Friday, January 28, 2022

Book Review - At Night by Margaret Peot

My Review

At Night is a beautiful picture book for children about animals and what they do at night. It explores the lives of owls, foxes, bobcats, opossums, raccoons, rabbits, skunks, mice, and porcupines. 

The illustrations are striking and eye catching, with animals seen against dark night time settings.  

The storytelling is lovely with "at night" on one page and then details about the animal on the next page.  The repetition of "at night" and illustrations and words would make this a perfect bedtime read aloud.  At the end of the book all the animals are pictured, sleeping during the day.

The book ends with two pages of interesting facts about the animals seen in the book - i.e. a group of rabbits is called a colony.

I recommend At Night for families with young children, for bedtime story time, and also for preschool story circle (perfect for a study unit on animals!).

Book Synopsis

What animals forage by night and sleep by day? This children’s picture book describes the nocturnal lives of nine common animals: foxes, porcupines, racoons, skunks, opossums, bobcats, owls, mouse, and rabbits. Join the adult animals guiding their children through the forest during the dark of night. The book includes information on the common names of the animal’s offspring (i.e. fox:kit).

Author Bio

Margaret Peot is an artist, writer, teacher and paints costumes for Broadway theater, as well as dance, ice shows and arena shows. She is the author/artist of twelve other books, including Inkblot: Drip, Splat and Squish Your Way to Creativity, which was awarded the Eureka! silver Medal for non-fiction children’s books.


Book Review and Giveaway - The Siren of Sussex by Mimi Matthews

My Review

In 1862, Evelyn Maltravers enters a London tailors shop and meets half-Indian tailor Ahmad Malik. Sparks immediately fly between the pair, but a match between them pushes boundaries. Evelyn also pushes boundaries as an equestrienne from a family with a history of scandal.

I wanted to read this novel because I love historical fiction, enjoy Victorian settings, and have enjoyed several Mimi Matthews books in the past.

This was a wonderful, engrossing read.  I loved the pairing of Evelyn and Ahmad. They are an unexpected but delightful match, and I found myself reading past my bedtime to see what would happen next.

As always, Mimi Matthews does a beautiful job transporting readers to the Victorian era with her language and rich descriptions. She has an unusual gift for going beyond mere descriptions to actually evoking a time and place.

I recommend The Siren of Sussex highly for fans of historical fiction, and especially for anyone who loves the Victorian era.  I look forward to upcoming reads in this new Belles of London series. 

Book Synopsis

Victorian high society’s most daring equestrienne finds love and an unexpected ally in her fight for independence in the strong arms of London’s most sought after and devastatingly handsome half-Indian tailor.

Evelyn Maltravers understands exactly how little she's worth on the marriage mart. As an incurable bluestocking from a family tumbling swiftly toward ruin, she knows she'll never make a match in a ballroom. Her only hope is to distinguish herself by making the biggest splash in the one sphere she excels: on horseback. In haute couture. But to truly capture London's attention she'll need a habit-maker who's not afraid to take risks with his designs—and with his heart.

Half-Indian tailor Ahmad Malik has always had a talent for making women beautiful, inching his way toward recognition by designing riding habits for Rotten Row's infamous Pretty Horsebreakers—but no one compares to Evelyn. Her unbridled spirit enchants him, awakening a depth of feeling he never thought possible.

But pushing boundaries comes at a cost and not everyone is pleased to welcome Evelyn and Ahmad into fashionable society. With obstacles spanning between them, the indomitable pair must decide which hurdles they can jump and what matters most: making their mark or following their hearts? 

Author Bio

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, and Kirkus, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a retired Andalusian dressage horse, a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats.



Giveaway hosted by Mimi Matthews. No Purchase Necessary. Entrants must be 18 years or older. Open to US residents only. Void where prohibited.

The Giveaway Package:

1 winner (selected at random by Rafflecopter) receives the following:

Signed print copy of The Siren of Sussex
Horse scarf
Pewter sidesaddle brooch (made in Sussex, England!)
The Siren of Sussex tote bag
Three candles in scents: Fresh Hay, New Saddle, and Winter Ride
Box of Ahmad Tea (60 count, assorted flavors)
The Siren of Sussex bookmark

The giveaway is open from 12:01 am Pacific time 1/4/22 until 11:59pm Pacific time on 2/7/22.

The winner will be announced on Mimi's blog - – at 8:00 pm Pacific time on 2/8/22.

You can enter here:  

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Friday, January 21, 2022

Book Review - Her Secret War by Pam Lecky

My Review

In 1941, Sarah Gillespie is living in Dublin with her sister and father, sorting through a romance with her boyfriend Paul, when things suddenly and tragically change. Her neighborhood - and her home - is bombed by Germans. Her family perishes and Sarah lives. She makes the decision to go to England to live with her uncle and his family. She becomes involved in war work there, and slowly becomes involved in espionage, spurred on by her anger about what happened in Ireland.

I wanted to read Her Secret War because I love historical fiction and the 1940's is my favorite time period to read about. I was also intrigued by the Irish setting, as I knew very little about Ireland during World War II.

This is a beautifully told novel with a sympathetic protagonist. Sarah is such a relatable character, and it makes the position she later finds herself in particularly striking. She is going about her normal life and finds it changed beyond her control. This spurs her to take courageous and dangerous action.

This is a leisurely paced novel, but fascinating, as Sarah tries to figure who she can truly trust in England.

The author, Pam Lecky, has a real gift at description that sets the time and place with passages like:

"15th September 1941, Hursley Park 

It was Monday morning and Sarah’s first day at Supermarine. She surveyed the wood-panelled office with admiration. Much like the rest of the house she’d seen so far, it was beautifully decorated, contrasting sharply with the utilitarian office furniture. She would have loved to have caught a glimpse of the original antiques that must have been here before, but she assumed those items were stored somewhere safe until the war was over. The window afforded a view of the parkland, lush and green with a stand of oak trees in the distance. The grounds were extensive, Uncle Tom had told her, housing many different departments both in the outbuildings and in the huts hidden beneath the vast woodland canopy. Her aunt had mentioned that Lady Cooper, the widowed owner, was still in residence, occupying the upper floor of the mansion, and was often to be seen about the place" (eBook position 879).

Her Secret War was a wonderful read and I highly recommend it to fans of historical fiction, and especially for anyone interested in the World War II time period.

Book Synopsis

A heart-breaking choice

With nothing to keep her in Ireland and a burning desire to help the war effort, Sarah seeks refuge with relatives in England. But before long, her father’s dark past threatens to catch up with her.

A dangerous mission

Sarah is asked to prove her loyalty to Britain through a special mission. Her courage could save lives. But it could also come at the cost of her own…

A gripping story that explores a deadly tangle of love and espionage in war-torn Britain, perfect for fans of Pam Jenoff, Kate Quinn and Kate Furnivall.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Author Bio

Pam Lecky is an Irish historical fiction author, represented by the Hardman & Swainson Literary Agency. From an early age, Pam had a particular fascination with all things historical, from food and clothes to architecture and social history. Patiently awaiting the invention of time travel, she must be content with giving her novels a historical setting instead.

Find more about Pam on her website and Instagram.


Friday, January 14, 2022

Book Review - Much Ado about a Latte by Kathleen Fuller

My Review

Anita works in a little diner in the small town of Maple Falls, along with her childhood crush, Tanner Castillo.  When Tanner secretly buys the diner and Anita - also secretly - buys the building next door for a coffeehouse, their friendship and potential romance changes.

I wanted to read Much Ado About a Latte because it looked like such a cozy, relaxing winter read.  I also love small town settings.

This was indeed a very enjoyable, cozy read.  The author, Kathleen Fuller, did a wonderful job at capturing life in a small town.  I especially loved the atmosphere at the Sunshine Diner.

Anita is a very likable protagonist.  She struggled with learning disabilities growing up, and has been hesitant to strike out on her own with business as a result.  When she finally gets up the courage to make a big change, it also changes the dynamic with her longtime crush, Tanner.

Tanner is charming - a good guy who is likable, kind, and frankly dreamy!  Their match seems made to be - except for the rival businesses.

I enjoyed reading Much Ado About a Latte and recommend it for other readers, especially for anyone who enjoys small town settings and cozy romance.

Book Synopsis

A coffee war is brewing in Maple Falls, where Anita and Tanner are serving up plenty of steam to keep the town buzzing.

Anita Bedford needs to face reality. It’s time to decaffeinate the dream that she and Tanner will ever be more than friends. Growing up in small-town Maple Falls, she’s had a crush on Tanner for years. But he’ll only ever see her as good, old, dependable Anita. Now she’s finally ready to make her own goals a reality. In fact, that deserted building next door to Sunshine Diner looks like a promising location to open her own cafĂ©.

Tanner Castillo may know how to operate a diner, but he doesn’t know beans about love. After pouring his life savings into buying the Sunshine Diner, he needs to keep his mind on making a success of it and supporting his widowed mother, not on kissing Anita Bedford. First order of business: improve his customers’ coffee experience. Next, he should probably find out who bought the building next door.

It’s a bitter cup to swallow when ambition turns longtime friends and coworkers Anita and Tanner into rivals. Now that they own competing businesses, how could they ever compete for each other’s hearts? Or will the two of them come to see what’s obvious to the whole, quirky town of Maple Falls: potential for a full-roast romance, with an extra splash of dream?

Welcome to Maple Falls, where everyone knows your name and has thoughts on your love life.

Author Bio

With over a million copies sold, Kathleen Fuller is the USA TODAY bestselling author of several bestselling novels, including the Hearts of Middlefield novels, the Middlefield Family novels, the Amish of Birch Creek series, and the Amish Letters series as well as a middle-grade Amish series, the Mysteries of Middlefield. Visit her online at; Instagram: @kf_booksandhooks; Facebook: @WriterKathleenFuller; Twitter: @TheKatJam.

Book Review - How to Stitch an American Dream: A Story of Family, Faith and the Power of Giving by Jenny Doan

My Review

How to Stitch An American Dream is Jenny Doan's biography. Jenny went from starting a small quilting shop to owning a huge quilting fabric company.  This is the story of her business, her life, and her faith.

I wanted to read this book because I enjoy sewing and needlework. I have never tried quilting but it is something that I have always been curious about and interested in.

This book surprised me pleasantly because there is so much small business inspiration here as well. I have a small online business (vintage children's books and ephemera) and found this book positively inspiring!  I especially love that Jenny founded her business in her 50's.

As a person of faith, I enjoyed reading about the ways that her faith influenced her business decisions and provided daily inspiration with the Missouri Star Quilt Company.

The details of Jenny's life were also interesting, like the anecdote she tells about learning to sew an apron with her 4-H teacher ... and developing a lifelong love of sewing.

I enjoyed this read and recommend How to Stitch an American Dream for anyone interested in quilting, inspirational memoirs, or women in small business.

Book Synopsis

Faith, family, hard work, and second chances are at the core of every great American story, and Jenny Doan’s story is just that. 

In her new memoir, How to Stitch an American Dream, readers will discover the behind-the-scenes success story of the Missouri Star Quilt Company and Jenny’s remarkable journey to overcome hardship, claim the abundance of family, and ignite the power of giving—all while revitalizing a small town along the way.

Over the last decade, the Doan family business, the Missouri Star Quilt Company in tiny Hamilton, Missouri, has grown from Jenny’s corner shop–with one quilting machine and two bolts of fabric for sale in the back–to become the largest supplier of pre-cut quilting fabric in the headquarters of Jenny’s world-famous YouTube tutorial videos.

Jenny is now giving her fans, the business world, and moms of all ages (and grandmas too!) what they’ve been asking for: the full story of her journey, from her humble beginnings as a homeschooling mom, to founding MSQC in her fifties, through the remarkable success and inspiration she’s so well-known for today. In this book, you’ll learn:

  • How she and her beloved husband, Ron, raised seven children on a shoestring budget— and had fun doing it;
  • How, after a string of bad luck, the family made a prayer-based decision to leave California behind and start over again in rural Missouri, even though they had no place to live, no jobs lined up, and no idea how they were going to make it;
  • How Jenny, Ron and their children worked side-by-side to patch together a family home out of a crumbling shell of a farmhouse;
  • And how their faith, hard work, and generosity not only carried them through the hard times, but led directly to the success of the Missouri Star Quilt Company.

Author Bio

Jenny Doan is a wife, mom of seven, and the founder of the Missouri Star Quilt Company, which in ten years has transformed from a way for Jenny to keep busy in her empty nest to a $100 million company with 450 employees.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Remembering Abby (2009 - 2021)

Dear Friends,

I will begin exactly as Abby always did, with that greeting. She considered everyone her friend, so it was a fitting way for her to start.

I am sad to share the news that my very dear Abby passed away on December 31. She developed signs of bloat in the overnight hours. We rushed her to the emergency vet, and they were doing tests and a procedure to relieve bloating before starting surgery. During this process, her heart, her big sweet heart, gave out. The emergency vet and our longtime vet said her heart was weakened by her 18 month battle with Cushing's.

To say that I was shocked and that I am devastated and heartbroken is an understatement. Abby has been my constant, my companion, and my sweetest friend since 2010.  The house is very empty without her happy noises and barks and the sound of her toenails on the wood floors.

Abby was a Dachshund - Jack Russell mix, born sometime in 2009, by our best estimate. She came to live with me in 2010. My sweet girl Lucy had passed away after years of health struggles. A puppy mill dachshund, she dealt with back problems, IMHA, Cushing's and ITP over her lifetime. Her beloved brother, Barney Fife and I missed her so much.  I knew Barney needed a friend.

My friend Nancy posted a lovely obituary for Lucy at a website hosted by All Texas Dachshund Rescue, and I visited the site. By chance I saw a little face that I connected with. This was my first glimpse of Abby:

It was a long two months working out logistics of a long-distance rescue and transport across country for Abby. A wonderful man who did rescue transports to help dachshunds carried Abby, with other dachshunds, on an RV rescue transport.  When she got out of the RV on August 25, 2010, she snuggled immediately into my arms and I knew that I would always love her.

Abby and Barney had an instant connection and were the very best of friends and siblings.  I love this photo that shows the sheer joy of their first day together, walking outside.

There was a big dog bed in my study, and it was a place they loved to snuggle while they slept or watched me work.

Abby loved walks and loved meeting friends. She loved people, including children, dogs, cats, and even a bunny rabbit that she met on one occasion (a neighbor child's pet).

She liked to help! She followed me wherever I went. Here she is helping me change closets - by nestling under a folded top.

Her first Christmas, my friend gave me slippers that looked just like Abby - and she of course immediately appropriated them!

Christmases with Abby were sweet. She loved toys (mostly for snuggling, more than playing) and treats and - more than anything - company and attention.

She helped me watch TV and began blogging. For a while she helped recap Downton Abbey episodes.

In 2014, when my sweet boy Barney Fife passed at the age of 17, Abby was my greatest comfort. In this photo she is watching me work, snuggling on her dog bed with Barney's fuzzy dog toy just behind her.

Abby was patient about dressing up for birthdays or special occasions -- as long as the clothes came off pretty quickly!

This was the most fitting Halloween costume ever.

Abby with one of her favorite toys, a little orange witch dachshund.

Abby snuggling up and ready for a belly rub - always ready for love.

Abby was the very best girl. She was sweet, patient, loving, gentle.  She loved me from the moment we met and I felt exactly the same way. I will miss her always.


Trish, in honor of Abby, and with XOXO as she would wish