Book Club

 52 Weeks, 52 Books 
 

Welcome to the Book Club! With so many great books to read, it's hard to choose. Take out the guess work and peruse the reviews below to help you decide. Remember, these are my opinions and do not reflect those of others. Enjoy the unique rating system below!

Rating System:  

1 Palm Tree: Don't bother!

2 Palm Trees: I've read better...

3 Palm Trees:  Ok, it's not that bad.

4 Palm Trees: A great read, put it on the list.

5 Palm Trees: Read this book now!

Look for the "Palm Trees" after each review. They are your cue to let you know if you want to add the book to your reading list.

 

2014 Reviews

February 7, 2015
 
Dear Readers,
 
What is that expression about good intentions? 2014 was riddled with good intentions for me. I had many of them and they all went south went my day job got extremely busy that I barely had time to write, much less read. 
 
I did read though...in fact, I read nothing but holiday books and I actually started to write a few reviews (see below.) Then, work got even crazier and I barely had time to take a shower, much less write. So, here we are again. 
 
Believe me when I say that I read a fair amount of holiday books, but they are all just a blur at this point so, once again, I will get back to writing those reviews when I am able. In the meantime, please see the few I did below and let's hope 2015 will be better!
 
Week 6: An Almost Perfect Christmas by Donna Fasano

It is common knowledge that Christmas is my favorite holiday. If given the chance I would celebrate it 365 days a year. Of course when you combine Christmas, romance stories, and little children, I am in heaven. In fact, all during 2014, I decided to read more holiday stories than ever before. Most turned out to be nothing to write home about, or for that matter, a review.
 
However there is one thing that I know for sure. I know that I have found something truly special when I pick up a book, read it, and come to the conclusion that I have to immediately turn around and read it again. I will tell you that it is so rare for me to instantly re-read a book. I find that this only happens when I am truly drawn to a story and just can't let it go. With An Almost Perfect Christmas by Donna Fasano this was one of those moments as I found that connection. I could not put the book aside and start another. I just had to immerse myself in it again.
 
I have come across a few authors this past year that have truly helped me to write again and Donna Fasano is one of those authors. With An Almost Perfect Christmas, she takes a little sadness and weaves the magic of Christmas, the intuitiveness of a child, and the broken hearts of two people into an unforgettable read guaranteed to fill your heart with joy, and make you forget that it was ever sad at all.
 
Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of An Almost Perfect Christmas by Donna Fasano. Read it with a box of tissues nearby and a cup of cocoa. And if you are like me, read it again! Rating:



Week 5: Italian Christmas Baby by Helen Scott Taylor

Helen Scott Taylor certainly knows just how to pull on the heart strings and take the reader away from all the cares in the world. Italian Christmas Baby has all the right components anyone could ever ask for: Christmas, babies and holidays in exotic foreign countries. Who needs anything more?
 
Our heroine, Emily, shows us that there is nothing wrong with trying to be a single mom, but there is everything right about being with the one you love, even though that someone broke your heart. You could say that this story is about second chances, or perhaps just a little intervention from Mother Nature. Either way, Savino is one lucky guy who is about to have his eyes opened for the first time.
 
What a joy it is to have my faith renewed in reading again! I have read hundreds of books this last year and found most of them poorly written, dull, and frankly, not worth writing about. Helen Scott Taylor's stories are sincere, heartwarming and capture the essence of what love and romance is all about. I'll read and review her stories any day of the week!
 
For those readers who only have just a few hours in the evening or a lazy Sunday afternoon, pick up a copy of Italian Christmas Baby and immerse yourself in a read that will inspire you to believe that love really conquers all and babies make it that much sweeter! Rating:

Week 4: Sweet Christmas Kisses: 14 Sweet Christmas Romances

Those that know me well, understand how much I love the Christmas Holidays. Last year, I didn't get to enjoy the season as much as I had hoped. But this year, I have been getting into the spirit far earlier and have enjoyed the wonderful opportunity of reading this really awesome anthology of Christmas Romance stories from some very special women!
 
Sweet Christmas Kisses: 14 Sweet Christmas Romances is just that. "Sweet" indeed! I think "amazing", "honest", "true life", "heart warming" and "love swept" are just a few of the more apropos words that describe these 14 short stories. 
 
Each of them are uniquely different, but yet intrinsically similar by evoking the true spirit of the holiday wrapped in an abundance of love. With so many to read, you probably won't need to pick up another holiday book for the rest of year! 
 
The best part of reading this anthology is that it includes some of my favorite authors and also introduces some new ones that I have not read before. Now that I have, I want to read more of their other works! Seriously though, collections such as this are a great way to taste a flavor of writing styles from a variety of authors to help hone your own personal taste in books.
 
So if you are looking for some amazing, honest, true life, heart warming stories, and feel like being swept away into a world of love, then pick up Sweet Christmas Kisses: Fourteen Sweet Christmas Romances. And just for the record, I didn't have a favorite. I loved them all!  I can imagine myself reading these stories every Christmas Season for years to come! Rating:

 

Week 3: Italian Christmas Proposal by Helen Scott Taylor

A year ago I stopped writing book reviews, and I didn't ever think that I would want to write another review again. While I have been still reading, most of the books, short stories, and dare I say novels have been less than what I would call worth writing about, until today.
 
Italian Christmas Proposal by Helen Scott Taylor had just what it took to help turn me around and want to share my thoughts on what I am reading.
 
A short story, just 98 pages, I was able to read this in about two hours! In fact, when I got to the end and looked at the clock, I was surprised that only two hours had past because I was swept into the story from the first page. I had no idea this book was even under 100 pages until well after the fact. Nevertheless, the story was not limited by the number of pages.
What I liked about Italian Christmas Proposal is how I was so in tune with the characters. I could see myself ending up in a similar situation as Claire. I actually saw a lot of me within her. And with the introduction of Leo, who is nothing like you would imagine, the story took on that traditional romantic feel that one would expect, but yet not.
 
Unlike other stories about finding love while in another country, Italian Christmas Proposal had me wanting to interact with everyone, up to and including drop kicking her "ex" six ways to Sunday! And for this reason, I took it as the sign I was looking for to make me realize that there are still books out there worth reading. Italian Christmas Proposal by Helen Scott Taylor was definitely a winner in my eyes.
 
Put this one on your Christmas To Read List. You'll enjoy this one! Rating:

Week 2: Calling Mrs. Christmas by Carole Matthews
There is just
something about reading a Christmas Holiday book by a British author.
Maybe it's the language, or perhaps it's just that they having a more
Currier & Ives feel to them. Regardless, this fun little story was
just what the doctor ordered while I was convalescing during a recent
injury.
Week 1: Forever Christmas by Christine Lynxwiler
 
In a town called Jingle Bells, yes...I did say Jingle Bells, tourism has steadily been declining for some time. 

 

2013 Reviews

 

January 20, 2014

Dear Readers,

2013 got away from me as my dad got sick and I had to
fly home and take care of him and my mom. While I don't wish what I went
through on any of you, it did not leave me much time to write. I needed
that time to get back in touch with the concept of family. I was gone
for a long time and it was good to be home.



Since
I have been back, I have not felt much like writing...it has taken over
two months to get back into the swing of things and unfortunately, I am
going to have to start over with a whole slew of new books and
hopefully one day get back to the ones that I already read and write
those reviews. 



I
am sure at this time I am over six months or more behind schedule and
for that I am truly sorry. So for all the authors and readers of this
blog, please accept my most sincerest apologies. I will be writing
reviews again. Look for the latest installments coming soon!

Week 35: September 1 - 7, 2013: Charmed Again (The Halloween LaVeau Series, book 2) by Rose Pressey

Ok,
I can't help myself. When I find an author I like, I go completely off
the deep end and read practically everything they have written that I
can get my hands on. Rose Pressey definitely falls into this category!
 
Hallie
LaVeau is back with Nicolas, Liam and the rest of the Underworld gang.
Nicolas is in trouble and now that Hallie is in charge of the entire
Underworld she has a big problem to solve. Actually, Nicholas is the one
with the problem as he's been accused of doing the unthinkable. With
Hallie being so new to everything, it's going to take everything she
has, plus the help of her friends both old and new to figure this one
out.
 
I
found the continuation of Hallie's story to really grab me and take me
into the pages. Not sure I like some of the new characters, but isn't
that to be expected? There has to be a bad guy in the mystery.
Otherwise, what is the purpose of the story?
 
This
is definitely a book that is hard to put down and could easily be
finished in a day without any outside interruptions. Of course, if you
do that, then you'll have to wait longer for the next book! Rating:

 

Week 34: August 25 - 31, 2013: Dancing In The Moonlight by RaeAnne Thayne

RaeAnne
Thayne has a special knack of making a story come alive and she does
it again in Dancing In The Moonlight. We're back with the Daltons, this
time with Jake, or shall I say Dr. Jake Dalton. The Daltons have been
neighbors with the Cruz family for years. Jake and Maggie grew up and
have been through so much together.
 
However,
things are not okay with Maggie. She's been hurt and is somewhat
bitter when she gets home. After everything who will want her now. What
she doesn't realize is that Jake has always been there for her. She
just doesn't realize it yet. All she remembers is that it's the Daltons
that destroyed her family and took away her someone really important
to her.
 
Now home, things are turned upside down. Between her mama and Jake, perhaps she'll be able to work through her issues.Dancing in The Moonlight by RaeAnne Thayne deals with a number of
highly sensitive issues including the loss of a loved one,  in a very
caring way so as to not make light of the situation but to face it head
on. What I like about Ms. Thayne's books is that they are believable.
No drivel or trite story lines here. The characters are actually people
who I would want to get to know.
 
I think I will be continue to read about the Daltons and can't wait to see what's going to happen next. Rating:

 

Week 33: August 18 - 24, 2013The Single Daddy Club: Reece, Book 3 by Donna Fasano 

I
picked up this book not only because it looked interesting but also
because I've another book by Donna Fasano and liked it. While this is
part of a series of books, The Single Daddy Club: Reece is the only one I've read.An easy read with a little mystery thrown in to make it interesting. I
don't think I've ever read a book that centered around private
investigation. In any case, this should be fun to discover why someone
wants to stop Maggie from doing her job. 
 
With
the help of her insurance agent, Reece, wait a minute?!!! With the help
of her insurance agent? Yes, I actually wrote that! Out of some sense
of duty, after he sees that her place has been ransacked, he provides a
place of safety while she figures it out.
 
I
found certain parts of the story to be a real stretch for me. I'm not
sure my personal insurance agent would go so far as to offer up his home
if I was in danger. More than likely he would find me a shelter or a
hotel to stay in and then leave me to my own devices! In this day and
age, there is too many instances of bad things happening to good people,
so to let a stranger into one's home is not a good idea.
 
While the mystery portion of the book brought a little bit of excitement to the mix, the reader should really consider this book to be a real fantasy as
I don't think it would ever happen in real life. Although the storyline
might make for a television movie of the week...hmmm...I wonder if Ms.
Fasano has ever thought of that! Rating:
 
 
 

Bonus Review - Week of August 18 - 24, 2013

A Lost Witch (A Modern Witch Series: Book 7) by Debora Geary

I
stumbled across Debora Geary some time ago because I was asked to
review a paranormal genre book of my choice for another website. I took a
chance on her because I wanted the opportunity to step outside my
comfort zone. I have never been disappointed. In the final book of the
Modern Witch Series, we are introduced to Hannah Kendrick, a lost witch
who has  been institutionalized because she can't meet new people
without collapsing in fear. The fetching spell, monitored by Nell, picks
up on a signal of help Hannah has sent out over the internet, and
nothing will be the same for Hannah ever again. She's been fighting to
save her sanity for a very long time and perhaps this is her last
chance. With the help of Nell and all of the family, Hannah will be able
to beat the demons she has faced all of her life.Like
in previous Modern Witch stories, Ms. Geary is brilliant in finding the
lost soul in need of help from the Witch Community held within the
pages of these books. Each has pulled something out of life and told a
tale in a way that is understandable and relatable, and well...modern.
While many would not want to read about these things, the stories are
not morbid, sad or even scary. They are exciting, invigorating and
enlightening.Since A Lost Witch is the final
book in the series, do yourself a favor and take the time to reread them
all because they all play off of each other. They are all well worth
the read! Rating:

 

Week 32: August 11 - 17, 2013: Tea with Emma (The Teacup Novellas, book 1) 
by Diane Moody

 

Since
I have never read Jane Austen, I have no preconceived notions about a
story that references this book. However, the premise is intriguing.
Inspired by teacups, the book is written rather cleverly. I won't give
it away, but will say that it is an integral part of the story.
 
Two
friends travel to England to do a tour of Jane Austen, and return home
to Texas where one of them, Maddie decides she wants to open an
English Tea Room. But first she has to get  past the cranky Englishman
who they cross paths with on the way home and Maddie's grandmother.
The
snarky attitude of Maddie's friend during the airport scene was
hilarious, and truthfully, the Englishman got what he deserved. Read
it...you'll love it.
Although
the character of Maddie seems somewhat oblivious of her non-ability to
be a "matchmaker", her sincerity is definitely there. She means well,
but seriously can't help herself. I almost wanted to reach into the
book and shake her. But since I couldn't, I just had to read on and you
will too. Rating:

Bonus Review: Week of August 11 - 17, 2013

Brownies and Broomsticks: A Magical Bakery Mystery by Bailey Cates

If you're looking for something light and easy to read then you've found the right book with Brownies and Broomsticks: A Magical Bakery Mystery
by Bailey Cates. I wasn't much for stretching outside of my comfort
zone, but I found that these fun paranormal stories are just the ticket.
Mix in a little mystery and I will keep turning the page.
 
Katie
moves South to help her aunt and uncle with their bakery. Fresh from a
broken engagement, this is her chance to start over. As a baker, this is
the perfect opportunity for her. While her parents, well, let's
rephrase that...while her mom isn't to keen on having her move there,
Aunt Lucy and Uncle Ben are thrilled to have her at The Honeybee Bakery.
 
Gearing
up for a the grand opening, they host the Downtown Business Association
meeting lead by a most unpleasant woman. Thus starts the beginning of
the mystery that Katie needs to solve. Without divulging any secrets,
let's just say there are a host of characters that are going to make
this really fun including:
  • two guys vying for her attention;
  • a cat who has a bakery named after it; 
  • a witch coven thinly disguised as a book club; and
  • a dog who doesn't like pet food and would rather eat from the table.
I
do agree with other reviewers regarding the overuse of the words
"Katie-Girl." By the end of the book, I was ready to kick the guy to the
curb, regardless of how good looking he is. Perhaps if the author would
have downplayed that a little, he would have come off a little less
annoying. Nevertheless, it did not deter me from finishing the book and
solving the mystery. While the antagonism between the two male suiters
may seem a bit much, without it the story would probably have fallen a
little flat in that department. 
I
am intrigued by the fact that this is going to be a series of books
with the same characters. I haven't had much luck with those but look
forward to reading more. The ladies of the witch coven, along with Aunt
Lucy are quite unique and with their own talents make for a more
interesting read.
Of
course the baked goods is what really had me interested and of course,
sharing the recipes at the end of the book. I love that! Nice touch by
Bailey Cates and I hope that she continues to do that for each of her
future books. Rating:
 

Bonus Review: Week of August 11 - 17, 2013

Bewitched, Bothered and Biscotti: A Magical Bakery Mystery by Bailey Cates

Since
I enjoyed the first Magical Bakery Mystery, I decided to read the next
one to see if I would still enjoy the characters and setting. I love
coming "home" to books that have a continuation of characters, locations
and even themes. I find it comforting. So much so that I just want to
sink in and stay there awhile.Katie is back with another mystery to solve and so are all the
characters from Bailey Cates' first novel. This time we are given the
opportunity to really get to know more about the guys in the book and
why one of them shares a special kinship with Katie.
 
Now
it's not like Katie has to solve anything, but if she didn't there
would be no book. Move of her heritage is discovered and just a bit more
of her parents is revealed.
 
So
while Katie is learning more about who she is and how to deal with it,
she has to figure out what's going on and pretty fast before things
get out of hand.She will have help from her two male friends as well as
her newly adopted coven and of course her Aunt Lucy and Uncle Ben. And
let's not forget about Mungo! I wish I had a dog like him!
 
The
author wasted no time in getting right to it and somethings I like that
while others I do not. In terms of a mystery though, you need to get
there pretty quickly, otherwise you'll lose the audience. Let's remember
one thing though, not every book will be for every person. So while
there are some readers out there that won't like this, there will be
others that will. These types of mysteries are meant to be fun, cheeky
and a stress reliever from life. Rating:
Week 31: August 4 - 10, 2013: Wind Chime Point (An Ocean Breeze Novel) by Sherryl Woods

There
is always something about picking up a book by Sherryl Woods. It's
like...coming home. There...I said it again and I truly mean it. I am a
fairly new fan of her writing. It wasn't that long ago that I found her
novels on a bookstore shelf while on vacation. I picked up her books
purely because of the cover. I fell in love with the O'Brien characters
she created sitting next to the Rogue River in Oregon. Today, I
finished the second book in the Ocean Breeze series and am loving a new
family that Ms. Woods has created, The Castles.

Wind Chime Point
, is sister Gabrielle's story. And does she have a
story! While I don't want to give away the secrets, I will say that the
title plays a major role in the storyline.
 
As
with all of Ms. Woods stories, if there is a woman lead character,
then there must be a man to play opposite of her. In this case, Wade
Johnson is the guy who looks Gabi in the eye and makes her notice him.
He's pretty easy on the eyes, so what woman wouldn't! Gabi, on the
other hand, spends an exorbitant amount of time trying to fight her
feelings for this guy, which clearly (at least according to her
grandmother) is perfect for her. 
 
As
always, I really love reading Sherryl Woods. This is the second book
in the Ocean Breeze Series, and as I have come to find out, sometimes
one or more books in a series aren't always the same level of as the
rest. While I liked the story, I wouldn't say that it was better than
the first. There is some continuation from the first book, and hints of
things to come for the next one. I would expect nothing less from Ms.
Woods. I only wished that there were some details that would have been
expanded upon. Rating:
 
 

Bonus Review: Week 31: August 4 - 10, 2013: 

Woodrose Mountain by RaeAnne Thayne

I
had been asked to review another book by RaeAnne Thayne and while I
dived right in, I realized that once I had started to read it, I was
completely at a loss because I missed out on the first book in the
series. So, I had to stop reading and go back to the beginning so I
could have a better understanding of the town, Hope's Crossing. Now that
I've made it through those books, I am able to review Woodrose Mountain
with a clearer understanding of Hope's Crossing and it's characters.
Evie Blanchard has left her occupational therapist life
behind to start over in a small town. But as life would have it, she
is asked to help the daughter of Brodie Thorne, who has been in a
terrible accident. Reluctant to do so because Evie has to struggle
through her own personal demons, she eventually gives in and tries to
help Taryn for a short while.
 
The
themes in this book are really difficult to write about in any given
circumstance but Ms. Thayne has handled it beautifully. She has balance
the sensitivity of the subject with the growing attraction between Evie
and Brodie. Although it took awhile to get there, as these two are as
opposite as any two characters could ever be.
 
While some books just beg to never be put down, there are others that are meant to be savored and read slowly. Woodrose Mountain
falls into the latter category. I know that many of you will want to
plow through this book as quickly as possible in order to get to the
next one, but trust me on this, take your time. While RayAnne's first
book, Blackberry Summer, sets up direction for this series, Woodrose Mountain
lays the groundwork for the rest. As hard as it was for me to read
this book because of the storyline alone, it was well worth it for me
to keep on reading. I understand all too well what it is like to leave
an old life behind to try and create a new one for myself. While I may
not have suffered the tragedies depicted in Woodrose Mountain, I have
felt the pain of loss, so I could relate to these characters on a very personal level. Rating: 
 

Bonus Review: Week 32: August 4 - 10, 2013: 

Sweet Laurel Falls by RaeAnne Thayne

Maura
McKnight-Parker, owner of Dog-Eared Books & Brew, needs a
vacation. But, Christmas is just around the corner and her daughter
Sage is coming home for the holiday. She's had a really rough year with
the tragic loss of her other daughter, and it's time for her and Sage
to move forward.Preparing for her holiday book club meeting, someone from her past just
pulled up in front of her business. Unfortunately, he's just walked
into her bookstore along with her daughter Sage who's  just announced
to everyone that this man, Jackson Lange, is her father. There's
nothing like ripping off the band-aid and getting right to the heart of
the story. Thankfully the author, RaeAnne Thayne, did it by the end
of the first chapter. If she hadn't, this would have been a really
long story.
Sage and Jackson are both upset about Maura's lie. Years ago, Jackson
left Hope's Crossing  a bitter and angry young man. Now twenty years
later he's back, a successful architect and standing right in front of
her. Of course, he's now going to stay in town for awhile so he can
get to know his daughter.It's not going to be easy having him back in town, and Maura is just
going to have to deal with it. On the other hand, Jackson has his own
demons to deal with, including his curmudgeon of a father, Harry Lange.Once again, the author RaeAnne Thayne has done a remarkable job in
taking a sensitive subject and dealing with it not only head on but
with great care and thought. Here in Sweet Laurel Falls, the
author brings together two former high school sweethearts and has them
face their past in order for them to go forward into the future. This
seems to be a major theme in many of the books I have read lately.
Always tried and true, but each uniquely different.
 
Each
book brings us a little closer to the town of Hope's Crossing and all
the people who live there. Maura and Jackson are really going to have
to put their past behind them. They have a daughter who needs both of
them, and more than they both know. Rating:

 

 

Bonus Review: Week 33: August 4 - 10, 2013: 

Current Creek Valley by RaeAnne Thayne

 

Finally,
a book about food! Now this one I can really relate to, but before I
go there, I just want to say how much I love returning to Hope's
Crossing. Like some other series that I read, it just feels like coming
home. The author, RaeAnne Thayne does a remarkable job of bringing in
elements of the surrounding into the story. From the summer
blackberries to the sweeping views of Woodrose Mountain, and Laurel
Falls to the Current Creek running through town, Ms. Thayne paints a
picture so vivid it's hard to not imagine yourself there.
 
Alexandra
is about to open her dream come true restaurant. With the help of
family and friends this is going to be the best thing that has ever
happened to the town. Sam Delgado is coming to town to finish building
the details, namely the kitchen, so that Hope's Crossing's newest
restaurant, Brazen, will open on time.
 
Of
all the stories in this series that I have read thus far, this is the
only one that you could probably read as a stand alone and not get
confused by the ancillary characters. 
Prepare yourself for a switch though in terms of the stereo-typical
personality-types. This time, it's Alex who is the love 'em and leave
'em gal as she is only out to have a good time and not interested in
having a serious relationship, at least not any time soon. Sam Delgado
is a safe bet since he's only in town for a few weeks to finish the
renovations on the restaurant. Little does she know!All of Ms. Thayne's novels are sweet and just really pleasant to read.
Unlike some of the other books out there that I have been reading, these
are really just a breath of fresh air. There will also be a little bit
of angst, but nothing that the two main characters can't get past. In
this case, Alex and Sam are right there on this point like all the
other characters from Hope's Crossing. It's just fun to see how they
get through it all.
 
So,
I highly suggest reading Current Creek Valley. Pull up a chair and put
your feet up. It's going to be a great read that you won't want to put
down! Rating:
 

Bonus Review: Week 34: August 4 - 10, 2013: 

Willowleaf Lane by RaeAnne Thayne

 

Charlotte's
life is a lot different now than it was back then. No longer
overweight and having to hide behind it, she's now healthier and a bit
more content. Not a small feat since she is the owner of Sugar Rush,
the local confectionery. However, on a quiet July afternoon, her life
changes when Smokin' Hot Spencer Gregory walks through her front
door. This guy is from her past and probably someone she doesn't want to
remember because he stomped all over her heart back then. Within the pages of Willowleaf Lane by RaeAnne Thayne, I found
myself relating to the Charlotte in more ways than one. Life as an
overweight teen was painful enough but not having many friends and being
an outsider made it even more painful. While I never had the
opportunity to tutor the jock, I did have moments to daydream about the
hunks in school and wondering what it would be like to be with them.
Despite knowing that my heart would never be torn to pieces like
Charlotte's was, I could definitely understand. 
 
I
was happy to see differences in memory from each of the characters
perspective. Would it be considered stereotypical? Perhaps, but the
truth is that this is real and many readers will feel a kinship towards
this theme. I, myself, often wondered if every girl went through moments
like these or if it was just those of us were were not one of the
"beautiful people." Seeing it in print has lead me to believe that I was
not alone in this thought. I actually found myself tearing up a time or
two when I was reading.
 
Willowleaf Lane
combines the elements of sports, families, eating disorders and
hometown heroes and although it would seem to be an insurmountable task
to do so, Ms. Thayne seems to have pulled it off. The
struggles for Peyton and trying to fit it, the closure to Spencer's
troubles and the realism set forth in the return of a wounded war hero
were very much on par with actual life. The "intimate" moments, however,
didn't do it for me in this one. In fact, if the author had left out
that part altogether I would not have minded in the least. For me,
getting to know the characters and seeing them rekindle their
friendship, and then perhaps providing a hint of romance at the end
would have been enough.

 

I will admit that there are moments that could have been better developed to make the scenes more complete. I
would have liked to seen something to bring more closure to such
details as Spencer Gregory's daughter Peyton, the huge project he was
undertaking, even a hint as to where the romance was headed for
Charlotte and Spencer. Ultimately, when I got to the last
page of the final chapter of the book, I turned it expecting there to
be a epilogue...and I said, "Damn!" I found nothing as the book
abruptly ended. I was a little bummed about it actually, and left to
wonder if there will be any information about them to come in a future
book.
 
While
some readers may feel that this book is not the strongest of the series
in terms of the romance, in Willowleaf Lane, RaeAnne Thayne does "hit
the nail on the head" for several things:
  • Bringing out into the open the struggles that teenagers face during those difficult years and get them help if necessary;
  • Reminding us that sport figures are human, should be treated as such and not put up on a pedestal to be worshiped,
  • War
    veterans, whether wounded or not, need to be honored for who they are,
    given the opportunity to reacquaint themselves to civilian life, and
    adjust to their circumstances whatever those may be; and
  • Not every book has to be about sex. 

 Rating:

 

Week 30: July 28 - August 3, 2013:  Sand Castle Bay (An Ocean Breeze Novel), by Sherryl Woods

Three sisters return home to help their grandmother, Cora Jane Castle, rebuild their
family restaurant after a devastating storm hits the area. Little did
the sisters know that grandma has something up her sleeve other than a
restaurant cleanup.
 
Sand Castle Bay by Sherryl Woods is the first book in the Ocean Breeze series. This first book concentrates on Emily Castle who once had a thing for Boone Castle. Now they are both grown up and finally seeing each other years of being apart. 
 
Interesting to see these two characters do a role reversal. Emily, successful and Boone, carrying some baggage from his life sans Emily. It's great to read about another strong woman, see her struggle with her success and have to make some tough choices.
 
As always, author Sherryl Woods develops characters totally believable and ones that I inevitably become enraptured with. Cora Jane is a spitfire, and the granddaughters are uniquely individual that you can help but to find some connection with one, two or all three.  
 
While this story has a small town feel it is all about real life problems. Who doesn't struggle with making decisions and walking away from a relationship? I think we all have. Career or love? When love isn't there, it's easy to choose career. However, when love is there, it must take a lot of soul searching to walk away from it. 
 
Good thing for Emily and Boone that someone else is looking out for them because there are a few others that aren't. I wouldn't expect anything less from the author because unlike other romance novels I've read, the antagonists in this one, are true to life and totally believable. 
 
