Friday, August 30, 2013

Bits & Pieces: Miley Cyrus, Sexting & More

Miley Cyrus.

Who knew that that name would now be synonymous with twerking and all things wrong with society.

Putting Cyrus’ actions aside, and those of her dance partner Robin Thicke, this column is about more than the VMA’s.

For the record, I think both of them were equally culpable, but marketing geniuses. Let’s face it, Thicke is now a recognizable name — beyond his famous father, and Cyrus, well, she’s effectively shaken the Disney brand in one thrust of her hips.

Each day, we try to have a question of the day on The Grove Sun’s Facebook page. Sometimes we ask random questions, other times, we pull questions “ripped from the headlines.”

Past questions have ranged from “If they made a movie about your life, which actor would play you?” to “If you attend a church/faith group in the area, what would you like people to know about it.”

Questions designed to engage readers and encourage a discussion, albeit on Facebook. Questions also designed to help us, as a newspaper staff, gain an understanding of our readership.

On Monday, I posted a question regarding the Civil Rights movement’s 50th anniversary. According to our page insights, 327 people “engaged” with the post. No one commented, liked or shared it.

Later in the day, I joined the crowd and posted second question of the day, along with a picture of Cyrus and Thicke and asked a bland question about their performance at the VMA’s.

Within an hour, more than 20 people had weighed in on the subject. As of today (yes, people are still commenting), 2,560 people engaged with the post, and it had 62 likes, comments or shares.

Wow.

On Tuesday, feeling a bit philosophical, I posed a follow up question, comparing the silence regarding civil rights vs. the popularity of Cyrus’ actions.

As of today, 1,176 people engaged with that post, with 27 commenting, liking or sharing the post. Most continued to discuss the downfall of Cyrus and her actions. Others took the silence on civil rights as a sign of society’s downfall.

It struck me though, a few individuals said they wanted to comment on the civil right's issue, but refrained. It seems talking about a “pop culture” issue is safe, while talking about one that could merit a serious discussion carries the possibility of potential reprisal.

It’s interesting to see what engages people on Facebook, and which questions elicit response.

Frankly, we’ll keep asking questions each day. Hopefully it will generate discussion — because ultimately, that’s what it takes to make a change or difference.

Speaking of discussion. I know from friends they have used Cyrus’ and Thicke’s actions Sunday night to talk to their teens about a variety of related issues.

One friend, whose daughter is named Mollie, (the subject of Cyrus’ song) found herself explaining how the name Molly is now synonymous with a pure form of the drug ecstasy. A painful, but necessary discussion.

In today’s issue, we have a story about an Eucha man accused of “sexting” lewd messages and images to what he thought was a 17-year-old female. His mistext (a.k.a. he messaged the wrong person) led to his arrest on Wednesday evening.

All puns and comments aside, it is my hope you use this story to remind your teen (and tween) about the issues surrounding sexting (or sending sexually explicit images and messages via mobile devices). Think it can’t happen here? Think again. It does, and it did.

Remember, it’s our job as adults to have open and honest discussions with the students in our lives about these issues. The issues are too important to simply ignore.

Kaylea M. Hutson is the managing editor of The Grove Sun. She can be reached at kaylea.hutson@grovesun.com or 918-786-2228. This column originally appeared in the Aug. 30, 2013 issue of The Grove Sun

Friday, August 23, 2013

Bits & Pieces: A Day is a Day Is A Day

Do you collect quotes?

Maybe it’s because I’m a “wordy” person, but I often find myself searching out “nuggets” of truth from a variety of people.

I love looking for things that speak to my life in a variety of ways.

This week, I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Henry David Thoreau: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”

Do you live out that statement? Do you go confidently towards your dreams? How do you live life?

This week I sat and talked to a “non-traditional” student who is living out her “dreams” and is taking a computer class at NEO-Grove.

The excitement in her eyes was contagious, as she talked about the class. Contagious and full of enthusiasm. That frankly is a great way to live life.

So here’s to living life confidently and exploring dreams.

A few bits of life

Here’s a “shout out” to Curtiss Tate’s Tire & Services. I was out and about on assignment and the dreaded “low tire” light appeared on my dash.

They were very gracious to help me check my tires and air up the low one — before sending me on my way to finish last Friday’s paper. Just another reason I love living in a small town — people who help others out during the “crunch” time.

GLA Legislative Event

Wednesday night I had the pleasure of hanging out on the lake, during the Grand Lakes Association Legislative event. It was a great time to meet a few new faces in Oklahoma politics, and enjoy a nice lakeside evening.

Kudos to the GLA and Doug Cox for organizing an event, that introduces legislators around the state to the “grand” nature of Grand Lake.

Guns & Hoses

Saturday marks the second annual Guns & Hoses blood drive. The drive kicks off at 10 a.m. at the Grove Community Center.

I hear from Samantha Edwards, chief organizer, that both departments have been working hard to see who can get the most people to show up to donate blood.

Haven’t signed up? No worries. Walk-ins are welcome on the day of the drive.

The fun goal for this event is to see which department chief will have to push the other, in a wheelbarrow in front of a hometown crowd during an upcoming football game this fall. The ultimate goal is to have at least 60 successful donations to benefit the Oklahoma Blood Institute.

So show up at the drive, roll up your sleeves and decide if you are Team Fire or Team Police. Easy peasy.

