Saturday, July 23, 2016

Summer Blogging Break

Hi all!

I'm taking a summer blogging break, and will return after Labor Day!   I'm looking forward to chatting with you more then.  Abby is also looking forward to more Dear Abby posts in autumn.

In the meantime, you can keep in touch online at:

Birdhouse Books on social media:


My shops:


Have a great rest of the summer! 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Dear Abby - The Secret Life of Pets

Dear Friends,

I hope you are having a great week!  It has been a busy one here.  Momma and I are taking a big blogging break for the next six weeks (!!) so we have been busy catching up here.

I did take a little time off to see The Secret Life of Pets this week.  This is an animated movie about what pets do when their people are out for the day.  First, let's discuss the irony:  this movie about what pets do when they are left alone will entice more people to leave their pets alone ... in order to see the movie! 

The star of the show is Max, a sweet and brave Jack Russell Terrier.  (A reminder that I am a Doxie/Jack mix, so I was very thrilled to see a JRT in this movie.)   Max has everything down pat, like making little happy circles and snuggling with his Momma.  He has a very good life ... until his mother rescues a great big dog named Duke from the pound.  Max isn't sure at all about Duke, and Duke wants to stake his claim in his new home.

Max has many wonderful friends, like Chloe the cat, Gigi the fluffy dog, and Buddy THE DACHSHUND.  Yes, you read that correctly.  There is also a dachshund in this movie, and he steals the show a bit, if you ask me.

Max and Duke end up on an unexpected adventure outside of their apartment building.  It leads them to danger and excitement all over New York City.  There is a good pet rescue message in Duke's story, and the ending of the movie made Momma shed a happy tear.

Here is a movie trailer for The Secret Life of Pets.  I give this movie a very enthusiastic four paws up! 

I will be taking a blog break for a bit but will be back after Labor Day! 

In the meantime, I would love to hear from YOU in the comments below.  Have you seen The Secret Life of Pets?   Or do you just want to say hi?    I would love to hear from you.


Abby xoxoxo

Book Review and Giveaway - The Valley by Helen Bryan

Book Synopsis
Left suddenly penniless, the Honorable Sophia Grafton, a viscount’s orphaned daughter, sails to the New World to claim the only property left to her name: a tobacco plantation in the remote wilds of colonial Virginia. Enlisting the reluctant assistance of a handsome young French spy—at gunpoint— she gathers an unlikely group of escaped slaves and indentured servants, each seeking their own safe haven in the untamed New World.

What follows will test her courage and that of her companions as they struggle to survive a journey deep into a hostile wilderness and eventually forge a community of homesteads and deep bonds that will unite them for generations.

The first installment in an epic historical trilogy by Helen Bryan, the bestselling author of War Brides and The SisterhoodThe Valley is a sweeping, unforgettable tale of hardship, tenacity, love, and heartache.
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Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

My Review
The Valley is the first book in a historical trilogy by Helen Bryan.  The story focuses on Sophia Grafton, who travels to America in the 1750's to claim the family tobacco plantation in Virginia.   I have always been fascinated by early American history, and loved the historical details in this book.

The storytelling is rich, with a sympathetic protagonist who is independent and determined to build a good life in a new country.  I loved the details of early settlers who found both adversity and great strength.

The Valley is beautifully written, with vivid descriptions, well developed characters, and a story that kept my interest.   It is a big, rewarding book.  I found it easy to settle in and lose myself in the narrative.

As a fan of big books, family sagas, and historical fiction, I really enjoyed The Valley.  I already have War Brides waiting for my next Helen Bryan read.  I am now eager to read all her books!  I recommend this book for other fans of historical fiction.   
Author Bio
Helen Bryan is a Virginia native who grew up in Tennessee. After graduating from Barnard College, she moved to England, where she studied law and was a barrister for ten years before devoting herself to writing full-time.

A member of the Inner Temple, Bryan is the author of four previous books: the World War II novel War Brides; the historical novel The Sisterhood; the biography Martha Washington: First Lady of Liberty, which won an Award of Merit from the Colonial Dames of America; and the legal handbook Planning Applications and AppealsThe Valley is the first in a planned trilogy based on her childhood stories of ancestors who settled in Virginia and Maryland before Tennessee became a state.

