Friday, December 30, 2016

Review: The Life She Wants

About the Book:

In the aftermath of her financier husband’s suicide, Emma Shay Compton’s dream life is shattered. Richard Compton stole his clients’ life savings to fund a lavish life in New York City and, although she was never involved in the business, Emma bears the burden of her husband’s crimes. She is left with nothing. 

Only one friend stands by her, a friend she’s known since high school, who encourages her to come home to Sonoma County. But starting over isn’t easy, and Sonoma is full of unhappy memories, too. And people she’d rather not face, especially Riley Kerrigan. 

Riley and Emma were like sisters—until Riley betrayed Emma, ending their friendship. Emma left town, planning to never look back. Now, trying to stand on her own two feet, Emma can’t escape her husband’s reputation and is forced to turn to the last person she thought she’d ever ask for help—her former best friend. It’s an uneasy reunion as both women face the mistakes they’ve made over the years. Only if they find a way to forgive each other—and themselves—can each of them find the life she wants.

My Comments:

This is definitely not one of Robyn Carr's better books.  It is the story of Emma, who is starting over with almost nothing after the suicide of her husband, who had been convicted of bilking people out of millions of dollars.  She returns to her hometown but because of her husband's notoriety, the only work she can find is low-wage jobs like working at a fast food place or in housekeeping.  

When Emma was off at college, Emma's best friend and boyfriend got too close and ended up pregnant.  Of course Emma felt betrayed, even though her life was quickly moving beyond that small town.  Emma and Riley haven't spoken since, but when she couldn't find any other job, Emma swallows her pride and asks for a job with Riley's cleaning company.  

The main problem with the book is that it just wasn't realistic.  Riley has been keeping people at arm's length ever since her fallout with Emma.  Now all of the sudden she starts dating--and then quits because she realizes the guy who has been under her nose all these years...

Emma's love story is actually pretty believeable, but her work life after she gets home--absolutely not.  Her relationship with her stepmom was equally unrealistic.  She ends up rescuing a troubled teen, and a few months later everything is fine with that teen.  Basically the whole problem with the book is that all the endings were happy and many of them seemed hurried and forced.  

I bought this book with my own money and can say whatever I want about it.  Grade:  B-

Monday, December 26, 2016

Worth the Risk: My Review

About the Book:

When Jackson St. James decided that six weeks in Vermont’s Green Mountains would help him get his life together, he didn’t anticipate replacing his craving for whiskey with a craving for his alluring new landlord, Gabby. Now, instead of prioritizing his sobriety and the resolution of the lawsuit threatening his business, he’s making excuses to spend time with the spunky young landscaper whose candor is more than a little addictive.

Gabby Bouchard refuses to let her pill-popping mother and unreliable baby daddy turn her into a cynic, so she doesn’t fight her attraction to her enigmatic new tenant. Although Jackson’s smile rarely reaches his eyes, his generosity and dependability make her willing to overlook his demons. But once she convinces him to give in to temptation, Gabby’s jealous ex threatens to disrupt the life she has built for herself and her son.

With so much at stake, Gabby and Jackson must decide if love is worth the risk.

My Comments:

All too often these days people seem to think that they need to have life figured out or working perfectly before they take a chance on love.  Hook-ups, it seems, are fine for people whose lives are messy, but not love.  Jackson in counselled throughout this book not to get involved but in a lot of ways, having someone who is there for him, and for whom he can care, is healing for him.  While Gabby had a lot to lose if things went way wrong with Jackson, she gained so much when they went right.  

Worth the Risk is the story of a man who doesn't have it all together.  Jackson's drinking has started to cause problems with his business.  He has been sued, and his family life is a mess.  Rather than go into rehab for his drinking, Jackson decides to take a six week vacation and to see a counsellor while there.  He rents a garage apartment from Gabby's dad.

Gabby was a girl who was going places until one night she got too close to the wrong guy and ended up pregnant.  College is tough for a single mom so she stays home with her dad where she is chief cook and bottle washer, in addition to running a landscape business. 

Jackson is used to being busy and when things happen such that Gabby needs help, he steps up to the plate.  Since her baby's father has never done that, Gabby is suitably impressed.  Still, she knows he has demons and even gets him to talk about them, a little.

This is the third book in the series but I did not feel I had missed too much backstory; this book stood alone well.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  While not "squeaky clean", the bedrooms scenes were not terribly graphic.  Grade B+

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Review: Birds in the Air

About the Book:

From Frances O'Roark Dowell -- bestselling author of Dovey Coe, The Secret Language of Girls, Trouble the Water and other "beloved books for tweens and teenagers" (New York Times Sunday Book Review) -- comes Birds in the Air, Dowell's first novel for adults.

In the tradition of Marie Bostwick and Jennifer Chiaverini, Dowell combines her deep connection to the quilting life and her love of storytelling to create a novel about the abiding friendships that bind together a community of women who share a passion for making quilts.

When Emma Byrd moves into the house of her dreams in the small mountain community of Sweet Anne's Gap, she knows that making friends may prove to be her biggest challenge. Her husband loves his new job and her kids are finding their way at school. But Emma -- no natural when it comes to talking to strangers -- will have to try a little harder, especially after the sweet, white-haired neighbor she first visits slams the door in her face.

Luckily, a few of the quilters of Sweet Anne's Gap adopt Emma and she soon finds herself organizing the quilt show for the town's centennial celebration. But not everyone is happy to see the job go to an outsider, especially one who has befriended an outcast pursuing her own last best chance at redemption.

With Birds in the Air, Frances O'Roark Dowell (winner of the Edgar Award, the William Allen White Award and the Christopher Medal) has created a warm, funny novel about fitting in, falling out and mending frayed relationships one stitch at a time.

My Comments:

It seems that knitting is on its way out and quilting is on its way in as a literary craft.  

In Birds in the Air, the two centers of action are a quilt shop and a church quilt exhibit.  At the quilt shop newcomer Emma Byrd meets her first friends in her new community, and through them becomes involved in the quilt show.  She learns that old loyalites, friendships and fueds go deep in a community where everyone knows everyone (and where most people are related in one way or another).

I enjoyed watching Emma find her way in her new home, and thought the fact that she ruffled a few feathers in the "in" crowd and learned to find good in an outcast gave a sense of realism to the book.

Quilt patterns were discussed but not to the extent than non-quilters would tire of them and though I'm not a quilter I am fascinated by those works of domestic art.

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

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Quick Review: Taming His Montana Heart

About the Book:

Lake Serene resort manager, Shaw Chamberlin – having recently left a turbulent career in a big, bustling city – is determined to throw his efforts into overseeing renovating the family’s resort. Parts of his past still haunt him, but he's resolved to try to move forward.

The enigmatic woman Shaw hired to run his snowmobile operation, Haley Walters, is looking to start over. She's competent and opinionated, and seems to be the only person able to draw Shaw out of his own self-scrutiny; she's the only person who makes him feel alive.

When a new remote project has Shaw and Haley working together in close quarters, they allow themselves to explore feelings they've long kept buried. Do these two lonely hearts dare to bare their souls to each other, or are their pasts too near the surface to let them ?

My Comments:

I read this one a month or so ago and forgot to review it at the time.

I enjoyed it but I don't really remember it.  In short, I'm sure it was a pretty typical romance set in Montana in the winter.

It's part of a series and I haven't read any of the others.  

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

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Christmas with an Angel.

Christmas with an Angel: A Short Story (Harmony Harbor) by [Mason, Debbie]

About the Book:

It's been eight long years since Michael Gallagher has laid eyes on Shay Angel, back when he was a boy from the most prominent family in town and she was a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. But he hadn't cared about their differences - until one bad decision landed her in jail.

That was years ago and now he's back in Harmony Harbor for the holidays. So when Shay goes missing, Michael is intent on finding her - and finding out if their sizzling attraction is still there. But he's now a district attorney, and it looks like Shay is once again on the wrong side of the law. 

My Comments:

I recently reviewed Mistletoe Cottage.  Christmas with an Angel is the second story in the series but as noted on the cover, it is a short story, not a full-length novel. I liked both Shay and Michael and though I thought the climax was a bit unrealistic, I enjoyed the fun holiday romance and look forward to the rest of the series.

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

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Review: Maggie's Montanta

Review of Maggie's Montana e book

About the Book:

Maggie Abernathy, best friend Judy, and Judy’s two young sons travel cross country to visit John McIntyre and daughter Chloe at their Montana ranch. Maggie’s convinced herself that she’s only making the trip to fulfill her promise to visit Chloe, but once there she can’t help but fall in love with the horses, the land, the ranch, and the Montana ways of life. With Chloe’s loving antics, Winston’s gift, and a handful of wranglers showing her the ropes, will Maggie have the heart to say goodbye?

My Comments:

The story started with Maggie's Way which followed Maggie through a summer of breast cancer treatments, coupled with a divorce from a husband who came out as gay.  That summer she met Chloe, the seven year old who lived next door, and Chloe's dad.  

Maggie's Fork in the Road lets us know that Chloe and her dad are moving to Montana, and that they would like Maggie to move too.

Now, in Maggie's Montana, Maggie and a friend who has two boys who are friends with Chloe drive from Michigan to Montana to spend time on the ranch with Chloe and her dad.  Maggie realizes she has a choice to make.  She can give up what little is left of her earlier life and move to Montana with people she loves, or she can stay in Michigan with her mother, a job she likes less every day, and a gay ex-husband.  Guess which choice she makes?

As the third book in a series titled "Montana Bound" is it easy to predict the ending, yet I can see how hard the decision must have been for Maggie.  I'm at the stage where my chicks are poking their heads out of the nest.  I know that leaving the nest is normal, yet one thing I've enjoyed about today is having my table full with all members of my family.  Change is a normal part of life and I've never considered myself to be afraid of it, yet the older I get, the more I like comfort and routine.  Even going with those I love, I think a move to another community would be much harder now that it was in my twenties.  

One thing I really liked about the series is that it featured a woman about my age.  The book mentions Maggie's hot flashes but also mentions that they were brought on by her breast cancer treatment, so her exact age is difficult to discern.  However, she is the mother of a twenty-something, who suffered from infertility prior to having him, so she must be close to 50.  

If it is important to you, John and Maggie are intimate, but the scene is not graphic.  

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

RaeAnne Thayne's The Holiday Gift

About the Book:

With two kids and an active life, widow Faith Dustin only wants peace and quiet for Christmas. But her snowy Pine Gulch ranch is nothing but chaotic. All that keeps Faith going is her helpful neighbor, cowboy Chase Brannon. He's always been "good ol' Chase," her faithful friend. Until he kisses her under the mistletoe… 

Years ago Chase blew his chance with the woman he's loved since childhood. Now he's determined to step out of the friend zone…and into the role of husband. But the scared and stubborn Faith won't let herself fall. With Christmas just days away, Chase will need all the magic of the season—and the help of her two matchmaking children—to unwrap a second chance at love.

My Comments:

Can you remain friends when one of you wants to be lovers?  That's the question in this book.  Chase has always loved Faith, but she fell for his best friend.  Since his friend died Chase has tried to be there for Faith but she is afraid to get hurt again.  She likes their relationship the way it is.  At times Faith came across as selfish and uncaring, and Chase was almost too good to be true, but in the end...

This is the third book in the series--we've already married off Faith's sisters and it nice to visit with old friends in this beautiful Christmas setting.  I'm not sure new readers would "get" the parts of the  story brought forward from the other books.

As with Thayne's other books, this is sqeaky clean.  

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

Saturday, November 05, 2016

A Second Christmas Wish

A Second Christmas Wish (Choc Lit): For Santa's eyes only, but what could it be? by [Freeman, Kathryn]

About the Book:

Do you believe in Father Christmas?

For Melissa, Christmas has always been overrated. From her cold, distant parents to her manipulative ex-husband, Lawrence, she’s never experienced the warmth and contentment of the festive season with a big, happy family sitting around the table.

And Melissa has learned to live with it, but it breaks her heart that her seven-year-old son, William, has had to live with it too. Whilst most little boys wait with excitement for the big day, William finds it difficult to believe that Father Christmas even exists.

But then Daniel McCormick comes into their lives. And with his help, Melissa and William might just be able to find their festive spirit, and finally have a Christmas where all of their wishes come true …

My Comments:

What could be sweeter than a little boy learning to believe in Santa?  Maybe his mother learning to believe in love?  

Melissa's ex wanted her, but he didn't want competition for her love.  When she got pregnant, he insisted on an abortion and when she refused, he refused to love the child. Eventually they split and Melissa went from being a  model to being a fashion designer. Then she met Daniel.  She didn't want to love him, she didn't want to let him get close, but....he loved her boy and what woman can resist that?  

The title refers to her son, William's visit to Father Christmas (the story is set in England).  William doesn't believe, but tells Father Christmas two things he wants.  What are they?  Will he get them?  Read the book--it is an inexpensive ebook and definitely worth it. 

Thanks to the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  B.   

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Review of Rachel Allord's Mother of My Son

Mother of My Son by [Allord, Rachel]

About the Book

College student Amber Swansen gives birth alone. In desperation, she abandons the newborn, buries her secret, and attempts to get on with her life. No matter how far she runs, she can't escape the guilt. Years later and still haunted by her past, Amber meets Beth Dilinger. Friendship blossoms between the two women, but Beth's son is a constant, painful reminder to Amber of the child she abandoned. When heartache hits, causing Amber to grapple with the answers to life's deeper questions, Beth stands by her side. Yet just when peace seems to be within Amber's grasp, the truth of her past and the parentage of Beth's son comes to light and threatens to shatter not only their worlds, but the life of the teenager they both love.

My Comments

Over the years I've read a lot of Christian fiction.  Some of the books are stories about people who happen to go to church on Sunday.  Some are stories that really delve into at least one character's spiritual life, and are basically about that character's relationship with God.  Others are sermons dressed up as stories.

Mother of My Son is the story of how guilt can ruin your life.  Amber has been self-destructive since that day when she abandoned her son and it is only after she finds Jesus that she finds peace.  The good people in the book are all faith-filled and the bad ones aren't.  Once Amber accepted Christ, all the pieces fell into place and everyone lived happily ever after.  

If you like explicit religion in books, this one will not disappoint.  Beth hosts a Bible study on the Gospel of John and as readers, we are invited.  Amber's conversion scene involves a heart-to-heart with her grandmother's friend, and we get the lyrics to a favorite hymn.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade B- (I'm not crazy about sermons dressed as stories). 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Dia & Co Unboxing October 2016

I hate to admit it, though anyone who sees me regularly knows it, but since menopause, I've put on more than a couple of pounds, and shape of my body has changed.  I hate shopping for clothes and I'm still trying to dress the body I used to have rather than the one I do have.  I stumble onto things I like, but I'm finding that I'm buying the same thing over and over again and I really want something different.  

About Dia & Co.

A few months ago I happened onto a blog post about Dia & Co., a subscription box/styling service for women who wear sizes 14-30.  I decided to give it a try.  You pay a $20/box "styling fee" that is applied to a purchase if you make one.  They pick out five pieces for you, based, allegedly, on a profile you completed and what they have learned about you from your feedback about other boxes.  You try the pieces in the privacy of your own home and with other things you own.  If you decide to buy something, the $20 is credited toward your purchase; if not it is "gone with the wind", but they do supply a return mailer.  

My Profile

The first part of the process is to complete a profile so the sylist (or more likely a computer) can get to know you.  It asks for sizes and for your prefered style, such as "classic" or "trendy".  It asks for colors to avoid and areas of your body you are willing to show off.  It asks how much you typically spend per piece (I said $50, the lowest offered choice) and what types of various garments you like.  It also gives you a freeform place to say what you want to say.  

I did not say no to any color, but my freeform response said 
I work in a law office and want work-appropriate clothes, but the office isn't real formal either.  I have recently gained weight and just don't know how to handle this new body.  My wardrobe has turned into a lot of black, white and red so I'm looking for color and something to give me a little variety.  

 What I Got This Month

A Black Dress

I got a black dress that cost $109.00 even though I said I wanted to spend $50 and said I wanted to get away from all the red, white and black in my wardrobe. I said I wanted clothes appropriate for work (because if I'm going to pay more money than I have to for clothes, they will be clothes I get wear out of and that means work clothes).  It is October, and yes, this is Louisiana, but still, a sleeveless dress?  You can see from the picture below that the front actually looked better than the top picture makes it seem but the dress itself was too big, the armholes drooped.  I'm sure part of the reason for the high price was the lace at the bottom, but the rest of the dress was very plain.  

Do you think I shold have kept it?  I didn't.  

A Black Wrap Top and a Red Skirt

I loved the color of the skirt.  My daughter says that I go shopping for clothes and come home with yet another red sweater, so why should I not love a red skirt (other than the fact that I specifically said that I wanted to branch out from all that black and red).  I also think that all that fabric over my hips just makes them look broader.  The skirt was $89.90  The top was like a tube with two strips of cloth hanging down in the back.  I guess I put it on correctly but you could still see my bra strap if I moved wrong, putting it in the "not for work" category.  The top was $59.90.  

I didn't keep these either.  Good choice or mistake?

Leggings or Pants?

I don't wear leggings and I put on them on the "don't send" list on my profile.  I've always been bottom heavy and it hasn't gotten better. The last thing I want is a skin-tight garment clinging to every bump and bulge from the waist on down.  The next picture is of the leg of a pair of "pants".  Are they pants or leggings?  Why in the worls would someone who doesn't want leggings want these?  Why would someone who said she wanted to spend $50 per piece pay $79 for these?

Navy and Black Shirt

You know how sometimes you just cop an attitude?  That may be the problem with this shirt.  It is a little big and it was "only" $49.00 and it is navy, not black (though it is a dark navy and looked black at first).  Still, it was a lighweight shirt, and I'm looking for warmer stuff now, and at $49.00 it should fit.  

