Monday, June 07, 2021

It's Monday: What Are You Reading?


I'm linking up with Kathryn and the gang over at Book Date. where we share what we've been reading and talk about life in general.

The only books I acquired this week were from the library--a stack of travel guides to Europe.  Next year, once we no longer have a minor child in the house we are heading to Europe.  We are trying to decide between a cruise, a multi-city bus tour or going it alone.  My husband isn't a fan of the unpredictable so he's not crazy about doing it alone, even if it would save money.  He also wants more than a single day in several places, and cruises don't generally do that, so it looks like we are looking at a bus tour.  Anybody got any experiences, good or bad?  

On my blog this week I discussed digital books from the library.  

Two reviews published:

Hope everyone has a good week. 

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Review: The Stepsisters


About the Book:

Once upon a time, when her dad married Sage’s mom, Daisy was thrilled to get a bright and shiny new sister. But Sage was beautiful and popular, everything Daisy was not, and she made sure Daisy knew it.

Sage didn’t have Daisy’s smarts—she had to go back a grade to enroll in the fancy rich-kid school. So she used her popularity as a weapon, putting Daisy down to elevate herself. After the divorce, the stepsisters’ rivalry continued until the final, improbable straw: Daisy married Sage’s first love, and Sage fled California.

Eighteen years, two kids and one troubled marriage later, Daisy never expects—or wants—to see Sage again. But when the little sister they have in common needs them both, they put aside their differences to care for Cassidy. As long-buried truths are revealed, no one is more surprised than they when friendship blossoms.

Their fragile truce is threatened by one careless act that could have devastating consequences. They could turn their backs on each other again…or they could learn to forgive once and for all and finally become true sisters of the heart.

My Comments:

During your teenaged years it is tough to love a sister you've grown up with, much less a step-sister your age whose strengths are your weaknesses.  No, Sage and Daisy didn't like each other, but they both loved Cassidy and by helping her they learned that the other wasn't so bad.

Sage has lived a rough life--her mother was a woman who married for money but never managed to stay that way, probably because she never learned to love.  Sage sees that she is heading down that same road and decides to change--but then there is the BIG thing.  I'm all for forgiveness but in this case that forgiveness seemed to come awfully easily.  

I enjoyed the book and enjoyed watching these three women outgrow childhood animosities and realize that they are loveable, but some of it just seemed too easy.  Grade:  B.

Thursday, June 03, 2021

Libraries and E-books


I don't know about you, but I'm getting more use out of my public library lately--and entering its doors less.  Yes, I'm a digital content junkie.  Through the magic of a couple of apps on my phone or Fire, books can be in my hand as quickly with my library card as with my credit card.  Definitely a win for my wallet.  Let's take a look at some of the choices:

Library-Purchased Ebooks and Audiobooks

With Overdrive and some other platforms, libraries create custom collections (a fancy way of saying they choose which books to purchase the rights to lend). The library decides how many copies of each book to purchase. This means that even if Overdrive has the title you want, your library may not.  Even if your library has the title, you may have to wait in line to read it.  Even if your library has the book today, it may not have it next month as what the library purchases is access for a certain number of months, or a certain number of borrows, whichever comes first. 

In my experience with my library, which may or may not be typical, Overdrive is where the "hot" titles end up.  

Overdrive offers digital books, magazines and audio books.  

Pay Per Borrow

Hoopla is another digital platform to which libraries can subscribe.  Instead of purchasing books, libraries subscribe to the platform and then they pay per borrow for the books you read.  This is one reason they limit the number of books per month--though HOOPLA offers bonus borrows most months which I presume are those for which they do not charge our library. 

Besides books, HOOPLA offers audiobooks, Comics, Movies, Music and Television shows. 

While I borrow a lot of books from HOOPLA they tend to be older books, new authors or less popular genres.  

Being a Good Citizen

If I go to  my local library, borrow an armful of books and then never touch them once I get them home, unless I'm talking about a handful of "hot" books, I'm probably not hurting anyone.  The books spent three weeks stored at my house rather than sitting on the library shelf.  However, e-books are different. 

Hoopla has the advantage of being able to make a huge catalogue available to any library without big upfront costs but every borrow costs your library money (one site I reviewed said $0.99-1.49; others have said more). Some libraries have found the service to be so popular that they have had to cancel it as it was costing too much.

With purchased books, such as those accessed through Overdrive, the library has control of its budget.  However, unlike physical copies of books which can be kept for many years (and which are often discarded in "good" condition once the demand for them falls) e-books and audiobooks are licensed for a certain period of time or a certain number of borrows.  They are also limited to one check-out at a time per copy purchased, and no, despite the fact that there are no physical items to manufacture, ship and store, they are not inexpensive for libraries to purchase.  

Until I ran across a website on these platforms I honestly figured e-books were like physical books in that libraries bought them and then had them forever if they wanted them.  I figured that if I didn't monopolize a bunch of "hot" books if I had books I never read, then no harm, no foul.  Now that I'm aware of the pricing model I do try to be more discerning in my check-outs.  

Did you know how e-books were priced for your library?  If not, will this knowledge change your borrowing habits? 

This post is part of the 2021 Discussion Challenge.  Check out everyone's posts this month. 

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Review: The Letter Keeper


About the Book:

Combining heart-wrenching emotion with edge-of-your-seat tension, Charles Martin explores the true power of sacrificial love.

He shows up when all hope is lost.

Murphy Shepherd has made a career of finding those no one else could—survivors of human trafficking. His life’s mission is helping others find freedom.

