Monday, September 1, 2014

A Bride in Store Is A Treat In Store!

I finished reading A Bride In Store by Melissa Jagears last week. I fully intended to take it to the lake for a little Labor Day weekend reading but once I started I just kept going. I got involved with Eliza Cantrell, the heroine immediately. Many young women traveled west as a mail-order brides but Eliza was not seeking romance. She was a woman who possessed rare business acumen in a man's world. Her father ran a successful mercantile in Pennsylvania and she was behind the counter by the age of nine. When her father died he left the business to Eliza's brother who rejected her help in the store and settled cash on her instead.  

Looking for a new start and a chance to have her own store, she placed an ad offering herself as a mail-order bride. Axel Langston, part owner of the Men's Emporium in Salt Flatts Kansas answered the ad and following a period of correspondence she headed out west by train.  The train was robbed and as a reluctant victim the bandit injured her face and took all of her money.

Arriving in Salt Flatts, she meets Will Stanton, a would-be doctor who is enlisted to stitch up her injured cheek. She soon discovers he is part owner of the Men's Emporium. Her intended is nowhere to be found but she is determined and begins right away working in the store.  She and Will share a rocky start as she learns his business skills are weak and he is anxious for his partner to return. Axel never mentioned a bride, didn't let on when he would return and word is traveling that there is a new single woman in town.  
Will begins to see Eliza not as the plain woman she believes she is but as a striking woman who has soft skin and beautiful eyes. She begins to see what a gentle, caring man he is and begins to wish the absent Axel would get back to town so she can quit thinking about Will. 

Eliza dresses like a plain woman dressed in black yet she can sell things to men they didn't realize they needed. She wants to implement F.W. Woolworth's style of business on the store to fulfill her dream of owning a successful store. Marriage to the missing Axel Langston will provide the link to this dream. When Axel finally returns, she discovers a secret at the altar that changes her plans altogether. 

The story unfolds in 1881, a time when women were supposed to be home having babies and building a livelihood alongside their husbands.  I liked the determination of Eliza Cantrell to live her dream while making changes to her life that enabled her to become who she was meant to be. Beauty is in the eye of the holder and as she learns of her own true beauty, she blooms into a woman whose rarity goes beyond her natural affinity for business. I recommend this book to all who love reading a good story about pioneers in the west. With this glimpse into the past, I appreciate those who came before me.  A special thanks to Melissa Jagears for this complimentary copy of this book to review.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Deb Proof Living.....How to Get Out of Debt and Stay That Way

I received a copy of Debt-Proof Living: How to Get Out of Debt and Stay That Way by Mary Hunt from Revell Publishers to review this month. It is a very informative book that was updated this year from the 1999 version. It is hard to believe but our world has changed so much in these few short years. More people, more debt, more toys and so many things that are designed to be thrown away make increasing demands on our incomes. The average college graduate is so encumbered with debt by the time they hit the work force it is difficult to picture all those student loans paid off.

Making more money is not just the answer. It is finding strategies to manage what we already have.  This book is worth reading to find solid answers to this dilemma. Learning how to rapidly pay off your debts and how much to save are tools that everyone would benefit from when they start spending money. I recommend this book as a gift for the high school graduate. As we make changes in our spending  habits we do have to determine what strategies one can live with. The most important step is taking that first step in assessing how the money is spent and the necessity of those changes!

After reading the book I checked out Mary Hunt's Everyday Cheapskate blog! It has some great ideas: 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Miracle In A Dry Season in Review

I just finished my review copy of Miracle In A Dry Season by Sarah Loudin Thomas this afternoon. In the quiet of a hot summer day what better plan than to finish a book I could barely put down only a day ago.  I am at that point every reader is at when a good book is finished and there is not another to take its place.

PhotoThe story is set in 1954 in Wise, West Virginia. It is a small town with only one grocer, a place the town gathers for coffee and gossip. Robert and Delilah Thornton owners of the store have taken in their niece Perla Long, the young unwed mother of Sadie. The times are vastly different in 1954, a time when morals ran higher than one expects today when seemingly anything goes.  The town is suspicious of Perla who arouses curiosity as she cooks like a dream with a few simple ingredients.

Take Casewell Phillips, a youngish single man who accepts Delilah and Robert's invitation for Sunday dinner after meeting Perla at church. He isn't sure what to make of her situation but enjoys the finest pork roast he's ever eaten and isn't sure just how to thank her. He is taken with Sadie and  decides the thank you will be in the form of furniture for her doll.  He isn't looking for a relationship with Perla; after all, she is considered damaged goods and he couldn't think how any man could raise a daughter born out of wedlock.  Yet there is something about Perla that captivates Casewell and he can't get his mind off her gentle ways, her sweet Sadie and of course, her cooking!

The story weaves its way through these central characters to Casewell's harsh father John and his loving mother Emily. Pastor Longbourne, a stereotypical southern minister with a penchant for loud blustery sermons is a man without compassion or wisdom. The Talbot sisters, Liza and Angie, twins who both loved the same man have secrets that are waiting to come out into the open.

The town thrives with the same routine and stories until that dry summer that brought the drought. Wells dried up, crops failed and cattle were destroyed before they could die from lack of food and water. The drought brought out many things human nature tries to sweep under a rug. Tempers flared, people grew hungry and remembered the Great Depression of the 1930's. Perla, gifted cook that she was, fed the community with resources pooled together. Soon enough though, and with help fueled by an unlikely source, suspicions gave way to fear and mistrust and what unfolds can break the spirit if one is without faith.  

Without spoiling a wonderful story, the lessons learned are lessons from times long ago and yet ageless. The author has cast her characters in a way that could have walked off the streets in my own hometown in 1954 and shown their humanity, failings and grace. This story stirred my heart and I am looking forward to reading more books by Sarah Loudin Thomas.  Many thanks to Bethany House for the opportunity to read and review this book!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Cate Kincaid...Assistant Private Investigator!

Death Takes a Ride - Lorena McCourtneyDeath Takes a Ride is the first book I read by Lorena McCourtney and it won't be the last. I enjoyed meeting Cate and the cast of misfits in this fun mystery filled with quirks, love and the surprise finale. I changed my mind a few time on who the real killer was in the story and that is always a good thing for the mystery reader.

Cate Kincaid, heroine and Assistant P.I. does a good turn for Shirley, an employee at H&B Motors whom she never met before by volunteering to pick her up and drive her to the Fit and Fabulous class at her church.  As she meets Shirley and gets ready to leave H&B, Shirley's bosses call her into the office to witness a signature. What follows is the sound of a gunshot and then another, and the beginnings of a trail of suspects between Eugene and Salem Oregon. 

Mitch Berenski, Cate's boyfriend would be happy if she chose a new career but gives her help and support as needed...such as a night in a biker bar to meet a key witness for the crime. Fists, purses and lots of words later, Mitch has a stiff body and a black eye. Mitch is an all around great guy that Cate would love to keep in her life.   One of the co-owners of H&B, Kane, also a victim in the shooting has an over sized dog named Clancy, who goes to stay with Mitch.  Mitch didn't mind as long as it was for one night only....but you can guess how that ends up.

I enjoyed this book for a vacation treat and in the spirit of travel, ride along with this book and see how many different bikes you can find. A special thank you for the opportunity to read a review copy of the e-book from Revell.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Reviewing Love Comes Home

Love Comes Home is the second book by Ann Gabhart that I have read this year. I love how she takes you back to ways of life that are forgotten or unimaginable by our young people today. Love Comes Home is the third book in the Rosey Corner series. It is set after World War II when the world anxiously waits to welcome home their soldiers. The Merritt sisters are going to breathe again when two or their three men return to adjust to life after the war.

For Kate, who married just before her husband Jay went overseas it would be a test on whether she married in haste. For Evie, whose husband, Preacher Mike was a prisoner of war, life should go on as though the war didn't exist. Or did it? For Tori the return of her sisters' husbands is a reminder that her Sammy will not be returning. Can she give her daughter Samantha a good life and honor her husband's memory? Can she learn to let go and love again?

Lorena Birdsong, beloved youngest sister, left on the church steps until found by Kate has given much joy in the Merritt family. She is a favorite and wise beyond her fourteen years. Still, she longs to know what happened to her other family. I feel she is central to the family with all the bridges she built between the community, her family and intriguing characters that make small towns buzz with lazy Love Comes Homeexcitement.

I like the story for the rich character development and moments of surprise as the story grows. In the midst of it all we find God's love and faithfulness in the heart of Rosey Corner. We hear about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome today but it wasn't considered out loud in the 40's or 50's. Men didn't share their burdens of war and adjusting to the sights and sounds of home must have taken a lot of patience and love on the part of those welcoming loved ones home.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys studying people and the insight it brings. The story is not a mystery but I don't want to spoil a thing about Ann's tale of love, patience and faith. I am inspired to look at people more closely and see who they really are. Thank you Ann Gabhart for a delightful book.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Highlight of a Direct Sales Business~Conference!

I was beyond excited for my upcoming Thirty-One Conference in Denver Colorado last week! Five women from our team attended together and Denver was painted pink and coral and turquoise! There were more women than you can count and we all carried cute bags and beamed with excitement.

