Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Here, Home, Hope

"I feel stuck between what I've done and what I want to do.  There was a time when every moment of my day revolved around my kids and their needs, but not anymore.  And that's the question I need to wrestle with, the cause of the restlessness: What's next?"
~ Here, Home, Hope, Kaira Rouda

Published in 2011, Here, Home, Hope by entrepreneur and author Kaira Rouda is the story of  thirty-nine-year-old Kelly Mills Johnson, who lives in the fictitious suburb of Grandville, Ohio.  After a breast cancer scare, Kelly starts to reevaluate her life as a suburban stay-at-home mom as she approaches her fortieth birthday.

"It was a sign. I needed to take charge of my life, take advantage of the sense of urgency I'd felt when I thought I'd had breast cancer.  While I want to grow old gracefully and happily, and I want to be a grandmother and enjoy slow walks on the beach, between now and then I need to get moving.  Seize my year."
~ Here, Home, Hope, Kaira Rouda  

Before she became a mother, Kelly was an account executive at a public relations firm, but for the past fifteen years she's taken care of her home and children, David and Sean, while Kelly's husband, Patrick, has become a successful partner in a law firm.  Now it's summer and the boys are away at camp, so Kelly has a bit of time to think about what she wants, and the direction of her own life.  She knows that she could be happier, and that it's her responsibility to change her own life (good to keep in mind).  She writes down some "things to change" (called T2Cs) on Post-it notes, and sticks them around the house as a way of reinforcing her ideas. 

Kelly is a great protagonist.  I would definitely like to have a friend like her.  She's funny, warm, kind, and caring.  (I hope that I'm at least somewhat like her.)  She encourages and helps others, and decides to consciously devote time to the "care and feeding" of friends.  Like many superwomen, Kelly gives much time and energy to her family and friends, even when she's exhausted.  She willingly agrees to take care of her friend's anorexic teenage daughter, Melanie, while Kathryn is away on a trip.  Friendships are important to Kelly, and the book focuses on her relationships with Charlotte, Kathryn, and Beth, who are at various stages in their careers.  Here, Home, Hope emphasizes the importance of friends, during good times and bad times, to support and celebrate with us, and perhaps even to start a business with. 

I think this novel will resonate with many women, especially with those who are or who have been stay-at-home moms.  I enjoyed this novel very much.  In fact, I loved it!  It's honest and funny and engaging, as well as inspiring, and I'm very glad that I read it.  Here, Home, Hope really does "sparkle with humor and heart".  In fact, if I could add another "H" word to the title, it would be Heart.  Additionally, an important message of the book is to put your heart into whatever you do.  Be like Kelly, and decide to live wholeheartedly.  Pursue your passions and dreams! 

Many thanks to Kaira Rouda for sending me a copy of her book, and for her incredible patience with me. Your comments are welcomed and appreciated.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Creation of Calm: A Cancer Survivor's Sketchbook Story

"Dear God, I know you love me and care for my family.  But what am I supposed to do with this?  Is there any other way to do things without pain involved?"
~ Creation of Calm, Mark Fraley

Creation of Calm: A Cancer Survivor's Sketchbook Story, illustrated and written by Mark Fraley, is a gorgeous and inspirational book.  Published in November 2014, this graphic memoir is a series of sketchbook entries that span six years, which illustrate the importance of family, friends, and faith. Through pictures and words, Mark depicts a very difficult period in his life, as a young husband and father who had two bouts of cancer in four years. Most of the pictures are sketches but there are also some colorful collages.  Below are some examples of the artwork and a few quotations from the book.

"Prayer is always a necessity; it is another word for 'balance'."
~ Creation of Calm, Mark Fraley 

"I pray that those who view my art and read my story will take a moment to slow down, maybe get off the phone, and just look intently at the everyday they may have overlooked."
~ Creation of Calm, Mark Fraley

Front Yard Discovery

Although cancer is a serious disease, Creation of Calm is full of joy and appreciation and hope.  We are reminded to slow down and appreciate the beauty and the details of "ordinary" life. 

Many thanks to Christina from Cladach Publishing for sending me a copy of this wonderful book, and for including me on this blog tour (part of the Fall Book Fling).

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Missing Heir: Review and Giveaway

This mystery begins with a bang!  Published in 2014, The Missing Heir is the third book in the Amelia Moore Detective Series by author Linda Weaver Clarke.  I've read many books by this author over the past few years, and so I was excited about the prospect of reading her newest cozy mystery.

The Missing Heir starts with emotion and impact, as twenty-something siblings Jenny and Robert Walker burst into Amelia Moore's detective office.  Jenny is especially upset, because she fears that the orphanage that her uncle, Dell Murphy, started about twenty years ago, the Orfanato de Tio Dell, will be closed down, leaving the children without a place to live. Uncle Dell has recently passed away, and has willed most of his fortune to his nephew, Neal Woods, who will take care of the orphanage, since Dell and his deceased wife didn't have children.  But Neal has gone missing!

Since Amelia specializes in missing persons, Jenny and Robert implore her to find their missing cousin, Neal, who they've been searching for over the past two months.  Amelia agrees to take on this touching case, and hopes to find Neal before the fortune is turned over to Dell's brother and sister.  In order to save the orphanage, she must find Neal before the reading of the will, or he'll forfeit his inheritance.  But how do you find a missing person in Mexico, particularly when time is of the essence?  I've mentioned before that cozy mysteries often feature intelligent women protagonists.  Is Amelia savvy enough to find Neal, the missing heir, with the help of her handsome partner, Rick Bonito? 

Author Linda Weaver Clarke is on a roll with this mystery series, which features spunky Amelia and dashing Rick, who work together.  There are unmistakable sparks between them, as well as a few passionate kisses, although Amelia attempts to resist Rick's charms.  (We readers think they're perfect for each other, naturally.)  I enjoyed this romantic cozy mystery a lot!  The writing is lovely and lively, and I felt as if I were experiencing the action myself.  Linda was inspired to write this book because of the darling children she met in orphanages in Mexico.  Although I've never visited a Mexican orphanage, I've been to Mexico many times, and her descriptions--of the land and the buildings and the food--are just about perfect.  This story flows well, and I read happily and eagerly (I thought that things would work out well in the end, although I wasn't able to figure out exactly how that would happen).  This is another positive, feel-good cozy mystery.  My copy was well edited, and I didn't realize it was a proof until I came to the very end of the book.

The Missing Heir is a wonderful addition to the Amelia Moore Detective Series.  I recommend all of the books in this series that I've read so far, without hesitation, to young adults and adults. 

If this new, cozy mystery sounds appealing to you, you're in luck. The author is generously offering an international giveaway for the ebook edition of The Missing Heir.  It works well as a stand-alone book, so don't be deterred if you haven't read the earlier books in this series. 

  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment. 
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower.
  • For an additional chance, post about this contest on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.
  • For one more chance, leave a comment about the last cozy mystery you read.

Enter by 5 PM PST on Monday, December 1.  One winner will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, December 2.  Good luck!

Many thanks to talented story-teller Linda Weaver Clarke for sending me a complimentary copy of The Missing Heir.  I look forward to reading the next book in this series, The Mysterious Doll.

As always, your comments are welcomed and appreciated.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Really Random Tuesday #87: Veterans Day, a Book Winner, and Shakshuka

Thank you for your service.  November 11 is Veterans Day in America.  Today we honor the service of all U.S. military veterans.  Pictured above is World War I veteran Joseph Ambrose, at the dedication day parade for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982, who lost his son in the Korean War.  (Photo from Wikipedia.)


Eriko is the randomly chosen winner of Me Before You by bestselling author Jojo Moyes. Congratulations, Eriko!  I'm pretty certain you'll become a fan of this bestselling author.

If you didn't win this book, why not take a look at the other tempting giveaways listed on the right side of my blog?


I'm feeling like a bit of a recipe thief today!  My son, Oliver, and his sous-chef, my daughter, Angela, made us Shakshuka for breakfast a couple of months ago.  I had run in a 5k earlier that morning, and was famished.  I'd never heard of Shashuka before, but now I've made it several times, for dinner.  Oliver's girlfriend, Becca, taught him how to make this traditional, tomato-based dish, which is usually made with eggs, and often served for breakfast in Israel.  However, since I'm not a fan of eggs, they made mine without eggs, and instead added some ground turkey.  You can easily make it vegetarian (like I will for my daughter, Jasmine), or if you don't add meat or eggs, vegan.  I use as many organic ingredients as possible.  You can easily add additional ingredients to make more servings. 

Suko's Shakshuka

4 or 5 tomatoes, chopped
3 or 4 bell peppers, chopped
1 to 3 chopped jalapeños*, according to taste
1 small or medium onion, chopped
2 or 3 cloves of freshly minced garlic
6 white mushrooms, sliced

Olive oil
16 ounce can (or larger) fire roasted diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
Spices: oregano, cumin, paprika, black and/or cayenne and/or crushed red pepper, all to taste

Optional: 8 to 10 ounces of ground turkey, or vegetarian ground crumbles, and salt to taste

Pour about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet and spread around pan with a paper towel.  Add peppers, onion, garlic, and spices to taste to the pan, and cook for about 7 minutes, on low to medium heat. 

Add the chopped up tomatoes, mushrooms, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, more spices to taste, and a bit more olive oil.  Stir together, and continue to cook the mixture.  If you want to add ground turkey or vegetarian ground crumbles, cook it in a separate skillet for about 7 minutes on low to medium heat (I add some salt and other spices to the turkey), before adding it to the veggie mixture.  

Continue to cook the Shakshuka on low heat, stirring every so often, for about 10 minutes, or until everything looks thoroughly cooked, and you're ready to eat.  This is a hot, savory, and healthy stovetop meal that's delicious for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!


Serve in bowls, along with bread (pita is perfect), and a fresh green salad.  Makes about 4 servings.

*Important note: Please be careful when you handle or slice jalapeños!  I learned the hard way.  One evening I was not careful enough, and I paid the price--my hands were burning for several hours afterward.  I was in agony.  I had to search online for home remedies to control the pain.  (I ended up slathering yogurt on my hands so that I could sleep that night.)  Now I handle jalapeños gingerly, with paper towels, and am extra careful not to touch their seeds with my bare hands when I chop up these peppers.


Appearing on random Tuesdays, Really Random Tuesday is a way to post odds and ends--announcements, musings, quotes, photos--any blogging and book-related things you can think of.  I often announce my book giveaway winners in these posts, and sometimes, like today, I share a recipe. If you have miscellaneous book news to gather up and are inspired by this idea, "grab" the button for use on your own blog, and add your link to the "master" Mister Linky on the Really Random Tuesday page.

Thanks for reading!  Your comments are welcomed.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wondrous Words Wednesday: John, Jane, Joan, and a Librocubicularist

Is there a term for someone who collects words?  I had fun recently collecting a few words for this meme.  It's a favorite of mine, although I haven't featured a Wondrous Words Wednesday post in a long while.

My first word is from my 2014 365 New Words-a-Year desk calendar.

1. John Q. Public: a member of the public or the community, a person or citizen; it can also mean the public or the community personified 

John Q. Public started to appear in print in the late 1930s, about 10 years after John Citizen.  Some think that the Q was inspired by John Quincy Adams.  John Doe had been used since the mid-1600s to represent the anonymous or average man.  Female versions debuted later: Jane Doe (1930s), Joan Citizen (1940s), and Jane Q. Public (1980s).   

I discovered the next one on the Word of the Day feature on She Reads.

2. librocubicularist: a person who reads in bed

Not surprisingly, I'm a librocubicularist (even though I'm still learning how to spell and pronounce this seven-syllable word).  It's a rare word, although there are many of us.  It's truly wunderbar to read in bed, isn't it?  But isn't there a simpler term for someone who reads in bed?  Hmm....

I found my final word on Anna's blog, Diary of an Eccentric.  I could tell what it meant by the context ("a segue into the next installment"), but I admired her use of the word, and since it was new to me, I looked it up online.

3. segue: (verb or noun) to proceed without pause; a transition made without pause or interruption

Segue is often used in music or film to indicate a continuous transition from one piece of music or film scene to another. 

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme for word collectors, hosted by Kathy from BermudaOnion's Weblog.  What new words have you garnered? 

Some of the books featured here were given to me free of charge by authors, publishers, and agents. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.


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