For me, reading Sherryl Woods is like coming home. I love reading her books and they never disappoint. Rating:
 
 

Bonus Review: Week 30: July 28 - August 3, 2013:

Blackberry Summer by RaeAnne Thayne

 

Claire
Bradford has got problems. Little does she know, they are about to get
even bigger. First, her store has been burglarized along with some
other establishments in town. Her inventory has been thrown all over
the floor, money gone, computer stolen, and a designer wedding dress
slashed and completely ruined.
Hard to believe that Hope's Crossing, Colorado, a town of 5,000 people, would be hit with a crime spree.
But this! This was, as author RaeAnne Thayne wrote, "blatant
vandalism." Of course to make matters worse, the first person she sees
is her ex's new wife. What an airhead! But frankly, she's the
antithesis of Claire and perfect for the story!
 
Second,
back in town after after 15 years is Riley McKnight as the brand new
chief of police coming in to save the day and solve the crime spree in
the area. Sizzle is in the air, more trouble is on the way, and the
Angel of Hope is at it again.
With two kids and a store to run, what else can Claire endure? The
worst possible thing in the world that will shatter the town, delivers a
loss to the McKnight family, and possibly crush any chance for
happiness for Claire.
 
There
is something to be said about this town with the word "Hope" in its
name. Even more, there is something about this story that shows there is
"hope" even during the darkest of times. Going through something
horrible is the worst feeling in the world, but coming out on the other
side a stronger, wiser person...well...that is the sweetest feeling in
the world.
 
The
author, RaeAnne Thayne, delivers a well-thought out and believable
story. I felt myself emotionally drawn in and a part of the plot. I
could actually picture myself sitting in Claire's workroom sorting
beads. Blackberry Summer is the first in an entire series with
characters from Hope's Crossing. Definitely worth reading and right up
there with other series stories from authors such as Sherryl Woods and
Debbie Macomber. Rating:
 
 

Week 29: July 21 - 27, 2013: Neurotically Yours by Bonnie Trachtenberg

Another really long book by author Bonnie Trachtenberg, 382 pages. Good thing that I kind of liked it. 
 
Interesting story that had me interested because the main character, Dara, is a writer. Albeit she writes an advice column, but nonetheless, she is still a writer. Too bad she didn't stick with it...but she doe take her experience in the field and turns it into something that works for her.
With her friend Reggie, she is able to take the lemons thrown at her and turn them into lemonade; until her success lands her in a situation that even she wasn't expecting.
 
Of course there's a guy...there's always a guy. But maybe this guy is the one. You'll have to read it to find out. If you're a fast reader, the length of the book won't bother you too much!
 
While I didn't think too much of the new career twist for Dara, I will say that it provided an interesting backdrop to the story. I liked the characters, especially the ancillary ones including Reggie, the neighbor Jessie and the cat, Mallory, who has miracle healing powers. What?!?! Trust me, you need to read this to believe it. All I can say is I wish I wasn't allergic to cats! Rating:
 

Week 28: July 14 - 20, 2013: Wedlocked: A Novel by Bonnie Trachtenberg

There is nothing I like better than seeing a jerk get what he deserves and that is exactly what happens to Craig. What a bumbling idiot! 
 
On the flipside, I love to see that Rebecca actually decided to pursue her heart's desire. Bummer that she spent so long trying to make it happen. Typical that her family gave her a hard time about it, but not unexpected.
 
Wedlocked: A Novel by Bonnie Trachtenberg had some humorous moments in a ridiculously long book. I think it could have been paired back from the 272 pages, and still deliver the same story. I found it interesting that the Kindle version of this book had a smaller font size than most of the Kindle books that I have read. I think if it had been the same as other the others, it would have been over 500 pages, which is really way too long.
 
The author wrote some believable characters and I could actually see myself as Rebecca. Frankly, I would have kicked Craig to the curb long before walking down the aisle, despite the insistence from my family. However, it was nice to see Rebecca become a stronger woman and come to the realization on her own. While she has to go through a lot to get to the good at the end, (don't we all?), she comes out the other side a better person for it and met some really great people along the way. Rating:
 
 

  
Week 27: July 7 - 13, 2013 Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble by H.P. Mallory

Since I recently decided I was interested in the paranormal (romance that is!) genre, I found some interesting authors that have captured my attention. With this in mind, I decided to dive into a few other authors to see if I could take this interest a little further.
 
Ghosts, vampires, werewolves, witches and warlocks. Ummm...not sure if this one was really my cup of tea. I don't mind the witches part, but I can't really get into the other stuff. I think it's because of the force feeding of the Twilight Series via movies. (Note: I am probably the only one in the country who has not read these books nor seen the movies. Not that I don't want to...but I am not sure I am interested.)
 
The main character Jolie, seemed a bit, well, she was see-through and trite. The two male characters Rand and Trent, well who didn't see those two coming? Almost predictable. I spent the first half of the book wondering why I was even reading it. However, I wanted to give it a chance to see where it was going to go. Unfortunately, it didn't go anywhere for me. I was really disappointed since I had heard great things about the author H.P. Mallory. 
 
Other problems: 
 
1. Sexual tension between the characters: it was awkward and at best, high schoolish.  
2. The antagonist, Bella was too extreme vs. Jolie who was insipid in so many ways.
3. Jolie's mom, barely a character, was made to seem stupid and oblivious to who Jolie really was and Christa, well she seemed shallow and vapid. Perhaps that's why she fit so well with Jolie.
 
Overall, Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble by H.P. Mallory is a huge disappointment (except for the cover which looked pretty cool.) Don't even want to read the rest of the series. Rating:

 

 

Week 26: June 30 - July 6, 2013: Love Spells, The Mystics Series Book 3 by Heidi Hall

Rory is finally feeling like things are coming together. She has a guy, friends, a job and a place in Mystic that she can finally call home. Let's share the love.
 
Oh she only knew how wrong it is to mess with people's love lives. Nothing good can come of this. No matter how innocent the intentions.  
 
But she has to try...
 
I felt this was a nice wrap up to the series and I was not disappointed. So congratulations go out to Heidi Hall for breaking my trilogy losing streak!
 
My only problem now is that Rory's story is over. So what am I going to do. I guess I'll just have to go back and re-read it all over again. Perhaps I can come up with a fourth book to write...I know there is another story in here somewhere! Rating:

 

   

Bonus Review: Week 26: June 30 - July 6, 2013: 

The Long and The Short of It by Jan Ruth

I found this book through one of
my reader's services and it looked intriguing so I ordered it. I wasn't
sure what I was getting into but thought it might be interesting to
read something from a British novelist.I will say that it was rather confusing in the sense that none of what was included in The Long and The Short of It
was ever really complete. I get the fact that it includes some short
stories and a first chapter from each of Ms. Ruth's novels. However, the
short stories seemed incomplete; rather, they just abruptly ended
leaving the reader wondering what happened. I was highly disappointed
and would have rather the author come full circle and include a few more
pages to really finish each of the individual shorts.
 
In
terms of the first chapters, I have to admit that I didn't quite
understand what I was reading until after the fact and I did some
further research on what The Long and The Short of It was really
supposed to be. Had I have known, perhaps I would have had a better
appreciation of what I had read. Nevertheless, since I didn't I can only
say I was disappointed because I felt "cheated" in the sense that these
stories again seemed incomplete.
 
Frankly,
I'm not sure what the point of this book was really. I would have
rather seen a collection of just the short stories (full and complete
ones that is) than what was presented in this anthology. That way, I
could choose to continue on with the rest of her novels and would
probably liked them better than just reading a single chapter of each.
To me, presentation is everything, and this book really lacked in the
category. Rating:

 

 

Week 25: June 23 - 29, 2013: Coven by Christmas, The Mystics Series Book 2 by Heidi Hall

Rory has ended up in a town called Mystic, Oregon, become a new business owner and has learned that she is a witch from a long line of witches. What's next? She has to establish her own coven, and soon.
 
Not really sure of all this magic stuff, she's still trying to figure it all out. Unfocused, and unbalanced this quirky town needs her help and fast. What is she going to do?
 
With the help of a really "hot" looking chef and a new friend, she just might have what it takes to take care of the town and herself. Rory has to really put herself out there and she is slowly but surely coming into her own. I'm really starting to like this character. She has "moxy" and she's strong. I love strong women.
 
Heidi Hall has taken the story of Rory Devereaux to another level and given the readers another glimpse into the rest of the story. So far, so good. This is another trilogy, so I will withhold my final commentary on the whole thing until the end. As you know, I have not had much luck with trilogies, but I like what I am reading at this point. Rating:

Week 24: June 16 - 22, 2013: Witch Way, The Mystics Series Book 1 by Heidi Hall

Oh my! Things are just not good for Rory Devereaux. (Devereaux...a perfect last name for someone with special...). Ooops! Sorry got lost there for just a second. Anyway, Rory is running again because more bad has found her. Running again, because "Uncle" Barry said she needed to leave so off she goes, with just the clothes on her back and her car, hightailing it out of town and as far away as she could get from all the nastiness that she just left behind.
 
Little did she know that she was about to find out who she really is...
 
Part mystery, part paranormal, and part romance, this is a short, entertaining read with a story that keeps you engaged until the end. As book one of a three part novella, Witch Way by Heidi Hall ends perfectly and picks up again in the next part. The author does a great job in making sure that you pick up the next book in order to find out what Rory needs to do.
 
But first she needs to figure out where she's going and why she's going there. Hang on tight, it's going to be an interesting ride. Rating:
 
 
    

Week 23: June 9 - 15, 2013: Forever Charmed (The Halloween LaVeau Series, Book 1) by Rose Pressey 

 

A bewitching name, an empty house and a sacred book. What does this all add up to? Another delightful story from Rose Pressey, simply one of my  favorite new authors! 
In Forever Charmed, Halloween LaVeau, so aptly named and with a family lineage of witchly proportions she is about to move into something bigger than she ever dreamed...LeVeau Manor! Well, it' a bit more complicated than that. 
Throw in two very handsome "alive" guests to her newly christened B&B and a few other fun characters to make a very exciting and fun read.
Ms. Pressey never fails to delight. The story is not sappy and has a  drama to it. It was almost difficult to put it down because I just had to see where Ms. Pressey was going with the story.
There were just so many delightful moments...best friend Annabelle's dislike of the manor, referring to it as the "epitome of creepiness", the mysterious people who kept showing up at Hallie's door,
the awakening of some talents that long since seemed like were never
going to amount to anything, and the two hotties that seem to hate each
other but insist nothing is wrong, yet seemingly each wants to get her alone to convince her of something.
I found the story to be fast paced, and at moments, very exciting. It took awhile for all the details to come together, which made the reader have to stick around to the end. And what an end it is! 
 
It looks like this is a first book in a series. I hope that I won't be disappointed. However, since I have read Ms. Pressey's previous series, I doubt that will be the case. Looking forward to the next chapter in Halloween's life! Rating:
 
 

Week 22: June 2 - 8, 2013: Second Chances by Alison Stanley

I took a chance on reading a Christian-based inspiration romance book. I generally don't like to mix the themes because I find them to be inconsistent at best. Second Chances is Alison Stanley's first attempt in this genre, and the first book of hers that I read. Although,
I must note that I was ready to print my review, the author herself
actually contacted me and asked if I would read her second book and publish a review for that one first. I agreed, so please see my review below of her second book.
 
As for Second Chances, I must admit that my original thought about not reading mixed themes was on track. While Ms. Stanley's first attempt at a novel was not that bad, it wasn't the best. My biggest obstacle was language. As an American, I have the privilege of living in the melting pot of nationalities. However, an author's vernacular while seemingly charming when delivered in verbal form, it also has the ability to make or break a story when it comes to the written word. 
 
In terms of the actual story, simply put, it is about two friends and their desire to find suitable husbands. 
 
One of them, Hannah, is already engaged but happens to meet someone from her past that brings up
some not so pleasant memories that could potentially destroy the
relationship she is in. The other, Rachael, who has carefully planned
her life, realizes that she has the opportunity to take a chance and
step out of her normal routine and pursue a relationship that may not be
suitable for her. Coincidentally, there is also another guy who is interested in her. Hmmm, now she has the big dilemma. Actually, they both have problems that need to be addressed.
 
On one hand, Rachael's story was somewhat predictable,  and unfortunately, due to the duo stories going on here, it didn't have the opportunity to expand on some of the necessary detail to make it more complete. Hannah's story, on the other hand, offered a surprising twist to what would have otherwise been a bland and boring account of another perfect relationship.  
 
I believe that by having two stories told in one novel shortchanged both as there wasn't enough time to expand on the stories beneath the stories. Separating the two would have allowed for each of the girl's journey to be more fulfilling for the reader and answered some of those questions that were left up to our imaginations.
 
As a Christian-based story, this book is probably not suitable for pre-teens or young teens. I would recommend that parents read the book first to assess whether they want their child to read it or not.  Rating:
 
 

Week 21: May 26 - June 1, 2013: Swordfights & Lullabies (A Modern Witch Morsel) by Debora Geary

What a great way to close out Marcus, Morgan and Cassidy's story! Just a short and very quick read to tie all the loose ends together. This was a gift from Deborah to keep our appetites whetted until the final book in the series is released later this year. 

 
It is what I would expect from this particular storyline, and am glad Ms. Geary did not deviate from the expected. I found it to be comforting knowing that these three were going to be okay. Rating:  

Week 20: May 19 - 25, 2013: A Celtic Witch (A Modern Witch Series) by Debora Geary

Finally,
we're getting to find out what happens with Marcus and Morgan, but
first we have to me Cassidy Farrell, and she is a remarkable woman! I
love reading about strong women who have great talents.
 
Cassidy
is a world renowned Celtic fiddler and she is winding down her current
tour to take a much needed rest. (I know how she feels, being dedicated
to your craft is exhausting at times!)
 
Marcus,
on the other hand, is somewhat of a curmudgeon, set in his ways, and a
bonafide bachelor with a cute little tiny baby girl named Morgan. He's
doing just fine with his life until Cassidy comes along. Then his whole
world turns upside down...again.
 
When
Cassidy rolls into town, she's called by the rocks, but it is the music
that speaks thru her and out to others, including wee Adam.I just love all these books by Debora Geary. Some have spoken to me more
than others and this is one of them. Music and the arts have always
been an important part of my life and A Celtic Witch speaks volumes. Not
only does Cassidy have a tremendous gift, but she shows someone very
special that he has a gift as well. 
The
relationship that develops between Marcus and Cassidy is delightfully
charming as they dance around each other until they no longer can deny
their feelings. The question begs though, will Cassidy go out on the
road again, or will Marcus find a way to get her to stay. You'll have to
read A Celtic Witch to find out! BTW...if you have not read any
of the preceding books in the Modern Witch Series, you'll need to go
back and read them first. They all play off of each other and will make
this story more enjoyable! Rating:

 

Bonus Review: Week 18: May 19 - 25, 2013: Oh, No! Santa's Grumpy! by Margaret Farnsworth

 
It's Christmas in May and I've prepared another review of Oh, No! Santa's Grumpy,
which I previously reviewed last year. I attempted to read this book on
my Kindle, but experienced many problems with formatting and layout
that highly distracted from the experience. This time I was given an
opportunity to enjoy a real book in my hand.I am delighted to see this book in paperback as I can see that it was
definitely designed for young children. The graphics and colors remind
me of a box of Crayola crayons. What child doesn't love crayons! It
brings back memories of me as a young one drawing pictures.The story as I reviewed previously was charming and just long enough for
any child to enjoy. The text is easy to read for both adults and kids. I
think it would be a great book for grandparents to read with their
grandchildren, or perhaps kids reading to their parents!
 
I
would like to thank the author, Margaret Farnsworth, for providing the
review copy of this book. I definitely enjoyed this reading experience
better than the first! Rating: 
 
 



Week 19: May 12 - 18, 2013: A Charming Wish (Magical Cures Mystery Series) by Tonya Kappes

In A Charming Wish by Tonya Kappes, June is once again embroiled in a mystery and this time it landed at the door of her shop...literally! Who killed Kenny? Ugh...the author really needs to stop making references to pop culture. Anyway, June needs to figure this one out because unlike before she really is in big trouble with a capital "T". And to top it all off, she's just been named Village President.
 
Worst of all, there have been some additional crimes around town and her name is written all over them. An ostrich is missing, the recipes for June's Gems has been stolen and now June has been banished from Whispering Falls until this whole thing can be sorted. Does someone have it in for June? Well, she's not going to sit this one out, no matter what the Order of Elders tell her. She has to find out who is involved in all these horrible deeds, no matter how bad it looks around town that she has been asking a bunch of questions.
 
June will now have to be resourceful and use her sleuthing talents to find the answers she seeks. Along the way she gets a little help from a few people and begins to piece together the clues one by one. Too bad that Oscar...whoops! Oh no! I am not going to reveal that secret! You'll just have to read the book to find out.
 
I found that this story was delightfully refreshing after the dismal failure of the previous one. Despite the one reference...well two if you actually think about it, but truthfully, it was fun to actually see how the two support characters of June actually went at it with each other. It made for a nice twist on the antagonist part of the storyline and kept your mind off of the mystery, or shall we say, several mysteries going on. 
 
There is sort of a sad part to the story that affects two of the characters, but I will leave my readers to find that out. Needless to say, I don't think this is the end of June, Mr. Prince Charming, Oscar and the rest of the residents of Whispering Falls. Ms. Kappes, you have redeemed yourself! Rating:

 

 

Bonus Review: Week 19: May 12 - 18, 2013: 

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

 

Question: When is a book not a book. 

 
Answer: When it has 37 footnotes by the 24th page.
 
Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg is nothing more than a thesis paper thinly disguised and marketed by the publishing company as the next "it" book for women. Well...not all women; at least in my mind.
 
Why, you ask?  The reality is that most women are never going to get the opportunity to work in a Fortune 500 company as an executive. Now that's not to say that women won't have opportunities to work in large or mid-size corporations. Let's face it. Most top level jobs are already taken, and if the company is worth its salt, the chance for advancement is slim because those at the top like their jobs and tend to stay, especially when the company is well established and appreciates their staff.
 
So what kind of message is Ms. Sandberg sending to the average American woman? On the surface, I can't quite figure it out. Perhaps we need to dig a little deeper here. If her book is
merely a dissertation on the battle between the sexes and the
inequality of paychecks, then sadly, the author is really behind the
times and she hasn't told us anything that we haven't already heard.
 
However, if she is saying that we, as women, will never be happy unless we occupy every top level executive position in the country, well then, I beg to differ? What
if our mothers decided they didn't want to be our mothers and just
wanted to climb that corporate ladder, then where would we be? What if I don't want to be a top level executive at a Fortune 500 company? Can't I be happy doing exactly what I am doing right now? What if I don't want to be a leader? What if there are other women who don't want to be leaders? Is being a leader the only road to happiness? I think not. I have a lot of will and ambition, but my desires don't necessarily point me in that direction.
 
But, let's take this a little further. Ms. Sandberg says on page 10 (Kindle version) that she "would never advocate that we should have the same objectives. Many people are not interested in acquiring
power, not because they lack ambition, but  because they are living
their lives as they desire....We each have to chart our own unique course and define which goals fit our lives, values and dreams." This is great, however, the overall message of the book makes it seem that the
only correct life choice that we, as women, should have is to be on
that corporate ladder climbing toward the top rung to obtain equality. She says on page 10 (Kindle version)  "If we succeed in adding more female voices at the highest levels, we will expand opportunities and extend fairer treatment to all."  
 
Now that the author has highly advocated that we, as women, should go for that top rung, and we succeed in adding more women to top level positions, where's the guarantee that fairer treatment and equality will occur?
Also, while I thank her for supporting us in making choices, but then
tell us in the next breath that we, as women, should all be leaning into
our careers to level the playing field just seems to send out a mixed
message. And, let's not even talk about the underlying subtext of the
"you should be doing it this way
because this is the way I did it, I know it works, and you will be
successful and happy if you do it this way." With so many
inconsistencies throughout this book, it makes it difficult to see what
the real point is here. 
 
To circle back around to the very beginning of my review, this entire book reads like a master's thesis paper for one of Sandberg's Harvard classes. While I can appreciate the fact that she loves to "rely on hard data and academic research" (page 9, Kindle version), some of us would have just preferred her thoughts on the subject backed up by her real life experiences. The 227 footnotes is a little excessive and limits the audience from any opportunity to flush out the details, not to mention the loss of flow while reading due to constantly having to flip back and forth between the book and the footnotes. How are we as the readers suppose to know if these thoughts are really hers or those that were referenced? And, who really has time to read through, in depth, all of these footnotes, including researching the sources of those said footnotes? Certainly not myself.
 
Now, I will admit that there are some principals in this book that can be followed and adapted to fit every women's life. (Note: It took until almost the last couple of chapters to find some kernels of wisdom. Any hope of finding something earlier in the book is simply lost within the text stemming from the research and footnotes.) Perhaps these few morsels were the real intent of the book, but the message simply was too muddied up in her intelligentsia. As a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business school, there is no doubt that Sheryl is a smart woman; however, she would have better served her audience if she had spoken to us and not above us. As a college graduate, I have the capability of dissecting and extrapolating information; however, others might not be able to do so, or if they were it would be with great difficulty. Perhaps there is something here, I just don't see it. Maybe it got lost in the translation.
 
Overall, I think the message to "lean in" to "whatever" could have been delivered with a little less reliance on statistics and information
from other sources. The one thing the book failed to mention is after
we, as women, work so hard to get to the top rung, what do we do when we get there? It seems that the author and her colleagues have spent too much time climbing the corporate ladder, missing out on having some fun and losing the opportunities to be truly creative and produce something that will leave a lasting mark on the world, other than to say, I was the CEO/COO (or some other high level position) of such and such company. As for me, I would rather not strive for the top rung, but hang back a few steps, and enjoy the creativity and fun afforded to me at that level while enjoying life a whole lot more. Rating:

Week 18: May 5 - 11, 2013: A Charming Cure (Magical Cures Mystery Series) by Tonya Kappes

June's all moved in and settled into her new life at A Charming Cure in Whispering Falls. She seems to have accepted her new "talents" and begins using them for the good of her customers. But now it's time for her to really hone her skills and Great Aunt Helena, the Dean at Hidden Hall, A Spiritual University is here to help
 
Great Aunt Helena! Wow, here's a surprise for June. She didn't even realize that she has any living relatives, and now she has to go to school!
 
It is at this point I became disappointed. The references to various other stories, both fictional and real, made this particular story a little less believable
for me. Okay, so June only had to go to school for four days, but
still, I can't help but wonder how the idea of a "hidden" school came to
be in the first place. Hmmm...can anyone think of anything? Oh say, something that has been around for at least a decade. Something really popular...can anyone guess?
 
The storyline of Good-Siders vs. Dark-Siders in A Charming Cure could have been just slightly more exciting and original...starting with the names. Although Ms. Kappes did a fairly good job in hiding the secret of who the real "bad guy" was up until almost the very end. 
 
The most disappointing and the thing that practically killed it for me was the reference to "Jeffery Dahmer". This was completely unnecessary and highly disturbing to use this in a book that could be read by a younger audience. I grew up and lived in the same town where this man committed his crimes and to use his name in a book is inappropriate, inexcusable and a disservice to the readers. The story did not need it and even if it did, I am sure that there were other fictional references you could have used.
 
Leaving that point aside, Ms. Kappes develops the cast of characters even further and introduces us to a few more which will become important in the next story. Although Tonya does a fairly decent job in her story writing, this particular one didn't do anything for me except annoy me with the lack of originality and finesse she showed in her first book. I hope the third one will be better. Rating:

 

 

Bonus Review: Week 18: May 5 - 11, 2013: 

My Foot Is Too Big for the Glass Slipper: A Guide to the Less Than Perfect Life by Gabrielle Reece

Over the years, I've read numerous inspirational or what I affectionately refer to as the "Kick in the Pants, Wake Up Call" books. Without a doubt, Gabrielle Reece's My Foot Is Too Big for the Glass Slipper: A Guide to the Less Than Perfect Life is, by far, one of the best I have read in a very long time. Lets face it. Life isn't perfect. For anyone that thinks it is, you're sadly mistaken.  Anything worth having doesn't come easy...you have to work at it.
 
One of the things I like about Ms. Reece's style is that she doesn't sugarcoat anything. There's no B.S.; she just tells it like it is. While I am not a mother, I am a busy working woman with a husband whom I have been with for over 25 years (married for 20), along with a multitude of things to manage in my life, including family, friends, obligations, personal projects and, believe it or not, a second career. It's not like I have a whole lot of free time; and yes, I do feel guilty (even though I don't have children) when I have neglected some things, including myself.
 
The book provides a refreshing perspective on everything from marriage, children and even our relationships with other women. But the truth is ladies, this is stuff that we should already know but seem to forget when we are living in the midst of our chaotic lives. No one is going to make you happy except for yourself. I found that out a long time ago. Taking responsibility of your own life is knowing that no one is going to charge into your life wearing the cape to rescue
you (my husband will get a kick out the cape reference as he is always
telling me to remove the cape...more on that later!) and that yes, indeed, you have to stand up and take responsibility to do the things that will make you happy and for those of us that are lucky enough, to make our partners happy.
 
But let's be clear here, what works for one may not work for someone else. At the core of Gabby's book is choice. I think that choosing how to make it all work for you is crucial to any relationship. Case in point, my husband does the cooking and shopping; in return, I wash the dishes and do the laundry. This doesn't mean that he does the cooking every night. I sometimes cook and he has been known to wash the dishes. But this is what works for us and that is what Ms. Reece is trying to say. 
 
Take a moment and read this book. I think you'll find it be one of the best you'll read in a really long time. I recommend that you keep it handy and go back to various chapters as an instant refresher course whenever you need a "kick in the pants, wake up call." Rating:

 

 

Week 17: April 28 - May 4, 2013: A Charming Crime (Magical Cures Mystery Series) by Tonya Kappes 

My original intention for this series was to do one big review, but the further I got into the series, it was clear that I was not going to be able to do this as Ms. Kappes defined each of these books with its own distinct storyline. 
 
In A Charming Crime, June Heal, thanks to her mother's journal, develops and sells homeopathic cures at the local flea market. The business, known as A Dose of Darla, is a tradition that she learned from her mother. What she doesn't learn from her mom is a love of Ding Dongs. (Ummm...didn't Hostess just go out of business? This does not bode well for June!)
 
Now that her mom is gone, she's left with a house, a cat known as Mr. Prince Charming, a qrumpy neighbor named Mac McGurtle, and her best friend, Oscar Park, the local police officer. Little did she know, her life if about to change...and in a really big way.
 
When a mysterious woman drops by her house after a fire burns down her shed, she gets an offer that she can't refuse and heads towards Whispering Falls to check it out. Upon her arrival she meets a cast of characters that will eventually become her new family. Oscar joins her on this little adventure and becomes the new policeman for the charming little town.
 
June is not quite sure what to make of this whole thing and before she knows it, everything just seems to magically come together for
her to move to this quirky tourist town. All seems to be going pretty
well until she finds herself smack dab in the middle of a crime...where she's the primary suspect.
 
With this in mind, I'll leave the rest of the story for my readers to discover. For someone like myself who has a difficult time going outside her normal reading genres, A Charming Crime by Tonya Kappes is a fun read to get into. The story was not too overwhelmingly complicated and the characters were just quirky enough to keep me interested. 
 
A few things to note: The overuse of the "Ding Dongs" theme (it does get a little old), June's unstoppable nature which makes her a very strong character in my eyes, and of course, the formatting and editing issues (which, by the way, I have yet to see any Kindle book escape from this problem). Overall, this story makes for a great weekend escape, especially if you have the opportunity to read the other books in the series. Rating:  
  




Week 16: April 21 - 27, 2013:  Trust Me Twice by Alison Stanley

Interestingly enough, I was recently contacted by Alison Stanley as she found out I was going to be reviewing one of her other books, Second Chances in a few weeks. She asked if I could read one of her other books, Trust Me Twice, and publish my review for that one first. What's interesting about this request is:
 
1. This is the first time I have actually been contacted by an author to review a different book I already had scheduled. I am curious as to how she found out, but am really excited that she did because this means someone is reading my musings, so that is a good thing!
 
