Thursday, December 17, 2009

40 Loaves

Andrea won the giveaway book in this drawing. Congratulations Andrea!!

Today I have the pleasure of reviewing 40 Loaves, Breaking Bread With Our Father Each Day by C.D. Baker.

This thought provoking devotional asks the tough questions - the ones we all wonder but are sometimes afraid to ask. Mr. Baker asks a question and then provides some of his own ideas and thoughts - never trying to directly answer the question but just to provide some insight and some things to get us thinking harder about the question. He also includes a short prayer at the end of each devotional. A wonderful book that provokes deeper thought into the things we believe and wonder about.

For more information about this book and how to purchase it please visit:

If you would like an opportunity to win a copy of this book just leave a comment below. I'm afraid I must limit this opportunity to residents of the United States only. I will be drawing a winner on December 30.


This book was provided for review by Waterbrook/Multnomah.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Trio of Christmas Books

Tonight I have a trio of Christmas books to review. These books were provided to me for review by Waterbrook/Multnomah.

First is Treasured, Knowing God By The Things He Keeps by Leigh McLeroy. This lovely little book features a different item in each chapter that is central to a story in the Bible that shows God's love.

Cigar boxes. Refrigerator doors. Scrapbooks and sock drawers and top shelves. These are the places we store our treasures–the keepsakes that tell the story of whom and what we’ve loved, how we’ve lived, and what matters most to us.
God is a collector, too, whose treasures are tucked securely into the pages of his book: a golden bell here, an olive leaf there, a scarlet thread, a blood-stained cloth, a few grains of barley. Each of these saved artifacts reveals a facet of his heart and tells the story of a Father whose most precious possession is…us.
In Treasured, Leigh McLeroy considers tangible reminders of God’s active presence and guides us in discovering evidence in our own lives of his attentive love.

This is a wonderful little book with chapters that stand alone almost like short stories. Great to read one every day or to sit down and read through all at one time.

For more information please follow this link:

Next are the duo by Lisa T. Bergren of God Gave Us Christmas

As Little Cub and her family prepare to celebrate the most special day of the year, the curious young polar bear has something on her mind: “Who invented Christmas?” she asks. “Is God more important than Santa?”

Her questions reflect the confusion of so many children during the holiday season. And this heartwarming story takes them on a wonderful journey of discovery—right to the heart of Christmas.

Through Mama’s gentle guidance, Little Cub learns that God loves her and everyone— polar bear, moose, or human—so much that he gave us Jesus, the very best gift of all.

for more information, please follow this link:

and God Gave Us Love

Little Cub and Grampa Bear’s fishing adventure is interrupted by mischievous otters, and the young polar bear begins to ask questions like why must we love others . . . even the seemingly unlovable? Why is it easier to love those we like? Where does love come from? And why does God love her so much?

Grampa Bear patiently addresses each one of Little Cub’s curiosities by explaining the different kinds of love we can share: the love between friends, the love between families, the love between moms and dads, and the love for God.

He also assured Little Cub that because of the love God has given her through his Son, there’s nothing she can do to make God love her any more or any less. Through Grampa Bear’s encouraging Little Cub to love others with a “God-sized love,” children will be inspired to love others and to be patient, gentle and kind, so that in every way, they too can demonstrate God’s love.

For more information, please follow this link:

These two books are beautifully illustrated and joyfully written and perfect for anyone young (especially those young at heart).

All three are great reading for this special season.


Friday, November 13, 2009

White Picket Fences

The winner of the giveaway copy of this book was Cheryl. Congratulations Cheryl!

White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner is about family helping family and in the process getting to know each other. The book begins with Amanda and Neil Janvier picking up their niece Tally at her grandmother's funeral. Tally's father - Amanda's brother - is somewhere in Europe but no-one knows exactly where. So Tally comes to stay with Amanda and Neil and their children Chase and Delcey.

Tally and Chase work together on a school project interviewing Holocaust survivors. Along the way they find that the ideal family that the world sees is not the reality of what their family is.

This is a great book showing the problems secrets create and how easily a family can drift apart.

From the publisher:

Amanda Janvier’s idyllic home seems the perfect place for her niece Tally to stay while her vagabond brother is in Europe, but the white picket fence life Amanda wants to provide is a mere illusion. Amanda’s husband Neil refuses to admit their teenage son Chase, is haunted by the horrific fire he survived when he was four, and their marriage is crumbling while each looks the other way.

Tally and Chase bond as they interview two Holocaust survivors for a sociology project, and become startlingly aware that the whole family is grappling with hidden secrets, with the echoes of the past, and with the realization that ignoring tragic situations won’t make them go away.

Readers of emotional dramas that are willing to explore the lies that families tell each other for protection and comfort will love White Picket Fences. The novel is ideal for those who appreciate exploring questions like: what type of honesty do children need from their parents, or how can one move beyond a past that isn’t acknowledged or understood? Is there hope and forgiveness for the tragedies of our past and a way to abundant grace?

For more information please check:

I have a copy of this book for giveaway - just leave me a comment and a way to reach you by November 20th to be entered.


This book was provided by WaterBrook/Multnomah for review.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Quilter's Holiday

A Quilter's Holiday by Jennifer Chiaverini takes place the day after Thanksgiving. A tradition has formed at Elm Creek Quilts wherein the members spend the Friday after Thanksgiving having a potluck combined with a sewing session. The day is spent working on Christmas presents. Everyone brings a dish made of leftovers from their Thanksgiving dinner. Sounds like the perfect day to me. lol.

While cleaning the kitchen for the remodel (see the book The Quilter's Kitchen), Sylvia came across a cornucopia her sister Claudia made many, many years ago. The tradition was for each member of the family to put a small token of what they were thankful for into the cornucopia and then at dinner they would remove the items and each person would explain their choice. Of course Sylvia, Sarah and the girls are all quilters so they are to make a quilt block representing what they are thankful for.

