Friday, December 17, 2010

Book Tour: City of Tranquil Light

I have mentioned previously that I love historical books, and this one reinforces that. I have some friends and third/fourth cousins who are missionaries, some in China currently, so that also made this book special to me. While I have not been fortunate enough to visit the far east, I do enjoy reading books set there, and it inspires me to want to visit this land one day. There is so much interesting history in China. I loved reading this novel, and hope you take the opportunity to read it as well!

Author Bo Caldwell shares an inspired story of a young couple
whose marriage and faith are put to the test in Revolutionary China

Bo Caldwell’s 2001 debut novel, The Distant Land of My Father, set in historic China and based on the story of her uncle, was a critical and commercial success—a national bestseller that was loved by critics, booksellers, and readers in equal measure. In 2002 Caldwell turned to the story of her maternal grandparents who were missionaries in China in the early 1900s. For years her mother had urged her to write about them and when she dove into the research she found their lives full of conflict, danger, and heartbreak, as well as joy and fulfillment. But life, in the form of a cancer diagnosis, kept her from her writing desk until 2006. When she returned, she completed City of Tranquil Light (Henry Holt and Company), a searing love story of a man and a woman, their God, and the country they jointly loved and a deeply researched and page-turning portrait of a country in utter turmoil.

At the center of the novel are Will and Katherine, two Mennonite missionaries from the heartland who have come to China because they feel called by God to serve the poor and spread the Good News. But this is more than a missionary story; it is really the portrait of a marriage set against the backdrop of a radically shifting nation that is plunging into revolution.

A novel based on her grandparents wasn’t Caldwell’s idea. “I’m embarrassed to say that before I had dismissed my grandparents’ lives as too dull and simplistic. But as I reread my grandfather’s memoir and began to ask my mom about my grandparents, I learned how wrong I’d been.” As she began to see her grandparents as her mother had seen them, and to read the biographies and autobiographies of other American missionaries in China, Caldwell found similar stories. “I saw a pattern emerge in the later lives of many of these men and women. Most eventually returned to the United States, usually to be near their children (now grown) and grandchildren, but also because of illness or frailty. I was moved by the contrast between their lives in China and their later lives in the U.S. After enduring decades of war, famine, illness, personal danger, and great hostility toward their work, these people settled safely in the suburbs where they walked in rose gardens and played with their grandchildren and lived out their days. I was struck by the sacrifice that must have been involved in leaving the people and work that had been at the center of their lives, even with the reward of the comforts of modern life. I also began to feel that missionaries often get a bad rap in fiction. While there were certainly those who exploited the people they had come to serve, there were also many who poured out their lives for strangers and for their faith. And I wanted to tell their story.”

That story is one of marriage, of leaving one home and finding another, and of faith. “When I began the novel, I tried to understand my grandfather’s faith and to present it accurately,” says Caldwell. “I tried to see the world through his eyes.” Then life intervened, including a battle to quit drinking followed shortly after with a diagnosis of breast cancer. Once Caldwell returned to writing two years later, she returned as a different person. The combination of sobriety and a serious illness had affected her faith deeply, and she was no longer writing about her grandparents’ faith. She was writing about her own.

City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell
Henry Holt and Company - September 28, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-8050-9228-8 – hardcover - $25.00

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Coupon Link for Special K Cereal

Wow, here is a hot new coupon.  It’s for BOGO Free Kellogg’s Special K. I got this in my email a few days ago, I am signed up as part of the All K Pass Program. Periodically they send links for coupons. Also, this is one you can print from through this link and registration, OR you can hit help in the bottom right hand corner and enter your information and they will mail you the coupon, saving you the ink and paper :)

Matthew West

Hot from my email, I just got this about 2 minutes ago! I have a friend who suffered from leukemia, and is now in remission. She spent so much time at St Jude's receiving treatments, and now works to help raise money to help other leukemia patients.I know most of you do not live in the IL area, and won't be able to attend the concert, but I thought you might be interested in helping to spread the word, purchasing a copy of the CD, or just making a year end donation to St Jude's to help out the children who are so bravely fighting serious illnesses there on a daily basis.
Christmas Song from Matthew West Benefitting St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital Becomes Viral Sensation with Over Half a Million Views on YouTube and over 140,000 Shares on Facebook

