Friday, February 28, 2014

Book Review: "A December Bride" by Denise Hunter

"A December Bride" by Denise Hunter is actually the 1st novella in the "A Year Of Weddings Novella" Series, but I didn't know about it until after I had read "A January Bride" and "A February Bride".  It really didn't matter, though as it isn't connected to the other stories at all.  It does, apparently, have the same characters as Denise Hunter's book "Barefoot Summer", though.  So it "gives away" some plot points from that book (like who ends up with who), so it might be good to read it first if you think you'll want to read it.

Layla O'Reilly has started her dream job of staging homes for sale, but until it gets off the ground, she continues to work at Cappy's Pizzeria.  Out of desperation due to her date being sick, she attends her ex-fiance's wedding to her cousin with his best friend.  Layla comes from the wrong family on the wrong side of town and her cousin thinks she's better than her.  To protect her from the onslaught, her date, Seth Murphy blurts out that not only are they dating, but engaged (for a month from then!). Seth has always loved Layla and has kicked himself for not asking her out before Jack did.  Is this his chance to get her to forgive him for hurting her in the past and win her heart?

With this being a novella, I was able to read it in a couple of hours and the story moves along really fast. It was still enjoyable and fun to read.  Sometimes it is nice to have a quick story to fill an evening.  "A December Bride" is a Christian romance although there isn't anything deep or theological.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2129 KB
  • Print Length: 88 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 5 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: Zondervan (November 26, 2013)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00D0YSW5S

"A December Bride" is available in eBook format for $3.79

I received free copy of "A December Bride" in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Book Review: "Princess Ever After" by Rachel Hauck

Tanner Burkhardt is the newly appointed Minister of Culture for the Duchy of Hessenburg and has been charged with finding the long lost heir of Princess Alice.  The fate of the country rests on his ability to succeed and he has had more than his share of failure.  Regina Beswick left her high position CPA position 6 months ago to follow her heart and restore classic cars.  She and her friend Al have just finished their first restoration when Reggie's life is turned on it's ear when Tanner walks in and tells her she is the missing princess.  She struggles to figure out what God's will for her life really is and whether her destiny lies in Hessenburg or in Tallahassee.

I enjoyed reading "A Princess Ever After".  It is like a fairy tale, but not one of the classics. It made me think some of the movie "The Princess Diaries".   The story was well developed and the characters believable.  I found it interesting that when Rachel Hauck wrote the parts that took place in Tallahassee, she used American English terms and vocabulary, but the parts in Hessenburg were written in British English.

You can buy "A Princess Ever After" in both print ($14.99) and eBook ($7.99) versions.

  • Series: Royal Wedding Series
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (February 4, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310315506
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310315506
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 1.2 inches

I received a free print copy of "A Princess Ever After" in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was received.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Book Review: "A Work in Progress" by Staci Stallings

I was once again blessed with the opportunity to read a Staci Stallings book.   "A Work in Progress" is listed as a "New Adult Contemporary Christian Romance Novel"  which basically means college students!  I have enjoyed every book I've read that Staci Stallings has written and "A Work in Progress" was no exception.

Rebecca Avery has had a crush on Eric Barnett ever since she bumped into him (literally) in the Student Union.  She soon discovers she is in the same psychology class as him and looks forward to Tuesdays when she can sit in front of him and spend time with him (even if he doesn't know she exists).   She has never been a "beautiful person" who has it all together and longs to fit in like they do.

Eric Barnett feels like an extra wheel whenever he hangs out with his friends since they all have a "significant other".  He thinks he needs to find the perfect girl to fit in with them and feel like he belongs.  Enter Holly. She seems to be the perfect girl for him, but she doesn't seem interested in him and stands him up for a date, which leaves him having to go out with her roommate.....Rebecca Avery.

As Eric and Rebecca spend time together working on a project for psychology class, they become friends.  They start to realize that their worth has nothing to do with them and everything to do with God and how He sees them. Will Rebecca be satisfied with just being Eric's friend and will Eric realize that there is more to Rebecca than meets the eye?

