Saturday, March 30, 2013

Poaching Daisies - by Carole Thayne Warburton

About the Book: 

Who is Trying to Silence Penny?

Penny Thorton's dreams of being a park ranger start to unravel her first
week on the job when she finds a dead bear in Yellowstone's backcountry.
Shots are fired as she runs away, but once she tells the authorities, all
evidence evaporates. Penny's aunt Iris, who is bent on eradicating an
invasive species of daisy from the park, puts that mission on hold when
more bears are killed and she becomes entangled in the mystery. After
several attempts on Penny's life, she and Iris learn to trust no one not
even their friends.

My Review: 

Penny and Iris aren't the only ones who can't trust their friends; with the unfolding of each chapter, I never knew who to trust and to suspect. Every time I thought I had Penny's pursuer figured out, the plot twisted and I found myself having to dig deeper for more clues. And, what better setting to have to unravel a bear poaching mystery than the beautiful Yellowstone Park. From wolf watchers, to hippy campers, to environmental tree huggers and everything in between, Warburton captures the essence of Yellowstone. The author's easy-flowing writing style pulled me in right from the get go. This is a fun, clean, fast paced read for readers of all ages. 


To celebrate the release of Poaching Daisies, the talented Carole Thayne Warburton is giving away a $50 gift certificate to her ETSY shop--Paradise Pottery. Her pottery is beautiful, so this is a giveaway you don't want to miss. Want to win?  Follow the easy instructions below.

How to Enter:

1. Leave a comment telling us what you liked about the review and why you are excited to read Poaching Daisies. For each review you comment on, you'll receive a separate entry. Don't forget to include your email address. 

     March 24: Janet Jensen
     March 25: Julie Coulter Bellon
     March 26: Liz Adair
     March 27: Braden Bell
     March 28: ShirleyBalhmann
     March 29:Stephanie Worlton

2.  Tweeting about the review, or posting to your blog or Facebook will earn you additional entries. Just leave us a link in the comments section to your post.

Contest ends April 3, 2013.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Strange Easter Traditions: FRIDAY FIVE

As I walked the holiday aisle at the store in preparation for Easter, I started to wonder about some of the traditions we've adopted to celebrate this religious holiday. Much like almost any holiday, commercialism and secularism have intertwined themselves in the American society and created Easter traditions that, when you really stop to think about them, are quit strange. I decided to embark on a Google journey to try to find out what these strange traditions were all about. Here's a summary of what I found:

1. Easter  Eggs  - The custom of giving eggs at Easter is a celebration of new life. Jesus, after dying on the cross, rose from the dead. This miracle showed that life could win over death. For Christians the egg is a symbol of Jesus' resurrection (when they are cracked open they stand for the empty tomb). Eggs were always thought to be special because although they do not seem alive, they have life within them especially at springtime when chicks hatch out. Eggs were colored by dying them with the new buds of spring flowers and grass, thus the dominance of pastel colors.

2. Candy - Long ago people gave gifts of eggs carved from wood or precious stones. The first sweet eggs that were eaten were made in the last 100 years from sugar or marzipan. Thank goodness we've moved past marzipan, because there is nothing better than a Reese's PEANUT BUTTER Egg except maybe some PEEPS!

3. Easter Bunny - What on Earth does an egg toting bunny have to do with Easter? Well, its a big stretch, but here goes: In the medieval church, the hare was a common symbol used to represent the Virgin Mary. Hares, ancient Christians believed, could reproduce without losing their virginity - thus the connection with the Virgin Mary. How a bunny started hopping around delivering baskets and goodies is still a mystery, but his origins in the U.S. are linked to German traditions brought by 18th century immigrants whose Osterhase (Easter Hare) delivered gifts and colorful eggs to grass lined hats and bonnets of good children on Easter morning, much like the tradition of St. Nick on Christmas (also a representation of Christ.)  

4. Easter Outfits - This one was the most obvious tradition to me, as traditionally many Christians attend church on two specific occasions: Christmas and Easter. These two church services are considered the pinnacle of many Christians, and as such, they choose to dress-up a little fancier for the occasion. Likewise, spring being a re-birth of the seasons, Easter attire often reflects the emerging warmth and the sunnier days.  

