Friday, February 28, 2014

I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up...

You know that commercial where the woman is on the floor and she is saying, "I've fallen and I can't get up."? 

Well.....I'm not the age of the women in that commercial, but it has happened to me. 

A couple days ago I was getting in the shower and completely slipped and fell, half in and half out of the shower.  I'm sure you can picture it in your mind. It wasn't a pretty site. The shower was running on my face, my legs were out behind me sticking out of the shower and over the ledge. (I have a walk-in shower not a tub shower.)  It really was lucky I had caught myself a little before I hit my head on the corner seat in the shower. 

Ok, you can laugh now if you want.....

As I lie there, crying a bit in pain, I realized there was no one who could help me.  My phone was across the bathroom. No one was coming home anytime soon.  I would have been there for hours if I couldn't have gotten up.  Thankfully nothing was broken and I was able to get up and finish my shower. 

But, I realized I was that commercial.  I'm getting older, my body isn't as flexible as it used to be.  My bones are aging.  I have never broken a bone (except for a toe) and I don't want to anytime soon.  I've got some nice bruises to show for my fall and I am thankful that is all that I have.

But, it has made me think about my parents and their safety at home. I want to have a conversation with them about this.  I've thought about my own safety.  I'm not planning to get "Life Alert" anytime soon, but I am going to be more careful and maybe keep my phone within reach.

What do you do to make sure you are safe in your home? Have you ever fallen and couldn't get up?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Book Review: Calling Me Home By Julie Kibler


By: Julie Kibler

Published: February 12, 2013


If I could, I would give Julie Kibler an Oscar, a high five, a hug, and a round of applause for her debut novel.  It really was a truly wonderful book and I am happy to share it with you.

In CALLING ME HOME, we are introduced to two women who are unlikely friends but will come to depend on each other under life-changing circumstances. Isabelle is an eighty-nine-year-old white woman who has her hair done every week by Dorrie, a thirty-something black, single mom. Through alternating chapters we are told Isabelle's story and Dorrie's story.  We are taken back to Isabelle's years growing up as the daughter of a doctor in the late 1930's in Kentucky. In the next chapter we are introduced to Dorrie's life in present day Texas.  Over the years, Isabelle and Dorrie have become more than just hair-dresser and client and Isabelle comes to rely on Dorrie's friendship. Surprisingly Dorrie also relies on Isabelle's quiet wisdom. Early in the story, Isabelle must ask Dorrie a huge favor, to drop everything and drive her all the way to Cincinnati for a funeral.  As Dorrie drives, Isabelle's story comes to life and we learn Isabelle, as a teen, fell in love with the son of their family's maid in a community where blacks and whites didn't mix and weren't even allowed in the community after dark. As Isabelle and Robert's relationship grows, their lives become much more complicated than either one of them could imagine.  As Dorrie hears Isabelle's story, her mind is occupied with her own struggles. Her nearly adult son has made some poor choices and Dorrie must decide how best to guide him.  She is also trying to decide if she can trust the new man in her life and if she wants to let him into her heart. The two women have no idea what the impact of this trip will be on both of them and the choices they have yet to make.

I shed a lot of tears reading this story.  The deep love that is shared,  the fear, the anger, and the hatred of the people during the 1930's really put you into the emotion of the era.  Kibler has done her research and included bits of her own personal family history in writing this novel and it truly shows in the care she took in telling this story.  You will find yourself sympathizing with characters and hating others.  You will drop your jaw, dry your tears, and definitely laugh out loud.

One of the unique ways the author uses to tell the story is through crossword puzzle clues as Dorrie and Isabelle are traveling.  I found this such a neat way to incorporate a fun, original detail to the story and now I want to pick up a crossword and complete it.

I have two favorite lines from the book that I think showcase the author's wonderful way of painting the scene and emotion of the story.  Both lines come from Isabelle's story and I think I can share them without giving away too much.

And Robert would be nothing more than a boy I'd once tickled in the rain. Page 74

One wedding was in bitter January. The second was in late, bright spring. 
My mood had been spring the previous January, and was January that spring. Page 266

This was our book club choice for the month and I highly recommend it to other book clubs. Target also chose it as their Book Club Pick for January 2014.  The paperback version comes with discussion questions if needed, but I expect members would find plenty to talk about without them.  Topics such as racism (past and present), family loyalty, and forbidden love can keep you talking for hours.  I could also easily see this book played out in a movie and I would rush to see it. 

If you love stories that combine the past with the present, historical fiction, drama, and romance then CALLING ME HOME should be at the top of your list of books to read.  This is my favorite book so far this year! 

Julie Kibler - source
Julie Kibler grew up in various towns in Kentucky, New Mexico, and Colorado, then moved to Texas to attend college and stayed because even the strangers were friendly. Aside from writing, she is a freelance editor and tries to keep up with her family and a couple of shelter dogs who don't always appreciate their rescue. She enjoys reading, indie films, folk music, photography and splitting chocolatey desserts with her husband, an engineer who doesn't understand writers, but understands chocolate. She is currently writing her next novel.