The focus shifts from one lady to another as they each recall events from their past that shaped their present. All is not good though, but such is life. I like an author who doesn't paint everything rosy but makes it real instead.

These characters are like old friends but they've changed over the years. But they've changed in good ways. They've grown from their experiences.

There are some great discussions about traditions and how each family makes the holidays special for what suits them.

Sylvia gets some exciting news and I noted a wink at a past character. It will remain to be seen if it was intentional. I can't wait for April when the Quilters all go to Hawaii.

If you are a fan of the Elm Creek Quilts series make sure you pick this one up.


Friday, November 6, 2009

What Matters Most

What Matters Most by Melody Carlson is written in diary form by the main character Maya. The diary format had me kind of worried because I remember what my diary was like when I was a teen-ager. But Maya is very detailed - to the point she writes out conversations word for word.

This is the third in a series that is also the four set in a series. Each set focuses on a different girl. Maya is in the process of becoming emancipated. Her father is a musician who travels a lot and her mother is in prison. She's living with her uncle but they don't have a close sit down to dinner type relationship.

We follow Maya as she makes her way through high school. Her first decision is if she should graduate a year early. She has a boyfriend/boy friend issue (should they date or just be friends), issues with the popular girls (I didn't graduate that long ago that I don't remember that!), adventures with a Christian rock band and all your other typical teen-age issues.

Not having read any of the other books in this series I was a bit worried if I would be able to follow this. It would probably help to read some of the other but this book can be read as a stand alone.

Maya shows us a strong girl who doesn't go along with the crowd and is willing to step out for what she believes in. Each chapter ends with a "green" tip. Something I think is good for our teen-agers.

From the publisher:

Sixteen-year-old Maya Stark has a lot to sort through. She could graduate from high school early if she wants to. She’s considering it, especially when popular cheerleader Vanessa Hartman decides to make her life miserable–and Maya’s ex-boyfriend Dominic gets the wrong idea about everything.

To complicate matters even more, Maya’s mother will be released from prison soon, and she’ll want Maya to live with her again. That’s a disaster waiting to happen. And when Maya plays her dad’s old acoustic guitar in front of an audience, she discovers talents and opportunities she never expected. Faced with new options, Maya must choose between a “normal” life and a glamorous one. Ultimately, she has to figure out what matters most.

To read more about this book and for purchase information please go to:


This book was provided for review by Waterbrook/Multnomah.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Today's book is Limelight by Melody Carlson.

Claudette Fioré used to turn heads and break hearts. She relished the glamorous Hollywood lifestyle because she had what it takes: money, youth, fame, and above all, beauty. But age has withered that beauty, and a crooked accountant has taken her wealth, leaving the proud widow penniless and alone.

Armed with stubbornness and sarcasm, Claudette returns to her shabby little hometown and her estranged sister. Slowly, she makes friends. She begins to see her old life in a new light. For the first time, Claudette Fioré questions her own values and finds herself wondering if it’s too late to change.

This book was so hysterical! On one hand it's sad to see a woman in her 80s who doesn't know the simplest things about running a household. But on the other hand some of the situations Claudette finds herself in are too funny not to laugh. I found myself wanting to take notes so that if I lived to be 80 I would know the things that would make me look silly that I would want to avoid. lol.

But there are those times when you just wish you were there with Claudette so you could give her a big hug and tell her everyone makes mistakes now and then. After so many years of living a pampered life it's hard to sort of start from scratch. Luckily she had a home so she at least had a place to start from. There's a lesson to be learned about being willing to not only accept help but to ask for help. And there are some wonderful characters (hello Bea) who refuse to have their help refused.

Books like this are a joy to read. Lots of lessons to be learned but the message is funny and subtle and you don't mind hearing it.

Melody Carlson is quickly becoming a "must read" for me. As a matter of fact - I'm reading another one of hers and will be reviewing it shortly. Don't miss it.

For more information about the book and how to purchase it please visit:


This book was provided by Waterbrook/Multnomah for review free of charge.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Leaving Carolina

Leaving Carolina by Tamara Leigh is the first book in a series about Piper Wick. Piper is a member of the "leading" family in Pickwick, NC. Not that she's proud of that. The family has quite a few members who are a bit, um, unique. In her desire to separate herself from her family she drops the "Pick" from her last name of Pickwick and uses just Wick, works hard to lose her Southern drawl and works her way into a high-powered position as a public relations consultant and finds herself engaged to be engaged to a US Congressman.

And then in the midst of her "new" life she gets a call from her Uncle's attorney. Uncle Obidiah has had some health issues and has decided to "mend his ways and make amends" for the family's misdeeds while he still has the chance.

So Piper returns to Pickwick to put out the fires and save the family name and fortune.

A wonderful cast of characters awaits her - Uncle Obe, attorney Artemis, garden Axel, cousin Maggie, her daughter Devyn, Luc, Bart.

What follows is romance, revelations, and redemption. It's small town life with close family at it's best. Ms. Leigh writes the characters so well that you feel like you could walk out your front door and meet one of them on the street.

And the best news of all is that it is a series. I can't wait for the next book so I can go back to Pickwick, NC and catch up with my newest friends.

This book was provided for review by WaterbrookMultnomah and you can find further details and information to purchase this book at:


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Wash and Die

I just finished Wash and Die by Barbara Colley. This is the seventh book in the series about New Orleans maid Charlotte LaRue.

Charlotte is a single mother of a grown son with a very close extended family. Her sister Madeline has a police detective daughter named Judith and a lawyer son named Daniel. Judith's ex-partner Louis lives in the other half of Charlotte's Victorian double.

Charlotte has a knack for being in the right place at the right time (or is that the wrong place at the wrong time?) to stumble on murder. And she's pretty good at solving the crimes too, which the local police tend to find aggravating.

In this episode Louis' ex-wife Joyce is back from rehab and looking to Charlotte for a place to stay. Of course Joyce being Joyce, mayhem, and murder, soon follows.

