Friday, September 15, 2017

Romances by Lily Everett: Quick Review



About the Book:

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

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





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


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

My Comments

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

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

Friday, September 08, 2017

Review: The Bible Blueprint



About the Book:

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

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

My Comments:

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

To Be Where You Are: My Review



About the Book:

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

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

My Comments:

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

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

Monday, September 04, 2017

It's Monday: What Are You Reading


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

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


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

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

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




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

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

Friday, September 01, 2017

Review: Something Like Happy

Something Like Happy by [Woods, Eva]


About the Book:

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

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

My Comments:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Son by Lois Lowry: My Review



About the Book:

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

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

My Comments:

SPOILER ALERT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 27, 2017

It's Monday, What Are You Reading

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

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

Here are some of my recent Overdrive reads:

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

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

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

Family Tree: A Novel by [Wiggs, Susan]

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

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


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


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

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




Keep You Safe: My Review



About the Book:

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

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

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

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

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

My Comments:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Review: The Art of Keeping Secrets



About the Book:

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

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

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

My Comments:

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 07, 2017

The Summer That Made Us: My Review


The Summer that Made Us

About the Book:

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

That was then… 

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

This is now… 

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

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

My Comments:

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

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

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

Monday, July 24, 2017

Until You Loved Me: My Review

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


About the Book:

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

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

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

My Comments:

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Review: The Innkeeper's Sister



About the Book:

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

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

My Comments:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 17, 2017

Finding Our Forever: My Review

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


About the Book:

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

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

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

My Comments:

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Blog Tour: Primrose Lane



About the Book:

Olivia Davenport has finally gotten her life back together. She's left her painful past behind, started over in a new town, and become Harmony Harbor's most sought-after event planner. But her past catches up to her when Olivia learns that she's now guardian of her ex's young daughter. With her world spinning, Olivia must reconcile her old life with her new one. And she doesn't have time for her new next door neighbor, no matter how handsome he is.

Olivia may act like she's got everything under control, but Dr. Finn Gallagher knows a person in over her head when he sees one. He'd really like to be the shoulder she leans on, but Olivia makes it clear she doesn't want his help. Since he's returned to town, his waiting room has been full of single women feigning illness. Yet the one woman he's interested in is avoiding him. But with a little help from some matchmaking widows and a precocious little girl, Finn might just win Olivia over.



My Comments:

Debbie Mason has another winner here.  I love visiting Harmony Harbor and all the folks at the Inn.  The supernatural grandmother is back and still trying to right the wrongs of her earlier days.  Finn is a real sweetheart and of course he and Olivia get their HEA.  This book makes a great pool or beach read--light, predictable and heartwarming.  

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy and allowing me to participate in this blog tour.  Grade:  B. 

Meet the Author:



Debbie Mason is the USA Today bestselling author of the Christmas, Colorado series and Harmony Harbor series. Her books have been praised for their "likable characters, clever dialogue, and juicy plots" (RT Book Reviews). She also writes historical paranormals as Debbie Mazzuca. Her MacLeod series has received several nominations for best paranormal as well as a Holt Medallion Award of Merit. When she isn't writing or reading, Debbie enjoys spending time with her very own real-life hero, three wonderful children and son-in-law, two adorable grandbabies, and a yappy Yorkie named Bella.

Visit debbiemazzuca.com for Debbie’s Scottish Romances.

Author Q &A:

Q: Is Harmony Harbor based on any real towns?

A:  Parts of Gloucester, Massachusetts provided inspiration for Harmony Harbor.

Q:  Children seem to play a prominent role in this series. Is that incidental or something you set out to do?

A:   My books are family-centric, and while I adore children and think including them in a story can add both conflict and comedic moments, I don’t intentionally set out to do so.

Q:  What do you like best about being a writer?

A:  I pretty much love everything about being a writer, and I feel very lucky to be able to do it for a living.

Q: What is the hardest part about being a writer?

A:  Like the majority of writers, I’m an introvert. So I find it difficult to put myself out there.

Q:  Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

A:  Read, read, read, and read some more. And then write what you love to read.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review: Serenity Harbor



About the Book:

Computer-tech millionaire Bowie Callahan is about the last person that schoolteacher Katrina Bailey wants to work for. As far as she can see, he's arrogant, entitled and not up to the task of caring for his young half brother, Milo. But Kat is, especially if it brings her closer to her goal of adopting an orphaned little girl. And as her kindness and patience work wonders with Milo, she realizes there's more to sexy, wary Bo than she'd ever realized. 

 

Bo never imagined he'd be tasked with caring for a sibling he didn't know existed. Then again, he never pictured himself impulsively kissing vibrant, compassionate Katrina in the moonlight. Now he's ready to make her dream of family come true…and hoping there's room in it for him, too…

My Comments:

I enjoyed another visit to the charming town of Haven Point.  Like other stories in the series, it stood well on its own; however characters from other stories make quick appearances and those not familiar with the series may wonder why they walk across the stage.

Bowie didn't know he had a younger brother until his mother died.  Suddenly this workaholic from a dysfunctional family was tasked with raising a disabled child.  He'd been through several nannies and had another one hired--but she couldn't start for a few weeks, and he needed someone asap.

Katrina has always wanted to be a mom and is looking for money to pay adoption expenses so she can adopt a South American orphan.  She meets Bowie and Milo when Milo is having a meltdown in a store.  Bowie offers her a job as a temporary nanny at far more money than a job like that usually pays, and since she needs the money, she takes the job.  Of course neither Bowie nor Katrina expects things to go further than employer/employee....

Like Thayne's other books, this one doesn't go beyond passionate kissing. 

As the mother of an autistic son I enjoyed watching Katrina work with Milo, though Thayne made it a bit too easy in my opinion.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  This was a quick enjoyable read so I'll give it a B.  

Monday, June 19, 2017

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

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I've spent a lot of the week reading, but the reviews won't be published for some time. I enjoyed most of them and they are on NetGalley, so if you want them...


Two girls in the same class come down the measles.  The one who gets sick first has not been vaccintated because her parents don't believe the vaccines are safe.  She recovers without incident.  The second appears to have gotten it from the first.  She wasn't vaccinated because she was allergic to the vaccine.  She gets much sicker and has long-lasting sequelae.  

I was interested in this book because one reason some parents don't vaccinate (and it is the reason in this book) is fear of autism, and I have an autistic son.  I also have a daughter who I had to decide to vaccinate, or not, after I knew about his autism and after I knew about the vaccine theory.  


The prototypical "beach read" except that the setting is a lake house rather than a beach house.  Get the family together at the family vacation home, secrets are exposed and healing happens.  


Falling in love with a one-night stand, but taking almost a year to do so.  

Next Up:


I've read other Nicole Baart books, most of which were published by Christian imprints.  This is published by Atria, a general market publisher, and is published as "women's fiction".  I'm looking forward to it and I think Baart writes beautiful prose. 

See what other people are reading this week at It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Preview and Giveaway: Primrose Lane by Debbie Mason



About the Book:

Olivia Davenport has finally gotten her life back together. She's left her painful past behind, started over in a new town, and become Harmony Harbor's most sought-after event planner. But her past catches up to her when Olivia learns that she's now guardian of her ex's young daughter. With her world spinning, Olivia must reconcile her old life with her new one. And she doesn't have time for her new next door neighbor, no matter how handsome he is.

Olivia may act like she's got everything under control, but Dr. Finn Gallagher knows a person in over her head when he sees one. He'd really like to be the shoulder she leans on, but Olivia makes it clear she doesn't want his help. Since he's returned to town, his waiting room has been full of single women feigning illness. Yet the one woman he's interested in is avoiding him. But with a little help from some matchmaking widows and a precocious little girl, Finn might just win Olivia over.

Giveaway:

PREORDER THE BOOK HERE


THE HARMONY HARBOR SERIES

MISTLETOE COTTAGE, #1
CHRISTMAS WITH AN ANGEL, #1.5
STARLIGHT BRIDGE, #2
PRIMROSE LANE, #3


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Debbie Mason is the USA Today bestselling author of the Christmas, Colorado series. Her books have been praised for their "likable characters, clever dialogue, and juicy plots" (RT Book Reviews).  When she isn't writing or reading, Debbie enjoys spending time with her very own real-life hero, their four wonderful children, two adorable grandbabies, and a yappy Yorkie named Bella.


FOLLOW FOREVER ONLINE

An Excerpt:



Dr. Finn Gallagher found himself at the clinic on Primrose Lane, wondering what the hell he’d gotten himself into. In the seven and half hours he’d been there, he’d seen forty-five patients. Only five of whom actually had something physically wrong with them. All five were female and under the age of sixteen. As far as he could tell, not one of them was interested in marrying him.

The other forty had nothing wrong with them. And, as far as he could tell, were very interested in marrying him. If they weren’t, their grandmothers and mothers were. Interested in him marrying their daughters and granddaughters, that is.

At the beginning of the day, it was kind of amusing, even a little flattering. But by 10:45 it had gotten old and annoying. It didn’t help that he kept thinking of the patients he saw while working with Doctors Without Borders. Those people needed him, desperately. They weren’t fake coughing or complaining about phantom chest pains. They were sick and hungry, wounded and scared. They weren’t spoiled and whiny and ungrateful.

He winced at his unflattering characterizations and intolerance. While there was some truth to his observations, the throbbing ache in his leg injury was making him grumpy. Knowing his father had been right and Finn wasn’t ready to go back to the Congo wasn’t doing much to improve his mood.


Sherry, Doc Bishop’s nurse and a woman Finn had dated in high school, opened the door to the closet-sized office. “Pain hasn’t let up, has it?” she asked with a compassionate smile.

“I’m good. Just had to return a couple of phone calls.” He set down the cold cup of coffee he hadn’t had a chance to drink, removed the ice pack from his knee, and surreptitiously hid it behind the welcome-to-the-clinic plant from the staff, which Finn now mentally referred to as the matchmaking clinic from hell. He pushed to his feet with a closed-mouth smile that hopefully hid his clenched his teeth from Sherry’s observant gaze.

“Really? I rescheduled Molly, Sally, and Karen’s physicals to tomorrow, but if you’re okay to see—”

“No, tomorrow’s good. On second thought, why don’t you schedule them with Doc Bishop? They’ve been going to him for twenty years. I’m sure they’d be more comfortable—”

“They would be or you would?” she said with a laugh, and then proceeded to share way too much information about all three women before adding, “Dr. Bishop won’t be in tomorrow. Mrs. Fitzgerald invited him to make up a foursome, remember?”

Finn rubbed his jaw. “I’m not sure that’s something you should share—”

She made a ha-snort sound and then cuffed him on the shoulder. “Not that kind of foursome, silly. They’re playing golf.” She ha-snorted again. “It’s no wonder that’s where your mind went after the offers you’ve had today. Kerry will get a good laugh over that one.”

If Sherry had her master’s in gossip, Kerry, the receptionist, had her PhD. Finn figured he’d provided them with enough to talk about for a month at least. He lifted his chin in the direction of the examination rooms. There were five. “Who’s next?”

“I cleared out the waiting room of all but legit complaints, so you only have four. Patient number one won’t take long. She just needs her script renewed.” She handed him a file.

He looked at the name and handed it back. “Might be better if Doc Bishop sees Ms. Templeton.”

“He left early. Mrs. DiRossi invited him for dinner, and I think he wanted to get spiffed up.”

Sherry frowned and looked from Finn to examination room number one. “Is there a reason you don’t want to see Dana?”




Wednesday, June 07, 2017

An Open Letter to My Insurance Company and Doctor

I'm basically a free-market Republican.  My basic philosophy is that the less the government is involved in business the better.  I also believe that it is for more efficient to save insurance for the big bills and not to use it for every routine expense.  That being said, right now, I'm angry.  I feel like I've been scre*** and it is your fault--yes, both of you, and I'll blame the government too.

What happened?  Well, on March 1 I started suffering from what I thought was a rather routine illness.  I called my doctor's office and they sent me to a partner clinic across town.  No problem, I understand that I can't get instant appointments with whomever I wish whenever I wish.

My appointment was with a nurse-practitioner.  Again, no problem.  As far as I knew, this was a routine problem and I just needed someone who could write a prescription.  When I got there, they checked my insurance and collected my co-payment, as expected.  The nurse-practitioner did as expected, ordered the lab tests I expected and wrote me the prescriptions that I expected.  No problem.

Unfortunately, the test results did not come back as expected, which led to questions about what was causing my symptoms (which had resolved promptly when I took the medication).  Sensibly, the NP referred me to a specialist, as the symptoms could have been indicative of something serious.

I saw the specialist who ordered more tests, tests that I thought were very reasonable considering the possible causes of my symptoms.

I returned a few weeks later for the tests.  They were negative.  Most likely, the doctor said, the symptoms were caused by some germ that didn't show up on the first test, and that nothing was wrong.  However to be sure, we should do some more tests.  She'd get her office to get insurance company approval.

A week or so later her office called to schedule the appointment for the tests, and I agreed.  The day before the tests the patient accounts office called and told me the cost for the tests would be over $800.  When I asked for an explanation I was told that this test came under my deductible, not my co-pay.  Our local paper had just published a piece on medical prices, so I asked for the codes for the test I needed and I checked online.  The Medicare price for this procedure was $425.  I called several facilities around town and asked for the cash price for this procedure and most of them wanted about $800; one only wanted $750.  I told my doctor's office to send the orders over there, but when I called to schedule the procedure, they wanted over $800 because the orders listed my insurance.

Then the bills started coming.  It seems that my insurance had changed--and I knew that, sort of.  I knew the deductible and co-pays had increased (along with the premiums) but until this year, my co-pay covered everything that happened at the doctor's office that day, in other words, it covered the shots and the labwork.  Well, not anymore.  You'd think a change like that would have been pointed out to us.

I read medical bills for a living but I still couldn't make enough sense out of the bills I got to determine what they were charging me for and why.  All I know is that I paid the doctor's office over $200 last month and today I got a bill for another $300.  I got an EOB that said something was non-covered and I may owe the provider.

I don't live paycheck to paycheck.  Our income allows us to handle bills like this.  Even if I end up paying all of this out of pocket, we will still have dinner tomorrow, and no one is going to turn our lights off.  Still, I have a very nasty taste in my mouth.  It is nasty tastes like this that make people think that "someone" ought to "fix" the problem.  If you (doctor and insurance company) want to know why so many people are agitating for change in the way we pay for medical treatment, an experience like this is a big reason why.

First of all, I had no clue these bills were coming (except for the $800 bill).  Secondly, when I got the bill, it just gave a date of service and an amount.  There was no clue what it was for.  The EOB had more information, but even it wasn't complete.  The EOB showed a huge charge, a "discount", the amount the insurance company paid and the amount owed.  It did not explain why I owed that much, to get that information I had to call.  Medical math has to be the most complicated PhD level math course there is, and since I'm not a math person, I don't get it.

Finally, the bills do seem outrageous compared to the amount of time I was there, the complexity of the problem etc.  Maybe I'm wrong about that, maybe they really do need for me to pay that much in order for them to maintain the business and pay the employees decently--but back to that $800 charge for a test that would have cost Medicare $425--why should I pay more than Medicare?  The nice lady at the doctor's office said they could send me a financial aid packet if I needed one, and if I have to pay a little more so the poor can get treatment, I'm ok with that, but I don't see why I should pay more than the biggest payer.

With everything else I buy I am told the price before I incur the charges.  Even the mechanic gives me an estimate before he fixes the car.  Just trying to get prices over the phone requires more sophistication about medical billing that what most people have.  A friend of mine just posted on facebook that she went to an in-network ER for what was truly an emergency and was sent into surgery.  However, it seems that the assistant surgeon (who she never saw) was out-of-network and the insurance company wouldn't pay, so she was supposed to.

Folks, business as you are now running it is only going to make people madder as the current trend promoted by both Obamacare and Turmp is for more individual responsibility for medical bills (up to a point) in the form of deductibles and co-pays and taxes on plans that pay "too much".  All this in-network, out-of-network foolishness with those huge "discounts" was fine when we knew that at the end of the day we could easily find doctors who were "on the list" and that we were going to pay $50 for the doctor's visit.  However, if you are going to make me pay huge insurance premiums and then get stuck with big medical bills too, I'm going to feel taken advantage of and people who feel taken advantage of aren't going to be happy with the status quo--and I'll give you a heads up, I'm not looking for more ways to put money in your pocket.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Book Review: The Swallow's Nest



About the Book:

When Lilia Swallow's husband, Graham, goes into remission after a challenging year of treatment for lymphoma, the home and lifestyle blogger throws a party. Their best friends and colleagues attend to celebrate his recovery, but just as the party is in full swing, a new guest arrives. She presents Lilia with a beautiful baby boy, and vanishes. 

Toby is Graham's darkest secret—his son, conceived in a moment of despair. Lilia is utterly unprepared for the betrayal the baby represents, and perhaps more so for the love she begins to feel once her shock subsides. Now this unasked-for precious gift becomes a life changer for three women: Lilia, who takes him into her home and heart; Marina, who bore and abandoned him until circumstance and grief changed her mind; and Ellen, who sees in him a chance to correct the mistakes she made with her own son, Toby's father. 

A custody battle begins, and each would-be mother must examine her heart, confront her choices and weigh her dreams against the fate of one vulnerable little boy. Each woman will redefine family, belonging and love—and the results will alter the course of not only their lives, but also the lives of everyone they care for.

My Comments:

Emilie Richards is one of my favorite authors and The Swallow's Nest is yet another example of why I like her books.  

Most of Emilie Richard's characters are very human, with good and bad sides.  Lilia loves her husband but is understandably upset when she learns he has cheated on her, especially considering that she has basically put her life on hold for the last year to care for him as he underwent cancer treatment.  I do like her attitude that what happened wasn't the baby's fault and that the baby shouldn't be the one who pays for it.

I wanted to dislike Marina, Toby's birth mother--I mean what kind of woman sleeps with a married man and then abandons her baby?  On the other hand, she could have had an abortion, and she didn't. She could have surrendered Toby for adoption, or hurt him, and she didn't do those things either. Marina has had a tough life and by the end of the book I really felt sorry for her.

At first I felt sorry for Ellen, then I disliked her and, at the end, was cheering for her, just a little.  

As a blogger I enjoyed reading Lilia's take on events in the story via her blog. 

This book explores the love of a mother for her child and the different forms it can take.  It looks at what happens when children don't feel loved and the different ways love can be expressed.  I loved this book and highly recommend it.  Grade: A.

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

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Book Review: A Bridge Across the Ocean


A Bride Across the Ocean

About the Book:

February, 1946. World War Two is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Deveraux, the wronged daughter of a French Résistance spy.
 
Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMS Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly-held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. When the voyage ends at New York Harbor, only one of them will disembark...
 
Present day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides—and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings.

My Comments:

Susan Meissner's niche is stories about women in two different time periods, one historical and the other modern.  This book follow suit.  The connection between the women in this book is the ship, The Queen Mary.  

When reading fiction of any type, a certain suspension of disbelief is necessary.  No matter what the story, we know when we start reading it that the story is imaginary, even if the setting and/or characters are not.  The trick as an author is to create your world and characters and then to make their actions realistic within that world.  

I found the World War II era story to be believeable for the most part, but the modern story didn't ring true at all.  Brette can see ghosts--people who are caught between this world and the next.  It is a "gift" shared by some of the women in her family and something that got her labeled as the weird kid in high school.  A man she went to high school with (and liked until he chose the cool crowd over her) contacts her out of the blue because his daughter saw a ghost on the Queen Mary.  He asks her to visit the Queen Mary, find out there is no ghost there, and then tell his daugther that there is no ghost. This begins Brette's search for the ghost and for the stories of Annalise and Simone.
 
Brette's  whole plot line just gets stranger and stranger.  Even if you accept that ghosts exist and that Brette can see them, Brette's interactions with other people in the modern day just don't ring true--I mean why should the little girl believe this stranger when she won't believe her dad?  

While I loved the stories of Annaliese and Simone, Brette's story was a definite weak point in the book.

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Starting Over on Blackberry Lane: My Quick Review



About the Book:

Stefanie Stahl has a husband with renovation ADD. He can't seem to finish anything he starts and her house is littered with his "projects." If he doesn't smarten up, she swears she's going to murder him and bury him under the pile of scrounged lumber in the backyard.  

Her friend Griffin James is suddenly single and thinking maybe she needs to sell her fixer-upper and follow her career bliss up the ladder of success, even if that scary ladder is clear across the country. Getting her place ready to sell proves harder than she originally thought. She needs help.  

She's not the only one. Cass Wilkes, their neighbor, has an empty nest—with a leaking roof. When her ceiling crashes in, she knows it's time to do something. When Grant Masters offers his handyman services at a fund-raiser auction, the three women go in together to outbid the competition and win their man. (Cass's friends think she should win Grant in a different way, too!) Now it's time to make some improvements…in their houses and their lives.

My Comments:

If the blurb above sounds a little like a soap opera, that's because this book is a little like a soap opera with characters from other books making appearances so we can keep up with them (if we can remember them) and with the main characters going though all sorts contortions before true love can happen.  

If what you want is a light afternoon read with no deeper meaning, this fits the bill. 

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

Monday, May 15, 2017

Review: Before the Rain Falls



About the Book:

After serving seventy years in prison for the murder of her sister, Eula, Della Lee has finally returned home to the Texas town of Puerto Pesar. She’s free from confinement—and ready to tell her secrets before it’s too late.

She finds a willing audience in journalist Mick Anders, who is reeling after his suspension from a Boston newspaper and in town, reluctantly, to investigate a mysterious portrait of Eula that reportedly sheds tears. He crosses paths with Dr. Paloma Vega, who’s visiting Puerto Pesar with her own mission: to take care of her ailing grandmother and to rescue her rebellious younger sister before something terrible happens. Paloma and Mick have their reasons to be in the hot, parched border town whose name translates as “Port of Regret.” But they don’t anticipate how their lives will be changed forever.

Moving and engrossing, this dual story alternates between Della’s dark ordeals of the 1940s and Paloma and Mick’s present-day search for answers―about roots, family, love, and what is truly important in life.

My Comments:

I loved it, until the very end.  I still enjoyed it, but somehow the motivation for the event that set others into motion just didn't ring true. I'd discuss it further but that would be a spoiler. 

Camille Di Maio is a Catholic writer but while there are references to Catholicism in the book, and an element of Catholicism was a prime mover in this book, I don't really see this book as religious or Christian fiction.  There are no conversion scenes and religious faith does not seem to be a motivating factor for any character's behavior in the story.

The story follows two different timelines, and the chapters are labelled as to the dates of the action.  The parallels between the modern day story of sisters Paloma and Mercedes and of the 1940's sisters, Della and Eula are revealed bit by bit through the story and leave the reader realizing that while eras change, people really haven't.  

I like Di Maio's writing and use of language. Her prose is vivid and emotional.  

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Review: Any Day Now



About the Book:

For Sierra Jones, Sullivan's Crossing is meant to be a brief stopover. She's put her troubled past behind her but the path forward isn't yet clear. A visit with her big brother Cal and his new bride, Maggie, seems to be the best option to help her get back on her feet. 

Not wanting to burden or depend on anyone, Sierra is surprised to find the Crossing offers so much more than a place to rest her head. Cal and Maggie welcome her into their busy lives and she quickly finds herself bonding with Sully, the quirky campground owner who is the father figure she's always wanted. But when her past catches up with her, it's a special man and an adorable puppy who give her the strength to face the truth and fight for a brighter future. In Sullivan's Crossing Sierra learns to cherish the family you are given and the family you choose.

My Comments:

Robyn Carr has another winner here.  I loved Sierra and cheered for her as she got her life together.  Connie, her male love interest was a real sweetheart with just the right amount of masculinity--and who wouldn't love a cute puppy?  

I liked watching Sierra reclaim her life after an abusive relationship but found the resolution of that plot line to be somewhat unrealistic.  

Most of the time romance novels are about young adults just getting started in life, which I guess is because hopefully by the time people are middle-aged, they've met someone and settled into life together.  Still, as someone who is on the far side of 40, I like seeing "older" couples and this book features one. 

For those who like small town romances where everyone knows everyone, Any Day Now by Robyn Carr fits the bill if you don't mind a little steam.

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


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