Saturday, July 18, 2015

Book Review: Hearts Made Whole by Jody Hedlund


Book Details:
Title: Hearts Made Whole
Author: Jody Hedlund
2015, Bethany House 
ISBN: 978-0764212383
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

Book Summary:
1865, Windmill Point, Michigan
Can She Forgive the Hurting Man Who Costs Her the Role She Loves?

After her father's death, Caroline Taylor has grown confident running the Windmill Point Lighthouse. But in 1865 Michigan, women aren't supposed to have such roles, so it's only a matter of time before the lighthouse inspector appoints a new keeper--even though Caroline has nowhere else to go and no other job available to her.

Ryan Chambers is a Civil War veteran still haunted by the horrors of battle. He's secured the position of lighthouse keeper mostly for the isolation--the chance to hide from his past is appealing. He's not expecting the current keeper to be a feisty and beautiful woman who's angry with him for taking her job and for his inability to properly run the light. When his failings endanger others, he and Caroline realize he's in no shape to run the lighthouse, but he's unwilling to let anyone close enough to help. Caroline feels drawn to this wounded soul, but with both of them relying on that single position, can they look past their loss to a future filled with hope...and possibly love?


My Review:
This is the second full novel in the Beacons of Hope series. Let me start by saying that I love the historical aspects of this novel and the previous book and novella. Before this, I'd not been aware that there were so many lighthouses around the Great Lakes (although it makes sense, I'd just never though about it). I have enjoyed learning about the light keepers duties, lives and the women who helped. I always appreciate how the author ties her stories somewhat around a real historical person or event.

That all being said, this wasn't my favorite book. Her characters, as usual, were well developed and the story was richly written, but I sometimes have a few issues with the romance portion.In this case, Caroline Taylor, the daughter of the former light keeper, although a smart woman, allowed herself to become too attached to a drug addict/drunk. I had a hard time believing she would risk her reputation and that of her sister and continue living at the lighthouse with the new (drunk) of a light keeper.

Not that I didn't like the drunk character! Ryan Chambers is the carry-over character from the first novel and I enjoyed hearing about what had become of him. I think his struggle with alcohol is real and the author does a great job of showing how much of a struggle staying sober is even when it is what the person wants to do. He epitomizes the redeeming grace of God and our need to lean on Him instead of ourselves or others.

As for other secondary characters, there was Caroline's younger sister who I couldn't stand from page 1 and the evil tavern owner from town and his weird son who I knew something was off with early on in the story. Unfortunately, even with all the good writing and colorful characters, the story fell a little flat for me. The romance was good, but the circumstances and problems they faced seemed too contrived for me to really enjoy completely. I found myself frustrated with Caroline's character over and over again.

I think this is a great series, and I love the historical elements, but this wasn't my favorite novel. A good read, but not a great one.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book from Bethany House Publishing for an honest review. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are strictly my own
.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Paw Patrol Birthday Party

Zachary is THREE - three! - how did that happen? This was a exciting birthday because this was his first birthday where he was walking independently! Hooray!! Some parents get excited when their child is walking by their first birthday - I'm thrilled that he's walking at his third. =) 

Zach's most favorite thing at the moment is Nick Jr's Paw Patrol. I have to admit, of all the cartoons out there, this one is pretty good. It's less annoying than a lot of the other options. I'm always a little anti character-themed parties, but he loves it so much that I made an exception this year.

We were celebrating on a Sunday afternoon after church and were going to be out of town most of that Saturday, so I couldn't have too much crazy prep going on.

My mom helped me out and printed this banner from the Nick Jr website and sewed it to a ribbon. Thanks Mom!


My friend Stephanie made this cake for the party. Zach thought it was great that all the puppies were on it. =)

Of course he got some great Paw Patrol gifts that he and his brother have spent the next few days arguing over.....

I checked out some other great party's on Pinterest and picked my favorite ideas from a few. My husband grilled hot dogs for everyone, we had Pawtato Salad, Pupcorn and two types of Puppy Chow. I did the Cinnamon Curro and S'mores Puppy Chow (that one was a huge hit). I bought these great dog bowls at Dollar Tree! They were the perfect serving size for my snacks! I downloaded the blank food labels from Mom's Tot School and just hand wrote on them with a Sharpie.


Here's a lovely mid-party messy view of the table.... =)

I did get some Paw Patrol plates, napkins, tablecloth and balloons for the party. Although we had a few late minute RSVPs, so I dug in my past party supplies and found some blue plates and red napkins to supplement! Whew!

