Monday, July 15, 2019

Review: The Oysterville Sewing Circle

The Oysterville Sewing Circle: A Novel by [Wiggs, Susan]


About the Book:

At the break of dawn, Caroline Shelby rolls into Oysterville, Washington, a tiny hamlet at the edge of the raging Pacific.

She’s come home.

Home to a place she thought she’d left forever, home of her heart and memories, but not her future. Ten years ago, Caroline launched a career in the glamorous fashion world of Manhattan. But her success in New York imploded on a wave of scandal and tragedy, forcing her to flee to the only safe place she knows.

And in the backseat of Caroline’s car are two children who were orphaned in a single chilling moment—five-year-old Addie and six-year-old Flick. She’s now their legal guardian—a role she’s not sure she’s ready for.

But the Oysterville she left behind has changed. Her siblings have their own complicated lives and her aging parents are hoping to pass on their thriving seafood restaurant to the next generation. And there’s Will Jensen, a decorated Navy SEAL who’s also returned home after being wounded overseas. Will and Caroline were forever friends as children, with the promise of something more . . . until he fell in love with Sierra, Caroline’s best friend and the most beautiful girl in town. With her modeling jobs drying up, Sierra, too, is on the cusp of reinventing herself.

Caroline returns to her favorite place: the sewing shop owned by Mrs. Lindy Bloom, the woman who inspired her and taught her to sew. There she discovers that even in an idyllic beach town, there are women living with the deepest of secrets. Thus begins the Oysterville Sewing Circle—where women can join forces to support each other through the troubles they keep hidden.

Yet just as Caroline regains her creativity and fighting spirit, and the children begin to heal from their loss, an unexpected challenge tests her courage and her heart. This time, though, Caroline is not going to run away. She’s going to stand and fight for everything—and everyone—she loves.

My Comments:

Have you ever read one of those books that just ties up too neatly?  Well, this is one of them.  While I enjoyed the story and admired a lot about Caroline, there were quite a few events in the book that made me raise my eyebrows--why in the world would any sensible person make THAT choice?  As a romance novel, I knew the ending of the Will/Caroline story right away, but some of the subplots has resolutions that I just didn't think rang true.  

Like many of Susan Wiggs' other books, this is set in a small town where everyone knows everything about everyone, or do they?  I wonder if she is setting up another series?  The setting was wonderful and I would like get better get to know some of the sewing ladies.  

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

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Review: Unforgettable You



About the Book:

Jada Brooks couldn’t have known how her life would change when she fell for bad boy Maddox Richardson back in high school. She couldn’t have known his troubled brother would leave hers forever crippled. Or that she’d be forced to shun Maddox completely—only to discover she was carrying his child.

Although Maddox was devastated by the events that transpired that fateful night, losing Jada was the worst of it. He’s back in Silver Springs, ready to make amends and provide the kind of youth outreach that once saved him. If he’d known Jada was in town, too, he would never have come. 

Jada has returned to Silver Springs to be with family after her father’s death. But when she sees Maddox, every tough decision she’s made concerning their now twelve-year-old daughter begins to haunt her. Falling for him again is so tempting, but not only does she stand to alienate her family—if he finds out about Maya, she could lose what matters most.
.

My Comments:

I'm a Catholic and one of the things we are supposed to do is forgive.  We aren't supposed to hold on to wounds, pick at scabs and generally stay mad at people.  This book is about people who don't follow that rule, and what it does to their lives.  

Yes, Jada's family had plenty of reason to be angry with Maddox, but by choosing to live in the past and to hang on to hurt, the main people they were hurting were themselves.  

The story is set at the same school for troubled kids that the other books in this series are.  The head of the school sees the good in both Jada and Maddox, and in another major character and it is through her and each other that these characters learn to forgive and move on with life.

As with many of Novak's book's the characters are the strong point. 

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

Saturday, June 15, 2019

A Family of Strangers: My Review



About the Book:

All her life Ryan Gracey watched her perfect older sister from afar. Knowing she could never top Wendy’s achievements, she didn’t even try. Instead Ryan forged her own path while her family barely seemed to notice.

Now Wendy shares two little girls with her perfect husband while Ryan mourns the man she lost after a nearly fatal mistake in judgment. The sisters’ choices have taken them in different directions, which is why Ryan is stunned when Wendy calls, begging for her help. There’s been a murder—and Wendy believes she’ll be wrongfully accused.

