Saturday, December 30, 2017

Everything the Heart Wants (but not my heart)

Everything the Heart Wants: A Novel by [Page, Savannah]

About the Book:

Writer Halley Brennan couldn’t dream up a better love story than her own. Married for eleven years, she and her husband, Adam, are still living their happily ever after. They both know what they want—and don’t want—for their life together. And that includes being child-free. But when one of them has a change of heart about wanting a baby, it brings their marriage and life plans into harsher focus.

Devastated that this bombshell might destroy their relationship, Halley finds comfort in her closest friends: Nina, who’s finally pregnant after years of trying; her sister, Charlotte, an overwhelmed mother of three; and Marian, a successful businesswoman who regrets letting go of her one true love.

Now, with their guidance and support, Halley begins a painful journey of self-discovery. As she searches her heart to make a life-changing decision for both herself and Adam, she realizes that someone is bound to get hurt. Will their perfect love be too great a sacrifice for everything her heart wants?

My Comments:

How should I review a book that I didn't enjoy but which was well-written?  I didn't enjoy this book because my beliefs on the nature and purpose of marriage are at odds with the main character's.  I believe that a "child-free" marriage is a tragedy, not a goal and so I had a hard time relating to or even liking Halley and the resolution of her problem didn't make me feel good.  

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Quick Review: An Engagment in Seattle

About the Book:

Beginning marriage in unexpected ways…

A Convenient Beginning

Aleksandr Berinksi is a Russian biochemist in the United States on a visa, which is about to expire. Marriage will allow him to stay—marriage to Julia Conrad. If Julia’s going to save her Seattle-based company, she needs him as much as he needs her. There’s a Groom Wanted in Julia’s life. And not just any groom!

An Unusual Beginning

A billboard on the side of a Seattle road is common enough—but one advertising for a bride? It’s Chase Goodwin’s solution to the problem of finding a wife quickly, a wife to bring home to Alaska. Lesley Campbell has her own reasons for responding…and in no time she’s the Bride Wanted in Chase’s life!

My Comments:

According to the back cover copy above, this book has two stories; my NetGalley only had one, and it was about what you would expect from a romance novel bundled with another in one volume.  

Chase was a man on a mission--he wanted a bride and was advertising for one.  In the mean time, he met Lesley whose snatched purse he rescued, and he fell hard and quick.  Lesley was recovering from having her heart broken when her fiance of several  years dropped her just before the wedding, to marry a co-worker.  She decides she will marry him and go with him to Alaska.  Of course once they get there she realizes just how small the town is...but this is a romance novel so...

About the best grade I give these short formula romances is a B-, so that's what this one gets. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Feature: The Pines of Winder Ranch

About the Book:

Come home to Winder Ranch in these two beloved stories, where broken hearts can find exactly what they need to heal—and love again


When Quinn Southerland returns home to Winder Ranch, Idaho, to find former high school queen bee Tess Claybourn serving as his dying mother’s hospice nurse, he’s far from pleased. But recently widowed Tess has done a lot of growing up since then. And as the two reconnect, she can’t help but wonder if there’s room in Quinn’s tortured heart for forgiveness—and maybe even love…


After Taft Bowman lost his parents ten years ago, he buried himself in a grief that shut fiancée Laura Pendleton out completely. But now she’s back, recently widowed with two kids in tow, and Taft refuses to let her slip away again. Laura just wants a fresh start, but that’s easier said than done when seeing Taft stirs up feelings she thought she’d left in the past…

My Comments:

If you are a RaeAnn Thayne fan who is considering this book, realize that both of these stories have been previously published.  I reviewed A Cold Creek Reunion here. 

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Review: Christmas on the Coast

About the Book:

Christmas is approaching on the island of Jersey, but Libby is feeling far from festive. Her police work and duties as vicar’s wife weigh heavily on her, she’s anxious about her troubled children, and now her best friend, Stella, has suddenly turned against her, citing a mysterious family grudge.

Libby is devastated by Stella’s unexpected coldness. But then her father shows her a diary written by her great-aunt Queenie, which sheds light on a long-hidden secret—one rooted in love, loyalty and betrayal. Writing during the Nazi occupation of Jersey in the winter of 1941, Queenie reveals a community torn apart by illicit romance, heartbreak and revenge—and by dark acts of fear and desperation.

The more Libby immerses herself in Queenie’s journal, the more she understands why its secrets still haunt her family and Stella’s. Christmas is a time of forgiveness, but is the treachery of their shared past too shameful to be forgotten?

My Comments:

This is one of those book I always thought would be better than what it turned out to be.  I loved the setting--the island of Jersey, in between England and France.  I loved the dual time lines--part of the book was set during WWII and part of it was in 2016.  I liked the way the WWII story was told via journal entries.  

What didn't I like?  Well, the whole story about Stella turning away from her because of a family grudge.  These women had been friends through thick and thin since they were kids (now they have grown kids) and they knew there had "always" been problems between the families and now that she knew the reason (something that obviously had nothing to do with their generation) Stella was going to leave a close friend?  Sorry, I don't buy it.  

Other than that, it was a feel-good Christmas read and just the thing for a cold afternoon.  Grade:  B-

I'd like to thank the publisher for making the book available via NetGalley.  I was not obligated to write a positive review.  If you have Kindle Unlimited, this book is part of it.  

Friday, December 01, 2017

The Only Girl In the World: My Review

About the Book:

Maude Julien's parents were fanatics who believed it was their sacred duty to turn her into the ultimate survivor - raising her in isolation, tyrannizing her childhood and subjecting her to endless drills designed to "eliminate weakness." Maude learned to hold an electric fence for minutes without flinching, and to sit perfectly still in a rat-infested cellar all night long (her mother sewed bells onto her clothes that would give her away if she moved). She endured a life without heat, hot water, adequate food, friendship, or any kind of affectionate treatment.

But Maude's parents could not rule her inner life. Befriending the animals on the lonely estate as well as the characters in the novels she read in secret, young Maude nurtured in herself the compassion and love that her parents forbid as weak. And when, after more than a decade, an outsider managed to penetrate her family's paranoid world, Maude seized her opportunity. 

