Monday, March 31, 2014

The Inspiration Behind A Beauty So Rare

Here's another fun behind the scenes look at the book I'm currently reading, A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander. I'm enjoying the story so far, and I'm about 1/3 of the way through!

A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Review: A Marriage in Middlebury by Anita Higman

A Marriage in Middlebury by Anita Higman
My rating: 3 stars (I liked it)

Synopsis from goodreads.com

What happens when the matchmaker finds a match for herself? Charlotte Rose Hill has been serving up country delicacies, uniquely blended teas, and matchmaking advice for her quirky but beloved customers for more than 10 years. But for her, marriage seems like an elusive butterfly, always out of reach. At 18, Charlotte fell in love with a young man, Sam Wilder, but his family convinced her to walk away from their relationship. Now, more than a decade later, Charlotte finds that she still has feelings for her first love. Initially thrilled to learn that Sam has come home to Middlebury, Texas, Charlotte is devastated to learn that he’s brought someone with him: his fiancée. But all is not lost when the townsfolk decide to get involved. Will Charlotte and Sam find their way back to each other?

My Review

I would describe this book as pleasant. There is an ensemble of quirky townspeople, and the author occasionally switches to their points-of view to further the storytelling. At first I thought this would be a love triangle story, but once the character of Justin is introduced and makes a connection with Audrey, the fiancée, you can see who everyone is supposed to end up with. Then it was just a matter of waiting for everyone to decide to communicate. I became somewhat impatient for the characters to get on with it, and there are several sub-plots that slow things down, but eventually it all ties together and everyone gets their happy ending.

(ARC provided via Netgalley for unbiased review)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Review: Severed Trust by Margaret Daley

Severed Trust by Margaret Daley
My rating: 4 stars

Synopsis from goodreads.com

The day Sadie Thompson finds her high school student, Lexie, asleep in class and can't wake her is the day she realizes how entrenched a prescription drug ring is in her school. As Sadie is pulled into doing something about the growing problem, she becomes involved with Ethan Stone a Texas Ranger who suspects the drug ring reaches far beyond the high school. Helping Lexie recover from the overdose, Sadie feels she is making a difference until the 16-year-old's best friend dies from the apparent mixing of various prescription drugs. Lexie doesn't think her friend took her own life, but her relationship with her Uncle Ethan is precarious and she doesn't know if either he or Sadie will help her discover the truth.

My Review

Great suspense novel! This story is told from several points of view that switch constantly throughout the book, so I really had to stay on my toes. I could feel the anxiety and dread of the characters, and enough of the story from the drug users' points of view was shared to make the reader aware of things the investigators weren't, but some was also held back so the ending was a surprise twist. Romance definitely took a backseat, but there are some relationship subplots. The author did a fabulous job of making me aware of the dangers of prescription drug abuse, especially with teenagers.

(ARC provided via Netgalley for unbiased review)

Review: The Christmas Quilt by Vannetta Chapman

The Christmas Quilt by Vanetta Chapman
My rating: 3 stars

Synopsis from goodreads.com

Annie's life is deliciously full as the Christmas season approaches. She helps her husband, Samuel, attend to the community's minor medical needs. She occasionally assists Belinda, the local midwife, and most days, she finds herself delivering the buggy to her brother Adam. Annie s sister-in-law Leah is due to deliver their first child before Christmas morning, and Annie is determined to finish a crib quilt before the "boppli" arrives. With six weeks to go, she should have no problem . . . but God may have a different plan. Leah is rushed to the English hospital when the infant arrives early, and Annie discovers the Christmas quilt may hold a far greater significance than she ever imagined.

My Review

This is a sweet book. The characters are from a previous novel, so all the falling in love has already happened. The focus is more on relationship growth and enduring challenging times. I enjoyed the bond that the sisters-in-law shared, and their storytelling over each piece of the quilt.

(ARC provided via Netgalley for unbiased review)

Giveaway!!! Snow on the Tulips by Liz Tolsma

I'm so excited to be participating in this giveaway hosted by Jo, My Gosh! I'm giving away a new paperback copy of Snow on the Tulips by Liz Tolsma, set in the Netherlands during WW2.

Other prizes the winner of this giveaway will receive are...
a $15 gift card to Starbucks from Katherine at The Newsom's Nest
a month of ad space at The Artisan Life
$10 credit to the Etsy shop Stalking the Wild Snark
Month of the Telephone Call on Jo, My Gosh!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Bonus features for A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander!