While Wendy lies low, Ryan moves back to their hometown to care for the nieces she hardly knows. The sleuthing skills she’s refined as a true-crime podcaster quickly rise to the surface as she digs for answers with the help of an unexpected ally. Yet the trail of clues Wendy’s left behind lead to nothing but questions. Blood may be thicker than water, but what does Ryan owe a sister who, with every revelation, becomes more and more a stranger?

Is Wendy, who always seemed so perfect, just a perfect liar—or worse?

My Comments:

I'm a reader of romance novels and women's fiction.  I rarely read murder mysteries, and when I do they tend to be packaged along with romance or women's fiction, like A Family of Strangers.  I'm smart enough to realize that these books are fiction, but when I finish reading any book, I like to think that once I accept the premise that these people lived at a certain time in a certain place, the rest of the book could be true--even if it is stupid self-published romance about aliens--once I accept that those aliens exist, I like to be able to consider the story plausible.  

This book begins with Ryan, who is a true-crime podcaster, getting a phone call from her much older sister.  The sister has been out of town on business, and is afraid she is going to be framed for a murder. She needs to disappear for a while.  Can Ryan watch the kids--she had left them with the grandparents, but Grandpa just had emergency heart surgery and Grandma can't handle everything.  Ok, so far, so good.  Maybe not the smartest move on the sister's part, but hey, I've never thought I'd be accused of murder, so who knows what was going through her mind.

Over the next few months, Ryan's sister, Wendy, drops some clues and Ryan does some sleuthing and finds out not only what likely happened to her sister, but also learned that some things about her own life weren't what she thought.  At the end, my only thought was "really?".  None of it made any sense.  Ryan followed this trail of clues but I just don't think that if the initiating incident had happened to the characters Richards drew that the rest of the story would have gone down that way.  Honestly the only halfway realistic part of the story was the romance plot and yes, surprisingly enough, she and the guy ended up together.  

While Emilee Richard's books are usually favorites, I'm afraid this one just wasn't.  

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGally.  Grade: C+

Monday, April 15, 2019

The View from Alameda Island


The View of Alameda Island

About the Book:

From the outside looking in, Lauren Delaney has a life to envy—a successful career, a solid marriage to a prominent surgeon and two beautiful daughters who are off to good colleges. But on her twenty-fourth wedding anniversary Lauren makes a decision that will change everything.

Lauren won’t pretend things are perfect anymore. She defies the controlling husband who has privately mistreated her throughout their marriage and files for divorce. And as she starts her new life, she meets a kindred spirit—a man who is also struggling with the decision to end his unhappy marriage.

But Lauren’s husband wants his “perfect” life back and his actions are shocking. Facing an uncertain future, Lauren discovers an inner strength she didn’t know she had as she fights for the love and happiness she deserves.

My Comments:

This book was unbelievable.  I don't mean exceptionally good or exceptionally bad; I mean that so many improbable things happened that by the end of the book there was no doubt that it was fiction.  While there was nothing that happened that in and of itself was impossible, the combination just had me shaking my head.  

One of the impossible stories had to do with a Catholic priest.  After many years in the priesthood, the last few on the "bishop track" Fr. Tim decides that while he still has faith in God and in the Church, he no longer wants to be a priest--he wants to work for an organization that serves the poor, and, of course, he doesn't want to be celibate anymore.  Once he makes the decision to leave, he gets into a relationship with a woman he has known for years and in the space of a few months has been laicized and has married the woman in a Catholic church.  

Ok, I can accept that if Robyn Carr is not Catholic she wouldn't realize how impossible that is, but the book main character's first marriages are each abusive in their own way and the behavior of each ex just gets stranger and stranger as the book progresses.  If either one of them had a spouse like those it would be unusual; that they both did?  Just bizarre.  At the end of the book something  happens to the ex's and it is all just too convenient.  

On the other hand, I really liked Lauren and how she stepped up to take control of her life.  Her new man is everything her husband wasn't--focused on her and what is good for her rather than on himself.  

All in all, I've seen much better from Carr but she did keep me reading and involved in the story until the end.  

