Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tiffany Girl: A Book Review


When I heard that Deeanne Gist was putting together a launch team to promote her new book, Tiffany Girl, coming out May 5th, I jumped at the chance!

Displaying
Gist's books are always incredibly well researched; and it shows in her detailed writing that transports you back in time like no other historical fiction books can.  She has a way of drawing you in right from the beginning and creating in-depth characters you can't help but love, flaws and all.

 I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the Tiffany Girls, of Tiffany Co. fame, who helped Louis Comfort Tiffany complete the Tiffany Chapel for exhibition at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. These incredible women stepped up to the challenge after the glassworkers went on strike, and helped pave the way for working women.

Gist also addresses the obstacles these women faced, such as picketers, "bustle pinchers" on the streetcars, and the struggles of making a life for themselves apart from the home.  As in all her books, Gist is able to seamlessly incorporate historical information such as: the invention of basketball at the YMCA, and other forms of entertainment like the board game Old Maid and phenakistoscopes (say that 10 times fast!)

And of course no Gist book is complete without a hefty dose of romance!

Books go on sale May 5th and you can pre-order yours here!
For more information on Deeanne Gist and her other books, visit her website.

(For those of you that have read Gist's books in the past, she is now publishing for the general market. With that being said, I still found her book to have good values, with no explicit content, making it an enjoyable read for everyone!)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Book Review: "A Sparrow in Terezin" & A Giveaway!

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

About the Book:
Displaying Bound together across time, two women will discover a powerful connection through one survivor's story of hope in the darkest days of a war-torn world.

Present Day---With the grand opening of her new art gallery and a fairytale wedding just around the corner, Sera James feels she's stumbled into a charmed life---until a brutal legal battle against fiancé William Hanover threatens to destroy the perfectly planned future she's planned before it even begins. Now, after an eleventh-hour wedding ceremony and a callous arrest, William faces a decade in prison for a crime he never committed, and Sera must battle the scathing accusations that threaten her family and any hope for a future.

1942---Kája Makovsky narrowly escaped occupied Prague in 1939, and was forced to leave her half-Jewish family behind. Now a reporter for the Daily Telegraph in England, Kája discovers the terror has followed her across the Channel in the shadowy form of the London Blitz. When she learns Jews are being exterminated by the thousands on the continent, Kája has no choice but to return to her mother city, risking her life to smuggle her family to freedom and peace.

Connecting across a century through one little girl, a Holocaust survivor with a foot in each world, these two women will discover a kinship that springs even in the darkest of times. In this tale of hope and survival, Sera and Kája must cling to the faith that sustains and fight to protect all they hold dear---even if it means placing their own futures on the line.

My Review:

After reading Cambron's debut novel, The Butterfly and the Violin, I was looking forward to the chance to read the second book in the series and see how Cambron progressed as an author. Unfortunately I wasn't very impressed with this book.  The things I didn't like in the first book seemed even more pronounced in A Sparrow in Terezin.  But first let me start with what I did enjoy.

Once again I enjoyed reading about a new part of history that I was unfamiliar with. Such as the "model" concentration camps, and the use of crossword puzzles to pass messages during WW2.  I also liked how Cambron wove in real life events that happened during the war, and she showed that not all of the Germans were bad or believed in what the Nazis were doing.  She did a good job of continuing some of the story line from her first novel into this one.  I was pleased to learn more about Sophie's past and how she escaped from Vienna.

However, I felt as though Cambron did a lot of telling in this book and not much showing.  We're told that Liam is a ladies man and a bit of a playboy, but there is not much in the scenes to back this up.  Just the other secretaries warning Kaja to stay away from him.  We're also told that he is an Ace reporter but there are no scenes of him doing whatever it takes to get the scoop on the story.  I also felt like Liam and Kaja's relationship was very forced. There was little build up to it, no anticipation or sparks and then all of a sudden they're a couple, without any real reason other than that's how the story is supposed to go. To be honest I felt as though there was a better relationship between Dane, the German soldier, and Kaja.

Once again William and Sera's relationship fell extremely flat.  Other than the fact that they are "uncovering" the story of Kaja and Liam, their presence didn't add much at all to the story line.
Sera's character also seemed rather wishy-washy to me.  Without trying to give anything away, when faced with legal trouble Sera and William moved up their wedding because she wanted to be by his side as a wife, and go through this together. And then at the first sign of trouble she is ready to move out and live in her gallery, and he has pulled away and isn't letting her help him.  Again, when Will warns her about going to England to meet his father and try to get some answers, she does so anyways and then is ready to walk out on him when she learns the truth. What was she expecting to find? Also, I found it hard to believe that when faced with legal troubles, with all of their assets frozen, Sera is able to buy all new furniture and renovate her gallery...and jet off to England at the drop of a hat.  These sorts of inconsistencies really took away from the storyline for me.