What I Got Last Time

This was my second box from Dia & Co.  I wrote about my first box on my financial planning blog.  I bought a dress from that box, and it was a dress I would never have tried on at the mall, much less purchased.  It fits me well, looks good on me, and it is appropriate for work, so even though it cost more than I'd usually pay for a dress, I was happy with it.  

My Verdict

I'm going to try one more box; unless it is a lot better than this one, I'm done.  I still want the push to try something new, within the confines of clothes appropriate for work.  Hopefully the next box will be better.  

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Review of Barbara Claypole White's Echoes of Family

Echoes of Family by [White, Barbara Claypole]

About the Book:

Marianne Stokes fled England at seventeen, spiraling into the manic depression that would become her shadow. She left behind secrets, memories, and tragedy: one teen dead, and her first love, Gabriel, badly injured. Three decades later she’s finally found peace in the North Carolina recording studio she runs with her husband, Darius, and her almost-daughter, Jade…until another fatality propels her back across the ocean to confront the long-buried past.

In her picturesque childhood village, the first person she meets is the last person she wants to see again: Gabriel. Now the village vicar, he takes her in without question, and ripples of what if reverberate through both their hearts. As Marianne’s mind unravels, Jade and Darius track her down. Tempers clash when everyone tries to help, but only by finding the courage to face her illness can Marianne heal herself and her offbeat family.

My Comments

Barbara Claypole White's Echoes of Family explores the intersection of mental illness, guilt and secrets.  Marianne suffers from manic depression, which means that in an unmedicated state she swings between extreme energy and high emotion on the one hand and suicidal, do-nothing depression on the other.  On medication she functions well, most of the time.

Her husband loves her dearly, even if he is an (ex) alcoholic, music producer with tattoos.  He'll do anything for her.  She has a "daughter", a young woman who was "thrown away" by her family and taken in my Marianne.  The three of them run a small but successful recording studio which also provides opportunities for other "thrown away" girls.  Everything is fine until one day Marianne is in an accident and it reminds her of one she was in as a teen--the accident that brought forth her mental illness in all its glory (though there had been signs of it earlier). 

Marianne decides she needs to return to her childhood home in England, alone, to deal with the past.  When she gets there, she meets her first love, who is now the parish vicar.  He takes her in and though the two of them were once very close, they are each keeping secrets from the other.  Neither has been able to completely let go of what happened that tragic night.

Before long Marianne's husband and her "daughter" follow her to England and try to help her.  Watching her husband and her first love interact was interesting to say the least.  

I don't pretend to know much about mental illness but I loved the way Barbara Claypole White gave Marianne a real personality and life beyond being insane.  Marianne was a person with a mental illness, not a mentally ill person (the person was primary, the mental illness secondary). 

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  If you are a regular reader, you know not many books get A's from me, but this one does.  

Review: Mistletoe Cottage

About the Book:

Sophie DiRossi loved growing up in Harmony Harbor. But after fleeing in disgrace many years ago, it is the last place she wants to be. Left homeless by a fire, she's forced to go back to the small coastal town that harbors a million secrets, including her own. Sophie sees this secret reflected every day in her daughter's blue eyes-and she must keep it hidden from the only man she has ever loved.

Sophie's return is a shock for everyone . . . especially Liam Gallagher. The firefighter had some serious feelings for Sophie-and seeing her again sparks a desire so fierce it takes his breath away. Now Liam will do whatever it takes to show Sophie that they deserve a second chance at love, even if everything they've concealed threatens to keep them apart. In this special town at this special time of the year, Sophie and Liam can only hope for a little holiday magic . . .

My Comments:

What can we say?  It's a Christmas romance so the end was pretty apparent from the start.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed this heartwarming story of two people who weren't really sure they were loveable.  

Everyone has secrets and as they are revealed, love is allowed to grow.  Sophie fled town years ago when she learned she was pregnant.  She understood she wasn't good enough for the father, and he clearly didn't want her.  One day she asked her mother (she had moved near her somewhat estranged mother) to watch her child and on her mother's watch, the house was set afire.  As she is driving through her home town, her car dies and she is forced to stay.  Fortunately, a local hotel is looking for a manager and she is hired.  The only problem is that the owner of the hotel is her baby's great grandmother--and doesn't know it, or does she?

Great Grandmother dies shortly thereafter and, as a ghost, continues to meddle in the lives of her loved ones.  

