Friday, November 24, 2017

Holiday Gift Guide

I have reactivated my Holiday Gift Guide on the sidebar. Many of the posts are from years past and the offers listed may not still be active, but the ideas are still relevant. I hope to add to the list of ideas over the coming month, so come back and check it out.

Holiday Gift Guide

Foster Imagination

Stimulate Creativity

Challenge their Problem Solving

Stretch their Minds

Gifts for Others

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Ozobot Evo Party and Review #Tryazon #OzoSquad

As a participant in the Tryazon Ozobot Party, I received an Ozobot party pack which included a complimentary Ozobot Evo for my family and a guest. All opinions expressed are my own.

Growing up, I never thought anything about being interested in science and math. In fact, I knew from a young age that I wanted to be an engineer, although honestly, I'm not sure I really knew what an engineer was. Coding was something that was still 'new' when I was growing up, at least non-punchcard coding, but I had several opportunities to experience it in fun ways through camps and classes. I can remember first learning on an Apple Desktop computer and on a TRS-80 in math class in junior high. I even had a chance to go to a three week long summer camp in high school where I learned to program to create drawings. That knowledge base has served me well in my career too.

As a mom, I look for ways to bring STEM concepts to my kids in a fun way, such that they don't always realize that they are actually learning. When I first learned about Ozobot, I was intrigued it looked like a fun interactive toy that would help my kids learn about the basics of coding. Then, in late summer, I was invited to participate in a Tryazon party to check out the new Ozobot Evo and share it with friends and family. I was very excited to get the chance to let my kids and their friends play with the Ozobot Evo.

I didn't mention it to the kids until the party pack arrived. My daughter was so excited, wanting to know when we could open them and play with the Ozobot.

I love the packaging that the Ozobot Evo came in. Once opened, there are cute little 'drawers' that hold the charger, the markers, and the skin. There is also a pocket that holds the play mat and the top allows you to store the Ozobot Evo easily.
We started with the Experience Pack (available free on their website for Ozobot Evo owners). It introduces the kids to Line Navigation, first with basic pre-drawn black lines and then engages the kids by having them draw black lines that the Ozobot can follow.
As they work through the Experience Pack, they are awarded with stars on the Ozobot app and learn about the color codes that can provide direction to the Ozobot Evo. These color sequences can tell the Ozobot to spin, to walk backwards, turn right and more. The experience pack includes a code reference sheet.
The set comes with markers, but we found that if you have good markers you can also use standard markers to make lines to navigate and color sequences to tell the Ozobot what action to take. This is very helpful when everyone wants to make their own set of lines for Ozobot and you only have one set of official markers.

The Ozobot Evo in action:

Everyone had fun playing and exploring with Ozobot. After tackling the Experience Pack, the kids explored using the app to control the action of the Ozobot Evo. Then, they moved onto OzoBlocky on the app which allows them to drag and drop coding and create loops of the activity. With five levels from novice to master, OzoBlocky allows your child to do progressively more challenging code concepts. Once the code is assembled, load it to the Ozobot Evo and they can see their code in action.
At this point, my kids have only touched the surface of the games and learning opportunities within the app. My daughter really wants to explore racing with two Ozobots and has found continuous lines (both loops and intersected loops) on YouTube that she is experimenting with and discovering new ways to play with the Ozobot Evo.

I think this is a great toy for kids to explore coding concepts through interactive play. One mom at the party talked about how this would be a great alternative for a child that is in to video games, as Ozobot Evo can provide learning and exposure to coding through interaction. Which is a great alternative to some of the video games that are out there.

You can learn more about Ozobot, the Evo and the Bit and explore the App and other available resources on their website. Ready to buy? Right now, for a limited time, you can save on the purchase of you own Ozobot Evo by heading to their website and using the coupon code OzobotParty1517 to save 15%.

As a participant in the Tryazon Ozobot Party, I received an Ozobot party pack which included a complimentary Ozobot Evo for my family and a guest. All opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Gift by Shelley Shepard Gray

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.
Taking advantage of the drive on a last minute family fall vacation, I read several books in the last couple of weeks. One of them was The Gift by Shelley Shepard Gray. Set during the holidays, it opens with a bit of mystery as Susanna Schwartz finds herself in an overturned buggy accident as a result of shots that were being fired, seemingly at her and her horse. Fortunately, someone is there to help comfort and protect her until help can arrive. New to the community, she does not know her rescuer or the connection that they have. As the story unfolds, other accidents and incidents continue, leading them to wonder if her family is being targeted.

As has been the case with the other books in the Hart County Series, this book was captivating, suspenseful and had me hooked from the beginning. It was good that I was reading it on the car ride, because there were only the few questions from the backseat and the occasional stop to interrupt my reading - so different than reading a few minutes before bed each night. The twists and turns kept me guessing on who could be targeting the family and in the end, I was convinced it was different than was ultimately discovered. The story shared of one family's loss and another family's opportunity, of pride and jealousy, of the strength that can be found in family and the importance of hope and forgiveness. I enjoyed following the story as Susanna and Neil became unlikely friends and even found their feelings for one other developing deeper.

I look forward to reading more from Shelly Shepard Gray especially the suspenseful novels she is writing as part of her The Amish of Hart County series.
About the book:

A special Christmas story about love and blessings in the next book in the Amish of Hart County series
The Schwartz family is happy to be spending Christmas on their new farm in Hart County. But when Susanna Schwartz hears gunshots that causes her buggy to overturn, and then her little sister falls through a wooden bridge into the icy creek, it becomes clear from these dangerous "accidents" that someone wants them gone.

Neil Vance has been heartbroken ever since his parents lost their family farm. He knows it's not the Schwartz family's fault, but he can't help but be resentful. Until he meets Susanna. She is kind-hearted and bold, and Neil can't stop thinking about her pretty green eyes.

Neil thinks the accidents are just that, but Susanna's father is convinced the Vance family is responsible. Susanna refuses to believe Neil would do anything to harm her. She's fallen in love with him and knows he is a good man. But her family is ready to pack up and move, and time is running out to uncover the truth before someone gets hurt . . . or worse.

Learn more and purchase a copy.

About the author:
Shelley Shepard Gray is a "New York Times" and "USA Today" bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town's bike trail.
Find out more about Shelley at

Learn more about the book and check out other reviews on the blog tour landing page.

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.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Hope Toler Dougherty's 'Rescued Hearts' Blog Tour and Kindle Giveaway

Her personal safety isn't the only thing in jeopardy-so is her heart. In Hope Toler Dougherty's new novel, Rescued Hearts, children's clothing designer Mary Wade Kimball's soft spot for animals leads to a hostage situation when she spots a briar-entangled kitten in front of an abandoned house. Discovering the kidnapped woman ratchets the complications for undercover agent Brett Davis. Brett forsakes his three-month mission and helps her escape, the bent-on-revenge brutes following behind . . . and then Mary Wade's safety is threatened once more.

Cozy up this fall with Hope's new book and enter to win a Kindle Fire!

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A copy of Rescued Hearts
  • A Kindle Fire 7
Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on November 13. The winner will be announced November 14 on the Litfuse blog.

Rescued Hearts by Hope Toler Dougherty

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.
After reading several historical fiction works, it was fun to return to modern day and read a contemporary fiction. Rescued Hearts is the second book that I have read by Hope Toler Dougherty.
As much as I enjoyed the first book that I read, I liked this one even more. Much like Mars...with Venus Rising (see my review here), Rescued Hearts has some quirky, lovable characters, but with the new addition of suspense. With the crafty blending of crime and romance and the utilization of characters that are like people you might have in your life, Hope created a story that was very enjoyable. The story pulled me in and had me wanting to read any free minute, so as to see what happened next. Unfortunately, as Mary Wade found her spaces invaded and questions about their safety arose, I was home alone with the kids while my husband was traveling. Not an ideal time to read such a suspenseful tale; proof positive that the story was realistic. It had me wondering how many people have inadvertently found themselves in danger as a result of a self-less act of trying to rescue an animal (or a person). Fortunately, Mary Wade discovered an inner-strength and was able to draw on her faith to find the hope necessary to help get her through.

About the Book:
Rescued Hearts | Hope Toler Dougherty

Children's clothing designer Mary Wade Kimball's soft spot for animals leads to a hostage situation when she spots a briar- entangled kitten in front of an abandoned house. Beaten, bound, and gagged by the two thugs inside, Mary Wade loses hope for escape when a third villain returns with supplies.

Discovering the kidnapped woman ratchets the complications for undercover agent Brett Davis. Weighing the difference of ruining his three months' investigation against the woman's safety, Brett forsakes his mission and helps her escape, the bent-on-revenge brutes following behind.

When Mary Wade's safety is threatened once more, Brett rescues her again. This time, her personal safety isn't the only thing in jeopardy. Her heart is endangered as well.

Meet the Author:

Hope Toler Dougherty holds a Master's degree in English and taught at East Carolina University as well as York Technical College. A member of ACFW, RWA and SinC, she writes for Almost an Author. Before writing novels, she published non-fiction articles on topics ranging from gardening with children to writing apprehension. She follows the Pittsburgh Steelers, ACC basketball, and Army West Point Football. Hope and her husband, Kevin, live in North Carolina and chat with their two daughters and twin sons through ooVoo. Her debut novel, Irish Encounter, is partially set in Ireland. Her second one, Mars . . . With Venus Rising, is published with Pelican Book Group.

Learn more at

You can learn more about the book and read additional reviews on the blog tour landing page.

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.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

An Inconvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.
The weather here has been unseasonably warm lately, with temperatures hitting the 90s last weekend, but fortunately, the weather has returned to more fall like weather. I love fall weather, it is the perfect time of year to sit on the porch or curled up on the sofa reading a book. Of course, yesterday, with only 100 pages to go in An Inconvenient Beauty, I found myself sitting at the table and reading while I enjoyed a nice hot cup of pumpkin spice coffee and getting up only to make another cup of coffee.
I thoroughly enjoyed An Inconvenient Beauty and couldn't put it down. In fact, when I did put it down after reading all 379 pages, my daughter commented 'didn't you just start that book' I closed the book and exclaimed 'I can't believe that was the last one in the series, I want it to go on!' It really was a great story, that was well written and had great scene and character development. Having met Griffith and the rest of the family in an Uncommon Courtship, which was the third in the four book series, I was glad to get to know him better. His family is the type of family that anyone would be happy to be part of, a group that is there for support and guidance, a group that knows how to play and have fun together, and a family that loves to pick on one another but would not fail to support one another.

Isabella and her cousin Frederica were well developed characters and both had to overcome adversity. Isabella not only had her challenges at home, problems she was hoping to solve with her time in London, but the added complexity of the role her uncle expected her to play and the threats he held over her. Freddie had only her father to deal with, but she clearly had a strong character having survived the loss of her mother and brother, but also as evidenced in the way she carried herself and the role she played in helping the right things happen.

Reading a story from an era with very different societal norms and expectations is always interesting to me. Despite recognizing how different of a time it was for women, there is still something so intriguing to me. On one hand, I think it would be so fun to get dressed up and go out to events, but I think that by the end of a season I would be well beyond interested in dressing up and putting on my 'social face'. I think that the idea of having a chaperone with you at all times as you court seems a bit extreme (and how boring for the chaperone!), but love how innocent courting was - filled with visits to see art and walks in the park.

An Inconvenient Beauty is a great reminder that sometimes the best way to find love is to not look for it. In fact, even when you are avoiding it (or someone), a love that is meant to be will find a way (and likely make you appreciate it more).

About the Book:

Griffith, Duke of Riverton, likes order, logic, and control, so he naturally applies this rational approach to his search for a bride. While he's certain Miss Frederica St. Claire is the perfect wife for him, she is strangely elusive, and he can't seem to stop running into her stunningly beautiful cousin, Miss Isabella Breckenridge.

Isabella should be enjoying her society debut, but with her family in difficult circumstances, she has no choice but to agree to a bargain that puts her at odds with all her romantic hopes--as well as her conscience. And the more she comes to know Griffith, the more she regrets the unpleasant obligation that prevents her from any dream of a future with him.

As all Griffith's and Isabella's long-held expectations are shaken to the core, can they set aside their pride and fear long enough to claim a happily-ever-after?

About the Author:

Kristi Ann Hunter graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in computer science but always knew she wanted to write. Kristi is the author of the Hawthorne House series and a 2016 RITA Award winner and Christy Award finalist. She lives with her husband and three children in Georgia. Find her online at

I have only read the last two books in the series, but I would highly recommend reading the Hawthorne House series by Kristi Ann Hunter. I intend to pick up the first two books myself, so that I can read them.

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.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Reunited by Danger by Carol J. Post

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.
The kids are back at school. My daughter came home from school the other day sharing about the different types of stories that they are talking about at school. She asked me what my favorite type of stories are and I told her suspense.

There is something in the style of Carol J Post that I just really enjoy. From the very first page, the reader is pulled into the story. She starts off quickly and then finds the right pacing to provide the details to help develop characters that you feel like you know and in settings described so you can picture the scene, all while keeping the story moving forward down a suspenseful pathway.

Whenever I read suspense or mystery books, I am always trying to find the clues and figure out who-dun-it or what is really going on. I usually have several theories over the course of the book, as each of them is disproven I find myself reconsidering the clues and trying to find a new theory. In Reunited by Danger, I was able to figure out the killer pretty early in the book. Of course, I didn't know I knew until I knew, but when I found out I had read the right clues, it was almost frustrating, even disappointing. My reaction was a surprise to me, I would have expected to be excited at my ability to read the clues, rather than disappointed that I had known as long as I did. Don't get me wrong, even though I had figured it out, since I didn't know I had figured it out, I still fully enjoyed the story development.

One unique thing about this story is that all of the main characters have known each other since high school, although several had not seen one another in the 10 years since graduation. With even the detective having attended high school with them, there was a unique dynamic and familiarity between the characters and in some ways, the detective had an advantage in knowing the back stories of those in the story. Another aspect of this book that I found to be interesting was the previous relationship between Amber and Caleb from when they were younger. In most romances that I’ve read where the two main characters knew each other in high school, they either dated each other, at least one of them had a crush on the other, there was an unrequited love situation between the two, or there was some kind of pretty big history between them in some other way, but for Caleb and Amber, they were simply acquaintances in high school, not in some kind of relationship with each other. I found that deviation from the typical plot line to be refreshing. It gave their developing relationship a different feel than in other books I’ve read and I appreciated that.

About the book:


When a former classmate is murdered at Detective Caleb Lyons's ten-year high school reunion, he knows the victim's old group of friends are keeping secrets. That includes Cedar Key, Florida, police officer Amber Kingston. Back in school, Amber was headed for trouble, but now she's as dedicated to the law as he is. As he works overtime to get the pretty cop to open up to him, Amber and her friends receive messages threatening payback for past deeds. And her friends keep dying…one by one. But protecting Amber and unmasking a murderer isn't just the widowed detective's shot at redemption—it's his unexpected second chance at love.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this suspenseful love story and have recommended it to friends. If you enjoy suspense stories, check out this book and others by Carol J. Post.

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.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.
It has been a while since I have read a piece of Edwardian fiction, but these past couple of weeks I have been deeply engrossed in A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White. A Name Unknown is the first book in the Shadows Over England series and is set primarily in Cornwall in 1914.

The author did a good job developing characters through the progression of the story, continuing to reveal things about some of the characters right up to the end of the story. Rosemary and Peter are an unconventional pair, she is poor, opinionated, streetwise and independent, and full of doubt when it comes to faith, he is rich, inclined to not speak his thoughts, has friends that look to him for advise and is strong in his faith. As the story unfolds, the reader starts to recognize the growing relationship between them and may even know they are falling in love before they do. Through her vivid descriptions of the settings, both internal and external, the author is able to transport the reader to another time and place. Her story was so engaging and that I found myself not wanting to put the book down, resulting in me yet again staying up later than I should simply so I can read a little more. The book had the perfect balance of an unlikely friendship, romance, mystery, deception, intrigue and faith.

I look forward to reading the next book in this series.

About the book:

She's out to steal his name. Will he steal her heart instead?
Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins that helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they are no longer pickpockets-now they focus on high value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. Rosemary's challenge of a lifetime comes when she's assigned to determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany. How does one steal a family's history, their very name?
Rumors swirl around Peter Holstein. Awkward and solitary, but with access to the king, many fear his influence. But Peter can't help his German last name and wants to prove his loyalty to the crown-so he can go back to anonymously writing a series of popular adventure novels. When Rosemary arrives on his doorstop pretending to be a well- credentialed historian, Peter believes she's the right person to help him dig through his family's past.
Anger and danger continue to mount, though, and both realize they're in a race against time to discover the truth-about Peter's past and about the undeniable attraction kindling between them.
Learn more and purchase a copy.

About the author:

Roseanna M. White pens her novels beneath her Betsy Ross flag, with her Jane Austen action figure watching over her. When not writing fiction, she's homeschooling her two children, editing and designing, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna is the author of over a dozen historical novels and novellas, ranging from biblical fiction to American-set romances to her British series. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to make their way into her novels . . . to offset her real life, which is blessedly boring. She passes said boring life with her husband and kids in the beautiful mountains of eastern West Virginia.
Find out more about Roseanna M. at

You can read more reviews and learn more about the book on the Blog Tour Landing Page.

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.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Save Money Everyday on Stuff You Buy with Groupon Coupons

I have always been a deal shopper. I suppose I learned it watching my mom when I was a kid, I can remember my mom clipping coupons and submitting rebates for the items that we bought. I can remember Sunday mornings reading through the ads after church and deciding if there were deals worth heading to the store. One of my favorite days to go shopping each year was Black Friday. Not only was it a day out with my mom, grandma, aunts and cousins, but we got some great deals. I can remember one store giving us a $10/$10 coupon to use on top of all of their deals.

Deal shopping has changed a lot since I was a kid. You can get coupons online, apps provide instant rebates on the products you buy and you can find coupons online to your favorite stores.
Groupon Coupons is one source of great offers for your favorite stores. In fact, they currently have 84,186 free coupons at 12,116 stores. Not just any stores, but stores that I already shop at like Ann Taylor, Clarks, Amazon, Target, FootLocker, LL Bean and many others.

When it comes to shoes for work, going out or a casual day around town, I really enjoy wearing Clarks. Nothing compares with the fit and comfort of the shoes that I find at Clarks. My favorite heels that I can wear for hours are Clarks. I almost never wear heels, so that is saying a lot. Today, there are 31 offers for Clarks on Groupons Coupons. The offers are a mix of sales and coupon codes - 25% off, free shipping, and more.

Have you checked out Groupons Coupons? What is your favorite deal?

This is a sponsored post. All opinions expressed are my own.

The Taste Experience of Adagio Teas

Complimentary product was provided by Adagio Tea for me to try and share my experience.
There are some things that you gain a taste for over time. When I was a kid, tea was not on my list of favorite beverages. At some point, one of my friends offered me hot lemon tea and because I didn't want to be rude, I gave it a try with a good amount of added lemon juice and sugar. I decided it wasn't so bad and not what I had remembered from other tea experiences. From that point forward, I found myself trying different teas over time, in hopes of finding more that I enjoyed. As I have grown older, the varieties of tea that I enjoy have evolved and grown. I can't recall the last time I had hot lemon tea, but there are several other varieties that I have on a regular basis. In fact, I have a few varieties that are staples in my pantry, typically herbal teas or rooibos teas. When I have a cup, I usually enjoy it with a bit of honey or sugar and if enjoying one in the evening at bedtime, with a splash of milk. I have a tea kettle for warming water on the stove, I have multiple tea balls for loose tea and a pot that has a perforated column in the middle that allows me to make a full pot with either loose leaf tea or bagged tea. (For the record, I'm still not a big fan of iced tea...but have tried some recently that aren't so bad.)

Several of my friends had been sharing about Adagio Teas through Facebook, so when I was invited to try some of their products, I was excited to discover what they offered. I explored their different products and decided on a mix of full size bags and sample packs, to maximize my taste experience. Most of their teas are loose leaf, but they do offer some pyramid bag items too. I decided to stick with all loose leaf varieties for my experience.
I ordered two Rooibos varieties - Rooibos Vanilla and Rooibos Caramel. If you aren't familiar, from the Adagio site I share the following description: Hailing from South Africa, red bush tea is caffeine-free and produces a sweet, flavorful cup.

I also ordered two Herbal Tea varieties - Peppermint and Raspberry Patch.

Lastly, I tried out the Hot Cinnamon Spice tea. It is a flavored tea, which is not caffeine free, but is one of my favorite flavors.

I also decided to check out the toasTEA Portable Tea Infuser. I have enjoyed using this infuser to try out all of the new teas.
It is easy to use and I love that it relies on inversion to brew the tea and that when you flip it back upright the leaves are above the water line and no longer brewing.
In addition, the insulated tumbler keeps the tea hot for a long time. I typically poured the tea from the tumbler and put it into an open mug, because to me drinking tea is a full sense experience and the open mug allows for full immersion into the aroma and the visual aspects of the experience, in addition to the taste.
Each tea provides the amount of loose tea to use per cup and the temperature and time for steeping.

The Raspberry Patch is my favorite of the teas that I tried. It offers a full flavor of summer raspberries with an appealing sweet, berry aroma. I added a small drizzle of honey to provide a sweet flavor match to the sweet aroma. This is the one that I go to for a mid-afternoon tea break.

The two Rooibos varieties have a nice, soft aroma and an appealing flavor with notes of vanilla or caramel. I find them to be a perfect evening treat with a drizzle of honey and a splash of milk, and occasionally a couple of thin ginger crisp cookies for dipping.

The Peppermint is refreshing and I have found it a great way to start the day, paired with a couple of slices of toast. I haven't tried the Hot Cinnamon yet, mostly because it feels like a fall flavor and hasn't been the one that drew my interest when I sat down to enjoy a mug of tea.

I love that the toasTEA infuser makes 17 oz of tea, perfect to have a first cup and a top off to warm the tea back up in my mug. It also is a great travel option and allows me to steep my tea on the drive to work and enjoy it on arrival. The Rooibos Caramel seems to have a few more fines in it than the other teas and resulted in a bit of the tea coming up into the drink spout while inverted. Otherwise, it has worked fine with all of the teas that I have brewed and even on immersion, does not leak.

My only concern is that the tea comes in a stand up pouch with a zip closure, which makes storage a bit of a challenge. I think that I need to find a basket that I can set in my cupboard to corral them and keep them from falling over and 'disappearing' under other items in the cupboard. Or, if I stick with a few varieties only, I might pick up some small glass storage containers that I can put the tea in and place in cupboard.

Have you tried Adagio tea? What is your favorite?

No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. Complimentary product was provided for my review.

Another Great Deal at CVS

As I shared last week, I haven't been to CVS in a long time. I found myself with some ECBs from a couple of surveys I had completed, so I decided to stop by and use them before they expired. Again, I was planning on the fly, as I hadn't looked at the ad and I had no other coupons with me.

And, I still managed to spend only $.89 out of pocket (including tax) for all of this in two transactions:

Fruity Pebbles
Oral B 2-pk
Colgate Toothpaste
2 bags of Dove Chocolate

Have you gotten any good deals lately?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

All This for $1.02 at CVS

It has been forever since I was shopping at CVS and in order to actually check out today, I had to shop at CVS twice. I got some deals that felt reminiscent of the deals I used to get when I shopped - 4 bottles bodywashes, 2 tubes toothpaste, 4 greeting cards, 2 caramels and 1 bottle of dishsoap, for just over $1 OOP.
I wish that the trip overall was as easy as the deals were to put together. So, a week or two ago, I had received an ECB offer by e-mail. I did not PRINT the coupon before I went today, because it was an unplanned trip. I honestly thought nothing of it. I have the CVS app and have had both my card and the offers in the app scanned on my phone before, so why would a coupon that was e-mailed be any different.

I grabbed an ad, strategized on the fly and came up with a couple of transactions that would allow me to maximize my ECBs. I headed up to check out with my arms loaded (a cart or basket probably would have helped). I clicked on the coupon link in my e-mail and as it loaded, I set down my phone and went to get my ECB card from my purse. As the cashier attempted to scan the bar code on my phone, I told her that wasn't my card it was an ECB. She said, we can't scan those, store policy - you should be able to send it to your card. I checked the coupon and there was only a Print or Close option. I talked to the manager who reiterated that they could not use the ECB unless it was printed. This frustrated me. You allow me to scan deals in a Mobile App. You send me e-mails with links to deals that I can send to card. So, why oh why, did I get an e-mail that I could not scan in store nor could I send it to card? Frustrated, I set my stuff aside and said I will come back once I print the ECBs.

I returned a few hours later...all my stuff, I shopped again.

The next surprise came at check out again. My first transaction went smoothly. Turns out that there was a 'better' price on the one item and my order came up just shy of my ECB when I had expected it to be slightly over. The register automatically adjusted the ECB down and completed the transaction.

The second transaction, not as smooth. I had $6 total ECBs from the first transaction that I was planning to spend in the second. I had $5.98 worth of stuff in the transaction. Historically, they could adjust it down and I would just pay tax. Now, the register wouldn't process the ECB unless my pretax total was at least as much as the ECB. So, I added a caramel and moved on.

Next transaction, I purchased the Dawn which had a 25c off coupon from the coupon machine. I had my order at 2.31 before coupons and handed her the 25c coupon and the $2 ECB. It processed the ECB fine, but only took off 13c for the coupon. I asked why and was told, the register does what it does, I don't know why and can't change it. So, instead of having 6c plus tax due, I had 18c plus tax due. What? I really want to understand why you can't process a coupon at face value when the purchase can fully support the coupon. The coupon even is called out on the receipt as $0.25 off Dawn Ultra!
Again, I was makes no sense...there is no reason that I can see why it couldn't apply the full value of the coupon to the order...but at the same time, I walked out with about $24 in product (at CVS prices) for $1.02 out of pocket. So, it's hard to be too frustrated.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

His Guilt by Shelley Shepard Gray

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

This past week, I read another new book. This book was His Guilt by Shelley Shepard Gray, the second book in her The Amish of Hart County series. The characters from the first book are referenced, but not otherwise a part of the story, so you could easily jump in to the series with His Guilt.
As with the first book in the series, this book was captivating, suspenseful and had me hooked from the beginning. I found myself staying up later than I intended, so that I could read one more chapter and find out just a little bit more that might help me 'solve' the mystery (even before the characters did). I liked that the characters were real and had a diversity that is easy to consider in any community. It was very interesting that though most of them were raised in the same community their lives growing up were so different. These differences caused the characters to be stereo-typed by others but as the story unfolded, you learn that many of those perceptions were no longer the reality of who they are. In addition to the characters, the challenges faced in the book also transcend the Amish community and can be identified by members of any community. The characters dealt with gossip and fear, which drove many of them to inappropriate, unsubstantiated conclusions about those around them, but also the positives of self-discovery, forgiveness, friendships and love. Overall, the book had a nice balance of friends and family, love and suspense, discovering about others and growth of self.

His Guilt was a great book and I look forward to reading more from Shelly Shepard Gray especially the suspenseful novels she is writing as part of her The Amish of Hart County series.

About the book:

A suspenseful tale of an Amish man who will risk all to protect the woman he loves.

Mark Fisher has returned home to Hart County, determined to put the past behind him. Two years ago, after being wrongly accused of assault, he left the Amish community, though never forgot his home. When the one person who had helped him through his rough times asks for help, Mark returns. But it is pretty Waneta Cain who makes him want to stay...
Neeta is one of the few people in Hart County who doesn't believe Mark is guilty of hurting anyone. However, his worldliness and tough exterior do make her uneasy. As she begins to see the real man behind all the gossip and prejudice, she wonders if he is the man for her.

Just when Mark starts to believe a new life is possible, a close friend of Neeta's is attacked. Once again, everyone in the community seems to believe he is guilty. But what hurts most is Neeta's sudden wariness around him. When another woman is hurt, a woman who is close to both Neeta and himself, Mark fears he knows the real culprit. And time is running out. Will Mark be able to find him before Neeta becomes his next victim?

Learn more and purchase a copy.

About the author:

Shelley Shepard Gray is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town's bike trail. You can learn more on her website.

Learn more about the book and see additional reviews on the Blog Tour Landing Page.

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.

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Love So True by Melissa Jagears

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.
What a busy couple of weeks I have had. Travel has been the name of the adventure. In the past 25 days, I have stayed in 5 different hotels in 5 different cities; traveling to two by air and three by car - that's a lot of travel for someone who is content to be home. The short trips have been for family vacations/sports and the long ones for work. I had great plans of reading while I traveled, but of course, there is something about riding in a car or airplane that causes me to do a mix of snoozing and reading. On the last flight I took though, I was successful in staying awake and finishing A Love So True by Melissa Jagears.

A Love So True is the third book in the Teaville Moral Society series and brings us to Teaville, Kansas in the fall of 1908. Although this is the third book in the series, there is nothing lost in not having read the first two, except perhaps the chance to visit with old friends that reappear across the series. The author does a great job of introducing us to the characters, revealing enough about the characters to help us get to know them with the right balance of opportunity to learn about them alongside the other characters.

Evelyn is a strong and independent woman. She is seemingly uninterested in allowing any man to get close enough to court her and we learn that it is as a result of a closely guarded secret that even her parents and closest friends are unaware she is keeping. With her love of children and as a result of her secret, she believes that she will not have the opportunity to be a mother, a belief that contributes to the amount of passion that she has for helping the kids at the orphanage and the women of the red light district. New to town, David finds Evelyn and her passion intriguing and looks for ways to spend time with her and to help her on her mission to help those in need.

The story featured a nice mix of compassion, friendship. love and mystery. The plot was engaging and made the book difficult to put down. The characters were easy to relate to and the type that you wanted only the best for. The touch of romance and mystery were enjoyable and added to the appeal of the story. Will we ever learn her secret? Will those around her find the secret as horrible as she feels it is? Will she be able to move past the secret and find happiness before David's work in town is done? The characters find themselves realizing that God has a plan and that although we may wonder and wish, sometimes things don't happen on our timeline, because they need to happen on His to fulfill the bigger plan.

I found this story to be a good read and if you enjoy period fiction or a good love story, would recommend checking it out.


Evelyn Wisely loves working at the local orphanage, but her heart can't ignore the women of Teaville who are also in need. Her boss is willing to help build a shelter for them, but only if she gains the cooperation and financial support of other local businessmen.

While David Kingsman plans to stay in Teaville just long enough to get his father's business back on solid ground, he's intrigued by Evelyn's cause and finds himself more invested with each passing day.

Will their plans and partnership fall apart when confronted with all that is stacked against them, or can they trust in God's plan despite it all?

The Author

Melissa Jagears

Carol Award-winning author Melissa Jagears is a homeschooling mom who writes Christian historical romance into the wee hours of the night. She's the author of the Unexpected Brides series, the Teaville Moral Society series, and Love by the Letter, a free prequel ebook novella. You can learn more about Melissa, her books, and where she hangs out online at

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.

Monday, May 29, 2017

True to You by Becky Wade

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.
After a recent run of Historic and Amish fiction, I most recently finished reading a work of contemporary fiction, True to You by Becky Wade. It was a nice change of pace and a reminder that love and challenges transcends time and setting.
"What I've learned is that the past might be challenging and the future might be unsure. And that's okay. The present is all we're given, anyway. When we get to the future, God will be there. He'll supply whatever we need for each day."

True to You was an enjoyable story filled with heartache and triumph, as the two main characters discovered about themselves and each other and found a path for their own story. I enjoy the way in which she develops her characters and lets things unfold naturally. There is a nice amount of suspense and uncertainty within the story, an anticipation that pulls the reader in wanting to know how things will unfold. In fact, it is the uncovering of the mystery of John's birth mother that brings them together in the first place, as John enlists Nora's aid. But even beyond that, there is that unknown of where things will go and how they will individually and collectively weather what they learn on their journey of discovery. They find strength in their faith, even at times where they feel most certain that it is failing them. I liked Wade's utilization of e-mail, Messenger, and text message exchanges at the end of each chapter to shed light into thoughts and to help provide context to the exchanges happening in the story.

About the book:

It's the exciting start of a brand-new series by a contemporary romance fan favorite!

After a devastating heartbreak three years ago, genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford has decided that burying her nose in her work and her books is far safer than romance in the here and now.

Unlike Nora, former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient John Lawson is a modern-day man, usually 100 percent focused on the present. But when he's diagnosed with an inherited condition, he's forced to dig into the secrets of his past and his adoption as an infant, enlisting Nora to help him uncover the identity of his birth mother.

The more time they spend together, the more this pair of opposites suspects they just might be a perfect match. However, John's already dating someone and Nora's not sure she's ready to trade her crushes on fictional heroes for the risks of a real relationship. Finding the answers they're seeking will test the limits of their identity, their faith, and their devotion to one another.

Learn more and purchase a copy.

About the author:

Becky Wade is a California native who attended Baylor University, met and married a Texan, and settled in Dallas. She published historical romances for the general market before putting her career on hold for several years to care for her three children. When God called her back to writing, Becky knew He meant for her to turn her attention to Christian fiction. She loves writing funny, modern, and inspirational contemporary romance! She's the Carol Award, INSPY Award, and Inspirational Reader's Choice Award winning author of My Stubborn Heart, the Porter Family series, and the Bradford Sisters Romance series.

Learn more and read additional reviews on the blog tour landing page.

