Friday, September 23, 2016

Twilight at Blueberry Barrens by Colleen Coble ~ Book Tour & Review

Publisher Description:
“I need you to keep these girls safe . . .”

 Kate Mason has devoted herself to caring for her family’s blueberry barrens. But after her fields stop producing fruit, she’s forced to come up with alternative ways to make a living. Renting out the small cottage on her property seems an obvious choice, but it won’t be enough. When entrepreneur Drake Newham shows up looking not only for a place to rent but also for a nanny for his two nieces, it’s almost too good to be true. And maybe it is—because Drake brings with him dangerous questions about who might be out to kill his family. The more time Kate spends with Drake and the girls, the more difficult it becomes to hide her attraction to him. But a family crisis isn’t exactly the ideal time to pursue a romance.

 Meanwhile, Kate learns that her uncle—in prison for murder—has escaped. Add to that a stalker who won’t leave her alone, and Kate is looking over her shoulder at every turn. With threats swirling from multiple directions, she wonders if her blueberry fields will ever flourish again . . . or if this twilight is her last. Set on the beautiful coast of Maine, Twilight at Blueberry Barrens brings together suspense, romance, and the hope that one day new life will come again.

My Thoughts:
This is Book 3 in the Sunset Cove Novel series.  And Colleen Coble has produced another suspense filled page turner.  With favorite characters from the other two books plus a few new ones she takes us into the life of Kate Mason to explore what we let define who we are.   With Kate's troubled past and life threatening illness which she overcame, she is struggling to see herself as someone who is worth knowing and loving and tends to see herself through her past.  With a newly developing relationship with a twin sister she never knew she had until recently, she is finally starting to have a positive influence in her life.  I loved how her sister was her biggest cheerleader yet was able to be totally honest with her.

This story has some of everything making it complex and interesting;  tension and suspense, mystery, crime and romance.  Though it might be able to be read as a stand alone, it is so much better to have read the first two so that you know the backgrounds of the relationships of the characters.  Though references are made to things that happened in the other books they weren't detailed and might raise some questions for the new reader of just this book.   I must admit I found the stalker aspect of the story totally creepy but it added to the atmosphere of tension.   If you are at all sensitive to that kind of thing you might want to know it is in there.   It was a definite page turner and I had it read in a few days.  One small thing I found annoying about the book was that it had several instances of product placement which made the sentences they were in sound a bit  "unnatural" but that was easy enough to get past.  As usual, this author has an absolute wonderful ability to describe the area the story is placed and make you feel like you are right there.  It was nice to revisit the area of Folly Shoals and Maine in this story.  If you like the contemporary suspense romance genre you can't go wrong with this series.

Thanks to BookLook Bloggers and Thomas Nelson Publishing for providing this book free of charge for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions were my own and I'm not required to give a positive review.

Friday's Fave Five #398

It was a cold, dreary and wet first day to autumn this week.  Just perfect to cosy up with a hot cup of tea and find some good things to think about.  Join us in reflecting on the blessings from the past week and sharing 5 of them.

1.  Challenge completed.  My mom, who was a wonderful cook of Hungarian foods, used to make Silvas Gomboc (Plum Balls) for us every year when it was plum season.  It was a favorite meal of mine and still is.  Every year of my married life she has gifted us with a pan of these heavenly balls of goodness.  Except the last half dozen or so.  She just is unable to stand for that length of time that it takes to make these.  Like any great European dish it takes time to make these.   So they have always been intimidating to me.  The time it takes and that her recipe is from an old Hungarian recipe book where everything is measure in decagrams and other measurements we just don't used here made her translating  quite the process and it seemed so difficult.  Those two things and the fact that I just don't cook anything that requires the use of a rolling pin pretty much hooped me.  But thanks to the wonderful thing called the internet, I found a recipe which made it sound fairly doable.   So with a few tweeks to make it more like hers...voila!  My first ever attempt at one of my favorite dishes ever.  With a bit more practice using that bane of my existence, the rolling pin,  hopefully it will get just as good as hers.  I think I'll post the recipe sometime next week.

