Thursday, May 18, 2017

Thoughts on Middle School...

When I say middle school was the hardest time in my life, I wouldn't be exaggerating. That time when everyone is looking at you, or at least it feels that way... judging you... and even though it's the same for everyone, you feel alone.

 I can't imagine what it's like with all of the social media in today's world.

 Today, though, as I sat in those bleachers, I thought of all of the good times I had at SMS. Making music videos in Jack Strong's room and my first solo in Chorus ...and lounging on the track and sneaking over to the nursing home to get pops from the employee lounge... cheer practice in the lobby and movies in the library....

 I wouldn't go back to middle school or high school for any amount of money, but I recognize the immense opportunity in front of those students sitting in the floor today. To them, the next four years may or may not creep by... but to us parents, it will seem like overnight. Such potential in those seats, but also so many who will face obstacles no kid should have to face. Thinking back on my class at SMS, there were over 200 of us. 176 graduated. Some of them moved. Some of them dropped out. I don't know what happened to some of the others, and those are the saddest stories, perhaps, because they somehow slipped through the cracks. 

 I saw the whole gamut of emotion today- exhiliration and full joy, tears of happiness, maybe a little amazement from some kids. Fear and apprehension about the next steps of life...

 I feel like I'm in commencement speech mode even though I never gave a commencement speech in my life... but I'd say the same things to those 8th graders as I said to the graduating seniors... except I'd remind them that they can choose their path to life. For those in my class who didn't graduate high school, somebody sometime along the way stopped believing in them. 

 BELIEVE IN YOURSELF even when noone else does. And if noone else believes in you, know that Caleb Bates's crazy Mom believes in you. I may not know you from Adam, but I'm telling you here's one adult that will be in your corner. 

 Statistics tell us that being from Eastern Kentucky make us disadvantaged. We live in poverty and to many are a hopeless cause. I'm here to tell you that YOU ARE OUR HOPE. Sorry to put that on your shoulders... but you can do it. Choose to rise above the apathy and the drug addiction and the helplessness. And don't ever give up. 

Proud of you, 8th graders!!! Looking forward to good things from you in the coming years!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dear High School Senior

Dear High School Senior,
Twenty years ago I was standing right where you are getting ready to stand... On the brink of uncertainty at the top of this mountain you've been climbing for the past twelve years. (I know I don't look that old, and it's hard to believe, but I digress...)

I had no clue what I was going to do with my life. My high school experience was average. Average GPA, taking some hard classes like Calculus that I needed a lot of help in. Pretty good ACT score, ...but not high enough to put me in the running for any major money scholarships. I cheered, but wouldn't make the high school squad if I was graduating with you. I was in Chorus, and was pretty good, but never good enough to make it to All-State. Never made Student Council. Didn't make prom court. I was always an introvert and people thought I was a snob, and maybe I was a not so nice person. That is one of my biggest regrets. (And lest you read this age think I'm complaining, I'm not. I got to cheer for two state football championships and cheer at Rupp and won 3rd place in state with the FPS. I just wasn't the "shining star"... )

There was nothing special about me, and at the time I let myself believe that.
But here's the thing. The world needs "average" people. We need those shining stars, too.

We need you. So as you stare off into the horizon, remember that comparing yourself to someone else is like comparing apples to oranges. Dream big. Don't ever let anyone tell you that you aren't good enough because you're from Eastern Ky. If anything, the obstacles that we often have to overcome makes you better than.

Pursue something you are passionate about. Don't settle. Don't be afraid to rise to the challenge. It's ok to fall... Just dust yourself off and start again. Smile at people and take time to learn their stories, especially if theirs are different than yours. Every story matters.

Don't define success by the expectations of others. By the world, or your parents... but know that you are truly successful if you live every day to the fullest, and are the good kind of exhausted when your head hits the pillow. You know the difference.

Love hard and be the best you that you can be... Not trying to be somebody else. You can truly do anything... And if it's hard, just keep pushing.

I wish someone had told me all that twenty years ago... Or that I had listened!

Y'all are amazing!!! And we are cheering you on!
A Nostalgic Member of the BHS class of 1997

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Hidden Thread- May 16

I love a good story.
Stories where there's some tragedy, some intrigue, lots of tension...

And this novel by Trenow is just that. The heroine, Anna, is introduced into London society in an overwhelming way. Having lost her mother recently, she's not sure how she should feel about life in general, and to say her Uncle's house and family is unfamiliar is an understatement. She doesn't understand London fashion, and she doesn't understand London societal rules...

And what is a good love story without breaking few of society's rules? Because a chance encounter with Henri, a French immigrant, forces Anna to look within herself and determine where she fits.

I enjoyed the description of the silk industry, as it was something I was not familiar with. The characters in this book are pleasant and I really like Anna. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys romance with tension. I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley and am providing an honest review, which will be posted on their website.
Professional Reader

Title: The Hidden Thread
Author: Liz Trenow
Publication Date: May 1st, 2017
Publication Date: Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9781492637516
Summary: The Hidden Thread is a breathtaking novel about the intricate craft of silk and the heartbreak of forbidden love.
When Anna Butterfield’s mother dies, she’s sent to live with her uncle, a silk merchant in London, to make a good match and provide for her father and sister. There, she meets Henri, a French immigrant and apprentice hoping to become a master weaver. But Henri, born into a lower class, becomes embroiled in the silk riots that break out as weavers protest for a fair wage.
Goodreads Link:
Buy Links:
Barnes & Noble:
Book Depository:

About the Author:

Liz Trenow is a former BBC and newspaper journalist, now working freelance. She is also the author of The Last Telegram.
Connect with Liz: Website | Twitter | Facebook


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Behind the Scenes- May 10

Y'all!!! First off I had heard of a "wallflower", but had no idea that it really meant something. Permilia is the epitome of wallflower, much to her stepmother's dismay. This introduction into society is a delightful read, and is even more so as I learned that the costume ball Permilia attends was a real event with guests wearing elaborate costumes!!! Permilia and Asher, as well as the supporting characters, are well-developed, and Permilia just may be one of my favorite characters yet because she is funny, honest, and sure of herself, even in a time when women aren't supposed to be sure of themselves. I'd highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the 1800s and  societal living with a touch of romance.