Have You Voted?

Have you checked out the Back To School Photo Contest on our Facebook page? It’s been so much fun to watch the entries roll in. There’s still time to submit photos or vote on your favorite pic. Just visit http://a.pgtb.me/SRbR98 and follow the instructions on the screen.

Humane Society

I learned today that the Humane Society of Grove and Grand Lake has entered the Tractor Supply Company “Shelter Stories” contest on Facebook.

I hear the shelter is competing for a $5,000 donation. Here’s where you can help out. Go tohttp://bit.ly/grovetractor, click on “view entries” and type in “Humane Society of Grove” in the search engine. You’ll find the picture collage, that tells the shelter’s story — and you can vote once each day thru Aug. 25. The direct link for the contest page is: http://bit.ly/13PtSyO.

One Last Thing

Earlier this week, someone asked me how long I’ve been here. Officially, it’s been four months this week.

I’m discovering that it’s getting easier to find things — but please, still give me “newbie” directions to events. I’m also doing better at recognizing faces and names. Thanks though, for your continued patience if I look at you blankly for a few minutes.

Life in a small town is enjoyable. I’m already looking forward to the Pelican Festival and Homecoming, and I hear Taste of Grand is an event you don’t want to miss.

Kaylea M. Hutson is the managing editor of The Grove Sun. She can be reached at kaylea.hutson@grovesun.com or 918-786-2228. This column originally appeared in the Aug. 23, 2013 issue of The Grove Sun. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Blog Tour: Catch A Falling Star (Review)

In her sophomore debut, Catch a Falling Star, Beth Vogt has created a book that is not only realistic, but also enjoyable.

She has developed a main female character, Kendall Haynes, who is a successful doctor, who has everything - but the "happy ever after" she desires.

Then along comes Griffin Walker, an Air Force pilot who is learning to find peace with a medical condition that keeps him grounded, rather than in the air.

Along the way, the two discover friendship and more, as they navigate life in a new way.

On the scale of one to five, I give this book a solid three and a half to four. I thoroughly enjoy Vogt's writing style. She has a way that draws people into the storyline, and she adds in doses of humor. I also liked the two parallel story lines - Kendall's arch, involving another doctor, Griffin's involving his desire to fly again and his younger brother.




This is the second book I've read by Vogt, and honestly, she seems to be a fresh voice in Christian fiction. Her books contain just enough realism to be honest and true. I'm looking forward to her next novel. She is definitely an author I'll want to follow with future releases.


More About The Book
(From the publisher)
What does a girl do when life doesn't go according to her plan?

At 36, Kendall Haynes has seen some of her dreams come true. She's a family physician helping kids with severe allergies and asthma achieve more fulfilling lives-a childhood struggle she knows all too well. But the feeling of being "the kid never picked" looms large when romance continues to evade her and yet another one of her closest friends gets engaged. Are Kendall's dreams of having it all-a career, a husband, children-nothing more than childish wishing upon a star? Should she hold out for her elusive Plan A? Dust off Plan B? Or is it time to settle? God says he knows the plans he has for her-why can't Kendall figure them out and be content with her life?

Griffin Walker prefers flying solo-both as an Air Force pilot and in his personal life. But a wrong choice and health problems pulled him out of the cockpit. His attempts to get out of "flying a desk" are complicated by his parents' death-making Griffin the reluctant guardian of his sixteen-year-old brother, Ian. How did his life get so off course? Can God get his life back on track ... or has there been a divine plan all along?
Catch a Falling Star reminds readers that romance isn't just for twenty-somethings and that sometimes letting go of your "wish I may, wish I might" dreams is the only way to embrace everything God has waiting for you.


More About The Author
Beth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author and editor who said she'd never write fiction. She's the wife of an Air Force family physician (now in solo practice), though she said she'd never marry a doctor-or anyone in the military. She's a mom of four, though she said she'd never have kids.

She's discovered that God's best often waits behind the doors marked "Never." Her contemporary romance novel, "Wish You Were Here", debuted in May 2012 (Howard Books), and "Catch a Falling Star" released in May 2013.

An established magazine writer and former editor of Connections, the leadership magazine for MOPS International, Vogt is also the Skills Coach for My Book Therapy, the writing community founded by best-selling author Susan May Warren.

Online Resources
Follow Vogt online here
Buy it online here
Read more reviews here
My review of Wish You Were Here

As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Litfuse Publicity Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Blog Tour: The Icing on the Cake (Review)

It takes skill and talent to write a humorous novel, that weaves in a fun story line as well as laughter.

Janice Thompson is well, quite gifted in the art of storytelling.

Once again, Thompson has created a novel that is full of humor, grace and real life.

In The Icing on the Cake, Thompson tells the story of Scarlet, a baker who doesn't always feel like she lives up to the recipe card which makes up her life.

Scarlet has a dream - to become an extravagant baker. To get there, she has to endure the leavening
agent of her aunt, a successful baker who sometimes comes across as, well grumpy and set in her ways.

Along the way, Scarlet sorts out her feelings for Armando, and how the unexpected spice of his love, could impact the future direction of her life.

In all, this book is quite enjoyable, humorous and well, just what the baker ordered. The book pulls in just enough pieces from Thompson's previous works to some extra spice to the work.

On the scale of one to five, this book is a solid 3.5 to 4. Humor, grace and charm. All wrapped up in one package.