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.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Behind the Scenes by Jen Turano

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

I recently finished reading Behind the Scenes by Jen Turano, the first book in the Apart from the Crowd series. Set in New York City in the Spring of 1883, the story centers around Miss Permilia Griswold and those around her. A known wallflower, Permilia has a way of blending in and going unnoticed amongst members of society, until at the Vanderbilt Ball where she suddenly finds herself the recipient of additional attention and it turns into a pivot point in many aspects of her life. Permilia was my kind of girl, able to spend time around society but one who had other priorities and many other things which were more dear to her than the need to be accepted by society.

In good part, Behind the Scenes was a story of acceptance - acceptance of others, acceptance of self, acceptance of God's plan and acceptance of family and past. Permilia had plans for her life and being part of New York society was never on her list, but as the story unfolds and she faces many challenges, she finds herself visiting with Reverend Perry who reminds her that 'some of our life experiences should be looked upon as stepping stones, needed in order to cross the stream at large, but not meant to be lingered on' and that sometimes we have to turn our troubles over to God and be willing to accept what He may have in store for you. It was only after that pivotal conversation that she seemed to come to accept the changes that were happening and really found a path to happiness.

I thoroughly enjoyed Behind the Scenes. The author did a great job setting the scene and establishing the development of the characters through the backdrop of the Vanderbilt Ball, including details on the clothing, dancing and other details of the ball. The book drew me in from the beginning and surprisingly, with almost 1/3 of the book focused of establishing the situation and characters at the ball, the story never slowed. There was a great mix of love, intrigue, mystery and suspense within the story through which the reader grew closer with the characters and the challenges that they faced and successes that they achieved. I really look forward to the next book in the series, which I am sure will cast light onto Permilia's continuing story, as her friend Gertrude is the center of the story.

If you enjoy a good love story with a little mystery mixed in, I would recommend checking out Behind the Scenes.
After spending the last six years banished to the wallflower section of the ballroom, Miss Permilia Griswold has finally figured out a way to pass the time at all the New York high-society events she attends. Under the pseudonym "Miss Quill," she is the author of society gossip columns filled with tidbits only an insider in society--albeit one on the fringes--would know.

When she overhears a threat against Mr. Asher Rutherford, the owner of one of the most up-and-coming department stores in the city, she's determined to warn him. But the irritatingly handsome man doesn't believe her, leaving her no choice but to take matters into her own hands. What she doesn't anticipate is that she'll end up putting herself at risk in the process--or that she and Mr. Rutherford, a man with secrets of his own, just might end up joining forces after all.


Jen Turano, author of eight books and two novellas, is a graduate of the University of Akron with a degree in clothing and textiles. She is a member of ACFW and lives in a suburb of Denver, Colorado. Visit her website at

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.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Getting Jesus Wrong by Matt Johnson

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.
When I got the invite to review Getting Jesus Wrong by Matt Johnson, I was intrigued. I am more of a fiction reader, but faith is an important part of my life and I was intrigued by the idea behind the book - that in our faith and our needs we have created this perception of Jesus as a Life Coach, a Checklist provider, a Movement Leader, or a Cultural Visionary. In the past, I have taken several courses in college and been part of groups as an adult that have leveraged one book or another to fuel a conversation that allows us to challenge what our interpretations of the teachings of the Church and the Bible are. So, I thought this might be a good book to continue those opportunities to challenge my thinking.
The book is set up with the first section sharing some examples that in retrospective the author felt were examples of the wrong approach to consideration of Jesus and the second section some thoughts for moving forward. There were a few that spoke to me...whether I agree or not, they were things that got me thinking.

"The advice-oriented teaching I received in churches was meant to be helpful. Nobody was knowingly trying to deceive me or the congregation." He shares about having an uneasy feeling after listening to a sermon on marriage. He shares that the Sunday church service doesn't feel like the right place for this, but rather that time should be focused on sharing Jesus and his forgiveness of sins, sharing Scripture and partaking in communion. "I can get sound marriage advice down the at the local bookstore...on Sunday, I need to hear the message I'm not going to hear anywhere else."

The author at one point talked about how to make the stories of the Bible relate-able to current times and situations. I think that is a challenge that many churches are trying to address and one that when they can draw parallels and convey the story in 'modern' times, goes a long way in helping the community hear the message and live the message.

There were examples he shared about the focus of many churches being about growing membership and raising dollars for the church. This was one that was interesting to me, because my husband and I have talked about how we have no problem with giving to the church, but that the constant inclusion in the sermon to remind us that we are obligated to give and the act of collecting during the service can be frustrating - I recognize that some people need it to be right there to remember or be willing to contribute - but it still makes it feel like the focus of the service is not on the Gospel but on 'making' money.

The book was okay, but not great. It certainly got me to think about things like what sermons that speak the most to me, what do I look to get from my church experience, and how can I help give relevancy today to the stories in the Bible. In general, I expected it to be more about how people as individuals or part of groups get Jesus wrong, but it felt like it was all about the different churches approaches (that are wrong) and how people are drawn to those approaches and thus get it wrong. It might be an interesting book to use as part of a book club or a good conversation starter for a Bible Study group.

About the book:

Jesus is not a life coach, a movement leader, a cultural visionary, or a blessing dispenser-but you might not know that by listening to many Christians talk about their faith.

Feel-good slogans promote a caricatured Jesus made in our own image who cannot save us and leave us feeling guilty for not saving ourselves. Following the wrong Jesus disappoints us and produces anxiety, pride, and despair.
The first half of

Getting Jesus Wrong recounts pastor and author Matt Johnson's personal encounters with a string of false saviors-false saviors that many, especially young adults, will recognize. Johnson's humor and transparency in recounting his own painful experiences will appeal to those who have tried a "brand" of Christianity and found it lacking.

The truth is, we all want something from Jesus. Some are just hoping for a little help to get through life-a new direction, a purpose that will get us up in the morning, an exercise plan, a way to get organized. But that approach to Jesus doesn't result in real faith or love.

Whether we've followed a false Jesus or attempted to coopt the real Jesus,
Getting Jesus Wrong ultimately offers us hope because it helps us see Jesus as he is.
Getting Jesus Wrong shows that the message of the Bible is about Jesus coming to us as we are-which is good news for exhausted and disillusioned disciples. It shows us that getting Jesus right means a whole new way of thinking (the way up is down) and a whole new way of life (daily dependence on the one who knows the beginning from the end). Getting Jesus right gives us more than spiritual vitamins or a blueprint for living; it gives us a full, rich life spent exploring the depths of gospel love together.
Learn more and purchase a copy.
About the author:
Matt Johnson is a husband, father to two little girls, and is an armchair student of theology living in Seattle. He is also a freelance writer and editor. Until recently, Matt spent 7 years as an associate volunteer pastor in counseling and recovery ministry.
Find out more about Matt at

Learn more and read more reviews on the Blog Tour Landing Page.

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.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Her Secret by Shelley Shepard Gray

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

The weather here has been amazing these past few days, which to me equals a great day to curl up with a good book (after I enjoyed the outdoors of course). There is something so nice about being able to have the doors and windows open and feel the gentle breeze while you get lost in a great story - in this case Her Secret by Shelley Shepard Gray.

Her Secret is the first in a new Amish series from Shelley Shepard Gray, focused on the Amish of Hart County in Kentucky. This book had a nice balance of suspense mixed in, which was a nice addition to this love story set in the Amish community.

The Amish youth have a period in their life when they are allowed to explore their world before committing to join the church, it is referred to as 'running around' or Rumspringa. This period normally begins around the age of 14 to 16 and ends when a youth chooses baptism within the Amish church. It is also commonly the time when they court and look for a spouse. In Her Secret, we find out that it was during her running around that Hannah dates a young Englischer named Trent. It made me wonder, with the conservative life that the Amish leave, are their youth more likely to misjudge the character of a young man than non-Amish youth. I would guess that when someone is being sweet on you, that regardless of your upbringing, there is a tendency to ignore signs that should probably be warnings. The two went on only a few dates and the stalking did not necessarily start right after they stopped seeing each other, but as we later learn (I can't tell you why - you have to read it to find out) there were likely other influences that caused Trent to become jealous and start stalking her.

The family moved away to escape the threat of this young man stalking their daughter (turns out that's not the only reason - but again, you will have to read to find out the other reason). They finally started to settle into their new community and begin to make friends, not realizing that the threat is not yet over.

This book was captivating, suspenseful and had me hooked from the beginning. The story was filled with characters that are easy to relate to and has the right balance of friends and family, love and suspense. It showed the importance of open communication to keep a family strong and of depending on those around you in times of need. I wanted to keep reading and was a little disappointed when it ended. For now, I will have to wait on future installments in the Amish of Hart County series to keep learning more about they Hilty and Troyer families and how their stories continue to unwind.

About the book:

A suspenseful tale of a young Amish woman who is forced to move to a new town to escape a threatening stalker

After a stalker went too far, Hannah Hilty and her family had no choice but to leave the bustling Amish community where she grew up. Now she's getting a fresh start in Hart County, Kentucky...if only she wasn't too scared to take it. Hannah has become afraid to trust anyone-even Isaac, the friendly Amish man who lives next door. She wonders if she'll ever return to the trusting, easy-going woman she once was.

For Isaac Troyer, the beautiful girl he teasingly called "The Recluse" confuses him like no other. When he learns of her past, he knows he's misjudged her. However, he also understands the importance of being grateful for God's gifts, and wonders if they will ever have anything in common. But as Hannah and Isaac slowly grow closer, they realize that there's always more to someone than meets the eye.

Just as Hannah is finally settling into her new life, and perhaps finding a new love, more secrets are revealed and tragedy strikes. Now Hannah must decide if she should run again or dare to fight for the future she has found in Hart County.

Learn more and purchase a copy.

About the author:

Shelley Shepard Gray is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town's bike trail.

Learn more about the book and see additional reviews on the Blog Tour Landing Page.

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.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Elusive Miss Ellison by Carolyn Miller

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.
With a sudden return of winter weather to our area, I found myself with some time to curl up and read. This time, the book of choice was The Elusive Miss Ellison by Carolyn Miller. This is the debut novel by Carolyn Miller and also the first in the Regency Brides A Legacy of Grace series. This piece of Regency Era fiction, set in 1813 was well written and has me looking forward to learning more about it's characters in the future books in the series.

I loved the character of Lavinia Ellison, or Livvie, as her friends know her. She is a well-educated young woman, who is a talented pianist and vocalist and one who is not afraid to speak her mind. She recognizes that she lives in a world with strict social divisions, but in spite of that she finds pleasure in helping the servants keep up with weeding the garden, tending to the needs of the poor in the village and to engage in conversation on all matters with the Earl, who has recently returned to the village of St. Hampton Heath. There is something about her lack of worry about the norms of society, her educated view on life and her almost quiet assertiveness that I was able to relate to. I love that unlike even her dearest of friends, because of her character and her up bringing, she was not focused on the latest fashions, the social scene and finding a husband...

"She could hide nothing. Like the fact she now enjoyed his company. Which was just as well, because he enjoyed hers. She was interesting, well-read, able to converse on all matters of life. How refreshing to speak to a young woman whose topics of conversation were not limited to the latest fashions or gossip about others. And her quiet absorption in his conversation had led him to open his heart as he never had before." (p 170)

...and it was as though that lack of focus and her intelligence were exactly what made her so attractive. Of course, there always has to be a foil to an easy boy meets girl story. In this case, it was of course the difference in their station - him an Earl and her merely the daughter of the reverend. I was not surprised at the change in environment when the Earl's mother arrived at his house and decided to invite over friends, whose daughters were a better match for the Earl in her mind. She definitely was not about to let her son fall for the daughter of the reverend and did her best to intervene.

I was at first a little bit disappointed to learn about the family secret that was revealed to Liviana as she dealt with disappointment in herself and the loneliness that ensued. It felt like too neat of a turn at first, but the author did a great job using it to help unwind the story without allowing it to become a truth that made all the rest neatly fall in place. The story wrapped in a great fashion, almost in spite of the turn of the family secret, leaving me wanting for more. I guess the good news is that the next book in this series is set to be available this summer and I can continue to learn more about this set of characters from the Regency Era.

If you enjoy period fiction, and more specifically Regency Era fiction, I would recommend this book to you.

About the book:

Handsome appearance counts for naught unless matched by good character and actions.

That's the firm opinion of not-so-meek minister's daughter Lavinia Ellison. So even though all the other villagers of St. Hampton Heath are swooning over the newly returned seventh Earl of Hawkesbury, she is not impressed. If a man won't take his responsibilities seriously and help those who are supposed to be able to depend on him, he deserves no respect from her. In Lavinia's pretty, gray eyes, Nicholas Stamford is just as arrogant and reckless as his brother-who stole the most important person in Livvie's world.

Nicholas is weighed down by his own guilt and responsibility, by the pain his careless brother caused, and by the legacy of war he's just left. This quick visit home to St. Hampton Heath will be just long enough to ease a small part of that burden. Asking him to bother with the lives of the villagers when there's already a bailiff on the job is simply too much to expect.
That is, until the hoydenish, intelligent, and very opinionated Miss Ellison challenges him to see past his pain and pride. With her angelic voice in his head, he may even be beginning to care. But his isn't the only heart that needs to change.
These two lonely hearts may each have something the other needs. But with society's opposition, ancestral obligations, and a shocking family secret, there may be too many obstacles in their way.

Fans of Georgette Heyer, Lori Wick, and Julie Klassen will enjoy the spirited exchanges between the bluestocking minister's daughter and the bruised war hero as they move past pride and presumption to a humbled appreciation of God's grace and the true strength of love.

Learn more and purchase a copy here.

About the author:

Carolyn Miller lives in New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. A longtime lover of Regency romance, Carolyn's novels have won a number of RWA and ACFW contests. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Australasian Christian Writers.

Learn more about the book and read additional reviews on the Blog Tour Landing Page.

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.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Home To Paradise by Barbara Cameron

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.
The past few weeks, I took a break from historical fiction and returned to Amish fiction. I had the chance to read Home To Paradise by Barbara Cameron. It was the first book that I have read by her and the last book in The Coming Home Series.

The book was an enjoyable story with nice characters. I liked the dual perspectives, the chance to really get to know what Rose Anna and John were experiencing as well as their thoughts around it. The characters were real people and had real struggles - Rose Anna with her expectations of a future with John and a need to find a way to win him back to her and the community and John with his struggles with his father and trying to find his place in the world. This story of coming home allowed us to watch the characters make decisions that were not always easy or simple. Compared to many other books that I have read, there was a lot more interaction with Englischers in this story, such as volunteering at a Woman's shelter, teaching classes at the local fabric store and working on an Englischer's farm.

It was a good book, but seemed to be a slower moving book which is probably an okay thing in the fast moving world in which we live. It would be interesting to learn more of the back stories, but the book functioned well as a stand alone story and nothing was lost by not reading the earlier books in the series.

Book info

Highly anticipated final book in The Coming Home Series from best-selling Amish author Barbara Cameron.

Rose Anna Zook has watched her two older sisters marry two Stoltzfus men and has always thought she and John, the third Stoltzfus brother, would marry, make a home together, and have children. But John has other ideas. He's enjoying his Rumschpringe in the Englisch world a little too much and isn't interested in returning to the Amish community-especially to marry.

Rose Anna is determined to bring her man back into the Amish fold. John is equally determined to live his life free and unencumbered. Who will win this battle of wills? Will love prevail?

Learn more and purchase a copy.

Barbara Cameron has a heart for writing about the spiritual values and simple joys of the Amish. She is the best-selling author of more than 40 fiction and nonfiction books, three nationally televised movies, and the winner of the first Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award. Her books have been nominated for Carol Awards and the Inspirational Reader's Choice Award from RWA's Faith, Hope, and Love chapter. Barbara resides in Jacksonville, Florida.

Learn more about the book and see additional reviews on the Blog Tour Landing Page.

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.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

An Uncommon Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.
The weather here in Ohio has been unseasonably warm which has been wonderful, but with the early dark fall of winter, I have still found ample opportunities to read. Most recently, I have been reading An Uncommon Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter.
About the book:
Lord Trent Hawthorne couldn't be happier he is not the duke in the family. Free to manage his small estate and take his time discovering the life he wants to lead, he has grand plans of someday wooing and falling in love with the woman of his choice. When he finds himself honor bound to marry a woman he barely knows, his dream of a loving marriage like his parents' seems lost forever.

Life for Lady Adelaide Bell was easier when she hid in her older sister's shadow--which worked until her sister got married. But even with her socially ambitious mother's focus entirely on her, the last thing she expected was a marriage of convenience before she's been introduced to society.

With nothing going as expected, can Trent and Adelaide's marriage of obligation survive their own missteps and the pressures of London society to grow into a true meeting of hearts and minds?

The story is filled with challenges, growth and romance. It starts with a marriage of two young people that barely know one another and although they don't follow traditional paths, with effort and focus and a little help from family and friends, the young couple is able to slowly build a relationship and begin the journey to love.

This piece of period fiction, Regency fiction to be exact, was a wonderful story with memorable characters. The author does a great job of developing the characters and helping you feel a connection to the endearing, unique characters within the story. I found myself easily relating to the shy, book-loving Adelaide whose fidgets left something on her out of sorts by the end of the evening and cheering Trent along as he warmed to the awry portions of his wife's appearance and found himself looking for ways to protect his wife from the interference of her mother and the less than scrupulous men that seemed to cross her path. The class system of the era was a huge influence on the story and there were some characters who were so focused on the societal standing that they were willing to hurt their own family members to assure their own status, yet still there were some characters were more focused on family and acceptance and worried little about their status.

I didn't know it when I selected the book, but it is the third book in her Hawthorne House series. The good news is it works well as a stand alone novel and although I am a fan of following the lives of those I meet in earlier books, I don't feel like I missed out on anything by starting with the third book...of course, I would like to go back and read the first two. I know that I know where those couples wind up based on this book, but I think it would still be enjoyable to go back and learn more about them.

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.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.
Growing up, I was a huge fan of Little House on the Prairie, despite the challenges that they likely faced as pioneers on the prairie, I still had romantic notions of the simplicity of the life and the focus on the importance of your family. I think sometimes, as you study history and read historical fiction, it has a tendency to leave you with a different impression than the likely reality, not that you don't recognize the differences and realize the challenges that they were facing, but it doesn't tend to really provide focus on the difficulties that they really faced. In The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green, I got a really different perspective on the early settlements in Louisiana.
The story starts in France, where Julianne is serving as a midwife with her teacher as her assistant, a delivery that alters Julianne's future. Finding herself imprisoned for murder, she barters her way out of prison and onto a ship headed to Louisiana, in hopes of connecting with her younger brother who went to Louisiana to serve as a soldier. Little does she know when making the deal, but before they leave France, all of the passengers on the ship are forced to chose a mate (a fellow convict) and marry, as they are headed to the colony to help populate it for France. There is no shortage of challenge and heartache along the way for Julianne. Even in escaping France, she is unable to escape the mark of the king that has been etched into her skin...the mark creating issues for her, but also the potential to finally find happiness in the rough environment of the colony.

Jocelyn Green does a great job in bringing the story to life. She paints the landscape and environment of the wilds of the Louisiana colony in a way that makes it very vivid in your mind. You really got to know the characters and felt that you were experiencing the challenges and heartaches along with them. Her description of the experience at sea and on land during the hurricane makes the reader feel like they are in the storm with the characters.

I highly recommend this book, as I thoroughly enjoyed it and was drawn in on each and every page. The night that I finished the book, I stayed up way later than I should have, because I simply could not put down the book without knowing the outcome and the fate of those characters that I had grown to love. Those 75 pages were read without the realization of just how the time was passing. This is the first book I have read by Jocelyn Green but based on the way that she captured me and pulled me into the story, I look forward to reading more of her historical fiction books. She has four others, also set in the early years of the United States.

About the book:

The Mark of the King (Bethany House, January 2017)

Sweeping historical fiction set at the edge of the continent

After being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720s French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict.

When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne's brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on?

With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king's mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption.

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About the author:

Jocelyn Green inspires faith and courage as the award-winning author of ten books to date, including Wedded to War, a Christy Award finalist in 2013; Widow of Gettysburg; Yankee in Atlanta; and The 5 Love Languages Military Edition, which she coauthored with bestselling author Dr. Gary Chapman. A former military wife herself, her passion for military families informs all of her writing as well as her numerous speaking opportunities. Jocelyn graduated from Taylor University with a BA in English and now lives with her husband and two children in Iowa.

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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.