Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Book Review - The Crooked Path by Irma Joubert

Book Synopsis
Lettie has always felt different from and overshadowed by the women around her– this friend is richer, that friend is more beautiful, those friends are closer. Still, she doesn’t let this hold her back. She works hard to apply her mind, trying to compensate for her perceived lack of beauty with diligent academic work and a successful career as a doctor. She learns to treasure her friendships, but she still wonders if any man will ever return her interest.

Marco’s experiences in the second world war have robbed him of love and health. When winters in his native Italy prove dangerous to his health even after the war has ended, he moves to South Africa to be with his brother, husband to one of Lettie’s best friends. Marco is Lettie’s first patient, and their relationship grows as she aids him on the road back to restored health.

In the company of beloved characters from The Child of the River, Marco and Lettie find a happiness that neither of them thought possible. With that joy comes pain and loss, but Lettie learns that life—while perhaps a crooked path—is always a journey worth taking.

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Purchase Links
Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

My Review
The Crooked Path begins in 1938.  This historical fiction novel tells the story of Lettie, who grows up in South Africa.  As a young woman she feels insecure about her looks and spends her time and energy pursuing a medical degree.  

Marco grows up a world away in Italy.  As World War II threatens his village, he goes to live in a mountain cave with the young Jewish girl he loves and her family.  After the tragic events of the war, he ends up moving to South Africa for his health and to be near his brother.  Lettie and Marco's paths cross and their story begins.

This is such a beautifully told story, a saga of friends and love and family that spans decades, from the 1930's onward.  I sometimes find that dual storyline novels have a slower pace and momentum, but that was not the case in The Crooked Path.   I could not put this book down and read eagerly to see what would happen with these characters.

And the characters!  They are beautifully told.  I especially liked Lettie, who was so strong and brave.  I really wanted her to find and keep happiness.

I love the motif of "the crooked path" that runs through this book.  For instance:

"Years ago my mom told me life sometimes leads you along a strange crooked path, but in the end it will always take you where you're supposed to be" (p. 224).


"Even a crooked path has a starting point" (p. 290).

This novel was published by Thomas Nelson, a Christian publisher.  I like the way faith was handled subtly, as part of Lettie and Marco's daily life and strength.

I believe this is the first novel I have ever read set in South Africa, and I found it utterly fascinating.  I loved the details of life and times gone by presented in this book.

I highly recommend The Crooked Path for anyone who enjoys historical fiction.   It is a beautifully told and richly rewarding book.

Author Bio
International bestselling author Irma Joubert was a history teacher for 35 years before she began writing. Her stories are known for their deep insight into personal relationships and rich historical detail. She’s the author of eight novels and a regular fixture on bestseller lists in The Netherlands and in her native South Africa. She is the winner of the 2010 ATKV Prize for Romance Novels.

Connect with Irma on Facebook.

I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - Becoming Mrs. Smith by Tanya E. Williams

Book Synopsis
Not all of war’s destruction takes place on the battlefield.
Violet’s heart flutters from the scarlet fever she survived as a child, and it beats faster at the sight of John Smith, the man she plans to marry. America is entrenched in WWII, and when John enlists, Violet is certain she won’t ever forgive him for dashing their dreams. As the realities of war slowly overtake her life, Violet’s days are filled with uncertainty and grief. She struggles to maintain her faith in John, as the world as she knows it, crumbles.
Becoming Mrs. Smith is the inspiring, and at times, heartbreaking story of a woman’s struggle to reclaim what she lost. War stole the man she loves, and childhood illness weakened her heart—perhaps beyond repair. While guns rage in Europe, the war Violet faces at home may be even more devastating.
Wonderfully emotional and beautifully written, Becoming Mrs. Smith will take hold of your heartstrings and leave you longing for more.” –Kelsey Gietl, author of Across Oceans

Available on Amazon in Paperback and eBook

Author Bio
A writer from a young age, Tanya E Williams loves to help a reader get lost in another time, another place through the magic of books. History continues to inspire her stories and her insightfulness into the human condition deepens her character’s experiences and propels them on their journey. Ms. Williams’ favourite tales, speak to the reader’s heart, making them smile, laugh, cry, and think.
For more information, please visit Tanya Williams’ website and blog. You can also find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+Goodreads, and Pinterest.
During the Blog Tour we will be giving away an eBook of Becoming Mrs. Smith! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.
Giveaway Rules
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 17th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
Becoming Mrs. Smith

Friday, October 27, 2017

Dear Abby - Halloween Dog Linky

Dear Friends,

Just a short post to wish you a very Happy Halloween!  If you have pets, do they enjoy dressing up?  What do they think of the holiday?

I am not so sure about Halloween.  It involves lots of knocking at the door, which I am not wild about.  I usually spend time in my bedroom listening to some relaxing music.   

I don't mind dressing up (upon occasion!) and you'll see a picture of me in my angel costume just above.

Today I would like to share a few fun Halloween links with you from previous years at my blog.

Vintage Halloween card featuring a Scottish Terrier
Vintage Halloween Dogs features lots of vintage illustrations, cards and photos of dogs on Halloween!

My friend Gizmo dressed up as a pumpkin
Pets in Halloween Costumes features me and some of my friends dressed up for the holiday. 

Calling All Girls magazine with vintage dachshund illustration
Calling All Girls: Halloween Covers features vintage teen magazines with dachshund illustrations on the cover.    

I hope you enjoy these links, and wish you a very happy Halloween!  I'd love to hear from you in the comments, below.


Abby xoxoxo

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - Secrets and Pies by Jenny Kales

Book Synopsis
If you can’t stand the heat, get out of Callie’s Kitchen! Greek-American restaurateur Callie Costas faces down another killer in the small waterfront town of Crystal Bay, Wisconsin. Recipes included!

Summertime in Crystal Bay means tourist season for Calliope “Callie” Costas, owner of Callie’s Kitchen, a Greek-meets-Midwest from-scratch eatery. Business is booming but so is the stress. Callie can barely keep up with the demand for her famous summer fruit pies and savory Greek delicacies, plus she’s agreed to bake dozens of “pitas” for the annual Greek Fest.

When Callie is asked to deliver cast party treats for a Murder Mystery Night at the historic Harris House, it seems like a welcome break from her hot stove. That is, until she finds herself an unwilling player in yet another suspicious death. Worse yet, the victim is a family friend and graduate student working on a project involving Crystal Bay’s colorful past.

Before long, a motley crew of suspects makes things as juicy as the succulent berries strewn around Callie’s Kitchen. And that’s not all Callie’s got on her plate. Add family obligations, a deepening romance with a local detective and unexpected personnel problems to the mix. One thing’s for sure: Callie’s got the recipe for a long, hot summer!

SECRETS AND PIES is the third installment in the Callie’s Kitchen Mystery series.

Author Bio
Award-winning writer Jenny Kales is the author of The Callie’s Kitchen Mystery series. Though she’s worked as a writer and journalist for years, fiction writing is her first love and her marriage into a Greek-American Midwestern family inspired The Callie’s Kitchen mysteries, featuring Calliope Costas, food business owner and amateur sleuth. The setting of the story, “Crystal Bay,” is inspired by a favorite family vacation spot – Wisconsin’s beautiful Geneva Lakes. Kales is an avid reader, cook and baker and she’s addicted to mystery TV, especially anything on Masterpiece Mystery or BBC America. She lives just outside of Chicago with her husband, two daughters and one cute but demanding Yorkshire terrier. 

eBook of Secrets and Pies by Jenny Kales.  Giveaway ends midnight on 10/31.
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Monday, October 23, 2017

Book Review and Giveaway - KJV Know the Word Study Bible

Book Synopsis
Diving deeper into God's Word can be easy and rewarding if you break it down book by book, verse by verse, or topic by topic with the new KJV Know The Word Study Bible by Thomas Nelson. The book-by-book series of notes leads you through the main points of each book of the Bible. The verse-by-verse notes help you to dig deeper into God's Word. The topic-by-topic articles, which cover 21 theological topics, guide you through a series of insightful notes and give you a thorough biblical understanding of each topic. With the beautiful and timeless text of the KJV translation, the KJV Know the Word Study Bible offers you choices of how to study Scripture and grow in your relationship with Christ.

My Review
The KJV Know The Word Study Bible is a wonderful Bible for anyone who wants to read the Bible regularly and really study it.   Readers can choose to go book by book, verse by verse, or topic by topic.  I really like the selections of topic by topic articles available.  For instance:

Note 1: Love Is an Action (Gen. 22:2)
Note 2: Why Choose Love? (Col. 3:1 - 15)
Note 3: God's Love Poured Out (Rom. 5:5 - 10)
Note 4: How Love Behaves (I Cor. 13: 1 - 13)
Note 5: Because God Is Love, We Love (1 John 4:7 - 19)"

Each book of the Bible has a summary, a section on how to study that book, and Study the Book Highlights.  There are footnotes when needed and articles interspersed within the book.

This is the King James Version (KJV) translation, which I prefer.  I grew up with the KJV Bible and my first experiences memorizing and studying scripture were with the KJV translation.  This Bible features the words of Christ in red.

This Bible is well made with a dustjacket and cloth cover book.  The text is an average size font - could be a little bigger for ease of reading.

There are some useful sections at the end of the book, including Monies, Weights and Measures, a Concordance, and color maps.  The concordance is detailed and is especially helpful for reading and study.

I recommend the KJV Know the Word Study Bible to anyone who is interested in a closer reading of the Bible.  It is a beautifully made book and will be a big help on your journey.

This fall, become a regular student of the Bible and enter to win the Kindle Fire giveaway!

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of the KJV Know The Word Study Bible
  • A Kindle Fire 7
  • A Kindle Fire case (winner's choice)
Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on October 31. The winner will be announced November 1 on the Litfuse blog.

I received a copy of this book from Litfuse.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Dear Abby - Famous TV Dogs: Bullet the Wonder Dog from The Roy Rogers Show

Dear Friends,

Today I would love to introduce Bullet, the Wonder Dog from The Roy Rogers Show.  This western theme TV show ran from 1951 - 1957.   My Momma has never seen this show, so we are learning about it, and Bullet, together.  When we asked friends about favorite TV dogs, Bullet is a name that was mentioned often.

The Roy Rogers Show starred Roy Rogers, his wife Dale Evans, a Palomino horse named Trigger, and Bullet.  The famous theme song from the show was "Happy Trails," sung by Dale Evans.

Bullet was a brave German Shepherd who helped lead Roy and Dale to the bad guys, helped when they were outnumbered, and helped them escape as needed.

Bullet was born in 1949.  He made his movie debut in 1951 in the Roy Rogers movie Spoilers of the Plains.  I have not been able to find out a lot about his life, or how long he lived.  However, after he died he was preserved, along with Trigger, and they were displayed at the Roy Rogers Museum.  They were sold in 2010 to RFD-TV.

Like most other retro TV dogs, Bullet inspired a number of products for children, including children's books:
Comic books:

And a toy by Hartland toys:

Bullet even appeared in commercials for dog food!

Do you remember Bullet, or The Roy Rogers Show?   I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Wishing you a great weekend!


Abby xoxoxo

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Book Spotlight and Giveaway: A Sea of Sorrow: A Novel of Odysseus by David Blixt, Amalia Carosella, Libbie Hawker, Scott Oden, Vicky Alvear Shecter, and Russell Whitfield

Book Synopsis
Odysseus, infamous trickster of Troy, vaunted hero of the Greeks, left behind a wake of chaos and despair during his decade long journey home to Ithaca. Lovers and enemies, witches and monsters–no one who tangled with Odysseus emerged unscathed. Some prayed for his return, others, for his destruction. These are their stories…

A beleaguered queen’s gambit for maintaining power unravels as a son plots vengeance.

A tormented siren battles a goddess’s curse and the forces of nature to survive.

An exiled sorceress defies a lustful captain and his greedy crew.

A blinded shepherd swears revenge on the pirate-king who mutilated him.

A beautiful empress binds a shipwrecked sailor to servitude, only to wonder who is serving whom.

A young suitor dreams of love while a returned king conceives a savage retribution.

Six authors bring to life the epic tale of The Odyssey seen through the eyes of its shattered victims—the monsters, witches, lovers, and warriors whose lives were upended by the antics of the “man of many faces.” You may never look upon this timeless epic—and its iconic ancient hero—in quite the same way again.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Chapters

Author Bios
Amalia Carosella graduated from the University of North Dakota with a bachelors degree in Classical Studies and English. An avid reader and former bookseller, she writes about old heroes and older gods. She lives with her husband in upstate New York and dreams of the day she will own goats (and maybe even a horse, too). Amalia’s novels include Tamer of Horses, Helen of Sparta, By Helen’s Hand, and Daughter of a Thousand Years.

David Blixt‘s work is consistently described as “intricate,” “taut,” and “breathtaking.” A writer of Historical Fiction, his novels span the early Roman Empire (the COLOSSUS series, his play EVE OF IDES) to early Renaissance Italy (the STAR-CROSS’D series) up through the Elizabethan era (his delightful espionage comedy HER MAJESTY’S WILL, starring Will Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe as inept spies). His novels combine a love of the theatre with a deep respect for the quirks and passions of history.

Living in Chicago with his wife and two children, he describes himself as “actor, author, father, husband. In reverse order.”

Libbie Hawker writes historical and literary fiction featuring complex characters and rich details of time and place. Libbie’s recent novels include Daughter of Sand and Stone, Mercer Girls, A Song of War, White Lotus and Persian Rose.

She lives in the San Juan Islands of Washington State.

Russell Whitfield was born in Shepherds Bush in 1971. An only child, he was raised in Hounslow, West London, but has since escaped to Ham in Surrey.

Gladiatrix was Russ’s first novel, published in 2008 by Myrmidon Books. The sequel, Roma Victrix, continues the adventures Lysandra, the Spartan gladiatrix, and a third book, Imperatrix, sees Lysandra stepping out of the arena and onto the field of battle.

Scott Oden was born in Indiana, but has spent most of his life shuffling between his home in rural North Alabama, a Hobbit hole in Middle-earth, and some sketchy tavern in the Hyborian Age. He is an avid reader of fantasy and ancient history, a collector of swords, and a player of tabletop role-playing games. When not writing, he can be found walking his two dogs or doting over his lovely wife, Shannon.

Oden’s previous works include the historical fantasy, The Lion of Cairo, and two historical novels, Men of Bronze and Memnon. He is currently working on his next novel.

Vicky Alvear Shecter is the author of multiple books set in the ancient world, including the YA novels, CLEOPATRA’S MOON, based on the life of Cleopatra’s only daughter, and CURSES AND SMOKE: A NOVEL OF POMPEII and the adult historical collaborations, A SONG OF WAR, A YEAR OF RAVENS, and A DAY OF FIRE. She has written a mid-grade series on mythology (ANUBIS SPEAKS, HADES SPEAKS, and THOR SPEAKS) as well as two award-winning biographies for kids. She a She is a docent at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Antiquities at Emory University in Atlanta.

Win a copy of Sea of Sorry.  Giveaway ends November 17.
A Sea of Sorrow 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Book Review and Giveaway - Murder on the Toy Town Express: A Vintage Toyshop Mystery by Barbara Early

Book Synopsis
Liz McCall has come to love running her father’s vintage toyshop back home in East Aurora, NY, so when the Train and Toy Show comes to town, she’s all aboard for a fun toy-filled weekend. The only hitch is that her childhood bully Craig McFadden, now local business rival, has set up a booth next to hers. But the fun and games are over when Craig falls from the ceiling in a publicity stunt gone wrong.

What was initially thought to be a fatal accident proves much more sinister. Pulled into the case by her feelings for both Ken, the police chief, and Jack, her high school sweetheart whose brother is one the prime suspects, Liz dives headfirst into the investigation. But as she digs deeper, she’s shocked to learn her father may have been the intended target.

The trouble train is barreling down and Liz may have just bought herself a first class ticket in Murder on the Toy Town Express, Barbara Early’s delightful second installment in her Vintage Toyshop mysteries.

My Review
Murder on the Toy Town Express is a fun read for cozy mystery fans, and anyone who loves retro toys will especially enjoy it.  I love all things retro, including vintage toys, and sometimes sell a few vintage toys in my online shop, so I especially enjoyed this book.

Liz works with her father in his vintage toy store in East Aurora, New York.  When they work a vintage toy show, she is shocked when her high school bully, now a comic book dealer, dies suddenly.  With the help of her father, friends, and semi-boyfriend, Ken (who also is police chief) she becomes involved in working to solve the crime.

This was such a fun read!  I couldn't put it down.  The characters are quirky, interesting, and likable.  And there are twists and then more twists.  I am usually pretty good at solving mysteries but did not have this one figured out until I was about 75% in!

This is the second book in the Vintage Toyshop Mystery series.  I have not read the first (yet!), but this book worked fine as a standalone mystery.

I loved, loved, loved the vintage toy details in this book.  As well as great details about model trains, there are mentions of toys like The Addams Family Card Game, The  Beatles: Flip Your Wig Game, Candy Land, Life, Lite-Brite, and more.  At one point the characters have a 1970's games night featuring Yahtzee, Risk, Clue, Mousetrap, Rebound, Which Witch, Sub Search, and Manhunt.  The party was complete even with '70's candies:  Good & Plenty, Milk Duds, Necco Wafers, Chuckles, and Sky Bars.

I enthusiastically recommend Murder on the Toy Town Express to other cozy fans.  It makes a great weekend read, and it is really fun!

Author Bio
Barbara Early earned an engineering degree, but after four years of doing nothing but math, developed a sudden allergy to the subject and decided to choose another occupation. Before she settled on murdering fictional people, she was a secretary, a school teacher, a pastor’s wife, and an amateur puppeteer. After several years living elsewhere, she and her husband moved back to her native Western New York State, where she enjoys cooking, crafts, classic movies and campy seventies television, board games, and posting pictures of her four cats on Facebook. She writes the Vintage Toyshop series and the Bridal Bouquet Shop Mysteries (as Beverly Allen).

Author Links
Author Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/cUh3Wn
Cozy Café: https://www.facebook.com/CozyCafeMysteries/
Killer Characters: http://www.killercharacters.com/search/label/Barbara%20Early 

Purchase Links
Amazon     B&N   BAM    INDIEBOUND    Book Depository

There are two (!) giveaways on this book tour.

Giveaway #1
Book swag!  Prize is a brightly colored vintage toyshop tote bag, key ring, train whistle, bookmarks, and assorted fun Toyshop swag (color and selection will vary).   U.S. Only.   Ends 10/23.
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Giveaway #2
Prize includes signed copies of MURDER ON THE TOY TOWN EXPRESS (hardcover) and DEATH OF A TOY SOLDIER (paperback), a Vintage Toyshop tote bag, keyring, booksmarks, and assorted fun toyshop swag. U.S. Only.  Ends 10/19.
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I received a copy of this book from Great Escapes Book Tour and NetGalley.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Dear Abby - Famous TV Dogs: Wishbone

Dear Friends,

Today I am looking forward to chatting about famous TV dog Wishbone.   When I asked friends on Facebook for famous dogs, several people said Wishbone.  This cute TV dog is new to me (because I wasn't born when his show was on!) and also to my Momma (who was a child quite a while before Wishbone aired on PBS).

Wishbone was a PBS series that aired from 1995 - 1998.  It starred a lovable Jack Russell named Wishbone and his person, Joe.  Wishbone loves books and dreams about appearing in stories from classic literature.  As well as a TV series, there was a popular series of books starring Wishbone.

To give you an idea of what the show storylines were like, there were books featured by William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Washington Irving, and more.   Wishbone also played Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle in more than one episode.

The series was created by a Jack Russell fan named Rick Duffield.  His own dog inspired the Wishbone character.

Wishbone was played by a handsome Jack Russell dog named Soccer.   I have to add that I am partial to Jack Russells as I am a Doxie-Jack or Jackshund (Dachshund - Jack Russell mix)!   Soccer lived from 1988 - 2001.  He was from Texas and lived with his person and trainer, Jackie Martin Kaplan.  Soccer got the part because he did an impressive backflip in his audition.   When Soccer wasn't available, there were four other Jack Russells who sometimes appeared as Wishbone.  Phoebe, Slugger, and Shiner did stunts, and Bear did publicity stills.

Here is a short video showing the opening to the Wishbone show in the 1990's.

Have you seen Wishbone, and do you have any memories of this show?  I would love to hear from you in the comments.

Wishing you a great weekend!

Abby xoxoxo

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - Mining for Justice (A Chloe Ellefson Mystery) by Kathleen Ernst

Book Synopsis
Chloe Ellefson is excited to be learning about Wisconsin’s Cornish immigrants and mining history while on temporary assignment at Pendarvis, a historic site in charming Mineral Point. But when her boyfriend, police officer Roelke McKenna, discovers long-buried human remains in the root cellar of an old Cornish cottage, Chloe reluctantly agrees to mine the historical record for answers.

She soon finds herself in the center of a heated and deadly controversy that threatens to close Pendarvis. While struggling to help the historic site, Chloe must unearth dark secrets, past and present . . . before a killer comes to bury her.

Author Bio
Kathleen Ernst is a social historian, educator, and author. Her Chloe Ellefson mysteries reflect the decade she spent as a curator at a large outdoor museum, and feature historic sites in the Upper Midwest.  Library Journal says, “Ernst keeps getting better with each entry in this fascinating series.” Kathleen has also written many mysteries for young readers.  Honors for her work include a LOVEY Award and Agatha and Edgar nominations.  Kathleen lives and writes in Wisconsin.

Webpage – www.kathleenernst.com
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/kathleenernst.author/
Blog – https://sitesandstories.wordpress.com

Purchase Links


(3) Print Copy - Mining for Justice (A Chloe Ellefson Mystery) by Kathleen Ernst.  Ends 10/19.
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