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 www.janiceathompson.com.

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 Amazon.com 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.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

"when i fall in love" by susan may warren

About the book: Hawaii was the last place Grace Christiansen ever imagined she'd vacation, much less fall in love. But when her family surprises her with a cooking retreat in paradise, she is pulled-or maybe yanked-away from her predictable, safe life and thrown headfirst into the adventure of a lifetime.

Max Sharpe may make his living on the ice as a pro hockey player, but he feels most at home in the kitchen. Which is why he lives for the three-week culinary vacation he takes each year in Hawaii. Upon being paired with Grace for a cooking competition, Max finds himself drawn to her passion, confidence, and perseverance. But just when Grace dares to dream of a future beyond her hometown, Max pulls away.

Wrestling with personal demons, Max fights against opening his heart to a love he knows he should never hope for. And as his secrets unfold, Grace is torn between the safe path in front of her and what her heart truly desires. If love means sacrificing her ideal happily ever after, Grace's faith will face its toughest test yet.

My take: Words cannot express just how much I love this series! After flying through Take a Chance on Me and It Had to Be You in one weekend, I couldn't wait to get my hands on When I Fall in Love. It did not disappoint.

While I always love Warren's novels, When I Fall in Love hit a bit closer to home, probably because I saw shades of myself in Grace. A homebody by nature, Grace faces several moments that require extreme bravery, and her life becomes better for it. Likewise, I've made and followed through on several decisions that stretched me and molded me into the person I am today ... but at the time, I would rather have stayed curled up in bed. How fitting that I read this book on the heels of Annie Downs' Let's All Be Brave. The two books definitely complement each other.

Of course, Grace's journey wasn't the only aspect of this book I loved—it also features a phenomenal love story! Grace and Max's story is one of those toe-curling, sigh-inducing romances. There's also a subplot featuring Grace's brothers Casper and Owen and her friend Raina that took a major turn at the end of the novel, and I can't wait to see how that story line will turn out. While I'm sorry to reach the end of this novel, I'm eagerly anticipating the next in the series!

My rating: 5 stars

See what others are saying.
Buy the book.
Read my reviews of other Susan May Warren novels.


About the author: Susan May Warren is the bestselling, RITA Award-winning author of more than forty novels whose compelling plots and unforgettable characters have won acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. She served with her husband and four children as a missionary in Russia for eight years before she and her family returned home to the States. She now writes full-time as her husband runs a lodge on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, where many of her books are set. She and her family enjoy hiking, canoeing, and being involved in their local church. Several of her critically acclaimed novels have been ECPA and CBA bestsellers, were chosen as Top Picks by Romantic Times, and have won the RWA's Inspirational Reader's Choice contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year award. Five of her books have been Christy Award finalists. In addition to her writing, Susan loves to teach and speak at women's events about God's amazing grace in our lives. She also runs a writing community for authors.

Find Susan online: website, My Book Therapy, Twitter,Facebook

About the giveaway:  Susan May Warren's newest book in the Christiansen Family Collection, When I Fall In Love,  has won over readers' and critics' hearts alike. With critical reviews like, ". . . an exquisite romance. Profoundly touching on the topic of facing fears, this book is a true gem," and more than 60 five-star reviews at Amazon, When I Fall in Love is sure to please.

Susan has teamed up with some amazing food bloggers for a fun food challenge and a KitchenAid Mixer giveaway!
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  One grand prize winner will receive:
Grab your aprons and wire whisks and buzz on over to the When I Fall in Love website to learn more and enter the Hawaiian Chef Showdown! Susan is challenging you to make a Hawaiian-inspired dish using coconut, mango, or one of the other ingredients mentioned in the book. You’ll get extra points for creating your own recipe—plus she might share it on the When I Fall in Love site! Or if you're not up for an adventure in the kitchen just click one of the icons below for easy entry.

Hurry, the giveaway ends on August 10th. All winners will be announced August 13th at Susan's blog.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to visit Susan's blog on the 13th to see if you won!


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 6, 2014

"in perfect time" by sarah sundin

About the book: Bold, sophisticated, and flirtatious, Army Air Force flight nurse Lt. Kay Jobson collects hearts wherever she flies, leaving men pining in airfields all across Europe. So how can ruggedly handsome C-47 pilot Lt. Roger Cooper be all but immune to her considerable charms? In fact, he seems to do everything he can to avoid her.

Still, as they cross the skies between Italy and southern France, evacuating the wounded and delivering paratroopers and supplies, every beat of their hearts draws them closer to where they don't want to go.

Can they confront the fears and misunderstandings in their pasts?

My take: Every summer, I eagerly anticipate the day when Sarah Sundin's latest novel will arrive in my mailbox. As I open the book, I'm transported back to World War II, and I find myself captivated from the beginning of the novel to the end. That's exactly what happened when I picked up In Perfect Time. I knew from past experience with author Sarah Sundin's novels that I would most likely love this one, too ... and I did!

In Perfect Time is flirtatious nurse Kay and prankster pilot Roger's story. I "knew" these two from the previous two books in this series, so it was fun to have them come to the forefront in In Perfect Time. Both Kay and Roger change dramatically through the novel, but the changes feel organic, not forced. Kay's journey to faith is very touching, especially in light of her background. (This also served as a reminder to me not to judge people—you never know what someone may have gone through to make her the way she is.) The romance is very sweet, if a bit frustrating at times. I often wanted to shake some sense into Roger, though I get why he acted as he did. And there is a great resolution to the romantic conflict, complete with a grand gesture that may have brought tears to my eyes.

I also loved seeing Mellie and Tom (With Every Letter) and Georgie and Hutch (On Distant Shores) again, and it was great to watch their stories resolve, as well. (Don't worry, though—while In Perfect Time is the third book in the Wings of the Nightingale series, you could easily read it without having read the previous novels. That said, you really should read the whole series because it's simply delightful!)

Taking place in Italy, India, France, and the United States, this story spans the globe as it covers the final years of World War II. While I'm sad to see the series end, I'm eagerly anticipating Sundin's new Waves of Freedom series—the first novel releases next summer!

My rating: 5 stars

See what others are saying.
Buy the book.
Read my reviews of Sundin's With Every Letter, On Distant Shores, and Blue Skies Tomorrow.


About the author: Sarah Sundin is the author of With Every Letter, On Distant Shores, and the Wings of Glory series. In 2011, A Memory Between Us was a finalist in the Inspirational Reader's Choice Awards, and Sarah received the Writer of the Year Award at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. A graduate of UC San Francisco School of Pharmacy, she works on call as a hospital pharmacist. During WWII, her grandfather served as a pharmacist's mate (medic) in the Navy and her great-uncle flew with the US Eighth Air Force in England. Sarah lives in California with her husband and three children.

Find Sarah online: website, Facebook, Twitter

About the giveaway:  Don't miss Sarah Sundin's hot-off-the-press novel, In Perfect Time. Publishers Weekly gives it an enthusiastic thumbs up: “Sundin excels at well-researched historical detail . . . with such accurate depictions of culture and setting that we are fully immersed in the times as well as in the story. The strength of relationships forged in war and the apprehension of God in times of trouble infuse this well-crafted novel with substance and light.”


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Sarah is celebrating the release of her book with a fun giveaway!

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle HDX
  • The Wings of the Nightingale Series (With Every Letter, On Distant Shores, and In Perfect Time)
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 24th. Winner will be announced August 25th at Sarah's blog.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to visit Sarah's blog on the 25th to see if you won! (Or better yet, subscribe to her blog and have the winner announcement delivered to your inbox!)


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."
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