Saturday, December 19, 2020

Book Review: Allie and Bea

About the Book:

Bea has barely been scraping by since her husband died. After falling for a telephone scam, she loses everything and is forced to abandon her trailer. With only two-thirds of a tank in her old van, she heads toward the Pacific Ocean with her cat—on a mission to reclaim what’s rightfully hers, even if it means making others pay for what she lost.

When fifteen-year-old Allie’s parents are jailed for tax fraud, she’s sent to a group home. But when her life is threatened by another resident, she knows she has to get out. She escapes only to find she has nowhere to go—until fate throws Allie in Bea’s path.

Reluctant to trust each other, much less become friends, the two warily make their way up the Pacific Coast. Yet as their hearts open to friendship and love from the strangers they meet on their journey, they find the courage to forge their own unique family—and begin to see an imperfect world with new eyes.

My Comments:

The strength of Allie and Bea is the relationship between the characters.  Bea is a Social-Security-aged senior citizen with no family who has just been scraping by and Allie is a teen who had it all, until she didn't, and was suddenly thrust into the foster care/group home system with kids who were far different from any she had known before.  Allie is on the run from a traffiker when she almost runs into Bea and convinces Bea to take her in.  As they travel the California coast they meet some interesting people and learn that they can help each other make it.  

The weakness is the general non-believability of the story.  First, both of Allie's parents are arrested and taken to jail over a tax case.  As someone whose job involves white collar criminal cases, I can tell you that a far more likely scenario would be that they turned themselves in, accompanied by their attorney, and that bond was set without them ever spending a night behind bars.  Second, within the space of a few weeks, the criminal case against both was resolved, which in real life wouldn't have happened even if they had worked out a deal ahead of time and pled guilty at the initial appearance.  

Allie has bad luck and ends up with a human trafficker, but her escape is unrealistic.  The trip that is the centerpiece of the story?  Hmm...maybe, but again, not likely.  

In short, while an engaging read, Allie and Bea just didn't ring true.  

The book is available at no extra cost via a Kindle Unlimited subscription, which is how I obtained it.  Grade:  B-


Thursday, December 10, 2020

Book Review: The Gift of Family


Mary Monroe The Gift of Family

The Gift of Family

About the Book:

Successful, secure, and still very much in love, middle-aged couple Eugene and Rosemary Johnson have never given up on one special wish—to be parents. And while Christmas always brings happiness and a whirlwind of holiday fun, their hopes for children of their own seem further away than ever. Especially this year, when Rosemary must have emergency surgery and home help to recuperate. Wanting to lift his wife’s spirits, Eugene suddenly has an inspiration from back in the
day . . .
Faithful and sensible, Ethel Perkins raised Eugene and his brother. Unforeseen tragedy has left the sixty-something widow struggling with little money and two jobs to keep her great-grandchildren off the streets. She’s glad to help Rosemary back on her feet. But she can only stay until Rosemary is well enough to resume her normal routine. For Ethel, survival means keeping to her grueling schedule, being there for everyone but herself, and, as always, handling her troubles all on her own . . .
As Ethel’s problems go from bad to much worse, Rosemary and Eugene find themselves helping her more and more—and growing close to her lively youngsters. Soon, there’s only one way both families can salvage the season: by celebrating it together. But will their temporary family work into the
future . . . and possibly make a lifetime of happiness?

My Comments:

Christmas novels are supposed to be sweet and heartwarming and in this The Gift of Family does not dissapoint.  When his wife needs help at home after surgery, Eugene thinks of the housekeeper who helped raise him, and even though he has not heard from her in years, he is able to track her down.  It just so happens she was just laid off and is looking for a job.  As noted above, she quickly becomes more than a servant and what do you think happens at the end.

I tend to get distracted from stories by details that don't ring true and in this case, while I am no medical expert, the medical details did not ring true at all--though I just did a quick Google search and at least one thing I thought was inaccurate could have happened.  

In short, this is a quick easy read that will leave you smiling but you can pretty much guess from the blurb above how the story will end, and the road to get there isn't very twisted.  

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

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

A Song for the Road


Its funny, I can't quite bring myself to abandon this blog, but I've clearly lost my enthusiasm for it.  I actually have a blog now that people read--about Girl Scouts.  

Still, this is where I got my start, and sometimes I like writing about non-Girl Scout things.  I can read old posts here and they are like looking at my past--those summer evenings at the pool reading while my baby (now a junior in high school) played with other kids, or those days when I ran a link up for Catholic bloggers, and of course those days when the mail brought package after package of review copies.  Now what review copies I get come via NetGalley and are read on my tablet.  

Back in the day, I "met" another Catholic blogger, Kathleen Basi, who is an author and a composer.  I reviewed several of her books, and you can read about them by clicking her name in the tags under this post.  I've been following her on Facebook and watching her beautiful children grow up.  I've read a bunch of Facebook posts about pouring herself into a novel she was writing, with no guarantee it would be published.  

I've always been a reader but one thing book blogging taught me (or shall we say started to teach me because there is still so much I don't know) is the process by which an author's ideas make it to my Fire tablet.  I had some vague idea of what happened up until the book was published, but no idea about what happened thereafter--how books ended up in my libarary or bookstore or what publicity was involved.  

Well, Kathleen's book was accepted by a publisher and will be available for purchase in May.  I've been along for the ride (as in hanging on the back of the car, practically out of sight) since she announced she found a publisher, has been working on edits and is now working on publicity.  Her book was recently given a cover--isn't it pretty?  

The book is about a mother who loses her whole family in an instant, and then as part of the healing process goes on a cross-country road trip.  Kathleen is a musician so I guess we shouldn't be surprised that she works music into the plot.  A long road trip has always been one of those back of the mind goals for me.  When I was a kid we lived in Mississippi and every summer we'd pile into the station wagon and head to Wisconsin to visit Grandma and Grandpa and all the rest of my mom's family.  We'd spend two long hard days in the car going 55 mph through corn fields, corn fields and more corn fields, but several time a day we'd pass billboards advertising nearby attractions.  Of course we never stopped, and honestly I doubt most of these attractions were worth more than thirty minutes of time, but I've always wanted to get in the car and go where the road takes me, stopping to explore small town museums, old churches, and state parks.  

I've done a couple of short versions of that dream.  I  had a week off between jobs back in the late '80s and a reasonably new car, so I took off by myself toward Arkansas to see where the road took me--which ended up being Hot Springs, Mountain Home and a few other places.  I found that hitting the road alone (and for some reason my dreams of these road trips never involve other people) really wasn't as much fun as I dreamed it would be.  About ten years ago I flew to Minneapolis and rented a car to head to a family reunion in Wisconsin.  Instead of getting in the interstate and driving straight over, I got on an old state highway and meandered around, as I had a couple of hours to kill before my hosts would be home from work.  I purposefully scheduled my flight out for late afternoon to give me time to explore on Monday morning, when I drove out to the church where my grandparents were married, and then through Pepin where I saw the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum as well as the headwaters of the Mississippi River.  

In a lot of ways, Kathleen is on a road trip now.  She is trying to virtually cross the country promoting her book, and so I'm giving her a shout-out here, for the dozen or so people who actually still read what I write here.  I keep telling myself I'm going to get "back into" book blogging, writing regularly, joining weekly link-ups and so on, but honestly, I'm probably not going to do so.  If you are one of those dozen or so folks, who still have me in your feeds or who check in regularly, thank you.  I guess in some ways life is like a road trip--there are so many places to go and you miss the fun of what's beyond the bend in the road if you are staying where you are--but on the other hand, its nice to come home to the familiar, so who knows, maybe you'll find your next favorite read here.  

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