Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Time for a Summer Break

I had planned on taking a blogging break while we were on vacation this summer. But after reading THIS ARTICLE from Harleena Singh,

I realized it is really OK to take a break...a real break.

I really loved what Singh had to say about the importance of unplugging and really focusing time on my family. I loved how she acknowledged how much time it takes to blog and stay "active" in social media.  It does take time.

Do I enjoy it? YES! But, everyone needs a break sometime. 

I haven't accepted any books for review for the months of July and August.  I want to have some time to catch up on books I want to read as well as books I'm behind on reviewing.  I want to have some time to read without the pressure of a deadline and review.

 I want to relax.

So, with all that in mind.  This will be my last post for awhile.  I'm not going to say for sure when I will be back, but it won't be in July.  I'll still be around the Twitter and Facebook world, checking in and chatting, but no posts or reviews here on the blog.


Because I need a break.  

I need to spend time doing other stuff.  I need to enjoy vacation.  I need to enjoy the rest of our summer.

So, I'll be back. I PROMISE! Some time in August likely.  Our kids go back to school August 18.  Then, I'll need something to do, right?

Thanks for being patient.  
Thanks for being loyal readers.  
Thanks for understanding.  

Enjoy the rest of your summer.  I know I will.  And when I return, I'll have some great photos to share, some projects that I hopefully completed, and lots of great book recommendations! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Books I'm Taking Along on Vacation

I've decided which books I'm going to take along on our Summer Vacation.  I chose books that I have been anxious to read and not necessarily books I need to review or have a deadline for.  I don't know if I will get to all 4 of these books, but that is my hope.  If I do finish all of them, I still have plenty on my iPad waiting to be read.  We will have a lot of drive time, but a lot of it will be scenic and I won't want to have my head buried in a book.  Plus, I should probably chat with my husband and kids a bit! So stay tuned, to see what I end up reading on our Summer Vacation.

PAPERBOY By Vince Vawter
I've been wanting to read this since I bought it last summer and I am determined to get it read.  I was interested because it is a coming-of-age story (which I love) and the main character is a young boy who stutters.  Since our boys stutter, I am always interested in reading how it is portrayed in stories.  It has gotten great reviews and I'm anxious to read it.

THE LIFE LIST by Lori Nelson Spielman
For no good reason, this novel keeps getting pushed to the bottom of the pile.  I have had it for way too long and am determined to read it this month.  I have had several friends, as well as my sister, tell me how great it is which is enough reason for me to get it read! 

This has been on my list to read, but I just recently got it in my hands thanks to my cousin, Melanie.  She read it and thought I would like it as well.  Looks like the perfect vacation read to me!

LITTLE MERCIES by Heather Gudenkauf
Heather Gudenkauf is an Iowa author and has just recently come out with her newest book.  This one involves a woman who is a social worker in Cedar Rapids.  Aside from it being a book by Heather, the premise sounds right up my alley.  I purchased it for my Kindle and can't wait to devour it. 

I also plan to catch up on some magazines that I have been neglecting the last few months.  I like reading magazines on trips because you don't have to be so focused on your reading and can still have conversations and stay engaged while looking through them.  I'm looking forward to catching up on a few months of REAL SIMPLE, LIFE: BEAUTIFUL, BOOKMARKS, and WATCH.

You'll have to check back and see how much of this I actually get read.  There will be a lot of beautiful sights to see out my window as well!  Curious where we are traveling to? We are going to tour the great state of Michigan.  We plan to travel across the Upper Peninsula, over to Mackinac Island, and then down along the western border of Michigan.  It's going to be beautiful, maybe a bit chilly, but full of memories made with our kids!

How about you, can you read in the car?

Do you take books or magazines on vacation?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Book Review: The Fever Tree By Jennifer McVeigh


By: Jennifer McVeigh

Published: April 4, 2013
February 4, 2014 reprint 

Publisher: Berkley Trade Paperback/Penguin Group


Debut author, Jennifer McVeigh has traveled across Africa, free-camping in desolate, as well as, beautiful areas of the country.  Her love for Africa shows through in her story of Frances Irvine, the small pox epidemic, and the diamond trade in her first book, THE FEVER TREE.

