Monday, May 30, 2016

Home on Apple Blossom Road: My Review

About the Book

Colin Wright and Mia Blair grew up in Icicle Falls, but they left years ago—and not on good terms. Now Colin's grandmother, Justine, has died, and they've come home to honor this woman they both loved. That's when they get some unexpected news. They're about to inherit something. Jointly. They just have no idea what. It turns out that Justine's designed a treasure hunt for them, like the ones they enjoyed when they were kids and best friends. 

But they're not kids anymore, and they sure aren't best friends. As for that young love they once shared? Well…it's complicated.  

On the trail of Justine's treasure, they follow a series of clues that take them down memory lane—ending up at the orchard on Apple Blossom Road. What will they find there? And what did Justine know that they didn't?

My Comments

I've read several of the Icicle Falls books.  Set in a picturesque town in Idaho, they are filled with the charm you would expect in a small town romance.  As is common with series romances, characters from past books make appearances in this one.  Out of all the books in this series, Home on Apple Blossom Road is my favorite.  In some ways the plot line is trite--two people who used to be in love (and who are still carrying a flame for each other) are forced to work together if they want to inherit something valuable.  Their search for treasure brings them back to a happier time in life and reminds each of them how different their current lives are from the lives they wanted when they were younger and in love.

The book was two trips down memory lane--the trip Justine planned for Colin and Mia--and Justine's memories of life in Icicle Falls as told through letters to her mother and her sister, who are in Pittsburgh.  

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Book Review: Mail Order Baron

About the Book

When her parents died, Molly McGregor did what she needed to survive in New York City all alone. She took a job for a well respected banker, but made a discovery that put her life in danger. Now in 1882 she is fleeing New York for the western frontier, Molly makes the desperate decision to become a mail order bride in Tombstone, Arizona Territory. She doesn't hope for much, just that her new husband will be strong enough to protect her from the danger she fears will follow. 

Ben King was too busy making his fortune in silver to worry about a wife or family. Now he's rich, well known, owns half the town of Tombstone, and is utterly alone. When his heart becomes entangled with his best friend's new wife, he decides drastic action is required and contracts a mail order bride. He requests someone plain, someone simple to warm his hearth and home, someone he can be sure won't rouse his passion or complicate his life. He's tired of fancy women chasing him for his money, and even more tired of hoping any woman could be different. He doesn't believe in true love, and doesn't want the complications that would come with it. He doesn't have time for complicated. He has an empire to run. 

But Molly is a shock to his senses. She doesn't care about his money or his fame. All she wants from him is a safe haven, security, and a new last name. Ben tries to keep his heart out of danger, but danger seems to be Molly's middle name. When a rich and powerful enemy chases his beautiful new bride halfway across the country to extract vengeance, Ben discovers his heart is not nearly as cold as he'd hoped. Their passion fires hot, hot enough to kill...more than hot enough to burn them both. 

My Comments:

There is a phrase that I had never heard before a few years ago: "it is what it is" and that phrase sums up this book perfectly.  Believe it or not, I read books that aren't reviewed here--most of them are self-published romances I pick up free or for relatively little on Amazon.  Mail Order Baron  is the third in a series of books about mail order brides who end up in Tombstone Arizona.  The first is free; this one is $2.99.  Like most of those other low-priced romances, this one wasn't a bad little story.  However, it was a bit on the unrealistic side.  She became a mail-order bride because she was running for her life--but then ditches a bodyguard and meets up with her nemesis in an empty house far from eveyone, but not before leaving a note telling her husband where he can find her.   He ordered a mail-order bride because he wanted someone who wanted him, not his money--but he was carrying a flame for his best friend's wife.  He avoids her except in the bedroom but then ends up falling for her anyway.

The book includes bedroom scenes and they are moderately graphic.

As I initially said, the book is what it is.  If you like those cheap series romances that are all over Amazon, this is as good as any, but that is all this is.  Grade:  B-

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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