Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Songstone by Lena Goldfinch

Make sure you stop by Songstone's Main Tour Page @Seasons of Humility! There you'll find more information about the book, along with lots of other stops along this tour. There are several giveaways going on!

Songstone by Lena Goldfinch

Kita can meld song into stone. In a world with no written word, storytelling—the ability to meld (or magically impress) song into stone—is greatly honored. The village honors her master as their medicine man, but Kita knows he's secretly a sorcerer who practices black magic using drops of her blood. She fears he’ll use her beautiful gift for a killing spell, so she conceals it from him. Each day, his magic tightens around her neck like a rope. His spells blind the villagers, so they can’t see him for what he really is.

Not that anyone would want to help her. She was found in the forest as a baby and would have died if a village girl hadn't brought her home. But the villagers saw Kita's unusual coloring and decided she belonged to the mysterious tribe who lives in the forests of the volcano, a people feared for their mystical powers. So they fear her too. Now seventeen, she can barely admit her deepest longing: to know who she really is and where she belongs.

Then Pono, a young journeyman, arrives from the other side of the island. He's come to fulfill a pact between their villages: to escort a storyteller back to his village—a storyteller who'll be chosen at the great assembly. Finally, in Pono, Kita sees her one slim chance at freedom and she'll risk her life to take it.

A dark, twisty tale of sorcery, tummy-tingling romance, and adventure, inspired by the folklore of New Zealand's Māori people.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Thoughts:

A couple of months ago, I purchased Lena's book, The Language of Souls. I'd been hearing great things about her writing and I soon discovered why. The Language of Souls is a novella, so despite greatly enjoying it, I was wishing for a chance at seeing Lena's writing in a full length novel. I got my chance with Songstone, and I wasn't disappointed!

Kita is a strong leading lady! Despite having to learn her place, or else suffering cruel punishment from her master, Matiko, she holds onto to her stubborn ways. She's perfected her storytelling(lying) ways, and she enjoys using this "talent" on her master. I think it goes without saying that I'm not supportive of lying, but I snickered a few times as Kita made up things to convince Matiko of. I've somewhat recently finished reading Matilda, and it kind of reminded me of Matilda's ways of punishing her horrible parents. Kita stays strong despite her fear, though, and I enjoyed watching her grow throughout the story.

As the description says, this IS a dark story. There is dark magic involved. There is both "good" and evil magic involved. Just to give you an idea, some of the characters wear a necklace of lizard bones and shake them to enforce something they want, like control of someone. There's herbs and blood mixed together to create a spell. For those of you who don't mind dark magic, I'd definitely recommend giving Songstone a chance! It is a perfectly clean and beautiful story! I thought it was a wonderfully *unique* story. Lena's descriptions painted a gorgeous picture in my mind as I read.

I also enjoyed researching a bit about the Maori people, which this story is based on. Honestly, I'd never heard of them before this book, so my knowledge of the world was expanded a bit more. ;)

I've found Lena's writing to be a breath of fresh air, and I'm greatly looking forward to reading Aire, which is patiently waiting on my kindle.

*I was provided a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Purchase Links:
Barnes and Noble


Lena lives in a scenic small town in Massachusetts with her husband, two kids, and a very spoiled Black Lab. She writes fiction for young adults, mostly light fantasy with a healthy dose of "sigh-worthy" romance. You can visit her online at www.lenagoldfinch.blogspot.com.

Author’s Links:

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Songstone Giveaway:

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

May the K9 Spy by KC Frantzen (FREE E-BOOK!!!!!)

There are lots of special things going on with this tour, so check out the Blog Tour Headquarters to make sure you don't miss out on anything!!! Don't forget to stop by the other blogs participating, and find all those letters for the scavenger hunt! My letter is in bold. Do you see it? ;)

May on the Way: How I Become a K9 Spy

May is an adorable little Schnauzer that has beaten the odds and finds herself suddenly in a loving home. After being abused and neglected for so long, this lifestyle is taking a little getting used to. Her new siblings are a big adjustment, too! May soon discovers she's pretty special, though. Life starts changing rapidly for May as she learns how great life can be.

May on the Way is May's journey to becoming a K9 spy. She sees many new environments throughout the story and it was fun seeing it all through her perspective. The whole story is told from May's point of view, and the world looks quite different from a dog's thoughts!

With a sweet dog story and illustrations throughout, this is a delightful little treat for younger middle grade readers!

May Finds a Way: Peril in Paris

May Finds a Way picks up right where the 1st book left off, and May is in K9 training. When she suddenly gets dognapped, and finds herself in Paris, her world is expanded even more!

May Finds a Way is FREE until July 27th, so make sure you grab your copy!!!

*I was provided review copies in exchange for my honest opinion.

KC Frantzen learned to speak critter at a young age. She and her husband volunteer with a variety of projects, including the Joni & Friends Wounded Warrior Getaway. They enjoy traveling just about anywhere, which helps formulate ideas for May the K9 Spy. The family lives in the country hills of middle Tennessee with two Arabian horses and several rescue dogs, including the real May.

Learn more about KC and May at www.maythek9spy.com.

Blog Tour Schedule(some have giveaways!!)

