Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"the heiress of winterwood" by sarah ladd

About the book: At her dying friend's request, Amelia Barrett promises to raise her baby. Nine months pass, and Amelia views herself as baby Lucy's mother, but her fiancĂ© decrees that once they are married, Lucy will no longer be welcome at Winterwood.

So Amelia devises a plan—in order to come into her inheritance, she must be married by her 24th birthday. Why not marry Captain Graham Sterling, Lucy's father? She would inherit Winterwood, he could return to the sea, and she could continue raising Lucy as her own.

But those around her—including the aunt and uncle who raised her, her fiancĂ©, and Captain Sterling himself—are not thrilled with her plan. When tragedy strikes, will Amelia and Graham be able to protect what matters most?

My take: I really, really liked The Heiress of Winterwood. It has the feel of a Julie Klassen novel—and if you've read Julie Klassen, you know that's high praise! What I anticipated to be a simple "marriage of convenience" story turned out to be much, much more. The story is also full of twists and turns that kept me guessing (though I did have the "bad guy" pegged from the beginning. Some of the twists made me doubt my assumptions, but they did, ultimately, turn out to be correct.)

The one drawback to this novel (and it won't affect my star rating) is the back cover copy. If you intend to read this book, please do not read the back cover! I've written my own synopsis above to keep from spoiling anything for you, but the back cover will clue you in to events that happen 2/3 of the way through the book! Because I read the back cover, I kept waiting (and waiting, and waiting) for these events to happen, and this distracted me from some of the wonderful romance that was developing between Graham and Amelia.

So do yourself a favor. Read The Heiress of Winterwood...just don't flip the book over until you've already read it! 4 stars.

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Buy the book.


About the author:  Sarah E. Ladd has more than ten years of marketing experience. She is a graduate of Ball State University and holds degrees in public relations and marketing. Heiress of Winterwood was the recipient of the 2011 Genesis Award for historical romance. Sarah lives in Indiana with her amazing husband, sweet daughter, and spunky Golden Retriever.

Find out more about Sarah at http://www.sarahladd.com.

About the giveaway: Sarah Ladd is celebrating the release of The Heiress of Winterwood with a Downton Abbey Kindle Prize Pack Giveaway!
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 One winner will receive:
  • A brand new Kindle Fire
  • Downton Abbey, seasons 1-3
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 30th. Winner will be announced on 5/2/13 {HERE}.

Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.


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."

Monday, April 29, 2013

"baroness" by susan may warren

About the book (from the back cover): Coming of age in the turbulent Roaring Twenties, two daughters of fortune can have anything they possibly want—except freedom. Expected to marry well and take the reins of the family empire, Lilly and Rosie have their entire lives planned out for them. But Lilly longs to flee the confines of New York City for the untamed wilds of Montana. Her cousin Rosie dreams of the bright lights of the newly emerging silver screen. Following their dreams—to avant-garde France, to dazzling Broadway, to the skies of the fearless wing walkers—will demand all their courage.

When forced to decide, will Lilly and Rosie truly be able to abandon lives of ease and luxury for the love and adventure that beckons? At what cost will each daughter of fortune find her true love and a happy ending?

My take: Baroness is book two in Susan May Warren's Daughters of Fortune series. Book one, Heiress, told the story of sisters Esme and Jinx. Baroness follows Esme's daughter Lilly and Jinx's daughter Rosie. You don't need to have read Heiress to enjoy this book, but if you haven't, you won't quite grasp the impact of some of the relationships in Baroness. (Besides, Heiress is a fantastic book ... so you really should start there!)

I read this book from start to finish in about five hours—once I started, I didn't want to stop! I especially loved Lilly's story. She kept love at arm's length because she was afraid of being abandoned, but she slowly came to realize that love—from her husband, her step-father, and God—had been there all along. I loved how her story ended, as well.

I wasn't such a huge fan of Rosie. Her story was written well, but I just didn't particularly like her. The next book in the series, Duchess, will follow her quest for stardom, and I hope that she will eventually win me over!

This is a great series, and it's well worth your time! 5 stars.

Buy the book.
Read my friend Holly's review of Baroness.
Read my review and Holly's review of Heiress.

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. Visit MyBookTherapy.com to learn more. For exciting updates on her new releases, previous books, and more, visit her website at www.susanmaywarren.com.

Disclosure of Material Connection: 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, April 27, 2013

"a noble groom" by jody hedlund

About the book (from Litfuse): Annalisa Werner's hope for a fairy tale love is over. Her husband failed her in every way and now his death has left her with few options to save the family farm. She needs a plentiful harvest. That, and a husband to help bring it in. Someone strong, dependable. That'll be enough. A marriage for love...that's something she's given up on.

So her father sends a letter to his brother in the Old Country, asking him to find Annalisa a groom. Then a man appears: Carl Richards, from their home country of Germany and a former schoolteacher—or so he says. He's looking for work and will serve on the farm until her husband arrives.

With time running out, she accepts his help, but there's more to this man than he's admitting. He's also gentle, kind, charming—unlike any man she's ever known. But even as Carl is shining light into the darkness of her heart, she knows her true groom may arrive any day.

My take: I cannot remember the last time I wished a character in a novel was real so that I could marry him. But Carl? Carl gives Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy a run for his money. While Carl is by no means perfect, he is wonderful (and a lot less uppity than that Darcy fellow).

I loved everything about this novel—the characters, the plot, the cover (isn't it fantastic?), and especially the romance. I also found myself incredibly thankful that I live in an era that values women and allows us to choose our own occupations and husbands!

Jody Hedlund is quickly becoming a must-read author for me. A Noble Groom is easily the best historical romance I've read this year. And I would love to see it as a movie! (Hallmark Channel, are you listening to me?!?) 5 stars.

See what other bloggers are saying.
Buy the book.
See my review of Hedlund's Unending Devotion.

About the author: Jody Hedlund is the bestselling author of The Doctor's Lady and The Preacher's Bride. She won the 2011 Inspirational Reader's Choice Award, the 2011 Award of Excellence from the Colorado Romance Writers and was a finalist for Best Debut Novel in the 2011 ACFW Carol Awards. Currently she makes her home in central Michigan, with her husband and five busy children. She loves hearing from readers on Facebook and on her blog.

Find out more about Jody at http://jodyhedlund.com/.

About the giveaway: Jody Hedlund is celebrating the release of A Noble Groom by giving away a Kindle Fire and hosting a Facebook Author Chat Party {5/8}! 


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One "noble" winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • A copy of A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 7th. Winner will be announced at the "A Noble Groom" Author Chat Party on May 8th. Connect with Jody, get a sneak peek of her next book, try your hand at the trivia contest, and chat with readers just like you. There will also be many fun giveaways -- gift certificates, books, and more!

So grab your copy of A Noble Groom and join Jody on the evening of May 8th 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 today. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 8th!


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."

Monday, April 22, 2013

"rescuing hope" by susan norris

About the book (from the back cover): Every two minutes, evil strips innocence from a child and sells her into slavery for sex. Not in a third-world country, but in the United States of America. Before you take another breath, the next victim will be tricked or taken from her family by a profit-hungry criminal.

At fourteen, Hope Ellis is the all-American girl with a good life—until the day she tries to help her mom with their cross-town move by supervising the movers. When they finish, one of the men returns to the house and rapes her. held silent by his threats, darkness begins to engulf her. But the rape proves to be the least of Hope's troubles  In a gasping attempt at normalcy, she succumbs to the attention of a smooth-talking man on the subway. he promises acceptance. he declares his love. He lures her out from under the shelter of her suburban life.

Hope's disappearance sets a community in motion. She's one of their own. they determine to find Hope, whatever the cost, before she's lost forever. 

My take: Rescuing Hope is a powerful story because it reminds us that human trafficking and sex slavery aren't only happening in Thailand, India, and Russia—they're happening in our own cities. And the girls who are trapped in this life aren't only drug addicts, runaways, or immigrants—they could be girls you've met in your day-to-day life. Cheerleaders. Youth group members. Grocery store employees.

I would say that I'm more educated about human trafficking than the average person. But still, I almost solely think about it happening to people from other (often third-world) countries. (I haven't been naive enough to believe that the sex-for-money industry isn't thriving in America, but never once did I imagine that a girl caught in this life would be someone like Hope.) Rescuing Hope powerfully describes how a girl might end up a sex slave ... a girl just like the one you might meet next door. It's not an easy book to read, but it is important.

The writing in Rescuing Hope isn't as polished as it is in most of the books that I read, but I was quickly able to get past any of that as I became entirely absorbed in the story. I ended up reading far too late into the night to find out what would happen to both Hope and her pimp. And while the ending didn't wrap everything up into a neat bow, it was satisfying ... and, I daresay, realistic. And on that note, I have to mention that while Rescuing Hope is classified as a Young Adult novel, I wouldn't want many of the teens I know to read this book. It's graphic. It has rough language. It deals with a disgusting topic. So while adults should read it, I'd classify it as appropriate for ages 17 and up.

That said, I highly recommend reading Rescuing Hope. Educate yourself. And then figure out how you can get involved. As William Wilberforce said long ago, "Having heard all of this you may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you did not know." 4 stars.

Buy the book.
Learn how you can fight slavery.


About the author: A powerful voice for hope, international speaker Susan Norris helps teens and women find freedom from strongholds in the areas of purity and spiritual identity. Up until a few short years ago, she denied that writing would ever be something she would pull out of her bag of tools. But she started to blog, and her opportunities expanded.

As she opened herself to relationships outside her normal sphere, God began to reveal stories of girls as young as nine years old trafficked for sex in her own quiet suburb outside Atlanta. Shocked and heartbroken, Susan set out on a quest to protect them. In her debut novel, Rescuing Hope, she frames the realities of sex trafficking in our neighborhoods, our cities, our America.

Known to many as Mama Susan, this woman of boldness spent countless hours with survivors, their families, detectives and a former pimp, emerging a voice for victims and a catalyst for action among her peers. One ministry director offered an early review of the book: “Susan made me feel such a deep connection to Hope, I now carry her in my heart. She is the face of the girls I am fighting for.

Susan raises her voice on behalf of all the “Hopes” across our nation and champions the cause of organizations such as Resolution Hope, Not for Sale, and Out of Darkness. She lobbies for stronger laws to protect victims, walks alongside rescued girls as they piece together shattered lives and invites all she speaks with to join her in the fight for freedom.

A CLASS certified speaker, Susan graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a Master’s of Education, taught in public and private schools and served as a leader for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes before being called to full time ministry. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and children and considers them to be her highest calling.

Visit Susan online at http://www.susannorris.org/.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Glass Road Media & Management. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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."

"sweet sanctuary" by kim vogel sawyer


About the book (from Litfuse): A Story of Hope and Love Set Against the Backdrop of World War II

Lydia Eldredge longs to provide sanctuary for her young son, Nicky. But a constant threat comes from Nicky's drug-addicted father, who wants the boy and seems willing to do whatever it takes to get him.

Dr. Micah Hatcher faithfully serves the immigrant population of Queens, New York. But under cover of darkness, he has a secret mission that challenges everything he thought he wanted out of life.

When Lydia and Micah's paths cross, they are suddenly wrapped up in each other's callings. Together, they seek a refuge of safety—for Nicky, for themselves, and for the needy people God puts into their lives. Amid turmoil and discord, can hope and love prevail?

My take: It's no secret that World War II is my favorite time period to read about. So when I learned that Kim Vogel Sawyer, an author whose previous work I've enjoyed, had written a book set during WWII, I knew I wanted to read it.

Sweet Sanctuary shows a side of WWII that I'd never considered before—the plight of Jewish children who escaped from German-controlled countries. I also couldn't believe how little Americans knew about what was really occurring in Europe ... but then again, even today we're often oblivious to the horrors going on around us.

I really enjoyed the relationship between Lydia and Micah, and Nicky was absolutely adorable. Also, Sawyer threw in a few major twists that I didn't at all anticipate but greatly enjoyed. I did find a few things regarding Lydia and Micah's relationship to be a bit far-fetched (but I won't go into detail and spoil it for you). Overall, though, I really enjoyed Sweet Sanctuary, and I highly recommend it. 4-1/2 stars.

See what other bloggers are saying.
Buy the book.
Read my review of Sawyer's Song of my Heart.

About the author: Kim Vogel Sawyer is the author of twenty-one novels, including several CBA and ECPA bestsellers. Her books have won the ACFW Book of the Year Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Kim is active in her church, where she leads women's fellowship and participates in both voice and bell choirs. In her spare time, she enjoys drama, quilting, and calligraphy. Kim and her husband, Don, reside in central Kansas, and have three daughters and nine grandchildren.

Find out more about Kim at http://www.kimvogelsawyer.com/.

About the giveaway: To celebrate the release of  Sweet Sanctuary Kim Vogel Sawyer is giving away a Cupcake Club membership (monthly cupcake delivery!) from the amazing Magnolia Bakery in New York and hosting a Facebook Author Chat party {4/30}!


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One "sweet" winner will receive:
    • Cupcakes from NYC’s Magnolia Bakery delivered to your door every month. (Eat them all yourself or share!)
    • Sweet Sanctuary by Kim Vogel Sawyer for you and four of your friends. (Start a book group — cupcakes and a "sweet" read!)
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 29th. Winner will be announced at the "Sweet Sanctuary" Author Chat Party on 4/30. Connect with Kim, get a sneak peek of her next book, try your hand at a trivia contest, and chat with readers just like yourself. There will also be fun giveaways - gift certificates, books, and more!

So grab your copy of Sweet Sanctuary and join Kim on the evening of April 30th 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 today. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 30th!


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."

"stress test" by richard l. mabry, m.d.

About the book (from Litfuse): They may not have enough evidence to convict him, but they have enough to ruin his life.

Dr. Matt Newman thought he was leaving his life in private practice for a better one in academic medicine. But the kidnappers who attacked him as he left his last shift in the ER have no such plans-they just want him dead. Bound and in the trunk of his car, Matt's only thought is escape. He does so, but at a price: a head injury that lands him in the ICU . . . where he awakens to discover he's being charged with murder.

Sandra Murray is a fiery, redheaded lawyer who swore she was done with doctors. But when Matt calls, she knows she can't walk away from defending someone who is truly innocent.

Matt's career is going down the drain. His freedom and perhaps his life may be next. But with the police convinced he's a murderer and the kidnappers still trying to finish what they started, finding the truth-and the faith to keep going-will be the toughest stress test Matt has ever endured.

My take: While the majority of my fiction reading is romance, I sometimes enjoy a good suspense novel—and Stress Test certainly qualifies! From the beginning to the end, I was immersed in Matt's story.

Not only did the suspense plot keep me guessing, but I also greatly enjoyed the medical descriptions as Matt worked in the ER. They were detailed without being too graphic.

I also appreciated the journey of faith that Matt took throughout the story. Honestly, I sometimes skip over the "Christian" parts of a novel because they seem heavy handed and didactic. But the conversations about faith in Stress Test seemed to flow naturally and kept me engaged.

Stress Test is the first Richard Mabry novel I've read, but it certainly won't be the last! 4-1/2 stars.

See what other bloggers are saying.
Buy the book.
Read the first two chapters free.

About the author: A retired physician, Dr. Richard Mabry is the author of four critically acclaimed novels of medical suspense. His previous works have been finalists for the Carol Award and Romantic Times Reader's Choice Award, and have won the Selah Award. He is a past Vice-President of American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of the International Thriller Writers. He and his wife live in North Texas.
Learn more about Richard at http://www.rmabry.com.

About the giveaway:
Richard Mabry is celebrating the release of Stress Test with a Nook HD Giveaway! Enter today.


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One winner will receive:
  • A brand new Nook HD
  • A $15 gift certificate to BarnesandNoble.com
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 27th. Winner will be announced on 4/29/13 at Richard's blog.

Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.



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, April 17, 2013

look what i got!

As a book blogger, I get a lot of books in the mail. (Duh.) You might think that getting packages in the mail becomes old hat—that the thrill of seeing a package outside my door would diminish. You would be wrong. Each time I pull into my driveway and glimpse a package by the door, my heart leaps in anticipation!

Today, I saw three packages. The first two were books I've been looking forward to reading, as I've really enjoyed other books by these authors.

But the third package? The third package contained a book I've been greatly anticipating for nearly a year!

Do you see what that says? "Book Gift from Becky Wade." In February, I received a direct message from Becky Wade on Twitter. She said that as a thank you for my support of her book My Stubborn Heart (which I named my top book of 2012), she'd like to send me an influencer copy of her next book. Of course, I said yes! So while I won't be on an official tour for this book, I'll still be reviewing it ... and hopefully soon.

Trust me, it took just about all the willpower I possess to keep from devouring the book as soon as I took it out of the envelope. But I have three other books that have to be reviewed by next week, so Undeniably Yours will have to wait ... for now. As I sit here at my dining room table, I can practically hear the book calling to me from the living room bookshelf—something tells me I'll be reading it sooner rather than later. And when I do, I'll be sure to tell you all about it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the aforementioned books free for review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

chew spry gum and watch a great movie!

I went to the dentist yesterday. It was a pretty normal experience, as far as preventative care visits go. My dentist always gives the same spiel about eating foods that are good for your teeth, staying away from sugary drinks, etc. And he normally says to chew gum that contains xylitol because it can actually help your teeth. Well, he changed it up a bit yesterday, recommending (and giving me samples of) a specific gum which contains no sweeteners other than xylitol: Spry.

Immediately, I recognized the name, but it took me a while to figure out why. Then it hit me—My Girlfriend's Boyfriend! It's a movie I fell in love with a few years ago, and my post about it is actually my #1 viewed post of all time. (You can see it here.) Spry gum has a supporting role in the film—the main character's brother is the spokesman for Spry. I always thought the gum was made up for the movie, but I guess not!

See the clip about Spry, which is one of my favorite sequences in the film:
Now that you've seen the clip, go ahead and watch the whole movie. It's so cute and clean! Oh, and—if you can find it—buy some Spry to go with the movie!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

"unrivaled" by siri mitchell

About the book (from Litfuse): Lucy Kendall returns from a tour of the Continent, her luggage filled with the latest fashions and a mind fired by inspiration. After tasting Europe's best confections, she's sure she'll come up with a recipe that will save her father's struggling candy business and reverse their fortunes. But she soon discovers that their biggest competitor, the cheat who swindled her father out of his prize recipe, has now hired a promotions manager—a cocky, handsome out-of-towner who gets under Lucy's skin.

Charlie Clarke's new role at Standard Manufacturing is the chance of a lifetime. He can put some rough times behind him and reconnect with the father he's never known. The one thing he never counted on, however, was tenacious Lucy Kendall. She's making his work life miserable...and making herself impossible for him to forget.

My take: Unrivaled gives a glimpse into the ruthless world of candy making. I know, right? Who would ever think of candy makers as ruthless? Well, apparently they can be, and I enjoyed this look into the inner workings of rival candy companies.

While I enjoyed the subject matter, I wasn't a big fan of Lucy. At first, I felt sorry for her—after all, she only wanted to save her father's company so she could do what she loved. But as the story progressed, she turned to scheme after scheme to harm Charlie's father's business...and every time, her schemes backfired. This could play out wonderfully on the big screen (I'm seeing a Kate Hudson romantic comedy), but in print, it just didn't work as well. Because I didn't really connect with her (or the other characters), I wasn't really pulling for any specific outcome.

I did love the glimpse into the candy-making world, though, and I wish some recipes had been included at the back of the book. While Unrivaled wasn't really my cup of tea, I have enjoyed Mitchell's work in the past, and I won't hesitate to pick up another of her books in the future. 3 stars.

See what other bloggers are saying.
Buy the book.
Read my review of Mitchell's A Heart Most Worthy.

About the author: Siri Mitchell is the author of nearly a dozen novels, among them the critically acclaimed Christy Award finalists Chateau of Echoes and The Cubicle Next Door. A graduate of the University of Washington with a degree in business, she has worked in many different levels of government. As military spouse, she has lived in places as varied as Tokyo and Paris. Siri currently lives in the DC-metro area. Visit her at www.sirimitchell.com.

About the giveaway: Celebrate Unrivaled with Siri Mitchell by entering to win a Kindle Fire and joining her on April 18th for a Facebook Author Chat Party!

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One "swooning" winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • Vintage Candy Kit
  • Unrivaled by Siri Mitchell (one for you and one for a friend!)
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 17th. Winner will be announced at the "Unrivaled" Author Chat Facebook Party on 4/18. Connect with Siri, get a sneak peek of her next book, try your hand at a trivia contest, and chat with readers just like yourself. There will also be gift certificates, books, vintage candy kits, and more!

So grab your copy of Unrivaled and join Siri on the evening of the April 18th for a chance to connect with Siri 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 today. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 18th!

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, April 10, 2013

snow day in april? yes, please!

We've been having some weird weather here in Nebraska recently. I mean, Nebraska weather is always a bit spastic, but the last few days have really been wild. On Monday, our high was near 70 ... and then things fell apart. Monday night into Tuesday morning, we had severe thunderstorms. My town didn't get hit nearly as hard as some other towns in the area ... but still, we had high winds, hail, and lots of rain. (Yay, rain!) Then Tuesday the temp steadily dropped, the winds were strong, and it rained, sleeted, and hailed. Eventually, there was a bit of snow, but the biggest issue was the layer of ice that covered everything.

Last night, I got the "late start" call. And this morning, 15 minutes before my alarm was set to go off, I got the "school is canceled" call! Roomie and I were both thrilled to have the day off! (She's student teaching at another area school, and her school was canceled, too.)

I had so much work I could have been doing ... but I didn't bring any of it home with me because I honestly thought we'd have school today. It only takes five minutes to drive to work, so I could have gone to pick some stuff up, but really, did I want to go through the effort of showering, drying my hair, and scraping off my car? Nope! So I decided to declare today a "me" day ... and let tomorrow worry about itself.

So today I spent my day

  • baking bread. I used this recipe, which I found on Pinterest. It tastes great ... but the loaves look nothing like the pictures on the website!
  • washing dishes. Becasue I baked bread.
  • rescuing my cats from the dog next door. Don't ask me how I feel about that dog. It's not pretty.
  • catching up on NCIS, Hart of Dixie, and New Girl. Plus an episode of The OC thrown in for good measure.
  • reading Siri Mitchell's Unrivaled. I had mixed feelings about it—look for the review tomorrow.
  • chatting with Blendy. (Maybe if I link to her enough times, it'll shame her into actually updating her blog ...)
  • napping. I never nap ... but I did today!
  • watching Cool Runnings with the roomie. I kept telling myself I wouldn't cry at the end, but I did. I swear, I'm turning into my mother!
All in all, it was a fabulous, unexpected, much-needed day off! 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

"home run" by travis thrasher: review + giveaway



Note: There will be spoilers in this review because I don't know how to talk about it effectively without giving away a few things. But trust me when I say I'm not giving anything major away. Cory will become a Christian ... but isn't that what you would expect once you read the back cover?