Frances is a privileged woman in England until her father dies.  Before his death, he arranges for Frances to marry Edwin, a doctor from South Africa whom she knew as a child.  During the long trip across the sea, Frances meets a handsome businessman on the ship and even though she is married to Edwin, she engages in an affair with him.  Upon her arrival in Cape Town, Frances realizes her life is not what she expected it to be.  Her husband has angered the top diamond traffickers by claiming there is a small pox epidemic.  Frances' life is lonely and at times, in danger.  She becomes challenged by the rumors and the truth and eventually has to make a choice to either follow her husband or her passion. Will her naivety place her in danger and banish her from happiness forever?

I started this book and then, somewhere in the middle, I found more interesting books to read.  I knew I would go back to it and did eventually, but it wasn't something I was rushing to finish. Frances was not a likable character. Her pouting, her unfaithfulness, and her naivety were draining on the story and I found I didn't want to read anymore.  Once I did pick the book back up, I found the last third of the book to be enjoyable again.  There was a bit of drama and danger involving other characters, mostly at the fault of Frances. Frances did find a way to redeem herself and seemed to come to terms with her faults and betrayals. I was surprised with the ending and the future for Frances because I'm not sure it was truly deserved.

What kept me interested in the book were the descriptions of the African people and their communities, the secrets of diamond mining, and the history of the small pox vaccine.  I will never look at the diamond ring on my finger the same way after reading the horrors of diamond mining.  McVeigh did her research and shared the brutal and horrific sides to this business. I also loved the cover on this paperback reprint.  As Frances was walking across the hot sands of Africa, this was the image I had in mind.  The symbolism of the title of the book appears both early in the novel and then appears again at the end in a different way, much in the way Frances had changed since the beginning pages.

The first and last third of the book were great but the author kind of lost me in the middle. Overall, I'm still glad I read it because, as with most historical fiction that is based on factual events, I did learn something about Africa, diamond mining, and the medical crisis in Africa at the time.

Jennifer McVeigh - source
Jennifer McVeigh graduated from Oxford University in 2002, and went on to work in film, television, radio and publishing, before leaving her day job to graduate with an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. THE FEVER TREE is her first novel. Jennifer McVeigh, who has herself traveled to remote areas of Southern and East Africa, drew on firsthand accounts of life in colonial South Africa, as well as nineteenth century guidebooks and women’s magazines in writing THE FEVER TREE. Jennifer lives in London with her husband and daughter, Alice.  You can find her on the web at   You can also find Jennifer on Facebook, HERE, and Twitter, HERE

To purchase a copy of THE FEVER TREE, click the photo below:

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

Friday, July 11, 2014

High Five Friday 7.11.14

 photo H54Fbutton_zps973d26e1.png

I'm back with a High Five Friday post.  It's been such a busy summer with lots of High Five moments. Since I haven't posted for a few weeks, these are moments that I wanted to share since my last High Five Friday post.  To see other great moments in other blogger's lives, click the buttons above.  Take a moment to reflect on your High Five moments from your week.


Patrick got his driver's permit.  He passed the test on his first try and has been doing a bit of driving around town.  We haven't had much time to take him out for a long highway drive, but I know I'm not the one to do it.  He drove to our friend's house in town and I was a wreck.  I don't think I will be the best driving teacher and think I should leave that up to my much calmer husband. 

Bennett and his friend Kolten helping with the water balloon toss.

Patrick and his friend Stuart helping with the pop bottle ring toss.

Reagan running the duck pond game. 
Our small town has an annual Music Fest every summer.  The day starts with a 5K (Patrick got 4th overall and 1st in his age group!) and ends with various bands playing music on main street.  This year our family was in charge of the kids games.  I believe in teaching our children the importance of giving back to the community in which we live. Everyone needs to pitch in to make things happen. I grew up with my parents volunteering for various organizations and events and I want to give our kids that same experience.  The kids each took part in running one of the games and did a great job.  


One of my dearest friends is moving to Colorado.  She is someone I have leaned on, cried with, laughed with and shared the frustrations of life with and sadly her family is moving to Colorado. I'm excited for them and the new life they will be building there but selfishly, sad, because I will miss her deeply.  We had a Going Away/40th Birthday party for her and her husband a couple weeks ago and it was so much fun.  I will miss Diana, but I'm so glad we have lots of ways to keep in touch!


My cousin's daughter got married over the 4th of July weekend and the boys were ushers in the wedding.  The wedding was held at Barnes Place near Adel, Iowa and I highly recommend it if you are looking for a country/outdoor/beautiful setting.  It really was perfect for the look the bride wanted to have.  It was a beautiful day and we had a lot of fun.  The boys did a great job ushering in the guests even in the hot, sticky weather. 


The boys ended their baseball season this last week.  Patrick played for both his high school Level 3 team as well as on our town Pony League team with his brother Bennett and his dad as the coach.  It was Patrick's last season of town league and it was an emotional night for him.  He has a lot of great memories playing ball and having his dad for a coach. He has made a lot of friends from baseball and learned some great life-skills. Patrick will remember these days of summer for a lifetime. 

Thanks for sharing in a bit of our summer with us.  I'll be back in a few weeks with some photos from our vacation to Michigan.  Take some time today to reflect on your High Five moments from your week.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Book Spotlight: Flight of the Sparrow By Amy Belding Brown

A Novel of Early America

By: Amy Belding Brown

Published: July 1, 2014

Publisher: NAL Trade - Penguin Group

Fiction/Historical Fiction

Sadly, I can't get to every single book I want to read.  But, there are some books that sound so intriguing that I want to tell you about them right away. FLIGHT OF THE SPARROW reminds me of  the book CALEB'S CROSSING.  I love historical fiction that is based on real people and situations and I'm sure this is one I will enjoy reading as well.

She suspects that she has changed too much to ever fit easily into English society again. The wilderness has now become her home. She can interpret the cries of birds. She has seen vistas that have stolen away her breath. She has learned to live in a new, free way.... 

FLIGHT OF THE SPARROW is based on the true story of Mary Rowlandson.  Mary was captured by Indians during the late 1600's and held for weeks until she was ransomed.  This is a novel based on her little-known story.

Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1676: Even before Mary Rowlandson is captured by Indians on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the on-going bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. All her life, Mary has been taught to fear God, submit to her husband, and abhor Indians. Now, having lived on the other side of the forest, she begins to question the edicts that have guided her, torn between the life she knew and the wisdom the natives have shown her.


"Brown's voice transforms a remote period into a fresh and immediate world, and in Mary, gives us a heroine who is broken by sorrow but determined to survive. This is a novel about the true meaning of faith and freedom."   - Kelly O'Connor McNees, author of THE ISLAND OF DOVES 

“A mesmerizing tale of survival and awakening…reminded me of CALEB'S CROSSING."
- Donna Thorland, Author of THE REBEL PIRATE

FLIGHT OF THE SPARROW comes with a reader's guide and would make an excellent choice for book clubs or for upper-level homeschooling.  If you would like to learn about the resilience and perseverance of a woman in the 1600's, please check out FLIGHT OF THE SPARROW.

Amy Belding Brown 
Amy Belding Brown, a graduate of Bates College, received her Master of Fine Arts degree in January 2002, from Vermont College of Norwich University. After living and working in central Massachusetts for nearly twenty years, she returned to her native Vermont in 2011, where she continues to write poetry and fiction. She is the author of FLIGHT OF THE SPARROW, an historical fiction novel set in the 1600's in New England and published by NAL/Penguin, and of MR. EMERSON'S WIFE, published by St. Martin’s Press in 2005 and now available in paperback. Her publication credits include Yankee, Good Housekeeping, American Way, The Worcester Review and other national, international, and regional magazines. She lives in Vermont with her husband and their dog, Angel. For more on Amy Belding Brown, visit her website,  You can also find her on Facebook, HERE, and Twitter, HERE

To purchase a copy of FLIGHT OF THE SPARROW, click the photo below:

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Favorite Books from the First Half of 2014

I have read 45 books so far this year and I well on my way to my goal of reading 75 books in 2014. I have been blessed to receive some excellent books from authors and publishers. I have had amazing discussions about books with friends and at book club.  Unfortunately, I've also read some books that were just ok, and a couple that I actually didn't finish.  But, today, I want to share my favorites so far this year.  If you haven't added these to your to-read list yet, I highly recommend you do! Each of these are books that had me ripping through the pages, left me in tears or in shock, or left me thinking about the characters for days after.  These are books that I read in 2014, but were not necessarily published in 2014.


My Review:  HERE

I really loved the real-life stories and life lessons from this book. I have shared it with numerous people in my community and everyone has loved it and shared it with their friends.  If you are looking for a book to remind you of the goodness in others and show how you can have an impact on someone, read this book!


CALLING ME HOME by Julie Kibler
My Review: HERE

A story of two women from completely different backgrounds and how one helps the other confront her past.  I guarantee you will love this story.


NECESSARY LIES by Diane Chamberlain
My Review: HERE

Historical fiction based on factual events are some of my favorite books to read and this one did not disappoint.  There is a lot to discuss after reading this novel and has been my favorite book club book and discussion this year.


GRAND CENTRAL: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion
My Review:  HERE

I have been telling everyone I know about this. The collection of short stories based on one day in 1945 at Grand Central Station is really beautiful and well-written. I can't give this enough praise. I just loved it. 


My Review: HERE

Fictional stories that you can relate to are sometimes just what you need to read.  You can find yourself in the characters. You can relate to their struggles and emotions.  You root for them all the way through the story.  Really a wonderful story about life, love and friendship.


I couldn't publish this list without mentioning these two books as well.  Both were so well-done and had a unique piece to their storytelling that made them stand out.  They deserve top mentions as well.

A FALL OF MARIGOLDS by Susan Meissner
My Review: HERE

A scarf ties two women together over 100 years.  Books told in two different time periods are becoming quite popular, but I found this particular one to be really special in how it tied two women in two different time periods to a scarf. A really special story.

WAKE: A Novel by Anna Hope
My Review:  HERE

Three women suffering from the devastation of the war. Their struggles are overwhelming, but in each story you will find a glimmer of hope.  Their connection to each other and to the war comes together in a surprising way and is really well-done.  

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Cookbook Review: My Mom's a Good Cooker By Gabbie Krivonak

A Working Mom's Guide to Family Dinner

By: Gabbie Krivonak

Published:  April 10, 2014

Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing

Gabbie Krivonak believes that moms can have a career and provide delicious and nutritious meals for their children.  She believes in family dinners and finds they are an opportunity to for families to talk over the day and while doing that, encourage good nutrition.  She begins with teaching you strategies and techniques for planning out your meals, making them fun, and sharing simple cooking tips. Then she gives you an assortment of homemade recipes for sauces and dressings for a variety of foods.

The rest of the cookbook is broken down into stages of life, including The Toddler Years, The Elementary School Years, The Teenage Years, and finally, recipes for the Empty Nesters.  I found this way of breaking up the recipes unique.  I remember certain recipes that I wanted to make would not be something my toddlers would have eaten, so I either had to make two meals or just forget about making it.  As you move through the stages, the recipes become more varied.  You will find breakfast food, salads, and main dish recipes as part of every stage.

For most of the recipes, Krivonak shares some family history about the recipe and several of the recipes have photos.  I wish all of the recipes had photos with them as I appreciate seeing the finished product.  The recipes are full of regular ingredients you can find at your local grocery store or in your pantry.  They are easily understood and simple to prepare. I feel I can't give a proper cookbook review without trying out a recipe.  I chose to try out the Hungarian Goulash from The Elementary School Years Chapter. There are several recipes I am looking forward to trying out and if they are all as good as the goulash, then I won't have any complaints from our family.

The Hungarian Goulash was simple and delicious and liked by three out of the five of us which is about standard for most of our meals.  The only thing I didn't notice was the time it took to make it.  It needs about 1 1/2 hours of cooking time, so our family ate a little late that night, but it was worth it.  We served it with Reames Noodles and a dinner roll and it was very filling.

Serves 4

3 T olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 lbs stew meat
3 T paprika
3 Cups of beef bouillon
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 russet potatoes cut into pieces
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet/pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until onion is golden. Add the beef and paprika. Saute until beef is evenly browned on all sides. Add the beef bouillon and bring to a boil. Cover pan, reduce heat, and simmer for one hour until a fork can pierce the meat easily. Add the remaining ingredients. Simmer for 30 additional minutes, uncovered. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over cooked egg noodles.

My notes:  I only used half an onion and seemed enough.  This fed three of us quite well with some left overs.

Gabbie Krivonak - source
Author Gabbie Krivonak has taken classes in classical French cooking at L’Academie de Cuisine of Bethesda, Md. The small business owner of My Mom’s a Good Cooker Inc. and a blogger, is a retired IBM executive. Krivonak is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. She has two children and four grandchildren, and she and her husband, Buzz, live in Rockville, Md.  If you would like more information about the cookbook or to see more recipes, visit her website,

If you would like to purchase MY MOM'S A GOOD COOKER, please click the photo below: