about her.

Jo Marie is getting ready for a full house as well as an open house.  During the open house she plans to have a rose garden ready, in memory of her husband, Paul, who was killed in a helicopter accident during active military duty.  She starts to get frustrated with her contractor and friend, Mark, as he is taking his time with the construction. 

Annie has thrown herself into plans for her grandparents fiftieth wedding party to distract herself from her own broken engagement, but when her grandparents arrive at Rose Harbor Inn they can't seem to stop fighting and they  have brought along their handsome neighbor that Annie feels has always teased and tormented her.  With repeated phone calls and texts from her ex and fighting guests of honor, Annie is sure the weekend is going to be a disaster.

Mary is back on the west coast for a couple of important reasons, even though her doctors advised her against making the trip in her condition. 

All three women have to face some truths about their own pasts and futures that at times are uncomfortable to even painful, but that need to be dealt with before they will be able to move forward with their lives.  It can be hard to admit to past mistakes or to let go of long held beliefs, but both women have to face some of thethings they thought were true about themselves and their lives to be able to be open to their futures. 

I love the idea of the Inn as a healing place.  It will be interesting to see who comes to stay in the next installment of the series.

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804176941
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/13/2013
  • Series: Rose Harbor Series , #2

Sunday, January 26, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading?

What a week it has been!  So much snow and so much cold and so few days of school.  I have not been listening to a lot of audio lately, but this week I did as I went about chores and cleaning and such at home and I realized that I have missed listening to audio books.  Here is what I finished this week:

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
The Secret Lives of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler
Rose Harbor in Bloom by Debbie Macomber

The Heist by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

The Heist (B&N Exclusive Edition)

Overview from Barnes and Noble:

Inside the B&N Hardcover Special Edition of The Heist, you will find:
~ The Caper: a never before published mini adventure featuring Kate O'Hare and Nicolas Fox, the characters from The Heist
~ High Quality Euro Stickers: Every hardcover edition of THE HEIST contains two euro stickers: I "heart" Plum and The Con is On!
From Janet Evanovich, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Stephanie Plum novels, and Lee Goldberg, bestselling author and television writer for Monk, comes the first adventure in an electrifying new series featuring an FBI agent who always gets her man, and a fearless con artist who lives for the chase.
FBI Special Agent Kate O’Hare is known for her fierce dedication and discipline on the job, chasing down the world’s most wanted criminals and putting them behind bars. Her boss thinks she is tenacious and ambitious; her friends think she is tough, stubborn, and maybe even a bit obsessed. And while Kate has made quite a name for herself for the past five years, the only name she’s cared about is Nicolas Fox—an international crook she wants in more ways than one. 

Audacious, handsome, and dangerously charming, Nicolas Fox is a natural con man, notorious for running elaborate scams on very high-profile people. At first he did it for the money. Now he does it for the thrill. He knows that the FBI has been hot on his trail—particularly Kate O’Hare, who has been watching his every move. For Nick, there’s no greater rush than being pursued by a beautiful woman . . . even one who aims to lock him up. But just when it seems that Nicolas Fox has been captured for good, he pulls off his greatest con of all: he convinces the FBI to offer him a job, working side by side with Special Agent Kate O’Hare.

Problem is, teaming up to stop a corrupt investment banker who’s hiding on a private island in Indonesia is going to test O’Hare’s patience and Fox’s skill. Not to mention the skills of their ragtag team made up of flamboyant actors, wanted wheelmen, and Kate’s dad. High-speed chases, pirates, and Toblerone bars are all in a day’s work . . . if O’Hare and Fox don’t kill each other first.

My thoughts:
This was a fun, quick read.  Yes, it was a bit unbelievable at times.  I think women just started being allowed into the Navy Seal program recently, so Kate couldn't have been a Seal years ago, but I was willing to overlook that.  It was fast moving and fun.  Kate was allowed to be proficient and good at her job.  She was able to accurately use an array of weapons as well as her ability to sky dive and swim and she didn't need a man to come in and rescue her.  No damsel in distress syndrome going on here!

Nick was well connected and had a network of contacts all over the globe that allowed them to work together to get the bigger bad guy.  He is able to scheme, plan and disguise himself to get around a whole slew of obstacles.

While both Kate and Nick had good qualities, I think Kate's father was my favorite character in the book.  The retired military man had as many contacts as Nick and the ability to be there for his daughter when she needed him.  I hate spoilers, so I won't give one, but towards the end of the book Kate's dad makes an appearance that I loved.  I think it was my favorite scene in the book.  If there are to be more books in this series, and I think that is the plan, I do hope her dad makes it into them as well!

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345549419
  • Publisher: Bantam Books
  • Publication date: 6/18/2013

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E. Ladd Litfuse Blog Tour

The Headmistress of Rosemere

About the book:
Patience Creighton has dedicated herself to the Rosemere School for Young Ladies. But the return of the enigmatic master of the estate puts everything she loves at risk.

