Thursday, October 23, 2014

Book Review: An Unseemly Wife By E.B. Moore


By: E.B. Moore

Published: October 7, 2014

Publisher: NAL Trade Paperback

Fiction/Historical Fiction

Ruth and Aaron are living the idyllic Amish life with their four children and one on the way. Their life is far removed from the English, the name they give the non-Amish. Life on their Pennsylvania homestead is a dream full of rewards of hard work and love for God. But, one day, the English make a visit to their home because Aaron is known for having the best horses around. The English explain they need solid horses to take their families West, where there is the promise of land for everyone and their children. Aaron listens to their tales of prosperity out West and decides it is time to remove his family from the protection of their Fold. He plans to join the wagon train and head to the Great West. Ruth can't seem to find the same excitement Aaron has and feels that makes her an "unseemly" wife in God's eyes. She bites her tongue, ignores the stares from her fellow Amish and sadly, follows Aaron's orders. Their family leaves the only home they have known to join the English on their trek across 2000 miles. Ruth works hard to keep their family separate from the English, but finds there are situations that require conversations and sharing of supplies. Throughout this difficult adventure, Ruth must find a way to sacrifice what she holds most dear to her heart.

In the first pages of the story, we are introduced to Ruth and her stalwart ways of following the Ordung or the rules of the Amish. She has raised her children to be wary of the English and to learn to be hard workers around their farm. As their family heads West, she has to learn how to handle her emotions and misgivings around the way of the English. We learn Ruth's strength early in their trek. In the middle of the Appalachian Mountains, Ruth gives birth to their fifth child, alone, in the wagon. Aaron, so concerned with not missing the wagon train, presses on immediately after the delivery, without concern for Ruth's healing or needs. Sadly, this is not the only pain and suffering that Ruth will have to endure in the months ahead. Ruth is the epitome of the opening poem in the book:

There is in every true woman,
a fire, dormant
in the light of prosperity,
which blazes the dark hour. 
- Washington Irving

Just when I thought Ruth couldn't bear another setback, she proves that she can and will. Ruth and Aaron's sweet daughter Esther is wise beyond her four-year-old years and is truly the light in the story. Ruth will live in my heart for a long time. Her strength, perseverance, faith and fortitude during some of the greatest struggles in her life are lessons for us all. Moore leaves you hanging with the ending, but with a smile in your heart.  

E.B. Moore has written her first novel at the age of 72 based on family stories of her ancestors.  She has written with such eloquence, emotion, and attention to detail that I hope she has many more books left in her to write. I grew up near an Amish community and was always fascinated by their lifestyle. Now, as a wife and a mother, I am in awe of their daily routine and the amount of work that goes into their day. I am even a bit envious of their simple life at times, wishing for quiet evenings around the table and playing games with the kids. Moore's book reminds you of both of those parts of the Amish life and the harsh realities of the pioneers who traveled to find their dreams in the West. This piece of our history reminds us of our ancestors and their steadfast dreams for our futures. 

E. B. Moore was born on a farm near New Hope, PA, and is a recent graduate of the Novel Incubator program at Grub Street, Boston's independent writing center. A retired metal sculptor, she is also a graduate of the school of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Moore's first book of poetry, New Eden: A Legacy was published by Finishing Line Press in 2009. Her work has appeared in literary journals including The Drum and Inkwell, as well as two anthologies of writing taken from the William Joiner Workshops. She has been a resident at Yaddo, and was accepted to the Vermont Studio Center residency on full fellowship. AN UNSEEMLY WIFE is based on the life of her Old Order Amish great-grandmother, who left Pennsylvania with a wagon train.

To purchase a copy of this book, click the photo below:

Thanks to Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of this book for review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review. If you choose to purchase this book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting reviews. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Granola Bars Review

I have been reviewing products for BEST CHOICE Brands for the last several months.  I compare their product to a similar brand-name product and offer my opinion on which one is better. They will then be posting my reviews on their site and when they appear, I will share them with you here.  The cool thing is that you will always see my review, whether I chose the brand-name product or the Best Choice product. You are truly getting my HONEST OPINION. You can always see reviews of the Best Choice products from myself and other mom bloggers, by clicking 

I am always so excited to open up the box and see what I am reviewing next.   In our area, we can find Best Choice products at Alco stores and smaller independent grocery stores. Since I have been exposed to more Best Choice products, we have added several to our pantry, bumping out the regular brand-name products. 
Stay tuned for more product reviews from Best Choice. 
I think you may be surprised by our results.

