Monday Review- R. L. Syme

Penance on the Prairies by R.L. Syme was next up in my to be read pile.

Is it possible to ever get to the end of the to-be-read pile? Every time I finish a book I tend to add two or three more to my list to read. And that’s what happened after reading Penance on the Prairies. The test will be is — can I wait to read the rest of the series? It’s going to be hard since I’m attempting to read and review on the blog I don’t want to review every book in a series.

Ah, I suppose I could do that or I can read more books in a month so I can have something fresh for you to discover and add to your own to-be-read pile.

Back to this book.

Penance on the Prairies (The Vangie Vale Mysteries Book 1) by [R.L. Syme]

This was fun. I suffer from the “I know who did it” problem I think because I am a writer and know what to look for but… I didn’t see the way R. L. Syme would have it all play it. I was surprised. And I love that! I was still right but Syme did not take the easy way out. Her ending was great for those of us who want to have a bit of “I didn’t see that coming.”

typewriter, coffee cup, picture frame with the book cover for Penance and prairies, field with a barn, blue green sky and trees

This is book 1 and it is .99 and not in Kindle Unlimited which is sad for me but I will still get the rest of the Vange Vale series because I like it.

Vange is a part time pastor and the rest of the time she runs a bakery. I wanted to make macaroons after reading this book. In fact, when you get this book have some macaroons available to eat. 🙂 Pinterest has tons of recipes if you don’t know how to make them. They are easy.

All Vange did was give an irritating person the wrong directions… and life spiraled out of control. Actions do have consequences, even those simple ones!

This book has excitement, danger but not the kind that stops your heart, and a small town. All necessary ingredients for a good cozy mystery.

Here’s the back of the book information.

One part Vicar of Dibley, one part amateur sleuth who loves pastries, set in the mountains of Montana where no one’s business is her own…Between the police scanners, the coffee ladies, and the senior center, no secret is safe for long. But Vangie Vale wants nothing more than to stay under the radar…especially the police radar. So when her new business is linked to a murder investigation, nothing will stop the gossip mill from connecting her to the dead body.

Can’t have that.

In order to clear her good name and keep her face off the front page, this part-time-baker-part-time-pastor becomes extra nosy…with a little side of breaking-and-entering. But when she comes face-to-face with the Sheriff, Vangie can’t ignore the fact that one of her macarons was involved in a murder. She has to find the real murderer.

Get Penance on the Prairies here!

Monday Book Review

The Cedar Key by Stephenia H. McGee

This was a pleasure to read. While it is a small southern town contemporary it almost feels like a historical read. That ticks both of my love to read genre boxes.

It starts with the inheritance of a Victorian house and a very broken character, Casey Adams. She’s been fighting her whole life looking to belong to someone. This is her second chance but before she can find out much about her past her grandmother, the one person who could tell her dies.

But her grandmother leaves her clues through letters delivered to her by her neighbor.

Casey hasn’t had an easy past and it looks like the future of a good one may very well disappear like sugar in rain.

It’s a book that surprises in a gentle way. Perfect for afternoon reading on a swing while you sip iced tea.

I enjoyed the way it entertained but didn’t stress me while reading and yet I couldn’t stop reading it.

It has a great spiritual thread that doesn’t preach at you but fits into the story the way it should in a Christian book.

Casey’s journey will stick with me for a long time.

The Cedar Key: A Small Town Southern Contemporary by [Stephenia H. McGee]

Get it here

Casey Adams unexpectedly inherits an old Victorian house full of other people’s memories. Stuck in a quirky little Mississippi town, Casey’s hope for a fresh start died as soon she had to lay the grandmother she’d just met to rest.

But Grandma Ida carried secrets beyond the grave.

Before her death, Ida carefully planned a trail of clues to help Casey unlock the Macintyre family secrets and finally explain why they abandoned her. But each of Ida’s letters will only come from Casey’s handsome—and often frustrating—new neighbor. As Casey pieces together the stories behind the objects filling her grandmother’s house, she embarks on a heart-stirring journey that rattles her foundations, ignites her faith, and leads her to a startling discovery that will reshape her future. But only if she can face the lies that have been slowly tearing her apart.