Purchase the book by clicking the photo below: 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book Review: A Fall of Marigolds By Susan Meissner


By: Susan Meissner

Published: February 4, 2014


So many of the books I have read lately take a story from the past and merge it with the present.  I have loved how it was done in other novels like ORPHAN TRAIN, THE STORYTELLER, and CALLING ME HOME and this one didn't disappoint either. When merging stories from the past with the present, there has to be a believable and compelling connection.  In A FALL OF MARIGOLDS, that piece was a scartf as well as the feelings of love and loss .  We are first introduced to Taryn, a widow of 9/11 and now a single mother.  She has never been able to forgive herself for her husband's death in the North Tower.  She has tried to move on with her life by focusing on her job in a fabric store as well as raising her daughter, but ten years later a photo of her on the street on 9/11 resurfaces and forces her to relive everything all over again.

In 1911, there was a terrible fire in Manhattan called the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and Clara watched in horror as her friends perished or jumped to end their life.  Clara, after living only two weeks in Manhattan flees to Ellis Island to immerse herself in the hospitals there.  As a nurse, she is subjected to healing those who came to America in hope of a better life.  While caring for a patient, she is intrigued with his loss, so similar to hers and to his deceased wife's scarf.  The scarf will forever change her feelings about love, loss and taking risks.

Taryn and Clara's stories grabbed me at the very beginning and I had a difficult time putting this book down. I thought about them as I went about my day and they even crept into my dreams at night.  The writing was expertly done in a way to put you right into the setting whether it was the year 1911 or 2001. The emotions, the sites, and the people were all so descriptive that I was feeling their sadness, grief, and pain right along with them.  The most emotional part from me was Taryn's experience from 9/11.  I will never know the true horror that occurred that day, but I will never forget how I felt watching it.  Meissner's writing of Taryn finding out her husband wasn't going to make it and being near the towers as they collapsed will be part of my memory for a long time.

Both characters were suffering from extreme grief and at times the novel was burdened by the weight of sadness. These pieces were critical to the story and I can imagine could be difficult for some to read if they too have suffered from a loss.  This would be my only caution about the novel, otherwise, I highly recommend it.  The surprising connection these two women have, a hundred years apart, their grief and eventual recovery, and the hope of a brighter future will move you forward through the emotional pieces of this story. It is a story you won't soon forget.

This would make an excellent choice for book clubs.  There are discussion questions included in the book. Since the story includes a major ethical dilemma, I can see an intense discussion held on that topic alone. A novel that can put you in the story and make you question your own actions if you were in that situation makes the story even more real in your mind.  In both Taryn and Clara's lives there are a number of "What If" situations that the reader will certainly identify with as well.

Susan Meissner will be donating a portion of the proceeds from this book to the Save the Ellis Island Foundation for the restoration of the hospital buildings on Islands Two and Three.  You can learn more about this project at

Susan Meissner - source
Susan Meissner was born in San Diego, California, the second of three. She spent her childhood in just two houses. Her first writings are a laughable collection of oddly worded poems and predictable stories she wrote when she was eight.

She attended Point Loma College in San Diego, and married her husband, Bob, who is now an associate pastor and a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves, in 1980. When she is not working on a new novel, she is directing the small groups ministries at The Church at Rancho Bernardo. She also enjoy teaching workshops on writing and dream-following, spending time with my family, music, reading great books, and traveling.

Click the photo below to purchase your own copy of A FALL OF MARIGOLDS.

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

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Book Spotlight: Above All Things By Tanis Rideout


By: Tanis Rideout

Published: June 19,2012
Berkley Trade Reprint February 2014


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. ABOVE ALL THINGS is one of those books.  "Amazing", "Beautifully written", "Gripping", and "Suspenseful" are just a few words used to describe this novel.  ABOVE ALL THINGS is the March book club choice for Ladies Home Journal. 

In ABOVE ALL THINGS, poet turned debut novelist Tanis Rideout writes about someone who is so passionate about something and sacrifices so much that he may just do it at the detriment of the one he loves most. 

"Tell me the story of Everest," she said, a fervent smile sweeping across her face, creasing the corners of her eyes. "Tell me about this mountain that's sealing you away from me." 

In 1924 George Mallory departs on his third expedition to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Left behind in Cambridge, George's young wife, Ruth, along with the rest of a war-ravaged England, anticipates news they hope will reclaim some of the empire's faded glory. Through alternating narratives, what emerges is a beautifully rendered story of love torn apart by obsession and the need for redemption.  

Through George's perspective, and that of the newest member of the climbing team, Sandy Irvine, we get an astonishing picture of the terrible risks taken by the men on the treacherous terrain of the Himalaya. But it is through Ruth's eyes that a complex portrait of a marriage emerges, one forged on the eve of the First World War, shadowed by its losses, and haunted by the ever-present possibility that George might not come home. 

Drawing on years of research, this powerful and beautifully written novel is a timeless story of desire, redemption, and the lengths we are willing to go for honor, glory, and love.

Tanis Rideout - Source
Tanis Rideout is a poet and writer living and working in Toronto. In the fall of 2005 she released her first full-length book of poetry Delineation, exploring the lives and loves of comic book super-heroines, which was praised as a “tantalizing, harrowing read.” Her poetry and fiction have appeared in numerous quarterlies and magazines and received grants from local and national arts councils. ABOVE ALL THINGS is her first novel. For more on Tanis Rideout, check out her website, You can "Like" Tanis on Facebook, HERE.

