Friday, May 27, 2016

Dear Abby - Meet Starla (A Rescued Pet Spotlight)

Dear friends,

I hope you are having a great day!  It is a long weekend and I have been busy helping Momma get caught up so we can take some time off.  I love long weekends!

Today I have two wonderful guests to introduce to you.  Starla is a 5 year old Cattle Dog Mix. She is here visiting with her Mom, Alanna.

Abby:  What is Starla's background and how did she end up in rescue? 

Alanna:  Starla was a pregnant stray in Texas when she was found. She was super friendly and happy be rescued. Once she had her puppies, a rescue group, Pet Rescue Alliance, transported her up to Virginia to be adopted. She lived with her foster family for almost 3 months in Washington, D.C. before I adopted her. 

Abby:  How were Starla's first days at her new home? 

Alanna:  Starla was a very friendly dog, however still wary of me. She refused to play with any toys or sleep next to my bed for a couple weeks. However, she was very well behaved and knew to sit while waiting for her dinner and to come get me if she needed to go outside. 

Abby:  What are a few of Starla's favorite things?  

Alanna:  Starla's favorite things are chasing squirrels and doing tricks for treats. 

Abby:  Do you have any tips for people who want to adopt a rescue pet?  

Alanna:  Take your time and think about your lifestyle, how it will change, and what kind of dog would work best with that lifestyle. 

Abby:  Is there a rescue group you want to send a shout out to (with link to group?) 

Alanna:, Pet Rescue Alliance
Thank you, Alanna and Starla, for visiting today.  Starla, I love your pictures and think chasing squirrels sounds like lots of fun!  We have something in common -- I was also rescued as a stray in Texas, and then traveled to my forever home.
If you have a question or comment for Starla, I hope you'll leave a message below.  If you have a special rescued pet who would like to be featured here, please let me know that, too.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Abby xoxoxo 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Book Review and Giveaway - June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

Book Synopsis
From the New York Times bestselling author of Bittersweet comes a novel of suspense and passion about a terrible mistake made sixty years ago that threatens to change a modern family forever.

Twenty-five-year-old Cassie Danvers is holed up in her family’s crumbling mansion in rural St. Jude, Ohio, mourning the loss of the woman who raised her—her grandmother, June. But a knock on the door forces her out of isolation. Cassie has been named the sole heir to legendary matinee idol Jack Montgomery’s vast fortune. How did Jack Montgomery know her name? Could he have crossed paths with her grandmother all those years ago? What other shocking secrets could June’s once-stately mansion hold?

Soon Jack’s famous daughters come knocking, determined to wrestle Cassie away from the inheritance they feel is their due. Together, they all come to discover the true reasons for June’s silence about that long-ago summer, when Hollywood came to town, and June and Jack’s lives were forever altered by murder, blackmail, and betrayal. As this page-turner shifts deftly between the past and present, Cassie and her guests will be forced to reexamine their legacies, their definition of family, and what it truly means to love someone, steadfastly, across the ages.

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My Review

I finished reading June late at night, in a quiet house with the fan blowing, and the world (at least here) already feeling like summer.  The next day I told several friends that this is the book they need to read for summer.  It is just a perfect long, leisurely read. 

June checks off all the boxes for what I enjoy most in a novel.  It is a novel set both in the present day and in the 1950's.  This is a time period I too-rarely run into with historical fiction.    

The story is compelling.  I really liked the present day protagonist, Cassie, who is living in her grandmother's rambling old home after her beloved grandmother June, who raised her, has passed away.  She receives the unexpected news of a large inheritance from a 1950's movie idol named Jack Montgomery ... and of course, she wonders why she was chosen as the recipient of this inheritance, and begins to dig into history to learn more.

Her historical research brings her to the summer of 1955, when Jack Montgomery traveled to the small town in Ohio to film a movie called Erie Canal.   As Cassie learns more about that summer, she learns more about her grandmother as well.

The historical details of small town life in the 1950's are lovingly told and sure to please fans of historical fiction.