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley.  Grade:  B-

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

A Sin By Any Other Name



About the Book:

The Reverend Robert W. Lee was a little-known pastor at a church in North Carolina until the Charlottesville protests, when he went public with his denunciation of white supremacy in a captivating speech at the MTV Video Music Awards. Adulation poured in from around the country, but so did threats of violence from people who opposed the Reverend's message. Weeks later, Lee was ousted from his church in North Carolina.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Gaze Upon Jesus: My Review



About the Book:

What if you had walked beside the Virgin Mary from the Annunciation to the point at which she and Joseph found Jesus in the temple? How might seeing Christ as a child impact you and your faith?

WINE: Women In the New Evangelization offers its second, six-week scripture study, this time following the infancy and early years of Christ as seen through the eyes of Mary and other familiar and imagined women in the gospels.

Founder Kelly Wahlquist and ten other members of WINE uniquely blend scripture reflections, imaginative encounters, and visio divina “sacred seeing” with practical spirituality and discussion questions that will help you take a prayerful and creative journey through Advent and the Christmas season.

Not much is known about the childhood of Jesus, but the Gospels highlight six key moments in his early life:

  • the angel Gabriel proclaiming Jesus’ birth to Mary at the Annunciation
  • a pregnant Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth
  • the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem
  • the presentation of Jesus in the temple
  • the flight of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus to Egypt
  • discovering the twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple
Week by week, you will dig deep into each of the scriptural vignettes of Jesus’ early life and grow in your faith as you learn about virtues such as humility, patience, charity, reverence, prudence, and courage.

Each chapter uses an image that allows you to practice visio divina, the ancient practice of praying with sacred art. The images are included in an eight-page, full-color insert.

Gaze Upon Jesus will appeal to women who want to deepen their relationship with Jesus during Advent. Contributors to this inspiring scripture study include: Alyssa Bormes, Sarah Christmyer, Mary Healy, Maria Morera Johnson, Stephanie Landsem, Elizabeth Lev, Joan Lewis, Deborah Savage, Kelly Wahlquist, Katie Warner, and Carol Younger. Popular Catholic media personality Teresa Tomeo, also a member of WINE, wrote the foreword for the book.

As an individual or group study, Gaze Upon Jesus is a memorable way to encounter the God who sent his Son to show us his loving Father’s heart.

My Comments:

I like to write, but I've always said I'm more of a journalist than a novelist.  As much as I like to read and as many books as I have read, I don't have the desire/ability to create characters and to get inside their heads so to speak.  

One type of prayer that is often recommended is reading a story from the Bible and then imagining yourself in the scene and speaking to the characters.  Its not something I do well.  However, with Gaze Upon Jesus, I don't have to do it well; the authors already have. 

Each chapter in the book includes "the rest of the story".  Have you every wondered how Joseph found out Mary was pregnant?  Did Mary tell him?  Did he find out in the dream?  Did someone else tell him?  In this book, Joachim got the job, and after he had decided to take her into his home, Joseph traveled with Joachim to Elizabeth's house.  I'll let you read the book for the full story, but you can see where I'm going with this--the authors fill in the blanks left by Scripture.  I find these types of stories make Biblical characters much more real.

The book also contains prints of great pieces of art that depict the written about incidents, with the idea that you can use them as mediation aids.

I've really enjoyed this book and give it a B+.  Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley.  


Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Book Review: The Last Year of the War



About the Book:

Elise Sontag is a typical Iowa fourteen-year-old in 1943--aware of the war but distanced from its reach. Then her father, a legal U.S. resident for nearly two decades, is suddenly arrested on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. The family is sent to an internment camp in Texas, where, behind the armed guards and barbed wire, Elise feels stripped of everything beloved and familiar, including her own identity.
The only thing that makes the camp bearable is meeting fellow internee Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American teen from Los Angeles, whose friendship empowers Elise to believe the life she knew before the war will again be hers. Together in the desert wilderness, Elise and Mariko hold tight the dream of being young American women with a future beyond the fences.
But when the Sontag family is exchanged for American prisoners behind enemy lines in Germany, Elise will face head-on the person the war desires to make of her. In that devastating crucible she must discover if she has the will to rise above prejudice and hatred and re-claim her own destiny, or disappear into the image others have cast upon her.
The Last Year of the War tells a little-known story of World War II with great resonance for our own times and challenges the very notion of who we are when who we’ve always been is called into question.

My Comments

Susan Meissner is one of my must-read authors.  While she writes historical fiction, she usually finds a way to bring the modern day into it.  In this story, Elise, a woman recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's heads to Los Angeles to visit a girlhood friend, before her disease "Agnes" takes her memories completely.  