By turns horrifying and magical, The Only Girl in the World is a story that will grip you from the first page and leave you spellbound, a chilling exploration of psychological control that ends with a glorious escape.

My Comments:

Most of the time when I think of child abuse I think of adults who cannot control their tempers or who sexually abuse children or who neglect them.  I don't think of people who purposefully set out to conceive and raise a child who knows no tenderness or care.  Showing emotions such as fear or love--or even showing that you had a preference about things was considered a weakness in her family and weaknesses were things to be eliminated.

Maude was removed from school when she was four and the family moved to a large estate.  Her contact with outsiders became less and less frequent until she was a teen.  She managed to "escape" because a tutor realized how bad things were and convinced her parents that things would be worse at his school.  

Surprisingly, Maude made it out alive, and with her sense of humanity intact.  My heartstrings tugged as a read what happened to her as a child and I kept wondering how many people had any idea what was happening to her.  I kept wondering what could have been done to help her.  As a volunteer who works with children in my Catholic parish, I have to attend "Safe Environment" training regularly and one of the topics is recongizing characteristics of abused children.  Hopefully, if I ever have an abused child in my groups I will recongize it and be able to help the child.  

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

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Snow Country Christmas: My Review

About the Book:

Raine McCall would take snow-covered mountains over a star-studded premiere any day. But when hotshot movie executive Mick Branson arranges dinner on Christmas Eve to discuss a work opportunity, she's intrigued—by the offer and the man. She's a no-makeup, no-frills single mom, who's happy with her quiet life. Sharing chili cheeseburgers and sizzling kisses with Mick is sure heating up her holiday, but country girl and power player don't mix… 

It's not just work that's brought Mick back to Mustang Creek. Since he first visited to oversee a documentary, free-spirited graphic designer Raine has been in his head. Her approach to life is as unconventional as her quirky holiday ornaments. Their attraction is undeniable—and so are their differences. Putting down roots in the Wild West wasn't in the script. But there are some Christmas gifts you can't walk away from, even when they turn your whole world upside down…

My Comments:

What's not to like?  She's the mother of a precious little girl, and while she and the father get along, they were never married and she likes her single life, most of the time.  He met her when he had business with the father of her child and he hopes this business trip turns into more.

The setting is beautiful--ranch country with mountains and snow, horses and dogs.  Everyone looks great in their jeans and family is everything.  With some Christmas love in the air, what more could you want? 

If you are looking for a book with intricate plot turns, lots of symbolism and an ambiguous ending, this isn't it.  It's a Christmas romance and things happen pretty much as expected, and sometimes, that's a good thing. 

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

Book Review: Little Broken Things

About the Book:

An engrossing and suspenseful novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Amy Hatvany about an affluent suburban family whose carefully constructed facade starts to come apart with the unexpected arrival of an endangered young girl.

I have something for you. When Quinn Cruz receives that cryptic text message from her older sister Nora, she doesn’t think much of it. They haven’t seen each other in nearly a year and thanks to Nora’s fierce aloofness, their relationship consists mostly of infrequent phone calls and an occasional email or text. But when a haunted Nora shows up at the lake near Quinn's house just hours later, a chain reaction is set into motion that will change both of their lives forever.

Nora’s “something” is more shocking than Quinn could have ever imagined: a little girl, cowering, wide-eyed, and tight-lipped. Nora hands her over to Quinn with instructions to keep her safe, and not to utter a word about the child to anyone, especially not their buttoned-up mother who seems determined to pretend everything is perfect. But before Quinn can ask even one of the million questions swirling around her head, Nora disappears, and Quinn finds herself the unlikely caretaker of a girl introduced simply as Lucy.

While Quinn struggles to honor her sister’s desperate request and care for the lost, scared Lucy, she fears that Nora may have gotten involved in something way over her head—something that will threaten them all. But Quinn’s worries are nothing compared to the firestorm that Nora is facing. It’s a matter of life and death, of family and freedom, and ultimately, about the lengths a woman will go to protect the ones she loves.

My Comments:

I love Nicole Baart's writing.  I love her word choice, the pictures she paints with her writing, the way her writing sounds when read aloud.   Reading what she writes is an absolute joy, and she is one of only a few authors who get that type of accolade from me.  Most of the time, the words are a medium, a way to get the story across--nothing more or less.  I don't notice them unless the writing is, in my opinion, extraordinarily good like Baart's or extraordinarily bad (like many of the free/cheap ebooks on Amazon). 

Unfortunately, as has been the case with some of her other books, I don't like the ending of this story.  It just didn't seem realistic.  Too many things had to happen just the way they did for everyone to get the happily ever after that they got.

One of the characters is a woman in her 50's, and while perhaps our social classes are different, and that accounts for the different lifestyle, I found the things she did and the life she led to be more typical of women in my mother's generation than of women in mine (I'm in my mid-50's). 

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

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Featured Book: Amazing Gracie

Amazing Gracie by [Woods, Sherryl]

About the Book:

When Gracie MacDougal returns to Seagull Point, Virginia, seeking to reform her workaholic ways, she discovers more than relaxation. The picturesque town calls to her, as does the waterfront Victorian house she envisions as the perfect bed-and-breakfast. But one person stands between Gracie and her new goal…and he isn’t budging. 

Southern charmer Kevin Daniels isn’t interested in selling Gracie’s dream house, but he’s definitely interested in something else…her. Enticing the uptight businesswoman into letting down her hair becomes his new mission in life, but beyond that? He already has way too many people depending on him, and has no intention of adding one more. 

Gracie’s not looking for a home. Kevin’s not looking for a wife. But sometimes even the best intentions can wind up going wonderfully awry.

Previously published by Harlequin Mira in 2010.

My Comments:

As noted above, this is a re-issue.  I read it a few years ago and here is what I had to say about it:  

While perusing the bargain rack at my local used paperback store Amazing Gracie caught my eye.  It is a sweet romance about Gracie, a hotel executive and workaholic who quits her job because she has a different vision for the luxury hotel than does her new boss.  She goes to a small town in Virginia, a place she had vacationed with her family once, as a child.  She realizes that she has no one who is important to her--no family, no close friends.  

