Thursday, March 27, 2014

Amy Reviews Alchemy by Sheena Boekweg, Melanie Crouse, and Sabrina West

Alchemy (Prophecy Breakers)
Authors:  Sheena Boekweg, Melanie Crouse, Sabrina West

Genre: YA Fiction
Content: Some violence and language
Publisher: Boekweg Books
Release date:  2013
Number of Pages:  471
Book Blurb:

We didn't know how much we had to lose until we were infected with magic. Sam was in love, Juliette was the main caretaker for her siblings, and Ana and her dad planned the best parties in New York. But we lost it all when we were shipped to Chebeague, an exclusive school for newly infected mages.

Everyone knows about the mages, those who survive the infection and end up with magical abilities. We've seen the power of magic, the high-paying jobs, and the world fame. But we never saw the cost. We didn't know we'd be forced to give up everything: sanity, family, even the right to talk on the phone.

We didn't know mage was just another word for prisoner.
Show moreShow lessShow moreShow less
My Opinion:
This book was fun to read.  It is written from 3 different perspectives, each author wrote for a character.  I was confused at the beginning of the book (because I don't read the chapter headings - therefore didn't realize it was switching character view points), but quickly figured out the characters.  I really enjoyed the characters personalities and the creative things the authors came up with, it made the story seem real.  It has everything from adventure, romance, magic, friendship and betrayal.  I was late picking my kids up from school several times because I just wanted to read one more chapter!

Rating: ****

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bonnie's Pumpkin Pie Muffins

Pumpkin Pie Muffins (gluten free, sugar free)

This makes a LARGE double batch--2-2 1/2 dozen. Cut in half for a one-dozen batch and load muffin cups to the top.

1 large can pumpkin
1 cup applesauce
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup coconut flour
1 cup corn meal (may sub with rice flour)
1 pkg golden raisins (may sub chocolate chips, chopped nuts, or butterscotch chips)
pumpkin pie spice to taste
1 cup honey
1 cup fat free yogurt

For high altitude: add 1/4 cup rice flour and 1 TBSP baking powder

Mix well. Spoon into muffin cups. Bake at 375 degrees for 22 minutes. The dough is very soft. Depending on how hot your oven cooks, you may opt to cut the temperature to 350 and cook 27 minutes. Bake them up on a weekend and enjoy them all week long! Be sure to refrigerate them.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Wendy's Review of Longing for Home by Sarah Eden

Longing for Home by Sarah M. Eden

Genre: Romance- Historical Fiction
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Release date: 2013
# of pages: 383
content: clean

book blurb:

Though she was only a child during the darkest days of Ireland’s Great Famine, Katie Macauley feels responsible for the loss of her family’s land and the death of her sister. Now a woman grown, Katie has left Ireland for America and the promise of earning money enough to return home again and plead for her family’s forgiveness. She arrives in Hope Springs, Wyoming Territory, a town sharply divided between the Americans who have settled there, with their deep hatred of the Irish, and the Irish immigrants who have come searching for a place to call home. Her arrival tips the precarious balance, and the feud erupts anew. Even in the midst of hatred and violence, however, Katie finds reason to hope. Two men, as different as they are intriguing, vie for her heart, turning her thoughts for the first time toward a future away from Ireland. Katie must now make the hardest decision of her life: stay and give her heart a chance at love, or return home and give her soul the possibility of peace.

What I liked about this book:

This book was a fun read.  What is not to like about a dynamic female lead, Kate, who has a difficult past but now has a new start and is being pursued by two intriguing men. I enjoyed the Irish flavor of the novel, the culture and history.   I know that throughout history there has been significant racism against the Irish such as you see appears in this book.  I have a hard time understanding why people can’t get along even when they don’t agree or approve of each other when it would end up being beneficial to all.  Such adversity brings out the worst and the best in people.  The humor and playful banter between Kate and Tavish, the too-handsome-to-be-true Irishman, and his family, kept the book light and enjoyable.  Definitely a great read. I await the sequel that is coming out soon! 

Rating:    ****

Where to purchase:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Bonnie's Yummy Pineapple Muffins

Bonnie's Pineapple Muffins

These Super Healthy muffins are deceivingly yummy!
1large can pineapple
1 egg
1 cup applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup honey
1 cup cornmeal (I used white cornmeal)
1 cup rice flour
spices to taste Ginger (1/2 tsp), Allspice (1 tsp), Nutmeg (1 tsp).
Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.
Optional additions:
1-2 cups golden raisins
1-2 cups craisins
1 cup chopped nuts
May substitute wheat flour for cornmeal.

High Altitude:
Add 1/4 cup flour any kind
1 TBSP baking powder

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mary Ann Reviews Janitors by Tyler Whitesides

Janitors by Tyler Whitesides

Book 1 in the Janitors series
Genre: Middle Grade
Content: mild language, moderate violence throughout. The end seems a little rough for a middle grade, but nothing worse than Harry Potter which my grade-school grand kids have read.
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Pages: paperback edition is 288 pages

Book blurb: Have you ever fallen asleep during math class? Are you easily distracted while listening to your English teacher? Do you find yourself completely uninterested in geography? Well, it may not be your fault. The janitors at Welcher Elementary know a secret, and it s draining all the smarts out of the kids. Twelve-year-old Spencer Zumbro, with the help of his classmate Daisy Gullible Gates, must fight with and against a secret, janitorial society that wields wizard-like powers. Who can Spencer and Daisy trust and how will they protect their school and possibly the world? Janitors is book 1 in a new children s fantasy series by debut novelist Tyler Whitesides. You'll never look at a mop the same way again.

What I liked about this book: The Action is non-stop from the beginning and builds to a crescendo. It's a wild ride. I totally get why kids love to read this. It is imaginative and crazy fun.

Spencer and Daisy both learn some valuable lessons. I think the part I like best is the reading guide at the end. The author asks thought-provoking questions designed to get the kids to think about what they would've done, how would they have handled the situation, and were Spencer's choices good ones or not-so-good ones?

My Rating: ****

Where to buy:

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Amy's review of The Hungry Family Slow Cooker Cookbook by Christina Dymock

The Hungry Family Slow Cooker Cookbook
by Christina Dymock

Book blurb:
It's every busy mother's dream-come-true: dinner that makes itself! With the help of your trusty slow cooker and these healthy, easy recipes, like Peppery Cilantro Salmon, Sausage Stew, and Dark Chocolate Mini Cakes, you can put dinner on the table even on the craziest of days. Don't let the whirlwind of life stop you from feeding your family the food they deserve -- delicious, home-cooked meals straight from your slow cooker.
I like the layout of this book.  It has beautiful pictures and it's easy to find what you are looking for.  I like the beginning of the book. The author gives some tips and advice when using slow cookers.  I am not a beginner when it comes to slow cookers, but I learned some new things and found it useful.  With five kids I am finding that slow cooker dinners are a huge stress reliever.  I can make the dinners early in the day so I am free to handle homework and chaos in the afternoon.  I tried two of the recipes and plan to try several more!

Rice & Beans, Beans & Rice

This makes quite a bit and smells really good as it cooks.  You could cut the cooking time in half if you're in a hurry, the rice cooks pretty quickly.  I used regular rice instead of brown rice and it became a little too sticky.  If I make it again I would definitely follow the recipe and go with the brown rice!  Everyone enjoyed eating it!

Fiesta Chicken Stacks

I REALLY liked this recipe!  It was so yummy.  My only regret was that I didn't double the batch so I could have eaten more!  It's almost like chicken enchiladas, but layered in a crock pot so it's ready when you are.  For a meatless option, substitute canned beans for the chicken. 

Excited  to try:
 Whatever Veggie Pasta
Stuffed Peppers

There is also a great dessert section!

Christina Dymock graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor's degree in public relations. She has been published in Woman's World magazine and in several Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She is the author of 101 Things to Do with Popcorn and Young Chefs: Cooking Skills & Recipes for Kids. She resides in Central Utah with her husband and four children.

You can follow their cooking adventures at

You can find this cookbook at Amazon,  
Sam's club, Costco, Deseret Book,  and Seagull Book.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Slow cooker Chicken and Black Bean burritos

Pull out your crockpot. I use slow cooker liners for quick and easy cleanup later (so worth it).
Place 1 chicken breast on the bottom (it can be frozen, which saves even more time).
Cover with one can of corn, do not drain; one can black beans, drain and rinse; and one 8 oz jar of salsa, any variety. Cook on low for 6-8 hours and the chicken falls apart. It's great to serve like a burrito in soft, flour tortillas. Add a dollop of sour cream and a handful of shredded cheese before you roll it up. Remember, with meat, even chicken, less is more. One chicken breast falls apart into small shreds and can easily feed a family of four. You can always add more if your meat-lover insists. With dinner done, you can spend more time on your book. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Penni's Review of Hidden Magic by Melanie Crouse

Hidden Magic by Melanie Crouse
The Dragon Lord Series, Book 1

Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Content: Clean Read
Publisher: Boekweg Books
Release date: 2014


Jenny feels trapped by her overprotective family. When she has the opportunity to spend the summer with her sister, a small slice of freedom is all she's really hoping for. Instead she finds something else altogether: Electricity.

That's what Jenny feels when she looks at Arram. She knows he’s drawn to her too, but electricity doesn't seem to be enough to entice the brilliant mage-in-training.

Stung, Jenny turns to Arram's former best friend, Jack. But Arram and Jack's rivalry is much darker than Jenny suspects, and so are Jack's intentions. Soon she's caught in a mystery of old murder, ancient prophecies, and magic hidden where no one has thought to look.

When Jenny uncovers a secret magic, she is offered two choices. Arram wants to keep her safe. Jack wants to show her the easy way out. Whatever Jenny decides, her life will irrevocably change.

Either way, freedom may be the one thing Jenny can never have.
My Opinion:

The book was a little slow to start for me because it took me a little bit to figure out what was going on and who belonged with whom.  But after getting through the first couple chapters I couldn’t put the book down.
Jenny is such a free spirited young women.  Much of her life has been hidden from her friends, her family, and even herself.  She enjoys living life on the edge and doing everything she knows she probably shouldn’t be doing.  When she meets Arram she is immediately drawn to him, and needs to figure out what that ‘electricity’ is, and although Arram is a wonderful man he also has many secrets of his own.  He is determined to do whatever he needs to do to keep Jenny safe and feel loved, but he may be risking his own future by doing that.
Rating: ****
I am going to give this 4 stars.  I personally would have benefitted from a list of definitions to the different powers, people, and places at the beginning of the book.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Introducing Story Time with Grandpa Beans!

Story Time with Grandpa Beans is a family-friendly story time with Grandpa's own twist on favorite childhood stories. These stories can be found on our Story Time page and on YouTube.

Smelly Cinderelly
by Grandpa Beans 

Amy's Review of Nacogdoches Trail by Robert C. Carroll

The Nacogdoches Trail
Author: Robert C. Carroll
Genre: Historical Fiction
Content: Some violence, language and adult themes  ("Wild West" type adventures including shootouts, drinking and references to prostitutes)
Publisher: Robert C. Carroll
Release date:  2013
Number of Pages: 148
Book Summary/Teaser:

This story is about a young man's effort to overcome his actions that result in the death of his father. Set in Texas in the 1870s, it is a story of revenge, but also one of adventure, redemption and family values.
Show moreShow lessMy Opinion:
I enjoyed the history background and knowledge of the setting in 19th century Texas. The story was interesting and I liked the personal ties the author has to the characters.  I think the telling of the story itself could have been better developed and would have benefited from going through an editor. 

Rating: **
You can find it on Amazon:

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Mary Ann's review of The Orphan and the Thief by M. L. LeGette

The Orphan and the Thief by M. L. LeGette

Book 1 (I hope she writes the sequel)
Genre: MG-YA
Content: High adventure fantasy with mild-moderate violence (no worse than HP)
Publisher: Createspace
Pages: 250 (ebook)

Book Blurb:
Toad thought it'd be easy to steal from Mr. Edward P. Owl. Unfortunately for Toad, he isn't the best of thieves. Caught in the act, he's in more trouble than ever before. Now to save his hide, Toad must track down five rare potion ingredients for Mr. Owl. Or else.

All Melena Snead wants is her family back, but after the Miggens Street Fire, that isn't very likely. Orphaned and miserable, forced to work in an apothecary, she's determined to find Milo, her missing brother. No matter what.

When Melena finds Toad ransacking her apothecary, Toad gets a nasty shock: apothecaries don't carry Mr. Owl's ingredients. Luckily, Melena's willing to help, for a price. With Melena's pet Spit-Fire dragon and Toad's enchanted talking beer mug, they embark on a fantastical journey, traveling the country in search of the potion ingredients. But can they gather all of them in time, what with monsters, pirates, and axe-wielding thieves? And if they do, is there an even greater danger waiting for them at the end?


           “Master Toad, Lady Melena, Hazel”—Hazel grunted in her sleep—“I have the great pleasure to introduce Miss Agatha,” said Joe, his voice at his lowest baritone.

            They stared at the spider. She swung upside down, her eight black eyes glinting in the late afternoon sunlight. Then, very suddenly, she lifted one leg and waved it in what was unmistakably half a handshake.

            Awkwardly, Toad and Melena waved back.

            “How d’you know her?” Toad asked Joe out of the corner of his mouth.

            “We met long ago,” said Joe with a reminiscent sigh. “I was so terribly lonely and Miss Agatha visited me to keep me company.”

            Without warning, Agatha slid down her thread toward Ol’ Joe, but she stopped short and took a few scuttles back up, creating a small loop. Without hesitation, as Toad and Melena watched, she slipped through the loop—and disappeared.

            Toad stared with his mouth open at the swaying noose, still dangling from the mirror’s frame. Agatha was gone! As if erased from sight. Erased from the air.

            “W-what happened?” Melena cried. “Where’d she go?”

            “Probably to the garden. Miss Agatha is so very fond of gardens.” Ol’ Joe caught the stunned looks on their faces and chuckled. “My apologies. I forget that her means of travel startles those who don’t expect it. Miss Agatha can do … tricks with her web, and slipping is one of them.”