As usual Charlotte can't just let Judith and the police find the answers to the questions that follow which naturally puts Charlotte in harm's way.

Can Charlotte find her beloved parakeet, Sweety Boy? Can she find the killer before the killer finds her or anyone else gets hurt?

Ms. Colley has developed a great cast of characters who really care about each other with a heroine with dogged determination to find the answers to the riddles surrounding the murder in their midst in a series that gets better with each new book.

I would recommend reading the books in this series in order. They do stand alone although they refer back to the earlier books so reading them in order builds a good foundation for understanding references in the later books. And all of them are good so why not read them all?

The next book will be out in January 2010 and I for one am marking my calendar.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Call of Zulina

Today's review is The Call of Zulina by Kay Marshall Strom, the first book in the Grace in Africa series.

The story centers around the Winslow family. Joseph, a white sea captain and slave trader, his wife Lingongo, an African princess and their daughter Grace. As the story opens, Grace is being forced into an arranged marriage with a pompous overbearing Englishman. Although Lingongo was in the same position at one time herself, having been forced to marry Joseph by her father the King, she has no sympathy for Grace.

Grace decides that the only way to save herself is to run away. The main problem here is that she has never in her life been out of the family compound. What lies outside the walls of the compound? Well for one thing the slave compound, Zulina.

Grace treads a very fine line - as her father is white and her mother is black in a time when those lines were very boldly drawn. Where does she belong? In the white world, owning slaves? Or is she herself a slave?

So of course when she escapes she ends up in Zulina and is used as a pawn in the approaching war between the slaves and the slave traders. Along the way she will have to decide who to trust and who not to trust and mostly she will have to decide where she belongs.

This is a very unusual book - not like any other I have read before. At times it is very ugly - as the practice of slave trading is. And at times there is overwhelming love as well as grief. By the end of the book lives will have been changed and lives will have been lost. All in all a very compelling book.


This book was provided by Kathy Carlton Willis Communications for my review.

About the Book:

(Eugene, Oregon) – An arranged marriage, a runaway bride, and an ugly family heritage of brutal and inhumane slavery operations leave no room for a fairytale story. Grace Winslow, daughter of an English sea captain and African princess, finds herself in a horrific position of betrothal. Doomed to marry an obnoxious white man, whom she does not love, Grace runs away to escape the slavery she’s been surrounded by all her life. Instead, her journey from home brings her face-to-face with issues of extreme slavery, abuse and human trafficking. In the end she discovers slavery is more than just chains and finds grace that exceeds a name given to her by her parents.

Written by Kay Marshall Strom, The Call of Zulina links historical slavery issues with the modern-day crisis tainting many countries. On the heels of important legislature regarding human trafficking, Strom tackles the subject boldly as she sheds light on the practices and techniques used by angry slave traders. Seen as an advocate for those who have no voice, Strom finds words to communicate the message of history to today’s readers. While this book shines the light on an uncomfortable subject, the message of hope, freedom, and justice prevail and eternal truths discovered.

About the Author:

Author Kay Marshall Strom has two great loves: writing and helping others achieve their own writing potential. Kay has written thirty-six published books, numerous magazine articles, and two screenplays. While mostly a nonfiction writer, the first book of her historical novel trilogy Grace in Africa has met with acclaim. Kay speaks at seminars, retreats, writers’ conferences, and special events throughout the country and around the world. She is in wide demand as an instructor and keynote speaker at major writing conferences. She also enjoys speaking aboard cruise ships in exchange for exotic cruise destinations.

Blog Tour Interview:

1. How did you come up with the storyline of The Call of Zulina?

While in West Africa working on another project, I toured an old slave fortress and was struck dumb by a set of baby manacles bolted to the wall. The characters of Lingongo and Joseph Winslow, Grace's parents, are modeled after real people who ran a slave business in Africa in the 1700s. I "met" them when I was researching Once Blind: The Life of John Newton, a biography of the slaver turned preacher and abolitionists, author of Amazing Grace. The more I thought about them, the more I wondered, "If they'd had a daughter, who would she be? Where would her loyalties lie?"

2. What inspired you to write a book so entrenched with uncomfortable issues?

I used to think that non-fiction was the meat and potatoes of writing and fiction was the chocolate mousse dessert... fun, but not of much value. But I've come to understand that truths can be revealed through fiction just as powerfully as through non-fiction. Sometimes, more so! The fact is, for so long we have tried to look away and pretend that this horrible chapter in history never happened. But it did, and we still feel the effects today. Moreover, the roots of slavery--hunger for power and money, fear and diminishment of people unlike ourselves, and humanity's endless ability to rationalize evil actions--abound today. The time seemed right.

3. How haveyour travels around the world equipped you for writing such a historical novel?

People ask me where my passion for issues such as modern day slavery come from. To a large degree it is from the things I have seen and heard on my numerous trips to India, African countries, Cambodia, Nepal, Indonesia, and other places around the world.

4. Tell us a personal story regarding modern day slavery.

A most pervasive type of slavery is what is known as bonded servitude, where entire poor families are bound into virtual slavery--sometimes for generations--because of a small debt. This is especially common in India. I visited a village in central India where the women had been freed from bondage and set up with a micro loan that allowed them to raise a small herd of dairy cows. They worked so hard and saved every rupee. When they had enough saved, they persuaded a young teacher to come and start a school for their children. Then they used further profits to make low interest loans to others in the area so they could start their own businesses, too--a little bank. I sat in a circle with the five women who made up the "board of directors." Only one could read and write. I asked, "How will the next generation be different because of what you have done?" They said, "No more will be like us. When people look us, they see nothing. But when they look at our children, they see real human beings with value."

From invisible slaves to human beings... all in one generation!

5. Grace, the lead character in The Call of Zulina, forsakes all to escape the slavery of her parents and an arranged marriage.How common is this scenerio today in other countries?

