October 20, 2013

Updates and Whatnot...

Hi everyone! *waves*

This is just a quick little update to let you know what's happening. But first of all, I feel I should point out that awesome picture you just looked at. A dear friend of mine gave that to me the other night at my goodbye party. ISN'T IT AMAZING?! Did you read it? Do you see all the little details?! I have made no secret around these parts of my love of North and South. I mean, you only have to read this post, or look at this Pinterest board and you'll figure out I'm kind of obsessive about it in fact. :D So this gift is incredible and I haven't been able to let this bag out of my sight since I got it. It will absolutely have a special place of honor in my new house! I'm pretty sure I can say this is probably my favoritest gift this year! (I won't say favorite gift ever because I have gotten some pretty awesome gifts in the past. But this year? This little bag trumps everything! ;)

And speaking of goodbye parties, yes, I had one the other night. It was wonderful! And sad. I got home and read all my cards and bawled myself to sleep that night. It's an amazing feeling to know so many people love me and will miss me. I'm going to miss them too! :(

Anyway. On to the actual update!

I am officially down to my very last week here. Only a few days left before I get in the truck and head out. Roadtrip here I come! :D Therefore, that means this week is going to be very, very busy for me and then I'll be driving for five or six days and then I'll be unpacking and settling in and yeah. Needless to say, the blogging thing will not happen. So this little place will be pretty quiet for at least two weeks. I'm hoping not much more than that, but we'll see. I'll still be active on twitter though (hopefully), and I will definitely be back to blogging eventually. I promise!

To anyone who is still following me, who is still reading my sporadic posts, who is still commenting even though you haven't received a comment back, THANK YOU. From the bottom of my heart I sincerely thank you. I have read all the comments and loved every single one. I am so grateful for your patience as my life has gotten crazy the last couple months. I hope very very very soon I will be back to commenting and visiting and blogging and all the wonderful fun around the blogosphere! :)

Don't give up on me yet! The light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer by the minute! Until then.....

October 16, 2013

Cover Reveal: Forget Me Not by Amber Stokes

So if you'll remember way back in August, I reviewed Bleeding Heart, a book written by a friend of mine. She is currently working on the prequel of that first book and I have the privilege of sharing the cover with you today! Amber is a wonderful writer and I, for one, cannot wait to get my hands on this story. :) I have every confidence that it will be fantastic. Without further ado....

Isn't it so pretty?! It's similar to Bleeding Heart, yet has it's own distinctive look at the same time. The two books would look lovely sitting side by side on a bookshelf! :) I love the dress, it's graceful and feminine. The background's so rough-looking, it makes the heroine stand out. And the fact that she's looking down with an unsure look on her face makes me so very curious what her story is. She has to be pretty strong though, to be wearing such a pretty (wedding?) dress out in that desert! The combination of the dainty dress set against a backdrop of desert certainly makes a striking display, so much so that I'd pick this one off the shelf for that very reason. What do you think?

About the Book

Prequel to Bleeding Heart

Old hurts, new betrayals, and a love that survives them all...

Summer 1885

A startling revelation sends Elizabeth Lawson escaping into a stormy night - and tosses her into the arms of a young mountain man with secrets of his own. When he offers to take her to the Nevada mining town where her long-lost brother lives, she accepts. Suspicions and uncertainties are pushed aside as she struggles to forge a future for herself by meeting her past.

David has been hiding from his painful memories for years. The solitude and wildness of the Rocky Mountains are challenge and comfort enough for him - until Elizabeth's arrival. Fueled by anger and a sense of obligation, he strives to take control of his new situation...only to find control slipping from his grasp with each new emotion Elizabeth evokes in him.

When their journey leads them on unexpected paths, can two lonely hearts find the strength to remember the good amid the heartbreak?

You can find all the latest news about Forget Me Not, along with book extras, at the Forget Me Not blog.

About the Author

Amber Stokes has a Bachelor of Science degree in English and a passion for the written word - from blogging to writing poetry, short stories, and novels. After her brief time at college in Oregon, she is now back home among the redwoods of Northern California, living life one day at a time and pursuing her passion via freelance editing and self-publishing. You can connect with Amber on her blog, Seasons of Humility.


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October 14, 2013

Chasing The Sweetness

quote from The Bee Tree

I was over at my cousin's house the other day, reading a library book to his children. I found this quote and loved it! So of course I had to take a photo of it. And then share it with you. There is such wonderful sweetness found in stories! :)

October 12, 2013

Review: It Happened At The Fair by Deanne Gist

It Happened at the Fair
Goodreads :: Amazon

Gambling everything, including the family farm, Cullen McNamara travels to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with his most recent invention. But the noise in the Fair’s Machinery Palace makes it impossible to communicate with potential buyers. In an act of desperation, he hires Della Wentworth, a teacher of the deaf, to tutor him in the art of lip-reading.

The young teacher is reluctant to participate, and Cullen has trouble keeping his mind on his lessons while intently watching her lips. Like the newly invented Ferris Wheel, he is caught in a whirl between his girl back home, his dreams as an inventor, and his unexpected attraction to his new tutor. Can he keep his feet on the ground, or will he be carried away?

Wow! This was a spectacular story! And that is a huge compliment from me. Why? Because I've tried reading several of Ms. Gist's other books and have never been able to finish one before now. Have you ever had an author that loads of people rave over and you just can't get into their stories? There's just something about their writing that doesn't click with you? And you want to like them, you want to finish just one book of theirs, but you're unable to? This is exactly how it was with Ms. Gist's books and me. Fast forward to a few months ago when a fellow blogger (who had similar trouble with this author's books) happened to read this one and loved it, raved over it, and encouraged me to try it. So I finally did. "Just one more try," I decided. And yay!! I am so, so happy I read it!

