Blue stained wood with crimson carnations

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Book Preview: A Beauty So Rare -Inspired by.....

"What would you do with all these women?"

So asks Tamera Alexander after reading an account of widows coming to Nashville after the Civil War looking for their husbands, fathers, and brothers. From that one spark Alexander's newest Belmont Mansion novel "A Beauty So Rare" is born. Take a look at this exclusive content from the author and get a behind the scenes what inspired her to begin writing!

I don't know about you but I cant wait to sit down this weekend (hopefully!) and get started on this book! I've been waiting on it for so long and I can't believe it's really here! Grab your copy HERE!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Preview: A Beauty So Rare

Long time no see huh folks? Well, despite my recent absence to the blogosphere I am still alive! I have some great posts planned for the next month on a couple of topics- one of those topics that I know I'm going to love talking about is books! One book in particular has been on my (not-so-patiently) wait list and I have been looking forward to it's release! That book is Tamera Alexander's new Belmont novel "A Beauty So Rare"!

I have my review copy in hand and over the next few weeks during the big release I will be giving you some cool sneak peaks! Be sure to keep your eyes pealed for each weeks posts!

This week just to get you started take a look at the book trailer!

If that has whet your appetite and you are looking for more be sure and check out this exclusive book excerpt! Click HERE!
See you all back next week!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Book Review: Bedtime Prayers That End With a Hug!

This book arrived in my mailbox about two weeks ago and I was so excited that it had finally (after a delay with the publisher) arrived!! "Bedtime Prayers That End With a Hug" was created by Stephen Elkins and looked great in the previews from the publisher so I was eager to get a copy to share with my niece!

This is a really nicely bound hardback book with softly padded covers appropriate for a little persons book. Included in it are 52 entries with a Scripture, special thought, and prayer for bedtime reading with your child. The publisher recommends this book for 3-5 years old but I have been reading it with my almost 2 year old niece with good results, she loves the pictures and the readings are short enough that she will sit still and attentive while we read them. Although she may not understand everything I am reading I feel that it is important to be talking Scripture to little ones from the youngest ages- this book lets me do that. I know that in time she will grow into the book as a whole and I am really happy that this book is essentially a child's devotional book. I have never seen something geared for an age group that young and I had my doubts about how 'fluffy' the content might be but I have been pleasantly surprised by the depth of the writing. Topics covered in the book range from the first entry that intros the theme of 'The Lord is my Shepherd' to ones on being content, working for the Lord, thunderstorms, safe travel, showing kindness, pets, doctors visits, and even one on praying for our countries leaders!

Originally I thought I would read this book on my own and share a few entries with my little niece but since its arrival there have been many moments where she and I have sat down and read it together. In fact it has become a real favorite of hers and she insists each time we read it to flip through all the pages on her own as she chatters away 'telling me the story' and pointing out all the little details in the drawings. The illustrations for this book were done by the obviously talented Ruth Zeglin and are done in a pen and colored pencil style with rich colors that hold a nice softness to them making reading a children's book a treat not a chore. Each one of the drawings has a theme of a cuddly lamb included (perfect for my families love of lambs!) and other cool things like how the animals are giving hugs, or the sprinkling of ladybugs on each entry. This makes for engaging talk time with your little one on what is happening in the pictures and before I knew it my niece was pointing things out to me too!

Having a little one in the house now has made this book a double delight to read and review- and make no doubt about it this book is a real delight- a hands down winner! If you don't have kiddos at your house go pick up a copy (or two) anyway and keep it for when they visit or give one to the friend or relative that has the kids- you won't regret it!

Final Rating: 5

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Book Review: Take Flight: A Sisterchicks Devotional

A number of years ago I read through and became a big fan of the 'Sisterchicks' books by Robin Jones Gunn. The books chronicled the mid-life travel adventures of different sets of best friends. They were a lot of fun to read and I enjoyed the colorful descriptions as well as the main Spiritual thrust of each book. A few years later Gunn paired with real life best friend Cindy Hannan to create a woman's devotional based around the Sisterchicks books.

I have read this book through twice now, once when it originally came out and once for this review. The first time I read it one of my favorite entries was the one on 'January Madness' that tells about Gunn's yearly ritual of having an all out day with God where she takes time to journal and pray and meditate on what God has done in the past year and on the possibilities for the new one. One particular January however, Gunn realizes that item by item on her review list is not just a blessing- but a double blessing which sends her scrambling for her Bible looking for 'the woman who was doubly blessed'- Hannah. In scripture, Hannah receives a double portion from her husband because she is loved. In this observation is the simple but touching reminder that God loves us- and brings blessings on us because of His love. Gunn encourages readers to invest in that love and devote time to being with God. It is a lovely entry and I loved hearing it again! My second time around in this book the entry that struck my heart was about a elderly woman Gunn visits during a speaking engagement in Russia. Though ill and having suffered a tragic past this woman radiates light. Learning her secret brought me again to tears with both the beauty of it and how closely I currently identify with it. Despite all the trials she had faced when she reached her breaking point she asked God not 'why?' but 'what?' and from that point on both accepted and embraced God's new plan for her. It is a beautiful story that was an important reminder for me.

This devotional is a lovely hardbound book that at about 6 x 8 inches and 140 pages is compact but substantial. The book is divided into four sections each with a different theme walking you through "A Birds Eye View", "On a Wing and a Prayer", "Take a Flying Leap", and "Under the Shadow of His Wing". Each section has 3-4 devotional entries so this isn't going to take you a month to complete but is surely a treat to keep by your bedside and read when you need a special kind of boost. I really like how in this book with each entry you have something to read, some verses to look up, and some space to write down your own thoughts. I also enjoyed the quotes that are sprinkled throughout each entry, they always gave me some other insight or nugget of thought to ponder!

Having enjoyed reading this now more than once I can heartily recommend it! Any woman in your life from the collage student to the mom should have some fantastic times of reflection in this charming book.

As I now find myself in possession of two copies of this book I thought it was high time that I do my first give away! All who leave me a comment here on this page between now and New Year's Eve will be entered to win their very own copy of Take Flight! On New Year's Day I will put you all into a hat and have my pint sized niece pluck out a name! Please be willing to correspond with me via email in order to get your shipping details- thanks!

Final rating: 5

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Book Review: The Governess of Highland Hall

Warning: Some spoilers!

Well, I'm back again with my second review for Waterbrook/Multnomah Publishers! This time around I'm reviewing 'The Governess of Highland Hall" by Carrie Turansky.

    Widower Sir William Ramsey is in need of a number of things, one of them is a governess for his two young children plus the two elder cousins he now finds himself in charge of since their father's death. Julia Foster is also in need. She has spent most of her years as a young woman on the missionary field with her parents in India. After a illness in the family forces their return to England she must find a job to support their little family until they are able to return to the work they hold dear. Another thing that Sir William needs is an infusion of cash if he doesn't want to loose his newly inherited home to the payment of heavy death taxes that are looming. As it seems that a single man- even with the sole possession of a lovely home- must be in want of a wife William finds himself the target of his meddling relatives plans to revive the estates fortunes through good ol' fashioned American money via an American bride. The only problem is that he does not want to get remarried. So the question is then why does he find himself increasingly drawn to the penniless governess?

     The plot line of this story holds much promise. To the keen eyed reader many of the story's parts will be familiar- there are elements of Jane Eyre, The Sound of Music, and Downton Abbey woven together to form a whole. Being someone who enjoyed all of those stories I hoped to enjoy this one too- the problem with this story however, is that it tries to be all things to all people and in attempting that it becomes an unhinged mess.
     This story is not told from the main/two main character's prospective but instead bounce distractingly from Julia, to Sir William, to William's sister, the gardener, the housekeeper, the maid, and the adolescent cousins perspective- and I'm sure in there somewhere that I've left at least one other out! It was not easy to follow the story with this type of storytelling and I think it really hampered the storyline as it doesn't let you get particularly close to any of the characters. It frustrated me to- several times- find that Turansky had 'left out' whole scenes that would have greatly helped to connect the main characters- only to find her telling me later 'oh, they had a lovely conversation last night that drew them closer- but I'm not going to put you there to listen in- lets just move on with the plot'! Another time something similar happens is when after a fight Julia writes a letter of apology to Sir William and hand delivers it to the estate but when she finds him he is in the midst of dealing with a health crises with the children he tucks away her letter promising to read it at a more appropriate moment-  I kept waiting and waiting but that letter never surfaces again and instead of helping to bring healing and understanding the incident goes from epic to glossed over and Julia is accepted back into the house without another word.
     The worse fault of this author is really that she breaks the first rule of writing- 'show don't tell'. This phrase means that during the course of the narrative that the author should be using description and dialog in order to unfold and reveal the past, present, and future of the characters through their own discovery- not stopping the narrative to break in and explain it to you or give a 'just the facts ma'am' style of description. It's one of my writing pet peeves and I find it difficult to be positive about a book when I encounter it.
     The one redeeming point of the book is undoubtedly Julia herself. From the minute she walks on to the page I found her interesting, and spunky; as time went on I found her to also be principled, faith-filled, unfailingly kind, and very relatable. It's just a shame for me that she did not get to tell her story and we did not get to get to delve deeper into her.

     In the end, I felt that while the general story line could have been a great read I found myself wondering why Sir William and Julia even had feelings for each other when they never had one conversation that didn't directly relate to his children or estate! I may not be an expert in love but I thought it was customary to share something more than deep stares across the room before you consider marrying someone! By the last two chapters I had to restrain myself from throwing the book across the room as I didn't know what good reason the characters had for being together!! Anyway, If you like any of the formerly mentioned works that this story is amalgamated from you might indeed enjoy this book but I found it terribly disappointing.  

Final rating: 1.5

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

29 and counting...

So, confession time.

Today is 33 days till my 30th birthday. If you know me at all you will know that I am a birthday
lover! Mine, yours, the dog across the street's- I don't care- I just to love the celebration.  The accomplishment.

This year though, I'm having a difficult time getting past the number that I'm turning. It's a number with a lot of baggage. When I was younger I always wondered at those women that went around calling themselves 'forever 29', I mean what's the big deal? Another year is another year right? Just celebrate the birthday!

This year I'm understanding them a little better.

It's better to stay young because then you can avoid the reality of what your life situations say about you. I think at 30 those situations hit you hard. After all, in your twenties it's ok to still be a little clueless, a little selfish, a little bit alone. When you reach 30 however none of that is ok anymore. You're supposed to have it together. I'm not just talking about the world's perspectives here either, I'm talking about the Christian and homeschooling communities as well. There may be a little leeway for a spinster at 28 and 29 but at thirty? That can only mean one thing.

"Old, alone, done for."

Or worse yet is the label of being 'so strong' and 'so brave' to be facing this path of singleness in life. (But that's another post for another day.) The question that begins to be asked a lot more loudly (and a lot less behind your back) is "What's wrong with her?" I'm going to tell you right now: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ME! It's just not my time yet. Some people are good at giving encouragement for your situation but some people really suck at it. They generally mean well but they've never been anywhere close to being in your shoes and they have no clue. So just as an FYI- one of the most hurtful things you can say to a single girl like me begins with the words "When I was your age..."

Don't tell me about how young you were married.

Don't tell me about how you already had 4 kids.

Don't tell me about that fantastic dream trip you took, just because you could.

Don't tell me about the trials of motherhood and how you were managing schooling your eldest while your next child was on the way.

Don't make me feel this big when God's plan for me is different then His plan was for you.

Don't get me wrong, I want to hear about your life and your blessings and your trials and I want to be apart of that- but please, don't 'help' by placing my picture in your frame! Because guess what? Right now his plan for me includes doing many of the things that you are doing. His plan for me includes doing the meal planning and cooking and shopping for my family. His plan for me includes scrubbing toilets and moping floors. His plan for me includes caring for and loving on little ones and it includes planning lessons and mentoring girls and teaching too. His plan for me includes ministry projects and bible study and giving my voice in worship from the choir loft.  

The only thing is that right now it doesn't include is a husband of my own. Children of my own.

And I need that to be ok.

