Saturday, July 28, 2012

"love finds you in mackinac island, michigan" by melanie dobson

About the book (from the back cover): As the Gilded Age comes to a close, Elena Bissette's once-wealthy family has nearly lost its fortune. The Bissettes still own a home on fashionable Mackinac Island, where they will spend one last summer in the hope of introducing Elena to a wealthy suitor. But Elena is repulsed by the idea of marrying for money.

Quickly tiring of the extravagant balls, Elena spends most evenings escaping back into Mackinac's rugged forest. There she meets Chase, a handsome laborer who shares her love for the night sky. The two begin to meet in secret at an abandoned lighthouse, where they work together to solve a mystery buried in the pages of a tattered diary.

As Elena falls in love with Chase, her mother relentlessly contrives to introduce her to Chester Darrington, the island's most eligible bachelor. Marriage to the elusive millionaire would solve the Bissettes' financial woes, and Elena is torn between duty and love.

My take: In Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan, author Melanie Dobson presents a heartwarming story of mistaken identity, romance, and mystery.

While I struggled to get into the story at the beginning (and probably would have given up had I not agreed to review the book), once Elena and Chase met, I couldn't put the book down. Though I had a pretty good idea of where the story was going, I definitely enjoyed the journey. Instead of this book being solely a romance, Dobson spends much time dealing with Elena's struggle between duty and her dreams and developing the relationship between Elena and her mother, a woman I disliked very much at the beginning of the book but grew to appreciate by the end. I also enjoyed reading about the various inventions Chase was interested in financing, and I adored Elena's father.

All in all, this was an enjoyable read, and I'll definitely keep Dobson on my list of authors to watch! 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Buy the book.
See what other bloggers are saying.
See my review of Dobson's Refuge on Crescent Hill.

About the author: Melanie Dobson has written ten contemporary and historical novels including five releases in Summerside's Love Finds You series. In 2011, two of her releases won Carol Awards: Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa (for historical romance) and The Silent Order (for romantic suspense).

Melanie received her undergraduate degree in journalism from Liberty University and her master's degree in communication from Regent University. Prior to her writing career, Melanie was the corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family and a publicist for The Family Channel. She later launched her own public relations company and worked in the fields of publicity and journalism for more than fifteen years.

Melanie and her family enjoy their home in the Pacific Northwest. The entire Dobson family loves to travel and hike in both the mountains and along the cliffs above the Pacific.

When Melanie isn't writing or playing with her family, she enjoys exploring ghost towns and dusty back roads, line dancing, and reading inspirational fiction.

For more about Melanie Dobson and her books, visit

About the giveaway:
Celebrate with Melanie by entering her Kindle Fire Giveaway!

Find out what the reviewers are saying here!

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A brand new Kindle Fire
  • Signed copies of Melanie’s Love Finds You books: Love Finds you in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, Love Finds You in Amana, Iowa, Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa, and Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana.
But hurry, the giveaway ends on 8/4/12. The winner will be announced on 8/6/12 at Melanie's blog!

Just click one of the icons below to enter! Tell your friends about Melanie's giveaway on FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter
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. 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, July 25, 2012

recipe: chocolate mint pudding delight

As you know if you haven't been living under a rock, the season finale of The Bachelorette was Sunday night. I think Emily Maynard's season was my favorite yet—the guys seemed normal (mostly), Emily clearly had her head on straight, and we got to meet Sean Lowe (the man that, at least judging by Twitter, approximately 87,000 women want to marry. Including this woman).

Anyway, we had Bachelorette viewing parties at my parents' house throughout the season, and we decided to make snacks for the finale. My chocolate chip cookie dough dip got rave reviews from Al and my mom, and Janae loved Blendy's peanut butter bars, but my favorite was the chocolate/cheesecake/mint concoction I came up with. I adapted a recipe I found on Pinterest (where else?) to make this delightful dessert, which turned out remarkably similar to a dessert a woman at the church I grew up in brought to every potluck. Yummy! 

Chocolate Mint Pudding Delight
adapted from Mint Chocolate No Bake Cheesecake on

1 (8 oz) brick Neufchatel (⅓ less fat cream cheese), softened
½ c powdered sugar
1 (8 oz) carton light whipped topping, divided
1½ c skim milk
1 (3.4 oz) pkg instant chocolate pudding
½ tsp vanilla extract
⅛ tsp peppermint extract*
¼ c Andes Crème De Menthe Baking Chips

Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together cream cheese and powdered sugar. Add extracts and mix until incorporated. **Beat in ⅔ of the whipped topping (this can be approximate). Set aside. In another bowl, combine milk and instant pudding and whisk until thick. ***Spread cream cheese mixture in a serving bowl or 8x8 glass baking dish. Spread pudding on top of cream cheese layer. Top with remaining whipped topping and Andes chips. Refrigerate at least two hours before serving.

*Even though it doesn't sound like much, ⅛ tsp will make this pretty minty. Not a problem if you like a lot of mint (like me!), but you may want to just use a couple drops or leave it out completely. You could also go with other flavor combinations, like almond extract and Heath toffee pieces. The sky's the limit here!

**The original recipe said to gently fold in the whipped topping. As mine was still mostly frozen and I lacked the patience to wait for it to thaw, I just dumped it in and beat the living daylights out of it. And it turned out fine!

***This would look great layered in parfait glasses or individual ramekins.

The finished product. Thanks, Beth, for the beautiful Spanish serving dish!
I was too busy eating to get a picture on the plate, so this is
the best view of the layers you're going to get!
The cookie dough dip—basically the only thing we dipped into it was a spoon!
Blendy totally dominates the graham crackers for the peanut butter bars!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

"inescapable" by nancy mehl

About the book (provided by Litfuse): Lizzie Engel is used to running away. At eighteen, she left her Mennonite hometown, Kingdom, Kansas, with plans never to return.

But five years later, the new life she built is falling apart. Lizzie knows she's being followed, and she's certain the same mysterious stranger is behind the threatening letters she's received. Realizing she'll have to run again, the only escape Lizzie can manage is a return to the last place she wants to go.

Once she arrives in Kingdom, Lizzie is confident she'll be safe until she comes up with a new plan. In reacquainting herself with the town and its people—especially her old friend, Noah Housler—she wonders if she judged her hometown and her Mennonite faith too harshly. However, just as she begins to come to terms with her roots, Lizzie is horrified to discover the danger she ran from is closer than ever.

No longer sure who to trust and fearful for her life and the lives of those around her, Lizzie finds she has only one place left to run—to the Father whose love is inescapable.

My take: Maybe it's the fact that, prior to this book, I'd never read any Mennonite fiction. Maybe it's the fact that I have Mennonite roots. Or maybe it's the fact that I'm originally from Kansas. Whatever it is, I found great enjoyment in reading this book!

I found myself swept into Lizzie's journey from the first page, and I was especially invested in her relationships with Clay (the father of her daughter Charity) and Noah. Mehl did a great job of making each man seem appealing—though I knew who I wanted Lizzie to be with, I wasn't entirely sure where Mehl was going with the love triangle. One of my favorite characters was Charity—she was completely adorable, and I totally understood her obsession with "nice" potties. I also loved seeing the changes in the Mennonite community as the book progressed.

The only thing I didn't love about the book came near the end. Mehl uses first person (from Lizzie's perspective) to tell the story, which works very well most of the time. But at a pivotal moment, Lizzie doesn't witness what happens. I wish I could have "seen" the action as it was happening, rather than read about it later. However, that's really a minor issue when you look at the entire book. I loved it, and I'll definitely be reading book two when it's released next spring! 4-1/2 out of 5 stars.

You can buy the book here and see what other bloggers are saying here.

About the author: Nancy Mehl, the author of 12 books, received an ACFW Carol Award in 2009 for her novel For Whom the Wedding Bell Tolls. She has a background in social work and is a member of ACFW and RWA. She writes from her home in Wichita, Kansas, where she lives with her husband, Norman, and their puggle, Watson. Visit her website at

About the giveaway:

Celebrate with Nancy by entering her "Inescapable" Giveaway and connecting with her during the Author Chat Party on 7/26!