Horrifyingly common. Slavery today takes many forms. According to UNICEF's more conservative count, there are about 12 million people living as slaves today--three times as many as in the days of the African slave trade. As for child arranged marriages, I have talked to girls "enslaved" to husbands in many countries. Examples include a girl in Nepal married at 9 to a middle-aged man, one in India married at 11, a 13-year-old in Egypt married to a man older than her father. I've seen it in Africa, Eastern Europe... so many places!

6. What about in America, are there slavery and trafficking issues here?

Unfortunately, there are. The U.S. State Department estimates between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the Untied States each year, although it concedes that the real number is actually far higher. And it's not just states like New York and California that are affected, either. According to the U.S. Justice Department's head of the new human trafficking unit, there is now at least one case of trafficking in every state.

7. You've had 36 books published, and more written and contracted for future release. How has this one impacted your own life?

Some books report, some tell stories. This book has torn my heart.

8. Briefly tell us about the next two books in this Grace in Africa trilogy.

In Book 2, Grace watches her reconstructed life smashed by slavers and revenge, and she is forcibly taken to London. There she faces a new kind of tyranny and another fight for freedom... and for her husband, who is enslaved in America.

Book 3 is set in the new United States of America, in the heart of the slavery. It is a story of slavery at it's worst and redemption at its best.

What Can Concerned Citizens Do to Raise Awareness?

* Find out all you can about Modern Day Slavery: then watch for chances to pass on what you have learned.
Write to your elected officials: Petition them to place a high priority on enforcing anti-slavery laws and to put pressure on countries that tolerate forced labor or human trafficking.
* Buy Fair Trade products: Fair trade provides a sustainable model of international trade based on economic justice. To find out more, see .
* Support organizations that are in a position to make a difference. When you find an one that is doing a good job on the front lines, contribute to their cause so they can continue on.
* Be willing to step into the gap. If you suspect someone is being held against his or her will, call the Department of Justice hotline: 1-888-428-7581. Or you can call 911.

Grand Prize Giveaway!!!

Kay Marshall Strom is giving the following books to one fortunate commenter from The Call of Zulina blog tour. The prize package includes several of Kay's books:

* Seeking Christ: A Christian Woman's Guide to Personal Wholeness & Spiritual Maturity
* John Newton:The Angry Sailor
* Making Friends with Your Mother
* Making Friends with Your Father

To be entered in the giveaway please leave a comment by November 2.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Kiss Me Again, Restoring Lost Intimacy In Marriage

Kiss Me Again, Restoring Lost Intimacy In Marriage by Barbara Wilson explores the question of why marriage can seem like the end of intimacy and sexual desire instead of the beginning. Ms. Wilson uses her experience counseling and speaking to answer that question.

Following the Biblical principle of bonding through sex Ms. Wilson shows how you bond to each person you have sex with and how the bonds you have formed in the past can be a challenge to your marriage.

Through many personal examples, some of her own and some of the ladies' she has counseled, she covers sexual history issues to help you on the road to healing.

The book is mostly book form but also includes some "workbook" type sections so you can record your own thoughts.

Ms. Wilson has "been there, done that" and speaks from personal experience. She isn't afraid to lay out the details of her past in the hopes of helping her readers heal. There's lot of good information in this book and I recommend anyone struggling with a loss of intimacy in their marriage read it. It is set up as a ten-week study and I like that format. It gives you time to think about what you're reading and work on things a bit at a time.

For more information or to purchase this book you can follow this link:

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

WaterBrook Mltnomah was also generous enough to provide me with an extra copy that I can send to one lucky winner. For your chance simply leave me comment by October 30 with a way to contact you. Odds of winning will depend on the number of entries. Contest is open to US residents only.


A Drunkard's Path

I just finished Clare O'Donohue's second in the Someday Quilts series, A Drunkard's Path.

Once again murder strikes in the small town of Archer's Rest. Jesse stands Nell up on their first date and when she goes to find him she finds him investigating a murder. Of course it's not long before a second body turns up - right in Nell's yard. Is a serial killer prowling around Archer's Rest?

Nell, Eleanor and all the gang from the first book return. It's like a gathering of old friends. And we get to make a few new friends too.

Nell begins to investigate and before long suspects her art teacher - famous (or should I say "infamous") artist Oliver White. And to complicate matters Oliver has begun a relationship with Nell's grandmother Eleanor. How is Nell going to protect Eleanor without investigating Oliver? On the other hand, how is Nell going to investigate Oliver without hurting Eleanor's feelings?

Great mystery mixed with some good quilt talk - what more could you want? Well, to be honest - book three in the series. lol.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

One Imperfect Christmas

Yes, I'm starting my Christmas reading early. I think this is the third Christmas book I've reviewed this week.

This offering is Myra Johnson's debut novel One Imperfect Christmas. I was triply blessed with this book. First, I won it on a blog giveaway. Second, when it came it was autographed by Ms. Johnson. And third was the book itself.

At one point I thought "this book is too long - I need to know what the ending is NOW!" lol. And at the end I thought "this book is too short - I'm not ready for it to be over!". I love a book that touches me so much that I don't want to say good-bye to the characters.

Natalie Pearce is a graphic artist with a loving family. Husband Daniel, daughter Lissa and her parents Bram and Belinda, and her brother Hart and his family. This is a close family and you can feel the love and compassion these people have for each other. As with every family there are misunderstandings and "life" rushes in on you when you least expect it.

Belinda suffers a stroke at the beginning of the book and Natalie blames herself for not being there. It happens soon after Christmas and changes what was once a the favorite family holiday. Belinda was the heart and soul of their Christmas, making it a lovely and memorable occasion every year.

Over the next year, as her mother lies in a rehab facility Natalie wallows in guilt and pushes her husband and daughter away. She throws herself into her job and lets her marriage fall by the wayside.

