Sunday, September 26, 2021

Keep Me Warm at Christmas: My Review

 



About the Book:

Hollywood starlet Tia Beckett knows one moment can change your life. Her career had been on the fast track before a near-fatal accident left her with a debilitating facial scar. Certain her A-lister dreams are over, she agrees to house-sit at her producer’s secluded estate in Silver Springs. It’s the escape from the limelight Tia’s been craving, until she discovers she’s not the only houseguest for the holidays. And her handsome new roomie is impossible to ignore.

Artist Seth Turner has good reason to keep his distance. Losing his wife after only a few years of marriage has left a deep scar, even if he is still happy to spend a semester teaching art classes at the New Horizons Boys Ranch for troubled teens. Despite nursing her own wounds, Tia finds her curiosity piqued by enigmatic Seth, whom she recognizes as something of a kindred soul. Maybe spending Christmas together could be another game changer for both of them—this time, for good.

My Comments:

If there is one thing Christmas romances share, it is usually that they are sweet as the season with conflicts being minimal or a matter of misunderstanding.  While Keep Me Warm At Christmas has the expected happy ending, the road there is a little grittier than in many such books.  

For those familiar with the Silver Springs books, Seth is one of Aiyana's adopted sons.  For those not familiar with the series, Aiyana runs a school for troubled kids, and over the years adopted some of them, who was might be imagined, have issues with trust, love etc.  

Tia, as noted above is dealing with a disfiguring car accident.  Their story went about as expected. 

The gritty part of the story dealt with Tia' relationship with her parents,  with Seth's relationship with his in-laws and with a photographer who was trying to get a picture of Tia.  Honestly I didn't like the part about  her parents.  She came from a conservative Mennonite family and I didn't like the way Brenda Novak presented them or their faith.  I realize the presentation was through the eyes of one who didn't fit in, but it irked me that the only mention of religion in a Christmas book was a negative one. 

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


Friday, September 24, 2021

Book Review: The Gathering Table



About the Book:

Winsome Lake, Wisconsin, is postcard-pretty, but for chef Jessica Keaton it’s also a last resort. Fired from her dream job, Jess is starting over as a live-in cook and housekeeper. When she arrives, she finds her new employer is in rehab after having a stroke, and Jess expects she’ll be all alone in Elaine Haviland’s quaint house. A chef with no one to cook for.

But instead, she encounters a constant stream of colorful visitors who draw her back into the world. As Jess contends with local teenagers, a group of scrappy women and a charming football coach, Elaine faces some battles of her own that extend past her physical challenges. For both of them, all the ingredients for a fulfilling life are within reach, if they’re willing to take a leap. And maybe Jess will start to see that it’s not just what’s on the table that matters—it’s the people gathered round it.

My Comments:

I used to read a lot of Christian Fiction and this book exemplifies the good and bad of the genre.  The good is that because the authors can't develop a romance by having the characters fall in lust with each other, they actually need to make them talk to each other and to learn each other's strengths and weaknesses.  They have to be attracted to the personality, not the body.  There are two romances in this story and while the characters do find each other to be physically attractive, that physical attraction is not the main draw.  I also like the fact that one of those couples is "mature".  

The bad is that sometimes authors can't seem to resist putting in a "salvation scene", a scene where one character (or more) accepts Jesus which changes his or her life and then finds the problems of life in this world to be resolved.  Also, some of the plot turns seem a bit, hmmm, well, not quite likely.  In The Gathering Table Jess is hired over the phone to be a live-in cook and housekeeper for a lady who had a stroke.  Ok, I'll give that a pass.  Then, when she gets to town she is told the lady won't be discharged from rehab for a while, due to a fall, but that she is to go ahead and move in.  I can accept that.  However, never do we see Jess picking up the phone and calling her employer, or going by the nursing home to meet her.  Nope, she stays at the house and cooks for the neighbors.   

I liked the way the characters looked out for each other, the way they learned that three of them had a lot in common and the way the character with Down Syndrome was made into a real person rather than a caricature.  

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


 

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Christmas House: Short Review

 



About the Book:

It's Christmas in the small town of Silver Springs which is bursting with holiday spirit. The downtown shops boast twinkling lights, and the town square features an enormous Christmas tree. Every Christmas Eve for the past fifty years, Ruby Harris, the owner of the historic B&B, The Christmas House, has opened her doors to strangers in need, showing them the compassion once denied to her.

When Ruby invites her family home for the holidays, including her two adult grandchildren, Charlotte and Olivia, she hopes they will be able to put the past behind them. However, her plans for reconciliation implode as the women unravel secrets from the past that force them to confront the impact they've had on their dysfunctional family. As Charlotte grows closer to Wyatt, the neighbor next door and a friend from the past, old memories resurface that the women would rather forget. they're reminded of a man they want to forget.
 
As the clock inches closer to the New Year, can the magic of the season bring the family closer? Or will a surprise guest threaten their tentative truce and test newly formed bonds?
 
This light-hearted Christmas tale draws inspiration from Victoria James's own historical fixer-upper, offering plenty of warmth and holiday cheer. 

My Comments:

This is the story of how adults can really screw up their lives and the lives of their kids--and the story of how love can heal hurts. .  

It is a dual timeline story that comes together in a sweet charming way, as would be expected in a book with this cover and title.  Sure, things worked out a little too well--but its a Christmas romance, right?

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


Sunday, July 18, 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.

I've been in a reading slump, so no new reviews this week.  I did write a discussion post about NetGalley.  Please add your comments.  

 Please, if you haven't had your Covid vaccine, call your doctor.  He or she should be able to address your concerns.  My healthcare friends don't want to see you in ICU.  

Have a good week and stay healthy!

Friday, July 16, 2021

Changes to NetGalley That I'd Like to See

 

 For the uninitiated, NetGalley is a website where you can sign up to read and review digital advance reader copies. In the last ten years or so, as e-readers, smart phone and tablets have become more common ways of reading, NetGalley has grown from serving a few niche presses to carrying ARCs from large publishers and small, as well as some self-published writers.  How well it accomplishes the task of publicizing new works is a discussion I'll leave to others.  This post is from the reader/blogger's point of view.  I love using NetGalley but I can't help but want some new features.

Special Instructions?  Please Put Them on the Feedback Page

Reading and reviewing books is a hobby, not a job.  Please make it easy for me to do what you want.  I don't want to create elaborate spreadsheets or search email folders for directions.  If publishers want me to publish during a certain timeframe,  to use hashtags or use blue font or whatever, it would be nice if that information popped up when I hit the "leave feedback" button. 

A "Save for Later" Button

Often when I am perusing NetGalley I find books I want to read but which I just don't have time to read right now.  It would be great if there was a "Save for Later" button which would do nothing but tag the book and add it to my "Save for Later" list and allow me to give feedback on the book.  If my schedule cleared, I could check the list and request it if it was still available.  If it was not still available, I could check my bookstore or library, and, if I chose, leave feedback for it (which would not count against my ratio but which could improve it). 

This could be helpful to publishers and could earn them a few more reviews than they get now.  Also, if they see that I marked it, they could contact me about it if desired. It could be another way to gauge interest in a book. 

Downloadables/Pre-Written Content

Many bloggers include author information and/or bookstore links in their posts. It would be nice if that stuff was easily available on NetGalley.  If I want to use my affiliate links I could always switch them out, but for those of us who don't, save us the trouble of searching for the links. Give us an author biography and photo.  Don't require us to use it, but make it available.  


Are you a NetGalley user?  Reader or Author? What would you like to see NetGalley provide that it does not currently?  


Join the Discussion!

Monday, July 05, 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.

I think this summer, we are somehow getting everyone's rain.  Much of the country is in drought and yet here the rain just won't stop.  The sun is out now (8:25 a.m. on 7/5) but it is supposed to rain this afternoon.  It really would be nice if they were wrong about that. 

I got one new NetGalley



And this was my free Prime Reading book this month




Two book reviews this week:





I have the day off today.  After I finish reading everyone's posts and adding to my TBR list, hopefully I'll have time for a book or two.  







Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Short Review: A Brambleberry Summer

 



About the Book:


Will the secrets of her past…

Prevent her from having the future she’s always wanted?

Rosa Galvez’s attraction to Officer Wyatt Townsend is as powerful as the moon’s pull on the tides. But with her past, Rosa knows better than to act on her feelings. When Wyatt and his adorable son become Brambleberry House’s newest tenants, Rosa finds her resolve slipping. Her solo life slowly becomes a sun-filled family adventure—until dark secrets threaten to break like a summer storm.

My Comments:

Like many of RaeAnne Thayne's books, this one is set in small towns and feature some recurring cast members.  However, I found this one to be overwritten and melodramatic.  Rosa's secret wasn't hard to guess nor was it hard to figure out why the secret would dull her attraction to men, but it doesn't dull her attraction, only makes her fight against it, which in my opinion doesn't make sense.  

The book has a couple of subplots, both of which seemed to be just tacked on.  

All in all, the book seemed much longer than what it was and I just think it is one of Thaynes weaker works.  Grade: C+


Monday, June 28, 2021

Review: When I Found You

 




About the Book:

After everything she worked for is destroyed, pediatrician Natasha Gray is determined to build a new life. Divorced, bankrupt and suddenly a single mom, she’s ready to start over in Silver Springs—on her own. She certainly doesn’t need help from Mack Amos, the man who’s already broken her heart twice.

Although Mack has had feelings for Tash since they first met, too many things have stood in the way. He’s always given her the support she needs, though, and he’ll do the same now. Even if the desire he wrestles with threatens to undermine his intentions…

But her heart is not the only reason Natasha wants to keep Mack at bay. More time in her life means getting closer to her son, which could lead to a revelation neither of them is ready to face.

My Comments:

Fans of Brenda Novak will know what I mean when I say this book is Silver Springs meets Whiskey Creek.  Natasha is starting over in Silver Springs, but someone else wants a new start too--Mack Amos, one of the Amos brothers from Whiskey Creek.  While the story of how Natasha got to this point doesn't really ring true, I liked her and her son.

Those familiar with the Whiskey Creek series will remember that when the Amos patriarch was released from prison, he returned home with a wife in tow--and that wife had a daughter, Natasha.  Mack's feelings about Natasha weren't brotherly then and certainly aren't now-over 10 years after the Whiskey Creek books.  

Both Mack and Natasha have been through some rough times lately, but I loved watching them move to happily ever after.  Like the other Whiskey Creek books, the extended cast plays an important part.  Mild Spoiler:  The big Whiskey Creek secret comes out.  Still, I think you could enjoy the book even if you never met any of the Whiskey Creek characters.  

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


Sunday, June 27, 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.


I celebrated one of those milestone birthdays on Friday so I took the day off.  It gave me the chance to get some reading done.  The weekend in general was pretty low-key as it has rained on and off so it makes it hard to get motivated to go anywhere.  I enjoyed watching the gymnastics Olympic trials.  We are thinking about a beach weekend in the not too distant future.  

I've grabbed a bunch of NetGalleys this week. 








I actually started most of them.  Sleigh Bells was about what I expected.  Keep Me Warm at Christmas wasn't my favorite, but I think most Silver Springs fans will like it.  Pray for Us and Introduction to the Spiritual Life are both easy reads but I'm taking my time with them.  

I have two reviews this week:






Hope everyone has a great week!










Friday, June 25, 2021

The House Guests: My Review

 



About the Book

In the wake of her husband’s sudden death, Cassie Costas finds her relationship with her teenage stepdaughter unraveling. After their move to historic Tarpon Springs, Florida, Savannah hates her new town, her school and most of all her stepmom, whom she blames for her father’s death. Cassie has enough to contend with as she searches for answers about the man she shared a life with, including why all their savings have disappeared.

When Savannah’s rebellion culminates in an act that leaves single mother Amber Blair and her sixteen-year-old son homeless, Cassie empathizes with the woman’s predicament and invites the strangers to move in. As their lives intertwine, Cassie realizes that Amber is hiding something. She’s evasive about her past, but the fear in her eyes tells a darker story. Cassie wonders what the woman living under her roof is running from…and what will happen if it finally catches up to her.

My Comments:

Emilie Richards is one of  the authors whose books I read when I find them, and there is a good reason for that--for the most part I've enjoyed them and found them to be my type of books.  When The House Guests came across NetGalley I missed it because the cover didn't look like the kind of book I usually read and I didn't notice the author's name.  Then I saw people starting to talk about it, so I went and grabbed it. 

On the one hand, I don't usually read suspense or mystery books, so I don't really know what normal expectations are, but this story had two major plot lines and I found the resolution of one to be unrealistic.  As noted above, the reader learns early in the story that Amber is running from something--we just do  not know what.  When we learn and when that whole plotline resolves, I just didn't find it believable.  Maybe that's because this isn't my usual genre.  

The other plotline is Cassie learning that her late husband cleaned out their retirement accounts not long before he died and trying to find out why.  I found the resolution of this plotline to be very believable.
 
Emilie Richards' strength as a writer is her characters, and that holds true in this book too.  Cassie's grandmother was my favorite.  

A lot of Richards' books have strong romantic subplots.  The romance is there in this book but it isn't a major factor  and in the end, it isn't HEA, but rather, the suggestion that HEA will happen eventually.  
 
I'd like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley.  Grade: B 


Monday, June 21, 2021

Review: The Girl I Used to Be

 



About the Book:

When Jill Goodman’s picture-perfect marriage implodes, she’s heartbroken. Still reeling from the shock, the only thing she receives in the hasty divorce settlement is the deed to her husband’s sprawling beach house on the New Jersey coastline. Jill never cared about money – only her marriage – but with Marc determined to take everything she owns, the beach house is her only lifeline left.

With no other choice, Jill travels to the shore intending to sell the house quickly—but the task is not as easy as she expects. Still, she can’t help but be charmed by the beautiful seaside town and its sweetly old-fashioned ways. Despite everything, Jill is starting to see a path back to who she was before she met her husband – not the demure, polished housewife she’d become, but the smiling young woman with the strong Jersey accent who loved her family more than anything.

Then Jill dives deeper into Marc’s secrets and she stumbles across a something in her husband’s past that changes everything. Could Jill herself have been unknowingly complicit in what Marc did and, if so, what will happen to her when the truth finally comes to light? With Marc determined to bury the evidence, can Jill find a way to save herself before her once perfect husband takes her down with him?

My Comments:

I've heard it said that good healthy relationships help you to be a better version of yourself.  Unhealthy relationships let you stay where you are or regress to a lesser place, or they try to make you into someone you are not.  When Jill learns her husband is having an affair she realizes that he has spent their marriage making her into someone she is not--and she does not consider the "new her" to be an improvement.  This book follows her through her divorce and starting over.  

I liked Jill and liked watching her realize what was important to her and what was not.  Of course I hated Marc--there was  nothing likeable about him or his fraternity brother attorney.  While I enjoyed the book and read it pretty much straight through, I found the resolution to be highly unlikely.  Also from what I read I could figure out why Marc would have made Jill his mistress, I just don't know why he actually married her.  

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


Its 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.

Not much excitement here.  My older daughter came over for Father's Day, but it was pretty low key.  My husband recently got on Medicare and his plan includes Silver Sneakers that lets him use local fitness facilities for free.  The YMCA is on the list and if he goes on Sundays he can bring a guest at no cost.  We used to take the kids there to swim when they were little, seems odd to be there without them, but I guess that's what being an (almost) empty nester is all about.  He's been joining me at my gym, that he never wanted to pay to join, too.  

The library has been my source of reading material lately.  We got several guidebooks for Europe/Italy.  That's the plan for next summer.  I also read




The book features four women at different stages in life, all of whom are undergoing big changes.  Definitely recommend. Grade: B+



Her husband disappears and his last message to her is to  protect his daughter.  Thrillers and mysteries are not my usual but I saw several good reviews so I have this a whirl.  The reason he went missing was pretty much what I figured it would be.  Her solution--the way she protected the daughter, ingenious but I find it hard to believe she thought of it in the situation she was in.  Still, not a bad read.  Grade: B. 

No reviews this week--have to get to work on that.  Have a great week. 

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

 



About:

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  don't 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+  

 


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