Friday, December 21, 2012

Reading Challenges 2013

Happy Saturday!
I have a side note from our regularly scheduled Christmas posts haha I wasn't planning on participating in any reading challenges again this year because well....they're A LOT of work. However, I had a few that really caught my eye and I just can't pass them up. So here we go, my list of reading challenges for 2013:




Auntie Spinelli is hosting the 2013 Sequel Challenge on her BLOG this year. It really convenient because you get to set your own goal for this one! I'm not exactly how many to do....I'm thinking I might set my goal at FIVE for right now, I can always add to it!

You can read the official rules and sign up HERE.

Isn't this one cool looking? Reminds me of all the museums I've been to lol :) I'm going to plan on doing the Victorian Reader level: 5 books. Once again, aiming low to make sure I make my quota! I don't get nearly as much reading time in college as I did before.

You can read all the guidelines and sign up HERE.


This button is GORGEOUS!!! Isn't it beautiful? I read Casey's list of her top 10 books read this year and I believe three were from debut authors so it pushed me to do this one :) Once again, you get to choose your goal for this one. The host has 59 books on her list :O Crazy, right!? I think I'm going to put down a simple 6, just to change things up ;) 

Read the official rules and sign up for this challenge HERE


I AM PSYCHED FOR THIS CHALLENGE!!!! I have to admit that this sounds absolutely terrific! There are so many books that are being made into movies right around now and many good ones that have recently been turned over. I'm choosing Movie Lover: 9 books and movies which will include:

~ The Hobbit
~ Anna Karenina
~ The Help
~ Eat, Pray, Love
~ The Perks of Being a Wallflower
~ Beautiful Creatures

And I'm not sure the rest yet, but I very well may go over my 9 quota! I hope some of you may join me on this one because we could have some fun comparing :)

Read the official rules and sign up HERE.


This one looks like something a few of you would love to participate in :) The first thing I thought of was Melanie Dickerson's newest book, The Fairest Beauty! This is the PERFECT excuse to read it ;D Lol I'm choosing the Lady in Waiting level: 4-6 books because I'm not aware of that many books like this. Will have to do my research.

Find out all the details and sign up HERE.

Okay, I think that is PLENTY to be trying to take on, at least for now :P Heading to update the Reading Challenge tab right after posting this, so you will be able to find all my updates in one concise spot there until this time next year :) 

Are any of you participating in any reading challenges this year? I'd love to know which ones!
Hannah

Monday, December 17, 2012

Celebrating Our Favorite Holiday Together + Second Giveaway!

Howdy folks!
Yes, it's that time again. Monday....booooo :( But if we spend it together, it'll be better I think! This Monday I'm taking my last final of the semester and I'll be blissfully headed into my Christmas vacation (well.....after Christmas is over it'll be blissful :P). How about you? What are you doing on this Monday?

On a Christmas-y note, we got snow yesterday!! Not a ton, but just enough to cover the ground (and my car haha) and make everything look a lil better.

Who's dreaming of a white Christmas this year?
Now on another Christmas-y note, we have a special guest! Kellie Coates Gilbert is a dear friend of mine that I met this year. She just so happens to be an author as well! Her debut book, Mother of Pearl, released this past September and I have to recommend this well written, riveting page-turner! If you stay tuned to the end, you'll even have a chance to win your very own copy :) I feel very lucky to have met her and say she is amongst my friends! Please say a warm welcome to Miss Kellie!

The Interview:
Hannah: Miss Kellie!! You're actually on my blog - woohoo!! I seriously hope this isn't the last time :) But we'll get right into it, hm? When does the Christmas season officially start in your household? What is the first thing done that marks the start (i.e. putting up Christmas tree, baking first gingerbread men, etc)?
Kellie: Christmas is my FAVORITE holiday, with Independence Day a close second.  Our family begins the weekend after Thanksgiving by putting up the tree and house decorations.  The Christmas carols play and the scented candles burn. I stock the refrigerator with eggnog and spiced cider, and we’re off and running!

H: Aha! I KNEW there must be another reason we get along so well - another Christmas nut :P In a Christmas fantasy land – who would be the famous figures, past and/or present, at your dinner table and why?
K: Oh, that one’s easy!  I’d have Joseph, Mary, the innkeeper, the shepherds and wise men….and of course, Jesus.  (I happen to believe He already sits at my Christmas table, but what a rush if my eyes could see His physical form stabbing a piece of prime rib with one of my mother’s silver forks in His nail scarred hand.  Whoo!  Just close your eyes and think on THAT one a minute!