While there she falls in love with an old-fashioned Victorian house, which she decides to turn into a bed-and-breakfast.  The only problem is that the property manager, Kevin, won't tell her who owns it (he does) but they start spending time together.  Guess what happens?  

The book has subplots about Kevin's cousins and Gracie's ex-boss but I can't say there was ever any real tension in the book or any doubt about the ending.  I really liked Kevin's aunt, who used to own the house.  All in all, I'd characterize the writing style as somewhere between fair and good and the book as a happy fluffy read.  Grade:  B-

I'm publishing a new post on this book because it is available on NetGalley.  As I got into the book I realized I had already read it.  

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Review: Bella Flora Christmas

About the Book:

The ladies of Ten Beach Road are home for the holidays in this brand-new novella.

Although their lives have changed since their first desperate renovation of Bella Flora, friends Madeline, Avery, and Nicole have always been there for each other. Now they're returning to Bella Flora for Christmas—where Maddie’s daughter Kyra isn’t feeling particularly celebratory. 
Kyra was hoping for a peaceful holiday at Bella Flora—a last gathering before a wealthy, mystery tenant moves into the home she’s been forced to rent out. Instead, she must make a life altering decision by New Year’s -- a decision that becomes even more difficult when unexpected guests arrive at Ten Beach Road on Christmas Eve. Now Kyra, Maddie, Avery and Nikki will need to pull together to secure Bella Flora’s future, as well as their own.

My Comments:

I'm guessing that this book would be a lot more fun if I had read the other books in the series.  As it was, to me, there were far too many characters doing far too little and nothing ever quite grabbed me. 

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

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Review: Right Where We Belong

Right Where We Belong

About the Book:

Savanna Gray needs a do-over. Her "perfect" life unraveled when, to her absolute shock, her husband was arrested for attacking three women. With her divorce settled, she takes her two children home to Silver Springs to seek refuge between the walls of the farmhouse where she was born. It needs a little TLC, but she's eager to take control of something. 

Gavin Turner understands the struggle of starting over. Abandoned at a gas station when he was five, it wasn't until he landed at New Horizons Boys Ranch as a teen that he finally found some peace. He steps up when Savanna needs help fixing things—even when those things go beyond the farmhouse. 

Despite an escalating attraction to Gavin, Savanna resolves to keep her distance. She trusted her ex, who had a similarly tragic background, and is unwilling to repeat her past mistakes. But it's hard to resist a man whose heart is as capable as his hands.

My Comments:

I work as a criminal defense paralegal and one thing that most people don't think about when considering the criminal justice system is the family of the accused (or guilty).  Whether the accused is convicted or not, whether he (or she) committed the crime, the family pays a price, whether it is simply the cost of attorney fees or whether it is the loss of the loved ones presence or community censure because of the crime.

Savanna had not been thrilled with her marriage but she did her best to hold things together, for the sake of the kids.  While she initially wanted to believe the police had arrested the wrong man, the more she learned and the more she thought, the more she realized it was doubtful they had.  

They lived in a small town and she was finding herself and her children to be outcasts, even though her husband had not yet been tried, so she took the children and moved to some property she inherited in another state.  This is the story of her trying to rebuild her life and the life of her children. 

For the most part, I liked the story.  However, I found the climax scene to be very unrealistic.  

The thread that ties this story to others is a home/school for unwanted children, which is where Gavin grew up.  The story contains brief mentions of characters from prior books, but it can easily be read as a stand-alone.

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

Friday, October 20, 2017

Practice Makes Catholic: My Review

About the Book:

It is said that practice makes perfect, but what else does practice make? If you ask Joe Paprocki, he’ll say that practice makes Catholic—that is, there are certain distinct practices that make us essentially Catholic. The problem is that many Catholics don’t understand—or at least misunderstand—why we engage in the many practices we do. In Practice Makes Catholic, Paprocki addresses the all-important “why” of many Catholic practices by articulating five key characteristics that form our Catholic identity: a sense of sacramentality, a commitment to community, a respect for the dignity of human life and commitment to justice, a reverence for Tradition, and a disposition to faith and hope rather than despair. Under each of these categories, he explores and explains multiple Catholic practices, then describes how following each one can make a profound difference in our faith and in our lives. Informative and inviting, Practice Makes Catholic is the perfect resource for RCIA candidates and their sponsors, for Catholics returning to the faith, and for all Catholics who want to get to the heart of what their faith is really about.

My Comments:

A facebook friend of mine who was raised Catholic recently asked why, when movie producers want to show an exorcism, they always show a Catholic priest.  She wondered if other denominations practiced exorcism.  I did some quick research that showed that some did in one way or another, but then opined that when movie producers want to show ceremony or ritual, they show a Catholic church because that's people's image of Catholicism.  If the producer wants to show a sermon motivating a character's action, on the other hand, the church is likely to look more low church Protestant, because they are known for preaching, not ceremony.

A couple of years ago our parish got a new DRE, and one thing I really like about him is that he has put in adult education programs.  One was a study of Practice Makes Catholic and he offered it either in person or on-line.  Unfortunately, I found that I don't have the self-discipline for on-line.  However, eventually I did read the book.  

In Practice Makes Catholic Paprocki takes a look at many of the rituals and practices of Catholics and explains the "why" as well as the "how". He explains sacramentals, the liturgical calendar, and the uniquely Catholic forms of prayer such as novenas.  He encourages learning more about the Catholic faith and offers resources.  All through the book though, the emphasis isn't on learning about these thing but rather on incorporating them into your life. 

Like The Bible Blueprint which I reviewed last month, Practice Makes Catholic is easy to read.  I'd describe the book as "magazine-like" with short chapters, lots of side-bars and inset boxes, a few cartoons and a lot of use of headlines and bullet points to focus reader's attention.  I think the book is a good outline of how to live a Catholic life.  

I bought the book to participate in my parish program and actually paid full price for it.  Grade:  B+

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Review: The Rancher's Christmas Song

About the Book:

Music teacher Ella Baker's plate is already full. But when single dad Beckett McKinley's wild twin boys need help preparing a Christmas song for their father, Ella agrees on one condition: they teach her to ride a horse. She's hoping that'll help mend her strained relationship with her rancher father; it certainly has nothing to do with the crush that's lingered since her one and only date with Beck. 

It isn't disinterest spurring Beck to keep his distance—if anything, the spark is too strong, with Ella reminding him of his ex-wife. Soon what started as an innocent arrangement is beginning to feel a lot like family. But with the holidays approaching, Beck and Ella will have to overcome past hurts if they want to keep each other warm this Christmas…

My Comments:

It's a Harlequin Christmas romance; do I really need to say anything else?  He's handsome; she's beautiful and the kids are good-hearted imps.  They've both been hurt, it is Christmas time and ....

Nope, nothing original at all, and a little over-written, but if you are looking for a heartwarming way to pass a couple of hours you could do worse.  

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

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Review: Lilac Lane

About the Book:

At the heart of Lilac Lane is Keira Malone, who raised her three children alone after her first marriage broke apart, and who, after years of guarding her heart, finally finds love again. But that love is short-lived when her fiancee suffers a fatal heart attack. Grieving and unsure of what’s next, Keira agrees to move from Dublin to Chesapeake Shores, Maryland, to spend time with her daughter, Moira, and her new granddaughter, Kate, as well as to help her son-in-law, Luke, with his Irish pub, O’Briens.

Not wanting to live underfoot, she rents a charming cottage on Lilac Lane, replete with views of the ocean and her neighbor’s thriving garden—not to mention views of the neighbor himself. The neighbor is none other than Bryan Laramie, the brusque and moody chef at the pub, with whom Keira is constantly butting heads. But things get real when Bryan’s long-lost daughter, whom he hasn’t seen since she was a baby, shows up out of the blue. As Bryan and Keira each delve into their pasts, reopening wounds, the rest of the town is gearing up for the Fall Festival Irish Stew cook-off, and making no bones about whose side they’re on. It’s Kitchen Wars meets This is Your Life—a recipe for disaster…or a new take on love?

You won’t want to miss this epic return to Chesapeake Shores, a place we’re betting you’ll want to stay forever.

My Comments:

The fun thing about series books is keeping up with friends you made in the first book(s) as you read through the series.  The bad thing about them is some writers use series books as a way to be lazy about character and plot development.  I'm afraid that Sherryl Woods has reached that point with the Chesapeake Shores books.

Keira isn't exactly like any other character, but just like in the other books, the O'Brien family is omnipresent, meddling in other people's love lives and gathering for Sunday dinner at Nell's (everyone), at OBrien's Pub (mostly the men) or at the coffee shop (the women).  Of course there is a happily ever after and like Woods' other books it does not have vivid bedroom scenes.  

Given some things said in this book, I doubt this is Woods' last O'Brien book, but it is mine.  It isn't an awful book, and if you haven't read any (or many) of the others and you are looking for a mild diversion one afternoon, this may be right up your alley.  I, on the other  hand, am tired of the O'Briens.  

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

Friday, October 06, 2017

Blog Tour and Review: Sugar Pine Trail

About the Book:

Librarian Julia Winston is ready to ditch the quiet existence she's been living. She's made a list of new things to experience, but falling for Jamie Caine, her sexy military pilot neighbor, isn't one of them. Julia's looking to conquer life, not become the heart breaker's latest conquest. But when two young brothers wind up in Julia's care for the holidays, she'll take any help she can get—even Jamie's. 

Happy to step in, Jamie reveals a side of himself that's much harder to resist. Not only is he fantastic with kids, he provides the strength Julia needs to tackle her list. She knows their temporary family can't last beyond the holidays, but the closer she gets to Jamie, the more she wonders if things could be this merry and bright forever…

My Comments:

Christmas romances can be so much fun, especially if you are looking for a quick easy heartwarming read and don't expect much realism. 

Julia is a sweet small town librarian who has lots of friends, but whose life has been spent meeting the expectations of others.  Not long before Christmas her book club makes wish lists--things they wish they could do, but haven't yet.  Julia's list includes having an orgasm with someone else.  

Julia lives in a large home she inherited from her parents, and which she has divided into two apartments.  A handsome pilot moves in upstairs.  She knows his family and knows that he doesn't do serious relationships, so of course she isn't willing to get close to him.

Right before Thanksgiving Julia notices that two young boys are spending too much time in the library and are walking home by themselves in a serious snowstorm.  She calls child welfare and ends up as their foster mother, and ends up getting a lot of help from the guy upstairs (the pilot).  He ends up seeing her bucket list and helps her achieve most of those goals--and then lets it slip that he has seen the list.

All in all, the book is predictable almost to a fault but they get their happily ever after and that's what Christmas romances are about, right.

Like Thayne's other novels, this one includes a passionate interlude, however, the characters remain dressed.  

Fans of the Haven Point and Hope's Crossing books will enjoy catching  up with many of the regular cast.  

I'd like to thank Little Bird Publicity for inviting me to join this tour.  Grade:  B-

Friday, September 15, 2017

Romances by Lily Everett: Quick Review

About the Book:

Sheriff Andie Shepard may be new to Sanctuary Island but, like everyone else who comes here, she's already fallen under its healing spell. Andie is determined to leave her mistakes behind her and make this scenic haven her home. But she just might have to change her plans—as well as open her heart—when an unexpected visitor shows up on her doorstep…

Caitlin is the ten-year-old niece Andie never knew she had. Silent, wary, and shy as can be, Caitlin only responds to the horses that run wild across the island. Andie has no idea how to deal with Caitlin—until Sam Brennan enters the picture. A tall, handsome loner who rehabilitates abused horses, Sam is able to help Caitlin break out of her shell. But that's not all: He finds a way to touch something deep in Andie's heart, opening her up to the healing power of love. Together, these three lost souls must face the darkness in their past to build a brighter future. Because here, on Sanctuary Island, anything is possible…

Dr. Ben Faulkner is a veterinarian on warm, welcoming Sanctuary Island, a refuge for wild horses. Though he's dedicated his life to healing animals and rescuing the ones no one wants, Ben is nursing deep wounds of his own. After tragedy tore his family apart, he gave up his dreams of finding happiness long ago…until Merry Preston arrives on the island. Vivacious, friendly, and instantly loveable, Merry is everything Ben is not. She's also nine months pregnant and attempting to carve out a new life for herself and her unborn child.

Though Ben tries to keep his distance, when a raging storm cuts them off from the mainland, he's forced to help bring her new baby into the world. It's a harrowing experience that leaves him with one great certainty: I want these two to be my family. Seeing his opportunity, he makes a dramatic proposal to the young mother: a marriage of convenience. If Merry marries him, he'll draw up a contract naming her son as his heir and promising to provide for them both. But as they'll learn, love is more than a business proposition…and it'll take all the magic hidden in Sanctuary Island to turn Ben's proposal into something real and lasting.

My Comments

Ok, maybe they weren't all that realistic, but they were fun reads.  

I bought them with a gift certificate from a friend.  Grade:  B.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Review: The Bible Blueprint

About the Book:

In The Bible Blueprint, best-selling author Joe Paprocki makes understanding the Bible not only easy for the person in the pew, but downright fun! Using witty cartoons, thought-provoking sidebars, and short quizzes to supplement his easy-to-grasp teachings on the Bible, Paprocki guides lay Catholics to a solid understanding of the stucture, organization, and purpose of God's Word. 

Among numerous other topics, Paprocki covers the different genres of biblical writing, key figures in biblical history, and the methods Catholis rely on to interpret the Bible. As readers increase their understanding of the Bible, they will also increase their ability to find their way in Scripture: eight perforated Bible bookmarks are included.

My Comments:

One thing non-Catholics often accuse Catholics of is ignorance of Scripture, and to be honest, the way Catholics approach religious education and Bible study is very different from that of many non-Catholic Christians.  While many denominations focus their religious education programs on knowing the Bible, Catholic religious education is focused on knowing the teachings of the Church, some of which come directly from the Bible, and some of which do not. 

While Catholics hear large portions of the Bible at Mass, many Catholic adults are looking for information about the Bible and what the Church teaches about the Bible. The Bible Blueprint is a good introduction.  Paprocki used the image of a blueprint-- a plan.  His book is a blueprint of the Bible, and the Bible is the blueprint for salvation.

The book is easy to read and humorous without being slapstick or disrespectful.  There is a lot of good information, but this is not a scholarly tome that must be read with a dictionary at your side.  It approaches the Bible from a Catholic perspective and discusses topics such as why our Bible is longer than the one Protestants use.

I enjoyed The Bible Blueprint, which I won in a contest my parish DRE ran.  If you are ready to learn more about the Bible but the "meaty" Bible studies or textbooks about Scripture are heavier reading that you want, give this a try.  Grade:  B+

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

To Be Where You Are: My Review

About the Book:

After twelve years of wrestling with the conflicts of retirement, Father Tim Kavanagh realizes he doesn't need a steady job to prove himself. Then he's given one. As for what it proves, heaven only knows.

Millions of Karon fans will be thrilled that it’s life as usual in the wildly popular Mitford series: A beloved town character lands a front-page obituary, but who was it, exactly, who died? And what about the former mayor, born the year Lindbergh landed in Paris, who’s still running for office? All this, of course, is but a feather on the wind compared to Muse editor J.C. Hogan’s desperate attempts to find a cure for his marital woes. Will it be high-def TV or his pork chop marinade?
In fiction, as in real life, there are no guarantees. 
Twenty minutes from Mitford at Meadowgate Farm, newlyweds Dooley and Lace Kavanagh face a crisis that devastates their bank account and impacts their family vet practice. 
But there is still a lot to celebrate, as their adopted son, Jack, looks forward to the most important day of his life—with great cooking, country music, and lots of people who love him. Happily, it will also be a day when the terrible wound in Dooley’s biological family begins to heal because of a game—let’s just call it a miracle—that breaks all the rules.
In To Be Where You Are, Jan Karon weaves together the richly comic and compelling lives of two Kavanagh families, and a cast of characters that readers around the world now love like kin.

My Comments:

I've read most of the Mitford books and like many long-time fans will, I'm sure, I grabbed this one when it became available (I got it on NetGalley).  I wanted to visit with old friends and watch them have new adventures.  However, I'm about a third of the way in and I have no desire to finish.  I think every person in Mitford has at least made an appearance and if  you haven't read the other books, they will mean very little to you--they meant little to me because it has been a couple of years since I read the last book.  I'm hoping that by the end of the book Lace finds out that she really can have a baby, but other than that, well, so far nothing in this book has grabbed me and I'm having trouble keeping people straight, or even figuring out who is on stage right now.  

Thanks to the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade C (real Mitford fans may enjoy it, but don't bother with this if you haven't read the others.  

Monday, September 04, 2017

It's Monday: What Are You Reading


I guess I'm getting back into it; this is my second week in a row joining Kathryn and the gang  and since I'm off tomorrow I can spend more time reading other people's posts and finding new reads.

This week I added seven books to my NetGalley shelf, so I guess I'll have to spend some of the time actually reading books.

I plan to review the financial books on my financial blog, where, by the way, I recently wrote about helping the victims of Hurricane Harvey.    

I've started To Be Where You Are and I'm finding it slow.  Fr. Tim has aged, along with the people of Mitford and everything just seems, well, old.  

I published two reviews this week:
Something Like Happy by [Woods, Eva]

I'd really like to know what those of you who have read The Giver and the other books in the series think about the question I asked at the end of the review.

Hope everyone has a great Labor Day and gets in some quality reading time.  

Friday, September 01, 2017

Review: Something Like Happy

Something Like Happy by [Woods, Eva]

About the Book:

This joyful, poignant and deeply uplifting novel celebrates the importance of living each day to the fullest through the tale of two very different women—one at a crossroads in life, one given three months to live—who team up to participate in the “100 happy days” challenge and embark on an unforgettable journey that brings each of them redemption, love, and happiness.

With her marriage over and her career stalled out, thirty-something Annie’s life is at a standstill. Then she meets colorful, upbeat Polly, whose recent cancer diagnosis has left her determined to make the most of every moment. Polly sets a challenge: learn to be happy in just 100 days. From dancing in fountains to riding rollercoasters, Annie is drawn into Polly’s world, discovering friends, hope and even love. But what happens when time runs out and she’s tested to her limits once again?

My Comments:

This is a story about two women.  Annie has lost her life and Polly has been given three months to live.  

Annie was the happily married mother of a beautiful baby boy until he died, she fell into depression, and her husband left her. Since that time she has been existing--working a job she hated, sharing a depressing apartment with a roommate she really doesn't know and taking care of her mother, who has early-onset Alzheimer's.  She has no friends and she has no fun in her life. 

Polly had it all too--great job, handsome husband, great friends and a supportive family.  However when "Bob", her brain tumor, made himself known, she decided that she would spend her last few months grabbing life, not waiting for death.  

We follow Annie and Polly though several weeks of doing things they have dreamt of and never done or things Polly wants to do at least once more.  Polly pushes Annie and others outside their comfort zones and gets them to grab for things that make them happy.

The book is set in England and uses British terms like "jumper" or "NHS".  

Polly's mother is a churchgoer but Polly has not been during her adult life.  Now that she is dying, Polly can't decide whether she'd rather believe, or not.  

While there are no bedroom scenes in the book, two of the characters are homosexual.  

I smiled, laughed and cried while reading this book.  I highly recommend it and give it an A.  I'd like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley.  

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Son by Lois Lowry: My Review

About the Book:

They called her Water Claire. When she washed up on their shore, no one knew that she came from a society where emotions and colors didn’t exist. That she had become a Vessel at age thirteen. That she had carried a Product at age fourteen. That it had been stolen from her body. Claire had a son. But what became of him she never knew. What was his name? Was he even alive? She was supposed to forget him, but that was impossible. Now Claire will stop at nothing to find her child, even if it means making an unimaginable sacrifice.

Son thrusts readers once again into the chilling world of the Newbery Medal winning book, The Giver, as well as Gathering Blue and Messenger where a new hero emerges. In this thrilling series finale, the startling and long-awaited conclusion to Lois Lowry’s epic tale culminates in a final clash between good and evil.

My Comments:


I found this one surfing through my library's Overdrive portfolio.  I had read the others in the series so I decided to read this.

For those not familiar with the series, it starts with The Giver, which is set in the future, after a catastrophic war.  The characters live in a technologically advanced community that has given up emotion and individual freedom.  No one suffers pain or want, and everything is decided for everyone.  Two of the characters in The Giver were Jonas and Gabe.  Jonas was chosen to be the only person in the community who was told of its history, and Gabe was a baby who could not conform--and we learn that in that community non-conformity was a capital crime, even if the "criminal" was an infant.  

Son is the story of Gabe's mother--the woman who gave birth to him.  Certain young women were chosen to be birth mothers--it was their job for a few years to carry three "products" to maturity.  Once those products were born, they were raised in a community nursery for a year or so and then given to couples (the governement decided who coupled) to raise to maturity.  

Gabe's mother had problems with the birth and was declared ineligible for future childbearing, but the powers that be forgot to tell her to take her hormone (and feeling) blocking pills and she seeks out her son.  She learns that he is no longer in the community and goes looking for him.

One of the characters is "Trademaster" who had caused disruption in the community featured in another book two of this series.  Basically, he would grant people's wishes, but in return would talk something valuable from them, and in doing so caused misery and dissention.  In Son he grants Claire's wish to see her son, but takes her youth. 

At the end of the book Gabe confronts Trademaster and finds him to be pure evil, not human at all, and destroys him. I found that to be a throught-provoking conclusion.  Gabe started life in a community where no one had to trade--everyone was the same, all choices were made, suffering was absent. By destroying Trademaster, did he destroy evil?  Is it possible to destroy evil without destroying choice?  

While there were parts of the book that dragged, overall I enjoyed it and give it a B. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

It's Monday, What Are You Reading


I keep saying I'm going to get back to regular book blogging and keeping up with the book blogging community, and I keep failing.  I enjoy joining Kathryn and the gang but life gets in the way.

I recently have set up my Overdrive account with my public library.  If you have a Kindle or other tablet, this is a great way to get e-books delivered.  As with hard copies, there may be a waiting list for the latest and greatest but at least with my library, I've been able to find plenty to keep me busy, and being able to check them out and return them from the comfort of my home makes it easy to try new authors, genres etc.  If I like them, I continue reading; if not, back they go.  

Here are some of my recent Overdrive reads:

Montana Bride: A Bitter Creek Novel by [Johnston, Joan]

Wyoming Bride: A Bitter Creek Novel by [Johnston, Joan]

These were about what you'd expect looking at the covers. They weren't very realistic but were fun.

Family Tree: A Novel by [Wiggs, Susan]

I loved this one, and may write a review in the future.  In short its about a women who finds a new life after a coma takes her old life from her. 

It was a rainy lazy Sunday today and I went to Mass last night so I spent the day writing book reviews and other blog posts so if I never blog again, you'll see a few more posts here.  Two that have already been published are:

Keep You Safe (click for review) caught my eye because it deals with vaccines.  I have an autistic son and one (discredited) theory about autism is that it is caused by vaccines.  

What should you do if a spouse you love comes out as transgendered?  That's the struggle of one of the characters in The Art of Keeping Secrets. 

As a New Orleans area resident I just want to remind everyone to keep the people of Houston in your thoughts and prayers.  Pray that rain lets up and they can dry out and be prepared to dig in your pockets to send money for aid once the storm leaves.  

Keep You Safe: My Review

About the Book:

What if a choice you made for your child could harm someone else's'?

For single mother Kate O'Hara, there was no choice to make. Her daughter, Rosie, is one of a small percentage of children with a disorder that prevents them from being immunized. All Kate can do is hope that herd immunity keeps disease at bay and her little girl safe.

For Madeleine Cooper vaccinations were a leap of faith she wasn't prepared to take. Which was why, following much soul-searching, she and her husband declined controversial measles shots for their daughter, Clara. All she can do is pray that it was the right decision, and if her little girl becomes sick, she gets through it unscathed.

But when both girls wind up in the same elementary school class, telltale red spots appear on Clara Cooper's chest, and on Rosie's a few days after. 

And while one child recovers and the other's health becomes more critical, the two mothers find themselves across a very deep divide...

My Comments:

I have an autistic son.  There was a noticeable uptick in the number of kids diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders starting with kids about his age.  Of course the big question is why.  One thing that changed with kids about his age was "baby shots".  For quite some time before he was born, the shots given to babies had been the same.  A year or two before he was born, the HIb vaccine was put in and shortly thereafter they started giving hepatitis B shorts to infants in the hospital.  A few years later a doctor from England published a paper that stated that the preservative in the shots, a mercury derivative called thimerisol, was responsible for the increased number of autistic children.  I don't know if there was an "anti-vaxx" movement before that paper (which has now been revealed as a fraud), but since that time not vaccinating your children has become an option in many more parents' minds than it had been prior to that time.

I am also the mother of a child who was born after my autistic son and after I began doing a lot of research on autism, its prevalence and its causes.  I was well aware of the purported link between vaccines and autism and well aware that the medical establishment consistently denied such a link.  I am also well aware that tobacco companies for years provided medical "evidence" that smoking didn't cause cancer and that asbestos companies had medical experts who declared asbestos to be safe.  Nevertheless, I decided to vaccinate my youngest, though I always cringed when they did so, and I delayed the shots for a few months.  

This book is about one mother who chose not to vaccinate her child, and one whose child was not able to be vaccinated due to allergies.  First the child whose mother chose not to vaccinate got measles, and then got over them.  Then the child who couldn't be vaccinated got them, and was far sicker.  

The mother whose child became very ill hired an attorney to sue the parents of the child who infected her.  The story is set in Ireland and while I don't know anything about Irish law, I was not happy with the outcome of the court case or the general resolution of the book.  Nevertheless I enjoyed the story and liked the way the author had these moms actually knowing each other--both that the seriously ill girl's mom knew how her daughter became ill and that the other mom knew that her child had infected the seriously ill child.  In other words, the cause and effect were right there to look at for both of them, it wasn't hypothetical.

Another thing I liked about the book is that one of the moms was a blogger.

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

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Review: The Art of Keeping Secrets

About the Book:

They started out as the "misfit moms"—the trio of less-than-conventional parents at their sons' tony private school. They've shared everything. Or so they thought. Now, on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to New York City, they'll sightsee, they'll shop, they'll catch a few Broadway shows. They'll tell all… 

After seventeen years as a single parent, Neve will reveal a past sin that could destroy her relationship with her son. Emma will uncover the roots of her exhaustion and divulge the inappropriate feelings she has for her boss. And Flick—who knows a little about crafting a flawless exterior—will share the shocking truth that lies beneath the veneer of her perfect marriage. 

When the tight hold they've each kept on their secrets for years begins to slip, they must face the truth. Even if the truth will forever alter the course of their friendship and their lives.

My Comments:

Three women, three big secrets (ok, maybe two big secrets and one thing where no one realized what was happening).  Emma, Flick and Neve live in Australia and send their sons to the same private school.  They've never fit in with the other moms, but they have become the best of friends.  Now their sons are graduating and each is finding that life as she knows it will be undergoing more changes than the predicted empty nest.

The biggest secret of all is Flick's, well, actually her husband's.  She learned while they were engaged that he was a cross-dresser, but they agreed it would be their secret.  Now, he has come out to her as transgendered but he (she?) doesn't want to lose Flick.  Flick is torn--she's not a lesbian, she loves her husband, but she doesn't want a wife.  What will she do?

None of these women have the traditional picket fence marriage--at the time of this story, Flick is the only one who is married--and the story is an interesting exploration of what marriage is and should be.  

I enjoyed the book but I can't say that any of the women particularly appealed to me--I felt sorry for all of them at different times in the book, but I was always the dispassionate observer, I was never emotionally drawn into the book.  

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

Monday, August 07, 2017

The Summer That Made Us: My Review

The Summer that Made Us

About the Book:

Mothers and daughters, sisters and cousins, they lived for summers at the lake house until a tragic accident changed everything. The Summer That Made Us is an unforgettable story about a family learning to accept the past, to forgive and to love each other again. 

That was then… 

For the Hempsteads, two sisters who married two brothers and had three daughters each, summers were idyllic. The women would escape the city the moment school was out to gather at the family house on Lake Waseka. The lake was a magical place, a haven where they were happy and carefree. All of their problems drifted away as the days passed in sun-dappled contentment. Until the summer that changed everything. 

This is now… 

After an accidental drowning turned the lake house into a site of tragedy and grief, it was closed up. For good. Torn apart, none of the Hempstead women speak of what happened that summer, and relationships between them are uneasy at best to hurtful at worst. But in the face of new challenges, one woman is determined to draw her family together again, and the only way that can happen is to return to the lake and face the truth. 

Robyn Carr has crafted a beautifully woven story about the complexities of family dynamics and the value of strong female relationships.

My Comments:

In a lot of ways, this is the proto-typical "beach read".  There is a beach house which has been in the family for generations; the family that used to gather there yearly; the summer romances;  the guy across the lake; and the tragedy that tore everyone apart.  Nevertheless, Robyn Carr does a good job with this trope.  Her characters include the likable, the pitiable and the one you just want to shake. The story has just enough twists to keep it interesting.  

As the summer draws to a close, all have had their lives changed, and improved by facing the demons of their past and realizing that things really weren't just thier fault.  