Bright, sensible Patience knows what is expected of her. At twenty-five, her opportunity for a family of her own has passed, so she invests herself in teaching at her father's school for girls. When her father dies suddenly and her brother moves away to London, she is determined to make the school successful.

Confirmed bachelor William Sterling also knows what is expected of him, but mistake after mistake has left him teetering on ruin's edge. As master of Eastmore Hall he owns a great deal of property --- including the land where Rosemere School is located --- but possesses little money to manage its upkeep. When debtors start calling, he is desperate to find a new source of income, even if it means sacrificing Rosemere.

When a fire threatens the school grounds, William must decide to what lengths he is willing to go to protect his birthright. And when Patience's brother returns with a new wife to take over management of the school, Patience suddenly finds herself unsure of her calling. After a surprising truth about William's past is brought to light, both William and Patience will have to seek God's plans for their lives-and their hearts.

Purchase a copy: http://ow.ly/sgVC4

Landing page: 

My thoughts:
A twenty-five year old spinster whose dashing, handsome suitor never arrived, a rich, entitled land owner who lost the love of his life and his own self respect who turned to a life of gambling to hide from the hurt, a girls boarding school being run single-handedly by a woman after the death of her father and the abrupt departure of her brother, and a mother and wife who rarely leaves her room due to her grief intersect to learn more about life and love.

Imagine, a woman being thought a spinster because she was unmarried at the age of twenty-five.  Patience Creighton declined the offer of marriage she had as a teen, thinking that love should sweep her off her feet and touch her heart deeply, but has wondered for years if she made a mistake.  If love would have come with time had she allowed herself to consider the union.  She has resigned herself to her role as Headmistress to the school and dedicated her days to her young charges.

William Sterling was raised in a privileged family with a tutor and all sorts of lessons, but since the death of his father and the loss of the woman he planned to marry, when she left him without a word, he has taken up gambling and horse racing and is on the verge of losing all his land and property, perhaps even his life, to those he owes money to.

The Creighton family has leased the school building and land from the Sterling family for years, but it isn't until one night when William is attacked by men looking to remind him of his debt that William and Patience are reacquainted.  As they get to know each other a bit more, both of their eyes are opened to possibilities. 

I love stepping  back in time and taking a look at how people lived in the past.  The proper ways men and women addressed each other and dressed for things such as mourning the loss of someone in their family.  Dowry's and servants and such.  Stepping  back into 1816 in England was a nice time.  Sometimes we all need to step back and trust that there is a path in front of us, even if we can't see it right now, and we need to believe that the obstacles we encounter are sending us off in the right direction even when they just feel like roadblocks.

Product Details

Meet the Author

About the author: Sarah E. Ladd has more than ten years of marketing experience. She is a graduate of Ball State University and holds degrees in public relations and marketing. The Heiress of Winterwood was the recipient of the 2011 Genesis Award for historical romance. Sarah lives in Indiana with her amazing husband, sweet daughter, and spunky Golden Retriever.

Learn more about Sarah at: http://sarahladd.com

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Promise Kept by Robin Lee Hatcher- Litfuse Blog Tour

  About the book: God was going to save her marriage, Allison was sure of it. But neither her husband nor her marriage had been saved.

What had become of His promise?

Tony Kavanagh had been Allison's dream-come-true. They were in love within days, engaged within weeks, married and pregnant within a year. Her cup bubbled over with joy . . . but years later, that joy had been extinguished by unexpected trials.

The day Allison issued her husband an ultimatum, she thought it might save him. She never expected he would actually leave. She was certain God had promised to heal; it was clear that she'd misunderstood.

Now, living in the quiet mountain cabin she inherited from her single, self-reliant Great Aunt Emma, Allison must come to terms with her grief and figure out how to adapt to small town life. But when she finds a wedding dress and a collection of journals in Emma's attic, a portrait of her aunt emerges that takes Allison completely by surprise: a portrait of a heartbroken woman surprisingly like herself.

As Allison reads the incredible story of Emma's life in the 1920s and 1930s, she is forced to ask a difficult question: Does she really surrender every piece of her life to the Lord?

Drawing from her own heart-wrenching story of redemption, A Promise Kept is Robin Lee Hatcher's emotionally charged thanksgiving to a God who answers prayers---in His own time and His own ways.

Purchase a copy: http://ow.ly/sK3Ti

    Meet the author: Robin is the author of 65+ novels and novellas. Her home is in Idaho, where she spends her time writing stories of faith, courage, and love; pondering the things of God; and loving her family and friends.

