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Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

postheadericon TLC Tours – Diana Gabaldon’s An Echo in the Bone Giveaway and Review

Red Barn Blue Skies welcomes TLC Tours and Diana Gabaldon for An Echo in the Bone Giveaway and Review.
Diana Gabaldon An Echo in the Bone Giveaway at Red Barn Blue Skies
Welcome to those of you new to Red Barn Blue Skies and welcome back to old friends. I hope you all enjoy my review of this wonderful book and be sure to enter the giveaway that Ms. Gabaldon and her publisher have generously offered one lucky reader.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon at Red Barn Blue Skies
I am extremely honored to have been chosen to participate in this book tour celebrating the paperback reprint of Diana Gabaldon’s latest addition to the Outlander series, An Echo in the Bone.  I have been a fan of hers since she first starting putting excerpts on the Lit Forum of Compuserve way back in the very early nineties.  I fell in love with her “Red Jamie” then and still have a mad passion for him and his love story with wife Claire.  My husband and I even used a variation of their wedding vows in ours!
An Echo in the Bone:  Jamie Fraser is an eighteenth-century Highlander, an ex-Jacobite traitor, and a reluctant rebel in the American Revolution.  His wife, Claire Randall Fraser, is a surgeon – from the twentieth century.  What she knows of the future compels him to fight.  What she doesn’t know may kill them both.
With one foot in America and one foot in Scotland, Jamie and Claire’s adventure spans the Revolution, from sea battles to printshops, as their paths cross with historical figures from Benjamin Franklin to Benedict Arnold.
Meanwhile, in the relative safety of the twentieth century, their daughter, Brianna, and her husband experience the unfolding drama of the Revolutionary War through Claire’s letters.  But the letters can’ warn them of the threat that’s rising out of the past to overshadow their family.
Diana Gabaldon’s sweeping Outlander saga reaches new heights in An Echo in the Bone.

My Thoughts:

*I am trying to do a thorough review without accidentally dropping any spoilers for those readers new to the Outlander series.  I apologize if I do give something away, it’s not intentional as I want newcomers to meet Jamie and Claire fresh, as I did those many years ago.
An Echo in the Bone is the 7th book in the extremely popular Outlander series.  The saga chronicles the life and adventures of Claire Randall Fraser and Jamie Fraser.  When we were initially introduced to Jamie and Claire in the first book, Outlander, they were both in their early twenties.  In this latest book, some thirty years later, they are starting to acknowledge their age and that time is creeping up on them.  Jamie is still quite the hero and Claire is still getting into scrapes that he must rescue her from, it just takes them a bit longer to get over the aftermath of their escapades.
I really enjoyed An Echo in the Bone.  Ms. Gabaldon has remained true to form with superior character development and fabulous settings.  By the end of the book (each of the books, actually), the reader feels that they really know these people personally and that this is more of a diary than a fictional novel.  Her characters come to life and make you feel what they’re feeling.  You worry for them just as you would your own family member and cheer their victories.

 Historical Accuracy

The historical facts are painstakingly researched for accuracy while still allowing the author room to interweave the fictional Jamie and Claire into the timeline.  First, we accompanied them during the Jacobite uprising and the ’45 and we’re now traipsing through the American Revolution along with them.  We need to stay sharp as there are chance meetings with Dr. Franklin (yes, Benjamin Franklin) and other notable figures in the history of America’s bid for independence.
One of the author’s methods of delivering vital information in this book was through letters from Claire in the late 1700s to her & Jamie’s daughter Brianna, in the 1980s.  I won’t get into how they are in different eras as it will give too much away.  The way the letters both give the reader needed details as well as pave the way for current events, is extremely effective and useful.  The sentimental and homesick feelings it stirs up in both Brianna and her husband, Roger carries over to the reader as well.
I’m not going to go any further with my details of the book.  This is one of my favorite books of the year and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves romance, history, fiction and any combination of the three.  There are some sexual situations in the novel, but they are tastefully done.   Being that this is set during a war, violence also comes into play at times.  I have to admit that I pretty much didn’t do anything but read this amazing book over a weekend.  I’m fortunate that my husband is also a big fan of this series, so he took care of the household so I could immerse myself in Claire and Jamie’s world.

Any one of these outstanding books can be read as a highly entertaining, stand-alone novel, but I suggest you start with Outlander and read them in order. Each successive book leaves you with a deeper knowledge of Claire and Jamie’s history and story.

Diana Gabaldon at the Red Barn Blue Skies

If you would like to read more about the author, check out Diana’s website or find her on Facebook.  She has a graphic novel coming out this fall that is the retelling of Outlander, from Jamie’s point of view.  I can’t wait!
There is also more coming out about Lord John Grey, a then minor character we first met in the second book, Dragonfly in Amber.  His own storyline has developed into a secondary, stand-alone series that is equally excellent.


Thank you to Lisa at TLC Book Tours for including me on this great tour.

An Echo in the Bone Giveaway

Diana Gabaldon An Echo in the Bone Giveaway at Red Barn Blue SkiesNow, I’d like to thank Diana Gabaldon and her publisher for providing a copy of An Echo in the Bone for one of you lucky, lucky readers.  The contest closes at midnight, PST on Wednesday, September 1st.  I will draw one winner who will have 48 hours to respond.  Another winner will be drawn if I don’t hear from them.
The drawing is open to followers of this blog who are residents of the United States and Canada only.  No PO boxes please.  Just comment on this post and tell us if you’ve read or heard of Diana Gabaldon and Outlander before and what you think.  That’s it!  Good luck 🙂

~ If you don’t want to wait to get started, you can click on the cover of any of the books above to be taken to the corresponding page on

Disclaimer:  I received this book from TLC Tours for purposes of a review.  I received no monetary compensation and all words/thoughts/opinions are 100% my own.  I am an affiliate and may receive a small percentage from any sales made through my affiliate links.

postheadericon CSN Stores EarthBox Garden Kit review

Back in March, I posted about a review I would be doing for CSN Stores on their EarthBox Garden Kit.  (You can find the original post Here). I know it was quite a while ago that I started on this review, but I wanted to really give it a thorough test and not just an “oh it’s cool”, “I really like it”, etc.  even though I hadn’t really put it through it’s paces. I won’t do a review post on anything that I haven’t truly tried out personally. So, without further ado; my unbiased opinion – I love it!!!!

EarthBox Garden Kit

I planted the grow box the same day I received it back in March. I put young strawberry plants in both the EarthBox and also a similar planter that I already owned.  The planters are roughly the same size and shape. I put a total of six strawberry plants in each, all the same size and variety.  The plants have all had the exact same conditions and treatment. I followed the directions on the EarthBox garden kit exactly as they instructed. Since the EarthBox did come with fertilizer, I added the same type to my white planter as well. I really believe the system they’ve come up with is a winner.


This photo is of the EarthBox on the day I planted it:  (I’m sorry I can’t find the photo of the white planter from that day – I believe it was part of the laptop casualty files.)


earthbox garden kit review


The photos below show the EarthBox and the regular planter now:


regular planter
side by side


The above photo shows them side by side. Isn’t the difference in plant size amazing? I was very impressed with this kit and I think I may just have to get myself one or two more for next season. I like that the planter is on wheels and is very easy to maneuver around. I think it would be great for some of the delicate plants or those that don’t seem to make it here due to gophers or voles….

As for CSN Stores, I was very impressed with their service and communication.  James was the representative who had initially contacted me for the review and was extremely helpful from start to finish.  Once we decided what I would be reviewing, he placed my order and it was here within about three days.  Their huge inventory and major amount of selections are very impressive as well.  They offer free shipping on many of their items too so it’s a great idea to check them out!


Disclaimer: I received the above EarthBox Garden kit from CSN Stores for review purposes. The opinions and views expressed here are 100% my own. I was under no obligation to offer a positive review.

postheadericon Spring has Sprung

Spring has sprung around here and with the slightly warmer weather we were having, I have been on a kick to get our patio and backyard “party ready” for this Spring and Summer. My ultimate goal is to design a very “liveable” outdoor living space.