I'd like to thank Little Bird Publicity for inviting me to participate in this blog tour and providing a complimentary review copy.  Grade:  B.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Until You Loved Me: My Review

Until You Loved Me: A Novel (Silver Springs) by [Novak, Brenda]

About the Book:

After catching her fiancee cheating—with another man—usually straitlaced, workaholic scientist Ellie Fisher liberates her wild side just long enough to indulge in a passionate one-night stand with a tall, dark stranger she meets at a trendy Miami bar. Embarrassed by her recklessness, she ducks out the following morning without learning the guy's full name, something that shouldn't have been a problem…until a pregnancy test turns positive. 

Being a professional football player, Hudson King has always been cautious around women. But this one had been different—so disinterested in his celebrity, so convincingly into him. When Ellie tracks him down, claiming she's carrying his baby, he's stunned. And more than a little betrayed. 

But after growing up as an orphan, he'll do anything to stay involved in his child's life, so he urges Ellie to move to Silver Springs, where they can co-parent. Hudson has a lot of love to give, certainly enough for his child, and when their initial spark reignites, perhaps for Ellie, too…

My Comments:

I loved Ellie.  She wants what so many people want--to be loved and to have a family.  She was smart but a little socially lacking.  When her fiancee paid attention to her, she was thrilled, and thought the lack of bedroom action was based on morality rather than on sexual attraction.  They had talked about having children and she was looking forward to being a bride and a mom until she caught him in bed with a male friend.  Amazingly, he still wanted to go forward with the wedding and with having a child, which his boyfriend and he would help raise.

Not long thereafter, she becomes pregnant via a one-night stand.  She feels like she should tell the father--the only problem is that she has no clue who he is, until she sees him on television and realizes he is a famous athlete.  Once Hudson knows she is carrying his baby, he wants her where he can take care of her and the baby, so he moves her into his house, and of course it isn't long before she is in his bed.

Both Ellie and Hudson are afraid to get hurt; both have walls up, though Ellie's come down more easily.  It was fun watching them get to know each other in a non-Biblical sense and sure enough, they decided they liked each other.

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

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Review: The Innkeeper's Sister

About the Book:

Grayson Blake always has a purpose—and never a moment to lose. He's come home to Honey Ridge to convert a historic gristmill into a restaurant, but his plans crumble like Tennessee clay when the excavation of a skeleton unearths a Civil War mystery…and leads him back to a beautiful and familiar stranger. 

Once a ballet dancer, now co-owner of the Peach Orchard Inn, Valery Carter harbors pain as deep as the secrets buried beneath the mill. A bright facade can't erase her regrets any more than a glass of bourbon can restore what she's lost. But spending time with Grayson offers Valery a chance to let go of her past and imagine a happier future. And with the discovery of hidden messages in aged sheet music, both their hearts begin to open. Bound by attraction, and compelled to resolve an old crime that links the inn and the mill, Grayson and Valery encounter a song of hurt, truth…and hope.

My Comments:

One thing I like about romance novels is that they have happy endings.  Nevertheless, I like the endings to be realistic and sometimes, particularly with books that try to be more than just romance novels, I think the authors sometimes twist themselves (or the story) into knots to get the happy endings.  Things just don't add up, too many abnormal things happen and then voila, happy ending!

The Innkeeper's Sister is part of a series that introduced us to two missing boys--one from the Civil War era and one from the modern era. This story tells us what happened to one of them, and the author's note says that she didn't tell us about the other because it just didn't seem realistic.  I think that took courage on her part as it would be very easy, and very unrealistic, to write the story with both boys being found. 

In the other Honey Ridge books Valery is the drunken sister; the one who doesn't shoulder her share of the weight because she is always hung over.  In this book we learn about her demons and how she has not let them keep her from helping a sister she felt needed her.  We also watch her confront those demons and move past them into a promising future (its a romance novel after all).  

Like the other Honey Ridge books there is one story set in the modern day (Valery and Grayon's story of course) and one set in the Civil War era.  

I enjoyed the book and the series and based on the author's note, I suspect this will be the last Honey Ridge book, unfortunately.  

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

Monday, July 17, 2017

Finding Our Forever: My Review

Finding Our Forever (Silver Springs) by [Novak, Brenda]

About the Book:

New York Times bestselling author Brenda Novak welcomes readers to the town of Silver Springs, where surprises wait around every corner! 

The search for her birth mother brought Cora Kelly to the New Horizons Boys Ranch. Getting a job there was easy enough, but confiding in Aiyana, the ranch's owner, that she's really her daughter? Cora's not sure she can do that, not unless she's confident the news will be welcomed. And once she gets to know Elijah Turner—Aiyana's adopted son and ranch manager—that decision becomes even more difficult. 

Although Elijah can't deny his deep attraction to Cora, he's always struggled with trust. Anyone with his past would, and there's something about the ranch's newest employee that isn't exactly as it seems. But if the feelings she awakes in his guarded heart are any indication, she might be just what he's long been waiting for.

My Comments:

Somehow I missed this one when it came out, though I've read other books in the series.  Luckily I've recently become a fan of my library's Overdrive account where I can check out Kindle ebooks and audiobooks.  

The main story in this book is the romance between Cora, a young woman who was given up for adoption as an infant, and Elijah, a man abused as a small child and later adopted by the woman who turns out to be Cora's birth mother.  Cora feels like a part of herself is missing and wonders if that is why she cannot seem to give herself completely to someone else.  Eli is so afraid of being hurt that he knows he closes himself off to others.

Besides the story of Cora and Elijah, this is the story of Cora and Aiyana.  When the story begins, Cora knows Aiyana is her birth mom--the detective had recently given her that information.  Cora decides to get to know her birth mom without letting her birth mom know who she is--that way, if having her reveal herself would cause problems, she could just leave without doing so.  She'd have her questions answered and wouldn't disrupt Aiyana's life.  I really liked that attitude--all too often books about adoptees who find their adoptive parents show people who burst into other people's lives with the attitude of "its my right and its what I want to do" without considering that their might be a reason their birth mother chose a closed adoption, or chose not to search for them after doing so became legally easier.  

The book has several steamy scenes, but if they aren't your thing, they are easy to skim and don't really add anything to the story.  

I enjoyed this book and I'm glad my library had a copy.  Grade:  B.

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