What follows is a journey as Daniel tries to reach out to Natalie and she gives in to her fear of letting him get close. She continues to blame herself for her mother's condition and as Christmas draws near she desperately looks for a way to heal her mother - as well as herself.

This was a heartwarming as well as heartbreaking book. It was so compelling I found it hard to put it down. An outstanding debut and I will certainly be looking forward to reading more of Ms. Johnson's novels in the future.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Christmas Bus

The Christmas Bus by Melody Carlson is a perfect little book to get you in the Christmas spirit.

Collin and Amy are a young couple traveling in a Partridge Family style bus. They're headed to California and on the way they plot a course that will take them through Christmas Valley. Christmas Valley, of course, capitalizes on it's name by making an industry of Christmas. With businesses like Mrs. Santa's Diner (featuring Blitzen Burgers) to The North Pole Coffee Shop to the Shepard's Inn B&B they are fully immersed in Christmas.

The pastor Charles Ryan and his wife Edith operate the B&B, which is normally closed Christmas week. This year, much to Edith's dismay, their four children are unable to come home for Christmas. During Wednesday evening service Charles gives a sermon about entertaining angels unawares and it inspires Edith to open the B&B over Christmas.

A disparate group congregates, two couples with issues, a single elderly woman, a single older gentleman and a newly single mother with her small daughter. And then there's the bus parked in front of the B&B. Oh - did I mention - Collin and Amy are very young and Amy is very pregnant? Of course being a Christmas story I think you can see where this is going.

The beauty of this book is how Ms. Carlson brings all the characters together. There's lots of tension, people not getting along, people not wanting things to be different than they normally are and personality clashes. There are cliches, no room at the inn, angels in disguise, a crusty busybody and the ever present Christmas pageant - but they work. There's also laughter, fun, long held traditions most of us are acquainted with and a lesson to be learned.

The Christmas Bus is a shorter book so it's a good quick read. And better yet, it begs to be read all at once - it's just too good to put down.


Monday, October 12, 2009

The Sound of Sleigh Bells

The giveaway book was won by Deborah M. Congratulations!!

The Sound of Sleigh Bells by Cindy Woodsmall is the perfect book to read now as the weather is cooling down (well it is here in PA anyhow). The central character of the book is an Amish woman named Beth Hertzler. Beth is mourning the death of her fiance - but well past the normal mourning period - and harboring some guilt. Her family doesn't understand why she can't move on with her life and so they try different ways to get her to join the activities the family and community plans.

Beth works as a sort of go between for Amish craftsmen and "English" storeowners and customers. On one of her buying trips after taking an unexpected detour she finds a treasure in a small store. It's an intricate wood carving of Amish children playing in the snow. She falls in love with it but is afraid her bishop will find it to be too much of an idol to allow her to sell it.

Through some twists and turns she meets the carver and because very close to him. He has some issues of his own. Can they put their pasts behind them and move to the future they want together?

I have enjoyed Ms. Woodsmall's books for quite some time now. She writes from the knowledge gained by knowing the Amish personally. This book is a bit different from other Amish stories that I have read before. It examines some things not normally seen in Amish books. There is physical handicap - and I'm not sure why that isn't a topic in more Amish books. The Amish have a different view of handicaps than the world in general. Older people and people with handicaps, which sadly the "Englishers" tend to shy away from, are honored, cherished and protected in the Amish world. There's also another issue, which I won't reveal as it is a major plot point, but it is one that I have never read about in an Amish fiction book before.

If you haven't ever read Ms. Woodsmall's books, think in the lines of Beverly Lewis and Wanda Brunstetter - and pick up any book with Cindy Woodsmall's name on it.

You can follow this link to find information about purchasing your own copy:

If you would like an opportunity to win a hardback copy of this lovely book - just leave a comment below (be sure to leave an email address so that I can contact you). I'll be picking a winner on Friday, October 16. This contest is open only to US residents and the odds of winning depend on the number of entries.


A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Extraordinary, The Life You're Meant to Live

The giveaway copy was won by Kathy Carlton Willis. Congratulations!

For a change, I have a non-fiction book to review. I must say that this one was a bit difficult for me. I don't really do a lot of non-fiction because it's hard for me to focus on non-fiction. And this one was no different. I actually started it about four times before it really started to hit me how good it was.

The book is Extraordinary, The Life You're Meant to Live by John Bevere.

Let me start you off with the publisher's blurb:

There’s a question that troubles many believers: “Why am I not experiencing more joy, more hope, more satisfaction, more intimacy, more power, more everything in my Christian life--didn’t Jesus promise that?”

He did promise an abundant life, but too many people are trapped by the curse of “the ordinary.” They have accepted the wrong idea that following God means losing individuality, creativity, and a passion for achieving lofty goals.

Nothing could be further from the truth! John Bevere builds a convincing case, straight from Scripture, for a way of living marked by extraordinary experiences and accomplishments—the life God always intended for his children.

Here is a guide to understanding God’s incredible plans, and how to enjoy a life where he adds the “extra” to “ordinary.”

Mr. Bevere is quick to point out that there is a difference between God loving us and God being pleased with us. That ties directly in to the difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary. We're taught that God loves us no matter what, and that's true. But are our actions pleasing to God? And what are the rewards of pleasing God? No, this is not selfishly trying to "get" for ourselves. God wants to give us all things - but many times we ourselves hinder that process.

Mr. Bevere shows us through personal examples and the most wonderful scripture selections (that he clarifies right in the selection) how we can move forward in living our lives extraordinarily. I saw things that I have read and heard in church since I was a small child with a completely new view. There's so much more to life than the ordinary and God wants it all for us.

Pick this book up and see what you can learn from it. You can follow this link to information about purchasing this book:

If you leave a comment below you can be entered into a drawing to win a copy of this book. I'll be drawing a name on October 16. This drawing will be limited to US residents and the odds of winning will depend on the final number of entries.


This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

The Lover's Knot, A Someday Quilts Mystery

My latest read is The Lover's Knot, A Someday Quilts Mystery by Clare O'Donohue.

Quilting and reading are my two favorite hobbies so when I get to combine both of them in one I'm one happy camper.

The Lover's Knot refers to a quilt that Nell Fitzgerald's grandmother Eleanor made for Nell and her finance Ryan. On the day that Nell receives it in the mail, however, Ryan tells her that he thinks they should put the wedding on hold. Shocked and hurt Nell goes to Archer's Rest, on the Hudson in NY, to see her grandmother and nurse her broken heart.

Eleanor owns a quilt shop, Someday Quilts. As soon as Nell arrives she meets Marc, the handyman fixing up Eleanor's house, who will be a major figure in her near future. She also meets the member's of Eleanor's Friday night quilting group, who, like most quilters I know, try to draw Nell in to their group.

Eleanor takes a spill on the stairs and Nell ends up staying in town to help run the quilt shop, which Eleanor has just decided to expand into the vacant diner next door - with Marc doing the renovations. Nell and Marc begin to get close, Ryan shows up and murder follows close behind.

A wonderful group of characters blend together in a heart warming tale of deciding when something is worth working on and when it's time to let go - whether it be a quilting project or a relationship. And of course there is the murder mystery - complete with widowed sheriff Jesse in charge of the investigation.

Obviously you can tell by the "A Someday Quilts Mystery" that this is the first of a series. And I'm so glad. When I make new friends, I like knowing they're going to be around for a while.

The story, the friends, the mystery, it all comes together like, well, a quilt. And I'll be happy to cuddle up with the next one - hopefully someday really soon. And it shouldn't be too hard, the second book, A Drunkard's Path, has already been released. It'll be nice to hear from my new friends again.


Friday, October 2, 2009

The Lost Hours

My latest read was The Lost Hours by Karen White.

The main character of the book is Piper Mills. Orphaned at six, she was raised by her grandparents. When she was twelve, Piper helped her grandfather bury a box of her grandmother's in the backyard.

After her grandfather's death, with her grandmother in a nursing home suffering from Alzheimer's disease, Piper inherits their beautiful home in Savannah, Georgia, along with the box and all it's secrets.

Piper opens the box and finds a charm necklace and some scrapbook pages and what follows is Piper's quest to discover her grandmother's story.

I will admit that the necklace was one of the main draws for me. I have a charm necklace. When my mother passed away we came across her charm bracelet while going through her things. It's still in her dresser drawer, my sister and I deciding that we would leave it there and if either of us wanted to wear it - it would be there waiting. I absolutely love that charm bracelet. It wasn't an anonymous charm bracelet - it held charms of things that represented her journey through life.

My charm necklace is like that. Every charm on it represents a part of my life. It's gotten very heavy as more and more charms have been added to it. In fact it's at the point I don't know how I'll add more to it and will probably need another one if I'm going to continue it.

The charm necklace in the book was also a representation of the events of the life of it's owners. Piper's grandmother and her two best friends owned the necklace and scrapbook. They each had it for four months of each year and wrote in the scrapbook and purchased a charm or two to add to it.

Until a terrible incident that tore the girls - and the scrapbook - apart.

Piper, who realizes she never really knew her grandmother, begins the quest to find the truth and learn her grandmother's story.

This book was so hard to put down. I read it until my eyes got so tired that the words blurred and I couldn't continue. Innocence is lost. Friendships are lost. But, where there is life, there is hope.

Pick this book up and lose yourself in Piper's adventures. You won't be sorry.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Sworn To Silence

I just finished reading Sworn To Silence by Linda Castillo.

One of the things I really like about Amazon is that they will take your purchase and viewing history and come up with some things to recommend to you. That's how I found Sworn To Silence. My purchasing/viewing history includes books on the Amish and suspense/thrillers and Sworn To Silence has both.

One of the main reasons I choose it was the Amish angle because to be honest, if I was going to pick up a thriller there are three (or maybe four by now) books by James Patterson in the Cross series that I would love to find time to fit into my reading time.

The main character of the book is Kate Burkholder, a police chief in the small town of Painters Mill, Ohio. Kate was born and raised Amish but has left the Amish faith to live in the "English" world. One of the reasons she is hired as the police chief is because she can relate to both the Amish and the English population of the area.

Then the murders start - or do they start again? Sixteen years ago there were a number of gruesome murders attributed to "The Slaughterhouse Killer". These murders are very similar but it is the same killer? (warning here that the murders are very detailed and very graphic).

Kate has very good reason to believe that this is not the same killer but a copycat. And she has very good reason for not revealing to anyone why she believes it is not the same killer.

I was hooked right away. I read way too late into the night and picked the book up as soon as I got home from work the next day and didn't put it down until I was finished.

I didn't find as much "Amish" in this book as I expected. It is a very violent and detailed book. Not for everyone's taste but if you like Patterson you are sure to like this book.

I've read some reviews where people said they knew very early on who the killer was and that astonishes me. I was thrown for a loop when it was revealed. I never saw it coming and wonder what I somehow missed that other people knew so early. Whatever it was, I'm glad I missed it because the reveal hit me in the way I'm sure Ms. Castillo hoped it would.

There's a great cast of characters from Kate to other members of the police department like Glock, Pickles, Skid (gotta love these names lol), Mona and the detective from out of town John Tomasetti (I will say that I did pick up on what would happen with him rather early). I'm hoping this is the first book of a series and that these great folks will return next time along with Kate's brother and sister and their families.

Not for the faint of heart or anyone who can't do "bad" language. But if you like suspense/thrillers I hope you will take a chance at getting to know Kate and her police force. I don't think you'll be disappointed.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Stray Affections

I just finished reading Stray Affections by Charlene Ann Baumbich. I discovered this book as a giveaway on a blog. A really funny thing happened. The page was taking a bit of time to load but the cover of the book was up. I glanced at the cover and did a double take. There was a most interesting snowglobe on the cover. I collected snowglobes once years ago and while I still like looking at them, I doubt I would ever collect them again. But I just couldn't seem to take my eyes off this snowglobe. So when the page fully loaded and I started reading the description of the book there was a line about Cassandra (the main character) being mesmerized by this same snowglobe at a Collector's Convention. Wow! It seemed meant to be. lol. And then when I won the book I knew it was meant to be.