Learn more about Robin at: http://www.robinleehatcher.com

Landing page: 
My thoughts:  I love books where the characters find letters or diaries or journals of some sort that give them a window into the past.  It is so easy to think that our lives are so different now than they were fifty or one hundred years ago, but that often is not the case.  Many times we are struggling with or enjoying the same things.  Technology may change, but people are the same and have been looking for the same thing for many years.  We all want to belong to a family where we feel loved and secure, to have strong relationships, to have a calling that we enjoy and are able to contribute with and to be appreciated.  Allison is adrift after the end of her marriage.  She believed that her ultimatum to her husband would save him, but instead he walked away and ended their marriage.  Instead of taking their family house away from him, she gave him the house in the divorce and has moved into a cabin in a small town a hour or more away.
The small community of Kings Meadow accepts Allison unconditionally.  She makes some really good friends and starts to heal as well by long walks in the woods surrounding her new home with  her new dog, Gizmo.  Luckily her work as a graphic designer allows her to work from her new, remote location.
By joining a new church community Allison makes even more friends and connections and comes to terms with the end of her marriage.  One of the things she greatly looks forward to are visits from her daughter, who has relocated from Idaho since graduating from college fro a job in Texas.    Meredith is angry with her father for walking away from her mother, but slowly she reconnects with him and encourages her mother to spend time with him as well.
While working through her own hurts and disappointments, Allison discovers a wedding dress her great aunt saved, along with many photographs and a whole stack of diaries.  After putting the diaries in chronological order, Allison starts reading them at the beginning and finds a whole new picture of her independent great-aunt.  She resists the urge to skip ahead to find out what happened and makes herself stay with her aunts story chronologically.  Seeing her aunt work through heart ache and disappointments that she never knew about opens her up to the struggles so many people face, but don't always share with others, even those they are close to.  We all have our own path to walk and we need to trust that we are being guided as we should be, even when things don't go the way we hoped or planned. 
One passage that really stayed with  me through the book was  a conversation Allison has with a rancher.  He tells her at one point, when he was younger, he prayed to God for a certain job, and while he was disappointed at the time when the job did not pan out, he thanks God every day that He knew the right plan for him because the job would have taken him away from the community and he is so thankful that he was able to stay and allow his family to grow right where they were.  Even though he wanted a different outcome, God knew the big picture and guided him down the path that made it all happen.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen Litfuse Blog Tour

About the book: Finding himself the man of the family, London dancing master Alec Valcourt moves his mother and sister to remote Devonshire, hoping to start over. But he is stunned to learn the village matriarch has prohibited all dancing, for reasons buried deep in her past.

Alec finds an unlikely ally in the matriarch's daughter. Though he's initially wary of Julia Midwinter's reckless flirtation, he comes to realize her bold exterior disguises a vulnerable soul---and hidden sorrows of her own.

Julia is quickly attracted to the handsome dancing master---a man her mother would never approve of---but she cannot imagine why Mr. Valcourt would leave London, or why he evades questions about his past. With Alec's help, can Julia uncover old secrets and restore life to her somber village . . . and to her mother's tattered heart?

Filled with mystery and romance, The Dancing Master brings to life the intriguing profession of those who taught essential social graces for ladies and gentlemen hoping to make a "good match" in Regency England.

Purchase a copy: http://ow.ly/s7Yl1
About the author: Julie Klassen loves all things Jane---Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She is a three-time Christy Award winner and a 2010 Midwest Book Award winner for Genre Fiction. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Learn more about Julie at: http://julieklassen.com
Landing page: 
My thoughts:
I enjoyed participating in this Litfuse Blog tour and stepping back in time.  I know many people are very into Jane Austin, but somehow I have never really gotten into her books.  I was worried that that might detract from my enjoyment of this book, but it did not.  It actually made me think that perhaps I should give Jane Austin a chance again.
The pacing of this book is different than I am used to.  It moved along at a bit of a slower clip, not in a bad way, but in an unhurried meander through the lives of Alec Valcourt, who moved to the small village with his mother and sister to live with his uncle after closing the family dancing academy after his father had gone, and Julia Midwinter, heiress of the wealthiest family who is lonely and feels shut up in this area where dancing has been forbidden for the last twenty years.
Both Alec and Julia learn more about themselves, their character and their resiliency as they reach impasse after impasse with their families, the community and for Alec with his desire to open a dancing school in the village.  There is an assortment of colorful characters on hand from bullies to outlaws who liven this story up from beginning to end.
Sometimes we have to trust that our path has been laid out for us for a reason and we have to travel our way along it trusting that there is a purpose and a meaning.  The character who is most at peace with God's plan is a man who left the village in scandal twenty years ago, but has never stopped trusting and loving and believing.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Calling by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Book 2 in the Inn at Eagle Hill Series) Litfuse Blog Tour

The Calling (Inn at Eagle Hill Series #2)

About the book: Book Two in the Inn at Eagle Hill series.

Bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher delivers her trademark twists, turns, and tender romance in this delightful and exciting visit to the deceptively quiet community of Stoney Ridge.

Twenty-year-old Bethany Schrock is restless. Her love life has derailed, her faith hangs by a thread, and she is spending the incredibly hot summer days wading through a lifetime's accumulation of junk at the home of five ancient Amish sisters. About the only thing that holds her interest is the spirited and dangerously handsome Jimmy Fisher---and he seems bent on irritating her to no end.