I also felt as though the ending was rather abrupt.  It goes from Liam and Kaja hiding from the SS in a cellar after having escaped the deportation to Auschwitz, to them being at the Trials for War Criminals in Nuremberg. With no explanation of how they got safely out of the country or reunited with her father.
I was really looking forward to this novel being better than Cambron's first, and have to say I was disappointed to find that it fell short.

Bound together across time, two women will discover a powerful connection in Kristy Cambron's new book, A Sparrow in Terezin. Connecting across a century through one little girl, a Holocaust survivor with a foot in each world, two women will discover a kinship that springs even in the darkest of times. In this tale of hope and survival, Sera and Kája must cling to the faith that sustains and fight to protect all they hold dear—even if it means placing their own futures on the line.

Kristy is celebrating by giving away a basket filled with goodies inspired by her new book!

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One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A set of poppy notecards
  • A poppy pin
  • A copy of I Never Saw Another Butterfly
  • A copy of the Mrs. Miniver DVD
  • Literary tea bags
  • Tumbler
  • A copy of A Sparrow in Terezin
sparrow giveaway bastet 

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 28th. Winner will be announced April 29th on Kristy's blog.

sparrow terezin-enterbanner

{NOT ON FACEBOOK? ENTER HERE.}

Friday, March 6, 2015

Bless This House...


A couple years ago when we were still living in NOVA some friends of ours had a house blessing party where they invited everyone over to write bible verses and blessings on the subfloor before their new flooring got installed. I loved this idea and tucked it away for that "someday" when we had a house of our own.

Well, someday arrived and before we even bought the house and started ripping apart floors I told Jonathan that I wanted to have a house blessing party.  So on a cold Thursday night a couple weeks after we moved in we had some of our closest friends over to write verses on the floor as a reminder to us that this house is the Lord's.

We really want people to feel God's presence and peace in our home, and we could think of no better way than to literally cover our home with God's word. Deuteronomy 6:9 says to "write the Lord's commands on the door-frames of your houses and your gates"....so we wrote them on the floor :)








These are just a few of the verses that were written across our living room floor. I can't help but wonder what the carpet guys thought as they came in to install our new carpeting the next day. And what a surprise it will be to whoever owns this house after us if they ever replace the flooring, I pray these verses will bless them as well.

And just because I couldn't resist, here's another pic of our House of Dreams in the recent snowfall we had :)

Friday, February 6, 2015

52 Weeks of Dating My Husband...



Jonathan is my best friend and we do pretty much everything together.  Whether it's going grocery shopping, running errands at Target, or just hanging out at home, a majority of the time we're by each other's side.  While I love this about our relationship, I've realized that at the same time it can make it hard to have designated "dates" where we're really intentional with our time together.  So for the next year we've made a goal to have a specific date each week.

I made a list of 52 dates, and while some of these are specific to where we live and what we like to do I'm sure a majority of them can be tweaked to fit something in your area.  Most of these dates are fairly inexpensive, and I tried to pick activities that would allow room for good conversations together, not just give us something to do. 

1. Panera breakfast and used bookstore browsing
2. Virginia Tech baseball games
3. Window shopping and taking pictures in the photo booth at the mall
4. Drive around and look at Christmas lights
5. Hike McAffees knob and stop at The Homeplace for dinner afterwards
6. Baguettes and croissants from Our Daily Bread, picnic at the duck pond
7. Frisbee golf and sonic slushies
8. Drive-in movie theater
9. Smores in the firepit in the backyard...besides, whats sexier than watching your man start a fire ;)
10. Walk the Huckleberry trail from Christiansburg to Blacksburg, stop for Frosty Parrot at the end
11. Friday night concerts downtown in the summer
12. The Cellar pizza and walking around campus afterwards
13. Gillies for breakfast and roaming the farmer's market

14. Go camping
15. Enjoy dinner at the Palisades
16. A capella concerts at VT
17. Go out for dessert then browse Barnes and Noble
18.  Tube the New River (or kayak, or canoe!)
19. Star-gaze in the backyard and chart the constellations
20. Starbucks and yard-saling on a Saturday morning
21. Movie marathon with all your favorite junk food
22.Go to a Nationals baseball game, get a hot dog with all the fixings and cheer on your favorite team!

23. Lucie Monroe's tea/coffee date
24. Hike the Cascades and pack a picnic lunch
25. Go fishing at Pandapas pond
26. Build a fort, snuggle, and read to one another (some of our favorite read-aloud books are Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter)
27. Go for a drive and get lost, use a map instead of GPS
28. Explore Floyd
29. Blueberry picking at Three Birds Berry Farm
30. Dinner on the patio at Cabo Fish Taco
31. Learn something new together...how to play chess, racquetball, cook a gourmet meal
32. Attend Stepping Out in Blacksburg, sample all the goodies from different food vendors
33.Take a swing at the batting cages

34.Rent bikes and bike the Creeper Trail in Abingdon
35. Build something together
36. Take a weekend away, explore a new city
37. Get takeaway from Jimmy Johns or Chipotle and people watch on the drill field
38. Safari Park at Natural Bridge
39. Play on the swings at the park
Photo Courtesy of Nicki Ahrens Photography

40. Soccer games at VT (don't live near a college or university? Go cheer on your local high school!)
41. Bundle up and watch the Christmas parade downtown
42. Enjoy a progressive dinner at different restaurants, start with an appetizer at one then move on to dinner and dessert at another
43. Recreate your first date-for us that means dinner at the local Mexican restaurant, followed by playing on the swings at the park and snuggling up to watch the Italian Job :)
44. Go apple picking
45. Sign up to serve together whether its your local food pantry, a soup kitchen, or coaching a little league team!
46. Shop for and put together a Blessing Basket filled with groceries and other goodies, sneakily deliver it to a family in need without getting caught in the act
47. Go pumpkin picking and carve them together
48. Hit the golf course! I am not much of a golfer so I just drive the cart...win win for both of us :)
49. Not much for regular golf? Try mini golf!
50. pick out and shop for an angel tree child
51. Drive the Blue Ridge parkway when the leaves change colors
52. Sneak into Lane Stadium and touch the Hokie stone

Photo courtesy of Colling Photography
I hope this list helps give you a jump-start on some fun things to do with your love. What are your favorite dates? I'd love to hear them!





Thursday, February 5, 2015

Book Review: "The Dandelion Field" & a Kindle Giveaway!

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

Displaying   About the book:
This handsome firefighter makes a living coming to the rescue, but Gin doesn't need a man to fight her battles.

After Raine's dad walked out, Ginevieve Lightly never lived in one place too long, a rambling lifestyle that defined her daughter's youth. When their car dies in Banister Falls, Wisconsin, Gin promises Raine they can stay until she finishes her senior year of high school. Gin will do anything to make sure her daughter has a bright future . . . a future that's compromised when Raine reveals she's pregnant.

Dan Moretti has only ever called Banister Falls home. After losing his best friend in a tragic accident, Dan devoted himself to responding to fires, rescuing the helpless, and guiding Cody Bennett, his best friend's son, through life. With Cody being the epitome of the good kid, it was an easy job. Until he says four little words: "The baby is mine."

As Gin and Dan do the best they can to guide the two teenagers through their early entry into adulthood, they discover together that romance can bloom in the rockiest of situations. And God can turn the pieces of a broken past into a beautiful new beginning.

My Review:
I work for our local Pregnancy Resource Center, so everyday I see firsthand the effects of an unplanned pregnancy.  I was thrilled to review this book as it is a topic very close to my heart, and I was interested to see how Springer would address the fears, worries, judgements, and even the joy associated with an unplanned pregnancy.

Within the first few chapters I was hooked and wanting to read "just one more page" to see what would happen.  The characters were well defined and I enjoyed seeing how their relationships with one another, and the Lord, unfolded throughout the book.  I think Springer did a good job of showing both sides of how the church deals with an unplanned pregnancy, those who are judgmental and gossip about it, and those who recognize the beauty of life, however it was conceived.  I really appreciated how she showed that even "the good kid" can fall short and be in need of grace.

While she did touch on some of the social, and emotional struggles Raine and Cody faced after getting pregnant, I would have liked to see Springer delve into this a little more.  The book focused more on Gin and Dan's relationship (which was very well developed), and I found Raine and Cody's pregnancy/relationship to be more of a secondhand story.

Overall I thought this was a great read, and very relevant to our church and culture today. I would definitely recommend it! 
____________________________________________________________

Get ready for Valentine's Day with a new story of romance and falling in love in Kathryn Springer's The Dandelion FieldThe handsome firefighter makes a living “coming to the rescue,” but Gin is used to fighting her own battles. Can a woman who doesn't believe in happy endings take a chance on a new beginning? 

Celebrate a second chance at love and family with Kathryn by entering her Kindle Fire giveaway!

dandelionfield-400

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • The Dandelion Field
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on February 15th. Winner will be announced February 16th on the Litfuse blog.

dandelionfield-enterbanner 
{NOT ON FACEBOOK? ENTER HERE.}
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