Friday, December 27, 2013

Book Review: Starry Night By Debbie Macomber

STARRY NIGHT

By: Debbie Macomber

Published: October 8, 2013

Fiction





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 www.debbiemacomber.com.





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! 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Merry Christmas to You from Our Family

Stationery Card
View the entire collection of cards.

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

52 SMALL CHANGES
One Year to a Happier, Healthier You

By: Brett Blumenthal

Published:  January 3, 2012

Non-Fiction




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, http://sheerbalance.com/.  You can also find her on Facebook, HERE, Twitter, HERE, and Pinterest, HERE.



Monday, December 16, 2013

Book Review: The Holdout By Laurel Osterkamp

THE HOLDOUT

By: Laurel Osterkamp

Published:  September 9, 2013

Fiction




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 http://laurel.pmibooks.com/.  




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

CHRISTMAS TREES LIT THE SKY
Growing Up in World War II Germany

By: Anneliese Heider Tisdale

Published: November 7, 2012

Non-Fiction/Memoir


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. 

Source

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.  


LANDS END CLOTHING
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! 

RACHAEL RAY SKILLETS
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.



MARY KAY SKINVIGORATE CLEANSING BRUSH
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.  
http://www.marykay.com/sgorkow/en-US/Skin-Care/Skinvigorate-Cleansing-Brush/170314.partId?eCatId=10026

KEURIG
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. 



DUNKIN DONUTS FRENCH VANILLA COFFEE

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.  

http://shop.dunkindonuts.com/french-vanilla-ground-coffee-1-lb_601576_11/

TARGET CARTWHEEL


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!

http://cartwheel.target.com/#?lnk=snav_rd_cartwheel&orginalSearchTerm=cartwheel

PANDORA


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. 
YIRUMA and GEORGE WINSTON and KATY PERRY
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! 






LEGOS
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! 




YOGI TEA - BEDTIME


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 http://www.yogiproducts.com/

CANDLES
White Lights Soy Candles - http://www.mywhitelights.com/

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!

http://www.bathandbodyworks.com/family/index.jsp?categoryId=4147333&cm_sp=LN-_-Home+%26+Candles-_-3-Wick+Candles&cp=12586994.12936192

ROXY
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.



CABIN SOCKS

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!  

http://www.dickssportinggoods.com/product/index.jsp?productId=20390856&cp=4406646.4413874.20997406.22294516


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 random.org 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

SCHOOLYARD BULLYING
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

THE CHRISTMAS CATS CHASE CHRISTMAS RATS

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 www.WeeklyWilson.com.  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