But then the nightmare strikes too close to home.

When his new wife, her daughter, and two other teenage girls are stolen, Murphy is left questioning all he has thought to be true. With more dead ends than leads, he has no idea how to find those he loves.

After everything is stripped away, love is what remains.

Hope feels lost, but Murphy is willing to expend his last breath trying to bring them home.

My Comments:

I almost quit about 10% into the book because I couldn't figure out what was happening or how the characters fit together. However, I kept reading and in the end, I can't say I wasted my time, but no, I will not be reading the next book in the series.

The story is told in the first person by Shepherd, and it follows two timelines--what is happening now, and what happened in the past to bring him into this line of work.

Based on the blurb above, I expected a story where his loved ones were kidnapped early in the book and we as readers spent most of the book watching him follow the clues and dead ends to rescue them. Instead there was a lot of exposition about Murphy's childhood and young adult years, followed by some current action, then, in the last quarter of the book the kidnapping and resolution.

What did I not like? Basically, the characters all seems so unrealistic. Murphy was a loner kid who had only one friend, but at some point he saw some trafficking victims and rescues them, and that is noticed by someone. He gets an appointment to the Air Force Academy, even though he never applied, and while there, is mentored by an Episcopal priest who is a chaplain, but who wears robes around the Academy, not a uniform. The chaplain signs him up for an online seminary and between his Academy work and the seminary program, Murphy is busy to say the least.

After graduation, instead of going into the Air Force, he goes to work for his mentor in some super-secret super exclusive group that rescues people. They set up a community for the folks they rescue where they can receive counseling, love, support, etc.--and I'm talking community, not a couple of buildings. 
The bottom line is that I never figured out why all these people were together.  In writing this post, I learned that this is book two in the series and reading the blurb on book one explained a few of the characters, but there is one in particular that still makes no sense to me based on the content of this book. I could never get to the point of accepting the author's world as real.
The book is published by Thomas Nelson which is a Christian publisher and as noted, two of the characters are priests (I think--maybe they are just pretending)but while the theme of self-sacrificing love is there, I wouldn't call this a religious book. 
I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley. Grade: C. 


Monday, May 31, 2021

It's Monday: What Are You Reading?


I'm linking up with Kathryn and the gang over at Book Date. where we share what we've been reading and talk about life in general.

Another sign that things are returning to normal

Actually it really isn't a sign of normality--Memorial Day parades aren't really a thing in parade-crazy New Orleans--there may be a small one on Memorial Day itself (which has only become a widespread holiday in the last ten to fifteen years--and my husband has never had it off) but nothing that lines the streets for miles.  Today's parade was far from the most elaborate I've ever seen but folks were out having a good time and that's always good to see.  

My husband and I were walking Thursday night and I tripped and fell on my face.  Luckily nothing was broken and all I got were some brush burns on my nose and chin.  Still I didn't want to go to work Friday looking like that so I've had a nice long weekend (with another day to go) and it doesn't look too bad now.  

With all the extra time, I've been blogging and reading.  Here are the reviews I published:

I played around on the Hoopla app from my library and found a winner.

The Summer House is about two women who are starting over.  One is a young woman whose husband just left her; the other is a woman in her 60's whose husband left her years ago, and who has kept everyone at arm's length since then.  After what my be her first date since her divorce years ago, she tells her date, who she has known to some degree for years, that she'd been waiting for him her whole life.  He said that he's been there for years and she replies "I know.  And it has taken me all this time to see myself so I could really see you".  I definitely recommend this book and give it an A. 

And from Kindle Unlimited I got 

Finding Redemption is the seventh book in the series.  I like characters and the setting the climax scenes in some of the other books weren't real realistic.  I haven't finished this one but I see it heading in the same direction.  

I got two new NetGalleys this week:

Hope you had a good week and if you are off for Memorial Day, enjoy!

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Review: Word for Microsoft 365 Reference and Cheat Sheet



Do you need a quick reference for MS Word for Microsoft 365? The four-panel Microsoft Word for Microsoft 365 Reference & Cheat Sheet contains tips, shortcuts, and an annotated list of the most frequently accessed Word 365 features for Windows and macOS. Almost all of the instructions and examples also apply to Word 2019, Word 2016, and Word 2013. Topics include: * What the various ribbons in Word for Microsoft 365 do * Annotated list of the Word for Microsoft 365 Home ribbon buttons * Adding images, shapes, text boxes, media, and other elements. * Inserting headers, footers, page numbers, and more * Creating and saving documents * Formatting text, and working with MS Word Styles and Themes * How to export .rtf, .txt, .doc, and PDF files * How to add a footnote, endnote, index, and table of contents to a Word 2019 document * How to adjust margins or orientation for printing * Finding and replacing text * Keyboard shortcuts for both Windows and Mac users The Microsoft Word for Microsoft 365 Reference and Cheat Sheet does not cover advanced features of Word 365, the Microsoft Word mobile apps for tablets and phones, or other Microsoft 365/Office 365 applications. The four-panel reference is printed on 8.5 by 11 inch high-quality card stock, perfect for desks, walls, and shelves. It has holes for three-ring binders. Fully recyclable and designed for readability. The Microsoft Word for Microsoft 365 Reference and Cheat Sheet was created by the publisher of the top-selling guides Microsoft Word In 30 Minutes, Google Drive & Docs In 30 Minutes, and Dropbox In 30 Minutes. Publisher i30 Media offers separate cheat sheets including the Excel for Microsoft 365 Reference and Cheat Sheet (ISBN 9781641880572). The Microsoft Word for Microsoft 365 Reference and Cheat Sheet is an independent publication and is not affiliated with, nor has it been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise approved by Microsoft Corporation.

My Comments:

Those of us of a certain age remember when our keyboards had overlays with the WordPerfect commands for the various things we wanted to do. Back in the day, those function keys got a lot of use and those overlays were invaluable for those of  us who didn't perform certain operations regularly.  

This reference and cheat sheet reminds my of those old overlays.  It consists of four pages which list all (or at least a lot) of the keyboard shortcuts available in Word.  This isn't an instruction manual--it doesn't tell you what you should paste, why you should paste it or how to paste it into a particular place, but it does tell you that CTRL-V is paste.  If you use Word often enough that you want to use keyboard shortcuts but not often enough to have them memorized, taking these four sheets, printing them and then tacking them where you can see them with some used functions highlighted could be a way to transition from the menu driven approach to the keyboard shortcut approach.  

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

Review: The Summer Cottage

About the Book:

Somerset Lake is the perfect place for Trisha Langly and her son to start over. As the new manager for the Somerset Cottages, Trisha is instantly charmed by the property’s elderly residents and her firecracker of a new boss, Vi Fletcher. But Trisha is less enchanted by Vi’s protective grandson Jake. No matter how tempting she finds the handsome lawyer, Trisha knows that if Jake discovers the truth about her past, she’ll lose the new life she’s worked so hard to build. 

Jake Fletcher left Somerset Lake after a tragic loss, but he’s returning for the summer to care for his beloved grandmother, hoping Vi will sell the run-down cottages and finally slow down. There’s just one problem: Trisha, Vi’s new employee. She’s smart, beautiful, and kind, but Jake’s job is to protect his grandmother’s interests, and his gut is telling him Trisha’s hiding something that could jeopardize Vi’s future. However, as they spend summer days renovating the property and bonding over their love for the town, Jake realizes that Trisha is a risk worth taking—if only she can trust him with her secrets . . . and her heart. 

My Comments:

While boy meets girl while they work together to renovate Grandma's property before the family talks her into selling it is a familiar troupe, Annie Raines makes her characters come alive in a picturesque setting.  Add in a cute kid, a conniving uncle and a circle of book (and wine) loving friends and you have a perfect beach (or back porch) read,  

I'd like to thank the publisher or making a review copy available via NetGalley and look forward to reading more books in the series.  I'm guessing Raines is going to marry off the book club members.  Grade:  B 


Monday, May 24, 2021

Wildflower Season: My Review

About the Book:

When Emma Cantrell’s marriage imploded, she learned a fast and painful lesson about trusting her heart. Then, on a visit to Magnolia, North Carolina, to see her brother, an elegant, if dilapidated, mansion for sale presents the opportunity to start over. Risking everything on her dream of opening the Wildflower Inn, Emma buys the house…just as the storm of the century hits, severely damaging the structure. But a chance meeting with Holly, a bride-to-be in desperate need of a new venue, gives her hope…and the name of a contractor who’ll work fast and cheap, allowing Emma to repair the inn in time to host the wedding and save her investment.

A furniture builder who hasn’t picked up a tool in the five years since his wife died, Cameron Mitchell has no intention of agreeing to help this beautiful—and, he’d guess, entitled—woman insisting that he fix her inn. Until he learns that Emma was sent by Holly, the little sister of his late wife. Grudgingly, Cameron agrees to do the work, with one condition: that he be left completely alone. But the more time they spend together, the more Emma touches a part of his heart he was sure died long ago, forcing him to try making peace with his past.

My Comments: 

Like many series romances, Wildflower Season is a return to a comfortable familiar environment.  Emma is the sister-in-law of Meredith, one of the sisters in the Carolina Sister series.  She buys the sisters' father's house and plans to renovate it into a bed and breakfast.  In doing so she meets Cameron who is still mourning the loss of his wife.  They are trying to finish the renovations in time for the wedding of Cameron's sister-in-law and by working together, guess what happens?

While no literary classic, this book was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon and the HEA left me smiling.  Grade:  B. 

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

Sunday, May 23, 2021

It's Monday: What Are You Reading?


I'm linking up with Kathryn and the gang over at Book Date. where we share what we've been reading and talk about life in general.

Friday was the last day of my baby's Junior year in high school.  She's been very fortunate as the year has been almost normal.  The school was quick to send individual students or groups of students home to quarantine but they opened on time in August and finished last week with no school-wide closings and managed to give the girls much of the fun stuff like retreats, proms, rally, and some other school traditions.  Compared to other schools in the area, it sounds like we got as close to normal as anyone and my daughter said that absenteeism has not been excessive.  Hopefully by August things will be back to normal completely and they can ditch the masks. 

My son turned 29 this month.  Its hard to believe that our years with children in the house are almost over.  I'm kind of glad and kind of sad.  

On the reading front, I read 

It is the sixth book in a saga about a family in Maine.  It is available as part of a Kindle Unlimited subscription.  Its not a bad story, though it seems hard to believe that everything that has happened in these books has all happened to the same family  

This is the second book in a two-part series that should have been one book.  I reviewed the first book, Bumped, ten year ago and was looking at my archives recently and wondered whatever happened to the characters.  Thumped was available on Hoopla from my library so I gave it a whirl.  It was ok, but I don't think I was the target audience. 

I published one review:

Finally, I wrote a discussion post:  Should Reading Be A Mirror or a Lens? and I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Have a good week.  Summer is almost here!

How Much Should Reading Be a Mirror, and How Much a Lens?

I saw a post recently about parents getting upset about a book the teacher was using in class.  I can't remember what book it was, but the bottom line was, as I've found to be pretty normal in such cases, whose worldview was to be presented to the kids--that of the author or that of the parents?  

There are those who say that kids who are being brought up in homes where LGBTQ people are seen as sinners and/or freaks need to see books that present them as normal people with normal goals and feelings---books that normalize what these kids are feeling--and yet those kids' parents don't want that behavior normalized.  

There are parents who vehemently object to having their children read Mark Twain's books with the character Nigger Jim (sorry, I refuse to say N---, I won't call anyone that or use it to describe anyone today, but if I'm going to refer to the word, I'm going to use it) because they consider the word "Nigger" to be SO offensive, while other people believe Twain to be a big enough part of American literature that reading his works is a must.  One group is afraid of the  normalization of the use of an offensive word--or at least the failure to absolutely condemn the use of the word, and another points out that the protagonist respects Jim--something that wasn't necessarily normal at the time the book was written.  

But what about when you get away from reading assigned to kids or books available to them?  What about when you are talking about adults who are responsible for their own reading choices and their own moral and cultural choices?  As adults should we strive to be "inclusive" in our reading material?  Should we seek out fiction that challenges our worldview, or criticize a book because it promotes a worldview different from ours?  

I am a conservative Catholic.  My views on sexual morality are probably more conservative than 90% of the country--I know it and I own it.   However, my taste in reading material is far more liberal than my beliefs--I don't automatically turn down books because they have sex scenes including sex scenes (no matter how graphic) between unmarried people, despite the fact that I believe non-marital sex is wrong.  On the other hand I have absolutely no desire to read a gay romance.  

I've read a lot of Christian fiction over the years and often got annoyed if I thought the author mis-represented Catholicism.  However, I have problem reading about how Protestants live Christianity, or about the Amish (though I don't like it when the point of the book seems to be to show how awful the rules of the Amish faith are).  I've enjoyed books about Muslims being Muslims.  I don't have to agree with the author's beliefs, or the beliefs of the characters I read about, but I don't like it when I'm told that my beliefs are wrong--particularly when authors mis-represent my beliefs. I know there are people who absolutely refuse to read anything classified as Christian fiction even if reviewers say it isn't preachy because so much of it promotes a world view with which they disagree.  Most people I know decide if a book by a political figure is worth reading simply by looking at who wrote it--and if the person is on the wrong side, they pass.  

Some of the many challenges floating around on book blogs deal with diversity or multi-culturalism.  Bloggers say they will read a certain number of books about other cultures. I will admit I rarely seek out such books, but I'm not averse to reading them.  On the other hand, I do like finding books about people like me--married women with grown kids, women facing life post-children, women who are closer to my age than to my daughter's.  I like books set in my part of the country and books with a Catholic bent.  

To what extent should our reading be a mirror--sending our beliefs (for good and bad) back to us, showing us what we look like, and to what extent should it be a lens through which we can view the other side of the story?

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Review: Forever This Summer

Forever This Summer

About the Book:

Georgie has no idea what to expect when she, Mama, and Peaches are plopped down in the middle of small town USA--aka Bogalusa, Louisiana--where Mama grew up and Great Aunt Vie needs constant care.

Georgie wants to help out at the once famous family diner that served celebrities like the Jackson 5 and the Supremes, but everyone is too busy to show her the ropes and Mama is treating her like a baby, not letting her leave her sight. When she finally gets permission to leave on her own, Georgie makes friends with Markie--a foster kid who'd been under Aunt Elvie's care--who has a limb difference and a huge attitude.

Then Markie asks Georgie to help her find her mom, and suddenly summer has a real purpose. But as Georgie and Markie's histories begin to entwine, Georgie becomes more desperate to find the truth. But words spoken cannot be taken back and once Georgie knows the truth, she may even find a way to right past wrongs and help Aunt Vie and Markie out after all.

My Comments:

I don't usually read kids/YA books but for some reason this one caught my eye.  It is set in Bogalusa, which is about an hour and a half from my home in suburban New Orleans.  Bogalusa is a relatively small paper mill town and you catch an air of the town's main industry as you drive into town--like a paper company executive one told me  "Smells like money to me"--and stinks to most people.  

The characters are all African-American but the writing and dialogue in the book is standard English.  The story includes features of African-American culture such as step dancing, silk sleeping bonnets, castor oil for hair, and extensions with long braids.  It sees the "bad" side of the small southern town through the eyes of those who live in it--and of course it isn't really bad, just poorer than the White side of town and of course, the people who live there are Black.  They stick together and look out for each other, in a way that puts many of us to shame.

On the other hand, this book shows that Black culture is not monolithic any more than White culture is.  Georgie lives in Atlanta, which is a far different world than the Black side of Bogalusa.  In the opinion of this late middle-aged White woman, Leslie Youngblood did a good job of of showing Black culture without turning it into a caricature of itself.   

The climax of the story is a fund-raising talent show put on by the girls and while it seems a little far-fetched that such a complex show was put together by some twelve year olds, it wasn't just the girls, it was the community coming together to take care of their own.  

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


Monday, May 10, 2021

It's Monday: What Are You Reading


I'm linking up with Kathryn and the gang over at Book Date. where we share what we've been reading and talk about life in general.

Due to a computer error, one of my husband's out-of-town customers did not get his order Friday, so Saturday he took a two hour drive to deliver it himself.  As it was a beautiful day and I like spending time with my husband, I went with him.  On the way back we stopped at a small state park to explore.  I'm not sorry we stopped, but we won't be back--not enough there to make it worth going out of our way.

My daughter was confirmed this week.  It was also her birthday.  In a year, for the first time in 30 years, we will have no minor children in the house.  Hard to believe.  My husband got his Medicare card last week--he's older than I am. 

Not much reading this week.  I published two book reviews:

Hope everyone has a great reading week and that all the moms had a wonderful Mother's Day.  If you want to support a debut author, Kathleen Basi is holding a launch party for her book Song for the Road on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. central via Zoom.  Here is the link  

Sunday, May 09, 2021

Review: The Summer Seekers


About the Book:

Kathleen is eighty years old. After she has a run-in with an intruder, her daughter wants her to move in to a residential home. But she’s not having any of it. What she craves—what she needs—is adventure.

Liza is drowning under the daily stress of family life. The last thing she needs is her mother jetting off on a wild holiday, making Liza long for a solo summer of her own.

Martha is having a quarter-life crisis. Unemployed, unloved and uninspired, she just can’t get her life together. But she knows something has to change.

When Martha sees Kathleen’s advertisement for a driver and companion to share an epic road trip across America with, she decides this job might be the answer to her prayers. She’s not the world’s best driver, but anything has to be better than living with her parents. And traveling with a stranger? No problem. Anyway, how much trouble can one eighty-year-old woman be?

As these women embark on the journey of a lifetime, they all discover it’s never too late to start over.

My Comments:

I wonder how I am screwing up my kids and their lives.  It seems that the last batch of books I've read seem to feature young adults whose parents had been less than perfect and who caused pain to their kids. I certainly know that "less than perfect" describes me, so how am I messing up my kids' lives? 

Kathleen had been cheated on when she was young, and so protected herself by creating a life in which her job and adventures trumped her relationships, including her relationship with her daughter, Liza.  Liza in turn has created a life in which relationships came first, to the point that her family takes her for granted.  Martha has realized that what she wants in life and what her parents want for her are two different things.  In The Summer Seekers Kathleen and Martha, who are British head out on a road trip from Chicago to California.  As they travel Kathleen thinks back on her life and the choices she made.  She also realizes that her time to make changes is getting shorter.

Liza, due to some things her mother says to her on the way to the airport, decides to take some time to decide what she wants in life.  I enjoyed watching her spread her wings.  Like me, Liza was the mom of kids about ready to leave the nest.  

Usually when I think of a "road trip", I think of a trip by car where the journey is part of the fun---not just a way to get from Point A to Point B.  It's a great metaphor for life--we are all headed from birth to death--but at a lot of intersections we get to pick which way to go, and those choices, whether good or bad, make us who we are.  

I enjoyed this book and getting to know Martha, Liza and Kathleen (and yes, there are romance sub-plots but this is really a book about the women) and recommend it.  Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley.  Grade:  A

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Review: Confessions from the Quilting Circle

 Confessions from the Quilting Circle

About the Book:

When Lark Ashwood’s beloved grandmother dies, she and her sisters discover an unfinished quilt. Finishing it could be the reason Lark’s been looking for to stop running from the past, but is she ever going to be brave enough to share her biggest secret with the people she ought to be closest to?

Hannah can’t believe she’s back in Bear Creek, the tiny town she sacrificed everything to escape from. The plan? Help her sisters renovate her grandmother’s house and leave as fast as humanly possible. Until she comes face-to-face with a man from her past. But getting close to him again might mean confessing what really drove her away...

Stay-at-home mom Avery has built a perfect life, but at a cost. She’ll need all her family around her, and all her strength, to decide if the price of perfection is one she can afford to keep paying.

This summer, the Ashwood women must lean on each other like never before, if they are to stitch their family back together, one truth at a time...

My Comments:

There was a lot to like in this book, which is why I stayed up to 1:00 a.m. on a work  night reading it.  Three sisters and their mother are working together to close out their grandmother/mother's estate. While cleaning out the house they find fabric for a quilt that Grandma never got around to making and through journals found with the fabric, learn about women in their family's past, including Grandma.  Each of the four women was working with a different piece of fabric and of course they all end up with the one that they really needed to see, the ancestress who had a story that for whatever reason, came close to hers.  

Lark and Hannah both left town with secrets, and Avery has now acquired one.  As they sit and sew and as they live their lives that summer, they share their secrets and gain the strength to move beyond them.  Unfortunately to me, it seemed there were just too many secrets that were just too serious to believe they all belonged to one family.  Also the book had two romantic subplots and except for the fact that the men had different names and one man had a child and the other didn't, I really couldn't tell them apart.  Either of the romance subplots was believable on its own, but having two so similar just didn't ring true to me.
One thing I liked about the book was that the girls' mother was a strong secondary character.  While the sisters were in their 30's, their mom was about my age and she was a doer, like me.  Like me she wanted to be closer to her grown kids but didn't quite know how to reach out.  Like I hope I'd be, she was there for her girls when the chips were down and she knew they needed her. 
The book has a couple of bedroom scenes--too much to make it a "clean" romance but nothing anywhere near an instruction manual.  
I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade: B 

Monday, May 03, 2021

It's Monday: What Are You Reading


Hello to my fellow book bloggers who have stopped by via It's Monday, What Are You Reading over at Book Date.  I'm late getting this up, but I was busy reading yesterday.  The Summer Seekers by Sarah Morgan was wonderful--review will be published this week or next.  

I spent Saturday afternoon in a mother-daughter bonding exercise with my teen--she's being confirmed this week and we needed a dress.  We hit every store in the mall before deciding to take the one she saw in the first store.  

My daughter is a Junior and last week was the Seniors' last week, so now they are the big girls on campus.  I got an email from the school today about ordering her senior hair bow (they wear them 2 or three times) and I've already ordered her sweater (the seniors wear different sweaters than the other girls) so I guess my last go-around as the mom of a senior is really happening.  

I had two book reviews this week:

I've been staying off NetGalley because I really don't need anymore books in the TBR stack.  However, this morning I grabbed

So how has your week been?  What was the best book you read this week? 

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Review of A Song for the Road by Kathleen Basi


About the Book:

It's one year after the death of her husband and twin teenagers, and Miriam Tedesco has lost faith in humanity and herself. When a bouquet of flowers that her husband always sends on their anniversary shows up at her workplace, she completely unravels. With the help of her best friend, she realizes that it's time to pick up the pieces and begin to move on. Step one is not even cleaning out her family's possessions, but just taking inventory starting with her daughter's room. But when she opens her daughter's computer, she stumbles across a program her daughter has created detailing an automated cross-country road trip, for her and her husband to take as soon-to-be empty nesters.

Seeing and hearing the video clips of her kids embedded in the program, Miriam is determined to take this trip for her children. Armed with her husband's guitar, her daughter's cello, and her son's unfinished piano sonata, she embarks on a musical pilgrimage to grieve the family she fears she never loved enough. Along the way she meets a young, pregnant hitchhiker named Dicey, whose boisterous and spunky attitude reminds Miriam of her own daughter.

Tornadoes, impromptu concerts, and an unlikely friendship...whether she's prepared for it or not, Miriam's world is coming back to life. But as she struggles to keep her focus on the reason she set out on this journey, she has to confront the possibility that the best way to honor her family may be to accept the truths she never wanted to face.

Hopeful, honest, and tender, A Song for the Road is about courage, vulnerability, and forgiveness, even of yourself, when it really matters.

My Comments:

I'm writing this post a week after a man who was very dear to my girls when they were babies was buried, a few days after the mom of a high school classmate--the mom who allowed homecoming floats to be built at her house for six years straight (which meant that she had 50+ teens there every night for a week)--was buried and the day after I heard that my pastor's mom died.  Despite the fact that we are in the holiday season, despite the fact that we are no longer close to that man, that the classmate was never a close friend of mine and that I'd best characterize my pastor as an acquaintance, having three deaths touch me during this supposedly joyful time of year has got me tearful.

How awful must it be to lose your whole family is one split second?  That's what happened to Miriam a year ago, and though she has buried much of her grief for the last year, something happens and now she knows she has to deal with it--and, as noted above, finds a program her daughter designed with the idea of sending her and her husband on a road trip.  

As Miriam travels across the country we learn about her family history and why things were not exactly how they appeared to outsiders.  We "see" some attractions that are not at the top of most people's "must see" list but which are interesting and charming in their own way (I've been to one of them several times, guess which one).  

The author, Kathleen Basi, is a composer and musician, along with being a writer, and she has made music a part of the story.  Miriam's son was a composer and left an unfinished piece, and she, who has spent her adult life as a church musician, is trying to finish it.  Basi uses terms known to musicians and which brought back memories of the piano class I took one semester in college, though I hadn't a clue what they meant--I just translated those passages as "she's writing fancy music now" and let it go at that.  Hopefully the words would mean more to a musician.  Her son's music wasn't the only unfinished business in the book, and Miriam's journey leads her to confront and deal with at least two big unfinished things.     I loved watching her journey not only through the country but through her grief and into the lives of others. 

I'll be the first to admit that my opinion of the book may be affected by the fact that the author, Kathleen Basi, is someone I've gotten to know via the internet.  I've watched her kids grow up and discussed the challenges of parenting special needs kids.  I've followed the Facebook page on which she has shared her progress with this book and now I'm glad to give this book an A, because it was an engaging read that touched my heart.  

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

If you click on the book title in the labels below, you can read other things I've written about the book.                                                      

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Book Review: The Road to Rose Bend

 The Road to Rose Bend

About the Book:

Sydney Collins left the small Berkshires town of Rose Bend eight years ago, grieving her sister’s death—and heartbroken over her parents’ rejection. But now the rebel is back—newly divorced and pregnant—ready to face her fears and make a home for her child in the caring community she once knew. The last thing she needs is trouble. But trouble just set her body on fire with one hot, hot smile.

Widower and Rose Bend mayor Coltrane Dennison hasn’t smiled in ages. Until a chance run-in with Sydney Collins, who’s all grown-up and making him want what he knows he can’t have. Grief is his only connection to the wife and son he lost, and he won’t give it up. Not for Sydney, not for her child, not for his heart. But when Sydney’s ex threatens to upend everything she’s rebuilt in Rose Bend, Cole and Sydney may find that a little trouble will take them where they never expected to go.

My Comments:

 If you were looking for a sweet relatively clean romance, the cover of The Road to Rose Bend could make you think you'd found one, but you would be wrong.  While I enjoyed to story of Cole and Sydney, it was a very "physical" book.  The word "dick" was used 18 times in the book, and most of those references were not during bedroom scenes.  There were several bedroom scenes and they were vivid enough to serve as tutorials.  

Those looking for diversity in reading material may be interested in knowing that Sydney is Black and Cole is Puerto Rican (but adopted by a family of Irish heritage).  While his heritage is explicitly made clear early in the book, I was quite a ways into the book before I realized that she was African-American. 

I liked both Cole and Sydney and enjoyed watching them let go of old hurts and learn to love again but I didn't like all the crude references to male anatomy nor the front row seat on the bedroom action.  

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

Monday, April 26, 2021

It's Monday, What Are You Reading


Hello to my fellow book bloggers who have stopped by via It's Monday, What Are You Reading over at Book Date.  

I can't really tell you what I did last week, but I did get one review book finished, Susan Mallery's Stepsisters which I enjoyed.  

It rained last weekend but this weekend was absolutely beautiful--warm but not hot and sunny and, well, as my husband said "Chamber of Commerce" weather.  He and I went out to lunch (yea for vaccines, we are willing to take the risk of going out, even if it means eating inside) and then drove along the lakefront where lots of groups had gathered.  I really think this Covid thing has about run its course.  

I have several new posts on my blog this week:

Next week I am publishing a review of A Song for the Road, but this week I'm sharing a reflection on Martha and Mary of Biblical fame.  Reading this book brought those characters to mind and I wanted to share my thoughts about them with my readers.  

Here are this week's reviews:

My computer has been a royal pain tonight; Google says it is the anti-virus program scanning its own files but even reading the directions, I can't figure out how to turn it off.  GRRRRR

Have a good weke and I'll be by to visit!

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Martha and Mary

 Luke Chapter 10 includes the story of Martha and Mary.  I'll quote it below and being a good Catholic who respects copyright law and is too lazy to determine how many verses I can quote of a copyrighted version without running afoul of the law,  I'll use the public domain Catholic Bible, the Douay Rheims--this edition was published in 1890 and the general language is similar to the King James Version.

From Luke 10

 38 Now it came to pass as they went, that he entered into a certain town: and a certain woman named Martha, received him into her house.  39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sitting also at the Lord's feet, heard his word.40 But Martha was busy about much serving. Who stood and said: Lord, hast thou no care that my sister hath left me alone to serve? speak to her therefore, that she help me.41 And the Lord answering, said to her: Martha, Martha, thou art careful, and art troubled about many things:42 But one thing is necessary. Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her. 

I just finished a NetGalley (advance publicity copy) of a book that brought this story to mind.  The book is A Song for the Road by Kathleen Basi.  

I loved this book and will be publishing a review of it when it gets closer to publication.  

Anyway, the story of Martha and Mary has always annoyed me just a little--yes, I'm a Martha, not a Mary.  I'm the volunteer, the one who leads Girl Scout troops, teaches religion classes, reads at Mass and is generally available if someone needs something done.  If service hours had been a thing when I was in high school, I'm sure I would have had plenty.  Give me something to do and I'm in my element.  Make me sit and socialize and I get uncomfortable fast.  

What is the story supposed to tell us?  Are we all supposed to spend our days sitting at His feet?  I'm sure to some extent the answer to that question is "yes".  We need to take time in prayer to listen to what He has to tell us, and for some of us, that can be hard.  Silence and contemplation is harder than a to-do list. 

However, I noticed in reading the story, it doesn't say "and Jesus said unto Martha 'put down your dishes, bank the fire and come listen to me. Don't worry about dinner ' " Perhaps he wasn't criticizing anything about Martha except her criticism of Mary. Both Martha and Mary loved Jesus, they just expressed that love differently.  

Martha and Mary appear in John's gospel as well, in Chapter 11:

20 Martha therefore, as soon as she heard that Jesus had come, went to meet him: but Mary sat at home.  21 Martha therefore said to Jesus: Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. 22 But now also I know that whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. 23 Jesus saith to her: Thy brother shall rise again. 24 Martha saith to him: I know that he shall rise again, in the resurrection at the last day. 25 Jesus said to her: I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, although he be dead, shall live:  26 And every one that liveth, and believeth in me, shall not die for ever. Believest thou this? 27 She saith to him: Yea, Lord, I have believed that thou art Christ the Son of the living God, who art come into this world. 28 And when she had said these things, she went, and called her sister Mary secretly, saying: The master is come, and calleth for thee. 29 She [Mary], as soon as she heard this, riseth quickly, and cometh to him. 30 For Jesus was not yet come into the town: but he was still in that place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews therefore, who were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary that she rose up speedily and went out, followed her, saying: She goeth to the grave to weep there. 32 When Mary therefore was come where Jesus was, seeing him, she fell down at his feet, and saith to him: Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. 33 Jesus, therefore, when he saw her weeping, and the Jews that were come with her, weeping, groaned in the spirit, and troubled himself, 34 And said: Where have you laid him? They say to him: Lord, come and see. 35 And Jesus wept. 36 The Jews therefore said: Behold how he loved him. 37 But some of them said: Could not he that opened the eyes of the man born blind, have caused that this man should not die?  38 Jesus therefore again groaning in himself, cometh to the sepulchre. Now it was a cave; and a stone was laid over it. 39 Jesus saith: Take away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith to him: Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he is now of four days. 40 Jesus saith to her: Did not I say to thee, that if thou believe, thou shalt see the glory of God? (emphasis mine)

Again, Martha is portrayed as the doer, Mary as the receptive one--which doesn't mean that Martha was not receptive, it just means that she thought in practicalities---"he stinketh", and Mary had to leave the house and approach Jesus.  Both loved Him but they were different people and loved differently.  

In A Song for the Road, the main character, Miriam, starts off believing that she hasn't loved enough, and that she wasn't loved enough by some and through her journey she learns that the love of Martha (my words,  not Kathleen's) is no less (or greater) than the love of Mary.  

How do you love?  Are you a Martha or a Mary?  Are you being called to be more of the other?  

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Strawberry Love: My Review


About the Book:

The arrival of fresh strawberries signals the start of summer, the time to visit pick-your-own farms and farmers’ markets to stock up on plump, ripe berries. Strawberry Love celebrates strawberry season with 45 recipes, all beautifully photographed, for enjoying this heavenly fruit, fresh or frozen. From breakfast treats (French Toast with Strawberry Syrup) to salads (Strawberry, Burrata, and Arugula Salad), main courses (Hamburger Sliders with Goat Cheese, Strawberries and Bacon), and desserts (Strawberry Creamsicles on a Stick and Strawberry Heart Hand Pies), strawberry lovers will find tantalizing new ways—along with the classics—to make the most of their summer berry bounty. The book also includes tips for picking, freezing, and making jams and syrups for enjoying the taste of summer all year long.

My Comments:

Strawberries are my absolute favorite fruit so when this beauty was offered on NetGalley I grabbed it.  It is full of fabulous-sounding recipes so that I could have strawberries for breakfast (coffee cake, danish, muffins, or waffles), lunch (gazpacho, hamburger sliders, strawberry, burrata and arugula salad) or dinner (pork chops, sautéed chicken breasts, or fish tacos) not to mention happy hour or dessert.  

The recipes are simple and generally use ingredients I have in the house and they can be put together relatively quickly.  

The book includes photos of most of the recipes as well as some general tips on dealing with strawberries.  All in all a real winner here.  Grade: B+

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Review: Real Presence


Real Presence

About the Book:

Most Catholics don’t believe that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist. Rather, they see the bread and wine of Holy Communion as mere symbols of Christ’s body and blood. Is that disbelief just a misunderstanding or is it a blatant rejection of one of the central beliefs of the faith?

In Real Presence, University of Notre Dame theologian Timothy P. O’Malley clears up the confusion and shows you how to learn to love God and neighbor through a deeper understanding of the doctrine of real presence.

A 2019 study by the Pew Research Center found that almost seventy percent of Catholics don’t believe that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist.

O’Malley offers a concise introduction to Catholic teaching on real presence and transubstantiation through a biblical, theological, and spiritual account of these doctrines from the early Church to today. He also explores how real presence enables us to see the vulnerability of human life and the dignity of all flesh and blood.

O’Malley leads you to a deeper understanding and renewed faith in Catholic teaching about transubstantiation and real presence by helping you learn

  • how the doctrine of real presence is rooted in divine revelation and how the Church’s teaching regarding transubstantiation is spiritually fruitful for the believer today;
  • how to make your own the doctrine of real presence by worshipping Christ in the Eucharist and therefore making a real assent to real presence;
  • how the Eucharist, although not the exclusive presence of Christ in the Church’s liturgy and mission, is crucial in growing our capacity for recognizing those other presences; and
  • the important relationship between Eucharistic communion and adoration.

My Comments:

I've had an hour of Adoration--prayer in the chapel where the Eucharist is exposed--for over ten years now.  I have committed to my parish to be the person in the chapel during that hour each week.  Some weeks it is a great way to end the work week (I go on Friday nights); other weeks, I'll admit that skipping crosses my mind.  Sometimes I really feel His presence in the chapel; other times I don't.  I've always accepted the doctrine of the Real Presence in much the same way I've accepted a lot of other things I've been taught over the years--the people who were supposed to know this stuff taught it to me and I never came across a reason to disagree.  

I selected this book hoping for fodder for meditation or inspiration or something.  As I had read another book in the same series I was expecting a relatively easy read. Unfortunately I never really connected with this book.  It talked a lot about Eucharistic theology and quoted some mystics from the middle ages as well as relatively modern people like Dorothy Day.  Still, I'd read a few pages and when I thought about them, I'd have a hard time recalling what I read.  I tried reading big chunks and small and in the end I abandoned the book about 3/4 of the way through. 

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Hopefully it will speak to you more than it did to me.  Grade:  C.  

It's Monday: What Are You Reading


Join the other folks over at Book Date to see who is reading what this week.  

I got great news Friday afternoon.  I passed the Louisiana Notary Public Examination.  Generally speaking, about 20% of the people who take the test pass it.  I'm feeling pretty proud of myself right now.  

I got caught up on my Bible in a Year podcast.  Last week we took a break from the Old Testament to read the Gospel of John, which is awesome.  Now we are back in 1 Samuel.  I'm not much of an audio book person but based on past experience, I doubt I would have made it this far through the Bible if I was just reading it.  

I stayed off of NetGally this week, so maybe I'll catch up eventually.  My goal this year is to read all the NetGalleys I request--at least far enough to leave some sort of feedback.  Right now I have 15 that I have not reviewed yet.  Of those, I've read one, there is another I'm about halfway through and will probably abandon and 1 I'm a few pages into but which isn't grabbing me.  Then there is the one I'm reading now, The Stepsisters by Susan Mallery.  

Here are the books I've reviewed recently:

Loved this cookbook (review) and I shared a recipe from it.  

This was a sweet romance though on the unrealistic side. 

I have a Girl Scout meeting Monday night during which we are going to make a video about Citizen Science but other than that, my evenings should be free for reading or blogging, so maybe I'll catch up a little.  So many books, so little time.  

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