The house, Twin Oaks, is almost another character in this book.  I loved the glimpses into the past that it provides.

The characterizations in this book are wonderful.  There are some wonderfully likable characters, including Cassie, June, and June's best friend Lindie.  I really cared about these characters' lives.

I also loved the themes of this book - the past and how it informs the present, the importance of love, the way close friends can become like family.

June is my favorite read of the year, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.  It is a big leisurely family saga, and you will enjoy spending time in St. Jude, Ohio in the pages of this book.       

Author Bio
MIRANDA BEVERLY-WHITTEMORE is the author of three other novels: New York Times bestseller Bittersweet; Set Me Free, which won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, given annually for the best book of fiction by an American woman; and The Effects of Light. A recipient of the Crazyhorse Prize in Fiction, she lives and writes in Brooklyn.

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The lucky winner will receive a copy of June.  Open to U.S. and Canada.  Giveaway ends 6/2.  A winner will be drawn on 6/3 and notified via email.  Winner will need to respond within 48 hours.  The book will be mailed by the author or her publicist.

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I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Music Monday - "Dark Lady" by Cher (1974)

Cher turned 70 last week (March 20, born 1946).  One of my friends and I were talking about our favorite Cher songs, and we both decided our favorite is "Dark Lady."

This song was a hit in 1974.  It's a fun song, so retro, and it tells a story.  (Regular readers will know that I love songs that tell a story!)  This song was written by Johnny Durrill of The Ventures.  (You may remember The Ventures from songs like "Walk, Don't Run" and "Hawaii Five-O.")  The song has been called a "murder ballad."  It tells the story of a woman who goes to see a fortune teller in New Orleans to see if her boyfriend is cheating ... only to realize he is cheating with the fortune teller!  This song made it to the top of the Billboard chart.

Here is the animated version of this song from The Sonny and Cher Show:

What is your favorite Cher song?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments, below.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Dear Abby - Meet Twinkles and Murray (A Rescued Pets Spotlight)

Dear Friends, 

I hope you are having a great week!   All is fine here, except we are expecting some rain and thunder here today.  (Regular readers will know how I feel about thunder!)

I am excited, though, to have some fun visitors to introduce you to today.  Angela, who is a dachshund person and one of Momma's friends, is visiting with her dog Twinkles and kitty Murray.  Angela and her family have a wonderful group of furbabies including Twinkles (Lab mix), Murray (tabby cat), Gizmo (Dachshund), Sarge (Weimaraner), Miss P (gray tabby cat), and Gimli (white cat).  I have to mention that Gizmo just celebrated his 10th birthday (Happy Birthday, Gizmo!) and he has his own Twitter account -- @GizmoAdventures.   He is one of the world's great doxies, and you should look him up on Twitter!

Twinkles and Murray are both rescues, and have wonderful stories.  Twinkles is a Lab mix dog who is 10 or older.  

Abby:  What is Twinkles' background and how did she end up in rescue? 

Angela:  Twinkles was rescued by my grandmother about 7 years ago. She had been dumped and was also run over. Her hip was broken. She healed and now walks with a limp. Twinkles came to live with us when my grandmother moved into an apartment that did not allow big dogs. 

Abby:  How were Twinkles' first days at your home? 

Angela:  Her first few days, you could tell she was sad and missed her mom. But it didn't take long for her to fit right in. She gets along great with Gizmo and Sarge and even has her own bed for the first time.  (The picture below shows Twinkles with Gizmo.)

Abby:  What are a few of Twinkles' favorite things?

Angela:   My favorite thing is to watch her do zoomies. Despite a bad hip, she still runs like the wind. She also loves to dance in puddles and do spins and splash in them. 

Murray is a beautiful cat who is 4 years old.  

Abby:  What is Murray's background and how did she end up in rescue? 

Angela:  Murray was rescued by my brother and his girlfriend. She jumped on the roof of their car in a snow storm. They got her off the hood and put her in the car;  she was just a kitten. They had her for 4 years and she came to live with us on Christmas Day this past year.  