I always keep granola bars in stock at our house. They are easy to grab and go and I feel like they are better for the kids than a candy bar or chips. I like that they come in different flavor varieties so each kid can choose their favorite. We taste-tested Quaker Chewy Granola Bars and Best Choice Chewy Granola Bars. Click HERE to see which brand won in our family's taste test. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Book Review: A Breast Cancer Alphabet By Madhulika Sikka


By: Madhulika Sikka

Published: February 25, 2014

Publisher: Crown, First Edition


I am part of the TLC Book Tour for A BREAST CANCER ALPHABET. To see other stops on this book tour including reviews from other book bloggers and giveaways, click HERE

During this month of October, I felt it was especially appropriate to share this book. A BREAST CANCER ALPHABET isn't just for the person with cancer, but for those who love and care for the person with cancer. I would even offer that even though this book focuses specifically, in certain chapters, about breast cancer, this book could be helpful to anyone with any form of cancer. 

While working as a producer with NPR, Sikka found out she had breast cancer. As she traveled through chemo and hair loss, surgeries and sickness, she found there wasn't a book to tell you exactly what you wanted and needed to hear while going through the days of cancer. Sikka wrote this book to remind those with cancer and their families and friends that you can still smile, life still goes on and most importantly, you have every right to feel the way you do.

The book is laid out exactly as you would expect. Each chapter begins with a letter of the alphabet that explains a part of living with cancer.  In the "A is for Anxiety" chapter, you will find that anxiety isn't a feeling experienced just during the waiting game after a lump is found, but a part of life that continues years after you are "cancer free". The anxiety during your treatments is just as real as the anxiety you feel in the back of your mind, always wondering if your cancer will come back.  In the "E is for Epiphany" chapter, Sikka explains that all those dreams and wishes you had in your "pre-cancer" life are nothing compared to the dreams you have in your "after-cancer" life. Realizing that your life was pretty great just as it was may be the epiphany you needed. There are also practical chapters like "P is for Pillows" in which the author shares the practicality and necessity of a three-by-six-inch pillow. 

I found A BREAST CANCER ALPHABET to be a practical, yet emotional book. Just because I am a woman makes me a large target for the wretched breast cancer beast. Reading this book made me fearful, yet encouraged. I get my annual mammograms. I perform monthly self-checks. But, I also have a family history of breast cancer. I know the risk for me is high and I found comfort in the pages of this book. Sikka was honest, thorough, and creative in her informative book. I am more aware of how cancer patients feel, physically and emotionally, because of her honesty.  This is a book that should be shared with every woman you know. We can become better patients, caregivers, and friends with the knowledge in this book. 

Madhulika Sikka
Madhulika Sikka is a veteran broadcast journalist with decades of experience. Among other media outlets, she has worked at NPR News and ABC News. For more on Madhulika Sikka, visit her website,

To watch the book trailer, click the video below:

To purchase a copy of this book, click the photo below:

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for sending me a copy of this book for review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated for this review. If you choose to purchase a copy of this book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you spending a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting reviews. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Children's Book Review: Stormin Norman the Soggy Doggy By Andy Allen


By: Andy Allen

Illustrated By: Brian Barber

Published: November 7, 2011

Publisher: Beavers Pond Press

I met author, Andy Allen at author event I attended a few weeks ago. You can read more about that event, HERE. We had a great chat and I really love his fabulous children's book.

Andy Allen wrote this book after his experience with his own dog during the Flood of 2008 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The floods were devastating to that city as well as many other towns in Iowa. He has taken this experience with his own dog and made it into a wonderful children's book that can be enjoyed by the whole family.

On the first sunny day after many days of rain, Andy and Norm went out for a walk. Their walk along the trail took them near a stream that was abnormally high after all the rain. Norm spied a stick in the water. Like any normal dog would, Norm went after the stick and ended up in the stream. Will Andy be able to save him?