I really related to Rebecca (right down to the name! ☺) in how she feels like an outsider and not one of the "beautiful people".  I have done many of the things that Rebecca did while in college (like sitting in the hall to avoid your roommates).  I had a hard time putting the book down and ended up staying up until midnight to finish it.  

I really liked the faith aspect of the book and how the characters learned they needed to know God personally.  

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes clean romance stories. 

You can buy an eBook version for $6.99.

I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

On Being a Writer

I love to write, but I've never thought of myself as a "writer", but I guess I am!  I can't say when I started writing, but in 7th grade English, our teacher would give us "Story starters" and we had to finish the story.  Those were the best assignments and mine almost always got hung up on the walls around the classroom.  In 9th grade, I wrote a story (a Christian romance) and gave it to my English teacher to read.  It wasn't for an assignment, I just wrote it.  I honestly don't remember if he gave me any feedback on it, I just remember doing it-- that and the fact that I'd started writing on just the fronts of the paper and realized I was running out of paper so I wrote back on the back side of the pages.  So you had to read all the way through the fronts, turn it over, and read all the backs!  I have at least a half dozen stories started on paper and probably at least that many story plots in my head!

I really wish that I could just hook up my brain to the computer and the stories could write themselves!  I sometimes can get on a run and write quite a bit and other times, I just stare at the page and nothing comes out.  It usually comes when I know the next part of the story, but don't know how to get them from where we are to there.  My story characters are like old friends, their stories running around in my head like movies.  It would be nice to actually get a story finished so other people can "meet" my friends, too.  But that also scares me to death!    Am I putting in enough detail, too much detail??  Do my characters feel like real people to other people who are just meeting them?  The stories and their characters are a part of me, and it feels like if they don't like my stories or characters, then they are rejecting me.

Writing things makes it easier for me to express myself.  I have poems I wrote in college that helped me deal with things I was going through.  I probably wouldn't have told anyone the same thing, but writing it helped.  I have kept a journal/diary off and on throughout my life and it has served the same purpose--getting my feelings expressed in a tangible way.  It's just the idea of expressing myself so that other people can read it (and therefore see me) that scares me!

My goal for this year is to actually finish a book/story.  What I do with it after that is still a question, but I want to have at least one finally finished!  I have one story that I've been working on for more than a decade!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

What a Winter!

Last year, I commented at the end of January that we hadn't gotten much snow yet.  Well, that isn't what this year has been like!  We've had snow, snow, and more snow!!  The kids have missed about 3 weeks of school due to snow days!  And once the ground was been covered in snow, it's stayed covered in snow!  Here are some pictures I took the 6th of February and we've had more snow since then!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Valentine's Day

William's Valentine box

Emily's Valentine box

William's class had a "Sock Hop" for their party

The girls' parties:

Monday, February 17, 2014

Book Review: "A February Bride" by Betsy St. Amant

I was given the opportunity to review 2 short stories/novellas by Book Look Bloggers (formerly Booksneeze) in their "A Year of Weddings" series. 

In "A February Bride", Allie Andrews feels that she has a family curse and marriages are doomed to failure, so to spare Marcus from the heartbreak of a broken marriage, she runs away on their wedding day instead.  Now, 4 months later, they are thrown together again when Allie's best friend, who happens to be Marcus' sister,  is planning a Valentine's Day wedding. 

Will they find a new normal as friends, or is it possible for Allie to break the "curse" and find love after all? 

I really enjoyed reading "A February Bride".  I wanted to shake the characters into realizing how the other felt about them! 

You can buy an eBook version of "A February Bride" for $3.79

I received a free eBook version of "A February Bride" in order for me to write a review.

Book Review: "A January Bride" by Deborah Raney

I was given the opportunity to review 2 short stories/novellas by Book Look Bloggers (formerly Booksneeze) in their "A Year of Weddings" series.

In "A January Bride", Madeleine Houser moves from New York to Kansas after her sister's husband gets a new job and they have to move away and can't be near their mother any longer.  Their house is under renovation to try and sell, so there are always workers around which makes it difficult for Maddie to write.  She despairs over not making her deadline, so her neighbor friend suggests that she write at the Bed & Breakfast run by her widower friend, Arthur.

