Friday, December 2, 2016

Book Review: "To Have and To Hold" by Betsy St. Amant, Becky Wade, & Katie Ganshert



"Love Takes the Cake" by Betsy St. Amant:
Charlotte Cantrell is drawn to Will Martin and looks forward to his weekly visits to her bakery shop. The only problem, he's there to buy cookies for another woman. She already went through being "the other woman" and won't do it again. When she is hired to bake the goodies for the wedding and the parties preceding it, she gets the chance to get to know Will better. Is he the one God has for her? 

I liked how Betsy St. Amant set up the story so that Charlotte and Will had gotten to know each other through small talk during his visits to the bakery before the story even started. It gave them more time to develop their relationship so it didn't seem as rushed. Both Will and Charlotte worked out things from their pasts that they were holding onto, allowing them to move forward. I liked watching their relationship grow.

"The Perfect Arrangement" by Katie Ganshert:
 Amelia Woods runs a small town florist, which she loves. She's only had one boyfriend and they broke up four years ago. She decides to drive by the church on the day of his wedding to spy on the proceedings. Being distracted, she rear ends another car, owned by handsome wedding guest Nate Gallagher. When Amelia sees something that upsets her about her brother's girlfriend, she sends a frantic email to her best friend, only to accidentally send it to Nate instead.

"The Perfect Arrangement" has a definite "You've Got Mail" feel to it with the hero and heroine writing emails to each other (other than the fact that Amelia and Nate had meet, albeit briefly, before they started emailing). The story was cute and fun and quick to read. There wasn't really any spiritual content, but the story was clean with no physical contact other than holding hands and kissing. 

"Love in the Details" by Becky Wade:
Holly Morgan broke up with Josh Bowen eight years ago.  She thought she had dealt with the heartache of losing him , but when he comes to town to help plan his best friend's wedding, she isn't prepared for the old feelings to come flooding back.  Josh has had eight months to prepare himself for seeing Holly again and he only has to make it through a month without telling Holly how he feels. Will he make it?

I enjoyed reading "Love in the Details"  I felt like I was holding my breath waiting for Holly and Josh to get back together, even though I knew they were going to (since they were the main characters!).  The characters grew through the book and spoke of following God.  Novellas are fast paced, but nice for reading in a short amount of time.

"To Have and To Hold" is available in paperback:

  • Series: A Year of Weddings Novella
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan; Reprint edition (August 30, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310395933
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310395935
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches

and in Kindle edition:

  • File Size: 2979 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 5 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: Zondervan (August 30, 2016)
  • Publication Date: August 30, 2016
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01863JLI4

I got a free copy of this book from Booklookbloggers. All thoughts and opinions are my own and given voluntarily. No compensation was received.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

My Day of Babysitting

Emily asked me to watch her toys today. She told me that I needed to "do things" with them. This is a picture record of our day.

First, they wanted to play in the sleigh
Then they made some coffee for me




Stirring in the cream and sugar

They wanted to try my coffee

Next, they helped me make lunch by scrubbing potatoes

Then they each had to take a turn cutting the potatoes



Next, they helped stir in the seasonings 



They decided we should make a dessert


I had to help add the sugar as it was too heavy

They thought the cocoa would taste good, but realized it didn't

They also each helped with the mixer


They wanted to smell the vanilla as is the tradition in our family


Sampling the nuts

and the chocolate chips

Making sure it tastes yummy

Watching while I pour it into the pan

They offered to wash the dishes, but I told them we could wait

We checked out Facebook while we waited for lunch to cook

We ate lunch

and dessert

They helped brainstorm ideas for my book

They were sleepy, so they took a nap

When they got up, they read a book

They then played some Minecraft


Finally, they watched for Emily to get home.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Month in Review: November

I don't really have much to post about. I read my Bible most days. I think I forgot 3 or 4 days. I didn't knit any hats, tat any bookmarks, sew any monkeys, sculpt any babies. I was busy, just not doing any of those things! I did write some, though, and got 649 words. That seems like such a small amount, but it is more than I've been doing. Baby steps, I guess. (hopefully)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Book Review: "Blue Ribbon Trail Ride" by Miralee Ferrell



Kate wants her autistic brother to be able to go to a special camp, so she and her friends come up with a way to raise money-a horse scavenger hunt. When the antique box containing the entry fees goes missing, they need to solve the mystery of who took it otherwise Pete and the other kids can't go to camp after all.

"Blue Ribbon Trail Ride" is the 4th book in the 'Horse and Friends' series of middle grade books. You could read this book alone, but you get so much more out of it if you read the series in order. Kate and her friends don't always do things the way they maybe should, but they learn from their mistakes. I liked how they prayed for the person who stole the box and realized that God was in control and not them. The mystery of who took the antique box was well done and not one easily solved. I am glad that there is another book in the series to continue the story of Kate and her friends.

"Blue Ribbon Trail Ride" is available in paperback:
  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Series: Horses and Friends (Book 4)
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: David C. Cook (January 1, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1434707369
  • ISBN-13: 978-1434707369
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 7.5 inches

and in Kindle edition:
  • File Size: 5661 KB
  • Print Length: 210 pages
  • Publisher: David C. Cook (January 1, 2016)
  • Publication Date: January 1, 2016
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0143VT5MA

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own and no compensation was received.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Book Review, Tour, and Giveaway: "Finding Margo" by Jen Turano

About the Book

Click to pre-order
Click to purchase
Off the charts and on the run.
International pop star Margo Hartman could use a night off. A grueling tour and overbearing entourage have sent her over the edge. It’s time for this diva to disappear. And who would think to look for the superstar in a small town in Ohio?
Sheriff’s deputy Brock Moore is undercover as well. He knows Margo isn’t who she appears to be, but her uncanny resemblance to a local Amish woman is raising all sorts of questions . . . the kinds that make her a target for a killer.
Both are determined to find answers, but their mutual attraction stands in the way of either of them doing it alone. Is finding Margo the solution to Brock’s problems or the just the beginning . . . ?

My Thoughts

I have never read a book by Jen Turano and found this book to be one I didn't want to put down. Jen Turano writes in a way that is unique to her and I found it to be a wonderful diversion. I also haven't read a book with a similar story line. The book is full of interesting characters which I enjoyed. The book has romance, suspense, mystery, and humor. The book ends with a happily-ever-after, and while some of the answers are discovered, there is the over arcing mystery of what exactly happened and who was involved in the abduction of the three amish children. I look forward to reading the other books in this series (Finding Home) when they come out.

About the Author

img_1634aUSA Today best-selling author Jen Turano writes contemporary and historical romances with quirky characters and unusual storylines. Just outside Denver, Colorado, Jen and her husband live as empty-nesters, and they do so fabulously. Contact Jen at jenturano.com.

Guest Post from Jen Turano

The Making of “Finding Margo”
By Jen Turano
To say that my entrance into the publishing world was a tad difficult is certainly an understatement.  My very first attempt at writing was centered around a middle grade book, specifically written for my son who was in the third grade at the time.  After finishing that, and sending it out to all of five companies, none of whom represented middle grade, I then moved on to young adult with a little more interest sent my way, but no success story to report in the end.  Not one to embrace the idea of complete and utter failure, I then tried my hand at a contemporary romance, moved on to what I assumed was a delightful regency romance, but one that turned out to be not that delightful, at least according to numerous agents, and finally landed on gilded age stories, filled with quirky heroines.  That is when I finally received my very first publishing contract, which then saw me catapulted into the very weird world of publishing.  After completing the second gilded age story of my two-book contract, I found myself with some time on my hands as I waited to see if anyone would read my stories, which might then result in an offer of additional book contracts.  As I waited, I decided I might as well keep writing, so decided to try another contemporary story, although my agent at that time suggested I try to write an Amish book since she had numerous requests from publishers for those specific books.
Because my writing voice is not what anyone might consider normal, I really didn’t believe I’d be able to do justice to an authentic Amish story.  Because of that, I settled on the idea of writing a contemporary romantic suspense, being a huge fan of that genre.  I had a vague notion of exploring a theme centered around a dog walker who might stumble on a body while walking her pack of dogs, or perhaps have a storyline that centered around a makeup artist who witnessed a crime while setting out her makeup for a client, but those ideas went straight away when I pulled out the vacuum one fine day.
Vacuuming, as well as staining the deck, cleaning the shower, and power-washing the garage, are my go-to activities when I need to get the muse working right before I start a first draft. On that particular day, as I pushed the vacuum around the house, I suddenly had the most intriguing idea – an idea that started off with two delightful little words…What…and…If.
That was all it took for a premise to begin festering through my mind, a fester that grew into this – What if three Amish children were stolen straight out of their beds, never to be seen or heard from again until… Now here’s where it gets interesting.  I decided to have a woman by the name of Margo Hartman, an international superstar no less, stumble into this small Ohio town quite by accident, and…she happens to bear an uncommon resemblance to an Amish woman who lives in this town.  To add an addition sense of intrigue, someone immediately begins trying their very best to kill poor Margo.
By the time I was done vacuuming, the storyline for “Finding Margo” was firmly cemented in my mind, which translates into Jen had no choice other than to write the story.  However, before my agent at that time found a home for the manuscript, I signed another contract for more gilded age books, which meant I did not have the time to commit to what was certainly going to have to be a three-book series since, well, there were three Amish children who’d gone missing.
Fast forward around five years and I found myself a little ahead of schedule at exactly the right time.  There was a new publishing house in town, my current agent remembered me talking about this quirky book I’d written long ago, and as luck would have it, I found the flash drive that’s been home to “Finding Margo” for all these years.
Since my writing style has certainly changed since I first wrote Margo’s story, I ended up rewriting the entire book, and I must say that I’m still just as intrigued with the storyline as I was when it popped to mind while vacuuming what seems like ages ago.  I’m just tickled to death that Margo Hartman has finally found her way out of a flash drive and onto the pages of a book.  I’m hoping readers will enjoy her as much as I enjoyed writing her.
Thank you so much for taking the time to visit with me today, and for supporting my books over the years.  I cannot properly express how important all my readers have become to me, and I’m incredibly thankful for every one of you.  You’ve brightened up my life and without you, well, I wouldn’t have anyone to share the stories that always seem to rumble around my mind.
God bless!
~ Jen ~

Blog Stops

November 17: Book by Book
November 17: cherylbbookblog
November 18: A Reader’s Brain
November 18: I Hope You Dance
November 18: Blogging with Carol
November 19: ASC Book Reviews
November 19: Bibliophile Reviews
November 19: Books,Dreams,Life
November 20: Lighthouse Academy
November 20: Karen Sue Hadley
November 20: Back Porch Reads
November 21: Genesis 5020
November 21: 100 Pages per Hour
November 22: Pause for Tales
November 22: Quiet Quilter
November 22: Bigreadersite
November 23: Just Commonly
November 23: A Greater Yes
November 23: D’S QUILTS & BOOKS
November 24: Smiling Book Reviews
November 24: Ashley’s Bookshelf
November 25: inklings and notions
November 26: Daysong Reflections
November 26: The Scribbler
November 26: Blossoms and Blessings
November 28: The Power of Words
November 28: Reader’s Cozy Corner
November 29: Faithfully Bookish
November 29: Christian Bookaholic
November 30: A Northern Belle

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Jen is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card and signed copies of her book! Click the link below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post to claim your nine entries on the giveaway!
"Finding Margo" is available in paperback:
  • Series: Finding Home (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Gilead Publishing (November 15, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1683700058
  • ISBN-13: 978-1683700050
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches

or Kindle edition:
  • File Size: 2403 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Gilead Publishing (November 15, 2016)
  • Publication Date: November 15, 2016
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01KIRR2JG
I received a free copy of this book. I have given my own opinions freely and without coercion. No compensation was received. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Book Review, Blog Tour, and Giveaway: "Christmas Lights by Vikki Kestell, Cathe Swanson, April Hayman, & Chautona Havig

About the Book




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Four novellas in a variety of genres—that’s all they are. Just four stories to quiet your heart and soul as you embrace the beauty of the Christmas season. Inside, you’ll find Vikki Kestell’s historical romance and a reminder that the Lord’s plans are always just what we need. You’ll be introduced to Cathe Swanson’s unlikely romance about a woman who sets out to do one good deed and is drawn into the lives of a cast of eccentric elderly people. You’ll meet April Hayman and her southern madcap mystery featuring an FBI agent, a con artist or two, and a few eccentric elderly people of her own. And you’ll find Chautona Havig’s Christian fiction novella that blends comedy, suspense, with a garnish of romance.
In the hope that through these Christmas stories your heart will be lightened and brightened, we offer you this collection. Merry Christmas! And a happy, light read!

The Heart of Joy (Vikki Kestell): Joy Michaels, grieving mother and widow, resides in an aging but remarkable Denver home known locally as Palmer House: a most extraordinary refuge for young women rescued from prostitution. Joy and her mother, Rose Thoresen, share the responsibilities of ministering to and mentoring the young women who live under Palmer House’s roof.

But now Joy faces an agonizing decision: Remain true to the memory of her first love or open her heart to the possibility of new love? And she wonders, “Can true, enduring love happen twice in a lifetime?”

Snow Angels (Cathe Swanson): When Lisa Marsh is roped into serving Thanksgiving dinner at the local community center, she meets lively teenagers, stubbornly independent veterans, eccentric elderly people, and one particularly rude and scruffy homeless man named Pete. She sets out to find him a decent job and make him respectable—whether he likes it or not—but her small project of helping Pete snowballs into an extraordinary Christmas ministry. And the vagabond can be very charming when he wants to be...

Trip the Light Fantastic (April Hayman): Lance “Trip” Devereaux is an FBI agent tasked with the nearly impossible job of tailing and, hopefully, arresting Landry Crawford, the wiliest conman east of the Mississippi River. But during his investigation, things go horribly wrong for the klutzy G-man. Will Trip nab his man in time for Christmas? Or will he be left out in the cold?

Christmas Stalkings (Chautona Havig): Wendy Nabity is known for her superfluity of cats and her “seven-tree obsession” every Christmas—but when strange things happen around her house, it appears someone is out to get her! Revel in comedy, suspense, and a garnish of romance.

My Thoughts
"The Heart of Joy" by Vikki Kestell:
I felt a little lost as to what was going on with Joy's missing son, but discovered that Joy was introduced in a book called "Joy on This Mountain", so I am guessing I would have known what happened if I had read it first. I liked Joy and Edmund and their desire to follow God's leading. The story didn't flow as well as some for me.

"Snow Angels" by Cathe Swanson:
I enjoyed reading this story. I was a bit confused at first when Lisa mentions Lee as I had no idea who he was.  There was a nice Christian thread running through the story and Lisa, in particular, grows a lot from the beginning of the story. It was interesting to read about the ministries offered at the community center in the book.


"Trip the Light Fantastic" by April Hayman:
This story wasn't what I expected in that it wasn't a romance. It had moments that made me think of the old Laurel and Hardy movies with Trip's clumsiness. There is a small hint of romance towards the end of the book, but that is not the main emphasis. I'm not sure what genre I'd classify this story. I liked Trip and was glad that he found the peace he was looking for.


"Christmas Stalkings" by Chautona Havig:

I think this was my favorite story in the book. I understood Neal's behavior almost right away, but wasn't 100% about who Wendy's home invader was, although I had a little bit of an inkling. I'm not really a "cat person", but I enjoyed Wendy and her interactions with her feline friends. I'm glad to know that there is a "sequel" to finish the rest of the story. I have a feeling it will have more romance in it.

I have not read anything from any of these authors and it is always fun to find new authors. I also like collections of novellas as you can read them faster if you don't have as much time.

About the Author

vikkiVikki Kestell is the author of the acclaimed inspirational series, A Prairie Heritage—a compelling saga of family, faith, and great courage. Vikki’s contribution to this collection, The Heart of Joy, asks, “Can true, enduring love happen twice in a lifetime?”


catheimageCathe Swanson: Author of contemporary mystery and romantic suspense, Cathe brings us Snow Angels – an entertaining companion novella and introduction to her upcoming Great Lakes series.



april-portraitApril Hayman: Author of Heirlooms of Deception series, debuts with a novella featuring mystery, humor, and “divine intervention.”




chautonaChautona Havig: Author of the Amazon bestselling Aggie’s Inheritance, Past Forward, and HearthLand series, Chautona brings humor, stalkings, and stockings to this collection.

 Guest Post from the Authors

The Christmas Lights Collection formed in the spring of 2016 with the idea of bringing four novellas together with one unifying theme: light. After all, each author in this collection has one primary focus in life: Jesus.  And in the book of John, He is called the “Light of Men.”
We thought we’d share what inspired our novellas and pray that these books are a delight and encouragement to all.
The Heart of Joy:  This novella is a spin-off story from Vikki Kestell’s Prairie Heritage series and features one of her most beloved characters, Joy Thoresen, from book three, Joy on This Mountain. After three years of widowhood, Joy mourns not only the loss of her husband but the child someone has kidnapped as well.  Only her faith sustains her through difficult days.
Vikki’s goal in writing is to provide FaithFilledFiction to Christians, and this novella is no exception. She worked to show that even amid our sorrow, the Lord brings good, hope-filled gifts to us even when we think we’re not ready for them. She also desired to fill in small, time-veiled gaps in Joy’s story.  The Heart of Joy puts the finishing touches on Joy’s story.
Snow Angels:  The idea for Snow Angels came to Cathe in slow increments. The idea of using homeless veterans originally prompted research into homeless shelters and programs, but the scope of those became too much for a novella. Still, those characters had stories Cathe wanted to tell, so she continued her research and became increasingly concerned with the plight of homeless veterans—particularly the women. For some reason, we often forget that women serve, get PTSD, and end up on the streets just like the men.
Cathe wanted to combine those realities with other misconceptions that often blind us to the person behind the fa├žade. She wanted to demonstrate how people in otherwise normal lives also can be thrust into situations that trigger PTSD and how those people work through it. Of course, with such a heavy topic, Cathe chose to write the story with a liberal dusting of humor to lighten the mood as you read.
As her debut novel, Cathe introduces readers to characters we’ll see more of in her Great Lakes series and paves the way for her upcoming novel, Baggage Claim,releasing in early 2017.
Trip the Light Fantastic: April has been working on a mystery surrounding, of all things, Shakespeare’s inkwell!  So, when she was invited to be a part of the Christmas Lights Collection, April decided to do an introductory novel to her Heirlooms of Deception series and Lance “Trip” Devereaux was “born.”
April admits to loving another character, Landry, just a little bit more than the others. Yet, he could never be a main character. He’s too much of a rascal and a mastermind, so he works best from the shadows. While this book wasn’t about him directly, it could be about someone similar—someone who works in the light but has lost his way and needs help from God and some new friends. Trip the Light Fantastic is a sideways introduction into a character that April hopes will entertain readers for more books to come.
April set her series in Mississippi where her grandparents lived, so the books are rich in southern manners, mannerisms, and manors!  Well, there’s one plantation belonging to her irascible but charming con-artist.  Watch for a book set at the Crawford house in Spilled Ink, releasing in December 2016.
Christmas Stalkings: A couple of years ago, Chautona was on a Facebook group and a young woman admitted to having seven Christmas trees.  Intrigued, she named it the “Seven Tree Obsession” and wondered what kind of character would have seven trees—and why.  Well, the more she thought about it, the more interesting it became. After all, what would happen if ornaments got moved around when she wasn’t looking?  Who would do that?  Why?  And what could she add to complicate it?
So, when the opportunity to do the Christmas Lights Collection came, Chautona decided she wanted to do that story.  It seemed easy enough to contain into forty-thousand words.  HA!  But she got in her car, turned on her trusty voice recorder, and in the three-hour trek to her ACFW meeting, she schemed, plotted, and laughed until her sides ached at the ideas she came up with.  Half never made it into the book, of course, but that’s okay. Chautona has a prequel/sequel planned for it.  Lord willing, New Year’s Revolutions will release on December 31.  It’s the “Paul Harvey” version—the “rest of the story.”
While Christmas Stalkings does stand alone, Chautona wanted to explore Neal’s side of things a bit.  So she is. It’ll be the fastest “write-to-publication” she’s ever done, but she just had to try.  So, for NaNoWriMo, Chautona is off to try to figure out what’s up with Neal and why he’s such a crusty curmudgeon.  He’s too young for that!  And maybe, just maybe, he’ll embrace a “new life” in the New Year.

Blog Stops

November 15: Bibliophile Reviews
November 16: blogging it out
November 17: A Reader’s Brain
November 17: Blogging With Carol
November 19: Daysong Reflections
November 19: Splashes of Joy
November 20: D’S QUILTS & BOOKS
November 20: Christian Bookaholic
November 21: Bigreadersite
November 22: A Greater Yes
November 23: Back Porch Reads
November 24: Blossoms and Blessings
November 25: A Path of Joy
November 26: Bukwurmzzz
November 28: Once upon a time
November 28: Carpe Diem

 Giveaway

e5f4939d-cd96-45de-b748-8fb15bc1a0af
To celebrate their tour, the authors are giving away a $25 Amazon gift card! Click the link below to enter. Be sure to comment on this blog post to claim nine extra entries in the giveaway! https://promosimple.com/ps/a8ae

"Christmas Lights" is available in Kindle edition:
  • File Size: 2268 KB
  • Print Length: 600 pages
  • Publication Date: October 15, 2016
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01LW32SEI

I got a free copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own and given voluntarily. No compensation was received.