More about the book
Scarlet isn't sure if she has just the right ingredients for true love--or utter disaster

Scarlet Lindsey is busy making her dreams come true. She's moved her bakery to a prime spot on Galveston's most popular street, she's planning an extravagant cake for her best friend's wedding, and she has a great relationship with Bella Neeley, the island's most popular wedding coordinator. Business is booming and Scarlet is enjoying the ride.

But when Bella's dangerously handsome brother Armando breezes into her life, Scarlet is faced with a sticky situation. Should she stay with the safe, sweet guy who's been a fixture in her life for years? Or will this brash Italian hunk melt her guarded heart?

More about the author
Janice Thompson is a seasoned romance author and screenwriter. An expert at pulling the humor from the situations we get ourselves into, Thompson offers an inside look at the wedding business, drawing on her own experiences as a wedding planner. She is the author of the hugely popular Weddings by Bella series and the Backstage Pass series, as well as Picture Perfect and The Icing on the Cake. She lives in Texas. Visit www.janiceathompson.com for more information.

Online Resources

Weddings by Design
Book 1: My review of Picture Perfect
Read an excerpt online: here
Buy at Amazon
Check out her website here: http://janiceathompson.com

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Blog Tour: Once Upon A Prince (Review)

Every little girl dreams of being a princess or at least a great romance that lets her find a prince amidst life's frogs.

In the first bok in the Royal Wedding Series, Rachel Hauck has captured the magic of a fairy tale romance in a modern setting.

The story centers around Susanna Truitt, who falls in love - unknowingly - with a prince who is visiting St. Simon's Island incognito.

The prince falls in love with Susanna, and a whirlwind ensues.

This book is sweet. It's light-hearted. It weaves together all of the great aspects of a storybook fairy tale. It shows romance in the best way.

Could it happen in real life? Eh, who knows. It's just a fun book to read. On the scale of one to five, I give it a four. I'm kinda looking forward to the second book in the series. Hauck is a proficient storyteller I've enjoyed reading.

More About The Book
The Royal Wedding Series Book One

Susanna Truitt never dreamed of a great romance or being treated like a princess---just to marry the man she has loved for twelve years. But life isn't going according to plan. When her high-school-sweetheart-turned-Marine-officer breaks up instead of proposing, Susanna scrambles to rebuild her life.

The last thing Prince Nathaniel expects to find on his American holiday to St. Simon's Island is the queen of his heart. A prince has duties, and his family's tense political situation has chosen his bride for him. When Prince Nathaniel comes to Susanna's aid under the fabled Lover's Oak, he is blindsided by love.

Their lives are worlds apart. He's a royal prince. She's a ordinary girl. But everything changes when Susanna receives an invitation to Nathaniel's coronation.

It's the ultimate choice. His kingdom or her heart? God's will or their own?

More About The Author
Rachel Hauck is the bestselling author of Carol Award winner "Sweet Caroline", and RITA Finalist "Love Starts With Elle", and of the critically acclaimed fiction collaboration with multi-platinum country artist Sara Evans, "The Songbird Novels".

She lives in sunny, though sometimes hurricane plagued, central Florida with her husband and their ornery pets. Hauck earned a degree in Journalism from Ohio State University and is a huge Buckeyes football fan. She is the past President of American Christian Fiction Writers and now sits on the board as an Advisor.

Online Resources
Buy it online: here
Visit Rachel's website here:
 


Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Blog Tour: Deadly Devotion (Review)

Sandra Orchard opens her newest novel, Deadly Devotion, with a friend desperate to prove her friend, mentor and professional colleague did not, and would not, have committed suicide.

Through a variety of twists and turns, Orchard unpacks the story. Ultimately, it's a story of right and wrong, and truth and justice.

On the scale of one to five, I give this book a basic three. It's an interesting story, but at times I struggled to have the plot line keep my attention. Orchard is a good author - and I've read another one of her novels with success.

Ultimately, it's a good, basic suspense novel. If you are looking for a new author to test drive, you may find this book to be of interest. This book is the first of a new series. It was good enough to pick up the second book when it comes out.

More About The Book
Kate knows the truth is out there--but if she's right, that means a killer is out there too.

Research scientists Kate Adams and Daisy Leacock were on the brink of a breakthrough for treating depression with herbal medicine when Daisy was suddenly found dead. Kate knows that her mentor's death wasn't suicide or a careless accident--and she's determined to do whatever it takes to unearth the truth about what happened to the woman who changed her life.

Former FBI agent Tom Parker is finding it hard to adjust to life back in his hometown of Port Aster. Though an old buddy gave him a job as a detective on the local police force, not everyone approves. Tom's just trying to keep a low profile, so when Kate Adams demands he reopen the investigation into her friend's death, he knows his job is at stake. But despite his attraction to her, Tom thinks Kate may have something to hide.

As evidence mounts, a web of intrigue is woven around the sleepy town of Port Aster. Can Kate uncover the truth? Or will Tom stand in her way?

More About The Author
Sandra Orchard is an active member in American Christian Fiction Writers, The Word Guild, Romance Writers of America, and a local writing group. She recently participated in the Writers' Police Academy for hands-on training and simulations at a police training facility.

She is the author of Shades of Truth, Critical Condition, and Deep Cover, which won the Canadian Christian Writing Award for romance in June 2012 and was recognized as one of the top five novels of the year by Family Fiction magazine.

