Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Bridge... a book review

The Bridge

ISBN-13: 9781451647013
Available: October 2012

Book description:

Molly Allen lives alone in Portland, but her heart is back in Franklin, Tennessee, where five years ago she walked away from a man she cannot forget, a rare sort of love she hasn’t found since.

Ryan Kelly lives in Franklin and spends plenty of time at The Bridge—the oldest bookstore in historic downtown Franklin—remembering the long hours he and Kelly once spent there.

Now, Ryan and Molly’s favorite bookstore is in trouble. For thirty years, Charlie and Donna Barton have run The Bridge, providing the people of middle Tennessee with coffee, conversation, and shelves of good books—even through dismal book sales and the rise of eBooks. Then in May a flood tore through Franklin and destroyed nearly every book in the store. By Christmastime, the bank threatens to pull the lease on The Bridge and is about to take the Bartons’ house as well. Despondent, Charlie considers ending his life. And in the face of tragedy, miracles begin to unfold.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

How often do we consider how our actions affect those around us?  Do I see my profession as making a difference in other people's lives?  When asked what I do, my response is usually "I'm just a mom."  But where does my sphere of influence really reach?

In The Bridge from Karen Kingsbury, we meet Charlie - the bookseller.  Through his love of books, he and his wife sacrifice to make his dream a reality.  In the good times and the bad, he always has a word of wisdom or a book recommendation for a hurting customer. 

Again I ask, how do I see to the needs of others without thought to myself or my bottom line?  Karen Kingsbury has crafted another wonderful thought-provoking novel.  Her characters and storyline will stay with you long after you finish the last page.

I received a complimentaray Advanced Review Copy from Howard Books for my honest review.



Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Fiddler... a book review

The Fiddler

ISBN: 978-0-7642-0977-2
Available NOW
Fiction: Amish, Contemporary

From the back cover...

A wrong turn in a rainstorm leads Englisher Amelia Devries to Michael Hostetler - and the young Amishman's charming Old Order community of Hickory Hollow.  Despite their very different backgrounds, Amelia and Michael both feel hemmed in by the expectations of others and struggle with how to find room for their own hopes.  And what first seems to be a chance encounter might just change their lives forever.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

I enjoyed reading the first book of the Home to Hickory Hollow series The Fiddler.  This book has three things I truly enjoy.... classical violin, fiddlin', and Amish life.  Beverly Lewis has never failed to share the community and history of the Amish people in a loving and faithful light.  This book is no exception.

I was able to relate to Amelia and Michael.  When do you stop living the expectation of your parents, etc, and stand up for you own dreams?  Amelia is living two lives: one for her parents and the other for herself.  Michael is striving to honor his parents and the community, but feels there is more to his faith.  The Fiddler is a wonderful story of how each of them handle their conflicting emotions and future decisions.

The Bridesmaid, Beverly Lewis' second book in the Home to Hickory Hollow Series is set to be released September 11, 2012.  In this book, we will renew our friendships we made in The Fiddler.

The Bridesmaid

I received a complimentary copy of The Fiddler from Bethany House Publishers and their book review program for my honest review.



Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

Late June Garden 2012


Right when I thought I had a little wisdom about gardening, our area hits temperatures between 90 and 100 F AND no pop-up thunderstorms that we usually have in these conditions.  So, what does this mean to me? 

Stupid questions like...

How much and how often do I need to water?

Why do the stinkbugs like my squash plants?

Why is pruning so scary?

These past weeks I have been enjoying zucchini, bell peppers, a few plum tomatoes, cucumbers, and a couple spaghetti squash.  Unfortunately, the spaghetti squash plant kicked the bucket.

The squash plants look a bit stressed, but they are still producing!  I did replace the yellow squash a few weeks ago and look forward to eating the fruits of my labor.  I had been rooting a tomato branch, so I planted it in the container vacated by the spaghetti squash plant.

Over the past couple of days, I  have been pruning  yellowing branches from the tomato plants.  Depending on which article you read or who you ask, the yellowing means either too much watering or too little.  Can you say I'm confused!?!?

Apparently I'm doing something right because all of the plants are heavy laden with fruit!  The cucumber (far left) and all the tomato plants...

The pepper plants are taking off.  I'm still losing leaves, but the plants themselves are healthy and producing.

Since last check-in, the green beans and snow peas have broken through and seem to be doing well.  I was able to find some simple bamboo poles for them to climb.  Check it out...

I hope and pray your gardens are producing both wonderful vegetables and fruits, but also georgeous flower blossoms.  Until next time...

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

Happy Gardening!

This post is linked to:
    Tuesday Garden Party
    Bloomin' Tuesday
   Garden Life



Saturday, June 23, 2012

To Heaven and Back... a book review

To Heaven and Back: The True Story of a Doctor's Extraordinary Walk with God

ISBN: 978-0-307-73171-5
Book Description:

Dr. Mary Neal was a devoted wife and mother of four children, a talented and successful orthopedic surgeon, and an experienced outdoor enthusiast, when the unthinkable happened on a vacation in 1999. Mary and friends were kayaking on the Fuy River in Chile, when her kayak became trapped under a waterfall. Despite her and her companions efforts to dislodge the boat, Mary lost consciousness and drowned before they could pull her body to shore.

During the time she lost consciousness and died, Mary experienced a taste of heaven that few in this world have known. She was led by heavenly beings and saints who had gone before. She saw and felt beauty and peace like she had never known, and approached the entrance to eternity. However, it was not time for her to enter, and she was sent back to the world.

To Heaven and Back is the story of Dr. Neal's spiritual journey, including the extraordinary account of that fateful day in Chile. She also chronicles her physical recovery, and the many miraculous events that accompanied her return to health. Her remarkable story is an inspiration and comfort to those needing reassurance of the presence and love of our incomparable God.  (

For me personally, this book is another insight to the magnificence of God.  For Dr. Mary Neal, this death experience was a life-changing event.  Her descriptions regarding her life before and after this accident shows that God works in His timing and in His way to direct and redirect our paths.

I love the fact that she is able to connect the dots between life events and see the fingerprints of God.  Nothing is a surprise to God; He knows that even through the pain of life circumstances we are being molded into the perfect image of His son, Jesus.  She has challenged me to stop and look back over my life and see God's fingerprints in my own story.

At times I felt disconnected to the author / book because her academic-side sometimes overtakes the heart message she is sharing - God is active in the lives of His children. 

Click HERE to watch of video of Dr. Mary Neal's interview on Fox News.

I received a complimentary copy of To Heaven and Back from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for my honest review.



Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fearless... a book review

A MUST Read for Every American!

From the Hardcover edition

ISBN: 978-0-307-73069-5
WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group
Available: May 2012

When  you hear about NAVY SEALS, what is the first thing you think?


What picture do you see in your mind?

Highly trained soldiers / sailors
fighting under the cover of darkness OR
something else...

Have you ever thought about the type of men who feel called (or led) to voluntarily signing-up for the most physically challenging and dangerous career in our military?  Who are these courageous men who put their lives willingly on the line daily to protect the freedoms we enjoy in America?

Fearless by Eric Blehm is an open and honest biography on Adam Brown, a Navy Seal who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his beloved country.  In Adam's own hand, his desire to share his whole life story after his death was his final act of bringing glory to God - his life before Jesus Christ and his wife, Kelley.

Throughout high school, Adam was the one teenager who strove to help others.  His parents knew that if he promised something, it was as good as done.  When he went off to college, he lost his focus and close friendships and fell into the wrong crowd.  After dropping out of college and spiraling down to drugs and jail, he reached out to Jesus Christ and committed his life to Him.

He was truly a new creation, but had many demons to overcome.  Finally, he found himself being led to a life of the Navy Seal.

"Fearless is the story of a man of extremes, whose courage and determination was fueled by faith, family, and the love of a woman. It’s about a man who waged a war against his own worst impulses and persevered to reach the top tier of the US military. Always the first to volunteer for the most dangerous assignments, Adam’s final act of bravery led to the ultimate sacrifice."  ~  from Publisher's description

Read Chapter One

For more information on Adam Brown and this book, click HERE or at the publishers website.

I received a complimentary copy of Fearless from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for my honest review.



Sunday, June 17, 2012

Spicy Zucchini Stir Fry


I love zucchini.... but my teenagers are not quite so fond of it as I am.  I truly think something is wrong with them!  Since we always harvest an abundance of ZUCCHINI, I continue to try new spices and cooking styles.

If you enjoy a bit of heat, try this out with your next harvest.


2 medium zucchini
2 TBS olive oil
1 TBS butter or margarine
2 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp basil, dried
1 tsp oregano, dried
3/4 tsp red pepper flakes


1)  Julienne or thinly slice zucchini.

2)  Combine olive oil and butter in a fry pan over medium-high heat.

3)  Add zucchini and garlic and stir fry for 2 minutes.  Stir in the remaining ingredients and cook until al dente.

4)  Enjoy!

Note:  This heats well the next day, too!

Cook Family Recipes.  Chef Ellen

This recipe may be linked to these terrific food hops!



Friday, June 15, 2012

Reckless Heart... a book review


ISBN: 978-0-310-71984-7
Zondervan Publishing
YA fiction / Christian

Publisher description:

Lydia Bontrager's youngest sister is frighteningly ill, and as a good Amish daughter, it falls to Lydia to care for her siblings and keep the household running, in addition to working as a teacher's assistant and helping part time at her grandmother's bakery. Succumbing to stress, Lydia gives in to one wild night and returns home drunk.

The secret of that mistake leaves Lydia feeling even more restless and confused, especially when Joshua, the only boy she's ever loved, becomes increasingly distant. When a non-Amish boy moves in nearby, Lydia finds someone who understands her, but the community is convinced Lydia is becoming too reckless. With the pressures at home and her sister's worsening condition, a splintering relationship with Joshua, and her own growing questions over what is right, Lydia could lose everything that she's ever held close.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

I love reading about the Amish - their culture, community, and faith.  Reckless Heart did not disappoint!  Amy Clipston has penned a wonderful, heartfelt story inviting us, the readers, into the lives of Lydia and her family.

Although Reckless Heart is written toward the 'Young Adult' crowd, I had no problem relating to the emotional roller coaster Lydia (age 16) was on caring for her family in her mother's place.  And as a mother, I could only imagine the difficulties of raising and loving a chronically ill child as Lydia's mom did.  Amy so wonderfully crafted a novel showing the importance of family, following God's leading, and forgiveness into this book.  This novel has something for everyone... young and young-at-heart!

Click HERE to read Chapter 1!

I received a complimentary copy of Reckless Heart from Z Street Team and Zondervan Publishing for my honest review.



Wednesday, June 13, 2012

wordless wednesday




Shift... a book review

Shift by Kim Curran
ISBN: 9781908844040
Available: September 2012

Shift... the thought of changing realities to make-up for bad choices sounds very appealing. Undo your bad decisions and make a new reality where only good decisions live.

This is the premise of Shift by Kim Curran. She introduces us to Scott Tyler who learns at age 16 he is a shifter. Not knowing what it means or how it will impact his life, he voluntarily enrolls with the government agency to learn about his special gift. What he finds there is not only overwhelming, but also dangerous.

Can he handle his new-found power? Does he fall on the 'right' side of the fence? If you can only change your own personal reality, can he (or other shifters) be able to affect large scale problems?

* * * * * * * * * * *

I was excited to read a book with so much imagination as being able to 'shift' your realities. But, as I found out, laying the groundwork for such an idea proved difficult. The beginning of the book was choppy and hard to follow at times. The characters didn't fully become 'real' until mid-way through the novel. I never was fully involved in the plot or characters. 

Shift is geared towards ages 13-18.  Most likely, the more simplistic, sometimes choppy, writing style will not be a problem with them.

Kim Curran has a wonderful and creative mind. I'm sure her novels will come together better with each passing book.

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of Shift from Angry Robot Publisher and for my honest review.



Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Early Summer Garden 2012


The garden has been producing a lot of wonderful zucchini and yellow squash.  The cucumbers are beginning to come in along with the tomatoes and peppers.  I see some great eats in our near future!

Last week I planted 15 green bean and 15 snow pea plants.  Once they break through the soil, I will set up the poles for them to climb.

The tomato plants are HUGE!  I think I finally found the right amount of garden soil, compost, and manure.

The pepper plants are doing well with the exception of leaves falling off.
See below...

I just have one puzzling problem?
Why are the leaves falling off of the yellow pepper plants?

Cucumber blossoms!  Beautiful!
Our first cucumber of the season...

A flowering zucchini...

Sunday's harvest...

We are finally enjoying some yummy mountain strawberries.  Unfortunately, these are not from my plants.  Our local wildlife have been eating my strawberries right off my porch!

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

Happy Gardening!

This post is linked to Tuesday Garden Party and Bloomin' Tuesday.



Sunday, June 10, 2012

Broccoli and Bacon Salad


This is one of my family's favorite fresh salads for summer. 
It doesn't hurt that it contains BACON, either! 

Anytime my husband's office has a potluck/picnic, this is what he offers to bring. 
It is easy to set-up ahead of time and then combine it fresh for all to enjoy.


8 cups fresh broccoli florets (give or take!)
2 cups mayonnaise
4 TBS cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 lb. cooked, crisp bacon
1/2 cup red onion


1)  Cut broccoli florets.  Rinse and drain well.

2)  Cook bacon until crisp and place on paper towels.  Once cool, crumble the bacon.

3)  Combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, bacon, and onion well.  Add the broccoli and mix well. 

4)  Chill in the refrigerator for an hour to combine the flavors.

5)  Enjoy!


To prepare in advance: 

1)  Cut the broccoli florets and place in ziplock bag or container.  Cook and crumble the bacon and place in a separate container / bag.  Combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, and sugar and put in its own container.  Dice the onions and store in a separate bag.

2)  About an hour before serving, combine ALL ingredients well and return to refrigerator.

3)  Serve and enjoy!

As you can tell from my photo, I did not use a red onion.  For this batch, I used a Vidalia onion which I had on hand.  The salad was still terrific!

Play with your vegetables!  I have combined broccoli and cauliflower to make this.  Also, fresh peas and/or finely sliced carrots are a great addition!  Oh, don't forget snow peas!

This recipe may be linked to THESE terrific food blogs.

Cook Family Recipe Book, Chef Ellen



Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Venus: a transit across the sun

Image: Venus transits the sun

An extreme ultraviolet picture of the sun from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the planet Venus in transit, as well as dramatic swirls of solar activity.

Venus can be seen at top right, beginning to cross the face of the sun, in a picture of the transit taken from Manhattan's West Side.

This is an exciting event!  The next time Venus will pass in front of the sun will be in 2117.  I will be searching the web for more great pictures and video feed!



Skip Rock Shallows... a book review


ISBN: 978-1-4143-3914-6
Publisher: Tyndale Fiction
Available: June 11, 2012
Fiction / Christian / Historical

Publisher's Description

Lilly Gray Corbett has just graduated from medical school and decided to accept an internship in the coal camp of Skip Rock, Kentucky. Her beau, Paul, is doing his residency in Boston and can’t understand why Lilly would choose to work in a backwater town. But having grown up in the mountains, Lilly is drawn to the stubborn, superstitious people she encounters in Skip Rock—a town where people live hard and die harder and where women know their place. Lilly soon learns she has a lot to overcome, but after saving the life of a young miner, she begins to earn the residents’ trust.

As Lilly becomes torn between joining Paul in Boston and her love for the people of Skip Rock, she crosses paths with a handsome miner—one who seems oddly familiar. Her attraction for him grows, even as she wrestles with her feelings and wonders what he’s hiding.
*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
"I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever; yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God." 
~  Jonah 2.6
In 1908, women physicians were not as well received as men.  Add in a superstitious mining town with its first female physician, and you have a backdrop for many story lines.  Jan Watson has woven a beautiful novel of commitment, respect, and love with the harsh realities of a coal miner's life.  As much as we have read idealized accounts of a miner's life in the late 1800s and early 1900s, this book brings the real life drama of mining disasters and the cost to each family and town to life.
Click HERE to read Chapter 1!
I love a well-written historical fiction novel.  I know the author brings the characters to life, but the historical time in which they live is based on true events and time periods.  In Skip Rock Shallows, I learned more about the people who lived and breathed life into the coal mining industry.  They lived a hard life with many superstitions and fears. 
How would my life have been different if I had been born and raised in Skip Rock during this time?  Would I be helping to raise my siblings because my father died in the mine?  Would an education be only a dream for the very few fortunate ones?
This is Jan Watson's 6th novel.  I look forward to reading her other books as well!
I received a complimentary copy of Skip Rock Shallows from Tyndale House Publishers for my honest review.


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