Friday, October 19, 2018

Patchwork: A Memoir of Love and Loss

Patchwork: A Memoir of Love and Loss
Author: Mary Jo Doig
Publisher: She Writes Press
Publish Date: October 23, 2018
Paperback: 344 pages
ISBN: 9781631524493

About the Book:

Tightly wrapped in a lifelong protective cocoon, Mary Jo has no idea how wounded she is until one starless night following the death of a relative, she has a flashback that opens a dark passageway back to her childhood and the horrific secrets buried deep inside her.

Like a needle stitching together a quilt, the memories she recovers reveal why she feels invisible, stupid, and different. Shattered by these revelations, overcome by depression, hopelessness, and a loss of trust in others, Mary Jo embarks on a healing journey through the underground of her life that ultimately leads to transformation.

My Thoughts:

When I first started reading this memoir, I felt like I was sitting in my living room with Mary Jo Doig and listening to her tell her story. I was captivated from the start and unlike many memoirs I have read, this one was truly interesting - like listening to your mother tell her life story. I picked my mother, because if she were alive, she would be almost the same age as the author.

Her story begins from childhood and this is told as she tells about her quilt that she has been working on. It's captivating and told so well - you feel an immediate connection with the author. As the story proceeds, one finds something is off, and as Mary Jo continues, you will find yourself holding your breath and possibly finding it so difficult to read, you'll have to set the book aside.

Mary Jo's journey to truth and healing is a powerful, powerful story. It will awaken feelings inside you and make you want to deal with those that had made her hit bottom and lose hope and trust. This woman is amazing and her story is well worth the read. Be warned it is difficult at times to get through and may even awaken old memories of friends and family members in your own past. Just know that when one hits bottom - there's only one way to go - UP - and that's what Mary Jo did.

Please note - This book contains abuse - sexual, mental and physical and may not be appropriate for younger audiences or those sensitive to this type of material.

About the Author:

Mary Jo Doig is a life-writing enthusiast who has been coaching women to tell their truth for twenty years. She is a book reviewer, editor, and facilitator of women’s writing circles and legacy workshops.

Her stories have been published in Inside and Out: Women’s Truths, Women’s Stories and Kitchen Table Stories. Mary Jo writes in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where she treasures quilting, cooking healthy food, hiking with her rescue dogs, and spending time with family and friends.

Patchwork is her first book.

Visit Mary Jo at:

I received an egalley of this book from the publicist. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Brother John: A Monk, a Pilgrim and the Purpose of Life

Brother John: A Monk, a Pilgrim and the Purpose of Life
Author: August Turak
Illustrator: Glenn Harrington
Publisher: Clovercroft Publishing
Publish Date: October 21, 2018
ISBN: 9781945507946
Hardcover: 48 pages

About the Book:

The Templeton Prize winning story of a magical encounter between the author and a Trappist monk. Brother John becomes our guide to the redemptive power of an authentically purposeful life.

Recipient of the prestigious Templeton Prize, Brother John is the true story of a meaningful encounter between a man going through a mid-life crisis, and an umbrella-wielding Trappist monk. This magical encounter on Christmas Eve eventually leads the author, and us all, to the redemptive power of an authentically purposeful life. Uplifting, deeply moving, and set in the magnificent Trappist monastery of Mepkin Abbey, Brother John is dramatically brought to life by over twenty full color paintings by Glenn Harrington, a multiple award-winning artist. Brother John's inspirational message takes place at Christmastime, and its inspirational message and rich illustrations are sure to bring the reader back again and again throughout the year.

My Thoughts:

What is the purpose of life? A simple question that has no simple answer - or does it and we just make it complicated?

This amazingly beautiful book focuses on the author's time spent at Mepkin Abby on Christmas Eve with the Trappist monks. His writing is meaningful with a message that is powerful and interesting. He focuses on one of the monks, Brother John, and uses him as an example of love, peace and grace. Brother John is the author's stepping stone to an answer to his most pondered question.

This is a book that you will need to read at a slower speed than a regular "story book" as there is so much to absorb with the author's observations and realizations. I personally had to go through this book a few times, as I was completely distracted by the GORGEOUS illustrations. This is a book that will be a part of my permanent library. Although it takes place on Christmas eve, the message and the beauty of the book will have you returning again and again and not just at Christmas time.

The one thing I did miss was the lack of a message about God and Jesus. It is somewhat implied but never really mentioned. For me, I found more credit to the monks than God and I'm not totally sure how I feel about that - especially if one that may not be a Christian were to pick up this book and read it from a secular point of view.

