Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Christmas Cat by Melody Carlson


The Christmas Cat by Melody Carlson coverCat lovers will adore THE CHRISTMAS CAT by Melody Carlson and non-cat lovers may have a change of heart.

This is a heartwarming story that deals with a man’s love for his grandmother and her faith he will find his right path in life.

After returning from a nine year missionary trip to Uganda and a bout with malaria, Garrison Brown feels guilty for not visiting his grandmother more when he learns she has died. Meeting with her attorney, Garrison discovers his grandmother has an unusual request for him – find homes for her six cats. But there are some strict guidelines for placing the cats. To make matters worse, Garrison is allergic to cats.

The process of placing the cats takes Garrison on his own journey reconnecting with friends in his old neighborhood. Along the way Garrison also discovers new things about his grandmother and himself.

The author quickly pulls readers in with this inspiring story. She blends family, faith and caring with bits of humor and a touch of romance for a well-balanced story. The characters are realistic, likable and well-developed.

The setting is warm and inviting. The Christmas element enhances the story adding another layer to hold readers captive.

THE CHRISTMAS CAT is inspiring, touching and just an all-round feel-good tale that’s perfect for a holiday read.

The Christmas Cat by Melody Carlson, Revell, @2014, ISBN: 978-0800719661, Hardcover, 176 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher as part of a virtual book tour in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Hope you’re having a great Saturday. Are you a cat person? If so, tell us about your cat(s).

*This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Around The Table by Martina McBride


Around the Table cookbook coverWhen a celebrity comes out with a cookbook, you can’t help but wonder just how good it will be.

Country music megastar Martina McBride does an excellent job bringing delicious recipes and entertaining ideas together in her first book release, AROUND THE TABLE: Recipes and Inspiration for Gathers, Throughout the Year.

This delightful cookbook is chalked full of practical menu planning tidbits, appetizing recipes, and helpful advice for entertaining guests year-round. This attractive book is divided into 10 sections such as: Family Pizza Night, Mistletoe and Martins – A Holiday Open House, Spring Brunch Outdoors, Bruschetta Bash, and much more. There’s also a conversion chart, and a party log with guest book included.

There are beautiful, rich color photographs accompanying many of the recipes, as well as photos of McBride and her family enjoying numerous gatherings. McBride also includes a playlist for each of the gatherings, as well as personal anecdotes throughout giving the book a warm, friendly feel.

The recipes are written in easy to follow instructions with additional tips and notes added.

AROUND THE TABLE offers more than just recipes. It’s a fun way to incorporate delicious meals and fun entertaining while reducing the stress level. You don’t have to be a country music fan to enjoy this fascinating cookbook, just enjoy scrumptious dishes.

Around the Table: Recipes and Inspiration for Gatherings Throughout the Year by Martina McBride, William Morrow Cookbooks, @2014, ISBN: 978-0062323910, Hardcover, 320 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.

I do so appreciate you stopping by today. Do you have a favorite cookbook that you use for special occasions? Do you find yourself collecting cookbooks? I seem to be collecting more lately and enjoying experimenting with the wonderful recipes.

As the cold weather blankets much of the US this week, I hope you’re safe and secure and if snow has come to visit, it leaves as quickly as you wish for it to. Have a wonderful Friday.

*This post contains affiliate links.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Suede to Rest {+ Giveaway}


Suede to Rest coverI’m happy to be participating in author Diane Vallere’s virtual book tour for her debut release, SUEDE TO REST.

As part of the tour I’m sharing my thoughts on this charming book and thanks to the lovely Danielle at Penguin Group, I have a copy to giveaway. Please see the end of the book for more giveaway details.

Now for my thoughts …..

Combining family secrets, unanswered questions and new beginnings, author Diane Vallere has crafted a new series that is sure to keep readers guessing for a long time.

SUEDE TO REST, the first installment in Vallere’s Material Witness Mystery series, has the protagonist Poly Monroe returning to her hometown of San Ladron. Poly has inherited Land of a Thousand Fabrics, a fabric store once owned and operated by her late aunt and uncle.

Poly isn’t sure what to do with the store as she receives pressure from a local developer to sell. When a dead body is found behind the shop, Poly is determined to find who the killer is as she believes it’s tied to long buried family secrets she wants answered.

Vallere’s cast of characters are likable and well-developed. The story flows at a steady pace and smoothly drawing you in quickly. The charming setting adds depth to the story as the twists and turns keeps you wondering who until the end.

An added bonus to the story is a craft project included at the end. While readers don’t have to be especially interested in fabrics to enjoy this story, those who are will find an extra treat in the setting.

A fun protagonist and an intriguing cast of characters makes this a new series to follow for hours of delightful reading enjoyment.

Suede to Rest by Diane Vallere, Material Witness Mystery series Book #1, Berkley Prime Crime, @2014, ISBN: 978-0425270578, Paperback, 304 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Diane Vallere is a former fashion buyer turned mystery writer, trading fashion accessories for accessories to murder. She was bit by the mystery bug as a kid reading Trixie Belden, Connie Blair, and The Three Investigators. Now she is writing three series: the Style & Error Mysteries, the Mad for Mod Mysteries, and the upcoming Material Witness Mysteries

For more on Diane and her writing, visit her website.

GIVEAWAY DETAILS:

This giveaway is for one print copy of SUEDE TO REST. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and will end Friday, Nov. 28.

To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and following the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load, so please be patient. The winner from this giveaway will have 72 hours to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. The email will have ‘Thoughts in Progress Diane Vallere’s Tour’ in the subject line, just so you know what to watch for (in case it goes into your spam folder).

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I hope I’ve enticed you to check out this entertaining cozy. Did you notice the two cute kittens on the cover? 

*This post contains affiliate links. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sam’s Christmas Wish


Sam's Christmas Wish coverI’m delighted to be participating in Shadow Mountain’s virtual book tour for author George D. Durrant’s latest release, SAM’S CHRISTMAS WISH.

I find Christmas-themed stories to be heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.

SAM’S CHRISTMAS WISH by George D. Durrant is a good example of events that tug on your heart strings and elements that warms your heart both within minutes of each other. Having a box of tissue handy when reading this charming story could be helpful.

The beautiful rich illustrations by Dan Burr are excellent. The colorful, realistic drawings bring the story to live.

Sam Edwards is a proud man who lost his job just weeks before Christmas. Not sure how to give his family a Merry Christmas, Sam knows he definitely doesn’t want charity from the town’s ‘do-gooders.’ When he awakes Christmas morning to find presents inside and out, he’s sure the ‘do-gooders’ have been there but there’s no evidence anyone has been there.

Seeing the Christmas spirit in his family, Sam finally accepts the gifts and promises to someday do a secret good deed for someone else. Many years later Sam is able to fulfill his wish. He performs a secret deed for his neighbors in his last act of kindness and love.

SAM’S CHRISTMAS WISH is an inspiring story of giving and receiving and how acts of kindness can touch the heart and soul. This is a wonderful reminder of the true meaning of the Christmas spirit.

This delightful children’s story shares a great message of love and caring for readers of all ages.

Sam’s Christmas Wish by George D. Durrant, Illustrated by Dan Burr, Shadow Mountain, @2014, ISBN: 978-1609076061, Hardcover, 36 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

George Durrant was born and raised in American Fork, Utah. He’s believed in Santa Claus as a child and as a parent. George is a master storyteller and loves telling stories to his eight children, thirty-four grandchildren, and fifteen great-grandchildren.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Do you have a favorite Christmas story from your childhood that you like sharing each year?

*This post contains affiliate links.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Author Jan Christensen Talks Time Management


Buried Under Clutter coverI’m excited to welcome author Jan Christensen to Thoughts in Progress today to talk about time management and her new release, BURIED UNDER CLUTTER, the second installment in her Tina Tales Mystery series.

Here’s a brief synopsis of BURIED UNDER CLUTTER:

      Someone screams inside the old, neglected Victorian house next door, and Tina Shaw runs to find out what’s wrong. A woman bursts out the door saying her aunt is dead. Murdered. Tina notices that the hallway is piled high with cartons. Later when the woman begs her to help clean up the house, Tina hesitates. She’s just begun a career as a professional organizer, though, and her hands itch to start on a new job.
      As Tina sifts through the clutter, she finds clues the murdered woman left behind. She learns the woman was rich, and all her relatives are suspects. But when the will is read, Tina and her family also become suspects. After her mother is arrested, Tina begins investigating in earnest with the help of her boyfriend, Hank (the Hunk). Will she find out who the killer is before her own life is put in danger?

Now please join me in giving Jan a warm welcome as she talks about time management. Welcome, Jan.

Mason asked me to talk about one of my passions—time management. That, my family and friends, writing, reading, and personal organization are what interests me the most. So, I’ve studied all those subjects over the years (yes, including family, friendship, and reading).  

Time management is something that affects all of us, especially in today’s world. The faster we can zip through unpleasant chores and have more time for our passions, the happier we’ll be.

To do a good job of it takes knowledge and planning. Self-knowledge is very important. For example, when do you have the most energy during a day? That’s when you should do the most important things on your goals list. When does your energy lag? That’s when you should schedule those routine, even boring, tasks that don’t take a lot of thought or energy.

If you are a procrastinator, a perfectionist, low-energy, in a lot of pain, handicapped in anyway, you can have difficulty managing your time if you don’t allow for your particular situation. Once you learn how to overcome or compensate for problems by getting one-on-one help, if needed, or studying/reading about it and working on it, then you will better be able to accomplish what you want to do in the time available.

After that is when the planning comes in. The most important points I’ve read and heard about are these:


          1.     Make up a to-do list daily.

          2.     Pick three or four things you want to do each day—for example, personal care/exercise/eat right,
your work (for pay or volunteer), your environment, social activities with family and friends, financial matters, etc. Once those important items are finished for the day, you can relax and do whatever entertains you, guilt-free. And yes, guilt can arise from goals you want to accomplish you’ve set for yourself.

          3.     Find your most productive time of day and do the most important things on your to-do list then.

          4.     Decrease stress by eliminating all unnecessary things from your life, whether that means clutter, toxic people, situations, or anything else.

          5.     Try to move around more. Set a timer if you sit a lot to work, and get up every hour for ten minutes. Do a chore. Stretch. Make a phone call standing/walking around. Anything to get the blood flowing again. Make a list of all the chores you can do in ten minutes. You can keep a clutter-free, clean house using this method. And be more productive when you sit down again to work after the break.

          6.     Think efficiently. For example, it’s smart to run all your errands once a week, using lists. It’s smart to vacuum the whole house at one time (even if in ten-minute increments) instead of pulling the vacuum out and setting it up every day to do a different room. Same for any other cleaning chore. If it involves supplies and equipment, do those at one time or at least on one day. Arrange your kitchen and office in a work-flow pattern. 

          7.     Handle everything that comes into your house as soon as you can. Put things you’ve bought away immediately. Handle the mail the same day it arrives. Clean out your purse, wallet, and the kids’ backpacks when you and/or they get home.

          8.     Habit is destiny. For everything you want to do every day, from brushing your teeth to cleaning up the kitchen before bed and making that bed in the morning, make it routine by doing it for several weeks without a day off. The more things are habitual, the less you have to think about them and the less your mind will suggest you don’t do them.

These are the major items I can think of to help you make the life you want. Here’s my favorite quote: A successful life does not result from chance, but rather from a succession of successful days. Make every day a success, and your life will be incredible.

Jan, thanks so much for joining us today and sharing these helpful tips. I can always use more help when it comes to getting organized and these points can help do the trick.

Now here’s a bit of background on Jan.

Jan Christensen grew up in New Jersey. She bounced around the world as an Army wife, and in Texas when her husband retired. After traveling for eleven years in a motorhome, she settled down in the Texas Coastal Bend. 

Her published novels are: Sara’s Search, Revelations, Organized to Death, Perfect Victim, Blackout, and most recently, Buried Under Clutter. Jan has had over sixty short stories appear in various places over the last dozen years. She also writes a series of short stories about Artie, a NY burglar who gets into some very strange situations while on the job.

For more on Jan and her writing, visit her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks so much for stopping by during Jan’s visit and be sure to check out her latest release, BURIED UNDER CLUTTER. Are you organized when it comes to home and work? Do you have any organizational tips you’d like to share?

*This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, November 17, 2014

What Are You Reading: Author Stacy Verdick Case? {+ Giveaway}


An Intimate Murder coverIt’s my pleasure to be participating in author Stacy Verdick Case’s virtual book tour for her release, AN INTIMATE MURDER, the latest installment in her Catherine O’Brien series.

As part of the tour, Stacy will be joining us to talk about what she’s reading and share an awesome giveaway. I’ll also be sharing my thoughts on this entertaining murder mystery.

First, here’s a brief synopsis of AN INTIMATE MURDER:

      Catherine O'Brien, the irreverent detective, is back in An Intimate Murder. When Jonathan and Susan Luther are murder in their home, St. Paul homicide detective Catherine O'Brien and her partner Louise discover this isn't the first time the Luther family has been visited by tragedy. Is it a case of bad family luck or is there something more?

Please join me in giving Stacy a warm welcome. Welcome, Stacy. What are you reading now?

What are you reading now? I get asked this question all the time on various blog tours, interviews, etc. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a writer, or if people are just curious. Or maybe people are curious because I’m a writer, who knows. Part of me feels like I should say something intellectual like Dostoyevsky or Shakespeare so I sound smart, but the truth is I’m a genre omnivore. 

Being a mystery writer I have a strong leaning toward mysteries, but I love a romance, I love literary fiction, short stories, plays, humor, science fiction. You name it I love it. If it has a good story, and is well-written, I want to read it. As a writer, I think there’s a benefit to reading across genres. I think if you don’t you’re missing so much.
 
There is a beauty in the language of poetry that you can’t get anywhere else. The world building in sci-fi and fantasy is epic. I love being able to relieve the first time I fell in love when I read romances. Literary writers are more in love with words and use language in a way that is like no other. From all these genres, I glean mini-tutorials on the craft that I can use in my own writing.

Also when I answer the ‘what are you reading now?’ question I’m sure it’s off putting to hear three answers, because I have an e-reader, I listen to audiobooks in my car (and in the shower), and I still like to hold a book in my hands.

Unusually heavier stuff like literary fiction is my audiobook selection, because when I lay down at night to read a book I want brain candy. However, when I wake up in the morning and I’m ready for my commute I’m ready for the depth in literary fiction.

My e-reader is full of short stories, articles, and poetry. Because if I’m reading on my e-readers it means I’m in a doctor’s office, or a long line somewhere, and I have a few minutes to grab a snippet.

When I’m curled up on my couch it’s with a book. A real one with pages I can turn without charging a battery. I don’t care what the futurists say. I don’t care if they tell me books are going away. In my lifetime, I’m never going to let it happen. If I have to take an eBook and print it out and read it that way, I will. I am tech-savvy enough to figure it out, so don’t think your DRM is going to stop me.

For those of you who are still curious below is a list of what I’m reading at the time of this writing in my three chosen formats:

Paperback: See Jane Run by Joy Fielding
Audiobook: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
EBook: Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer

Stacy, thanks for joining us and sharing your list of books you were reading. As readers, I think we’re always curious what the authors we enjoy are reading to see if we read the same things.

Now, let me share a bit of background on Stacy.

Stacy Verdick Case was born in Willmar, Minnesota. After a brief stint as a military brat, where she lived in Fort Sill Oklahoma and Fort Campbell, Kentucky, her family moved back to Minnesota.

Stacy has written all her life earning a High School Writer Award and a Daphne Du Mauier Award for excellence in Mainstream Mystery/Suspense.
Stacy currently lives in a suburb of St. Paul with her husband of twenty-years, her five-year-old daughter, and their two cats. 

An Intimate Murder is the third book in the Catherine O’Brien series. For more on Stacy and her writing, visit her website and connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Goodreads.

Now for my thoughts on AN INTIMATE MURDER …..

Detective Catherine O’Brien is the type of protagonist I enjoy reading about.

Author Stacy Verdick Case has created a fun and entertaining character in Catherine. O’Brien is strong, independent, witty and outspoken. But she is also caring, loyal and very realistic.

In the latest installment in the Catherine O’Brien series, AN INTIMATE MURDER, Catherine and her partner, Louise Montgomery, are faced with solving a double homicide. Jonathan and Susan Luther have been murdered in their home but as the detectives investigate, they learn the Luther family has experienced murder before.

Saddled with a reporter to improve public relations, the detectives have their hands full as they try to find the killer.

The author does an excellent job blending the horrors of the tragedy with bits of humor to keep the story flowing smoothly without becoming too dark. The bantering of the two detectives and their interaction with others enhances the story adding realism to the events.

The rich dialogue and twists will keep you spellbound as you try to discover who the real killer is.

AN INTIMATE MURDER is the third installment in the series, but can be read on its own. Detectives O’Brien and Montgomery are two officers that will have you laughing and shaking your head as they solve this case.

An Intimate Murder by Stacy Verdick Case, Catherine O’Brien Series Book #3, Before The Fall Books, @2014, ISBN: 978-0983713760, Paperback, 284 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this book was sent to me by the author as part of her virtual book tour. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.

GIVEAWAY DETAILS:

This giveaway is for a $50 Barnes and Noble Gift Card and two signed copies of AN INTIMATE MURDER.

To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and following the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load, so please be patient. 

Thanks so much for stopping by today. What books are you reading? Do you read in more than one format at a time? What format is your favorite?

*This post contains affiliate links. a Rafflecopter giveaway