Purchase ABOVE ALL THINGS below:

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Little Monday Inspiration - LOVE

Since February is the month of LOVE, I wanted to share my favorite quotes on LOVE from the Bible every Monday.

May you feel God's LOVE today!

1 Peter 4:8
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Book Spotlight and GIVEAWAY: The Fever Tree By Jennifer McVeigh

A Novel

By: Jennifer McVeigh

Published: April 4, 2013 


This seems to be the season for debut authors, and I have another one to share with you today. I am sure we will be hearing more from Jennifer McVeigh in the future.

I have started reading THE FEVER TREE and am already wrapped into Frances's story.  I am just under one hundred pages which is my guide for whether I am going to finish a book or not.  If it hasn't grabbed me by then, I don't finish it.  I can definitely say I will be finishing this book, and hopefully soon.  Stay tuned for a full review.  In the mean time, check out the publisher's praise for the book and enter below to WIN YOUR OWN COPY of the book!

This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to all who entered. 

Now available in Trade Paperback, THE FEVER TREE by Jennifer McVeigh (Berkley Trade Paperback Reprint; 978-0-425-26491-1; February 4, 2014; $16)!  When it was first released in hardcover last year, raved, “Debut author Jennifer McVeigh has created a fully realized sensory tour of 19th-century South Africa: You feel the grit of each dust storm, taste the mealie Frances chokes down, hear the cicadas scraping through the heat-parched air along with Frances' plaintive piano playing.”  McVeigh’s charmed story of loss and love has also been featured in Good Housekeeping, Women’s World, USA Today,  Washington Post, The Guardian, Daily Mail, and more.

With a perceptive and penetrating narrative, McVeigh unspools the story of Frances Irvine, a young Englishwoman forced by hopeless circumstance to immigrate to the Cape in pursuit of a reluctant marriage. There she discovers a strange new world where greed and colonial exploitation are bringing vast wealth to some and dire misery to countless others. As she struggles to find her place in this inhospitable land, Frances tethers her fate to two very different men: one serious and idealistic, the other charming and ambitious. When a smallpox epidemic threatens the financial dynasty of the most powerful Englishman in South Africa, Frances will be cast into a vortex of dangerous consequences—and find an unexpected, purposeful path.

A sweeping novel of romance and South African history that has been compared to Gone with the Wind, The Thorn Birds, and Out of Africa, THE FEVER TREE is an epic, heart wrenching tale not to be missed.

Jennifer McVeigh - source

About the Author:
Jennifer McVeigh, who has herself traveled to remote areas of Southern and East Africa, also drew on firsthand accounts of life in colonial South Africa, as well as nineteenth century guidebooks and women’s magazines, in order to infuse Frances Irvine’s experiences with arresting verisimilitude.  You can find her on the web at   

Now for the best part, you can WIN YOUR VERY OWN COPY! All you have to do is fill out the form below.  The giveaway is open to US residents only.  You may enter the giveaway only once.  The giveaway will end at 11:59 PM on Wednesday, March 5, 2014.  I will choose a winner on Thursday, March 6, 2014, using I will email the winner and the winner will have 48 hours to respond or I will choose a new winner.  This giveaway is made possible by Berkley Books and Penguin Group. I am not responsible for items that are not delivered but will do my best to make sure you receive your prize. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Book Review: Run Yourself Skinny By Michael Thomas

Lose Weight Fast Without Dieting

By: Michael Thomas

Published:  December 21, 2012


If you are like me and LOVE to eat, you have to find something that will combat those calories so they don't end up on your waistline.  RUN YOURSELF SKINNY is for those who are looking at beginning a habit of running.  By running, you can burn those calories without giving them up!

This book will teach you how to start running, whether you are running outside or inside on your treadmill.  It will show you how to begin running and maintain it so you can make it a habit.  It also offers suggested menus for runners so you are getting the fuel you need.  

The goal of this book is to get you running for 30 minutes as many as 4 days/week.  This is the best way to maximize your weight loss and make significant changes to your health. My favorite tip from the book was, "In the beginning, try to always run farther or faster than the day before."

When you are beginning a new routine, you need to decide what is going to motivate you.  Your goal is to make running a habit and what is going to motivate you to do that?  This book is full of motivational quotes and ways to keep you on track.  It includes links to charts and printables to keep track of your running as well as your eating.

If you have a goal of running a 5K, then find one coming up in your area and set a goal for yourself to run and finish it.  Then once you do that, set a goal to finish quicker than last time.  This is one way to stay focused and motivated to keep running.

Even though this book didn't have a lot of new information for me, I did find it to be very encouraging and helped me focus on my own goals with running and exercise.

To learn more about Michael Thomas and his other books, visit his website,

Books by Michael Thomas

I read this book for free on my Kindle with Amazon Prime.  This book is currently available on Kindle for $3.97.  If you have Amazon Prime, you can access thousands of books for free as well as music and videos. Try Amazon Prime for One Month for FREE.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Little Monday Inspiration - LOVE

Since February is the month of LOVE, I wanted to share my favorite quotes on LOVE from the Bible every Monday.

May you feel God's LOVE today!

1 Corinthians 13:13
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Some Great Romantic and Fun Reads For Your Weekend

Did you receive a gift card to Amazon or a local bookstore for Valentine's Day?  If you are looking for some suggestions for romantic reads this weekend, I have some great ideas! 

By Vanessa Diffenbaugh

I reviewed this book back in September 2001.  See my review, HERE.  I absolutely LOVED it! This story has romance, flowers, and forgiveness for those you care about.

By John Green

I reviewed this book back in October 2013.  See my review, HERE.  This is written for the younger generation, but is a story for everyone.  The love between the two teenagers in this story is one you won't be able to forget.  Keep a box of tissues close by.  The movie version of this book comes out in June and you will want to read the book first and then see the movie.  See the movie trailer, HERE.

By Jeffrey Zaslow

I reviewed this book back in January 2012.  See my review, HERE. I love this nonfiction story about a bridal shop and the family that has owned it for years as well as the different brides who have shopped there for their dresses.  Ultimately, this book is about a dad writing this book to share his love, as well as, hopes and dreams for his daughters.  There is no greater love than that.  Sadly, Zaslow died February 10, 2012, in a car accident without seeing his daughters marry.  Read my post HERE.

By Justin Halpern

Ok, I know this isn't a romantic book, but this is the book I gave my husband for Valentine's Day.  It came highly recommended by some friends and I know, if nothing else, it will make him laugh! If you are a parent of teenagers, you might want to check this one out! 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Book Review: 303 Kid-Approved Exercises and Active Games By Kimberly Wechsler

Ages: 6-8

By: Kimberly Wechsler

Published:  July 30, 2013


Kids are spending way too much time indoors, sitting in chairs watching movies and playing video games.  Kimberly Weschsler has come up with various exercises and games that will get your kids moving. There are stretches and exercises that you can do with your child in your own home.  She has included ways to motivate them and keep them having fun.  Even having them do their chores while walking backwards, or making laundry a game by shooting their clothes into the baskets all encourage activity and fun while doing regular chores.

In fact, all of the exercises in this book will not only benefit the kids but the adults as well.  There are plenty of basic exercises and stretches that you can incorporate into your daily routines.  Some of them even require you to do them as partners like the Towel Tug of War.

Besides focusing on fitness and exercise for individuals, there are several group activities that encourage kids to be active.  This was the part of the book I was most interested in because I run an after school program for kids and we are always looking for ways to keep them active and busy.  One of my favorites was one I had forgotten about, the Back-to-Back race.  Several of these would also be great for family reunions or summer camps. There are also ideas for making your own obstacle courses which are perfect for the summer months.

If you are looking for fun, new ideas for getting your kids moving both indoors and out, check out this book and be ready to get active with your kids!

Kimberly Wechsler - source
Kimberly Wechsler is a nationally recognized Family Fitness Specialist and published author. She is the founder of Fit American Families, a Nutrition, Wellness and Fitness practice based in Texas. Fit American Families focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country and is devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all American families to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change to raising healthy children into healthy adults. She has dedicated her career to creating services and promoting education through her Fit American Families brand.

Boston Magazine named Kimberly’s Kids Fitness Camp as ‘Best of Boston’. She writes for several magazines, blog sites and has been in Fox News. She also had her own television show, ‘Healthy Lifestyles’ and is a radio host of ‘Fit American Families‘. For more about Kimberly Wechsler and her other books on fitness and health, visit her website, You can also follow Kimberly on Twitter, HERE and Facebook, HERE

Books By Kimberly Wechsler

I will be linking up this post with other Children's Book Reviews on Booking Mama's Kid Konnection linky. To see other great reviews of Children's Books, click HERE

Thanks to Librarything for sending me this book in exchange for this review.  This review is my honest opinion.  I was not compensated in any other way for this review.  If you choose to purchase the book through the above link, I may receive a small compensation without you paying a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting reviews. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

App Review: Figure O'Speech

Are looking for a new app that will challenge your brain? 

If you have a Kindle or Android device, 
this FREE app might just be for you!   

FIGURE O'SPEECH is from App-titude Games, a company that creates fun and challenging apps that test your app-titude.  When playing FIGURE O'SPEECH, you are trying to solve visual word puzzles.  With categories such as proverbs and idioms, people, movies, songs, etc, you work to figure out the phrase depicted by the picture.  If you get stuck, you are offered 3 hints per puzzle.  There are also dashes to show you how many letters/words are included in the phrase.  

As you work through the puzzles, you will unlock new sets of phrases.  There are no time limits and no in-app purchases, which I appreciate.  You can just open the app and play.  You will likely find yourself thinking about a puzzle you are stuck on throughout the day, trying to solve it so that you can move on to the next one.  One feature I like is that even if I do get stuck on a puzzle, I can just choose a different one to work on.  I don't have to stay on the one that is challenging me.  I can always come back to it later.  If you notice in the above photo, the puzzles completed are the ones with the check mark.  The other puzzles are available for you to come back to at any time.   