The story flashes back to the years of WWII and shortly thereafter.  Elise and her family have been deported to an internment camp, where they are kept until arrangements can be made to send them back to Germany, where her parents were born.  While there, she meets a Japanese-American girl, Mariko, from whom she is separated when Elise's family is sent to German in the waning days of WWII.  

Of course the Germany to which they return is a bombed-out shell of the Germany her parents left all those years ago, and the bombing raids at the end of the war destroy even more.  Then comes the occupation, which is not all candy and roses.  Elise never feels at home in Germany and accepts a marriage proposal from a GI--a proposal they both know was made for the sole purpose of getting her back to the US.  We follow her as she returns to a US that is different from the one she left and to a lifestyle that is definitely not what she is used to.  Still, she manages to thrive. 

In some ways this is one of those books where everything just wraps up too neatly.  I liked Elise; she seemed real and ready to take advantage of opportunities presented with out coming across as a selfish person. 

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

Friday, March 01, 2019

Review: The Cliff House



About the Book:

New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne invites readers to Cape Sanctuary, where she weaves together the stories of three women—two sisters and the young aunt who raised them—each facing her own crossroads. Can they let go of past mistakes and welcome joy and love into their lives?

My Comments:

You get three romances for the price of one in this book.  Daisy is steady, boring, responsible and has a secret life.  Beatrize is her sister and in many ways, her total opposite.  When they were kids they were raised by their aunt, a recent college graduate who chose the girls over her life plans--but was the choice necessary?  All three of these women are looking at changes in life; they can either reach out and grab the offered good or cling to yesterday.  Which will they choose?

Like all of Thayne's books, this one does not show anything beyond passionate kissing, though there are enough out-of-wedlock children to make it clear that her characters are not chaste in the traditional sense.

Mostly the book is what you'd expect; a sweet romance without much more substance.  The relationship between the women does get a little more play than in the typical romance novel; but in the end, it is a romance novel and the end is hardly a surprise.

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

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Inbetween Days



About the Book:

Rosie Cooke is “in between.” In between consciousness and oblivion. Life and death. And though some say that when you’re near death your entire life flashes before your eyes, Rosie can’t remember anything at all—not even how she ended up in a coma. At least not at first.

Then something strange starts to happen. Rosie finds herself revisiting scattered moments from her past: a beach vacation, a play rehearsal, the day her brother was born. But why these memories? And what do they mean?

As each piece of the puzzle comes into focus, Rosie struggles to face the picture of her life that forms. But with every look backward comes a glimpse of what might be: A relationship with her sister. The opportunity to pursue her passion. A second chance at love. And Rosie just might discover that she has much to live for.

My Comments:

We've heard it said that someone is their own worst enemy.  In this book Rosie comes to see that yes, things in her life have not always gone well, but she has had plenty of joy and plenty of chance to make something of herself.  It has been her choices that have held her back.

The book begins with Rosie being hit by a bus.  Was it suicide or an accident or...?  As Rosie lies in her hospital bed, the doctors give her three days.  After that, they tell her family, it will be time to make some decisions.  She will need a tracheotomy and a feeding tube, and will be moved to a long term care facility, unless, of course, she wakes up.  Rosie is in a coma; while she can hear those around her, she cannot communicate with them. 

During those three days Rosie is visited by people who have been in her life but are now deceased.  As the ghosts in A Christmas Carol do, they show her episodes from her past.  But why these episodes?  

At the same time, Rosie's sister, Daisy, is trying to figure out if this was a suicide attempt, or not.  She gets Rosie's phone, searches her apartment and follows the clues to people who meant something to Rosie, the same people Rosie is visiting.  

While this book did not grab me emotionally the way Woods' Something Like Happy did, I enjoyed it and give it a B+.    

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Best of Us: My Review



About the Book:

Dr. Leigh Culver loves practicing medicine in Timberlake, Colorado. It is a much-needed change of pace from her stressful life in Chicago. The only drawback is she misses her aunt Helen, the woman who raised her. But it’s time that Leigh has her independence, and she hopes the beauty of the Colorado wilderness will entice her aunt to visit often.

Helen Culver is an independent woman who lovingly raised her sister’s orphaned child. Now, with Leigh grown, it’s time for her to live life for herself. The retired teacher has become a successful mystery writer who loves to travel and intends to never experience winter again.

