Book Review: A Fireproof Home for the Bride

March 25, 2015 Book Review 0

Many thanks to the publisher for the complimentary review copy; however, these are solely my thoughts and opinions.

Book Review: A Fireproof Home for the BrideA Fireproof Home for the Bride
by Amy Scheibe
Published by St. Martin's Press
On March 10th, 2015
Genre: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 384
Source: complimentary review copy
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A slow, yet methodical, building of the plot to an ultimate firestorm;

A coming-of-age novel with a strong female lead;

Issues of family secrets ~ how do you handle learning the people you love are not who you thought they were?

Racial tensions ~ the white man against anyone not white, male and Protestant.

Religious intolerance ~ strong intolerance by the Lutherans of the Catholics; I can’t even pretend to understand the conflict here, but I think that’s the point.

Why I Read A Fireproof Home for the Bride  the charm of the 1950’s with secrets & struggles & enough family strife to make it real + a heroine worthy of cheer = yes, please, give me more!

What I Would Have Liked Better Having read this one in a couple of days, it’s apparent that there wasn’t much I didn’t like!  The ultimate firestorm was a bit over-the-top taking away from the believability of the story but not so over-the-top that I didn’t want to finish.  At times it was hard to keep all of the characters straight between the Brann’s and the Nelson’s and which belonged to which family and then throw in her father’s extended family and it got to be a bit confusing.  I muddled thru, obviously!

Please Give Me More The characters were so fully drawn I felt I knew them.  I’ve always heard that Midwesterners were hard workers, especially the farmers.  The author did a fabulous job of making these Midwesterners real, not stereotypical – she showed  us rather than told.  I lived on my grandparents farm for a few years growing up and I know it’s hard work, long hours with very little pay.

Interesting to Note  I was not aware the Klu Klux Klan had such a prominence in Minnesota during the ’50s or that Mexican field workers from Texas would migrate to Minnesota to work the farms & in the sugar beet factories.  Fascinating the things one can learn from fiction!

If you liked The Swan House or The Boston Girl then you may enjoy A Fireproof Home for the Bride. Recommended.

What book have you read recently where you learned something new about history? 



8 Not-to-be-Missed Podcasts to Grow Your Blog

March 22, 2015 Bloggiesta, Book Talk 7



Are you a blogger? Do you want to grow your blog? Do you desire to create the best darn blog possible?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above, then these podcasts are essential for you.  Who knew that blogging wasn’t just about the writing!

If you are participating in Bloggiesta this week then your podcast challenge is to choose one episode from the list of podcasts below and either blog about what you’ve learned in the episode, send me a note on Facebook or Twitter about your experience, or leave a note in the comments.  If you already have a repertoire of podcasts you listen to that are beneficial to your blogging, please do share!  We’re in this together!

Here’s a few resources to help you along your journey.

The Chalene Show. I’ve argued with myself about this podcast ~ it seems to be geared to mega-bloggers/entrepreneurs but she’s got a ton of great information that is applicable to so many of us, plus she’s energetic and encouraging.  A recent episode had her sharing tips for using Instagram to grow your blog.   Each show is filled with tons of tips you can implement now ~ it’s like having a blogging mentor/coach delivered to your smartphone or computer a couple of times each week.

How They Blog with Kat Lee. Although there hasn’t been a new episode since October, 2014 I do want to include this gem of a podcast.  I still go back and listen to certain episodes for encouragement and understanding and tools such as Blogging Breaks and Tools to Help You Balance Blogging and Life and my favorite episode, How to Blog Like an Olympian.

Happier with Gretchen Rubin. {and her younger sister, Elizabeth Craft}.  A new podcast but already topping the charts and for good reason.  The podcast is professionally produced with hosts who are prepared, know their message and are quite relatable.  It was especially funny in this episode to hear older sister Gretchen correcting baby sis Elizabeth!  So as not to reinvent the wheel, here’s a handy dandy instructional on how to listen to a podcast if you’ve never done so before.

Organomics.  As a notorious “stacker,” this podcast has made a world of difference for me.  Rather than ‘everything has a place and everything in its place’ I tend to have stacks ~ stacks of books on the stairs, stacks of papers under my desk, stacks of clothes next to the bed. . .well, you get the idea. . .This podcast is put out by Smead and each week features professional organizers offering their best tips for all areas of the home and office.  One that resonated with me recently is the Get Your Desktop Organized.  I’ve got to have a pretty clear desktop in order to stay focused and not feel so chaotic, do you?

The Lively Show.  One of the first sites I followed on Pinterest was SF by Bay and then followed Victoria Smith over to The Lively Show with Jess Lively.  It was cool to hear how Victoria became good friends with Grace Bonny of Design Sponge fame in the making blogging buddies episode.  With the book blogging community being pretty darn friendly it was nice to hear that kindness exists in the design blogging world as well.

Smart Passive Income.  Although the name may be off-putting the content is phenomenal whether you’re just starting out as a blogger or you’ve been in the business {or hobby} for years, Pat Flynn is the go-to guy for all things blogging.  It’s hard to pick a favorite as I’ve learned so so much from his episodes, but a recent one did have me changing up my morning routine. Check out A Day in the Life of Pat.

This Is Your Life.  Michael Hyatt is a leader in the publishing world, and more recently, in blogging and podcasting arenas as well.  His podcast has evolved over the past year to include Michele Cushat as co-host.  If you’ve ever wondered why your life is different than what you imagined it would be then have I got the perfect episode for you: Making Peace with an Unexpected Life.  Empathy is a powerful tool and knowing that someone else is not living the life they expected has helped me tremendously.  It even has me writing my version of making peace. . .hopefully one day coming to a bookstore near you ;-)

Being Boss.  A new one but a goodie!  Sisters, Emily Thompson and Kathleen Shannon, share tips, tools and resources for “creative entrepreneurs.”  An important message to all of us as bloggers: Personal Branding “whenever it comes to your personal brand I really think it means just showing up as yourself 100% of the time in work and life so that you can deliver on the promise of who you are and what people can expect.”  Bottom line message ~ be you. be real. 100% of the time.

For more podcasts targeting work-at-home mums & dads visit I’m Not the Nanny;

For a list of great bookish podcasts visit River City Reading

Are you a podcast fan? Do share your favorite in the comments or on the flip side ~ why you don’t listen to podcasts.


One Plus One Giveaway

March 12, 2015 Book Talk, Giveaway 2

one plus one by jojo moyes


One single mom. One chaotic family. One quirky stranger. 

Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.

With many thanks to Viking/Penguin I have one copy of One Plus One by Jojo Moyes to giveaway.  My thoughts on the book are posted here.  The publisher and author have put together a wonderful book club group package including a Spotify playlist, discussion questions and recipes!  And if you’re an audio aficionado here’s a clip of the audiobook.

To enter the giveaway please complete the form below.  {U.S. mailing address only} Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on March 20th. Good luck!


From No Excuses to “Get Pumped Up” or My Top 5 Excuses & The Tips I Use to Overcome

March 11, 2015 Book Review 7

Many thanks to the publisher for the complimentary review copy; however, these are solely my thoughts and opinions.

From No Excuses to “Get Pumped Up” or My Top 5 Excuses & The Tips I Use to OvercomeThe No More Excuses Diet
by Maria Kang
Published by Harmony Books
On March 10th, 2015
Genre: Non-Fiction, Wellness
Pages: 224
Source: complimentary review copy
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Excuses validate our choices.  They let us off the hook and give us permission to fail.  While psychologically soothing, excuses limit our ability to create opportunities to progress toward personal health.  ~Maria Kang

Somehow I have ended up with a couple of books this month that are all about motivation, habits and the dreaded {by me at least} exercise!  The first one of the month is with the From Left to Write virtual book club.  Not a typical review – more my thought process while reading the book!  Do share your tips in the comments cause I need all the help I can get!

My top 5 exercise excuses of the moment

1.  I don’t have time. . .or like what happened tonight: I’m going to be late to yoga class, and I don’t want to disturb the others.  Then I tell myself I’m being considerate which validates my justification for turning the car around to head home!

2.  I’m too tired. {but why am I tired? is it tired from the day or is it from the multiple sclerosis?  With the first, I should push through; with the second, only legitimate rest helps – which leads back to the question of why am I tired?  It’s an awful loop!}

3.  I’m too sore. {same as above.  Am I sore from the previous day’s walk or is it the multiple sclerosis?}  notice how I snuck in there that it was “from the previous day’s walk” meaning that yes, yes I did get my exercise {hopefully}  it could also be that I’ve told myself the next one ~

4.  There’s always tomorrow. . . .also known as the Scarlett O’Hara syndrome.  A very bad bad syndrome to get caught up in and one that has a habit of drawing me into its’ clutches!

5.  Play the justification game ~ “well, everything I read says it’s 30% exercise and 70% nutrition…I’ll just eat {insert either less or better depending on the moment!}

Now, my top 5 get pumped up resources

1.  Loud music.  Typically the first few songs on the Pink channel of Pandora are enough to get me moving.  Once I turn the music up it’s impossible to not move.

2.  Listen to motivational podcasts.  Michael Hyatt and Chalene Johnson are my current go-to’s for motivation.  In fact, Chalene Johnson has one podcast just for me that gets my behind in gear!  {I’m happy to share it with you though if you’re in need of a motivation boost as well}

3.  Five minute rule.  I can do anything for 5 minutes.  Typically once I start {usually it’s walking} then by the time 5 minutes is over I tell myself I can at least walk 1 mile; hopefully once I reach 1 mile I’ve talked myself into going for that full 30 minutes . .my short-term goal is to get in 30 minutes of exercise daily.  I’m only focusing on the short-term goal at the moment and not that long, far away goal of total health!

Photo Credit, David Niblack,

Photo Credit: David Niblack

4.  Pay attention to my self-talk ~ it usually goes something like “why didn’t you. . .” Once I recognize that I’m in a negative loop I change my self-talk.  This month’s mantra is “I am enough.”  Believe me, I’ve said those three words a hundred million times and we are only on Day 11 for March!

5.  To keep myself motivated, I’m following several fitness experts and fitness junkies on social media ~ I’ve always told my children that who surround yourself with is what will motivate your actions – it’s no different for adults.  Seeing certain fitness folks who are also motivating is incredibly helpful to me.  I’ve also unfollowed some because their feeds were counter-productive.

What is your go-to resource or idea that gets you pumped up to exercise {or tackle any task you’ve been procrastinating?}


This post was inspired by The No More Excuses Diet by Maria Kang who shares her no-excuses philosophy that motivated her to become more fit. Join From Left to Write on March 12th as we discuss The No More Excuses Diet. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.


Book Review: Some Luck

March 5, 2015 Book Review, reviews 9

Book Review: Some LuckSome Luck
by Jane Smiley
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing
On Ocober 7th, 2014
Genre: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 395
Source: purchased
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For a couple of years while growing up we lived on my grandparents farm in Tennessee.  I learned early on what makes a successful farm: a ton of hard work, dedication and some luck!

Set in the Midwest town of Denby, Iowa, Walter Langdon marries the prettiest girl in town, Rosanna, and sets up home and farm just outside of town.  Soon the babies start coming; first Frank then Joe, Lillian, Henry and finally Claire.  Covering 1920 – 1953, each chapter represents one year and we get a brief peek inside the lives of the Langdon family.    Frank makes his own way, is headstrong and stubborn yet also brilliant.  Joe is considered the ‘whiner’ and yet his particular gift of stewing over an issue brings him and his family success; Lillian is the angel, naive and beautiful; Henry has no interest in farming and somehow escapes much of the farm life work ~ he reads, and reads and reads; Claire is her daddy’s heart – is it because Walter has the time later in life to focus on Claire or is it because Rosanna seemed to have a bit of postpartum blues or a combination?

I must admit that I have mixed feelings about Some Luck ~ Is it a sweeping family saga or a book without a plot?  I think it is one of those that you either hate it or you need a few days to think it over and find that months after the fact you’re still pondering the Langdon family.  That’s where Jane Smiley has created a brilliant novel ~ it gradually gets under your skin and you find yourself thinking about the Langdon’s long after the book is closed.

Some Luck mirrors life ~ there’s a few big things that happen but mostly we get by in the everyday-ness of life.

Why I picked up Some Luck

I picked this one up because I’ve got Early Warning on my queue to review, and I wanted to start from the beginning in Smiley’s trilogy about the Langdon family.

What I would have liked better

There are a LOT of characters by the end of Some Luck and though Smiley includes a family tree at the beginning, I found myself having to look back quite a bit.  Before I start Early Warning I am going to print out the family tree!  Not every chapter includes each of the children or their friends and then subsequent spouses.   Since I had to read this one over a couple of weeks rather than all in a couple of sittings, it took me longer to get reacquainted with who was who.

Please give me more

Henry!  It seemed to me that Frank ended up as the accidental protagonist, but it was Henry that I was drawn to.

Interesting to Note

The discussion questions in the back of the novel really got me thinking about how so much about each character and the time period is revealed through atypical means.  For example, Walter resists getting a tractor for the longest time (times were changing, farming was evolving) and Frank’s character flaws are shown through Joe’s behavior (Frank is not a very nice brother toward Joe).  If you read this one be sure to check out the discussion questions ~ reading through those alone will reveal the brilliance of this author.

If you like A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler or Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem then you may enjoy Some Luck.

What book have you read recently that kept you thinking about the characters long after the last page was over?