Friday, December 27, 2013

Book Review: Starry Night By Debbie Macomber


By: Debbie Macomber

Published: October 8, 2013


I told you about this book in October, HERE. I knew that I would want to save it for the week of Christmas to read because I knew it would be light, romantic, and put me in the mood for Christmas.

Carrie Slayton is the society page editor for the Chicago Herald and is sick of reporting on what someone wore to this or that event and who gave this amount of money to that charity.  Carrie wants to be a real reporter, so when she decides to put all her eggs in one basket and head to remote Alaska to try to find and interview the one man who doesn't want to be interviewed she may just lose her career forever.

At just 226 pages, this is definitely a quick read and with Debbie Macomber's usual fun, light storyline, you will have no trouble turning the pages.  As with all her novels, this story is very character driven and you will soon learn and be able to picture Carrie and Finn, the elusive man Carrie is trying to interview, in your mind. Even though there are some holes and hard to believe moments in the story, you ignore that for the sake of a happy story.  I don't think any Macomber books ends without a happy ending and this one doesn't disappoint.

Since part of the story is set in Alaska, Macomber takes you there in your mind describing the cold air, the open skies full of stars, and the amazing aurora borealis.  It will make you want to go and see it for yourself.

The story takes you from Thanksgiving through Christmas but isn't really a Christmas story, just one set during that time of year.  What it is though, is a romantic story that will make you want to wrap up in a blanket with a cup of cocoa and snuggle up next to your loved one.

Debbie Macomber (source)
Debbie Macomber is the best-selling author and one of today's most popular writers with over 170 million copies of her books in print.  Macomber also the owner of a tea room and a yarn shop.  She lives with her husband, Wayn,e in Washington state and loves being a grandma. For more on Debbie Macomber, visit her website

This review is my honest opinion. I purchased this book myself and was not obligated to offer a review. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas - A Little Monday Inspiration

I was introduced to this poem at the beginning of December and I haven't been able to get it out of my mind. I don't know the author of this poem (if you do let me know), but I think it perfectly sums up the meaning of Christmas.  Be sure to keep Christmas in your heart all through the year.

When the song of angels are stilled
When the star in the sky is gone
When the kings and princes are home
When the shepherds are back with their flock
The work of Christmas begins.
To find the lost,
To heal the broken-hearted,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoners,
To rebuild nations,
To bring peace among the people,
And to make music in the heart. 

May you share the spirit of Christmas 
with others all through the year! 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Winner of the $25 Amazon Gift Card

Thanks so much to all of you for entering.  I am blessed by all of you and in awe that people want to read what I have to say! Thanks for entering!

This winner of the $25 Gift Card is...........................

True Random Number Generator  2
(For some reason it always shows 1 to 100 but the actual number was 86)  

Jaimie.  I will be contacting you via email.  Jaimie will have 48 hours to respond or I will choose a new winner.

Book Review: 52 Small Changes By Brett Blumenthal

One Year to a Happier, Healthier You

By: Brett Blumenthal

Published:  January 3, 2012


This seems to be the time of year when everyone looks at ways they can better their life.  You look at what goals you want to accomplish in the new year, projects you want to start, and one of them usually includes something to do with your health.  Brett Blumenthal's book might just be exactly what you are looking for.  In 52 SMALL CHANGES, Blumenthal takes you through one project a week, focusing on different aspects of your health in small doses so that they are more likely to become habits.

As you begin, you are directed to a website where you enter in information to get a baseline on your health. You will then get a print out showing areas where you are deficient, areas that could use some improvement, and areas where you are doing well.  For example, mine showed I needed to increase my water intake as well as eating more fruits and vegetables.  It also showed that I was getting an adequate amount of sleep.

The book takes you through 52 (obviously) different chapters focusing on one task starting with Drink Up, adding more water intake.  It tells you why you need more water, how to use your weight to measure how much water you need every day and when to drink your water throughout the day.  At the end of each chapter there is a weekly change checklist.  Then each chapter builds on the next checklist as you are continuing to add good habits to your routine.

I found the material to be easy to comprehend, not full of medical jargon or research.  The information was basic and full of tips to easily add these habits to your daily routine.  I appreciated how it was broken up into one task per week and with the short chapters, it was easy to read and take in the information.

At the end of the book, you can retake your same baseline test and see in which areas you have improved and areas you still need to work on.  You can also get continued support as you read through the book from Blumenthal's Facebook page and website.