This story shows the love between an owner and his pet. It shows how a normal day can turn into something quite unexpected. Most of all, it teaches a lesson about the danger of high waters. After reading it with your child, you can have a conversation about how important it is to stay away from flooded water.

Each page is written in rhyming scheme and makes it fun and lyrical. But, what I really love about the book is the illustrations. In my conversation with the author, he shared his pride in the pictures and how they depict the true feelings of Andy and Norm, as well as the beautiful Iowa landscape. Even the fish in the stream have expressions.

I am excited to say that there is more to come from Andy and Norm. Another book will be making its way onto bookshelves in the next few months. Stay tuned as I am planning to review Andy Allen's next adventure with Norm.

Andy Allen will forever be an Iowan at heart. He holds a B.S. in psychology and a Master’s Degree in early childhood education. Andy has been an elementary school teacher for nine years.  When he is not composing new rhymes for his Norm stories, Andy coaches basketball and enjoys a good crossword puzzle. He lives in Cedar Rapids with his wife Mary, two cats, Mila and Oscar and two dogs, Simon and of course Norman. For more on Andy Allen and his adventures with Norman, check out You can also find Andy and Norm on Facebook, HERE

If you would like to purchase a copy of this book, click the photo below:

I will be linking this review up on Booking Mama's Kid Konnection. Every Saturday, you can find other great reviews of children's and YA books from other bloggers. Click HERE, to see all the Kid Konnection posts.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Product Review: Nut Milk Bag

I had the opportunity to review Everyday Kitchen Essentials Nut Milk Bag.

I have to admit, I had never heard
of a Nut Milk Bag before.
I have purchased almond milk, but never once thought of making my own almond milk.
But, now I can say that I have done just that, and it is delicious! 

is a strong nylon mesh bag.
It comes packaged in a plastic wrapper so it is protected.
Once you open the bag, I recommend rinsing it out before use.
This Nut Milk Bag
can be purchased on Amazon, HERE,
for around $8 and can be used many times over. 

For my review, I decided to go ahead and try making my own almond milk using raw almonds I already had in my pantry.  You can get the recipe to make your own almond milk by going to the website provided with your Nut Milk Bag.

First I had to soak the almonds overnight. 
I used 2 cups of almonds and just enough water to cover them in the bowl.
I covered the bowl lightly with a paper towel 
just to make sure a gnat or something didn't decided to join the almonds for a swim.

The next morning I took half the almonds and 
placed them in my blender with 4 cups of water 
and a couple tablespoons of pure maple syrup for a sweetener.
You can use other syrups or sweeteners, this was just what I had on hand.
I then blended it on the highest setting for 5 minutes.

While the nuts were blending, I placed the Nut Milk Bag
in a large mixing bowl. 

I slowly poured the blended nuts into the mesh bag.
As you can see there was a foam on the top of the mixture
and pieces of nut shell in the milk.
This is where the Nut Milk Bag
becomes important to this process.

As I began to squeeze out the milk in the bag,
all the pieces of the nut shells stayed in the bag,
while the good, creamy milk went into the bowl.

What was left in the bag was a nut paste, kind of like 
that moon sand stuff that kids like to play with.

Then, I started the process over again for the second cup of almonds.
Once I finished I had just a little over 8 cups of almond milk.

I placed a lid over the bowl and set it in the fridge to chill.
Then I started the clean up process.
Aside from setting the blender pitcher in the dishwasher,
I just had to wash and rinse out the Nut Milk Bag.
I wasn't sure how quickly this process would go,
but I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to clean up.
This entire process of making the almond milk and cleaning up took just 30 minutes.
Frankly, it takes me longer to drive to the grocery store to buy almond milk, 
than it did for me to actually make it.
The bag cleaned up really quickly 
and I just propped it in my dish drainer to dry for the day.

Later that day I took my first sip of almond milk.
It. Was. Amazing.
It was creamy, with just a hint of sweetness.
I could drink it just by itself with a meal.
Really delicious.

Other uses for the Nut Milk Bag
include straining quinoa before cooking, 
straining juices when canning or making broth, 
and making yogurts or cheeses.

If you normally use a cheese cloth for straining, I highly recommend
using the Everyday Kitchen Essentials Nut Milk Bag
for ease of use, durability and quick cleaning.

To purchase your own Nut Milk Bag, click the photo below:

Thanks to Everyday Kitchen Essentials for sending this product for the purpose of this review. I was not compensated in any other way for this review. If you choose to purchase this product through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thank you for supporting reviews. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review: Crazy is Normal By Lloyd Lofthouse


By: Lloyd Lofthouse

Published: June 14, 2014

Publisher: Three Clover Press


I'm participating in the book tour for CRAZY IS NORMAL with Virtual Author Book Tours. After teaching for twenty years, Lofthouse decided to keep a journal sharing the ups and downs of teaching freshman English and journalism. He kept this journal during the school year of 1994-1995. Twenty years later in 2014, his experiences teaching in the California public school system are still seen in classrooms all over the country today.

CRAZY IS NORMAL is a great way to describe the setting in his classrooms. It was rare to have an entire class that listened, did their work, and followed through on their homework. The bright light in his day was his time with his journalism students. These students were motivated to work, intelligent, and made him laugh, unlike most of his freshman English students.

Nogales High School in La Puente, CA is located in a prime gang community. Drive-by shootings and acts of vandalism occurred on a regular basis. Mr. Lofthouse had to work with students from the gang community that didn't care about school, to students who had a second-grade reading level and were continually given a passing grade, to students who truly wanted to learn and do their best to succeed. These different groups of students brought daily challenges which the author shares through his weekly journal notes. The reader will be able to feel frustrated right along with the author as he sends the same students again and again to what he calls BIC, which is basically an in-school suspension. It became quite monotonous to read the same type of situations day in and day out, but it was reality for Mr. Lofthouse.

Because this book basically consists of journal entries, there is little plot or story construction. As you read through the year, you read about the same students and you want to know how the school year ends for them, good or bad.  But there is little to draw you in and keep you reading. I was uncomfortable with his attraction to his "star journalism student", Amanda. Even though he was attracted to her, I believe it was inappropriate for him to write about it, although, thankfully, he didn't act on his feelings. I appreciated that he made sure he wasn't in a situation with a student that could have caused concern, such as being alone in a room with a female student. But, it still made me cringe. I also took offense to his frustration with substitute teachers. As a substitute teacher, I take my job seriously and do my best to carry out the plans left by the teacher. I would much rather teach something than sit and read all day. Not all subs are in the classroom to have a good time or mess up the teacher's plans as he discussed. Some of us really care about the students and their learning.

His frustrations with teaching, his feelings of burnout, and annoyance with out-of-touch administrators are common themes in schools today. Fellow teachers will empathize with Mr. Lofthouse and respect his convictions to teach students the proper way to read and write.

The following video is an interview with the author, Lloyd Lofthouse. In the interview he gives his opinion on how his book, based on a year in his classroom in 1994, is worth reading today, even twenty years later. He also shares his opinion on No Child Left Behind and the solution to education reform today. I have to say that I actually agree with his solution. The importance of reading to your children at the beginning of their life and continuing to reinforce the values of reading will have a substantial impact on your child's educational future.

If you would like to purchase a copy of CRAZY IS NORMAL, you can click the photo below. Through November 15, the book is only $.99 on Kindle.

There are several other blogs participating in the book tour for CRAZY IS NORMAL. To read interviews with the author, see other reviews and even enter to win copies of the book, click on the blogs below. 

Crazy Is Normal Web Tour Schedule

Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus Oct. 1 Review & Giveaway
Inspire to Read Oct. 2  Guest Post & Excerpt
Cassandra M's Place Oct. 6 Review & Giveaway
Pinky's Favorite Reads Interview & Excerpt
Dr Bill's Book Bazaar Oct. 8 Review                                          
Being Tillys Mummy Oct 9 Guest Post & Excerpt
Unselfish Oct 13 Review                                               
Back Porchervations Oct 14 Review, Interview, & Excerpt
Sincerely Stacie Oct. 15 Review                                               
Heck Of A Bunch Oct. 17 Review & Giveaway
Books, Books & More Books Oct 21 Review                                        
Rockin' Book Reviews Oct 22 Review, Interview, and  Excerpt
The Book Binder's Daughter Oct. 23 Review & Interview
The News in Books Oct. 29 Review & Guest Post
M. Denise Costello Oct. 30 Review & Excerpt
She Treads Softly Nov. 3 Review                                              
CelticLady's Reviews Nov 4 Review                                          
My Devotional Thoughts            Nov. 5 Review & Excerpt
Manic Mama of 2 Nov. 6 Review & Excerpt
Deal Sharing Aunt Nov 7 Review, Interview, & Excerpt
What U Talking Bout Willis? Nov 10 Review & Excerpt
From Isi Nov 11 Review