            “Slippin’?” Toad repeated, his eyes very round. “She did that just now?”

            “Quite.” Joe nodded. But he narrowed his marble eyes and, glancing out the sun-soaked window, said rather shrewdly, “She shouldn’t startle people, though.”

What did I like about this book?
The characters are well developed and I learned something from each of them. Toad and Melena are likeable kids who share a huge adventure for different reasons. The story is split between each of their points of view.

I enjoyed Izzie, Agatha and Joe. I think there is a lot more to learn from and about Izzie, if the author decides to write a sequel. I like the underlying theme of the book which is (for me, at least) that characters come into our lives at different times and seasons to teach us something and we shouldn't take them for granted--from a magical spider to an enchanted mug, to the kid who lives in a den of thieves.

The action and adventure are paced well from beginning to end with edge-of-your-seat suspense and rest periods where I could catch  my breath and absorb new information.

The author did a good job with the world building. It reads like historical fiction.

There were some typos--probably just formatting issues, and a couple of scenes seemed a little contrived. It reminded me of a MG version of LOTR meets Harry Potter. I think my grandkids would really enjoy it. I know I did! Over all I'd give this book 4 stars****

 Author Social/Websites:

Purchase Links:

Bio:Melissa Lee LeGette has been writing seriously since she was a teen. She loves an old world vibe with a magical twist, and she puts her full focus on creating believable characters--even if they happen to be a talking beer mug. Her books are targeted for children and teens, but have been enjoyed by adults of all ages.

She lives in Georgia where she helps run a family farm, so her nails are a fright.Praise:[LeGette is] able to twist her unique fairy-tales to fit the imagination of children and the attention of adults. Five stars ... The Orphan and the Thief is definitely worth reading! -- Abigail / Goodreads ReviewM.L. Legette conjures up a captivating magical tale in The Orphan and the Thief. I loved this story and I could not put my Kindle down until I finished the last page. This charming story is so good that it may very well become a classic. -- Karen Dowdall, Author of Delphi Altair: Strange Beginnings

Blog Tour Giveaway $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 3/27/14 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Yummy Granola

One of my on-going resolutions is to eat healthier. Making granola can be tedious, but so worth the benefits. I can feel the difference if I eat store-bought cereal for more than a week. I adapted this recipe from my neighbor and friend, Linda.

You need a really large bowl to mix this in.

10 cups oats, quick or rolled
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup flax
4 cups rice krispies
3 cups coconut
2 cups nuts chopped (any kind)
1 cup sunflower seeds (unsalted)
1 cup cooked Quinoa

Mix dry ingredients well. Mix the following ingredients well before adding to the dry mix:

2 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar (may substitute honey)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Make sure the sugar and salt have dissolved before adding to the dry mix. Add gradually while mixing. Continue mixing until all of mixture is equally moist. Spread half of the mixture across a large cookie sheet (I use 2 jelly roll pans with 1 inch lips). Bake at 200 degrees for 30 minutes. Take pan out of the oven. Stir and break up clumps. Return to the oven and bake another 20 minutes. Stir again. Let cool. Add raisins, craisins, or other bite-sized dried fruit. Place in air-tight container (two 5-quart ice cream buckets work well). Repeat for the second pan.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Amy's Review of ECKSDOT by J Washburn

Ecksdot J Washburn
Genre: Teen, YA

Content: Some violence, mild language
Publisher: Ecksdot
Release date:  June 2013
Number of Pages: 566
Blurb: It all began with a nightmare I had one night. A nightmare--or a vision. It was almost too strange to not be real. A being from some other dimension--I don't know what to call it exactly, a ghost robot, I guess--well, it told me to knock on the door of a house down my street--a green old house covered in trees and mystery. It took me awhile to get the courage (and I got a little help from my "slow" friend Danny), but I knocked on that door. And the scariest part of what we found was the message: The old lady told me that if I would draw a certain Japanese tattoo on my arm, I could cross that barrier between reality and dreams and find out what the being wanted. So I had the choice: to back away and get out while I still could, or to go deeper, to take a chance on Japanese witchcraft, to dare my way into the unknown. I made my choice. That's what this book is about. Maybe you'll think I chose wrong, I dunno. What would you have done?
My Opinion:
I honestly had no idea what this book was about when I started reading it.  If I had, I probably wouldn't have read it.  It's not my typical genre.  Robots, other dimensions, invisible beings etc.  I am glad I didn't know, because I really enjoyed this book.  It caught me off guard, but it was a really fun read.  I got sucked right into the plot and the characters.  It made me remember what it's like to be a kid with a great imagination.  I found myself reacting out loud (which isn't good since I do a lot of my reading late at night), and feeling involved in what was happening.    Some of the scenes are very intense and the whole book is written very well.  I became very attached to the characters, real and imagined.  Read it!
Rating: ****
You can find it on Amazon: