Monday, July 4, 2016

Summer is Just Speeding By!

Our summer so far has been a whirlwind of activities. Baseball, swim lessons, kids' camp, dental visits, guests, new pets, and ferrying teens to work. There hasn't been much rest in our summer so far. Here's a tiny peek into our summer.

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

I need to organize our school boxes for next school year, and take some pictures of our curriculum. Hopefully I'll get to that this week or next. Stay tuned.

April E.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Review: Wonderland Coloring Book by Amily Shen

Yes, this is another coloring book review! Except this coloring book is one I selected for my children instead of myself. Wonderland is a whimsical coloring book inspired by Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The illustrations were created by Amily Shen.  Wonderland is another 10x10 inch square coloring book, with 80 pages ... so many illustrations to color!

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

When I requested my review copy, I initially thought my 10 and 17 year old daughters would enjoy coloring these illustrations. However, my 5 year old daughter and 7 year old son have also been eager to get their hands on the book! It has been a hit with all my girls and one of my sons.

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

Some of the coloring pages are single page elements like a peacock, a vial of potion to make her shrink, or a nest with eggs in it. There are also several two-page illustrations - some of which look like book illustrations for Alice in Wonderland, and others that are lovely but less obviously Wonderland-ish. (Like my new word?)

As with many of my favorite coloring books, there are very complex pages (like the Queen of Hearts) and some that are simpler for when you have less time or when you want to let a younger child color in the book. Although I did get this for my children primarily, I do want to color the two-page illustration with the fawns around a little house, and the two-page illustration of Alice following a card-man past several coffee shops. (Were there really coffee shops in the book?)

One feature I really like about this softcover book is that there is actually a dustjacket on the book. When you remove the dust jacket and turn it over, you have a 30x10 inch long butterfly coloring page to color. If you remove the dust jacket from the book, you can use gel pens or markers to color the illustrations on the book covers itself, as well! Bonus coloring pages!

We're enjoying Wonderland and its whimsical style at our house!

April E.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

June is Summer, Right?

I know summer doesn't officially start until June 20, but it definitely feels like summer here. School ended last month, baseball is underway, the sun is shining, it's getting hot, and some of our family has already been to the pool. It is summer, for all intents and purposes.

Just a little look at our summer so far ...

A video posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

I hope your summer is starting off well - full of fun, sunshine, and lots of family time!
April E.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Book Review: Sister Eve and the Blue Nun by Lynne Hinton

I love mysteries! I especially enjoy reading Christian mysteries that I know aren't going to include gratuitous bedroom scenes and foul language. I couldn't resist the title of this book, Sister Eve and the Blue Nun, or the thought of Nancy Drew in a habit. Although it turns out that Evangeline Divine (Sister Eve) is more my age than Nancy Drew's age, and she doesn't wear a habit. In fact, she drives a motorcycle and she's not sure she should still be a nun.

I hadn't read the previous two books in The Divine Private Detective Agency Mystery series, but I completely enjoyed this one. Although I didn't have as much history of the relationships between Sister Eve and others in the book, I was still able to follow the plot without feeling confused.

I started reading this book after I put the children to bed one night, and I didn't stop reading until the book was finished at 1 AM. I originally had some suspicions about the murderer, but Lynne Hinton had tricked me into suspecting someone else before she finally revealed the truth.

I am not a Catholic, and wasn't familiar with the spiritual manifestations and miracles associated with Sister Maria de Jesus de Agreda (the Lady in Blue). That part of the story was interesting, but unusual to me. Although The Divine Private Detective Agency Mysteries are centered around a nun, they are not only for Catholics. They're enjoyable, no matter your denomination.

I highly recommend Sister Eve and the Blue Nun. I liked it so much, I requested the first two books from my library so I can read them this summer. I've found another fun, cozy murder mystery series to follow, and I'm thrilled!