That said, I have mixed emotions about the book. I had a hard time putting it down and read it in two days. The characters are wonderfully written. It takes place in a small town - having grown up in a small town I love reading books that take me back to that time. There are friendships that have lasted a lifetime - along with a number of misunderstandings that have lasted a lifetime.

We get to know a lot about Cassandra - a married mother of four boys who runs a daycare out of her home. She has a life many women would love to have - a loving husband, four young boys, a very close best friend. But she also has some regrets, a mother who she never really got a long with, a childhood wish that never came true and deep, deep hurts.

There are a few things in the book that I felt were going to be major plot points that just never went anywhere. Somethings were not explained that I thought would be and I felt that left a hole in the ending of the book.

However, the main point of the story - the chance to right past wrongs, redemption and the possibility of change were spot on. The characters seemed true to life - not too good to be true. Most of the things that happened could happen in any life in any town. The cast of characters formed a beautifully extended family with very believable ties to each other.

This is the first of three books in the Snowglobes Connections series - and I'm sure I'll be looking for the next two when they come out.

And this is the first book off my Fall Into Reading list. One down - eleven more to go.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fall Into Reading 2009

Well the opening day of Fall Into Reading is finally here.

This is the list of books I'd like to finish reading during this challenge:

* One Imperfect Christmas by Myra Johnson
* Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
* A Quilter's Holiday by Jennifer Chiaverini
* Stray Affections by Charlene Ann Baumbich
* Extraordinary by John Bevere
* Kiss Me Again by Barbara Wilson
* Limelight by Melody Carlson
* What Matters Most by Melody Carlson
* Leaving Carolina by Tamara Leigh
* Sound of Sleigh Bells by Cindy Woodsmall
* Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs
* White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner

A few years back I was in a couple of reading circles. Reading circles are great on a number of levels, depending on how they are run. One I participated in the books were circulated - so you purchased one book but got to read nine. But I think the best thing is the opportunity to read a book that you may otherwise have never picked up off the shelf. One book I got on my first time through a reading circle was Left Behind. Just from the cover of the book I'm not so sure I would have even picked it up to read the back. But I so enjoyed that series.

Most of the books on my reading list this time are books I will be reviewing for publishers. And some of them are books I might not have chosen were I not given a copy and requested to read them. And I have a few non-fiction books in there as well. I definitely prefer fiction to non-fiction but I'm trying to use this challenge to expand my "shelves" a bit.

And as an added bonus, a number of the books I will be reviewing I have been given a second copy to give away. So be sure to not only check on my progress at reading through my list and read my review but to have a chance to win a free copy of a book.

If you haven't joined this challenge but would like to you can click on the link on my sidebar.

Let the reading begin!


Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Wednesday Sisters

I just finished The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton. This book was recommended by a dear friend and makes me grateful for dear friends. I had never heard of this one before she mentioned it and I would have hated to miss it.

Set in the 1960s we follow a group of five wonderfully different but alike women. Frankie, Kath, Linda, Brett and Ally are from different backgrounds, have had different experiences and different dreams. But they form a friendship to be envied.

They meet in a park by chance and then begin meeting once a week. They are strong women who have real life struggles and joys. Ms. Clayton serves us the good and the bad without attempting to make anything better than it really is. There are wonderful highs and devastating lows - but through it all they stick together.

And like real women with real friendship they don't always agree with each other and there are squabbles. There's even some tough love. But true friends can do that. They encourage each other and even push each other to follow their dreams and do things they didn't think they ever could.

As this was set in a time I have no experience in it was interesting to see how the women interacted with their husbands. And the husbands, while not exactly main characters were real too. They had failings and strengths, supported their wives and sometimes didn't.

But the main thing was they loved each other. When one suffered they all suffered. They offered unconditional support for each other and were the kind of friends any woman would want.

Read this - you won't be sorry.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Raising Jake

I have to admit that one of the reasons I started my latest book, Raising Jake by Charlie Carillo, was that it was a freebie. But the synopsis sounded good so I figured what did I have to lose?

I had nothing to lose - and a lot to gain. The book is about a father and son who don't really know each other but spend a weekend together trying to change that. Sammy is a 50ish tabloid newspaper reporter, divorced from his 17 year old son Jake's mother.

I found some of the language, and a bit of the story itself, a bit crude (maybe that's because I'm a middle aged Christian woman). I have never met a male 50ish tabloid newspaper reporter but I think if I did meet one, he would probably be a lot like Sammy and since this is written in his voice I think I can understand why the author chose the language he chose.

A good bit of the story deals with Sammy's childhood. He has never revealed much of his childhood to Jake. We are introduced to people from Sammy's past - his parents, employer and friends. The story is set in NY city and having lived in that area the characters ring true.

There are truly tender moments, funny anecdotes and revelations I never saw coming.

If you have an Amazon Kindle you can get this book for free. If you don't it is well worth the purchase price - or at the least, a trip to the library.

Until next time, Jody

Friday, August 28, 2009

92 Pacific Boulevard

92 Pacific Boulevard by Debbie Macomber is my latest read.

This is the 9th book in the Cedar Cove series. As this is a series the books build on each other so you would want to start with the first book and read forward.

You can follow this link to Debbie's website and see all the Cedar Cove books in the order they were written:

So on to the book. Troy Davis, Cedar Cove's Sheriff, is the "main" character in this book. Each book sort of focuses on one character but also includes the characters from the prior books. We get to hear from Olivia, Grace, Teri and Bobby, Christie, Rachel, Jolene and Bruce, Mac, Mary Jo, Charlotte and all the other great characters.