2. I had actually finished reading the first book and was just about to publish the review when Ms. Stanley contacted me. I am a voracious reader, so I am actually weeks ahead in my reading. Since I  have not had a chance to write any of my reviews yet, I figured what's one more book! So I readily accepted the invitation to read and I am so glad I did. 
 
Trust Me Twice is the story of two friends, Alana and Zac, born on the same day and actually grew up across the street from one another. Unfortunately, just as things were starting to develop, Zac and his family moved away. The good news though is that seven years later, he comes back with his family, a little bit older and a little bit different.Hoping to restart that friendship again, she ends up helping Zac redecorate his room. While it takes weeks to complete this project, Alana realizes that both her and Zac have grown up a bit and perhaps apart. He doesn't believe in God anymore and thinks she's a kid. He tries to explain himself, but like typical teenage
boys can do, he stucks his foot in his mouth and didn't think before he
spoke. God and church are really important to Alana, and she takes this
all wrong and that's when things get progressively worse.Oh those teenage years! They were awful for me and I can so totally relate to the storyline so far. Clearly Alison remembers what it was like to be a teenager because the characters she crafted were entirely believable, right down to Alana's jealousy of the popular girls and the dialogue between Zac and the other teens on the school trip making fun of Alana. Such a huge betrayal of trust But that is where the relating stops. I never had a boyfriend while I was in school, so I didn't have to pine for one years and years later. But I know what it's like to be betrayed.
 
Ironically, I have been attending a Bible Study Fellowship program and one of the things that we talked about is the fact that even though things don't always make sense in our lives and prayers are not always answered the way we want them to be, God really does have a plan for each and every one of us. What we need to remember is that He is the one that is driver's seat and we need to follow the path he is setting out for us.
Trust Me Twice is a beautiful story that demonstrates how God doesn't always answer those prayers in the manner we want, but in the end, He does finally get us to the point we were asking for in the first place. While the journey He takes us on is not the most direct route, we eventually ends up in the exact spot we asked to be in. 
 
I don't want to reveal too much more about the story, but I would like to say that it does have some interesting curves in the road. Trust Me Twice by Alison Stanley is so aptly named and reminds all of us that we need to not only need to trust in ourselves, but we need to trust in God as well. Rating:

Week 15: April 14 - 20, 2013: Heaven Preserve Us: A Home Crafting Mystery by Cricket McRae

For anyone that knows me, I'm not much for mysteries. However, I am trying to expand my horizons and branch out into other styles of writing. I saw this on a free booklist and decided to give it a whirl. I figured since it had somewhat to do with food, how bad could it be?I was pleasantly surprised with the entire read. The characters were well developed, the story was easy to read, and frankly, not lame. In fact, I was quite taken by the whole thing and really enjoyed myself throughout the whole book. Even trying to solve the mystery before it was over. Ms. McRae did a great job keeping that tidbit to the end.

 
In Heaven Preserve Us: A Home Crafting Mystery we see Sophie May Reynolds trying to live her entrepreneurial life as soap maker and canning preserves during the and answering the helpline at a local crisis center at night. One night she takes a call from a mysterious suicidal guy who ends up stalking her via phone. 
 
Worse yet, the crisis center is in financial trouble, Sophie Mae's boss mysteriously dies of food poisoning and everyone becomes suspect, including the crisis center secretary! What a mess but oh what fun to watch Sophie sleuth her way through the maize of clues until she finds the culprit.
 
With the help of her roommates, friends in the preserve exchange and the townsfolk of Cadyville (including Sophie's boyfriend, Detective Ambrose) Sophie stumbles upon a few more things than she bargains for.
I must say that I really enjoyed Heaven Preserve Us: A Home Crafting Mystery by Cricket McRae. It was a fun, quick read and easy to follow. I actually thought this was the first book in the series, but just recently found out that it's the second. I am definitely going back to read the first one before continuing on.
What I liked the most was the recipes and other ideas that Ms. McRae shared with her readers. This one is definitely a keeper! Rating:

 

Week 14: April 7 - 13, 2013: Snarky and Sweet: A Romantic Comedy by Susan Denney

 

Lurleen and Lurlette...good golly! We must be in Texas! Sorry...I had to get that out my system. Now that I have your attention, we can get on with the story. Lee and Lurlette are identical twins in looks, but nothing alike in terms of fashion, lifestyle and temperament and marital status. Well come to think of it, they are completely different in every way except for looks. 

 
Lee lives a quiet life in San Pablo as a French teacher at the local high school. Lurlette is married, again, to some millionaire. What is this? Her third or fourth attempt...whatever. Lee's barely had a date and she's harboring feelings for a co-worker her sister has nicknamed "The Halibut". 
 
Now Lurlette is coming back to town, marriage over, and bringing with her an assortment of trinkets she just can't leave behind. Trinkets...hmmm! More like running off with the valuables. She's the epitome of royalty as far as her hometown is concerned. Now she has to figure out what she is going to do. She'll just conveniently stay with her sister Lee and let her deal with it. Not on your life!
 
So as you can expect, Lurlette turns Lee's world upside down. And...friends, co-workers and neighbors all get sucked into Lurlette's larger than life world! Throw in a big red diamond, two dumb thugs, a Cezanne and a tractor and you've got yourself an amusingly entertaining read. Great for a rainy weekend! Rating:

 

Week 13: March 31 - April 6, 2013: Crazy Love by Nicola Marsh

Bring on another mildly humerous read in the form of an internet dating agency. While I wouldn't say this is the best thing I ever read, I will say that the characters were actually amusing. 
Sierra Kent owns the agency. Belle Adamson is her best friend and local beautician. Olivia Fairley is newly engaged to Sierra's "Uncle" Hank Stevens and Marc Fairley is Olivia's son. He's in town to stop the wedding and to secretly check out a future acquisition, The Love Byte Dating Agency. Marc is extremely annoyed that his mother has moved to the country to marry some guy that he thinks is only after her money. Hmmm...can you see where this is headed yet?
 
Throw in a quirky cafe owner, Cythera (affectionately known as Cy), who has a penchant for dreadlocks and crystals; Rob Alden, Marc's cut-throat business associate; Aussie-broad Flo, owner of The Love Shack Diner;  William Jamieson, Marc's right hand man around the house,  and don't forget Ripley, the dog!
 

While I didn't find anything really exciting about the story, there were a few moments that brought a chuckle or a smile to my face. Oh...and there just might be a little something revealed too! Crazy Love by Nicola Marsh is an easy read over a weekend or a several nights during the week.  Rating:

 

Week 12: March 24 - 30, 2013: The Fortune Quilt by Lani Diane Rich

 
There are some stories that when you read them you simply can't put them down. Then there are others that you read over several days. While still others are simply just okay or complete stinkers.The Fortune Quilt by Lani Diane Rich is just okay. At one point, I was almost disappointed, but perhaps I was just reading it at the wrong time. I didn't find anything that was really outstanding about it, save for the fact that it was about a mystical woman who makes a lot of quilts and waits for the owners to show up so she can give it to them.

Some of the things that happen to the main character, Carly McKay, could be considered real life, but there was really nothing that I would call tragic. Okay, so her runaway mom returns, and she loses her job, goes back to Bisby, AZ (the site of where she meets the mysterious quiltmaker) to find herself, and then somehow miraculously gets herself another job. All because of a quilt! Hardly. While I am a firm believer in destiny, I also believe in making things happen for yourself. I can't really feel sorry for Carly. At some point all I remembered thinking was "suck it up and get on with it."Frankly, I wish that Ms. Rich would have spent a little more time developing some of the ancillary characters. It would have helped provide a bit more color to the story. Rating:

 
Week 11: March 17 -23, 2013: Vinny & Violet, The Unwanted Kittens by Maranda Russell

 
What do you get when you have two abandoned kittens and a little girl named Ashley? Two very lucky rescued kittens whose new owner really loves them! Good thing too, because after
giving them a bath, Ashley realizes there is something really wrong
with Violet. She is a sick little kitty and needs extra attention, and Ashley is just the person to take care of her.After hand-feeding little Violet, she puts both kittens to bed. They
quickly find comfort with each other and fall asleep. The next morning
though, it's pretty clear that Violet is not getting any better. Fortunately for Ashley, her Aunt Linda is a veterinarian with an animal hospital. Unfortunately for Violet, she'll have to stay overnight.
Both of these kittens are very lucky that someone found them, as it is not every day that it will happen. Small, helpless and abandoned animals generally do not survive if left on their own. But thanks to the love of a very special little girl, they have a fighting chance.What a great short story about taking chances. Best of all, Vinny & Violet, The Unwanted Kittens by Maranda Russell, teaches children the art of patience. While taking care of any pet is not an easy job, taking care of a sick pet is more difficult. Ashley learned that with a little love and faith,
anything is possible. As adults, we have a responsibility to look out
for our fur-friends and make sure that they all get an opportunity to
enjoy a happy and healthy life. Rating:

Week 10: March 10 -16, 2013: God Loves You. - Chester Blue by Suzanne Anderson

Miss Millie of Blossom, OH is faced with a dilemma. On a night so clear and bright, she looks up to the stars and prays for help. The next morning it arrives in the form of a little blue bear and his name is Chester Blue.
What follows is a story of how one little bear changes the lives of the people who need him the most. And he does this by simply showing up with suitcase in hand and being himself. However, there is something really important inside that suitcase. Nothing elaborate, just a needle and thread and a short message that says...God Loves You. - Chester Blue.
How amazing that such a simple message can transform lives!Chester Blue in his wonderful way miraculously shows up where he is needed the most. Oh how I wish there had been a Chester Blue in my life...but amazingly enough, reading this book about this little bear actually turned my life around when I was feeling a little...well I was needing to refocus. So yes, even Chester Blue helped me too, because God does love me and he loves you too! 
 
This is a great story to share with everyone. I highly recommend this as a family read at the end of the day. Taken chapter by chapter, Gold Loves You. - Chester Blue by Suzanne Anderson offers a message of hope and faith. Rating:

 

Week 10: March 3 - 9, 2013: It Happens Every Spring (The Four Seasons of Marriage Series #1) by Gary Chapman & Catherine Palmer

 

Steve does nothing but work, work and work some more. Brenda is faced with nothing to do as the children grown and gone. He
doesn't listen to her and she doesn't take an interest in his work. Two
people who used to be so in love and into to each other are now so far
apart from each other. While this book is billed as a empty nest story,
it really is much more than that. It's how to get two people to
reconnect after drifting so far apart.
 
The story is set in the small town of Tranquility, Missouri, a beautiful
town in the heart of the Ozarks. We meet a cast of characters that
include Brenda and four other local neighborhood women, who form the
TLC, a group that helps each other, the community and meets weekly at
the local beauty shop. Throw in a handyman, a mentally challenge
homeless man/boy and a owner of a rod and tackle shop.
Throw in some humor, some emotion, wrong attraction, a little
antagonism, and some honest, real life dialogue and you have not only a
fictional story, but a scene out of someone's actual life. How many
couples can say they have never experience a time like what was present
in It Happens Every Spring by Gary Chapman & Catherine
Palmer? Very few I would imagine as every couple goes through a period
of winter when one, the other or both spouses feel a little bit dead
inside. While the situation might not be exactly the same, the feelings
and emotions most definitely are.
After
being married for 20 years, I can totally relate to this story. Every
marriage, including my own, has gone through the various seasons. In my
eyes, this story is totally believable and shows that no matter what the
season, anyone can weather it as long as they make an effort. Rating:
 

Week 9: February 24 - March 2, 2013: Moka Becomes a Water Dog by Jeff Stevenson

 

Dog
lovers rejoice! Here's a great children's story about a black lab puppy
named Moka and how she becomes a "water dog". It's clear that this
little cutie loves her new family and spending time at their cabin in
the mountains. There is so much to do and investigate at the lake, and
Moka is just having so much fun playing with Ethan and Lucas, except
for one small thing. She won't get in the water. 
 
The
boys' father thought it would be a good idea to get Moka a floating
toy to play with in the water. Once that toy hit the water, Moka took
off running on the dock and flew into the water....Moka never had so
much fun. It was like she was bred to be in the water like all other
Labrador dogs.Go Moka, the Water Dog!
 
What
a great children's book! As a former dog owner, I can attest to the
fact that the behavior shown by Moka was spot on. The book shares a
great message of love and friendship. The story is beautifully
illustrated and is easy to read. I love the clean lines of this book;
the large text on one page and the illustrations on the adjoining page.
Unlike other children's books that I've read, where the text can
sometimes get lost within the picture, this one is definitely easy on
the eyes. Great for grandparents and kids alike!
 
Especially
enjoyable are the activities at the back of the book. A note for
parents: make copies of these pages so that the kids can do them more
than once! Brilliant idea Mr. Stevenson! Can't wait for future editions
from the The Dog on My Feet Series! Rating:

Week 8: February 17 - 23, 2013: Accidental Romance (The Challenge Series) by Jessica E. Subject 

 

This book, Accidental Romance by
Jessica E. Subject was not quite what I had expected. I would say I was
shocked after I started reading, but at least Ms. Subject ripped the
band-aid off quickly and I got through the gruesome part rather quickly. However, I was somewhat disappointed. 
 
Ok,
so her boyfriend is a jerk and after one to many phone calls, it's
over. She's distracted and doesn't follow proper farm equipment
procedures and then...well, you'll have to read what happens. 
If
someone goes through an accident such as what Leanne had, then I would
expect more of a grieving process rather than practically jumping into
the arms of the farm help. "Now wait a minute!" you might be saying.
"Let's step back a bit!" Nope! So sorry, but I am not buying it. Rating:
 

Week 7: February 10 - 16, 2013: The Jelly Bean Club Begins by Sally Butler

 

What
a fun book for children! I had a wonderful reading experience with this
book. In fact, after the last several books, this was absolutely
refreshing!
 
The Jelly Bean Club Begins by Sally Butler is a modern Nancy Drew series for young kids to enjoy and develop a love for reading.
On
an ordinary, normal day, sisters Audrey and Ashley start their day as
detectives, searching for their father's missing tie. After successfully
search, the two sisters head off to school. During class, Audrey's
teacher reads to them from a  along with their friend Julianna start a
club, they find themselves knee deep in a mystery. Of course their
neighborhood schoolmates, start a club too and want in on the fun.
Unfortunately, it's not going to be fun once things start to heat up.
Finding
a flyer in the mailbox starts the whole adventure as the girls set out
to find a missing show dog who's owners have offered a hefty reward. The
neighborhood boys don't want to be left out so they follow the girls
who are hot on the trail. They are lead on adventure they never thought
they would encounter. 
This
is a great book about the importance of teamwork and friendship. All to
often, children feel the effects of peer pressure and succumb to
meanness and spite. While you start to see a little of normal taunting
in the book from the boys, it ends with a really great message.
And
the story is believable! Why? I have a memory and I remember what it
was like to be in grade school and I seem to recall...Anyway, I highly
recommend this for young readers to introduce them to something other
than a video game. Great story, fast read and I guarantee you'll want to
read the next one! Rating:
 

Week 6: February 3 - 9, 2013: Dawn of the Morningstar (Spellbound Trilogy #3) by Penelope King

 

You
know how you wait and wait for a book to be released, especially if it
is the last book in a series. You build up in your mind what's going to
happen and how it will end. You're just so excited you're about to
burst. Then when the book finally comes out and you read it and then...nothing. Nada...You're like "That's it!" Complete disappointment. Well, that's exactly how I felt with this book. 
Dawn of the Morningstar
by Penelope King was not the same caliber as the first two books in the
series. At all! The first part of the book was all about Calista and
Nicholas hanging out in their cabin in the woods after she has fled the
scene so to speak. When Nicholas finally convinces her to go back home,
she agrees. However, when she gets there it all falls flat.
There
is simply no antagonism...no fight...no nothing. Justin comes back.
Calista's visions return. Her empath powers become stronger. She
searches and finds her mom, who rejects her. She stands up to her
grandmother and then goes back to confront her mom for a second time and
get the answers. What did it for me as the fact that Calista convinces
her mom to go back to the family and then it's like all is well. There
should have been a big confrontation scene between Calista's mom and
grandmother and their wasn't. 
The
book just ended with everyone going to Druantia and the final ring
ceremony. Not exciting. I was completely disappointed. This book was
clearly not as good as the other two. There was little conflict. And the
only excitement for me was when Calista's empathic powers surged just
shortly after returning home and she speaks to her grandmother. Even
when she confronts her mother for the first time, which you would expect
to be the climax, was a let down. 
I think I am going to stop reading trilogies because this was the second one that I read that fell short in the end. Rating: 
 

Week 5: January 27 - February 2, 2013: A Different Witch by Debora Geary

 

Beth
Landler was doing very well on her own. She had her own coven in her
own little corner of the world. Everything was just fine. That is until
Lauren and Jamie crash her place, and her life has not been the same
since.
Beth
is different...and not just a different witch but different altogether.
Now she needs to learn how to be "A Different Witch" and feel good
about it. So with the support of her partner, she's off to California to
find out more.Unfortunately, once she gets there, she doesn't fit in
all to well. Nell can't relate to her. Beth feels uncomfortable around
everyone except for Aervyn and no one can figure out how to talk to her
without saying something wrong. Forget about teaching her.
Beyond this, I will say no more about the story.
I'd
venture to say that this is probably not my most favorite book of the
series, just okay. There wasn't a whole lot of build up into this one. I
suppose it's because it touched on a subject I am not very familiar
with - Asperger's. It just didn't have the excitement to sweep me away
as in the other books.
I
commend Ms. Geary for incorporating a topic that is rarely discussed if
at all, and put into a fictional story no less. I give her points for
doing that. Unfortunately, for me, A Different Witch was in a word...boring. Rating:

Week 4: January 20 - 26, 2013: Too Perfect by Julie Ortolon

In the final book of the Perfect Trilogy, Amy must get over her fear traveling by herself and getting lost. So
to complete the bet made between Maddy, Christine and herself, she
takes a job through her own nanny agency and gets on a boat as a
traveling nanny for three children who are on vacation with their
grandparents. What could possibly go wrong?
Everything!
To not give away too much of the story, let's just say she gets
stranded on an island with little money, no passport or clothes. Luckily
she gathers herself together long enough to make it to the local travel
agency that helps her with some of her issues. And she finds a sign for
a live-in housekeeper. Well, that should solve her problems for cash.

And
then the cliches begin. Girl goes to island mansion (in this case it's a
castle), girl meets guy (in this case the assistant to the guy) and
gets job. Assistant to the guy is actually the someone famous, and
ultimately she falls in love with guy. Blah, blah, blah.
Of
the three books in the series, this one is my least favorite. While it
sounds all romantic and all, it seemed to be a little stretch to make
this happen. But, perhaps this is what Ms. Ortolon had intended for this
last book...make it a real fantasy. It was just a little OTT for me.
The only thing that I found to be interesting and the one thing that I
could really make a connection with was Amy's realization that Grandma
was secretly sabotaging her life in every way imaginable, and Amy was
too blind to see it. Oh look! Something plausible and the saving grace
in the entire story. Rating:  
 

Week 3: January 13 - 19, 2013: Just Perfect by Julie Ortolon

 

In
the next book of the Perfect Trilogy, Christine Ashton has to get over
her fear of heights. Actually she needs to get over her fear of heights
and a whole lot more. She thinks that by conquering her fear of heights
she will be able to go skiing and finally beat her brother at something
and gain her father's approval.
As
part of the bet with her college suitemates, she goes to Colorado to
get started on getting past this fear she has had for what seems like
forever. Arriving about a week early, she hires an instructor to help
her out. Enter Alec, the ski bum and he appears to be "perfect"...drat!
Now she needs to refrain from the one thing Christine promised herself
she wouldn't do...date and fall in love with another loser guy with no
prospects for a future. Christine has to keep Alec at bay all the while
conquering her fear of heights, learn to ski really well so that she can
beat her brother at something, and gain her father's respect.
By
the way, did I mention that Christine is a doctor, just like her dad.
But...well you know where this is going don't you? Well without giving
away the rest of the story, Just Perfect by Julie Ortolon really
examines the issues of the child/parent paradigm without getting too
complicated in the process. Throw in a handsome guy who on the surface
looks like a loser, but really isn't and it makes for a very interesting
and entertaining read.
I
really like the fact that Ms. Ortolon was not afraid to show
Christine's strength as well as her vulnerabilities. She also slowly
reveals Alec's character true identity as well as both of their
families. Of the three books in the trilogy, I would have to say this
one was my favorite. At the end, I was actually yelling, "You go girl!"
As for the reasons why, well you are just going to have to read and find
out! Rating:
 

Week 2: January 6 - 12, 2013: Almost Perfect (Perfect Trilogy) by Julie Ortolon

College
suite-mates gather together when one of them publishes a book on How to
Have a Perfect Life. Maddy, Christine and Amy are thrilled that Jane
has become successful. That is until they find out that Jane has used
each of them as examples of what not to do in her book. Using the book
as a impetus to do something about each of their lives, they
collectively make a bet with each other to do something that they have
been afraid of, and according to the book, holding them back from
achieving the perfect life.Maddy, the free spirited artist gave up the love of her life to pursue
her dreams, yet didn't quite make it due to life. Now she has a chance
to go back and try it again, but needs to face the love of her life
again. Years older and wiser how will they react to each other. You must
read the book to find out. 
Almost Perfect
by Julie Ortolon is a nice escape into the art world. The fact that
this story takes place in New Mexico was attractive to me because I have
lived in the Southwest for over a decade. The art world is very
fascinating and I think that Ms. Ortolon has done a really great job
incorporating this into the storyline and drawing the reader in that
world. 
Sometimes
with romance trilogies, the stories end up being a little cheeky, but
book one of this series is anything but that. I love the fact that there
was some antagonism between Maddy and her former flame Joe. Not only
does she have to face him again but she has to turn to him in order to
fulfill her end of the bet she made with Christine and Amy. Best of all,
Joe and Maddy don't immediately fall back into it again. It takes a bit
because Joe isn't...well Joe...well, read and find out!
The book is a "perfect" length to read in a weekend and naturally leads into the next book of the series. Rating:

 

Week 1: December 30, 2012 - January 5, 2012: Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less) by Angela England
 
 
It
is with great pleasure that I present my first book review for 2013. I
am so excited to review, Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less) by
Angela England, as I have been working on my own little backyard farm,
well...actually it is more like a front and backyard farm because I live
in a condo and have even less than one acre to work with!In
her book, Angela England has provided a very comprehensive outline on
sustainable living. From the initial chapter discussing "The Backyard
Farm Adventure" to the final chapter outlining "Other Ways to Use Your
Harvest" I don't think I have ever read a more detailed book on this
topic.
Each
chapter outlines, step-by-step, how to begin the process. Ms. England
has taken all the guesswork out of figuring out how to create our
"Backyard Farm", which is what I really like the most about this book.
We are then free to take the parts that we want and use them however
they work for us. So in my case, while I may not be able to have any
animals, I can grow certain foods and herbs to benefit my family. In
fact, I've already been doing this on a very small scale, and for the
last several years have enjoyed the benefits of fresh tomatoes that
taste so much better than store bought. Now that I have read this book, I
have plans to expand. Thank goodness my neighbors are all on board as
they have given me permission to use their front yards!For
those that have more land than I do, you will surely enjoy the
illustrated layouts provided for a quarter-acre, half-acre and full-acre
lots. The author asks us to "consider the illustrations as wish-lists
for someday". In my mind this means use these ideas as a springboard to
create our own dream farm, no matter how big or small. The goal is to
have a "P.L.A.N.":Precise
- make the plans precise. Think about how many different crops to
plant, and how much room you'll need. Do you plan on having just a
garden or will you add livestock? Perhaps a bit of both? Precision is
the key to plans.Lasting
- think of this adventure as a timeline. Nothing ever happens
immediately, so realize that this is going to take a schedule that needs
to be adhered to and plan accordingly. For example, in January, I will
layout my garden and decide what I want to plant. In February I will
purchase the seeds I need to grow my crops. In March, I will...you get
the idea. Decide what needs to happen each week and month and then stick
to the schedule. Large scale farmers have been doing this for years.
It's no different for this scale.Arrival
- means heading in a particular direction towards those goals. What are
you going to do to make this happen? How will you adapt when something
doesn't work?

Natural
- doing what works for you. Just because what works for Angela doesn't
mean it is going to work for Susan and vice versa. It has to make sense
for you; the plan needs to work for you. Write out the plan and start
working on what's important now.

The
book also provides advice on how to plan plan the garden space and
maximize it to its fullest potential; suggests keeping a journal and
goes into great detail on the tools and skills needed for the backyard
farmer. Also, for those that aren't as experienced with gardening,
Angela provides the reader with a gentle reminder that's its not just
about sticking the plant in the ground and letting it do it's thing
(i.e. you have to amend the soil!) Novices will also appreciate the
chapters on vegetables, herbs, fruits and berries as well as animals for
a Backyard Farm.

Don't
let the details of this book overwhelm you. In fact, take a moment to
really read Part 4, "Enjoying the Bounty", and Part 5 "Crafting from the
Backyard Farm" because it really gives the reader a great guide as to
what to do with the harvest from that garden we've spent so much time
and energy on. Remember that Ms. England has provided us with the tools
to get started. Now we have to use them and make it happen. Take the
parts that work for you and save the rest for when you're able to use
them. And above all, share this book with everyone you know.