When the sly old sisters and a guest at the Inn get Bethany involved in running the local soup kitchen and starting a community garden, she suddenly finds herself wondering, Shootfire! How did that happen? Despite her newfound purposefulness, a gnawing emptiness about a childhood mystery continues to plague her. Encouraged by Jimmy Fisher, she will seek out the answers she craves---and uncover a shocking secret that will break her heart, heal it, and point her to love.

Purchase a copy: http://ow.ly/stlG8

Read an excerpt: http://ow.ly/stlIM

My thoughts:
Bethany is prickly and standoffish, to cover up the hurt she is still reeling from.( From what I gathered through reading, in the first book she introduced a suitor to her father.  Her father then hired the man and soon after his investment business fell apart.  Later the man disappeared and her father died by drowning in the lake.)  Bethany no  longer trusts her heart and has decided that she never wants to fall in love again.

Bethany lives with  her step-mother, grandmother, a step-sister and two step brothers.  Her brother disappeared soon after the financial fiasco that ended in their father's death and the loss of their home.  In order to make money they are running an inn to bring tourists to the Amish area and Bethany is helping five elderly Amish women to organize their home.

A woman comes to stay in their guest flat, having lost her job as a youth minister and unsure of what her next step is going to be.  She is feels she has answered God's calling for her, but she has been unsuccessful so far in keeping a position as a youth minister.  Every time she has to give sermons the whole congregation at a church, she loses attention and disappoint her supervisors. but when she gets the chance to work one on one or in small groups with youth groups she shines.  She is waiting to hear from God to guide  her along her path and make a decision about her future.

Bethany feels that in cleaning for the women from her church she is thwarted at every turn.  However much she sorts into the give away or throw away boxes and stacks, the sisters move right back to save.  She can't understand why they don't have the time to clean their own house until she finds out about the work they do in the community for those in  need.  Helping those in need helps Bethany as well.  The reappearance of her brother and the knowledge that he found their long lost mother, motivates Bethany to find some answers for herself.  Why did her mother abandon them?  Why  has she never checked on them over the years?  Why couldn't her mother love her?

In helping others, finding answers to old questions and hurts, and allowing the notion of being in love to enter her life again Bethany starts to change and grow.  She starts to listen to her heart and to her own calling, so she can move forward for herself and her family.

Landing page: 

Meet the author: Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of the Inn at Eagle Hill series, Lancaster County Secrets series, and the Stoney Ridge Seasons series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. She is also the coauthor of a new Amish children's series, The Adventures of Lily Lapp. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne is a Carol Award winner and a Christy Award finalist. She is a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazines. She lives in California. Get Amish proverbs delivered right to your mobile device! Download the Free App! http://bit.ly/10Tygyi

Learn more about Suzanne at: http://suzannewoodsfisher.com

After Dead: What Came Next in the World of Sookie Stackhouse by Charlaine Harris

After Dead: What Came Next in the World of Sookie Stackhouse

Overview from Barnes and Noble:

Dead Ever After marked the end of the Sookie Stackhouse novels—a series that garnered millions of fans and spawned the hit HBO television show True Blood. It also stoked a hunger that will never die, …a hunger to know what happened next.

With characters arranged alphabetically—from the Ancient Pythoness to Bethany Zanelli—bestselling author Charlaine Harris takes fans into the future of their favorite residents of Bon Temps and environs. You’ll learn how Michele and Jason’s marriage fared, what happened to Sookie’s cousin Hunter, and whether Tara and JB’s twins grew up to be solid citizens.

This coda provides the answers to your lingering questions—including details of Sookie’s own happily-ever-after….
The book features extensive interior art by acclaimed Sookie artist Lisa Desimini, including a Sookieverse Alphabet, color endpapers, and several full-page black and white interior illustrations.
My thoughts:
This was a nice, quick read about many, if not all, of the characters from the series.  There were many mentioned here that I had forgotten or couldn't even remember, but it was nice to see what Harris foresaw for the main characters in the future.  After all the pain and heartache Sookie went through in the thirteen books of the series, I liked knowing that she was getting her happily ever after.  I wonder if True Blood will be as kind to her when it ends at the conclusion of next season.  I read a lot of complaints on how short the book was and how lacking in details is was, but that worked for me.  I like having a short reference to what happened to people, but also to have the chance to imagine some of the details for myself if I feel like it.  You can read the basics, but you can allow yourself to fill in the blanks to your own liking if you so please. 

Product Details

Monday, January 20, 2014

It's Monday, what are you reading?

I completed my first book of the year challenge extension this week.  I wanted to read the rest of the books in Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series.  This week I finished book thirteen as well as the after book that updated readers on what happened to all the characters after the series ended.  Here is what I read this week:

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris
After Dead by Charlaine Harris
The Heist by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

I was a little sad to see Sookie's world come to an end, but I also like how Harris showed the future working out for most of the characters.  It felt just about right.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dead Ever After(Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire Series #13) by Charlaine Harris

Dead Ever After (Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire Series #13)

Overview from Barnes and Noble:

When a shocking murder rocks Bon Temps, Sookie will learn that what passes for the truth is only a convenient lie. What passes for justice is more spilled blood. And what passes for love is never enough...