I'm so excited to be on the blogging team sharing bonus features for a novel I'll be reading and reviewing soon... A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander.
A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander

Here is the book trailer which I think is just lovely:


And an excerpt from the book!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

$1.99 e-book sale this weekend only: Swept Away by Mary Connealy

$1.99 e-book sale this weekend only: Swept Away by Mary Connealy
I love Mary Connealy's books! Adventure, romance, and humor in the wild west. I gave this one four stars- I really enjoyed it. The sale is through this weekend only, so get it at Amazon here!

Synopsis from goodreads.com

Swept away when her wagon train attempts a difficult river crossing, Ruthy MacNeil isn't all that upset at being separated from the family who raised her. All they've ever done is work her to the bone. She prayed for a chance to get away, and then came the raging flood. Alive but disoriented, she's rescued by Luke Stone... so unfortunately, there are more chances to die in her immediate future.

Luke is heading home to reclaim the ranch stolen from his family. But the men who killed his father are working hard to ensure Luke doesn't make it alive. He has no choice but to keep moving. Still, he can't just abandon Ruthy, so she'll have to come along.

His friends—a ragtag group of former Civil War soldiers—take a fast interest in the pretty gal. Luke thinks that's rather rude—he's the one who found her. And the more time he spends around the hard-working young woman who is a mighty good cook, the more he finds himself thinking beyond revenge and toward a different future. For the first time in a long time, Luke is tempted to turn from his destructive path and be swept away by love.

$1.99 e-book sale: The Heiress of Winterwood by Sarah Ladd

$1.99 e-book sale: The Heiress of Winterwood by Sarah Ladd
$1.99 e-book sale! Get it at Amazon here.

This one is on my to-read list, but I've read great reviews of it!

Synopsis from goodreads.com

Amelia Barrett, heiress to an ancestral estate nestled in the English moors, defies family expectations and promises to raise her dying friend’s infant baby. She'll risk everything to keep her word—even to the point of proposing to the child’s father, Graham, a sea captain she’s never met.

Tragedy strikes when the child vanishes with little more than a sketchy ransom note hinting to her whereabouts. Fear for the child’s safety drives Amelia and Graham to test the boundaries of their love for this infant.

Amelia’s detailed plans would normally see her through any trial, but now, desperate and shaken, she examines her soul and must face her one weakness: pride.

Graham’s strength and self-control have served him well and earned him much respect, but chasing perfection has kept him a prisoner of his own discipline.

Both must learn to accept God’s sovereignty and relinquish control so they can grasp the future He has for planned for them.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Balanced Challenge Day Eleven: Refresh

Balanced by Tricia Goyer

"Balance isn't the ultimate goal- knowing God is."


I so appreciate the spiritual focus in this book and how it encourages us to trust God and lean on Him. I find that my life is most balanced when my spiritual needs are met first, then everything else falls into place (whether it gets done that day or not).

In the last chapter of Balanced, Tricia gives several ideas for scheduling your work in order to be able to give a full effort at what you are focused on in the moment, instead of giving half-efforts at your different roles. The second list of ideas she shares is ways to clear out your inner clutter- the worries and concerns. the last list is 24 final tips, which are so helpful to me.

This post is part of the Balanced challenge with Tricia Goyer—and you can join, too!

Get Balanced!
Tricia Goyer Balanced
 

$1.99 e-book sale! Submerged by Dani Pettrey

Submerged by Dani Pettrey
E-book sale! Only $1.99 for romantic suspense novel Submerged by Dani Pettrey- get it at Amazon here. I gave it 5 stars, and there are two more books in the series, with a new one being published later this year.

Synopsis from goodreads.com

Bailey Craig vowed never to set foot in Yancey again. She has a past, and a reputation--and Yancey's a small town. She's returned to bury a loved one killed in the plane crash and is determined not to stay even an hour more than necessary. But then dark evidence emerges and Bailey's own expertise becomes invaluable for the case.
Cole McKenna can handle the deep-sea dives and helping the police recover evidence. He can even handle the fact that a murderer has settled in his town and doesn't appear to be moving on. But dealing with the reality of Bailey's reappearance is a tougher challenge. She broke his heart, but she is not the same girl who left Yancey. He let her down, but he's not the same guy she left behind. Can they move beyond the hurts of their pasts and find a future together?


Free e-book! Trinity: Military War Dog by Ronie Kendig

Free e-book! Trinity: Military War Dog
Free e-book! Trinity: Military War Dog by Ronie Kendig

Synopsis from Goodreads.com

A year ago in Afghanistan, Green Beret Heath Daniel’s career was destroyed. Along with his faith. Now he and his military war dog, Trinity, train other dogs and their handlers. Though his passion is to be back in action, the medical discharge has forced Heath—and Trinity—to the sidelines. Military intelligence officer Darci Kintz is captured while secretly tracking the Taliban. Only one dog can handle the extreme conditions to save her. Trinity. Only one man can handle Trinity. Time is running out on the greatest—and most dangerous—mission of their lives.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Balanced Challenge Day Ten: Eight Life Themes

Balanced by Tricia Goyer


This is one of my favorite chapters in the book. Tricia encourages us to list the eight themes that take top priority during this season in life (they are subject to change), and choose to say yes to those things while choosing to say no to the things not on that list. (Saying no can be challenging!)