The book is the beginning of another series and I look forward to reading about other characters introduced in this story,  Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley. Grade: B

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Restoring Christmas: My Review

About the Book:

Alexis Blake has one chance to land her own show on the Home Project Network and nothing, not an uncooperative client, a job site without indoor plumbing, or a challenging videographer, is going to stand in her way. Elsie, at seventy-plus, is far from the ideal client, but she knows exactly what she wants her fieldstone house to look like, and no designer can tell her otherwise. Gabe Langley, the man with the camera, is caught in the middle and it is his wisdom and warmth that just may be the bridge that will bring these two women together. Can they restore more than just a house and bring about special, almost lost forever Christmas memories?

My Comments:

As noted above, nothing goes as planned when Alexis wins a spot on a decorating show.  She's an interior designer who is trying to make a name (and business) for herself.  Unlike some reality shows that have producers adding drama and cameras from the show watching the participants at all times, Alexis has to provide her own video.  The show provided the client and the budget; she has to provide everything else.  I like that because frankly I think most reality show drama is silly, and home renovation projects have enough problems without adding more.

The first problem is that the professional videographer she hired has to bail on her because of an injury--luckily his handsome young son is available.  I loved watching Alexis and Gabe get to know each other and I loved the way Cynthia Ruchti compared the redemption and Light brought by Christmas to the redemption of the house, of the lives of her characters and light brought into their worlds by each other.  

As a novella, Restoring Christmas is a short easy read, however Ruchti has a way with words that gives the story additional beauty and depth and makes it a bit more than the typical heartwarming Christmas romance.  

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

Monday, October 03, 2016

School Vouchers: A View From (Sort of) the Other Side

Years ago I wrote this post about the state offering vouchers for the poor to attend private schools.  One thing that is different about me since I wrote that post is that I now have a child in Catholic school, and my public school students have graduated.  I thought I'd take another look at the issue.  I'll admit my feelings about vouchers are more mixed now than they were eleven years ago but I think that is as much because I've seen the vouchers in action as it is because I am on the private school side of the fence.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Review: Saving Jake

About the Book:

There is always hope.
After eight years in the Marines, Jacob Lorde returns to Blessings, Georgia, with no plans other than to hole up in his empty house and heal what's left of his soul. But with a charming next door neighbor and a town full of friendly people, keeping to himself is easier said than done.

Review: Twelve Days of Christmas

Twelve Days of Christmas Cover

About the Book:

Friendly and bubbly, Julia Padden likes nearly everyone, but her standoffish neighbor, Cain Maddox, presents a particular challenge. No matter how hard she’s tried to be nice, Cain rudely rebuffs her at every turn, preferring to keep to himself. But when Julia catches Cain stealing her newspaper from the lobby of their apartment building, that’s the last straw. She’s going to break through Cain’s Scrooge-like exterior the only way she knows how: by killing him with kindness.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

I Don't Like Either One of Them--but I'm Voting for Him

I don't like Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.  I think they are both self-serving and could stand to learn the Girl Scout Law and practice it, starting with "I will do my best to be honest...considerate...respect myself and others....".  I think there are a lot of people out there who would make better presidents than those two and I think one topic that should be discussed over the next couple of years is whether there is a better system for picking candidates than the one we have now.  While I know a few people who are very enthusiastic about Donald Trump, or about Hillary Clinton, most of the people I speak to dislike them both and wish we had another choice in November.

I thought about supporting a third-party candidate and I realize that it is a chicken/egg thing--if people don't support third-party candidates because third-party candidates can't win, then third-party candidates will never be in a position to win and we are stuck with the big two--but I agree with what I read somewhere, namely that no matter what I think, the reality is that our next president will be either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.  I just have to decide which I prefer.

I've reviewed both candidate's websites to see what they consider to be the important issues and how they propose to deal with those issues.  I honestly don't care much about what they have to say about each other.  I'm concerned with the Benghazi incident and Hillary Clinton's response to it and I'm concerned about her email issues as Secretary of State, but that's not why I'm voting for Trump.  I'm concerned about Trump's personality and whether he can behave in a statesman-like manner.  I'm concerned about his total lack of governmental experience.

Honestly, I think Clinton would be a more effective president.  I think she has the knowledge of the political system and the contacts and ability to make things happen.  I think Donald Trump is going to have a steep learning curve if he is elected and I think he is still going to have a hard time getting his platform enacted in any meaningful way.

So, why am I voting for Trump?  In reviewing their platforms, the bottom line is the Hillary Clinton sees the federal government as the solution to the problems our country faces.  She wants to expand the role of the federal government in healthcare, education, and even the care of animals.  Donald Trump wants to lessen the role of the federal government.

 I believe problems are best solved at the lowest level possible.  I'm not for cruelty to animals, but I think my local animal shelter doesn't need Washington DC telling them how to run.

