Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Rebecca Reviews ~ Under the Bayou Moon by Valerie Fraser Luesse


Paperback352 pages | Published August 3rd 2021 | Fleming H. Revell Company

Restless with the familiarity of her Alabama home, Ellie Fields accepts a teaching job in a tiny Louisiana town deep in bayou country. Though rightfully suspicious of outsiders, who have threatened both their language and their culture, most of the people in tiny Bernadette, Louisiana, come to appreciate the young and idealistic schoolteacher as a boon to the town. She's soon teaching just about everyone--and coming up against opposition from both the school board and a politician with ulterior motives.

Acclimating to a whole new world, Ellie meets a lonely but intriguing Cajun fisherman named Raphe who introduces her to the legendary white alligator that haunts these waters. Raphe and Ellie have barely found their way to each other when a huge bounty is offered for the elusive gator, bringing about a shocking turn of events that will test their love and their will to right a terrible wrong.

A master of the Southern novel, Valerie Fraser Luesse invites you to enter the sultry swamps of Louisiana in a story that illuminates the struggle for the heart and soul of the bayou.


Rebecca's Review 3.5 STARS

"I think I'd rather just find somebody I could be quiet with".

Adjusting to her new life in the tiny town of Bernadette, Louisiana, Ellie Field is full of anticipation; she's the new school teacher, and already the locals are filling her head with all sorts of reasons why their children have continually despised going to school. Primarily, the state superintendent has determined that the Cajun language and culture should be sacrificed to progression; Ellie begs to differ.

One of the first people Ellie meets is an enigmatic young fisherman, Raphe Broussard, whose kindness and selflessness has extended out into his community as well as inward towards his young orphaned nephew Remy, who lives with Raphe. As Ellie masters the challenges of teaching multiple grades, Raphe and Remy help her become more and more comfortable in her remote surroundings. But all is not as beautiful as the moonlight on the bayou; danger and greed lurk in the shadows of the tall swamp grasses, along with a well kept secret that hides beneath local lore . . . . the tales of a white alligator are not just a figment of a storyteller's imagination.

Brimming with Louisiana culture and mystique, this story does have some minor hiccups. Scene changes and time lapses are bumpy and unpredictable, but fortunately the characters rise to every occasion, searing their sense of benevolent community spirit towards each and every family, regardless of race, religion or economic standing, into your conscience. Is there a difference between happiness and contentment? Perhaps, Raphe and Ellie have found the answer to that question.

"Ellie heard - for the first time in her life - the sound of pure contentment, flowing over her like creek water on smooth rocks. And she knew without a doubt that she could listen to it forever."

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions stated above are entirely my own.

Senior Reviewer, Rebecca Maney
Rebecca is a graduate of Bryan College with a degree in Christian Education, and is currently serving at the First Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gastonia, North Carolina as the Director of Children's Ministry. With over 30 years of experience in her field, she has had many opportunities to use her love of reading and writing in creative ways across the generations. A wife, mother of four "nearly" grown children, and grandmother to four beautiful grandchildren, Rebecca has been able to return to her love of reading and more recently reviewing, with a renewed passion for the "beauty of story".

Monday, August 23, 2021

Author Interview & Review ~ Husband Auditions by Angela Ruth Strong + GIVEAWAY

Paperback272 pages
Published August 17th 2021 by Kregel Publications 

This is a rather long post but bear with me. I'm excited to be part of this blog tour for Angela Ruth Strong's new release Husband Auditions. It was a super fun book to read. I'm sharing my review in this post as well as a giveaway so be sure and read all the way down so you don't miss out on an opportunity to win a copy of the book!!


 An interview with Angela Ruth Strong,

Author of Husband Auditions

A person smiling for the camera

Description automatically generated with medium confidenceHow far would you go to find the perfect husband? All the way back to the 1950s? Those are the questions Meri Newberg finds herself asking in Husband Auditions (Kregel Publications/August 17, 2021), the latest release from award-winning author Angela Ruth Strong.

For Meri, it seems the world is full of happily-ever-after love, or maybe it’s only because she’s just gotten home from the wedding of her now-former roommate. As of now, Meri is the only one left in her friend group who is still single, so she inherits “the list” from a 1950s magazine that has been passed from friend to friend. The list outlines “101 Ways to Get a Husband,” and out of desperation, Meri decides there’s nothing to lose and she might as well try some of them out. After all, she can’t get any more single than she already is, can she?