Abby:  How were Murray's first days at your home? 

Angela:  She spent her first week hiding under chairs and beds. She did want to socialize. We think she was mostly heartbroken that her daddy left her with strange people (we have been around her before, but she was a kitten) She finally came out and is now best friends with my mom. She follows her everywhere and sits in her lap all during the day. She loves to go outside and explore and watch the birds. My favorite thing about her is that when you pick her up, she looks just like Garfield after he gets in trouble. She is full of sass and attitude, but she is very gentle with everyone and purrs almost nonstop. 

This picture of Murray surrounded by toys was one of the first times she came out of hiding after first coming to live with us.

Thank you for visiting, Angela, Twinkles, and Murray!  I loved visiting with you all here today.  Twinkles and Murray, you found a wonderful home where you are much loved.  Please give my love to Gizmo, Sarge, Miss P, and Gimli.

If you have questions or comments for Angela, Twinkles, or Murray, I hope you'll leave a comment below.  Thank you for reading, and have a great weekend!


Abby xoxoxo 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Book Review and Giveaway - Alice in Bed by Judith Hooper

Book Synopsis
One of her brothers is the greatest English novelist of his time; another is inventing American psychology. The James family is famous in Boston and New York for its brilliance, eccentricity, and mesmerizing conversation. Alice James is no less remarkable than her brothers (Henry and William), but there is a problem: she is a girl. Her education has been haphazard, there are no colleges for women, and young ladies are expected to be Angels in the House. No one could be less suited to angelic domesticity than the tart-tongued, defiantly original Alice. She must chart her own course, but how?

Falling mysteriously ill while crossing the Atlantic at age 38, she becomes confined to her bed in a lodging house in provincial England. Thus begins her second life, when she recalls or redreams her life and struggles to make sense of it.  How did her collapse begin? Was it “Father’s Ideas”? The night she drank absinthe and fell in love with a girl? The time William went to the asylum? The childhood years in Paris, when Father fired each of her governesses in turn? Was it the horrors of the Civil War, the erotic relations with the Temple cousins, the day Henry deserted her and sailed to Europe? Was it simply the oddness of “growing up James”? 

Alice in Bed is an absorbing, poignant, sometimes hilarious journey through the Gilded Age with one of literature’s most unusual and captivating heroines.
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My Review 

Alice in Bed is one of the most unusual - and fascinating - books I have read in a long time.  I read several Henry James novels in college, and knew a little bit about William James, but was not familiar with Alice James at all before this read.  Now I am very curious about her life, and would like to read her diary.


Although Alice James lived as an invalid, she had a remarkable inner life, and showed great creativity and humor.   Readers will empathize with her frustrations as she wants to be free, not just from her mysterious illness, but also from the constraints she feels as a woman during the Gilded Age.


Judith Hooper's writing is beautiful, with brilliant descriptions and well developed characterizations.  For example:


"I can slow it down and make out individual blades of grass, a chink in a stone wall, a  button missing from the dress of an elderly lady on a park bench, the flies settling on the face of the horse pulling the milkman's wagon.  Perhaps in the absence of an outer life, the inner life shines brighter.  My brother William ought to study this in his psychology" (p. 2).


The treatment of mental illness and the status of women in society of this time are key to this book.  After a powerful and moving conclusion, the author includes an Afterward:  "What was wrong with Alice James?"  It offers some fascinating insights to Alice James's life.


Readers who have a strong interest in history, especially literary history and women's history, will find this book compelling.   

Author Bio

Judith Hooper was an editor at Omni magazine and is the author of Of Moths and Men and co-author of The Three-Pound Universe and Would the Buddha Wear a Walkman?: A Catalogue of Revolutionary Tools for Higher Consciousness. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. 



One lucky reader will win a digital copy of this book.  Giveaway ends 5/26.  Winner will be notified by email, and will need to respond within 48 hours.   The author or her publicist will send the eBook to the winner.

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I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.