The parts that reached out and grabbed me were all the details of the actual workings of the Fair itself. Ms. Gist spends paragraphs and pages describing the exhibits, the people, the rides, and all manner of behind the scenes particulars for us. Most chapters begin with a photograph or artist rendering of some portion of the Fair and then it gets described in the pages to follow. I love history. So of course I loved all the information I learned. I'm sure I studied the Chicago World's Fair in school, but I had forgotten most of it by now. Reading this made me feel as if I were standing right beside Cullen and Della, watching the Illumination Show, riding the moving sidewalk and the Ferris Wheel, touring the Manufactures Building, and the multitude of things available to do each day. It felt quite obvious that Ms. Gist had well-researched the Fair and her enthusiasm for it shown in every page. It made me enthusiastic as well! :)

Of course there is actual plot involved. There's Cullen and Della, both far from home and working at the Fair for different reasons, and watching them "meet cute" and frustrate and confuse one another, yet sweetly and hesitantly fall in love was fun. There's an instant spark between them and even with their bumbling, the inevitable happy ending follows along in due course. Their romance is wonderful (and I sigh in happiness with every reading of one scene near the end ;), yet the fact that it's taking place against the backdrop of this amazing time in history is really the hook of this story for me. Amazingly enough, the romance happily took a backseat to the extravaganza unfolding before our eyes. Ms. Gist's descriptions of Cullen and Della's many stop-ins at Blooker's Dutch Cocoa Company even had me craving some of that delicious cocoa! 

So if you enjoy history and stories with the setting overshadowing the plot (in a good way!), then this is a must try for you! A fascinating time in history combined with a delightful romance makes for an absorbing story. One that will happily find a place on my bookshelf soon and there it will stay. :D

Weaving between the Machinery and Agricultural Buildings, a short, red-faced man pushed a rolling chair into her path. She quickly jumped aside, then followed its progress. In its seat was the man's rather large and portly wife, with a young tot in her lap. Two little girls in their Sunday dresses sat on each armrest, holding tightly to their mother. A young boy, not quite old enough for school, sat on the mother's feet, dangling his legs over the footrest.
Good heavens. They certainly were making the most of their forty-cents-an-hour chair rental.

Mad Libs With Books!

I saw this idea over at Books and Movies the other day and just had to try it for myself! I loved mad libs as a kid. I remember my brother and I having fun with it a lot, especially if we were in the car. So of course I wanted to do it again as an adult! Using book titles instead of nouns, adjectives, adverbs, etc, I filled in the blanks with books that I've read this year only. :)

In school I was: Something Like Normal

People might be surprised I'm: a Fangirl

I will never be: Picture Perfect

My fantasy job is: The Heiress of Winterwood

At the end of a long day I need: The Chocolate Kiss

I hate it when: (I feel) Invisible

Wish I had: A Room With A View

My family reunions are: The Icing on the Cake

At a party you'd find me with: The Host

I've never been to: Edenbrooke

A happy day includes: Turning Pages

Motto I live by: Catch A Falling Star

On my bucket list: Yellowstone Memories

In my next life, I want to be: Fossil Hunter

September 25, 2013


I was listening to a friend of mine recently talk about hot wheels. You know, those little cars and trucks? He's collected and sold them for years. Now I know next to nothing about toy cars. But him? He loves them! As I listened to him talk about this and that and everything in between when it comes to hot wheels, I realized exactly what I was listening to.


Regardless if I can understand it (not really), he absolutely loves the little things! He knows all kinds of types and names and dates they first came out and how much they'll sell for, etc, etc. You get the picture, right? My point is, he's excited and happy about it because he likes it! Sound familiar?

(You know where I'm going with this, right?)

YES! It sounds like me when I get to talking about books and reading and all the things that I'm interested in that make me happy. Just like my friend, when I get started talking about my happy place (reading a great book), I can talk for hours and hours. In fact, I have done and probably will do. I'm sure I've bored my real life friends with it.

My point? We all have things we like. Things that make us happy. Things that, maybe, no one else we know may understand or even know anything about at all. And that's okay. In fact? It's pretty awesome!!!

To have something (whatever your something may be) that you're passionate about...that you know all about...that you love to talk about...that you get excited over.... Now really. Isn't that pretty spectacularly awesome when you think about it?! Of course it is! :)

The world needs more happy people!

Now, this is not some lead in to where I introduce some big new thing that I'm excited about and just dying to share with you. Nope. It's simply my chance to give a shout out to being happy! To whatever you think is cool. Whatever you think is awesome. Whatever you love to do and spend time on.

For me? That's books and reading (and a few other things too......currently I'm pretty excited about The Autobiography of Jane Eyre (Who me? Obsessively reading what other people think and analyze about the show? Never!)......also counting down the days until Oct 7th when EMMA APPROVED BEGINS.......but that's neither here nor there).

So here's to all the happiness you have for whatever you love. I hope you find someone to share it with. But if not, then just enjoy it anyway! Because you love it. That's good enough for me. :)

Oh hey. I guess that was a lead in to something else. A special shout out to all my blogging/twitter friends! (You know who you are.) Thanks for being awesome people. Thanks for making me smile. And lastly, thanks for giving me someone to share my love of reading with. Y'all are some of my favoritest people in the world! :D

Review: The Icing on the Cake by Janice Thompson

The Icing on the Cake (Weddings by Design #2)
Goodreads :: Amazon

Scarlet Lindsey is busy making her dreams come true. She's moved her bakery to a prime spot on Galveston's most popular street, she's planning an extravagant cake for her best friend's wedding, and she has a great relationship with Bella Neeley, the island's most popular wedding coordinator. Business is booming and Scarlet is enjoying the ride.

But when Bella's dangerously handsome brother Armando breezes into her life, Scarlet is faced with a sticky situation. Should she stay with the safe, sweet guy who's been a fixture in her life for years? Or will this brash Italian hunk melt her guarded heart?

Aaahhh. Ms. Thompson's books are comfort reading for me! I love each visit back to Galveston and the crazy lives of its residents. I had been counting down to the release of this book ever since finishing book one several months ago. I'm very pleased to say that this one did not disappoint. There's just something about this Italian family that makes me happy. Not to mention all the Splendora crew as well! Life is never dull with any of them around. :D

Scarlet is pretty reminiscent of Ms. Thompson's other protagonists. She dithers about and has quirky family members and is simply a really nice girl. Although I could have done without her many references to "sticky buns". I got a little tired of it after the first couple times. Still, she's a great baker, she just needs a little more confidence in herself. And Armando? Is just the man to help her learn that! My my my, he was quite a hunk. ;) It was wonderful to get a little more background on him after the small bits we've gotten in previous books. And he and Scarlet had great chemistry. Plus they help one another become a better version of themselves. I can get behind a couple who supports each other and helps the other to learn and grow. It makes their relationship feel more real to me. They're just good together! And I have to admit that I'm a fan of the swoonworthy moments between them as well. I mean, what girl wouldn't want a handsome and suave Italian wooing them? ;)

There's nothing new in this story, but that doesn't matter when it comes to the Rossi's and the Neeley's! They add so much humor and spice and made me giggle again and again. That's what keeps me coming back to these stories. Ms. Thompson knows her humor! I laugh my way through and close the cover with a happy sigh. A feel good story that will draw you in and make you wish Bella and DJ's families were people in real life! If you've loved her other stories, then I'm pretty certain you'll love this one as well. And if you haven't read any of her others, then you should definitely remedy that! :)

"Nothing like the smell of sugar to get a girl excited," Jolene added. She ambled over, her wide hips swaying this way and that.
"Yes, I feel like I've died and gone to the sweetest room heaven has to offer." Twila giggled. "If I have, this certainly answers any lingering questions about whether or not they have sweets in heaven."
This got a chuckle out of Jolene, who seemed overly giggly today.
The trio took several steps closer to the glass cases and peered inside. "Ooo, I'll have three of those." Bonnie Sue pointed to my sticky buns. The ones inside the case, of course.
"And five of those." Twila pointed to a tray of M&M cookies.
"I'm trying to cut back on calories and carbs." Jolene's nose wrinkled. "So I guess I'll take three of those brownies. They're low in carbs, right?"

September 18, 2013

Little Letters Ninth Edition

Dear Friends Reading This, yes, I'm still here! I haven't totally forgotten about this little corner in case you were worried. With all the busyness of life as of late, blogging has been one of the things to go by the wayside for a little. But the end is in sight! Have no fear, I am definitely planning a return to normal. (Whatever that is!) :D

Dear Rainbow Rowell, how have you managed to write another book that I love?! Fangirl was just as wonderful as Attachments. You have seriously great talent at writing characters who I connect with immediately. Something about Cath just resonated. Her story is wonderful! Thank you for sharing her with the world.

Dear Bunco Girls, I am going to miss you terribly! I have so much fun with all of you and my life will be very sad without my monthly dose of conversation and laughter. Please don't forget me.

Dear Boxes and Tape, you and I have gotten much closer recently. But be warned that it's a limited friendship. There will be an end to it someday! (At least there better be!)

Dear Books, it's so sad to see you get shut up in boxes. I will be much happier when I can take you out and display you again. Not to mention that I keep wanting to reread certain ones and can't because I've already boxed them up! *sigh*

Dear Time, do you realize how very, very fast you are moving?! I still have much to do and you just keep racing on. Not waiting for me at all! That's sort of rude, you know. Where's my magical little time fairy when I need her?

Dear Reviews Yet To Be Written, life is getting in the way. But you'll get written, don't worry. Not sure when yet, but it'll definitely happen.

Dear Crazy Life of Mine, let's think positive, alright? Things will slow down. Eventually. They have to, right? Sure they do. *nods head hopefully* I can at least dream!

September 6, 2013

10 Booksh Questions For Me.........

Hello! Yes, I'm still alive! Just currently swamped with boxes and mess everywhere. *sigh* Only for a little while, Kara. Only for a little while. Yes, I'm talking to myself.


I've been tagged and awarded in the last week or so by two lovely ladies. So needless to say, that means I was given a LOT of questions to answer! I could do as I did before and pull a few questions from each gal, but I decided to pick only one this week. I'm going with Rel's questions, because I feel like answering bookish stuff today. Perhaps another day I will answer Hamlette's elegant questions. (An elegant blogger? Who? Me? Wow. I don't know that I've ever been called elegant before. Thanks Hamlette! :)

Now then, onward to be amazed by all the cool things you're about to learn about me!

1. What is the name of the most recent book you have finished and loved?

The Icing on the Cake by Janice Thompson (Now if only I could get that review written!)

2. What is the 17th line on the 125th page of the book you are currently reading?

 "A shaft of sunlight beat down through the clouds, but its warmth wasn't causing the moisture on her brow." (Anybody know which book that's from? Anybody? :)

3. When did you realize you were a true book lover?

I've always loved to read and I don't know that there was ever one moment where I actually thought about it in those terms. But if I have to choose, I'll go with when I reached adulthood and still loved to read as many books as I could get my hands on. That's when I decided that books just made me happy, whether I've read them or not. I love to be surrounded by books!

4. What is your genre of choice? Why?

Romantic Comedy - because I'm a sucker for a good romance and I love to laugh.

5. What is the name of your ‘comfort reading book’? (one you will pull out and read when you want something familiar)

Are you saying that I should only have one comfort-reading-book? Impossible! I have bunches! :D An old favorite is Splitting Harriet by Tamera Leigh. This summer I found a new favorite, which is Barefoot Summer by Denise Hunter.

6. Who has encouraged you the most in your reading pursuits?

Probably my mom. She's a book lover as well and she and I made many a trek to the bookstores together when I was young! We'd come home with a bag each and then proceed to go through the other's bag and share the books back and forth. We tend to like similar books. :)

7. Your most memorable hero, and why?

 There have been several I'm sure, but I'm going to go with the first guy that entered my mind when I read the question. Captain Frederick Wentworth from Persuasion by Jane Austen. Try as he might, he could not forget Anne and once he accepted that, oh my! Even in the midst of his anger in the beginning, he still couldn't help but be affected by her. And once he gives in to his heart and decides to tell her? Then we get that beautiful and swoonworthy letter! Let's just say he knows how to be romantic. :D

8. If you had to swap lives with a character, who would it be and why?

I'd love to try out Allie O'Connor's life! (From Moon Over Tokyo by Siri Mitchell) Firstly, she's a writer. Secondly, she's living in Tokyo without knowing the language, and is still able to live a normal life. Plus she has awesome friends and a pretty swoonworthy hero by her side! Sounds like fun. :)

9. Do you alphabetize your books by author or title, on your bookshelves?

Well, right now, my shelves are pretty much cleaned off (except for the bunch that I can't pack yet because what if I really, really want to reread one of them before I move?), but they were alphabetized by author last name, then by title. I plan to do the same thing once I get to reshelve them.

10. Why do you read?

 Honestly? I'm not really sure. I have always loved to read stories as far back as I can remember. I love to be swept away for a few hours. I love the worlds that authors create. I love to meet the awesome characters. I love to forget my real life stuff and visit amazing places where anything can happen! Books, to put it simply, are comforting in and of themselves. There's just a certain feeling I get whenever I enter a bookstore. I could go on, but I'm not sure I'm even making any sense at all. I just love stories!

I decided not to take the time to nominate anybody else. But if you'd like to answer Rel's questions yourself, then leave me the link in a comment so I can hop over and read them! :)

Review: The Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heitzmann

The Breath of Dawn (A Rush of Wings #3)
Goodreads :: Amazon

Morgan Spencer has had just about all he can take of life. Following the tragic death of his wife, Jill, he retreats to his brother's Rocky Mountain ranch to heal and focus on the care of his infant daughter, Olivia. Two years later, Morgan begins to make plans to return to his home in Santa Barbara to pick up the pieces of his life and career.

Quinn Riley has been avoiding her past for four years. Standing up for the truth has forced her into a life of fear and isolation. After a "chance" first meeting and a Thanksgiving snowstorm, Quinn is drawn into the Spencer family's warm and loving world, and she begins to believe she might find freedom in their friendship.

The man Quinn helped put behind bars has recently been released, however, and she fears her past will endanger the entire Spencer family. As the danger heightens, she determines to leave town for the sake of the people who have come to mean so much to her.

Fixing problems is what Morgan Spencer does best, and he is not willing to let Quinn run away, possibly into the clutches of a man bent on revenge. But Morgan's solution sends him and Quinn on an unexpected path, with repercussions neither could have anticipated.

Oh! Oh oh oh! I absolutely loved this story! It had been highly recommended to me and I was so happy that it lived up to my high expectations. No, actually it exceeded them! :) I knew I liked Ms. Heitzmann's writing prior to reading this and this book has solidified my love for her stories completely. I am not ashamed to say that I am officially a fan of Kristen Heitzmann! I will wear my fangirl hat for everyone to see! :D But you say you want an actual review and not just a million exclamation points? Well, I'm sorry my friends, but if you're tired of the exclamation points already, you'd better just stop reading right now. Because there's many more to come! See?!! ;)

I'm not really sure I can be coherent enough to make much sense beyond "It's awesome! Go read it right now! You won't be disappointed!". But I'll try. I'll start by saying that it's much more than just a typical love story. There's a little mystery and heartache and suspense too. I have to confess though, the love story is what I was swept up into from the beginning, and by the last page I declare I was swooning! Morgan and Quinn are flawed and human, yes. They make mistakes, yes. They make a decision at one point that seems a little rushed and perhaps they should have thought a little bit more about it, yes. But you know what? They have chemistry like you wouldn't believe! And watching them fall in love? Is a beautiful, beautiful thing. They take care of one another. They acknowledge their mistakes to one another. They support one another. They get snarky and sarcastic with one another. They made me laugh and swoon and sigh and go back to reread all my favorites scenes between them again. They are, simply put, awesome characters!

Now, as I said before, there is much more to this story. There's lots of moments where things happened that I wasn't expecting. There's a villain and his actions bring about much intrigue. Ms. Heitzmann hasn't written just a fluffy little romance, lest my exclaiming above makes you think that. But the romance is where she hooked me and kept me flipping pages as fast as I could. There were moments where I was flipping ahead to find out what happened, but then I'd have to backtrack to finish where I had been, and back and forth I went. You know it's a good story when that happens! :D

So. It's awesome! Go read it right now! You won't be disappointed!
Going back outside as the sun sent scarlet flame across the rosy sky, Morgan raised his head. "Hear that?"
She said, "Elk." The screeching bugle was unmistakable.
"Someone's proud of himself."
"That noise would make me run."
His mouth pulled sideways, "Good thing you're not a lady elk."
She cast him a glance. "Thanks for not calling me a cow."
The corners of his eyes crinkled as he pulled the truck door open.

August 28, 2013

Little Moments :: Happy Heart :: Second Edition

I figured while I was on here, I'd just post a few random little moments from my life. Fun, right?! :D

Firstly, while sorting stuff the other day, I happened to find a book I'd forgotten I had. I know! ;P Have you read it? It's a childhood favorite of mine.

Have you ever sorted through years of stuff and found something that made you laugh and remember waaayyyy back? This straw used to make a noise when I used it. Yes, it was supposed to sound like a monkey. Some friends and I bought them from McDonald's years ago, during a weekend camping trip. You know. The kind of trip where you're tired and and silly and ridiculous things make you laugh? Yeah. That kind.

I got this lovely book in the mail the other day! I'd been waiting and waiting for a different one and was not expecting this one at all. So it was a wonderful surprise to walk out to the mailbox and see it there! Cannot wait to dive in. :D

And while excitedly contemplating the book above, lo and behold a couple days later, an even better surprise came in the mail! I'd ordered the book from the author weeks ago and she had mailed it, but it got lost somewhere. Still don't know what happened to it. But Ms. Thompson was kind enough to send another one. And I've already read it! Yes, it was just that good. :D I hope to get my review written soon.

The other day, I received this beautiful bouquet of flowers from a coworker. I had not had a good morning, and this was sitting on my desk when I got back from lunch. They cheered me considerably and made my afternoon a whole lot happier! Plus, they were given in honor of my birthday which just happened recently. Happiness all around! (Yes, I'm shamelessly mentioning my birthday on here. Silly, aren't I? ;)

Lastly, I found this poem over here the other day. (Don't ask how. It's a long and complicated story. Well. Not too complicated, but anyway....) It really encouraged me, so I decided to share it.

Open one fist, close the other,
I have better plans for you.
Don’t hold on to lesser shadows,
they will fade, and you will too.

Child, your heart is listing, longing
for some balm to ease the ache
that disintegrated hopes and dreams
have left within their wake.

You’re crying ‘there’s no surety!
There’s no anchor for my soul!’
But you’re searching in the sand, love,
you need something strong and whole.

Cast again your anchor higher
beyond what you cannot see.
I am just beyond the darkness,
child, trust; and cast on me.

Unclench your grasping fingers
holding on to what seems right.
All the good things will be as tarnished
when I cast my morning light.

Grasp for me now in your wanting,
dare to trust what others fear.
Only I can quell the hurting,
only I am ever near.

Close the other fist now, child
wait not for what you deem best.
Trust my ever loving heart
to render to you joy and rest.

Open one fist, close the other,
anchor hopes and dreams in me.
I am all you have and need and want,
I will set your bound heart free.

So there were a few random little moments from the last week or so. Hope you have a fabulous rest of your week! And stay tuned for more reviews soon. Hopefully anyway. (Do notice that I said soon. I can't promise a time, but I do promise to try!)

Review: Jungle Fire by Dana Mentink

Jungle Fire
Goodreads :: Amazon

The deadliest animal in the jungle is the two legged kind.

Nina Truman is a missionary nurse, serving in a tiny Guatemalan town not far from the Mexican border.  It's a fulfilling life, tending to the village poor, a way to serve in the country from which she was adopted. The day she leaves on furlough, is the day her life falls apart. Her bus is ambushed and she must flee from forces who inexplicably wish her dead. Trapped between a ruthless drug lord and his assassins, a corrupt police chief, and colleagues with ulterior motives, her friends may prove just as deadly as her enemies as she uncovers a plot tangled deep in the roots of her own past.

Nina's only hope of survival lies in the hands of Shaw Wilder, a man who despises missionaries and the God they serve.  His skill is in handling a landmine detection dog, not helping a woman he blames for the death of his sister. When the lethal drug kingpin El Escorpion seeks to capture Nina, and the local police are no help, Shaw has to choose: flee into the Guatemalan jungle with a naive woman who has vowed never to take a life or follow his own spiritual demons and walk away. His choice may leave them both imprisoned in a jungle from which neither will escape.

Goodness, what a ride! You jump right in immediately and the action never stops! There's hardly a moment of downtime and peace for these characters. I mean, you know things are going to be crazy when the opening sentence is: Nina never imagined her life would end on a bus. It does get a little harry every other moment, but you're so involved in the story that you barely have time to wonder when things are ever going to slow down. This is the kind of story that you want to have several available hours for reading. Because once you start it, you aren't going to want to put the book down as there's never a good moment to stop reading! It's exciting and scary and fun all at the same time. Plus a little romance helps sweeten the plot even further. ;)

Nina and Shaw are wonderfully flawed people. Nina, who has always felt called to be a missionary yet still struggles with doubts and fears like anyone else, and Shaw, who refuses to believe that God is good and would love nothing more than to deny His existence. But God has bigger plans for both of them. Nina is being chased by people out to kill her or kidnap her or both and Shaw ends up right in the middle of her situation, exactly where he doesn't want to be. But he can't seem to help himself. With their foes on their tail, and with no idea who they can trust, off they run into the jungle. Like I said, there's not much peace and quiet to be found in their story. But somehow, Ms. Mentink sprinkles little spurts of amusement and fun intermingled into the adrenalin rush. Which means we get a few cute moments between our would-be couple. And they are pretty cute!

And Axel! I loved Axel. He's such a fun addition, yet fierce enough to defend his master every single time. Yes, Axel's a dog. But a protective and awesome dog! He's a trusted friend who gets them out of scrape after scrape and just when things look awfully dark, Axel shows his determination and loyalty time and again. They'd be rather lost without him around actually. There was a moment where he had me really worried and I was so, so happy things didn't go the way I thought they had!

As a matter of fact, that's what Ms. Mentink does really well. She led me down her path and where I thought we were going to end up was completely different from where we actually did. She kept me on pins and needles much of the time! There were a few rough spots however. I confess to being quite irritated with Nina's father. He kept so much from her and even at the end, I still wasn't satisfied with his explanation. Also, some parts of the ending felt a little too convenient for me. Still, after all the fear and frustration of Shaw and Nina's adventure, I was very happy they got their happy ending. :)

So. The fun of this story is that, while you have a good idea how it's going to end, you still have absolutely no idea how you're going to get there! I say go get this book and sit back and enjoy the ride. There's never a dull moment in the jungle! :D

This is where it would end, her strange journey. She imagined consumption by fire, ignoring the fact that death would come first from the choking smoke. Her knees weakened and she dropped to the floor, head spinning and face wet with acid tears.
The boy's face appeared again, and his hands thrust through the opening. They were such tiny hands, so delicate and finely boned. How could those hands reach through such overwhelming heat? Those yearning fingers reached out for the father.
Something flickered deep inside Nina and she forced herself to her feet. Maybe if she could turn the man on his side. Grabbing hold of his thick shoulder, she heaved him into position, hoping not to hear the crack of broken bones as she did so. Sweat ran down her face, stinking the multiple cuts as she tried to shove him toward the window.

August 23, 2013

Book Spine Poetry Rocks!

Okay, so I was creating these late at night - that might explain part of my enthusiasm. I mean, everything is always brilliant and phenomenal late at night, right? :D

Anyway, so I saw via Courtney this fun idea and wanted to try it myself. (Kate and Amber tried it too! So did Ruth!) Well, I suppose technically I saw this idea a while back (can't remember where now), thought I should try it but never did and promptly forgot about it. Therefore, when I was reminded of it the other day, I decided that right at that moment was the perfect time to try it! Because the craziness that is my life right now pretty much dictates that if I don't do the thing right away, the thing won't get done. I'll forget.

So! I did the thing and now I'm going to share the thing with you! Isn't that exciting?! I knew you'd think so. *clears throat* So here goes.

I tried two versions. I like both of them....but I might like the second one better? Not really sure. Both are pretty fun though! See what you think:

This one was helped by the trilogy by Linda Chaikin. I saw those on my shelf and decided they were the perfect way to start! :)

Tomorrow's Treasure by Linda Chaikin
Expect the Sunrise by Susan May Warren
Yesterday's Promise by Linda Chaikin
There You'll Find Me by Jenny B Jones
Today's Embrace by Linda Chaikin
The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner
How Sweet It Is by Alice J Wisler

The first two jumped out at me, probably because they were sitting by one another. This one feels a little more poem-like to me. I don't know. Something about it I just like.

Flee the Night by Susan May Warren
My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade
Valiant Hope by Donna Fleisher
A New Day Rising by Lauraine Snelling
Echoes by Kristen Heitzmann
Beyond the Storm by Carolyn Zane

So what do you think? I thought it was rather fun to put these together and I'd love to try it again someday. But I promise not to bombard you with spine poetry for a while, so rest assured! ;)
I hope you've been having a lovely week? Mine has been very, very busy. Still haven't made it to any other blogs for a several days. Sorry ladies! (If any of them are even reading this. They might be boycotting me for all I know. ;)

I do hope to get a review written soon. I need to write it before I forget what the book was about and have to read it all over again! Plus I got one from the library (it was on hold! I had to pick it up!), as well as one in my mailbox, so I hope I can get some reading done soon. Here's hoping anyway! :) Y'all have a splendiferously wonderful Friday!

August 19, 2013

Bleeding Heart Blog Tour {Interview, Review, & Giveaway!}

Today I am thrilled to be a part of this blog tour and have author Amber Stokes stopping by to answer a few questions about her debut novel Bleeding Heart! Amber is a lovely blogging friend and I have been delighted to anticipate this moment with her. She deserves every bit of excitement she's feeling right now. Without further ado, let's get to the questions! :)

Hello Amber! Thank you for stopping by today. I'm so happy to chat about Bleeding Heart with you. :)

Amber: Thank you so much for having me, Kara! I’m happy to be here. :)

You stated in your Author's Note that your interest in Virginia City, NV got you started with your writing. What was one thing that you remember first noticing that intrigued you? As in, what specifically "kick-started your dreams"? A building? A person?

Amber: To be honest, it’s all kind of a blur! I remember sitting in a hotel room (I guess it was in Reno) and having these ideas rush through my mind. I wrote out a very basic synopsis for Forget Me Not (the prequel to Bleeding Heart) involving Virginia City (which I suppose we had just visited), a girl on a quest to find the brother she never knew, and a love that began in childhood with a handful of forget-me-nots. Looking back in my little notebook, I noted these things about Virginia City: the wooden sidewalks, the candy shops, the fact that there can still be snow in April, etc. And I guess this shows what little I knew back then about the town: I put a question mark after “silver mining,” LOL. (No question mark needed!)

The thing is, I remember writing a good bit of the story as a contemporary once upon a time. (Bad idea. Really.) So, I think what happened was that I planned on writing it as a historical, then changed my mind, then changed my mind again – or maybe it started as a contemporary, and then I had a revelation about the historical perspective? But I vividly recall the story idea beginning that day in the hotel room… See what I mean? It’s a blur! However it went down, though, Virginia City was a part of both versions. I guess it was just the atmosphere of the place and the fact that it was the first town of its kind I’d really visited that struck me. :)

Can you tell us which character from Bleeding Heart first took shape in your mind and what was it that struck you about them? Why did you feel a need to write about them?

Amber: Several of the characters in Bleeding Heart were first introduced in Forget Me Not – but I’d have to go with Joe, as I believe he came into Forget Me Not before either Sally, Myghal, or Seth (initially called John, but I have way too many J-names as it is, LOL). When I first started writing the sequel, I basically just wanted to write the story about the spurned suitor from book 1 (Joe) and go from there. It all started out as an often-told love triangle in book 1, and book 2 was a chance to explore the love story of the third of the triangle that was left behind. He was a sweet, rather na├»ve fellow in book 1, but there were undercurrents of hurt and emotional depth in his character begging to be explored. He proved to be so much more than just a spurned suitor, after all…

Joe started out sweet and naive? Now that intrigues me! His experience must have really changed him then. :)

I know you have a Pinterest Board featuring a "soundtrack" for the story. Which song from the list first stood out to you as the perfect sound for what you were writing? What was it about that song particularly? (You can talk about your favorite song, if that would be easier.)

Amber: I’d probably have to say the two songs by Huckleberry Flint (a band from my neck of the woods, actually!). Both “Dixie” and “Sally Ann” were songs that I initially incorporated into the story, in a sense… I generalized “Dixie,” of course, so that it could be in reference to whatever version of the song was around then – but the one I listened to and thought of was the version performed by Huckleberry Flint. As for “Sally Ann,” I think I discovered that it might not be as old a song as I thought, or something along those lines, so I took out the reference to the song, even though I don’t think I ever included the title… Anyway, I initially connected it to the scene after “Dixie” in chapter 5 (the song Myghal plays on his fiddle), but I ended up connecting it (via the “soundtrack”) to the feeling generated in the scene at the end of chapter 21.