"In Balanced I encourage readers to narrow down their “life themes” to eight. Why eight? None of us are just about one thing . . . and eight is enough to manage, believe me!"

"Eight life themes are the things that come from the core of us. Yet during different seasons of life they may look different."

Here are my Eight!

1. Relationship with God
2. Wife
3. Mother
4. Healthy home

5. Daycare Provider
6. Serving in Church
7. Photographer
8. Reading/Blogging


This post is part of the Balanced challenge with Tricia Goyer—and you can join, too!

Get Balanced!
Tricia Goyer Balanced
 

wordless wednesday


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Balanced Challenge Day Nine: Inspiration and Relaxation

Balanced e-book by Tricia Goyer

Give your mind a rest and a dose of good, old-fashioned inspiration. Carve out some time today to implement one of my tips about finding inspiration and enjoy the feeling of creativity. 

  1. Spend time with God, praying for God’s inspiration.
  2. Do something to feed your creative soul.
  3. Let the creativity spill out through words, through music, through art.
  4. Share your message (God’s message through you) with others.
Something that I have let go of over the years of becoming a busy mom is recording our family history through scrapbooking our photographs. One of my new year's resolutions is to begin scrapbooking on a weekly basis with my older daughter. So I pulled out some envelopes of school and soccer pictures, hauled out the stacks of decorative paper, and we matched up what papers would look best with the pictures. that's as far as we got, so next time we'll plan the layout and embellishments and get it all glued down. I expect (and hope!) that as we get into the groove my creative juices will flow faster...

This post is part of the Balanced challenge with Tricia Goyer—and you can join, too!

Get Balanced!
Tricia Goyer Balanced
 

free e-book: The Choice by Suzanne Woods Fisher


Free e-book through March 31st! Get it at Amazon here. I've read some other books by this author and they were lovely. I'm looking forward to reading this one!

Synopsis from goodreads.com

With a vibrant, fresh style Suzanne Woods Fisher brings readers into the world of a young Amish woman torn between following the man she loves--or joining the community of faith that sustains her, even as she questions some of the decisions of her elders. Her choice begins a torrent of change for her and her family, including a marriage of convenience to silent Daniel Miller. Both bring broken hearts into their arrangement--and secrets that have been held too long.
Filled with gentle romance, The Choice opens the world of the Amish--their strong communities, their simple life, and their willingness to put each other first. Combined with Fisher's exceptional gift for character development, this novel, the first in a series, is a welcome reminder that it is never too late to find your way back to God.



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Free e-book: Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz

Free e-book: Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz

Synopsis from Goodreads.com

Morrow Little is haunted by the memory of the day her family was torn apart by raiding Shawnee warriors. Now that she is nearly a grown woman and her father is ailing, she must make difficult choices about the future. Several men--ranging from the undesired to the unthinkable--vie for her attentions, but she finds herself inexplicably drawn to a forbidden love that both terrifies and intrigues her. Can she betray the memory of her lost loved ones--and garner suspicion from her friends--by pursuing a life with him? Or should she seal her own misery by marrying a man she doesn't love? This sweeping tale of romance and forgiveness will envelop readers as it takes them from a Kentucky fort through the vast wilderness to the west in search of true love.

Balanced Challenge Day Eight: Make Today Amazing

Balanced Challenge Day Eight: Make Today Amazing

Taking a moment to tell my daughter how special she is helped me realize what a precious trust God has given me in raising my children in love and righteousness. She is such a blessing and brings us so much joy- how important it is that she knows that and can see it reflected in my words and action.


This post is part of the Balanced challenge with Tricia Goyer—and you can join, too!

 
Get Balanced!
Tricia Goyer Balanced

Monday, March 17, 2014

Balanced Challenge Day Seven - Teamwork

Balanced Challenge Day Seven- Teamwork

"Many hands make light work—and moms, you shouldn’t feel the need to do everything yourself. Schedule a quick family meeting today to talk to your kids and spouse about the responsibilities you all can share to make your load a bit lighter."

