Monday, February 2, 2015

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner - Review

Secrets of a Charmed Life
by Susan Meissner
Expected publication: February 3, 2015 by Penguin/NAL

The author of A Fall of Marigolds journeys from the present day to World War II England, as two sisters are separated by the chaos of wartime ...

She stood at a crossroads, half-aware that her choice would send her down a path from which there could be no turning back. But instead of two choices, she saw only one—because it was all she really wanted to see…

Current day, Oxford, England. Young American scholar Kendra Van Zant, eager to pursue her vision of a perfect life, interviews Isabel McFarland just when the elderly woman is ready to give up secrets about the war that she has kept for decades...beginning with who she really is. What Kendra receives from Isabel is both a gift and a burden--one that will test her convictions and her heart.

1940s, England. As Hitler wages an unprecedented war against London’s civilian population, one million children are evacuated to foster homes in the rural countryside. But even as fifteen-year-old Emmy Downtree and her much younger sister Julia find refuge in a charming Cotswold cottage, Emmy’s burning ambition to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer pits her against Julia’s profound need for her sister’s presence. Acting at cross purposes just as the Luftwaffe rains down its terrible destruction, the sisters are cruelly separated, and their lives are transformed…

My review:  
Isabel McFarland has never agreed to an interview about her experience living through the evacuation of children from London and the bombing that followed, but now she has agreed to an interview with Kendra. Isabel is ready to reveal she is not who everyone thinks she is and wants to tell the story of two sisters, Emmy and Julia, who became separated when the bombing began. Emmy blames herself and does everything she can to find her sister, but she lives for a long time not knowing what really happened to her.

I can't tell you much about Secrets of a Charmed Life for fear of giving too many spoilers, but I absolutely loved this book. Susan Meissner has a thoroughly engaging writing style, surprising details were revealed at just the right moments to keep you interested, and I was completely hooked from beginning to end. This is a story that really makes you think about life, family, and the concepts of guilt and blame. It is also a story about how people cope with life-changing situations beyond their control, and it makes you consider how small decisions on your part or by someone else can make such a difference in ways you don't realize.

I wish I could say more, but the impact of this book is much better if you don't have spoilers before you read. I don't think you will regret reading this. It is a powerful, emotional story of family, life and history. Susan Meissner is now one of my favorite authors, and I recommend Secrets of a Charmed Life wholeheartedly. 

I won a copy of this book. I was not required to write a review.

About the author:
Susan Meissner was born in San Diego, California, the second of three. She spent her childhood in just two houses.

Her first writings are a laughable collection of oddly worded poems and predictable stories she wrote when she was eight.

She attended Point Loma College in San Diego, and married her husband, Bob, who is now an associate pastor and a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves, in 1980. When she is not working on a new novel, she is directing the small groups ministries at The Church at Rancho Bernardo. She also enjoy teaching workshops on writing and dream-following, spending time with my family, music, reading great books, and traveling.

Find out more at  

Monday, January 26, 2015

Bringing Home the Bad Boy by Jessica Lemmon - Excerpt & Giveaway

*Review Coming Soon*

“Know why I moved here?” he asked, keeping his voice low.

She wrenched her eyes from his and focused on a spot over his shoulder.

“Because you didn’t want to live in Columbus anymore.” That’s what he’d told her. That he wanted a change. That he and Lyon had outgrown the house. And, she imagined it’d be hard to live in the house where Rae had passed.

“But why here?” 


His fingers grazed her jaw and turned her head, his palm moving to her neck where he cupped her nape and forced her eyes to his.

Reluctantly, she met them.

“Rae’s more alive when you’re around, Ace.”

Her heart, oh her heart. Kicking against her chest in a confusing, hectic rhythm.

“You bring her to life for Lyon—more than anyone else. I need him to remember her because he can’t remember her alive.” His hold stayed, his palm warming her neck, his gaze unwavering.

She tried to separate the two feelings she was having—one that she was now talking about Rae with Evan and two, that he was touching her while talking about Rae.

Before she could, his lips closed over hers. 

Her thoughts short-circuited. 

This wasn’t anything like a soft peck hello. This was his lips moving over hers, slanting over hers, warm and firm and then his mouth opened and—

Oh my gosh!

His wet, warm tongue slid along the seam of her lips and she stopped being passive and started kissing him back. When she would have touched her tongue to his, he relocated it, running along her bottom lip instead and tugging with his teeth.

If she’d been standing, her knees would have given out and dropped her right on her butt. 

And then there was the palm on her neck, now spearing up through her hair and clutching onto a handful of it. He held her captive, his hand fisting her hair as he angled his mouth again. In response to the soft whimper escaping her throat, he swept his tongue into her mouth. He tangled his tongue with hers once, twice, and released her. 

When he pulled his mouth away,a long, satisfied sigh escaped her lips. Because that was a kiss.A kiss to rival all other kisses.

She opened her eyes to realize A) she’d closed her eyes and B) she’d at some point wrapped both hands around his forearms where she was holding tight and C) Evan looked as please as she felt.

“God damn, Ace. Your mouth.” His eyes flicked to her lips. Lips still tingling from the rough scrape from the stubble surrounding his.

She concurred with that sentiment. Not that she said anything. She’d gone dumb; completely mute.

He backed away, but held onto her chin and tweaked it lightly with the rough pad of one thumb. “That’s the way this is gonna go from now on.”

Her breathing went shallow, her thoughts went muzzy and her head blurred as her heart palpated to the point of panic attack.

“Sorry, Rae.” 

She didn’t mean to say it, and it had only been a whisper, but by the look twisting Evan’s face—the angry look twisting his face—he’d heard. And he hadn’t liked what he’d heard.

“Sorry,” she said to him this time. “I should go.” 

Unbelievably, he leaned closer. She pulled her chin back until she realized she likely had a double chin, then settled her head on her neck in a more reasonable position.

Gosh. He was making her crazy.

Bringing Home the Bad Boy
(Second Chance #1)
by Jessica Lemmon
Expected publication: January 27, 2015 by Forever (Hachette Book Group)

The Bad Boy Is Back

Evan Downey needs a new beginning. Since the death of his wife five years ago, the brilliant tattoo artist has shut himself away in a prison of grief that not even his work can break him out of-and what's worse, Evan knows his son Lyon is bearing the brunt of his seclusion. Moving back to the lake town of Evergreen Cove where he spent his childhood summers is his last chance for a fresh start.

Charlotte Harris knows she owes it to her best friend's memory to help Evan and his son find their way again, but she can't stop her traitorous heart from skipping a beat every time she looks into Evan's mesmerizing eyes. Charlotte is determined to stay strictly in the Friend Zone-until a mind-blowing night knocks that plan by the wayside. Now, if they're brave enough to let it, Charlotte and Evan might just find a love capable of healing their broken hearts . . .

About the author:
Jessica Lemmon has always been a dreamer. At some point, she decided head-in-the-clouds thinking was childish, went out, and got herself a job . . . and then she got another one because that one was lousy. And when that one stopped being fulfilling, she went out and got another . . . and another. Soon it became apparent she'd only be truly happy doing what she loved. And since "eating potato chips" isn't a viable career, she opted to become a writer. With fire in her heart, she dusted off a book she'd started years prior, finished it, and submitted it. It may have been the worst book ever, but it didn't stop her from writing another one. Now she has several books finished, several more started, and even more marinating in her brain (which currently resides in the clouds, thankyouverymuch), and she couldn't be happier. She firmly believes God gifts us with talents for a purpose, and with His help, you can create the life you want. (While eating potato chips.)

Jessica is an ex-meat-eater, writer, artist, dreamer, wife, and den mother to two dogs.  

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Yell Less, Love More by Sheila McCraith - Review

Yell Less, Love More
by Sheila McCraith 

How the Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids - and How You Can Too!: A 30-Day Guide That Includes: - 100 Alternatives to Yelling - Simple, Daily Steps to Follow - Honest Stories to Inspire

The Rhino: A naturally calm animal that charges when provoked.

The Orange Rhino: A person that parents with warmth and determination and who doesn't charge with words when angry, impatient, or simply in a bad mood.

Do you often find yourself losing your cool and yelling at your kids? It happens to us all, but it doesn't have to. With Yell Less, Love More you'll learn practical, simple solutions to keep you focused on loving more and yelling less, no matter what the circumstance. It is possible to change and enjoy a calmer life because of it! Take the Orange Rhino 30-day challenge to yell less. In this guidebook to happier parenting, author Sheila McCraith shares daily thoughts, tips, and motivational personal stories to help you toss out the screams and welcome in the peace. Whether you have one child or twenty (or one you still yell at who is twenty), strengthen your relationships and maybe even laugh a little more--by taking the challenge today.

Goodreads * Amazon

My review:

I absolutely love this book. It is broken down into a 30 day guide. Each day includes a personal story from the author about her own journey and challenges to stop yelling, tips to help you stop yelling, actions to take to help you on your own journey, "Orange Rhino Revelations," plus inspirational quotes. This book is totally written as if the author, Sheila McCraith, is writing directly to the reader and is right there trying to help you. At the end of the book, there is "Beyond Day 30" and a summary of key points, including some of the most common triggers along with good suggestions for solutions. There is even an "Orange Rhino" sign on the back flap that you can cut out to put up in a high yelling area.

Can you stop yelling without reading this book? Of course. You can even do the Orange Rhino Challenge without this book. The author's blog, Facebook page, and Orange Rhino community are great resources. However, having this book would definitely be a plus, and I highly recommend purchasing it to help you on your way to yelling less and loving more.

I won an autographed copy from MomCaveTV. I was not required to write a review.

About the author:

Sheila McCraith, also known as The Orange Rhino®, is a mom to four boys, all under the age of 7. In January 2012, after her handyman caught her screaming at her boys, she made a promise that she would go 365 days straight without yelling at her kids. To chronicle her progress, keep herself accountable, and find support, Sheila launched her blog, The Orange Rhino Challenge®, shortly after her promise was made. She successfully met her goal in 2013 and continues to work everyday at yelling less and loving more.

Sheila has been featured in Parents magazine, where she was the 2013 winner of “Blog Most Likely to Help You Achieve a Goal” and her article “10 Things I Learned When I Stopped Yelling at My Kids” instantly became a viral hit on The Huffington Post. She has also been featured on,,,,, and more.

Find out more at

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Gluten-Free on a Budget by Chandice Probst & Tana Besendorfer - Review

Gluten-Free on a Budget
by Chandice Probst & Tana Besendorfer
Published: January 13, 2015
by Front Table Books (Cedar Fort)


Eat Gluten-Free Without Going Broke!

Keep those pennies in your pockets - your gluten-free lifestyle doesn't have to cost a fortune. Now you can enjoy all your family's favorite foods while cutting the gluten and the cost!

Try all the delicious recipes, like...
- Crepes with Sweet Cream and Strawberries
- Chicken Pot Pies
- Mini Banana Breads
- Chocolate Caramel Toffee Cake

From breakfast to dinner and dessert, this is a full-course cookbook on a one-course budget. And with food that's so delicious, and so good for you and your bank account,this is one cookbook you'll want to use for every meal!

My review:
This is a great gluten-free cookbook for those new to eating gluten-free or ones who have been at it for awhile who would like ideas to cut the costs or who want new recipes. The beginning section includes basics of eating gluten-free, ways to do so on a budget, and suggestions for stocking a gluten-free pantry. Then there are tons of recipes with mouth-watering pictures and little notes from the authors. With recipes like Sweet & Spicy Pork Roast, Easy Beef Stroganoff, Chicken Pot Pie (including a way to make with leftovers), Cheeseburger Soup, Bomb Breakfast Burritos, and Pao de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread), you are sure to find many you enjoy. Plus, there are many scrumptious desserts like Granny Smith Apple Crisp, Blueberry Turnovers, Chocolate Caramel Toffee Cake, and "Whatever Cake." Then there is a section of traditional holiday recipes made gluten-free, such as Green Bean Casserole with Homemade Fried Onions.

Of course, I cannot try every recipe before I review a cookbook, but we have enjoyed all the ones we had a chance to make, and I am excited about making many more of these. I know this book is going to get a lot of use at our house, and I would highly recommend it if you eat gluten-free or as a gift for someone you love who does.

A copy was provided for an honest review. 

About the authors:
Chandice Probst is the Founder of popular website,, which is known as the #1 gluten free giveaway site and provides individuals with recipes, reviews, giveaways and much more. She is Co-Founder and CEO of Gluten Free Calendar, which hosts Celebrate Celiac™ events and Celiac Awareness Nights with professional athletic teams nationwide to promote celiac awareness, raise proceeds for non-profit research facilities and achieve the companies slogan of Unity in the Gluten Free Community™.

Chandice founded the Celiac Disease Foundation Arizona East Valley Chapter in 2009 and enjoyed serving as the President for four years. She has a Bachelors of Science in exercise and health wellness from Arizona State University and graduated with Magna Cum Laude honors. Recently she joined the Delight Gluten Free Magazine team as a regular contributing writer and is also an Expert Among Us writer for Chandice has been featured on ABC 15 Sonoran Living, Channel 12 Arizona Midday and in print publications, Women’s World, The Arcadian Journal and Total Kid Magazine. She was a regular contributor on Channel 3 Your Life A to Z in Arizona for over a year as their gluten-free guru before her family made the move to St. George, UT. In her spare time, she also teaches gluten-free cooking classes and seminars and enjoys being a guest speaker nationwide at different gluten-free expos and events. In addition to her above professions, Chandice considers her role as a wife, mother and everyday cook to her family to be of greatest value.

Tana Besendorfer has been a passionate cook since the age of 11. She got her first job at her hometown restaurant, Mom’s CafĂ©, making pies. Tana is known by all who associate with her as one of the greatest cooks. She is a foodie with focus on health and nutrition to heal the body. Tana is currently a buyer for Real Foods Market where she seeks out the best products to be featured in these one of a kind stores. Her greatest passion is still cooking with and for her family. She especially loves making the holidays more enjoyable for everyone with themed, nutritious food that would put a smile on anyone’s face. Friends of the family often congregate at her home just to enjoy her “famous” cooking.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Unforgettable by Shannon Richard - Excerpt


She looked up at him, her heart in her throat. She couldn’t give him what he wanted. Couldn’t tell him the truth. She wasn’t ready. Telling him the truth, all of the truth, would rip her wide open, and she couldn’t handle that pain yet.

She wasn’t sure if she’d ever be able to handle that pain.

“Fine. I’ll go first.” He somehow moved closer to her. “Me kissing you is never a mistake. There are a lot of things in my life that I’d take back, but my lips on yours? That’s not one of them. I know that fact without a doubt.”

He reached up and pulled her glasses from her face, setting them on the counter behind her before he lowered his mouth to hers. He nipped at her bottom lip, pulling it gently before his tongue darted out. He didn’t even get it past her bottom lip before her mouth was covering his, her tongue sliding along his.

He let go of her hands, letting them drop to her sides before he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her entirely against his body.

He had her backed up against the kitchen counter again, their hot and hungry mouths eating at the others. 

Every notion about fighting this thing with him flew out of her head, and she let herself go over to it. To all of it. All of him.

“Does this feel like a mistake, Hannah?” He pulled back, resting his forehead against hers as he looked down into her eyes. “Right now,in this moment.Does it?”

Her voice didn’t want to work, and it took her a second to form a response. “No.” She shook her head. “No, it doesn’t.”

“What about this? My hands on you?” he asked, his eyes not leaving hers as he moved his palms under her shirt, running them up and down her bareback before he moved them to her sides.

“No.” She couldn’t stop the shiver that ran through her body, and his mouth turned up in that predatory grin of his. 

“Or this?” This time his eyes did leave hers as he dropped his head and put his mouth on her neck, his tongue flicking against her skin.

Her answer was a long, low moan that went all the way down to her toes.
“Do you want me to stop?” he asked right before he ran his tongue along her collarbone.

“No.” Her eyes closed of their own accord as her head fell back. “Please.”
“Please what?” Kisses across her shoulder.

“Please don’t stop.” 

“Well, aren’t those lovely words?” His lips were working back up her neck, and then he found her mouth again. He was consuming her with his kisses, inhaling her. And his hands. Holy hell they were still running wildly over her hips and back. And then he brought one between them, his fingers tracing around her belly button before it moved low on her belly.

He flicked the button on her jeans open and then went on to her zipper, pulling it down slowly. Maybe he was giving her another chance to protest.
There wasn’t a chance in hell she was going to stop it this time. 

(Country Roads #4)
Shannon Richard
Expected publication: January 13, 2015
by Forever Yours (Hachette Book Group)

Goodreads * Amazon

One long, hot summer would never be enough . . .

Attorney Hannah Sterling lives a life she's worked hard for. So when she unexpectedly inherits an inn, Hannah decides to take that long overdue holiday and settle her eccentric grandmother's estate. She knew there would be challenges, but what's hardest about returning to Mirabelle, Florida, is facing the man who gave her the most passionate summer of her life-and then broke her heart.

Nathanial Shepherd never forgot the redheaded goddess who lit up his world and got away. Now that she's home, Shep vows to make up for their years apart-and if the fire in her kiss is any indication, they're well on their way. But when a devastating secret from their past threatens their future, Shep must fight to heal Hannah's heart. Because this time, their love will truly be unforgettable . . .

About the author:
 Shannon Richard grew up in the Florida Panhandle as the baby sister of two overly protective but loving brothers. She was raised by a more than somewhat eccentric mother, a self-proclaimed vocabularist who showed her how to get lost in a book and a father who passed on his love for coffee and really loud music. She graduated from Florida State University with a BA in English Literature and still lives in Tallahassee where she battles everyday life with writing, reading, and a rant every once in a while. Okay, so the rants might happen on a regular basis. She's still waiting for her Southern, scruffy, Mr. Darcy, and in the meantime writes love stories to indulge her overactive imagination. Oh, and she's a pretty big fan of the whimsy. 

Find out more at


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