Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A look into the life of Susan May Warren

Hello my wonderful reader friends. I was recently given Susan May Warren's newest book, Always on My Mind, book 4 in the Christiansen Family Series to review. My review will be up On January 1, 2015. And along with that, the publisher sent me a special post that Susan wrote specifically for the bloggers who are part of the Tyndale reviewers. It's really pretty cute. Here is a look into her world.

It’s January.

This is what my town looks like in January.

Do you see the cold pallor? The icy streets? Right now, I am currently sitting under a blankie,
with little half-gloves on to keep my fingers warm.

I know, I know. WHY do we live here?

Because it’s a gorgeous place to set a story. Located on the rocky shores of Lake Superior, It’s a
little touch of Lake Woebegone – all the men are good-looking, all the women heroic. And it has
the overtones of small town Cheers, where everyone knows your name. Which means that
when you get into trouble, the entire town knows about it. Ack!

Welcome to Deep Haven, the home of the Christiansen family!

Their resort…Evergreen Outfitters and Cabin Rentals is located on an inland lake in the woods,
nestled among the pines, serenaded by the call of the loons and the waves against the shore.

And If you haven’t met the Christiansens, they’re a crazy, love big and live life out loud family
who *might* be a little like my family. (and one that might feel like yours, too!) The 6 adult
children and two parents, run a resort and try to figure out faith while living life (that often goes
wrong). They make mistakes, but they love each other through them.

Not unlike our family. (That’s us, not the Christiansens. Just in case you might be confused.)

The Christiansen family series follows each one of the adult children through their trials and triumphs of falling in love and finding their way in the world. The next book hits the shelves in the next month – Always on My Mind, a story about Casper, brother #2, who just can’t get the wrong girl off his mind...

Right now, I’m hunkered down writing book #6…The Day After Forever, the last story in the series, a story that asks…can Prodigals come home? (Um, I sure hope so!)

I wanted to write a series about a family with adult children, learning what it meant to carry on the legacy of faith into their lives. And I wanted to write a series that would really let readers dig into the family, feel like they were a part of their journey. The first two books ignite the series not only by introducing us to Darek and Eden, the two oldest children, but also set up the series with the loss of the family resort to a forest fire. Book 3, When I Fall in Love brings us to Hawaii and back home and sends our prodigal on his way, and scatters the family.

Book 4 picks up the pieces of the prodigal’s actions and brings home the family peace-maker, Casper in Always on My Mind, and Book 5 adds in a new twist, when daughter Amelia has to choose between a hometown boy and a rich European she met while overseas. (And hello – have you see the hunk on THAT cover? The Wonder of You, baby!)

And then there’s Owen. Troublemaker Owen who just might surprise them all when he comes home…just in time to save the day. Or not… (Cover still pending!)

As the Christiansens rebuild their resort, the kids need to decide whether they want to carry on the family legacy…or if life and faith might bring them somewhere else.

And, did I mention romance. Oh yeah – we have to have something to keep us warm up here during the chilly months.

It’s a series full of family drama, community and…some really great food.

That’s the news from Lake, um, Superior.

Have a great January…and try to keep warm – Susie May the Siberian

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Goals, Goals Goals

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature over at the Broke & The Bookish. Feel free to join in.

With tomorrow being New Year's Eve and Thursday bringing in 2015, this week's topic is about goals for the new year. Reading goals. Blogging goals. Personal goals. What ever type of goals. In fact this past weekend at my Mary Kay event, my director had us write obstacles and challenges we've faced on one side of a board (actual wooden piece about 2 inches thick) and on the other side we wrote our goals. Then we break the boards with a nice big karate chop.  It really is a lot of fun and the first year I did it, I didn't think I could. But now I KNOW I can, and I always break it on the first try now.

The action shot of me chopping my board!

Over the years, I've found out that I'm not one to make New Year's Resolutions, because by the second week in January, I've broken them. But I like goals. Goals are something I can work towards. Maybe it's my Mary Kay training where we learn to make goal posters and track goals, but I find that for me at least, a goal is easier to reach than a resolution.

So here are my top ten, or rather five, goals for the new year. It's a combination of books, blogging, and personal.