Q: Please introduce us to your new book, Husband Auditions. Where did the inspiration for “the list” come from?

Husband Auditions tells the story of Meri Newberg who is the last single woman among her friend group. At the latest wedding, she’s handed a strange present—a 1950s magazine article with a list of “ways to get a husband.” She starts thinking about trying out a few of them because it sure couldn’t hurt.

Her brother's roommate, Kai Kamaka, sees the whole thing as a great opportunity to jumpstart his career as a cameraman. He talks Meri into letting him film every silly husband-catching attempt for a new online show in the hopes of it going viral. 

I got the idea for Husband Auditions from a real article “129 Ways to Get a Husband” that was published in McCall’s magazine in the 1950s. (You may have seen it online when it was floating around Facebook a couple of years ago like I did.) Some of the suggestions were quite outlandish (ex: stand on a street corner with a lasso), and I imagined what would happen if a modern-day woman tried them out.

Q: You wrote your own list for the sake of the book. Can you share what some of your favorite activities from the list were?

While a lot of the ideas from Meri’s list were definitely inspired by the original, I did set out to create my own. I went to my reader group on Facebook for inspiration. I’m so thankful for the help in coming up with some of these. I had so much fun with them all! 

Here are just a few:

  • Wear a bandage in public and have a tale of daring to go with it.

  • Create suspense like Alfred Hitchcock by buying a convertible to go with your headscarf and cat-eye glasses.

  • Faint in front of him. Seeing a woman’s weakness awakens a man’s nature to take care of her.

  • Let your date do the ordering. Never directly ask the waiter for anything.

Q: What piece of advice from the list comes up again and again, making it almost a theme of the book?

When brainstorming the book at a writing conference, my friend and historical author Peter Leavell was intrigued by the idea of Meri carrying around a hatbox. I laughed and said, “Only you, Peter.” So, I had to stick him in the novel. He’s the character who gives better advice than anything on Meri’s list. He says, “A gentleman always chooses what he wants most over what he wants in the moment.”

This is what gets to Kai. At first Kai is content in not being a gentleman. Because being a gentleman would take work. And sacrifice. And patience. But the advice haunts him, and he has to ask himself what he really wants. He still tries to take a shortcut to getting what he wants, but Meri has also learned this lesson, and she’s not going to settle for a relationship with a man who chooses not to be a gentleman just so she can be in a relationship.

This line about choosing what you want most in life over what you want in the moment fits both character arcs. I also felt it perfectly blended the classy 1950s era with our modern day entitled society.

Q: Husband Auditions is told from both the perspectives of Meri and Kai. Did that make the plotting out and writing of the book more difficult?

I love playing with point of view. Being that this book is primarily for women, most readers will relate more to Meri’s POV, but Meri is such a character that it was fun having Kai’s perspective on her.

They are complete opposites so readers go from the end of one chapter where they see her thinking this is the worst thing that could ever happen to her to the beginning of another chapter in Kai’s head where he’s enjoying every minute of it. I also wanted to have chapters from Kai’s point of view because he doesn’t say everything he’s thinking the way Meri does. The reader needs to understand where he’s coming from so they can better root for Meri. 

A picture containing diagram

Description automatically generatedQ: Tell us more about Meri and Kai. Is theirs a case of opposites attract?

Meri is a nurse who planned her whole career around what would be the best way to raise a family. She is a planner who wants nothing more than to be a wife and mother, but everyone in her friend group has gotten married except for her. She’s at the point in her life where her friends are starting to get divorced, and she’s realizing that there’s more to happily-ever-after than just walking down the aisle.

Kai doesn’t want to get married, and he tries to avoid responsibility. He works the night shift job that started out as a college internship, and he hates planning because he’s been disappointed one too many times. Sometimes he itches for more, but he’s afraid to scratch that itch—especially where Meri is involved because he cares too much for her to ever want to let her down. His mom thinks he’ll outgrow this phase like a pair of old shoes, but if he doesn’t, he’ll never be able to go the distance.

I recently read a book about dysfunctional relationships and it listed seven different heart issues. One of them was laziness, which is said to be the most frustrating for a woman to have to deal with, and it seems to be common in the younger generations. I wanted to explore the idea of a lazy but likable hero and what it would take for him to have to grow. I gave Meri the heart issue of fear because the fear of being alone could trap her into a relationship with a man who was just going to sponge off her. I believe many women choose bad love over no love at all, and I want to encourage them to invite their significant other into the light rather than join him in the dark.

