Fiction Faith & Foodies

Fiction Faith & Foodies: March 2014

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tide and Tempest by Elizabeth Ludwig ~ My Review

Purchase Link
About the book~
Edge of Freedom ~ Book #3

Dreaming of a better life, Tillie McGrath leaves Ireland behind and, with her beloved fiance by her side, sets sail for America. But when illness robs her of the man she holds dear, she's left alone with only a handful of tattered memories. While forging on proves difficult, Tillie soon finds some new friends at her New York boardinghouse, and begins pursuing a new dream--to open a home for orphaned children.

Despite two years passing, Captain Keondric Morgan has never forgotten the lass who left his ship so heartbroken. When a crewman's deathbed confession reveals her fiance's demise was the result of murder, the captain knows he must try to contact her. But his attention draws the notice of others as well--dangerous men who believe Tillie has in her possession something that could expose their crimes. And to their way of thinking, the best way to prevent such an outcome is to seize the evidence and then hand Tillie the same fate as her naive fiance.

Sharing my review~
I enjoyed Dark Road Home, the first book in the Edge of Freedom series, so I was especially excited to dig into Tide and Tempest. The opening scenes flowed fast, and again I found myself immersed back in 19th century New York, becoming reacquainted with Tillie McGrath and getting to know Captain Morgan. The Celt is back, along with the Irish Fenians, and the complicated plot around a special ring chugs ahead, full steam. 

A couple years before, Tillie had sailed with her fiance from Ireland on Captain Morgan's ship. When her fiance died onboard, she felt that she deserved God's punishment. She worked as a milliner by day, and volunteered at a shelter most nights, trying to earn God's favor. I appreciated the underlying message, a subtle thread throughout the book, that grace and forgiveness is a gift, not to be worked off or earned. Captain Morgan had never been able to get Tillie off his mind, and commits to protect her until they discover her fiance's killer. Tillie and Morgan were totally lovable, even with their occasional rash actions. 

As I noted in my review of Dark Road Home, I definitely recommend reading the first book in the Edge of Freedom series, No Safe Harbor before picking up the next two books. The plot and most of the characters played out through the entire series. If you love historical romantic suspense, you'll want to include all three books in your personal library.

Disclaimer: Sending a big thank you to Elizabeth Ludwig and Bethany House Publishers for providing me with an advance review copy of Tide and Tempest. The opinions expressed in this review are my own, and I received no monetary compensation.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Plots and Pans by Kelly Eileen Hake

Pre-order here
About the book~
Order dictates Tucker Carmichael’s life—his orders. On a cattle drive, a moment’s hesitation can mean death. The Chisholm Trail is dirty, dangerous, and no place for women. After years at school, Jessalyn Culpepper has come home and is determined to show everyone that a woman can manage everything from cooking to cattle—whether they like it or not! Tucker tries to manage his partner’s headstrong sister, horrified when she wants to join the cattle drive. But when they need a chuck wagon cook, Jessalyn seems the only solution. Will God stir up love along a trail filled with their Plots and Pans?

This book releases on April 1, 2014, but you can pre-order here.

Sharing my thoughts~
This was the first book I've read by Kelly Eileen Hake and published by Shiloh Run Press. I was curious about the new line after reading the Publisher's Weekly article dated 1/7/14, "Shiloh Run Press will provide a new category umbrella for Barbour’s successful original full-length fiction line.”

Jessalyn (Jess) Culpepper grew up on the Bar None ranch, but her daddy sent her overseas to finishing school, hoping the headmistress could offer what the ranch could not: a female's touch. Tucker Carmichael feels responsible for Jess after promising her daddy on his deathbed that he'd look out for her. Of course, he'd made that promise while she was safely ensconced at boarding school on the other side of the world. Now that she's back on the ranch, keeping that promise isn't so easy. Especially since Jess is headstrong and stubborn, and harbors a deep desire to belong. I could easily relate to Jess and Tucker, but I would have found their romance to be more believable with less sparring and definitely with more physical tension.

Some people maintained that prayer required knees on the ground and eyes screwed tight against distraction. But the way he saw it, God made man for company, and he could talk while riding. If anything, working in tandem with another of God's creatures out in the open, breathing fresh air and drinking in the seemingly endless expanse of the sky strengthened his connection with the Creator.~Tucker

Gentle spiritual nuggets like this trickled throughout the story, seamless and natural, and deeper issues made me pause and reflect.

"...when you stop looking for what you have in common with other people, it's the first step to not seeing them as people a'tal." ~Aunt Desta, a former slave

The slang tended to weigh the story down a bit in places, but all in all, Plots and Pans is a solid read and a great taste of what's to come with Shiloh Run Press. If you enjoy clean, historical romance with strong characters and a gentle spiritual thread, you'll want to scoop this one up.

Disclaimer: Sending a big thank you to Shiloh Run Press/Barbour Publishing and NetGalley for allowing me the privilege of reviewing this book. I received a free copy of Plots and Pans in exchange for my fair and unbiased review. This opinion is my own, and I received no compensation.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Have you tried PicMonkey?

Have you seen some awesome graphics spilling over into your social media news feeds lately? Don't they just make you drool? 

Enough with the drooling already! I finally decided to investigate how to create my own cool graphics. I'd heard about PicMonkey, an online photo editing application. With the free software, beginners can edit/enhance their own pictures or use a free stock photo from the web. I chose one from (if you use a Bing image, make sure you select the "Free to modify/share/and use commercially" license option). After puttering around for a few minutes, I came up with this:

Not bad, huh? PicMonkey isn't that difficult to use. It just takes an investment of time, which is a valuable commodity for all of us. At first, designing in PicMonkey was a bit uncomfortable, even frustrating, because it was new and unfamiliar. But as I explored deeper, I discovered that, with a little effort, PicMonkey transforms ordinary pictures into enchanting messages of hope and grace and love. 

How cool is that? Can you see the stream of hearts from the sunbeam? I can't wait to share them in my blog posts and pin them to my boards on Pinterest.

Some people relax with needlework or baking or outside activities. I usually read to relax, but designing these little nuggets might end up being a close second. :)

How do you switch gears and relax?

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Middle-of-the-line or Go-for-the-gusto? Which Will It Be?

So back in November, we spent a good chunk of change covering our deck. If you'd like to see the entire process, I blogged about it here.

This is what we started with

Nice, huh? I loved the view, but basically, the space was unusable in summer. We couldn't sit out there without the sun baking us to death. So hubby and I finally decided to cover the deck, opting for a partial cover and no screening. Neither one of us wanted to venture out in twenty degrees to open the screen door for Bruiser to go outside. Brrr! After this frigid winter, I'm so glad we chose not to screen it in.

Here's the deck with the new cover

Super sweet, right? 

In case you didn't know, late fall isn't necessarily the best time to remodel a deck. By the time the construction was complete, plastic Santa Claus's, artificial Christmas trees, and twinkling lights had swooped in to replace the patio furniture in the home improvement stores. So much for finishing our deck.

Now that spring is almost here and warmer temperatures are teetering, we just ordered new patio furniture. I can hardly wait to spruce up our sparse deck. But, alas, we have a dilemma, one I hope you'll weigh in on.

The last task is to replace our tired old grill. Although it was a hand-me-down from our parents (their house came with a snazzy built-in grill), it was an expensive grill. Over several years, we've replaced various parts and what not, but it's time to buy a new one. 

When it comes to major purchases, I believe in two philosophies: one, buy cheap and replace more frequently. Or two, buy expensive and keep it longer. In most instances, both hubby and I hang out together in the first category~buy cheap and replace more often. But this grill purchase has us wavering. 

It takes us awhile to reach the buy stage, so we went looking last weekend. Last year's middle-of-the-line model was marked $30 off, but rust was already evident on the rack. Really? After only a year? I don't know how you feel about plunking down hard-earned cash for something that already has rust on it, but I find it extremely difficult to swallow. At this point, I don't even care to pay $30 more for this year's model. The reviews validate this. 

I have a hunch which way we'll choose, but what would you do? 
Buy a middle-of-the-line grill and expect to replace it after a couple of years? Or go for the gusto, pay a couple hundred more, and hope it weathers better than the mid-priced grill?

And don't even get me started on the grill covers...

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