As our trip drew closer we planned our hair, our nails and our accessories so we'd look our coordinated best for three and one half days and one evening awards banquet!

 Color is hot this year. Forget about neutrals and go for broke with the bright hues that best suit your coloring. I love how bright things are in the summer and these looks work so well with our products. Thoughts like this flowed through my mind as I shopped to fill in the gaps to my wardrobe for the trip.  My bags were a big part of the plan so planning ahead made it easier.

For cool nights this look goes great with the Citrus Medallion Zip-Top Organizing Utility Tote. It holds all your essentials and keeps you organized with seven pockets that can make going from the mall to the grocers in style!

I love my Thirty-One business and all the opportunity and satisfaction I have in a job well done selling products I can really use!

As I reflect on my conference experience, I smile just thinking of the variety of styles and color! Many of us carried bags that were identical except  for the prints or personalization. It was fun to see how our bags looked on  other women!

In the end I learned a lot, met some wonderful people, ate well and explored Denver with gusto. I am so thankful for the experience and the camaraderie.  I also dressed comfortably and discarded lofty plans of perfect outfits and went for thirty-one t-shirts and comfortable Capris. I dressed up for the Awards dinner and felt great glamming it up for this big night. That extra room in my suitcase after leaving unnecessary clothes at home? Naturally I filled it with goodies I received and products I bought at the conference store! Now that was worth it!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Finally Available! The Revealing by Suzanne Woods Fisher

I have been reading Suzanne Woods Fisher for some time now and this conclusion to the Inn at Eagle Hill series is bittersweet for me. I'm hooked on the people of Stoney Ridge nestled between the covers of these books. The series has been full of mysteries, some more subtle than others but Suzanne has tied all loose ends up. I hope there will be more stories from Stoney Ridge because I want to hear more about these lovable characters.  Each of them have rich stories waiting to be told.

The is full of life with the wonderful Schrock family. Widowed Rose Schrock  has her hands full with three lively children of her own along with her late husband's two older children Bethany and Tobe. Adding to the mix of course, is Vera, Rose's mother-in-law. 

Life is interesting enough at Eagle Hill with this large extended family, but it gets even better with a surprise visitor with a surprise that will shake their peaceful Amish family!

Eagle Hill is also a Bed and Breakfast and the latest guest is running from her past and seeking to find herself in this sleepy hamlet. Romance may be just what she needs. Is she too eager to fall for the handsome man at the coffee shop who hangs on every word she shares about the inn?

New neighbors move into the neighborhood adding just enough spice with a mischievous young boy who gives Mim a run for her money with pranks that never seem to stop. His father, recently widowed, notices Rose's many fine qualities. Will he be competition for Galen, her fiance?

Love, intrigue and Amish values are wrapped up in this series and I hope you will pick up the series and start reading. Maybe it will slow things down for you as it has for me when I visit my friends across the pages!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Lorn Seilstad Stirs Up a Hit!

While Love Stirs, the latest from Lorna Seilstad cooks up some little known history about Fannie Farmer. Our story unfolds in Saint Paul, Minnesota with our heroine, Charlotte Gregory is about to apply for a position in the kitchen of the Million-Dollar Hotel. She is a recent graduate of Miss Farmer's School of Cookery and can't wait to meet the chef, who no doubt will hire her on the spot.  It is 1910, an era where  special decorum was observed by young ladies entering hotels unescorted! When she finally has the chance to enter the kitchen, she is shocked by the unsanitary conditions and even more appalled at the arrogance of the chef who will, under no circumstance, have a woman working in his kitchen!  After a ruckus, she is tossed out and runs into a handsome young man with bottle green eyes....

She is soon causing a stir when she visits her sister at the hospital....and as fate often has it, Charlotte encounters this young man again, as the doctor who delivered her niece.  Hannah is eating a thin broth that barely has any nutrition for a young woman convalescing childbirth. On a mission to ensure patients are fed nutritious meals, she butts heads with Dr. Joel Brooks, who won't budge on menu plans. He is a controlling personality who seems to be set in his ways for someone so young.

Determined to find a job using her education, she enters a contest using the latest kitchen innovation, the gas range. She lands a job traveling around Minnesota by train, demonstrating how this marvelous stove can revolution the lives of the average housewife. She has colorful experiences with her traveling companions; a young singer named Lewis and her chaperone Molly, including being schedule in the midst of a strike against the gas company!

Through it all, she continually runs into Dr. Brooks, a man who she begins to understand is much more than a controlling personality. Just as she begins to understand him, he begins to see that she is more than a woman who surrounds herself with trouble and chaos. 

I liked this book because it is a lesson in why we need to take people with more than just what we initially perceive. How often do we just see one side of a story? While Dr. Brooks seems aloof to better nutrition for patients, there is another side to his story that reveals his personality. We may see Charlotte as impatient for change, we learn what motivates her. Can these two stop long enough to see what the other person is truly about? Read While Love Stirs and find out. This second volume in the Gregory Sister's series leaves me ready to search for book one...When Love Calls....coming soon to my library.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Take a Chance on One More Last Chance! lot of people go to college with the express idea of getting out of town and looking for a new life that is more exciting than their home town. For Sarah Cooley coming home to Last Chance, New Mexico has always been her plan. Last Chance never changes and that is exactly why she wanted to come home and teach school like her grandmother before her.  Sarah left behind a broken relationship with her college sweetheart who wanted to live the high life with his upward climb to success.

Chris Reed bought the Dip 'n Dine, Last Chance's favorite, only restaurant. He has big plans to serve foods that will put the restaurant on the map as a dining destination. His cook and waitress balk at any changes to the Dip 'n Dine and so it appears do the townspeople who want things to stay the same.

Sarah, who missed everything about home, resents Chris for wanting to make any changes to the menu.  Her plan is to come to the Dip 'n Dine every day for a week so she can order each daily special.  Chris is stunned when he sees Sarah, struck by the old fashioned lightening bolt of attraction.

Everyone has baggage and for Sarah, Brandon and his big plans for their life together in Chicago. She doesn't want to leave Last Chance. Nor does she want to feel the control he wants to have on their life with every minute planned his way.

Chris has Kaitlyn, his younger sister that he cared for and protected most of his life. A single mother who looks for the fun and love she missed out on in life, she often leaves her daughter Olivia alone. She comes to Last Chance and leaves Olivia with Chris. Misguided, she heads out on a trip that promises everything she missed out on by being stuck as a single mom.

Learning about the true nature of those we encounter is often a surprise. Whether we are looking for the promise of a better life or the comfort of a familiar life with no upheaval there is a higher plan. Whether we see that and embrace it is important. Life is full of lessons and One More Last Chance is a good story that one can relate to as most of us have similar people in our own lives. Cathleen Armstrong has a gift for creating characters who are believable, endearing and frustrating! I am eager to read more of her books.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Second Hand Killer.....Fatal Exchange!

I am lucky that I received a copy of Fatal Exchange to review this month. I love suspense and mystery and this book kept me guessing. One minute I thought  I had it solved only to have yet another layer to the plot that surprised me.,204,203,200_.jpgRafael Cerda is a young man attending a private school on a scholarship after pulling himself out of the pit of poverty that comes often in single parent families. His father passed away from a drug overdose and his mother works in a laundry and Rafael delivers papers and does odd jobs to help out the family. He participates in a Big Brother Program that has had an impact on a life that could have gone south in a drug ridden neighborhood. His younger brother Eduardo has had the benefit of all this hard work but missed the hard working gene, preferring to be a dealer instead. Enter the cartel leaders he owes money to and you have a drug deal about to go as sour as it can get.

Mason Taylor, handsome undercover cop who volunteers at the Big Brother Program is part of the positive influence on Rafael Cerda's life. Mason is beset with his own issues to deal with, coming off the death of his partner Michael Hunt and the imminent death of his own long absent father. Blamed by Michael's family for his death, Mason has a lot to prove in clearing his name and setting things right with the Hunt family.

Emily Hunt is Rafael's teacher and youngest daughter of the Hunt family. She didn't join the family business as a cop, choosing instead to make an impact on students' lives. All seems to be right in her world when she is met by Mason with the news that he was looking for Rafael. Unable to connect the dots with him on this urgent need to connect with Rafael, he shows her pictures he received in a text from Rafael: Eduardo is shown beaten with threats to kill him if ransom isn't met!

A race begins to find Rafael so they can save Eduardo and prevent the loss of another member of the Cerda family to drugs. However, something happens to switch things up with Eduardo and Rafael. Rafael enters the classroom with a gun and hold the entire class hostage. Emily is left to try to keep her students calm, but how long can she keep it cool when one of the girls, an asthmatic, begins to have severe problems breathing. Will Rafael back down?  Emily is a courageous woman who fights for the safety of her students; the hostages and the hostage taker.

What follows could be spoilers to a well crafted plot so I am not going to share spoilers. I will say though, that this is a good read for anyone who likes a mystery! This is my first experience with Lisa Harris' writing and I plan to look for more. I like a book that challenges my crime solving abilities, albeit wishful thinking, to keep my mind going. This is the second book in her Southern Crimes Series, so I will be looking for Dangerous Passage to get the full series in before book three comes out in 2015.