Thursday, June 23, 2022

The Songs that Could Have Been by Amanda Wen #Giveaway

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

Our weather here has been a bit of a rollercoaster as far as temperatures go, we get a few days in the 90s with high humidity, followed by a few days of mid 70s and low humidity, and then back to the 90s again. When we have had some cooler evenings, I thoroughly enjoy sitting outside and reading a book. There is something so nice about the fresh air, the light breeze and the warmth of the sun, while being engaged in a good story. Most recently, i have been reading The Songs that Could Have Been by Amanda Wen.

The Songs that Could Have Been by Amanda Wen is the second book in the Sedgwick County Chronicles. Interestingly, I read on the authors Facebook post about how she actually started to write this one before the first one was even picked up by a publisher. I don't know how often that happens but I can see the risk of writing a second book without your first one being committed to. You can read my post about her first book, Roots of Wood and Stone here.

This story intertwines the story of Lauren and her grandmother, Rosie, and Carter Douglas. Lauren and Rosie were introduced in the first story, being Garrett's sister and grandmother. This book is fine as a stand-alone, no need to have read the first book - but it is good and always fun to learn more about the characters and what is happening with them as time moves forward. As with her first book in this series, the story was told within two separate time lines: a current and contemporary story, told alongside a historical story. This interweaving of the two timelines is smoothly executed and really kept the story moving and the reader wanting to learn more. The story is told from the view point of the three main characters. The view point of Rosie, who has Alzheimer's, was really interesting and well-crafted, sharing the inner thoughts of a woman somewhat trapped in her own mind and locked out of her own memories. As we meet the three main characters in current time, we learn a little bit about the past connection of Carter and Lauren and we discover that Rosie is wondering where Ephraim is, stating that he should have been here by now. It is following this brief partial memory that the historical time line is started and we find ourselves in Rosie's senior year, 1955, learning through her story about Ephraim and their connection. The story continues switching time between the present and 1955, revealing more about the history and moving the current day events forward.

I really enjoyed the story and the way in which it was told. The characters were well developed within the interwoven timelines and the use of flashbacks for the modern storyline. Each of the characters has faced adversity in their life. In the modern time line, we learn about how Carter and Lauren struggle to overcome their challenges, through both current dialogue and memories. We see how they learn the need to lean on their faith in God to find the best path forward. For Rosie and Ephraim, their struggles are more against social norms than internal challenges. We learn what the author was referring to in the title, as the story comes to a hopeful close.

I definitely recommend that you take the time to meet Lauren, Carter, Rosie and Ephraim, whether you first met them in Roots of Wood and Stone or if you are meeting them all for the first time.

About the Book

Two couples in love. Two sets of impossible circumstances. One powerful God of grace.

After a devastating tailspin in her late teens, Lauren Anderson’s life is finally back on track. Then a chance meeting with Carter Douglas, her first love and the man who broke her heart, threatens to throw her well-balanced world out of control.

Now a TV meteorologist, Carter is determined to make amends with Lauren. After all, she still owns his heart. But his old demons are forcing him toward the same decision he faced in the past. Is he courageous enough to make a different choice this time around?

When Lauren’s elderly grandmother, Rosie, begins having nightmares about a man named Ephraim--a name her family has never heard before—a fascinating and forbidden past love comes to light. As Lauren and Carter work to uncover the untold stories of Rosie’s past in 1950s Wichita, they embark on a journey of forgiveness and second chances that will change their lives—and Rosie’s—forever. Along the way they’ll learn that God wastes nothing, his timing is perfect, and nothing is beyond his grace and redemption.

The Songs That Could Have Been is full of the same deftly handled, resonant writing that readers and critics alike enjoyed in Amanda Wen's first book in the series, Roots of Wood and Stone. Fans of Lisa Wingate and Rachel Hauck will add Amanda Wen to their must-read shelves.

Click here to read an excerpt.

About the Author

Amanda Wen is an award-winning writer of inspirational romance and split-time women’s fiction. She has placed first in multiple writing contests, including the 2017 Indiana Golden Opportunity, the 2017 Phoenix Rattler, and the 2016 ACFW First Impressions contests. She was also a 2018 ACFW Genesis Contest finalist. Her debut novel was a 2021 Christy Award First Novel finalist.

Wen is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and regularly contributes author interviews for their Fiction Finder feature. She also frequently interviews authors for her blog and is a contributor to the God Is Love blog. She is the author of Roots of Wood and Stone and The Songs That Could Have Been.

In addition to her writing, Wen is an accomplished professional cellist and pianist who frequently performs with orchestras, chamber groups, and her church’s worship team. She serves as a choral accompanist as well. A lifelong denizen of the flatlands, Wen lives in Kansas with her patient, loving, and hilarious husband, their three adorable Wenlets, and a snuggly Siamese cat.

To find Amanda Wen’s blog and short stories, visit Readers can also follower her on Facebook (@AuthorAmandaWen), Twitter (@AuthorAmandaWen), and Instagram (@authoramandawen).


a Rafflecopter giveaway
No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. A complimentary review copy was provided to me. The giveaway is not specific to this blog and is not sponsored by this blog

Monday, June 20, 2022

Game Night - featuring Five Crowns and Farkle #playmonsterfun #tryazon

Complimentary copies of Farkle and Five Crowns games were provided to me through Tryazon so that I could share them with friends and through my blog.

Game Night has always been a favorite activity at our house. We have been fortunate to have many friends and family members that enjoy not only hanging out but also playing games. We always have way too much to eat and always have a good time. We compete and we laugh and we genuinely enjoy the time together. Some nights, we play card games, some nights we play board games, some nights we visit so long that we never get to the games. When the kids were little, we would put them to bed just before game night or shortly after it started. Now that they are older, we invite everyone's kids and we set up multiple game tables, one in the basement and one upstairs, so that everyone can get in on the fun. Durning the past couple of years, those types of nights slowed down but so glad to be back in the swing of things again.

Recently, we had the chance to share Five Crowns and Farkle from PlayMonster with our friends, as a participant in the Tryazon party. Both are games that we had played before but not with our friends.

Five Crowns is a rummy-style card game that featuring 5 suits and rotating wild cards. The box says that you can play with 1-7 players, ages 8 and up (it says 99 but I bet you could play if you were 100). I've not played the solitaire version but always love a game that you can play on your own. The game is easy to learn and with an estimated game time of 45 minutes, is easy to fit in a quick game almost anytime.

Farkle is a dice game that can be played with 2 or more players, ages 8 and up (although, you could actually play by yourself - maybe challenge yourself to reach the target in the fewest turns). Another game that is easy to learn and quick to play at an average game time of 30 minutes. It is also easy to take on the go and play almost anywhere. We have a pocket version that has a scoring pad that you could tuck in your purse or glove box and a small tube that holds the dice (about the size of a 35 mm film cannister for those of you old enough to remember).

Both games are family-friendly and can be enjoyed by young and old alike. The ability to play with only a few people, how easy it is to learn the games and the ability to play a full game in a short-time, makes them appealing game options. We have foudn that card and dice games have always been favorites to play with grandparents when they visit us.

You can learn more about PlayMonster and order your own copies of the games at I recieved a coupon code to share with my guests but I also see that if you join their mailing list, you can get 25% off your first order.

What are some of your favorite games? Have you played Five Crowns or Farkle before?

No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family and friends. Complimentary copies of the games were provided to me through Tryazon so that I could share my experience with friends and through my blog, with enough to share some with my friends too.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Selefina Spices

Complimentary samples of the spices were provided so that I could try them and share my expierence.

I love to bake and cook, to experiment with flavors. I have a spice rack that I registered for when I got married, it has been refreshed many times over because I love being able to have the variety of spice close by when cooking. Of course, I also have a pantry that holds the other spices that we use (and refills for some that we use a lot of). When I consider how many spices I have in my pantry, I am always surprised when a recipe calls for a new spice. Of course, when I buy it, then I try to think of or find other uses for the spice.

I recently had the opportunity to try some samples from Selefina spices. (You can order samples from Selefina for only $.75 each and shipping is free with 5 samples.) I recieved several to try in order to share about my experience.

I first tried the cinnnamon and nutmeg from the samples. I was making homemade macaroni and cheese for my daughter and I like to add a little bit of the earthen flavors when I make it. So, in addition to ground mustard, I use a touch of nutmeg and cinnamon. The flavors were good and the grind was even. The pouch format made them easy to measure - unlike a jar, I could stick the measuring spoon down in to grab the spice I needed.

The weather was chilly the other week, so the next thing I tried was the recipe for the Hot Chocolate Infused with Cardamom and Rose. The recipe was easy and the aroma was awesome. The presentation with the rose petals was also pretty and felt a little fancy. I have only had cardamom as a component in the filing for Skool Bread (Norwegian dessert), so it was nice to have another option for use. The rose petals gave off a nice floral aroma, as I drank the hot chocolate. Next time though, I would likely filter out the rose petals before drinking, as the texture of them in my mouth was a little strange. You can find the recipe on their website - Hot Chocolate Infused with Cardamom and Rose. You can even add the samples for the spices you need right to your cart with a single click on the recipe page.

Next, on another coolish day, I thought I would give the Golden Turmeric Milk recipe a try. I'm not sure what I expected, I had heard great things about turmeric's benefits but had never tried it. The recipe called for black pepper, which seemed odd but worked out well in the overall flavor. I will say that although I liked the flavor overall, after I added additional hot milk to rewarm the drink after I got distracted and it cooled, I actually liked the drink a lot better. You can find their recipe for Golden Turmeric Milk on the website as well. Interestingly enough, on this page, scroll to the bottom to add the spice samples needed for the recipe to your cart.

The samples all came in the reasealable pouches. I like the convenience of this and assume that from a shelf life perspective that this helps extend shelf life and ensure that the spices aren't exposed to too much light. I assume as well that the pouches are a lower cost / less waste option. The challenge is, I have no good way to store and organize the pouches. I could probably get a bin that would be the right width and simply place them alphabetical in there (that's how my spice rack is organized). Alternatively, since they also have glass jar sizes, I could go with those and use the pouches as refills. A win-win situation and I only have to thumb through when I need to refill a jar.

Overall, I have been very satisfied with the freshness and consistency of the spices that I have tried. They have good aroma and deliver the flavors I expect from the spices. I look forward to trying more of their options as I look to restock spices as I run out. I have found their website to be very informative. They offer several recipes featuring the spices. On the page for each spice, they offer a good amount of information about the spice, tips, usage and more. In addition, they have some primers which help you learn more about the spice - it's history, forms, use, and more. They seem to be working on expanding their spice offerings and their primers.

No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. Complimentary samples of the spices were provided for my family and I to try, so that I could share my experience.