Whether you are looking for motivation to add more color to your diet, start a new hobby, get that physical you have been meaning to schedule, or to declutter your home and finances, this book will walk you through each step, offering tools, resources, and support to make those small changes in your life, ultimately making big changes in your life.

Brett Blumenthal - source
Brett Blumenthal is a best-selling author and regular conference speaker on change and well-being. Her writing has also been featured in numerous magazines and newspapers. Brett has 20 years of experience in wellness training where her goal is to help you find a healthy balance in your life.  For more on Brett, check out her website,  You can also find her on Facebook, HERE, Twitter, HERE, and Pinterest, HERE.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Book Review: The Holdout By Laurel Osterkamp


By: Laurel Osterkamp

Published:  September 9, 2013


I was contacted by the author and asked to review her newest book, THE HOLDOUT.  Fans of the Reality TV Show, SURVIVOR will be drawn into the Osterkamp's version in her new novel.  Since I am a huge SURVIVOR Geek, I was eager to read it and find out what it was all about.  I was not disappointed.  Reading it during the final week of this season's SURVIVOR also made for interesting parallels and I almost expected to see the book characters show up in the show this week!

Robin, a 31-year-old single girl from Iowa, decides to catch her moment in the spotlight by trying out for a spot on the reality series, THE HOLDOUT.  She is chosen and when she tells her family, they surprise her with ridicule and insults.  Their jokes only make her more determined to win the million dollars.  What she doesn't realize is that the social game is harder than expected.  Robin excels on the challenges and tries her best to play the game, but Grant, the hunky contestant with a sad back story makes Robin second guess herself and fall head over heels for a guy she barely knows.  Jump forward to when the show actually airs on television and we go through the emotions again with Robin.  Her friends and family, as well as the nation, watch the game play out on TV.  Unfortunately, Robin isn't prepared for the phone calls, texts, tweets and message board's responses judging her every move.  Robin tries to shut that all out while in her real life she is serving on a federal jury.  Can she truly be impartial when the plaintiff's son reminds her of Grant from THE HOLDOUT who broke her heart?  Is there such a thing as justice? Will Robin win THE HOLDOUT or will she end up winning something even more important?

I found the coincidences between the book THE HOLDOUT and the show SURVIVOR hilarious.  From the scenario, the cast of characters, and the challenges to the show host and social dynamics, I found myself snickering and thinking back to previous seasons that reminded me of the characters in the book. Osterkamp is truly a SURVIVOR fan and has written a book for us to enjoy.  I read the book quite quickly because you want to know how Robin fares in the show and then how her real life situation turns out as well.

This is a light read, but with great metaphorical writing.  I ended up highlighting numerous quotes from the book to look back on.  My favorite quote was one I have said myself a number of times:

"There's no better way to forget about how damaged your own life is than by watching someone else's stupid, even more damaged life on television.  No wonder reality television is so popular."

If you are looking for a quick, light read and a little escape from the holiday stress, grab a copy of THE HOLDOUT and watch a uncertain, timid woman grow into a strong, self-assured woman as you travel through the pages in the book.  You will be rooting for Robin the whole way through. I read this on my Kindle but it is also available in paperback.

Laurel Osterkamp - source
THE HOLDOUT is award-winning author, Laurel Osterkamp's fourth novel.  For more on Laurel and her other books check out her website at  

Friday, December 13, 2013

Memory Verse of the Week

In this season of giving and abundance, please remember those who are less fortunate.  Find a family, an organization, a church, or an angel tree at a business and bless someone.  You could even do some of those wonderful random acts of kindness.  Walk in to a homeless shelter and hand out gifts, pay for someone's meal, send a check to a worthy organization, or even adopt a pet from a shelter.

Hebrews 13:16
And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Book Review: Christmas Trees Lit the Sky By Anneliese Heider Tisdale

Growing Up in World War II Germany

By: Anneliese Heider Tisdale

Published: November 7, 2012


CHRISTMAS TREES LIT THE SKY tells the story of Anneliese Heider Tisdale and her family.  Anneliese grew up in Munich, Germany during WWII and shares their struggles, triumphs, fears, hopes, and dreams as they go from a family who wanted nothing to a family who lived in fear of ever seeing each other again and to wondering if they would have to leave their home and everything they ever knew.  If you are looking for this to be a Christmas story, it is not, but the author does share stories of Christmas's they celebrated as well as traditions and recipes from their family meals.

This is not a page-turning novel, but a general retelling of a life that many of us couldn't begin to comprehend.  I love this time period and the simpleness of the lives they lived.  But, aside from the simpleness, they also lived through horrors dictated by Hitler.  This book doesn't share the details of the Holocaust, because at the time, Anneliese didn't know they that were happening.  She and her family were merely trying to survive themselves and praying that her brother on the front-lines in Russia would come home safe.