For Sookie Stackhouse, refusing to rehire Arlene Fowler at Merlotte's was a no-brainer: The former barmaid, after all, had tried to have Sookie crucified. The whole story became infinitely more complicated, however, when Arlene turned up dead and the police quite logically tagged our Bon Temps telepath as the culprit. To wiggle her way out of the homicide charges, Sookie must find the real murderer even as she attempting to solve some very vexatious issues in her personal life.

My thoughts:
Harris does a nice job revisiting a lot of old characters to show how they are doing and what they are up to.  While the story of course revolves around Sookie, you get some glimpses into other characters who have shared page space with her.

I was a bit worried about how it would all come together and if the ending would feel right.  I wondered how Harris could take the whirlwind ride that Sookie has been on for twelve books and find a way to end it all.  Every book seemed to find Sookie in some kind of danger or experiencing something for the first time, but what was there left for her to do for the first time?  I was satisfied with how it all came together throughout the book and in the end.  I know some other readers were not as happy with the ending, but I really was satisfied. 

Sookie has been through a whole lot in the last twelve books and is completely floored when the woman who participated in an attempted plot to have her killed walks into the bar to ask for a job.  It simply does not make sense that Arlene is no longer behind bars.  Then when Arlene is found dead and Sookie is arrested things start to turn frantic.  With a houseful of guest who hope to help her, including some part demons, witches and a telepath, things just get weirder and weirder.  I was surprised by some of the characters who reappeared, who I had thought the story was through with.

Product Details

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Saturday Snapshot- Gingerbread house!

 We were a little late making our annual gingerbread house, but this year I really stepped back and let the kids make it their way.
 We did it the week after Christmas, when we were lucky enough to be able to get one for fifty percent off!
They had fun making it and eating it.  I have to admit it was less stressful to just let them do their own thing!

Friday, January 17, 2014

OMG...Am I a Witch?! Book Giveaway!

The author of this book has generously offered to send out on autographed copy to the winner of this giveaway.  I will randomly select one winner from whoever enters and will then email the winner for the address the book should be sent to.  In order to qualify you need to have a mailing address in the US or Canada.  Please enter with your email address and I will have my children pick a number between one and whatever number we get to to select the winner, very scientific I know, but I like to involve them when I can, especially when the giveaway is a children's book.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

OMG...Am I a Witch? by Talia Aikens-Nunez TLC Book Tours

Overview from Barnes and Noble:

April Appleton is so annoyed at her older brother that she searches the Internet for a spell to turn him into a dog. When the spell works, April realizes she has more powers than she ever dreamed of! Now she has to figure out how to turn him back to normal before her parents find out. She has little time, but with help from her friends Grace and Eve she finds a book of magic that will hopefully reverse the spell. Will it work, and will April's newfound magic save the day?

My thoughts:
This was a cute chapter book for kids.  It is easy to get annoyed with siblings, but harder to learn to think before saying or doing something you might regret.  April learns the hard way when she gets mad at her brother on the bus for teasing her about her glasses and changes him into a dog!  With the help of her friends, the Internet and an actual regular old book the girls look for a way out of the situations.

I think kids could easily relate to the characters and their struggles and it goes well with the love so many of them have for Harry Potter and magic.  What child hasn't dreamed of the possibility of being able to make things happen magically!  It was a fun, quick read.

Authors Website: http://talia-aikens-nunez.vpweb.com/

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780985424855
  • Publisher: Pinwheel Books
  • Publication date: 10/31/2013
  • Pages: 150


Sunday, January 12, 2014

It's Monday, What are you reading?

With the weather being what it has been for the last week my family spent a lot of time at home, so I actually managed to find more reading time than usual!  I know that is bound to change, but it was a nice chance to curl up with some books and get lost in other people's lives.  Here is what I finished this week, some of the reviews are scheduled for later in the  month for book tours so they haven't posted yet, but I think I have written a post for all the finished books on this list!

The Dancing Master by Julia Klassen
Christmas Bliss by Mary Kay Andrews
OMG..Am I A Witch by Talia Aikens Nunez
The Calling by Suzanne Woods Fisher

This is hosted by Shelia at BookJourney.  You can check her blog for the full list of bloggers participating this week.

Christmas Bliss by Mary Kay Andrews

Christmas Bliss

Overview from Barnes and Noble:

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and Savannah was breezy
But there's trouble afoot - and it's heading toward Weezie.
Seems BeBe’s been holding a big secret back
that would make Santa’s reindeer stop dead in their tracks.
Can these two best friends wriggle out of these twists?
Will they do it in time to ensure CHRISTMAS BLISS?
Return to the wonderful world of Mary Kay Andrews' Savannah with Christmas Bliss.

My thoughts:
I love Christmas books and picked this one up from the new book shelf at the library.  I didn't realize it was going to be about established characters because, odd confession here, I don't read book jackets or back covers.  I really almost never do, I pick out books based on covers, or authors that I know, or good buzz I saw about them on other people's blogs or advertising, but I don't read a synopsis until after I've read the book.  This is in the same way that I watch very few previews for movies because I want to all to be new, I don't want to know ahead of time what is going to happen to the characters, I want it to be a surprise.

I enjoyed spending the week before Christmas with Weezie and BeBe and seeing all the issues they had going on in their lives leading up to a wedding and the impending arrival of a new baby.  I wish I would have read the other book or books first to see how they got to this point in their lives, but even not having read them the book gave enough background information that it easily stood on it's own.

Weezie's antique store and her shopping at estate sales and such made me want to go look for treasures at yard sales, except I wouldn't have any good idea what things were worth and I already have enough junk in my house!  It was a nice Christmas read, even though I read it after Christmas, showing people coming together and being family and working together.

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250019721
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2013
  • Pages: 304

Meet the Author

Mary Kay Andrews
MARY KAY ANDREWS is The New York Times bestselling author of Ladies’ Night, Spring Fever, Summer Rental, The Fixer Upper, Deep Dish, Blue Christmas, Savannah Breeze, Hissy Fit, Little Bitty Lies, and Savannah Blues. A former journalist for The Atlanta Journal Constitution, she lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Saturday Snapshot- Soap!

 Over winter break my children and I made soap.  We started with a kit and then went to the craft store to buy  more materials and to get  more creative.  We used some of our creations as Christmas gifts for family and friends.
Skull soap might seem odd for Christmas time, but we were having fun being creative.
 These were actually our first attempt, but we decided we made the blue too intense and the skulls look almost more like aliens than skulls!
 We tried adding some sea creatures to some as well.
 They had fun playing with the colors for seashells to  make them look more or less realistic.
And these are a bunch of the other creations we tried, either following direction online or in the kit or just experimenting on our own.  It was a lot of fun and I like that we were able to give gifts that my children shared in making and creating.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Arthur Turns Green by Marc Brown

Arthur Turns Green

Overview from Barnes and Noble:

Celebrated author/illustrator Marc Brown revisits his beloved bestselling character in the first new Arthur picture book in almost ten years!
Arthur comes home from school and begins sneaking around the house, taking notes and talking about a Big Green Machine. D.W. is suspicious of her brother's weird behavior, but when Arthur shows up late for dinner with green hands, she really gets the creeps! But it turns house Arthur is making a poster listing all the ways to save energy at home--and go green!
Just in time for Earth Day, this heartwarming story will be printed on recycled paper with soy based ink.
My thoughts:
I love Arthur!  When  I first started taking classes in college to become a teacher I recall coming across one of his books and using it when I was student teaching.  I read books regularly to my students and even wrote in to join his club.  You got a form letter back from the author and some reproducibles.  I even had two stuffed Arthur's!  I was excited to come across a new book at the library last week and my youngest has enjoyed reading it over and over again.
Arthur and his class are exploring ways they can make a difference to the planet and work towards some of the ideals for Earth Day.  Turning off lights, shorter showers, recycling, reusing, unplugging chargers when done and more are all simple things that children can help with and participate by doing.  I loved the way the story unfolded and think this will be a great read, especially when Earth Day rolls around this spring.

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316129237
  • Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
  • Publication date: 3/4/2014
  • Series: Arthur Adventures Series
  • Pages: 32

Meet the Author

Marc Brown
Marc Brown is the creator of the bestselling Arthur Adventure book series and creative producer of the number-one children's PBS television series, Arthur. He has also created a second book series featuring D.W., Arthur's little sister, as well as numerous other books for children. Marc Brown lives with his family in Tisbury, Martha's Vineyard.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Under the Dome [TV Series]

Under the Dome [TV Series]

Overview from Barnes and Noble:

This intense release from the landmark sci-fi series Under the Dome includes all 13 episodes of the show, following the story of a small town suddenly cut off from the rest of the world by the appearance of a giant, transparent dome.
My thoughts:
I borrowed this from our local library thinking it was a miniseries and it would be once and done.  I wasn't looking to get hooked on another series, I just thought it would be Stephen King's book broken into a miniseries.  I won't give any spoilers, but it turns out there is going to be another season of the show, so the last episode leaves you hanging.
I used to read Stephen King's books, but I stopped years ago.  I had trouble with some of the elements and they tended to creep me out or give me nightmares, honest to goodness nightmares, so I stopped picking his books up.  He has a great imagination, but I felt he wasn't a good fit for me as a reader.  This series got a lot of hype last summer and I was interested in seeing it, but I tend to be not all that great about remembering to watch shows when they are on so it never happened.
This was enjoyable and suspenseful.  Some of the characters who seem like they would be the good guy or the bad guy on the outside are something else inside.  There is a lot of fear and distrust and it shows a town, trapped under a dome or a bubble who start to panic.  Nothing can get to them from outside and they can't get out.  They will eventually run out of food and medicine, their trained doctors for the most part were trapped on the outside, and riots break out.  People get hurt, people die, some townspeople rise above it and others show their true colors.  My favorite character was Dale "Barbie" Barbara.  I think there is a lot more to him than we have seen so far.  Parts of the series reminded me of the old movie Solarbabies with the hoarding of resources and magical items.  I guess next summer, if that is when this series resumes, I will have to make the time to watch it to find out what happens next for all these trapped people.