I remember when my daughter loved to "help" sort and fold laundry, simply because we could do it together and it made her feel like a big girl. Now at age seven, she's learning just how much laundry mom folds on laundry days and how much of it is hers :) She's rising to the challenge though, and I'm so proud of her. I've discovered when there's the promise of a snack (especially a pickle) at the other end of the chore she perks up and moves more quickly.

This post is part of the Balanced challenge with Tricia Goyer—and you can join, too!

Get Balanced!
Tricia Goyer Balanced

Free e-book! Forget Me Not by Amber Stokes

Free e-book! Forget Me Not by Amber Stokes
Today through Friday the e-book version of Forget Me Not by Amber Stokes is free! I haven't read this one yet, but it's on my list :)

Get it at Amazon

Synopsis from Goodreads.com

(Prequel to Bleeding Heart)

Old hurts, new betrayals, and a love that survives them all...

Summer 1885

A startling revelation sends Elizabeth Lawson escaping into a stormy night - and tosses her into the arms of a young mountain man with secrets of his own. When he offers to take her to the Nevada mining town where her long-lost brother lives, she accepts. Suspicions and uncertainties are pushed aside as she struggles to forge a future for herself by meeting her past.

David has been hiding from his painful memories for years. The solitude and wildness of the Rocky Mountains are challenge and comfort enough for him - until Elizabeth's arrival. Fueled by anger and a sense of obligation, he strives to take control of his new situation...only to find control slipping from his grasp with each new emotion Elizabeth evokes in him.

When their journey leads them on unexpected paths, can two lonely hearts find the strength to remember the good amid the heartbreak?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Balanced Challenge Day Six - Do What You Can


"Do you have an extra fifteen minutes before you need to hop in the car to pick up your kids? Make the most of them! Do a little laundry, organize a stack of papers, do a quick sweep of the kitchen. Those five, ten, and fifteen minutes add up throughout the day!"

At the end of a busy day I usually look back and wonder how productive I really was. Even when I manage to use my spare time to catch up on the small stuff, it's not always noticeable when I look around the house- probably because things are where they belong and I tend to notice the mess, not lack thereof :) Having a working checklist of things to get done helps me remember when I do have some spare minutes what some options are for spending my time.

This post is part of the Balanced challenge with Tricia Goyer—and you can join, too!

Get Balanced!
Tricia Goyer Balanced

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Balanced Challenge Day Five- Rank those Priorities


In chapter five, Tricia talks about first forming your calendar with the things of highest importance, then filling the spaces with the rest that needs to get done. Otherwise, what is urgent will always come before what is important.

This reminds me of an analogy on time management- You have a jar that represents your day. Some rocks represent the most important things, pebbles- less important, sand- trivialities. If you start by putting in the biggest rocks, you can add in the pebbles and then the sand that will fit in around the larger rocks. However if you start with the smaller less important things first, not everything will fit into the jar.

Some things I would like to form my calendar with before I fill it are family dinner each night, family home evening on Monday nights, and scripture reading and prayer with my older daughter in the morning before school.

This post is part of the Balanced challenge with Tricia Goyer—and you can join, too!
 
Get Balanced!
Tricia Goyer Balanced

Friday, March 14, 2014

Balanced Challenge Day Four- Believing God

What have you been called by God to do? Take a few minutes away from work and family to sit with your Bible and talk to God. Believe that God placed your dreams and passions in your heart. Find a verse that speaks to you about this, and post it today on your blog.

While I love creating art, photography and crafting, at this time in my life I'm focusing more on the children in my life. I have two perfectly wonderful daughters that joined our family through adoption, and also provide daycare for two fun little boys. The steady additional income has been a blessing for our family, and it feels good to know that I'm helping their mothers in their callings as middle school teachers. They are entrusting me with their child- I don't take that lightly. It's my responsibility to provide their sons with a loving, nurturing, and stimulating environment during the hours they are away from their mother. These are a few of the first pictures I remember as a young child depicting Jesus and his love for children.


13 And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.
 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
 15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.
 16 And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.

This post is part of the Balanced challenge with Tricia Goyer—and you can join, too!
Get Balanced!
Tricia Goyer Balanced

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Balanced Challenge Day Three - Get Your Kids Involved

How can you get your kids involved in what you’re working on? How can they experience what your job is like and contribute to it?



By providing day care for infants in our home, our seven year old daughter has become accustomed to having babies around and being a helper. She has grown in being willing to share my attention, learned how to safely play with babies, and enjoys the many joyful firsts that happen in that first year of life. A wonderful blessing is that it really prepared her to be a big sister when we adopted our second daughter! Some of her responsibilities are helping hold the bottle during feeding, throwing away the diaper after I change it, and folding and putting away her own laundry. Even though my attention is often divided, I feel like our relationship is stronger for working together and showing trust in her abilities.

This post is part of the Balanced challenge with Tricia Goyer—and you can join, too!

Buy the book at Amazon


Get Balanced!
Tricia Goyer Balanced

Review: Plain Peace by Beth Wiseman

Heidi Reads... Plain Peace by Beth Wiseman
My rating: 5 stars

Synopsis from Goodreads.com

Anna Byler should be enjoying her Rumspringa as allowed by her faith. But because of the strict rules enforced by her grandfather—the bishop—the available suitors in town are afraid to court her. Even Anna’s grandmother is keeping a big secret from Anna’s grandfather in an effort to keep the peace. Under her grandfather’s oppressive watch, Anna begins to feel her faith slipping and wonders if God has forsaken her.
 

Jacob Hostetler and his family have relocated to Lancaster County following a family tragedy in Ohio. As his family struggles to rebuild their lives, Jacob is forced to act as head of the household when his father is unable to cope with recent events. It’s been a long time since Jacob has felt any joy. Until he meets Anna Byler. But will Anna’s grandfather succeed at keeping them apart? And can Jacob put the past behind him and open his heart?

My Review

This book was a pleasure to read. Although it is the sixth in the Daughters of the Promise series, it can be read as a stand-alone easily. Anna and Jacob each have their own set of worries and struggles, yet as they share their burdens with each other they provide strength and support. I love the unique details and insights we see in their relationship and how it sustains them. There is a whole set of strong supporting characters and the book alternates between points of view. The trials of each are so different, but their relationships with each other tie the subplots together seamlessly. And I just have to say, Anna's grandmother is hilarious.

(ARC provided via Netgalley for unbiased review)

Review: Promise to Return by Elizabeth Byler Younts

Promise to Return by Elizabeth Byler Younts
My rating: 5 stars

Synopsis from Goodreads.com

It’s 1943 and Miriam Coblentz and Henry Mast are nearing their wedding day when the unthinkable happens—Henry is drafted. However, since he is a part of the pacifist Amish tradition, Henry is sent to a conscientious objector Civilian Public Service camp. When he leaves for the work camp, his gaping absence turns Miriam’s life upside down. Little does she know that it’s only the beginning…

When Henry returns home, he brings news that shakes Miriam and their Amish community to the core. He tells Miriam he believes God has called him to enlist in the Army and fight for his country, leaving her to make an important decision. She soon must choose between loyalty to the peaceful life she’s always known and her love for Henry and her faith in their shared destiny.


My Review

This was an intense and emotional book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! The characters have vivid personalities and realistic struggles and emotions. The chemistry between Miriam and Henry is wonderful, especially for an Amish novel. Miriam had a peaceful, orderly life, but we journey with her through the turmoil of the choices she faces and makes as her relationships and loyalties are tested in her family and community.

I could not put this book down! Even though I have a baby that still wakes up twice a night, I finished it at 2:30 am, just in time to feed her and reflect on what I had read, how blessed I felt for the time we live in now, and amazed at the strength and sacrifices of the people who lived during that period of war.

(ARC provided via Netgalley for unbiased review)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Balanced Challenge Day Two: Make working from home work

Question: What can you do or change to make working from home actually work for you? Creating an office space? Cleaning up that office space? Looking into finding a babysitter for a few hours a day? Take the first steps in making the change, then take a photo of your progress and post it on your blog.

This was an easy one for me- the hardest thing about providing daycare for two infants is that I never find time to get my dishes done. I've been hand washing them for four years now. The pile would often get out of control and several hours of my free time were spent catching up. It got to the point where I hated making dinner because it meant I would have more pots and pans to wash. We even lived off paper plates for several months during the summer!

My husband is the sweetest, most thoughtful guy, and loves to surprise me. Often when we go on dates he won't tell me what the plan is, just for the element of surprise. Well, this Christmas he asked my sister to invite me over for the day so he and our bishop from church (who is a general contractor) could install the dishwasher he ordered. When I came home, he asked me if I knew where the popcorn popper was (to get me to look in the cupboards that the dishwasher replaced). I was so shocked. A dishwasher?! We had tossed the idea around for a couple years, but I would always fall back on how much money we were saving by hand washing. Let me tell you, it has been worth every penny! My stress level has dramatically decreased, I can clean up after a meal and have sparkling dishes while I "chillax" and read a book with my daughter or watch a tv show with my husband. I no longer have that mountain of dirty dishes hanging over my head so I can focus my best efforts at caring for my munchkins.

This post is part of the Balanced challenge with Tricia Goyer—and you can join, too!

Buy the book at Amazon
Get Balanced!
Tricia Goyer Balanced