Orchard has also received a Daphne DuMaurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense in both the inspirational category and for best score overall. She lives in Niagara, Ontario, Canada.


Online Resources
Visit her website: www.sandraorchard.com.
Download an excerpt: here.
Download a reading group guide: here
Buy it at Amazon: here.

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Revell Publishing, a division of Baker Books. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Catching up, moving forward


If you follow this blog, you'll notice two things:
 1) There's been a "break" in my posts since April.
2) I've been posting a lot of reviews in the last few days.

Four months ago, this week, I became a managing editor of a bi-weekly newspaper in northeast Oklahoma. I've spent the last few weeks striving to get my feet under me, and developing my style as an editor.

It's meant lots of late nights and early mornings. It's also meant that blogging - in any form, has taken a backseat.

In the last week, I've been brushing off the cobwebs of this blog. I've been catching up on book reviews that stacked up while I "settled" and hope to catch up some of the posts I thought I'd write about my #lifeofaneditor and the things I'm doing in small-town Oklahoma. 

For now, I'm posting a lot of reviews. Hopefully as the pile gets smaller, other things will appear.

Because ultimately, this blog is another piece of  my creative soul.

By the way, until I add other posts, this one is 1001. I never realized as I started this blog in 2006 that it would continue, and grow into another way for me to explore my writing gifts and graces.

Blog Tour: When A Secret Kills (Review)

Some reunions carry a lot of baggage - especially when Lynnette Eason creates them.

In When A Secret Kills, Eason wraps up her Deadly Reunion series with a bang. In it, she reveals why Jillian Carter has been on the run for years.

Jillian thinks she saw a murder, on the night of her high school graduation. What she finds when she finally confronts the secrets surrounding that night, is full of twists and turns.

In the third book of this series, Eason has once again created a novel that is full of suspense and surprises. In fact, readers may guess a different outcome.

Without giving away the ending - let's just say, Eason "hit it out of the ball park" with her surprise villain.

On a scale of one to five, I give this book a solid three - and the series a solid four.
I've enjoyed getting to know Eason's style as a suspense novelist. Her books are "keepers" - in fact, in a recent move, I pruned more than 100 works of fiction from my library.

Eason's books made it in the "keep" pile - to be read again and again. I'm looking forward to her next series.
 
More About The Book
She's come home to put a killer behind bars. But the killer plans to put her six feet under.

Investigative reporter Jillian Carter knows it's time to put the past to rest. She's tired of looking over her shoulder, letting a killer go free. She's no longer the scared kid who changed her name and disappeared. Now, no matter what the cost, Jillian must do what she is trained to do--find the truth and expose it. And the truth is that Senator Frank Hoffman committed murder ten years ago--and Jillian watched it happen.

Didn't she?


More About The Author
Lynette Eason is the author of several romantic suspense novels, including Too Close to Home, Don't Look Back, A Killer Among Us, and When the Smoke Clears.

She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. A homeschooling mother of two, she has a master's degree in education from Converse College. She lives in South Carolina.

Online Resources
Buy it online 
Read an excerpt online: here
Read the reading group guide: here
Check out Lynette Eason's website


Read Other Reviews in Deadly Reunions
When The Smoke Clears
When A Heart Stops

Past Reviews of Eason's Books
Too Close To Home (Review)
Don't Look Back (Review & Interview) 
A Killer Among Us (Review) 

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Revell Publishing, a division of Baker Books. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Blog Tour: Take A Chance On Me (Review)

Susan May Warren is back, with a new series - one that focuses on the Christiansen family who remain connected because of the family resort, located on the outskirts of Deep Haven, Minn.

Readers familiar with Warren's most recent works will be familiar with Deep Haven, as it's been the setting for her romance series.

This book, the first in a six-book series, focuses on a family - the good, the bad and the ugly. In describing this new series, Warren said she loves to write stories about families, watching how they interatct and grow together through challenges and victories.

"I conceived this series as I watched my own children begin to grow up and deal with romance and career and futures," Warren said. "I love Deep Haven, and it’s the perfect setting for a resort, so I crafted a family, much like the families I know, who run a resort.

"They want to pass on their legacy to their children...but their children don’t know if they want it. It’s sort of a parallel theme to the legacy of faith we instill in our children. As they grow older, they need to decide whether it is their faith too. It’s a saga about family and faith and what happens when
those collide with real life."

Warren sets the series on a small  vacation town in northern Minnesota where she spent her childhood.

"It’s located on Lake Superior, surrounded by pine and birch and the sense of small town and home," Warren said. "Populated by everyone from artists to lumberjacks, it’s Mitford, or perhaps Northern Exposure gone Minnesotan. Quaint, quirky and beautiful, it’s the perfect place to escape for a vacation"

Warren said she created the series as a way to examine culture and children today.

"I started to take a look at the big questions we are faced with as parents and as young people;
the issues that affect us as a culture, as well as personally," Warren said. "I wanted these books to go beyond family drama, beyond a great romance to raise bigger questions and stir truths that we might
pass along to others.

"This story is about our propensity in our culture to blame others for what goes wrong in our lives and and how this alienates us from each other, and ultimately, God."

The first book is based around the life of Darek, the oldest brother in the family - the leader and hero.

"He’s a wild land firefighter and a widower who’s had to give up his job to come home and run the resort and care for his young son," Warren said. "Darek doesn’t realize he has a problem. He lives with anger on his shoulder, hating the man who killed his wife (his best friend). His real problem is that he can’t forgive himself.

"In this first story, readers meet the family, hang out at the resort and discover that God can redeem
even a heart of stone, if we take a chance on Him."

Ultimately, as she told Darek's story, Warren said she hopes her readers identify with a person who feels they "just can't get past the anger they have for someone else to live in joy again."

"It’s for parents who see their children making bad choices and don’t know where to turn," Warren said. "It’s for people who believe that no one will ever really love them because of who they are, or the things they’ve done. It’s for people who need the courage to take a second chance on love and faith and family.

"I’m hoping readers walk away with a sense of how much God loves them, and that
yes, He can heal the angry and broken-hearted."

On the scale of one to five, I give this book a consistent, solid three. Warren is a prolific author who can tell a fabulous tale. While I enjoy the books that focus on the humor genre more, Take A Chance on Me allows her to tell about God's love and grace in a new way - using a deeper storyline.

As Warren has been developing her characters and storylines, and probably as her children have aged and become adults, she has consistently delved into issues that "older" adults (aka those with a little bit of seasoning from life) face.

Darek's story is hard to read at times, but it does show what happens when anger and grief control a person's life, locking them into the past.

Warren is creative, solid and talented. readers picking up this series, or honestly, any of her books, will enjoy diving into the life in and around Deep Haven.

More About The Book
Darek Christiansen is almost a dream bachelor—oldest son in the large Christiansen clan, heir to their historic Evergreen Lake Resort, and doting father. But he’s also wounded and angry since the tragic death of his wife, Felicity. No woman in Deep Haven dares come near.

New assistant county attorney Ivy Madison simply doesn’t know any better when she bids on Darek at the charity auction. Nor does she know that when she crafted a plea bargain three years ago to keep Jensen Atwood out of jail and in Deep Haven fulfilling community service, she was releasing the man responsible for Felicity’s death. All Ivy knows is that the Christiansens feel like the family she’s always longed for. And once she gets past Darek’s tough exterior, she finds a man she could spend the rest of her life with. Which scares her almost as much as Darek learning of her involvement in his wife’s case.

Caught between new love and old grudges, Darek must decide if he can set aside the past for a future with Ivy—a future more and more at risk as an approaching wildfire threatens to wipe out the Christiansen resort and Deep Haven itself.

More About The Author
From Susan: Growing up in Minneapolis and attending the U of MN, I learned to love city life, although I'm a woodsy girl at heart. Or maybe I'm an adventurer -- having lived and traveled all over the world, including Siberia Russia as a missionary for eight years.

Probably that's why my characters can't sit still, and seem to get into one scrape after another -- they're too much like me! I love God, my family, my country, my church, and feel privileged every day to be able to write stories, that I hope inspire and entertain!

Online Resources
Buy it on Amazon 
More from the publisher: here
Read an excerpt: here
A Q&A With Warren: here

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher, Tyndale House. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Bits & Pieces: Lesons learned

School started this week. I know, breaking news right?

It’s amazing to feel the change, that’s come over Grove (and the area communities) now that the regular routine of a school day is back in place.

I know, I know. Labor Day is traditionally the end of summer. But it’s almost as if summer is over, regardless that the calendar is still showing mid-August.

I’ve learned a lot in the last few days, checking out some of the new school supplies and things.

Like, did you know you can get a battery operated chandelier for your locker? Let me tell you, some of those upper elementary lockers put my decorating skills to shame.

I asked one parent where his daughter planned to put her books — his response was a shrug. Books, it seemed, took a back seat to style.

I’ve also learned this week how much Grove Sun readers like to see pictures of their kidlets on Facebook. While we (the collective “we” of the Grove Sun staff) can’t be everywhere, or take photos at every event, going back to school is a pretty big deal for a small community.

Today’s issue features a flavor of those photos. You can also find photos in a gallery online at www.grandlakenews.com and on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/grovesun.

Back To School Snapshots

Speaking of Facebook, have you entered our Back To School Snapshot contest?

The last time I looked, we have an assortment of pics (17 so far) featuring everything from cute preschoolers to mature high schoolers.

One — I’ll be honest, my favorite so far because it made me laugh — came from a mom, who got a bit “creative” with her photo.

Because her high school-aged sons didn’t let her take a “traditional” photo, she created a “photo illustration.” Creative, fun and yes, it still makes me laugh.

Have you entered? Visit this page: http://a.pgtb.me/SRbR98 or click on the Back To School Photo Contest icon below our cover photo on Facebook.

Remember, tell all your family and friends to vote, one vote per person/per day. The photog with the most votes will earn four tickets to the Tulsa State Fair.

Have you picked a side?

Next Saturday, will be the Second Annual Guns & Hoses blood drive. Have you picked a side — are you Team Fire or Team Police?

Donors are encouraged to roll up their sleeves and donate blood — and pick a team to support.

I hear members of both the Grove Fire and Police departments have been out in force, recruiting people to make a donation.

There’s even a fun challenge. The “losing” captain will push the other, in a wheelbarrow on the track in front of the home bleachers during an upcoming football game — all while wearing a tutu and “bedazzled” t-shirt. We’re still figuring out which game this will take place.

All in all, it’s been a busy, crazy and fun week in Grove. To all the teachers, students and parents, your friends at The Grove Sun hope you have an amazing, awesome, fantastic and wonderful school year.

Kaylea M. Hutson is the managing editor of The Grove Sun. She can be reached at kaylea.hutson@grovesun.com or 918-786-2228. This column originally appeared in the Aug. 16, 2013 issue of The Grove Sun

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Blog Tour: Unrivaled (Reivew)

Lucy Kendall has a plan. She will return home from a tour of Europe, with a collection of candy s
amples, ready to find the "perfect" candy that will safe her father's candy business.

Instead, she returns to St. Louis to discover the business is in jeopardy, her father recovering from a heart attack, and her future she desires is at risk.

Through the book, which pulls in intrigue, industrial espionage, and some surprising twists and turns, Lucy struggles to claim her identity and find a purpose in life.

She also struggles to sort out her feelings with a new man, who turns out to be her father's chief competitor's long-lost son.

This novel was surprisingly good. It was kind of like a fresh caramel; just sweet enough to give you something to ponder or "chew on." It also provided enough twists and turns - for a romance-based novel - to keep the reader's interest.

On a scale of one to five, I give it a solid three and a half. I truly enjoyed the book - actually more than I anticipated. It's one that I would be glad to pass along to a friend, especially someone who likes historical fiction.   

More About The Book
Lucy Kendall returns from a tour of the Continent, her luggage filled with the latest fashions and a mind fired by inspiration. After tasting Europe's best confections, she's sure she'll come up with a recipe that will save her father's struggling candy business and reverse their fortunes.

But she soon discovers that their biggest competitor, the cheat who swindled her father out of his prize recipe, has now hired a promotions manager--a cocky, handsome out-of-towner who gets under Lucy’s skin.

Charlie Clarke's new role at Standard Manufacturing is the chance of a lifetime. He can put some rough times behind him and reconnect with the father he's never known. The one thing he never counted on, however, was tenacious Lucy Kendall. She's making his work life miserable...and making herself impossible for him to forget.

More About The Author
Siri Mitchell is the author of nearly a dozen novels, among them the critically acclaimed Christy Award finalists Chateau of Echoes and The Cubicle Next Door.

A graduate of the University of Washington with a degree in business, she has worked in many different levels of government. As a military spouse, she has lived in places as varied as Tokyo and Paris. Mitchell currently lives in the DC-metro area.

Online Resources
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Siri-Mitchell/67961379554
Website: http://sirimitchell.com 
Read an excerpt online: here
Buy it at Amazon: here.

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Blog Tour: Days Like These (Review)

I like memoirs. It probably stems from my belief that everyone has a story to tell.

The story found in Days Like These by Kristian and Rachel Anderson is compelling, heartbreaking and inspiring.

It tells the story Kristian's battle with cancer, through a variety of stories, blog posts and even videos.

The book is striking, partly because the outcome is already known. Kristian died in January 2012. But through this book, and his various videos, his faith, life and story continue to live on.

In the world of memoirs, this book stands out because there's no happy ending in the traditional sense. However, Kristian's faith is inspiring. .

On the scale of one to five, this book is a strong three and a half. We can all learn something from the life - and faith - of Kristian and Rachel Anderson.

More About The Book
In Days Like These, Kristian Anderson, shares his valiant fight with cancer. In his own words, Kristian leaves a powerful legacy for his wife Rachel, his two little boys, and the rest of the world, with an inspiring and faith-filled story of hope and the ultimate truth that even in the darkest moments, light can shine through.

More About The Authors
There are love stories and then there's the story of Kristian and Rachel Anderson. When Kristian wanted to show his wife Rachel how much he loved her after learning he was terminally ill, he ended up winning millions of hearts around the world, thanks to the now famous YouTube video he made for her 35th birthday.

Social media is often seen as trivial and self-absorbed, but this heartfelt and moving tribute by a young Australian father of two in the midst of a battle with cancer, drew attention to a much larger story we all wanted to know more about and an ordeal so many families face alone.

Like Oprah, who invited Kristian and Rachel on her show, and Hugh Jackman, who helped make one of Kristian's dreams come true by appearing on the tribute, many of us didn't know him but we were so inspired by him that we felt like we did. He touched lives, gave hope and left behind a precious legacy that will mean a longer and better quality of life for thousands of cancer sufferers.

Kristian’s faith was foundational to him and he openly shared his prayers, his struggles, and the hope he found in his relationship with God. His story, told in his own words from his blog entries, with additions from his beloved Rachel, will inspire others to know that even in the darkest moments, the light can shine through.

Online Resources
Read an excerpt online
Buy at Amazon

Kristian's birthday video for Rachel, an example of the video resources found within the manuscript.

Rachel's Birthday Video from Kristian Anderson on Vimeo.

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by BookSneeze, a review division of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Blog Tour: The Letters (Review)

Rose Schrock is picking up the pieces of her life after her husband's life (and death) leaves her swimming in debt.

Rather than stick her head in the sand, or avoid life, Rose develops a plan to save her mother-in-law's farm, and make a living for her family.

What follows, in Book 1 of Suzanne Woods Fisher's newest series, The Letters, is a tale that shows how simplicity and hospitality can not only nurture to guests at an inn, but also nurture a hurting family.

This is the third series, that Fisher has created centering around the same area "Stoney Ridge." A few of the characters are "old friends" while others make their first appearance in the storyline. However like many of Fisher's previous books, her stories can standalone.

In all, it's a tale that is warm, cozy and enjoyable. If you like Amish fiction and are looking for something that is fun to read, this may be the series for you.

I enjoy very few Amish writers. Fisher is but one of a select group I'll read. Ultimately, her air of authenticity - of how she tries to portray the simply lifestyle shines through her words.

Once again, Fisher has created a solid, honest and heartwarming tale. On a scale of one to five, I give the book a solid three. I'd say I'd read it again, but since I've already passed the other two trilogies on to a friend - I imagine this will find it's way to her shelves.

More About The Book
Book one in Suzanne's brand new series; The Inn at Eagle Hill.

Rose Schrock is a plain woman with a simple plan. Determined to find a way to support her family and pay off her late husband's debts, she sets to work to convert the basement of her Amish farmhouse into an inn. While her family, especially her cranky mother-in-law, is unhappy with Rose's big idea, her friend and neighbor, Galen King, supports the decision and he helps with the conversion. As Rose finalizes preparations for visitors, she prays.

She asks God to bless each guest who stays at the Inn at Eagle Hill. As the first guest arrives and settles in, Rose is surprised to discover that her entire family is the one who receives the blessings, in the most unexpected ways. And she's even more surprised when that guest decides to play matchmaker for Galen King.

With her signature plot twists combined with gentle Amish romance, bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher invites readers back to Stoney Ridge for fresh stories of simple pleasures despite the complexity of life. Fisher's tale of God's providence and provision will delight her fans and create many new ones. Welcome to the Inn at Eagle Hill.

More About The Author
Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of the Lancaster County Secrets series and the Stoney Ridge Seasons series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. She is also the coauthor of a new Amish children's series, The Adventures of Lily Lapp.

Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne is a Carol Award winner and a Christy Award finalist.

She is a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazines. She lives in California. For more information, please visit suzannewoodsfisher.com and connect with her on Twitter @suzannewfisher. Get Amish proverbs delivered right to your iPhone or iPad! Download the Free App! http://bit.ly/134r55G

Follow the blog tour here: http://litfusegroup.com/books/the-letters
Purchase the book at Amazon

It's a Giveaway
Win an iPad, Kindle or Nook from @SuzanneWFisher in “The Letters” Giveaway!
Suzanne Woods Fisher is celebrating the release of the first book, The Letters, in her new series by giving away 2 iPads, 2 Kindle Fires and 2 Nook HDs! Wow!

The-Letters-Suzanne-Woods-Fisher

Two grand prize winners will receive:
  • An iPad
  • The Letters by Suzanne Woods Fisher
Four second place winners will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HD or a Nook HD - winner's choice!
  • The Letters by Suzanne Woods Fisher
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 17th. All winners will be announced August 19th at Suzanne's blog.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to visit Suzanne's blog on the 19th to see if you won one of the great prizes! (Or better yet, subscribe to her blog and have the winner announcement delivered to your inbox!)


Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Bits & Pieces: Crayons & More

Ahh... the smell of new crayons.

Come on. Admit it. Regardless of how you felt about starting school again each fall — you looked forward to having a new box of crayons.

Ok, at least I did.

There’s something about the feeling of anticipation you get when you open up a new box of crayons.

The smell of freshness, the crisp look of untouched crayon tips, and the amazing possibilities of everything you could create with those 24 (or more) waxy sticks of colored loveliness.

It’s that time of year, time for school to begin and kidlets to get their fresh supplies.

Backpacks, folders, glue, crayons, scissors…. Ziplock bags?

We’ve had a few questions at The Grove Sun office about the extensive lists of supplies needed for the elementary students in Grove.

Some parents expressed frustration with the fact that students, especially those in some of the younger grades, appear to be buying “community” supplies, rather than “their own set.”

A few wondered why name brand items are requested, for some things – like Crayola markers or Elmer’s glue, or Fiskar scissors.

Others with multiple children, worried about having all of the supplies at once – or not at all – due to family finances.

I visited with Julie Bloss, principal at the Grove Early Childhood Center, about some of the questions raised by parents.

Remember when we (come on think back) were in pre-kindergarten or kindergarten, and we had a specific desk to keep all of our supplies in?

Bloss said the ECC classrooms are designed using tables and chairs, rather than desks – so there’s no place to put individual supplies.

She also explained why teachers don’t label the items with names. At this age, students are just learning how to write their names.

Imagine 20 plus preschoolers looking for a pencil with their name on it in order to do an assignment. From a classroom management perspective, Bloss said, sometimes it’s just easier to say “grab a pencil” rather than “find a pencil with your name on it.”

In other situations, a center that uses crayons would have say, four buckets of crayons – and students would be instructed to just grab a bucket of crayons to use, rather than “go hunt in your backpack for your specific box.” The supplies are “community” and replaced as needed.

She gave another example about preschoolers doing a project requiring glue. Picture 20 plus students needing to glue leaves to a nature collage; from a “management” standpoint, it’s easier for the adults in the room to hand out a few bottles of glue, and direct students to share them, rather than give each student their own bottle.

Actually, I’m thinking it’s more of a common sense thing, because have you seen how preschoolers like to use glue?

In terms of the name brand items Bloss said, for many supplies generic is fine. But for a few things, take Fiskar scissors specifically; name brand really does make a difference. She said teachers have found that little hands learning to cut, often get frustrated when using non-Fiskar scissors. The generic ones just don’t hold up to multiple use – or even cut the same way.

Let’s face it, Crayola has the market on good, quality crayons and markers. Generic ones, in my experience as a kid minister, don’t hold up to heavy use.

Oh, and about those “unusual” supplies, like Dixie cups, napkins, Ziploc bags or paper plates, Bloss said those items are often used during art, lessons involving cooking, or during the daily snack time.

At least the classes aren’t still requiring protractors and compasses. For the record, I really don’t remember using the compass much in school – except as something to poke fellow classmates.

For parents facing financial issues – or getting supplies for multiple kidlets – Bloss had a few great suggestions.

First, get the supplies you can, now, while sales are going on. Get other stuff, as you can afford it. Your students will need stuff throughout the year – not just in August. She even suggested getting half of the supplies (especially when a quality of one item is listed) for the fall semester, and then pick up the other stuff in the spring – or as teachers make specific requests.

Second, remember there’s no shame in saying, ‘I need help.’ Bloss said through the Delaware County Community Partnership and other Grove organizations and businesses, the ECC has a plethora of items ready to provide parents in need. She said parents can contact her privately, either in person or by email. They can also talk to their child’s teacher. Bloss said there’s always a way to make sure a child gets what he or she needs to be successful.

Third, if you are one of those parents who can purchase a few extra things (or are kidlet free but love school supplies), why not pick up an elementary school list and grab a few items. Think of yourself as a School Supply Santa Claus as you drop them off at a local elementary school. You’ll get the joy in helping out a kidlet or teacher in need.

School starts on Wednesday, Aug. 14. I may just pick up a new box of Crayolas in celebration of a start of a great new school year in Grove.

Kaylea M. Hutson is the managing editor of The Grove Sun. She can be reached at kaylea.hutson@grovesun.com or 918-786-2228. This column originally appeared in the Aug. 9, 2013 issue of The Grove Sun

Friday, August 2, 2013

Bits & Pieces: Anytime, Anywhere, Anything

I have a saying for the kidlets in my life: anytime, anywhere, anything.

There’s lots of details related to the phrase, but the gist of it is this: if it’s physically, mentally or remotely possible for me to help out a kidlet in need, I’m there.

Sunday was one of those days. I found myself in Southwest City, Mo., (because it was a good “meet in the middle place”) connecting with Eric and Bekah, two friends from Siloam Springs, Ark.

I’ve literally spent the last few years watching their son, Canaan, grow—ever since he came to church in his carrier for that first Easter.

He’s had a special place in my heart for years, and frankly, it’s because of him (and a couple of partners in crime) I have three folders of “kidlet games” on my iPhone.

Remember the scene in “Finding Nemo” when the birds chirp “mine, mine, mine”? Well, Canaan and his buddies would see me walk into the church nursery and instead of saying hi, would start to chirp “phone, phone” and hold their hands out.

I knew I’d spoiled him, when at about age 3, he told his dad he was “calling China” on his mom’s iPod. (My running line when I hand a kidlet my phone to use is “don’t call China.”)

Canaan’s been sick most of his life. At first doctors thought it was related to food allergies, and then, frankly they were just baffled.

In the last couple of years, doctors at Arkansas Children’s Hospital figured out he has Chronic granulomatous disease (CGD), a rare disease that only four out of every million children have.

The long, short story is this: Canaan’s immune system doesn’t work right. For now, his treatment—a regimen that includes a daily antibiotic, steroid and anti-fungal—helps keep him from getting sick.

Doctors told his parents eventually he would need a bone-marrow transplant. Last month, eventually became reality.

The good news is, the transplant is expected to cure him of this wretched disease. The not so good news, is that no one in his immediate family is a match for the transplant. So now doctors are searching for a non-familiar match.

There’s a chance tests this week will identify a donor. Doctors are pretty hopeful the search is narrowing quickly. In the meantime, Canaan’s parents are encouraging friends, family and heck, even strangers, to check out http://bethematch.org and learn more about becoming bone marrow donors.

So here’s my challenge this week. Take a few moments and check out the National Marrow Donor Registry, and see what it might take to become a donor.

I’ll probably write about Canaan again. If a donor is found, he’ll go to Houston to Texas Children’s Hospital to have the transplant. The leading expert for this disease is based there. He’s done 19 bone marrow transplants specifically for CGD, 18 of which were a success. Scary odds, but good odds. Here’s praying that the “odds be ever in his favor” as Canaan fights this disease.

Anytime, Anywhere, Anything.

On a side note, I hear you can sign up to become a bone marrow donor during the “Guns and Hoses” blood drive, set for Saturday, Aug. 24, at the Grove Community Building.

So, have you picked your side yet? Are you Team Police or Team Fire? Signups for donation slots are underway at both departments, or you can contact Sam Edwards at the Grove Sun office at 918-786-2228.

Kaylea M. Hutson is the managing editor of The Grove Sun. She can be reached at kaylea.hutson@grovesun.com or 918-786-2228. This column originally appeared in the Aug. 2, 2013 issue of The Grove Sun
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