Q: Kai seems to understand Meri pretty well, but there are some things that it seems Meri misunderstands about Kai. Why didn’t Kai ever just explain himself (such as with the car)? 

Ironically, Kai prides himself on not having selfish ambition. Plus explaining himself to Meri takes work. He’d rather keep other people’s expectations of him low. He’s been let down before, and the risk of wanting more just doesn’t seem worth it to him. As Kai’s writer roommate tells Meri, he has a good backstory. Unfortunately, it could keep him from seeing his own flaws and growing…unless Meri points them out for him the way he likes to do for her.

Meri is all about growth. She’s action oriented and not afraid to go after what she wants. She hates when Kai points out that in all her haste to start a family, she might have missed out on the life God had for her along the way.



Husband Auditions is fun and quirky and full of today’s vernacular. From the very first chapter to the last, this book made me laugh. Younger audiences will get a kick out of the 1950s ideas of how to catch a husband. And “watching” Meri act them out in a contemporary style will bring so many belly laughs that anyone around you will want to know immediately what is so funny.

Rom-com between the pages is a great way to describe the story and it would definitely make for a hilarious movie. With delectable tension between Meri and Kai, you know when they finally “discover” each other it is going to be an absolutely ambrosial moment.

Strong writes with precision and spunk, never allowing a moment of boredom. I highly recommend Husband Auditions to fans of contemporary romance. It’s laced with wit, charm, love, and an all-around feel good vibe.

I received a copy of the book from the author and publisher, and also a copy from Audra Jennings PR. This opinion is my own. No compensation received.


Q: What does Meri get wrong about her idealistic views of marriage? 

Meri believes that if God had the right man for her from the beginning, then she would just have to wait for God to bring him along. It scares her when she sees relationships that she’d once envied start to fall apart. She’d put so many dreams and desires on hold to become the perfect candidate for matrimony, but what if she were to finally have the perfect wedding, but the marriage didn’t last?

She realizes marriage doesn’t offer the guarantee of happiness that she’d been hoping for, and she starts pursuing her dreams again. Rather than trying to become the kind of woman a man would want to spend his life with, she’s going to be the kind of woman she would want to spend her life with. The kind of woman who can choose to be part of a healthy relationship and do the hard work it will require to keep it healthy because she’s not expecting her significant other to make her happy.

Q: One Sunday there is a sermon on marriage at church that opens both Meri and Kai’s eyes. How do each see themselves in the context of that sermon?

When the pastor starts his sermon about marriage, Meri is poised with pen and paper to take lots of notes while Kai is ready to tune out for the next twenty minutes. Neither quite expected to have their beliefs rocked by the sermon.

The passage their pastor focuses on comes from Jesus, and I used the Message translation because I love how it words the passage. In Matthew 19:12 He says, “If you are capable of growing into the largeness of marriage, do it.” But before that, he says, “Marriage isn’t for everyone.” And Jesus lists the kinds of people who don’t get married. Meri sees herself as someone who “never gets asked.” Kai sees himself as someone who “from birth seemingly never give marriage a thought.” Key word: Seemingly.

Q: What advice would you give to single women about the desire to find love and their dreams for marriage?

The best advice I ever got was this: When two people are in a relationship, they have to be relatively close in emotional health. When one person starts to grow, it creates tension in the relationship like a rubber band stretched between two fingers. With such tension, one of three things has to happen. Either the less healthy person chooses to grow, the more healthy person has to regress, or the less healthy person leaves. In all your relationships, choose to grow. If the person you want to be in a relationship with chooses NOT to grow, you are going to be healthier without them. Don’t ever choose “bad love” over no love at all. You are worth much more than that. And you are already loved more than you can even imagine. Let Jesus be your enough, and as you run towards Him, look for a man who wants to run by your side.

Q: Why do women think they can change something about a man once they are in a relationship? Does that ever turn out well?

Codependency says, “I control you, you control me.” So when you are trying to change someone, you are saying, “I will make you who I want you to be so I can be happy.” 

In a healthy relationship, you say, “I control me, you control you.” In that situation, you can invite them to make better choices, but you’re going to be happy either way. Like I mentioned above, this creates tension. It’s soooo hard.