Monday Review Marc Levy

The Strange Journey of Alice Pendlebury

Isn’t that a great title? The book is by Marc Levy, a French writer but the book is translated well into English.

This is one of those writer moments when you read a book and think you wish you would have written it. 

It’s a bit different from what I normally read. I do try to read in my genre so I know what my readers expect when they pick up my books. 

The Strange Journey of Alice Pendlebury is a bit more literary and I found it refreshing because I had to work a bit harder at reading it. I didn’t know how it would end, I suspected but I think that is because I am a writer and I know the ‘things’ that make a book work. You don’t want to watch a movie with me. I can tell you how it will end almost every time within five minutes of watching it. 

Alice is a Nose. She creates perfume and sees the world through smells.

One evening Alice’s friends tease her into seeing a fortune teller at the fair. She doesn’t believe in such things of course but she goes to get them to leave her alone and that they can catch the train back to London on time. 

That is when her life shifts, memories she doesn’t believe are hers infiltrate her dreams and eventually sends her on a trip to Istanbul with her neighbor Mr. Daldry.

This is not a paranormal book, it’s historical and takes place in 1950. I want to make that clear because of the fortune teller comment earlier.

This book…with the way the author brings in smells and taste it feels as if you are in Istanbul.

I wanted to take my time and savor every page but Marc Levy has a way with words. I kept turning the page until it was early in the morning.   

Get it here!

From international bestselling author Marc Levy comes a witty and beguiling novel of one woman’s unexpected journey to follow her destiny.

Alice Pendelbury believes everything in her life is pretty much in order—from her good friends to her burgeoning career. But even Alice has to admit it’s been an odd week. Not only has her belligerent neighbor, Mr. Daldry, suddenly become a surprisingly agreeable confidant, but he’s encouraging her to take seriously the fortune-teller who told her that only by traveling to Turkey can Alice meet the most important person in her life.

What’s more, the peculiarly insistent Mr. Daldry has even agreed to finance Alice’s trip—one that against all reason seems to be predestined. It’s on this journey, crazy from the outset and strangely irresistible, that Alice will find out that nothing in her life is real, that her past is not true, and that the six people she’s about to encounter will shape her future in ways she could never have dreamed.

Not A Grain Breakfast Bars

Testing and reviewing the No Grain Breakfast Bars from the Against All Grain cookbook by Danielle Walker.

made from against all grains

Is breakfast a meal you’d rather skip? If so, the Not A Grain Breakfast Bars might be perfect for you. They aren’t difficult to make, take a minimum of ingredients and freeze well.

recipe page breakfast cookies

The recipe calls for blueberry preserves but I switched that out for cherry preserves.

Breakfast cookies Not A Grain Breakfast Bar

This is protein power packed breakfast  with almond and coconut flours.  Against All Grains Cookbook doesn’t list nutritional values which is a downside for me. I’d like to know how many calories, how much protein and sugars to enter into the MyFitnessPal app. All the recipes in the book are Paleo, gluten-free and dairy free. The recipes are easy to follow and what I’ve tried so far can’t be described using the word “lacking.” Walker’s recipes make you no longer care that your food has to be made differently.

If you need to eat gluten-free–even if you don’t, I’d recommend picking up this cookbook.

against all grain book


If you aren’t ready to commit to purchasing you can find this recipe on AgainstAllGrain’s website.



Goji Berries Benefits

Goji Berries benefits are huge but were never on my bucket list of foods to try. When Viva Labs contacted me about writing a review I had a weak moment and said, “Yes, I’d love to try them.”

They came and I approached them with caution. Did I mention I am a picky eater? goji berries in a bowl

They looked like red raisins, didn’t smell awful so I popped one into my mouth. Then another, and another. These things are seriously good and good for you! That’s a bonus, right? They aren’t real sweet and I thought they left a warm buttery flavor on my tongue.

So what kind of benefits can you get from Goji Berries? Nice skin, they are loaded with beta- carotene, they can boost your immune system and protect your eyes. They are a good source of vitamin C and can reduce cold symptoms. They also have a lot of antioxidants. But don’t eat them if you are on blood thinners or take blood pressure or diabetic medication at least that’s what WebMd says.

There are also claims of weight loss, better sleeping and feeling calmer. I don’t know if those are true but if you like them why not see what happens?

Need more information about Goji Berries?

They have over 20 trace minerals and 18 amino acids, Vitamin A and Vitamin C along with a rich supply of antioxidants. Plus they are a source of dietary fiber so don’t eat a whole bunch in one day!

goji berries Viva labs

Want to try them for yourself?

Fire Storm by Mackenzie Dare-Interview



Chatting with Mackenzie Dare

Diana: Hi Mackenzie, thanks for stopping by today. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Mackenzie: I don’t remember a conscious decision. I think that’s just the way the Lord made me. I’ve always loved writing and making stories up in my head for as long as I can remember.  Every once in a while, I’ll find a page of an ancient second or third grade short story and chuckle as I read it and try to decipher the context.

Diana:What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Mackenzie: Right now, I’m self-employed, so I can just flip-flop my schedule around to what works best.

Diana: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Mackenzie: Like I have any writing quirks…. 😉  Probably my most interesting one is the fact that my characters refuse to ever conform to my outline. Sure, I start out with a neat and detailed plan, but by mid-story, sometimes before, my characters are all running every which-a-way in their own directions. Sometimes the “good guys” turn into bad guys. Sometimes scenes from the end move up to the middle. Sometimes the wrong people fall in love, and even other times a deep, dark secret that I didn’t even know about will just pop up from somebody’s past. Surprises… that’s what makes writing so fun!

Diana:What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Mackenzie: I love life! One of my favorite things to do is to run outside, especially on a dew-glistening, bird-singing, apple-blossomed, spring morning… just to run toward a painted sunrise and feel absorbed in the beauty of God’s creation! I love riding my horse down the gravel road or through the cornfields. I love chilly fall days… a cool breeze floating in a slightly open window and feeling the warm apple-scented  steam as you slide a crusty, golden, apple pie out of the oven just as a drip of cinnamon syrup bubbles out and sizzles. I like a crisp, breezy walk through a pumpkin patch or a swim in a Wisconsin lake. I like camping in the North Woods or browsing souvenir shops. I’ve enjoyed climbing cliffs in the Blue Ridge and drivin’ by buffalo in Yellowstone.

I love findin’ deals at garage sales and hangin’ out with my family… cookout style or pizza and popcorn movie nights. My favorite time is Christmas… It’s A Wonderful Life in the DVD player, a fire crackling in the corner, the pop of popcorn, and the sweet aroma of hot chocolate as we hang ornaments and wrap lights around our Christmas tree and nativity scene. I love seeing the Lord work in my life and teach me new things. I love Him because He first loved me. He’s shown me His love sooo many times in my life! One of my favorite verses is “Thy gentleness hath made me great.” He’s the giver of life, the one who makes daffodils smile and the thunderclouds clap. I love life, love, loyalty, and laughter.

Diana: What does your family think of your writing?

Mackenzie: They are all very supportive and encouraging! I loved giving them my new book and hearing what they thought of it. I really appreciated their suggestions before I was satisfied with my final copy.

Diana: Do you have any suggestions to help readers interested in writing become better? If so, what are they?

Mackenzie: Always pray about your writing. You couldn’t get a better teacher.
Just keep writing. Progress can be amazing if you just keep practicing until you get the hang of it. Make it fun, and keep it fun. If you get bored with it or lose track of where you’re going, you’ll likely stop.

Start with an outline for structure, but then add some surprises to keep yourself guessing.