I found this book really helped to renew my enthusiasm for gardening and I can't wait to get started! Rating:

 




2012 Reviews

Week 52: December 23 - 29, 2012: Food Fight: A Holiday Short Story by Christina F. York
 
I am all for independent authors publishing their own books. In fact, I will probably do it myself. But would you please learn to format them correctly before you release them. As a writer and editor, I have to format and re-format all the time. I wish there was some consistency in the books I read. It would really be nice. Just saying...
With that said, Food Fight: A Holiday Short Story by Christina F. York is actually pretty funny but it won't hit you until after you've read it and remember those first few years of marriage. Well it won't hit you unless you've been married for awhile, like I've been. Note to all new husbands out there: Never tell your wife "It's not like my mom made." That's really bad juju. In my case, I don't have to worry about ever hearing those words because my hubs usually says, "It's not like how I would make it!"
While I can't imagine losing a gasket over my husband not liking my cooking, I can see how a sensitive newlywed would. The one thing I wouldn't want to do is have a full blown food fight. I hate cleaning! Read this for the pure pleasure of living vicariously through the husband and wife who really let it all go while flinging the food across the room at one another. Rating:
 
Week 51: December 16 - 22, 2012:  Euthanasia and the Empath by Ginae B. McDonald
It is late on Wednesday evening, December 18, 2012 and I am finally sitting down to write something that I think is important to share with my readers. I am getting back to performing book reviews and the one I am about to share was not on the scheduled radar. In fact, I have been very remiss in posting all of my reviews...I think I am about 12 behind schedule. I hope to catch up and post all of them over the next couple of weeks, because the fact is, I've been working two jobs and reading, and reading, and reading in between, but have had very little time for anything else. This past week or so has been even crazier with more work than I care to mention, but that is another story for another blog.
So without further ado...here is my next book review.
A week ago, a request came from a fellow writer asking if anyone wanted to review her book. Naturally, I said yes, not even knowing what the book would be about. All I knew was that it was going to be a "tear-jerker deluxe". Always up for those type of books and considering what I had been reading lately, I thought it would be a nice change of pace.
When Ginae B. McDonald emailed me the book, I read the title Euthanasia and the Empath, I was first taken aback. It was not what I was expecting. I tend not to read this type of genre, but then I thought to myself, "What kind of reviewer would I be if I didn't review all types of books?" My reply to that was "a pretty crappy one". Good reviewers read whatever comes there way and provides an honest insight into the book no matter what the topic. So, I forged ahead.
When I started to read Euthanasia and the Empath, I was pleasantly surprised. What was I dreading? There was no macabre or gross parts. Actually, what followed was an empathic woman's story of dealing with pet euthanasia. It begins with a recounting of how she developed a sensitivity or bond, if you will, to the animals whom she crosses paths. Reading this gave me an insight to another side of the woman whom I have come to know through her writing.
Ms. McDonald introduces us to Mao, her beloved pet, and shares with the reader how they become so close that he is referred to as her son. I found this to be truly believable. Dogs love unconditionally, are really smart and know when they are treated really well or really bad. While they may not be able to talk, they become one of the family simply by weaving themselves into the fabric of their owner's life. So the fact that Ginae refers to Mao as her son, it is not surprising to me in the least.
Most dogs don't have a long life in comparison to us humans. The phrase "dog years" is very true in the sense that by the time a dog gets to be eight, nine, ten years old, it slows down and becomes less active like humans would when they reach 70, 80, 90 years of age. At age 11, Mao is really old, his body is failing and the author has come to the realization that her beloved's time has come.
What follows is raw, deeply revealing, and at moments, gut wrenching. Ginae's empathic abilities has put her in a position where she finds no solace in the decision to be made nor in the act itself. Worse yet is the fact that she must go through this not once in her life, not twice, but three times. No one is shielded from death. It is a fact of life. To become a pet owner means accepting the unwritten rule that death will happen more frequently. But to make a conscious decision to euthanize a pet when it is sick or can no longer function due to age complications is even harder to handle. While some may deal with it easily, empathic people tend to suffer emotionally far greater than the average person. However, the flip side to this is that empaths are more aware with everything around them; recognizing things that are not so easily seen; such as in Ginae's case of the rare yellow butterfly.
The rest of this short read discusses the five stages of grief and how the author worked through each of them with the loss of her beloved pets. Finally, Ginae ends with a section on coping, what she did to get through, and how her empathic ability was helpful.
I believe that the importance of this book is knowing that it is okay to grieve when we are put in a position to have to do things that we don't want to do, but know in our hearts that we must do them. No one wants to have to put their pet down, but when their health deteriorates to the point where they can no longer live a comfortable life due to pain or illness, it must be done because it is the right thing to do. Recognizing that a pet's life may be over in the physical realm, but their spirit will always live on in the hearts of all the lives they touched.
As a side note, I have dealt with this only once in my life. I was away at college and knew from the last time I was home that my dog, Charlie, didn't have much time left. I remember vividly waking up that morning in school and saying that he was going to die that day. My mom called me later that night and told me. My parents came to pick me up for Spring Break the next weekend. We decided to take a small trip because none of us wanted to be in the house together, but alone with thoughts of our beloved member of the family that was no longer there. As I write this review now, it's beginning to make sense and I think I can finally put a name to this uncanny ability to feel things far more than the average...I believe it's called empathy. Rating:
 
Week 50: December 9 - 15, 2012: Christmas in Venice by Meadow Taylor & Evergreen, A Christmas Tale by Richard Taylor
Olivia Moretti has just got off an airplane after a very long flight and is now being stopped by the Venice police for something she has no idea about! Unfortunately, the police want to talk to her about her luggage, that Olivia left in the care of an elderly woman while she made a phone call and now she is gone. Olivia was so looking forward to Christmas in Venice with her cousin Marco and starting her new job, but so far it wasn't turning out well. In fact, it just keeps getting better and better (not!), because now the police can hear a strange sound coming from inside her suitcase.
Once again this is another story that seemed to have been lifted out of another one. The characters, Olivia, cousin Marco, the sexy police officer, while very interesting, could have all benefited from greater development and a more in-depth story. There is potential here...but I was really left wanting more. Perhaps Ms. Taylor will do that. Rating:
and a 1/2
 
Evergreen, A Christmas Tale by Richard Taylor is the story of a grandfather who visits his daughter during and finds everything in turmoil. She has just lost her job and is arguing with her husband. And the kids, well the kids are being brats and fighting all the time. The daughter doesn't even greet her dad with so much as a "Welcome, I am so happy to see you Dad!" or without a "Kiss my foot!" or "Have an apple!" (Sorry that's a famous line from one of my favorite movies White Christmas!) Anyway, grandpa sits the boys down and begins to tell them a story of the first Christmas Tree.
It's a heartwarming story and teaches everyone about the importance of love and faith. It's a story that can be told over and over again and shared from generation to generation. This is a very short story, only 10 pages, but it is one that I think we all need to read, and often. Rating:
 
Week 49: December 2 - 8, 2012: Christmas Chaos by Jennifer Conner & Oh No! Santa's Grumpy by Margaret Farnsworth
The main character in Christmas Chaos by Jennifer Conner really hates elevators. In fact, if Josiane wasn't running late, she would have never gotten stuck in the elevator with Carsten, Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome. How convenient! She needs a date for her family dinner, and he is hungry. Well, if they will ever get out the elevator, perhaps they can help each other. Fortunately their predicament didn't last for long (the book is only 25 pages!) Good thing because they needed to get to her parents so he could impress them and save her from endless questions from the fam. Oh but the fun is just about to start once they both arrive and she finds out more about the real Carsten. A very quick read for the lunch hour. Rating:
 
In need of a children's book to read for the holidays, I chose Oh No! Santa's Grumpy by Margaret Farnsworth. I had a bit of trouble trying to read it on my Kindle. It did not load properly. Ultimately, I ended up using my Kindle for PC application to read it. Now I know why I couldn't read it on my Kindle. The pictures are all upside down! So much for paying attention to the little details Ms. Farnsworth. That is no way to endear the reader, only frustrate them.
Leaving that little faux pas aside, the story itself was charming and just long enough for any child to enjoy. Santa was unhappy because he was worried that the toys wouldn't be finished in time for his Christmas Eve ride. Doesn't he feel that way every year? Anyway, four senior elves ban together and come up with a way to make Santa happy. That is, until they get caught by Mrs. Claus. Fortunately for Santa, their little mischief was caught in time and Christmas is saved! Rating:
 
 
 
Week 48: November 25 - December 1, 2012: A Gift of Snow by Missy Maxim & Chocolate Kisses (Redford Falls) by Darlene Fredette
For the next several weeks, I will be reviewing a collection of short stories to end out the year. Below are this weeks selections:
 
On a snowy mountain top hold up in a cabin,  Jennifer Donovan nurses her lonely heart. It's Christmas Eve and her mom and sister can't get to Jennifer's for the holiday due to the blizzard outside. Just when she thinks she'll have a bit of peace, someone pounds on her door. Oh who could it possibly be...a man. Duh! He's English and a musician. Double Duh! Why do books have to be so cliche? They sit by the fire, they talk, they kiss, they blah, blah, blah. Seriously?!?! Thank goodness A Gift of Snow by Missy Maxim is a short read because it bored me. Rating:
 
 
 
Chocolate Kisses (Redford Falls) by Darlene Fredette was a bit more enjoyable for me due to in part, well a big part, because of the chocolate! Candace Cane is in big trouble! Santa has laryngitis and won't be able to visit her shop for the next several days. The town of Redford Falls was suffering due to the Mega Mall that moved in nearby and now that Santa was not coming this could be the end of hope for all the children. Doing all she can by helping at the Inn and running her Chocolate Shop, finding a Santa is probably the most important thing she needs to do right now, but where? Enter Jackson Frost...her husband.
Unfortunately Jackson doesn't remember marrying Candi and now he has a problem. Too bad for him because he got what he deserved. Bragging to his friends and all, I don't blame Candi for doing what she did.When he finally passed out, she walked out and never looked back. Now he needs a divorce after all this time. Well she needs a Santa so ha ha ha Jackson, how about a trade?
The only bad part of this book is the choice of names by the author Darlene Fredette. Candi Cane, Jackson Frost, Mindy-Lou, George Haley, Virginia, Rudy, Mr. Marley, Mrs. Potter and Uncle Billy...seriously I think Ms. Fredette failed in the creativity of naming her characters because you can't get the references past someone who is a seasoned Christmas expert! I've seen all the movies where she has taken the original names and put her spin on them.
Add in a few background stories and Chocolate Kisses (Redford Falls) by Darlene Fredette is not half bad. Each chapter is entitled with a fun name and carries the chocolate theme throughout the book. Rating:
 
Week 47: November  18 - 24, 2012 A White Cougar Christmas by Eliza Gayle
 
Ok, I can truly admit this...A White Cougar Christmas falls into the category of "What Was I Thinking?!?!". I have no earthly idea why I picked out this book. Let me say that although the idea of a "shape shifter" is appealing and different for me, I need more than 19 pages to get behind the concept. This book was too short and while it was quick to get to the point...wait, what was the point! If it was just purely for the sex, then I must say that it was rather boring in that department.
I can't help but wonder if this book was part of a much larger story that wasn't finished yet and the author just decided to pull out these pages and publish it as a very short story. As it is, the characters are aching to reveal more of themselves and are unable to do so in the short expanse of these few pages. Seeing how this has been a year filled with vampires, werewolves and the like, perhaps Ms. Gayle will follow that lead and let us read the bigger story. In the meantime, this one can wait. Rating:
 
Week 46: November 11 - 17, 2012 All I Want for Christmas is You by Lisa Mondello
All I Want for Christmas is You by Lisa Mondello holds a special place in the author's heart. It was her first published novel back in 1998. Today it can be found in Kindle format and where I had the opportunity to read it. The story centers around Lauren Alexander and her young daughter Kristen who only wants a "daddy" for Christmas this year. She only needs to ask Santa and he'll deliver. She just knows it.
Unbeknownst to Kristen, Santa is really Kyle Preston, local real estate developer. When Kristen meets Santa, she gives Santa her letter asking him for her special wish. Touched by her request, he can only tell her that he can't make any promises. I was pleased to see that the dialogue was honest. But as I wondered how "Santa" and Lauren were going to meet, the author fixed that by giving Lauren a dead car battery, leaving her stranding in in the parking lot at the mall, while it is snowing no less!
The scene that follows is actually pretty funny and almost OTT (over the top) but sets up the rest of the story - a sweet story about a single mom who meets a rich and handsome man and falls in love with him. Throw in a Christmas Tree Lighting, sleigh rides and dinner with the family and you have a heartwarming story of faith and hope.
All I Want for Christmas is You is a fairly quick read, only 200 pages and allows the reader a moment to escape from the stresses of the season, even if it's only for a little while. Rating:
 
Week 45: November 4 - 10, 2012 A Child for Christmas by Allison Leigh
 
Welcome back to the Clay Family. We're just in time for the holidays as Sawyer Clay returns home after suffering an accident on the job and now has amnesia. Rescued by his brother Jefferson, he heads back to the Double C Ranch to rest, recuperate and to get his memory back. Only remembering some feelings as of yet, he has to figure out what he wants to do with his life.
In the meantime, he goes to see the town doc, Rebecca Morehouse, to get help and finds himself instantly drawn to her. While he fights his memory loss, there is just something about her that makes him feel again. Secretly, Rebecca knows the truth as to why he feels the connection but spends the better part of the book trying to fight it, if only to save the heartache of her son (SPOILER ALERT: who happens to be Sawyer's son).
Little things continue to nag at him, his annoyance for his father, the looks that his brother's wives give their husbands, and his ever noticeable headaches. Sawyer moves out of the house, off the ranch, and into the motel, currently owned by Rebecca. This gives him an opportunity to spend more time with her and to figure out the whys.
I think that Ms. Leigh does a good job in building the character's tension, but leaves out some of the back story between Sawyer and Rebecca and Sawyer and the family. Perhaps it would have been more advantageous on my part to read the entire series from start to finish instead of individual reads. I think I would have found more satisfaction if I had done the former. In either case, the events that lead to the exciting climax also needed more details, but most of all, the title, in my opinion, was a tad misleading. Or perhaps it isn't since I am reading this books individual and out of sequence? I think I will leave that up to the readers. Rating:
 
Week 44: October 28 - November 3, 2012 Witches in Flight (Witchlight Trilogy, Book 3) by Deborah Geary
 
This is my last review of "witch books" for awhile. I feel as though I have exhausted myself, but when I get into something, I tend to get into it in a big way. In the final book of the Witchlight Trilogy, Elsie and Lizard face their dares and become the women they are supposed to be.
Nat, Lauren and Jennie all evolve into amazing women due to these remarkable two witches. It feels like they all have come full circle as this series comes to an end.
Elsie faces her fears and finally lets go, literally and figuratively. See her fly through the air ala trapeze style and see her come to terms with the fact that she is more than just an earth witch, but a fire witch as well. Elsie finds amore, but learns that it love is not all that it seems.
Lizard is on the verge of making something of herself but can't allow herself to take the leap. I can fully understand how she would feel. She's had a rough life, so she feels she doesn't deserve to have the successes she is having.
Together they help one another get beyond the reasons they came to Witchlight and move forward on paths that they never dreamed of...much to the delight of Jenny and the rest of the community. Best of all, we say bon voyage to the leaders of Witchlight and see Jennie and the girls take the organization to a whole new level. Rating:
 
Week 43: October 21 - 27, 2012 Witches Under Way (WitchLight Trilogy, Book 2) by Debora Geary
 
As with the rest of Ms. Geary's books, I just had to keep reading after I finished the last one because I needed to know what was going to happen with Lizard and Elsie.
Lizard is starting school, that's to the help of Witch Central. She's also working for Lauren who has been called upon by Witchlight to aid in Lizard's growth and understanding. Meanwhile, Elsie, who has been working with Nat at the yoga studio, struggles to find out who she really is. In the meantime, she's found another outlet in the form of knitting and has made some new friends at Knit A Spell.
Each are starting to come into their own but still have a ways to go as they struggle with their own personal demons and with living together and within their new community. While Aunt Jennie still guides them, she has recruited some additional help from Witch Central, Lauren and her best friend Nat.
Character development continues in Witches Under Way as we see more and more of who Lizard and Elsie really are and why they came be as such. In addition, we are seeing a bit more of the leaders of Witchlight and finding out who they are and their importance to the development of Jennie.
The reader is drawn into the story in a way that makes it almost impossible to put the book down. I can imagine myself there right along with the rest of the community, although not saying much, but just there experiencing everything as if I was one of them. Rating:
 

Week 42: October 14 - 20, 2012 Witches on Parole (WitchLight Trilogy, Book 1) by Debora Geary

 

Reading Romances Challenge for October
 
This month's challenge for Reading Romances was to pick a book from one of the following areas: 
TOPICS:
1) Read a book with two authors (not an anthology, more like a collaboration.)
2) Read a book where a character is a cop or a detective and/or a murder mystery is being solved.
THEMES: 
3) Read a book categorize as romantic suspense (Romantic suspense involves an intrigue or mystery for the protagonists to solve).
SPECIAL EVENTS:
4) Halloween: Read a book that you consider “scary” or “spooky”, or one that features a typical “Halloween” character (witch, vampire, ghost, etc), or Read a book with a character, or subject matter, that is also a typical, old-fashioned Halloween costume (witch, ghost, vamp, princess, fairy, cowboy, firefighter etc, etc…).
5) Teacher’s Day: Read a book set in a school, college or university, or a character is in the education field (teacher, professor, lecturer, etc).
6) National Book Month: Read a book set in the publishing business, or a book about writing, or one with a character that is a writer, publisher, editor, etc.
7) Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Read a book that is Chick-lit or Women’s Fiction, a book with a character dealing with cancer or a book with a strong female lead (“strong” can encompass physical, mental and/or emotional strength) *A virtual high-five for a book with a pink cover.

 

Aunt Jennie, otherwise known as Jenvieve Adams, famous portrait photographer, has been called upon by her Witchlight Community to help two lost souls find their way. Long ago, Jenny was just like the two who are about to land on her doorstep and now it is her time to give back to those who helped her all those many years ago.
 
Meet Lizard, a tough, street girl who has landed herself in a bit of trouble and found herself in Aunt Jennie's kitchen at 2 a.m. eating chocolate cake. She loves big words, bacon breakfast sandwiches, and tattoos Oh...and she is a mind witch.
 
Say hello to Elsie. She's a therapist, organized, controlling and about to have a midlife crisis at age 32. She was either going to get help, do some fundraising for the United Way or take a month-long workshop in trapeze flying. She decided it would be best...wait! Trapeze flying!  Sorry...that was a little OTT, but keep that as food for thought later. In the meantime she's going to spend some time with Aunt Jennie and Lizard and maybe tap into her witch capabilities.
 
One of the things that I really like about this book is that it used letter writing as a form of telling the story. The letter writing was modernized and is seen as an email, but it is letter writing none-the-less. It gives the story a nice break and makes the reading a more intimate experience.
 
Ms.Geary has done a wonderful job in stepping aside from her Modern Witch Series and help develop a couple of ancillary characters so her readership has a better understanding of the entire Witchlight Community. Witches on Parole offers a respite from the main stories and shows how two completely opposite and misfit witches find their way to acceptance and love in a community they never imagined. Rating:

 

 
Week 41: October 7 - 13, 2012 A Nomadic Witch (A Modern Witch Series) by Debora Geary

 

Question: Take a grumpy bachelor and a sweet little baby girl and what do you get? Answer: A Nomadic Witch by Debora Geary.
 
Marcus Buchanan has been a recluse for a long time. He lost his brother over 40 years ago to the mists. Evan was a traveler, but know one knew much about them at the time. He so young and Marcus was devastated that he couldn't save him. In fact, not many people know about astral travelers, but the witching community is about to discover some really important finds. Evan, however, wants Marcus to stop hiding and star living. So, he's about to get a huge wake-up call!
 
Morgan was left on Marcus' doorstep and she's everything a baby is but unfortunately, she has a lot in common with his brother Evan. Marcus has spent the better part of his life not living. Now that Morgan has shown up, he has no idea what to do, either with her or himself. The witching community divides and conquers Marcus' heart and slowly he learns to open himself up again.
 
There were moments in the story where I found myself actually laughing. Seeing a grown, lonely and long since determine to be single guy take care of a cute little tiny baby. Classic, with a witchy twist! Set almost entirely in Nova Scotia and the Realm (you'll have to read the books to find out what that is!), Marcus adjusts to life with a baby, and along the way he learns that he must do everything he can to protect his girl-child with special gifts. As a babe she has no idea what she is doing, especially when she takes one of the other young witchlings along for the ride with her.
 
With the help of the town, the family and even Evan, Marcus races through the astral planes to save both little girls. When he returns, he realizes what he needs to do and that is to go find his brother and learn the truth about the astral world. Surely little Morgan, with the lavender eyes, is worth it.
 
Each story that Ms. Geary reveals only intensifies my love for these characters. The plots become more intricate and weave the characters tighter and tighter so that it becomes almost impossible to put the book down. The other night I actually had to tell my husband I had to go back and finish reading a previous story because I had to find out what happened to Grandma! Don't worry, nothing happens to her in this book, but you if you haven't read any of the Modern Witch Series books, you better start now! Rating:
 

Week 40: September 30 - October 6, 2012 A Witch Central Wedding by Debora Geary

on this day my love
I bring my heart
to stand with yours
in the magic of love
now and forever

Beautiful words to start a new life together with the one you love, isn't it? Two members of the witching community are heading there right now. Join Devon and Lauren and the whole clan gather together for an evening ceremony and surrounding them with all the love in the world.

 
This is a quick and easy read and just long enough to celebrate the magic! Ms. Geary also introduces a few new characters into the mix that we haven't seen before. Introducing Retha and Michael, parents to the Sullivan Triple Threat: Brothers Devin, Jamie and Matt. Glimpses into this family come from many different angles and it was so wonderful to see the non-witch community members getting into the spirit of a true witch wedding.
 
While this wasn't a full story, it was a celebratory moment that needed to be shared. We should all thank Ms. Geary for giving us this wonderful and rare gift. Rating:
 


 

 

Week 39: September 23 - 29, 2012 A Reckless Witch (A Modern Witch Series) by Debora Geary

So far, Ms. Geary has been sharing the lives of Aunt Moira's family in her Modern Witch Series of books. In A Reckless Witch, Nell's fetching spell goes out into the modern world and brings home a lost soul of sorts in the form of Sierra Brighton. Her momma has shown her many tricks, but she is no longer with her and now Sierra must perform the biggest one of them all - get a job and get on with her life.
 
Sierra's ability to mess with the weather seems like fun for her, but causes a lot of trouble for some others in the witch community and their friends. TJ Hamblin and his best friend Govin are meteorologist (Weather Genius) and mathematician. Together they watch the world's weather patterns and save lives when things get out of control weather-wise.
 
Before she knows it, Sierra is being wisked away via bus to California from Oregon to start her new life. The one she has been waiting for the last six years. The family takes her in and makes her one of their own. They show her how to take her skills that her momma has shown her and make them better, stronger and safer. Sierra is not reckless, she's just doesn't know any better. She's about to meet another reckless soul and get a new home and family in the process.
 
Ms. Geary's books have kept me enthralled for weeks now. I hope that she finishes her next book soon, because I am getting close to the end of what she's already published! Take the time to read these books, because you'll get a good dose of witch reality. The stories are becoming stronger and keep the reader wanting more. This is by far, the best book in the series. The excitement mounts from the first page and much like a good storm, builds to an amazing crescendo! Join the ride...it's truly amazing! Rating:

 

 
Week 38: September 16 - 22, 2012 A Hidden Witch (A Modern Witch Series) by Debora Geary


Ms. Geary continues her Modern Witch Series with the next installment, A Hidden Witch. This time, the readers are transported (not teleported!) to Nova Scotia, and the small town of Fisher's Cover, where Aunt Moira lives. Moira is the matriarch of the family/witching community and beloved historian. Her beliefs in tradition have been passed down to all in the community, especially her granddaughter, Elorie Shaw.

 

 
A talented sea glass artist, Elorie has been a part of the witch community since birth, but she was one of the unlucky few who never developed any talent, or so the family thought. While this is very painful for Elorie to accept that she will never have any witching capabilities, her beliefs in the old school ways have afforded her the opportunity to teach the young witchlings and still be a part of this history rich family.
 
When Elorie is wisked away into Witch's Chat, the family sets out to unravel the mystery of Elorie's hidden talent. They are all about to step into the "Modern" age and discover a new form of magic that not only Elorie possesses, but a few other of the younger witches as well. Elorie finds it hard to believe but when she visits the rest of the clan on an art trip to California, she may be convinced otherwise, although it is going to take a bit of work to make that happen.
 
With the help of the younger witchlings, and the support of Aunt Moira, her sister Sophie, Nell, Lauren, and the rest of the family, Elorie is about to embark upon a whole new chapter that brings significant changes to  the witching community and herself. Mind, earth, fire, water, air, healers, spellcoders, and now there is....wait! You'll have to read the book to find out!
 
I have to admit, I am becoming more and more enthralled in these "paranormal" books. I thought they would be all dark and gory, but I am finding that this may not be the case. I have always thought that I might have some hidden talent somewhere, that secret inner voice and the uncanny ability to connect to things that I cannot explain. Maybe this is why I can't put these books down.
 
Debora Geary has a magical way of weaving part romance, part mystery, part fantasy and part elemental  witch history into a enthralling tale that keeps the reader engaged to the point of being unable to put the book down, and wanting more. Rating:
 

Week 38: September 16 - 22, 2012 Must Love Large Dogs by Pat Dale

 

Reading Romances Challenge for September
 
This month's challenge for Reading Romances was to pick a book from one of the following areas:
TOPICS:
1) Read a classic romance.
 
THEMES:
2) Read a book with an animal on its cover.
3) Urban Fantasy with a strong romance line and strong, kick-ass heroine.
 
SPECIAL EVENTS:
4) Editors and Writers Month: Read a book where a character is in the writing field (author, writer, journalist, publisher, editor, etc)
5) Pirate day: Read a book that involves Pirates or other sea-faring characters, like Vikings, Ship Captains, etc..
6) Read a Book Day: Read a book that you have been meaning to read or a book that has been neglected in a series or a challenge or a random book that caught your fancy when you were browsing.

I chose to go with a theme this time and read a book with an animal on its cover entitled Must Love Large Dogs by Pat Dale.

What a refreshing change of pace to read a story from the perspective of the dog!  Teddy is a Great Pyrenees/Alaskan Malamute and has an eye for the ladies. Well, lady dogs that is and there is one about to permanently turn his head.
Andrea Sharpe, love large dogs and especially Teddy. Unfortunately she lost the love of her life and has been trying to replace him for the last four years. Pour Teddy has been watching as she has paraded...wait for it...eight, yes I said, "eight" different men into the house since Thomas Sharpe was killed in that tragic car crash.
Andrea didn't find Teddy until husband number two, but that doesn't matter because as soon as she saw him, it was love at first sight and they have become inseparable. Andi and Teddy live in a beautiful house in The Hamptons and Theo, or rather Theophiles Kerikades takes care of them. Theo is the resident gardener/chauffeur/fixit guy who happens to love Teddy and I think Andi too!
Andrea is about to throw one of the most prestigious events in The Hamptons but unfortunately she's also just hired the wrong caterer. I won't spill the beans why, but I will say that it is dog fate! When one thing leads to another and then another and then another, it just seems like the dog hi-jinxs will never end.
This is a cute and romantic story on every level. I love dogs, so naturally I was hooked from the first page, especially since Teddy was telling the story. I almost had it figured out too, but then I should have known this was the better way to end it! It's obvious the author has a great affinity for large dogs, so why not write a story with one in it! Must Love Large Dogs by Pat Dale is a short story, but long enough to get the all the details in and tell it without adding any extras that aren't necessary.
There are some truly laughable and realistic moments and I might add, I can actually see some of them happening in real life! Dogs are really smart and as humans, we tend to forget that. It was nice to have Teddy remind us of that! Rating:

 



Week 37: September 9 - 15, 2012 Getting the Pretty Back: Friendship, Family and Finding the Perfect Lipstick by Molly Ringwald
Ok, I have to admit it...the pretty in pink girl can write and she has a lot of really good things to say! In a previous post I wrote, You Just Never Know..., I talked about where we find our inspiration. I found a whole bunch of inspiration throughout this entire book. It's literally falling off the pages, so to speak.
 
What is surprising to me that someone like Ms. Ringwald would have anything of value to inspire me. I mean seriously here, she's an actress and a mother. Two things that I am not. She has gobs more money than I do, so why should she be writing a book on how to "get the pretty back". What could she possibly have to say that would make me listen, let alone want to read? 
 
Well...try this:
 
"Life seems particularly skilled at throwing distractions, obstacles, and outright roadblocks in our path. One of the hardest parts of dealing with the inevitable complexities of managing to pursue what inspires and fulfills us is that much of the time we get in our own way." 
 
"Once you start living your life entirely for someone or something else - whether it's familial, social, or professional responsibilities wholly motivating you - then you find yourself in a life that doesn't seem to belong to you."
 
 

 

And for those of you that are single...here's a little something just for you on the "great aspects to being unattached" (from page 114 of  Getting the Pretty Back: Friendship, Family and Finding the Perfect Lipstick by Molly Ringwald):
 
  1. The ability to travel anytime, anywhere without having to sync up your schedule with anyone else's.
  2. Not having to switch off holidays to be with "his" family or "your" family.
  3. Being in charge of the remote.
  4. Handing back the child (after he or she crashes from the sugar high).
  5. Flirting with whomever you choose.
  6. Psychic space.
  7. More talk about sex - less about real estate.
  8. Sanctionable selfishness.
  9. Making an "X" in the bed.
  10. Falling in love again.
And if this isn't enough of a reason to read this book, then perhaps you'd like to read why on the fact that even though good friends can be really inspiring, there is "nothing quite so demoralizing as a bad friend." Clearly, this is a book that all of us women, no matter the age, should be reading. Rating:
 

Week 36: September 2 - 8, 2012 A Modern Witch (A Modern Witch Series) by Debora Geary

I've been reading a few fun and quirky paranormal books as of late and that was what I was expecting when I found Debora Geary's A Modern Witch. But I can definitely tell you that this one was way more than what I was expecting...and in a very good way!
I was hooked almost immediately with Lauren and her friend Nat. I don't know if it was due to the fact that the story was based in Chicago and Berkeley and the fact that I used to live near Chicago growing up as a child and I live near Berkeley now. (How uncanny is that?) Perhaps it is due to the fact that there are so many other elements in the story that I could relate to...family, similar to those portrayed by Nat's family and by Nell, Jamie, Sophie, Aunt Moira, Jennie, little Aervyn and the rest of the clan. I know what it is...it's because Ms. Geary has weaved in the new (modern) elements of today's real life with history, tradition, and a deeper understanding of the things around us and how they can enhance our lives.
Actually, I think it is really all of the above and so much more. I really felt that the story was believable in the sense that perhaps there really are people out there that have "gifts" that they don't really understand but somehow have tapped into them in order to make their lives easier. Whether one could call that being a "witch" is subject to the "user" and if they choose to believe in it or not. I am sure that there are many "users" out there that hold very strong beliefs.
The vivid descriptions of what Lauren goes through as she learns to harness her newly found powers is extraordinary. There were points throughout the story truly made me feel that I was standing/sitting right alongside her as the developments unfolded. This was especially so during the big circle gathering when Lauren was finally able to show the family that she was up to being little Aervyn's channeler. Their kindred spirits are entwined with love and trust for each other and themselves.
Now as much as I would love to tell you what little Aervyn does during the circle, I won't! You'll just have to read the story for yourself. But I will say this, it was not at all what I was expecting! In fact everything that little Aervyn does is not what I would expect a four year old to do, but that is what makes him a truly loveable character.
One of the things that I love about this story is seeing several women really come across as being strong and independent, yet loving and family oriented. Not a lot of mushy romance, but more real life with a bit of mystical, magical and surreal moments. I really didn't want the story to end and am glad there are more books in this series. Rating:

 

 
Week 35: August 26 - September 1, 2012 Capital Magic by Mindy Klasky 

Pair up a witch and a sphinx and what do you get? It's the next book by Mindy Klasky, Capital Magic featuring Jane Madison and introducing, Sarah Anderson as the Sphinx, an ancient protector of vampires.
What have I got myself into? I swore I wasn't going to read any books with vampires in them, and what do I do, I read one anyway. It wasn't on purpose though, I just wanted to find out what Jane was going to do now that she's given her notice to the Peabridge Library and has to move out. Is she really going to start that school with David and move in with him or not? She can't decide just yet.
Sarah Anderson is a night clerk for the District of Columbia Night Court. Stopping by the bakery, she overhears Jane talking about what she wants to do with the rest of  her life. Sensing some sort of connection, Sarah reaches out to Jane asking for assistance with a project involving books. Jane is intrigued so she decides to investigate.Little did Jane know what she was getting herself into. Magically books, vampires, and a sphinx! Fortunately Jane has Neko to help her and of course, David is always a frantic call away.
The good news is that this book is a really fast read. And, I am very happy to report that I didn't completely abhor it because of the vampire aspect. In fact, I hardly noticed it at all because it just seemed to fit. The best part was reading the awesome scene where Sarah goes up against a really strong vampire and defeats her! Nothing like seeing a strong woman beating the odds! Loved that part the most! Rating:

 

Week 34: August 19 - 25, 2012 Magic and the Modern Girl (Jane Madison Series) by Mindy Klasky
 
Okay! So I read one quirky paranormal romance/mystery and now I can't seem to stop reading them. You're probably thinking "Enough already!", but truthfully, I can't seem to help myself. These days, my waking hours are long and demanding and when I get home at night, I really need to unwind with something that I don't have to think about too much. These books that I've been reading seem to be just the ticket.
Jane hasn't been using her magic. In fact, you could say she's been very neglectful. Her powers have dwindled, her books are fading, her bits and bobbles are disappearing, and her relationships with her warder is practically non existent. Not only does she have to deal with all of that, but her Grandmother is getting married, her best friend finally has a boyfriend, and Jane thinks she's finally found her guy!
So what's this Modern Witch to do? Well she's going to have to pull out all the stops and get help from everyone in order to make things right. She creates an Anima, named Arial, and of course, things go completely wrong because she doesn't focus and just about loses all the magic she has left! What a mess! Now Jane needs to convince Grandma, her mom Clara, her familiar Neko and David, her warder and protector, to help her.
The rest of the story lumbers along, and doesn't move at the same clip as the previous stories. It took me a bit longer to get thru it and sometimes I found my self skipping ahead just to get to the good parts. The interaction between Neko and Jane was limited, due to Neko moving out, and the same with David, but due to the mere fact that Jane hasn't used her magic.
It was interesting to see Jane get a boyfriend who she could finally open up to, but I didn't see that relationship going anywhere. It was so obvious that she had feelings for David, all the way back to the first book in the series. But nothing keeps a reader interested more than unrequited love or in this case, indecisive love.
The climax, naturally, happens at Grandma's wedding! But since I don't want to give away the story, I will just end and say, that if you're following the series, you will need to read this in order to find out if Jane gets her magic back or not. Rating:

 
Week 33: August 12 - 18, 2012 Always the Designer, Never the Bride by Sandra D. Bricker

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Always the Designer, Never the Bride by Sandra D. Bricker concentrates on Audrey Regan, up and coming wedding dress designer who is riding into Atlanta on fumes, because she is on the last legs of her business. Her big break is about to hit the skids and she's going to have to layoff her assistant Kat unless something happens and quick.

 
Audrey is in Atlanta for her best friends wedding not only to be her Maid of Honor, but as the designer of her wedding dress. Of course, there is no one else that would make her dress. A nice twist to the story is the bride, Carly who is marrying Devon, who is a part of the armed forces and about to ship off again for another tour of duty. (Hmmm...I wonder if this is the next story, although not sure how that would work for this wedding related series.)
 
Devon's brother, J.R. has arrived into town on his Harley. Here for just the wedding, but he not about to stay very long because he's a wanderer and loner so to speak; concentrating on growing his bike restoration business. Similar to Audrey in the sense that she is trying to build her business, but running out of ideas. I think that is why there is such a connection between the two of them. I really like the fact that they are slowly learning to trust themselves and don't just jump into any kind of relationship, with anybody.
 
All the previous characters are involved in this book. In fact, they are becoming very involved with each others lives. A few funny moments are also included as with the first two stories. Sandra has done an excellent job in character development. The reader really gets to understand how important each person is to the others in all of the stories. As such, I would be hard pressed to say that it would be okay to read this without reading the other two books of the series first, which I think Ms. Bricker would appreciate! While all of the main characters in these books have a creative aspect to them, this one speaks to me the most as I am a designer, in other genres mind you, but a designer nonetheless. Rating:
 
 
Week 32: August 5 - August 11, 2012 Lucy Wagner Gets In Shape by Claire Matthews

 
Reading Romances Challenge for August
This month's challenge for Reading Romances was to pick a book from one of the following areas:
TOPICS:
 
1) Read a book that has been made into a movie.

2) Read a book with an older Hero or heroine (AT LEAST mid-to-late thirties).

THEMES: 
3) Read a novel that is classified as “chick-lit” or a light, humorous book about a young single, working woman in an urban setting.

4) Read a book that has a character that is involved in any type of arts (music, dance, literature, etc).

 
SPECIAL EVENTS:
5) Read a book that features a “friendship” as its main storyline.
I chose to read Theme #3 and found a good choice with a  "chick-lit" story called Lucy Wagner Gets In Shape by Claire Matthews.
If you're going to get in shape, might as well have a good reason to do it and Lucy Wagner sure found a way. Of course she didn't expect her lying, cheating scoundrel of a boyfriend to be the reason. She should have known though...all the signs were there, but in my opinion, good riddance.
I can't tell you how happy I was when she kicked the jerk to the curb. Not only did she not stand for it, she stood up for herself and didn't let him railroad her into anything. Thank goodness she has two really good friends to help her through it. Both Jen and Will stood by her through this time and Jen showed Lucy that there was so much more to Will than she realizes.
Lucy has so much going on...she had to defend her paper, find a job, dissolve her life from the ex-boyfriend and then show him that she can do something he thought she would never do...participate in an athletic event and finish! She drafts both Jen and Will to do it with her and along the way, not only does she get in shape physically, but emotionally as well. Her whole life is in need of a makeover and it's about time she realizes that she is this confident, bright and intelligent woman who can do anything.
I thought the book was not overly dramatic, but rather, matter of fact. I saw a woman, who didn't wallow in self pity and let her life go. Although I don't think her friends would have allowed that to happen. It was really nice to see Lucy gain control of her life and go after things that she wanted, even though she thought she probably would never get them. She even reconnects with her father, finds a love that she didn't know she could have and jets that job.
Oh and let's not forget that she shows the "ex" a thing or two about determination, and finishing something she started. Rating:
Week 31: July 29 - August 4, 2012 A Total Waste of Makeup by Kim Gruenenfelder
Sometimes you just have to read a book for the sake of just reading a book save for the fact that you need an escape. This is just that book. While I was not overly impressed with it, A Total Waste of Makeup by Kim Gruenenfelder allowed me to forget about my own problems for awhile and let me concentrate on Charlize "Charlie" Edwards issues.
 
Going back and reviewing the book now for details and substance just left me flat. As I sit here and struggle with what to say, maybe that's the whole point. Maybe the story is not suppose to be anything more than a helpful distraction from one's everyday life.
 
Not everyone is going to be as lucky as Charlie who happens to own her own home, have a great job and fabulous friends. But such as it is, Charlie is writing a book of advice for her great grandneice and the pearls of wisdom she shares are not completely far off the mark.
 
Her antics with finding a man are a bit much, but let's face it, the story takes place in L.A. so I guess some women in L.A. act like that.I think that some of the funniest moments were her interactions with her boss, Drew Stantion, the movie star. His ever changing decor of his trailer and home was OTT and honestly, hilarious.
 
While I didn't think this was an absolute must have for anyone's library, I will say that A Total Waste of Makeup wasn't a total waste of time, if you take it for a distraction from your own life. Rating:
 
 
Week 30: July 22 - 28, 2012 A Time to Love (Quilts of Lancaster County, Book 1) by Barbara Cameron
Sometimes when I want to get back to the simple things in life, I will pick up a book about Amish Life and read it. While A Time to Love, by Barbara Cameron may be a work of fiction, it teaches us about what is really important in life...love and family.
 
Jenny has come home, at least the only real home she has ever known. She needs to heal, physically, mentally and spiritually. She's been severely injured and now all she needs is time...to rethink, recover, and reacquaint herself with someone from her past.
 
Her grandmother is here to help her and also the neighbor, Matthew. Jenny remembers Matthew from oh so long ago. He was her first crush. But now how can she possibly be anything to anyone since the accident. Despite the disapproval from the elders in the Amish community. Jenny befriends Matthew and his young family. She learns along the way the sometimes the more simple things in life are the ones that matter the most.
 
Ms. Cameron has done such a wonderful job with portraying what could be a very sad and disheartening event in someone's life and turned it into one filled with hope and reaffirmation that God does have a plan for each and every one of us and that me must listen to Him.
 
If you are looking for a way to decompress from all the stresses of life, then perhaps this is the book to read. It sends a simple, yet effective message to the readers: rejoice in the fact that love and family are two of the most important things in life. Everything else is a distance third or fourth.  
 
Oh and I don't want to forget the nice extra touches...the recipes!

Rating:

 

Week 29: July 15 - 21, 2012 Sorcery and the Single Girl (Jane Madison Series) by Mindy Klasky

 

Wow! Wow...oh...wow...oh...wow!!! Do not expect the expected with this one. I knew that this book was going to be more intriguing but I didn't expect a little mystery to be a much bigger mystery. So much so that I had a really hard time putting down Sorcery and the Single Girl by Mindy Klasky.
 
Jane is back again, but this time things are bit more complicated. The I.B. is gone, but a new mystery man named Graeme has shown up. The Washington Coven has just summon Jane and Neko has been on the prowl and brought home a new playmate named Jacques who happens to be one of the men Melissa has dated.
 
Grandma and Clara are worried about Jane. Jane is besotted with Graeme and Melissa is feeling a bit left out. Neko is  being...well...he's being Neko. All is not well though because Jane has been requested to do something very, very important for the coven. If she is not successful, she'll lose everything. And where is David, Jane's trusty warder, you might ask? He's doing his darndest to protect her, keep her focused and prepare her for the biggest magical challenge she'll have faced so far.
 
In the meantime, someone or something is sending out messages and this is where the mystery comes in. Believe me when I tell you I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure this one out. It took awhile and was delightfully surprised at the end when I realized that I didn't have the whole thing solved.
 
Ms. Klasky has really developed the characters in this book and it was truly exciting to see how the dynamics change within their environment. Truly makes me wonder where they might be heading. Although...I pretty sure I know where that might be...or do I...
Rating:

 

 
Week 28: July 8 - 14, 2012 Always the Wedding Planner, Never the Bride by Sandra D. Bricker

This is the second in a series of what I am affectionately calling "Always the (fill in the blank here), Never the Bride" by Sandra D. Bricker. This time around we meet Sherilyn Caine who has just landed the perfect fiance and the dream job of a lifetime.
 
Anyway, the soon to be Mr. & Mrs. Deliriously Happy are on the way back to Atlanta and Sherilyn is headed to The Tanglewood Inn to start her new job. Good thing she is friends with Emma because she's going to need her as she settles into her new life and everything else that is about to happen. Sherilyn is going to need a lot of help as she is about to have a whole lot come crashing down in her lap. And I do mean "crashing" down into her lap. (Note: This is a hint! 🙂 )
 
Ms. Bricker is learning to mix an eclectic set of characters and weave in an interesting scenario to capture the reader's and make them want to read more and more. Take a newly happy couple, a set of sisters, and a beautiful inn, add one new wedding planner, three wedding dresses, a resigned future bride-to-be with an over-bearing and controlling mother-in-law, and a quirky yet lovable dog that nobody wants. Mix in an Actor who needs a wee bit of help with the bottle and you get Always the Wedding Planner, Never the Bride.
 
Ms. Bricker has done a marvelous job adding some very funny moments in the story, while keeping others quite poignant. Again, remember this is a Christian-based romance, so you won't see a lot of the traditional intimate "couple scenes", but you do get a wonderful flavor for what it is like to be a wedding by the added extras after each chapter. I really enjoyed this part most of all. Makes the book seem more realistic and for those reading it who really are planning their weddings, there are some wonderful tips to follow. Rating:
Week 27: July 1 - 7, 2012 Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips 

Reading Romances Challenge for July
 

 

 
This month's challenge for Reading Romances was to pick a book from one of the following areas:
TOPICS:

  1. Read a book that has a "male profile" on the cover. OR,
  2. Read a book that is currently at the top bestselling romances. OR,
  3. Read a book that is part of a series (Don't forget to name the series and what Book number it is). OR
  4. Reread a favorite book.

 

THEMES:

  1. Read a book that has one of the following words in its title: summer, heat, hot, scorching, fire, sizzle, flame or burn; or has a Hot Summer theme cover. OR,
  2. Read a book that has a “Western” theme. (Think cowboys, etc. Can be historical or contemporary). OR,
  3. Read a book that has a princess or prince as a character; or a book inspired by a fairytale.
SPECIAL EVENTS:

  1. U.F.O. Day:
  • Read a book with space-travel or a sci-fi  book.
  • Read a book set in another planet or involves space travel or has aliens in it.

 

I chose to read a book that has a "Western" theme, Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Call Me Irresistible.
It's really not Meg's fault. It's not her fault at all. Ted is all wrong for Lucy and Meg knows it. It's not that she wanted to break up the wedding and have Ted all for herself. It's really isn't, but once it happens,the entire town of Wynette, Texas has it out for Meg.
Now Lucy has run away and Meg is left to clean up the mess. Left with out any money, and cut off by her family because of this huge misunderstanding, she must know use her wits to get what she needs in order to move on with her life.
Ted Beaudine is what every woman would call, Mr. Irresistible. He is the hometown hero as it were and a professional golf player who is trying to do something to help Wynette by building a "green" golf course to entice more tourists to the area while also being "kind" to the environment.
So what's a girl to do? Well, she'll scrub toilets, make beds, live in a renovated church and drive the drink cart around the local country club golf course. Oh and let's throw in a little mystery while we're at it! Along the way, Meg really does fall in love with the heartthrob and ends up saving the whole town to boot! Rating:

Week 26: June 24 - 30, 2012 Always the Baker, Never the Bride by Sandra D. Bricker

 
This is the first in a series of what I like to call "Always the (fill in the blank here), Never the Bride" by Sandra D. Bricker. There is just something about weddings that is sort of magical, isn't there. Unfortunately my wedding wasn't all that magical, so I think that is why I enjoy reading stories about them! I love living vicariously through my books!
At first glance, you might think that this series is going to be similar to that of Nora Robert's Series, The Bride Quartet. For those of you that read her series, you will see some similarities:
1.  Each series is about weddings;
2.  Each is about a specific person that helps to plan weddings;
3.  Each takes place in a venue that holds weddings.
 
But that is where the similarities end. Starting with Always the Baker, Never the Bride we meet Emma Rae who has just won a very prestigious award that is about to put her on the "Pastry Chef Map" as it were. What makes this so remarkable is that she has rarely tasted any of her creations, if at all, so she must rely on her trusty sidekick, Fiona, to taste everything for her. Currently working at a popular bakery, she meets Jackson Drake, who stops in for a coffee and some delicious treats that he takes back to his business...a run down hotel that he is renovating to it's former glory.
Okay, I guess we can see where this is going, at least I can. I've read enough romance novels to know where each is going to end up. What is wonderful about this series though is that it is Christian-based, so it is a sweet romance that leaves the intimacies up to the imagination rather than put in print. I also really enjoyed the recipes Ms. Bricker shared at the end of the various chapters. This was a nice added touch for a foodie like myself! Rating:
 
 
Week 25: June 24 - 30, 2012 Girl's Guide to Witchcraft (Jane Madison Series) by Mindy Klasky

 
Since I liked the Mystic Cafe Series, I decided to dig a little deeper into the world of quirky paranormal romance and try another author. Mindy Klasky has created an intriguing and lovable set of characters, especially Jane Madison, her grandmother and her so-called dead mother, Clara,  in the Girl's Guide To Witchcraft.
Jane is a librarian at a small, local DC library that desperately needs more foot traffic. They also don't have a lot of money and have to give Jane a pay cut, but in lieu of that, they give her a place to stay...a dirty, dusty cottage that hasn't been inhabited for years.
With the help of her friend Melissa she moves in and discovers a basement filled with lots and lots of books. Upon closer inspection, she finds them to be all about witchcraft. Hmmm...what has Jane got herself into. Picking up one of the books, she reads a passage only to awaken the cat statue...except he's not a cat, he's a live man now and his name is Neko.
The next thing she knows there's another man at her door and his name is David Montrose and he is tall, dark, handsome and wondering why she has awakened the cat and is using magic, especially since she knows nothing about magic in the first place. The next spell she does causes an unsuspecting co-worker to become smitten with her, but all she really wants is to have is the guy that frequents the reference desk to become her real life boyfriend instead of her imaginary boyfriend or I.B. for short.
Ms. Klasky has managed to to capture my senses and kept me interested. I've found that not only have I learned a bit of history but managed to find an author who's writing I actually like. I am looking forward to reading the rest of this series as it appears to heading in a very interesting direction.
Oh, by the way...I won't divulge if Jane ever gets to turn her I.B. into the real thing. But the magic, well...that's definitely real! Rating:
Week 24: June 17 - 23, 2012 Moving On by Summer Foovey

It has been my pleasure to read Summer Foovey's book; more than you can possibly know. Moving On is the story of Melanie, who sets out on an adventure in her kayak down the Equani River. Totally on her own, she leaves behind her friends and other comforts (well at least what we would call comforts) in search of...well...in search of herself.
In the beginning, I didn't know what I was getting myself into as the author made it seem like the main character was not only saying goodbye to her friends and everything, but really saying "Good Bye". I kept thinking that something of irreversible proportions was going to happen, but it never did. And when I finally figured it out that nothing horrible was ever going to play out, I could finally relax and find the emotional connection that was calling out to me.
Traveling down the river in PJ (her kayak), she says goodbye for one last time to places she's been and animals she has met. Weaving in flashbacks from her past, you see all  of Melanie's pain, all her struggles, and every possible heartache she has had to endure. It's here on the river that she lets go of  her past and allows the pain to float away; she becomes more relaxed and confident in her decision to move on with her life. When she stops to visit one of her favorite places, the home of one of the most elegant water birds, The Great Blue Heron, I began to realize why I had been drawn to this book. It was if I, and I alone, needed to read it.
Sometimes a person's pain hides in very unusual places and then suddenly reappears for no reason at all, if only for the sole purpose of  finally being released and let go forever. While I can truly say that I have never experienced any of the exact trials and tribulations that Melanie has gone through, I can, however, relate to some of the feelings. And as we see Melanie letting go of her past, I too, found myself letting go of my past, of my pain, with each turn of the page. I remembered things that I haven't thought about in so long. While it was troubling to relive some of these feelings, I knew that I had to in order to finally feel the wonderful cathartic release that had been so elusive in my life.
Ms. Foovey's writing is raw, even graphic at times. I have to wonder if there is a part of her somewhere inside of Melanie. The only reason I say this is because I sensed a pain there, calling to me from the pages, that maybe wasn't even Melanie's, especially during the dialogs where Melanie offers the reader advise. Whether that was her intention or not, I hope that by the time Summer finished writing, she also found a way to "move on".
Summer Foovey's book, Moving On is available in an e-reader format and should be added to the top of your list. It's also currently in print under the title, The River Way. Rating:
 

 

Week 23: June 10 - 16, 2012 Summer in Martinstown by Jo Heroux
Reading Romances Challenge for June

 

 
This month's challenge for Reading Romances was to pick a book from one of the following areas:

 
TOPICS:
  1. Read a book that has a reference to a fairytale, either title, character or plot. OR,
  2. Read a book that has an athlete as a character or has a sports-themed plot. OR,
  3. Read a Stand-Alone book.
THEMES: 
  1. Read a book that has Wedding, Marriage, Proposal, Bride, Groom or Engagement in the title or has a Wedding theme cover. OR,
  2. Read an m/m romance book or a book that has at least one prominent gay or lesbian character. OR,
  3. Royalty theme: Read a book that has the words King, Queen, Lord, Earl, Duke, or any other royal title.
SPECIAL EVENTS:
 
  1. Repeat Day (June3) Read a book where the first letter repeats for both an author’s first and last name. (Ex. Lora Leigh, Amanda Ashley, Beverly Barton, etc.)
I chose to read a stand alone book! 

 

Summer in Martinstown by Jo Heroux follows the lives of the Brady family, Madeline and Matthew Brady, daughter Chloe, and sons Johnny and Jimmie through one incredible, life-changing summer.
 
The story takes place in Martinstown, Georgia, where "summers are hot, the neighbors know all your business, and everyone has a kind word to say about you." From the very beginning the author takes us on a descriptive journey that leapt from the speakers of my stereo. Yes, you heard that correctly. I chose to listen to this book, and it was my first ever book on tape (or in this case, CD). There was no particular reason why I chose this book to be in an audio format, except for the fact that at the time, this was the only way I could get it. (Although it is now currently available in an e-reader format.)
The detail to dialog ratio is high. I had not expected this. At first I was a bit overwhelmed and almost off put by the descriptions, but then I  realized that reading a book in an audio format is far different than reading it visually. I was hearing the details in order to capture the visualizations instead of reading (seeing) the words. For me, I don't necessarily have to read every word to get the picture, but in this audio format, I really did need to hear every word, every detail, line by line, in order to get the visualization that I usually see in my mind's eye.I have to wonder if she wrote this book with this in mind, because I don't think that, for me personally, the story would have been as vivid had she'd chosen to write with less description.
 
I must commend Ms. Heroux for her ability to entice the reader into thinking they knew when the pivotal moment was going to happen. She even had me sitting on the edge of my seat, and although I think the story would have been interesting if it had gone that way, when "the" moment did happen, I was not expecting it. In fact, I was stunned! But somehow as I continued to listen, it made sense for it to unfold this way.
 
I won't give away the story, but I will say that, to me, Summer in Martinstown is about a family who has it pretty good, but then is dealt a serious blow that for some would be enough to send them over the edge. And although, it would seem that way, "going over the edge" was far from what the book did. Rather, it took a sharp curve and headed in a new, hopeful and exciting direction for the family.
 
I hope that somewhere down the road Ms. Heroux decides to build upon the characters that she developed here in this charming community of Martinstown. I, for one, will be back to visit if that ever happens.
 
