Friday, February 26, 2021

Dear Abby - Videos Abby Likes: Harlso, The Balancing Hound


Dear Friends,

I hope you have had a good week! I have a real treat for you today. My friend, Chantelle (who has two lovely Chihuahuas named Louie and Lola) shared the story of Harlso the Balancing Hound. I find Harlso fascinating (and, ahem, quite handsome too!).

Harlso is a black and tan dachshund who has a special trick - he balances objects on his head. His people found this talent by accident and they have made many videos of Harlso balancing things.

You will see a sampling in this short video. Harlso balances a little globe, pizza, hamburgers, toys, and even a drink glass that is full.  He even dresses as a little Christmas elf and balances presents!  He looks upward with his big brown eyes as he balances so carefully. He only loses concentration once - for a toy. 

I have never tried to balance anything on my head, although I certainly invite the chance to balance pizza or a hamburger.  We could see how that would go!

Harlso has his own Youtube channel, and you can see a little video about him here:

I hope you enjoy watching Harlso as much as I do. I will be checking out his videos in the future too.

Have a great day!

Love,

Abby xoxoxo



Book Review - The English Wife by Adrienne Chinn


My Review

The English Wife is the story of two women. In 1940's England, Ellie Burgess falls in love with Thomas, a soldier who hails from Newfoundland.  In 2001, Sophie Parry finds her plane diverted from a trip to New York on 9/11. She lands in Newfoundland, where her Aunt Ellie lives.

I wanted to read this novel because I love historical fiction set in the 1940's. I also was intrigued by the Newfoundland setting, since that is an area I was not familiar with. I love traveling new places in a book!

This is an ambitious dual storyline novel that tells the story of two women, in World War II and in the aftermath of 9/11. The author does an amazing job at skillfully interweaving the  stories of these women's lives. 

The historical details are rich. I especially found the details of England during World War II to be fascinating, like the little cellar where Ellie and her little sister Dottie hide out (with their cat!) during a bombing raid.

I also love the current day descriptions of Newfoundland, which seems like a quirky, vibrant place. For instance:

"Sophie follows Sam and Becca through the screen door. Inside, long white-painted wooden counters stacked with boxes of art cards, homemade jams, rolls of colourful ribbon, plates of fat muffins, tempting cookies and red paper bags of something labelled hard tack flank the narrow walls in front of the sage green shelves displaying handmade glazed pottery and framed art prints. Four lively dachshunds clatter through the doorway from a back room, followed by a sturdily built woman of about fifty, in paint-spattered jeans and a Joni Mitchell T-shirt" (eBook location 851).

Although I initially was more interested in the 1940's story, as the book went on I became invested also in Sophie's storyline (2001 - 2011) and especially life in Newfoundland.

I enthusiastically recommend The English Wife for fans of historical fiction, especially anyone interested in the 1940's, Newfoundland, and dual storyline novels. It is a lovely and engrossing read!

Book Synopsis

Two women, a world apart.

A secret waiting to be discovered…

VE Day 1945: As victory bells ring out across the country, war bride Ellie Burgess’ happiness is overshadowed by grief. Her charismatic Newfoundlander husband Thomas is still missing in action.

Until a letter arrives explaining Thomas is back at home on the other side of the Atlantic recovering from his injuries.

Travelling to a distant country to live with a man she barely knows is the bravest thing Ellie has ever had to do. But nothing can prepare her for the harsh realities of her new home…

September 11th 2001: Sophie Parry is on a plane to New York on the most tragic day in the city’s history. While the world watches the news in horror, Sophie’s flight is rerouted to a tiny town in Newfoundland and she is forced to seek refuge with her estranged aunt Ellie.

Determined to discover what it was that forced her family apart all those years ago, newfound secrets may change her life forever…

This is a timeless story of love, sacrifice and resilience perfect for fans of Lucinda Riley, Lorna Cook and Gill Paul.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Author Bio

Adrienne Chinn was born in an old paper-making town in Newfoundland, and grew up in rural Quebec and Montreal. She retraced her English father’s footsteps back to England, where she now lives and works as an interior designer.

She travels all over the world to speak at international events, and leads design retreats in her beloved Morocco, which she has been visiting regularly for over ten years.

When not writing or designing, Adrienne can be found puttering in her Sussex garden; trawling flea markets; swimming anywhere she can find a lake, sea or pool; or in the queue at Gatwick heading off somewhere new.

Find out more about Adrienne at her website, and follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Book Review - A Dance in Donegal by Jennifer Deibel


My Review

A Dance in Donegal is a historical novel set in 1920. Moira Doherty leaves Boston after her mother dies to return to her mother's hometown of Donegal, Ireland as a schoolteacher. Upon arriving in Donegal she hears rumors of her mother's scandalous past, deals with small town small mindedness, and finds love.

I wanted to read A Dance in Donegal because both the Irish setting and 1920 time period were intriguing.

The author has lived in Ireland and she did an amazing job at setting the scene and capturing Ireland of many years ago. The characters use Gaelic terms and there is a glossary of terms at the end of the book to help readers. I really enjoyed the old Ireland details in this book and the lovely historical details.

Moira is a very sympathetic protagonist who has faced great loss and taken a real chance to move to another country - only to find obstacles from the small minded town folk. She faces barriers based on her mother's reputation, and when she tries to help a student who has Spanish Influenza, that further separates her from the town.

Moira has two men who are interested in her - Sean, a village thatcher who is strong and kind, and Declan, a barrister recently returned to the village, who is charming and glib.

This is a Christian novel. I read inspirational fiction regularly and enjoy it. I found the message in this book to be much more direct than I am used to and I often wished that there was more "show, don't tell," with the character's faith being shown more subtly through actions and quiet strength.

A Dance in Donegal is a novel for fans of Christian fiction, and especially for anyone who is interested in Ireland.

Book Synopsis

All her life, Boston-born Moira Doherty has relished her mother's descriptions of the Emerald Isle. When her mother dies unexpectedly in the summer of 1920, Moira is compelled to fulfill her dying wish--that she become the teacher in Ballymann, the beloved village in Donegal, Ireland, she's heard so much about.

After an arduous voyage, Moira begins a challenging new job in an unfamiliar and ancient country. Though a few locals offer a warm welcome, others are distanced by superstition and suspicion. Rumors about Moira's mother are unspoken in her presence but threaten to derail everything she's journeyed to Ballymann to do. Moira must rely on the kindness of a handful of friends--and the strength of Sean, an unsettlingly handsome thatcher who keeps popping up unannounced--as she seeks to navigate a life she'd never dreamed of . . . but perhaps was meant to live. 

Author Bio

Jennifer Deibel is a middle school teacher whose work has appeared on (in)courage, on The Better Mom, in Missions Mosaic magazine, and other publications. With firsthand immersive experience abroad, Jennifer writes stories that help redefine home through the lens of culture, history, and family. After nearly a decade of living in Ireland and Austria, she now lives in Arizona with her husband and their three children. You can find her online at www.jenniferdeibel.com.


Friday, February 19, 2021

Dear Abby - Videos Abby Likes: Dachshund and Turtle Play Soccer


Dear Friends,

I am on the run this week (not literally, but it has been a busy day!) so I'll just pop in to share a short video with you.

My friend Emily, a dachshund in Texas, sent me a cute video of a dachshund playing soccer with a turtle. The dachshund seems a bit more enthusiastic about the ball than the turtle, but it really looks like they are playing together!

I have never met a turtle before. If you have a dog, have they met a turtle, and if so, what did they think? 

Without further ado, here is this fun little video:

Thanks for stopping by! Have a great day.

Love,

Abby xoxoxo



Book Review and Giveaway - The Paris Dressmaker by Kristy Cambron


My Review

The Paris Dressmaker is a historical novel that spans 1939 - 1944 in Paris. The story centers on two women. Lila de Laurent is a dressmaker for Coco Chanel. She becomes involved in the Resistance and eventually makes dresses for the mistresses of Nazi officials in order to spy on their activities. Sandrine Paquet is a married mother who works cataloging art that has been stolen from Jewish families and is being sent to Germany. She, too, is involved in the Resistance. When a beautiful and mysterious Chanel gown appears in one of the collections Sandrine is working with, these two women are suddenly connected.

I wanted to read this novel because I enjoyed Kristy Cambron's Lost Castle series. I love historical fiction and particularly like the 1940's time period. I am a bit of a Francophile, so the French setting was a major plus.

This is such a unique novel. It has a dual storyline featuring both the dressmaker, Lila, and the art cataloger, Sandrine. The storytelling is not linear, but weaves back and forth in time. There are mysteries on top of mysteries: the Chanel gown, the stolen artwork, and the men who come and go in these women's lives - Lila's boyfriend Rene, who works to save his Jewish family during the war, and Sandrine's husband, Christian, who is away fighting and intermittently disappearing.

It took me a bit to unwind the story at the beginning, with very quick flashes from one time and place to another. Once I felt comfortable with the narrative style, I was thoroughly engrossed in the story and found this novel hard to put down!

Kristy Cambron's storytelling is beautiful. There are striking descriptions that set the scene, like:

"
Lila wove through the crowd of partygoers beyond the Villa Trianon’s back doors. All around, frivolity reigned. String lights laced the trees. Torches lit garden paths like fairies owned the night. Gowns shimmered in time with the sway of tuxedos and jazz music. Guests rimmed Elsie de Wolfe’s grand circus ring on the lawn and an outdoor pavilion that encircled the trunk of an old oak. Lila passed waiters doling out the ever-eccentric menu of pork and scrambled eggs and a seemingly bottomless supply of champagne cocktails to keep the guests caught up in their revelry until the wee hours. A tree-lined road lay empty beyond the back lawn, hugging the outskirts of the gardens. Behind it the Petit Trianon slept, hemmed in by a bed of perfectly manicured trees and hornbeam hedges" (eBook location 711).

I found the story of the Resistance fighters very inspiring, and was particularly interested in some of the supporting characters based on real people, like art historian Rose Valland and American singer/actress Josephine Baker.

Lila and Sandrine are both fascinating characters - strong and brave even when moving far out of their comfort levels and the lives they lived before the war. I found it particularly interesting later in the book as their storylines began to intersect.

I highly recommend The Paris Dressmaker for fans of historical fiction, and especially for anyone who is interested in the 1940's or French history.

Book Synopsis

Based on true accounts of how Parisiennes resisted the Nazi occupation in World War II—from fashion houses to the city streets—comes a story of two courageous women who risked everything to fight an evil they couldn’t abide.

Paris, 1939. Maison Chanel has closed, thrusting haute couture dressmaker Lila de Laurent out of the world of high fashion as Nazi soldiers invade the streets and the City of Lights slips into darkness. Lila’s life is now a series of rations, brutal restrictions, and carefully controlled propaganda while Paris is cut off from the rest of the world. Yet in hidden corners of the city, the faithful pledge to resist. Lila is drawn to La Resistance and is soon using her skills as a dressmaker to infiltrate the Nazi elite. She takes their measurements and designs masterpieces, all while collecting secrets in the glamorous Hôtel Ritz—the heart of the Nazis’ Parisian headquarters. But when dashing René Touliard suddenly reenters her world, Lila finds her heart tangled between determination to help save his Jewish family and bolstering the fight for liberation.

Paris, 1943. Sandrine Paquet’s job is to catalog the priceless works of art bound for the Führer’s Berlin, masterpieces stolen from prominent Jewish families. But behind closed doors, she secretly forages for information from the underground resistance. Beneath her compliant façade lies a woman bent on uncovering the fate of her missing husband . . . but at what cost? As Hitler’s regime crumbles, Sandrine is drawn in deeper when she uncrates an exquisite blush Chanel gown concealing a cryptic message that may reveal the fate of a dressmaker who vanished from within the fashion elite.

Told across the span of the Nazi occupation, The Paris Dressmaker highlights the brave women who used everything in their power to resist darkness and restore light to their world.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound | Kobo


Author Bio

Kristy Cambron is an award-winning author of historical fiction, including her bestselling debut The Butterfly and the Violin, and an author of nonfiction, including the Verse Mapping Series Bibles and Bible studies. Kristy’s work has been named to Publishers Weekly Religion & Spirituality TOP 10, Library Journal Reviews’ Best Books, RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards, received 2015 & 2017 INSPY Award nominations, and has been featured at CBN, Lifeway Women, Jesus Calling, Country Woman Magazine, MICI Magazine, Faithwire, Declare, (in)Courage, and Bible Gateway. She holds a degree in Art History/Research Writing and lives in Indiana with her husband and three sons, where she can probably be bribed with a peppermint mocha latte and a good read.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

Giveaway

We have 5 paperback copies of The Paris Dressmaker up for grabs!

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on February 26th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

The Paris Dressmaker