Tuesday, November 26, 2013

House of Hades - A Review

The Seven Demigods of Prophecy have been split up. Percy and Annabeth are making their way through Tartarus to find the Doors of Death and seal them from the Underworld side. Jason, Leo, Hazel, Frank, and Piper are trying to reach the mortal side of the Doors of Death to assist, and hopefully, rescue Percy and Annabeth. Yet Gaea is determined that they will not succeed. With more monsters and no real help from their godly parents, the five aboard the Argo II have to use all of their wits to survive. Will they make it in time?

I love this series. Unlike the others in this series, this fourth book allows for each of the Seven to have a point of view. While that was nice, I'm not sure I really liked that aspect. But I loved seeing how each of them had to really come into their gifts and roles they must play. Both Greek and Roman are more united than ever before, at least as far as the Seven are concerned. War is coming and the forces of Camp Jupiter and Camp Half-Blood are gathering to do battle. So while the Seven are united, their compatriots are not. I loved loved loved Frank in this book. He's always been a bit in the background, but here he finally gets a chance to shine. The trials that the demigods face makes the reader wonder what else can be thrown at them. Thankfully, for me at least, this book didn't end with the drastic cliffhanger that Mark of Athena did. It's still a cliffhanger, and will have me counting the months until the final book comes out next October.

I read this book for pure pleasure. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Rating - 4.5 stars.

Recommended to fans of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Kane Chronicles, Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flammel, middle school students, elementary/middle school librarians

Sunday, November 24, 2013

My first attempt at something other than blankets

Most everyone who knows me, knows I crochet. I've made blankets for countless friends and family members. My mother's was my first one. Since then I've improved in technique and experience. Last fall, I made my first blanket with tassels.

The mom-to-be loved it! While I still work on blankets, in fact I've got two I'm currently working on and several others in the works, I saw something on the Lion Brand Yarn website, and I thought I have to try it!

My best friend is pregnant with her third baby, and while yes, I've already picked out the blanket pattern and will probably be purchasing the yarn over Thanksgiving when it's super cheap, I really want to make her this adorable stacking toy.
Only problem, I've never done circles before and had no idea how to begin. So I decided to start with something that looked relatively simple - a cornucopia  and fruits and vegetables to fill it.

I found a pattern for a cornucopia on the Lion Brand website.  I followed the pattern exactly, down to the same brand of yarn required to make it. I did change the color from dark brown to a golden color, but that was the only difference I made. This first attempt took me about 5 hours one Saturday. Which in terms of what I watch while I crochet was all of Stargate the movie, and the first 2 episodes of Stargate SG1 season 1. True there were times when either the movie or the show was more interesting and captured my attention, hence the fact it took 5 hours. Here's the finished product.
So circles, or rounds as they are called, weren't too terribly complicated. I just had to remember to move the stitch marker up each time. So I thought to myself, "I can do this. It doesn't seem too hard."

The real test was coming with the fruits and vegetables.

I printed out the pattern for the pumpkin  from the Lion Brand Website. Then I went ahead and printed out the apple, the corn, the squash, the eggplant, and the turkey to go with it . I had to make a list of all that I needed and go shopping for the yarn. Of course I didn't have a clue what safety eyes were, so those didn't make my list. I decided one bag of stuffing should be plenty to make all of the veggies and the turkey. In fact, I probably could have gotten away with a half bag. Those stuffing bags are HUGE!!!!

The pumpkin was the first on the list. I was surprised at how quickly I made it (took about 3 Stargate episodes). And it turned out rather cute.
Things for next time. Follow the instructions for the Apple to make a more distinct stem.

I then did the apple. It looked easier than the corn, squash, or eggplant. Much to my surprise, my apple didn't look much like an apple. It looks more like a giant strawberry and it's kinda lopsided. That's with me following the pattern EXACTLY!.
After only completing the pumpkin and the apple, I was starting to wonder if the cornucopia would be large enough to fit all of the vegetables. So I decided to make all of them FIRST and then go back and see if they'd fit.

By this time, I'm somewhere at the end of Stargate season 1 or into season 2. Plus I'd take the fruits to show to a couple of my coworkers and they loved them. I brought them over to Lynnette's house to show her and her almost 3 year old was so excited about them that I promptly figured out what I'd be doing for her upcoming birthday. But I have about two months to get a second set finished.

Next one I did was the squash. It's my least favorite of all of them. I just don't really care for how it looks.
The eggplant and the corn were going to be a little more complicated, so I took my time on them. I'm mostly crocheting on weekends and particularly on Saturdays, after my nap. As far as what season of Stargate I'm up to by this point, I think it was Season 3. I know I'm currently finishing up Season 4 (I've got 2 episodes left!)

The eggplant is by far my favorite of all of the veggies. It turned out so good. It's bright, the stem is very good, and it's plumper than I'd planned.
The corn also turned out very good. I know for next time, to add more stitches in the leaves to get it to come all the way across.

I knew that the turkey was going to take longer. Each piece had to be made separately. I did the body first, and it looks like a brown bowling pin. Then I did the wings. Then the feet. Then the beak. Then the red waddle. Last I did the tail. I'm not happy with how the tail looks, so for next time, I'll modify the number of stitches. After each piece was made, I had to sew it together. I've never sewn something that was stuffed together, so that was an interesting experience.

Anyway, here is my turkey in all of his eyeless glory!
I discovered that the safety eyes needed to have been added during the making of the body. Oops. So I bought shiny black buttons and some cross stitch thread and sewed buttons on for the eyes. It works.

Here is the turkey with eyes.

Now that all of the vegetables were finished, I tried to stuff the veggies into the cornucopia. Yup. They didn't fit. One of the reviewers on the website had found that out as well and offered a suggestion of adding rows or using a chunky yarn.

I sat back down with the pattern and a pencil, and figured out that I needed to add an additional 10 rows to the pattern. And that really helped. Here's the new, larger cornucopia.

The complete set ended up having turned out really well. I think my next project, before attempting to make that stacking toy, is going to be a set of doughnuts. That way I get experience making something similar to the rings on the stacking toy!

*The patterns can be found by clicking on the name of the vegetables in the paragraph where I talk about all of the different fruits. Cornucopia pattern is found by clicking on the word website in the paragraph about the cornucopia.*

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Gunpowder Tea - A Review

Miranda Hunt, a Pinkerton detective, goes undercover as an heiress at the Last Chance Ranch in the hopes of bringing to justice the elusive Phantom. What she doesn't expect is to come to really care for the ranch owner and the ranch hands. Yet, she's determined to bring about justice and see her career be established as a Pinkerton. Everyone is a suspect. There's the new, mysterious hand, Jeremy Taggert, who not only is mysterious and intriguing, but sparks fly between the two whenever they happen to cross paths. There is more to him than meets the eye as well. He's also an undercover agent - a Wells Fargo one to be specific. Yet when they are forced to work together, neither can deny the attraction they feel for the other. But will the elusive Phantom ruin their plans for a happily ever after?

This is the third and final book in the Brides of Last Chance Ranch Series. I really enjoyed this one. I found the first to be a little slow moving at times, but this one kept me entertained through the entire story. I found both Miranda and (name) to be delightful. I think my favorite of the supporting cast of characters was the woman who was operating the telephones. She cracked me up with how she determined whether or not a person was spending too much time on the phones! Overall, I'd have to say that this particular book was my favorite of the series.

I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Recommended to fans of historical fiction, Jody Hedlund, Mary Connealy, Karen Witemeyer

Rating - 4 stars - a solid 4 star rating

Monday, November 18, 2013

Burning Sky - A Review

About the book (from Amazon)
“I remember the borders of our land, though I have been gone from them nearly half the moons of my life. But who there will remember me? What I have seen, what I have done, it has changed me.
I am the place where two rivers meet, silted with upheaval and loss.
Yet memory of our land is a clear stream. I shall know it as a mother knows the faces of her children. It may be I will find me there.“
Abducted by Mohawk Indians at fourteen and renamed Burning Sky, Willa Obenchain is driven to return to her family’s New York frontier homestead after many years building a life with the People. At the boundary of her father’s property, Willa discovers a wounded Scotsman lying in her path. Feeling obliged to nurse his injuries, the two quickly find much has changed during her twelve-year absence—her childhood home is in disrepair, her missing parents are rumored to be Tories, and the young Richard Waring she once admired is now grown into a man twisted by the horrors of war and claiming ownership of the Obenchain land.

When her Mohawk brother arrives and questions her place in the white world, the cultural divide blurs Willa’s vision. Can she follow Tames-His-Horse back to the People now that she is no longer Burning Sky? And what about Neil MacGregor, the kind and loyal botanist who does not fit into in her plan for a solitary life, yet is now helping her revive her farm? In the aftermath of the Revolutionary War, strong feelings against “savages” abound in the nearby village of Shiloh, leaving Willa’s safety unsure.

Willa is a woman caught between two worlds. As tensions rise, challenging her shielded heart, the woman called Burning Sky must find a new courage--the courage to again risk embracing the blessings the Almighty wants to bestow. Is she brave enough to love again?

My thoughts
Whenever I think of the American Frontier, I immediately think of the American West (ie Oklahoma, Wyoming, etc) and tend to forget that after the Revolution, the frontier was Western New York, Pennsylvania, etc. So once I finally got the setting firm in my mind (it took me about halfway through the book to do that), I was able to picture the story better. This book is beautifully written with strong characters. But it moves VERY slow. It didn't hold my interest for well past 100+ pages. Once I was hooked though, I devoured it. I found Willa to be stronger than most heroines I've read about. She had no choice but to be as her circumstances demanded it. I did learn things about this period of our nation's history that I'd not known before.

Overall, this wasn't my favorite book, and probably won't make my read again shelf. Still I know that for others who love books rich in history, this would be one that they would enjoy.

I received both the paperback and the Kindle copy for free from Waterbrook/Multnomah Publishers Blogging for Books program for the purpose of reviewing. I was not required to like the book, only give my honest opinion. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Rating - 3.5 stars, which will be 3 stars on Amazon. 

Recommended to fans of historical fiction, Jocelyn Green, Laura Frantz

Please rank my review.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Made to Last - A Review

Miranda Woodruff will do anything to keep her home-building show, From the Ground Up, on the air. Even introduce her husband to her viewers. There's just one problem. The "husband" she's supposed to be married to doesn't exist. When her producers come up with the idea to hire a man to play the part of her husband. So now Miranda's closely guarded private life is about to become very public. Reporter Matthew Knox is desperate for a breakout story that will save his career. When he's offered the chance to blog about the very private Miranda Woodruff, he jumps at the chance to find out what makes this intriguing woman tick. Plus it's a huge financial breakthrough that will help to pay for an important surgery for his young niece. Sparks fly between Matthew and Miranda from the moment they meet. But with her supposedly married, nothing can come of it, right? But when the truth comes out, will Matthew and Miranda escape with their hearts intact or not?

I was thrilled to be a part of the author's Tagg Team for this book. Early reviews I kept seeing on Facebook and Twitter kept praising this book. I knew I was going to have to move it up in my reading pile sooner rather than later. As I started reading, I could tell that the early praise didn't disappoint. I was laughing by the end of the first chapter and then kept giggling through out the rest of the story. I loved seeing how both Matthew and Miranda would deny their attraction for one another because after all, she was married. This has quickly become one of my favorite romantic comedies and I'm looking forward to the next book. I'm hoping it will be about the delightful Blaze! This is a debut author who has fast become a favorite!

I received this book for free from the author for the purpose of promoting and reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Recommended to fans of Home Improvement, Extreme Makeover Home Edition, romantic comedies, Janice Thompson, Becky Wade, Rachel Hauck, Lisa Wingate

Rating - 5 stars

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Confident Heart Devotional - A Review

About the book (from Amazon)
Built on the hope-infusing truths found in the 2012 Retailer's Choice Winner, A Confident Heart, Renee Swope's new 60-day devotional takes women on a journey toward lasting confidence. Swope has expanded her popular "When I say--God says" statements and Scriptures, and offers women a daily thought-map to help them exchange their most common and crippling self-doubts with God's transforming truths.

Like having a conversation with a friend and mentor, Renee's authentic style and soul-stirring devotions include personal stories, powerful biblical teaching, and real-life application wrapped around one of God's promises each day to help readers:

•live confidently in their God-given roles, relationships and responsibilities
•break free from people-pleasing and performance-based living
•believe God's promises and apply his truth in their daily lives
•trust the certainty of God's truth over their circumstances and emotions

My Thoughts:
I've been a fan of Renee Swope's since I first heard her snippets from Proverbs 31 Ministries on the radio. This is a very simple and easy to read devotional. Unlike other devotionals I've read, this one isn't set up with questions to answer. But instead each chapter is designed to be read one per day over 60 days. Each chapter starts with Scripture and then follows into a practical story/application and ends with a prayer. A lot of the topics she covers in building confidence, I've actually learned through my Mary Kay training. Yet I still found the devotional to be very good. 

I received this book for free from Revell Books for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Rating - 4 stars. It's practical and easy to read - always a plus when I'm reading nonfiction!
Recommended to fans of Beth Moore, devotionals, Joyce Meyer, Max Lucado

Available November, 2013 from Revell books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Rebellious Heart - A Review

Susannah Smith is expected to marry a man who will improve her station. She doesn't always agree with her parents' expectations. When her older sister begins being courted by a young man, Susannah finds herself frequently thrust into the company of young lawyer, Benjamin Ross. Ben has strong opinions about the escalating taxes that King George imposes on the American Colonists. He also is determined to help those who need it. As a tentative friendship develops between the two, Susannah comes across a young woman who needs her help. But in order to help the young woman, Susannah's beliefs will be shaken to their very core. Can Susannah come to grips with God's law over the King's? And will she find a happiness with a man that is far below her station?

I've read every book that Jody Hedlund has written. After how much I loved Noble Groom, I had really high expectations for this book.While this one didn't wow me like Noble Groom, it did bring back the fictional account of a real figure in history that I fell in love with in Jody's books. I loved the time period of this book - pre-Revolutionary War and the exciting time of the American Colonists. I also loved Ben. He reminded me so much of other historical figures I'd read a lot about before (Sons of Liberty, Paul Revere, etc). I loved the way that Ben and Susannah communicate via letters addressed to classical literature figures. I found it very romantic. Overall, this is another winner by Hedlund. She has fast become one of my favorite authors.

I received this book from the author for the purpose of promoting and reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Recommended to fans of Revolutionary War, historical fiction, romance, Karen Witemeyer, Julie Klassen, Elizabeth Camden, Mary Connealy

Rating - 4.5 stars, which will be 4 stars on Amazon.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thirty Days to Glory - A Review of sorts

So the title of that sounds like it should be a non-fiction book, right? Well it's actually fiction. And the reason why I say it's a review of sorts, is that I'm still reading it! I'd completely forgotten I'd agreed to read and review this until I received an email reminding me of the date my review needed to go live. So since I'm still reading it, I won't be able to give a true rating, and the review won't yet be posted on Amazon until after I finish the book. But I've got a question & answer with the author that'll be a part of this, and I promise to finish the book and have the review posted on Amazon/Goodreads as soon as possible.

About the Book
Catherine Benson who longs to do one great thing before she dies and Elmer Grigsby who hopes to stay seriously drunk until he slips out of the world unnoticed. Against a Christmas backdrop, Catherine searches for purpose while fighting the infirmities of age and the best intentions of her children. She gains support in the battle from her faithful housekeeper and her quirky friends known as the Glory Circle Sisters. Elmer isn’t supported by anyone, except maybe his cat. When he opens the last whiskey bottle of the month, he knows it is time to shuffle down to the post office and pick up his government check. Somewhere in his fog, Elmer knows he was once a better man. That is why he stays in the fog. When their destinies intersect one Tuesday in December, they both discover it is only Thirty Days to Glory.

My Thoughts...So Far
So I'm currently still reading this. I've gotten about halfway finished with it right now. I'm finding that this a sweet story. I'm not sure what I was expecting, since this is the first book I've ever read by this author. I'm really enjoying the character of Catherine. Her faith is strong and when she prays, she often doesn't quite understand why she needs to pray for something very specific for this man she's never met, but she does so anyway. Elmer makes me smile. I see an elderly gentleman who has suffered and really seems to be forgotten. But he's not forgotten. God has remembered him. It'll be interesting to see how the rest of the story plays out. Based on the book description, it seems that Catherine will meet Elmer at some point. I think that that will be a memorable meeting. I'm looking forward to finishing the book.

Since I'm not finished with it, I cannot give it a true rating. While I'm enjoying the book, I'm still unsure what I would rate it. Keep watching for my review to change once I've finished it!

I received a pdf copy for free from the publisher, CrossRiver Media, for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

About the Author

Kathy Nickerson is an author, speaker, and eternal optimist who writes from her home in rural Missouri, where she lives with her husband of nearly forty years. They are the parents of four children who grew up to become their best friends and who have given them thirteen grandchildren, so far. Kathy's eternal optimism comes from her mother, The Nicest Woman on Earth, and from a deep faith in the God who made Light to shine from darkness.
Kathy's articles have appeared in several magazines and her novel, Thirty Days to Glory, will be released by CrossRiver Media in 2013.

Connect with Kathy online.

her blog - kathynick.com/blog
her website - http://kathynick.com 
FaceBook -  https://www.facebook.com/Mrs.KathyNickerson

Question & Answer

           Tell us a little about your background and how you became interested in writing..
                                    I've loved writing since my sixth grade teacher taught us to diagram sentences on the chalk board. I started writing fiction in high school when I wanted to change the endings to some of my own stories. (You know, the girl actually gets the guy instead of getting dumped.) Later, I discovered that stories were a great way to express emotions, share truths, and explore life. Eventually, I started writing lots of non-fiction and sold several articles, as well.

                       What led you to write Thirty Days to Glory?
                      I actually drew Elmer Grigsby's name in a prayer challenge like Catherine's. (Although I've changed his name.) He stuck with me for years, and I wondered if my prayers had made any difference. Then I met a sweet lady in the nursing home who felt her life was useless. My husband reminded her the most important thing she could do was pray. The story grew from there.
                       Tell us about getting your mind in a creative mode? How do you begin your writing process? 
                      I write! I'm a big believer that we must discipline our art, so I don't wait for some kind of magical inspiration. I sit down and force myself to type words. Even if they are no good at the start, they will eventually flow. However, when I do get dry, I give myself a creative experience. I watch a movie, read a book, go for a walk, or enjoy a great conversation.

                       Many writers utilize a writing group. Where do you get constructive critiques and feedback? 
                      I have a small circle of writing friends who are willing to tell me when something stinks. We are an informal critique group. I also sign up for paid critiques at writers' conferences, and I sometimes use a service such as The Christian Writers Guild critique service. Those require a thick skin, and I think I have one.

                       What is Thirty Days to Glory about?
                      This is the story of Catherine Benson, an elderly widow who wants to do one great thing before she dies. And about Elmer Grigsby, a WWII vet who just wants to stay seriously drunk . Inside their stories are universal questions about  purpose, destiny, relationships, and the things that ultimately matter in life.

                       What was the hardest thing about writing the book? 
                      Honestly, I was surprised by the emotions I encountered right along with the characters. They feel almost as real as my family sometimes. I've read and revised the book about a zillion times, but some places still make me cry. Or laugh.

                       Now that Thirty Days to Glory is out in bookstores, do you have any projects you're currently working on? 
                      Several. Some of the Glory Circle Sisters are demanding stories of their own. Currently I'm working on a novel about the adventures of Bess Caldwell after she sneaks away from the assisted living apartment her nephew put her in. And Madge is about to save the day in another story.

                       When you're not writing, what do you enjoy doing? 
                      Snuggling my husband. Hugging our grandchildren. Talking with friends about God-things. Watching our children conquer various corners of the world. And, of course, planning for Christmas all year long!

                       Anything else you would like to add?
                      I hope readers will be inspired to take some action after reading Thirty Days to Glory. To mend a relationship, to find a friend, to leap toward that One Great Thing whether it is as simple as a prayer or as grand as an exotic adventure.