Diana: What do you think makes a good story?

Mackenzie: Action, a good plot, likeable and admirable characters, emotion, human interaction, purity of relationships, cleanness in language, mystery… but most of all, it needs to honor God. I loved writing this book, but it would always feel empty and useless to me if there wasn’t a higher purpose in writing it than making money. If you pray about it and are truly writing for Him, I believe He will cause everything else to fall into place.

Diana: For viewers who have not read, but are interested in your book, can you describe it please?

Mackenzie: Fire Storm is about a couple of young families living excessively normal lives in a small-town, farming community in Northern Illinois. Wade is a paramedic. His wife, Mellissa, works in a lawyer’s office, and they are expecting a baby very soon. Their best friends, Jim and Jessica, live on a small horse farm out in the country. Jim is a fireman. Jess is a stay-at-home mom with her recently born little girl. Life is fun and carefree till… Jess starts running into threats at every turn. Are they even threats or just accidents? The thought of a killer being after Jess just seems so ridiculous… though not so much… when she comes eye to eye with murder! Who and Why? What about Wade ‘n Mellissa? Will they remain safe in their young existence as they embark in the beginnings of life’s journey, or will the epidemic of murder spread? How far does it reach? What are the secrets?

Diana: How does God affect your writing?

Mackenzie: He gave me the talent to write. He gave me an imagination and a love for stories. He put me in a strongly Christian home where I received wisdom about spiritual things and knowledge of true love, sacrifice, and care. He saved me and gave me a reason to write. Fire Storm was written for Him and dedicated to Him, and by His grace, I pray that every book I write will always point heavenward and never downward toward worldly lusts.

Diana: Who is your favorite character in your book?

Mackenzie: That’s hard to say. I like all my characters. They are all different and unique.  I like variety. The world needs rich and poor, plain and fancy, strong and weak, dream-chasers and content daily laborers, business women and stay-at-home moms, flippant and flighty and rigid work-a-holics. If there was one “right” type of person or one perfect race, the world would be sooo dull. Everyone fiction or real has their very own story.

Diana: What was the hardest part to write in the book?

Mackenzie: The Salvation message. It carries the greatest responsibility.

Real fire storm Cover Mackenzie Dare

Thanks Mackenzie for sharing with us your author journey. You can click the link below to get Mackenzie Dare’s book.

It is an affiliate link. I think I’m supposed to tell you that.


Diana Lesire Brandmeyer

The Power of Reviews

Do you write reviews?

Do you read them before you buy a book or a product?

I do write them and it’s not always easy. If I love a book I give it a 5 star it’s the ones that I’m not so sureI love that I struggle with. If it’s a book I don’t leave a three star on Amazon because that’s as bad as a one star, those books I don’t post reviews.

Products? That’s a different story.



This past week  I left a one star on a product. I wanted to leave zero stars but it wasn’t possible.

If I had taken the time to read the reviews on this product I wouldn’t have bought it, but I didn’t think about it.

My cats go outside and I needed some flea protection for them. I was at Wal-Mart and usually I pick up Pet Armour. They were out so I snagged a package of Adam’s Top Spot.

Serious mistake. One of my cats, Wendell had a terrible reaction. He was shaking, staring off into space an his fun came out in chunks! I’m fortunate it wasn’t worse. After posting my review I read through the others on Amazon. Many cats have reacted to this product in even more dangerous ways, seizures and horrific sores.

wendell icecream

Wendell is fine now. This is an old shot of him feeling well– on top of the fridge.

He’s not quite back to normal but I’m hoping for a full recovery.

So do you write reviews?

Do you think it makes a difference when you post a negative review? In this case I hope my review protects someone else’s beloved cat.

Stealing the Preacher by Karen Wittemeyer Review

Stealing the Preacher by Karen Wittemeyer


It took me awhile to realize this was a sequel to Short-Straw Bride which I loved (see my review here).

Crockett Archer is on the adventure of his life, he’s all packed, sermon notes are ready all he has to do is ride the train all the way to Piney Woods of Texas. This is what God’s been preparing him for all his life. Then the train is stopped by outlaws and all they want is a preacher! Surely this wasn’t in God’s plan.

Joanna Robbins has requested a preacher for her birthday, she’s worn out from trying follow her mother’s dying wish—turn her father into a Christian. She didn’t expect him to deliver her present tethered to a horse.

I enjoyed reading the escapades of Crockett trying to win over Joanna’s father by showing him who Jesus is though his actions. There’s some delightful ‘girl shenanigans’ as well as one of the single women in the church decides she’d make a dandy preacher’s wife.

Watching Joanna–maybe I should say reading–  falling in love with Crockett but at the same time trying to let him focus on his reason for being at the ranch was touching. She

It’s a fast paced read and many layers of problems that made me wonder how they could be resolved in a way that would leave me happy.  Wittemeyer came through with this book.  Another winner and yet I’m wondering about golden hair Holly who clearly needs a husband and has no idea how to find one. Could she be the star in the next book?

reader holding book

What’s next for the Archer Brothers?

Gee I think I need more sleep! Thanks Karen Wittemeyer for writing such a good book to keep me company last night.


Link to purchase Stealing the Preacher  I’m not an affiliate seller.

Link to read about Karen Wittemeyer.

Congo Dawn by Jeanette Windle: a Review

Congo Dawn: A Review

Jeanette Windle  whisked me away to a place filled with heat, gun for hire ex-marines and a purpose. Congo Dawn left me breathless several times as the main character Robin Duncan heads into dangerous situations.

As a reader I came away with a new respect for those helping the Congolese people.

The spiritual thread in this book runs deep but it’s not intrusive. Robin has issues with trusting a God whom she feels has been absent in her life and had difficulty understanding how someone living in the Congo could feel so differently. The way this was handled made this a strong book.

Tuesday Jeanette Windle will be on my blog telling us how come she writes books like Congo Dawn.

Here’s the blurb:

Congo Dawn cover-websizeWhen a multinational corporation with unlimited funds hires on a private military company with unbridled power, how far might they be willing to go with the planet’s ultimate “conflict mineral” up for grabs?  Especially in a Congolese rainforest where governmental accountability is only too cheaply for sale.

A veteran in handling corruption and conspiracy, former Marine lieutenant Robin Duncan has never had any trouble  discerning good guys from bad. But when her security team is sent to track down an insurgent killer, Robin faces a man who broke her trust years ago and discovers that gray areas extend deeper into the jungle than she anticipated.

As a vicious global conspiracy emerges, run by brutal men who don’t leave witnesses alive, Robin must decide if there is anyone left she can trust. And where is God in the suffering and injustice? How is it possible followers of Yesu (Jesus) caught in the crossfire can still rejoice when everything they hold dear is ripped away?

Buy it

Tell me do you like books set in different countries or do you prefer to read stories about the country you live in?


The Moses Quilt by Kathi Macias

What to do when sick!


It’s been a long miserable week with not being able to do anything because of a sinus infection,  so I spent it with comfort books. That’s why you’re getting 2 reviews from me today-that and freezing rain is falling so I may not have power later.

As promised–the review

The Moses Quilt by Kathi Macias

If you want surprise endings, and to know more about Harriet Tubman this book is for you.

If you are looking for a book about quilts, this isn’t it. Though the Moses Quilt is an important piece of the story as a quilter I would have liked to know more about the other squares that were in it.  There is a small square on the cover and the quilt must be beautiful—much like the story of Mazie Hartford.

I enjoyed reading The Moses Quilt even though I expected something quite different. The history of Harriet Tubman is presented in an intriguing way and you want to know why this is so important to Mazie’s grandmother.

Macias has a way with piecing plot and storytelling  in an intricate way that makes a reader search his or her own heart while reading The Moses Quilt.

The Moses Quilt