In the meantime, read this one...you won't be disappointed! Rating:
 
Week 23: June 3 - 9, 2012 The Best Thing About My Ass Is That It's Behind Me by Lisa Ann Walter

 
I've always liked Lisa Ann Walter ever since I saw her in the movie, The Parent Trap. Now, I got to know her a little bit thru her book and more recently, thru her radio show, The Fabulous Lisa Ann Walter show on KFI AM 640. But her book, The Best Thing About My Ass Is That It's Behind Me, is probably one of the most honest books I've read in a long time. Too bad I'm *** years old and just read this now, because I sure could have used it when I was in my teens!
Lisa is first and foremost, a comedian. She uses her comedic sense to tell it like it is about everything from dating to loving yourself just as you are and not what the media thinks you should be. Honest, brutally so, and perhaps self-deprecating, but completely real. I for one could identify with it on many levels. Maybe if I had read it before my own cosmetic surgery, I would not have done it. Well, actually I had to for medical reasons, but that's another story.
I love how Lisa interjects her own life into the book, but not making it the focal point. Rather, she uses her own life as an example of what not to do since she's already done it and knows what doesn't work. Reading The Best Thing About My Ass Is That It's Behind Me further solidifies my desire to be happy with what I have, even if it is not the ideal and then go out there and make the most of my life. Rating:

 

Week 22: May 27 - June 2, 2012 Pies and Potions (Mystic Cafe Series) by Rose Pressey
 
Grandma Imelda has come home for a bit to teach Elly about potions in this next installment of the Mystic Cafe Series, Pies and Potions by Rose Pressey! While Elly may finally feel a bit more comfortable with spell casting, potions are a whole other thing. It's a good thing that she can bake though, because that's where the potions are going!
Things are going so much better for Elly than the last time we met her. And the autumnal equinox is almost upon us when the entire town gets the special annual potion. But there wouldn't be a story and it wouldn't be Elly if all went well. This time, the entire town starts acting a bit loopy! Seriously though...it's not Elly's fault and she has to find out what happened and how to fix it.
Unfortunately she's going to have even less help this time because Tom might be back from the Organization but he's lost his investigator privileges. Now the big boss is on his way with the new protege and it looks like the whole town might be shut down...for good. Oh and let's not forget Rory...he thinks that Tom only has eyes for Elly and feels the need to keep a close eye on him.
Another fun and light book to read. I even enjoyed the bit of extra mystery added to the mix. It kept me on the edge and wanting to read more. Hopefully Ms. Pressey will write book 3 soon so we can find out what
happens to Elly and Rory next! Rating:

 

Week 21: May 20 - 26, 2012 No Shoes, No Shirt, No Spells (Mystic Cafe Series) by Rose Pressey
Book One of the Mystic Cafe series finds Elly's world pretty much turned upside down. So when Grandma Imelda calls her to come home to take over for her at the Mystic Cafe so she can retire, Elly decides that anything must be better than where she is at. Time to go home. How hard can it be anyway, it's just a cafe and she does like to cook. To bad she's just about to find out that everything at the Mystic is served with a side order of magic!  
Armed with Grandma's spellbook, magic spices and best friend Mary Jane, Elly starts serving up meals to the locals.Unfortunately, Mary Jane is so awestruck with the latest hottie, Rory Covington, that has just walked in the door that she just served him the wrong order.
Enter Tom Owenton, an investigator for the National Organization for Magic who must investigate this magical mess-up. Hmmm...well, it really wasn't Elly's fault but she takes the blame and now must make amends before the Organization closes down the cafe. But breaking the news to Rory that she accidentally gave him the wrong magic (magic!) just might be the end of any relationship they could have.
There are some comedic moments in the book, especially when all the women in town follow and fawn all over Rory. Rose Pressey has done a great job in keeping this light-hearted and fun! And it definitely is a nice respite from the traditional paranormal books that I have read in the past. Rating: 

 

Week 20: May 13 - 19, 2012 His Wife for A While by Donna Fasano
I was looking for something different than the traditional girl meets boy, they fall in love and live happily ever after. Donna Fasano's book His Wife for Awhile seemed to fall into that something different...to a point. This time the girl, Chelsea, really doesn't want to fall in love with the boy, she just wanted something from the boy. In return she'd help the boy out with his troubles.
The boy, Ben Danvers, is desperate to save his family business (thanks to his granddad), but feels there is no hope since it's getting down to the wire. Enter Chelsea who offers Ben a way out but he must do a little something for her, however I'm not going to tell you what it is because it will give away the story. Let's just say that Ben isn't going to make it all that easy for her.
This was a really quick read and it certainly helped that the story was believable. I liked the fact that it was centered around an orchard since I live in Gravenstein Apple country. Actually, I found some commonalities with the story so I could feel a connection.
If you're looking for something light to read, then this might be the book for you. And while Chelsea and Ben may just fall in love in the end, what they did to help each other was far greater than the easy fix each thought it would be. Rating:

 

 

Week 19: May 6 - 12, 2012  The Summer Garden by Sherryl Woods

 

Reading Romances Challenge for May
This month's challenge for Reading Romances was to pick a book from one of the following areas:

TOPICS:

  1. Read a futuristic or sci-fi romance.
THEMES: 
  1. Read a book by a favorite author or from a favorite genre. OR,
  2. Read a book by recommended by a friend.
SPECIAL EVENTS:
  1. Memorial Day: Read book whose author is now deceased. OR,
  2. Mother’s Day: Read a book where the heroine is a mother, the hero or the heroine spends the book searching for or trying to get to their mother.
I chose to read a book from my favorite author...Sherryl Woods!
And so we go back to yet again another O'Brien family story. This time is is about Luke O'Brien, his discovery in Ireland and the woman he met while he was there "Maddening Moira" O'Malley.
 
Luke has come home from Ireland and has finally decided what he wants to do with his life...open up a truly authentic Irish Pub. While some members of the family doesn't necessarily support his idea, he really feels that this is his shot to prove to everyone (and I think to himself) that he is ready to settle down and be responsible. 
 
Meanwhile, Moira is finally coming into her own and has an opportunity of a lifetime in pursuing her own dreams, but decides to go with her grandfather to the states to visit the O'Brien Clan. This is her chance to see if Luke is really the one for her and decide if she wants to pursue the opportunity that has just been presented to her.
 
As a wonderful backstory, we see Luke's Grandmother and Moira's Grandfather pursuing their own dreams of love and togetherness. Truly lovely to see the lovebirds come together in the twilight of their years and overcome all the obstacles to be together.
 
As in all of Ms. Woods stories about the O'Briens, the characters must work thru their fair share of family interference and concern in order to make it to the end and realize that yes indeed, they were truly meant for each other. While all of these books are meant to be stand alone, they have and will always be a part of the great Chesapeake Shores series. Rating:

 

 
Week 18: April 29 - May 5, 2012 Sending You Sammy by Sarah Butland

 

For those parents that have a hard time getting their children to eat better, then this is the book to read to them. 
At ten years old, Sammy is the perfect age to show his independence and the fact that he's growing up and making more responsible decisions. For his birthday this year he's asked for fruit instead of the usual junk food at his party. Clearly Sammy isn't a little boy anymore...he's growing up.
To make this fun, the author Sarah Butland adds a unique twist. To help reinforce the story line, she introduces a magician (and what kid doesn't like this!) who offers Sammy the opportunity of a lifetime - the chance to be a Superhero! And his name shall be...wait! I'm not going to tell you yet!
What I will tell you is that this is such a great story to share with children on the benefits of making good choices, such as eating healthy fruits and vegetables. There are so many great choices, as Sammy the superhero explains to his friend Jason one evening. Why not make it fun! He's right...there are so many wonderful choices and this story explains it really well, especially in a way that kids will understand.
Ms. Butland takes a difficult topic and makes it fun and relatable! Simple choices, introduced slowly, shows  kids that by exchanging one or two unhealthy junk foods with either a fruit or vegetable will give them more energy and make them feel better. Sending You Sammy makes eating cool! So what's Sammy secret identity? Well he's B...oops! Sorry! You'll just have to read the book! Rating:

 

Week 17: April 22 - 28, 2012 Kiss the Crystal Sun by Penelope King
Reading Romances Challenge for April
 
This month's challenge for Reading Romances was to pick a book from one of the following areas:
TOPICS: Alternate Realities Month!

  1. Read a contemporary book where something is different in the world than what reality reflects. (vampires, magic etc.). OR, 
  2. Read a book set in the future or  a historical with an alternative reality (i.e. steampunk).
THEMES:

  1. Read one book that was nominated for the RITA or Golden Heart award!
SPECIAL EVENTS:

  1. Read an LGBT book, a book with at least 3 of the 7 colours of a rainbow (violet, indigo, blue, green,
    yellow, orange, red) on it’s cover, or a book with a title that includes the word: dream/s, wish/es, or rainbow. OR,
  2. Read a book with an accountant/book-keeper character, or due to a shortage of funds, read a free or borrowed (library, friend etc) book.

Kiss the Crystal Sun is the second book in the Spellbound Trilogy. Calista's story continues where we left off in Witchy, Witchy. Justin and Nicholas are gone and Calista is left to wonder what will happen and we are left to ponder how she will deal with them the situation.As any true reader will know, there is always going to be more to the story than just the current story line.

Penelope King must begin to reveal more about Calista in order for us to find out who she really is...and so she did. Unfortunately, Calista is about to discover all that was once true is now, in fact, a lie. The reasons behind her mother's death, her birthright, the reason she can no longer see into the future...all of it is revealed in this book.

The heroine's desire to learn more about her past drives her to find the
answers...no matter the cost. Since she has only recently found out about her powers, she still struggles to find a sense of normalcy. However, her longing to find the truth is challenged by her youth and
she must rely on her instinct to see her through the challenges she faces, no matter what the wisdom influences in her life tell her.

In keeping with consistency of the previous book, Witchy, Witchy, the author has waited to the very end to deliver the awaited cliffhanger, which can only be described as "like mother, like daughter". Or not...

I had originally thought I wouldn't like the series, merely because of my history with another famous witch/wizard storyline. However, I have to say that I have been captivated by this one and only hope that Ms. King will hurry up and finish the last book of the trilogy so I can see how it ends. Rating:

 

Week 16: April 15 - 21, 2012 Maid for the Billionaire (Legacy Collection, Book 1) by Ruth Cardello

I found out about this book through an email notification I received from about free books for my Kindle. At the time, I was looking for romance novels and came across this one hoping it would be just what I needed to escape from reality for awhile. 

So the story goes that Abigail Dartley takes a cleaning job that her sister should have done, but because she's the responsible one, Abby fills in for her. While working, she meets the owner of the house, Dominic Corisi and her first impression of him is that he "looked more tired than a man of his age should." Then she refers to him as "Mr. Armani." Are you getting the picture yet?

Shaping up to be a cliched romance of huge proportions, I read on and got swept away by the story. It's not a case of opposites attracting but rather two worlds colliding. Dominic is used to getting what he wants no matter what and Abby wants to do the right thing.

An out of the country business trip takes both of them on a journey that neither ever expected. While some of the details were a bit of stretch for reality purposes, let's remember that this is a work of romance fiction. Most of us who read this genre do so purely for the sake of escaping every day life.

I found it a bit refreshing to see Abby not only stand up herself, but show that she really has more to offer the world than what she has had the opportunity to do thus far in her life. Having to make decisions she never had to do before, she went out on a limb and showed some chutzpah, even if it was the exact opposite of what Dominic wanted.

Setting aside the issues with grammar, etc., the story itself was not bad. I liked the fact that it was Book One of ? and ended with the type of cliffhanger that I expected. I look forward to Book Two. Rating:

 

 
 
Week 15: April 8 - 14, 2012 The Wedding Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini
 
Let's just get this out of the way right off the bat...I am a huge fan of Jennifer Chiaverini. She is from my home state of Wisconsin and I have seen her twice now when she has come to California to research and promote her books. With that being said...
 
The Wedding Quilt held great expectations for me as I was finally going to find out the identities of Sarah and Matthew McClure's babies. I was so excited to begin reading then quickly found out that the story actually takes place light years ahead at the wedding of daughter, Caroline to her beau, Leo. Wow! I was completely stunned and actually felt a little cheated out of all those years that I missed and were only touched on through reminiscing passages in the
book. However I happily continued reading.
 
The story actually takes place the week of the wedding and walks through some of Sarah's memories of years gone by. It brings to light more details of where some of the characters are after all these many years and what is to become of the future for them.
 
Overall I would have to say that this probably wasn't my most favorite book of the series. But in all honesty, I think I need to start over and begin to read them from the first book forward so I can capture some of the details that I have long since forgotten and probably glossed over the first time through.With this being said, I am going to give this book a low rating for now until I can come back and re-read it again. Maybe my mind will change, but I was left with a sad disappointment that this book really wasn't what I had thought it would be. Rating:
 
Week 14: April 1 - 7, 2012 Moonlight on the Nantahala by Michael Rivers
 
World Literary Cafe Book Review
 
Moonlight on the Nantahala, by Michael Rivers is the story of Edward Caulfield and three women who have been very important in his life. His love for his wife, Celia, whom he lost after a few short years together, lasted his whole life. There was never another for him and he lived out his life in remembrance of her.
 
Now as he is in the twilight of his life, he meets a young woman, Lena, who has has seen off and on for the last several years walking on his property. They strike up a tentative friendship that develops over time. While Edward senses something troubling the Lena, he is content to just sit and talk, until he sees that maybe he can offer her something that she obviously doesn't have, security in a relationship where she is free to reveal her troubles. Their conversations reveal Edward's life story and Lena's struggles in dealing with her controlling mother, absent father and abusive husband.
 
Betty is Edward's housekeeper and friend of many years. She is sassy and not afraid to tell Edward like it is. Edward is grateful for her companionship and for being there when he has needed her. In return for her staying with him all these many years, he has taken care of financially and given her a home after the loss of her husband.
 
While I was somewhat apprehensive about reading another book outside of my usual comfort zone, I was instantly drawn to the characters and the idea that friendship and love has no boundary, least of all age, gender or death. I understand why Edward is drawn to Lena because he sees so much of Celia in her. Lena, on the other hand is troubled over her family and husband and doesn't know what to do about her life. I love the fact that Lena becomes stronger and more in control the longer she spends time and talks with Edward.
 
Love comes in many different forms. Edward loved Celia, but also showed his love for Lena just by being there for her during her time of need. And Betty, she showed her love for Edward by taking care of him during his golden years and looking out for him as he forged his friendship with Lena. And Celia, while gone for many, many years, showed her loved for all three by making herself known at many crucial moments in the story. She was as real as you could possibly imagine.
 
Each has lost something from their lives, yet they've gained something far greater than any could ever imagine - love and friendship, transcending all else, and standing the test of time.
 
While this book can be read in an afternoon, I found the characters to be real and believable, and the story compelling enough to want to read it again and take a bit more time to absorb all the nuances of feelings that leaped from the pages. Find a quiet place to read this and if it happens to be on a rainy Saturday afternoon, then you won't be disappointed. Rating:
 
 
Week 13: March 25 - 31, 2012 The Gin & Chowder Club by Nan Rossiter
 
I love to read stories from authors where the characters are developed over several books. When I find an author I really love, I will read practically every book they have ever written. I think I have found my next new author to follow in Nan Rossiter...
 
Earlier this year, I read a short story from Ms. Rossiter, Christmas on Capecod. Here I was introduced to Asa Coleman, his son Noah and Maddie, his best friend. When I finished, I secretly yearned to read more about the Coleman family, but never spoke the wish out loud. I was pleasantly surprised when Ms. Rossiter contacted me directly to thank me for the review and asked if I would like to read another story of hers, The Gin & Chowder Club, a prequel to the story I had just read and reviewed. Needless to say, I said "Yes!"; and I must tell you, I was not disappointed.
 
Prequels are a whole other style of book to read because you have already been introduced to characters that you feel close to, but at a time much later than the prequel you're about to read. With this in mind, I had to forget about what I had already read, let go of any preconceived notions, and open myself up to a world of possibilities.
 
The Gin & Chowder Club shares the story of two families and their friendship during a summer on Cape Cod. What I was not expecting was the story of young Asa, on the verge of college, falling in love with Noelle, the wife of his father's best friend. Noelle is not a "Mrs. Robinson", as she is much younger than her husband. However, she is a bit older than Asa. Despite this, Noelle and Asa find themselves drawn to each other; so much so that they can't help but to complete their connection towards one another. I understood their longing, and the qualms about acting upon their feelings. But then I had to read in angst and feel my heart sink in despair as I watched each deal with the aftermath of their actions.
 
When Asa went away to college, I had hoped he would wake up to the error of his mistake, but then stopped myself and realized that I should not expect any less of him as he continued to act upon his feelings for Noelle. He was young and this was his first real experience of love. Should I expect the typical happily ever after? No, that would be foolish of me and totally destroy the purpose of the entire story. As it is, who would have ever expected the events that were about to unfold. Sure not I, the clever reader. Normally at this point, I probably would have put the book down and walked away because of the intensity of emotions leaping across the pages. However, I was compelled to finish. I just had to know how the author was going to connect this story to the one I had read earlier. Without giving away any more of the story, I will tell you now that you need to read this...probably with a box of tissue nearby.
 
The Gin & Chowder Club, is a love story, but shows so much more than the sweet side of love. I learned more about Asa Coleman than I had ever expected. The events of that summer and the subsequent year at college, show me how he became the man as seen in Christmas at Cape Cod. Nan Rossiter wrote this story with such care and tenderness, you can't help but feel every emotion shared by Asa and Noelle. If there is anything that I can say then it is this...you will not be sad when you reach the last page of the book. Because in the end, Noelle will have given Asa the greatest gift she could have ever give him. Rating:
 
 
Week 12: March 18 - 24, 2012 Just Breathe by Susan Wiggs
 
Reading Romances Challenge for March
 
This month's challenge for Reading Romances was to pick a book from one of the following areas:
 
Topics:
1. Read a book whose author either has a three-word name or carries an official middle initial.OR, 
2. Read a book that you have previously started and meant to continue, but keep failing to do so.
 
Themes:
1. Read a book that is set in Scotland or has a Highlander as a character. OR, 
2. Read a book with a medical theme, plot, cover, or setting.
 
Special Events:
1. International Women's Month - Read a book that has a single female figure on the cover. OR, 
2. Reading Romance's Blogiversary - Read a book that has been reviewed or featured at the blog.
 
I chose to read a book that I had previously started...
 
I actually started Susan Wigg’s Just Breathe a long time ago and I recently unearth it from the underside of my bed. After the first few pages, I remembered that I had indeed started it, but wasn’t sure how far I had gotten.It’s the story of Sarah Moon, a comic strip writer, and her husband Jack, an architect, trying to have a child. Unfortunately Sarah is having a very difficult time getting pregnant, so she and Jack decide to go and get fertility treatments in hopes that it will increase her chances for having a child. While all this is going on her husband Jack gets sick, and Sarah must put her plans on hold in order to care for him.

 
After Jack gets well, they continue on with trying to get pregnant and go on with their everyday lives. Sarah continues to write her comic strip where art imitates life and Jack designs and builds houses. The tedium is getting to Jack and unbeknownst to Sarah her marriage to Jack is slowly unraveling. The proverbial light bulb goes on when one day Sarah decides to visit her husband at one of his jobsites. What she finds is not what she was expecting – Jack with another woman. Fleeing the scene she goes home completely devastated. Knowing now that her marriage is over she decides to leave and go home to California.
 
With the help of her family and the people in the community, she begins to start her life over. She reconnects with her high school friends and their families. She also meets up with Will Bonner, a boy she once had a thing for in high school, and his daughter, Aurora. Trying to settle into a new life, Sarah discovers that she is finally pregnant. Big surprise!
 
The rest of the story is how Sarah deals with all of this, including how she copes with her soon to be ex-husband, his family and the impending birth of her child. Susan Wiggs has a wonderful way of developing the back story of the story as there are plenty of back stories in this novel – Will and Aurora, Will and his firefighting crew, Aurora and her friends, Sarah and her Dad/Grandmother.
 
Many of you might wonder why I chose this book as the Reading Romances Challenge for March. While on the surface, it wouldn't appear to be a romance, but as the reader, you really need to look deeper and I think you'll see why I believe this is a true romance...in disguise. Love is lost, love is a blessing, love is renewed and love is found...all found within these pages. If that is romance, then I don't know what is! 
 
This book has an easy flow and despite the 472 pages, it doesn’t seem intimidating. In fact, my interest was piqued throughout the entire book and once I got back into it again, I was hooked. The author, Susan Wiggs, has a way of providing just enough information on the page to keep the reader wanting to turn the page. The thing that I enjoyed the most about the book was the comic strips inserted into the novel. I wished there had been more. In fact, I would have liked to seen the entire strip! Read this one, I think you’ll enjoy it. Rating:
 
 
Week 11: March 11 - 17, 2012 Poppi and the Rainbow by Olga Kilicci Children's Book Review
 
Children's Book Review
 
When Poppi woke up one morning, feeling ill and out of sorts, he looked in the
mirror and realized that he was all grey.
 
Poppi asked all his friends and one by one they offered reasons to why he was in such a state and solutions to fix it. From taking a bath to painting him to feeding him colorful food. Nothing seemed to helped.
 
Poppi was really sad so he sat down and then it started to rain. All of the sudden the ground started to shake and rattle and out came a beautiful rainbow that took Poppi on a ride. As he rode along the beautiful rainbow he bounced and surfed and tumbled while the rainbow splashed him with colors. He had so much fun. His new pal, Ray the Rainbow reminded Poppi that laughter keeps the grey away.
 
Another excellent book that teaches children that laughter really is the best medicine to keep the blues, or in the case, the greys, away! Rating:
 
 
Week 10: March 4-10, 2012 Poppi the Painter by Olga Kilicci
 
Children's Book Review
 
This is my first children's book review of the year, and I am very excited to present it to you. Poppi the Painter has decided that the time has finally come for him to move out of his parent's home and into a home of his own in Greyville.
 
He drove through the colorful countryside and upon his arrival, he found that everyone and everything in town was black, white and grey! And, worst of all, no one seemed happy about it!
 
When he arrived at his house, he moved in and realized that the place needed a bit of color, so he took out his paint and gave the place a makeover! He was so excited with what he had down, he went outside and continued to give everything he saw some color. He painted well into the night and then went home to a well-deserved sleep.
 
The next morning when everyone in Greyville woke up, they were all upset to see their world in a whole new light and went to Poppi's house to demand their grey back. This made Poppi very unhappy so he had to show the townspeople what they were missing by not having color in their life.When they actually did, they realized that they liked the color.
 
I love this story because it shows children that while it is difficult to accept change, we should not close ourselves off from it. We might just actually like the change even better than what things were like before. Rating:
 
Week 9: February 26 – March 3, 2012 Marrying Cade by Sally Clements
 
World Literary Cafe Book Review
 
I'm still not used to reading books in a PDF or Kindle format (despite the fact that I received a Kindle for Christmas!) I really love the feel of a book in my hands; flipping back and forth between the pages when I want to reread something. So when I decided to make Marrying Cade by Sally Clements, my first book review for World Literary Café, I was a bit skeptical if I would enjoy it. However, I found Sally’s story of two teenage friends becoming reacquainted as adults a fun and easy three hour escape from the household chores beckoning me away from my computer.
 
Hoping it would be more than just the same old romance themed short story, I was pleasantly surprised to find a bit of backbone to it. Cade has grown up to be a very successful hotelier, while Melo has gone on to become a strong, independent and successful financial advisor. They both returned to her island home for the wedding of Melo’s sister, Rosa, to Cade’s best friend, Adam.
 
Melo is the one person the family has counted on to take care of everything, including the entire planning and orchestration of Rosa’s wedding, but her father still won’t let her be a part of the family’s wine business. While this may seem a bit archaic, I found it to be plausible because as many of the older generation still feel that the woman’s place is in the home.
 
Cade has come a long way, literally and figuratively. He’s made his way back from losing everything to having almost everything. Now that he sees Melo, he realizes that he wants her. But he just doesn’t know how much he wants her.
 
I found that Melo’s sister Rosa, was a spoiled, selfish brat, and to be honest, the story wouldn’t have held together as nicely as it did without her being this way. There were moments I really wanted to throttle her so badly that I had to contain myself. I love the way the two sisters play against each other and as twins, it’s nice to see the ying/yang of their relationship.
 
I was thrilled when Melo finally stood up for herself in front of the whole family to let them know she was not going to be a pushover anymore. I think you could call this the “You go girl!” moment of the entire story. From that point forward, I knew that she was going to do whatever it took to make sure she wasn’t going to lose anything her family had worked so hard to attain.
 
The question begs, "Do they get together?" Well, I won't tell because I don't want to ruin the story, but let's just say the road to get there is very interesting. At 176 pages, this was the perfect length to escape the everyday doldrums of life. Put this on your “To Be Read” list for an afternoon getaway. Rating:
 
 
Week 8: February 19 - 25, 2012 Kissing Kelli by Kathy Carmichael
 
Kellie has five sisters and her sister Lori is quite a handful with her accusing "Leave my men alone!" dictums. It's not like Kellie did it on purpose. In fact, this last time she was not interested, but this last guy, Bobby Gray, pursued her. To bad it wasn't for the most sincere of purposes.
 
Ok, so Bobby Gray is friends with Lori and she had invited him to a party just so she wouldn't have to go alone, but that doesn't mean that Lori can call him her boyfriend. Lori was immature and a brat. Almost a stereotypical sister who has to have whatever she wants and won't let anyone else have it either.
 
Bobbie Gray will do just about anything to get him out of trouble with his brother. What's it going to take, a kitten? No. A bird? No. How about a horse in desperate need of attention and his dog companion? Well, maybe.
 
Kellie tried so hard to resist the advances of Bobby Gray. He seemed to be the perfect guy. When she finally agrees to go out to dinner with him and his family, it just seems to be all to perfect. That is until she finds out who the dinner guests are, then the bubble bursts.
 
I found myself a little annoyed with the sister Lori. She was completely selfish. Bobby Gray reminded me of the classic player; trying to do anything just so he could get his brother off his back. Kelli was the one who tried to please everyone. She reminded me of me a little bit, although I would have kicked Bobby Gray to the curb. Not one of my favorites. Rating:  
 
 
Week 7: February 12 - 18, 2012 Love Leaps, a short story, by Karen Jerabek
 
Reading Romances Challenge for February
 
This month’s challenge for Reading Romances was the following:
 
1. Valentine’s day: Read a book that has a predominantly color “red” cover,  that has a kissing/embracing couple on its cover, or whose title has either the following words: kiss, heart or love. OR,
 
2. Read a book by an author you have given up. OR
 
3. Read a novella, or an anthology.OR
 
4. Read one of the oldest books added to your TBR shelf. OR
 
5. Read a Historical Fiction (not limited to Historical Romance) – read a book that takes place in some notable period of history.
 
I chose #1, and I found Love Leaps, by Karen Jerabek. What a great story! And best of all it was very short and sweet…the type of book you can read in about an hour. 
 
Emma is dating Gray and he has just told her that he needs a break. Needs a break! Are you kidding me, such a cliché and Emma totally doesn’t understand. In fact, she is quite devastated and does know how to handle it. She emails her girlfriend, Jessica, who offers her take on things. Then she talks to Roger, a co-worker, and gets the male perspective on the situation.
 
What follows is the classic phone checking and nail biting habits of a woman who
still can't figure out why her guys needs some space. Do we really do this? (Yes, but how many of us really want to admit that fact!) Then Emma gets a message from a guy whom she hasn't heard from in a long while. Enter Sam. She likes him. She knows he likes her. She hasn't heard a peep out of Gray, so why not? She does...go out with him that is...and now she has to decide which one is for her. You're going to have to read the book to find out, because I am not saying! Rating:
 
Week 6: February 5 - 11, 2012 A Wedding for Maggie by Allison Leigh
 

 
This is a book is part of a series that I began to read last year: The Men of the Double C Ranch. Here we find the story of Daniel Clay and Maggie Greene.

 
We begin several years earlier when we see Daniel leaving the ranch while Maggie stays behind. Unfortunately, a relationship for both of them is not in the cards this time because Maggie is married to someone else and has a child and Daniel, well he is not happy because he can't have her.
 
Now three years have gone by and Maggie and her daughter J.D. are heading back to the ranch to deliver some bad news. Her philandering ex is dead and she has to tell his sister who is married to Daniel's brother. The worst part about this situation is that her ex is not only dead, but she has to face the family that he stole money from and this is not something she is going to enjoy.
 
While she is there, she has a romantic interlude with Daniel which causes something unforeseen and ultimately brings Maggie back to the ranch to stay and begin a life with the guy who can't seem to find it in his heart to love. For both Daniel and Maggie, this is going to be a long, tough road before either of them realizes that being together and loving each other is exactly where both of them needs to be. Each has their own set of baggage that will need to be dealt with before their hearts truly open up and lets each other inside.
 
I must admit there were moments in the story when I wanted to knock some sense into both the characters. Sometimes ones hardheadedness can be just a bit exasperating. If it were me, I probably would have told Daniel "what for" early on but since this was Maggie's story, I just had to sit back and read where she was going to go with this. Rating:
 
Week 5: January 29 - February 4, 2012 Princess Callie and the Totally Amazing Talking Tiara (Callie Chronicles) by Daisy Piper - KindleVersion
 
I’d like to think that I am a fairly well rounded person when it comes to the arts. When I say “arts”, I am referring to books, music, movies and theatre. As such, I have read, listened and watched and participated in the “arts”, and remembered most of it.
So what comes to mind when I start to read this book? It hit me so quick I knew I was going to like this one no matter what I read. So, think of this book as The Princess Diaries meets The Tenth Kingdom. I say this with great affection because I loved both of these movies.
Callie is about to have an amazing adventure that starts with a message delivered in her morning cereal. Interesting way to start her birthday! She didn’t seem to be too phased by it, but that can only mean there’s more to come. And, her best
friend, Lewis, is about to join her on the ride. Oh, and let’s not forget about the mean girl, Wanda, who decides she wants what Callie has and joins the duo.
 
Learning she is a Princess, Callie uses her instincts, and Lewis’ smarts to follow an underground tunnel that leads to a magical world of Albion where she must defeat an evil Queen, who just happens to be the jealous sister of her dead mother. Callie will need to defeat her in order to save her mother’s homeland and people. 
 
Throw in magical dragons, gargoyles that can speak and a tiara that bites and you’ve got an exciting story about a young girl who finally learns to trust herself and let go of her fears. Every teen faces a moment like Callie faced, while it might not be as fantastic as was portrayed in this story, it is one that when successfully surpassed, life becomes completely different than was once previous. Hopefully for all of us and like Callie, it will be for the better. Rating:
 
Week 4: January 22 - 28, 2012 Witchy, Witchy by Penelope King - Kindle Version
Reading Romances Challenge for January!

 
My first challenge for the Reading Romances group was:
1. Read a book that is first of a series, by an author that is “new” to you
or a debut novel by an author.OR
2. Read a romance that has a teen as the protagonist. OR
3. Read an Erotic Romance or Erotica.
 
Since, I've never found any book worth reading that falls into #3, I chose to read Witchy Witchy by Penelope King. This one just so happens to cover the requirements of #1 and #2, not to mention that it is my first ever teen fantasy/young adult paranormal romance novel.While I was skeptical at first to read something outside of my particular norm, I found that once I got past the first few pages, I was interested.
 
Here's the story of teen Calista moving to a new town in a new state with her dad so that they can basically start over. Living in the guest house of a mysterious, yet friendly, woman, she figures out really fast that her life is about to change drastically. The good news is that she finally figures out why she is so different from everyone else. And not just different in the sense that all girls feel while during the crazy teen years, but different as in "I'm a witch and have crazy special powers." different.
 
So if that's not enough, she still has to deal with starting a new school complete with mean girls, a boy who really wants to be her boyfriend, and a guy she met once on the beach but can't get out of her mind and meets in her dreams every night.
 
I found the story to be believable yet just enough fantasy/paranormalish that I wanted to continue reading. Penelope King kept the story moving quickly while also revealing the important details at the correct moments. When I got to the climatic point, I was so completely hooked that I was almost disappointed in
the way it ended. I quickly jumped onto Amazon.com to see if Book 2 was available and found that it was not. I hope it is released soon as I really wanted to see where this is going. Rating:
 
 
Week 3: January 15 - 21, 2012  Light the Stars by RaeAnne Thayne
 
 
Wade Dalton has a lot of stuff going on in his life. He has a ranch to run, a tv crew on the way, three kids to raise that he knows very little about and a mom that has just eloped with a gentleman friend of hers that no one seem to know very much about. Oh and let's not forget, the daughter of said gentleman friend who has just arrived on his doorstep trying to find the whereabouts her dad.
 
Enter Caroline Montgomery, a "life" coach who has inadvertently coached Wade's mom into getting more out of life, not realizing how it was going to affect her own life!
 
Wade is in way over his head. He has no idea to take care of his own children because he has given up all control of that function to his mom. He is in so much trouble here until Caroline shows up on his doorstep. Wade is so angry right now he doesn't know what to do, except take Caroline up on her offer and let her help out a few days until dear ol' dad returns. What follows is some very interesting moments between Wade and Caroline and how they both deal with the children.
 
I found the story believable but the behavior of the children predictable. What I didn't expect is what happened to Caroline. Although I knew there would have to be something that would make her stay, I was not prepared to see the actual events unfold before my eyes. This was a nice surprise for me and captivated my attention enough to continue reading. Rating:
 
Week 2: January 8 - 14, 2012  Tea and Destiny by Sherryl Woods
 
We met Ann Davies briefly in Miss Liz's Passion, another book I reviewed by Sherryl Woods. This time we get to really know her and how she became the mom to a group of kids who really needed her.

 
I like the main character, Ann, because she is quirky and unique. She lives by her own rules...that is until someone else, in the form of Hank Riley challenges her in every sense of the word.
 
Hank, on the other hand, is a guy who never thought he could make a commitment to a woman. Now he is getting involved in her life but also the kids' lives.
 
I especially liked the way the challenges of being a mom and pseudo-dad played into the relationship with Ann and Hank. It was obvious from the get-go that Hank was going to play an important role in the lives of some of the Ann's children, especially the older ones since he seemed to make a connection with them.
 
I found a few comedic moments and a few predictable moments in the book, but overall I felt the story was believable. Although I wish Sherryl would have taken a few extra pages to develop the stories of the children in the story, I found that I stayed interested nonetheless. I guess I really wanted to find out if Ann and her quirkiness was going to mess with Hank, who in my eyes, was the quintessential man's man. The good news is that from the moment of their initial sparring over groceries to the very end, I knew those two were in for it! Rating:
 
Week 1: January 1 - 7, 2012 Christmas on Capecod by Nan Rossiter
 
I know I am reviewing a leftover from Christmas, but I couldn't let this one pass. Nan Rossiter has done a wonderful job dealing with a sensitive issue portrayed in this story. Asa Coleman and his son Noah are headed home to spend Christmas with his parents and his best friend Maddie Carlson. Maddie is completely in love with Asa and has for a long time. But Asa has his hands full with Noah. Their relationship is a special and complicated one. I don't want to give it away too much, but let's just say it is worth the read. Even if just to escape for a little bit during the holidays, it's worth it. You'll even learn to make Glug! Rating:
 
 

 2011 Reviews

Week 52: December 24 - 31, 2011 Home for Christmas by Rosalind Noonan

Jo and her cousin Molly have opened up a quaint Christmas Shop right across the street from the Woodstock Inn. Jo's entire family works in this quaint New Hampshire town. Mom and Pop at the Inn, and the brothers in various businesses nearby. The family gets together often especially during the holidays.

In addition to the shop, Jo is raising her daughter Ava and lives with her and Molly in the granny unit behind her parents glorious home. Ave is the daughter of a former skiing superstar who died tragically five years ago. Jo is just finally getting past it when developers come to town and want to buy the Inn.

Jo must figure out a plan fast to save the Inn from turning into a resort that could potentially devastate the town and her family right along with it. Meanwhile she tries to solve another dilemma and that is how she is going to convince an old friend, who has been injured in the war and doesn't want to be seen in public, to be Santa at her Christmas Eve party at the shop.

Home for Christmas by Rosalind Noonan is is just a really sweet story of how love really does conquer all. Rating:

Week 51: December 17 - 23, 2011 Runaway Christmas by Elizabeth Bass

Christmas is only a few days away and Erica is not very happy. As far as she is concerned, her family doesn't even notice how unhappy she really is. Aunt Laura is pregnant and not fairing well due to morning sickness while her dad and stepmom are wrapped around her little sister's one year old finger. Yes, Erica doesn't have the holiday spirit at all. So what's a girl to do?

I think the title gives away the whole storyline!

Meanwhile, Heidi just wants to stay home, put on her pajamas, get a glass of wine and catch up on some old movies. But everything doesn't all turn out the way you plan. Heidi ends up dragging home a Christmas Tree given to her by two well meaning police officers. When she gets home she is met by her landlady and dog
who somehow gets tangled up in the tree and causes the landlady to fall and hit her head.

Now, Heidi has to take care of the dog, while the landlady is taken to the hospital. Just when things seem to settle down, another crises ensues and then another and then another until Heidi finds herself back at her cafe with...wait for it...Erica in tow! Yes, young Erica has managed to fly across the country in search of an adventure this Christmas. Unfortunately her family doesn't know about it just yet.

Now through in another snowstorm (gee I think it's snowing all over the country this year!) and you have the perfect holiday read in Runaway Christmas by Elizabeth Bass! Rating:

Week 50: December 10 - 16, 2011 Making Spirits Bright by Fern Michaels

Melanie is a successful business woman. She owns her condo, has a two lovable pets and great friends. There is one thing missing though. Love and family. Melanie is an only child and although she still has her parents, she doesn't have a family, other than Odie and Clovis. Friends Grace and Max along with baby Ella and Grace's brother Bryce will be visiting Stephanie and the girls. This is the perfect opportunity to do a little matchmaking and ask Melanie over for an impromptu Christmas party.

Melanie has nothing better to do, so off she goes and meets us with the gang. She's met Bryce in the past and always thought he was handsome, now it's time to find out if he could turn into something more.

Meanwhile, she is finally pursuing something that she wants but has been a little afraid to go after...adoption. Since she doesn't have a husband, she's not sure whether or not she can, but there is no harm in checking into it.

Nothing like a quick read during all the craziness of the Christmas holidays. Making Spirits Bright by Fern Michaels fits the bill to a "T"! Rating:



Week 49: December 3 - 9, 2011 Bring Me Home for Christmas

Bring Me Home for Christmas by Robin Carr is the story of Becca Timm, a recently out of work teacher who decides she has nothing better to do over the Thanksgiving Holiday than spend it with her brother who is going to meet up with his buddies in Virgin River, California to do a little hunting, a little fishing and just have a hang out with the guys weekend. Brother Rich is not too happy that Becca has invited herself along on this trip, but what can he do.

Although Becca has a boyfriend who is about to propose, she wants to find out once and for all if she is finally over her old boyfriend for good. Telling a few white lies to her parents and her current beau, she shows up on the doorstep of Denny Cutler.

Needless to say, things get really interesting when you put Becca and Denny in the same truck together. Let's just say that Becca ends up extending her stay a bit longer than she originally intended. Her selfish boyfriend is unhappy about it and her Mom is none too pleased...well not too please, at first, I should say.

Through in a good snow storm to the mix and you get a very interesting story of how two former young lovers end up back together again. I have read Robyn Carr before in an earlier book from the Virgin River Series. I think that I will have to go and read a few more. Rating:

Week 48: November 26 - December 2, 2011 The Spirit of Christmas

The Spirit of Christmas by Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson is a wonderful anthology of short, short stories about the true meaning of Christmas. These are all very real, very true stories direct from the people who experienced them.

I wasn't sure what I was going to find when I read this, all I know is that there are somethings that can't be explained. Faith, belief and love. There is nothing more important than those three things.

If you're searching for something and can't find it, tf you're feeling down, or if you're feeling lost this time of year, then I highly recommend reading this book. You won't be sorry.

Rating:

 

 

 

 
Week 47: November 19 - 25, 2011 Comfort and Joy

Joy Candellaro is having a very hard time right now. Her husband left her this past year. She’s given up on life and it is Christmas. What’s a girl to do? Run away.

 
When her sister arrives in her driveway with news Joy really doesn’t want to hear, she does exactly that, all the way to the airport. All Joy wants to find is hope. So she boards a plan and heads north. But then the unthinkable happens and she finds herself, hurt and lost. 
 
She stumbles upon an old fishing lodge belonging to a little boy and his dad. They are in the midst of fixing it up when Joy arrives at the front door. Bobby O’Shea is missing his mom though, and his father Danny is just trying to help him cope and get him through the holiday.
 
Joy spends her time there trying to heal and to help Bobby. 
 
The story seems so believable and then Kristin Hannah delivers a twist that is completely unexpected to Joy and she has to figure out if she can believe what she remembers and try to go back and find it.
 
This is a beautiful story about believing, faith and hope.
 
Rating: 

Week 46: November 12 - 18, 2011 Christmas in Sugarcreek

There has always been something about the Amish Culture that I have found fascinating. I guess it stems from my childhood when my family would travel to parts of the country where the Amish lived and worked. 
 
Christmas at Sugarcreek by Shelley Shepard Gray is quick read that follows the lives of various people in the small town of Sugarcreek.
 
The heart of the story revolves around Judith, who has always been the good girl; the dependable girl; the girl who did everything that was asked of her. Then there is Ben Knox who has come back to town in order to sell his family’s home so he can move on to…well, move on to anywhere other than Sugarcreek.
 
Judith knew Ben a long time ago. He was the “bad boy”. But he’s back now and is working alongside Judith for the next week to help out the family. During this time, Judith needs to come to grips with her feelings for Ben before he leaves and she loses her chance for happiness, again.
 
The Amish live a simpler type of life that is quite refreshing in today’s society of extreme consumption. This is a lovely book to read, especially at this time of year and this particular week.  
 
Rating:

Week 45: November 5 - 11, 2011 An O'Brien Family Christmas

And we continue on with Sherryl Wood's O'Brien Family as they head to Ireland to spend Christmas where Grandma Nell was born and raised. I love this family and feel like I am one of the friends that gets to tag along on their adventures and be a part of their lives
.
This story is about Matthew O'Brien and Laila Riley, two of the unlikeliest people to ever get together. He's a playboy architect and she is a banker. While they secretly had a relationship in a previous book, they broke up because Laila's father did not approve of the relationship. Laila quit her job at the family bank because her father didn't want her to be there anyway and went out on her own to do something else.
 
But this novel is just about those two, it's also about Nell. She is finally home in her beloved Ireland and reconnects with a former friend. Her son, Mick is none to pleased about it. But this is Nell we're talking about and Nell is the matriarch of the family. Whatever Nell wants, Nell gets.
 
Matthew and Laila are on this trip to see if they can reconnect their relationship without the interference of well-meaning family. Each has their own goals for the trip and it is interesting to see how it all unfolds. 
 
Rating:
 
 

Week 44: October 29 - November 4, 2011 A Cedar Cove Christmas

Mary Jo Wyse is on her way to Cedar Cove to find her "good for nothing" boyfriend to let him know that her brothers are on the warpath and to watch out for himself. Why? Because he left Mary Jo in the lurch and...well, I can't tell you the rest because it will ruin the story for you. The journey becomes difficult for her, even though her destination is truly not that far from where she lives. When she arrives, she meets some really nice and very helpful people. This story will be reminiscent of another story that everyone should know.


Debbie Macomber has a wonderful way of making the readers feel like they are right there amidst the story...standing alongside the characters as they interact with one another.

It's almost like being at home...

Rating:

Week 43: October 22 - 28, 2011 5-B Poppy Lane

5-B Poppy Lane by Debbie Macomber was a story I was not expecting. While the story starts out on Christmas Eve when Grandma Helen shares a story with her close friend, Charlotte, who drops by for a visit; it really is the story of how Helen survives World War II and all the ugliness surrounding it. Ruth, her granddaughter, going to school in Seattle, has taken up to writing to soldiers overseas and develops a relationship with a soldier over there. When he announces he will be home on leave for two weeks, Ruth must reconcile herself with the fact he is in the marines. Taking Paul with her on a visit to Grandma Helen’s she finds out something about her grandmother that really changes the way she thinks about military, the war and Paul.

This is a really quick read. As much as I dislike reading about “war”-themed stories, this wasn’t all that bad. It was just a small part of the story and without it, there would be no story.

Rating:

 

Week 42: October 15 - 21, 2011 Ode to Icky

Ode to Icky, by Maranda Russell is the story of Icky, the Cat and her owner, Candy. Candy is up to another of her money-making schemes and Icky is going to help her. The idea is courtesy of Candy’s older sister Kayla and her brand new “Icky” smelling perfume.

Icky has been relegated to the backyard because he refuses to bathe. So Candy sees an opportunity and decides she can make a few extra bucks by making her own perfume using some of Icky’s stinky fur. Mixing the fur with water and using a few of her mom’s half empty perfume bottles, Candy creates Ode de Icky…or rather Ode de Iche because the former name didn’t sound fancy enough.

Candy sells the perfume the next day, makes some quick cash, but then has to live with the “stinky” consequences.

This is a wonderful story that teaches children the concept “for every action, there is a reaction or consequence.” Some good and some are not so good. In the case of Candy, the reaction is her mother’s anger for dumping out her expensive perfume and the confiscation of the money Candy received from selling the homemade perfume.

Beautifully illustrated, this is a great book that shows how important it is to think things through before doing something. Not all ideas are good ideas, and Candy had to find out the hard way just how bad an idea it was to sell fake perfume that smells like her stinky cat, Icky. I highly recommend adding this book to family libraries and K-4 schoolrooms.

This is the second children's book by Maranda Russell that I have had the pleasure to review. Maranda is a highly talented children's book author and I highly recommend her! Rating:

Week 41: October 8 - 14, 2011 Chick with a Charm

Chick with a Charm, by Vicki Lewis Thompson, is the sequel to Blond with a Wand. This one stars Anica Revere’s sister Lily in her quest to find someone take to her Anica’s engagement party. Enter Griffin Taylor, a divorce lawyer hottie. He claims that his job and his parent’s own divorce has turned him off of romance. Lily thinks otherwise. So…with the help of a little magic potion mixed into a Harvey Wallbanger cocktail, we see all the possibilities.
Vicki has created another fun and flirty book with this one. Be prepared though…there are a number of “racy” scenes in this one. So if you’re on the prim and proper side of things, you’ll want to skip the read. As for me…I loved it.
 
One of my favorite parts in this book is the introduction of Anica’s and Lily’s parents. Fresh from researching herbs and such in Peru, Lionel and Simone Revere, they come complete with dorky costumes and parental advice. Let’s not forget Dorcas and Ambrose either. We will meet them again later in another book on my “to read” list.
 
Read Blond with a Wand first and then read Chick with a Charm. Perfect for all your October/Halloween reading! Rating:

Week 40: October 1 - 7, 2011 Weezie, The Elephant with Allergies

 
I am blessed to have the opportunity to review another truly wonderful children's book this week.
 
Weezie lives in an orphanage and is very lonely since his friends have left to be with their new families. Plagued with allergies that have really messy outcomes, Weezie hides out in his room because he feels so embarrassed. Will anyone ever want him, sneezes and all? It's not until Mr. Willow shows him a little kindness and understanding that he realizes he is lovable and wanted.
 
I love this! Weezie, The Elephant with Allergies by Maranda Russell is a delightful book about acceptance. It speaks to my heart on many levels - adoption, loving and accepting yourself as you are and the simple act of kindness to help open your heart to various opportunities.
 
• Living in an orphanage and trying to present oneself in the best light in order to get adopted is difficult to say the least. I was adopted as a baby so my story never got as far as Weezie’s, but trying to present myself in a positive manner is a daily struggle.
• Learning to love and accept yourself no matter how different you are is not easy. Sometimes you have to wonder if it is worth it or not. When someone loves and accepts you for who you are, then everything else doesn’t seem to matter anymore.
• A little bit of kindness goes a long way. Mr. Willow shows Weezie that even though he is an old, his kindness allows Weezie to realize that he is lovable already and there was nothing wrong with him after all.
 
This is a great book to share with children early and often. It’s delivers an important message about accepting and embracing your differences. Life would be pretty boring if we were all the same. I highly recommend this book for families and teachers of small children. Rating:
 
Week 39: September 24 - 30, 2011 The Day No One Played Together
 
When I was laying out my ideas for this project a year ago, I never thought it would grow to the magnitude that is has grown today. The one thing that I did know was that the only way I was going to keep the vow I made to myself to be more open to reading different types of genres would be to make it public. So here I am 39 weeks in and I have been asked to review books not only for my book club but for other websites as well. I never dreamed I would read a children's book since I don't have kids myself. However, I am a child at heart and it is my honor to bring you my review below:
 
Sisters Jadyn and Genesis want to play, but they can't decide what they should do on such a beautiful summer day. Each has a great idea but they don't want to play what the other wants. So they end up playing alone and it is, frankly, no fun. They try all morning to find something they can do together, but to no avail. It's not until their mom teaches them about the concept of compromise that they discover a valuable lesson. By working together to incorporate both of their ideas, they will be able to play together, have lots of fun and make each other happy as only sisters should.
 
Reading this book brought back some memories that I haven't thought of in a very long time. I remember playing with my neighbor friend and hearing her say that if I didn't want to play what she wanted, she was going to go home. There was no compromising in her world. Oh how I wish this book was written back then. It probably would have done wonders for our friendship!
 
I love picture books, and the illustrations inside The Day No One Played by Donalisa Helsley are beautiful. The facial expressions are portrayed in such a way that you can feel every emotion that Jadyn and Genesis are feeling. I remember feeling like them a time or two when I was a child.
 
Learning about the value of compromise at a young age will give siblings the opportunity to see just how important it is to work together. Every family should have this book in their library and refer to it often as it is a book that can definitely be read more than once! However, the value of compromise taught in this book should not be limited to families. The message is universal and can easily be relatable in the classroom. That is why I believe this is a not only a great teaching aid for parents but for educators as well. Reiterating the concept in both settings will go a long way in teaching children how to be successful in all aspects of life.
 
Rating:
Week 38: September 17 - 23, 2011 Thoughts to Share with a Wonderful Daughter

I bought this book, A Blue Mountain Arts Collection, originally with the intention of giving it to my own daughter. However, since I was unable to have my own children, I decided to keep it anyway because I am always looking for inspiration. This book is filled with short verses, letters and poems appropriate for daughters of all ages. Created as a part of the “Language of” Series, Blue Mountain Arts assembled this wonderful collection from over 40 authors including William Shakespeare, Louisa May Alcott, Margaret Mead and Naomi Judd. My favorite comes American Poet, Susan Polis Schutz:

 

To My Beautiful Daughter, I Love You

 

You are a shining
example of what a
daughter can be –
loving and compassionate
beautiful and good
honest and principled
determined and independent
sensitive and intelligent.
You are a shining
example of what every
parent wishes their
daughter were
and I am so very
                                                                            proud of
                                                                           you.

This book is definitely a keeper and you’ll want to give it to your daughter for either her Sweet 16 or High School graduation. Rating:

 

Week 37: September 10 - 16, 2011 Born Standing Up I’ve always enjoyed Steve Martin on the big/small screen. I read a couple of his books years ago, but I really couldn’t get into them. His style of writing didn’t really interest me. However, when I read his autobiography, Born Standing Up, which chronicles his early years as a stand-up comedian and writer, I came away with a better understanding of the man behind the comedy.

It must have been difficult growing up in a home trying to please a parent; never doing enough to garner praise. While I can’t really relate, on some strange level, I can. He worked from a very young age growing his education with each job he performed; similar to me.

I am always interested in reading about celebrities because what we see on television or the big screen is never who they really are. They all start out as regular people, but somehow, they fall into circumstances that make them larger than life.

Steve Martin lived larger than life at the height of his comedic run, but the truth of what the life was really like is definitely an eye opener.

I recommend reading this book for a real dose of reality during a time when reality shows didn’t exist.

Rating:

 

Week 36: September 3 - 9, 2011  A Song In My Heart
Please see my Second Professional review of the book, A Song In My Heart by Roma Calatayud-Stocks at the Internet Review of Books.Rating:

Week 35: August 27 - September 2, 2011  The Sweethearts Knitting Club by Lori WildeThis book took me a while to read and I am not sure if it is because I didn't have the time I wanted to devote to it or because I was not that into it. So what do we have here...one bad boy, one jealous boy, and the girl who is everyone’s sweetheart.

I originally thought this was going to be more about the knitting club, but it turns out it is more about Flynn MacGregor and her inability to do things just for herself. She has spent so much time doing what everyone else thinks is right.

She accepted Beau’s proposal and ring because it was time. She’s opening the knitting shop because it was what her mother wanted and she takes care of the entire family because that is what was expected of her. That is, until Jesse comes back to town. Now she must decide if she should take a chance and follow her heart.

Jesse, Beau and Flynn have a long history with each other. Unfortunately it’s not all good and the old wounds run deep, especially for one of them.

There’s a bit of mystery to Lori Wilde's The Sweethearts Knitting Club, but not enough to keep me interested. I just was not drawn into this book as I had hoped I would be. Rating:

Week 34: August 20 - 26, 2011 Always Looking Up, The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist

I’ve always loved Michael J. Fox ever since his days as Alex P. Keaton on Family Ties. I found him to be witty, charming with a bit of “devil may care” thrown in for good measure. However, for the life of me, I can’t figure out the purpose of this book. Was is purely a continuation of his previous memoir, or was it because he’s a celebrity and he can do what he wants? Honestly, I have no clue.

The book is divided into four sections, work, politics, faith and family. The book started our strong, but oh boy, I should have known. Once the second section started, I became bored and lost interest in the all the political rhetoric. No offense to the author because I know he’s just trying to tell his story of what his life has been like since his diagnosis and ultimate “retirement” from show business.

Now I know that he had an agenda – trying to promote the research for a cure for Parkinson’s disease. It’s a noble cause and I fully support it, but surely there is a better way to promote the issue. According to his book, his foundation was started in late 2000 and was hoping to find the cure within a decade. I don’t think that happened. Let’s hope we can find that cure within our lifetime.

The final two sections on faith and family were okay. Quite honestly, I was pretty disappointed with the book as a whole. Rating:

 

Week 33: August 13 - 19, 2011 Flirting with Disaster (The Charleston Trilogy)Sherryl Woods has done it again and touched on a subject that most every woman has experience with either directly or indirectly…being dumped by your guy before your wedding. Maggie Forsythe finally picked a guy even her mother could like. Unfortunately when the guy decides he’s not the one, Maggie is devasted and her friends must stage an intervention. Enter the new guy in the form of local project foreman, Josh Parker. Raised with little, he has worked hard to overcome his upbringing but is not sure he can measure up to her southern debutante lifestyle. It is going to take a lot of gentle persuasion from everyone to make this one work.

If it were me, I would have told everyone to butt out. Oh wait! I think she does that. Hmmm…well I guess you’re just going to have to read the book to find out the rest of the story.

This is a fun, casual read as are most of Sherryl’s books.

Rating:

Week 32: August 6 - 12, 2011 A Turn in the Road by Debbie Macomber
I always love Debbie Macomber and can’t wait to read most of her books. I was so looking forward to this novel that I bought it in hardback instead of waiting for it in paperback or Kindle.

I was not disappointed.

Again we are about to explore another interesting female dynamic – mother, daughter and daughter-in-law, mother-in-law and grandmother. Here we find Bethanne Hamlin taking a road trip with her daughter Annie and her former mother-in-law, Ruth. Yes, I did say former mother-in-law because Bethanne is no longer married to Ruth’s son, but that doesn’t mean the relationship has to end.

Since she has never had the opportunity to do so, Ruth decides she wants to see the country. Against her children’s wishes, Ruth is determined to take the trip no matter what. Bethanne agrees to go with her because she has some things to think about and Annie goes along with them because she wants to prove to her ex-boyfriend that she can make it on her own without him.

The trip is set, the route is chosen carefully and the bags are packed. What follows is a road trip to remember as the three leave the route and meet some interesting people along the way.

Trust is major theme in this book as they all have to learn how to do it sooner or later.

Rating:

Week 31: July 30 - August 5, 2011 That Day In September

Please see my First Professional Review of the book, That Day In September by Artie Van Why at The Internet Review of Books.

 
Week 30: July 23 - 29, 2011  To Taste the Wine Sometimes I pick up a book purely for the look of the cover and the title. This is one of those cases. I don’t read many of Fern Michael’s books, but To Taste the Wine held an appeal as it was going to be about wine (hopefully) and I had just recently been in the industry, so why not?

To Taste the Wine, is about one woman's quest to escape the life she had performing in her uncle's theater group. While I found the story interesting, with its many twists and turns, it wasn't one of my favorites of the year thus far.

We begin with Chelsea Myles remembering her life as it once was, as an only child of parents who owned a dry goods store in Knightsbridge, near London, England. When her parents died of the fever, her whole life changes and young Chelsea finds herself on the run to find her Uncle Cosmo. Let's just say that her uncle isn't the most upstanding person she could find, but nonetheless, he is her family.

Chelsea's Uncle Cosmo raises her to perform in his theater troupe. Let’s just say that during the time when this story occurred, the group, such as it was, wasn’t always on the up and up. Since this is the only way Chelsea can survive, she continues to perform night after night until a robbery occurs and once again changes the course of her life. Hoping for a positive change in her circumstances, she finds herself onboard an ocean vessel sailing for New South Wales. She meets a man, Quaid Tanner, who is also on his way home. Over the course of time, they learn about each other’s history and try to forge a future in which many obstacles keep them apart.

I am not sure how I would classify this one as it is part romance, part mystery, part drama and part history. I had to keep reminding myself that this story took place in 19th Century London and the wilds of Australia. I generally don't read historical fiction, but as I said I would do when I set up to create this blog, I vowed to go outside of my norm and read a few things I would not ordinarily read.

Several times, I found myself going back to reread certain sections, because I needed to be sure I was following the story correctly. I must admit this was not an easy read for me, rather it was one that I had to concentrate on in order to follow the story. I couldn't make a connection with the main character so I think that was the reason why I couldn't stay engaged. Unfortunately, I have to admit, this is not one of my favorite books.

Rating:

 
Week 29: July 16 - 22, 201 Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddon
 
I don’t know why I torture myself by reading a novel from Anne Rivers Siddon. I can’t figure out who her audience is nor her style. I bought this book purely on the cover hoping it would be somewhat interesting. I was wrong. It was more like a car wreck. You know the kind where you stop traffic and you just have to stare at it. Unfortunately I had to keep on reading it.Honestly, I didn’t get it, except for the fact it was death. Death of the main character’s two loves of her life. The way that Ms. Rivers Siddon wove the story I couldn’t tell which parts were real, which were dreams and which were…well, I don’t know what.This was not a good read and I will probably not pick up another one of her books again.Rating: 

  
Week 28: July 9 - 15, 2011 Beach Lane (A Chesapeake Shores Novel)
It’s time for another O’Brien tale. Sherryl Woods does another great job weaving the story of Mack Franklin and Susie O’Brien’s story of friendship into a story of love. There is just so much story to tell within a limited amount of pages so she gets right to it.

 

I guess this is what I enjoy about reading Sherryl’s novels. She gets right to it. Susie and Mack are not dating and certainly not falling in love. Ha! That’s a good one! There is no doubt in this reader’s mind that this is exactly what is happening.

Unfortunately the two must go through some pretty serious issues to deal with before they can truly come to grips with their feelings. The good news is that the O’Brien clan is a large one and when something happens to one of them, it happens to all of them. Their support system is truly remarkable.

Mack must come to grips with his own problems in addition to Susie’s. Fortunately they have each other to lean on and with the growing love, there isn’t a thing that they can’t overcome together. Rating:

 
Week 27: July 2 - 8, 2011 Moonlight Cove (A Chesapeake Shores Novel)
Finally, in Moonlight Cove, author Sherryl Woods gets back to the story of Jess O’Brien and we learn why she can’t find a lasting relationship with a man. There is someone who has loved her since he can’t remember and that is Will Lincoln. Now a psychologist, Will knows Jess better than she knows herself. But Jess is unsure whether she can get past her own faults and issues to let herself love a man like Will, especially now that he is in the medical profession.To top it all off here’s a fun twist to the situation. Will has started an online dating service. One that he has designed from the ground up based upon his knowledge in the psychology field. Buy Jess doesn’t know about that just yet. She and her two girlfriends are about to find out just how good Will is when it comes to finding them their true loves.
 Rating:
 

Week 26: June 25 - July 1, 2011 Driftwood Cottage (A Chesapeake Shores Novel)

Okay, I admit it. I am a Sherryl Woods fan! I can’t help it…when I find an author I love, I will read just about everything they write. This next trilogy will take us back to Chesapeake Shores to hopefully wrap up a few loose ends from her previous visits.

Heather Donovan, the mother of Connor O’Brien’s son has moved to Chesapeake Shores to start her life anew without the help of Connor but nearby his family, unbeknownst to him. This couldn’t get any worse in Connor eyes, but is it just as bad for Heather. How difficult it must be to raise a child on one’s own.

Connor has more than just Heather on his mind though. He has some big decisions to make about his career which could make things very interesting in terms of his relationship with his family and Heather and his son.

Plan on reading this book from start to finish as it is hard to put down. Be prepared to read the next two novels in the series. Rating:

Week 25: June 18 - 24, 2011 The Weird Sisters

 

Would you believe I bought The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, a hardback no less, off the shelf at a local bookstore near my work? For those of you that know me, you will understand what a big deal this is as I rarely by new books, much less in hardback. For some reason, this book, with its simple jack cover and title, The Weird Sisters, beckoned me for purchase and to be read. So, I did what it asked and began to read it.

I found myself amidst the story of three sisters who were raised to love reading as much as I do. Their father spoke in Shakespearean prose and their mother was the sweetest person as could be. Two of the three sisters return home and reacquaint themselves with their older sister and the town they left behind. Unfortunately bad news surrounding their mother has brought them all together again. Each of the sisters is hiding something and this couldn’t be a more perfect time for them all to be back. While each must work through their own problems, they must also be strong for their parents.

Since I don’t have a birth sister, I found the book interesting as it explored the intricate relationships of siblings within the female dynamic. Each of the sisters is so completely different it is hard to believe that they came from the same parents. Each needs to learn how to trust themselves and each other to help them through the touch decisions that they must face.
And while we watch them work through their individual problems, it seems that the individuals are almost clichéd stereotypes within the family.

Rosalind, the oldest who is the responsible one;
Bianca – the high rolling business woman wannabe
Cordelia – the free spirit

Overall, I thought the book was good, but nothing stellar. Rating:

Week 24: June 11- June 17, 2011 The Aloha Quilt

I love to quilt, so naturally I picked up one of my favorite author, Jennifer Chiaverini, and her next quilt-themed novel, The Aloha Quilt. Melding together two of my loves, Hawaii and quilts. What could be better?

This story is about Bonnie Markham.She is facing one of the bleakest points in her life when her friend, Claire, contacts her to invite her to spend the winter in Hawaii and help her start a Hawaiian version of Elm Creek Quilts.

So, with nothing better to do, off she flies to Hawaii and to adventures unknown. Little does she know it is about to get even more exciting. Bonnie must deal with her cheating, and soon-to-be ex-husband, her children who want her to get back with their father and the blossoming feeling she has for someone new that she meets while there.

Jennifer Chiaverini does a wonderful job at intertwining  the folklore, culture and quilting aspects to this story. I have to admit it is probably my favorite story thus far. More than likely it is due to the fact that I have been to Hawaii and have made that connection.

If you're a following of the Elm Creek Quilts Series, then this is definitely one to add to your collection. I highly recommend reading it again and again, just like all the other books in the series.

Rating:

Week 23: June 4 - June 10, 2011 River Monsters - True Stories of the Ones That Didn't Get Away

After watching every episode of River Monsters with Jeremy Wade, it was actually enjoyable to read the back stories to all of his adventures. I think I have watched every episode at least twice including all of the unhooked episodes where they insert popups that give additional info about what is going on.This book actually took a bit longer to read than expected. I started it weeks ago, but with all the scientific prose, history and stories within the story, I really wanted to take my time.Since I started out with a bit of knowledge about what he's done by watching the show, it was exciting for me to actually read the various chapters that filled in the additional details. I must admit, he's a very brave man considering everything that he's been through...surviving a plane crash, contracting maleria and being arrested as a spy. Not to mention, travel to all of those places that I don't have on my radar as places I want to visit!

The book includes a pictorial from his adventures.

Considering the fact that his subject would normally be something I wouldn't consider reading, I am pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the book. After having watched the show, I am even more impressed with his expertise and knowledge on the areas he has traveled. You can definitely tell he has done his homework. But after doing this for over 25 years, who wouldn't? Rating:

 

Week 22: May 28 - June 3, 2011 Confetti Confidential

 

Another week of British authors takes me to Holly McQueen's Confetti Confidential. 'Tis the story of Isabel Bookbinder, rookie wedding planner, and all her mishaps along the way. It is actually quite funny to see her land a few clients, including her best friend who just got engaged to her brother, and plan their weddings.The story follows Isabel trying to put together the mother of all weddings for a VIP client that she has acquired through shall we say, questionable means. Isabel wouldn’t necessarily say that, but I think she would agree that it wasn’t entirely above board.  What ensues is hilarious antic after antic as to how she is going to pull off the “wedding of the century” (these are my words!).Reading this book reminded me of my own wedding planning. Although mine wasn't funny, it did bring back a bunch of memories. On top of everything else, Isabel has just moved in with her boyfriend, the perfect lawyer, so she is wondering if she will get to plan her own wedding, especially since she found a little something something that she probably shouldn’t know about?

Between her mom acting strangely, her best friend and brother’s wedding and this newly acquired client, the story is actually pretty funny considering all the things we see on television lately with celebrity weddings and such.

This is a lighthearted read and one where you won’t have to think much. Rating:

 
Week 21: May 21 - 27, 2011 When You Were Mine
 
This week, I decided to take a break from some American authors and go across the pond to England. There is just something about reading a novel from a British author. You can definitely tell the difference between the two types of prose. Verbiage and style are distinctly different.In When You Were Mine, by Elizabeth Noble, Susannah discovers that she has let her life slip by for the last eight years that she has been living with Doug. While making this discovery, she reminisces about her first real boyfriend and then just so happens to run into him unexpectedly. What would you do if you finally realized that life has past you by and you haven't done any of the things that you wanted to do?

Just to complicate matters, her best friend, Amelia discovers something as well. Together they get thru the next year but not without a few bumps along the way. Rating:

Week 20: May 14 - 20, 2011  Knitting Diaries - Return to Summer Island
 
Return to Summer Island finds Caro McNeal going home after she survives an almost life ending car crash. It's been a long time since she's been back to visit her grandmother, but will she be able to get over her injuries both physical and mental? While she is getting settled into her new life, she happens to meet someone who could possibly change things for her, but can she get past her fears and take a chance. Christina Skye does a great job in drawing you in and getting the reader involved in the story. My only disappointment is that there could have been further development of the characters, but when the story is part of a compilation, the author is limited to the number of pages it has to do that. I still feel like there is more to this story that needs to be told. Maybe she will write a sequel? Rating:

 
Week 19: May 7 - 13, 2011  Knitting Diaries - Coming Unraveled
 
Coming Unraveled by Susan Mallery is a story about chasing after your dreams and realizing that maybe home is where the dream always was. Robyn wanted to be a star on Broadway, but realized how tough it really was so she went home to take care of her grandmother and her friends. While there, she meant a man trying to overcome his demons who grandma was helping rehab through knitting classes. Both hiding secrets, they must learn to trust and come clean with everyone around them. This story shows the importance of being honest with those around you and trusting that they will understand...no matter what. Rating:

 
Week 18: April 30 - May 6, 2011  Knitting Diaries - Twenty First Wish
 
If I didn't like to read Debbie Macomber so much, I probably would have skipped this one altogether. The only reason I picked it up was because of her. The Knitting Diaries is three stories all in one.Debbie's story, The Twenty First Wish is a continuation of her previous novel, Twenty Wishes.  Finally buying a house and getting settled into life as mother and daughter, Anne Marie struggles to love again and has two men vying for her attention. One of these new guys just so happens to be the birth father of her new daughter.

Can she trust her heart to someone who she barely knows. Only time and a little bit of help from her daughter will tell. I have to admit that it was a nice ending to Anne Marie and Ellen's story. Many times, the epilogue of a book is just never enough. Rating:

 

 
 
Week 17: April 23 - 29, 2011  Harvest Moon
Ok, I'll admit it. I bought this book purely on the cover and the name (does this say something about my being homesick for my old life...hmmm...more about that in another post.) Harvest Moon by Robyn Carr is a story about a disillusioned chef who quits her stressful job and moves to the country to find herself again. Along the way, she gets to know her sister and meets someone who is carrying some baggage. The main character, Kelly, struggles with the decision on whether to take a chance on another relationship? While she slowly figures out what she wants from life she slowly begins to find love even though it comes with a little something extra.
 
I really had a hard time getting past the grammatical errors. It bothers me so much when they don't correct those before the books get printed. However, the story was believable and about a topic I love...food! Rating:
 
 
 
Week 16: April 16 - 22, 2011 Home on the Ranch
Home on the Ranch is a story of loss and forgiveness. Belle Day is forced to take a job with rancher Cage Buchanan, and he is not happy about it.
 
 
Belle’s mother is married to Squire Clay (from the Men of the Double C Ranch series, See the review for “Stay” below.) The Clay and Buchanan families go way back. Unfortunately the history is not good. Therefore, Cage really does not like Belle. Unfortunately, he has his daughter to think about and Belle is his last hope.
 
Now Belle must live with Cage and his daughter under the same roof and try to not only help Lucy rehab physically, but also rehab Cage’s heart. Now add in a conniving ex, disgruntled grandparents, a horse and secret phone calls and you get a heartwarming story. 
 
Stubbornness and pride almost keep Cage and Belle apart, until he finally realizes that the only person he really needs and wants is Belle.
 
Rating:
 

Week 15: April 9 - 15, 2011 Miss Liz's Passion

 

Well after the last book, I was truly happy to go back to a simple read. I am catching up with Sherryl Woods again with her book...Miss Liz's Passion. Elizabeth Gentry is a young school teacher who suffers a great loss early in her life. Subsequently, she devotes her life to her students.
 
 
One of her students, Kevin, is a young boy in her class who is constantly getting into trouble. She knows there is a problem, so she digs until she finds out what is really wrong. Unfortunately, she has to deal with Todd Lewis, Kevin’s dad who refuses to listen to her.
 
It takes everything she has to convince Todd that Kevin needs a little help. Once Kevin realizes it is his own shortcomings that are causing Kevin trouble, he agrees to get help, not only for his son but for himself. What Todd wants is Elizabeth, but it is going to take an awful lot to make that happen as she has suffered a great deal and she is afraid to give him her heart.
 
 
This is one of those stories that will pull at your heart. Be prepared to read it with a box of tissue. Rating:
 
                                                                                                                                                  Week 14: April 2 - 8, 2011  Eat, Pray, Love

I finally finished a book that I have been trying to read for almost a year. This is one of the toughest reads I've experience in a long while.

The book I am referring to is Eat, Pray, Love. It was suppose to be a fantastic read, but truthfully, I was not impressed. In fact, I would probably rank this right up there with awful. The worst part is, when I finished, I watched the wildly anticipated movie version and found that to be only slightly more interesting that the book. The scenery was beautiful and of course, Julia Roberts did the best that she could do with the character.The introduction to set everything up took forever, so by the time the author finally got to Italy, I wasn't sure I was going to make it thru the rest of the book. The middle section went on and on and on. It was very boring. When the last section finally arrived, I was so excited I was almost finished that I read thru it rather quickly so I could finally watch the movie. A year is really too long to read a book. In my mind, when it takes that long, you might as well give up. But I really wanted to finish it because I knew that the movie was coming out. I didn't see it in the theater as I was still reading it...I didn't see it first thing when it hit Netflix. I waited...for weeks to watch it, just so I could finish the book. Now that I've finished reading and watching the movie with the same name, all I can say is...how disappointing. Rating:

Week 13: Mar. 26 - April 1, 2011  Welcome to Last Chance
 
I needed something easy to read this week, so I picked up a book called Welcome to Last Chance by Hope Ramsay. Simply put, what do you get when you take a runaway who wants to forget her past and pair her up with someone who wants to get back to his past? You get Welcome to Last Chance.
 
Jane arrives in town with $5 in her pocket and proceeds to pick up Clay at the local watering hole. Thinking it will be easy to take advantage of some unsuspecting guy she manages to get a free night in a hotel and doesn’t have to sleep on a park bench. Things are great until Clay discovers Jane rifling through his wallet the next morning. 
 
Through in a fake id, a sketchy past and the police hot on her tale and you get Jane. As for Clay, he used to be in a band and gave it all up, but now wants it back. He’s always done the safe thing, so the question begs, will he continue to play it safe or take a chance on Jane and figure out whom she is and how he can help her before she breaks his heart and leaves.
 
This book is not complicated by any means. Just an easy and fast read to take your mind off your troubles for a little while. Rating:
 
 
Week 12: Mar. 19 - 25, 2011  Stay

In Stay by Allison Leigh we learn all about the power of family and how one lucky girl got to grow up surrounded by five boys, while not her blood brothers, they were her brothers in every other sense of the word. And how the love she felt for one of the boys would never fade away, no matter how hard the father tried to keep them apart.
 
Jefferson Clay, the middle brother, is back home after being for a long while. When his father falls ill, he returns to be with the family and try to heal from an injury he’s suffered. Upon arrival he comes face to face with the girl his father had forbidden him from and which was the reason he left.
 
It’s been ten years and Emily Nichols is all grown up. Her love for Jefferson has never died. Now all she has to do is convince him to stay, and show the family she can handle it.
 
This book is book one in a series called, Men of the Double C Ranch. I found it to be a really easy and relaxing read. I didn’t have to think much as it just flowed from beginning to end. Rating:
 
 

 Week 11: Mar. 12 - 18, 2011  Dream Mender

 
Another story by Sherryl Woods….is this getting old yet? 
 
In Dream Mender, Frank Chambers has suffered a terrible blow. His makes his livelihood with his hands. Personally, I think he feels that his entire identity is wrapped up in what he can create with his hands. Now that he can’t use them he is very angry, and he makes no pretense about it either.
 
 
Jenny Michaels, on the other hand, makes no pretenses either. As an occupational therapist, she has seen it all, and doesn’t put up with any of it. 
 
Determined to help Frank one way or the other, she gives him a little tough love until it finally turns into the real thing…for both of them!
 
Sherryl Woods’ stories never get old for me. This one in particular is a very quick read. In a nutshell, it’s all about learning to live the life that has been dealt to you, and how the power of love can help you along the way. Rating:
 
 
Week 10: Mar. 5 - 11, 2011  The Backup Plan
 
Back so Sherryl Woods again with another novel...The Backup Plan. Wow...let's get right to it with a deeply moving story about how one person deals with tragedy and it's aftermath. The good news: Reporter Dinah Davis is back home after being a foreign correspondent for a number of years. The bad news: She's lost her edge after suffering a traumatic experience. Now that she is home, she wants to enact her "Backup Plan". Unfortunately the other person that was a part of this plan is no longer available.While she tries to make contact with the guy she left behind, she has to deal with his brother, her meddlesome mother and her well meaning friend.
The man of her dreams,  Bobby is in business with his brother Cordell. He's out of town but the "bad boy" brother is right there and in her face. Desperate to find her old boyfriend, she goes to see Cordell. He does everything he can to make sure that Bobby and Dinah stay apart because Bobby has moved on with his life and found someone else.Cordell wants nothing more for Dinah to move on with her life and include him in that plan. What follows is really Dinah and how she must deal with not being able to put the backup plan into effect. Things are starting to turn out completely different than what Dinah had expected. Not only does she have to deal with her past, what happened while she was away, but also with the dynamics of letting a new person into her life. And this guy was definitely "not what she planned". Rating:

 
 
Week 9: Feb. 26 - Mar 4, 2011 Nights of Rain and Stars
Nights of Rain and Stars...I read this book because I am in serious need of a vacation! So why not live vicariously through one of my books. Lets go to Greece...Nights of Rain and Stars...I read this book because I am in serious need of a vacation! So why not live vicariously through one of my books. Lets go to Greece...We start out in a small village where a group of travelers have gathered to have lunch in a hilltop tavern. Their lives become entwined when they are brought together because of a tragedy that unfolds in the harbor below.

The characters to some respect become a family and must all learn to deal with the tragedy as well as their personal issues. Six unlikely people, two locals and four on holiday, all from different walks of like, each have his/her own burden to bear.

This is one of those stories that you can easily find yourself getting lost in. I highly recommend finding a quiet space, putting your feet up and planning on reading it from start to finish. Rating:

 
 
Week 8: Feb. 19 - 25, 2011 Blond with a Wand
 
Here's something fun...Blonde with a Wand. Vicki Lewis Thompson gets my vote for fun and cheeky. Plus it fulfills my witchy desires of the week!
 
When Anica learns that her new boyfriend is a jerk, she uses old magic to turn him into...of all things...a black cat! Then she discovers that she can't turn him back because she's lost her magic. Whoops! Now she must figure out how to get him to turn back all on his own.
 
Sometimes I am just looking for a book to help me escape from all of the daily pressures of life. This one definitely filled the bill. I found myself laughing all the time at the antics of "Jasper" the cat and the things that Anica did to try to turn him into a mortal again.
 
Definitely a fast, fun read and if you really want something light-hearted...this is the book for you.  Rating:
 
Week 7: Feb. 12 - 18, 2011 The Merlot Murders...A Wine Country Mystery

Ok...okay. I finally picked up something outside of my comfort zone...a mystery. But at least it was based on a theme that I am familiar with...wine! Ellen Crosby's The Merlot Murders was a very interesting, and definitely reminded me of my years of working at the winery. Many of the author's references to the wine business made me chuckle as I remember only too much what it takes to make a winery successful.

The main character, Lucie, is summoned home by her brother because her father has been found dead out in the vineyards. Lucie has been living in France ever since her accident. When she gets home she finds the family estate in shambles and her brother wanting to sell everything. And on top of everything else, another death occurs. Now Lucie must solve two murders and she suspects everyone.

This was a great fast read and a wonderful way to introduce someone to the world of mysteries. I've never read them before because frankly it was a genre I was afraid of...not anymore! I can't wait to read future editions in this series. Rating:

 

Week 6: Feb. 5 - 11, 2011  Family Affair

 
A favorite author of mine, Debbie Macomber, brings back an oldie, but a goodie. Her short story entitled,"Family Affair" is a delightful, fast-read about an Abyssinian cat, named Cleo and her owner, Lacey.
 
In order to recover from a painful divorce, Lacey decides to hunker down in her San Francisco apartment with cat Cleo. The bad news is that she has a noisy neighbor who also has a cat...named Dog. Unfortunately she can't ignore either of them due to an unexpected encounter between their two pets.
 
Jack is attracted to Lacey, but he has problems of his own. How can he
pursue his feelings for Lacey when he has a sister who he is constantly arguing with about her own love life.
 
This really was a fast read. Something to take your mind off your daily troubles. You can never go wrong with a book by Debbie Macomber! Rating:
 

  
Week 5: Jan. 29 - Feb. 4, 2011   Losing it: And Gaining My Life Back One Pound at a Time

I switched to this autobiography from Valerie Bertinelli and found it to be an interesting insight to one of the people who I enjoyed watching on TV when I was younger.You could almost say we grew up together as she is only a few years older than myself. We spend our time watching celebrities on tv or in movies, but we really don't know who they are at all except for what we see on tv or in movies. Who they are in that realm is not who they really are in life at all. This book really proved that.
 
I always wondered about her marriage to Eddie Van Halen, why she only had one child, and if those stories about rock stars were true. This story is an enlightening look inside that world and into her life.
 
I read it because I wanted to learn about her relationship with food since I m struggling with similar issues as she. It was good to see that despite different upbringings, we weren't that too much different in our thought processes when it comes to food. It gave me hope that I too, one day, will be able to overcome my demons with food. Rating:

 

 
 

Week 4: Jan. 22 - 28, 2011 Return to Rose Cottage - For The Love Pete

Youngest sister Jo D'Angelo follows her sisters and heads to Rose Cottage after her life gets turned upside down by her ex-fiance...her lying and cheating ex-fiance. Going to back there is the hardest thing because she'll have to go back and face the man that she once thought was the man for her.
 
Pete Catlett once thought of Rose Cottage as his second home. Now he's just there to do some repairs and thinks about where his life went all wrong. He made a colossal mistake and lost the only girl he really loved. But now she's back and  maybe he can try and make up for the mistakes of his past.
 
Everyone makes mistakes, but can two people who were truly meant to be together get beyond one of the most commonest of mistakes a guy can make.
 
Without saying anything more to give away the story, I must admit that by the end of this series my biggest comment was "Butt out of my life, will you?" It was great to see the younger sister, Jo, finally stand up to her sisters. I don't have any sisters, so I can't relate on that level. However, I know I would be more than slightly peeved if someone walked into my home, unannounced, every single day.
 
Getting back to the storyline though, I felt that this one was a little bit too predictable. Maybe it was because I read a similar story not that long ago. Who knows? Nevertheless it was a nice ending to the D'Angelo Sister's stories. Rating:
 
 

Week 3: Jan. 15 - 21, 2011 Return to Rose Cottage - The Laws of Attraction

 
Week three brings me back to Sherryl Woods and the The Rose Cottage Series, Return to Rose Cottage. The Laws of Attraction features the third D'Angelo daughter and oldest sister, oldest sister Ashley.
 
She's what you would call a classic, high-powered attorney and she has finally burnt out. Sickened by the recent events of her latest trial, she can't imagine ever showing her face again in the legal world. So like her sisters before her, she hears the call of Rose Cottage beckoning to her.
 
While there, she runs into Josh Madison. And I do mean...runs into him. It's only an accident but it leads to a whole lot more. Josh just so happens to be the neighbor of Melanie and Mike. What Ashley doesn't know is that Josh is just like her...a high-powered attorney. And he is in town doing exactly the same thing she is doing...thinking about what he wants from his life.
 
The only difference is that he doesn't tell her what he does for a living and when she finds out, she's really unhappy. "How can trust flourish is one lies about something so basic? And without trust, what kind of relationship can we possibly have?" Those words ring true in real life as well. If you can't trust the people around you, the relationship can't possibly stand the test of time.
 
I found the story to be believable for this very reason. Honesty and trust are very important in any relationship. In fact they are the building blocks of all relationships. Rating:
 
 

Week 2: Jan 8 - 14, 2011 Home at Rose Cottage - What's Cooking?

Margaret "Maggie" D'Angelo has made so many bad choices when it comes to men. In fact, she thinks she has an addiction, or an attraction. Falling into "something" with world renowned photographer, Rick Flannery, was a very bad idea. Not wanting to compete with the thousands of women who drool over him daily, Maggie decides to hide out at grandma's Rose Cottage until this "thing" wears off.
 
Little did she know that Rick was feeling the same intense attraction to her. When he found out she left town, he was annoyed and decided he was going to find her...one way or another. Maggie sees Rick as a playboy and he sees her as a conquest...or does he?
 
While I have never personnally had someone follow me to my hiding place, I do find this somewhat appealing. I also don't have three intrusive and nosy sisters waiting to give me advice every chance they get. But this too holds some appeal. And since this story does revolve around food, I am drawn in even more so.
 
I like stories that build upon each other and can't wait to read about the other two sisters. Rating:
 
 
 

Week 1: Jan 1 - 7, 2011   Home at Rose Cottage - Three Down The Aisle

So I began the 52 Weeks, 52 Books year with one of my favorite authors, Sheryl Woods. Yes, she is a romance writer, and the truth is I found her while on traveling on vacation to Oregon a few years ago. I fell in love with the cover picture of one of her books and picked it up (along with two more of hers) and couldn't put it down.
 
This year I have the wonderful opportunity to read at lunch and during breaks so Home at Rose Cottage gives me the chance to read two novels in one book. The D'Angelo sisters all end up coming home to Grandma's Rose Cottage where they all find solace from their respective love lives.
 
The first story, Three Down The Aisle, centers around sister Melanie who finally decides it's time to concentrate on her needs for a change. After finding out that her boyfriend, who just so happens to work at the same company she does, has a wife and two kids, Melanie's three sisters convince her to take some time off to heal her heart, figure out what she is going to do next, and fix up the cottage that has been empty and neglected since Grandma passed away seven years ago.
 
Rose Cottage sits on the banks of the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. Stefan "Mike" Mikelewski, local landscape designer, drives passed the place every weekday taking his daughter Jessie to and from school. He is dismayed, and frankly really upset to see the old beauty in such disrepair. On one of these daily trips, Jessie sees something in the window and he decides to go back and investigate. It is then he finds Melanie "tresspassing" on the property.
 
It is here that Rose Cottage begins to weave her "spell" over the two as they learn to heal their hearts and begin to trust that they will find love again.
 
I liked this one. It's storyline is relevant to things that are current in today's world. We spend the better part of our day at work and it can be difficult to meet people, let only date. It's natural that we would gravitate to those around us at work for love and companionship. However, we run the risk of getting our hearts broken, especially when we find that one or both parties fail to tell to the truth about themselves. Married or not? Kids or no kids? Are you dating me just so that you can advance in the company or ???
 
I found this to be a fast read as it got right into the story after a brief prologue. If you've never read Sherryl Woods before, I highly recommend that you read her novels. Rating: