Children’s Corner: Big Tractors + Giveaway!

22 May

UnknownBig Tractors with Casey & Friends shows how the biggest, most powerful tractors handle the demanding jobs of pulling and powering on the farm. Find out how Big Red and Sammy – the biggest tractors on the farm – use their powerful muscles to work in the field with the rest of the team. Learn about the science of farming and discover how advanced technology makes Big Red and Sammy special.




picture-3624-1413987229Holly Dufek has spent nearly 15 years writing and editing educational curriculum for publishers such as Holt McDougal, National Geographic Education and Riverside Publishing. Holly has worked to develop content to enrich the National Common Core Standards for elementary through high school classrooms. Born in Lacrosse, Wisconsin, she attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for her bachelor’s degree, double majoring in English and History. Her first classroom experience was substitute teaching while in graduate school at DePaul University for her Master’s in Education. Holly did her practicum in U.S. History. Licensed to teach History and English through the 12th grade, Holly decided to turn her focus on curriculum development. A Year on the Farm is her first published children’s book. Working with an amazing design team to bring agricultural education to life has been one of the most enriching experiences for her.

Holly lives in Kenosha, Wisconsin with her husband, Matt, and their three children.


picture-3625-1414610259Paul E. Nunn is a full-range artist and approved character artist for Disney, Lucas Arts and Nick Jr. He started his own freelance company to focus on children’s animation in 2000 and hasn’t looked back. Born and raised in Kenosha, WI, and drawing since he could hold a pencil, Paul got his big break right out of high school. With knowledge on new animation software, he became a pixel retouch artist for a small animation studio. As the company grew and landed big jobs with Disney, Mattel and Leapfrog, Paul worked his way up to Animation Director. Leaving in 2000 to start his own freelance business allowed Paul to focus on children’s animation. His projects include working with legacy characters from Disney’s Cinderella, Winnie the Pooh and The Jungle Book, line drawing for LucasArt’s Indiana Jones, Star Wars and Star Wars Angry Birds and illustrating a handful of titles for Nick Jr’s hit show Bubble Guppies. Getting to wake up every day with the opportunity to bring popular characters to life and share them with his own children is Paul’s biggest joy.

He lives in Racine, Wisconsin with his wife, Amy, and their two children.

My Impressions:

All three of my kids were fascinated with tractors. The highlight of our annual visit to the Georgia National Fair was climbing on tractors of every size and purpose. And I know my kids were not alone. Big Tractors with Casey & Friends is the perfect way for your child to get his/her tractor fix! It looks at everything you can imagine — from their jobs on the farm, what makes them work and how they were developed. I loved the mix of illustrations and photographs of tractors at work. There is also a timeline, a glossary and some fun facts about tractors. And all kids should know how important farm work is and this book highlights that importance.

Targeted towards children 4–8, this book is really great for kids of ALL ages!


To purchase this book, click HERE

(Thanks to Octane Press for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)



CASEIH-Tractor-ToyTo win a copy of Big Tractors with Casey & Friends and a CASE IH Magnum 370 CVT Tractor Toy, leave me a comment. Giveaway ends June 1. (US only.)


Audiobook Review: To Kill A Mockingbird

21 May

220px-To_Kill_a_MockingbirdHarper Lee’s Pulitzer prize-winning masterwork of honor and injustice in the deep south—and the heroism of one man in the face of blind and violent hatred

One of the best-loved stories of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than forty million copies worldwide, served as the basis for an enormously popular motion picture, and was voted one of the best novels of the twentieth century by librarians across the country. A gripping, heart-wrenching, and wholly remarkable tale of coming-of-age in a South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father—a crusading local lawyer—risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.


220px-Nelle_Harper_LeeNelle Harper Lee (born April 28, 1926) is an American novelist widely known for her 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird which deals with the racism she observed as a child in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. Though Lee only published this single book for half a century, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to literature. Lee has received numerous honorary degrees, and declined to speak on each occasion. Lee assisted close friend Truman Capote in his research for the book In Cold Blood (1966).

In February 2015 at age 88, nearly blind and deaf after a 2007 stroke, and after a lifetime of maintaining that she would never publish another novel, Lee a statement through her attorney that “I’m alive and kicking and happy as hell with the reactions of Watchman,” that Lee would publish a second novel, Go Set a Watchman (set to be published on July 14, 2015), written before To Kill a Mockingbird.


My Impressions:

Really?!! I am writing a review of To Kill A Mockingbird? This beloved novel has been the subject of countless literary critiques, reviews, dissertations and high school book reports since its publication 50+ years ago. What could I possibly add? Just that this really is an American classic that accurately depicts the South before the Civil Rights Movement in all its beautiful and ugly glory. The characters of narrator Scout and her father Atticus are some of the best written. This is definitely a must-read, and if you are like me (I had never read it before) you need to put this one at the top of your TBR list. I listened to the audiobook, and Sissy Spacek did an outstanding job giving voice to Scout. Mockingbird is my book club’s May selection, and I look forward to some great discussion. Have you read it? Let us know your thoughts.

Very Highly Recommended.

Audience: teens to adults.

Great for Book Clubs.

To purchase this book, click HERE

(I purchased the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Spotlight: A Bypass in The Road

20 May


My sweet friend Debi Morzark Hutchens’ book, A Bypass in The Road, is in its second edition! Debi first wrote this book following bypass surgery some years ago. She has updated her book including more of what God is up to in her life. Here’s a little blurb about the book and some info about Debi. And of course there is a link so you can order her book!


51xJk5qe+0L._UY250_“We are all on a heart journey. Paths that can tug on our very existence. Unexpected doors that open without warning, requiring us to step out of our comfort zone into uncharted waters. A job loss. Financial strain. A traffic jam when we are in a hurry. An unkind word. Sudden illness or even death. Do we allow God to walk with us?”


To purchase this book, click HERE



11136763_10204389620720620_1809339604861999695_nAuthor and encourager Debi Morzark Hutchens is known for her genuine love for people and her Lord. Having a deep passion to write since a child, it wasn’t until she wnet through her bypass adventure that she discovered how God was paving the way as He used this adversity to open the door to fulfill her dream. Debi’s greatest accomplishment is her family, including her husband, Larry, four children and five grandchildren. Hokies forever!




Top 10 Tuesday — My Book Club’s Favorite Authors

19 May

Thanks to The Broke And The Bookish for hosting Top 10 Tuesday. This is a freebie week; bloggers choice of topics. To check out what others are talking about this week, click HERE.


My book club has been meeting for 13 lucky years! Here are the authors we love, with my favorite novel from each. (Based on the number of books we have read by each author)


(in alphabetical order)

Terri BlackstockIntervention

Dee Henderson Unspoken

Liz Curtis Higgs Thorn in My Heart


Denise Hildreth JonesSecrets over Sweet Tea

Elizabeth MusserThe Swan House

Francine Rivers Redeeming Love

Dan WalshThe Reunion


Robert Whitlow Life Support

Lis WiehlFace of Betrayal

Cindy WoodsmallWhen The Heart Cries


Book Review + Giveaway: Maggie Bright

18 May

383231England, 1940. Clare Childs knew life would change when she unexpectedly inherited the Maggie Bright―a noble fifty-two-foot yacht. In fact, she’s counting on it. But the boat harbors secrets. When a stranger arrives, searching for documents hidden onboard, Clare is pulled into a Scotland Yard investigation that could shed light on Hitler’s darkest schemes and prompt America to action.

Across the Channel, Hitler’s Blitzkrieg has the entire British army in retreat with little hope for rescue at the shallow beaches of Dunkirk. With time running out, Churchill recruits civilian watercraft to help. Hitler is attacking from land, air, and sea, and any boat that goes might not return. Yet Clare knows Maggie Bright must answer the call―piloted by an American who has refused to join the war effort until now and a detective with a very personal motive for exposing the truth.

The fate of the war hinges on this rescue. While two men join the desperate fight, a nation prays for a miracle.


ptg0330_9713b1Tracy Groot is the critically acclaimed and Christy Award–winning author of several novels. Her most recent books exemplify her unique style of storytelling—reimagining biblical stories within other historical contexts. Tracy’s novels have received starred Booklist and Publishers Weekly reviews and have been called “beautifully written” and “page-turning” by Publishers Weekly and “gripping” with “exquisitely drawn” characters by Library Journal. Tracy and her husband have three boys and live in Michigan.


My Impressions:

With my two book clubs and reviewing schedule, I read a lot of books. A. LOT. And sometimes I get a bit weary of the same old same old — books that are good, just not great. A few weeks ago I was ready for great and I got it. Maggie Bright by Tracy Groot is not only great, it is excellent, exceptional. Set amidst the defeat of the British Expeditionary Force in Europe and its retreat to Dunkirk, the novel can certainly be labeled historical fiction. But with its imaginative plotting, inventive writing style and unforgettable characters, Maggie Bright is a literary gem that will appeal to all book lovers. This one is easily rated Very Highly Recommended!

There are two parallel, yet connected story lines in Maggie Bright. Private Jamie Elliott cannot believe the British Army is in retreat. Charged with safely delivering an injured Captain back to England, Jamie is faced with an army in full retreat, attacks by the Germans from the air and on land and a broken man who can only communicate in verse. He, along with a motley group of fellow soldiers, makes his way to the city of Dunkirk hoping against hope for rescue. On the home front, Clare Childs, American Murray Vance and Detective William Percy (as well as other minor characters) are swept up in intrigue and espionage as they face the chilling truth of Hitler’s ideals. Ordinary people are called to extraordinary efforts in a fight of good against evil.

Maggie Bright is a novel to be savored, not rushed through. Tracy takes her time developing the story and her characters. Her characters are the finest of men and the most courageous of women.  Her research is impeccable and her writing finely crafted. Several things stand out in this novel. Most of the book is dialog — an interesting means of revealing emotions and motives. Tracy’s use of John Milton’s Paradise Lost quoted by Captain Milton as point and counterpoint to the action going on in Northern France is truly impressive. She is also able to convey the determination, courage, tenacity and grace of the English people as they are faced with holding the line against tyranny and injustice.

Prayer is an essential part of the story of Maggie Bright. Very few of the characters pray on a regular basis, and many are not even sure of who God is. The description of King George’s call to prayer and the British response is very moving. Sacrifice is also a major theme. I loved that the actions of the men of the Dunkirk rescue are described as love disguised as duty.

There is so much more I could say about Maggie Bright, but I will leave you with just one thought — read this book!!

Very Highly Recommended.

Audience: older teens to adults.

Great for book clubs.

To purchase this book, click HERE

(Thanks so much to Tyndale and Tracy Groot for review copies of this book. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)


I have an embarrassment of riches — I received 2 copies of Maggie Bright! I have to keep one copy; it is signed by Tracy. But I will give one lucky reader a copy of this fabulous book. Just leave me a comment. The giveaway will run through Memorial Day, May 25. 


Book Review: Sister Eve, Private Eye

15 May

691455Sister Eve knows God moves in mysterious ways. And Eve adores a good mystery. Especially a murder.

Two decades into her calling at a New Mexico monastery, Sister Evangeline Divine breaks her daily routine when a police officer appears, carrying a message from her father. Sister Eve is no stranger to the law, having grown up with a police captain turned private detective. She’s seen her fair share of crime―and knows a thing or two about solving mysteries.

But when Captain Jackson Divine needs her to return home and help him recover from surgery, Sister Eve finds herself taking on his latest case.

A Hollywood director has disappeared, and the sultry starlet he’s been running around with isn’t talking. When the missing man turns up dead, Captain Divine’s case escalates into a full-blown murder case, and Sister Eve’s crime-solving instincts kick in with an almost God-given grace.

Soon Sister Eve finds herself soul-searching every step of the way: How can she choose between the vocation in her heart and the job in her blood?


Lynne_smLynne Hinton was born and raised in North Carolina. She attended Wake Forest University and is a graduate of UNC-Greensboro. She also attended NC School of the Arts, School of Filmmaking and graduated with her Masters of Divinity from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. She is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and has served as a hospice chaplain and as a senior pastor in Guilford County and Asheboro, North Carolina and in Rio Rancho, New Mexico and as the interim pastor in northeastern Washington.

Lynne is the author of eighteen books, including the NY Times Bestseller, Friendship Cake and Pie Town, the 2011 NM Book of the Year: Fiction/Adventure, Drama Category and 2011 National Federation of Press Women’s Fiction Book of the Year. Her 2014 book, written under the name Lynne Branard, The Art of Arranging Flowers, was also the winner of the NM-Arizona Book Awards Fiction/Adventure Category. In addition, she has penned a mystery series under the name, Jackie Lynn and has one nonfiction collection of essays. She is a regular guest columnist in the Faith and Values Section for The Charlotte Observer and was the 2008 Lucy B. Patterson Author of the Year by the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in NC. In 2010, she was the recipient of a Louisville Institute Pastoral Study Grant and was named 2012 Favorite Local Writer in Albuquerque, New Mexico by Albuquerque, The Magazine.


My Impressions:

Sister Eve, Private Eye is the May selection for my Book Club, By The Book. We don’t often read mysteries, although some of us are big fans of the genre. To be honest, mysteries don’t always lend themselves to great discussion, other than who figured out whodunit. But we get into reading ruts, so I wanted to mix it up a bit and thought this one would do the trick. I have to say that while Sister Eve may stimulate some good conversation, it won’t be because of the mystery.

Sister Evangeline Divine (that’s pronounced Diveen, if you please) has been a nun for over 20 years. Her community is undergoing some changes and so is she. After her father, an ex-police captain turned P. I., undergoes an amputation, Eve takes over his care and his one case. Eve has great intuition and insight and maybe likes private detecting a little more than she would like to admit.

The examination of vocation in Sister Eve, Private Eye, is very interesting. Evangeline struggles with the patience and obedience necessary for her life as a nun. She also has to confront whether her religious life has insulated her from the daily joys and sorrows of her family. All of that was good, but where was the mystery? Yes there is a murder and suspects and clues, but it seemed secondary to the story of Eve and her spiritual introspection. I also was not keen on how the reader is left out of the uncovering of the murderer. I didn’t figure the mystery out mainly because I was not included! There is a second book in the series, but I don’t think I will be reading it.

Have you read this book? We would love to know what you thought.

Audience: adults.

(I purchased this book for my Kindle. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)


Tales from The TBR Pile: Divine Appointments

14 May

I won Divine Appointments by Charlene Baumbich a few years ago, and although I love her books (see my review of Finding Our Way Home, HERE.) I have not yet read this one. Have you read Divine Appointments? Let me know why I should move this book up to the top of the pile!


444721_w185With the big 5-0 fast approaching, Josie Brooks begins to question her structured, picture-perfect (mid)life.

Josie Brooks, at the age of 47, thought she was leading an enviable single life. A successful consultant, she calls her own shots, goes where the money is, and never needs to compromise. But her precisely managed world begins to falter during a Chicago contract when an economic downturn, a bleeding heart boss, and the loyalty and kindness between endangered employees ding her coat of armor.

Throw in hot flashes, a dose of loneliness, a peculiar longing for intimacy, an unquenchable thirst—not to mention a mysterious snowglobe with a serene landscape, complete with a flowing river and lush greenery that seems to be beckoning her in—and Josie’s buttoned-up life is on the verge of coming completely undone. Maybe her solitary existence isn’t as fulfilling as she has convinced herself to believe.

It will take a few new friends, a mystical encounter, and an unexpected journey to set Josie on her own path to “right-sizing” and making the life changes that really matter. Filled with laugh-out loud moments and a gentle dash of inspiration, Divine Appointments is another heartwarming charmer from a master storyteller.


pic1Charlene Ann Baumbich is an award-winning journalist who speaks and writes about the layers of life as she sees them, which is often slightly off center, mostly dead-on, and always through lenses of grace. Her highly successful Dearest Dorothy series of novels celebrate octogenarian spitfire Dorothy Jean Wetstra and the residents of small-town Partonville. Her nonfiction titles range from Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This to Don’t Miss Your Kids!. Charlene speaks to the heart, the funny bone, and a broad age span. For more than a decade, Charlene has presented her most requested talk–“Don’t Miss Your Life!”–to audiences across the country and in Canada. Her creative pedal is to the floor, her energized words are ripe, her cranky gallbladder has been “left behind,” and her message is right on time. Yes, fasten your seatbelts!


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