As someone who feels that keeping the brain active is important no matter what age you are, this is a great app to challenge your brain and enjoy.  

To get this FREE app on your Kindle or Amazon devices, click HERE.

To get this FREE app on your Google or Android devices, click HERE

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Start 2014 Write - My Pen Pal

Do you love to get letters in the mail? So much of our mail is junk.  Catalogs, credit card applications, political ads, and coupons arrive in my mailbox every day.  Then there are the bills. No one likes getting bills in the mail.  But, what I do get excited about is something that is hand written.  When something arrives hand written, you know it is a card, an invitation, a thank you, or....maybe....a letter.  When is the last time you received a letter, a hand written letter from someone?

The ESTELLA SOCIETY blog decided to encourage writing by asking for bloggers to sign up.  By signing up, I agreed to be assigned to another blogger, anywhere in the world, and write letters to that person over the course of the year.  I remember having a pen pal at some point in my childhood.  I can't tell you the person's name or where they lived, but I remember writing letters to someone.  I think I signed up through a magazine or something.

Our ancestors only had letters to communicate with each other.  I know my mom still has her letters from my father.  I love finding postcards from the early 1900's and reading what someone wanted to share with a friend or family member that lived maybe in the next town or maybe across the country.  I also love books written in epistolary form.  One of my favorites was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A Novel. I also loved I Love You, Ronnie: The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan. I just recently purchased Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation. I love reading letters.

Last week, I received my pen pal assignment and I am super excited to get to know and share letters with Carey of .  In reading her blog and following her twitter feed, HERE, I've noticed that we have several things in common.  I am excited to learn more about her through our letters to each other.

If you haven't written a letter to someone in awhile, I highly recommend getting out some paper and a pen and writing to someone you haven't talked to in a long time.  You may just start an exchange that will bring joy to both of your lives.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Book Review: Wake By Anna Hope

WAKE: A Novel

By:  Anna Hope

Published:  February 11, 2014


I love finding new authors, and Anna Hope's debut novel is one that will keep her readers wanting more.  This novel came to me highly recommended by the publisher and now I am highly recommending it to you. WAKE takes you through just five days in 1920.  World War I is over and we are introduced to three women living in London, who are all dealing with the trauma the war has left behind.  

In the novel, each section is focused on one day ending on the fifth day, which is Armistice Day  and the ceremonial burial of the unknown solider.  We begin by reading about this unknown soldier being dug up from his grave in the middle of France and follow his trip back to London each day.  During these five days, we also follow along with the lives of three separate women whose connection isn't immediately clear until later in the novel. 

Evelyn, whose boyfriend was killed in the war, works in the benefits office for wounded soldiers.  Her brother whom she has long admired has become an alcoholic after his time in the war.  The stories and struggles she hears daily from soldiers as well as the pain of no longer being close with her brother has left her bitter and angry. 

Hettie, lives with her mother and brother who is no longer able to communicate or work after his time serving in the war.  Hettie works as a dance instructor and must turn over half her wages to her family which makes her angry and jealous of her fellow dancers clothing and freedom.  One night Hettie meets a man and becomes quite smitten, but his secrets and his past could change everything.

Ada's son Michael was killed in the war.  Ada and her husband, Jack, live separate lives in the same house due to Ada's overcoming grief. Jack has moved on and Ada still insists that she sees Michael everywhere she goes.  One day a salesman stops by and utters Michael's name and Ada is even more consumed with finding the truth about his death.  Her overwhelming desire to find him could be the last straw for Jack and their marriage.

Since the novel tells the story of the women and the unknown soldier during each day, the story can at times be a little choppy.  We are told each of their stories in pieces both from the past and the present. We learn the horrors of the war and how each of them and their loved ones were affected by the devastation.  It is a heavy novel with much sadness and pain.  All of the women are hurting, bitter, and mostly miserable.  But, you become quickly wrapped up in their lives and each time you are given a glimmer of hope, you push through another day in the story.  What binds them together is the war, but their other connections will surprise you. 

One of my favorite lines from the story that really shares the feeling of many during this time and honestly, as well as many of us in the present:
  • " War wins." He says. "And it keeps on winning, over and over again.". "War wins," he says bitterly, "and anyone who thinks any differently is a fool."  

The years after the war were a sad and desperate time for many and even though not everything in this story is neatly tied up, it definitely ends with a faith that there will be better times ahead for each of these women. 

Anna Hope is an English writer and actress from Manchester. She is perhaps best known for her Doctor Who role of Novice Hame. She was educated at Wadham College, Oxford, The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London, and Birkbeck College, London. Follow her on Twitter, HERE.

This book was sent to me thanks to Random House for the purpose of this review.  I was not compensated in any other way.  This review is my honest opinion. If you chose to purchase the book through the above link, I may receive a small compensation without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase.  Thanks for supporting reviews. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Little Monday Inspiration - LOVE

Since February is the month of LOVE, I wanted to share my favorite quotes on LOVE from the Bible every Monday.

May you feel God's LOVE today!

Romans 12:9-10
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Children's Book Review: When I Grow Up I Want To Be....Teacher....U.S. Army

a Teacher
Carlee Learns a Surprising Lesson

Published By: Wigu Publishing

Published: December 3, 2013

This is one of the first in a series of books showing that kids can grow up to be whatever they want to be.

