Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Book Review: When We Were Sisters

About the Book:

As children in foster care, Cecilia and Robin vowed they would be the sisters each had never had. Now superstar singer-songwriter Cecilia lives life on the edge, but when Robin is nearly killed in an accident, Cecilia drops everything to be with her. 

Robin set aside her career as a successful photojournalist to create the loving family she always yearned for. But gazing through a wide-angle lens at both past and future, she sees that her marriage is disintegrating. Her attorney husband is rarely home. She and the children need Kris's love and attention, but does Kris need them? 

When Cecilia asks Robin to be the still photographer for a documentary on foster care, Robin agrees, even though Kris will be forced to take charge for the months she's away. She gambles that he'll prove to them both that their children—and their marriage—are a priority in his life. 

Cecilia herself needs more than time with her sister. A lifetime of lies has finally caught up with her. She wants a chance to tell the real story of their childhood and free herself from the nightmares that still haunt her. 

As the documentary unfolds, memories will be tested and the meaning of family redefined, but the love two young girls forged into bonds of sisterhood will help them move forward as the women they were always meant to be.

My Comments:

Emilie Richards is a favorite author and this book did not disappoint.  Cecilia and Robin are both probably in their early thirties.  Robin's kids are in school and her neighborhood friends, who have kids her kids age are moving on with their lives--going back to work or getting involved in things beyond the neighborhood playgroup.  She hasn't been able to move on because her husband, a high-powered attorney, is never home, so the kids and house are pretty much a full time job.  Her best friend's death is the catalyst for her to take action and join her "sister" in making a documentary about the foster care system in which they were both raised.  

Some friends and I were talking at one point about adopting older children in need of a home.  Basically, we all said we couldn't do that to our kids.  The kids in the foster care system aren't kids who were in a perfectly happy, perfectly functional two parent home until their parents were tragically killed in car accident (at least not the overwhelming majority).  They are kids whose lives were bad when they were with their parents or other relatives and who generally have all sorts of problems as a result.  Cecilia and Robin had their share of problems but managed to bond with each other.  Now, as an adult, Cecilia, who is now a celebrity, is going to tell the story of how she ended up in foster care and what happened to her as a foster child.  Watching the characters film the documentary tells us about the past, and as the characters live their daily lives we see how that past has made them into the women they are today.  

I really enjoyed the book, though I found the big secret to be rather unbelievable--though unfortunately I found what led up to it to be much more believable.   Once Robin and Cecilia confronted their past and were honest with each other about what they knew, both of them were on a road to healed relationships.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for providing a complimentary review copy via NetGalley.  Grade:  B+

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Review: A Heart Stuck on Hope

About the Book:

Dulili is suffering a people drought. Over the years more people have moved away than have arrived to stay in this old New South Wales farming town, and now only a handful of young families and elderly residents are left. The locals put a plan into action to entice newcomers: offering the town’s empty houses to newcomers from anywhere in Australia.  Who could resist renting a beautiful homestead for a dollar a week?

There’s nothing left for Adele Devereux in Sydney: no job, no relationship, no hope, and no diagnosis for her shy, uncommunicative daughter Ali. So she packs her bags, takes her meagre savings, and moves her small family to the country. She never expects to meet Tom Wade, a man facing his own hopeless situation, but whose kindness reaches her daughter in an unexpected friendship. As the small town of Dulili attempts to regenerate itself, Adele finds herself drawn further in to the community – and into her attraction to Tom. 
Tom is not back in Dulili to build a relationship. He’s there to heal wounds, help his grandmother, and make new plans. Plans that don’t come with his grandmother’s new tenant, part of the Dulili dollar scheme. But as Adele and Ali effortlessly work their way into his thoughts and his heart, he realises that there are two crucial elements that he left out of his long-term plans – the chance to find love and renewed hope for the future.

My Comments:

I love stories where men are good to kids--all too often we hear that the most dangerous person in a child's life is his/her mother's boyfriend.  Adele needed a new start and decided that Dulili was going to be the place for her.  She doesn't know why her daughter won't talk, but thinks a change in location will help.  She moves to a small town and becomes part of the community--in a lot of ways rural Australia seems like the rural United States--small towns that are dying because young people move away seeking a better life.  While the young families may be better off economically in the city, stories like this one remind you that they lose the community that knew them as children and helped their parents raise them.  

Tom is one who left to seek his fortune. He found it, until one day an on-the-job accident of one of his employees made him want to give it all up.  He needs to heal and by helping Adele's daughter he learns that coming home can be a good thing.