April E.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Review: Phil Wickham's Children of God CD

Although Phil Wickham is a worship leader with several previous album releases, I wasn't very familiar with his music. I've sung This is Amazing Grace with our church, but I didn't know it was a Phi Wickham song. I'm sure I've heard some of his other songs on the radio, and probably even sang along - but I didn't have any of his CDs until FlyBy Promotions offered me the chance to review his latest release, Children of God.

I enjoy music, but I'm not an expert at musical terms or genres. Personally, I found Children of God to be a wonderful album. I loved the meaningful and compelling lyrics. The music is beautiful and soothing, but with a driving beat that is catchy. It's perfect for listening to all day long - as you drive, while you work, and if you turn the volume down, even while you sleep.

I loved the Doxology remake, Stand in Awe, As It Is In Heaven, and Spirit of God. They are beautiful worship songs! I can just imagine singing them with my church congregation! There isn't a single song on the album that I don't like, but those are my favorites.

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

I completely recommend Phil Wickham's Children of God album! I'm not sure whether to call it contemporary christian, worship music, or what?? I think it's cross-generational, and if you enjoy the video I shared above, you'll love the entire CD!

You can purchase Children of God from iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and other retailers.

April E.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Review and Contest! Her One and Only by Becky Wade

Meet Dru Porter, former Marine, expert markswoman, and black belt—who also happens to be assigned as a bodyguard to star NFL tight end Gray Fowler. Don't miss the final Porter family novel by Becky Wade, Her One and Only. Gray starts receiving death threats from a stalker, and Dru is determined to find his stalker. Every secret that leads Dru closer to the stalker also draws her closer to Gray. As the danger escalates, they’ll survive only if they can learn to trust their lives—and their hearts—to one another.

ElCloud Thoughts:

I enjoyed Her One and Only very much. I hadn't read the previous three books in the Porter family, so I was missing a lot of back story on the characters, but it didn't really detract from the storyline of Her One and Only. I started reading Her One and Only at about 11:15 one night when my husband was out of town. I made the mistake of taking the book to bed with me, and finally set it aside at 4 am. I hadn't intended to read the entire book, but after a couple chapters, I was hooked.

At first the book was a little too predictable in the way the two main characters, Dru and Gray, respond to each other. Thankfully it didn't stay that predictable for long. The mystery of the stalker wasn't very intense. I suspected the truth along the way, especially after meeting the suspect. The ending wasn't a complete surprise for me, but it also wasn't hinted at too strongly.

I enjoyed the rapport and dialogue between Dru and Gray a lot. There was depth in the way their relationship developed and the way they each worked through their pasts. However, there was more focus on their physical attraction and kissing than was completely necessary. It could have been scaled down just a bit and still been an enjoyable book. Otherwise, the book was clean and held a definite gospel message.

If you're already a Becky Wade fan, you'll love Her One and Only. If you enjoy romance with a little mystery or suspense, you'll enjoy Her One and Only even if you haven't read the rest of the Porter Family series.

April E.

her one and only - 400 

Join Becky in celebrating the release of Her One and Only by entering to win her Porter prize pack and $100 cash card giveaway!

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of Her One and Only
  • A $100 cash card
  • Follow Your Heart tote bag
  • 24 oz Tervis Wonder Woman Tumbler
  • The Blind Side DVD
  • Necklace with star charm
  • Porter Family navy jersey
her one and only - prize collage 

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry! The giveaway ends on May 31st. The winner will be announced June 1st on the Litfuse blog.


Friday, May 20, 2016

And then there were actual photos!

A friend brought it to my attention that my reviews recently didn't have pictures that were visible, at least not to everyone. I'm so sorry! Two weeks of reviews and personal posts that didn't have images because my instagram images were showing up blank.

If there were any posts you were wanting to read and didn't see the images, go ahead and give it a peek again. There were seven Book Reviews and two ElCloud Photo posts that weren't working previously.

But now, there are actual photos! I apologize. And next time you're reading and wondering why you can't see anything ... please leave a comment! I was so thankful Julieanne took the time to let me know.

April E.