In my relationship, my husband will sometimes ask, “What can I do better?” I’ll answer, and he’ll try, but he doesn’t always succeed. And vice versa. We’ve created a relationship where we try to please each other but there is also grace when we fail.

Q: How does each character grow spiritually as the story progresses?

Meri learns to pursue the purpose God has given her that she’d shied away from for fear of having to pursue it alone. She goes from feeling like a failure for being the last single woman in her group of friends to believing she is whole even without a husband. She sees the way she was holding herself back and allows herself to be true to who she was created to be.

Kai, on the other hand, realizes that there is a lot more to scripture than the “thou shall nots.” He’s really good at the shall nots but has to learn that “whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” For the first time, he sees his laziness as a sin. He steps out of his comfort zone to win Meri with a grand gesture, but he learns the hard way that genuine change takes time, and it has to happen in his relationship with God no matter what happened between him and Meri. It couldn’t be her job to grow him.

Q: Why is this book special to you as the author? 

I absolutely loved writing this book. I’d finished it, and my agent was shopping it when I got breast cancer. Through cancer, I didn’t have the energy to write. I didn’t have energy to do anything but lie on the couch and stare off into space. As I stared, I relived this book in my mind. I played it like a movie in my head. And I looked forward to this day—to the day I could share it with you. It kept me going through five months of chemo and a double mastectomy. No other book will ever hold this place in my heart.

Q: Do you think readers will get to read more about Meri and Kai in the future? What can readers look forward to next?

I’d considered writing romances for Meri’s brother and roommate, but I prefer standalone novels. My next rom/com is called Football is My Boyfriend. It’s about a woman who unexpectedly finds herself single and in possession of four college football season tickets. She invites her mom, sister, and a friend to join her at the games, not realizing she’ll see her ex at the stadium. As the women cheer together, she learns enough about teamwork to make a relationship work…but it’s going to take a Hail Mary to win her boyfriend back.

Learn more about Angela Strong at, or find her on Facebook (Angela Ruth Strong Fan Page)Instagram (@ang_strong), and Twitter (@AngelaRStrong)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now for some more REALLY awesome news!!!

The author is giving away a free round-trip airline ticket on Allegiant Airlines! Click here for more details and to enter. 
(Author will do the drawing for the airline ticket is Nov 1)

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Ridding Our Home of Chemicals!!!

Y'all, I have never done this before but I am so excited to tell you about something I recently discovered through a friend on Facebook!! Of course, many of you have probably already heard of it. I always seem to be "late to the game". LOL

I've never claimed to be a clean freak except when our Amy was alive and her health needs required that the floors and bathroom be super clean. Well, they should be anyway but now that she is no longer with us, I admit to not expending quite the energy I once did on making sure the surfaces were able to be "eaten off of" as my Momma liked to say. 

I keep a clean house but I know I use too many harsh chemicals to get that "clean feeling and fresh scent". Ordinarily I use paper towels for a lot of my cleaning, and a soft cloth and dusting spray to dust. 

Not any more!!! Oh, I still use a few paper towels for really heavy grease but not like I did, which saves us a TON of money!! And I'm not purchasing chemical sprays which is better for our health! 

What am I using, you wonder??

I'm using...

Have you heard of it? If you're on Facebook and would like to check out this product, or even if you're already familiar with it and want to see some of their new products they just came out with, come on over and join my party group, request a *FREE sample from my consultant, and then join us LIVE on Monday August 16th at 7:30pm for a 15 Minute FUN Party and maybe win a *prize!!!

If you want to skip the party and go straight to ordering, please consider using this link. 

Yes, it will help me earn product but more than that, I really want you to see how amazing these microfiber cloths really are!!! I absolutely love my EnviroCloth and Dusting Mitt!! I don't love cleaning but it's so much easier and lasting than when I used ordinary --and costly-- paper towels and chemicals.

I really hope you'll come over to the FB party though!! It's going to be FUN. And there is absolutely NO obligation to buy a single thing. You can get a FREE sample ahead of time and maybe win some "door" prizes on Monday night.

I have a friend coming over today who is going to help me make a video (😲) showing how I use the Dusting Mitt (as if that's not self-explanatory 🤣) and also one using the Cleaning Paste and EnviroScrub cloth on my oven door since it seems to be a big challenge in keeping clean. If the videos turn out good, I'll be posting them in the FB group. Here's hoping!!! 😃

Please don't unfollow the blog because of this post. I know it's out of the ordinary for me but my main purpose in sharing this is to help you save time and money (in the long haul) in caring for your home and family. I'm not a consultant. This is a one time thing for me.

Be blessed and Keep on Cleaning!!

*FREE sample and prizes are for US residents only.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Rebecca Reviews ~ The Nature of Small Birds | Susie Finkbeiner

Paperback368 pages
Published July 6th 2021 by Fleming H. Revell Company

In 1975, three thousand children were airlifted out of Saigon to be adopted into Western homes. When Mindy, one of those children, announces her plans to return to Vietnam to find her birth mother, her loving adoptive family is suddenly thrown back to the events surrounding her unconventional arrival into their lives.

Though her father supports Mindy's desire to meet her family of origin, he struggles privately with an unsettling fear that he'll lose the daughter he's poured his heart into. Mindy's mother undergoes the emotional roller coaster inherent in the adoption of a child from a war-torn country, discovering the joy hidden amid the difficulties. And Mindy's sister helps her sort through relics that whisper of the effect the trauma of war has had on their family--but also speak of the beauty of overcoming.

Told through three strong voices in three compelling timelines, The Nature of Small Birds is a hopeful story that explores the meaning of family far beyond genetic code.  


Rebecca's Review 3.5 stars

"Turns out that small birds are going to fly whether we like it or not. It's no different for our kids."

It's all about letting go, whether through life or death, we all experience the challenge of loving and letting go. It was no different for Bruce and Linda, whose decision to bring a small young "bird" into their home changed their life forever. Mindy had been transported to the United States as part of an historic "baby-lift" out of war torn Saigon. Her fragile psyche was evident, totally opposite from her outgoing older sister Sonny, prompting her new family to rally around her as a protective shield. But sadly, not everyone was a fan. At least not at first, maybe never.

Through-out the pages of this inspiring story, the roles of mother, father, sisters, are beautifully inspected under the microscope of good intentions, and yet there's always the notion that at some point, the little bird will have to fly on her own. . . . . . "We won't be afraid. We will trust in you" . . . the prayer every parent has reason to pray.

"It's the nature of small birds to sing their hearts out. And it's the nature of God to hear them."

In spite of the varying voices and timelines, this was quite a pleasant book to read.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. I also purchased a copy. The opinions stated above are entirely my own.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Monday Morning Musings

Good Morning, Y'all! 

It's a lovely sunny morning here in coastal VA. We took a quick trip to NC to attend a wedding over the weekend and had a lovely time. Of course, what isn't lovely about weddings, right?? 

Our second to youngest nephew married his gorgeous bride on Saturday. It had been 13 years since most of us had attended a wedding, and that long since our youngest son had worn a suit. LOL He was best man this time and even though I know I'm biased, he looked absolutely fabulous in his perfectly tailored JOE Joseph Abboud black suit with a Lavender Mist dress shirt.

The bride and groom did a wonderful job choosing their colors! Bridal attendants all chose their dresses separately with the one stipulation they all be lavender. If they'd gone to a dress shop and chosen them all at the same time, they couldn't have been more perfectly coordinated! The dresses were amazing!!! 

I won't be posting photos in respect of their privacy but I must say that the bride looked absolutely stunning in a gown that had some of the most exquisite bead work I've ever seen!!! She also wore the sweetest silver slippers that just glittered! Oh to be a young bride again. :-)


As many of you already know, Feedburner has gone by the wayside for delivering blog content. I'm now using to distribute new blog posts. Those of you who were already subscribed to the blog by email have been imported into the new program and should receive an email asking you to confirm your subscription. I'm the first to admit I am not very techie when it comes to these things, so if for some reason you haven't seen an email like that, maybe check your spam folder. That's about the extent of my knowledge in that regard. 

If at any time you don't wish to follow the blog anymore, there is an option to unfollow. Of course, I hope you won't do that but I certainly understand if you want to. 

Content here is basically staying the same: books, crafts, faith, photography and anything else that strikes my fancy, like a wedding! LOL


If you've read this far, AWESOME!!!

Rebecca is giving away a paperback copy of the book 

The Barrister and the Letter of Marque by Todd M. Johnson

Stop by the post and enter to win!!!

Have you attended any weddings this summer? Read any good books? Let's chat in the comments!!

As always, I wish you a blessed day in the LORD!!!