Troy is trying to straighten out some misunderstandings with Faith and move forward with their lives. But someone has seemingly targeted Faith and as Sheriff, and the man in love with her, it's up to Troy to figure out what's going on. And all the other characters have side stories that will keep you up to date with what's going on in their lives - and drop hints for the next books too. :0)

As in all the other books you feel like these are your friends and neighbors. Debbie makes the small town of Cedar Cove seem like home. And of course you're always left wanting more - at least I am.

This was an excellent read - as evidenced by the fact that it was just released Tuesday and I'm finished with it already. And I can't wait for the next book. I already know who will be the main characters in that one but you can read 92 Pacific Boulevard and figure it out for yourself.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Death Of A Witch

I just finished reading Death Of A Witch by MC Beaton. This is the 25th book in the Hamish Macbeth series. I absolutely love this series and have read most of the books more than two or three times. It's like visiting an old friend.

Hamish is a constable in the remote village of Lochdubh in northern Scotland. He's sort of like Andy Taylor (The Andy Griffith Show). He solves his cases with a combination of intuition, kindness, common sense and a little bit of luck. The familiar cast of characters return - the Currie Sisters, Angela Brodie, Angus the Seer, Mrs. Wellington, Elspeth Grant, Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, Willie Lamont, Jimmy Anderson, Peter Daviot and of course Chief Inspector Blair. And not to be forgotten - Lugs and Sonsie.

The first victim is a woman the villagers claim is a witch. And Hamish had been heard to threaten her. There are plenty of twists and turns - including more murders, extra crime on the side and romance.

As always Hamish hopes against hope that the murderer is not one of his beloved villagers. Will he get his wish this time?

If you have not read this series before each story stands alone although there are references made to cases in the past - as well as the past romances. But it's much better to read number 25 than to feel like you have to start with number one and work your way up. Although I warn you that if you read any of the books you will be looking for the rest.

Now I wait, rather impatiently, for January 2010 when Death Of A Valentine will be released.

Ms. Beaton also has a wonderful series revolving around Agatha Raisin. And she has written a great series called the Edwardian Murder Mystery under the psuedonym Marion Chesney. I have yet to read anything she has written that I didn't thoroughly enjoy.


Friday, August 7, 2009

The Forgotten Garden

My latest read is The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. Ms. Morton is quickly becoming a favorite author. She's only published two books and I have devoured them both and loved them immensely.

The Forgotten Garden is the story of Nell, a four year old girl found on the docks of Australia in 1913. All she had with her was a small white suitcase with a couple of dresses and a book of fairy tales.

Not far into the story Nell's grand-daughter Cassandra picks up the search for Nell's true identity.

Told in the same fashion as Ms. Morton's first novel The House At Riverton (reviewed below) this story changes time frames and personal perspectives with each chapter.

In the present we follow Cassandra from Australia to England in the quest to discover who Nell really is. Nell's (adoptive) father tells her the truth of how she became his daughter on her 21st birthday. Nell passes away (as a quite old woman) not far into the story and leaves Cassandra some clues and a gift labeled "for Cassandra, who will know why" that send Cassandra off to England in search of answers.

The characters are richly draw and the chapters form a sort of puzzle waiting to be put together to reveal the picture of Nell's parentage.

I think one of the things I really like about Ms. Morton's writings is that I can't figure them out. So many books I read I figure out the end before the book gets to it. But not with these. Each time I thought I knew - I really didn't.

If you haven't read a Kate Morton book I highly recommend that you do.

This is definitely a DEAR book. (For those of you without kids in the public school system that means Drop Everything And Read).


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Boneman's Daughter's by Ted Dekker

I have been wanting to read this book for some time. Years and years ago I found Ted Dekker while doing a reading circle at my church. I picked up the first book in the Martyr's Song series and was instantly hooked. After that I read Blessed Child and A Man Called Blessed. I thoroughly enjoy reading Mr. Dekker's books.

This one, however, was a bit hard to read in a few places. I sort of likened it to James Patterson - who I really enjoy reading also - but he can get a bit graphic.

This story is about a serial killer who is looking for the perfect daughter. He kidnaps girls and when they fail to live up to his high expectations he kills them - by breaking their bones without breaking their skin. This causes them to bleed to death slowly.

There's a lot of good plot, great characters and a few good twists I really didn't see coming. But there are a few passages where he describes the bone breaking that are very, very graphic.

It's a great book and if you can do as I did and just push through those couple of places it's a good read.


Friday, July 3, 2009

The House At Riverton

This is an incredible book and I am pleased to use it to kick off my book blog.

The House At Riverton by Kate Morton is set in the early 1900s in England. The main character is Grace Reeves, a 14 year old girl who is about to enter into service at the house at Riverton. The Hartford family occupies the estate. As was common in that day, several generations occupy the estate from Emmeline who is 10 to Lord and Lady Ashby who are close to the end of their lives.

It's told from Grace's point of view and bops back and forth from the present (1999) and the early 1900s. At the heart of the story is a suicide at a party at the estate in 1924.

There are lots of twists and turns. The author certainly did her time in research of the time and the descriptions she gives are wonderful to the point you feel as if you are there and a part of the story. There is a wonderfully rich cast of characters, from the family to the servants to the people they come in contact with.

One thing that really struck me is that the servants (most anyhow) were living the life they enjoyed. In that time period people were "conditioned" to become servants. Many would give up a family of their own due to their loyality to the family they served. Many would stay with the family their entire life. I guess it also surprised me that at 14 a girl would leave her family and go into service. I suppose that as a Civil War enthusiast I am more used to the service of slavery which was definitely anything but what those people wanted.

The story covers the period before and after World War One and the differences are beautifully described. From rationing to the difference in what was acceptable for a lady before and after the War to the clothing.

Pick up a copy and lose yourself in England in the 1920s - you won't regret it.