Lloyd Lofthouse

Little did Lloyd Lofthouse know in 1999, when he married Anchee Min, that he was beginning a journey of discovery. His first trip to The Middle Kingdom was on the honeymoon with his bride, who introduced him to China and Robert Hart (1835-1911), the main characters in Lloyd’s first two novels, My Splendid Concubine andOur Hart. The next decade was a journey of discovery. Lloyd now lives near San Francisco with his wife–with a second home in Shanghai, China.
Lloyd earned a BA in journalism in 1973 after fighting in Vietnam as a U.S. Marine. While working days as an English teacher, he enjoyed a second job as a maitre d’ in a multimillion-dollar nightclub. His short story, A Night at the ‘Well of Purity’ was named as a finalist for the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards.
Lloyd has won 15 awards for My Splendid Concubine and 5 awards for Running With the Enemy.
Thanks to Virtual Author Book Tours for providing me a copy of this book for review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review. If you choose to purchase the book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting reviews. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Reluctant Reader No Longer

As a substitute teacher, I come in and do my job and leave. Even though I know most of the kids and am able to keep track of their school progress and social life, I feel like I really don't make much of an impact. I basically check in, do my job, and go home.

A few years ago, I was a long-term sub for a teacher that worked with kids who needed extra help with their reading. They were all what I would call "reluctant readers" and it was a daily struggle to get them to do their daily reading.

There was one student in particular, who I knew had the ability to read but wasn't doing it. After talking with him I found that he couldn't find any books that were interesting to him. So, I talked to him about finding a book on a subject he is interested. I remember he mentioned he liked dragons and fantasy type of books but there weren't a lot of books like that at the school, especially at his reading level. He didn't want to read about sports or vampires or romances.

That afternoon, as soon as school got out, I went to our local library and started looking for some books I thought this student might like and ones that were in his reading level. Luckily, I found a series of books (I can't remember now what series it was) that I thought he might like. I checked out the first book in that series and took it to school the next day.

He came back to me just a couple days later with the book finished and anxiously wanting the next book.  So, I went and checked out the next book for him.  This pattern followed as we moved through the series. Because he was a middle school student, he wasn't able to get to the library himself. So, as I finished out that school year with him, I continued to check out books for him that I thought he would like.


Fast forward to this student now being a junior in high school. I was subbing the other day and this same student was in my class. As soon as his work was done, I noticed he was reading. Since we are a 1:1 school, usually a student is doing something on their iPad during their down time. But, I was surprised to see this student reading. I went over to see what he was reading and it was a Rick Riordan novel, no surprise. I told him I was so glad to see that he was reading, by choice. I told him it made me happy.Then he said the one thing that made tears come to my eyes. 

He told me he now LOVES to read. 
Because I showed him back in middle school 
that there were books 
he could read and be interested in. 
He now LOVES to read.

This made my day. Heck it made my week! The fact that this student is no longer a reluctant reader, but one that can't read books fast enough. That is what reading is supposed to be about. Finding a genre you love, being eager to move through the story, and then moving on to the next one.

If your child is a reluctant reader, try to find books that are in a level they can understand. If your child is in school, their teacher should know their AR book level or some other testing level that can guide you when finding an appropriate book. Once you have their level, start asking what they might like to read about...

  • Sports: football, basketball, soccer, baseball, cheerleading
  • Friendships
  • Dragons
  • Vampires
  • Ghosts
  • Families
  • Baking
  • School
  • History: Civil War, WWI, WWII, Pioneer
  • Non-Fiction: places, animals, people

There is truly a book for everyone if you can just find a starting point. One book will lead you to another either through the author or subject. Sites like goodreads and Amazon will lead you to books you might like if you liked a particular book. Keep trying. Don't give up. Like I told one of my students in that same middle school class, even if you read the sports page of the newspaper, you are reading. Find something you are interested in and read it.