H: I love how descriptive and enthusiastic you are, Miss Kellie. Your passion shines through :) Do you have specific traditions for Christmas Eve?
K: Our family traditions have morphed over the years.  Our two boys are raised now, but when they were little, Christmas eve was a busy evening ending with trying to get two excited little guys calmed down to go to sleep so Santa could come in the middle of the night and leave gifts.
Currently, we spend the afternoon with extended family and then go to Christmas Eve service with our boys and their families.  My husband and I return home and enjoy a few quiet moments in front of the tree before we head to bed.
This year, our little grandson is two.  He will add a whole new layer of enjoyment to our season.  His reaction to the tree lights was precious!

H: Oh wow :) You're so lucky to have all of them! Sounds festive. I can't imagine having a little one, but soon we'll have not one, but TWO! My cousin is expecting twins! The first great grandchildren ;) Exciting times! What did you ask Santa for this year? *wink*
K: I have two lists. One holds the wishes of my heart – the important things I hope for family and friends.  The more superficial list always holds the same item.  Gift cards to Barnes and Noble! (or Starbucks).  I think my husband may have purchased a Dyson vacuum though.  I accidently got a peek at the box in the garage….okay, maybe not so accidently.  Smiles.


H: Hahahahaha you crack me up!! I HATE to peek, never have liked it honestly. I'd rather just be surprised. For me, it's not about getting presents, it's about giving them that's importantHow does it feel to know you’re a published author that has eager “fans” awaiting a new book?
K: Blessed.  Very, very blessed.
I started on this journey to publication and learning to write novels almost seven years ago.  I let myself dream a little and conjure what it would be like if I got published, but the pictures in my head never equated to the reality of opening my email box to so many daily messages from readers telling me they loved MOTHER OF PEARL.  I get a little teary thinking about it.

H: I'm so happy for you, you deserve every bit of praise. It's truly a magnificent book! One of my friends is going to borrow my copy once life settles down a bit for her lol! She saw my review and said she was completely intrigued. What can expect from you next? Any Christmas themed books!?
K: Well, to answer part one of your question:  I can’t give details until the ink is dry on the contract, but a major CBA publisher has just picked me up for another four books, a collection of stand alone novels that will focus on women and what matters to our hearts.  To say I’m thrilled is an understatement.
About a Christmas themed book – I’d love too if the opportunity ever presents.

H: Eeeeek! That's SO exciting!! I had no idea, congratulations! You heard it here first, ladies and gentlemen. Kellie Coates Gilbert SIGNED for FOUR more books! Your heard me right.....FOUR MORE BOOKS to come from this fantastic author *said in my best broadcaster voice* ;) What have been some of the highlights of 2012 for you?
K: By far – no question – hands down, the highlight of 2012 will always be the release of my debut novel and how God answered the whispered prayers of my heart.
I am a former legal investigator and trial paralegal, and loved that work.  But, in the quiet recesses of my soul I longed to write stories that allow women to feel they are not alone in their journey. Especially when life gets messy.

H: Once again, congratulations, Miss Kellie. Of course it seems only fit that 2012 would mark the start of your (hopefully) long lasting writing career :) 
These are some “short answer” questions. You can answer them in as few words as possible – even simply one word.

Ha, you are asking a writer to shorten her words?  Good luck with that!

Favorite Christmas book read this year? Movie seen?

The last Christmas book I read was Julie Cannon’s I’ll Be Home For Christmas (Summerside Press).

My favorite movie this year was Hope Springs, starring Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. The story reflects the fiction I love to write  . . . and read.

Last Christmas song you heard?

Ha – I’m listening to Christmas music now.  I’m playing Vince Guaradi’s ACharlie Brown Christmas CD.

Favorite food to make or eat during the season?

Whenever I’m asked to bring food to a holiday party, I make my signature onion tart.  I bake phyllo dough on a cookie sheet while sautéing onions in butter and a bit of brown sugar, which I then spread on the baked crust and sprinkle with goat cheese and place under the broiler until the cheese softens.  Yum!

Favorite place to spend Christmas day?

Home.

How can readers connect with you?
My cyber home is www.kelliecoatesgilbert.com.  From there, readers can sign up for my Reader’s Club so they will get first news about upcoming releases and fun promotions.  Readers can purchase books from my website by using the Amazon, Barnes & Noble and CBD buttons.  There are also buttons that will take readers directly to my Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads accounts.  I blog regularly and there is a place to register for the RSS feeds as well.

Anything else you would like to say? J

One of the treasures for novelists is connecting with readers, and making new friends in the process. You are an example, Miss Hannah.  I love our Facebook chats!

Thank you for inviting me to appear on your blog.  I look forward to meeting your followers.

Miss Kellie!! Thank YOU SO much for agreeing to work with me on coming onto the blog :) This was such a fun interview, so glad we got to do it. And I learned more about you as well! 

