Monday, August 18, 2014

Happiness Is...(July & August edition)

Last month I wrote about the "happiness" game my friends and I used to play when we were younger. I so enjoyed writing that post, and got such a great response that I've decided to make it more of a regular thing here on the blog.  Plus it's a great way to keep track of the fun little things I'm enjoying at the moment, without having to write a whole blog post on each one. So without further ado, here are my happinesses from July and August so far...

 happiness is...revamping the blog with a simplified, fresh new look!

 happiness is ...tubing the James with Jonathan and my parents, soaking up the sun on a perfect summer day
 Double happiness is my mom fending off a water snake attack!

 happiness is...packages on your doorstep, holding the treasure of a new book and adventure fresh from the publisher!

 happiness open, fresh summer breeze, and the joy found in simple things such as succulents on the window sill
 happiness is...wild sweet peas picked on a rambling, 6 mile hike with my man on a summer afternoon

 happiness is...the beauty of summer veggies from a friend's garden, bright in a pot 

 happiness is... scoring this 1950s gem for $3 while yard-saling with my mama. 

Whats been making you happy lately?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Book Review: The Butterfly and the Violin. and a Kindle Fire Giveaway!!

 I received this book for free from Litfuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review of the book. All opinions are my own.

About the Book:
A mysterious painting breathes hope and beauty into the darkest corners of Auschwitz—and the loneliest hearts of Manhattan.
Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at the altar two years ago, and her heart is still fragile. Her desire for distraction reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a young girl—a painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes.
In her search for the painting, Sera crosses paths with William Hanover, the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul, who may be the key to uncovering the hidden masterpiece. Together, Sera and William slowly unravel the story behind the painting’s subject: Austrian violinist Adele Von Bron.
A darling of the Austrian aristocracy, talented violinist, and daughter to a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Adele risks everything when she begins smuggling Jews out of Vienna. In a heartbeat, her life of prosperity and privilege dissolves into a world of starvation and barbed wire.
As Sera untangles the secrets behind the painting, she finds beauty in the most unlikely of places: in the grim camps of Auschwitz and in the inner recesses of her own troubled heart.

My Review:
Kristy Cambron's debut novel, The Butterfly and the Violin, provides a fascinating glimpse into a side of the Holocaust and Auschwitz that is rarely seen, a place where beauty and hope survived despite the evil surrounding it.  It wasn't until this past year that I learned about the secret artwork created by prisoners in various concentration camps during the Holocaust, and I was thrilled to learn more about it through Cambron's novel.  I am amazed that in the midst of the evil and hopelessness of these camps people were still able to find the beauty in life, and the desire to capture it forever with whatever mediums they could find.

 Adele is just one of the faces of the Holocaust, captured on canvas by another prisoner at Auschwitz, and now the focus of William & Sera's search. I really enjoyed learning more about the Orchestra of Auschwitz, something I had never heard of until now.  Prisoners, such as Adele Von Bron, with musical talent were selected to play at parties for the Third Reich as well as throughout the day in the camps as the other prisoners "worked" or were sent to their deaths in the gas chambers.  I've said it before, but my favorite types of books are ones where I learn something new, and this one fit the ticket!

I was captivated by Adele's story and how her life changed from the privileged daughter of a Third Reich officer, to a prisoner at Auschwitz after being caught helping Jews escape, but to be honest I often skimmed through the modern day chapters about Sera and William in order to find out what was happening to Adele.  It's hard to successfully write a book that jumps between two different time periods, with multiple characters and I don't think Cambron has quite mastered it... yet.  Sera and William's relationship fell flat and seemed forced for the sake of the plot. I wished there had been more depth to their characters.  I would have much rather the story just focused on Adele and her cellist, Vladimir, as that part seemed to be where Cambron's writing really shined.
I did enjoy the twist at the end and discovering where the painting of Adele ended up.  Overall a good read, and one I'd recommend.  I'll be interested to see where she goes with the next book in the series, A Sparrow in Terezin.

 Welcome to the launch campaign for debut novelist Kristy Cambron's The Butterfly and the Violin. Romantic Times had this to say: "Alternating points of view skillfully blend contemporary and historical fiction in this debut novel that is almost impossible to put down. Well-researched yet heartbreaking. . . ."

Kristy is celebrating the release of the first book in her series, A Hidden Masterpiece, with a fun Kindle Fire giveaway and meeting her readers during an August 7th Facebook author chat party.


 One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 7th. Winner will be announced at The Butterfly and the Violin Author Chat Party. Kristy will be connecting with readers and answering questions, sharing some of the fascinating research behind the book, hosting a fun book chat, and giving away some GREAT prizes. She will also be giving an exclusive look at the next book in the series, A Sparrow in Terezin!

So grab your copy of The Butterfly and the Violin and join Kristy on the evening of August 7th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 7th!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Project: Build a Bookshelf

This post is a bit over due, but better late than never! Over Memorial Day weekend we were in Lynchburg for our friends' wedding, and the next day Dad and Jonathan built me this bookshelf for my birthday present! I have been wanting a nice, solid wood bookshelf for awhile now. All we had was one of those cheap particle board ones with 3 shelves that we had gotten for free somewhere.  Our books were double stacked on the shelves, and we still had 3 boxes we had never even unpacked because we didn't have room for them!  So needless to say it was about time we got a more functional bookshelf :) We used these plans from Ana-White,  Dad tweaked the measurements and after an early morning run to Lowes they got started!
I am beyond thrilled with the finished product, and the fact that my two favorite men built it for me makes it even better :)

I started out by placing my more decorative items where I wanted them and then filled in the rest with books
  My collection of vintage Louisa May Alcott books, and a print I made that reads " A room without books is like a body without a soul."

The framed picture on the top shelf is a postcard my sister sent me from the Elephant House Cafe in Edinburgh, Scotland where J.K. Rowling wrote most of the first few Harry Potter books...#booknerd :)
We used one coat of Minwax Early American Stain for the finish.
Have you built anything this summer??

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book Review: The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn
To escape from her stepfather's controlling grasp, and an arranged marriage with the wealthy Ambrose Kincaid, Tamsen Littlejohn flees into the mountainous wilderness of Western North Carolina with the rugged frontiersman, Jesse Bird, as her guide.  Pursued by her stepfather and Kincaid, who believe her to have been kidnapped, Tamsen and Jesse wade deeper into the wilderness as well as into the conflict brewing between the Overmountain settlers.  The State of Franklin has declared their independence from North Carolina, and tempers are hot on both sides.  Tamsen's faith and endurance are tested, but perhaps the biggest risk she'll face is falling in love.

Benton does it again! Much like her first novel, Lori Benton weaves together a beautiful story far from the beaten path of today's christian novels.  Her writing flows smoothly, and is filled with such vivid detail it's almost as if you can see the scene unfolding before your very eyes.  It is evident much research goes into these novels and Benton has a way of making history come alive.  I truly appreciate how immersed her books are in the time period and culture in which she is writing.  Set between western North Carolina and what is now known as Tennessee, Benton depicts an often unheard of view of colonial life involving the Overmountain settlers and Indians of this time.  I love when I read and learn about a part of history unknown to me before, to me that shows the mark of a successful author.
While 'The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn' started out a little slower than Benton's first novel I was soon hooked after a few chapters.  The characters had depth, the plotline was fresh and original, and there were several twists along the way that  made for an unforseen ending. 
Overall another success, and one I'll definitely recommend to others!
Want to know more? You can read the first chapter here

*I received a complimentary copy of this book to review from Blogging for Books. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

N.C. Style Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

It is no secret that I love NC style BBQ. Just reference this post and you'll understand why.  You just can't beat that sweet, vinegary taste of pork that's been slow roasted all night long, the crackled skin chopped up fine and mixed in with the lot of it....but I digress.
The only problem with loving N.C. style BBQ is that I live in Virginia. And unfortunately I don't have the means, nor my Uncle's signature sauce, to slow roast a whole pig whenever I get the hankerin' for some BBQ.
So this slow cooker pulled pork is as close as I can get!  Eat it plain or serve it up on a bun with a side of coleslaw.  However you like it just be sure to make a lot, it'll go fast!

N.C. Style Slow Cooker Pulled Pork:

5-6 lb pork roast
3C. apple cider vinegar
1C. BBQ sauce
approximately 3 tsp. red pepper flakes
2.5 Tbs brown sugar
pinch of salt

  • Place pork in crock pot. Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over roast.
  • Cook on low 5-6 hours
  • remove pork from crock pot and shred
  • return to crock pot and cook 1 more hr
  • Drain liquid and set aside as extra sauce before serving.
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