Carlee isn't too excited about her first day of school because her mom is the teacher for the other 1st grade section.  Carlee is afraid the kids aren't going to like her because her mom is a teacher. In the story we journey through Carlee's first day and experience her nervousness and excitement as she travels through her classes.  One thing Carlee knows for sure, is that she doesn't want to be a teacher like her mom. She was sure all the kids were laughing at her mom and her and she was so embarrassed.  As Carlee imagines being anything BUT a teacher, we are introduced to real life people in those professions like Christopher Columbus, Neil Armstrong, and Marie Curie.  By the end of the day, Carlee is surprised to learn that the kids love her mom as their teacher.  Carlee realizes having a mom for a teacher isn't so bad and maybe being a teacher is just what she wants to be.

I love how there is a story mixed in with the non-fiction parts of the book.  It is kind of a fiction/non-fiction book. We learn factual information about real people as Carlee travels through her day. Carlee's story is realistic enough for kids to identify with her fears, hesitations and excitement on her first day.  As someone who works in our children's school, I know the embarrassment and excitement that our children feel when I am in the building.

Our 9-year old read this book and enjoyed it.  She liked reading the quotes and information about real people.  She liked Carlee's character and all the jobs she considered being.  Our daughter also wants to be a teacher (as of today) and this book reinforced that for her.

in the U.S. Army
Jake Learns about the U.S. Army

Published By: Wigu Publishing

Published: August 29, 2013

Jake is assigned a project by his teacher to present to the class what he wants to be when he grows up.  He goes through a list of careers, but after talking to his father and learning that both his dad and his grandfather were in the army, Jake decides to do his presentation on a soldier.  Jake's dad takes him to the Army Surplus store to get the items he needs for his presentation.  As Jake goes through the store, we learn the factual information related to our goverment, the uniforms, and the badges and pins. As the daughter of an Army Veteran, I found this information interesting.

Photos of real life soldiers and veterans are shown as we read through the book to give a great perspective on the current job of soldiers as well as the historical piece.  When Jake gives his speech, he not only talks about the job soldiers do, but all the sacrifices they make to protect our country.  The book ends with a glossary explaining the many terms used in the Army.

I really loved both of these books.  I think this is an great series for elementary-aged children to help them explore the opportunities that will be available to them as they grow up.  These books can plant the seeds in their minds and help the child realize they can be whatever they want to be.
I highly recommend these books for classroom as well as personal use.

Other books in the WHEN I GROW UP series coming soon from Wigu Publishing include Firefighter, Race Car Driver, Nurse, Veterinarian, Police Officer, U.S. Air Force, World Traveler, and a Good Person.

Wigu Publishing is a collaboration of talented and creative individuals working together to create informative and fun books for our children. Our titles serve to introduce children to the people in their communities who serve others through their vocations. Wigu’s books are unique in that they help our children to visualize the abundant opportunities that exist for them to be successful and to make a difference. Our goal is to inspire the great leaders and thinkers of tomorrow.  For more on Wigu Publishing and their books, click HERE.  Like them on Facebook, HERE. Follow them on Twitter, HERE.  Follow their Pinterest boards, HERE

I will be linking up with other Children's Book Reviews at Booking Mama's Kid Konnection.  To see other great reviews of Children's Books, click HERE

Thanks to Wigu Publishing, I was provided copies of the above books in exchange for my review. This review is my honest opinion.  I was not compensated in any other way for this review.  If you choose to purchase the books through the above links, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase.  Thanks for supporting's book reviews. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Cents of Style = Great Products and Service

Have you heard of the website, CENTS OF STYLE? It is a discount shopping website that specializes in accessories, shoes and boots.  I have been really pleased with their products and best of all, their prices.

Every Friday they offer one item in their FASHION FRIDAY section at a greatly reduced price. Last week, the above Chevron Scarves were reduced to $6.95 from $26.00 including FREE SHIPPING.

For Christmas gifts I ordered one of these cute State Necklaces for a gift as well as a knitted Ear Wrap.  Both of the gift recipients loved them.

I recently had a customer service issue and emailed them. I had a response AND a correction within MINUTES! That is unheard of and especially with discount retailers.  Unfortunately, sometimes when you get a great deal on prices you get a poor deal on customer service, but that WAS NOT the case with CENTS OF STYLE.  I was very impressed with their service as well as their products.

You need to sign up for their emails to get the discount code for each FASHION FRIDAY deal, but they only come into your inbox on Fridays so it isn't too overwhelming.  I highly recommend you check it out if you like accessories and great deals!

Check them out at

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

How to Create a Compelling Photo Book with Shutterfly

I've been a huge fan of Shutterfly for many years.  I've gotten most of our Christmas cards from Shutterfly.  I order all my print photos from Shutterfly.  I've gotten several gifts from Shutterfly over the years including mugs, office/desk items, and other prints.  My favorite thing to create on Shutterfly is a photo book.  My sister-in-law makes one on Shutterfly every season.  I wish I was that organized.  I have made them for our vacations each summer and for a family wedding.

I have to admit, it was hard for me at first to get used to making a photo book rather than putting photos into an album, but once I made my first one I was hooked.  Over the years, Shutterfly has come up with so many neat styles, artwork, themes and ways to really make the photo book your own style.  Plus they are always saved on Shutterfly in case you ever wanted to give one as a gift. A Shutterfly photo book would make a great gift for a new mom, a child's birthday, a grandparent or even a high school graduate.  I've seem them used as guest books at weddings, graduations, and birthday parties.  Such a great idea!

If you have ever thought about making a photo book, but wasn't sure where to start, my best tip is just to jump in. Upload a group of photos from a special event or year and start adding them to your photo book project. Without pressure of having to print it or finish it by a certain date, you are much more likely to take your time learning all the ways you can add your own personal style to a photo book.  Just remember to always SAVE your work by naming your project right away.

I have a great guest post for you today from Heather Hewitt from Shutterfly with her best tips for creating a photo book. To create your own photo book with Shutterfly, go to

Three Tips to Help You Create a Compelling Photo Book - Heather Hewitt

You go to a friend’s house and notice a colorful book of photos on the coffee table. When you pick it up to look inside, you’re immediately impressed with the way it captures your friend’s Hawaii vacation with simplicity and beauty. Yet, because of the captions and fun layout, it’s more interesting to look through than a regular photo album. “I can do this,” you think. And you can! There are a lot of online sites that offer predesigned photo books that you can customize with ease for vacations, events, year-in-reviews, and much more.

Here are three tips for making your photo book stunning and compelling.

·         Choose good photos. If you’re designing a photo book, obviously the most important component will be the photos you select. With today’s use of the digital camera, or phones for that matter, we tend to take a lot more photos than in the past. But that means more to sort through, so how to choose from the hundreds – maybe thousands – you’ve taken? Simply put, you want to select photos that tell a story. Perhaps there’s more to them visually than others. Maybe the lighting is better. Maybe they evoke emotion. Try to choose interesting pictures, especially for the photos that will take up an entire page or stand alone.

·         Select a varied layout. The layout of a photo book can change the tone of the book as a whole. It’s important to alternate the number – and type – of photos used on each page. For example, don’t make every page a standalone photo with a caption. On the other hand, a photo book full of collage pages will make it hard to focus and might make the viewer’s eyes tired. As tempting as it is to cram as many photos as possible into as small a space as you can, it’s a much better choice to make the layout interesting. Together, the photos will tell a story they can’t tell alone.

·         Write detailed captions. Have you ever thumbed through someone’s photo albums and wondered who people were and what event they were at and what was so darned funny? Just think how much more interesting those photos would be if you had captions. Not only that, but as the years go by, details tend to leave our brains. So when writing your photo book, make sure to write captions with as much detail as you’d like to remember – and that you’d like your kids and grandkids to know later. Remember, you’re leaving a legacy with these books! Just like you might have learned in yearbook class, details could include names, dates, locations, etc.

When you adapt these three tips, you’re well on your way to create a compelling photo book. Take time to decide how you want to tell the story of your vacation, year, or significant event – then take joy in creating and sharing it with family and friends!

Author Bio: Heather Hewitt is a seasoned writer and guest author who enjoys connecting people with thoughtful products, services and ideas as they relate to crafting, photography, gift giving and personal expression.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Review Books That Came My Way in January

The following are the books that arrived in my mailbox or on my Kindle in January from authors and publishers.  Some of them are scheduled reviews and others are ones I hope to get too soon. So many of these books are right up my in history, drama, and characters that will stick with you for a long time! There is some great reading ahead for me!

FALLEN BEAUTY by Erika Robuck
Upstate New York, 1928. Laura Kelley and the man she loves sneak away from their judgmental town to attend a performance of the scandalous Ziegfeld Follies. But the dark consequences of their night of daring and delight reach far into the future.…

That same evening, Bohemian poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and her indulgent husband hold a wild party in their remote mountain estate, hoping to inspire her muse. Millay declares her wish for a new lover who will take her to unparalleled heights of passion and poetry, but for the first time, the man who responds will not bend completely to her will.…

Two years later, Laura, an unwed seamstress struggling to support her daughter, and Millay, a woman fighting the passage of time, work together secretly to create costumes for Millay’s next grand tour. As their complex, often uneasy friendship develops amid growing local condemnation, each woman is forced to confront what it means to be a fallen woman…and to decide for herself what price she is willing to pay to live a full life.

THE FEVER TREE by Jennifer McVeigh 

I will be offering a giveaway of this book!

Frances Irvine, left destitute in the wake of her father’s sudden death, has been forced to abandon her life of wealth and privilege in London and emigrate to the Southern Cape of Africa. 1880 South Africa is a country torn apart by greed. In this remote and inhospitable land she becomes entangled with two very different men—one driven by ambition, the other by his ideals. Only when the rumor of an epidemic takes her into the dark heart of the diamond mines does Frances see her road to happiness.
But before she can follow that path, Frances must choose between passion and integrity, between her desire for the man who captured her heart and her duty to the man who saved her from near ruin, a decision that will have devastating consequences.

A beautiful scarf, passed down through the generations, connects two women who learn that the weight of the world is made bearable by the love we give away....

September 1911. On Ellis Island in New York Harbor, nurse Clara Wood cannot face returning to Manhattan, where the man she loved fell to his death in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Then, while caring for a fevered immigrant whose own loss mirrors hers, she becomes intrigued by a name embroidered onto the scarf he carries…and finds herself caught in a dilemma that compels her to confront the truth about the assumptions she’s made. Will what she learns devastate her or free her? 

September 2011. On Manhattan’s Upper West Side, widow Taryn Michaels has convinced herself that she is living fully, working in a charming specialty fabric store and raising her daughter alone. Then a long-lost photograph appears in a national magazine, and she is forced to relive the terrible day her husband died in the collapse of the World Trade Towers…the same day a stranger reached out and saved her. Will a chance reconnection and a century-old scarf open Taryn’s eyes to the larger forces at work in her life?

Months after a tragic accident, Ella O’Hanlon flees to London in an attempt to escape her grief, leaving behind the two people she blames for her loss: Aidan, the love of her life, and Jess, her spoiled half-sister. Taken in by her beloved uncle Lucas, Ella discovers that his extraordinary house holds many wonderful memories for her…and his group of transitory boarders provides a refreshing and welcome emotional tonic. But as Ella settles into a comfortable new role as unofficial cook and housemother, Jess secretly comes to London to pursue her own dreams, precipitating an unexpected family reunion and an exploration of the heart—one famished for love, for healing, and for forgiveness.

What if, in order to survive, you were thrown into a teaching job with young children and no training? "Recess Is My Best Subject" tells the true story of a professional woman who, after a family tragedy, plunges into the world of substitute teaching in the public schools of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. A far cry from the nun-run Catholic school of her childhood, this new world is one shaped by special needs, poverty, and new immigration. Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, Peggy Mastel's debut memoir follows her as she dives into the most challenging job of her life and, against all expectations, finds that that she is the one doing most of the learning.

Carlee always wanted to be a teacher when she grew up, until her mother is hired as a teacher at her school! Some of her friends are even in her mother's class. Carlee is worried. What will her friends say? Will her mother do something to embarrass her? Carlee vows never to become a teacher like her mother, but as she journeys through the first day of school with her own new teacher, Carlee makes some surprising discoveries. 

When Jake’s teacher assigns a “career” project, Jake decides he wants to be a soldier in the United States Army. Jake and his father visit an Army surplus store to find items he can use to present his project. As they search the store, each item makes the history and proud spirit of the U.S. Army come to life for Jake and readers alike. Through Jake’s discoveries, readers are introduced to the history of the U.S. Army, what soldiers’ duties include, and the equipment they use.

By taking this 30 Day Course in Prayer, you are about to spend the next 30 Days, and the rest of your life, in a heightened relationship with God. You will need anywhere from 10 minutes in the beginning, up to 30 minutes daily, to start your training to powerful prayer. Later, you may discover that you can pray for an hour with ease! Many books have been written on the subject of prayer throughout time, yet today we still grapple with connecting with God, and having a worthwhile relationship with Him. This book has been written for just such a purpose, to learn to interact with God and to develop a deep relationship with Him, as your God, "Your Father", and your Friend. I believe that everyone daily should recite the "Our Father". I believe it not only aligns us with God on a regular basis, but the prayer also realigns our thinking as to what we should be thinking on a multitude of subjects. There is room on every Day to write your personal requests to pray for. You will find that this book will become your personal daily prayer journal for years to come.

OLIVIA, MOURNING by Yael Politis
Book 1 of the Olivia Series
Historical Fiction - USA, 1840s 

Olivia wants the 80 acres in far off Michigan that her father's will left to whichever of his offspring claims the land. As Olivia says, "I'm sprung off him just as much as Avis or Tobey."
The problem: she's seventeen, female, and it's 1841.

Mourning Free, Olivia's trusted childhood friend, knows how to run a farm and is also sorely in need of a new start in life.
The problem: though born in a free state, he's the orphaned son of runaway slaves and the slave catchers who patrol the north hunting fugitives are not particular about who they take back south with them.

Not without qualms, they set off together. All goes well, despite the drudgery of survival in an isolated log cabin. Incapable of acknowledging her feelings for Mourning, Olivia thinks her biggest problem is her unrequited romantic interest in their young neighbor.
Until her world falls apart.

Strong-willed, vulnerable, and compassionate, Olivia is a compelling protagonist on a journey to find a way to do the right thing in a world in which so much is wrong.

Latesha Thomas is a beautiful, young African-American woman who lives with her handicapped father. She is in her final year of university and they are having a hard time making ends meet. She decides to start a matchmaking service to make a little extra money, though she has no experience and it turns out to be a disaster. She does, however, meet a client, a handsome white man named Peter Elsworth. The sparks fly immediately, but there’s a huge problem. Her father, and his mother, are vehemently opposed to an interracial relationship. This leads to tremendous conflict, but their love will not be denied. They grow closer, yet the closer they become, the more the tension rises. In time a secret connection between their two worlds become clear and this adds another dimension of conflict and complexity. But love is color blind and they are irresistibly drawn to one another.