5. Easter Food - When I think about Easter I often think of eggs, ham, and potato salad. Eggs, as explained above, make sense. Not being a ham fan, I've often wondered why they grace the table of just about every home on Easter Sunday. Historically, lamb and ham were used at almost every European feast. Lamb, presumably as a symbol of the Lamb of God (the Savior). Ham, apparently was believed to bring good luck. In early America, pork was plentiful, thus it often replaced the more traditional Eastern lamb (thank goodness, because for as I dislike ham, I dislike lamb even more!).  No word on why we eat potato salad, though... maybe its to use some of those extra boiled eggs, but in our family I think its just because my grandpa mastered his "sloppy sauce" recipe and makes the perfect potato salad.

Whatever your traditions are, I wish a very Happy Easter to all of you, my friends.  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Coconut Cream Cupcakes

In the spirit of SPRING and EASTER, I found myself craving a bit of coconut, so yesterday I made a whole batch of these. And, in the spirit of not defaming myself in your eyes, I will not share with you the total number that I consumed. I will, however, offer you a word of caution: THESE ARE ADDICTING!!!  Don't say I didn't warn you! 

1 white cake mix
1 (3.4 oz) box instant french vanilla pudding mix
1/3 C flour
1/3 C sour cream
1 1/2 C water
1 tea coconut extract
4 eggs
1/3 C canola oil

1/2 C butter flavored shortening
1/2 C butter, softened
2 tea coconut extract
3 - 4 C powder sugar
2 - 3 Tbs milk
3 C shredded coconut

Filling (optional)
1 (3.4 oz) box instant french vanilla pudding mix
2 C half and half 


1. Gently mix dry ingredients in a mixing bowl with a fork.
2. Add remaining ingredients and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. 
3. Fill cupcake papers 2/3 of the way full. 
4. Bake for 15-16 min (13 min for mini cupcakes) at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
5. Remove from pan and allow to cool completely before frosting/filling. 


1. Mix pudding mix and cold half and half until thickened (about 3 minutes). 
2. Spoon filling into pastry bag, then using a large pastry tip, and squeeze filling into the top of each cooled cupcake. 


1. Beat the butter and shortening together until smooth. Add coconut extract, milk, and powdered sugar and beat until well combined. You may need to add a little more milk to achieve a workable consistency. (It should be thick enough to hold its shape, but thin enough to pipe through a pastry bag.)
2.Place coconut in a small bowl. 
3. Pipe frosting onto top of cupcake then gently dip into coconut. Don't try to frost all your cupcakes and then dip in coconut - you will end up very frustrated as the frosting will start to harden and the coconut will not stick. Frost one or two cupcakes at a time, coat with coconut, then frost a couple more. You may need to gently use your fingers to push the coconut into the frosting for better stick-age. 
4. Store in an airtight container in fridge. Let sit at room temp for 15 min before serving.     

Friday, March 22, 2013

Balancing - FRIDAY FIVE

In somewhat of an embarrassed stupor, I realized late last night that I neglected to post a FRIDAY FIVE last week. Not wanting to be a repeat offender, I wrote a lovely post in my head as I drifted off to sleep...


This morning I woke up, took a peak at my TO-DO list, and the first word that came to mind was BALANCE. 

Bal-ance... one word, two syllables, seven letters... yet, probably one of the most important concepts I've had to learn over the last few years.

Therefore, for today's FRIDAY FIVE I am going to share with you the top 5 things I strive to keep in balance:

  • Family - I've always said, "I'm a mother first," and I MEAN IT! 
  • Fun - Life is too short to not pause to enjoy the view. 
  • Service - "When you are in the service of your fellow beings, you are in the service of your God." (Mosiah 2:17, Book of Mormon) 
  • Work (writing, reading, marketing)
  • Household responsibilities (cooking, shopping, cleaning, money management, etc)  - Somebody's got to do it, right! ;) 
What are you balancing? Do you have strategies that work for you? And, what have you had to bump off your plate to keep things in balance? 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Poison Me - by Cami Checketts

About the Book: 

Jake Merrill was raised by his grandmother, Ruby, and her hilarious friends. After a suspicious death at the retirement home where Ruby lives, she enlists Jake and Chanel, the beautiful activities director, to help her find the killer. But secrets Ruby has kept for decades threaten her family and the man she’s always loved but could never have. Chanel’s unstable ex-boyfriend, a presumably dead relative, and vicious criminals add to the confusion. Time is running out as Jake, Chanel, and Ruby desperately search for clues to solve the murders and fight to save those they love. 

My Review:

This was a quick, fun read. The witty "gaggle" of retired lady friends cracked me up with their snide comments and super sleuthing around their retirement home. I could almost see my "little grandma" chuckling around with these hilarious ladies. I loved how the older character's got the same amount of romantic attention as the younger ones - especially the quips about Michael being a hottie. 

The characters had depth and personality in their imperfections and the relationships were believable. Overall the plot kept me going - wondering who was killing the residents - and in the end, I was surprised. However, the killer's motive felt a little flat to me. If you're looking for romance, it was cute. If you're looking for suspense, you may find it a little weak. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and thought it was a fun read. 

Praise for Poisen Me:
"Poison Me made me laugh out loud and thoroughly enjoy myself. I wish I had a friend like Ruby! Snappy dialogue, romance, and a strong sense of family made this book well worth reading." - Rachel Ann Nunes, bestselling author of Line of Fire and Before I Say Goodbye

About the Author:  Cami Checketts

Cami is a part-time author, part-time exercise consultant, part-time housekeeper, full-time wife, and overtime mother of four adorable boys. Sleep and relaxation are fond memories. She's never been happier.

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Blog Tour Giveaway

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GC. Ends 3/30/13

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Clean, Adult Thrillers? - Guest Post by Jim Haberkorn

After reading and enjoying his edge-of-your-seat action adventure, A Thousand Suns, I asked author Jim Haberkorn if he'd be willing to share with my readers a little about what drives him to write thrillers in a way that seems contrary (yet so perfectly works!) to the nature of what society perceives thrillers to be.(To read my review and a little bit more about Jim, click here.

Without any further yammering on my part, I turn the floor over to Jim: 

     I choose to write clean, adult thrillers – not to be confused with adventure stories or young adult lit. I actually enjoy the challenge. Instead of throwing in a flurry of curse words to make my book seem ‘realistic’ and  my characters gritty, I actually have to work out scenes, dialogue, and actions that demonstrate those points to my readers. And instead of having the characters jump into bed with each other five minutes after meeting, I have to construct plausible dialogue and romantic situations to realistically pull characters into a mature, constructive relationship. And instead of shooting and torturing everything that gets in my hero’s path, I have to leave some of them alive and maybe have to deal with them again later in the book.  
     Yes, writing a clean, adult thriller is hard work. By leaving out those other unsavory elements, I feel I have to compensate by having better dialogue, better research, and a better plot. I also feel that my books have to be more realistic than the average. What I mean is that I find many thrillers striving hard for realism when it comes to language, sex, and violence, and while they may get the language part right, they flunk miserably in the sex and violence department. I find that ironic. For example, in real life, a lifestyle of promiscuous, unprotected sex leads to a lot of venereal disease and self-loathing. Sorry, but that’s realism. And when it comes to violence, you can’t miss death by a centimeter, brutally kill a person, and then casually light and smoke a cigarette afterwards. Humans are not built that way.            
     If you don’t believe me, read the book On Combat, The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and Peace by Dave Grossman, a former West Point psychology professor and Army Ranger. After reading that book, you will realize how unrealistic the violence and behaviors in most thrillers – whether books or movies – really are. One example of realism in my first book, Einstein’s Trunk, was after a particularly violent scene, my hero Rulon Hurt, felt an incredibly powerful need to hold onto his gun. He felt vulnerable and refused to be disarmed. This is how people really behave when they survive a deadly conflict. It’s all in Dave Grossman’s excellent book.
     In my books, the characters in bed with each other are married, the dangers of sex outside of marriage are clearly understood, and people are faithful to each other. That’s how most people really are. In regards language, I have some really tough guys in my latest book A Thousand Suns. One in particular, Boris, an agent in the Russian foreign service, is someone who you realistically would expect to swear up a storm. I get around that by having him stay close to my main characters, Rulon and Yohaba, who make it clear to him that swearing is not acceptable in their presence. They do it respectfully, and because Boris respects them, he complies. He’s adult enough to realize that to a lot of people, bad language is jarring and offensive. That too is realistic.          
     With all this said, I must say that there are some masterful thriller writers on the market today who don’t necessarily share my attitude about totally clean thrillers. John le Carre’, Olen Steinhauer, Martin Cruz Smith, Lee Childs, and Barry Eisler are all exceptional writers. John le Carre’sTinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Smiley’s People are arguably the best spy thrillers ever written, but they are so much more than just thrillers. Lee Childs writes a pretty clean book, and I’m always looking forward to the next one. Olen Steinhauer’s Tourist series – fairly gritty but great, intricate characters and plot and extremely well written. Martin Cruz Smith – gritty but never sordid; his best thriller, Gorky Park, is an absolute classic. Finally, Barry Eisler and his John Rain series - okay, I flip past the occasional sex scene – but his books have a humanity in them that is quite gripping and unexpected given the subject. Also, his action scenes are meticulously planned and realistic. I strive to emulate him in that regards.       


Thanks for sticking to your guns, Jim, and writing fiction I feel good about recommending. To learn more about his work or to pick up a copy, visit his website

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Thousand Suns - by Jim Haberkorn

About the Book: 
It's not easy being an out-of-work spy---especially when you're on a hit list or two. When Rulon saves a Russian agent from a gang, he has no idea that the consequences will be the deadliest he's ever faced. With the help of his Swiss punk wife, Rulon must once again save the world in this thrilling adventure.

My Review: 
It's not often that I read a book worth RAVING about, but A Thousand Suns blew me away! The bags under my eyes testify that I read all 320 pages in less than 24 hours - good thing my kids can cook, because I couldn't put this book down. I love action, adventure, suspense... unfortunately, most authors seem to think those elements also involve profanity, and, if you're familiar with my reading taste, you know I hate profanity. Haberkorn's writing is so ingenious he doesn't need to stoop to harsh language to portray his story. I loved the witty interchange between "Cowboy"(Rulon) and his sassy wife Yohaba. We have an alter-ego "Boris" that lives at our house, and he came to life in this book. My only regret is that I didn't read Einstein's Trunk, the first in this series, first. I will now be reading it, then I will pass both onto my husband and teenaged son! 

A Thousand Suns   and Einstein's Trunk are available on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and other online bookstores.  

About the Author: 
Jim has lived on three continents and conducted business in over 40 countries. Brooklyn is his birthplace, but he has lived in California, North Carolina, Washington, Idaho, South Africa, and Switzerland. He still has a home in Boise and loves both Idaho and Switzerland. No wonder his hero, Rulon Hurt, had roots in Idaho, graduated from Boise State University, and lives in Zurich - very similar to his history. Jim currently lives and works in Zurich, Switzerland with his encouraging and ever-resourceful wife, Kim.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Best Things About March - FRIDAY FIVE

March is officially under way and I can think of a bazillion GOOD things about that. This girl is not a winter girl! Bring me the spring... bring me the sunshine!

What are your favorite things about March? Here are just FIVE of mine:

1. Sunny days outnumber gloomy, gray ones.
2. Crocus, daffodil, and tulip sprouts appear. 
3. Daylight Savings... spring forward, baby! (Mornings that are light!)
4. Peeps. (Only the yellow and pink ones. Purple and blue Peeps are just WRONG.)
5. Driving with the sunroof open.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Failure: A Critical Key to Success?

I sat on the edge of my cold metal chair, acutely aware of the stagnant middle school gym air. My son lobbed his way down the wood planked court, awkwardly handling the basketball for as little time as he could possibly manage before passing it to one of his more confident teammates. Though it was one of the final games of his inaugural season of little league basketball -  and, though his skill level had grown substantially over the proceeding weeks -  his confidence still wavered. On a league of nine and ten year olds, I imagine a lot of the boys were in a similar place.

Each time my son handled the ball, I celebrated his victory. Each time he defended a play or snagged a rebound, I celebrated his victory. That's what parents do, right? We cheer our children on and support them in their growth and accomplishment.

But what happens when those shots and attempts fall flat?

Flanked by my husband on the left and a loud, verbally diarrhetic father on the right, I watched the game unfold. (For the record, I do not know who this man was.) Play after play the father sitting beside me groaned at each missed shot his son's team made. When the other team scored, he belly ached. The game, in his eyes, was clearly "unfare." When someone stole the ball from his son, it was, of course, a travesty!  When the score reached a certain divide, he claimed it was too painful to the losing team and the ref's should just erase the score and allow the boys to play for fun. He further belly-ached that the "good" players should be benched or at very least, not allowed to shoot any more baskets.

As painful as it was for this father to see his child struggle, I wonder if there was actual merit to clearing the scoreboard. Was his child - or any child for that matter - at risk of long term or irreparable trauma?

Of course, as parents, we all want our children to succeed. The very suggestion that someone would want to see their child fail is ridiculous. But at what point does good intentioned parenting cross the line? Is it possible that our instinct to protect can actually inhibit our child's potential for growth? Can protecting our children from failure actually be detrimental to their future success?

I think we'd all agree that those feelings of defeat are horrible; even unbearable at times. Let's be honest, failure sucks! But if we were never allowed to taste defeat, how would we know the sweet savor of victory? Some of my biggest accomplishments came on the heels of some of my greatest struggles. Most successful people experienced struggle and even failures before experiencing success. Walt Disney's first business failed. Henry Ford's first two automobiles failed. Soichiro Honda was turned down a job by Toyota Motors and spent many years jobless. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team because he lacked skill. Albert Einstein was encouraged to drop out of school because his teacher told him that he'd "never amount to anything." Abraham Lincoln had 12 failed political runs before becoming the 16th President of the United States.

Failure, whether we want to admit it or not, helps us grow. When we shelter our children from the "soft" failures of childhood and adolescence, are we not depriving them of the opportunity to gain crucial life-long skills? If they don't learn to rebound and adapt as children, how then as adults will they know how to solve problems and overcome adversity?

Life isn't always fair. Sometimes we face opponents that are better than us. Sometimes we give our all and somehow we still come up short.  But we don't become winners by ignoring the score! We become winners by working hard, admitting defeat, recognizing our need for improvement, and overcoming our weakness.

My son didn't score a single point for his team that afternoon, but he learned, he grew, and he kept going even when the chips were down. There was no expectation that the playing field would be leveled to his ability, nor was there any need for the score to be equalized. He may never be a basketball phenomena (or perhaps he will, who knows?) but if he picks up a stone each time he falls, overtime he will have collected enough to build a staircase to the stars!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

My Name is Frankie - a memoir by Frankie Maio with Tristi Pinkstin

Last week, just days before it released, I was given a copy of "My Name is Frankie" to review by one of it's authors. Having never been a drinker I can't say that I can even begin to understand what happens in the mind of an alcoholic, but having seen the effects of alcohol in the lives of people I know and love, I was intrigued by the opportunity for even a quick glimpse inside the mind and heart of a 47 year alcoholic.

As a word of warning, this is not a light read. Even for me, an unemotional gal, Frankie's story moved me through a whole gamut of feelings. This AMAZING little memoir touched me so much more than I expected.
Frankie's journey broke my heart, opened my eyes, and revealed both the fragility and strength of the human spirit. His story of struggle and redemption will leave you forever changed.

From the book: 

I spent my childhood hiding from my father as much as possible. I learned early on that if I tried to save my mother from a beating, I’d get hit and then my mother would be beaten even more. It was best for both of us if I didn’t get involved. I’d leave the house and go far away, curling up under a tree where I could cry my “alone tears.” Then I’d creep into the house and into bed, grateful to have escaped, but then I’d get beaten in the morning.

It was the alcohol. It was always the alcohol.

Frankie Maio was never expected to amount to much. The oldest son of an alcoholic, it was no surprise when he turned to alcohol as well. Forty-seven years of heavy drinking and drug abuse should have been the end of him ... but Frankie's mother believed in miracles, and that's what Frankie got.

"My Name is Frankie" is the true story of a hard life, a long road, and the healing hand of a higher power that reached down and changed everything. 

 Get Your Copy

My Name is Frankie is available for Amazon Kindle

Friday, March 1, 2013

Road Trip Must Haves - FRIDAY FIVE

Our family went on a quick road trip last weekend: 300 miles on Saturday and a return trip of the same 300 miles on Sunday. I was raised road-trippin', so 4 hours in the car really is nothin' to me; however, when I became a wife and a mother, I realized that not everybody handles a road trip the same way. Having said that, here are my five MUST HAVES for road trip SURVIVAL
  • Music - to sing to, of course!   
  • Reading Material - and, yes, I read, listen to music, and sing at the same time. Unless I'm driving, then obviously I can't sing... uh, err, I mean read. 
  • Sun glasses - a pair for bright sun and a pair for hazy days. Yes, I am OCD about that too. 
  • Slip on/off shoes - now my secret is out. Barefoot is best. 
  • Snackage - My hubby and kids like cheesy crackers and all sorts of unhealthiness. I prefer trail mix.... and nachos. Mmmm, nachos! 
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