Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Scent of Cherry Blossoms - a Multnomah review

The Scent of Cherry Blossoms, an Amish fiction novella written by Cindy Woodsmall, is a book that has been on my to-read list for a while. When I finally got to reading it, it didn't disappoint!

This story is written during the Spring, when the cherry blossoms are in bloom (hence the title). Annie Martin is a Plain Mennonite whose family has gone through tough times in recent years. With the separation of her parents' in past years, Annie has a hard time relating to her mother at times. As the result of an argument, Annie and her mother decide it would be best for Annie to spend a few months with her grandfather in Apple Ridge.

Aden Zook is a young Amish man whose family has had their share of heartaches, too. Aden's twin brother Roman and their father were both involved in a horrible accident, leaving Roman confined to a wheelchair. Aden has a stuttering problem, and he lacks the confidence to date.

When Annie comes back to Apple Ridge and helps in the Zook diner, Aden finds himself remembering his feelings for her. But one major thing stands in their way: Annie is Mennonite, and Aden is Amish.

The characters in this story are so endearing. The powerful story of the Zook brothers' past and Annie's own heartbreak will melt your heart. Their troubles seem impossible to overcome, and Cindy does a good job weaving the storyline into a way that the story finds resolution quite well.

Cindy has an excerpt of this story on her website if you would like to read it. Click {here} to go to that page.

I received The Scent of Cherry Blossoms as a complimentary gift in exchange for review from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers. My comments and opinions are my own.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Over the Edge - a Litfuse Review

Over the Edge, written by Mary Connealy, was one of those books that I enjoy reading simply because there's no nonsense--just pure, honest to goodness enjoyable reading. Edgy, climactic, entertaining and simply hilarious, this book is perfect for the die-hard historical romantic fiction readers like myself who like a little chuckle every now and then.

Hardy, raw, and sturdy, Callie Kincaid has gone west to find her straying husband. She held off a bunch of robbers on the way to Colorado--not her cup of tea while traveling with her infant son. The lone shooter after the driver and his shotgun rider were shot, Callie held off the robbers while she sent off others to get help. The help that she didn't expect to get was that of her own husband's--who now had forgotten her.

Seth Kincaid, having lost his memory after war-related trauma and a horrific childhood accident, found himself drawn to Callie's relentless spunk . . . and her wrath. Finding her with blood all over her face and nasty cuts everywhere, he managed to get her under a doctor's care before she succumbed to deadly blood loss. Boy, was he in a quandary when she woke up ready to make him hurt just as bad as she!

Filled with raw emotion, adventure, romance, and humor, Over the Edge is a book that will make you want to read more. It is the third book in a series called The Kincaid Brides. Try it out! I'm willing to bet you won't be disappointed. Now, excuse me while I go track down Books One and Two. ;)

Click {here} to read more reviews on this book!

About the Book:

Seth Kincaid survived a fire in a cave, but he's never been the same. He was always a reckless youth, but now he's gone over the edge. He ran off to the Civil War and came back crazier than ever.

After the war, nearly dead from his injuries, it appears Seth got married. Oh, he's got a lot of excuses, but his wife isn't happy to find out Seth doesn't remember her. Callie has searched, prayed, and worried. Now she's come to the Kincaid family's ranch in Colorado to find her lost husband.

Callie isn't a long-suffering woman. Once she knows her husband is alive, she wants to kill him. She's not even close to forgiving him for abandoning her.

Then more trouble shows up in the form of a secret Seth's pa kept for years. The Kincaid brothers might lose their ranch if they can't sort things out. It's enough to drive a man insane--but somehow it's all making Seth see things more clearly. And now that he knows what he wants, no one better stand in his way.

Meet Mary: 

Mary Connealy writes fun and lively "romantic comedy with cowboys" for the inspirational market. She is the author of the successful Lassoed in Texas, Montana Marriages, and Sophie's Daughters series, and her novel Calico Canyon was nominated for a Christy Award. She lives on a ranch in eastern Nebraska with her husband, Ivan, and has four grown daughters.

Visit her on her Web site

Celebrate with Mary by entering to win a Nook Color with GlowLight!

See what folks are saying about Over the Edge!

One winner will receive:
  • A Nook Color with GlowLight
  • The entire set of Mary Connealy's The Kincaid Brides series
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 28th. Winner will be announced at the "Over the Edge" Author Chat Facebook Party on 8/29. Meet Mary, get a sneak peek of her next book, try your hand at a trivia contest, and more. There will also be gift certificates, books and a Book Club Prize Pack to be won (10 copies for your book club or small group.)!

So grab your copy of Over the Edge and join Mary on the evening of the August 29th for a chance to connect with her and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Don't miss a moment of the RSVP today. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 29th!

I received Over the Edge as a complimentary gift in exchange for review from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to give a favorable review; my opinions are my own.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Stars Shine Bright - a Litfuse review

The Stars Shine Bright, the fifth novel in the Raleigh Harmon series, blew me away again! I've reviewed two of Sibella's other novels in this series, and I love Raleigh Harmon. If you're looking for a character with an engaging personality--spitfire, really!--this one is for you. The story is packed full of twists, turns, emotional elements, and an ending that will tug at your heartstrings.

This novel is a Christian suspense novel about an FBI agent named Raleigh Harmon. Hailing from Virginia, she's been called to work in Washington State at a racetrack. Assigned to a lovely horse-owner named Eleanor, Raleigh's task is to find out what is happening in the horse racing business. Horses get sick, die, are kidnapped, and it's Raleigh's job alone to remain undercover to solve the mystery.

But when her personal life gets in the way, it makes it hard for Raleigh to remain undercover. Concerned for her job, she tries hard to remain professional and keep her head on her shoulders. With her rich Virginian fiance visiting, she finds her task at keeping her job a secret is on the rocks.

Find out what the reviewers are saying here!

More about the book:

After the FBI suspends her for bending its rules, Special Agent Raleigh Harmon is looking for a chance to redeem her career and re-start her life.

Sent undercover to a thoroughbred horse track, Raleigh takes on a double life to find out who’s fixing the races. But when horses start dying and then her own life is threatened, Raleigh realizes something bigger—and more sinister—is ruining Emerald Meadows.

She’s never felt more alone.

Her one contact with the FBI is Special Agent Jack Stephanson, a guy who seems to jump from antagonistic to genuine friend depending on the time of day. And she can’t turn to her family for support. They’re off-limits while she’s undercover, and her mother isn’t speaking to her anyway, having been confined to a mental hospital following a psychotic breakdown. Adding insult to her isolation, Raleigh’s fiancĂ© wants them to begin their life together—now—precisely when she’s been ordered not to be herself.

With just days left before the season ends, Raleigh races to stop the killing and find out who’s behind the track’s trouble, all the while trying to determine if Jack is friend or foe, and whether marrying her fiancĂ© will make things better—or worse.

Raleigh is walking through the darkest night she’s faced, searching for a place where the stars shine bright.

Meet Sibella Giorello:

Sibella Giorello grew up in the mountains of Alaska admiring the beauty and nature that surrounded her. She majored in geology at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts hoping to learn more about the landscape she loved back home. From there Sibella followed a winding path, much like the motorcycle ride she took across the country, which led to her true love, journalism. 

She found herself in Seattle writing for rock-n-roll magazine and earned a journalism degree from the University of Washington before heading south to the land of great stories.

In Virginia, Sibella became a features writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. It was there she also met her husband and would hear Jesus whispering her name at a tent revival.

Sibella started writing about Raleigh Harmon as a way to keep her love of story-telling alive while staying at home with her young sons. As a journalist and author, her stories have won state and national awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. The Stones Cry Out, the first Raleigh Harmon novel, won a Christy award for debut novel in 2008. Sibella now lives in Washington state with her husband and sons.

Visit Sibella Giorello online at, Facebook or Twitter.
Win a Kindle Fire from SibellaGiorello in "The Stars Shine Bright" Giveaway! Novelist Sibella Giorello is celebrating the release of the latest book in her praiseworthy Raleigh Harmon series by giving away a Kindle Fire! 

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A brand new Kindle Fire
  • The entire 5-book Raleigh Harmon series.
Hurry, the giveaway ends on 8/25/12. The winner will be announced on 8/27/12 on Sibella's blog!

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

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

I received The Stars Shine Bright as a complimentary gift in exchange for review from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to give a favorable review; my opinions are my own.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Saturday Blog Spotlight

Each week, I'm going to highlight my favorite bloggers with an interview and a link to their blog so that you can check them out!

This week my Blog Spotlight is A Simply Enchanted Life! Read our question and answer with Kristin at A Simply Enchanted Life below.
A Simply Enchanted Life
Kristin is a busy mom of five children who loves to read and makes awesome soaps, jewelry, and more!

Jami: What made you decide on the name A Simply Enchanted Life?
Kristin: I thought long and hard about this name. I wanted something that fit my personality and love for whimsical things and that also credited my lovely family. I feel simply enchanted by my life as a mom!

Jami: What is the focus of your blog?
Kristin: Mostly reviews but I am a very random person at times so you may see a recipe or something about my shop from time to time.

Jami: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Kristin: Read and play computer games.

Jami: Your latest store stock that I see includes soaps and perfumes. What "flavors" do you sell? What is YOUR favorite flavor?
Kristin: I sell a variety of scents and flavors. I prefer essential oils to fragrance oils but I do indulge from time to time and offer something yummy, like 'Pink Sugar' which would have to be my favorite flavor! It reminds me of cotton candy which I have always loved!

Jami: Why did you decide to make soap?
Kristin: One of my daughters and my husband have eczema and my niece has psoriasis. Store bought soaps irritated their skin and often I found that even "handmade" wasn't natural and would cause an outbreak. I wanted to know for sure what was used on their skin to avoid the breakouts.

Jami: You've been dabbling with polymer clay. What's your favorite piece that you've created?
Kristin:  My favorite piece I unfortunately never took a picture of before I gave it away as a gift. I had sculpted a evenstar (I'm sure the LOTR fans will know what this is) and embedded a crystal into the center flower. It was a gift for a friend and I still regret that I never took a picture. My next favorite would have to be my newest sculpture of Galadriel.

Jami: You're a lover of books. Name 3 books that you've read recently that you'd recommend.
Kristin: 1. The Hobbit, I read the works of J.R.R. Tolkien yearly and The Hobbit would have to be my favorite.
2. The Redemption of Sarah Cain by Beverly Lewis
3. The Bible. (still in progress) I'm almost done with the Old Testament this year and it seems that for the first year I'm really grasping some of the harder to read books of the OT and really enjoying them. Most recently I've just finished up the story of Hosea and Gomer. Such a powerful message and a symbol that God loved me while I undeserving and had done nothing to earn His love.

Jami: What's your favorite book of all time?
Kristin: Fictional books I am going to have to go with The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings trilogy (yes I'm cheating and saying four books instead of one)

Jami:  Favorite author?
Kristin:  J.R.R Tolkien

Jami: What's coming up in the near future for A Simply Enchanted Life?
Kristin:  I have a lot of new plans in the work for A Simply Enchanted Life! I have a special surprise coming at the end of the year that I can't yet reveal and in the next couple of months I'm planning some One of a Kind polymer pieces that I'm very excited about. With crafting ADD you never really know what to expect from me!

Jami: Anything else you want to add?
Kristin:  Thank you for interviewing me and for the interesting questions that I really had to think about! And I hope you all have fun reading some of the suggestions I gave and have a simply enchanted time doing so.

Make sure you visit A Simply Enchanted Life blog and store!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Spaghetti Sauce

I love making homemade spaghetti sauce. For several years now, I've been trying to make more homemade foods to save money. Also, I know what's in my food (i.e. no chemical additives, etc.). I used to buy ready-made spaghetti (and pizza) sauces that come in a can or jar, and while they definitely are easier and more time-consuming to use, I like knowing that I'm making my own with what we have.

I like to make my spaghetti sauce in big batches so that it can be frozen and pulled out whenever I decide to make spaghetti. Here's what I do. (You can click on the images to see them in a larger size, by the way.)

My usual recipe:
2 lbs. turkey
2-28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
2-15 oz. cans tomato sauce (or 2 cans tomato paste & 2 cans water)
diced onion

The recipe you're seeing in pictures (altered due to fewer cans of sauce on hand):
2 lbs. turkey
1-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1-15 oz. can tomato sauce
diced onion

Prepare your ingredients. For me, I always  use oregano, rosemary, thyme, garlic seasoning (which includes salt and a little bit of chives), chopped garlic and basil (at this time, fresh basil from my herb garden). Also, I used a can of tomato sauce and a large can of crushed tomatoes because that was all I had on hand at the time. (So in this case, I made a concentrated spaghetti sauce with the plan to later add a can of spaghetti sauce to the frozen batch.) Two cans of each is what I normally use, but feel free to add more, if you like a very saucy recipe. Our tomatoes are not ready yet, so I'm having to use store-bought sauce and tomatoes for now. (Note: You can also use tomato paste in place of either the sauce or tomatoes--just make sure you add a can of water for each can of tomato paste or your sauce will be really thick.)

Put ground turkey (or lean beef, if you prefer) and diced onion (I use 1/4 an onion, because we're not big fans of onion) on to cook. Add some water so the turkey doesn't stick to the skillet. I usually use two pounds of turkey for a big batch. Two pounds makes for a very meaty sauce. If you prefer a more saucy recipe, you can simply add more sauce and tomatoes to the recipe.

While the turkey cooks,add your sauce, tomatoes, and spices into a pot. Put the stove on medium heat until it starts to gently boil, then adjust the heat down a little. If it's splattering, turn it down a bit more. As the sauce is cooking, taste it to see if you like the flavor. Add extra herbs/seasonings as needed.

Once your meat is fully cooked, drain any remaining fat then add the meat to the pot of sauce that you have simmering. Your results may not look like mine, especially if you prefer a more saucy and less meaty sauce.

Cook your sauce for an extra few minutes to lock some flavor into the meat.

Spoon your sauce into quart-sized Ziploc bags and lay flat inside the freezer.

Happy spaghetti eating!