Arthur Tyler is still grieving the death of his wife three years earlier and doesn't have the desire to keep the B&B up and running the way it was before, so he is glad to let Maddie use it to work on her novel.  They communicate with each other through notes left on the table.

When they finally meet, they both realize that they have made incorrect assumptions about the other.

The relationship develops very quickly, but that is rather to be expected since it is a novella and there isn't a lot of time to make the relationship develop slowly.  The characters still feel like real people and are developed well.

I enjoyed reading "A January Bride".  It was actually nice to be able to start and finish the story in an evening.

You can buy an eBook version of this book for $3.63.

I received a free eBook version of "A January Bride" for me to write a review.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Book Review: "The Ultimate Guide to Kindle Publishing Using Microsoft Word" by Rev. Allen Smith

I have been wondering what I would do when I finally finish one of my novels and how I would go about getting it published.  Then I came across the opportunity to review "The Ultimate Guide to Kindle Publishing Using Microsoft Word" by Rev. Allen Smith.  It was exactly what I needed to answer my questions!  Rev. Smith gives instructions step by step for what to do after you have finished writing your book up to getting it published on Amazon as a Kindle edition book.  He includes illustrations throughout the book to show the different steps. He also gives hints about publicity and marketing.  It will be an invaluable asset when I am ready to actually publish a book.

I did have some issues with typos and punctuation throughout the book, but as I received an advance copy for free in exchange for my honest review, I'm sure that these will be taken care of before it actually gets published.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Review: Reading Eggs

As a part of the Home & School Group, I got the opportunity to review the Reading Eggs program.  I signed Andy up since he's my only non reader now.  He had a lot of fun playing the games and visiting the "Playroom".   He also liked spending the golden eggs he earned during the course of the lessons.  It was helpful that he knows his numbers for the dot to dot parts of the lessons.

There were times he got frustrated with hearing the sounds in the words.  He is in speech class and I think that has something to do with it.  He says "Boon" for "Spoon" and so clicked on the picture of the spoon instead of the ball for "B".

Reading Eggs is geared for children ages 3-13.  It is based in Australia and I did find that a few things were called differently than we called them (ie tap instead of faucet), but it wasn't a big problem.  

I was excited about Reading Eggs being available for iPad and Android.  Unfortunately, our operating system wasn't the right one (It needs to be 4.1 and we had 4.0).

Reading Eggs costs $49.95 for a 6 month subscription and $69 for a whole year.   I think that getting a 1 year subscription would be a good investment.  I also liked that you can sign up for a 14 day trial without having to give them your credit card information.  They also offer book packages where you can get the books for each tier of the program (40 of them) along with 200 stickers, 4 mini posters, 4 activity books and Flashcards.  The book packs are $65 each with a subscription or $110 for both.  

The Reading Eggs Read-To-Cure Challenge

From February 3 to March 7 your child can join thousands of children across the United States taking
part in the Reading Eggs Read-To-Cure Challenge – an effort to inspire children to read while raising
funds for The National Children’s Cancer Society (NCCS). Our goal is to raise $25,000, plus Reading
Eggs will match every donation made up to this amount!

About the cause
The Reading Eggs Read-To-Cure Challenge aims to help the NCCS realize their mission to improve the
quality of life for children with cancer. All money raised will help provide financial, emotional and
educational support for children and families battling childhood cancer. Learn more about the NCCS

How does the Read-To-Cure Challenge work?

Children sign up for a FREE 5 week trial of Reading Eggs, the popular online reading program for 3–
13 year olds. From February 3 to March 7 they are encouraged to complete as many books and
Reading Eggs lessons as they can. Friends and family can sponsor their reading efforts, with all
money raised going to the NCCS.

What’s more, there are great prizes up for grabs for the top 3 children who read the most books and
the top 3 children who raise the most funds!

The Reading Eggs Read-To-Cure Challenge is a FREE event. To start fundraising, children will be set
up with their own fundraising web page and you can email family and friends to sponsor their
reading efforts with donations!

Signing Up

Parents sign up to their free trial of Reading Eggs at the web address by clicking on the link above. Once logged in to the dashboard screen they need to simply add their child to their account.
Once their child is set up in the dashboard they need to click on the button on the left hand side bar
prompting them to join the challenge. Parents can always come back here to see their child’s
progress in the challenge.
From there they can follow the promptsto customize their child’s very own fundraising page.

*NCCS will earn a minimum of $25,000 from Reading Eggs plus 100% of the donations collected by RTCC participants

Information about Reading Eggs from the developers:

Reading Eggs provides a comprehensive range of online reading lessons and e-books that teach
children aged 3–13 the literacy skills they need for lifetime reading success.
Why Try Reading Eggs?
• 91% of parents have noticed an improvement in their child’s reading ability since using Reading
• Includes over 1500 ebooks
• Compatible on PC, Mac, iPad and Android
• Money-back guaranteed
Why Reading Eggs works
• Developed by expert educators with 20+ years’ experience
• Based on solid scientific research
• The program makes learning phonics and basic reading skills fun for 3–13 year olds
• Your child can progress through the one-on-one lessons at their own pace
• Regular progress reports and assessments track your child’s learning

Further Reading Eggs info:
Reading Eggs is an online literacy resource for children aged 3–13 years old. There are 2 programs
within Reading Eggs, Reading Eggs for 3–7 year olds and Reading Eggspress for 7–13 year olds. The
target market is parents of children aged 3–13 years old.
Product design
The Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress programs each have their own unique worlds of interactive
reading and writing activities. The programs have been developed by a highly experienced team of
educational teachers, writers and developers who have created a highly visual, engaging and
interactive environment which motivates children to return again and again.
The visual aspect of the website immediately catches attention, with colorful animations and
characters that make learning fun. Children love to explore each unique world where there is so
much to see and do.
At the end of each Reading Eggs lesson children are rewarded with their efforts with a playful
'critter' that hatches from an egg. They can also earn golden coins that they can use to play games in
the ‘Arcade’. In Reading Eggspress children are encouraged to collect trading cards and trophies.
Children are also given an avatar which marks their place in the particular world they are in. The
avatar can be personalised by the child giving them a level of creative freedom.
This is all part of creating an environment which shows children that learning can be fun. In fact
many children don't even realise that they are learning while they work through the program,
because it is so much fun!
Product description:
Learning to read is an important skill for all children, and we wanted to make it an enjoyable
experience for children too. Children love working and playing on the computer and the Reading
Eggs and Reading Eggspress programs are all about bringing out the best in each child. These unique
worlds of interactive reading and writing activities help set children up with a positive attitude about
reading and learning for life. That’s a tall order, we know, but we are passionately committed to
delivering this to readers everywhere.
Reading Eggs
Full of educationally sound, fun and interactive activities, Reading Eggs focuses on the most
fundamental skill needed in school – reading. Children from 3 –7 years or older children struggling
with reading will enjoy the huge variety of reading lessons, activities and games that make up the
Reading Eggs program.
In addition to the 120 reading lessons in Reading Eggs there is the Reading Eggs World which caters
for children who already know the basics of reading but who still have much to learn about reading,
writing, spelling, and comprehension. In the Reading Eggs World, children have their own house to
decorate, a big shop and an avatar that can walk and travel to many new destinations on Reggie’s
bus. Children are able to choose their own adventure from a wide range of activities and places to
go, including the following content:

The Story Factory -this gives children an introduction to creative writing and they can put
together stories to enter in a weekly story writing competition.
• Driving Tests - has 15 sight word tests, 15 letters and sounds test and 15 content word tests.
Children are rewarded for correct completion with a driving game.
• Puzzle Park - children can access 32 word puzzles and practise sight word recognition.
• Skills Bank - holds 96 spelling lessons that take students up to the end of key stage 1.
• Storylands - this area builds reading, vocabulary and comprehension skills and is perfect for
children who have begun to read but aren’t quite ready for Reading Eggspress. It currently
includes 20 e-books to read.
• The Arcade - includes 24 arcade-style games to be used as rewards to motivate children to
keep learning. They need to earn Golden Eggs to play these so encourages them to work
through lessons and educational activities before using the arcade.
Reading Eggspress
Reading Eggspress continues the reading adventure by taking children to a brand new world
designed for 7 – 13 year olds focusing on comprehension and grammar. Reading Eggspress provides
a unique learning environment where students’ can improve their English language and
comprehension skills in a way that is exciting and relevant.

The Reading Eggspress program uses a spinning island which instantly engages children. They
explore a complete world with a wide variety of both learning and fun experiences. The range of
activities motivate students to return regularly to complete lessons, compete against others, earn
more rewards and improve their skills.
The Reading Eggspress website has an enormous range of learning resources, lessons, motivational
games and e-books. There are 4 areas of the Reading Eggspress World:
• Library - the Reading Eggspress Library holds more than 1500 e-books including illustrated
chapter books, full-color nonfiction books and a range of classics. Children can search for
books by topic, series, author, reading age or book title. New books are added regularly.

• The Comprehension Gym - children complete a placement test when they first visit the Gym
which places students at the correct level for their current ability. The Gym holds 200
interactive comprehension lessons over five broad levels from years 2 to years 6 with 40
lessons per year level.

• The Stadium – children compete in real time against students from around the world. The
exciting head-to-head contest tests skills in one of four areas – spelling, vocabulary, usage
and grammar.

• Apartment and Mall - children can use their golden eggs to buy avatar clothes and
apartment furniture. Within the apartment all the trophies, medals and trading cards
children have collected can be viewed and children can also complete a 100-level quest-style
game to expand and refresh learning and earn more golden eggs.

Progress within the Reading Eggspress program is measured by the completion of targets. These are
split over 4 levels and help give children some guidance and structure for learning and encourage
them to use all of the above areas.
Both the Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress programs have a comprehensive reporting system that
tracks progress so that students and their parents can clearly see each child’s achievements.
There are currently over 2 million children using the Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress program
around the world and over 90% of parents surveyed have reported a noticeable improvement in
their child’s reading skills.
Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress is a program that really works by making learning a fun,
interactive and enjoyable experience for all involved.
For a program feature summary please visit:


I received a 3 month trial for Reading Eggs in exchange for my honest review through Home & School Mosaics. 


Monday, February 3, 2014

Book Review: "Reunion" By Staci Stallings

After finishing "Dreams by Starlight", I was excited to learn that there was a sequel.  I was gifted a copy by Staci Stallings in order to review it.

It is 10 years since Jaylon and Camille shared their dreams under the starlight under the tree at Jaylon's Grandma's old house.  Camille has gone on to become the lead designer as an aerospace engineer and Jaylon has a life that seems perfect.  They both regret that time has drawn them apart, but figure that it is the past and best to forget it and move on with life.

After meeting up at their 10 year high school reunion, they realize that they have fallen into old habits of trying to please everyone else and not being true to who you are.  Will they be able to find what their dreams really are before it is too late?

Even though "Reunion" is a sequel, it did give "flash backs" about some of the events from "Dreams by Starlight" so readers could get a general idea of what was going on without first reading "Dreams by Starlight".  I think that you are more "invested" in the anguish that they feel by first reading the journey it took to get them together that takes place in "Dreams by Starlight" however and would recommend reading them in sequence.

I was pulled back into Jaylon and Camille's story and agonized with every heartache they experience.   I confess, I shed tears as I read the story, the emotions just felt so real.  I am glad that I got to spend more time with my friends Jaylon and Camille & Nick and Lexie.

This story had the characters seeking God's guidance more than the first one, and I liked that.  I highly recommend this story!

You can buy the eBook version of "Reunion" for $6.99 and a print book for $14.38.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Being Groundhogs

The kids decided to be groundhogs and build dens (or as Andy called them 'hibernation areas')