Sunday, August 31, 2014

"miracle in a dry season" by sarah loudin thomas

It's 1954 and Perla Long's arrival in the sleepy town of Wise, West Virginia, was supposed to go unnoticed. She just wants a quiet, safe place for her and her daughter, Sadie, where the mistakes of her past can stay hidden. But then drought comes to Wise, and Perla is pulled into the turmoil of a town desperately in need of a miracle.

Casewell Phillips has resigned himself to life as a bachelor...until he meets Perla. She's everything he's sought in a woman, but he can't get past the sense that she's hiding something. As the drought worsens, Perla's unique gift divides the town in two, bringing both gratitude and condemnation, and placing the pair in the middle of a storm of anger and forgiveness, fear and faith.

Though I struggled to get into Miracle in a Dry Season in the early pages, I soon found myself swept into Wise, and I couldn't put the book down.

In Casewell's journey from judgement to grace, author Sarah Loudin Thomas paints a powerful—and convicting—picture of what our own Christian walks should look like. Maybe you don't struggle with extending grace to other believers, but I sure fall on the side of judgement far too often. This lesson—which I seem to need to learn over and over again—is wrapped in a wonderfully compelling story.

Really, Miracle in a Dry Season is a beautiful novel. It has a literary fiction feel to it that I don't encounter too often in Christian fiction. (The last book I can remember reading that had this same overall feel—though it was completely different—is Christa Parrish's Stones for Bread.) It's a book that I could send to my literary snob sister, and I'm confident she would love it as much as I did.

Miracle in a Dry Season is a special novel, the likes of which you don't see every day. I'm thankful that this is just the first book in a series, as I'm anxious to return to Wise! 5 stars.

Buy the book.
Get the prequel novella, "Appalachian Serenade," free for Kindle.

Sarah Loudin Thomas is a fund-raiser for a children's ministry who has also published freelance writing for Mountain Homes Southern Style and Now & Then magazines, as well as The Asheville Citizen-Times and The Journey Christian Newspaper. She holds a bachelor's in English from Coastal Carolina University. She and her husband reside in Asheville, North Carolina. Learn more at

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Bethany House Publishers through its book reviewer program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, August 30, 2014

"home to chicory lane" by deborah raney

I love a good family book series. From Janette Oke's Love Comes Softly series to Karen Kingsbury's Baxter saga to Susan May Warren's Christiansen series, there's something about a set of books about one family that pulls me in.

Landyn longs for home, but her mother may have other plans.

Audrey Whitman's dreams are coming true. Now that their five kids are grown, she and her husband, Grant, are turning their beloved family home into a cozy bed and breakfast just a mile outside of Langhorne, Missouri.

Opening weekend makes Audrey anxious, with family and friends coming from all over to help celebrate the occasion. But when Audrey's daughter, Landyn, arrives, the U-Haul she's pulling makes it clear she's not just here for a few days. Audrey immediately has questions. What happened in New York that sent Landyn running home? Where was Landyn's husband, Chase? And what else was her daughter not telling her? One thing was for sure, the Chicory Inn was off to a rocky start. Can Audrey still realize her dream and at the same time provide the comfort of home her daughter so desperately needs?

In Home to Chicory Lane, Deborah Raney begins her Chicory Inn novels, which center around Grant & Audrey Whitman and their grown children. While the book sets up what seems to be a promising series, I didn't love it. It's a well-written story, yet the plot and characters never grabbed hold of me. Instead, it was like I was a passive observer who bounced around among the four main characters. Sometimes, multiple points of view work well in a novel, but in this case, I think I would have enjoyed the novel more had it only been from Landyn's and Chase's perspectives.

That said, I did enjoy the story itself, and I am interested in learning what happens to some of the other Whitmans, namely Grant & Audrey's son Link and their daughter-in-law Bree.

If this was the first book by Deborah Raney that I'd read, I'd probably write her off as an author whose writing style doesn't click with me. But I have experienced her books before, and I've been moved by them. So while I can only give Home to Chicory Lane a mild 3-1/2 star recommendation, let me highly recommend the following Raney books/novellas: The Face of the Earth, "A January Bride," Forever After, and After All.

See what others are saying.
Buy the book.

