Friday, February 16, 2018

Book Review - Out of the Ashes by Tracie Peterson, Kimberley Woodhouse

Book Synopsis
Can the Majesty of Alaska Foster Hope and Healing for Those Who Need it Most?

After the death of their father, Collette and Jean-Michel Langelier are no longer tied to post-war France. While his sister dreams of adventure, Jean-Michel is hoping to finally escape reminders of the horrors he faced in the Great Syrian Revolt of 1925. When an unexpected invitation for them to visit Alaska and the Curry Hotel arrives, it seems the perfect opportunity.

Young widow Katherine Demarchis is also traveling to the foot of Mt. Denali with her grandmother--a last trip before she retreats into a quiet and solitary life, finally free of the dangerous husband she was forced to marry. Yet when she encounters there a Frenchman from her past, her plans for the future are thrown into question.

Both haunted by the violence of their pasts, can Katherine and Jean-Michel rediscover the bond they once had? Or, when Jean-Michel's nightmares return with terrifying consequences, will it be impossible to heal what's been broken for so long?

My Review
Out of the Ashes tells the story of Katherine Demarchis.  Katherine is a young widow who travels with her grandmother to the Curry Hotel in Alaska in 1926.  While they are at the hotel, she meets her lost love, Jean-Michel Langelier.  Katherine is cautious of men because of an abusive marriage.  Jean-Michel is recovering from fighting for France in the Great Syrian Revolt of 1925.  

Both Katherine and Jean-Michel are warm, sympathetic characters.  They both are vulnerable and trying to be stronger individually -- and they long to see if they can also be stronger together, with each other's support.

I loved the glimpse of Alaska in the 1920's and the workings of the Curry Hotel - with both guests and staff.  There was an upstairs-downstairs feel to the book that was very appealing.  I was curious and looked online.  The Curry was a real hotel that burned in 1957.

There were a number of other characters included in this story:  Katherine's grandmother;  Jean-Michel's flighty younger sister, Collette;  Cassidy and Allan Brennan, who work at the hotel and are expecting their first child;  Mrs. Johnson, chef at the hotel, and Cassidy's boss and friend.  This is the second book in The Heart of Alaska series.  It took me a few chapters to catch up with the large number of characters, but once I did, I enjoyed this novel as a standalone read.

Faith plays an important part in this story.  Both Katherine and Jean-Michel are exploring ways to deepen their faith, and this gives them a connection to each other as well.  

Out of the Ashes was a lovely, uplifting read.  I recommend it to fans of historical fiction and inspirational fiction.   I hope to read the other books in this series!

Author Bio
Tracie Peterson is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than 100 novels. Tracie also teaches writing workshops at a variety of conferences on subjects such as inspirational romance and historical research. She and her family live in Montana. Learn more at

Kimberley Woodhouse ( is an award-winning, bestselling author of more than fifteen fiction and nonfiction books. A popular speaker and teacher, she's shared her theme of "Joy Through Trials" with more than half a million people across the country at more than 2,000 events. Kim and her incredible husband of twenty-five-plus years have two adult children. She's passionate about music and Bible study and loves the gift of story. You can connect with Kimberley on her website and at

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House.

Dear Abby - Favorite Dog Movies: Benji

Dear Friends,

I'm back to continue talking about dog movies with you here this week!  Our movie this week is Benji.  This was the third most popular movie at the box office in 1974.

Benji tells the story of an adorable, shaggy mixed breed dog.  Benji is a stray, but he picks out the perfect family.  The only problem?  The father in the family does not like dogs!  When the children in the family are kidnapped, Benji saves the day ... and finds the perfect family as a result!

Benji was portrayed by Higgins the dog.  Higgins was rescued from the Burbank Animal Shelter by dog trainer Frank Inn.   He was a Poodle - Cocker Spaniel - Schnauzer mix.  He made guest appearances on Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies, but found fame when he portrayed "Dog" on Petticoat Junction.  He had already retired, but came out of retirement to play Benji in this movie.  He retired again afterward and lived to the fine old age of 18!

Higgins the Dog with his person, Frank Inn
Higgins had famous puppies, including Mac, who played Tramp on My Three Sons, and Benjean, who starred as Benji in For the Love of Benji.

This was the final movie of Edgar Buchanan (Uncle Joe from Petticoat Junction) and Frances Bavier (Aunt Bee from The Andy Griffith Show).

It is said that Alfred Hitchcock considered Benji a favorite guilty pleasure.

Here is the movie trailer for this 1974 film:

Have you seen Benji?  Do you have any other dog movies you would like to recommend?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments, below.


Abby xoxoxo

Book Review - The View from Rainshadow Bay by Colleen Coble

Book Synopsis
After her husband, Jack, dies in a climbing incident, Shauna has only her five-year-old son and her helicopter charter business to live for. Every day is a struggle to make ends meet and she lives in constant fear of losing even more than she already has.

When her business partner is murdered, his final words convince Shauna that she’s in danger too. But where can she turn? Zach Bannister was her husband’s best friend and is the person she blames for his death. She’s barely spoken to him since. But right now he seems her only hope for protecting her son.

Zach is only too happy to assuage his guilt over Jack’s death by helping Shauna any way he can. But there are secrets involved dating back to Shauna’s childhood that more than one person would prefer to stay hidden.

In The View from Rainshadow Bay, suspense, danger, and a longing to love again ignite amid the gorgeous lavender fields of Washington State.

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My Review
The View from Rainshadow Bay tells the story of Shauna McDade.  She is a widow putting her life back together and taking loving care of her young son Alex.  Her life once again is turned upside down when her friend and mentor is murdered.  She turns to her late husband's best friend, Zach Bannister.  As they work to solve the mystery of her friend, they only discover more mysteries from the long ago past and from recent years as well.

This is a romantic suspense novel, and Colleen Coble does an exceptional job at balancing both aspects of the book.  I really liked the characters of Shauna and Zach, and wanted them to find happiness and healing together.

The mystery was very fast paced and had a number of interesting facets.  I loved the little pieces of the mystery -- an old, one-of-a-kind necklace, some aerial photographs, a surprising video message.

The setting for this novel was amazing.  I have never visited Washington state but have always wanted to.  This novel only made me want to visit more!   It is set in the small town of Lavender Tides:

"Most of the Victorian buildings and storefronts had been constructed in the 1880s, and the town often drew in tourists searching for a short stopover on a trip from Port Townsend to Sequim.

Many aging hippies had found its charm irresistible enough that they'd moved in and opened everything from coffee shops to pottery studios.  In the golden glow of the late afternoon sun, the town looked magical with its bustling pier stretching out into the blue water" (pp. 4 - 5).

There is a faith message in the book as Shauna reconnects with her church family after her husband's death, and Shauna and Zach share similar faith and values.

The View from Rainshadow Bay is the first book in Colleen Coble's new Lavender Tides series.  I am already looking forward to reading the next book!   I recommend this novel for fans of romantic suspense, well written mysteries, and Christian fiction.

Author Bio
USA Today bestselling author Colleen Coble has written numerous romantic suspense novels including The Inn at Ocean’s EdgeTwilight at Blueberry Barrens, and Beneath Copper Falls.


Connect with Colleen

Website | Facebook | Twitter

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

Monday, February 12, 2018

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - The Once and Future Queen by Nicole Evelina

Book Synopsis
Guinevere’s journey from literary sinner to feminist icon took over one thousand years…and it’s not over yet. 

Literature tells us painfully little about Guinevere, mostly focusing on her sin and betrayal of Arthur and Camelot. As a result, she is often seen as a one-dimensional character. But there is more to her story. By examining popular works of more than 20 authors over the last one thousand years, The Once and Future Queen shows how Guinevere reflects attitudes toward women during the time in which her story was written, changing to suit the expectations of her audience. Beginning in Celtic times and continuing through the present day, this book synthesizes academic criticism and popular opinion into a highly readable, approachable work that fills a gap in Arthurian material available to the general public. 

Nicole Evelina has spent more than 15 years studying Arthurian legend. She is also a feminist known for her fictional portrayals of strong historical and legendary women, including Guinevere. Now, she combines these two passions to examine the effect of changing times and attitudes on the character of Guinevere in a must-read book for Arthurian enthusiasts of every knowledge level. 

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Chapters | IndieBound | Kobo

Author Bio

Nicole Evelina is a multi-award-winning historical fiction, romantic comedy and non-fiction writer, whose four novels have collectively won over 20 awards, including two Book of the Year designations (Daughter of Destiny by Chanticleer Reviews and Camelot’s Queen by Author’s Circle). Her most recent book, THE ONCE AND FUTURE QUEEN, traces the evolution of the character of Guinevere in Arthurian legend from her Celtic roots to the present day, showing how the character changed along with the period’s views of women. Nicole is currently working on MISTRESS OF LEGEND (2018), the final book in her Guinevere's Tale trilogy. 

As an armchair historian, Nicole researches her books extensively, consulting with biographers, historical societies and traveling to locations when possible. For example, she traveled to England twice to research the Guinevere’s Tale trilogy, where she consulted with internationally acclaimed author and historian Geoffrey Ashe, as well as Arthurian/Glastonbury expert Jaime George, the man who helped Marion Zimmer Bradley research The Mists of Avalon.

Nicole is a member of and book reviewer for The Historical Novel Society, as well as a member of the Historical Fiction Writers of America, International Arthurian Society - North American Branch, Romantic Novelists Association, Novelists, Inc., the St. Louis Writer’s Guild, Alliance of Independent Authors, the Independent Book Publishers Association and the Midwest Publisher’s Association. 

For more information, please visit Nicole Evelina's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Goodreads. Sign up for Nicole's newsletter to receive news and updates.



During the Blog Tour we will be giving away two paperback copies of The Once and Future Queen! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.  

Giveaway Rules 
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on February 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter. 
– Giveaway is open to US residents only. 
– 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.  
The Once and Future Queen


Friday, February 9, 2018

Dear Abby - Vintage Dachshund Valentines

Dear Friends,

Next week is one of my favorite holidays, Valentine's Day!  I wanted to take the opportunity to wish you a happy Valentine's Day and to share a few vintage dachshund Valentines with you.

These are all older cards from the 1950's - 1960's like children exchanged in school.

This little dachshund wags her tail and mentions "a long long time."   (Lots of dachshund cards make a play on the word "long.")

 This is an elegant dachshund with a garland of red hearts:

 This cute dachshund is a dandy.  He is wearing a hat and coat!

This little girl dachshund looks so sweet in her coat and hat.  She is even carrying a pink rose!

This festive dachshund wears a hat with streamers:

"Valentine, you're really swell!"   

 "I'm longing for you, Valentine."

 "I've liked you a long time Valentine!"

"For you on Valentine's Day."  A little girl and her two dachshunds look at a note that is arriving through a letter slot in the door.

This little red dachshund is from a child to their teacher.

 "You're a dog-gone swell Valentine."

I hope you enjoyed this vintage Valentines, and hope you have a wonderful holiday!  I'll be back next week with some more dogs in movies.


Abby xoxoxo

Book Review and Giveaway - The Story of Our Lives by Helen Warner

Book Synopsis
They think nothing can tear their bond apart, until a long-buried secret threatens to destroy everything. 

Every year they have met up for a vacation, but their time away is much more than just a bit of fun. Over time, it has become a lifesaver, as each of them struggles with life’s triumphs and tragedies.

Sophie, Emily, Amy and Melissa have been best friends since they were girls. They have seen each other through everything—from Sophie’s private fear that she doesn’t actually want to be a mother despite having two kids, to Amy’s perfect-on-the-outside marriage that starts to reveal troubling warning signs, to Melissa’s spiraling alcoholism, to questions that are suddenly bubbling up around the paternity of Emily’s son. But could a lie that spans just as long as their friendship be the thing that tears them apart?

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My Review 
The Story of Us tells the story of four friends over the years.  Sophie has a wonderful relationship but struggles with post-partum depression.  Amy is in a perfect marriage - from the outside.   Emily is a single mother raising her son alone.  Melissa struggles with drinking and self esteem that leads her to choose the wrong men.  

This book spans the years from 1997 to 2012.  Each section begins with a quote about what is happening in the world at that time.  Events like Princess Diana's death, the Queen's Golden Jubilee, and the divorce of Paul McCartney and Heather Mills are included as touchstone memories.

I really enjoyed the way this book moved back and forth through time.  As the women move along in life we see flashbacks to their pivotal college years and their 20's.  This was an interesting way of getting to know the characters better.

The author, Helen Warner, does a wonderful job of delineating these very different characters.  Within the first few chapters I felt I had a good understanding of the different women and what motivated them.

I found The Story of Our Lives a real "can't put down" novel.  I read it in about 3 days because I enjoyed the book so much that I kept sneaking in extra reading time to find out what happened next!   I really enjoy novels about women's friendship, and this was an enjoyable read.  

I recommend this book to fans of women's fiction. This would be a great weekend read or vacation book!

Author Bio

Helen Warner is head of daytime for Channel 4, where she is responsible for shows such as Come Dine With Me and Deal Or No Deal. Previously she worked for ITV where she launched the daytime talk show Loose Women and was editor of This Morning. She lives in East Anglia with her husband and their two children.

Connect with Helen

Website | Goodreads


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

Friday, February 2, 2018

Dear Abby - Favorite Dog Movies: The Shaggy Dog (1959)

Dear Friends,

Today I would like to share an older Disney movie called The Shaggy Dog.  This movie, from 1959, was Disney's first live action comedy.  It was based on a novel called The Hound of Florence by Felix Salten, who also wrote Bambi.

The movie starred Fred MacMurray (later seen in My Three Sons) as the father of a boy named Wilby.  Wilby, played by Tommy Kirk, is a boy who loves inventions.  Wilby finds a mysterious ring belonging to the Borgias at a museum and it transforms him into a dog!  Wilby the dog is adventurous -- just like Wilby the teenage boy.  He even enjoys driving an old jalopy!  After a number of fun-loving misadventures, Wilby turns back into a boy ... and his family ends up adopting a dog.  It seems they discovered they loved dogs when he was one!

Here is a photo of Fred MacMurray and Wilby the sheepdog:

This photo shows Tim Considine (who also later appeared in My Three Sons), a dog friend, and Tommy Kirk (Wilby).

Some fun trivia about this movie:

The Shaggy Dog was originally imagined as a TV pilot.

The producer of The Shaggy Dog liked to joke that perhaps The Shaggy Dog inspired My Three Sons:  "Same kids, same dog and Fred MacMurray!"  

The movie was later the inspiration for a Scholastic book for children (1967) and a comic book.

There was a sequel in 1976 starring Dean Jones as a 45 year old version of Wilby.

It was also remade in 2006 with Tim Allen.

Here is a clip from the movie:

Have you seen The Shaggy Dog or the remake?   I would love to hear from you in the comments, below.

I enjoyed visiting with you today and look forward to catching up again next week!

Abby xoxoxo

Book Review and Giveaway - The Secret Life of Mrs. London by Rebecca Rosenberg

Book Synopsis
San Francisco, 1915. As America teeters on the brink of world war, Charmian and her husband, famed novelist Jack London, wrestle with genius and desire, politics and marital competitiveness. Charmian longs to be viewed as an equal partner who put her own career on hold to support her husband, but Jack doesn’t see it that way…until Charmian is pulled from the audience during a magic show by escape artist Harry Houdini, a man enmeshed in his own complicated marriage. Suddenly, charmed by the attention Houdini pays her and entranced by his magnetism, Charmian’s eyes open to a world of possibilities that could be her escape.

As Charmian grapples with her urge to explore the forbidden, Jack’s increasingly reckless behavior threatens her dedication. Now torn between two of history’s most mysterious and charismatic figures, she must find the courage to forge her own path, even as she fears the loss of everything she holds dear.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

My Review
The Secret Life of Mrs. London tells the story of freethinking Charmian London, the wife of author Jack London.  She wanted more than the conventional life women had in the 1910's.  She wanted to be a supportive wife, but also longed to be a writer in her own right.  Her life changed when she met Bess and Harry Houdini.  She became friends with Bess and became involved with Harry.  This novel tells the story of these complex people and their lives.

I was intrigued by The Secret Life of Mrs. London from first mention.  I love historical fiction, and am particularly interested in novels that focus on the lives of writers.  I will admit that I knew very little about Jack London going into this novel.  I knew the titles of a few of his novels (i.e. The Call of the Wild, White Fang, The Sea Wolf).  I knew a little more about Houdini and his career as a magician.  

These famous men and their wives led very complex lives with a great deal of moral ambiguity.  That said, their lives were fascinating and the interplay between these characters - based on real life people - made for a very interesting read.

Rebecca Rosenberg is a gifted writer, and she does an exceptional job at developing and delineating these characters.  I found The Secret Life of Mrs. London a page turner because I really wanted to know what happened next.

As a fan of historical fiction, I loved the wealth of historical detail in this novel.  I was particularly intrigued by some of the descriptions of Houdini on stage.  I love information on World's Fairs, and was glad to see that the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition figured into this story.

I think that other fans of historical fiction, and anyone interested in the lives of famous authors, will find The Secret Life of Mrs. London a compelling read.

Author Bio
A California native, Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where Jack London wrote from his Beauty Ranch. Rebecca is a long-time student of Jack London’s works and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian London. The Secret Life of Mrs. London is her debut novel.

Rebecca and her husband, Gary, own the largest lavender product company in America, selling to 4000 resorts, spas and gift stores. The Rosenbergs believe in giving back to the Sonoma Community, supporting many causes through financial donations and board positions, including Worth Our Weight, an educational culinary program for at-risk children, YWCA shelter for abused women, Luther Burbank Performing Arts Center to provide performances for children, Sonoma Food Bank, Sonoma Boys and Girls Club, and the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home.

For more information, please visit Rebecca’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Goodreads. Visit the Facebook page for The Secret Life of Mrs. London.

One lucky winner will receive a paperback copy of The Secret Life of Mrs. London.  This giveaway is open to the U.S. and ends on Friday, February 9.  The winner needs to respond to their email notification within 48 hours or another name will be drawn.

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I received a copy of this book from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Book Review - A Prairie Girl's Faith: The Spiritual Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Stephen W. Hines

Book Synopsis
The beloved author of the Little House books was not only one of America's great pioneer storytellers but a woman of vibrant faith.

A Prairie Girl's Faith provides the first extended, in depth discussion of the Christian faith of one of America's most beloved pioneer women--Laura Ingalls Wilder. Although the faith of the Ingalls' family pervades books in the Little House series, the more specific details of Laura's faith have never been fully explored. It took extraordinary pluck for anyone to survive the harshness of frontier life--from the heartbreak of sudden crop losses to murderous storms to unrelenting loneliness. This book reveals how in surviving, the brave Laura drew not just on her character, but found encouragement, strength, and hope in her relationship with God.

My Review
A Prairie Girl's Faith: The Spiritual Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder has a unique focus on the faith of Laura Ingalls Wilder, as a person and a writer.  The book also looks at faith as it is presented in the beloved Little House on the Prairie book series. 

I have been a great fan of the Little House series since childhood, and was intrigued by this book from first mention.  It far surpassed my expectations.  The writing by Stephen Hines is lively and engaging, with many anecdotes I have not read before -- and specific examples of faith from the books.

Topics covered in this book include the Ingalls family, the relationship of Laura and her husband Almanzo, Laura and her daughter Rose, the writing of the Little House books, and more.

Stephen Hines posits:  "Throughout the eight original titles there are, in the foreground, references to Scripture, hymns, and prayer -- to a daily life that experienced the reality of God" (p. 5).  He then gives many detailed and fascinating examples of faith in the books.

One example is songs in the books.  There are at least 126 songs mentioned in the Little House books, and a number of these are hymns and spirituals.  This book looks at music in the Little House books in detail.

The Ingalls family originally belonged to a Congregational church, but since that denomination was not as prevalent on the frontier, the family (who moved several times) also actively attended a Methodist congregation. As someone who believes in ecumenical Christianity, I loved this passage:  "There was a great spirit of ecumenicism in those days, and the Congregationalists generously shared their building with the Methodists and the Baptists until they could build their own houses of worship.  Once they did, Episcopal services were sometimes held at the Baptist church.  And when the Catholic church burned down, it received help and the offer of a meeting place from other churches in town" (p. 172).

There was a good deal of information about Laura Ingalls Wilder's early writing in The Ruralist and other publications.  I found this fascinating, especially as it tied into her development as a writer.   

The author does discuss the sometimes delicate relationship between Laura and Rose, and their work together.  He directly addresses Rose's involvement in the writing process.

There is a lovely section about Christmas stories in the Little House books, and the Christmas music featured in these stories.  I found the details about Christmas music over the years very interesting.

A Prairie Girl's Faith also has a section of The Church Potluck.  This section features a number of recipes from friends of the Ingalls family.  Anyone who has an interest in food history, as I do, will love this section of the book.

There are a couple of Appendixes in the book.  One featured a fascinating interview with Laura's friend Neta Seal.  I loved the glimpse of Laura's later life that was shown in this interview.  There is a lovely anecdote about Laura and Almanzo's dog Ben:

"They always had bulldogs after I got acquainted with them . . .

Here's a funny little story about the dog.  He had a boil on his jaw; and when it went to hurting him so bad, he'd come in and lay his head in her lap and look up as if he was saying, 'Can you do anything for me?'  Then she would get some salve and rub it on his jaw.  When that was done, he would go back and lay down.  Finally, it was healed.

Mrs. Wilder - I always called her Mrs. Wilder - didn't even have a dog after he [Almanzo] went away" (p. 177).

I highly recommend A Prairie Girl's Faith for anyone who has an interest in Laura Ingalls Wilder's life and work. It is a richly rewarding read.

Author Bio
Stephen Hines is a recognized authority on Laura Ingalls Wilder and has authored several best-selling volumes on her life, including Little House in the Ozarks. He grew up in the midwest in an area where Wilder once lived. Hines was the founding Director of Communications for the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services and has held several editorial positions in magazine, newspaper, and book publishing. The author is a contributor to He lives with his wife, Gwen, in Nashville, Tennessee.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books.