The book is a modern romance with modern mores about intimate relationships; however, if you want an instruction manual you will need to look elsewhere.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  B. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

If You Were Me and Lived in....

Carole P. Roman, author of the "If You Were Me" series of books, has moved her focus from various countries in the modern world to various places and eras in history.  As her books about the modern day do, these new books all follow a similar format, making it easy to compare the life of children in various eras.  We learn about names, religion, schooling, housing, chores and more.

The concepts and vocabulary in these books seemed aimed at 4th or 5th graders, but the kids that age who are used to chapter books may find these too babyish.  Still, for a teacher who wants to introduce a time period with a quick story-type overview these books would be ideal. I could also see giving them to kids who have trouble reading longer books.  

I'd like to thank Carole P. Roman for providing complimentary review copies.  I hope my daughter's school enjoys them.  Grade: B 

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Cynthia Ruchti’s ‘Song of Silence’ Music-Themed Giveaway and Book Review

About the Book:

Charlie and Lucy Tuttle are committed to each other for life, but that life isn’t turning out quite like they expected. Charlie retired early, but Lucy planned to continue in her position as a music educator in a small Midwestern K-8 school indefinitely. And then the day came when she was forced to retire. Lucy was devoted to the program her father started years ago and now she can only watch as it disintegrates before her eyes. The longer she is separated from the passion of her heart, the more the music fades from her life and she wonders if her faith’s song is fading too. When a simple misstep threatens to silence Lucy forever, a young boy and his soundless mother change the way she sees—and hears—everything.

As the music fades and a chasm separates her from the passion of her heart, will Lucy's faith song go silent, too? Find out in Cynthia Ruchti's new book, Song of Silence. The musical score of her life seems to be missing all the notes. When a simple misstep threatens to silence Lucy forever, a young boy and his soundless mother change the way she sees—and hears—everything.

My Review:  

Cynthia Runchi's main character in Song of Silence is a woman in her late fifites (a few years older than me) who was laid off from her beloved job as a music teacher when the program was the victim of budget cuts.  Her husband has recently retired from a job that was just that--a job, not a passion.  He was looking for a passion and when she was laid off, he assumed she'd join him at it.  She feels smothered, and yet she sees her husband's irritating actions for what they are--expressions of love.  He wants to spend more time with her and to do things together; she feels smothered and seems to want to be left alone to wallow in her grief.   

On the one hand I got a little impatient with her. Yes, she was laid off from a job she loved but on the other hand, she had spent previous summers giving private music lessons and presumably could have done so again this summer.  It is also not a reach to figure that with the school dropping music, there would be more demand more private lessons, not less.  Instead of teaching private lessons that summer, she waits tables where she did in high school.  She sees a counselor who refers her to a group of women in the same boat and it was interesting to hear them discussing the changes in their lives.  I have had some recent questions about the long-term viability of my job and have had to consider whether I should move on or stay--and possibly be told that I'd be moving on, whether I want to or not.  I get how hard change is at this stage in life.  I'm by no means ready to go out to pasture but I'm not striving to take over the world either.  I have my niche, I like it and frankly I hope to retire from this job.   

Two interesting characters in the book were her daughter-in-law and her step-grandson.  The daughter-in-law was deaf and the step-grandson suffered from Asperger's   I could relate to many of his issues, having raised an autistic son.   

I think Cynthia Ruchti is a fan of music in the schools as we heard a lot about how studies show that those who study music do better in academic areas than those who don't.  We meet a former student who credits her with putting him on the path to his current non-musical profession.   

The book is Christian fiction and mentions prayer and faith but unless you are anti-faith, I don't think there is enough religion in the book to turn you off.  There are no lectures or sermons and nobody has a great faith experience in the book.  Lucy is a woman of faith and and that does affect the way she deals with the world.   

One thing this book shares with much Christian fiction is its happily ever after ending.   

I'd like to thank the nice folks at Litfuse for providing a complimentary review copy for the purpose of this blog tour.  Grade:  B+ 

Celebrate the release of Song of Silence with a blog tour and giveaway. Two winners will be chosen!

song of silence - 400 

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of Song of Silence
  • A $150 Visa cash card
One second place winner will receive:
  • A copy of Song of Silence
  • A music-themed prize pack filled with goodies hand-picked by Cynthia
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry! The giveaway ends on May 9th. The winners will be announced May 10th on Cynthia's blog.


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