Since I am of German heritage, I found the chapters of their traditions and food to be quite interesting.  I am looking forward to making some of the recipes listed at the end of the chapters.  Anything from Spatzle to "Health" Cake and Black Currant Liquor recipes are found in the book.

So many books set in this time period focus on the Holocaust and I found this book to have a interesting take on how those in Germany were treated.  You can't compare their horror to what went on in the Concentration Camps, but they did live through their own nightmares and didn't necessarily agree with Hitler's ideas.

After the end of WWII, Anneliese leaves her family behind to move to America as a War Bride.  She was ill-prepared for what she would find when she stepped off the plane in New York City and I found her experiences to be so interesting. For example when she came to America she did not even knowing how to make a phone call and she was told she needed to begin shaving her legs. These are things Americans took for granted but which made her stand out and feel like more of an outsider after her arrival. She has continued to live here ever since, becoming a citizen in 1950.  She went to college and was a teacher for many years and lives just 30 minutes from me.  She is currently working on her second book which is about her experiences adjusting to living in America and it is one I am looking forward to reading.  I would love to meet her and ask her more questions about her life in Germany!

During this time of abundance, reading CHRISTMAS TREES LIT THE SKY will make you appreciate the little things in life; home, traditions, food and being with those you love to share it with.

This was our book club choice this month and I think we will have a nice chat about the book, but I don't think it will lead to a deep discussion like other books have.  I read this on my Kindle, but it is also available on paperback.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things and a Giveaway - Celebrating Six Years

This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to all for entering. 


Today I am celebrating 6 Years of my blog.  When I first began writing, it was a way for me to collect my thoughts, share about our family, offers tips, recipes and books that I liked.  It has certainly evolved from there where books are taking up most of the pages and family a close second.  I don't share as many tips or recipes, but I do did begin sharing my faith.  If even one person decides to open a Bible because of a verse I've shared, then I'm happy.  I'm not sure what 2014 holds in relation to my blog.  It is very time-consuming and since I don't get paid, sometimes it takes a back seat to our "real" life.  Our schedule will be very hectic at the beginning of the year, so posts may be sporadic, but know that I will be back and will post when I can. I have lots of excellent book reviews scheduled and I can't wait to tell you about them.  Look for my posts wrapping up my favorite books from 2013 and books I am looking forward to in 2014.

Like I mentioned, I don't get paid to write my book reviews.....yet.  I have been offered ad placement on my blog several times but have avoided it.  Having ads on my blog changes how it looks and I didn't really want to do that.  In the last year, I did become an Amazon Associate and placed their ads on my side bar.  I also will link to a book or item in my post and if you make a purchase through that link I get a small, very tiny....I'm talking cents here, of that amount.  But, cents add up to dollars eventually.  So, if you would like to support me and order your amazon items through my links and through the search bar on the side of my blog, I would be thrilled.  Some of you have placed orders and even though it hasn't been enough for Amazon to release it to me yet, it is banking up in my account.  I appreciate your support and am thankful for each one of you.  

To celebrate my 6 years of sharing with you, I wanted to tell you all about all those things that I consider my "FAVORITES".  Maybe it will give you a gift idea for someone you love or maybe you will just nod along and agree that you consider it a favorite of yours too.  At the bottom, I'm giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card to share for one of my readers and allow you to purchase something that you've been wanting either for yourself or a loved one.  Thanks for joining me on this blogging journey.  

I recommend all of their clothing.  It is high quality, long lasting, and comfortable.  Some of my favorite items include their Polartec Fleece, the Cashtouch Scarves, and their kids and adults winter coats and boots.  You can't go wrong and everything has a lifetime guarantee.

Since I order a lot of items from Amazon, I decided it was time to add Amazon Prime.  For $79/year you get free two-day shipping on items marked with the prime logo.  You don't have to wait until your cart is full to get the free shipping.  One item or twenty, all free.  Plus with Amazon Prime, you have access to free movies/videos and books.  For me, it is worth the $6.58/month!  You get your first month free, so this is the perfect time of year to try it out! 

We LOVE our Rachael Ray skillets.  I don't think I would use anything else.  For the price, they are the best out there. Nothing sticks, they wash up easily, and look brand new day after day.

This Skinvigorate Cleansing Brush is one of Mary Kay's newest items.  I am loving it.  After applying my cleanser, I use this brush over my face to massage and deep clean.  It truly is a great way to start your day and "wake up" your face.  You can use it in the shower.  Since I am a Mary Kay Consultant, you can order one straight from me or check with your own local Mary Kay Consultant.

Last year for Christmas, I got a Keurig.  My husband was skeptical, but now he has one at his office.  He may even use it more than I do! I like it for when I just want one cup of coffee in the afternoon or evening.  The kids like hot chocolate and cider.  I will even use it just to heat water for tea.  Plus we use the Storage Tray for all our K-Cups and the Keurig sits right on top saving counter space. 


When I am making coffee in my regular coffee pot, this is my favorite.  
It is available in most grocery stores as well as Target and Wal-Mart.  
If you want the Dunkin Donuts K-Cups, 
you have to get those at an actual  Dunkin Donuts Shop or on their website.


If you have a smart phone and you shop regularly at Target, you need to get the Cartwheel App.  I have saved anywhere from $5-$20 on one shopping trip.  Once the app is on your phone, you can add savings to your "cartwheel" and then at checkout your checker scans your code automatically applying your savings (in addition to coupons and your 5% Target card discount) to your purchase.  So, if you add the Market Pantry Milk item to your Cartwheel and the deal is a 10% savings, then you will save .35 on a $3.59 gallon of milk.  Now that may not seem like much, but over time that adds up and I rarely have milk coupons and we go through a lot of milk in our house.  Every little bit helps and Cartwheel has been a great app for our family.  It isn't just grocery items, I've save money on coats, Christmas decor, baby items, etc.  There are different savings every week.  It may take a bit more time to plan your shopping trip, but the savings are worth it!


I listen to Pandora nearly every single day.  I have all kinds of different stations depending on my mood that day.  I might listen to Yiruma or George Winston one day and Katy Perry the next.  I also like my WICKED The Musical station.  Pandora is free with ads or you can subscribe and have no ads and other perks. 
I like a variety of music.  Some days I want the calming tunes of a piano and other days I want something more upbeat like Katy Perry.  I love her new CD and it makes regular appearance in my pandora playlist!  
I discovered Yiruma through a pandora search and really like his style of piano music.  
For the holidays, George Winston is the best! 

Our kids have always been Lego fans (even my husband was), so Legos have always been front and center at our house.  Now that the boys are older, they don't get them out as much, but our daughter loves their Lego line for girls, Lego Friends.  She got Olivia's House last year and has asked for a few more sets this year.  She loves putting them together and playing with them.  We also have pieces from the Lego Christmas Village and that has been fun to watch her play with that this month too! 


I really like the line of Yogi Teas.  They offer many different flavors and for various needs.  My favorite is their Bedtime tea, but I have also tried their Kava Stress Relief and Honey Lemon Throat Comfort.  Yogi teas also have a nice saying on each of their tea tags which I love reading.  You can find Yogi Tea at your local grocery or discount store or at

White Lights Soy Candles -

I love candles.  Yankee, Bath and Body, and even our local hand poured Soy Candles made by a friend of mine.  I have candles everywhere in our home.  I am loving the holiday scents that Bath and Body Works is offering this year.  My current favorite is Butter Cream Mint!

These shoes are my new favorite.  They are comfortable and warm.  The fuzzy lining is soft and these are warm enough to wear bare-footed.  It is like wearing slippers all day.


These are my favorite socks to wear around the house. 
They have a super soft fleece lining and keep my feet nice and warm during the day and night.  
Dicks Sporting Goods has been running these as a Buy One Get One Free offer at their stores. 
They would make great gifts this Christmas!

To enter to win the $25 Amazon Gift Card, just enter in the required information on the form.  The giveaway will run through 11:59 PM on December 16, 2013.  I will chose a winner using on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 and email the winner.  The winner will have 48 hours to respond or I will choose another winner.  The gift card will be given as a code through an email address given to me by the winner. This giveaway is not sponsored by Amazon, but just from myself as a thank you to my readers. One entry per person only. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Book Review: Schoolyard Bullying By Pamela "Penlady Jones

How Parents and Children Can Handle Child Bullying

By: Pamela "Penlady" Jones

Published: January 8, 2013

Non-Fiction - eBook

The author contacted me about reading and reviewing this book.  Since I work in the school system and have three children in school, I was interested in what it had to say.  The purpose of this book is to help parents understand what bullying is, how it affects their children whether they are the victim or the bully, and if it is left alone can lead to tragedy.

Now, we all know that is we let the bullying continue, it will eventually lead to tragedy of some sort.  The victim will continue to be victimized and his/her self-esteem will plummet.  If we continue to allow the bully to continue with his/her behavior they could either begin to escalate their behavior or get bored with that child and move on to another and another....continuing the horrible cycle.

What I heard mostly from this book is that listening to your child is key.  Really hearing what your child has to say if he/she is the victim of a bully.  Not interrupting. Not asking what did your child did to allow it to happen.  Just listening to them and supporting them.  That is what your child needs.  Then taking action.

Jones takes you through the bullying process both from the bully's perspective as well as the victim.  She offers signs to watch for if your child is being bullied. Jones also explains the different types of bullying, not just the physical actions and hurtful words of our childhood, but also the internet bullying and how this can transpire across social media platforms.

I think the book has good tips and offers the basics on bullying in this generation.  You will be able to take away solutions and tips and if nothing else, be able to start a conversation with your children about bullying in school. By opening that conversation, it will allow your child to be more willing to share information with you both now and in the future.

This book is only available an as eBook and is a very quick read at just nineteen pages. Pamela "Penlady" Jones is a nonfiction author. She writes on a range of topics. She's always working on an eBook that's sure to be of interest to readers! Besides writing eBooks, Pamela also writes articles for Hubpages. To date, she has over 100 articles on a variety of topics. After completing a SEO copywriting course, Pamela's online writing career began in 2010. However, her writing career dates back to 1995, when she began writing romantic short stories for a defunct New York Magazine.

I received a copy of this book from the author for the purpose of this review.  I was not compensated in any other way for this review.  This review is my honest opinion. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Today's Amazon Deal of the Day - Kindle Fire HDX Tablet

Are you looking for THE gift for Christmas for your teenager, mom, sister, husband?  Today's AMAZON Deal of the Day is the Kindle Fire HDX Tablet for a savings of over $45.  This deal is for TODAY ONLY!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Children's Book Review: The Christmas Cats Chase Christmas Rats By Constance Corcoran Wilson


By: Constance Corcoran Wilson

Illustrated By: Gary McCluskey

Published:  October 22, 2013

Children's Fiction

The Christmas Cats are at it again is Book #2 of the Christmas Cat series.  In the first book, THE CHRISTMAS CATS IN SILLY HATS, children learn that it is best to get along with others in life.  In Book #2, the Christmas Cats are teaching us another lesson.  Through rhyming prose and silliness, we learn to keep an open mind and reserve our judgement of others.

The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats are sent to chase some squeaky clean rats who live in a laboratory.  These rats have a very important job and decide to run loose one day.  The Christmas Cats who assume rats are not fun, find out that the rats have important jobs and can be silly too.  The story reminds us to keep an open mind about others and by getting to know someone we may just find something we didn't know about them.

Even though the wording is simple, I think this book can work for both preschoolers as well as elementary age children.  The illustrations are fun and will get the kids laughing over the antics of the rats and cats in their silly hats.  For the older children, it can encourage a discussion about being kind and considerate to everyone.  This book is available both as an eBook and in print.

I love featuring writers from Iowa and was thrilled to find out Constance lived just 45 minutes from me growing up.  I am happy to support her writing career by spreading the word about her newest book.

Constance with her granddaughters 

Constance Corcoran Wilson grew up in Iowa, (Independence to be exact) and graduated from the University of Iowa.  She furthered her education and has spent her years teaching and writing.  She has received many awards including one of the "10 Most Creative Teachers in America" and a Bi-State Literacy Award for her reading program for poor children from First Lady Barbara Bush in 1993.  Constance lives in East Moline, Illinois (just across the Iowa border) with her husband Craig.  For more on Constance, visit  You can also find Constance on Twitter, HERE, Facebook, HERE, and Pinterest, HERE.

This review is part of Virtual Author Book Tours. For more about the book and see other reviews and giveaways offered by other stops on the tour, click HERE.

I will be linking up with BOOKING MAMA for her Kid Konnection feature that shares links of other children's book reviews.  Click HERE to see other kid's books featured this week.  (New links are posted each Saturday.)

I received a copy of this book for this review. This review is my honest opinion.  I was not compensated in any other way for this review. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

12 Days of Kindle Deals

Amazon is offering 12 DAYS OF KINDLE DEALS!  Check out these great books every day using this link below! Happy Reading!

12 Days of Kindle Deals

Friday, November 29, 2013

Memory Verse for the Week

This weeks memory verse is actually from the last two weeks.  Since we are closing out the month of November and the week of Thanksgiving, it actually worked out to be the perfect verse.

Psalm 7:17 NIV
I will give thanks to The Lord because of His righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of The Lord Most High.

This print is available for sale HERE.
Photo by Donna Keevers Driver

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Grateful Hearts

Photo courtesy of
Prayer from LIFE:Beautiful Magazine Summer 2013

Dear Lord,
Bless this food to our bodies
and our bodies to Your service.
Give us grateful hearts
and make us mindful
of the needs of others
as we share Your Word.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Book Review: Become A Frugalista By Susan Heid

Money-Saving Secrets for the Frugal Family Manager

By: Susan Heid

Published:  July 13, 2013

eBook - Nonfiction

You already know I am a HUGE fan of Susan Heid and her website THE CONFIDENT MOM as well as many of her products.  She has really been such an inspiration to me and I feel like if we met, we'd be great friends.

BECOME A FRUGALISTA is available as an eBook only and offers helpful solutions, ideas and tips to teach you how to always make sure to get the best deal whether you are getting groceries, shopping online, or going out to dinner.  The book will help you save money and cut expenses all without having to drastically change your lifestyle.

Heid offers thirty chapters of tips and advice of how to best go about cutting expenses and saving money. Not all of these tips will best fit everyone who reads this.  Those who don't use credit cards will want to skip the chapters on credit card rewards and savings. I also don't live in an area that offers double coupons so even though I would love to use this benefit, it just isn't available to me.  As you go through the book, you will easily find several ways that you can tweak your spending or change your buying habits to get the most money-saving benefit.

Probably the best tip I took from this book was the suggestion to join Amazon Prime.  As someone who orders a lot from Amazon, I decided to give it a try and it has certainly been worth every penny.  Free two-day shipping and no minimum purchase on Amazon Prime items allows me to order things when I need them and not having to wait for the minimum purchase to then get the free shipping which can still take another week to arrive on my doorstep.

Other tips I appreciated were from the chapters on double and triple dipping, saving on family vacations, and couponing. Groceries seem to be a huge part of most family's budgets.  Taking those few extra minutes to plan out your shopping trip as well as calculating your best cost per unit on products can go a long way towards helping reduce your food budget.

I think most everyone could find several money-saving tips to incorporate into their regular shopping whether it is online or in person.  You may just find yourself a shopping frugalista after reading and trying out Heid's ideas.

Susan Heid

Susan Heid is the creator of the website, THE CONFIDENT MOM and the author of several eBooks all written to help Christian moms make small intentional changes managing their home and family by giving them more time, less stress and stronger family relationships. Susan lives in Seattle with her "blended" family.  For more on Susan and the services both she and her website offers, check out

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Book Spotlight: Torn Blood By David J. Bain


By: David J. Bain

Published: October 24, 2013


I can't possibly read every single book that comes into my inbox.  But, some books are intriguing enough that I want to tell you about them, even if I don't read them.  Even though this isn't my usual type of book, I found the synopsis quite interesting.

From the publisher:
TORN BLOOD tells the adventure of the conflict over Israel.  David Bain brought together researchers from the US as well as Israel, spending seven years trying to understand the truth of Jewish rights to a homeland in Israel free from outside menace. 

His research led him to write Torn Blood, an adventure novel in which souls are locked in a mortal battle to rid Jerusalem of her Jewish residents as truth is revealed and lives are faced with an existential choice—safety from persecution in America or aliyah, return, to a land that calls them home but could demand their lives.

Three weeks before reporting for duty at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, Addison Deverell arrives in Israel on a mission—to find the source of the conflict between Arabs and Jews. Bound to an escort by the embassy, he is unable to begin his search as time is running out. Mere days before he must report for duty, Addison is freed from his forced escort. As another escort takes his place, Addison issues an ultimatum that, with or without help, he is going into Palestinian territory for answers he can’t find in Israel. Addison races to uncover truth that promises to establish a career as he faces danger from those he seeks to understand and finds himself a pawn in an international plot to drive Israel’s Jews into the sea.

Nearly seven thousand miles away in Oregon, Dr. Janelle Henning confronts a secret that threatens to destroy the only family she’s ever known. A search for understanding thrusts her into a world long buried to confront a birthright hidden by the passage of time. Brought together by events, Janelle and Addison discover hidden identities in a relationship they have shared for a lifetime.

David Bain
David J. Bain is a novelist focused on writing stories about the Jewish experience and founder of Bo Iti Press. His debut book, Torn Blood, releases on October 24, 2013. Before launching his publishing company, he collaborated on two screenplays made into movies and has been involved in the business world for more than 30 years where his company publishes technical manuals and he wrote the company’s occasional newsletter. David, and his wife, Doris, reside in Oregon. For more information, check out

Monday, November 25, 2013

Review: Grammarly Website

Last month I had the opportunity to review the website, GRAMMARLY.  I had heard of it but never knew how it worked, so I was anxious to learn more about it and give it a try.

GRAMMARLY is a website that offers the service of an automated online proofreader.  It reads through your writing, looking for grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes.  It is an additional set of eyes but not a replacement for a professional proofreader.

I used GRAMMARLY to proofread some of my recent blog posts/reviews.  It found things like words that were used too often, grammar and punctuation mistakes/suggestions.  I found though that since blog posts are sometimes written more like a conversation, the suggestions don't really benefit my writing and how I want to get the point across.  But, it did point out repeated words or better ways to phrase the sentence.  I think it offered me the most help when I was writing my book reviews.

I also used GRAMMARLY to check a paragraph our son wrote for school.  I wish I would have had GRAMMARLY when I was in high school and college to be that second set of eyes and offer suggestions.

Once you copy and paste your written material into the box, GRAMMARLY reads through it and identifies the number of issues and what they are.  It details the error, why it is wrong and offers possible corrections for each mistake.  It also allows you to check the text for plagiarism by cross-referencing your text with over 8 billion other web pages.

Once you log onto GRAMMARLY, you will see a box where you can submit your written text.  You will then be shown the details of your proofreading.  To see the specifics you either need to try GRAMMARLY for a trial period or subscribe through the various price options.  There is a seven day free trial period that allows you to try it out and see if this proofread service would really benefit you.  If you decide to subscribe, you can pay anywhere from about $11.66/month to $29.95/month depending on your payment plan.  

I think if I was someone who wrote a large number of papers or if writing was part of my job, the fee would be worth it.  But, for my small little piece of the blogging world, I didn't really feel like it was an expense that I needed right now.  If I was a teacher, a college student, or wrote book reviews and got paid for them, then I would sign up right away.  It really is a neat website and offers a great service to those of us who sometimes have to think twice about our writing skills. 

To try out GRAMMARLY, check out

I was provided a two-week free trial period to try GRAMMARLY.  I was not compensated in any other way for this review. This review is my honest opinion. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Book Review: Family Interrupted By Linda Barrett


By:  Linda Barrett

Published: April 4, 2013 

Contemporary Fiction

As part of the PUMP UP YOUR BOOK book tour, I had the privilege to read FAMILY INTERRUPTED by Linda Barrett.  For other insights on the book, you can click HERE and read reviews from other bloggers.

FAMILY INTERRUPTED is my first read by Linda Barrett, who is the best-selling author of 13 novels.  I was intrigued by the synopsis of the story and yet it was a topic I didn't really want to read about.  Claire and Jack and are the parents of Ian, a senior, and Kayla, age 12.  One fateful afternoon, Claire lingers after her art class talking to her handsome professor and accepting his many compliments on her artwork.  Claire ends up arriving home late, to police cars and an ambulance in front of their house.  Kayla ends up dying as the result of being hit by a car while trying to catch a football thrown by her brother.  Their family, their careers, their passions and their way of communicating are forever changed.  Each of them are struggling with their own grief and for Claire, it ends up consuming her.

I must admit, this was a tough one to get through.  It was depressing and as a mom, I felt the pain of grief as I read each page.  I can't imagine losing one of our children and how our family would be forever changed. There were many times when I had to put the book down and ignore it for awhile.  I also found some parts of the book to be a bit unbelievable.  After Ian graduated from high school, he moved out and for two years never looked back.  His parents never called him, never saw where he lived or worked, or knew anything about his life.  Even in grief, I can't imagine completely ignoring my other children and I found myself continually frustrated by Ian's and his parents behavior.  Other parts of their grief, I did find realistic, saying "I will not cry for at least an hour" made perfect sense to me.

The author did paint the picture of grief for this family.  Their pain was evident on the pages and the descriptions of Claire's artwork she created to remember Kayla were vivid and imaginative.  I also found the pain of Sarah, the driver that killed Kayla, to be very understandable.  The tragedy happened to her too and changed her direction, dreams, and hopes all in one second.

Eventually Claire has to decide if she is going to allow grief and blame to take hold of her life and her marriage, as well as Sarah's fragile hold on life.  Claire has become so focused on Kayla that she begins to ignore those in her life that are still living.  A surprise shows up at Claire's door and will help her change her outlook for the future.  But, will her husband, parents, sister and son still be there to welcome her back?  As Claire realizes the mistakes she has made, you can feel the weight lift off her shoulders and have hope that they can find happiness again.  As Claire makes peace with herself, she needs to make peace with her daughter as well.  Claire's conversation with her daughter's portrait was heartfelt, honest, and emotional.  It was a beautiful way for Claire to bring closure and move forward in the healing of her family.  It was a very well written passage.

Overall, it was a novel that I was glad I had read.  I think there would be a lot of a discussion around this book.  Grief, betrayal, parenting, family relationships, and hope are some possible topics and would keep a book club talking for a long time.  There are also discussion questions available at the end of the book, if needed.

Linda Barrett

Linda Barrett is the author of 13 novels of contemporary romance. She’s earned many industry awards through Romance Writers of America, including the Holt Medallion, The Award of Excellence and the Write Touch Reader’s award. Family Interrupted is her first women’s fiction story. A graduate of Hunter College, Linda now lives in the Tampa area with her husband. They have three grown sons and the most adorable, intelligent, super-duper grandchildren ever!  For more, check out  You can also friend Linda on Facebook, HERE.

This review is my honest opinion.  I was provided an eBook copy for this review.  I was not compensated in any other way.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Braces In Our House

We have started the braces journey in our family.  Our oldest, Patrick got his braces today.  So far he isn't in too much pain.  "It is just awkward and feels weird", he says. Both my husband and I still remember the day we got our braces.  I remember my dad taking me to my appointment.  It was odd for me to be alone with my dad.  He was usually working and mom usually took me to appointments and things like that.  But, that day, it was just Dad and I. I remember him taking me out to eat afterwards to a family restaurant.  ( I never got to go to "popular" or fast food type of places.)  I remember I had spaghetti and after talking to my dad, he remembered he had these BBQ Chicken Wings that he liked from this restaurant.

Today, after Patrick's appointment, I took him out to eat.  We chose Culver's Restaurant so he could get an ice cream shake and a grilled cheese with fries.  All things he thought he could eat without too much difficulty. But he wasn't prepared for how hard it would be to eat and our lunch took a little longer than normal, but I'm glad he was able to eat a little bit at least.  I know over the next couple days it will be more painful for him and he may not want to eat.

Looks like we are set for the next two years and soon Bennett will be getting braces too.  Love going through all these stages of growing up with the kids!

Book Spotlight: Becoming Alice By Alice Rene with Amazon Giveaway


By:  Alice Rene

Published: August 29, 2008


Every day I hear about a book that I want to read and this is one I wanted to tell you about, even though I haven't had a chance to read it yet.  I am always intrigued by memoirs and stories from the Holocaust.  They are always so gripping, heartbreaking, often hopeful.  I am sharing this book with you as part of the PUMP UP YOUR BOOK book tour.  I've added it to my list of books to read and I think you should too.

Six-year-old Ilse watches Nazi soldiers march down her street in Vienna, Austria. It is the beginning of an odyssey that will take her to Riga, Latvia, and finally to Portland, Oregon. Becoming Alice chronicles her Jewish family’s harrowing escape and struggle as immigrants to fit into the American landscape. The added problems of growing up within a troubled family cloud her childhood and adolescence.

Ilse changes her name to Alice. Not until she moves into a boarding house in Berkeley, surrounded by girls from a patchwork of cultures, does she make peace with her true identity. Becoming Alice brilliantly showcases Rene’s triumph over adversity, identity crisis, and the sometimes debilitating power of family ties.


“Strongly recommended a deftly written memoir that will hold the reader’s rapt attention from beginning to end.”
-Midwest Book Review

“Her ability to authentically capture the bewilderment and pain of dislocation through a child’s eyes – including the disharmony in her immediate family – makes for engaging reading that will resonate with young adults everywhere.”
-Beth B. Cohen, Ph.D., author of Case Closed: Holocaust Survivors in America, 1946-1954

Alice Rene - photo source
Alice Rene holds a master’s degree in social welfare. She lives with her husband in Southern California. For more on Alice and her story, visit her website at

You can purchase BECOMING ALICE through IUNIVERSE or through Amazon and the link below.

To be entered to win the $25 Amazon Gift Card, just log in to the Rafflecopter form.  You can choose to follow all or some of the other bloggers.  Of course I would love to have you "LIKE" my Facebook page, but it isn't necessary to win.  PUMP UP YOUR BOOK will choose and notify the winner on Monday, December 2, 2013.  For more on the Terms and Conditions, click HERE.