Bryan resides in London with her family.

The lucky winner will receive a print copy of The Valley.  Giveaway is open to the U.S. and Canada and ends at midnight on Thursday, 7/28.  The winner will be drawn on Friday, 7/29, and must respond within 48 hours.  The book will be sent by the author or her publicist.

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I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Book Review - The Word Of Promise New Testament (Audiobook)

Hear the Bible Come Alive in Dramatic Audio Theater™!

This multi-voiced, scripted dramatization of the New King James Version (NKJV) features a star-studded cast of actors, an original music score, and incredible feature film quality sound effects. This world-class production creates a dramatic audio theater experience that makes you feel like you’re really there with Jesus and His disciples. Listen in your car, on your MP3 player, or with your family or small group to gain a new perspective of the Bible.

The Word of Promise® New Testament Audio Bible is a 20-CD set and includes a bonus “Behind-the-Scenes” DVD.
Cast Includes:
  • Jim Caviezel (The Passion of The Christ, Déjà vu) - Jesus 
  • Academy Award winner Richard Dreyfuss (Mr. Holland's Opus, The Goodbye Girl) - Quotes from Moses 
  • Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny, What Women Want) - Mary Magdalene 
  • Golden Globe winner Stacy Keach (Prison Break, Hemingway) - Paul 
  • Academy Award and Golden Globe winner Louis Gossett, Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman, Roots) - John 
  • Kimberly Williams-Paisley (According to Jim, Father of the Bride) - Mary, Mother of Jesus 
  • And many others 
My Review
This is my first experience listening to a Bible audiobook. I am so impressed with the quality and production values of the Word of Promise New Testament!

The voice actors include well known names like Jim Caviezel, Michael York, Richard Dreyfuss, Marissa Tomei, Stacy Keach, Louis Gossett Jr., John Heard, and more. Their readings are beautifully done, with much emotion.

The production also features sound effects (i.e. the sounds of a marketplace, a storm, a door closing) and music. The music by Stefano Mainetti is a subtle and powerful addition to the audiobook.

The varied voices, sound effects, and music give this production a more theatrical feel than a standard audiobook. I found myself absorbed in listening as I worked, and often realized that many chapters had gone by.

The Bible translation is NKJV (New King James Version). I grew up with the KJV translation. I am not familiar with all the nuances of difference between the NKJV and the KJV, but this Bible translation really read beautifully, with familiar language.

I enjoy reading the Bible, but there is something really unique about experiencing the Bible in audio format. I have already recommended this audiobook highly to my mother. I intend to keep this Word of Promise New Testament by my bedside to listen to when I need comfort or encouragement. I truly cannot recommend it highly enough.

I received a copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review - Doodletopia: Cartoons by Christopher Hart

Book Synopsis
An interactive doodle book from a best-selling art instruction author and cartoon master that pairs illustrating insights with drawing, designing, and coloring activities for aspiring artists.

Welcome to Doodletopia! Your first stop in this paradise of creativity? The world of cartoons. Your tour guide Christopher Hart is ready to introduce you to the interactive, artistic possibilities of creating your own exciting, hilarious, off-the-wall cartoon characters, gags, and more.

Unlike other doodle books that leave you stranded, with no help at all, Doodletopia: Cartoons pairs fun doodle-based activities with the sort of insightful (and laugh-out-loud funny) advice and tips that countless readers have come to expect from cartooning master Christopher Hart. For the first time ever, you can pick up your pencils, pens, markers, or crayons, and draw, doodle, or color right on the same page as the author.

From finishing cartoon faces to selecting costumes to completing wacky cartoon scenes, the opportunities for creative expression are endless. So what are you waiting for? Open up and start doodling!

My Review
As a little girl, I loved to draw and doodle.  I still will randomly doodle on the edge of a page.  When I read about Doodletopia Cartoons:  Draw, Design and Color Your Own Super Fun Cartoon Creations by Christopher Hart, I was very eager to read and try this book.

Doodletopia Cartoons is a nice sized book - 8.5" x 11".  It contains the following:

Warm Up
Fill in the Silhouette
Draw the Other Half
Select Different Expressions
Choose and Design the Animals
Dress Up Your Cartoons
Finish the Funny Couples
Write in Cartoon Calligraphy
Draw Ridiculous Inventions
Complete the Cartoons

The introduction teaches the principles of the eye line and the center line, in order to place features evenly on cartoon faces.  I found this very helpful!

Then the book shows some simple cartoon characters, with a step by step drawing (including both pictures and text) and a blank page for you to use.  For instance, a penguin is pictured.  You can either draw the penguin exactly as seen or you can use the blank pages for your own creative inspiration - i.e. your own penguin design.    

The next section of the book is Fill in the Silhouette.  This was one of my favorite parts of the book!   You have a finished sketch, and then a silhouette that you can use to copy the picture or create your own drawing.  The silhouette includes feature perspective lines to make the drawing easier.

Draw the Other Half is exactly what it sounds like -- you see a finished picture, and then find a half finished illustration that you can complete.

Select Different Expressions teaches you how to be creative drawing cartoon character expressions.  (This was fun!)

One of my other favorite chapters was Choose and Design the Animals.  You see two finished animals, i.e. a dog or a ferret, and then have the outline to draw these animals yourself.  The dog, by the way, looks like a dachshund or dachshund - beagle mix (super cute!).

Dress Up Your Cartoons sparks creativity for costume design for your cartoon creations.  I loved drawing clothes as a little girl, so this was great fun!

Finish the Funny Couples features a finished cartoon character alongside an outline -- you can fill in the outline with your own character!

Write in Cartoon Calligraphy lets you learn how to make your own cartoon fonts.   This was fun for me, as lettering is another of my natural doodles.

Draw Ridiculous Inventions focuses on silly machines you can create in cartoon format.

Complete the Cartoons encourages creative thinking by including one finished picture (small) on a page -- and you can fill in the rest of the story with your doodles!

This is such a very fun book!   You can use pencils for traditional sketching or colored pencils.  (I think crayons or markers could also be used, although I have not tested markers to see if they color through the pages).

Very highly recommended for anyone who likes to doodle!
I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review - Girls Slimline Bible NLT

This adorable edition of God’s Word for girls features the easy-to-understand New Living Translation text with a soft-fur, bright-neon LOVE design and silver glittery lining. The BOLD FAITH design on the back cover encourages girls to live out their faith in ways that bring God glory.

This hardcover deluxe edition also features purple page edges, neon orange ribbon marker, special presentation page, 8 pages of full-color maps, and a 53-page dictionary/concordance to help locate passages on various topics.

The New Living Translation text is excellent for young readers because it is so clear and they can understand what they are reading! When they can read and understand God’s Word, God can work in their hearts!

My Review
The Girls Slimline Bible NLT is a wonderful edition of the Bible for young girls, tweens, preteens, and teens.  The design is very appealing, with a velvety cover with LOVE in big neon pink letters against a blue background.  The book is piped with silver.  

As you open the Bible, you will see hot pink endpapers with a presentation page and Bible verse:  "Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God's presence" (Ephesians 3:12).

This is a reference edition Bible in the New Living Translation.  This translation is very accessible for young people, easy to read, easy to understand.

This is a red letter edition, with the words of Christ in red.  

Special features include a dictionary and concordance (with verses that correspond with dictionary entries).  This is an exceptional feature for young readers studying the Bible!

There is a listing of Great Chapters of the Bible, Great Verses of the Bible to Memorize (includes both verse and page number), 365 Day Reading Plan (this is a wonderful feature!), and several maps.  

The Girls Slimline Bible (NLT) would be a wonderful gift, sure to be read and treasured for years. 

I received a copy of this book from Tyndale in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Did You Know Tuesday - Slip 'n Slide

Do you remember playing with Slip 'n Slide in the backyard during your childhood?  I loved all water toys (Slip 'n' Slide, Water Wiggle, water pistols, and of course little swimming pools!), so of course I loved this.  (Plus we had a little hill in the backyard!)

The Slip 'n' Slide is a long sheet of plastic, with a tubular fold on one side.  A garden hose is connected to the fold, so water sprays onto the plastic.   Outside on a hot summer day (especially on a sloping surface), this provided lots of childhood fun in retro days.

The Slip 'n Slide was invented in 1961 by Robert Carrier, and marketed by Wham-O toys.  Robert Carrier was an upholsterer for a boat company, and was inspired to make the toy after seeing his son sliding in a stream of water outside.  300,000 Slip 'n Slides sold in the first six months of sales. 

Here is a 1972 commercial by Wham-O for Water Wiggle and Slip 'N Slide.  (I loved both these summer toys!)

Do you remember Slip 'n' Slide?   What other summer water toys did you enjoy?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments, below.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Music Monday - "Summer in the City" by The Lovin' Spoonful (1966)

If I ever get around to making my summer favorites playlist, "Summer in the City" will be in the mix.

"Summer in the City" is a 1960's oldies pop song by the Lovin' Spoonful.  It was written by John Sebastian, Steve Boone, and Mark Sebastian.  It really captures summer in the city -- starting with a VW Bug horn and ending with a jackhammer!   The lyrics include:

"Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirt and gritty
Been down, isn't it a pity
Doesn't seem to be a shadow in the city
All around, people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head
But at night it's a different world
Go out and find a girl
Come-on come-on and dance all night
Despite the heat it'll be alright
And babe, don't you know it's a pity
the days can't be like the nights
In the summer, in the city
In the summer, in the city."

I found a fun video of the song that sets the music to an old Harold Lloyd silent movie called Speedy.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

What is your favorite summer song?   I'd love to hear from you in the comments, below.

Book Review and Giveaway - Read to Death by Terrie Farley Moran

Book Synopsis
The national bestselling author of Caught Read-Handed revisits Fort Myers Beach, Florida, where the proprietors of a local bookstore café occasionally take a stab at solving murder…

At their seaside Read ‘Em and Eat bookstore café, Sassy Cabot and Bridgy Mayfield offer fresh scones, great books, and excellent detective work…

With their book club season wrapping up with The Florida Life of Thomas Edison, Sassy and Bridgy decide to take their group on a day trip to the beautiful Edison and Ford Winter Estates. Hiring driver Oscar Frieland, who’s known for his colorful stories and love of the café’s Robert Frost fruit tartlets, the bibliophiles set off for a day of sunshine and history.

After a lovely excursion, the club returns to the café for lunch and a book discussion, but the group falls silent after Oscar is found dead in his van. The sheriff’s deputies have some questions of their own for the group, and if the ladies don’t find some answers soon, the next book they read might be from a prison library.

My Review
I was intrigued by Read to Death because of the Florida setting and the idea of a bookstore cafe.

This is an enjoyable cozy mystery.  It is the first I have read in the series, so it took me a few chapters to get to know all the characters.  (Now, of course, I want to go back and read the first two books in the series as well!)

I particularly liked Sassy and Bridgie, the bookstore cafe owners.  The other characters are all varied and interesting, and the author does a really good job at differentiating personalities through dialogue and description.

The south Florida setting was delightful, and a fun trip for this armchair traveler!  I loved the place descriptions, along with little Florida history tidbits, in Read to Death.

The mystery aspect of the story kept my interest and kept me guessing.

I also loved the inclusion of recipes!  What a fun surprise.

This would make a fun weekend read or a great read to take on vacation.  I recommend it to other cozy mystery fans.     

Author Bio
Short-listed twice for The Best American Mystery Stories, Terrie Farley Moran is delighted to introduce mystery fans to the Read ’Em and Eat café and bookstore, which debuted with Well Read, Then Dead. The only thing Terrie enjoys more than wrangling mystery plots into submission is playing games and reading stories with any or all of her grandchildren. 

Author Links
Webpage –
Pinterest –

Purchase Links
Amazon            B&N          Google Play

(2) Print Copy - Read to Death by Terrie Farley Moran.  (Ends 7/19)
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I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.