· Monday, July 15th: Introduction to the tour at Seasons of Humility
· Tuesday, July 16th: Tuesday Tea with May and KC at Sherida Stewart
· Wednesday, July 17th: Spotlight at The Other World
· Thursday, July 18th: Spotlight at Diane Estrella
· Friday, July 19th: Spotlight at Writing Roseanna
· Saturday, July 20th: Review at The Things That Last
· Sunday, July 21st: Spotlight at The Curried Nut
· Monday, July 22nd: Review at Edgy Inspirational Romance
· Tuesday, July 23rd: Interview with May at Buckley’s Blog
· Wednesday, July 24th: Review at Best Reads (2010-2013)
· Thursday, July 25th: Review at Bluerose’s Heart(You're here!)
· Friday, July 26th: Conclusion of the tour at Seasons of Humility

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dragonwitch by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Dragonwitch (Tales of Goldstone Wood) by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

My Rating: 5/5 stars

My Thoughts:

It's a wonderful feeling to close a book's final page with a blissful sigh. The only thing better is when that blissful sigh also escapes as I crack *open* its pages. That feeling of nothing but pure excitement knowing that I'm *finally* getting my chance to step into the land of Goldstone Wood again just can't be beat. My anticipation for this lovely novel was proved worthy, and I enjoyed every minute of my too brief visit.

It was an amazing privilege to find myself once again in the land of Goldstone Wood, where there's always a new adventure to be found, and new secrets to be discovered; where time is of no matter. One minute we might be in present time, the next minute, we've stepped back in time hundreds of years. There's always unexpected twists and turns and exciting new adventures in the land of Goldstone Wood, with many paths leading to unknown lands. In this land, the "happily ever afters" aren't always as happy as we would expect; love and beauty isn't always beautiful.

Dragonwitch is the first novel in this series where a villain gets put front and center. It was interesting to see the pain the Dragonwitch endured before becoming the evil being that she chose. She's mentioned quite a bit in the previous novels, especially in Starflower, so I enjoyed learning more about her past life.

I was even more excited to read about my old favorites, though. Eanrin and Imraldera are the two that have stolen my heart the most from this series, and it's always with great sadness that I have to leave them yet again as I close the final pages. It's also with great joy that I know as I re-read these books, there's always going to be something new springing off the pages that I didn't notice through the previous read. This series, more so than any other fictional book on my shelves is worthy of being read over and over again!

We also get to meet new characters in Dragonwitch. The Chronicler is destined for great things, if only he could find his courage and believe outward appearances don't mean anything in the grand scheme of things. Leta struggles when to listen to her practical side and when to let her true self shine. Mouse shows up unexpectedly, looking like a street urchin, but all isn't what it seems. And then there's Alistair. He's suddenly shocked when the life he's had laid before him his whole life disappears from his sight. With many more characters, old and new, filling the pages, there's not a chance of finding a moment of boredom in this gorgeous tale.

It will be a sad day, indeed, if I ever learn there will be a "last" book in this series! While I'm typically not a fan of a long series, I don't want these adventures to end.

*I was provided a copy of this book for review. (Don't let that deter you! The last two books of this series were pre-ordered.)

**When I heard that I had to wait until Spring 2014 to read the next book Shadowhand, I was a little disappointed. It made my day to learn that there's going to be a Tales of Goldstone Wood novella this winter, titled The Goddess Tithe!!!! :D Needless to say, I'm excited!

Monday, July 22, 2013

I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference by Thom S. Rainer

I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference by Thom S. Rainer

My Thoughts:

I had been debating whether to read this one or not, but then I saw Carrie's review, and decided to go for it. I'm glad I did!

For such a short book(79 pages), it's a pretty powerful one. The main point of the book is to stress the importance of keeping a Christian attitude towards the church. As much as I hate to admit, I don't always have the best attitude. I think we can all say that! We're all selfish, imperfect beings. This was a book I needed to read, though.

"Each local church is made up of imperfect members and imperfect pastors. We will make mistakes. We will all sin. Yes, we are all hypocrites."

The main points covered(by use of chapter titles)in this book are:

I Will Be a Functioning Church Member
I Will Be a Unifying Church Member
I Will Not Let My Church Be about My Preferences and Desires
I Will Pray for My Church Leaders
I Will Lead My Family to Be Healthy Church Members
I Will Treasure Church Membership as a Gift

Each chapter ends with a pledge that you can commit to concerning what you've just read.

I think the overall summary of the book is to make sure we are serving our church and its members, and not expecting to be served. Instead of nitpicking and gossiping about every little thing that doesn't go our way, pray and encourage. Serve!

"We are not to love fellow church members just because they are lovable. We are to love the unlovable as well. We are not to pray for and encourage our pastors just when they are doing things we like. We are to pray for and encourage them when they do things we don't like. We are not to serve the church only when others are joining in. We are to serve the church even if we are alone doing so."

(Of course, I think it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: If your church or pastor is doing something that goes against God's Word, then still pray and encourage, but don't support at that point. The author emphasizes expecting *our* preferences is sinful.)

Overall, this is a *quick* read, and one that is highly needed. Therefore, I *highly* recommend you grab a copy!

*I was provided a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Bible Stories Painting Book 2

Bible Stories Painting Book 2

Candle Books (April 1, 2013)

My Thoughts:

In this painting book, there are 8 pages of coloring pictures, front and back, so 16 pictures total. There are also 4 pages of paint palettes(2 each of 2 different styles).

I took several pictures, since this is a hard book to bring to mind just from a description.

As you can see, the coloring pictures are in the center of the book, with 2 paint palettes on each side.

We don't do a whole lot of painting around my house. I'm more inclined to pull out the play dough, markers, crayons, or colored pencils. My boys need no extra help when it comes to making a mess, and I usually don't have the energy to clean up paint. (I do anticipate as my boys get a little older, and more self controlled with messes, we'll enjoy painting quite a bit more.) That said, I LOVED this book mostly due to the fact that it didn't create too big of a mess. I threw down some newspaper, gave each of the boys a coloring sheet, a paint palette, a paintbrush(not included: you'll need your own), and some water, and we were good to go. Clean up involved throwing stuff away for the most part. If we were using real paint, even those little watercolor containers, I would have been cleaning paint off clothes, and the walls, and the chairs, and the boys themselves. This is a SIMPLE way to add paint to your child's day!

The instructions say to let the page dry completely before closing, leading me to believe this is supposed to be re-usable paint and pages. If your children are young, like mine, I'd say to just anticipate letting each paint palette be a one time occasion. If your children are a little older and more controlled with painting, reusing the palettes might be more realistic.

Honestly, mine were more interested in playing with the water as opposed to painting a picture. Especially with Firefly(2), I think he thought he was painting the paint palette. He kept wanting more and more water to "paint" with. He added so much water to the palette, though, that when I tried to let it dry, it was so soaked that it started to look moldy. I just threw it away. *I want to make sure I'm clear that the mold was by no means the book's fault! Firefly really soaked his page down with water. I'm just reemphasizing the fact that this is better as a one time occasion per paint palette, in my opinion.

I'm just glad I can say we added a little painting to our day, though! :) When it comes to Bible activities, Candle has proved to be a top choice for our family. They have great ideas to combine Bible learning with entertainment AND at the same time making things as easy as possible on me. It's great, simple, fun, and educational!

*I was provided a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ever After: Life Lessons Learned in My Castle of Chaos by Vicki Courtney

B&H Publishing (June 1, 2013) 240 pages

Ever After: Life Lessons Learned in My Castle of Chaos by Vicki Courtney


Most every woman dreams about having a family and a building a home. We grow up on a steady diet of fairytales and chick flicks that drive our dreams . . . and leave us with a sugarcoated version of reality. We want it all: the prince, the kiss, the proposal, the ring, the castle, and eventually, the kids in smocked rompers playing cheerfully on the perfectly manicured lawn. Our hopes and dreams are pinned on the world’s version of happily-ever-after.

The problem is, the fairytales and chick flicks end where real life begins. We never see that follow-up scene where the prince and princess argue at 3 a.m. over who will get up with the colicky newborn. Or the princess reluctantly returns to work to help pay the bills and feels the stress of juggling work and family. And you certainly won’t see that part where the princess moves her last child into the dorm and realizes the bulk of her identity has been based on being a mother.

The truth is, marriage and motherhood are hard. Few of us are prepared to handle the balancing act of being a good wife and a good mother, without one or the other getting the short end of the stick. No matter how much we give or how hard we try, we never quite feel like it’s enough. And heaven help us, we always imagine every one else is doing a much better job.

In Ever After, best-selling author Vicki Courtney addresses the realities of marriage and motherhood, the difficulties and the blessings. It offers women a behind the scenes glimpse of what a fairytale really looks like on the average day for the average wife and mom. Poignant, funny, and even cathartic, Vicki shares mistakes made, lessons learned, and memories to keep. Most of all, she reflects the hope and promise that God meets us in the middle wherever we are in the journey.

My Rating: 5/5 stars

My Thoughts:

*I told all of you the first time I posted this that when I got a final copy(as opposed to the e-ARC I read first), I would re-post with quotes. That time has come. :) I've edited a bit and added in quotes, so if I didn't convince you to pick it up the first round, maybe this time will convince you.

"We all walk into marriage with a mental list of expectations. When those expectations go unmet, we feel let down. Whether your husband fails to fulfill a request on your honey-do list, forgets to pay the cable bill on time, doesn't spend enough time with the children, fails to read your mind that you could use a little help in the kitchen, or puts on an extra thirty pounds since your wedding day, it is only a matter of time before he lets you down in some form or fashion."

I love my fairy tales so much that just the title sucked me! I started reading it, and wouldn't have put it down if not for the demands of 3 little ones. I loved it so much that I've already bought one of Vicki's other books with plans to read it *very* soon!

I always feel the need to defend my fairy tales. Despite loving fairy tales and sweet romance stories, I don't leave them with unrealistic views of real life. Now, anyway. I KNOW that the day after that fairy tale "I Do", they probably argued over something stupid. I've been married 8 years and I have 3 little ones 4 and under. I know life is hard! My husband doesn't read fairy tales or romances. In fact, about the only thing he MIGHT read is something sports related. I *guarantee* you he gets just as annoyed at me as I sometimes get at him. It doesn't matter how "prepared" a couple walks into a marriage, there's still a rude awakening to be had.

That said, if you're a newlywed, this book is a magnificent wake-up call as to what marriage *will* be when the newness wears off. I might have been just a tad bit delusional when I first got married. Okay, so I admit I was highly delusional! I was given lots of great *realistic* views of marriage before I got married. I should have known better, but I was convinced my marriage would be almost perfect. Ha! I remember telling someone that when I found my "soul mate", he would never make me cry. Ha, again! Not possible, ladies!

In my first post, I recommended that single girls not read this book. I take that back! I actually *highly* recommend it, so you can get a realistic picture of married life to compare with the perfect men and lives that romance books and movies create in those that don't know better. ;) I was once that person, so don't take offense. I'd just recommend skipping the chapters on sex. But, each and every person has to decide for themselves how pure their mind can stay while reading, so it's for you to decide.

"Imagine the disappointment for women who, in the aftermath of their romance binge, encounter a husband who is laid out on the sofa, more mesmerized with the football game on the TV than their cute selves. Or a boyfriend who would rather focus on his fantasy football team than take them our for frozen yogurt and tell them how wonderful they are...again, for the third time this week."

Vicki has a casual, down-to-earth, *humorous* way of writing that I just fell in love with! I seriously LOVED her writing!

This is more of an inspirational memoir more than anything. It's amazing how far I've came with the world of memoirs. I remember at one point not too long ago that I couldn't even finish one of the things, I disliked them so bad. Now, give me a great humorous memoir written by someone as imperfect as me, and honest about it, and I can devour the thing!

One of my favorite parts is when she talks about her daughter revealing the night before that if she brings an example of mold, she would get extra credit. A trip to the fridge, and "Hello, extra credit!". There was even enough for her friends to get extra credit, too. I love it! It makes that bag of lettuce I found in my fridge a little easier to accept.

I took a great deal away from this book! So often, I read books that are awesome, but I forget it by the next day. I don't take away a great deal that I can easily put into practice. THIS book is different. It's filled with so much simple, PRACTICAL advice that it makes it so much easier to remember and attempt put into practice. For example, she discusses the difference between a dream house and a dream home. She talks about having to close a magazine when she starts daydreaming about changing things in her house that she's no longer content with after seeing beautiful new pictures. Now I *try* to do the same thing. When pinterest/magazines/book reviews starts making me not content with what I have, I try to step away. Honestly, finding contentment with my books are my biggest struggle!

"Do we put more time and energy into filling our home with things that will perish or memories that will last? Do we treat the Lord as a regular member of our household or an occasional visitor that is only welcome when invited? If walls could talk, would they tell stories of open Bibles and bedtime prayers or Bibles with dusty covers grabbed on the way out the door on an occasional Sunday morning? Would they talk about the laughter shared around the dinner table or meals eaten alone in front of a TV or computer? Would they say that the Lord's name was spoken often or uttered in vain? Would they share about raised voices and slammed doors or sinners who lose their temper, but are quick to apologize and ask for forgiveness."

This book has caused *change* around my home and for that I am grateful! It's small change and a work in progress, but change none the less! I'm *still* thinking about the things I've read in it. The great thing is that while the book is filled with Vicki's imperfections, which makes us all feel more normal, she also always keeps the focus on God. It's filled with practical advice on how to grow closer to the woman God intends us to be, be a better wife/mother, AND we get to laugh at Vicki's journey(which is also ours to an extent) to that goal.

A few more thoughts I enjoyed:

"We need to cut ourselves some slack when it comes to the pressure we feel to measure up to an impossible standard to do everything and do it perfectly."

"Don't think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. When we succumb to playing the pretender game and only allow others to see the cherry-picked Stepford moments(some even staged), we miss the opportunity to share life with others on a deeper, more meaningful level."

"Oh, we can gather enough highlights to put together a montage of happy moments and make our lives look like a fairy tale if we really want to fool our audience."

I think you can tell how much I enjoyed Ever After: Life Lessons Learned in My Castle of Chaos. Married ladies, I highly recommend it to you!

*Note to author: *Thank you* for including the picture of "Bubba"! I laughed so much, I had to show Jonathan, which gave him a good laugh, too. *I* now want a picture of "Bubba", so I can laugh every time I see it. :) (After receiving the final copy, I automatically flipped through hunting the picture!)

*I was provided a review copy through Shelton Interactive in exchange for my honest opinion.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Top Ten Songs That Make Me Think of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl WITH GIVEAWAY!!!!!

I'm thrilled to be a part of Dragonwitch's Release Day Tour! If you've been around my blog *at all*, you know how I adore the whole Tales of Goldstone Wood Series! Dragonwitch has proved to be no exception. These are exceptionally beautiful fairy tale/fantasy books, and I always enjoy my *too* brief stay in them.

For the tour today, Anne is posting the top ten songs that make her think of the Tales of Goldstone Wood series. I've greatly enjoyed listening to them. If you are as big of a fan of Eanrin as me, I think you'll find as much humor in #10 as I did! ;)

About Anne Elisabeth:

Anne Elisabeth Stengl is the author of the award-winning Tales of Goldstone Wood series, adventure fantasies told in the classic Fairy Tale style. She makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a passel of cats, and one long-suffering dog. When she's not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and studies piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University.

Top Ten Songs that Make Me Think of Goldstone Wood
By: Anne Elisabeth Stengl

1. “The Old Ways” by Loreena McKennitt (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SG6ZITbWpU)
This song makes me think of the dichotomy between the Near World and the Far. I listened to it a lot around the time I wrote Veiled Rose. It still gives me chills!

2. “Frozen” – Madonna (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbhByOf6dnY)
I don’t often “soundtrack” my novels, so I had to ask Rohan for some suggestions. He mentioned this song, and I said, “Um . . . Madonna?” Then he showed me the music video, and it really did make me think of Hri Sora in this most recent novel! And, if you watch the music video, you’ll even see one of the Black Dogs.

3. “Night on Bald Mountain” – Mussorgsky (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCEDfZgDPS8)
One of the major storylines for the Dragonwitch was inspired by this FANTASTIC piece of music! After all, didn’t the Dragonwitch fall from the sky and burn a mountain in the Near World so that is now known as Bald Mountain?

4. “Firebird Suite” – Stravinsky (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GU06m802pDc)
This fantastic piece by Stravinksy always makes me think of the storyline of Dragonwitch. It would almost work as a soundtrack for a mini-version of the entire story.

5. Beethoven’s 6th Symphony, “The Pastoral” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34dU9RSWf28)
Continuing on the subject of music used in Fantasia movies . . . This is one I listened to while writing Heartless. Again, I feel that is nearly a perfect soundtrack for the whole story, from the light-hearted beginning, to the dread and danger, to the triumphant conclusion. My favorite of Beethoven’s symphonies, and that’s saying something!

6. “The Never-Ending Road” – Loreena McKennit (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgcY-nSeGUo)
If there were ever a movie-version of Starflower, this song would be perfect for the end credits! So many of the themes for the story can be found in the lyrics, and the music is just gorgeous. Not quite Beethoven, but gorgeous! Loreena McKennitt is often a good fit for Goldstone Wood.

7. “Jupiter Theme” – Gustav Holst (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqfTt3KN7vc)
One of the major themes at the climax of Dragonwitch is that moment when the Near World, for the first time in hundreds of years, hears the Sphere Songs again. I was nearly to that scene in the book when one day, while I was driving back from the vet, of all things, this song came on the radio. I hadn’t heard it in years, and it thrilled me deeply! I believe I even cried. So this was what I heard in my head when I wrote that scene in Dragonwitch.

8. “The Ood Song of Captivity and Freedom” – from Doctor Who (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXEdzgMvzcA)
So, my husband and I don’t always agree on things. When I told him my pick for the Sphere Songs, he disagreed and said that he thinks they sound more like this piece from Doctor Who! He says the first part, “The Song of Captivity,” makes him think of the song the Hymlumé’s Children sing for their brothers who fell on the Night of Moonblood. Then the ending is what he hears for the climactic ending of Dragonwitch. I sneered at first . . . then I listened and thought, You know, that’s not bad! So I’m sharing it too. J

9. “Ten Years from Now” – Rev Theory (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tjmb_V0tV5g)
For a COMPLETELY different mood! I’m not usually a big fan of this style of music, but, a couple of years ago, while road-tripping with my big brother, he played this song . . . and it really made me think of Lionheart and his struggle in Moonblood, which was the novel I was writing at the time. I listened to it quite often while working on that book.

10. “Guilty, Beauty, Love” – Vic Mignogna, English Lyrics (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fufomBlJB3w)
Okay, we’ll end on a laugh! One of my Goldstone Wood Imps told me that this is the song that makes her think of Eanrin . . . and I listened to it and nearly died laughing! So Eanrin. It isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine him trying to sing something like this to Imraldera. Not sure how much she’d appreciate it . . . .

Wasn't that wonderful picks?! I'll have to make myself a soundtrack now! :D

There are LOTS of giveaways happening during this tour, PLUS sneak peeks and interviews. I highly recommend you check out all these other posts and join in the fun!

Tour Schedule
July 14 - Day 1
Rebecca's Book Blog - Interview
Jennette Mbewe - Sneak Peek
Bluerose's Heart - Top Tens List
The Wordsmith's Shelf - Sneak Peek
The Wonderings of One Person - Guest Post
Seasons of Humility - Interview
Worthy 2 Read - Guest Post
The Endless Road - Interview
Tea and Bree - Interview/Sneak Peek
JoJo's Corner - Interview

July 15 - Day 2
Letters to the Cosmos - Guest Post
The Writer of Dream Things - Character Interview
The Sassy Sister - Sneak Peek
Makai Queen - Interview
JoJo's Corner - Sneak Peek
Crafty Booksheeps - Interview
Young Adult Books - Sneak Peek
Darling Diaries - Interview
Blooming with Books - Interview/Sneak Peek

July 16 - Day 3
The Writer's Window - Character Interview
Penning Praises-Guest Post
Crimilia- Interview
Rachel Herriman - Guest Post
Rina's Reading – Top Tens List
JoJo's Corner - Guest Post
Living On Literary Lane - Interview
Onto Her Bookshelf - Interview
An Ink-Made Maiden - Interview
July 16 Evening
Blog Tour Finale and Prize Awarded back at the Tales of Goldstone Wood!

Anne Elisabeth has generously offered up the WHOLE Tales of Goldstone Wood Series during this tour. You want these books!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And, for a second giveaway, one of my readers will win a copy of Dragonwitch. It's a lovely book, so you want it, too! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Simply Delicious Amish Cooking by Sherry Gore

Simply Delicious Amish Cooking: Recipes and stories from the Amish of Sarasota, Florida (Pinecraft Collection, The) by Sherry Gore


Unbeknownst to many folks outside the Amish Mennonite population in America, Pinecraft, Florida - a village tucked away in the heart of Sarasota - is the vacation paradise of the Plain People. Unlike any other Plain community in the world, this village is a virtual melting pot of Amish and Mennonites from around the world, intermingled with people, like author Sherry Gore’s family, who live there year-round.

Gore has put together a cookbook that represents the people who make Pinecraft unique. With hundreds of easy-to-prepare recipes, 16 full-color photographs and black-and-white photographs throughout, this cookbook includes traditional favorites such as Sweet Potato Sweet Mash and Mrs. Byler’s Glazed Donuts, as well as Florida favorites including Fried Alligator Nuggets, Grilled Lime Fish Fillets, and Strawberry Mango Smoothies. Interspersed with the recipes are true-life stories about births, engagements, weddings, deaths, funerals, celebrations, wildlife encounters, and accidents told through years of Sherry’s Letters from Home column published in The Budget, the Amish newspaper. This delightful cookbook offers readers a faith-based, family-focused perspective of the simple way of life of the Plain People. It is truly a breath of fresh air from Sarasota, Florida!

My Rating: 5/5 stars

My Thoughts:

I just love this cookbook! Most of the cookbooks that come into my home end up being given away. I require *super simple* recipes! I don't overly enjoy cooking, but I do want to give my family a nutritious meal that didn't take me hours to cook, and then hours to clean up. I'd rather read! ;) I need recipes that don't require lots of ingredients that I'll probably only use for one recipe. I want ingredients that are in lots of recipes I like, so there's a better chance I won't end up throwing them out and wasting money.

I had been doing a pretty decent job of removing processed foods from our home(not completely!) before discovering little Bumblebee was on his way. Suffering from the sickness and exhaustion that comes with pregnancy, I allowed processed food to take over. I *strongly* desire to remove them from our home again. This cookbook has proved a perfect fit with me. If you're like me on the cooking issue, this is a perfect cookbook for you to try, too! It'd also make an awesome wedding gift, because there's lots of recipes for those basic, "need to know" kinds of foods, like breads, simple fried chicken, cakes, basic frosting, shortcake for strawberries, etc.

If you've read anything about the Amish at all, I'm sure you've heard of Whoopie Pies. Of course, there's a recipe for those, too, which I'm hoping to try soon. I've been curious about those for quite some time!

I like that this cookbook is spiral bound(the bound part is covered by the paper cover, though). It lays flat as I look through it, and that always pleases me! :)

The negative part is the lack of pictures. There are a few pages of pictures in the center of the book, but for the most part, recipes don't have pictures with them. I like the rest of the book so much, though, that I'm perfectly okay with that!

If you want simple recipes, with simple ingredients, give this one a try.

*I was provided a review copy through Booksneeze in exchange for my honest opinion.

Seasons of a Mother's Heart Bookclub: Spring

Amy @Hope is the Word is hosting a bookclub through the summer for Seasons of a Mother's Heart by Sally Clarkson. It's not too late to join in! This book is proving to be exactly what I need in my reading life right now!

Just a word of warning: This ended up being more of a journal kind of post more than anything, so it's kind of long. I do want to record my journey through this book, though.

I'm feeling pretty grateful that as I write, I'm sitting all alone in my room propped up in my recliner. The house is quiet! I'm guessing 2 out of 3 little ones are napping after their long morning/afternoon of exploring. Since Jonathan is home today, I traded alone time with him. I took the boys out to see some of their grandparents and great-grandparents, pick blueberries, and do some nature exploring. Frogs were caught and enjoyed. One was smothered, despite my warnings to be gentle. More blueberries were spilled and eaten than we managed to keep in the buckets. When I got home, I got to sneak up to my room and play some much needed catch-up while Jonathan put the little ones to sleep. This is such a rare treat that I'm truly feeling blessed.

I've learned that Sally has an amazing way of relaxing me as I read her words. She talks of beauty quite a bit, and I always leave her books with the desire to light a candle, or take a bubble bath. I honestly don't recall the last time I've taken a bubble bath! I'm guessing before children. She puts the desire in me to be a better mother to my children, and the desire to get into God's Word more. I feel guilty that I need motivation to read The Bible, but I do. The selfish part of me finds it entirely too easy to pick up a fictional book that I'm enjoying over The Bible. I always find myself more peaceful when I choose God Word, though.

"Keeping my well filled up with restful waters is not always an easy task. I am constantly drawing from it to minister to my children who are always with me, to keep my home-domain in order, to feed and cloth my family, and to be a helper to my husband. In the same way that Jesus often retreated from the needy crowds to spend time alone with God, I realize I need to get away from the needy crowd in my home to be with the Lord, and to draw from his restful waters."

"I know I have to make time to be with God-to read the Bible, to pray, to worship God in my spirit, to sing songs of praise. If I'm not taking in, I'll have nothing to give out, much less to sustain my spirit through the times when I most need to live by faith."

As a momma to 3 little ones, I'm finding it difficult to find that precious alone time. Being up through the night makes it difficult to get up early in the mornings. I tried it for a week. I can't even tell you how much I enjoyed those mornings when I didn't have a little one get up with me! It was wonderful, peaceful, and I felt like I got so much more accomplished. Life felt a little less hectic when I was able to mark a few things off my list before taking care of every need of 3 little boys. But, I was exhausted. When I find my head falling over as I nod off over and over(while I'm feeding Bumblebee), I know I need some sleep). Plus, more often than not, little feet followed right behind me as I tried to sneak downstairs alone.


"You need to determine when you can best be alone with God and organize your life to make sure it happens."

I'm thinking I'll have to make this "time trading" arrangement happen more often! :)

One of my favorite quotes so far has to be this one:

"Trying harder to be happy or content will not make you happy and content; trying harder to rest in God and depend upon His grace will. It is a spiritual issue, not a practical one. Contentedness will not come from being more organized, sleeping longer, being a better wife, having a better home, using better materials, having more time to yourself, or whatever it is you think might help. Contentedness is learned in the process if daily accepting life as God gives it to you, and adjusting your expectations to life's limitations."

I got to that part and read it over and over trying to mold it into my brain. It's not easy advice to take! I struggle constantly with thinking around the "if only" moments in life. I struggle with thinking that if moments aren't as perfect as my mind has fantasized about, they aren't worth doing. I struggle thinking that after I get "this" mess and "this" mess(and on and one) cleaned up, then I'll read that book to the boys or play that game or explore in our yard. I'm *learning* to just do it. It doesn't matter that there are clothes and dishes piled up. Just enjoy the little years and delight in their constant amazement at the simple things.

When I'm feeling ill and mad at the world, because my "to do" list never ends, my boys' giggling always brings a smile to my face. It's usually over a bug of some sort they've found! ;)

Of course, I also enjoyed this quote from Sally in balance to "playing":

"But what does it mean to 'celebrate life'? Does it mean that I can let my house be a wreck so I can enjoy my children, or that I never have negative thoughts and attitudes, or that I never discipline my children? Does it mean that I simply overlook the myriad difficulties that inevitably spoil the best days, or that I ignore the burdens I carry as a stay-at-home mom, or that I close my eyes to intractable sins that won't go away? Of course not!"

So far, there is much wisdom found in this book! I'm thrilled that I get to slowly meditate on it through the summer and mold it into my mind deeper. It has given me the opportunity to re-read parts that I wouldn't have otherwise done if we weren't focusing on a few chapters at a time. I think I might try this method with some of my other books, too!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Summer of Sundays by Lindsay Eland

A Summer of Sundays by Lindsay Eland

EgmontUSA (July 9, 2013) 336 pages

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

My Thoughts:

Summer Fowler is the third of six children. With two older sisters who don't exactly connect with their younger sister, and three younger brothers, she feels a little left out more often than not. When her family helps her dad fix up an old library over the summer, she decides it's time to stand out, so she's never forgotten again.

I'm a middle child myself, although I only have one older sister and a younger brother. I never really connected with either one of them growing up. They'd say the same! I *should* have connected with Summer more than I did, but unfortunately, I found her overly whiny. She was *looking* for reasons to claim she was left out. If a child can claim a parent doesn't care simply for calling him/her the wrong name occasionally, I guess I'm a bad mother! ;) Summer's family was great! It was clear they loved her, and they were a fun, caring set of parents. There was the one incident that seemed a little "out there", in my opinion. While stopped at a gas station, her family leaves without her. Two hours later, they come rolling back in the parking lot, not because they realized they'd forgotten Sunday, but because they drove an hour in the wrong direction, and one of the others had to use the restroom. Yeah, that's pretty horrible parenting! They were great parents otherwise. I wanted to tell Sunday to read Matilda, and then she might think otherwise about her parents.

Other than the times Sunday was whining about being left out, this is a cute story, though! There's lots of references made to books. The "mystery" in A Summer of Sundays is a big shout out to To Kill a Mockingbird/Harper Lee and The Secret Garden. Sunday reads a great deal and that definitely warmed me to her. Plus, the library is a big part of the book. Who doesn't love an old library in their books?!

It's not too long in the story before Sunday meets a new friend, Jude. He adds a little excitement to her summer. Or maybe she adds a little excitement to his summer! It takes some bribery to get him to spend the night at the cemetery! I thought he was a fun addition to the story. I couldn't help but picture Robert Capron(Diary of a Wimpy Kid) as Jude and Joey King(Ramona and Beezus) as Sunday.

It took me a little while to really like this story, but in the end, I think it's a great summer read for tweens!

*I was provided an e-ARC through Netgalley.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Hero's Guide to Saving His Kingdom by Christopher Healy

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy

Walden Pond Press (May 1, 2012) 448 pages

My Rating: 5/5 stars

My Thoughts:

"There's a lot you don't know about Prince Charming: Prince Charming has no idea how to use a sword; Prince Charming has no patience for dwarfs; Prince Charming has an irrational hatred of capes.
Some of you may not even realize that there's more than one Prince Charming. And that none of them are actually named Charming. No one is. Charming isn't a name; it's an adjective."

I could tell right away that I was going to like this book! With three little ones, I need a good laugh! Often! This book was just the medicine to provide laugh after laugh. It was wonderfully entertaining to see how different each of the princes and princesses actually were compared to their famous stories.

First up in the story were Prince Frederic and his Lady Ella. While Frederic has been trained to enjoy the life of a homebody, Ella craves a life of adventure. Then, Prince Gustav and his Lady Rapunzel come into the story. Prince Gustav has 16 older brothers. Despite his 6-foot-5 frame, he's by far the smallest of his family. This has given him somewhat of a "Napoleon complex". Prince Liam is actually the closest to a "true prince" in the story. He's portrayed as dashing and chivalrous. Princess Briar Rose is not what you would expect from a princess, though. She's spoiled, selfish, and cruel.

Finally, there's the quirky pair of Prince Duncan and Snow White. Duncan seems to have a "mystical good luck power" that makes unlikely things happen in a beneficial way. He also likes to randomly name animals as he sees them. (I *love* that this part is included on the cover of The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle.) Duncan was my favorite part of the story. While he comes off a bit naive, to say the least, he was a fun character!

The illustrations are the *perfect* addition to the story! For that reason, I highly recommend you get your hands on an actual copy of the book, as opposed to the kindle edition. I read this one on my kindle. Now I *love* my kindle, but I know my reading experience would have been even better if I could have flipped back and forth looking at the pictures as I read. My heart did a little happy dance as I pulled my copy of The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle from its envelope! (Thanks Walden Pond Press!) Plus, since the cover picture expands onto the back of the book on The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle, I assume it also does on the cover of A Hero's Guide. I keep wondering what I'm missing out on.

If you enjoy middle grade fiction *at all*, I highly recommend you pick up The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom. Way back in the day, I was a *huge* fan of Bronson Pinchot. Since finding out that he narrates the audio version of this book, I'm determined to *listen* to this story also.

This book is just great, humorous, fun!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming And Meet Monster by Ellen Blanc and Ann Cook

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car by Ian Fleming

Candlewick; Reprint edition (March 12, 2013) 160 pages

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Thoughts:

Shameful confession: I learned a few things while reading this book. First, I didn't know Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was a car. I always assumed it was more of an expression. Secondly, I didn't know that James Bond had books about him. (shaking my head in shame) Thirdly, I learned that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was the only children's book that Ian Fleming wrote, in addition to the James Bond books.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a magical car that uses her subtle abilities to help the Pott family not only go on adventures, but escape from dangerous criminals. She's pretty grateful they saved her from being demolished, after all. She can even fly! All of her abilities depend on the help of the quirky Pott family, so it's a good thing they are up for listening to Chitty's "advice" and looking for adventures.

This reprinted version has a generous amount of fun, black and white pictures throughout. I enjoyed the play with the pictures, also. For example on one two page spread where a cave is part of the story, the picture forms the shape of a cave over the top and sides of the pages.

This was an entertaining, clean read for both young readers and adults to enjoy! I'm glad I finally read it!

Meet Monster: Six Stories About the World's Friendliest Monster by Ellen Blance and Ann Cook

Two Lions (April 1, 2011) 111 pages (These were originally published in the 1970s, and this is a newer "collection" print)

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Thoughts:

I had never heard of these books about Monster before seeing this one. Honestly, this one came into our home somewhat by accident, thanks to Jonathan. I had already skipped over it, because that cover doesn't really scream "Read me". I'm thrilled Jonathan requested it, though! It has been a HUGE hit with Grasshopper.

Apparently, these books are considered Classics. If I'd read it all on my own, I don't think I would have saw how special it would be for Grasshopper. Thankfully, I did not "pre-read" before I read it to him. There's 6 books in this "Monster" treasury. Each of the stories are short. They are set up for the earliest of readers, so the sentences are simple and repetitive. Despite the book being a quick read, I still didn't expect to read all 6 stories at once. Grasshopper kept wanting me to read more and more until we were done. He's even pulled this book off the shelf often to talk more about Monster.

When we first starting reading, he wanted to know is there was a "momma monster". I told him we'd have to keep reading. A little later, a "pretty lady monster" shows up, and Grasshopper got excited. In that same story, there's some cleaning involved, so Grasshopper wanted to know if there was a vacuum. Once again, I told him we'd have to keep reading. Sure enough, a vacuum enters the story, and his excitement grew even more. I'm wondering if he'd already been looking through it without me knowing! ;) He has both a fascination and outrageous fear of vacuum cleaners, so this has become one of his favorites on our bookshelf.

I can't say that all children will enjoy it as much as Grasshopper does, but based on his reaction to reading it, I have to give it a highly recommended for preschool/*early* readers! I *don't* think older children will be thrilled with it.

*I was provided a review copy of both books in exchange for my honest opinion.