Suz's love for COWS + Allan's work with LASERS = one unique blog name! Welcome to our blog filled with race recaps, pictures of our labs, and everything else we share with blogland!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Up Side

Up Side is our way of looking at the positive parts of possibly having to redo our shower and tile our bathroom. The up side is that I got to look for some great ideas on Pinterest. Allan and I are going to get to spend lots of quality time together working on this project. More likely than not, my sweet Daddy is hopeful going to help us and not least (but last) I am extremely grateful that we have two guest bathrooms to use while ours is out of commission.

I'm off to wake up the dragon Allan for another day of ripping things out of the bathroom. It should be fun!

Dancing with Fireflies by Denise Hunter

I always enjoy Denise Hunter's books and this one is no exception. She finds a way to tell Jade and Daniel's story so anyone can relate even if you haven't been in their exact shoes. People don't often comment on the cover or title of the book but in this case I want to take the time to say how much I love both. If you've ever spent a summer night running around catching fireflies and taken a moment to appreciate how beautiful a night like that can be then you can't help but love the title and cover chosen for this book. Then you read this amazing story and it's impossible to find anything short of wonderful!

After reading and reviewing Barefoot Summer I have been patiently waiting for this book to come out! While this is the second in her Chapel Springs Romance series you can read this without having read Barefoot Summer but I'd encourage you to check out that one as well because it's a great read. While this book does cover some sensitive issues I believe Denise Hunter did a wonderful job handling it. I will say that I am a sucker for a story in which the guy has been in love with the girl for years and instead of telling her he continued to act like a brother. Thankfully guys/boys grow into men and usually gather the courage to admit how they've felt all along. I hope you all enjoy Jade and Daniel's story as much as I did and I can't wait to see what Denise Hunter has in store for us next!

Book Info

About the book: A Chapel Springs Romance

Jade returns home to Chapel Springs after years of protecting her fragile heart. Then along comes Daniel, making her long to dance again.

Creative and complicated, Jade McKinley felt like a weed in a rose garden growing up in Chapel Springs. When she left, she thought she'd never look back. But now, pregnant, alone, and broke, she has no other choice but to return.
The mayor of Chapel Springs, Daniel Dawson, has been an honorary member of the McKinley family for years. While his own home life was almost non-existent, Daniel fit right into the boisterous McKinley family. He's loved Jade for years, but she always saw him as a big brother. Now that she's back, his feelings are stronger than ever.
As Jade attempts to settle in, nothing feels right. God seems far away, she's hiding secrets from her family, and she's strangely attracted to the man who's always called her "squirt." Finding her way home may prove more difficult than she imagined.

Purchase a copy:

About the Author: Denise Hunter is an internationally published best-selling author. Her books have won The Holt Medallion Award, The Reader's Choice Award, The Foreword Book of the Year Award, and was a RITA finalist. In 1996, inspired by the death of her grandfather, Denise began her first book, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she's been writing ever since. Her husband says he inspires all of her romantic stories, but Denise insists a good imagination helps, too. When Denise isn't writing, she's busy raising three heroes-in-the-making with her husband.

Learn more about Denise at:

 Blog Tour Schedule

Don't miss Denise Hunter's latest Chapel Springs Romance, Dancing with Fireflies. Reviewers have already labeled Dancing with Fireflies "swoon-worthy" and "the perfect love story." 

Join Denise in celebrating the release of her new book by entering her Kindle HDX giveaway and RSVPing for her April 10th Facebook party.

One winner will receive:
  • A brand new Kindle Fire HDX
  • Dancing with Fireflies and Barefoot Summer by Denise Hunter
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 10th. Winner will be announced at the Dancing with Fireflies Facebook Party on April 10th. Connect with Denise for an evening of prizes, book chat, and an exclusive look at the next book in the series.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by clicking JOIN on the event page. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 10th!

I received this book free of charge from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my honest review.

A Stillness of Chimes by Meg Moseley

The first thing that drew me to this book was the cover. As little girls my sister and I spent a lot of time picking blackberries and returned home from the pasture many a time with blackberry-stained hands. In my opinion the most critical point of this book centers around an afternoon of blackberry picking with Laura, Sean, Cassie, and Tigger. Unfortunately it takes the entire novel to understand why this particular afternoon would play such a huge impact on the rest of their lives. Laura's dad, Elliott, finds them picking blackberries by the railroad tracks and reminds them to keep a close eye on Cassie's little sister, Tigger. Although they promised they would, once Sean leaves to go to the lake Cassie is quickly able to persuade Laura to leave Tigger so they can go back to Cassie's house and paint their fingernails. A bulk of the story takes place when Laura returns home to bury her mother and sort through her things. More than saying goodbye to her mother this trip becomes all about digging into her father's disappearance and assumed drowning that had occurred twelve years prior, just before Laura left for college. Rumors around town claim that her father has been seen recently. Laura sets out to discover if there's any truth to those rumors and before long Sean, her best friend and high school sweetheart, is helping her but finding it difficult to imagine the man he idolized could have walked away from his family but in the back of his mind he knows it could be possible. It becomes apparent that not everyone wants Laura looking for her father and after a few incidents Sean refuses to leave Laura alone for fear that someone might harm her.

Now that you've got a good summary of what's going on I'll give you my opinion of how everything comes together. I was disappointed and I'm not entirely sure why. I think perhaps I didn't like how the search for Laura's father drug on and on and then at the very end of the book there were too many twists too soon and not enough time spent explaining the why behind them. While I would still say this is a good book I just don't feel it's as good as it could have been but it's a wonderful story that takes a harsh look into the possibility of a man walking away from his family and the lingering effects that his absence had in the lives of Laura, her mother, Sean, and friends of her father. I only wish certain parts of the book had been expanded a bit more. I also wish the end had been a bit different with Laura and Sean. Once I read the ending I completely changed my mind about how I felt about the two of them as a couple.

If you think this sounds like a book you'd be interested in you can get more information about the book here, check out the author's website here,  and read her bio here. Meg Moseley can also be found on Facebook and Twitter. I highly encourage you to check out Gone South, one of her previous novels that I also had the privilege to review. It was a wonderful book!

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Quick Fly-By

Tomorrow I'm leaving Charleston, SC, to go home to the farm and celebrate my Daddy's birthday. This week I've been cuddling my best girl friend's new daughter and playing with her white Labrador retriever. Hunley (the baby) and Pearl (the lab) are already quite the pair and I just love them both!

Hope you all are having a great week!

It Had To Be You by Susan May Warren

It Had To Be You by Susan May Warren is the second book in her new series but can be read as a stand alone novel. I had no trouble following along without having read the first novel. This one centers around Eden Christiansen, her brother (Owen), and his hockey team captain and role model (Jace Jacobsen). Eden has lived her life on the sidelines rooting for her siblings especially Owen. Even in her career she feels struck writing obituaries and doesn't feel like she's a real reporter. A night of poor decisions lands Owen in the hospital with an injury that could change the direction of his life and career. Suddenly Eden finds herself talking with Jace and both find that their pre-conceived notions of the other couldn't be further from the truth. Can Eden count on Jace's help with something that she feels could be a big story? Will Jace be able to draw Eden off the sidelines of her own life?

I fell in love with the Christiansen family and I'm looking forward to reading Susan May Warren's other novels. Also if you're a hockey fan you'll also probably enjoy this one since several parts of the novel take place at a practice or game. What I could relate to most in this novel was Eden's role as a cheerleader. Many times I've had someone be that kind of support for me and it's easy to forget to support the supporter. I was reminded that all of have gifts and talents that God has blessed us with and they deserve to be celebrated. Hope you enjoy this novel as much as I did!

Author Q & A
Susan May Warren & It Had to Be You
This is the second installment in a new six-book series. Can you give us a bit of background on this series?
The Christiansen Family series is a spin-off of the bestselling Deep Haven collection, stories about the townspeople of Deep Haven, Minnesota, a tiny resort town on the north shore of Lake Superior. The original series started with a book titled Happily Ever After and grew to include six titles. However, one family began to stand out, and we decided their story needed to be told. We wanted a series about a family with adult children learning what it meant to carry on the legacy of faith into their lives. And I wanted to write a series that would really let readers dig into the family, feel like they were a part of their journey.
This Christiansen Family series is set in Deep Haven, Minnesota. Tell us about this setting.
It’s a gorgeous place to set a story—on the rocky shores of Lake Superior, in a tiny town where everyone knows your name. It’s a town with a rich heritage, strong ties, and a place where people want to escapein fiction and in real life (as it is modeled after my town of Grand Marais, Minnesota). You’ll find people from all walks of life here—and most importantly, Evergreen Resort, run by the Christiansen family for four generations.
What is your hope for this series?
Of course, I hope people fall as much in love with the Christiansens as I have. They’re a great bunch—all led by John and Ingrid Christiansen, who have tried to instill their values into their children. But each child has their own path to walk, and part of the series is just watching as they walk that paththrough the good and the bad, trying to figure out where their faith and their parents’ legacy fit into their lives. It’s a contemporary epic family series set in the wilds of northern Minnesota with romance, suspense, and lots of great family drama!
4. What was your inspiration for this particular book and the main character Eden Christiansen?
Eden Christiansen came from a number of places. Watching the siblings of movie stars and athletes, watching my own daughter cheer her athlete brothers, even watching my friends, parents who feel on the sidelines of their children’s lives . . . maybe even a little left behind as they leave for college. I began to wonderwhat if you had an amazing sibling, and your entire family focused on his or her successes, and you felt left behind, void of your own amazingness? This is Eden—who feels like she hasn’t accomplished anything and is sitting on the sidelines of her life. She feels like she needs to “get into the game” but doesn’t know how or where to start. And she feels like she really has nothing spectacular to offer . . .
But God has different plans . . .
5. Did you base the character of Jace Jacobsen on anyone in particular?
Jace was loosely modeled after famed Minnesota Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard, who died, in part, due to the many concussions he suffered as a hockey player. The problem of concussions with today’s athletes, especially in hockey and football, can be life-threatening for athletes, and although hockey (and football!) is played much differently today, it’s still an issue.
I wanted Jace to have the opposite problem from Edenhe is only good at one thing. In fact, he’s spectacular at it, but he believes if he walks away from it, he will be nothing. So same problem . . . different perspective. It gave me a good opportunity as an author to examine our “worth.”
Of course, adding the John Doe element only rounded that theme out with yet another perspective. I loved how these three angles came together.
6. What lessons or truths will your readers find in the pages of this novel?
I think we all need to see our worth not in relationship to our external successes but in how we work out the task God has for us. How we love one another, how we use our gifts and talents. How we abide with God in our daily lives. Hopefully readers will begin seeing their worth in a new way.
7. How do you expect this new series to resonate with your audience? How do you want your books to make them feel?
I am hoping readers walk away from this book, and this series, with hope. The sense that they belong to somethingto God, to familyand the feeling that our lives are not chaotic or out of control, but that God has a  unique and amazing journey for each of us, and it’s lived out within our relationships. I want them to feel as if they’d found a new set of friends.
8. Have you received any feedback from your fans on this series? What are they saying?
People fell immediately in love with Darek and his sweet son, Tiger, in Take a Chance on Me, and I think readers will really enjoy Jace and Eden’s romance in this story. I’m thankful that people enjoy the work I put into developing my characters and the romance, and I have loved diving into these multilayered stories about people with realistic, everyday struggles.
9. As a writer, what did you particularly enjoy about crafting this story?
I loved writing about Minnesota in the winter. And I loved the story of John Doe and uncovering who he might be. (I plotted it like a mystery, so it was fun to revisit my mystery-plotting techniques). I especially loved the layers of Jace, the hero, and how, with every turn, he became more intriguing.
  1. What is the best advice or encouragement that you have received?
    Try to up your writing game with each book, and just keep writing. Not every story appeals to every reader, but I try to write a story I would enjoyand then hopefully my readers will also.
  2. In your writing career, what are you most proud of?
    I think I’ve stayed true to who I am and the kind of story I’m supposed to be writing. I’m very blessed by my reader friends and their constant encouragement. I am very blessed to spend my days with the Christiansen family! 

I received this book free of charge from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Paint the Streets 5K

Every year Allan and I always say the same thing when this race is over. It's a flat course and we never train to PR but we should because it's fast and flat. Unfortunately it's also in late July in Alabama so it's hot, REALLY hot. I'm pretty sure my face looks like I'm about to have a heat stroke when I cross the finish line. Despite the heat it's a great race and it's very well organized. Allan has run this race every year that they have had it and I have been there for every race except the first one. It's one that we look forward to each summer. Maybe one year we will get lucky and have unseasonably cool temperatures for this race!

Another race with my favorite running partner!

Smitten Book Club

Some of you may remember that I reviewed Secretly Smitten and I didn't know how they could possibly write a better book after that but I was proven wrong. Smitten Book Club may be my favorite of the three Smitten books! Perhaps it's because I love my book club ladies or maybe I'm just a sucker for a sweet story but regardless this is beautifully written story and one that I believe many women would love to read and discuss with their friends.

Each of the four stories is written by a different author and the group of authors happen to be best friends themselves. Honestly if you didn't know four different people had come together to write this book you'd assume it was one person because it flows so well and the writing styles mesh together in a way that it reads as one book with the focus shifting from one person to another as you change stories and authors.

As with the previous Smitten books this one takes place in Smitten, Vermont, a quaint little town filled with charm, romance, and a bit of mystery. It can also be read as a stand alone book. You don't need to have read the previous two to be able to enjoy this one. The story centers around four women who are close friends and who all attend book club together. Throughout each of the stories the women are searching for lost gold and the clues are supposedly hidden in the Gentlewoman's Guide to Love and Courtship written by Pearl Chambers many years prior. It's interesting to see how each woman combs through the book looking for clues and comes up with something different every time.

Take the time to join them on their search for gold and for love. While you're at it, read the exerts from Gentlewoman's Guide to Love and Courtship that appear throughout the book. Many are antiquated and funny but some should be applied in relationships today. I enjoyed this book and I can't wait to read more books written by each of these talented authors.

Book Info

About the book: The century-old Gentlewoman's Guide to Love and Courtship is no ordinary book club choice. But for the little book club in Smitten, Vermont, it might be their best pick yet!
The thick, leathery tome Heather pulled out of the dusty cardboard box was definitely coming home with her. Not only was The Gentlewoman's Guide to Love and Courtship an appealing curiosity by virtue of its title; it was also written by Smitten, Vermont native Pearl Chambers, a local gentlewoman from three generations back.
Little did Heather know the repercussions this little curiosity would have on her and her friends' romantic exploits.
When Heather and her fellow book club members begin passing the book around, their respective interpretations are unleashed on their respective love lives . . . for better or for worse. Is it a mystery? An idealist fantasy? An intimation of Jane Austen? As romantic love finds its way to each woman, the Guide proves itself both surprisingly prescient and hilariously irrelevant.
What's more, a handwritten inscription indicates that the arcane book might hold the only extant clues leading to buried gold---exactly what one of the members needs to keep her house. How could they not go treasure hunting?
In this remarkable collaborative novel, besties Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Denise Hunter, and Diann Hunt tackle the tale of the Gentlewoman's Guide by writing for one book club member apiece. Smitten Book Club is a hopeful, hilarious story of friendship and healing, written by friends for friends.

Purchase a copy:

Meet the authors: 

RITA-finalist Colleen Coble is the author of several best-selling romantic suspense novels, including Tidewater Inn, and the Mercy Falls, Lonestar, and Rock Harbor series.  

Christy Award finalist and two-time winner of the ACFW Book of the Year award, Kristin Billerbeck has appeared on The Today Show and has been featured in the New York Times. Her books include A Billion Reasons Why and What a Girl Wants.  

Denise Hunter is the award-winning and best-selling author of several novels, including A Cowboy's Touch and Sweetwater Gap. She and her husband are raising three boys in Indiana. 

Diann Hunt has lived in Indiana forever, been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, her dog, and, well, chocolate. Diann lost her courageous battle with cancer in December 2013.
 Blog Tour Schedule

The Smitten gals are back with their newest release, Smitten Book Club! Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, and Denise Hunter are celebrating with a Kindle Fire giveaway, a Facebook party on February 20, and a nationwide book-club brunch on March 22.

One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • The Smitten books (Smitten, Secretly Smitten, Smitten Book Club)
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on February 20th. Winner will be announced at the Smitten Book Club Facebook Author Chat Party on February 20th. Connect with Colleen Coble, Denise Hunter, and Kristin Billerbeck for an evening of book chat, trivia, laughter, and more! The Smitten gals will also be taking questions from the audience, giving away books and gift certificates, and sharing news about their upcoming nationwide Smitten Book Club brunch on March 22nd. (Sign up to host today!)

So grab your copy of Smitten Book Club and join Colleen, Denise, Kristin, and friends on the evening of February 20th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 20th!

Sign up to host a Smitten Book Club Brunch on March 22nd!
Smitten Book Club Brunch Coble, Hunter, Billerbeck, Hunt

I received this book free of charge from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my honest review.