Find out what readers are saying here.

One winner will receive:
  • A Handmade Mennonite Quilt
  • A copy of Inescapable by Nancy Mehl
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on July 25th. Winner will be announced at the "Inescapable" Author Chat Facebook Party on 7/26. Nancy will be hosting a book chat, testing your trivia skills (how much do you know about the Mennonites?) and giving away some great prizes!

So grab your copy of Inescapable and join Nancy on the evening of the July 26th for a chance to connect with Nancy and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Don't miss a moment of the RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 26th!

Book trailer:

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. 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."

Thursday, July 19, 2012

recipe: frosted molasses creams

Last week, I found this Pyrex set on sale at Amazon for $34.99. I bought it thinking I'd give away some pieces for shower or wedding gifts, but when I opened the box, I realized I wanted to keep it all! I also had this uncontrollable urge to bake something in one of the pieces.

Earlier this week, I had the best molasses cookies I've ever tasted at Das Dutch Kitchen in Dalton, Ohio. After I got home yesterday, I started looking for Amish molasses cookie recipes. The arrival of the Pyrex put my cookie baking on hold, but I still wanted molasses. Then I remembered my mom's frosted molasses creams recipe, which is kind of like a molasses cookie in bar form. As she wasn't home tonight to give me the recipe, I turned instead to the trusty internets. I ended up finding a recipe for frosted molasses bars that looked similar to Mom's recipe and adapted it a bit.

Frosted Molasses Creams
adapted from this recipe on

½ c shortening
½ c white sugar
1 egg
½ c molasses
½ c strong coffee (hot is okay)
1 ½ c all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves

½ c butter
2 ½ c powdered sugar
2 T strong coffee

To make:
Preheat oven to 350°. Cream shortening and sugar. Stir in egg. Add molasses and coffee, beating for about 30 seconds. (At this point, the liquid may not be completely incorporated into the shortening/sugar mixture. That's okay.) Add dry ingredients, blending well. Pour into greased 9x13 inch pan. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes.

For the frosting: 
Cream butter and sugar. Gradually add coffee and beat until smooth. (You may need to adjust the amount of coffee.) Spread on bars after they have cooled for 30 minutes.

These are seriously SO GOOD! I had to cover them up (with a nifty Pyrex lid, of course) so I would stop smelling them—and hopefully stop eating them!

The finished bars. Keep in mind that I never claimed to be a food photographer!
These go perfectly with a cup of coffee ... which you should have on hand
since you had to make coffee to go in the bars!

crafting with blendy & becky: vbs crafts

In June, I did a ton of crafting (all without Blendy) ... because I helped with VBS at my church, and I worked in crafts! We made one or two crafts each day, depending on the time. I had an absolute blast with the 18 kids who were part of the crafts camp! My official role at VBS was to be the special buddy of an autistic girl. She participated in crafts, so I did, too, and in the process got to know some really cool kids.

I'd forgotten how much I enjoy being around kids. That sounds strange coming from someone who works at a school, but I'm not really around the young ones much. (That's not to say I don't enjoy the older ones ... you know I do!) When I quit helping with Awana at my parents' church two years ago, I was really burned out, and though I missed the kids, I knew it was time for me to step back. My experience with VBS reminded me just how great kids are! While I'm not ready to work in children's ministry on a weekly basis, I will definitely keep helping with VBS!

So during VBS, I made a lot of crafts, but I only got pictures of two: a tissue paper cross and prayer hands. I won't go into great detail on how to make these crafts—this post is basically just to prove that I did complete a craft project in June! (You can see my other crafting projects here.)
The tissue paper cross is pretty simple. You cut a cross shape out of cardboard, use a hole punch to make a bunch of holes, and stick tissue paper through them. Or you could just buy the kit from Oriental Trading!

The prayer hands are also ridiculously simple...but you'd probably have to buy hand cutouts somewhere. You just paint them (see how artistic I am???), and when they're dry, glue each hand to one side of a clothespin. Then you can hold prayer cards (or recipe cards) in them. Once again, here's an example from Oriental Trading.