This afternoon I came across this article in my Facebook feed. It's titled "I Needed to Hear That" and I cried as I read it. The author is right, sometimes us single girls need to hear from our friends. Right now as I count down the days to finishing the first third of my life I need to hear some things...

I need to hear that it's ok to be thirty, and unmarried, and childless.

I need to hear it's ok to fail at something without being afraid of your condemnation at my failure.

I need to hear you love me for what I am doing and not for what I could be doing.

I need to hear you support me in the directions that God is leading me in at this moment.

I need to hear that not having a job or a husband or a child doesn't give me less value, and that what I do daily, weekly, and yearly as the time passes is of value.

I need to hear that what I'm doing right now is enough.

I want my birthday to be a happy one this year. I want to celebrate my life and the fact that I have the incredible blessing of gaining another year-  because I know all to well that not everyone gets that opportunity. I want to have joy. I want to look forward to a new year of my life not dread it because of the social commentary it brings.

I want to enjoy being thirty and being where God has placed me! I want to be excited about what His next plans are for me!

I don't want to be "old, alone, and done for".

Is that really too much to ask?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Book Review: Rules of Murder

Quite a while back now I won a contest on Facebook and earned me a copy of Julianna Deering's "Rules for Murder", first book in the new Drew Farthering Mystery Series. When the book finally arrived the other week I was excited to sit down and give it a read!

Drew Farthering is an early 20-something English gentleman and heir to a comfortable estate and a sizeable chunk of his late father's chemical engineering firm. However, what's not so comfortable is the life he is living. Coming home one night to a houseful of guests, an unavoidable weekend soiree, and the hint of scandal following his mother around Drew wants nothing more then to pitch the whole lot of them out of his house and enjoy country life free of the trappings and expectations of high society. The weekend starts looking up though when his step-father's American niece, Madeline, and her two traveling companions arrive and bring a breath of fresh air, and a whiff of romance, to the place.
During the big party the next night a body shows up which sets police and amateur detective alike on the trail of the murderer, and for two mystery novel lovers like Drew and Madeline there is nothing like a good murder to solve to bring the two together! Through twists and turns and more unexpected shocks Drew, Madeline, and Drew's best friend Nick work their way past preconception and secrets to get to the truth and keep the culprit from slipping through their fingers! In the process Drew and his sidekicks find out if the mystery writers rule book is a tried and true assistant to their quest or whether is should be thrown out the window!

Speaking of the rule book, it is of note that at its heart this book revolves around early 20th century novelist's Ronald Knox's "Ten Commandments for Mystery Writers". This list is a pretty cool summery of mystery writing tropes from the golden era of detective stories (like Agatha Christie) that Knox believes should be avoided at all costs. To the modern reader the list comes off as pretty amusing as it is pretty dated content wise but for the backdrop of a period set novel it makes fantastic dressing! Even though all the 'forbidden' situations used in the book should be familiar to the well read mystery reader (such as hidden passages, Chinamen, and poisons) Deering has a light and easy hand with their use and as they rumbled past me I found myself smiling and not grimacing at their being clich├ęd.  

One thing I really admired about this book was how well done the pacing was and how nothing felt too rushed or too lagging but was unfolded at precisely the right time. Stylistically too things just hummed. Deering was did a fine job of reflecting the culture of the time period with a combo of a wide 'vintage' vocabulary and her narrating descriptions. I also enjoyed how when moving from scene to scene the scene 'slid' from one thing to another like an old noir movie instead of having that page break-reset-and-reintroduce setup. It was a concept that fit the feel of the book well! The cover of the book was a delight as well as it features a striking graphic deco print that is eye catching and fun. Additionally, the whole feel of the book put me many times in mind of the charming and smart classic British favorite of mine, "Jeeves and Wooster", anyone who loves that series should give Deering's offering a try!

As far as the negative goes the only thing I can think to nitpick over (if I had too) was that the romance was a little bit too quick for me, but even having said that I don't think it was out of place for the time period and style that the author is writing in. Overall the book was a great one and I would happily recommend it to any mystery reader or any reader looking for a change of pace from their normal genre!

Rating: 4.5

I received a copy of this book from the publisher as a part of a contest and was under no obligation to review it. The above review is an honest opinion of the product.