1. I have a goal set to read 175 books this year. I'm pretty sure I can reach it thanks to the wonderful Goodreads challenge tracker. This past year, I set a goal of reading 140 books. As of the time that this was posted, I've read 166 books. Those are the ones that I remembered to mark that I'd read them. Here are all of the ones I read this year, officially. I'm thinking this year, I'll display them here on the blog's sidebar.

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Dawn has completed her goal of reading 140 books in 2014!

2. For my blogging, I have a goal of only posting book reviews M-F, unless the publisher has a specific date that the book needs to be posted and it falls on a weekend. I want to save the weekends for blog posts about life, the universe, and everything. ;) Seriously, I'd like to keep the weekends free for anything that is not book related.

3. I have a goal of doing one giveaway every 3 months, because I'm horrible at remembering to mail out the packages. So for instance, a giveaway in January, one in April, one in July, and one in October. I think I can remember that.

4. The biggest goal I have in my personal life right now is regarding my job. I need something that will allow me to really stay focused on paying down my student loans while still providing for my needs. I'd LOVE to be able to drop between $2,000 and $3,000 a month onto my student loan and have it paid off (and then I'd be completely debt free) within two years. But to do that, I need a better job.

5.  I have a goal of earning my red jacket. I've actually got my eyes on moving into directorship. But this is my first step. All it takes for me to earn this is for me to have three active recruits. I'd love to share my story with you about what caused me to join Mary Kay and why I stay in it. Because this is a company that is about so much more than just lipstick. Sure we are a cosmetic and skin care company. In fact, you can look at my website to see our products. But it really is about so much more. And I'd love to share it with you. If you want to know more, then leave a comment on this post just saying "I want to know to know more about Mary Kay" and an email address where I can reach you.

At Seminar July 2014 "borrowing" a sister consultant's red jacket so I could see myself in it.

I'm sure that there are other goals I could set. But these are the ones that are the most important to me. 

What are some of your goals for the coming year?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Secret of Pembrooke Park - A Review

Published - December 2014, Bethany House Publishers
Author - Julie Klassen
Title - The Secret of Pembrooke Park
Format - ebook, paper
Find on Amazon

Practical Abigail Foster fears she will end up a spinster especially since she has little dowry and the one man she thought she might marry appears to have fallen for her younger, prettier sister. On the brink of financial ruin, the family must try to find housing that is functional, yet affordable. Not having any success, they are startled when a strange solicitor arrives with an offer that appears to be too good to be true - the use of a manor house abandoned for eighteen years. When Abigail and her father arrive at Pembrooke Park they are startled to find everything in it left as if the occupants had suddenly vanished - tea cups and tea service waiting to be poured, a doll's house abandoned in mid-play, wardrobes full of clothes. The young, handsome local curate and his family make the Fosters feel welcome, and while it is obvious that they know more about the manor's past, they only offer a warning: Beware of strangers drawn by rumors of a secret treasure room at Pembrooke Park. Abigail is intrigued and wonders if there is some truth to those rumors especially once she begins receiving letters that hint at the treasure along with pieces of the manor's past. But with each letter Abigail receives, danger grows. What will be the cost of having the lost secrets come to light? Will it cost Abigail a chance at love?

After being very disappointed by this author's prior release, The Dancing Master, last year, I was wary to delve into this one. I didn't want this one to disappoint me like the prior one did.

I was so glad to discover that I'd had nothing to really worry about with this book. It pulled me in from the beginning and held me through the ending. The element of mystery and suspense surrounding the house and the past made this a very enjoyable read for me. I also loved the romance between Abigail and the man who steals her heart.

While there were characters I didn't care for, Abigail's sister, one of the servants, and a couple of others, the fact that they were truly minor characters made them easier to bear. I loved how the pieces of the past came to light and I loved how the true owner's identity remained hidden until the end of the novel.

Sure there were parts that were predictable. But I still enjoyed the book. Overall, this may be my favorite one by this author.

I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Recommended to fans of regency England, Jane Austen, Julie Klassen, Sarah Ladd, Carrie Turansky, historical fiction

Rating - 5 stars

Friday, December 26, 2014

Love at Mistletoe Inn - A Review

Published - November 2014, Zondervan Books
Series - A Year in Weddings Novella Series 2
Author - Cindy Kirk
Title - Love at Mistletoe Inn
Format - ebook, audio
Find on Amazon

Ten years ago, Hope Prentiss and John Burke didn't go to their high school prom as planned. They eloped. Shortly after exchanging vows, Hope realizes she's made a huge mistake and she and John return home believing that because the paperwork was never filed that they aren't legally married. Both go their separate ways with limited contact over the next ten years. Hope runs a wedding business out of the barn at Harmony Creek. John has become a successful metal artist. When they discover that they are still married, they have a choice to make - make a go of the marriage or seek a divorce. With Hope unsure if she can trust John, especially with her sorta seeing someone else, John vows to show his wife that not only is he worthy of her trust, but that he has never stopped loving her. Will Hope let John through the walls she's built to protect herself from the hurts of her past?

This was a cute novella. I liked both Hope and John. I loved how John was willing to fight for Hope. They way these two interacted with each other was at times funny. I loved Aunt Verna. I thought that she was a sweet elderly lady who was determined to see these two young people she loved recognize their feelings for each other and find happily ever after.

Sure Hope and John had issues to work through. But as they did, I loved how they came to realize exactly what made the other react the way he/she did.

Last year, I read almost all of the novellas in the Year of Weddings. Those stories focused on the brides. This is the second Year of Weddings Series. This time around, the stories are focusing on the women behind the scenes - the caterers, the photographers, make up artists, the event planners, etc. So it should be another fun year of weddings and romance.

I received the Kindle version of this book for free from BookLook Bloggers for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Recommended to fans of Love Inspired, novellas, weddings, romance.

Rating - 4 stars

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope that you have a joyous filled day.

This first video is the song "Mary Did You Know" and is set to clips from the movie Nativity Story with a few from the Passion of the Christ.

This video is a fun little song I heard on the radio several years ago, but it perfectly describes 90% of the Christmases in Houston, especially this year. Enjoy it. I hope you get a little giggle out of it.

So Merry Christmas! I look forward to lots more blogging in the New Year and I've got a couple of posts planned for the next few days.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Where Treetops Glisten - A Review

Published - September 2014, Waterbrook Press
Author - Cara Putman, Sarah Sundin, & Tricia Goyer
Title - Where Treetops Glisten
Format - paper, ebook
Find on Amazon

Three siblings find hope and love at Christmas during a war torn world.

White Christmas by Cara Putman - It's been a year since Pearl Harbor and Abigail Turner tries to heal her grieving heart at the loss of her high school sweetheart in Pearl by staying busy as a college student and working at a one-of-a-kind candy shop. She doesn't feel ready for any sort of romantic relationships, at least not until she meets Jackson Lucas, a young man with a big problem. As Abigail and Jackson find their paths crossing over and over, she begins to fall for this gentle man. Can love truly heal all wounds?

My thoughts: This was a sweet story. I loved the interactions of Abigail and Jackson. I loved how he was determined to provide for his family and that Abigail's father was willing to help with his problem. Overall, this story was sweet and made me go "awe." Rating - 4 stars.

I'll Be Home for Christmas by Sarah Sundin - Pete Turner is a fighter pilot returned from the European front in December of 1943. He's hoping to find the hope and peace his time overseas has stolen from him. When he meets a little girl in desperate need of a friend, Pete finds his heart melting a little. Yet can he convince her widowed mother that he's not the same bully of a boy she once knew? And will Grace allow herself to love another man whose dangerous Army job may cost him his life?

My thoughts: This was probably my favorite of all three stories. I loved Linnie, the little girl. I loved how she just waltzed in and stole the hearts of everyone. I also loved how Pete was determined to not be the boy Grace remembered. Rating - 4.5 stars

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Tricia Goyer - In December 1944, Meredith "Merry" Turner in an Army nurse in the Netherlands. She's had her heart broken once and is wary of trusting another man. Yet when she comes into contact with the one man who broker her heart, will she listen to him or run away?

My thoughts: Of the three novellas, this is the only one set on the front lines. I loved how Merry kept trying to forget David but couldn't. I also loved how when she finally meets up with him, that they both realize how much wasn't shared that could have prevented a big misunderstanding. And the villagers in the town were pretty sweet in all that they provided for the Americans. Rating - 4 stars.

Overall thoughts: I loved how this book takes you through the entire war beginning with Christmas 1941 in the prologue and ending with Christmas 1945 in the epilogue. I think next to the Civil War period, WWII is my favorite time period to read about. I loved how all three authors tied their stories together.

I received the Kindle copy as well as a paper copy for free from Blogging for Books for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Recommended to fans of WWII fiction, Sarah Sundin, Tricia Goyer, and Cara Putman.

Rating - 4 stars

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books I've received as gifts

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly theme hosted by the Broke & the Bookish. Feel free to join in.

This week's topic is the top ten books that I wouldn't mind Santa bringing this year. There's one problem with that - almost all of the books I want aren't published yet. So I changed it to the top ten books I've received as gifts from the time I was little to now. And Harry Potter isn't on this list because I never got the books as Christmas presents. I'd buy them myself.

1. The Little House on the Prairie Boxed Set by Laura Ingalls Wilder - I loved these growing up. Still have them.

My copies look about like this!
2. The Christy Miller Series, at least books 1-5  by Robin Jones Gunn - I cannot promote these books enough. These are perfect for any teen/pre-teen girl. I've known adults who enjoy them too.

The covers have changed about 4 times. These are my favorite covers, but not the ones I have.
3. The Californians by Lori Wick - These books include Whatever Tomorrow Brings, As Time Goes By, Donovan's Daughter. They still rank among my favorites by Lori.

4. The Polar Express by Chris van Alsburg - I'm pretty sure I got this as a gift while I was in college. Love this book.

5.  The Love Comes Softly Series by Janette Oke - I remember kidnapping them off of Mom's bookshelf when I was in 4th or 5th grade. Needless to say, I found them under the Christmas tree soon after.

6. The Canadian West Series by Janette Oke - Another series I loved while growing up. I'm aware that there are now a book 5 & 6 to this series that focus on Elizabeth & Wynn's children. But I didn't want to include them, though I have the books.

Not the covers I have.
7. The Appomattox Saga by Gilbert Morris - I'm not sure how many of the 10 books I received for Christmas, but I loved them.

Could't find all of the covers.
8. The Danielle Ross Mysteries by Gilbert Morris - I loved mysteries, and still do. I think I still have this series around somewhere.

9. Down With Love - This is the book based on the movie. My old roommate gave me the book because she couldn't find the movie ANYWHERE. But I love it.

10. A Passion Most Pure & A Passion Redeemed by Julie Lessman - True, I bought these with gift cards to LifeWay I received that year. But I count them as Christmas gifts.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten (Or Twenty) Books Read in 2014

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly theme hosted by The Broke & The Bookish. Feel free to join in.

This week's topic is one that I usually do on New Year's Eve. But it works for this week. This week, the topic is the top 10 books I've read in 2014. This is probably one of the hardest posts I've written. I mean, how can I narrow my list down to just 10?! I've read so many books this year that it was so hard to decide. My initial list contained over 50 titles.

So after cutting some out, here is what I came up with though.... Each title links to the review on my blog and purchase links are listed too.

Beginning with the Women's Fiction/Contemporary Category

1. Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers - this is probably the BEST book I've read this year. It was simply amazing. Buy it here.

2. The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate - Another amazing book. Buy it here.

Now for the WWII books....

3. In Perfect Time by Sarah Sundin - By far, my favorite of the series. I couldn't get enough of Kay & Roger. Buy it here.

4. Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohkle - I was impressed with her book Promise Me This a couple years ago. This one was just as impressive. Buy it here.

5. For Such a Time by Kate Breslin - A beautiful retelling of Esther set against Nazi Germany. I need a copy of this! Buy it here.

Moving on to the general historical...

6. Love's Fortune by Laura Frantz - This family saga is amazing! Most of these are amazing. But I'm serious, this book, and the others in the series are well worth the time and money on these. Buy it here.

7. Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund - Probably my favorite of Jody's books. Such a gripping story. Buy it here.

8. Pelican Bride by Beth White - This was a surprise for me. I don't usually read early American history, but I really loved this book. Buy it here.

Now to the romance (both contemporary and historical)...

9. Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade - I adored this book. Absolutely adored it! I loved everything about it - the cover, the characters, the story - everything. Buy it here.

10. When I Fall in Love by Susan May Warren - It's the Christiansen Family. Need I say more? I"m so excited to read the next one (soon). Buy it here.

11. A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert - I've come to expect quality from Katie. And I was not disappointed. Such a beautiful story of discovering true beauty. Buy it here.

12. Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg - Melissa's books always make me giggle. This was no exception. Buy it here.

13. Princess Ever After by Rachel Hauck - I love princesses, fairy tales, happy endings. Pure fluff. Buy it here.

14. Tried & True by Mary Connealy - Probably my favorite of hers so far. I laughed all the way through it. Buy it here.

Finally, the Young Adult & Suspense books.

15. Silenced by Dani Pettery - Book 4 in the Alaskan Courage Series, Kayden finally gets her turn. And this McKenna's sister's story of love is filled with danger. But she and Jake figure it all out. Buy it here.

16. Deceived by Irene Hannon - My favorite in the series and favorite by Irene. Can Connor be any more dreamy? Buy it here.

17. The Lunar Chronicles of Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress  by Marissa Meyer - Should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me. Especially lately. I've pretty much been gushing about them.  Buy them here.


18. Worth the Wait by Laura Jackson - Laura's debut reminded me a lot of the Christy Miller books. Buy it here.

and speaking of the Christy Miller Books,

19. Forever With You by Robin Jones Gunn - I literally squealed when I learned that Robin was writing a series about Christy & Todd and their married life. Literally squealed. Buy it here.

and finally,

20. The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson - a young adult retelling of Snow White. I still have to wonder how I missed her all this time. Buy it here.

So I couldn't cut my list to just ten. Though I did try. I left off wonderful ones of Dare to Love Again by Julie Lessman, In the Shadow of Jezebel by Mesu Andrews, With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden, Stuck Together by Mary Connealy, Not in the Script by Amy Finnegan, Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan, Full Steam Ahead by Karen Witemeyer, and March Bride by Rachel Hauck. Seriously, there were so many delightful ones I read this year, that I couldn't list them all.

So how did you come out? What books were your favorites this year? Maybe you have a hidden gem I need to discover. Tell me in the comments.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Three Rainbow blankets for three different little girls

One of the favorite gifts I love to give to expectant mothers is a crocheted baby blanket. I will very RARELY make one for a child that is not the first. Pretty much, my family is the only one that gets blankets for each new arrival. In fact, there are still three I need to do in my family alone. I made one exception to the one blanket per family trend. And that's for my best friend. With each of her pregnancies, I made her a blanket. It wasn't until I finished the third one that I realized something. Each blanket is done in rainbow colors. And the funny thing too, is that each blanket reflects each little girl's personality.

Melissa's blanket was first. Hers is done in a pattern of stacking blocks. When it is laid out, it gives the illusion of a block tower. This is one I've done before. But this time I worked it up using brilliant shades of crayon box colors. And Melissa's personality is more bold than either of her sisters.
Melissa's blanket

Another view of Melissa's blanket

Abi's was done in a completely different style. Her blanket is soft and delicate. It's white with pastel pink, green, yellow, blue, and purple. Hers is done in rows and the colored rows have little baubles or popcorns on them. This blanket also has tassels. Abi is the child who is sensitive and seems to be quieter than her older sister.
Abi's blanket

Kaylee's blanket was probably one of the hardest I've ever made. I'll actually do a review of it in a separate blog post. The pattern has it listed as easy. And for the most part it was easy. At least as far as stitches went. But it was still hard. This one, like Abi's used both white and colored yarns. The bright bright bright rainbow colors of red, pink, orange, light orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple all came together in one package. So that was different. It also had some squares that were similar to Melissa's blanket and squares similar to Abi's. But it is very very bright and cheerful and despite needing to figure out a way to keep the black cat off of it while I was working on it, it turned out beautifully. Kaylee's still too little to really have a distinct personality. But she seems to be pretty happy-go-lucky.

Kaylee's blanket

So this trio of sisters each have a rainbow blanket. They play with them and everything. And of course their Mama loves them. So does their Daddy. :)