About the book (from the back cover): Baseball star Cory Brand knows how to win. But off the field, he’s spiraling out of control. Haunted by old wounds and regrets, his future seems as hopeless as his past.

Until one moment—one mistake—changes everything. To save his career, Cory must go back to the town where it all began. His plan is simple: coach the local baseball team, complete a recovery program, and get out as fast as possible. Instead, he runs headfirst into memories he can't escape ... and the love he left behind.

Faced with a second chance he never expected, Cory embarks on a journey of faith, transformation and redemption. And along the way, he discovers a powerful truth: no one is beyond the healing of God.

A novel based on the major motion picture starring Vivica A. Fox and Scott Elrod, Home Run is an inspirational story of the hope and freedom God offers each of us.

My take: Home Run is the story of a man who comes to the end of himself and must reach out to God for help. While the details vary, Cory's story could be any Christian's story. It is when we come to the end of ourselves that we realize how badly we need a Savior.

Throughout most of the book, Cory is a rather unsympathetic character, which makes his conversion that much more powerful. I especially appreciated that Cory's problems didn't magically end once he cried out to God for help—he still had to face his addiction, but he didn't have to do it on his own. Celebrate Recovery (a biblically-based recovery program found in many churches throughout the country) is featured prominently throughout the book, as that's the recovery program Cory has to attend. I think that seeing how the program works might prompt some people who are leery of recovery programs to give it a try.

The narrative is incredibly compelling, and I devoured the book. The one aspect I didn't particularly appreciate was the chapter dividers, which are flashes of Cory's life. While these flashes give background, they really served to pull me out of the story, and I came to the point where I just quickly skimmed over them. But overall, I really enjoyed Home Run, and now I can't wait to watch the movie, which hits theaters April 19. 4 stars.

Buy the book.
Watch the movie trailer.

About the author: Travis Thrasher is the author of more than twenty works of fiction, including the Solitary Tales series, Broken, and Sky Blue. His writing is known for its honesty, depth, and surprising twists. Thrasher lives with his wife and daughters in Chicago. Visit him at http://travisthrasher.com/.



About the giveaway: The publisher has generously given me an extra copy of the book to give to one of my readers! Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. The giveaway ends at midnight on Sunday, April 14.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from David C. Cook. 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, April 6, 2013

recipe: easy chicken pizza


Last week, I promised you the recipe for my chicken pizza. It's pretty straightforward ... any of you could have "invented" this recipe, too. It's also incredibly quick to make—from the time you turn on the oven until you pull the pizza out, you're looking at 20-25 minutes. It's perfect for those nights when you're looking for a fast, easy supper.


Easy Chicken Pizza

1 thin pizza crust (I use Golden Home's Ultra Crispy & Ultra Thin crust. It comes in a 3-pack for $2.99 at Hy-Vee.)
1/3-1/2 cup pizza sauce
1 can (13 oz.) chicken
4 oz. mozzarella cheese
Garlic powder
Italian seasoning
Fresh ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Spread pizza sauce on crust, stopping about 1/4 inch from the edge. Drain chicken and crumble over crust. Top with cheese. Sprinkle on garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and pepper to taste. Drizzle olive oil over the top. Bake according to crust package directions. Enjoy!

Some helpful hints:
  • Place a pan on the bottom rack of your oven to catch any pizza drips. Trust me—I learned this the hard way!
  • You can use any combination of cheeses that you want, and you can certainly use more or less than I do! I like to put a handful of grated asiago on top of the mozzarella. Cheddar or parmesan would also be good.
  • You can mince two cloves of garlic to use in place of the garlic powder ... I've done it both ways, and it's way easier to go for the powder!
  • The crust I buy comes in a 3-pack. The package says you can freeze the crusts for up to a month—just be aware that frozen crusts don't crisp up as well as fresh ones.
  • Don't make this when you're the only one eating unless you have a lot of willpower! I have a hard time not eating the whole pizza by myself ... it's just that good!