Monday, November 28, 2016

Finding Margo: A Review and a Giveaway

If you could leave your life right now and start over where nobody knows you... even if it was just for a few days... would you? Wouldn't we all like to just escape it all? Margo Hartman is at the end of her rope. Her reputation as a pop star means that she is well known and can't get a break... but it's her mother's high expectations that really strangle her. Being a celebrity isn't all it's cracked up to be, apparently... and Margo is one of the most likeable celebrities I've "met" in a book.

Her life is a series of unfortunate events...from an overbearing mother to a car accident to a hospital stay... all in a matter of hours. Turano has created believable characters in both Margo and Brock Moore. She writes with a warm style that is easy to read and enjoyable, and you find yourself reading "just one more page".

Throw in the Amish and Mennonite community, and you have a recipe for a pleasant book for a cold winter's day. I'd highly recommend this if you're a fan of Christian suspense or romance.
About the Book

Off the charts and on the run.
International pop star Margo Hartman could use a night off. A grueling tour and overbearing entourage have sent her over the edge. It’s time for this diva to disappear. And who would think to look for the superstar in a small town in Ohio?
Sheriff’s deputy Brock Moore is undercover as well. He knows Margo isn’t who she appears to be, but her uncanny resemblance to a local Amish woman is raising all sorts of questions . . . the kinds that make her a target for a killer.
Both are determined to find answers, but their mutual attraction stands in the way of either of them doing it alone. Is finding Margo the solution to Brock’s problems or the just the beginning . . . ?

About the Author


 USA Today best-selling author Jen Turano writes contemporary and historical romances with quirky characters and unusual storylines. Just outside Denver, Colorado, Jen and her husband live as empty-nesters, and they do so fabulously. Contact Jen at

Guest Post from Jen Turano

The Making of “Finding Margo”
By Jen Turano
To say that my entrance into the publishing world was a tad difficult is certainly an understatement.  My very first attempt at writing was centered around a middle grade book, specifically written for my son who was in the third grade at the time.  After finishing that, and sending it out to all of five companies, none of whom represented middle grade, I then moved on to young adult with a little more interest sent my way, but no success story to report in the end.  Not one to embrace the idea of complete and utter failure, I then tried my hand at a contemporary romance, moved on to what I assumed was a delightful regency romance, but one that turned out to be not that delightful, at least according to numerous agents, and finally landed on gilded age stories, filled with quirky heroines.  That is when I finally received my very first publishing contract, which then saw me catapulted into the very weird world of publishing.  After completing the second gilded age story of my two-book contract, I found myself with some time on my hands as I waited to see if anyone would read my stories, which might then result in an offer of additional book contracts.  As I waited, I decided I might as well keep writing, so decided to try another contemporary story, although my agent at that time suggested I try to write an Amish book since she had numerous requests from publishers for those specific books.
Because my writing voice is not what anyone might consider normal, I really didn’t believe I’d be able to do justice to an authentic Amish story.  Because of that, I settled on the idea of writing a contemporary romantic suspense, being a huge fan of that genre.  I had a vague notion of exploring a theme centered around a dog walker who might stumble on a body while walking her pack of dogs, or perhaps have a storyline that centered around a makeup artist who witnessed a crime while setting out her makeup for a client, but those ideas went straight away when I pulled out the vacuum one fine day.
Vacuuming, as well as staining the deck, cleaning the shower, and power-washing the garage, are my go-to activities when I need to get the muse working right before I start a first draft. On that particular day, as I pushed the vacuum around the house, I suddenly had the most intriguing idea – an idea that started off with two delightful little words…What…and…If.
That was all it took for a premise to begin festering through my mind, a fester that grew into this – What if three Amish children were stolen straight out of their beds, never to be seen or heard from again until… Now here’s where it gets interesting.  I decided to have a woman by the name of Margo Hartman, an international superstar no less, stumble into this small Ohio town quite by accident, and…she happens to bear an uncommon resemblance to an Amish woman who lives in this town.  To add an addition sense of intrigue, someone immediately begins trying their very best to kill poor Margo.
By the time I was done vacuuming, the storyline for “Finding Margo” was firmly cemented in my mind, which translates into Jen had no choice other than to write the story.  However, before my agent at that time found a home for the manuscript, I signed another contract for more gilded age books, which meant I did not have the time to commit to what was certainly going to have to be a three-book series since, well, there were three Amish children who’d gone missing.
Fast forward around five years and I found myself a little ahead of schedule at exactly the right time.  There was a new publishing house in town, my current agent remembered me talking about this quirky book I’d written long ago, and as luck would have it, I found the flash drive that’s been home to “Finding Margo” for all these years.
Since my writing style has certainly changed since I first wrote Margo’s story, I ended up rewriting the entire book, and I must say that I’m still just as intrigued with the storyline as I was when it popped to mind while vacuuming what seems like ages ago.  I’m just tickled to death that Margo Hartman has finally found her way out of a flash drive and onto the pages of a book.  I’m hoping readers will enjoy her as much as I enjoyed writing her.
Thank you so much for taking the time to visit with me today, and for supporting my books over the years.  I cannot properly express how important all my readers have become to me, and I’m incredibly thankful for every one of you.  You’ve brightened up my life and without you, well, I wouldn’t have anyone to share the stories that always seem to rumble around my mind.
God bless!
~ Jen ~

