Contest and Book Review: Hometown Girl by Michele Ashman Bell

Last week was filled with long distance phone calls, prayers for my in-laws, temporarily single parenting, and helping some very emotional kids while they also missed their dad. Thank you to everyone for your prayers for my father-in-law. I sincerely appreciate them. He is home and recovering.

Another thank you to Michele Ashman Bell for asking me to be on her blog tour and allowing me to delay my review until life settled down enough to finish reading the book & actually write on my blog, too. Here's some more info about Hometown Girl.

Jocelyn Rogers’s life is in a rut. Maybe she should step outside her comfort zone and move to Milford Falls, where she has inherited her grandmother’s house. With the encouragement of the other Butterfly Girls, Jocelyn musters her courage and starts a new life.

However, when she arrives in the small town that holds both good and bad memories for her, she discovers the house in worse shape than she expected, and getting repairs done is anything but easy — especially when it comes to dealing with Jack Emerson, a man who seems to be agitated by Jocelyn and everyone else within a fifty-mile radius.

To make matters worse, she has begun to worry that moving back to the place where she once spent a troubled summer will expose the deep personal secret she has kept hidden for fourteen years. But Jack also has a hidden secret that has prevented him from getting close to anyone in a long time. And now it seems that interfering neighbors may prevent both Jack and Jocelyn from moving forward with their lives.

Join the Butterfly Girls in this charmingly romantic story that shows sometimes it takes a leap of faith to land on your feet. 

My Review:

Hometown Girl is the second book in The Butterfly Box series. I absolutely loved the first book - A Modest Proposal - and have been anxiously waiting for the next book to come out.  I am a huge Michele Ashman Bell fan. I love how much depth her characters have, their unique stories, and how real to life their choices and emotions are. All of this is once again in Michele's newest book, Hometown Girl.

I really like how Michele continued to show the bond between The Butterfly Box girls - Lauren, Chloe, Emma, Jocelyn, and Andrea. But it was particularly interesting to learn more about Jocelyn. I have to admit, she was the one person I was most curious about when I read A Modest Proposal. I thought we wouldn't get to her story until later in the series, so I was surprised when I found it book 2 was all about her - a happy surprised!

Lauren faces some very difficult memories while she's at her grandmother's house. Watching her face those memories and finally coming to a point where she could find forgiveness, feel whole again through the atonement and Heavenly Father's love was just incredible. There are a few quirky, funny moments (it just wouldn't be a Michele book without them!). And of course, the added romantic element between Jocelyn and Jack satisfied my romance-loving heart. Overall, I really enjoyed Hometown Girl. If you're an LDS drama/romance fiction lover - or just love good clean books - you'll want to pick up this one! I'm already looking forward to the next book!


Michele is running an awesome contest in conjunction with her blog tour. She's giving away a $50 Visa Gift Card, which can be used anywhere. Now that's a prize I love! To find out more about the contest and enter for a chance to win, check out this post on Michele's blog.

The Bonds of Sisterhood

A great little spot from Time Out for Women, about how women need other women in their lives. 

Book Review & Prayers Request

Have you ever read a book and then had something happen to you that made you connect to it even more?

Saturday night, I finished reading Awakening Avery by Laurie Lewis. It's an incredibly deep book about a woman (Avery) whose husband died of a massive heart attack. She and her children deeply grieve his loss, in many different ways. I've been gradually working my way through this book for the last two weeks. I would read a chapter or two, then think about the characters - their thoughts and emotions. Awakening Avery has so much more depth than any other fiction book I've read for at least a year, possibly more. There are just layers upon layers of feelings, decisions, consequences, developing relationships, and rediscovering joy in the gospel. Awakening Avery was an engrossing read, which I appreciate even more now.

Sunday afternoon, my hubby's mom called to say his father had a major heart attack late Saturday night. He has major blockage in four arteries and will undergo a quad by-pass either today or tomorrow. Yesterday was very emotional for my hubby, myself, and our children. My hubby flew to Wisconsin to be with his parents for the next week or so. Our prayers here at home have been more frequent, and filled with more emotion, as well as gratitude for the atonement and the knowledge that families are forever.  While I know our family is very concerned and emotional, I cannot imagine if I were the spouse, sitting next to my husband. Thinking of Avery gives me a bit of insight to how stressful and topsy-turvy my mother-in-law's world is right now. Would you please pray for my father-in-law and his family? He, his wife, and their kids all need as many blessings and prayers coming their way as possible right now. Thank you!

As for Awakening Avery, if you enjoy engrossing books that make you think and feel - you would most definitely love this book. You can find out more about Awakening Avery on the author's website.

What Matters Most

Contemplations on Marriage

My hubby and I were married twelve years ago today. Our writers group, Authors Incognito, spotlighted us in their August newsletter. You can read more about our courtship & fun facts there.

I've been thinking a lot about those past twelve years in anticipation of today. Here are a few of my thoughts . . .

Laughter is the key to happiness. 

John and I laughed and enjoyed being together so much while we dated. Our sense of humors - John's way funnier than I am - have remained one of my very favorite parts of our relationship. There have been plenty of nights when we've just laid in bed, quietly chatting about the highlights of the day, laughing about funny things the kids said, their quirky perspectives on life. Some nights, we talk about things that are stressful or upsetting, which generally results in me crying. Yes, I'm a cry baby. During those moments, my sweetie just holds me close, runs his fingers through my hair while I get the majority of the tears out of the way. And then, he'll say something to make me laugh. And as we laugh, the tense knots in my shoulders and neck relax a bit, we snuggle closer, laugh a bit more, then drift off to sleep. Laughter has held us together through so many tough times. When I look back through the years, our mingled laughter comes to mind first and plays a prominent role in our relationship.

Be steadfast and immovable.

Just a few years ago, John and I hit a major marriage bump, one that just ripped my heart apart. John was hurt. I was hurt. And of course, we weren't communicating well at all. For months, we tipped back and forth like a boat in an angry storm. For the first time the rock I thought our marriage was sitting on turned into a sandy beach, not sure if we were going to slip and sink or climb back up on the rock again. When we were finally able to put aside the yelling, the accusations, and the bubbling emotions so we could truly talk and listen to each other, we finally found our rock again. It wasn't an easy climb and sometimes it hurt like heck to get back on top. But some really great things came from this storm - the greatest of which was a concrete solid reaffirmation of us as a couple. John is my sweetie, and I am his dear. No one else's opinions on our marriage, our personalities, our family, or anything else has any right or power to stand in our way. We are a team. We are "it" for each other. We will be steadfast and immovable. We will be each other's rock.

Show me the love.

Something I tease John about is that while we were dating, he was very strict about morality - you know, no necking and certainly no fooling around before the wedding night. Very traditional. The closer we got to our wedding date, the pickier he became. We had to be out with a group of friends or out and about in public so that we wouldn't be too kissy-kissy - a challenge which brought out my frisky nature just to tempt him. (Yes, I know - I'm a brat!)  But John ended up being the one who surprised me. After we were married, I very quickly discovered John loves to snuggle and is the kissiest person I've ever met! Quite honestly, I love it! Now, before you say Yuck! TMI! TMI! - let's veer off a tad. Some of my favorite things about my sweetie is that he always holds my hand wherever we go - even at night when we go to sleep. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, and he's shifted with me, still holding my hand. I love that. I absolutely adore it that my hubby tells me every day that he loves me. I love the little kisses on my neck he gives me while I'm cooking, and that no matter if I'm in sweats, clingy jeans or have gained twenty or so pounds - he still says he thinks I'm sexy. Then nibbles on my ear. Ooh! Sorry, TMI again, eh?  =) 

Turn off the TV and enjoy the snuggles.

My sweetie and I rarely watch TV. We have one small TV in our playroom for the munchkins, and another for the Wii - also in the playroom - but that's it. No TV's in our bedroom, the living room, or anywhere else in the house. When the kids are in their rooms for the night, John and I will often snuggle up on the couch, chat, then read some books until we're ready for bed. Often, I will get sucked into a book, while John falls asleep holding my hand. As my anniversary gift, my honey hired artist Natalie Hunsaker to create a portrait of us and the things that represent us and our marriage. The painting isn't quite finished, but Natalie sent me a picture of it. I was totally delighted with how it's turning out.

After a photo shoot, Natalie chose to paint John and I relaxing in our nightly snuggle tradition. I love how it depicts a small slice of our life. John and I were so relaxed and comfortable, which I think really shows. You can see John holding my hand behind the book I'm holding. Everything in the painting had meaning to us. The book I'm reading is The Ball's in Her Court by Heather Justesen. Heather is one of my best writing buddies and friends. She and I shared many brain storming sessions about this book and I helped her edit it (many times) as well. Of the all books in my freelance editing career, this is the one I am most proud of because I know just how much work Heather put into it, how much fun we had bouncing ideas of each other, and how excited we BOTH were when she received her contract - which involved a middle of the night IM session around 1 am my time. Such great memories and feelings to have included. John is holding our friend James Dashner's book The 13th Reality (which I helped edit). In the stack of books (which is very subtle), but the books there are: Josi Kilpack's English Trifle (I am in her test kitchen & my blurb was published in her book), Daron Fraley's The Thorn (which I edited), a Brandon Sanderson book (one of John's favorite authors), Mormon Mishaps and Mischief by C.L. Beck & D.N. Giles (which has six of my short stories in it), and a mock up of my own book - (dis)Abilities and the Gospel - with the original Valor cover (which is no longer coming out through them, but was at that moment of my life). John and I love how this painting shows so much about us, our own friendship, and the interests we've developed together (writing).

Look ahead to forever.

I am grateful to know about Heavenly Father's eternal plan and that marriages are forever. I can't imagine living in Heaven without sharing it with the one person who completely gets me, loves me, and who fills me with happiness. I'm sure we'll share lots of laughter as we one day explore all the greatness that comes after this life. Until then, I will cherish every moment I get here on Earth with my sweetheart - including all the bumps, snuggles, and yes, the kissy kisses.

Happy Anniversary, Sweetie!

Choose This Day

Book Review: Leaning into the Curves by Nancy Anderson and Carroll H. Morris

Today, I'm reviewing Leaning into the Curves by Nancy Anderson and Carroll H. Morris. From the back cover blurb:

Molly is happy with her life the way it is, but everything changes when her husband, Hank, retires. When Hank brings home a Gold Wing motorcycle and joins the Temple Riders Association, a “Mormon motorcycle gang” that combines road trips with temple work, things go from bad to worse. Faced with the prospect of being left behind as Hank hits the road with his new group of friends, Molly starts making some changes of her own.A funny, often poignant, look at the challenges of reinventing life after sixty.

    * From the co-authors of the popular series The Company of Good Women
    * The Temple Riders were featured in an October 2009 Footsteps of Faith documentary

My Review:

I first heard about The Temple Riders when I was about 16 years old. It may not have been the same group, but I do remember my home teacher telling my family about members of our church going on motorcycle trips with the goal of visiting all the LDS temples in the United States. I thought it was an interesting concept which prompted some of my own car trips to go to visit temples during some of my free time in college.

Leaning into the Curves is a unique book in the LDS market. 1st - we really don't have very many books out there with characters who are more mature. Even though I love the romance genre, most of the characters in that category are under the age of thirty. It's rather nice to have a book whose main characters are empty nesters, encountering a very different stage of their life and marriage than I usually read.  2nd - how often do we see LDS books where the characters are motorcycle lovin' Harley addicts? OK, well maybe not all of them are - Molly sure has a lot of reservations about her hubby's new interest. But it's quite a fun twist on book plots.

From a reader's perspective, it took me a little while before I really got into the book. But then it turned into a fun and interesting read. I definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for something different than typical LDS romances.

Leaning into the Curves is available at Deseret Book and other LDS book stores.

Some Pennsylvania Love - Part One

It's been two years since I've been back home to Pennsylvania. Two years is way too long!

Each time I go home, I get all teary-eyed and feel so comforted as I drive through the Allegheny's thick green trees (or bright gold colors of the flaming foliage depending on the time of year). I have so many good memories of growing up there, exploring and hiking through the forests and mountain in my own back yard and all over the valley.

I got to take my munchkins to some of my childhood haunts, of which Flemington Park and Knobel's Amusement Park were their favorites!

I was surprised how many of the original playground equipment was still at Flemington park! The huge metal slides, the monkey bars, and the black horse merry-go round. The boys loved the diggers - which I still remember when they were new! We went across the way to the big wooden play area & climbed the metal "ship" ropes. Isaac even turned in super fast circles on the tire swing - at least until I told him the story of how my mom had taken my brother Harry and I to Burger King, then over to play at the park. The tire swing was my favorite! So I turned in circles as fast as I could - then ended up puking all over the ground! It was funny to laugh about with my kids. Here are some fun pics from Flemington Park:

 I totally remember playing on this exact same slide, the horse merry-go-round, and the older kid merry-go round a little further down - and quite a few other things as well. It was so fun to watch the kids enjoy them as much as I did!

 Both of my boys really enjoyed the diggers!

Monkey bars are a huge hit with my family. My kids were totally delighted to discover multiple sets of monkey bars of different sizes and shapes. Such fun!

After playing at the park, my sister said, "Who wants arritas?" The kids and I were all confused, trying to figure out what spanish word she was saying. Then we discover a Rita's is a restaurant that serves yummy ice cream and italian ices! It was the perfect thing to cool off!

I'm Back!

Hi everyone! I'm finally back from vacation. It's been a fantastic three weeks - and some away time I've not only needed, but most definitely enjoyed.

As a mom of a son with autism, there were some moments I worried how my son would react to being out of his routine and away from home for such an extended period of time. While there were definitely a few days he had a difficult time, I was super impressed that for the majority of the trip, he did a fabulous job! It took some extra patience, firm instructions and guidelines from Mom, but it all worked out surprisingly well. In fact, it went so well, I'm actually looking forward to another trip next summer!

I already posted about our Oklahoma trip. Over the next week, I will post some fun spotlights about our Pennsylvania trip and catch up on some book reviews. I had planned to post updates while I was in PA, but I didn't have much time to get to a computer that had internet access.

Aside from catching up with everything that's happened in blogland, I am getting ready for my two sons' birthday parties this weekend, preparing the final details for the munchkins to go back to school on Monday (woot!), and making plans for my upcoming wedding anniversary. Of course, I'm sliding all of that in between some freelance editing, my own writing, and a few house projects. Vacation is sincerely the only time life slows down around here!

So, what are y'all doing to get ready for school? And when do your munchkins go back? I'm excited to check out everyone's blogs and see what all has happened this past month!

Lifting Burdens: The Atonement of Jesus Christ

Love One Another