Our July craft is going to be bath bombs, and Blendy will be doing this one with me. Stay tuned!

what's in the mail? 7-19-12 edition

Forget the looks like I'll never post when I intended anyway! Here's what I've gotten since the last "What's in the Mail?" post:
Mortal Fire by C.F. Dunn
This is for a Kregel tour ... and it's not due until September! This means I won't read it until September, so on the shelf it will remain. It does sound interesting, though; here's a snippet from the back cover: Emma, a young and self-contained professor of history, leaves Cambridge for a post in an exclusive university in the USA, intent on finding a long-overlooked seventeenth-century journal. Bound within its pages are secrets that threaten to bring Emma into conflict with the present, but can she discover the truth—and will she believe it?

I don't know what it means to be a "self-contained professor," but I'm betting I'll soon find out! This was published by Monarch Books in the UK, which is also the publisher of Mel Starr's wonderful books.
Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan by Melanie Dobson
I'm excited to read this book for two reasons. 1) I really liked the other Melanie Dobson book I read. 2) I haven't yet come across a book published by Summerside Press that I didn't like! So this looks like a win-win (win!) situation for me. This one's for Litfuse, and the review will be up sometime before August 4.

The Stars Shine Bright by Sibella Giorello
I'm reading The Stars Shine Bright right now, and I have to force myself to put it down to do other things. This is book five in Giorello's Raleigh Harmon series. I jumped in at book four, The Mountains Bow Down, which I reviewed for Litfuse. Since I loved it so much, I was really anticipating reading The Stars Shine Bright—and so far, it's even better than its predecessor!

The Haven  by Suzanne Woods Fisher
Suzanne Woods Fisher is one of the prominent names in Amish fiction, but I haven't read much of her work. I absolutely loved her Christmas novella, which I reviewed last fall. So I'm looking forward to reading this book, which is the second in her Stoney Ridge Seasons series.

Relentless Pursuit by Ken Gire
Every once in a while, some strange notion overtakes me, and I request a nonfiction book to review. At the time, it always makes perfect sense, but when it comes time to actually pick up the book, I struggle because I'd much rather be reading fiction! Relentless Pursuit looks really good, though, so hopefully I won't have any trouble reading it!

In Paris 1500 Piece Puzzle
I love jigsaw puzzles! My grandma and I used to put them together—when I lived with her for a few months, we would spend hours and hours working puzzles. I picked out this Ravensburger puzzle from Vine because I think it will look fabulous on the wall...I just have to find the time to do it! Maybe I'll take it to my parents' house during the Olympics as I'll practically be living there in order to watch as much of the Games as possible.

One For All OARN04S 4 Device Remote Black
Do I need a universal remote? No. But I thought it might be nice to have one that would connect all my devices. Unfortunately, I can't get it to connect to my VCR (yes, I still have and use one!)...and since I only get three channels, it's not that helpful for my TV, either! But for what it is, it does a good job, and setup was quite simple (minus the VCR headache).

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received these products free in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and received no monetary compensation. The opinions 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."

Saturday, July 14, 2012

"submerged" by dani pettrey

About the book: When Bailey Craig left Yancey, Alaska, after high school, she swore she would never return. She found Christ during college, but the shame of her reputation in Yancey as "Easy Lay Bay" kept her away for 10 years ... until her dear aunt was killed in a plane crash and left everything to Bailey.

When two dead bodies turn up in Yancey with a connection to Russian icons, Bailey, now a Russian studies professor, is swept into the investigation—and finds herself working side-by-side with Cole McKenna, her first love.

As Bailey and Cole search for answers, they uncover a plot more sinister than they'd imagined, and they soon find themselves fighting for their lives.

My take: If you enjoyed Dee Henderson's O'Malley series, you'll like Submerged, book one in Pettrey's Alaskan Courage series. While the plot is entirely Pettrey's own, the family dynamics are similar to those in the O'Malley series.

While I enjoyed Bailey and Cole's relationship, the mystery behind the murders (which was incredibly well developed and quite fascinating), and the suspense, by far my favorite aspect of the book was the attraction between Cole's sister Piper and his best friend Landon. My hope is that they will be featured in the next book!

My only criticism is that it was hard to figure out all the family/friend connections at the beginning. Once I got everyone straight, I flew through the book. (Hint: Landon is both a search-and-rescue diver and a sheriff's deputy, and Gage is Cole's brother.) Overall, this was a fun, fascinating read, and I can't wait for book two! 4-1/2 stars.

Read an excerpt below:Submerged

About the author: Dani Pettrey is a wife, homeschooling mom, and author. She feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves--the thrill of adventure, nail biting suspense, the deepening of her characters' faith, and plenty of romance. She and her husband reside in Maryland with their two teenage daughters. Visit her website at

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Bethany House Publishers through their book reviewer program. 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."

Thursday, July 12, 2012

"crossing values" giveaway winner

Well, I am shocked, just shocked, that after my review of Crossing Values, nobody wanted to win a copy! So the "winner" of this giveaway is ... the Nebraska Christian High School library, my chosen "dumping grounds" for review copies. (Most of the books I donate to the library are ones I've really enjoyed—I just don't have space to keep every book I review. But there are a few, like this one, that I just didn't like. Librarian Ruth knows she is free to dispose of any books she doesn't want!)

Congrats, Ruth—this is one of several books that will soon be coming your way!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

what's in the mail? 6-28-12 edition

Once again, I'm posting late. With a cousin's wedding, another cousin staying with me, and my sister visiting from Indiana, I haven't felt motivated to blog ... well, except about singleness! Here it is, finally ... what I'd received in the mail as of a week ago Thursday!

Schick Hydro Silk for Women Razor
I've used the Schick Quattro for years, and it's by far the best razor I've ever used. So when Vine offered me this 5-blade moisturizing razor, I figured the extra blade and moisturizing strips would be an improvement on the Quattro. I was wrong. Here's my review.

Crossing Values by Carrie Daws
This is my first book for the CWA Review Crew, which I got linked up with through facebook. I finished it yesterday and posted my review right away. It had a Hallmark movie vibe to it, which is usually great in my book, but it was completely lacking in the romance department. See my review here. Also, I have a copy to give away, so if you're interested in that, be sure to scroll to the bottom of my review.

Submerged by Dani Pettrey
I have been looking forward to reading this book ever since I saw it on a list of the best upcoming fiction in January or February. I'll be reviewing it for Bethany House and just started reading it last night. So far, so good!

Coming Home 
by Karen Kingsbury
I got this book on release day, as I get most KK books ... but I haven't opened it yet. Why? Because I still haven't finished Loving ... I think I'm still in denial about the ending! I would like to read Coming Home soon, so I guess I'll just have to suck it up and finish Loving.

Inescapable by Nancy Mehl
Inescapable is Mennonite fiction; I've read tons of Amish fiction in the past, but I don't think I've ever read any Mennonite fiction. Since there's a horse and buggy on the cover, I'm thinking the brand of Mennonite in this book is closer to Old Order than independent. (My mom grew up Mennonite, and trust me, they drove cars and wore pants!) I'm reviewing this one for Litfuse.

Mindful of Him by Hollis Hughes
I don't know much about this book going in ... I think it's about a guy who has everything that has ever meant anything to him stripped away. I'm getting it through Litfuse, and honestly, I picked it because of the cover! Doesn't it just look literary?

Philips O'Neill SHO9565BK/28 THE STRETCH Headband Headset (Black)
These headphones come from Vine. My options for that newsletter were these headphones, the razor I got, men's shampoo, and a bunch of books. I decided a while ago that I'd only request books I really wanted to read, and none of the books on that newsletter fit into that category, so that left me with the headphones, razor, and shampoo. Obviously, I'm not a man (or married to one), so my choice was simple! They're the best headphones I've ever owned, and they almost completely block the sound when I'm mowing. They also prevent me from hearing myself as I sing ... which resulted in me putting on a boy band/country concert for my neighbor the last time I mowed!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received some of these products free in exchange for my honest review. Other products I purchased myself. Regardless, I was not required to write a positive review and received no monetary compensation. The opinions 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."

Friday, July 6, 2012

"crossing values" by carrie daws--review and giveaway

About the book (from the back cover): For years, Amber traipsed around the Northwest, avoiding the skeletons in her closet. Job-hopping every few weeks, she refused to let anyone get close to her as she slowly made her way east. As winter plants itself firmly across the Rockies, she decides to take a chance on a job at a logging company with a family different from any she's ever known before.

Watching the family interact creates more questions than answers for Amber. Feeling like she's entered the happily-ever-after written at the end of fairytales, she watches for cracks in the facade. Surely as the days pass, the play-acting will cease and the real family will emerge.

Or could she be wrong? Could they truly be genuine? Could Faye understand the trauma from her past or Peter think of her as more than just the winter office help? Could this family really hold the key to what she's seeking?

My take: I have mixed feelings about Crossing Values. On the one hand, it's a quick read with an intriguing plot, and it's something even pre-teen girls could read, as it contains nothing objectionable. On the other hand, I didn't buy into the romance. I applaud Daws for writing a G-rated romance—but I wish more actual romance had been involved! I didn't sense a connection between Peter and Amber. Their relationship progresses very quickly following a pivotal plot point, and both say they're in love, but I couldn't figure out why.

As much as I disliked the romance, I did enjoy other aspects of the story, such as Amber's interaction with Peter's family. And the plot reminded me of a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie—except with a real biblical basis—and I love those movies! I just wish it had been a bit more romantic. 2-1/2 stars.

For more on Crossing Values, including a free 7-day companion devotional, go here. You can buy the book here...or you could win a copy! See the info at the bottom of this post.

About the author: Over the years, God rewrote Carrie’s dreams to include being a stay-at-home mom and a writer. Originally writing weekly devotions as a way to share what she learned with women from various military bases, Carrie decided to enroll in the Christian Writer’s Guild. While there, seeds were planted and cultivated.

After almost ten years in the military, Carrie’s husband medically retired and they now live in central North Carolina with their three children. Besides writing fiction novels, she stays busy with homeschooling, working part time, and volunteering within two military ministries.

More than anything, Carrie strives to write clean fiction, happily-ever-after stories that gently advocate Biblical values and truths. For more information, visit

About the giveaway: Carrie Daws has graciously given me an autographed copy of Crossing Values to give away to one of my readers! To enter, simply leave a comment with the answer to the following question: Crossing Values takes place during the Christmas season. What is your favorite movie to watch at Christmas? Entries will be accepted until Wednesday, July 11, at 11:59 p.m. CST. The winner will be chosen through a random number generator and will be announced in a post on this blog on Thursday, July 12. The contest is open to residents of the United States and Canada.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a free copy of this book to review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. 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.” I am part of the CWA Review Crew.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

"legacy road" by graham garrison

About the book (provided by the publisher): Wes Watkins’s journalism career took off when he was asked to eulogize Michael Gavin, a stranger to Wes but a hometown hero to the humble folks of Talking Creek, Georgia. While researching Gavin’s life, Wes was confronted with an estranged relationship of his own that he wasn’t prepared to address, having ignored for years the occasional letters from his imprisoned father Ron. Wes has chosen to focus instead on his growing career and his budding relationship with Emmy. His life is looking up . . . until his marriage proposal to Emmy goes south.

Left to wonder if he can reconcile with Emmy before she is deployed to Afghanistan, Wes can no longer avoid the other reconciliation that troubles him. But when Wes uncovers a painful truth about his parents’ past, patching things up with his father may prove impossible. Wes’s life is close to spiraling out of control. Will Wes learn to forgive? Or will the best year of his life turn into the worst?

Set against the haunting backdrop of several Civil War battlefields, Legacy Road is a grace-full exploration of hidden secrets—and what happens when they are revealed. Th rough the ups and downs of human relationships, of family ties lost and found, southern fi ction fans will ponder the age-old question: How do you forgive others—and release yourself— from a past that threatens to destroy you?

My take:
Legacy Road has lots of good things going for it. The unfolding relationship between Wes and his father and the surprises Wes uncovered regarding his mother were very interesting, as was Emmy's past. My favorite parts of the book, by far, were the sections of Ron's letters to Wes. I was captivated by what I read as Ron's story slowly unfolded.

As I read the book, I couldn't help but think of John Donne's poem "No Man Is An Island." Wes, Emmy, and Wes's parents all tried to be independent for a variety of reasons. And in the end, they all realized they couldn't face life alone. I am someone who can tend toward fierce independence, and this book resonated with me for that reason.

Legacy Road continues the story begun in Hero's Tribute, something I wish I'd known before I read it. Still, I was able to pick up on most of the connections without difficulty, and the heart of the book can definitely be understood without having the background given in Hero's Tribute. For me, the book's only real drawback was that I couldn't connect with Wes. He was my least favorite character, even though he was the main character! 3-1/2 stars.

About the author: Graham Garrison is the author of Hero’s Tribute and has published articles in six newspapers and eight magazines, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, America’s Civil War, Georgia Physician, and Boating World.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Kregel Publications.  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.”

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

single at the wedding

My cousin married his high school sweetheart last Friday night. And for the first time in a very long time, I experienced only a twinge of wistful I-wish-I-had-a-man thinking while celebrating the joining of two lives.

I think the difference in my attitude at this wedding, as opposed to nearly every other wedding I've attended since I became of marriageable age more than a decade ago, stems from the fact that I am currently single by a deliberate, conscious choice. This will come as a surprise to many of you: not so long ago I was dating a really great guy, and then I chose to end it. The reasons aren't important to share; let's just say I'm completely confident in my decision and leave it at that.

As I watched Nate and Abbie say their vows, I thought about their love for each other; I thought about how Abbie lights up when Nate is in the room; I thought about my own single state. And I acknowledged, deep inside where I've always wondered if I'd ever find love, that I don't want to get married without the kind of love that Nate and Abbie share.

People marry for all sorts of reasons, and love doesn't always factor into the equation. But I know now that it needs to factor into my equation. And here's why: one of the things I learned about myself as a result of my failed relationship is that I really am okay being single. In fact, I rather like it, and I'm not going to give up the freedom I enjoy as a single, childless woman unless it's for the right guy. And if I'm okay being single, why on earth would I marry someone I didn't love? 

Rather than wallowing in self-pity, lamenting the fact that I don't have a man, I am going to continue to embrace the life God has given me! And while I will keep praying that God will one day grant me the husband and family I have longed for, I'm also praying that He will use me just as I am, providing me with the opportunities, friends, and relationships that I need in order to thrive as a single 

So back to the wedding: Nate and his bride were joined in a beautiful service, I had a great time catching up with family, and now life is continuing as usual. And you know what? I think I'll be just fine :-)

I neglected to get a picture of the bride and groom, but I did take a few of my sister and me! This is right before we left for the wedding.
It was like 100 degrees outside. No breeze. In the sun. I was hotter than I've been in a very long time!
But still, despite the heat, we were glad to be at the wedding!

Monday, July 2, 2012

free book: "heiress" by susan may warren

I was thrilled this morning to discover Susan May Warren's excellent book Heiress is free for Kindle. These deals are usually just for a day or two, so get your copy right away!

I read and reviewed this book last year, and here's some of what I had to say:
I simply could not put this book down. And when I had to (you know, for things like work), I found myself thinking about it. Susan May Warren has long been one of my favorite authors, and I especially love her historical fiction. I thought it couldn't get any better than Sons of Thunder (which just won a Carol Award), but she really outdid herself with Heiress. You know what I love most about it? The characters are real – human. Their humanity, in all its messy imperfection, jumps off the pages. They lie, have affairs, run away from responsibility, and treat each other horribly – just like real people do. And when the book wraps up, not everyone is living out their "happily ever after" – again, just like in real life! 
I also named it my favorite historical fiction of 2011 in my "Best Books" post. You really don't want to miss this one—get it here!