We just had lemonade in my lovely teardrop dispenser from World Market (I just couldn't handle drinking something that was called "Toilet Water" like I saw of a few other sites...) and some mason jar cups with fun straws. I printed off a little sign for the front door (sorry for the blurry photo) and printed off some graphics from the Nick Jr website for gift bags. The name tags were some more blank food labels from Mom's Tot School

I wish I'd remembered to take a photo of what was inside the gift bags, but it was a packet of coloring pages I'd printed off the Nick Jr website, a 4-pack of crayon's from Party City in Paw Patrol boxes, a small doggie tennis ball (Target), a mask of one of the dogs, a package of Annie's fruit snacks and some Paw Patrol tattoos and stickers also purchased at Party City.

It was a fun party, but I'm happy that the party-planning is now over for the year - birthday's are stressful! =)


Saturday, June 20, 2015

First Summer Camping Trip

We like to take several camping trips each summer if we can manage it. It is my husband's busy time at work, but if we schedule far enough in advance we can make it happen.

This past week, the four of us plus my parents headed over to the eastern half of the state to Lake Pearrygin State Park. This was a new camp spot for us and our campsite was right on the lake! I was concerned it was going to be crazy crowded, but apparently we lucked out by going mid-week (Tues-Fri) and only the last day did the annoying neighbors show up. =)

The view from our campsite:

I was a little nervous about this location and Zachary drowning, but it was up on a bank and considering he's not very adventurous, I didn't have to worry too much. We had a nice relaxing week. The boys always love camping. I used this link from Pinterest and some leftover bags from Malachi's Hot Wheel birthday party this past March (which I apparently posted nothing about!) and put together a scavenger hunt for them. Zach is really too young, but he liked walking around with his big brother anyway. 

My mom and I tried out a few new meals (mostly her ideas). We had a camping pizza which was a big success, cooked our cornbread like pancakes to go with our chili and campfire french toast (moderately successful... if I'd followed the instructions correctly it might have been better!)

Malachi was excited to be able to fish right off the side of the lake. He learned to cast out a line pretty well over those couple days.

We walked around the nearby town of Winthrop, which is a little touristy old-timey town. Then we headed out to see the Falls Creek Waterfall. It was just a short little hike, but had a beautiful view.

All in all a fun trip! Already have a site scoped out for next year and ideas for what to do and bring since we've got a better idea of what's in the area. =)

I'll leave you with this.... this is what fun looks like... maybe too much fun. =)



Saturday, June 6, 2015

Book Review: The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert


Book Details:
Title: The Art of Losing Yourself
Author: Katie Ganshert
2015, Waterbrook Press
ISBN: 978-1601425928
Genre: Christian Contemporary Fiction

Book Summary:
Just like in my dream, I was drowning and nobody even noticed.

Every morning, Carmen Hart pastes on her made-for-TV smile and broadcasts the weather. She’s the Florida panhandle’s favorite meteorologist, married to everyone’s favorite high school football coach. They’re the perfect-looking couple, live in a nice house, and attend church on Sundays. From the outside, she’s a woman who has it all together.  But on the inside, Carmen Hart struggles with doubt. She wonders if she made a mistake when she married her husband. She wonders if God is as powerful as she once believed. Sometimes she wonders if He exists at all. After years of secret losses and empty arms, she’s not so sure anymore.

Until Carmen’s sister—seventeen year old runaway, Gracie Fisher—steps in and changes everything. Gracie is caught squatting at a boarded-up motel that belongs to Carmen’s aunt, and their mother is off on another one of her benders, which means Carmen has no other option but to take Gracie in. Is it possible for God to use a broken teenager and an abandoned motel to bring a woman’s faith and marriage back to life? Can two half-sisters make each other whole?    

My Review:
As always, Katie Ganshert writes a beautiful story. The characters are well developed and the writing is lovely. This was a modern day story, set in Florida’s panhandle. Carmen Hart is the local TV meteorologist and she is married to the local high school football coach. They look like they have the perfect life from the outside… but on the inside they are struggling. They have been trying to have a baby of their own for years now and the longer the process takes, the more withdrawn Carmen becomes.

Enter her younger sister, Gracie. Gracie’s life looks like a total mess on the outside. She doesn’t fit in, her mother is an alcoholic, and she is always getting into trouble in school. When Carmen finds Gracie living in a vacant motel, she takes Gracie home with her and that stirs everything up.

To be honest, I struggled with this book some. Not because the story wasn’t good or because the characters weren’t believable – because they were very real – but because it was very sad. At one point, I put the book down and just had a heavy weight on my chest from all the hurts in this book. Yes, there is hope and redemption and restoration, but the road to get there is very bleak, depressing and hard. My sorrow for Carmen’s character had me feeling her pain on many occasions and I almost didn’t want to continue on at some points because I was afraid of what was going to happen.

My favorite character in this book was Carmen’s husband Ben. He is a wonderful man who is full of integrity and love for his wife, but he wasn’t perfect. There were a couple times I was expecting a royal screw-up on his part (thank you to the author for not letting it happen… I don’t think I could have handled it) but he kept clinging to his faith, his family and his dreams throughout the story.

There are also many colorful secondary characters, Aunt Ingrid who has dementia (also a sad aspect to the story) Elias, Gracie’s friend and Carmen and Gracie’s mom were all great additions to the storyline.
So… if you want to read a beautifully written story of faith and redemption that is woven with realistic life doubts and crisis this is a great read. If you can’t stand sad book, then this is not the book for you.


Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in return for my honest review. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are strictly my own.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

When Was Your Last Check-Up?

Did you know that May is Woman’s Health Month? Me neither.  Good timing though, because I just got in to see my doctor this month for my three-year well-check up with my doctor. To be honest, I’d never even met this doctor before because I’ve only see my OB or midwife over the past 7 years. This past November my regular check-up came due and I put it off until now….because who really wants to go in for those exams? No one, right? But, now that I’m in my thirties, I feel like it’s really important to pay attention to my health and staying healthy. Keeping up on these routine exams is one way of doing that.

Lucky for me, I don’t currently have any risk factors and all my tests this time around came back normal (hooray!). Getting regular check-ups are so important though, so that you can catch any potential problems early or maybe even be encouraged to make some lifestyle changes before they become a problem at all!

The past few months, I’ve been working on getting out at walking for some exercise on a regular basis and I’ve started an exercise program to help strengthen my core muscles to help with back pain. I’m hoping that by living a healthier life now, I can stay that way longer.

I want to encourage all the ladies out there to learn something new about women’s health this month. Here is a little graphic to help you know what you need to do and how often to get it done. =)

I want to encourage all the ladies out there to learn something new about women’s health this month. Here is a little graphic from Oscar Insurance to help you know what you need to do and how often to get it done. =) Oscar offers health insurance in the New York and New Jersey areas and concentrates on providing technology to help make these check-ups and their entire healthcare an easier process. Their new type of health insurance plans offer services with the Oscar app such as the Doctor on Call tool that allows their members to speak directly with their doctor through the app without having to make an appointment or take a trip to the office.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Book Review: A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade


Book Details:
Title: A Love Like Ours (A Porter Family Novel #3)
Author: Becky Wade
2015, Bethany House
ISBN: 978-0764211096
Genre: Christian Contemporary Fiction

Book Summary:
Former Marine Jake Porter has far deeper scars than the one that marks his face. He struggles with symptoms of PTSD, lives a solitary life, and avoids relationships.

When Lyndie James, Jake's childhood best friend, lands back in Holley, Texas, Jake cautiously hires her to exercise his Thoroughbreds. Lyndie is tender-hearted, fiercely determined, and afraid of nothing, just like she was as a child. Jake pairs her with Silver Leaf, a horse full of promise but lacking in results, hoping she can solve the mystery of the stallion's reluctance to run.

Though Jake and Lyndie have grown into very different adults, the bond that existed during their childhood still ties them together. Against Jake's will, Lyndie's sparkling, optimistic personality begins to tear down the walls he's built around his heart. A glimmer of the hope he'd thought he'd lost returns, but fears and regrets still plague him. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend?


My Review:
Becky Wade is becoming one of my favorite authors. I think I've enjoyed every book I've read by her and this one was no exception. This book is set in Holley, Texas and is told from the POV of both Lyndie and Jake.

Who doesn't love a novel with a setting surrounded by horses? And not just any horses - a Thoroughbred ranch! Lyndie's family has moved back to Holley,Texas after about 20 years of living in California. A lot has changed. Lyndie's once best friend, Jake Porter wants nothing to do with her - and is a shadow of himself. Lyndie is determined to make Jake like her even if they can't be friends like they were before.

This was a really interesting book. The author tackled both a main character with PTSD (and did a very admirable job, I thought) and gave Lyndie a sister with severe cerebral palsy. Each of these on their own are difficult subjects, but the author wove them together into a beautiful story of healing, coping, love and restoration.

Jake lives with guilt everyday over the IED that went off and killed his fellow soldiers under his command in Iraq - he being the lone survivor. Can Lyndie's gentle way finally bring him to a place where he can forgive himself and God?

Excellent story, well-written characters and a wonderful message. This book kept me entertained from cover to cover and I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House publishers for my honest review. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are strictly my own.



Etsy Shop Re-Opened!

I've FINALLY put some new stuff in my Etsy shop. Head on over there for some lovely bags of vintage trims to use for your projects or a pretty vintage apron!





See LittleSproutBasics here! =)