Blog Stops

November 17: Book by Book
November 17: cherylbbookblog
November 18: A Reader’s Brain
November 18: I Hope You Dance
November 18: Blogging with Carol
November 19: ASC Book Reviews
November 19: Bibliophile Reviews
November 20: Lighthouse Academy
November 20: Karen Sue Hadley
November 20: Back Porch Reads
November 21: Genesis 5020
November 21: 100 Pages per Hour
November 22: Pause for Tales
November 22: Quiet Quilter
November 22: Bigreadersite
November 23: Just Commonly
November 23: A Greater Yes
November 23: D’S QUILTS & BOOKS
November 24: Smiling Book Reviews
November 24: Ashley’s Bookshelf
November 25: inklings and notions
November 26: Daysong Reflections
November 26: The Scribbler
November 26: Blossoms and Blessings
November 28: The Power of Words
November 28: Reader’s Cozy Corner
November 29: Faithfully Bookish
November 29: Christian Bookaholic


To celebrate her tour, Jen is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card and signed copies of her book! Click the link below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post to claim your nine entries on the giveaway!


10 Book Reviews Professional Reader

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

From Humble Beginnings Come Great Things

“From humble beginnings come great things.”

Two words I have heard over and over in the past few weeks when people described Papaw Jr. were “humble” and “kind”.  Both of these are true.  I’m reminded of the Bible verse about God opposing the proud and giving grace to the humble.  Papaw Jr. was definitely humble, and I can’t help but think that God did show him grace and favor throughout his life… and his humble beginnings truly did become something great.

Papaw was raised at Clayhole.  His family lived with his grandparents and he had fond memories of them. When Caleb was little and I talked about how he liked to sleep with his Papaw William to rub his eyebrows, Papaw Jr. would tell me that was ok, that he slept with his Grandma until he was six or so. His Daddy’s property was divided from his Grandpa’s by a big rock with a line drawn down the middle. Papaw Jr. and his brother Willard would fight, so one day their grandpa put Willard on one side and Papaw Jr. on the other and dared them to cross. Papaw said he thought that put an end to that fight… but I’m sure there were plenty others.

Papaw went to Caney School and went to Clayhole Brethren Church for Sunday School. He talked about how he never packed his lunch for school because he was too busy playing during that time to eat, and that he was starved by the time he got home. His Grandma always had a little milk put back in a jar just for him, because she had him a little spoiled, he said. He loved to tell us stories of the mischief he and his cousins got into. One time at the Sale House, a place where they would give away clothes, the women were grabbing what they wanted and piling it up, and Papaw and his cousin Ronald went by and move the clothes from one pile to another, almost causing a fight.

When they moved to town, they got electricity and would listen to the radio if Papaw Barlow was working on somebody’s.  He said he loved to listen to prize fighting and the Grand ol’ Opry. Funny, I can’t remember a time when he didn’t have a radio by his chair in the living room.  He was always listening to a ballgame or the weather or the station out of Mount Carmel.  Those Reds games must have been captivating, because he’d always fall asleep… but as soon as someone approached the dial to turn the radio off or change the station, his eyes would fly open. “I was listening to that!”

Papaw went to work at a young age. His Dad worked on coal trucks and Papaw went to help him. One day an opening came for a coal truck driver. Papaw didn’t have his driver’s license, but at the age of 17 he went to town and got his license and started driving a coal truck the next day.

He made $14 a day driving that truck. After that company closed, he went to work at Dalton’s Garage, which was located right here where this church is. Funny how much time Papaw spent in this one little area. About this time he was hanging out with that troublemaking cousin across from the courthouse when some little young lady carrying a guitar as big as she was came down the steps after a revival. A few months later, he pulled his car over at Clayhole and asked if she reckoned they could make it on $35 a month. As they say, the rest is history… the Clemons Clan legacy started right there.


He was a proud veteran, serving in the Army as a wheel vehicle repairman. During this time, my Mom was born. When he got out of the service, he opened Clemons Garage and devoted over 60 years to his family, his work, his church, and his community.

On the weekends he’d load all six kids in their station wagon and make a trip… to church, to the Church of God Campmeeting…  to Whick or Lick Branch or Dayton to visit Mamaw’s family. A jar of ice water provided drink for the group and few stops were made since he didn’t believe in bathroom breaks. I’m sure there was lots of arguing in that crowded station wagon. I’m also pretty sure that if he tried to get them to quieten down, he’d never call them by the right name… “Karen, Mike, David, Lisa, Nora… Dana’s your name” This tradition of not getting the names right until he went through the whole line continued with the grandchildren, until there was so many of us that he just gave up. 

He worked hard to make sure they had all that they needed. My Mom’s siblings talked about going to Papaw for a dollar. “Aaahhh… I wish that’s all I needed” was his response. He did provide them with treats like Sweet-tarts from Bob Gross’s service station. He remained a bargain shopper, driving thirty miles to save ten cents on gas Dana said she’d miss Saturday morning  trips to the Dollar Store because he had a $5 off coupon. He still had one of those coupons in his wallet when mom was looking through it on Saturday.

His hard work continued even when most people his age were retiring. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1999, and scheduled every radiation treatment for 8 AM in Lexington. He’d come home, eat some peanut butter and crackers for lunch, and head into the garage. I guess he had to keep working, as long as Mike Fugate had that old brown truck! Credit was easy to obtain at the garage, and he didn’t care to loan his tools, either. He couldn’t always remember customer’s names, but he could remember what kind of vehicle they drove. Guess that’s why Caleb could name all those cars when he was three years old!  He also gave people a helping hand. Dana talked about a coworker who started out working with Papaw at the garage, and said he had often told her how indebted he was to Papaw., that he and his family would have gone hungry if Papaw hadn’t given him that job. One of my memories of Papaw is him coming home on lunch break, me, Glenn, and Jenn lined up on the couch or climbing the tree or the banisters on the porch. He’d have on his green work shirt and those greasy hands, and he’d always pretend like he was going to grab us. Those hands were permanently stained, didn’t matter how hard he washed them… but those stains meant love, because of what he worked for.

Nora talked about how he’d keep her old LTD in working shape. She said she’d be praying every time it’d tear up that it would be for good, but Papaw would just load his tools up, drive to Morehead, and it’d be good for a few more miles. She also said that Papaw would be the first standing and clapping at her chorus concerts at Morehead. Most of her songs were in Italian or Latin, but Papaw didn’t care, because it was his baby singing them.

Mom talked about how he fostered her love of sports. He loved ballgames, and would go as often as he could, traveling to neighboring counties. She commented, “I guess he knew to get out of the house, he’d have to take a kid or two along, so it was me and Mike.” She knew the words to Breathitt and Jackson’s school songs, and that love of sports is evident in most of us. He loved Reds baseball, UK basketball, and anything that the grandkids played.. He grew to love football as Glenn and Brayton played, and never failed to ask me how Caleb’s football team was doing or tell me what Glenn was telling him about Breathitt’s football team. The winter after Mamaw died, Papaw frequented the gym watching the Ladycats and Landry at Jackson, and it pleased my heart to get to sit next to him. He didn’t get too excited, but Mom said when she was little he’d rub his hands together when the game was close. My fondest memory of that time was sitting with him at Memorial Gym at Hazard, and him telling me about Earl Stevens breaking his leg. He also loved to tell the story of the heartbreaker against Austin Dumas and Dunbar in the Sweet 16. Standing room only at UK’s Memorial Coliseum, and he had a bird’s eye view of the winning shot. He was such a basketball fan that he missed David’s birth because he was at a basketball game at Hazard. “If Breathitt hadn’t gone into overtime, I’d have been ok”, he said.

That same winter he spent lots of Sunday evenings at my Griffith grandparents house. My Papaw Paul had a big screen TV, and they’d usually watch whatever ballgame was on, Papaw Paul in his recliner, Papaw Jr. on the bed.  I think they spent as much time napping as they did watching TV. One day I had told Kami that Pappy J was watching a game with Papaw Paul, and she texted back and said, “Does he go over there often?” I replied yes, to which she replied, “Do they even like each other?” I guess she thought Mom was trying to force a friendship… but two of the greatest men in my life, and they were always friends. I’ve been blessed. I never knew that inlaws didn’t get along and grow gardens together.

He never had much to say, that I can remember. I guess we were a loud and boisterous group, and that only grew with the grandkids. He was quick witted, though, if you listened. When Nora had Allie, Mamaw called him at the garage and told him he had a new granddaughter. A couple of hours later she called back to tell him Kami had been born. “Don’t call back today,”he said.  Didn’t matter how loud we were, though… he’d load us up in that van and off we’d go. Gentry and Brayton talked about going to look at Christmas lights.

The family grew as we got older and got married. One day Wallace was quarreling about something with me and said, “Jr., why didn’t you warn me about these Arrowood women?” Papaw just smiled and said, “You wouldn’t have listened.”

Papaw and Mamaw’s house was a haven to the neighborhood kids, and as the grandkids got older, they adopted their friends into the family. Allie talked about having a sleepover with a friend one night. This was before they had central air, and only had a window unit in the living room. Allie and her friend crept into the living room in the dark of night to climb up on the loveseat in front of the window unit. Her friend stepped up on a step stool… only to find out it was Papaw, kneeling and praying. It was too dark to tell it was him. Al said she couldn’t remember his response, but they hightailed it back to the bedroom. He probably just kept on praying…. Or sleeping, if he had fallen asleep.

The Clemons Clan continued to grow, and his great-grandkids truly brought him much joy. He loved when Lily would entertain him, and he’d talk about Braylee Naomi. On Braylee’s first Thanksgiving, Chelsey and Brayton had gone to Walmart for black Friday shopping, leaving Braylee with her Nonna. Braylee was not happy about the situation, and was crying pretty loudly. “Ah.. she’s just having one of those Naomi fits”, he laughed.

The first time I can remember my Papaw telling me he loved me I was sixteen, at his Mom’s visitation. I was headed to go cheer at a football game, and I leaned over to give him a hug. He may have told me before, but it didn’t matter. I knew. We all knew. The last three weeks, I’ve been blessed to have breakfast with Papaw most weekday mornings, and the last thing I’d hear as I headed out the door to work was “I love you.” Few words, yes… but a life of actions that showed that love to each of us.


He truly was a miracle. He talked about as a child witnessing a murder, hiding in an old car as a man got shot dead in the middle of the road. “We didn’t realize it, then”, he said.. “But that was dangerous. We could have been shot by a stray bullet or anything.” He also fell 40 feet when he cut into a live electric line while working on a tower at a blacktop plant. A fractured skull and finger that had been severely burned were two of the injuries. As a nurse, I’m still amazed at the unconventional way they treated the open wound on his finger… by cutting a hole in his abdomen, sewing the finger in, and allowing it to heal before taking out the stitches.

Papaw’s strong faith was evident through his service to this church. It seems funny to stand up here and not look back and see him in the pew next to the window, or to see him not standing here leading a song. That’s usually where he’d be when we’d come dragging in, late. I can’t read the book of Daniel without hearing Prayer Bells of Heaven in my mind. He served this church many years as church clerk and Sunday School Supt., driving a church van all over Breathitt county and making sure it was in working condition, and hauling youth groups to Camden Park and the Smoky Mountains, smiling most of the way.  The church van parked at the side of the house provided the grandkids many hours of enjoyment as we played inside… and apparently, the kids, too. Dana said one time she knocked it out of gear and it rolled across the lane.

A man of humble beginnings, yes… but a man who has left us with a lifetime of great things. Pappy J., you’re one of the best. May your legacy live on in each of us.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Theft of Memory: A Review

Alzheimer's disease, or any type of dementia, is a difficult to diagnosis.

A person becomes loss... to self, and to those he or she loves.

And family members must grieve the loss of someone still sitting across the table with them.

Jonathan Kozol's The Theft of Memory is a hauntingly beautiful story of Kozol's father, whose diagnosis was especially tragic because of his own work as a doctor specializing in neurology and psychology.

Kozol's father knew something was going wrong.

Kozol knew something was going wrong.

The journey through his father's diagnosis led him back to old clinical files, where he discovered parts of his father's life that he had never realized... which led him to see his father in a new life.

As Kozol struggled with decisions such as home care or long-term care, he was also forced to contemplate the deeper meanings of life.

I would recommend this read to anyone whose family member or loved one may be facing a similar diagnosis, or to anyone in the healthcare field. I will be using quotes in my nursing courses!

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.