GRAMMY ® Nominee Announces Benefit Concert in Dax Locke’s Hometown of Washington, IL
Nashville, Tenn. Dec. 16, 2010… The official music video for “One Last Christmas,” the latest in a series of story inspired songs from GRAMMY ® nominee Matthew West,  is resonating with viewers online where it has received over half a million views on YouTube and over 140,000 shares on Facebook. The video and song tells the story of a two year-old Leukemia patient named Dax Locke who inspired people all over the country to decorate early for Christmas before he passed away in Dec. of 2009. With the video and song, West is uniting with the Locke family to raise enough money to fund St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, where Dax received care, for one day in his honor.
In addition to all of the proceeds from the sale of the “One Last Christmas” video on, the singer/songwriter is also announcing a benefit concert in Dax’s hometown of Washington, IL on Dec. 30. The show will be held at Five Points Washington, and will begin at 7pm with doors opening at 6pm. Gold circle seating is $20, and general admission will be $10 at the door. For the latest information on the benefit concert, stay tuned to
To view the video for “One Last Christmas,” visit
The story also garnered the attention of Lifetime Television who will be featuring Dax’s mother, Julie Locke, as the “Lifetime Remarkable Woman of the Month” as well as posting the video on their website,
West released The Story of Your Life in Oct. of this year. The album was inspired by 10,000 stories he received from listeners nationwide and 20 countries internationally. He then spent two months in a cabin reading the letters, and writing songs based on the stories.
More information on Matthew West:
GRAMMY ® nominated singer/songwriter Matthew West’s discography includes acclaimed releases: Happy (2003), History (2005) and Something to Say (2008). His latest album, The Story of Your Life, was inspired by 10,000 stories from every state in the U.S. and 20 countries. The album released on Oct. 5, 2010, and garnered attention from CNN Online, Fox News, Billboard Magazine, Country Weekly, American Songwriter and more. The Story of Your Life gave West the largest street week debut of his career selling over 10,000 units the first week landing at No. 3 on Christian Soundscan, and No. 41 on the Billboard Top 200. His songwriting credits include Rascal Flatts, Billy Ray Cyrus, Diamond Rio and more.
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YA Book Tour: Cosmic

When I was contacted about the opportunity to review the book Cosmic, and I read the synopsis, I knew it would be perfect for Aaron and Joshua. I have been on a search for young adult chapter books for them to read. I need books that are challenging for Joshua to read on his own, and a story to keep Aaron's interest. This one certainly fit the bill!

In Cosmic, the main character, Liam, convinces everyone he's the chaperone on the first spaceship to take civilians into space. Now if you know Aaron, you know how perfect this story is for him. He would LOVE to be on the first spaceship taking civilians into space. For him, it would be the opportunity of a lifetime. Since the boys have all been sick recently, we've had more time to sit and read together. Even when they were feeling really yucky, this book made them laugh. Hysterically. They loved it so much, that we purchased an additional copy for Joshua's book exchange at school. I have included the synopsis below, and I must say that if you know a young boy ready for the chapter book phase of reading, this is one to include on their gift list!

Liam has always felt a bit like he's stuck between two worlds.   This is primarily because he's a twelve-year-old kid who looks like he's about thirty. Sometimes it's not so bad, like when his new principal mistakes him for a teacher on the first day of school or when he convinces a car dealer to let him take a Porsche out on a test drive. But mostly it's just frustrating, being a kid trapped in an adult world. And so he decides to flip things around. Liam cons his way onto the first spaceship to take civilians into space, a special flight for a group of kids and an adult chaperone, and he is going as the adult chaperone. It's not long before Liam, along with his friends, is stuck between two worlds again--only this time he's 239,000 miles from home. Frank Cottrell Boyce, author of MILLIONS and FRAMED, brings us a funny and touching story of the many ways in which grown-upness is truly wasted on grown-ups.

About Walden Pond Press
Walden Pond Press is a strategic partnership between HarperCollins and Walden Media, and it is Walden Media’s first dedicated publishing imprint. The joint venture follows a longstanding promotional partnership between Walden Media and HarperCollins supporting literacy, featuring such properties as The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Bridge to Terabithia and Charlotte’s Web that have been published by HarperCollins and adapted for the big screen by Walden Media. Walden Pond Press is dedicated to inspiring children to ready by identifying and publishing the next generation of children’s classics.

About Walden Media LLC
Walden Media specializes in entertainment for the whole family. Past award-winning films include: “The Chronicles of Narnia” series, “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” “Nim’s Island” and “Charlotte’s Web.” Upcoming films include “Tooth Fairy” starring Dwayne Johnson, “Ramona & Beezus” starring Selena Gomez and the third installment in the Narnia series: “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.”

About HarperCollins Children’s Books is one of the leading publishers of children’s books. Respected worldwide for its tradition of publishing quality, award-winning books for young readers, HarperCollins is home to many timeless treasures—Charlotte’s Web, The Chronicles of Narnia, Goodnight Moon, Where the Sidewalk Ends and Where the Wild Things Are; and popular new classics—A Series of Unfortunate Events, Warriors and Fancy Nancy. HarperCollins Children’s Books is a division of HarperCollins Publishers, one of the leading English language publishers in the world and a subsidiary of News Corporation (NYSE: NWS, NWS.A; ASX: NCP, NCPDP). Headquartered in New York, HarperCollins has publishing groups in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australasia. You can visit HarperCollins Children’s Books at and HarperCollins Publishers at

I received a complimentary copy of this book courtesy of Edify Media. All opinions expressed are 100% mine.

Book Tour: The Topkapi Secret

Topkapi Cover

I am so excited to be participating in the book tour for The Topkapi Secret. I am a huge fan of books and stories set in foreign countries. I would love to be able to travel and see these places in person when my kids get older, but until then I am content with reading books about life in other countries.

In this story, the main character, Angela Hall, is researching women's issues in The Middle East. As I am sure most of us know, this is a highly controversial topic in many Middle Eastern communities, as the rights of women vary in each individual area. Angela meets a man on her journey, named Mohammed. He is on a mission of his own, concerning the Koran. The two of them ultimately fall in love, yet between their two dangerous journeys, they are being threatened by terrorists. In an area of the world where so little seems to cause such great violence, exploring these two topics specifically puts one at a higher risk of danger.

I was especially pleased with the way the author handled these storylines. This was a great read, and although I typically don't prefer strong language in my reading material, I do realize that there are certain storylines which require it. It was not in my opinion excessive, and could not be avoided in this instance to get the point across. Also, please feel free to visit their Facebook page!

***PLEASE NOTE: This novel has some language (an abusive man uses abusive language early in the book) and an intimate scene (necessary to the plot development late in the novel). Also, I was given a complimentary copy of this book, courtesy of Glass Road Public Relations, solely for review purposes. All opinions expressed are 100% mine.***

Still Alive!

We are all still here, round 2 of the sickness is hopefully almost over! Snow is expected for tomorrow and we still have school through next Wednesday. I am really hoping for a snow day tomorrow so I can get caught up!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hickory Farms

for outreach-small

I have members of my extended family who are huge Hickory Farms fans. Their gift packages are a long standing Christmas gift tradition from one family to everyone else. We always know what we are getting, and are happy and excited to receive the package. The only issue Nick has now that the boys are getting older, is that he has to eat his favorite items quickly before the boys eat it all! Our packages used to last for a week or so and he could enjoy them slowly, but these boys LOVE the sausages, cheeses, and sauces, so the entire basket is now gone in a day if we don't monitor what they are eating closely.

These packages are excellent gifts, and work well for holiday parties as well. We usually take planner boxes to our holiday parties as our food item, which saves me the time of trying to prepare something in the midst of the craziness. I especially like that they are affordable. They start in the $16 range and go up to $100 depending on the size of the package you select. They also donate $5 from each Party Planner Gift Box to Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry Campaign.  

I have many military friends from our days in the military, and several of them are deployed overseas. Many of these Hickory Farms gift boxes ship FREE to military APO/FPO addresses, which makes it especially nice. Military families LOVE to receive foods from "home" especially those that provide warm holiday memories at times when they can't be at home.

If you are still looking for just the right gift for someone this holiday season, or a gift for someone who has "everything", I highly recommend visiting the Hickory Farms website to see if any of their wonderful gift baskets will meet your needs!

 “I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Hickory Farms and received a signature gift box from Hickory Farms to thank me for taking the time to participate.”


Sorry for the delayed absence! My shot did not work, and I had to have another procedure in the office just before Thanksgiving, and realized while I was there that 2 of the 3 kids were sick. Took them to the Dr, and then Nick and I got sick. We are all still battling this mess, but trying to recover. The temperatures going back and forth from mid 70's to the 20's is not helping, LOL. I am way, way behind on posting some reviews and such, so I apologize for any influx of posts in the next few days. I am going to try to catch up as quickly as possible, while getting the house back in order and the kids make up work for school and holiday project completed at the same time :)