About Kellie: A former legal investigator and trial paralegal, Kellie Coates Gilbert writes with a sympathetic, intimate knowledge of how people react under pressure.  Her stories are about messy lives, and eternal hope.

Kellie’s upcoming novel, MOTHER OF PEARL, Abingdon Press Sept 2012, tells the emotionally compelling story of a high school counselor who discovers her own teenage daughter had an inappropriate relationship with the football coach . . . and how she risks everything to bring him to justice. 

Giveaway Time!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please share with your friends and get the word out :) Good luck! Talk to you tomorrow,
Hannah

Friday, December 14, 2012

Friendship Through the Seasons + First Giveaway!

Hi all,
PHEW! Let me apologize for disappearing this week, definitely wasn't my intention at all. This was my (almost) final week of school! Final full week, I should say lol :) I finished two classes on Tuesday and two today (including my hardest class, yeehaw!!!)! Only one left next Monday and there's a lot to be done in between then haha. Anyway, I just wanted to apologize again for disappearing unplanned. Threw a little kink in our celebrating, huh!? But we're right back with it today!

Happy Friday!!

Today is Friday, December 14, there are only 11 days left for you all to get your shopping done, cookies baked, and pre-Christmas festivities done! Today, for your Friday enjoyment, I want to introduce someone that is very special to me. About 2 1/2 years ago, I met this wonderful lady on a Facebook page called the RA Chicks.  At 25 (26? I lost track!) years old, she has had Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis for the majority of her life. She suffers fights fiercely her scary health problems like a champion. Now Mallory's health problems do not define her - she doesn't let them. She's made a career for herself out of her love of photography. She is a fabulous photographer (as you'll see in just a short while)!! Just in the short time I've known her, she's overcome so much. I am incredibly happy to say that I know her and SO proud of everything she's done :) She's definitely one of my role models. Please welcome my good friend, Mallory!

Hannah: Mal :D I am so glad we finally got to do this! Actually I'm thankful you had the time to fit me into your busy schedule this holiday season! Now, right onto the interview. When does the Christmas season officially start in your household? What is the first thing done that marks the start (i.e. putting up Christmas tree, baking first gingerbread men, etc)?
 Mallory: The day after Thanksgiving officially marks the Christmas season for us.  Usually that Friday, I decorate the house and by the weekend, our tree is up.  We have a tradition of watching Christmas movies, while the tree goes up; starting with Christmas Vacation is a must though!


H: Ahaha! I remember you telling me that before, I'm not sure honestly if I've ever seen the entire movie Christmas Vacation :O In a Christmas fantasy land – who would be the famous figures, past and/or present, at your dinner table and why?
 M: Oh goodness, this is a hard, but fun, question!  I’d have to say, J.K. Rowling, because she created my most favorite book series of all time, and I’d love to sit and talk with her about how she came up with such an incredible story.

H: What did you ask Santa for this year? *wink*
M: I’m saving up for a second camera body and a specific lens, that I really need to progress in my work.  So, I’ve asked Santa for those, or some help in getting them! J

H: Oh good! I can imagine how exciting that would be to receive that gift :) What have been some highlights of 2012 for you?
M: My business took off really well this year, I had way more bookings than last year, and I already have a bunch of Weddings booked for next year.  I started Wedding photography this year, which is something I originally hadn’t planned on getting into.  I’m so glad I said yes to that first couple (and many more after), because I really had a blast at the Weddings I photographed.  Each and every session I’ve had, I’ve grown in my photography, so the clients who had faith in me capturing their memories, it helped me gain confidence that what I’m doing, and further confirmed this is what I absolute love to do. 

H: Oh you photograph some beautiful brides. Well they're all beautiful, but you know what I mean! Haha everything looks so good through your lenses. What has been a couple of your favorite shoots so far?
M: Oh you had to ask that, ha-ha, I seriously love them all! But, I’d have to say the Wedding I did in October that took place in a converted barn is one.  Their style and personalities were so like mine, that I just had such a blast not only with the couple, but capturing all the little details of the day. 
I’d also have to say, the free session I volunteered for, for this organization known as Inspiration Through Art.  I offered my time and talent to a little boy with Down syndrome, and his family.  I just love helping others when I can, so when I was able to use my talents to help someone, I was thrilled.

H: Of course I had to ask that :P Oh I loved that one too! He was just adorable. Does not having a studio make it more difficult or more fun/creative for you?
M: Honestly, it’s both.  It’s more difficult, because weather can play a huge role in having to reschedule sessions, and the winter is my slow season.  Just now, an engaged couple and I have had to reschedule three times due to bad weather.  If I had a studio, I wouldn’t have to worry about rescheduling, and I could be busier in the winter.
On the other hand, I adore natural light and natural backdrops.  The earth is such a beautiful place, and we have so many different types of areas to do any type of session.  It really gets my creative juices flowing when I see a potential new location. 

H: Very true, on both sides. I think you do fantastic without one, but like you said, that's very discouraging to have to keep rescheduling. I think it shows how much you love shooting in the outside through your pictures though. What advice do you have to entrepreneurs looking to start their own business?
M: Never give up.  Seriously.  Everyone has down times, where business is just really slow, it happens even to the most successful.  I would get sad and just hoped for more bookings, but I never put my camera away.  Every day, I went out photographing something, whether it was nature or my cats, or stuff around my house, I always made sure I photographed something, so I’d still be learning and growing.  I started baking a lot more, and then photographing my food using different types of lighting.  I learned a TON about lighting, just by working with it.  I did so well, I gained a fan base on Facebook of people who ask for more of my “food-tography” all the time.  No matter if its photography, cooking, painting, sewing, whatever your business entails, never, ever give up if it’s truly what you love to do.

These are some “short answer” questions. You can answer them in as few words as possible – even simply one word.

Favorite Christmas book read this year? Movie seen?
The Nutcracker and Christmas Vacation (for the 20th time, haha)

Last Christmas song you heard?
I recently heard “Shake up Christmas” by Train for the first time, LOVE it.

Favorite food to make or eat during the season?
 Oh boy, I love to bake and I especially love to make and eat Pumpkin and Apple Pie.  However, I think my favorite is the week after Christmas my best friend and I get together for a Bake-a-thon and always bake some really fun cupcakes! 

Favorite place to spend Christmas day?
Doesn’t matter where, as long as my loved ones are with me, it’s always an awesome time.

How can interested clients or people interested in following your work connect with you?
Please visit my website: www.photographybymallory.com
Or come by and visit Facebook page, and give it a Like, I enjoy meeting and interacting with new fans: https://www.facebook.com/malloryphotography

Anything else you would like to say? J
 Thank you, Hannah for allowing me to come on the blog!  I had a blast, and look forward to seeing the other interviews you have on this blog. J

Oh this was so fun, Mal!! THANK YOU, again for agreeing to do it! I'm hoping that you get some new "fans" out of this :) She just made it over the 2,000 mark, but she'd love to continue to meet people and spread the word about her business.


Giveaway:

In honor of the busy life Mallory (and I!) lead, I'm giving away a cute snowman notepad with pen (similar to the one shown)! 



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now, I'm trying Rafflecopter for the first time, so bear with me. I think it should work just fine, but let me know if you run into any problems!

Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful Friday! Next week we'll be having more interviews, more giveaways, and more fun! See you soon,
Hannah

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tune into Thursday's Tantalizing Tunes! :D

Welcome to Thursday! Your week is almost over and you can almost relax (haha!) on your weekend....YAY! As we're winding down our week, we need to begin relaxing, don't you think? By Thursday night, you're exhausted and really don't feel like reading through all of your friend's blogs, right?? Well, I'll try to keep talking to a minimum and let the music do all the talking : )

Today we're looking at some really cool Christmas songs done creatively! One of my absolute favorites is the Christmas Food Court Flash Mob where the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah is sung so grandiosely! It gives me chills to think that a group of strangers, all ages/ethnicities/gender, can come together and sing such a song as this with such a majestic statement. It seriously gives me chills.

A little background on the Messiah: According to the Smithsonian, the Messiah was originally meant to be an Easter offering, first performed on April 13, 1742 in Dublin. An interesting fact about that performance is that over 700 people were literally 'crammed' into that one space. Women were even requested to wear dresses "without hoops" so that they could fit more people! Though Frederic Handel was quite the superstar at the time, many of the crowds came to hear the lead soprano because she was going through quite the scandalous divorce at the time.

So why isn't it sung at Easter anymore? If you closely observe the libretto (text of the music), you will notice that the very first part of the Messiah is indeed about the birth of Jesus. However, we know it is meant for the season of Lent and Easter ultimately because the second and third parts are about the death and resurrection. It is unclear why this mega-song is actually sung at Christmas, but most likely it is due to the beginning of the song.

I also found it interesting that every lyric in the Messiah is strictly from the Bible. Isn't that spectacular!? Even the parts that could have been taken from the New Testament, were focused on prophetic verses in the Old Testament instead. An example is that it does not read, "And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him swaddling clothes" (Luke 2:7). Instead it celebrates, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given" (Isaiah 9:6). Anyway, I found this really interesting to research and thought you all might appreciate it as well. Now here's the video : )



Christmas Food Court Flash Mob

In a completely different direction, did any of you ever watch The Sing Off? It was a singing show (yesss another one lol), but it was different because it consisted of only acapella groups. Cool, right!? Well one season Pentatonix was the winning group. I'm not sure how many of you know, but....I'm kinda addicted to acapella groups. I absolutely love them!! So of course I'm going to share Pentatonix's version of Carol of the Bell :) Enjoy!



Pentatonix's Carol of the Bells

Okay, I promise I'll only show one more today! I haven't officially introduced you to two of my absolute favorite guys on the planet: The Piano Guys. These two are incredible. Simply put, they are. This song isn't exactly Christmas, but I still kind of think the message is very appropriate for the season. Yes, it is the song from the Titanic lol, but these two play is so elegantly, it's one of my all-time favorites of theirs. I sincerely hope I get you hooked on the Piano Guys after you hear their rendition of Nearer My God to Thee.



The Piano Guys - Nearer My God to Thee

Well there you have it! I hope you have a wonderful, music filled Thursday : ) See you tomorrow!!
Hannah

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Crafty Day of Blogging!

Good day to you, my lovely blogging friends,
Today is December 4, only 21 more days until Christmas.....crazy right?? Does it seem like this year went very quickly for you? Looking back on this year, it doesn't seem possible that we're back to the holidays. A year ago I was writing to you from my bedroom at Colby-Sawyer, this year things are very very different. Should seem normal, but I can't help but feel like I shouldn't be home already. Anyway, I feel fortunate that I'm able to enjoy all of our Christmas decorations more again this year :)

Our mantle and stockings!
Tell me, what are you plans for today? Me, not so much that's special actually, but that's okay. I'm hoping to spend some time between classes to rehearse for my very first sing-out (concert) on Wednesday night (more on that later haha)!

This part of December is typically spent decorating. What do you decorate first in your household? We tend to decorate the tree first, not sure why lol I guess it feels like the centerpiece. This year is very different in the Cerasoli house because Alicia is away at school until December 14. So unlike any year before this, I was in charge of putting every ornament on the tree. It was a little sad and took me a lot longer than normal! Lol but that's how it went this year. We also did the tree last! Whaaaaa? ;) But anyway, the tree is up, mantel is decorated, village aglow, nativity scene stands majestically, the Santa and nutcracker collections stand watch over the house, it feels like Christmas.

What does Christmas feel like in your house?

This past Sunday, I felt a little crafty after work! Hahaha :) Let me start off by saying that I looooooove mason jars. I just think they are very relaxed, but can be dressed up and there are endless possibilities of mason jar crafts. Don't believe me? Google them! Anyway, I saw a craft for what looked like a possible centerpiece for Christmas, I was thinking.

What it's supposed to look like #1
Or what it's also supposed to look like #2



What you need:
- mason jar
- pine branches
- cranberries
- water
- floating candle

1) Make sure that your candle fits in the top of the mason jar!!! Very important!!
2) Cut branches in appropriate lengths that are visually appealing.
3) Add water, enough to cover the branches and as high as you want. For example, you may want the candle so the flame does not go above the jar (you need a bigger jar) or more water so the candle floats at the top of the jar.
4) Add cranberries. These can be fresh, frozen, fake, anything really.
5) Carefully set candle on top of the cranberries so it floats.
6) Voila! You now have a simple, yet beautiful festive candle!

What mine looked like....

None of the examples I found used pine, which is fine, but it's so Christmas-y lol. Feel free to use anything green! It took me like five minutes total actually. Super simple and I highly recommend it. I was thinking to use this as a centerpiece I would either get a bigger bowl type base and put multiple candles or I would do like three different sized mason jars together. Thoughts?

Song of the Day:
You're probably going to think this is really cheesy, but I happen to think these girls sing the song much better than Justin Bieber lol!! I'd like to introduce you all to Cimorelli! This up and coming girls group is actually six sisters: Christina, Katherine, Lisa, Amy, Lauren, and Dani (oldest to youngest in order). They also have five brothers, all fully biological to one another! Awesome, right?? Their mom studied music in college and thus taught all of them from a young age. Every child in their family plays multiple instruments, has been classically trained as well. Anyway, cut to the chase, this is a fun, upbeat take on a Justin Bieber original, that I feel has been made tremendously better by these girls! Enjoy!



Link to Mistletoe cover by Cimorelli

So what do you think of them? Have I made any new fans here? Lol! Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this one as well.

That's all I've got for ya today! Tune in tomorrow for more festivities and maybe a giveaway too ;)
Happy Tuesday!
Hannah

Monday, December 3, 2012

Ushering in December with a Special Guest!

Welcome, welcome, everyone to my third annual Christmas Blogfest here at Project Journal! Yaaaaaay :) I am SO excited to reveal what I have up my sleeve for all my friends, both the old and new ones I hope to make!

It's officially December! I presume all of your holiday festivities, decorating, and  caroling are well under way? Mine definitely are! I've also been hard at work trying to bring some new and exciting things to the celebration this year. We have all new guests, exciting, right??

Today, to help us kick off this fun blogfest, is Cheryl St. John! Cheryl St.John is the author of over forty Harlequin and Silhouette books. Her first book, RAIN SHADOW was nominated for RWA’s RITA for Best First Book, by Romantic Times for Best Western Historical, and by Affaire de Coeur readers as Best American Historical Romance. Since then she's received several RITA nominations and three Romantic Times Achievement Awards. In describing her stories of second chances and redemption, readers and reviewers use words like, “emotional punch, hometown feel, core values, believable characters and real life situations. (Courtesy of www.cherylstjohn.net)

Onto the interview!

Me: Cheryl, it's wonderful to have you on the blog! Admittedly I gave you rather short notice, so thank you so much for slipping me into your busy schedule. When does the Christmas season officially start in your household? What is the first thing done that marks the start (i.e. putting up Christmas tree, baking first gingerbread men, etc)?

Cheryl: The first thing I do as December nears is get together with a committee at church to select families for whom we will purchase Christmas gifts. My friend and I then make gift tags listing the names of each person and their ages, sizes, etc.. On the weekend before Thanksgiving I decorate a tree in the sanctuary and we hang the tags on it.  Our generous members then take tags and buy gifts and return them with the tag on the package. Each year on the Sunday before Christmas we bless and deliver to families who wouldn’t otherwise have gifts.

Me: WOW! Definitely impressed right now. My aunt runs the "Community Baskets" through school (she works in an elementary school) and our church, but yours sounds different haha. Incredible, thank you so much for all that you do. So many appreciate what you are doing. In a Christmas fantasy land – who would be the famous figures, past and/or present, at your dinner table and why?

Cheryl: Well, this question took much thought. I finally came up with famous figures I’d like to eat a meal with. Both are still alive, and maybe after they read this, they’ll probably get in touch with me, you think?

LaVyrle Spencer, because, even though I always wanted to write and dabbled at it here and there, her books inspired me to get serious and go for it. She wrote some of my favorite books of all time. Rye Dalton from Twice Loved remains my ultimate hero.

The awe-some Stephen King
Stephen King, because, well, he’s Stephen King. I’m in awe of his brilliant ability to create characters and scenarios that engage readers on an astonishing level. Before I read romance, I read western and horror, and he was my go-to author. When my kids were young we had a pool, and every summer I read The Stand while lying on the deck. I enjoyed both mini-series versions too. I love his book On Writing, and I’d love to pick his brain. 

Me: I can't say I've read anything by LaVyrle, but I love Stephen King!! I am completely with you on being in awe of him honestly. Do you have specific traditions for Christmas Eve?

Cheryl: For many years when my kids were small we gathered at my parents’ home, ate chili and potato soup and exchanged gifts. I remember those times fondly. With all of our children grown and following their own traditions, we most usually gather at one of their homes for the traditional chili. The soup has evolved to potato cheese. We attend a late Christmas Eve candlelight service at church, where we give thanks to God for the true meaning of the season, and enjoy gathering with our church family.

Me: That sounds wonderful, Cher :) I love hearing everybody's different traditions. They're always unique and they're always their own, which I love getting to experience a bit. You have two books coming out in the next two months! Can you introduce us to those story lines?

Stowaway Angel
Harlequin Special Releases
December 1, 2013

Charlie McGraw never should have bought the angel book for his precocious daughter. Because then Meredith wouldn't be convinced that getting a new mommy was as simple as having an "angel" sprinkle him with her "miracle dust." And she never would have believed the beautiful blond-haired woman who drove a truck called the "Silver Angel" was some treetop angel come to life.

Starla Richards was no angel. But try telling that to a five-year-old who was so starved for a mother's love that she'd stowed away on Starla's rig. Or convincing herself that miracles just didn't happen to ordinary people when Starla found herself snowbound with a handsome, caring widower and his adorable daughter….

Revised for the Heartwarming line from a previous SIM edition, Charlie's Angels

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Colorado Courtship
Love Inspired Historical 2-in-1
January 1, 2013

If Violet Kristofferson had known that her new employer was the town undertaker, she might never have come to Carson Springs as his cook. Yet she needs a fresh start away from scandal. And Ben Charles’s unflinching faith could be her path to something truly precious—a new family.

Me: Thank you so much for sharing all that! Do you have a favorite character you’ve written so far?

Cheryl: I have a few that are difficult to choose between.
Joshua McBride in Saint or Sinner, which will be an indie release soon. (More about that later.)
Annie Sweetwater in Sweet Annie.
Mariah Spangler and Wes Burrows in Her Colorado Man.
Meredith Abbott in A Magical Gift at Christmas/Snowflakes and Stetsons anthology.
It’s almost impossible to single out even a few, because if I didn’t love the characters I wouldn’t be able to feel the story to write it.

Me: Spoken like a true author, I'm sure. How could you only have one? Why do you enjoy writing Christmas/holiday/winter themed books?

Cheryl: One thing about writing a novella is that I enjoy the short format. Many times I come up with an idea, but it’s not big enough to carry a full novel, so I put it in my idea binder. When I need a novella, I pull out those ideas and have fun with them.

And Christmas is a feel-good time of year almost everyone can relate to. Emotional connections happen at the mention of a Christmas tree, a stocking hung by the fireplace, or making a loved one a gift. As a writer I can tap into those built-in feelings and take the reader on a journey.

Me: Honestly....I'd never thought of either of those before. Great points! And so neat that you have a binder of ideas just waiting to be written up :) What can your readers expect from you in the coming months?

Cheryl: Besides my December and January books, Stowaway Angel and Colorado Courtship, I am getting ready to release my early books, revised and ready for the digital market. I’m so excited about reaching new readers and for faithful fans to find these favorite books for their ereaders. I have three ready to go in a few weeks.

Land of Dreams
Saint or Sinner
Heaven Can Wait

These are some “short answer” questions. You can answer them in as few words as possible – even simply one word.

Favorite movie seen this year?

That would be One for the Money.  I love Janet Evanovich and got a kick out of seeing Hollywood’s take on Stephanie Plum.

Last Christmas song you heard?

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.
Believe it or not I’ve been listening to it so I can sing and record it for my blog.

Favorite food to make or eat during the season?

(I’ve been wishing I had a big bowl of puppy chow.)
My favorite food of the season is creamed turkey on mashed potatoes, served with cranberry sauce. My kids and grandkids enjoy turkey, but they’d rather save most of it for the leftovers. It’s a family favorite.

Favorite place to spend Christmas day?

With my family. I love when we gather and just hang out. Sometimes we play games and do a lot of laughing. As the family grows and the kids are older, it’s more and more challenging to get everyone together, so those days are even more special.

Me: How can readers connect with you?

Cheryl: Admittedly I’m blog crazy. I have a personal blog, From the Heart: http://cherylstjohn.blogspot.com/, a recipe blog, and a blog that follows a home remodel. I guest blog whenever and wherever I’m asked, and I’m a Founding Filly at Petticoats and Pistols: . http://petticoatsandpistols.com/ Readers can email me at SaintJohn@aol.com or visit me on the web: http://www.cherylstjohn.net/
I’m also a Pinterest Junkie. You can follow my boards on everything from jewelry crafts to vintage collections, like teapots and teacups: http://pinterest.com/cheryl_stjohn/

Thank you for the opportunity to blog with you, Hannah.
 Merry Christmas!

Thank YOU so much for joining us today, Cheryl! You're such an interesting woman, I loved seeing your pictures :) I hope everyone connects with Cheryl and picks up one of her many books coming out soon. Keep an eye out for them!

Song of the Day:
Now let me introduce a couple of YouTube singers that I stumbled upon: Callie and Colette! I believe they're sisters, if I remember correctly, and their harmonies blend beautifully. It's a different sound for these two classic tunes, but I like it. Perfect for sitting by your Christmas tree and relaxing :) Let me know what you think of them!



God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen Link

That's all I've got for ya today, but tune in tomorrow for more : ) In the meantime, what have you been doing to get ready for the holiday?
Hannah

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Big things ahead!!


Helloooooo my wonderful friends!

First of all.....


I didn't have a chance to post that before Thanksgiving, but I just want you all to know that I am so thankful for what blogging has brought me. It's allowed me to find my voice a bit more, step into the world of book reviews :) and most importantly brought all of YOU into my life!! Thank you so much for sticking with me and joining me over the years.

And now, the exciting news I am SO excited to share with you all is.....
IT'S THAT TIME AGAIN!!!!!!!!

Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! So excited :)
This year you have some very fun things to look forward to, my friends. I've got some cute craft ideas to share, yummy recipes for you to try, and songs to sing along with! As always, there will be some featured guests stopping by which include: The Sentinels, Mallory of Mallory's Photography, Laura Frantz, and more! 

Anyone excited with me yet!?!?!?

