Posted in History

Experiencing History Blog Series: Reliving the End of the Civil War, Moment by Moment

I had written a blog series during the 150th anniversary of the surrender, paying close attention to the historical timeline of events as they played out. The series starts days before the surrender, allowing you to see what was happening, as well as the letters exchanged between generals, as Lee and Grant were moving in position to collide in a most memorable way. The series continues through Lincoln’s assassination which took place just days later. And the series wraps up with 5 collections of pictures that I had taken in Appomattox that year during the 150th celebration.

To make things easier for you, I’ve pulled all the links together in order. I hope you enjoy!

*Originally I had hosted a giveaway along with this series. The giveaway is over. Feel free to comment on any of the posts, but I’m no longer collecting entries.

Experiencing History: Reliving the End of the Civil War, Moment by Moment:

4/7 Part 1: Let’s jump start this series with some basic feelings from both armies.

4/7 Part 2: Grant sends a message to Lee asking him to surrender

4/8 Part 1: Lee responds and Grant sends a second note

4/8 Part 2: A quote from a Union soldier and a new message from Lee

4/9 Part 1: The armies on the move again and Grant sends another message.

4/9 Part 2: Hours before their meeting, the generals exchange 2 more letters.

4/9 Part 3: The hour has come! Read the terms of surrender and Grant’s version of the events of that hour.

4/9 Part 4: Two eye witness accounts

4/10: Read what was happening the day after the surrender by a man who was there.

4/11: Read the accounts of both Union and Confederate supporters as they hear the news of Lee’s surrender

4/12: Stacking of Arms Ceremony. Read two eye witness accounts of this solemn moment

4/13: Read Lee’s Farewell Address to his army

4/14 Part 1: Hours before Lincoln enters Ford’s Theatre

4/14 Part 2: A fictionalized account of the moment Lincoln was shot

4/15: The country is thrown into mourning. Details of the day as well as the account of a Union soldier the moment he was told.

Pictures from Appomattox:

Part 1: Reenactors

Part 2: Personal Collection

Part 3: Soldier Life

Part 4: Museums

Part 5: Stacking of Arms Ceremony

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Fiction Diner: Bell Pepper Eggs-in-a-Hole

I ran across these on Pinterest and just had to give them a try. I even have a couple of tips for you. I give them 10 stars because they are simple, delicious, and fun. 

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These are as simple as they look. No long list of ingredients or tedious directions to follow. 
Select fresh bell peppers and slice.
Place a slice of pepper into a HOT non-stick pan.
Crack egg into the center of the pepper.
Season and let cook.
Remove from pan and sprinkle with cheese.

Tips: 
I made it two ways: with yolk and just egg whites. So feel free to pick your favorite.
The egg tried to escape from under the pepper. I had to hold the pepper down on the pan while pouring the egg in. It’s best to crack your egg into a small bowl so you can pour it into the pan with one hand.

48Novel Quote: 

“God owes you nothing, and yet He made you His daughter. You are a child of the King; it is His image you bear. King Louis marked you with judgment, but the King of Kings covers you with grace. Whose mark will you now display?” ~ The Mark of the King

Wow! Just wow!

 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

119Harry Houdini’s one-time apprentice holds fantastic secrets about the greatest illusionist in the world. But someone wants to claim them . . . or silence her before she can reveal them on her own.

Boston, 1926. Jenny “Wren” Lockhart is a bold eccentric–even for a female vaudevillian. As notorious for her inherited wealth and gentleman’s dress as she is for her unsavory upbringing in the back halls of a vaudeville theater, Wren lives in a world that challenges all manner of conventions.

In the months following Houdini’s death, Wren is drawn into a web of mystery surrounding a spiritualist by the name of Horace Stapleton, a man defamed by Houdini’s ardent debunking of fraudulent mystics in the years leading up to his death. But in a public illusion that goes terribly wrong, one man is dead and another stands charged with his murder. Though he’s known as one of her teacher’s greatest critics, Wren must decide to become the one thing she never wanted to be: Stapleton’s defender.

Forced to team up with the newly formed FBI, Wren races against time and an unknown enemy, all to prove the innocence of a hated man. In a world of illusion, of the vaudeville halls that showcase the flamboyant and the strange, Wren’s carefully constructed world threatens to collapse around her. Layered with mystery, illusion, and the artistry of the Jazz Age’s bygone vaudeville era, The Illusionist’s Apprentice is a journey through love and loss and the underpinnings of faith on each life’s stage.

My Thoughts: I appreciated the direction Cambron took when dealing with magicians and illusionists. Upfront, her main character made it clear that she doesn’t believe in or claim to have magic. She’s an illusionist, which means she sets out to trick you, but at no point does she call upon the power of magic to perform the trick.
There are elements of magic and mediums, but the main characters are set against these things and set out to prove them wrong. Because of this, I was able to enjoy the novel without compromising what I understand the Bible to teach on these subjects.
Aside from all of that, Cambron had well-developed characters and a unique setting. But what really shined here was the mystery. It unfolded very slowly as Wren’s past comes to life. I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the mystery.
The only thing I struggled with is how at times the characters seemed spiritually unbalanced. Cambron always brought them back to Christ and they always claimed to be humble Christians in need of their Savior on a daily basis, and, yet, I found them at times relying on self. This wasn’t something that characters struggled with and repented of so much as they simply forgot and then started doing it again. Other than that, I found it to be a safe story in a controversial setting. And she did an excellent job.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving The Illusionist’s Apprentice 5 stars and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys Christian historical or Christian suspense/mystery.

~I received a copy from Book Look Bloggers. I was not compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own.

Posted in About the Author

What your favorite Indie Author REALLY wants to write in place of the blurb

15After spending so much time perfecting the novel, the indie author must then perfect the most important sales pitch: the blurb. Readers have little clue, if any, as to how difficult and stressful this stage really is. Here’s what your favorite–weary–author secretly wants to write in place of the blurb:

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“Something exciting happens in this book. Read it to find out what it is!”

“I have spent the last nine months perfecting 130,845 words and I don’t have the patience to fuss over 75 more words.”

“Just read the book. It’s good, I promise. I’ve read it over 9 times myself so I should know.”

“This is book three of a continuous series. I have purposely crafted books 1 and 2 so that you would be DYING to read this one, so it needs no introduction. And if it DOES need an introduction it’s because you haven’t read the first two books of the series. Don’t be a dolt! Start at the beginning. FYI The first book has a real blurb.”

“This book is as good as the cover makes it look.”

Leave the back blank with the instructions:
“After reading this book, please fill in the section below with your own personal summary of the story.”
And at the bottom of the blank section write:
“It’s not so easy now is it?”

“If you’re one of those people who will read the backs of lotion bottles while sitting in the bathroom, pick up this book. I guarantee it’ll be more exciting and you clearly aren’t the picky sort, so why should you care what the story is about?”

For Romance novels:
“If it looks like the two people on the cover fall in love, it’s because they do. Read the book to find out how and what their names are.”

“I bet you don’t read the labels on your food as much as you read the blurbs for a book. Shouldn’t you be more concerned about what you’re putting in your mouth than what you’re reading?”

“The celebrities that were talked into saying nice things about my book have all agreed that it’s the greatest I’ve ever written. Who cares what it’s about? Trust a celebrity and buy a copy today!”

“You’re one of those who peeks at their Christmas presents, aren’t you? Shame on you!!”

Lol I hope you enjoyed this look inside an author’s brain.
And authors, I’d love to hear from you! Which of these examples are you tempted to put on your next release? I’ll be honest and say that the one about Book 3 of a series not needing an introduction was what my tired little heart wanted to put on my upcoming release. 😉 But don’t worry. I’ll grab myself a cup of tea and write something awesome…eventually.
And please, feel free to add to my list in the comments below!!

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The One True Love of Alice-Ann by Eva Marie Everson

115Living in rural Georgia in 1941, sixteen-year-old Alice-Ann has her heart set on her brother’s friend Mack; despite their five-year age gap, Alice-Ann knows she can make Mack see her for the woman she’ll become. But when they receive news of the attack on Pearl Harbor and Mack decides to enlist, Alice-Ann realizes she must declare her love before he leaves.
Though promising to write, Mack leaves without confirmation that her love is returned. But Alice-Ann is determined to wear the wedding dress her maiden aunt never had a chance to wear—having lost her fiancé in the Great War. As their correspondence continues over the next three years, Mack and Alice-Ann are drawn closer together. But then Mack’s letters cease altogether, leaving Alice-Ann to fear history repeating itself.
Dreading the war will leave her with a beautiful dress and no happily ever after, Alice-Ann fills her days with work and caring for her best friend’s war-torn brother, Carlton. As time passes and their friendship develops into something more, Alice-Ann wonders if she’ll ever be prepared to say good-bye to her one true love and embrace the future God has in store with a newfound love. Or will a sudden call from overseas change everything?

What I Loved: This was my first Everson novel so I didn’t know what to expect. From the very beginning, I was struck by how warm and welcoming her writing style is. It’s as inviting as peach pie fresh from the oven! Not heavy. Not fluffy. Just cozy.
I really loved the small town setting, and Alice-Ann was easy to relate to and cheer for. It’s interesting to see the cares of the world during a time of war through the eyes of a girl on the brink of womanhood. Everson had outdone herself with this realistic setting. You’ll certainly feel like you have just walked in the back door of the Alice-Ann’s farmhouse. All of her characters were wonderfully crafted. The story moved steadily. And the love story was beautifully done.
This was a great book from start to finish, and it’ll be a highlight of my reading year.

Rating and Recommendation: I highly recommend The One True Love of Alice-Ann to anyone who enjoys Christian romance or Christian historical. I’m giving it 5 stars.

~I received a copy from Tyndale. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review or required to give a favorable one.

Question and Answers with Eva Marie Everson: 
How do you expect this story to resonate with your audience? What are you most excited for your readers to experience through reading this novel? We have all had to make life choices. I heard a line in a movie (just this morning) that went like this: Every time you make a decision, you take a gamble. Maybe it’s the right choice. Maybe it’s not. How do you know? This is Alice-Ann’s dilemma. Does she have one true love . . . or two? We’ve all been there. We’ve all made decisions and then wondered if we made the right one. Sometimes those choices follow us for years. Sometimes we know the answer right away. I’m most excited for readers to experience life in the States during WWII. So often we read of what happened in Europe or in the Pacific, but we don’t usually read about how our citizens who stayed back home sacrificed for the greater good. I’m also excited for them to experience Alice-Ann’s love story and maturity as she grows from a starry-eyed 16-year-old to a grown woman.

What role does faith play in the story? Alice-Ann has a major life decision to make, and she can only make it with God’s help. But also, I think faith was much more of a natural reality in the ’40s. People went to Kristen Schumacher | kristenschumacher@tyndale.com | 630.784.5126 church. Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night . . . They prayed for the troops. Actively. Sincerely. This was a different time in America (and one I wouldn’t mind seeing us go back to—as far as faith is concerned!).

What lessons or truths do you hope readers will take away from The One True Love of Alice-Ann? That when we take our distresses to God, he not only hears our cries, but he and he alone can wrap us up in his great big arms and show us the right path to take. He alone can ease our pain. You know, he loves us so much . . . he sent his Son to die for us. He won’t let us down now. 5. As an author, what did you particularly enjoy about crafting this story? The entire thing! I love this story so much. I loved researching the era. I loved creating

Posted in History

Historical Book Review: The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette by Florence Hartley

52This is a special book review especially for history fans or historical authors. And the best part is, this book is a freebie on Amazon!!

The full title is, The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness A Complete Hand Book for the Use of the Lady in Polite Society.
Now if that isn’t a mouth full, I’m not sure what is! Lol

I picked up this book with the intentions of getting a better understanding of the customs and social manners of the 1800s. And, boy, was it a gold mine!! Along with the do’s and don’t’s, The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette also gave me a lesson on the common, day to day things like paying and accepting house calls. You can’t get a better source on Victorian customs than a book written in 1860.
I highly recommend this to anyone wanting to study more about the time period. I had picked up another freebie but I enjoyed the flow of thought and the overall writing style better in Florence’s version. I’ll share both links at the bottom of this page and you can give both books a try if you wish.

Here’s a list of categories found in the book:
Conversation
Dress (A MAJOR bonus in this book! She offers a fantastic breakdown on the type of dresses and when/why they were worn as well as what style was acceptable for each.)
Traveling
How to behave in a hotel
Evening Parties as the hostess
Evening parties as the guest
Visiting as the hostess
Visiting as the guest
Morning receptions or calls as the hostess
Morning receptions or calls as the guest
Dinner company as the hostess
Dinner company as the guest
Table etiquette
Conduct in the street
Letter writing
Polite deportment and good habits
Conduct in church
Ballroom etiquette for the hostess
Ballroom etiquette for the guest
Places of amusement
Accomplishments
Servants
On a young lady’s conduct when contemplating marriage
Bridal etiquette
Hints on health
Miscellaneous
For the complexion

I haven’t finished reading this gem yet, but I’ve seen more than enough to pass it along to my fellow historian junkies.
You’ll find a free ebook version on Amazon here:
The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness A Complete Hand Book for the Use of the Lady in Polite Society

As mentioned, there is another book similar to this one. I didn’t read very far into it before switching books. But feel free to check them both out. This one is also free on Amazon.
Martine’s Hand-book of Etiquette, and Guide to True Politeness

And lastly, I ran across a gentleman’s book and thought to pick up a copy for myself as well as passing it along to you. I haven’t opened this one yet so it’ll be a surprise to us all. 😉
The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness Being a Complete Guide for a Gentleman’s Conduct in all his Relations Towards Society

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin

118When fun-loving glamour girl Quintessa Beaumont learns the Navy has established the WAVES program for women, she enlists, determined to throw off her frivolous ways and contribute to the war effort. No-nonsense and hoping to make admiral, Lt. Dan Avery has been using his skills to fight German U-boats. The last thing he wants to see on his radar is a girl like Tess. For her part, Tess works hard to prove her worth in the Anti-Submarine Warfare Unit in Boston–both to her commanding officers and to the man with whom she is smitten. When Dan is assigned to a new escort carrier at the peak of the Battle of the Atlantic, he’s torn between his lifelong career goals and his desire to help Tess root out a possible spy on shore. The Germans put up quite a fight, but he wages a deeper battle within his heart. Could Tess be the one for him?

With precision and pizazz, fan favorite Sarah Sundin carries readers through the rough waters of love in a time when every action might have unforeseen world-changing consequences.

What I Loved: There comes a time when you feel the need to clap at the end of a book, or in this case a series. This was one of those times. When Tides Turn brought a satisfactory ending to the series as a whole and the novel as an individual.
Sundin is amazingly talented in weaving the details of military life into her stories. In the case of When Tides Turn, there were areas when the information was a bit too technical for my mind to comprehend. And likewise, there were moments, especially early on in Tess’s story, when the mystery of the spy and French conflict was over my head. I couldn’t quite grasp what was happening in France and what this group in America was talking about. If you find yourself struggling, I’d advise you to “stay the course” 😉 and trust that the most important aspects will make sense in due time. As a mystery lover, I was still able to hone in on the characters’ actions and reactions…even if I didn’t always understand the present problem.
As usual, Sundin can be trusted to craft a well thought out character and even more beautiful, a solid and timeless message for the soul. I was very impressed with the layers of truth and application she was able to bring to light, especially concerning Dan’s ending.

Rating and Recommendation: I can’t speak of When Tides Turn and the entire Waves of Freedom series enough. I’m giving it 5 stars and recommend it to anyone who enjoys Christian Historical fiction and WWII fiction.

~I received a copy from Revell. I was not required to give a favorable review. All thoughts are my own. 

Posted in Fiction Diner

Fiction Diner: Cake Batter Mini Cheesecakes

I made these for a friend’s birthday, and, boy, were they a treat! You can read the original post from the author of the recipe by visiting Catch My Party.

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Is there anything more fun than mini cheesecakes? The addition of sprinkles only increases the fun. Throw on some whipped cream and a candle and you have yourself a party. Lol
I loved the idea of these cheesecakes. Mine didn’t come out near as white or as thick as the creator’s, but we still really enjoyed them.
I LOVED the crust. There isn’t any sugar in this crust. The pinch of salt and walnuts add a nice bite to the crust that helps balance out the filling. I’ll certainly add these to my personal recipe collection to make again.

Ingredients: 
Filling:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese (1 8oz packages)
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup vanilla cake mix
  • 1/4 cup sprinkles

Crust:

  • 1/4 box graham crackers
  • 2 tablespoons walnut pieces
  • 4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions: 

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Melt the butter (about 30 seconds on high in the microwave). Put the graham crackers, walnuts, and salt into a food processor and pulse until broken down into crumbs. Add the melted butter and pulse until combined. Spray the pan with some non stick spray. Place 2 teaspoons of graham cracker into each mini cheesecake container and pack firmly with a spoon.

In a large mixing bowl, add the cream cheese, sour cream, and vanilla, and mix until smooth. Add the egg, mixing until incorporated. Mix in the sugar and cake batter, adding a few tablespoons at a time. You don’t want to over mix, you just want a smooth consistency.

Stir in the sprinkles, reserving a few pinches for garnish.

Pour the mixture into the mini cheesecake pan, about 1 1/2 tablespoons for each mini cheesecake.

Optional: Sprinkle the top of each cheesecake with sprinkles before baking.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Let it cool on the counter until you can handle the pan, pop out each cheesecake, and chill for an hour or two. They will fall a little while cooling.

Top with a dollop of whipped cream and add a few sprinkles. Aren’t they adorable and divine?!

Tips: 
There were a couple of questions that the author of the recipe left blank. I’ll tell you what I did.
In the ingredient list, she calls for cake mix and then in the directions she mentions adding batter. On her blog, someone asked whether it was dry mix or batter but she never replied back. I chose to use dry mix, and they came out great. So I suppose I chose right.
She also doesn’t tell how many cakes the recipe makes. Based on other recipes I saw that required 2 blocks of cream cheese, I didn’t expect the recipe to make very many. I doubled the recipe and barely scrapped out 24. I’m going to guess that the original recipe made about 10.
I doubled the recipe for both the filling and the crust. And I threw away half of the crust. I’m guessing 1 recipe of crust would have done just as well for double the filling.
My son complained about the salty crust. In hindsight, the full 1/4 teaspoon may have been a bit much. I’ll tone it down in the future by either using 1/8 teaspoon or just a pinch with my fingers instead.

202Novel Quote:

“So, you see, a man can love you, but only imperfectly. It is God alone who can be God.” – The Golden Braid

I simply love this quote. We can be so unbalanced in our expectations of love.

 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Be Bold, An Adult Coloring Book

21Be Bold offers an outlet to simultaneously focus on God’s Word and express creativity. Using scripture as the foundation for her designs, Ellen Elliot takes readers through a series of inspiring verses reinforced with short devotional writings. Topics include joy, hope, self-image, peace, and more. Each coloring page and corresponding devotional will help the reader develop a closer relationship with the Heavenly Father.

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The Basics: Devotions are printed on one page with a matching coloring page on the opposite side. Pages are NOT perforated.

My Thoughts: The images are whimsical and designed with busy patterns. Each coloring page is designed with either an inspiring phrase or short scripture.
The devotions are short. The messages are timeless and meaningful, however, they aren’t heavy. I think the messages will be inspiring for a woman of any age, but the book is aimed for teens. Overall, as a coloring book, I think this is a very meaningful choice. As a devotional, I think it’ll help encourage you to walk the righteous path, but it isn’t a very deep study of the Word.

Rating and Recommendations: I’m giving it 5 stars. And I recommend it to anyone looking for a more meaningful coloring book.

~ I received a copy from Tyndale House. I was not compensated for this review or required to give a favorable one. All thoughts are my own. 

Samples:

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14

15

 

Posted in Book Reviews

Christian Fiction Cover Wars: First Battle

I’m introducing a fun new game called Cover Wars. I’m pairing off 2 Christian Fiction covers to see which one has the better cover. I’d love for you to join me by voting in the comments on your favorite in each pairing. Have fun!!

The Battle of the Pink Dresses. I make no secret of my love for pink, so it seems only fitting to kick the battle off with pink. But which cover is your favorite?

The Battle of the Brown Covers. It’s hard to say exactly what I love about these covers considering brown isn’t pink nor is it my favorite color by a long shot. And yet, I find both of these breathtaking. Which is your favorite?

The Battle of the Blue Dresses. Two lovely models in two pretty blue dresses. Which is your favorite cover?

The Battle of the Brides. Bridal covers are always a hit, but which is your favorite of the two?

The Battle of the Couples. I love getting a glimpse of the characters’ personalities by the way they’re posed on the cover, and both of these are memorably sweet. Which is your favorite?

Here are my votes:
Pink Dresses: At Love’s Bidding. Can I be honest and say that I’ve never cared for the pink dress on A Beauty so Rare? Don’t ask me why because I never understood it.
Brown Covers: I truly love them both so much, but I’m a sucker for the letters printed in the background, so I’m voting for The Outlaw Take a Bride.
Blue Dresses: Both are lovely, but The Magnolia Duchess has a Cinderella quality to it that wins me over.
Brides: I love the close-up veiled image of Until Then.
Couples: While I love them both, When Love Arrives wins me over with the vibrant colors.

But don’t let me influence you!! I’d love to hear what your favorites are! 

UPDATE: Feel free to share your opinion in the comments below. But for the sake of announcing a winner, I’m going to share the tallies for each pairing.
Pink Dresses: At Love’s Bidding won! Tamera 3 – Jennings 9
Brown Covers: The Outlaw Takes a Bride wins! Outlaw 8 – Siri 5
Blue Dresses: The Magnolia Duchess won! Magnolia 10 – Captive 2
Brides: It’s a TIE!! Kiss 6 – Krista 6
Couples: When Love Arrives wins! Griggs 3 – Johnnie 9

I hope you had fun! I’ll bring you another Cover Wars in May. 🙂 Until then, is there a book listed here today that you need to add to your TBR list? Or one that is your favorite? As for myself, I purposely chose books that I had already read. So I can honestly say that I recommend all of them to you. You’ll find reviews for many of them right here on the blog.
*Late voters:
I don’t intend to adjust winners for additional votes, but I’ll gladly chat with you about your favorites if you choose to comment.