  Sorry, couldn't help myself...took a bite before it occurred to me to take a pic for the ol' blog.

2.  Family Reunion.  Last weekend Hubby's side of the family held a reunion.  We hadn't had one for about 9 years.  It was really nice to see everyone and catch up and meet some new relatives too. There were about 45 of us there and yet some were missing.  There was much catching up, lots of laughter, and lots and lots of eating.  Unfortunately, none of my pictures are great as the anit-shake somehow got turned off on my camera.  Bummer, but the memories are great.

3.  All kids home.  Along with the reunion, my two oldest were also in their respective friends wedding parties last weekend so the family was all home.  We didn't get to spend too much time together, snatches of a few minutes here and there, but just the fact that we were all home did this mama's heart good.

4.  Taking out the fall decorations.  I love the fall colors so am always happy to put out the fall decor.  I'm keeping it super simple this year but the bits of oranges, rusts, yellows, reds and browns just make me happy.

5.  Getting cosy with throws.  It has been cool enough over the last couple days that it required getting out the thicker, fluffier throws.  I love using them relaxing with a good book or watching tv.  

What were your favorite blessings this last week?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Room for Hope by Kim Vogel Sawyer ~ Book Review

Neva Shilling has the ideal life.  A wonderful husband who works hard and provides for his family, 2 children, a lovely home and a thriving business.  The only thing that is hard is that her husband is away for month long stretches at a time as he buys and sells for their mercantile, but he always comes home with something wonderful for them; new clothes, furniture, fancy appliances.  Yes, they have it pretty good for the standards of the time.  And today there is joy in the household because today is the day he comes home.  As they await his arrival, a wagon drives up with the news that Warren has died.  As Neva tries to digest this piece of news, there is more that brings her whole world crashing down around her as she realizes her whole marriage is built upon lies.  The sheriff is not just delivering the bad news of Warren's death,  but there are 3 children and household goods in the wagon.   Children and goods that apparently belonged to Warren and his wife and now are being delivered to "Aunt Neva" at Warren's last request.    As Neva deals with the realization that Warren was leading a double life, she fights feelings of devastation, betrayal, anger and guilt that is was her fault.  But she can't wallow in those feelings because she needs to care for her own children, and now must decide whether to take on Warren's other children or send them to an orphanage.

I really enjoyed how this story unfolded.  It had my attention from the first pages and held it until the end.  Neva is portrayed as a Christian woman who's world and faith are totally rocked.  She wasn't perfect but I loved how the author had her walk out her faith throughout the story.  There are many lessons to be learned from the portrayal of this character.  And there are many to be gained from the characters of the town and church people as they found out the circumstances of Warren's death and who the children really were.  A very honest exploration of hypocrisy.   The setting is early 1930's, I believe, or possible late 1920's.  Can't quite remember but the the prejudices of the day and heart attitudes are really brought to light in this story.   I really cheered for the main character as I tried to put myself into her shoes and receiving the kind of news she did.  To become bitter, angry and hard would have been totally viewed as acceptable.  I also really loved the exploration of determining what is the right thing, following up on that decision and living with the consequences of that decision.  Character development was excellent and there was growth in several of the characters by the end of the story.  A very good read from start to finish.

10/10 for me.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Friday's Fave Five #397

Welcome to Friday's Fave Five.  As you can see there is no fives here for me.  Yet.  My kids came home last night so rather than sit on the computer, I spent time with them.  So I'll post my list a little later this morning.  But don't let that stop you!  Go on and link up and have fun!


I'm baaaack!   Sorry for that but boy, oh boy, I need every minute I can get with my kids who live so far and who I don't get to see nearly as much as I would like.   I've got a solid couple of minutes here so I'll try to get up as many favourite blessings as possible.

1.  Hiking in the Crowsnest Pass.  The Pass is a beautiful area that takes one from Southern Alberta into British Columbia.  It is the at the location of the Frank Slide and behind the Interpretive center that we hiked up to the site of an old coal mining town from the early 1900's called Lille.   It was a gorgeous day, not too hot.  It was spent with some great company and good friends and we hiked somewhere new so it was an adventure.

My sad attempt at trying to get us all in the picture.  LOL.  I look like a floating head.  The wall you see behind us is part of the hotel that once used to stand here.

Standing in the ruins of the old coke ovens

2.  New recipe.  I'm always on the lookout for something new and mostly easy to try.   With our sausages last night I was feeling like a change up from our usual potatoes with sour cream and I remembered hearing of a recipe for warm potato salad.  I searched around and saw this one that  appealed to me.  Because I had no green beans I simply left them out.  It was delicious and everyone liked them.  They were good warm and leftover today cold out of the fridge.  It's a keeper.  

photo courtesy of Martha Stewart

3.  This beautiful word plaque that a dayhome family gave me for a departing thank you gift.  It's the most beautiful description of what us child care providers do that I've seen.  Gave me a few tears, for sure.  

4.  New playgrounds.  Last year the school 1 block behind me put in a brand new playground and this year the school in front of me put in a brand new playground quite a bit different than the other one.  It is a huge blessing to have these so close with a dayhome.  The kids love going to the playground and these new ones are quite doable with some help even  for my smallest of toddlers.  Fresh air and exercise does a body good!

5.  Ladies Bible Study Fall kickoff pot luck.  Even though the break over the summer  is nice from having to prepare a lesson and go to study, I really do start to miss it by the end of summer and can't wait to catch up with "my" ladies.  We like to do it with a casual potluck filled with good food, laughter, chatting and prayer.  It's gonna be a great year!

Whew, got it done!  It's a crazy weekend here at the Living to Tell household.  Kim and Mitch arrived yesterday to attend a wedding of her very good friend.  She's maid of honor so they will be super busy.  Today Jeremy arrives to be in the wedding party of his good friend.  It's a revolving door hotel here this weekend.  Plus it's a family reunion for my husband's side of the family on top of everything.  Yikes.  Hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Another Night, Another Day by Sarah Rayner ~ Book Review

Karen, Abby and Michael all find themselves as inpatients at Moreland's Place, a private clinic.  They all come from different backgrounds but they have one thing in common:  the debilitating depression that had taken over their lives and effected the way they and their loved ones lived.   None of them really wants to be there but they must all get over their personal resistance.  Going to their one on ones  and  participating in  group sessions with their therapist, Johnnie, is their ticket home.  But as they start to open themselves up to each other, and admit their secrets not just to the group but to themselves personally, a bond starts to form in their little band and a real sense of caring for one another starts to happen.  As each comes to the close of their stay and are allowed to go home, will they be able to take the coping skills they've learned in the clinic and make them work outside of their group in "real life"?  It isn't too far along that life throws them crisis' and they soon find out if they can make it on "the outside".

I will confess that this was a total cover buy.  I really thought the cover was pretty.  It wasn't until well into the book that I put two and two together and realized that this was like a part II to another book which I actually had on my "want to read list".  Coincidentally, that book also had teacups.  So I actually had a moment of being ticked that I had read a sequel before I read the first book.  That being said, not reading the first did not make this  book at all confusing or hard to understand.  It read like a stand alone.  The author did a great job of telling this story without having to have the knowledge of the first.

I also thought the author did a really good job of exploring mental health and issues of depression.  The characters were relatable as were they're situations.  I was really drawn into their stories and was cheering them on hoping they would all be ok in the end.  Karen is a widower who's husband died at a young age from a heart attack and still in the journey of grief for him now her father also passes away.  She always puts others first so her emotional health has been set on the back burner as she tries to also be there for her mom at this time.  Abby's seven year old son has autism and he can be emotionally and physically draining.  She feels that she has had to do it all when it concerns her son and has been resenting her husband's lack of involvement.  They haven't been connected emotionally in a long time and she's watching her marriage fall apart in front of her.   Michael has spent a life time building his flower shop business but it hasn't been good for the last few years and he has been juggling his debt owing money to different suppliers.  When he loses a major account, it is the last straw and he loses his business.  But he has a hard time admitting how bad it is to his wife and family and tries to should the load all by himself and instead has turned to drinking to forget about everything.  All this comes to a head in their lives and they find themselves at Moreland's Place.  

I finished this book with what I hope is a better understanding and more compassion for those with anxiety, depression and those suffering from mental health issues.  One small thing I had with the story was, for myself, because the book dealt with several story lines, I sometimes got lost with who was who amongst the secondary characters.

I rated it a 8.5/10

Something to Think About

That heart/ mind connection thing!

Friday, September 09, 2016

Friday's Fave Five #396

Well, it's definitely feeling fallish this fine Friday.  The air has that cooler feel to it even though the sun might be quite warm.  Perfect for sitting outside and reflecting on the blessings of the past week.  Please join us.

1.  Lunch with a friend and her mom.  Sunday we had a lovely lunch out with a couple of ladies we hadn't visited with in a long time.  So nice to finally reconnect with them and catch up with what was happening in their lives.  Sometimes life is so busy that some friendships seem to fall by the wayside so I was thankful for the open afternoon and that we took advantage of it with them for a lovely lunch and visit.

2.  Movie night to kick off our Ladies study for the fall.  All though not all of us could attend, we had a great time seeing Ben Hur.   I remember this movie from my childhood with Charlton Heston but haven't watched it in a long time.  I really liked this remake.  This movie is about so much more than a chariot race.  It is such a powerful story of family, loyalty, bitterness, hate, revenge and redemption.  The cinematography was really good and I love that they featured top actors from all over the world.  Though I must confess I glanced away in a few parts of the chariot scene which was incredibly intense and violent.  Thankful for a night out with the ladies and a great show.

3.  Birthday celebrations.  Love family birthdays and this time it was celebrating my brother in law.  Nothing fancy, just cake and coffee but still wonderful making someone feel special on their day.

4.  Quick customer service.  Anyone else hate when they are put on hold for what seems like forever when you call a company for help.  Well, that didn't happen this week when I had to call in.  I was put through within a few minutes even though it was a prime time of day and the rep was very friendly, helpful and efficient.  So appreciated that.

5.  Great deals.  I love a great deal, who doesn't?  And I caught a few at the Bay.  They had a huge seasonal clearance and I picked up 2 shirts that were 50% off on the clearance and then that day they were an additional 30% off of that!  Now that is worth going shopping for.

What were you thankful for this week?


Friday, September 02, 2016

Friday's Fave Five #395

Welcome to Friday's Fave Fives.  Taking a pause in our busyness to be grateful for the good things we find in our week, whether they be big or small, obvious or maybe disguised.  It is a discipline because there are times when we won't feel like having to hunt for blessings, but if we develop the practice in the good times it will come more automatic in the harder times.  Please join in with us.  If you are new, guidelines are linked in the sidebar.

1.  Mellow Days mixed in with the busy.  This week has been busy at work, lots happening but yesterday was a bit more laid back.  The weather has been beautiful so we spent some time at the playground in the morning and in the afternoon while the little ones napped the older ones had some pool time.  This meant I was able to have a coffee and do some reading while I watched them play.  It was fun and a bit less chaotic than the previous days this week so I soaked in every minute available.  

2.  Running Wild with Bear Grylls.    This show amuses me and has become a  weekly tv indulgence.  If you've never seen it or heard of Bear Grylls he's a crazy survival expert known for eating gross stuff to survive and in this show he takes various celebrities on a 2 day journey into the wild with him.  They are faced with some of their biggest fears, challenged physically and emotionally, and we learn a thing or two about them along the way.  The celebrity's reactions to some of the stuff he will require of them, especially what they have to eat,  is sometimes downright hilarious.  But the part I really like is when he sits and talks with them at their evening campfire.   Being out in the wild seems to really bring out the vulnerability  in them and Bear has a knack of drawing them out and they share some pretty personal stuff of their backgrounds and life events that have affected them deep down or  got them where they are.  It's an interesting show.  Most have a great attitude about the adventure and are fun to watch.  

3.   Corn, corn and more corn.  We live in an area that is pretty renowned, at least in Canada, for the delicious corn it produces.   Taber, Alberta gets the most sunshine in Canada and the hot days and cooler night produce some of the sweetest, juiciest corn anywhere.  They sell it in stands along the main roads all over my city and everyone has their favorite farmers that they buy from.  It's so sweet that really you don't need to drown it butter and salt, some people just eat it plain right out of the pot.   We've had it every night this week!  Peaches and cream and Super Sweet are our favorites but we'll eat all of them as they hit their rotation.  Yummy!

4.  Baby Shower.  Attending my great niece's baby shower.  I've always really liked showers.  There is something so happy about welcoming a precious little babe, a creation of God, into the world and blessing their parents.  It just makes my heart happy.  

5.  Browsing the book shops.  I took a little time last Saturday and headed off to a couple of 2nd hand book shops.  I had a box of books to take in to them and of course while there I browsed their shelves.  I stuck really hard to my resolution to not get any more books than the what the exchange for mine was worth and I stuck to it pretty good.  Pretty proud of myself for that as I left about 4 behind that I really wanted to get.  But I have such a huge pile at home to get through first, that I knew I had to be strong.   Though challenging, it was lots of fun just looking through all that they had and making the big decisions.  A nice, relaxing way to have some quiet "me" time.  And then what books the bookshops did not buy from me I took and put them in a "Little Library".    We've got quite a few of these around town and I love it.  Anyone can have one in front of their homes.  You can make and design your own or you can call the local organization and have them give  you one of theirs.  They'll even help you install it.   Then you can paint and decorate it however you like. Just google or pinterest images of free little libraries and there are some really sweet ones out there!  I didn't take any books for me this time, but I did find a sweet one for the dayhome kids. 

What were your favorite blessings from the week? 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Where the River Ends by Charles Martin ~ Book Review

Doss was raised in a trailer park by the river by his loving mom who encouraged his artistic side to help him cope with his life threatening asthma.  Now an adult, and his beloved mom passed away years ago, Doss is a struggling artist and fishing guide on the river.  When he meets Abby, the beautiful international model who just happens to be the daughter of a very influential & powerful senator, he is smitten but out of his league.  But Abby is not like her parents in that respect and does not care where Doss has come from, only who he is as a person.  In spite of their objections, she continues to see him and also uses her connections to help his art to sell.  Now married 10 years against the wishes of her parents and still totally in love, Abby faces the fight of her life with an aggressive life threatening illness.  With Doss by her side supporting her through all the treatments and experimental programs, Abby fights with everything she has.  But as all avenues start be closed, Abby makes a list of ten things she wants to do before the illness ends her life.  Involving the trip that Doss promised her at the beginning their marriage, they sneak away to make the 130 mile canoe trip down the St. Mary River.  But chasing them down is her very angry father who has all resources to find them at his fingertips and a hurricane barreling down the coastline.

This story is a heartbreaking look into the devastating and emotional journey on one couple's fight against cancer.  The story goes back and forth between Doss and Abby's present and their past giving the reader a backseat ride to the the story of their lives.  It is emotional and heartbreaking from beginning to end as the story of their deep love and supportive relationship unfolds, to the stress of Abby's powerful father never really accepting Doss even after 10 years, to the decisions that they are faced with as their cancer journey progresses.  It is also an exploration in how a person's life should end when they have a long term, terminal illness.

As usual I loved the story put out by this author.  This is not a new release by him being published in 2008, but I'm working my way through all his older novels.  He really knows how to build character and how to get the reader to connect with each of the vieiwpoints of the main characters.  His story and character building is bar none.   As per his other novels there are varied characters from all sorts of backgrounds, good and bad, and their stories really draw you in.   That being said, I did find this particular story to be a bit wordy in respect to his descriptions of the river.  I found it a bit over done and it actually distracted me from the journey that Doss and Abby were taking.  So even though it was a heartbreaking story I was disconnected more than his other books and finally found myself skimming the parts where I was getting bogged down in river descriptions and metaphors and analogies.  But I loved how the story was resolved between a couple of the characters and thought that was worth any frustrations described above.  This was also still worth the read for me simply for the fact that it took an issue I thought I had a pretty strong stance on and made me at least ponder on it from a different angle.

  I gave it a 9/10.