Okay, I will leave you for now, but please, please share my button on your blog to help me spread the word about my big blogfest, will you? The more, the merrier! You better believe there will be giveaways too!!
See you soon!
Hannah

Saturday, November 3, 2012

I feel like I'm going to burst. I just feel like there's so much in my head and nothing to do with it. For some reason tonight the universe feels huge and it feels like the forces of nature are all against me. Pinning me down with nowhere to go. Why does there have to be so much hate everywhere? I just feel like....well I actually don't know anymore. Not a good night.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mother of Pearl by Kellie Coates Gilbert

Hi again!
This is a week full of book reviews, lucky for you! Lol : ) I think it's important to write books to help not only the authors but fellow readers as well. The good, the bad, the inspirational....what brings tears, laughter, and leaves you grinning as you put down the book. What makes a good book? Why, so many things! I bring you another book today that I thoroughly enjoyed and it brings me great, great pleasure to get to review this book for my dear friend, Kellie Coates Gilbert.

About the book: Barrie Graeber has two great kids, a loving husband, and a respected job as a high school counselor in her close-knit community. Without warning, everything unravels when her teenage daughter, Pearl, is betrayed by friends and lashes out.

Nothing prepares this mother for the helplessness that follows when her attempts to steer her daughter back on course fail and Pearl shuts her out . . . or when she discovers the unthinkable about her nemesis, the football coach.

Emotionally riveting and profoundly moving, MOTHER OF PEARL brings us into the heart of a mother bound by an incredible burden, who ultimately finds she must recognize her own vulnerability and learn to trust in something much bigger.

And in Kellie's words...


Review:  How to put into words the emotions this heartfelt tale evokes, I don't know....but I'm certainly going to try. Barrie has it all going for her....married to the man of her dreams, stable job counseling high school students, supportive friends, and two wonderful children. Her oldest, Pearl, stole part of her heart when she was born that would never be returned to Barrie. The deep bond between a mother and daughter is imminent from page one of Mother of Pearl. Slowly Barrie's seemingly perfect world begins to unravel, leaving her to somehow pick up the pieces.

Barrie's character is stupid, hard-headed, and self-involved, but she is also caring, courageous, and confident in her daughter. The bond her and Pearl share is tremendously strong, nothing could ever break it. However, hope begins to slip away as well as faith and trust in Pearl. After a life changing event, that literally made me gasp, Barrie has no choice but to foster faith in her daughter. She repeatedly risks everything she has just to serve justice to Pearl.

I was nervous upon hearing more about the main points of the book because though I'm a daughter, I'm not a mother. My mom and I have a fairly good relationship, but it's nothing to the extent of this mother-daughter duo. So I worried that I would not have the emotional ties to fully connect with what Miss Kellie was trying to convey to her reader, but boy was I wrong! I admit there were parts in the beginning (the first 50 pages or so probably) where I struggled a bit. However, as soon as Barrie was forced to justify, grieve, and feel the strain of loss.....there was an instant connection. Anyone who has felt loss will understand the feelings within the book. This book had me weeping for Barrie, yet I was so proud of her by the final page. God gave Kellie Coates Gilbert a wonderful gift that the rest of us just so happen to get to enjoy as well! FANTASTIC job!! I look forward to reviewing many, many more books of yours to come!

~ This book was furnished to me by Glass Road Publications for my honest opinion. ~


Meet Kellie: Kellie Coates Gilbert is a former legal investigator and trial paralegal who writes with a sympathetic, intimate knowledge of how people react under pressure. Kellie's books tell emotionally poignant stories about women in life-changing circumstances. She writes about messy lives . . . and eternal hope. 

Kellie currently makes her home in Dallas, Texas with her husband and a very spoiled 2.7 lb. Yorkie named Ava. 

And in Kellie's words...
I barely remember a time when I didn’t have a book in my hand. My tiny hometown of Carey, Idaho had no library, no bookstore. The bi-weekly bookmobile provided the only avenue to books . . . that, and my Gram, who spent a lot of her Social Security checks on books for her granddaughter with an insatiable appetite for stories.
 I grew up on a sheep ranch in southern Idaho, a business my family had been in for generations, never dreaming I’d ever see my own name on a novel. I left home to attend Boise State University and spent most of my adult years pursuing a sensible legal career, raising two boys, and learning to be happily married.
But God heard the quiet prayers of a woman who dared to dream big and ask her Lord for the outrageous. In early 2011, I signed my first book contract. Today, I am living my fantasy. I live in Dallas with my husband. I work from home, writing novels. Often by the pool.
Can life get any better?
Check out Kellie at....
Her Website
Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Goodreads

I'm extremely excited to announce that Miss Kellie will be joining us for the 3rd Annual Christmas Blogfest!!! So if this book sounds good to you, there will probably be a giveaway *hint, hint* ; ) I just know that you all will love her just as much as I do! We have two more book reviews coming your way this week probably. Until then,
Xoxo ~ Hannah