Product Details

  • Release Date: 11/5/2013
  • UPC: 097368050044
  • Original Release: 2013
  • Rating:
  • Source: PARAMOUNT
  • Region Code: 1
  • Presentation: Widescreen
  • Time: 9:01:00
  • Format: DVD

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm by Mardi Jo Link (audio)

Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm

Overview from Barnes and Noble:

Poignant, irreverent, and hilarious: a memoir about survival and self-discovery, by an indomitable woman who never loses sight of what matters most. 

It’s the summer of 2005, and Mardi Jo Link’s dream of living the simple life has unraveled into debt, heartbreak, and perpetually ragged cuticles. She and her husband of nineteen years have just called it quits, leaving her with serious cash-flow problems and a looming divorce. More broke than ever, Link makes a seemingly impossible resolution: to hang on to her century-old farmhouse in northern Michigan and continue to raise her three boys on well water and wood chopping and dirt. Armed with an unfailing sense of humor and three resolute accomplices, Link confronts blizzards and foxes, learns about Zen divorce and the best way to butcher a hog, dominates a zucchini-growing contest and wins a year’s supply of local bread, masters the art of bargain cooking, wrangles rampaging poultry, and withstands any blow to her pride in order to preserve the life she wants.

With an infectious optimism that would put Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm to shame and a deep appreciation of the natural world, Link tells the story of how, over the course of one long year, she holds on to her sons, saves the farm from foreclosure, and finds her way back to a life of richness and meaning on the land she loves. 

My thoughts:
I was ready for a memoir and there is just something about memoirs by everyday people that makes them feel more real and closer to home.  Mardi and her husband are in the process of divorcing and, instead of taking the easy way and selling the farm, Mardi decides she wants to hold onto the way of life she envisioned for herself and her sons. 

She wants to keep the farm, teach her sons how to do farm chores that include both growing food in the ground and taking care of animals, and continue on as she always dreamed.  But a lot of stuff gets in her way.  Animals come and go, they die in accidents, to be used as food and are attacked by other animals.  She juggles debts and falls behind and does things over and over to make their meager finances stretch a little further.  Having a lot of unexpected squash in a field, she devises recipes to use it for meal after meal.  Day old bread, dented cans, eggs from a neighboring farm, all sorts of cuts of meat from a hog they raised to be butchered (belly bacon anyone?) all keep her family fed.

Through all the ups and down, and there are quite a few roadblocks and downs along her year long journey, Mardi keeps her spirits up, or her "dobbers" as her family saying goes and keeps moving forward.  Found firewood, Goodwill shopping sprees, contest winning zucchini for bread gift cards, electric blankets and pecking chickens all come together to make both Mardi and her three sons stronger and more resilient people.  Through all the bad that comes at her, Mardi maintains the hope and belief that they will preserver and come through better on the other side. 

I very much enjoyed hearing Mardi's journey from beginning to end.

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307596918
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/11/2013
  • Pages: 272

Meet the Author

Mardi Jo Link is the author of When Evil Came to Good Hart (2008) and Isadore’s Secret (2009), winner of the Michigan Notable Book Award. She lives with her family on a small farm in northern Michigan.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Breaking Bad: The Complete Series

Breaking Bad: The Complete Series

Overview from Barnes and Noble:

This hard hitting release from the landmark drama Breaking Bad includes all 62 episodes of the show, following the epic story of a cancer ridden teacher who, in desperation, discovers his uncanny talents in the horrifying world of meth.
My thoughts:
Last month my husband and I decided to give this series a try.  We borrowed it season by season from the library and binge watched the shows.  In just a few weeks we watched all but the last eight episdoes, which the library did not have.  Then AMC ran a marathon of all the episodes so we were able to watch the last eight, if we were willing to start after 6pm and not finish until after 3 am.  We did it, but I felt horrible the next day as our children still got up at normal time and I will admit that I need much more sleep than that to feel like myself!
Watching Walt evolve from a frustrated chemistry teacher  who is turning fifty and has been diagnosed with cancer to a meth cooker laundering money and hiding his secret life from his family was engrossing and scary at the same time.  How much of himself was Walt hiding even prior to becoming a cooker and dealer?  How could one character go through so many changes in such a short time?  Was it really because he was afraid he would leave his family unable to support themselves after his death?  How had such a promising chemist with such big ideas have ended up as a teacher?  Do teachers in New Mexico really get paid $43,000 per year?
I enjoyed seeing the scenery in the desert as it reminds me of the time my family spent in that area, but the drug culture and taking and making of drugs was scary to me.  I'm not sure how I feel about binge watching so much in such a short period of time as well.  I think having seen this story over the course of time it was aired might have made the changes seem less sudden but I am glad we gave this series a chance.  It was very well done!             