I have recently been drooling over some fabulous home bars from CSN Stores that will fit this plan perfectly. They have an extensive selection so the biggest problem I am having is narrowing it down to only one favorite!  Their prices are quite competitive and since they have over 200 stores with just about anything I could possibly use for this growing project, I am spending a lot of time making my list(s). The fact that many of their products also include free shipping just adds to my drool pool…

Spring HAS Sprung

Spring has sprung with the EarthBox at Red Barn Blue Skies

So…. imagine how tickled I was when I was given the chance to review an EarthBox Garden Kit from CSN Stores.  Needless to say, I jumped at the chance with all fours and will be giving you an in-depth opinion very soon!

I’m looking forward to testing this planter as it looks like it will be another time and labor saver in my gardening adventures, endeavors, and mishaps.  Plus, you know how much I enjoy trying out different products and sharing my take on it; the good, bad or ugly.  Stay tuned and I’ll fill you in shortly.

**UPDATE – check out my glowing EarthBox Garden Kit review. It’s a good one!

postheadericon Drymate Cat Pads Review

I was recently sent a Litter Box Mat and a Cat Bowl Mat from the nice people at Drymate cat pads review.  I wanted to put the products to the test so I could give you an in-depth, cat herd approved opinion.

Red Barn Blue Skies Drymate Cat Pads Review
First, we have the Cat Bowl Mat as demonstrated by PeTOOTnia.  I thought this mat was cute with the little paw prints (especially since it hides the real ones).  With nine cats and two dogs slopping water a bajillion times a day, this mat has really been put through the paces.  One feature they tout about their mats is that they are absorbent and waterproof.  I found this to be very true, even with the probably half-gallon of water the “children” spill from the waterer every day, it has held up to that claim.  It’s also very easy to just wipe clean. 
(I really did plan to take the photo without the critters, but Toot had to be in the pictures.)
Drymate Cat Pads Review at Red Barn Blue Skies
Bugsy at Red Barn Blue Skies for a Drymate Cat Pads Review
The second product we tested is the Litter Box Mat.  I used it a bit differently than they intended, but it really works for me.  My litter boxes are on the other side of this kitty door (shown above with Bugsy peeking in).  I’m using it as a little mat for when they come back in the house from the boxes.  I have found that it really does catch that last little bit of litter that they tend to track in.  I think the different patterns they offer are really cute. 
One of the things that I did with this mat is to put it in the washing machine.  I hung it up to dry and it looked as good as new.  It took a bit to dry as these mats are all VERY ABSORBANT, but it was well worth being able to wash it.  The cats seem to enjoy it.  Celie demonstrates below how she uses it to sit on while keeping Bugsy from coming back inside.
Celie at Red Barn Blue Skies for Drymate Cat Pads Review

From the website:

The Cat Litter Box Mat controls litter mess. Cats love to walk on this soft fabric. Place in front of the litter box to protect floors and reduce litter tracking. This mat will aid in pulling the kitty litter from their paws. Machine washable and dryable.
♦ Absorbent, Attractive Fabric
♦ Waterproof, Bonded Backing Prevents Leak Thru
♦ Absorbs All Drips
♦ Protects
♦ Easy to Clean with Soap & Water, Simply Hose or Power Wash Off.
♦ Durable & Stain Resistant, Will Last for Years
♦ Lightweight, Easy to Use & Move
♦ Slip Resistant Backing Keeps Mat in Place.
♦ Can be Vacuumed
Celie and Bugsy Red Barn Blue Skies Drymate Cat Pads Review
Petootnia (Toot), Celie and Bugsy home you’ve enjoyed their Drymate Cat Pads Review as much as they did. Drymate offers several styles and sizes of these decorative and absorbent mats. They have one sure to fit everyone’s decorating style.
Disclaimer: I received the above mats for review purposes. The opinions expressed here are 100% my own (and the cats’). I was under no obligation to offer a positive review.