About the Author:

AUGUST TURAK is a successful entrepreneur and award-winning author who attributes much of his success to his 20-year stint as a frequent monastic guest of the Trappist monks of Mepkin Abbey. As a monastic guest, he lives and works alongside the monks sometimes for months at a time.

I received a copy of this book from FSB Media. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Dear Santa by Nancy Naigle

The weather is finally cooling down after a long hot, humid and rainy summer and has put me in the mood for a little holiday reading. Temps have dropped into the 30's at night and yesterday was cold and rainy. It had the feeling of snow and made it perfect for settling down in my favorite chair with a blanket and a cup of hot cider and Nancy Naigle's newest book, Dear Santa (which publishes today).

Dear Santa
Author: Nancy Naigle
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Published October 16th 2018
Paperback, 352 pages

About the Book:

Angela Carson wants nothing more than to be the third-generation to run her family’s holiday store, Heart of Christmas, successfully. They’ve weathered over sixty tourist seasons, major hurricanes, and urban sprawl, in their old decommissioned lighthouse. But the national chain that set up shop in their small North Carolina town of Pleasant Sands may be more than Heart of Christmas can survive.

Encouraged by her niece to ask Santa for help, Angela gives in and lets the words fly in a way that, if Santa were real, would no doubt land her on the naughty list. What’s the harm when it’s just a computer-generated response?

Geoff Paisley has been at his mother’s side running the mega-chain Christmas Galore for the last ten years. When his mother falls ill, Geoff promises to answer the town’s Dear Santa letters in her stead. Soon he realizes the woman he’s been corresponding with on Dear Santa is Angela. How could the woman that grates his every last nerve in person have intrigued him so deeply through those letters?

When Geoff reveals that he’s her Dear Santa, will Angela be able to set aside their very public feud to embrace the magic of the holiday and possibly find true love?

My Thoughts:

My husband asked me why in the world I read Christmas novels. The answer? It's books like this that make me want to read them! Nancy has captured the magic of Christmas in Dear Santa. However, I will say that if you are a Christmas movie junkie, you'll notice that the story line has a familiarity about it, but it's the way Nancy tells the story that makes you want to keep reading. Her characters are interesting and the main character, Angela, is just a downright sweet girl who only wants to keep her store afloat. Then there's Geoff - the wealthy, handsome, businessman that is the threat to Angela's success. Yes, both characters are cliche, but still interesting and kept me wanting to read more to see how things were going to finally turn out in the end. Sure it's predictable - it's a Christmas story, but it's the way Nancy tells the story that will keep you captivated and turning the pages until you surprise yourself that you've finished the book and can't believe you've sat reading for such a long period of time.

If you are a sucker for feel good Christmas stories, treat yourself and pick up a copy of Dear Santa. You won't regret it!

About the Author:

USA TODAY Bestselling author, Nancy Naigle, writes love stories from the crossroad of small town and suspense.

With a career spent on the cutting edge of technology in the banking industry, she never let go of her dream to write. Now she works full-time writing stories that are a calming blend of community, family, and the simple things in life. She writes the kind of stories she hopes will provide an escape from the hectic day-to-day in the make believe worlds she creates.

Aside from writing she enjoys hunting for treasures in junk and antique shoppes, and getting crafty no matter what the medium from painting and digitizing embroidery designs, to weaving pine needle baskets. She also enjoys horseback riding on her palomino, Tooter.

A Virginia native, and spending most of her life in the Tidewater area, she now calls North Carolina home.

Other Christmas books Nancy has written:
Christmas Joy
Hope at Christmas
Christmas in Evergreen

Want to know more about Nancy or her books? You can visit her webpage at:

I received an egalley of this book from the NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Gathering of Sisters Review

Gathering of Sisters: A Year With My Old Order Mennonite Family
Author: Darla Weaver
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Herald Press
ISBN-13: 978-1513803371

About the Book:

Spend a day with sisters.

Once a week Darla Weaver bundles her children into the buggy, hitches up her spirited mare, and drives six miles to the farm where she grew up. There she gathers with her four sisters and their children for a day with their mother. In Gathering of Sisters, Weaver writes about her horse-and-buggy Mennonite family and the weekly women s gatherings that keep them connected. On warm days, the children play and fish and build houses of hay in the barn. In the winter, everyone stays close to the woodstove, with puzzles and games and crocheting. No matter the weather, the Tuesday get-togethers of this Old Order Mennonite family keep them grounded and centered in their love for God and for each other,even when raising an occasional loving but knowing eyebrow at each other.

The rest of the week is full of laundry, and errands, and work that never ends. But Tuesdays is about being sisters, daughters, and mothers.

Hear straight from Amish and Mennonite people themselves as they write about their daily lives and deeply rooted faith in the Plainspoken series from Herald Press. Each book includes A Day in the Life of the Author and the author s answers to FAQs about the Amish and Mennonites.

My Thoughts

Have you ever observed a family and wished you were part of it? The type of family where they are close, seem to do everything together and are happy - truly happy? This is how I felt as I read Gathering of Sisters. I so wanted to be a part of the gathering at Darla's mom's home. To feel a part of a family that is not only family, but are also friends. They share books, chores, creative ideas, gardening, flowers, etc. They are the epitome of love and reading this book made me greatly desire what they had. My family is gone - most have either died or moved away, so there is no one to share my later years with, the way I had always envisioned it. I believe this is the part of Amish/Mennonite life that is so attractive to us - where their society hasn't broken down the way ours has.

In Gathering of Sisters, Darla Weaver takes the reader into her childhood home and family and shares her life, feelings, relationships with her siblings, children, nieces, nephews and her mother. Her accounts are honest and she tells how she's not perfect, how she doesn't really love doing everything that we assume the Amish love to do or are superior at. She gives us the gift of making the members of the Old Order alive and real and not some fantasy from the Amish romances that have become so popular.

To say I loved this book is an understatement. It not only tells about Darla's time on Tuesdays with her siblings at her mother's house, but it also combines life with Godly messages and verses. She shares how things that happen in her life remind her about Bible verses as well as how things are incorporated in God plan. This is beautifully done and doesn't sound preachy or false - but most definitely from the heart.

Along with faith, the reader will find recipes for some of the dishes that are cooked, menus that they have and a nice question and answer at the end. This book follows a year of visits with the family and as it winds down to the month of December, there is a sadness that one knows this is the end of the visit with the family.

Make sure to add this to your reading list. It will not only warm you heart, but your soul. Highly recommended!!!

About the Author

Darla Weaver is a homemaker, gardener, writer, and Old Order Mennonite living in the hills of southern Ohio. She is the author of Water My Soul and Many Lighted Windows and has written for Family Life, Ladies' Journal, Young Companion, and other magazines for Amish and Old Order Mennonite groups. Before her three children were born she also taught school. Her hobbies are gardening and writing.

I received an egalley of this book from the NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Friday, October 5, 2018

A Taste of Autumn

It's that time of year when the temperature drops and we have gorgeous, crisp mornings, and lovely warm afternoons. A time when nature gives us the most gorgeous displays of color that will pass all too quickly. This is my favorite time of year. I love the smells, the colors, the temperatures and the food. It's the time for pumpkins, squash, apples, cabbage and other long keepers that will fill many cold cellars and pantries. Stews, soups, casseroles and roasts will now be the staples of meals until the warmer temperatures visit us again next year. Sweaters, cozy pants and and heavier jackets will be taken out of storage. Knitters are pulling out their needles and casting on and starting to make mittens and other cold weather needs. Hot chocolate and cider are now the beverages thought about. The cozy season is now beginning.

The stores are also reflecting the new season. Everywhere you go, you can see pumpkins, squash and apples featured. The smells of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves is in the air, and grocery stores are featuring these items in seasonal items. We went to Sam's Club and picked up a few items that feature pumpkin. Their Member's Mark Pumpkin Cheese Cake is absolutely delicious! Think of a New York style cheese cake and swirl pumpkin pie filling in it. It's not overly spiced and comes pre-sliced in 14 pieces with papers between each piece for easy removal of the slices. This is perfect for me, as I can keep it frozen and remove just a piece or two whenever we want to eat it. No worrying about such a large cake for only one or two people.  It can be found in the frozen section of the store. This is only available for a limited time and always sells out quickly. This is the first year I've been able to get my hands on it!

I always look forward to the panettone. I'll keep a eye out for them to surface. There was a time they'd only be around for Christmas, but last year, I found an autumn version and was over the moon with excitement to try something new. The GranDuCale Pumpkin Panettone is such a treat. This cake has candied pumpkin and pumpkin cream throughout. Although it is a cake, I love to cut off a thick slice and put it in the toaster oven to toast it. After it's toasted, I spread some real butter over it. The outside is toasted, the inside is soft and the butter just enhances the flavor even more. We've also used this instead of bread for French toast. My daughter loves it that way!

I love Lara Bars, so when I heard that Sam's was carrying a date roll that only had 3 ingredients, I was eager to try them. Made from dates, pecans and pumpkin pie spice, the Natural Delights Pumpkin Pie Spiced Date Rolls are perfect for those that don't want processed sugar in their diet but still want something sweet. Well, ingredients wise they are perfect. These date rolls could have been absolutely delicious, but they weren't. They were overloaded with spice - so much so that they were obnoxious. With pumpkin pie spice, a little goes a long way (at least for me it does). The great thing about Sam's is the guarantee. If you don't like it, you can take back the unused portion and receipt for a full refund. I didn't. I just mixed these up with some plain Medjool dates to tame down the spice.

Next stop was Trader Joe's. I got a copy of their Fearless Flyer and saw some items I really wanted to try. If you are blessed with a Trader Joe's, you probably know that you can taste test anything in the store before buying it. I didn't, and wished I had on a couple of items. But if I had - I wouldn't have had a challenge of figuring out how to use the items so that they became much better tasting. What fun would have that been?

I love Biscotti. One of these days I'm going to take time to learn how to make it. Until then, I pay a premium price to purchase hard, break-your-teeth type cookies. Or to be more correct - "a coffee dunkin' cookie", as my husband would say. I found some Pumpkin Biscotti at Trader Joe's. It was a surprise, since I didn't see it listed anywhere on their site. The container isn't very large and holds 18 approximately 3" pieces. Perfect for a small family. These delicious cookies remind me of being close to homemade. You get a sort of creamy sensation, probably from the butter that is listed in the ingredients. The ingredients list is simple: Enriched unbleached flour, brown sugar, butter, eggs, pumpkin puree, pumpkin spice, baking powder and natural vanilla flavor. That's it - all the ingredients you'd put in your own home-baked biscotti with no items you can't pronounce. Trader Joe's Pumpkin Biscotti is definitely something I'll be buying again!

In the cereal section, we found Trader Joe's Pumpkin O's. The picture reminded me of Cherrios and I immediately thought of Cinnamon Cherrios. That went strait into the cart. Pumpkin spiced cereal had to be good, right? Well, next time I really need to read the label before going into the cart. The first thing I noticed when pouring them out into my bowl, was how shiny they were. UH-OH. You know what that means - a sugar coating! These guys are SWEET! I'm really surprised how much sugar they have in them. Sugar is the second and 4th ingredient listed!! I know that dry cereal is processed and not great for you to begin with, but honestly I didn't expect it with this cereal. Once I got past the sweet, I was disappointed there was not a lot of flavor to it. On the website, it tells to pair their pumpkin spice with this cereal, so you know you don't have much for spices here. This is not a buy again for me. If I want something sweet for breakfast, I'll have a pumpkin doughnut with some coffee.

I love fruit butters - they are a real treat for us. I do can my own apple butter, but according to the USDA, canning other fruit butters may not be safe because of the thickness of the finished product and the heat penetration/temps while processing. Finding Pumpkin Butter at Trader Joe's made my day. The ingredients they use: pumpkin, sugar, honey, lemon juice concentrate, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg, are almost the same as what I used back in the day. So, opening this jar created sheer happiness on my part. It was like walking down memory lane. The honey and lemon could be detected and it all tasted so real - nothing artificial here! One surprise was, there was a recipe on the side to make a soup using the pumpkin butter. I'm not sure about that, because fruit butters are sweet - but I may just experiment and see how it turns out.

Who can resist a good sandwich cookie? They're crunchy, have a cream filled center and are perfect for dunkin'. We found these Pumpkin Joe-Joe's and thought, "Why not?" I mean, how can you go wrong with a creamed filled cookie? Our reasoning was right. These guys are quite good. They consist of two crunchy pumpkin cookies on the outside and a nice creamy pumpkin cream filling on the inside. They have a pumpkin spice flavor to them, but it's not overwhelming. These have a nice all-around flavor and are a perfect treat when you are craving something sweet and crunchy. These are a definite buy again. One sad thing is, they aren't supposed to be around long - so it's a get them while they last scenario.

Tortilla chips are a must when one is making taco salad or having a nice bowl of chili. We were looking for tortilla chips for tonight's chili when we stumbled across Trader Joe's Pumpkin Tortilla Chips. My husband and I looked at each other and wondered if they'd be any good. We could have taken them up to the sampling area, but that was at the other side of the store and we were in the last aisle before checking out. We decided to take a chance. If we had tried them at the store, these guys would have never come home with us. No one here likes them plain, but I put some of the chili I'm making on one, and WOW! it's really good. The cinnamon flavor compliments the chili nicely. I'm looking forward to what my husband thinks of the pairing when we have it tonight. I think he's going to be pleasantly surprised. For me - it's actually worth getting another bag just for when I make chili!

We have purchased a few more pumpkin and squash items that we haven't tried yet. If you are interested in hearing what they are, what we think about them or have enjoyed reading or not reading this post, please leave a comment below. This will help me decide what types of posts to do in the future. Thanks for reading. Have a blessed weekend!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Premium Leather Crossbody Slim Bag

I have been looking for the perfect bag for quite a while. I've looked in stores as well as online, but there's always been something I don't like. The strap is to short, the bag is too large or too small or the color isn't right or.... And then there's the price. I'm a tightwad pure and simple. I will pay for something I know will last and I'll be using for years, but it seems I have to look long and hard to find those things. I got lucky. Amazon had the purse I've been looking for!

I saw this bag and knew I had to try it. It looked perfect and is under $40 for a lovely leather bag.

The first thing I notice when I removed the Premium Leather Crossbody Slim Bag from its protective wrapping what how beautiful it is. The leather is a chocolate brown and has a nice warm feel to it. It's not the shiny leather, but more of a softer, almost brushed leather. The strap is a generous length and adjusts easily making this a perfect bag for those of us who are more matronly. The bag is streamlined, measuring 11.25" x 11" x 2" and has a zippered closure. It is the perfect size to carry a wallet, glasses, phone, keys, pens, etc. and still have room to boot. There are 2 inside pockets - one zippered and one that was designed for a cell, but my Samsung s8+ with its Otterbox case does not fit. A smaller phone would, though. There is an outside pocket that has a magnetic snap that works well for my phone, so that's not a problem.

The Premium Leather Crossbody Slim Bag is a gorgeous as well as versatile bag. It works well with jeans as well as more formal attire. I love the everything about this bag and it has replaced my shoulder bag. For me - this beautiful bag is perfect! Highly recommended to those who want a bag that carries the basics and looks great!

I received this item from the Amazon Vine program. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Summer Plans and Other Disasters Blog Tour - Review

Summer Plans and Other Disasters
Author: Karin Beery
Publisher: Elk Lake Publishing Inc
Paperback: 246 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1948888257
Genre: Christian Romance

About the Book:

Elementary school music teacher Callie Stevens thinks she’s finally figured out God’s plan for her life—she even made a list to keep her on track.

Moving in with her brother and reconnecting with her ex-boyfriend are at the top of the list. What’s not on the list is running into her childhood crush, Ryan. God wanted her to connect with Kyle, right?

Trying to figure out God’s plan is hard enough. But a dating-averse older brother, the young blonde who adores him, a pregnant best friend, and Callie’s continual mishaps make her wonder whether her best laid plans were truly God-inspired.

Now available from Elk Lake Publishing!

My Thoughts

Callie Stevens thinks she has everything planned out. She think she's has God's plan for her all figured out and going back to Traverse City is the first step. When she arrives, things seem to be somewhat going in the direction of all her plans, but are they?

This is a sweet romance that has a great message - that God's plans are not always your plans, no matter how much you try to either read or control the situation. Callie found that out.

The characters are lovable and their interaction create an enjoyable story. I really enjoyed Callie. She is not perfect and she has mishaps - some were absolutely funny (the lawnmower incident). They were all quite believable, except for Stacy - I'm on the fence about her.

Mrs. Beery created a nice feel good story that was captivating and easy to get lost in. It's a perfect book to curl up with when you want a nice, easy, feel good read that has a great message. Make sure to add this to your reading list - you'll be happy you did.

About the Author

Karin wrote her first novel in 2007 to cope with her husband’s cancer diagnosis (no worries – he’s cancer free now!). With the support and encouragement of her family, she submitted that manuscript. That particular manuscript has not been published yet, but Summer Plans and Other Disasters, her first published book, releases in September 2018.

Karin writes contemporary and speculative fiction stories with a healthy dose of romance, but she’s also expanded her repertoire: she writes feature stories for the local paper, copy material for businesses, and blog posts for herself and others. She even edits (offering copy editing, fiction editing, and critiques through Write Now Editing Services) and teaches (she’s the Substantive Fiction Editing instructor for the PEN Institute and can be found around the country teaching writing and editing courses at conferences and at her local college).

When Karin’s not reading, writing, or editing, she enjoys cooking and baking. She plays the piano and sings (the key of E, please). She kayaks with her husband in the summer, watches football in the fall (Go Blue!), and enjoys Christmas lights all winter long. Shy but extroverted, Karin adores her nieces and nephew and loves spending time with her family. Learn more about Karin at:

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I received a copy of these books from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.