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Deadlocked (Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire Series #12) by Charlaine Harris

Deadlocked (Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire Series #12)

Overview from Barnes and Noble:

It's vampire politics as usual around the town of Bon Temps, but never before have they hit so close to Sookie's heart...

Growing up with telepathic abilities, Sookie Stackhouse realized early on there were things she'd rather not know. And now that she's an adult, she also realizes that some things she knows about, she'd rather not see—like Eric Northman feeding off another woman. A younger one.

There's a thing or two she'd like to say about that, but she has to keep quiet—Felipe de Castro, the Vampire King of Louisiana (and Arkansas and Nevada), is in town. It's the worst possible time for a human body to show up in Eric's front yard—especially the body of the woman whose blood he just drank.

Now, it's up to Sookie and Bill, the official Area Five investigator, to solve the murder. Sookie thinks that, at least this time, the dead girl's fate has nothing to do with her. But she is wrong. She has an enemy, one far more devious than she would ever suspect, who's set out to make Sookie's world come crashing down.

My thoughts:
So far I am very on track with my goal for the new year of getting to the end of this series and I am getting so wrapped up in Sookie's world.  I spent a good part of the snow day we had on Friday reading under a cozy a blanket.  It was a good day for it as we decided after shoveling out that we were just going to stay home.  It was like a mini-vacation day!

Things seem to be speeding towards their conclusion in the next book.  Eric has been put in a tough spot by his maker, Bill still says he loves Sookie, the fairies and fae are up to something and gathered together at Hooligan's, people seem to be aware of the gift Sookie discovered from her dead fae grandfather and they want it.

I think I am going to be a bit sad when I actually reach the end, knowing that the series is supposedly complete.  I do know there are short stories out there that I will be able to find and there is a small book that comes after book thirteen, I guess to wrap things up, but up until now I always knew there were more books to read.  With also knowing that the True Blood series will be wrapping up it seems like Sookie is just going to disappear.  At the same time, I have managed to avoid reading spoilers about what is going to happen and the longer I go the more likely I will accidentally stumble upon something that gives things away.

This book gave a much more complete account of the hierarchy of the fae and the fairies and the way the Long Tooth Were pack operates, it closed up some questions perhaps in anticipation of the conclusion in the next book.  I hate spoilers, so I am not going to put any in here.  Now I need to decide if I can wait until later this month to borrow the checked out copy of the next book from the library or if I will use my Christmas gift card to buy it!

Product Details

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Saturday Snapshot- Lights!

 One of the traditions my family has enjoyed for quite a few years is going to a nearby Christmas light village.
 When you come upon it from the road it is such a great sight, with lights spread out in front of you and reflecting off of a pond.
 Some people even prefer to just drive by and see it from the road instead of walking through it, but my children enjoy walking through and seeing all the lights up close.
There are lots of decorated windows with scenes behind them and places to buy snacks and hot chocolate or visit Santa.

We went last month and had a really nice time walking around.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire Series #11) by Charlaine Harris

Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire Series #11)

Overview from Barnes and Noble:

With her knack for being in trouble's way, Sookie witnesses the firebombing of Merlotte's, the bar where she works. Since Sam Merlotte is now known to be two-natured, suspicion falls immediately on the anti-shifters in the area. Sookie suspects otherwise, but her attention is divided when she realizes that her lover, Eric Northman, and his "child" Pam are plotting to kill the vampire who is now their master. Gradually, Sookie is drawn into the plot-which is much more complicated than she knows...

My thoughts:
My second book of the year is another Sookie Stackhouse novel.  I am working towards my goal of finishing the series and finding out what happens to wrap things up in this small town!  The firebombing of Merlotte's sets off the grim circumstances our characters are finding themselves in.  Business has already been bad at the bar due to the opening of a new restaurant nearby along with t eh protesters from a church who have been coming out against the two natured members of society.  Fangtasia, Eric's club, is also feeling a decline in patronage due to the opening of a Vampire club in the area as well.

Firebombing, well meaning friends, jealousy in the nearby Were pack, complicated blood bonds and new and old enemies pop into play.  Sookie really wonders how much of the love she feels for Eric is real and how much has to do with them being bonded by blood.  She also knows he is keeping something from her, something Pam wants him to share, but he is unwilling to let her in making her feel less like his Vampire wife than he would like.

In cleaning out her attic, with the help of her fairy "cousin" and great uncle, Sookie discovers something her grandmother left for her that sheds a light on the past and opens up some new questions.  I think it gives Sookie a bit of closure on how her grandmother could have been unfaithful to her husband with a fae to begin with and helps her to see her grandmother as the loving, yet flawed person, she was prior to her death.

I'm not sure anyone is going to be the same after the way things go down in this book.  Relationships that seem strong and promising are dealt some blows, and some of the more questionable ones may not last.  Again, I know Harris must be building up to something, but I am still not sure where this will all lead.

Product Details