I can feel that when I listen to it! I think it definitely fits that particular scene really well. The music and lyrics both. I love having a soundtrack to listen to! :)

Tea or coffee?

Amber: Tea, please. Fruit-flavored or peppermint preferred. :)

I love tea also, but would prefer citrus flavors over peppermint. ;)

Name five things you can't live without (the necessities are a given, these should be fun!)

Amber: (I’m assuming “things” like God and the abilities to speak, see, move, etc. are also a given!)

The Bible
Nature (I love its beauty and the solitude and reflection it affords.)
Books (You know it! *wink*)
A Computer (OK, I hope I could live without this, but at this point in my life, it’s kind of useful!)

You assumed right. :) And of course books have to be on your list! Where would we be without them?! (Let's not even contemplate such a thing, yes? ;)

Do you have any more stories or sequels planned for the future?

Amber: Well, I hope to edit and publish Forget Me Not next. I also hope to write a companion short story and another sequel. We shall see! And that’s just the immediate future – who knows what stories might capture my imagination after that, Lord willing? :)

I will absolutely look forward to Forget Me Not someday. Will be interesting to see Joe as sweet. Provided you don't completely change him from your original plan, of course. And I'd love more of Myghal's story! (hint hint) 

Thank you so much for answering these questions, Amber! This was fun! :)

My pleasure! Thank you for letting me chat with you about my book!

About the Author

Amber Stokes has a Bachelor of Science degree in English and a passion for the written word - from blogging to writing poetry, short stories, and novels. After her brief time at college in Oregon, she is now back home among the redwoods of Northern California, living life one day at a time and pursuing her passion via freelance editing and self-publishing her debut novel, Bleeding Heart.

About the Book

Bleeding Heart
Goodreads :: Amazon :: Book Website

Five bleeding hearts. One profound journey.

Summer 1886

Sally Clay’s livelihood has been snatched away, but in its place arises an opportunity to escape from her sordid past and an unrelenting, unwanted suitor. Boarding a train with a heartsick rancher and an enigmatic miner, she leaves Virginia City behind and heads to Northern California, waiting for the chance to make right what went wrong three long years before.

But the road to revenge is far from smooth. Sally soon learns that the jagged pieces of a broken heart can far too easily wound the hearts of others – and hers isn’t the only heart that’s broken. Tragedy and fear dog her steps as she flees from the redwood forests to the high desert and back again. Will her bleeding heart ever find a way and a place to heal?

A desperate soiled dove. Three men who come to care for her. One man determined to claim her.

All on a journey that will show them what true love really involves.

I was quite impressed with Ms. Stokes' writing. Especially for a first novel! :) The descriptions of the way people lived during the late 1800s drew me in and felt well researched. I could easily picture what was going on and where people were. Life was hard back then. It hasn't been kind to most of these characters really. And their individual and collective journey's will take them all to places they had never imagined.

With heartbreak and pain, this is not a happy, sunshiney story. These characters have to endure a great deal to reach any semblance of a happy ending. And even then, I'm not sure I would call it a typical "happy ending" because while there's certainly happiness there (yay!), there is still heartache to get beyond. I had the sense that these characters had lots more hard work ahead, but it would be worth it for them. And those two lovebirds were awful cute with one another! At least once they got their act together and realized how they felt. But I should note it doesn't truly develop until close to the end. And much of the development is left up to your imagination.

I also thought the point of view changes worked pretty well. The reader gets just enough perspective to make them understand why this or that character is acting this way. As for the characters themselves....

Joe and Sally circle one another, by turns tender and harsh. Sally has become pretty bitter and skittish; she longs to be loved, yet doesn't really know what to do with it when it shows up. Joe is confused and raw, yet desires love deep inside even while he refuses to admit to it. Myghal steals your heart with his gentleness and sweetness, yet hides a hurt within. Zachary uses gruffness to try and hide his kind and gentle ways. Seth's grief almost drags him down until he gets a wake up call that shakes him out of his stupor. As for the main antagonist, he doesn't deserve to be talked about! At all. In short, the characters are where Ms. Stokes' writing shines! They feel real and leap off the page, drawing you into caring about them.

I do have to admit that portions of the story moved a little fast for me. The characters travel around quite a bit, and just when I'd get settled into where they were now, they up and left again. This caused me to be unable to stay emotionally involved the whole time. One particular plotline ended so quickly, then we get a time jump immediately after. I wished that character had gotten a little better closure than they ended up with. For the amount of time spent with them prior to that scene, it felt cut short a little too abruptly for me. (I was reading an ARC, so maybe this has been changed in the final edits.) The other thing I wanted more of was Myghal! I loved him immediately and want more details about him! I'm hoping we'll get more of his story some day in the future. He so deserves more page time. He was definitely my favorite character. Well, maybe that title should be split between him and Zachary. I liked Zachary a lot too! ;)

So. While there were a few rough parts, overall the writing shines and made me fall in love with it! It convinced me to look forward to what she may write in the future. I've a very good feeling she'll only get better with time! :D I definitely recommend this book. It deserves to be read and enjoyed!

**I received a complimentary e-ARC from the author in exchange for my honest review. (Thanks Amber! :)

But whatever the man's motives, he held out hope in all its shining glory, and Joe lacked the heart to resist.

It was as if he was now a warm, fresh loaf of bread, instead of the nebulous, sad mass of dough he had been.

The door to his heart stood wide open, and Sally was dancing him out of the shadows.

As he drew out a high note, he thought of how they both were healing, blossomin' like two stems of a lupine plant reaching their petals out to each other and up to the sunny sky.

"You misjudge me, Miss Clay. I'm a cook. I don't break things; I make things for people to enjoy."


“Journey to the West” Giveaway! One U.S. resident (randomly drawn) will receive a signed copy of Bleeding Heart and a collection of items from the story’s settings, handpicked by the author.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

August 18, 2013

Apologies, Explanations, & Exclamations!! {I May Get A Little Personal}

Apologies first: I'm so sorry! I announce that I'm back from my trip and then proceed to basically disappear again. And after I promised at least one review and everything! :( I'm sorry, my friends. Truly.

Secondly, FYI. I am splitting this post into two parts. The first will explain a little more of what's happening and the second will get a little more personal. So for those of you who don't wish to read my personal exclamations and explanations and whatnot, you are more than welcome to read part one only and skip part two. Okay? Okay. :)

Part 1: Explanation

The short version? I made a decision recently. A HUGE and SCARY and LIFE-CHANGING decision! That decision means that life around these parts will have to change for a couple months. By that, I mean I will still be blogging, don't worry! But my posts will most likely become a little less frequent and my response to comments may not happen immediately. I simply won't have enough time unfortunately. Also to any fellow bloggers, I will still visit your blogs and comment, but I'm doubting it will be possible every single day.

I still plan to read a few books and write reviews and still comment and all the other awesome blogging and reading stuffs! I have found an awesome and spectacular group of friends through blogging and I refuse to lose that! So I'm not disappearing! You just won't see me all the time for a little while.

That being said, I have an awesome book review coming up tomorrow (Monday). And a visit from the lovely author herself! So stay tuned for that, because Ms. Amber Stokes' book is a pretty wonderful read and I think you'll definitely want to "meet" her. :D

Stick around! I hope you won't give up on me. I promise not to leave forever. (Barring any unforeseen thing happening of course. :)

Part 2: Exclamations and Ranting and Raving {Or, you know, the usual.} {And yes, this will get pretty personal, so be warned.}

Without going into too much detail and boring you silly, suffice it to say that my immediate future has a LOT of boxes in it. It will involve going through just about everything I own and choosing what I want to keep and what I don't. It will involve a gazillion and one decisions. Funny how just one decision can spawn thousands of others! :/ It will involve doing a lot of crying as I contemplate saying good-bye to dear and precious people that I love.

But it will also involve looking forward to more time with my family. Especially my mother. I know I've mentioned before (probably way too many times in fact) that my mom's health isn't great. Well, it really isn't. Every trip home, I can see a little more deterioration and well....she's my mother. It's incredibly hard to live so far away when she's not doing great and realizing that every single moment with her right now is infinitely precious. Because the honest reality is, she doesn't have that many good and quality years left. Oh, she may well live for lots of years yet, but those years won't all be quality years where I'll be able to really talk with her and spend time with her.

I want to spend quality time with my mother while I can. So while this was a really hard choice to make, I do feel it's the right one. For those of you who want to pray, I ask for your prayers! For anyone else, please keep me in your thoughts. There's a lot of things yet to do and right now it all looks really overwhelming and SCARY.

I have a couple months to get all this accomplished, but once I'm there and pretty settled in, I hope to return to my normal routine with posts and such. :) Meanwhile, I plan to still stick around! I can't go two whole months without picking up a book to read, you know! Plus I've promised a couple reviews, so I'll have to stop and read. ;P

So yeah. That's what's been going on the last week or so. Big stuff!

Anyway, I hope you're having a lovely weekend. I will see you all here on Monday! :)

August 14, 2013

Food-Filled Wednesday Hodgepodge

It's been a long while since I joined in on Wednesday's! But here I am. :)

1. My daughter earned her Master's Degree this past weekend...what's something you've 'mastered' in recent weeks or months?

Hmmm. I'm kind of stuck on this question. And of course it's the first one! So what does that mean for the rest of them?!

2. What song most reminds you of your childhood?

Jesus Loves Me

3. What do you think about single gender groups and/or events? Should every group/event be open to both genders? If not, what sort of exceptions do you think are appropriate?

I like them! So I don't think every event has to be open to both. I'd say it depends on what the event is. I mean, I don't see many men rushing to go to a bridal shower, do you? ;)

4. What's your favorite spice? Your favorite dish containing your favorite spice?

Cinnamon ~ Cinnamon Rolls!! Mmmmm.

5. I saw this question on Marla's facebook page and asked if I could steal borrow it for the Hodgepodge...thanks Marla!

Chevron patterns are everywhere! Do you like it or think its just a little too much? Do you own anything 'chevron'?

I like it! I don't actually have anything 'chevron' I don't think.

6. What's something you disliked as a child, but can fully appreciate now?

Mashed potatoes!

7. What can irritate you very quickly?

Finding bacon in my food. Blech. *wrinkles nose in distaste* Guess I've got food on my brain. Although I shouldn't be hungry this time of night....

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I'm a very sleepy blogger,
I've no thoughts to add or say.
So I'll close this little Hodgepodge,
And hope you have an awesome day! :D

August 12, 2013

July EstellaGram :: Week Five

And! Time for the last three days for July. I had fun doing this for a whole month. :)

I decided to continue into August and then....I went on vacation for a week. So I'm a little behind on my August pictures. But hopefully I can get caught up this week! We shall see. Stay tuned! :)

On to week five:

Day 29 - Zero

{I don't know what the statistical probability of love at first sight would actually be. But I imagine it's a lot closer to zero than to 100. I could be wrong, who knows?}

Day 30 - Yearn

{The Singing Boones by Dale White. Ellen yearns to grow up and fall in love in this story. It's old, but a fun book about a family joining a wagon train heading west to the California Gold Rush. I definitely recommend reading it if you ever get a chance!}

Day 31 - Cozy

{Cozy and comfort kind of go hand in hand, right? Taking place in the hills of Virginia, this series takes me back home again. The accents, the food, the characters, it's just a wonderful series! I wish more people knew about them.}


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