I think public schools are important, but with more federal money comes more federal rules.  Public schools, for good and for bad, used to be a reflection of their communities. More and more they are a reflection of what some federal judge thinks they should be coupled with what some federal functionary wants.

The cost of healthcare is an issue, but Hillary Clinton does not say what she is willing to make us give up in return for the lower costs she promises.  Reality is that you cannot provide more care to more people for less money. Until middle and upper income Americans are willing to discuss limits on healthcare they and their families receive, costs are going to continue to rise far beyond the rate of inflation.

What Hillary Clinton sees as standing up for the rights of women and LGBT people, I see as a plaintiff lawyers' full employment act and bringing the federal government into places it does not belong.

While I have to admit her stand on abortion is internally consistent--it makes absolutely no sense to say it is ok to kill a pre-born baby at 2 months gestation but not at 8.5--I don't believe in killing babies, period.  I don't think Donald Trump is pro-life by any means but I don't think he is going to spent effort and time to further expand government funding of abortions and while I don't think he is going to make being pro-life a litmus test for federal judges, I don't think he is going to make being pro-choice one either.

Basically I'm voting for Trump because I don't think he is going to be able to pass what to me are the more offensive parts of his platform; I think voting for Hillary Clinton is voting for four more years of Obama and I don't want to do that.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Make New Friends But Keep the Old

Those who are or were Girl Scouts are probably familiar with a Girl Scout favorite:  

Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.  The circle is round, it has no end.  That's how long I want to be your friend.

Usually this song is taken to mean it is great to keep old friends and to make new ones.  Well, today, I did both, with the same person.

She and I were best friends almost 50 years ago in Izmir, Turkey, where our fathers were both stationed.  We left Turkey within months of each other and each headed to different parts of the US with our families but we became pen pals and wrote regularly though college.  Then she moved and lost my address; I couldn't find hers and well, it had been fifteen years and we were pretty small when we split.  Life goes on and she was but a pleasant memory.The last I knew she was in Washington state.  

A couple of weeks ago she sent me a facebook friend request.  She and her husband moved to Louisiana, about an hour away from here, several years ago.  They had things in storeage that got wet during the recent flooding and as she was cleaning out she found a card from me that said I was in New Orleans.  She had her daughter try to find me and we decided to meet for lunch.

We had a great time today.  We talked about our families and our lives.  We seem to have a lot in common and enjoyed each other's company.  We'll definitely be getting together again.  I've got a new friend, and she is the only person I knew in second grade with whom I am still friends.  

Snowfall on Haven Point: My Review

Snowfall on Haven Point by RaeAnne Thayne

About the Book:

It's been two rough years since Andrea Montgomery lost her husband, and all she wants is for her children to enjoy their first Christmas in Haven Point. But then Andie's friend asks a favor—to keep an eye on her brother, Sheriff Marshall Bailey, who's recovering from a hit and run. Andie will do anything for Wyn, even park her own misgivings to check on her grouchy, wounded bear of a brother.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Book Review: A Christmas Bride

A Christmas Bride by Hope Ramsay

About the Book:

'Tis the season in Shenandoah Falls and the first time Willow Peterson has been home in years. But she's determined to fulfill the wishes of her recently deceased best friend and restore Eagle Hill Manor to its former glory-all in time to host the perfect holiday wedding. She just has to get the owner of the historic inn to hire her. Unfortunately, that means dealing with Scrooge himself...

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Review: Irena's Children

Irena's Children book review

About the Book:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Widow Clicquot comes an extraordinary and gripping true account of Irena Sendler—the “female Oskar Schindler”—who took staggering risks to save 2,500 children from death and deportation in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Review: Debbie Macomber's Sweet Tomorrow

Sweet Tomorrows by Debbie Macomber

About the Book:

The much-anticipated conclusion to Debbie Macomber's beloved Rose Harbor series, set in the picturesque town of Cedar Cove, Sweet Tomorrows is a vibrant and poignant novel of letting go of fear, following your heart, and embracing the future—come what may.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Review: Maggie's Fork in the Road

About the Book:

Maggie Abernathy learns that pesky neighbors John and Chloe McIntyre are moving to Montana. The only problem is…she can’t fathom living without them now that they’ve stolen her heart. While trying to digest the news and accept John’s decision to leave Michigan, Maggie ventures to Chicago with Chloe to see Chloe’s Hollywood mother in a photo shoot, where the three kindle a quirky bond making it even harder for Maggie to say goodbye. With the support of Maggie’s meddling mother, her best friend Judy, and a surprise visit from Montana rancher Winston Ludlow McIntyre, Maggie begins to wonder which fork in the road leads home.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Bread or Death

Cover Bread or Death

About the Book:

The war brought about scarcities of just about everything...except misery.
“Alle raise,” (everybody out), the German soldiers screamed as they pounded on our door with the butts of their rifles. And thus began a 4,500-mile journey from Poland through Russia and Siberia and eventually to Uzbekistan in Central Asia, as the author’s family used bribery and darkness of night to flee as the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Review: Maggie's Way

About the Book:

Middle-aged, Maggie Abernathy just wants to recuperate from cancer during the solitude of summer vacation after a tiresome year of teaching second grade. Maggie's plans are foiled when precocious seven-year-old Chloe McIntyre moves in next door with her dad, John. Maggie's life changes in a way she could never imagine when the pesky new neighbors steal her heart. With Maggie's grown son away, her ex-husband in the shadows, her meddling mother's unannounced visits, and Chloe McIntyre on her heels, somehow Maggie's empty house becomes home again.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Discovering You: My Review

About the Book:

Can she ever trust another "bad boy"? 

India Sommers once had the perfect family—until an ex-boyfriend broke in and shot her husband. Not only did that cost her the man she loved, a respected heart surgeon and the father of her child, but she also feels responsible. Charlie died because of the people she hung out with before she had the strength to change her life.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Blog Tour: My Father's House by Rose Chandler Johnson



When all illusions of happily-ever-after shatter, Lily must choose to abandon her husband or risk losing much more than her marriage in Rose Chandler Johnson’s debut novel, My Father’s House. She flees their home in Detroit and sets out on a fearful journey to a house in Georgia that her husband knows nothing about. This is one woman’s compelling tale of love and survival as she finds her way back home to who she’s meant to be . . . in her father’s house.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Book Review: Saving Abby

About the Book:

All children’s book illustrator Claire Turner ever wanted was to be a mother. After six years of trying to conceive, she and her husband, Josh, have finally accepted that she will never be pregnant with a child of their own.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Review: The Memory of Us

About the Book:

Julianne Westcott was living the kind of life that other Protestant girls in prewar Liverpool could only dream about: old money, silk ball gowns, and prominent young men lining up to escort her. But when she learns of a blind-and-deaf brother, institutionalized since birth, the illusion of her perfect life and family shatters around her.

While visiting her brother in secret, Julianne meets and befriends Kyle McCarthy, an Irish Catholic groundskeeper studying to become a priest. Caught between her family’s expectations, Kyle’s devotion to the Church, and the intense new feelings that the forbidden courtship has awakened in her, Julianne must make a choice: uphold the life she’s always known or follow the difficult path toward love.

But as war ripples through the world and the Blitz decimates England, a tragic accident forces Julianne to leave everything behind and forge a new life built on lies she’s told to protect the ones she loves. Now, after twenty years of hiding from her past, the truth finds her—will she be brave enough to face it?

My Comments:

I found this book to be a fascinating read.  I really liked the way Camille DiMaio dealt with Catholicsm, priestly celibacy and the theme of vocation.  I enjoyed the two separate timelines and how they came together.  At the beginning of the book I liked Julianne and admired her drive, spunk, and compassion.  I loved Kyle; the only problem I might have with him is that he was too perfect.  However, something happened in the middle of the book that changed Julianne, and I found her behavior after that point untrue to who she was.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book and would definitely read another by DiMaio.  

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

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Riverbend Road: My Review

Riverbed Road by RaeAnne Thayne

Riverbend Road

About the Book:

Protecting the streets of Haven Point isn't just a job for police officer Wyn Bailey, it's a family tradition. But lately she's found herself wanting more, especially from her boss—and overprotective brother's best friend—sexy chief of police, Cade Emmett. The only problem is getting Cade to view her as more than just a little sister. 

Cade's hands-off approach with Wyn isn't from lack of attraction. But his complicated past has forced him to conceal his desire. When Wyn is harmed in the line of duty, Cade realizes the depth of his feelings, but can he let his guard down long enough to embrace the love he secretly craves?

My Comments:

I enjoyed taking another trip to Haven Point and getting to know Wyn, Cade and their friends.  Like the other Haven Point novels, it not only the relationship between the main couple but also the relationships with others in the town.  The main secondary character in this book is Andrea, a new widow who seems scared of everything--and we find that she had a good reason to be scared.  The climax scene in the book involves her and honestly, it just didn't ring true to me.  Still, the strength of Thayne's writing is her characters, not her plots.  Except for the subplot about Andrea, this is a pretty basic romance that has the expected ending.  Like Thayne's other books, there were no bedroom scenes.

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  I was not obligated to write a positive review.  Grade:  B. 

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 

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