Deborah Raney's books have won numerous awards, including the RITA, National Readers Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, and the Carol Award, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. She and her husband, Ken, recently traded small-town life in Kansas—the setting of many of Deborah's novels—for life in the (relatively) big city of Wichita, where they enjoy gardening, antiquing, movies, and traveling to visit four children and a growing brood of grandchildren who all live much too far away.

Find Deborah online: website, Twitter, Facebook

Giveaway Information
The first book in Deborah Raney's new Chicory Inn series, Home to Chicory Lane, introduces us to Audrey Whitman, a mother who has launched all her children into life and now looks forward to fulfilling some of her own dreams during her empty-nest years. However, not all of her children are ready to stay out of the nest quite yet.

Deborah is celebrating the release of her new series with a $200 B&B Weekend Getaway and a Facebook author chat party.

  One winner will receive:
  • A B&B Weekend Getaway (via a $200 Visa cash card)
  • Home to Chicory Lane by Deborah Raney
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on September 9th. Winner will be announced at the Home to Chicory Lane Author Chat Party on 9/9. Deborah will be hosting a heartfelt book chat, giving away prizes, and answering questions from readers. She will also share an exclusive sneak peek at the next book in the Chicory Inn series!

So grab your copy of Home to Chicory Lane and join Deborah on the evening of September 9th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 9th!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

i'm not a crazy cat lady, i promise!

The other night, I sat on the couch watching a movie. (Battleship. Don't waste your time. I gave up after about 40 excruciating minutes. I did enjoy the beginning, however, as Taylor Kitsch basically played an adult version of Tim Riggins, and I do love me some Riggins!) As I sat there, Isis jumped up onto my lap and began grooming herself, Skarra fell asleep on my feet, and Hammond ... well ... walked across my chest multiple times while whipping his tail in my face. I looked down at my crew and suddenly was struck with the realization that God sent my cats to me at the perfect time. Let me explain.

I adopted Isis, Skaara, and Hammond in July of 2012. In September of that year, I started feeling "not right," and by October, I was feeling pretty awful. Nearly two years later, I know what's wrong with me (Hashimoto's thyroiditis), and I feel like I'm finally clawing my way back to a near normal state—or at least a livable new normal. But these last two years have been the most stressful and difficult of my entire life.

At this point in my life, I'm single and childless. It's not the life I ever imagined for myself, but it's not a bad life, either. However, living alone makes it very easy to develop a selfish, woe-is-me attitude when I feel sick. Crazy as it may sound, having my cats to care for has made me less apt to focus on myself ... and I am absolutely positive that having cats has made me a happier person! (I'm pretty sure there are studies on how pets make you happier ... but I'm too lazy to search one out right now.)

So here's why I think God brought my babies* into my life at the perfect time. When I got them, they had to live outside per my lease, and three outdoor cats who roamed the neighborhood didn't seem at all excessive. Had I waited to get a cat until I bought my house, I probably would only have gotten one. Maybe two. No way on this earth would I have signed up for three house cats, and I certainly wouldn't have these three cats. They each bring their own unique personality (felineality?) to the mix, and I can't imagine our "family" without any of them. I love Isis' sassiness, her obsession with water, and her "this is not a cat person so I must make him love me" radar. I love that macho Skaara has to have a hug every morning while I'm getting ready for work. And I love Hammond's cuddly nature. (Could I tell you things I dislike about each of them? Sure. But that's not the point.)

Basically, what it boils down to is this: These last two years have been hard. At times, they seemed unbearable. My family and my friends have helped carry me through, and I am so grateful for them. I'm grateful for a God who knows me and understands what I'm going through, even when I don't understand it myself. And I'm also grateful for my cats, who bring me joy and keep me sane!

*Yes, I call them my babies, but I fully realize they're my cat babies, not human babies, and I AM NOT THEIR MOTHER. It's more like I'm the best friend that they worship. And they do adore me—they're not typical cats in that way. (Well, Isis' love is on her terms, but Hammond and Skaara straight up worship me.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

top ten tuesday: books i want to read but don't own yet

This week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke & The Bookish, is a fun one: Top Ten Books I Really Want To Read But Don't Own Yet. I couldn't come up with ten when I didn't include books that I haven't released yet, so here are my top four plus a bonus "wishful thinking" pick.

A Table by the Window by Hillary Manton Lodge

I've heard so many great things about this book, and it's in my Amazon wish list, but let's be real—I have so many review books on my shelf, and then another shelf full of books I want to read if I have time, that I doubt I'll be getting this one any time soon.

Wishing on Willows by Katie Ganshert

I read and loved Ganshert's Wildflowers from Winter last year. I had every intention of reading the sequel as soon as it released, but life got in the way, and I just haven't gotten around to buying it. I will, though—of that I have no doubt!

Somebody Like You by Beth K. Vogt

I read Vogt's Wish You Were Here and Catch a Falling Star and loved both of them. So I'm sure I'll get to this one at some point!

The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

I passed on this one when the review invite came along, as I knew I was going to have a very busy summer. Every time I see a recommendation (and it's often), I regret that decision. I'll be getting this soon.

Bonus Pick:

The next Raleigh Harmon mystery (sequel to The Stars Shine Bright) by Sibella Giorello

I feel like I've been waiting forever for the next Raleigh Harmon mystery. In reality, it's only been two years. I've heard there's a sequel in the works, and I sincerely hope that's true—I really need a Raleigh-Jack kiss!

What do you think? Should I run out and buy any of these right now? What books would be on your list? Let me know in the comments, and then stop by the original post and check out other bloggers' picks!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"a bouquet of love" by janice thompson

About the book: She didn't expect to fall in love—but roses aren't the only thing blooming on Galveston Island.

Cassia Pappas has found herself in a nearly impossible situation. She wants to spend her time immersed in her new job at a Galveston Island floral shop, arranging blooms and brightening occasions with her lovely creations. But her boisterous Greek family—especially her father—has other ideas. They've all relocated to Galveston to open up a new family restaurant located on the Strand—directly across the street from iconic pizza place Parma John's—and they want Cassia's full participation.

To make matters worse, as Cassia is trying to develop a strong professional relationship with Galveston's premier wedding coordinator, Bella Neeley, her own father is intent on stealing all of the Rossi family's faithful customers. Not exactly the best way to get into this former Rossi's good graces!

Still, at least Alex, that hot delivery guy from the nursery, is always hanging around the flower shop ...

My take: It bodes well for a book that's marketed as a romantic comedy when you giggle while reading the first page! From beginning to end, A Bouquet of Love is a pleasure to read. Main character Cassia Pappas narrates the novel, and nearly every time I laughed was due to something she said in her narration.

While A Bouquet of Love contains romance, I didn't really care if Cassia and Alex ended up together. For me, the most interesting aspect of the novel was the dynamic between the Pappas and Rossi families. I loved watching Cassia's relationships with the Rossi family members unfold, and the characters were so vivid that I could easily see this novel as a fun family movie on the Hallmark Channel.

Overall, A Bouquet of Love is a funny and endearing novel. And while it's the fourth book in the Weddings by Design series, you don't need to have read any of the previous books in the series (or in the Weddings by Bella or Backstage Pass series that preceded it) to jump right in. I highly recommend it for a light summer read!

My rating: 4 stars

Buy the book.
Get the Kindle version of Picture Perfect, book one in the series, free! (Free as of 8-20-14)

About the author: Janice Thompson is a seasoned romance author and screenwriter. An expert at pulling the humor from the situations we get ourselves into, Thompson offers an inside look at the wedding business, drawing on her own experiences as a wedding planner. She is the author of the hugely popular Weddings by Bella series and the Backstage Pass series, as well as Picture Perfect, The Icing on the Cake, and The Dream Dress. She lives in Texas. Learn more at

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell through the Revell Reads program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, August 16, 2014

"the chopped cookbook" by the food network

About the book (from Amazon): Never again let the question, “What's for dinner?” stump you. The Chopped Cookbook features secrets for combining pantry staples to make exciting meals. 
If you've ever looked into your fridge, hoping for inspiration to strike, let The Chopped Cookbook help you shake up weeknight dinners. Just as each basket on Chopped has many tasty possibilities, so, too, do the contents of your refrigerator. By showing you how to spin your favorite ingredients into 188 fun, doable, and delicious recipes—including go-to guides for making salad dressings and pan sauces, four-ingredient market baskets that can go in many tasty directions, and ideas for ways to reinvent pasta dinners—the culinary masterminds at Food Network set you up for mealtime victory every night.

My take: The Chopped Cookbook is a fabulous cookbook! However, don't go into it expecting to see recipes from the show. I honestly was a bit apprehensive when I requested this book because I've seen the show, and I know the crazy combos they come up with! But instead of weird combinations with obscure ingredients, The Chopped Cookbook focuses on using ingredients you probably already have in your pantry (or can easily obtain at any grocery store) to make easy, delicious meals.

In addition to the recipes, each chapter has a special bonus section—for example, "Play with your pasta" gives five easy pasta sauces to go with any cooked pasta. The book also includes flavor substitutions for several of the recipes, so you can mix and match oils, spices, etc. to create different combos.

Overall, this is a great book—and I will get so much more use out of it than I would have if it really featured Chopped recipes!

My rating: 5 stars

Buy the book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this product free for review from through its Vine reviewer program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

top ten tuesday: books i'm not sure i want to read

Obviously, I missed the "Tuesday" part of Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke & The Bookish—I worked about 12 hours on Tuesday because it was our back-to-school night at the school I work at. But I knew I still wanted to participate in this week's topic, so here's my Top Ten Tuesday ... on Wednesday.

This week's topic is Top Ten Books I'm Not Sure I Want To Read (books you may have bought but aren't sure if you are into it anymore, books you wanted to read but heard mixed things about, hyped books you aren't sure about—basically any book that has you going, "TO READ OR NOT TO READ?").

I decided to go with books that I already own but haven't read yet ... and might not ever. I own way more than 10 books that I haven't read, but these were the first to come to mind.

Divergent by Veronica Roth
I bought Divergent about two years ago—after I heard there would be a film version. I loved The Hunger Games trilogy, and people kept saying that if you loved The Hunger Games, then you'd love Divergent. I didn't read it right away, but I always intended to read it before watching the film. Then my sister told me that she couldn't stand Tris in the book, and she thought it was kind of dumb. Now that I've seen (and loved!) the film, I don't see any reason to go back and read the book. The jury's still out on whether I'll read Insurgent and Allegiant before those films release.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Honestly, I'm not sure why I own this book. I bought it on a whim, but I don't really want to read it. I haven't seen the movie, either, and I'm not sure I want to. Hearing that my one sister sobbed her way through the book and the non-crying sister teared up at the movie makes me think I'd be an utter mess. I like happy things, you know?

Matched, Crossed, and Reached by Ally Condie
After I powered through the whole Hunger Games trilogy in like four days, I was looking for something similar to read. I saw an ad for Matched in Entertainment Weekly and bought it immediately. And then it sat on my shelf ... and it's still sitting there. It's been read, but not by me. My coworker's daughter borrowed the series (yes, I bought the other two books as they released, even though I hadn't yet read Matched), and her apathy toward them after she finished them made me even less inclined to read them.

Coming Home by Karen Kingsbury 
This novel wraps up the Baxter series, most of which I adored ... and I might not ever read it. 1. I've heard it's sad. 2. I'm still mad about Bailey/Brandon/Cody in the Bailey Flanigan series.

Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas 
I've heard fabulous things about this biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I bought it on sale, and I felt very intellectual when I did. Chances are, I'll never read even one page.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
I bought Crime and Punishment for a world lit class in college. Then it turned out that the non-western lit class I took at community college transferred in as world lit, and I was able to drop the class. I kept the book—because, you know, it makes me look cultured and stuff. I'm not really a classic lit kind of girl, though, so I doubt I'll ever read it.

Naked Heat and Heat Rises by Richard Castle
I'm a huge fan of the TV crime dramedy Castle, so when I heard the Nikki Heat books that factor into the plot would really exist, I was on board. I bought and read Heat Rises, and while I enjoyed it, crime novels aren't really my thing ... which is why the next two books in the series, though purchased, have gone unread. I do think if I ever opened them, I'd enjoy them. We'll see!

There's my list. Do you agree? Disagree? Want to talk me into reading one or more of the above? Let me know in the comments! And if you've made your own list, be sure to link up here.

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