Book: Behind the Scenes
Author: Jen Turano
Genre: Inspirational Historical Romance
Release Date: April, 2017
Miss Permilia Griswold may have been given the opportunity of a debut into New York high society, but no one warned her she wasn’t guaranteed to “take.” After spending the last six years banished to the wallflower section of the ballroom, she’s finally putting her status on the fringes of society to good use by penning anonymous society gossip columns under the pseudonym “Miss Quill.”
Mr. Asher Rutherford has managed to maintain his status as a reputable gentleman of society despite opening his own department store. While pretending it’s simply a lark to fill his time, he has quite legitimate reasons for needing to make his store the most successful in the country.
When Permilia overhears a threat against the estimable Mr. Rutherford, she’s determined to find and warn the man. Disgruntled at a first meeting that goes quite poorly and results in Asher not believing her, she decides to take matters into her own hands, never realizing she’ll end up at risk as well.
As Asher and Permilia are forced to work together and spend time away from the spotlight of society, perhaps there’s more going on behind the scenes than they ever could have anticipated. . . .


Jen Turano, author of nine books and two novellas, is a graduate of the University of Akron with a degree in clothing and textiles. She is a member of ACFW and lives in a suburb of Denver, Colorado. Visit her website at

  1. What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you personally?
  2. Amusing things happen to me all the time, but I think my favorite was back in college when I was a lifeguard. You see, there’s a lifeguard code – You will be cool at all times, especially when you’re sitting in a lifeguard chair, twirling your whistle exactly so, and, you know…looking cool. So, there I was, in my black lifeguard bathing suit – swinging my whistle. It was an unusually hot day, so I’d angled my umbrella exactly right as I watched the diving-board section. Now, I know this might come as a surprise, but being a lifeguard at the neighborhood pool isn’t exactly thrilling. It’s rare that anything exciting happens, and that particular day was no exception…until a large gust of wind came out of nowhere and the umbrella took it upon itself to close – right over me. And because it was now really gusty, the umbrella then lifted up, taking me with it right off the chair and into the depths of the deep end of the pool. From all accounts, it was quite the sight. First, there I was, swinging my whistle and looking groovy. Then all you could see were my legs flailing about as the umbrella covered the rest of me, and then…I was plummeting toward the pool, hit the water with the umbrella over me, and promptly sank. Obviously I managed to get out of the umbrella, but in the process, part of my bathing suit came off, and…well, that’s a story for another day.

  1. What is your favorite book from your childhood?
“Andrew Henry’s Meadow.” It was actually my little brother’s book, gotten from one of those book of the month clubs, but I loved it. I recently found a copy on an e-site and ordered it, and it’s just as delightful today as it was back in my childhood.

  1. Who does the cooking and cleaning in your house when you are on a deadline?
I don’t actually cook much even when I’m not on deadline, so that’s not really an issue. Al and I do a lot of salads or throw some chicken on the grill. We also have a lot of grocery stores that have wonderful deli and gourmet foods, so we get a lot of things there. As for cleaning, I’m one of those neurotic people who can’t work without everything being in place, so I do a lot of tidying up before I go to bed. And, because I do some of my best thinking when I clean, I’ve been known to abandon my writing when I get stuck and pick up a mop or cleaning rag, which means my house is rarely a disaster since I need to get unstuck a lot.

  1. Where is your favorite place to write?
I do the majority of my writing in my office, although I will occasionally take a pad of paper and a pen outside to handwrite when I get bored of my office or it’s a really nice day and I don’t feel like being trapped inside. It’s not that my office is my favorite place to write, it’s more that my writing is my job and I’m more focused on that writing when I approach it as such.

  1. What is your favorite part of the writing process?
I really like when characters and new story ideas begin to fester. That normally happens when I’m in the midst of another series. By the time I’m done with whatever series I’m working on, the next series is pretty firmly set in my mind, which means I can jump right in as I wait for edits on recently completed work. My absolute favorite part of writing, though, is when I turn in the very final edit on a book and don’t see it again until it comes out in print. Although, I must admit, I’ve never, not once, read one of my books after it has gone to print. Seems rather pointless since I do always know how the book is going to end.

  1. Why did you choose the timeframe or setting this book is written in?
I’ve been wanting to set a book during Alva Vanderbilt’s famous costume ball of March, 1883, for years. Since I decided to slowly travel through the Gilded Age, I just reached 1883 on my plot timeline, so knew I was finally going to get to throw some characters into the very midst of Alva’s ball. It was a blast to write, loved going back to all my books on this particular ball and seeing the pictures, and only wish the Vanderbilt house at 660 Fifth Avenue was still standing so I could visit it in person to visualize the splendors located inside a little more clearly.

  1. What inspires you?
I think like most writers, I simply get inspired by the world around me. I love to people watch, and I love to imagine all sorts of outlandish scenarios as I do that watching. I also get inspired by reading the headlines of the daily papers, and by the research books I read. I also love to look through old photographs of the Gilded Age, and became intrigued with Alva Vanderbilt’s ball when I saw a picture of a young lady, Miss Kate Strong, with a stuffed cat on her head and wearing a choker necklace with the name Puss engraved on it. That was all it took for me to investigate the Vanderbilt ball further, delighted to discover it truly was a ball that only comes along every blue moon.

Blog Stops

April 27: The Scribbler
April 27: Genesis 5020
April 28: Back Porch Reads
April 29: Bookworm Mama
April 30: Radiant Light
April 30: Bigreadersite
April 30: Lane Hill House
May 3: Book by Book
May 5: Baker Kella

To celebrate her tour, Jen is giving away a $25 Barnes and Noble Gift Card and the four books: After a Fashion, In Good Company, Playing the Part, Behind the Scenes!! Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

What I Read in April

1. Sweet on You- I reviewed this book in December, but still had a couple of chapters to finish. I reviewed the second book in this series in April, but still have a couple of chapters to finish. I love this author. I like this character. Check it out!

2. Three Moons over Sedona- This is one I've had on my Kindle for a long time. I loved Sedona when I visited Arizona a few years ago, so I could totally picture in my head the land features described. In this novel, the main character's husband had just died, and she decides to have a "mid-life" crisis by driving until she doesn't feel like driving anymore. What results is new friendships, some romance, and a journey of finding herself that couldn't have happened if she had just stayed put in her hometown. I loved the characters. The writing flows well, and is easy to read. A great summertime read for sitting around by the pool!

3. Independent Study- This is the second book in The Testing Trilogy and it is great. Reminiscent of series like Divergent and The Hunger Games, this is a fast-moving book with well-developed characters that will keep  you on the edge of your seat. I highly recommend it! I'm reading the last book right now.

4. Murder for the Time Being- Loved this book. Reviewed it at the end of March. Lexi is an awesome character and her story is amazing. Very fast-paced, that kept me guessing until the very end.

5. The Story of Land and Sea- This book is set during the final days of the American Revolution and tells the story of Helen, her daughter Tabitha, her slave, Moll, her father and her husband. Death is a central theme, as is the importance of allowing people to make their own choices. The interweaving of their lives is a haunting tribute to how we connect with one another. Not my favorite book, to be honest, but a good read nonetheless.

6. Zip It: The Keep it Shut 40-Day Challenge- I read this one as a part of Karen Ehman's #DoingLentTogether facebook page. Based on her book Keep It Shut, this book had 40 quick devotionals focusing on the power of our words. Loved it. Need to read it every month of my life!

7. The Women of Easter- I got this book from blogging for books and was delighted to discover Liz would be reading through it for Lent on her facebook page. It's a marvelous read that highlights the lives of the three Mary's in  the New Testament, as well as focusing on the relationship of women to Christ. Love it.

8. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk- This is a book I was excited about. I wanted to read it before I watched the movie, but we ended up watching the movie first. It's about war hero Billy Lynn's whose company is paraded around the country, ending with a televised halftime show during the annual Thanksgiving Day game for the Dallas football team (although I don't think it ever said Cowboys, probably because of copyright issues, I know enough about football that I pictured that team and their infamous cheerleaders throughout the prose). The story involves some flashbacks of war battles, time with his family, how he came to be who he is, and real-life moments including the half-time show. As expected, this book has a lot of inappropriate language. As much as I wanted to love it, I just didn't. It ended very abruptly and left me wondering if he'd go back to war only to get killed.

9. Steadfast Love by Lauren Chandler- I LOVED this book. Loved it. Focusing on Psalm 107, Lauren shows us how through worship and difficulties, God is our anchor, a steadfast love and hope for us. Beautifully written, Lauren draws from personal experience and pulls out portions of Scripture to encourage. Highly recommend this book!!

10. The Yellow Envelope- Loved this book as well. It tells the story of Kim and her husband Bryan, who quit their jobs and sold everything they owned to travel the world. I reviewed it this month, so click on the link to read more.

11. Lucky Us- This book tells the story of Iris and Eva, two sisters, and their motley crew of supporting characters in the 1940s. Well-written from the viewpoints of different characters, including through narrative and letters, the book shows how families can become frayed but can come back together. Again, not my favorite book, but not a bad read.

Lots of books left on my challenge. I'm reading 36 books right now- oh, boy!!!! But my favorite time of the year is coming up and I'm hoping for lots of reading!

2017 Popsugar Ultimate Reading Challenge
A book recommended by a librarian
A book that's been on your TBR list for way too long- Girl on the Train
A book of letters
An audiobook
A book by a person of color
A book with one of the four seasons in the title
A book that is a story within a story-The Story Keeper
A book with multiple authors
An espionage thriller
A book with a cat on the cover- The Cat That Went Bump in the Night
A book by an author who uses a pseudonym
A bestseller from a genre you don't normally read
A book by or about a person who has a disability- Tough as They Come
A book involving travel- The Yellow Envelope
A book with a subtitle- Zip It: The Keep it Shut 40-Day Challenge
A book that's published in 2017
A book involving a mythical creature
A book you've read before that never fails to make you smile
A book about food
A book with career advice
A book from a nonhuman perspective
A steampunk novel
A book with a red spine
A book seet in the wilderness
A book you loved as a child
A book by an author from a country you've never visited
A book with a title that's a character's name- Dearest Dorothy...
A novel set during wartime
A book with an unreliable narrator
A book with pictures
A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you
A book about an interesting woman
A book set in two different time periods
A book with a month or day of the week in the title
A book set in a hotel
A book written by someone you admire
A book that's becoming a movie in 2017
A book set around a holiday other than Christmas
The first book in a series you haven't read before- The Most Famous Illegal Parade in Goose Creek
A book you bought on a trip

A book recommended by an author you love
A bestseller from 2016- Hillbilly Elegy
A book with a family member term in the title
A book that takes place over a character's life span
A book about an immigrant or refugee
A book from a genre/subgenre you've never heard of
A book with an eccentric character
A book that's more than 800 pages
A book you got from a used book sale
A book that's been mentioned in another book
A book about a difficult topic
A book based on mythology    

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Yellow Envelope- A Review

The past couple of years, I've really been focusing on intentional living and trying to do things to help benefit other people.

This year, my word for the year is "live", and The Yellow Envelope is a perfect example of just that- living every day to the fullest.

Kim Dinan finds herself feeling stuck in her corporate life in Portland, and convinces her husband to join her in quitting their jobs and traveling the world. They basically sell everything they own and set off to try to find themselves as they learn about and experience other cultures. The adventure takes them through South America and Asia, and in the process they discover who they are as individuals as well as who they are as a couple.

Just prior to them setting off on their amazing journey, friends of the couple offer them money in a yellow envelope to be offered to others along the way. The money is free for the giving... the only thing is that they have to follow three rules: Don't overthink it; share your experiences; don't feel pressured to give it all away.

This memoir shares the experiences found from the yellow envelope money, as well as invites the readers to step out of their comfort zone and live fully. Kim finds herself questioning things along the way, but is a more confident and secure individual at the end of the journey.

As I read the adventures across different countries, I was reminded that to truly live, I have to be willing to take some chances. That's not saying I'll be quitting my job anytime soon, but I can definitely look for ways to impact others along the way.

This book is well-written and the story is easy to follow. Each country brings new challenges for Kim and new life lessons for the reader. By the end, we realize the truth of the importance of not overthinking things, and the reality that sometimes we do just that.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys memoirs, especially travel memoirs. It's a positive read and I finished with a greater sense of obligation to make my corner of the world a little better.
I did receive a free copy of this book through netgalley in exchange for an honest review and am posting this review on their website. Professional Reader

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Mama Comparison Trap and How I'm Clawing out of It

So, there's this word that should be a dirty word.

It's much longer than four letters, but it's right up there with some of the notorious four letter words.

In today's society of Pinterest perfection and social media isolation, it can be a fatal disease.

It's called comparison.

I'm not as *pretty *smart *thin *good of a cook *wife *Mom

as the person who posts the pictures of their two hour workouts, homemade from scratch dinner, perfectly accessorized living room with their straight A kids sitting quietly doing their homework.

Y'all know what I'm talking about, right?

And I've been guilty.

I'm an introvert who can pour out my life in beautiful prose. I post on social media frequently because if you like my posts, then that means you like me, right?

What I'm writing is not fake, I assure you. It's genuinely from the heart. And if I had the courage, I'd look you right in the eye and say just that...
but often I don't.

So I sometimes hurriedly push my buggy down the aisle at Walmart so I won't have to meet you in the eye. (Just being honest... and I bet sometimes you do the same).

Anyway, sometimes as I scroll down those social media feeds, I find myself getting into that "if only" trap. If I'm not careful, I can find myself a little envious, and then possibly resenting some of the great things that may be happening in other people's lives.

And if social media really is about friendships, and these people on my newsfeed are my "friends"... well, shouldn't I be happy for the good things in their lives???

That dirty word, comparison, can make us feel less than, though...

And human nature is that when we feel less than, we sometimes try to make ourselves feel better by making others feel less than.

It's this never ending cycle of one-up-manship, which is crazy, because stepping on someone else on the way to the top doesn't really get you to the top...

because sooner or later that house of cards will come crashing down.

Living in a small town is hard, sometimes.

Tonight was Academic Boosters for Breathitt County, a program that our county has every year to honor those students in grades 6-12 who have outstanding GPAs.

My internal comparison monitor started going off when I saw all those pictures of those girls and guys dressed up to get their certificate, because this year, Caleb has been a little lazy...

and doesn't that mean that I've been a lazy Mom?

And maybe I have been... because I've totally adopted the choose your own battle phrase.

(So, no, it wasn't a mistake. His name was not accidentally left off the program. He has a 3.2 GPA, which is average. And right now, I'm ok with that. Not ecstatic... but the kid still has his phone.)

While I want Caleb to excel in academics, and it disappoints me because I know he is more than capable of making straight As if he applied himself...

we've also been having a lot of conversations about bettering ourselves outside of the classroom.

I've been more concerned with his character than his academics.

That may sound like a cop out, and tonight, I sure didn't feel like the best Mom, because if I was "better" I maybe would have pushed a little harder...

except there are growing pains that kids have to go through.  My philosophy is that he has to learn to push himself. He's a smart kid, and eventually he will figure out what is important.

And what's important to me right now is that he is compassionate. That he reaches out to others. That he treats everyone the same. That he is respectful.

So, tonight I'm proud of all of his classmates who have that 4.0. I know there are a lot of kids who walked across that stage who have put in long hours doing homework and busting their butts because it doesn't come easy to them. Two or three years ago, I would have been a little jealous, just being honest.

But I've come to a better knowledge of myself (in this minute... that can all change) and I find myself being truly happy for others. Seeing someone else fail won't make me succeed... and seeing other kids fail won't make Caleb work harder on his homework.

And part of being a Mama is learning to nudge enough to get them going in the right direction, not shocking them with a shock collar into submission.

It's taken me a long time to realize this... but not everyone has the same path in life. Comparing yourself to another person is like comparing a cat and a dog. And here's the thing.

My kid and your kid are different. Not all of them have the same capabilities. It's time that we learn to support each other.

Some days, that Mama in Walmart is doing the best that she can.

Mamas, don't beat yourself up. One bad day, or a series of bad days, does not make you a bad mama.

We don't all have to be mirror images of each other.

Choose your battles... and make sure they are worth fighting for.

Keep loving... long and hard. Love your kid for their own abilities. Don't get caught up in what every other kid is doing. That may not be the path for your kid. Don't let anyone tell you that you or your baby are less than because they don't talk a certain way or dress a certain way of make great grades or play some kind of sport.

You as a Mama and your baby are unique... and God's got a plan just for you that will look completely different from me and from Caleb, and that's beautiful... because we can all learn from each other.

He is faithful who began a good work...

and these teenage years aren't going to last forever, so I'm going to enjoy the good and hold my breath during the bad...

So when I get that "less than" feeling, I'm going to think of some of the things I've done right.

I'm going to think of how you are different from me, and think of how I genuinely like you and your child and want the best for you, and say a little prayer that the best will happen.

I'm going to rejoice with you, just as the Bible says... celebrating those accomplishments, because every Mama needs to know her baby is doing something right.

And I'll mourn with you in their weaknesses... when they struggle. When they fall. When they make mistakes. I promise I won't judge. I won't be thankful that it wasn't my own kid... rather, I'll try to put myself in your shoes.

I'll be in your corner. It may just be virtually, over the screen, but as this is my "year to live" I'm trying to come out of my comfort zone and be more "real-life". It's not easy for this introvert, but as a fellow Mama I'll do my best to look you in the eye and say, "You're doing great."

Always remembering that no matter what, I'm blessed to be Caleb's mama.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Women of Easter

There's something about Easter.

It's full of hope.

But reflecting on it can be sad, especially when we try to put ourselves at the foot of the Cross.

At the foot of the Cross were women who loved Jesus... the Women of Easter.

I love Liz Curtis Higgs, and I adored The Women of Christmas, so I was especially excited to read this.

And it did not disappoint!  Higgs writes with an easy feel, like she's pulled up in front of you with a cup of coffee and you're conversing. She introduced us to Mary the Mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Mary of Bethany, and described the roles each played in Jesus's life as though she personally knew them... but she supported it with Scriptures! She also brought out the role of women in general in Jesus's ministry.

Interspersed throughout the stories are Scriptural references from various translations, which help  the reader to understand what is meant by the references.

This book is a must read for the Easter season... and as she reminds us at the end of the book, we can be Women of Easter every day because of the hope of Jesus.

Included is a study guide that can be completed individually or with a small group.

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

Friday, April 14, 2017

Just the Way You Are- Review and Giveaway

 Click link to purchase Just the Way You Are

My thoughts:
Some books just make you feel like the characters are your best friends, and for me, this was one of them. Eisley is a hot mess, but she is a lovely hot mess. She loves chocolate, is a clutz, and is romantic at heart- from a distance. She has her plate full as a single Mom and she has no interest in getting her heart broken again.

But a journey to England to investigate her family past may throw a wrench in that, when she meets handsome Wes, an actor trying to figure out what parts of his life are real and what parts are just leftover from his day job.

This book is a delightful read. The language is easy to follow, and the fun storyline will keep you reading.

Loved this!
 (I did receive a free copy in exchange for an honest review, which I am now writing. This is one I will buy, and I'm really hoping there is a second book in this series!)

About the Book

Book: Just the Way You Are
Author: Pepper Basham
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Single mom, Eisley Barrett, prefers to keep romance safely housed within a centuries-old mystery, but when she travels to England to unearth the secret, an actor with a sordid past offers her reluctant heart a very different type of discovery.

Wes Harrison has a past he’s ashamed to confess. Suspicious and cynical, he’s managed to avoid romantic entanglements since a tragedy upended his career and life, that is until American Eisley Barrett comes along. Her authenticity and kindness upend his bitter assumptions and send his heart into unscripted territory.
When his past threatens to ruin a second chance at love, can some Appalachian matchmaking and letters from the grace salvage their unexpected romance?

About the Author

Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes novels inspired by her love for history and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her Penned in Time series has garnered recognition in the Inspys, Grace Awards, and the ACFW Carol Awards. Her contemporary romance novel, A Twist of Faith, received 4-stars from Romantic Times, and most recently, her newest release, The Thorn Healer, received a Top Pick from RT with 4 ½ stars. Her newest contemporary romance, Just the Way You Are, releases in April 2016. You can get to know Pepper on Facebook, or over at her group blog, The Writer’s Alley, or Instagram.

Guest Post

Thank you so much for featuring my newest novel, Just the Way You Are, on CelebrateLit. I am THRILLED to be a part of this and to share a story that is very dear to my heart.
Just the Way You Are is my first ‘true’ Britallachian romantic comedy. Even though I’ve written comedy in some of my other novels and included elements of both Appalachia and Britain, this one embodies the tag #britallachian to the core. For those of you who’ve read some of my previous books, you know I’m a big fan of my native Blue Ridge Mountains and the Appalachian culture. You may also know that I’m a proud Anglophile.
Those two loves met in Just the Way You Are – and I tossed lots of other things I love best into the mix. What are those ingredients, you might ask?
Well, let me just tell ya! Just the Way You Are is a blend of Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian culture, big (hilarious) family dynamics, matchmaking, Britain, a swoony English hero, a quirky, magnanimous heroine, a bunch of adorable kids, Scooby Doo and Indiana Jones references, lots of humor, a historical mystery, a devious villainess, stately manor houses, secret rooms, love letters, and matchmaking all rolled into one…oh, and did I mention brain-numbing romance?
(Did anyone else feel the need to add “fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, miracles, true love….” From the Princess Bride?) J I don’t think I included torture, giants, or monsters in Just the Way You Are…but I may have the other elements in this novel J
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating about the brain-numbing, but I do have a tendency to err on the side of overly dramatic J
Within the pages of Just the Way You Are, you’ll meet people from my own family, people from my imagination, and some people who stepped into the story without one ounce of my planning to ever meet them. This story came out of my desire to write something I love reading – spicy romance, clean humor, culture clashes, the big love of family, and redemption.
How did my heroine Eisley Barrett evolve? Out of thin air. I was washing dishes one afternoon and staring out the window into our small backyard with the Blue Ridge Mountains painting a purplish-blue frame on the horizon when I closed my eyes. Into my imagination came this ginger-headed woman walking through Heathrow International Airport pulling a hot pink bag behind her…and then, she tripped and fell. That was it. That’s how I was introduced to my insecure, hilarious, romance-loving, single-mom heroine.
And the dashing hero? Okay, this may sound ridiculous, but I was watching an interview about Richard Armitage (Thoron Oakenshield, Guy of Gisborne, etc) regarding his lovely costume drama North and South where he plays a very dashing British hero. Anyway, he was SUCH a gentleman to watch during the interview. So polite. Kind. Funny, in a sweet way, and then, out of the blue, he said the word ‘gosh’. I know, that may not be a big deal to anyone but me, but after watching celebrity interviews where every other word needed a censor, the very fact that this elegant man used the word ‘gosh’, sent my writing brain into motion. My first internal question? What if a movie star with a tender heart had been burned by the pretension and expectation of celebrity status? What kind of woman could touch a heart who’d lost his faith in love’s authenticity?
Enter my red-head single-mom toting her pink bag through Heathrow and you have the very beginning of Just the Way You Are – a story of forgiveness, second chances…and a little bit of movie magic.

Blog Stops

April 6: cherylbbookblog
April 8: Bookworm Mama
April 9: Quiet Quilter
April 11: Robin’s Nest
April 14: A Greater Yes
April 15: Just Commonly
April 16: Book by Book
April 17: Splashes of Joy
April 18: Karen Sue Hadley
April 19: Henry Happens
April 19: Baker Kella


To celebrate her tour, Pepper is giving away a Grand Prize consisting of:
A ‘chest’ – in JTWYA historical letters are discovered in a chest that relates to the historical storyline, so all of these lovely goodies are going to be safely inside this chest.
Chocolate – several references take place in JTWYA that compare the hero to chocolate 😉
A plaque about family – because that’s a main point of importance in JTWYA
A Spider-man zipper pull – Pete, the heroine’s son, is a major Spider-man fan.
English Breakfast Tea – The hero is English…swoony English
A dishcloth – again, something that relates to a scene in the book regarding the hero and dishes (twice)
Stirring spoon and measuring cups – food and cooking are a big part of Appalachian culture and fellowship, something celebrated in JTWYA
A notebook – Eisley (the heroine) is taking notes about a historical family mystery
A lovely container full of cloth flowers (for fun, and beauty) – the container says – Love and you will be loved. Loving others has an amazing way to find its way back to us (as is what happens in JTWYA)
A little plaque that reads “You are Loved” – a theme of this story
A beautiful lace doily from England (the English part of the story)
Some “Pixie Dust” a fun visualization of the ‘magic’ of romance in this story
and A copy of Just the Way You Are!!
Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

What I Read in March

I only read 7 books in March.

Yes, 7.

And I'm currently reading over 40.  How in the world?

Well, I am down to review a lot of books so I start them and read and read and read and then have only a few pages left when I post the review so I start something else and then I read a lot of Bible study books and I love book clubs....

and yeah.

I'm a little obsessed.

I just keep telling myself it will be summer soon and I can read in my hammock all day long.

Except this is also my year to live, which means that I can't bury my nose in a book every day..

but I can a few days, right?

So... what I read in March-
1. Ante Up- this is a book I reviewed way back in July, but still had to finish the last couple of chapters. It was a delightful read and I highly recommend the entire series!  Aggie has changed a lot in the four books, and this one is by far the "heaviest" as she really struggles with her faith... but it reminds us that God is good, all the time... even when our circumstances aren't always good!

2. The Girl on the Train- This had been on my to read list since it came out, and I really wanted to read it before I watched the movie. It's suspenseful, and I seriously didn't know how it would turn out until the very end. Not even a clue!  If you like thrillers, this is a good book for you. (And I liked it better than the movie... but the movie was good.)

3. Finding I Am- I completed this book through my Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study group. It's the first actual Bible study by Lysa Terkeurst and it broke down the "I AM" statements made by Jesus in the new testament. I. Loved. It. Get a copy. It's good.

4. The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate- This book is another one I had on my Kindle for a while before I read it. It's the story of a woman from North Carolina who graduated college and headed out to New York, leaving her poverty-stricken family behind. While working at a publishing house, a partial manuscript lands on her desk that reminds her of home. As she begins to research the story, and try to find the mysterious author who penned it, she finds herself drawn into her past and trying to figure out who she is. A delightful read that combines  pieces of the manuscript interwoven with the story. Lovers of Appalachian stories, you'll enjoy this one!

5. Carried Forward by Hope- This is a book in the Bregden Chronicles. I've been reading this series, set during and after the Civil War, for a couple of years now. This one finds the main characters settling into plantation life after the war is over. They must face new roles, new struggles, and learn to depend on each other. I love this series!! I'll be sad to finish the last book.

6. Like a Bee to Honey- I reviewed this book in September as I reviewed the entire series of three books. Each book centers on a different Honeybee sister. This last book is full of suspense and romance. Rose is tender-hearted and wants to see the best in everyone, but somebody doesn't see her in that light. We find out more about the past of the sisters and meet some new shady characters, but the ending is one you'll like!

7. Entrusted by Beth Moore- I read this book with a group of friends online. This Bible study delves into 2 Timothy, and much of it was right on time for what I needed to read. I love Beth Moore, even though at times the way she writes can be a bit challenging to read. There is nothing like in-depth Bible study, though!

As you can see, I've got lots of reading to do to meet my challenge... but summertime is coming!!!

2017 Popsugar Ultimate Reading Challenge
A book recommended by a librarian
A book that's been on your TBR list for way too long- Girl on the Train
A book of letters
An audiobook
A book by a person of color
A book with one of the four seasons in the title
A book that is a story within a story-The Story Keeper
A book with multiple authors
An espionage thriller
A book with a cat on the cover- The Cat That Went Bump in the Night
A book by an author who uses a pseudonym
A bestseller from a genre you don't normally read
A book by or about a person who has a disability- Tough as They Come
A book involving travel
A book with a subtitle
A book that's published in 2017
A book involving a mythical creature
A book you've read before that never fails to make you smile
A book about food
A book with career advice
A book from a nonhuman perspective
A steampunk novel
A book with a red spine
A book seet in the wilderness
A book you loved as a child
A book by an author from a country you've never visited
A book with a title that's a character's name- Dearest Dorothy...
A novel set during wartime
A book with an unreliable narrator
A book with pictures
A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you
A book about an interesting woman
A book set in two different time periods
A book with a month or day of the week in the title
A book set in a hotel
A book written by someone you admire
A book that's becoming a movie in 2017
A book set around a holiday other than Christmas
The first book in a series you haven't read before- The Most Famous Illegal Parade in Goose Creek
A book you bought on a trip

A book recommended by an author you love
A bestseller from 2016- Hillbilly Elegy
A book with a family member term in the title
A book that takes place over a character's life span
A book about an immigrant or refugee
A book from a genre/subgenre you've never heard of
A book with an eccentric character
A book that's more than 800 pages
A book you got from a used book sale
A book that's been mentioned in another book
A book about a difficult topic
A book based on mythology    

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What I Learned from Getting my DNP that You can't Learn in a Classroom

It's been kind of quiet around here lately, except for a few posts about books.

Which are obviously great posts, because I love books.

I've been kind of in a standstill mode the last couple of months....

I've always loved learning. Loved studying. Loved writing papers (until I ran into the horror that is APA!). I've often said I would be a professional student if I could support my book-buying habits by doing so, but, alas...

So it just seemed a natural progression for me to continue my education. As I wrote about in 2013, getting a doctorate degree has been on my bucket list.

I started in 2012 at Western Kentucky University. I had an awesome friend to embark on the journey with me. Jenna and I drove to Bowling Green once a month, and spent a lot of time complaining on instant messaging.

And I learned a lot about research, and about nursing policy, and about advanced practice nursing.

I enjoyed it, except for the endless hours of juggling paper writing and reading articles and commenting on discussion boards.

Then, in January of 2014, at the beginning of the semester, my Mamaw Na died.

Grief is a funny thing. I found myself driving to Hazard to teach fundamentals, getting to the tech campus and not really remembering the drive. I was overwhelmed with thinking about starting a research project, overwhelmed by work, going to ballgames and doing life and just basically going through the motions.

That year, I had chosen the word "be" to lead my life, and at the end of the semester, I realized that I wasn't "being" anything.

So I quit.

I stopped going through the motions and tried to reengage.

But... Wallace pushed me to go back... so I did. I got
brave, even though I didn't feel like it.

I developed a research project and with the help of an awesome advisor, completed it.

And through this whole process, I learned a lot.

1. Family and friends and people really are the most important things. Yes, now that I'm standing on the other side, I'm glad I finished. I'm proud of myself, and thankful that I had my family's support... but the completion of the degree wouldn't have been possible without the people who supported me.

2. Prayer really does change things. I prayed my way through nursing school. Prayed my way through this DNP program... but this time last week I was terrified. I asked for prayer in Bible study and almost started crying I was so overwhelmed... but yesterday, as I finished presentation, I felt peace. I knew it wasn't anything I had done. I knew that it was because I had people from my ladies group and my online Bible study group and my family and friends and students praying for me. He really will bring a peace that passes all understanding.

3. It's ok to recognize that you aren't ok. When I quit that summer, I wasn't in a good place. You wouldn't have known it to look at me. I did an awfully good job of painting a smile on my face.

But there was something deep down that just wasn't right. It wasn't necessarily spiritual, because Jesus was still my number  one hombre and I still trusted God... but maybe I didn't trust Him enough.

So by stepping back, I was able to prioritize and realize that my people were the most important "things" and that I had to do something to make myself happy. (Not that happiness is a goal... because I think chasing happiness can actually lead to more struggles if we get selfish about it).

4. It's not ok to just quit. I am a quitter by nature. You can read all about it in this post... a self-professed quitter. I don't think God wants us to be a quitter. Let's face it... quitting is the easy road. If I had quit, I wouldn't have had to do that research project or all the hours of writing and revising.

But I always would have regretted it. I would have had to try to explain to Caleb that it's ok to quit... and it's not.
(Unless something is dangerous. Or addictive. Then quit. It's absolutely ok to quit in that case!!!)

5. It's all about balance. I had to learn to care for myself, care for my family, work, and go to school. I didn't really figure it all out until after I quit. I do know that the last year of my life has been about the best one that I can remember (other than the unexpected sorrows from 2016). As I looked at my goal of completing the DNP, I also realized that I wanted to LIVE. Really live... .so much so that I made it the focus of 2017.
I'm still learning about balance. I still have more laundry, and my house could use a really good cleaning...
but I'm learning to put down the book (even though I love it!) and go for a walk with my family. Watch a movie that I didn't want to because Wallace did. Sit down in the kayak and let him push me out into the water, and appreciate the breeze through my hair and the sun on my face.

There's a time for everything, and we really need to learn to figure out how to make the most time for the most important things.

6. You can do more than you ever thought you could.
This last year I don't know how many times I found myself thinking, "I don't think I can do this."

But I did.

And you can, too...

whatever your bucket list item is. Whatever your dream is. Whatever your "I can't" is...

You can.

A huge thank you to everyone who supported me in this process. Life really is one huge learning curve, and at this juncture of my life I'm more aware of who I am, and kind of actually like me.

Most days.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Baggage Claim: A Review and a Giveaway

I LOVE this book. It's easy to read, with quick chapters and a pull-you-in plot that keeps you wanting to turn the page. Ben is likeable, and you find your heart breaking for him as he struggles to try to raise his kiddos while working and trying to figure out exactly who he is. His Nanny is no-nonsense, until we learn she has a hidden side. Intrigue, drama, pain, and love... an excellent combination for a fun read. You'll be glad you picked this one up.

About the Book

Book: Baggage Claim
Author: Cathe Swanson
Genre: Christian Suspense/Romance
Release Date: February 14, 2017

There had to be at least one healthy branch on his family tree…
Who can he trust?
Ben Taylor, widower and father of four lively children, enjoys his easy, uncomplicated life. He likes his work and has a competent nanny to manage his household. Everything is good until he decides to seek out his biological parents and discovers a family tree with tangled roots and broken branches.
His comfortable life crumbles when he gets caught up in a criminal network of fraud and conspiracy at his new job. When Ben is forced into a dangerous alliance, he scrambles to find a safe situation and protection for his children before setting out to clear his name—all without getting himself killed in the process.
A nanny with a past…
Becoming a nanny was the perfect solution when Teresa Cooper needed a place to hide ten years ago, but now that she’s no longer in danger, she’s ready to move on and make a new life for herself. When Ben asks her to take the children to an unknown relative in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, she finds herself in hiding again, this time with four children in tow.
As the children explore the wilderness of the Upper Peninsula, Teresa begins to wonder about God’s plan for her future. Who is this stranger Ben trusts with his children? Why here? Can a city-bred nanny find joy in this wild corner of God’s creation?

About the Author:

Cathe Swanson lives in Wisconsin with her husband of 32 years. They enjoy spending time with their family and being outdoors, kayaking, hiking, birdwatching and fishing, but summer is short in Wisconsin, so it’s important to have indoor hobbies, too. Cathe has been a quilter and teacher of quiltmaking for over 25 years, and she enjoys just about any kind of creative work, especially those involving fiber or paper. She enjoys writing stories with eccentric characters of all ages. Her books will make you laugh and make you cry – and then make you laugh again.

Guest Post by Cathe Swanson:
When I was in high school, I thought I might like to become an occupational therapist. Instead, I got married, had babies, raised the children and launched them into the world. I took a few years to regroup, and then I started thinking about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
Shortly after that, my dad had a stroke, and when he came home from the hospital, I was fascinated by the work of the visiting therapists. I did some research and learned that physical and occupational therapy assistants make pretty good money and are able to do the best part of the job – the therapy. Therapists are often bogged down in paperwork and periodic assessments. The assistant has all the fun, and it’s just a 5-semester program.
So I trotted on down to the local community college and asked what I had to do to get signed up. The counsellor talked for a while about prerequisites, petitions, waiting lists, internships, and other such things. Eventually I realized she was trying to tell me that I was too old to embark on this career. Too taken-aback to be offended, I went home and wrote a book about it instead. After all, I’d invested a lot of time in research.
I’d been writing stories for years, and already had the bones of Baggage Claim. Once I gave my young hero a job as a physical therapy assistant, the story took on life. My mother’s interest in genealogy had sparked a question: What if a nice, normal person wanted to track down their biological family and it blew up in their face? So that’s where I sent my hero, and as one of my reviewers said, “It was not a Hallmark moment.”
I’m very happy as an author and have no real interest in becoming an occupational therapist. Indeed, that rejection was a turning point for me. I could have pushed forward and got that degree, but instead I went home and wrote. I have no regrets.

Blog Stops

March 29: A Greater Yes
March 30: Genesis 5020
April 1: Quiet Quilter
April 2: autism mom
April 7: Carpe Diem
April 9: Bigreadersite
To celebrate her tour, Cathe is giving away Grand prize themed gift box that will include:
A decorative suitcase box
Earl Grey Tea
A handmade mug rug
A pretty mug
14 handmade all-occasion cards
And a paperback copy of Baggage Claim!! Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!