When Helen visits Leigh, she is surprised to find her niece still needs her, especially when it comes to sorting out her love life. But the biggest surprise comes when Leigh takes Helen out to Sullivan’s Crossing and Helen finds herself falling for the place and one special person. Helen and Leigh will each have to decide if they can open themselves up to love neither expected to find and seize the opportunity to live their best lives.

My Comments:

I've read that one sign of growing up is realizing that your parents have a sex life.  Leigh has her man, and yes, Robyn Carr makes it very clear that the two of them are having sex regularly.  Leigh's mom is long gone, but she was raised by Aunt Helen and now it is Helen's turn to have a romantic (yes, that's code for "sex") life.  

It's funny, I read a lot of romance novels and in my mind, these heroines aren't that much younger than I am--but of course they are.  It's finally starting to sink in that the average character in the average romance novel is now the age of my kids, which pretty much puts me in Aunt Helen's age group, and it is interesting to read about a woman whose life experience is more baby boomer than millennial.  

Like most of Carr's other books, this one features a beautiful rural setting, a community of characters who make appearances in other books in the series and, of course, love.  While clearly part of a series the book can be read as a stand-alone.

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

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Book Review: A Soldier's Return



About the Book:

Returning home to Cannon Beach and living in Brambleberry House, a place where good things seemed destined to happen, had brought Melissa Fielding and her young daughter such joy. Perhaps it was no accident when the single mom “bumped” into Eli Sanderson, and discovered the handsome doctor was also back in town. The ex-soldier was still so captivating, but also more guarded. Was now the time to put old ghosts to rest?

My Comments:

A young mother, recently divorced from a man who now has another woman in his life.  A soldier who returned home to help his father, but also because he needs to heal.  A cute kid who just wants everyone to be happy and loved.  Can we guess where this story is going?  

This is a charming book of hope and healing and love; just what you expect from RaeAnne Thayne.  

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

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Old AF and Annoyed Too

I guess it is official; I'm too old for mommy blogs, or at least too old for one that is all over my Facebook feed.  Why?  Because it seems to me that the majority of the posts include "AF".  Now, back in the stone ages of the internet when I was a young mom, "AF" on the internet was a euphemism for your menstrual period "Auntie Flo" came to visit.  I rolled my eyes; I thought it was dumb, but whatever, it wasn't offensive.  

Today's "AF" on the other hand, is a crude term for sexual intercourse.  I'm mad AF.  My boss is mean AF.  My children are annoying AF.  

People, you are writing for a blog that reaches millions, do you mean to tell me that you have no other suitable words in your vocabulary?  Has no one every told you that overuse of words makes them less powerful?  Because those expletives aren't used in polite company under usual circumstances, they either peg the user as impolite if used frequently, or powerfully call attention to something when used infrequently.  

Yes, I know your generation is different--just like every generation is different from their parents (and yes, most young moms today are young enough to be my children) and you aren't going to be bound by old norms and restrictions and you are going to be as non-phobic of everything but traditional morality as possible, but why must every story contain at least one AF?  

Yes, despite the fact that I have a teen, I'm old, old as dust.  

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Review: The Christmas Star



About the Book:

Thirty-two-year-old Amy Denison volunteers at Glory’s Place, an after school program where she meets seven-year-old Maddie, a precocious young girl who has spent her childhood in foster care. Unbeknownst to Amy, Maddie is a mini-matchmaker, with her eye on just the right man for Amy at Grandon Elementary School, where she is a student. Amy is hesitant – she’s been hurt before, and isn’t sure she’s ready to lose her heart again – but an unexpected surprise makes her reconsider her lonely lifestyle.

As Christmas nears and the town is blanketed in snow and beautiful decorations, Maddie and the charming staff at Glory’s Place help Amy to see that romance can be more than heartache and broken promises.

In The Christmas Star, Donna VanLiere delivers yet another sweet, joyous story that is sure to capture readers' hearts.

My Comments:

I'd like to apologize to the author and the publisher for not putting this review up sooner as the season for Christmas romances is over.  However, if you are in the market for one, this is typical of the genre--very heartwarming and sweet, with the love and joy of Christmas in abundance.  

If you've read VanLiere's other Christmas books, you'll enjoy catching up with prior characters but you don't need to have read the other books to enjoy this one.  Grade:  B



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