Friday, September 30, 2016

Dear Abby - You're Invited to an Pet Meet and Greet at My Blog

Dear Friends,

How are you doing?  I hope your week has been fun, full of lots of good things and no bad things!

My big excitement this week came in the middle of the night.  Our neighbor's air conditioning compressor made a big noise around 2:00 a.m. that sounded like a helicopter landing on the backyard.  Needless to say, this did NOT make me happy.  I was up for quite a while after all the excitement.

Otherwise, it is finally getting just a little cooler here (cooler in the deep south being relative -- it is still 75 - 80 degrees most afternoons).  I have hopes that Fall is still going to arrive here.  Fall is good weather for nice long walks!

I would like to invite you to an online meet and greet.   What is a meet and greet?  It is a weekly post all about a different pet friend (or family of pet friends).  Everyone is welcome - dogs, cats, birds, bunnies!  

If you are interested, please leave a comment below and be sure to leave your email address.  Momma will send you a little short questionnaire (all fun, light questions) and you can return it via email with a few photos.

I am really excited about this idea, and look forward to meeting lots of fur-friends online at this meet and greet.  I hope you'll join in!

Wishing you a great weekend!

Love and xoxo,


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Book Review - Pumpkin Patch Blessings by Kim Washburn

Book Synopsis
It’s fall and there are blessings all around us, especially in the pumpkin patch! Children will love the sweet rhyming text by Kim Washburn and the whimsical illustrations by Jacqueline East as they take in the fun of the fall season and remember how much they have to be grateful for.

My Review
Pumpkin Patch Blessings by Kim Washburn is a very cute board book for young children.  It is die cut with a colorful cover featuring bunny rabbits playing on pumpkins.

The story is told in rhyme, and would make such a good read aloud for young children at home or in a classroom.   Readers of Pumpkin Patch Blessings will find much to be thankful for in fall including sweater weather, colorful leaves, roasting corn, a hay ride, and of course pumpkins!

An example of the upbeat read aloud quality of this book:

"This time of year
the trees are so bold,
exploding with colors,
red, orange, and gold.

The green leaves turn crispy
and then start to fall.
They crunch as you step
and kick through them all."   

The illustrations by Jacqueline East are colorful and appealing.  They show young children enjoying all the aspects of autumn.

The book is sturdy and well made, with board book pages -- great to read again and again.  I recommend it for a home or preschool library.  It is perfect for a fun fall read!

I received a copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Book Review and Giveaway: Death at the Paris Exposition by Frances McNamara

Book Synopsis
Amateur sleuth Emily Cabot’s journey once again takes her to a world’s fair—the Paris Exposition of 1900. Chicago socialite Bertha Palmer is named the only female U. S. commissioner to the Exposition and enlists Emily’s services as her secretary. Their visit to the House of Worth for the fitting of a couture gown is interrupted by the theft of Mrs. Palmer’s famous pearl necklace. Before that crime can be solved, several young women meet untimely deaths and a member of the Palmer’s inner circle is accused of the crimes. As Emily races to clear the family name she encounters jealous society ladies, American heiresses seeking titled European husbands, and more luscious gowns and priceless jewels. Along the way, she takes refuge from the tumult at the country estate of Impressionist painter Mary Cassatt. In between her work and sleuthing, she is able to share the Art Nouveau delights of the Exposition, and the enduring pleasures of the City of Light, with her husband and their children.

My Review
I have always been fascinated by World's Fairs and Expositions, so I was particularly interested in reading Death at the Paris Exposition. 

Emily Cabot is a university lecturer from Chicago who also solves crimes.  She travels to the Paris Exposition of 1900 with socialite Bertha Palmer.  She takes her husband and three young children along, and while in Paris, she works as Mrs. Palmer's secretary.  A couple of valuable jewels go missing, and then a body is discovered in a wax figure tableau.  That is when the mystery really deepens, and the search for the killer - and jewel thief - is on.  

The historical details in this book are absolutely fascinating.  Readers will visit the Paris Exposition, meet artist Mary Cassatt, encounter Art Nouveau, couturiere gowns by M. Worth, and learn about life in Paris, 1900.  I loved many of the small details in this book, like Emily's visit to a marionette show with her children, and les bouquinistes, book stalls by the Seine.

The mystery is well paced and complex, and it kept me guessing.  I really liked the character descriptions as well, and particularly liked Emily as protagonist.     

Death at the Paris Exposition is part of a series, the Emily Cabot mysteries.  It is the first novel I've read in the series.  It worked fine as a standalone, but now I really want to read the rest of the books as well!

I recommend Death at the Paris Exposition enthusiastically to fans of historical fiction, World's Fairs, French culture, or just readers who enjoy a particularly well written mystery. 

Author Bio
Frances McNamara grew up in Boston, where her father served as Police Commissioner for ten years.  She has degrees from Mount Holyoke and Simmons Colleges, and recently retired from the University of Chicago. She now divides her time between Boston and Cape Cod.  She is the author of five other titles in the Emily Cabot Mysteries series, which is set in the 1890s and takes place primarily in Chicago: Death at the Fair, Death at Hull House, Death at Pullman, Death at Woods Hole, and Death at Chinatown.

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

Friday, September 23, 2016

Dear Abby - A Bed of My Own

Dear Friends,

Happy Friday to you!  I hope you have had a good week.  

I was wondering where your dogs and cats like to sleep?   I am a very big fan of the bed.  When I first came to live here, I was happy in the living room and then I suddenly disappeared.  I dashed up the stairs (don't worry - Momma knows about baby gates, and they are up now ALL the time).  My human Grandma came up after me and she found me in the center of the bed, looking very happy.  A bed is very important to me.  When I found a soft comfy bed here, I knew it would be a good place.  I sleep in the bed with my Momma at night.

I also am very fond of my dog bed in Momma's study.  She works here long hours, and our television is here for evening viewing ... so it is important that I have a very comfy place to rest.   My dog bed in the study has some fleece blankets and lots of cuddly soft toys.  (I am more interested in snuggling with toys than playing with them.)

One of my friends sent me a very cute link about a Chihuahua named Pancho has his own room.  Yes, you read that correctly:  not just a dog bed or crate, but his own room.  It is so cute that I thought you would enjoy it too!

Momma also found a few fun links about old fashioned console TV sets that have been converted to a dog bed, almost like a mini bedroom.  Momma said she sees these console televisions all the time at yard sales and thrift stores.  Here are a few examples with "do it yourself" directions:

Dachshunds in a console TV bed (Furniture Flippin')
Pug in a console TV bed (Artfire)

Yorkie in a console TV bed (Endorsed by Igor) 

Where do your pets like to sleep?  I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Wishing you a great weekend.


Abby xoxoxo

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Book Review - Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Book Synopsis

The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens.

Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.
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My Review

I have been excited about Hidden Figures (and the movie adaptation) since I first heard of it.  I have long been interested in the early days of NASA, as well as women's history.

This nonfiction book is a fascinating look at the lives of the African American women who helped pioneer NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics), which later became NASA, through their work in mathematics.  

Hidden Figures tells the story of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, mathematicians who come to the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in Hamden, Virginia as "computers" (mathematicians).  Their stories are covered both separately and interwoven.  I found these brilliant women to be so inspiring.  Their personal stories were very moving.  Their work, and the work of other African American mathematicians, space scientists, and physicists, was so crucial to the space program.  This is an important book, and I really hope it reaches a large readership.

One incident in the book really encapsulates what these brilliant women, the "West Computers," faced working at Langley early on.  They worked long hours with very detailed assignments.  In the employee cafeteria, they were assigned a table labeled "Colored Computers."  One of the women started removing the sign, but it kept reappearing.  Eventually over time the sign no longer appeared, and integration within the Langley workforce moved forward.

The historical details of Hidden Figures are fascinating.  I especially was interested in life at Langley during the 1940's, in the early days of the program.  Langley played a crucial role in World War II aviation.  The same attention to detail is seen as the book moves into the 1950's and 1960's.  It is truly such an interesting read for anyone who loves history.

The book is beautifully written.  Margot Lee Shetterly's research and passion for the subject shines through.  The descriptions are vivid and they make history come to life.

I give Hidden Figures five stars and my highest recommendation.  This is nonfiction for all readers (not just nonfiction fans).  It tells a fascinating story about women you will admire and care about.  Hidden Figures is so inspiring, and it brilliantly illuminates part of history that has not been covered enough in the past.
Author Bio
Margot Lee Shetterly grew up in Hampton, Virginia, where she knew many of the women in Hidden Figures. She is an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow and the recipient of a Virginia Foundation for the Humanities grant for her research on women in computing. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Find out more about Margot at her website and connect with her on Twitter.

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

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - Murder at Rough Point by Alyssa Maxwell

Book Synopsis
In glittering Newport, Rhode Island, status is everything. But despite being a poorer relation to the venerable Vanderbilts, Emma Cross has shaped her own identity—as a reporter and a sleuth.

As the nineteenth century draws to a close, Fancies and Fashion reporter Emma Cross is sent by the Newport Observer to cover an elite house party at Rough Point, a “cottage” owned by her distant cousin Frederick Vanderbilt that has been rented as an artist retreat. To her surprise, the illustrious guests include her estranged Bohemian parents—recently returned from Europe—as well as a variety of notable artists, including author Edith Wharton.

But when one of the artists is discovered dead at the bottom of a cliff, Rough Point becomes anything but a house of mirth. After a second murder, no one is above suspicion—including Emma’s parents. As Newport police detective Jesse Whyte searches for a killer, Emma tries to draw her own conclusions—with the help of Mrs. Wharton. But with so many sketchy suspects, she’ll need to canvas the crime scenes carefully, before the cunning culprit takes her out of the picture next . . .

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Author Bio
Alyssa Maxwell has worked in publishing as an assistant editor and a ghost writer, but knew from an early age that being a novelist was what she wanted most. Growing up in New England and traveling to Great Britain fueled a passion for history, while a love of puzzles of all kinds drew her to the mystery genre. She lives in South Florida in the current year, but confesses to spending most of her time in the Victorian, Edwardian, and post WWI eras. In addition to fantasizing about wearing Worth gowns while strolling manor house gardens, she loves to watch BBC and other period productions and sip tea in the afternoons. 

Author Links
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2 lucky winners will receive a print copy of Murder at Rough Point - U.S. ONLY
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Monday, September 19, 2016

Music Monday - "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" by The Eurythmics (1983)

If I ever make a list of favorite 1980's songs, "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" by the Eurythmics will certainly be high on the list.  First, Annie Lennox has the most amazing voice!  Her voice is multitracked in harmony on this song.  Second, this song just captures a time in the 1980's so perfectly for me.

"Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" was released in 1983 as the title track of The Eurythmics' second album.  I had this album and played it again and again - it's a great one!

Here's the original video - it's very 1980's!
Do you remember this song? Do you have other favorites by The Eurythmics? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Dear Abby - Remembering Barney Fife (1997 - 2014)

When I first met Barney Fife, I was a year old and he was 13.  I traveled from far away to be his sister.  We loved each other at first glance.   He had a sweet face with big amber color eyes.  He gave kisses and moaned with happiness when things were good in his world.  He walked with a heavy, deliberate step.  He cuddled often, and happily, with Momma and me as well.  When we first met we went outside and walked together in the sunshine with Momma, and I knew that I would love him forever.

Barney Fife (6/1/97 - 9/16/14), forever in our hearts

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Book Review and Giveaway - The Whiskey Sea by Ann Howard Creel

Book Synopsis
Motherless and destitute, Frieda Hope grows up during Prohibition determined to make a better life for herself and her sister, Bea. The girls are taken in by a kindly fisherman named Silver, and Frieda begins to feel at home whenever she is on the water. When Silver sells his fishing boat to WWI veteran Sam Hicks, thinking Sam would be a fine husband for Frieda, she’s outraged. But Frieda manages to talk Sam into teaching her to repair boat engines instead, so she has a trade of her own and won’t have to marry.

Frieda quickly discovers that a mechanic’s wages won’t support Bea and Silver, so she joins a team of rumrunners, speeding into dangerous waters to transport illegal liquor. Frieda becomes swept up in the lucrative, risky work—and swept off her feet by a handsome Ivy Leaguer who’s in it just for fun.

As danger mounts and her own feelings threaten to drown her, can Frieda find her way back to solid ground—and to a love that will sustain her?

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My Review
It is a special thrill as a reader when you are only a few chapters into a book and you know it will be one of your favorite reads of the year.  The Whiskey Sea is one of those special books for me.

The book begins with a mysterious image of a woman who is in the water and fears drowning.  Then the story moves to 1908, when two young girls are orphaned after the sudden death of their mother.  They are taken in by a kindly fisherman, and settle into life in a fishing community in New Jersey.  

The first few chapters are leisurely, but the pace picks up dramatically in 1923 when they are young women.  The younger sister, Bea, dreams of going off to college and studying literature.  The older sister, Frieda, wants to make a good living for her family in her hometown.   While she is working as a ship mechanic, she becomes intrigued by the idea of rum running on boats, and takes on this dangerous and risky occupation.  As a result she meets a wealthy and enigmatic young man from New York, and her life begins to change.   This book is Frieda's story.

The storytelling in this book is just so beautiful.  I really cared about Frieda, Bea, and their adoptive father, Silver.   The characters are so well developed and multi-dimensional.  This would be a wonderful movie!

I have to mention that Ann Howard Creel also wrote The Magic of Ordinary Days, which was the basis of  my all time favorite Hallmark movie.  I have it on DVD and have seen it many times.  Anyone who loves the book or movie The Magic of Ordinary Days will absolutely adore this book.

The descriptions in The Whiskey Sea are vivid and unique.  For instance, when Frieda first sees a flotilla of boats running liquor:  "A floating liquor establishment out in the middle of the dark ocean, like some kind of magical, mythical circus.  It made Frieda think of pirates, mermaids, gods, and sirens of the sea.  No one acted the slightest touched with doubt, even with jellyfish, like flowers, floating in the water about the boats and danger from the coast guard boats looming" (pp. 79 - 80).

Readers of historical fiction will love The Whiskey Sea.  I give it five stars and my highest recommendation. 

Author Bio
Ann Howard Creel was born in Austin, Texas, and worked as a registered nurse before becoming a full-time writer. She is the author of numerous children’s and young adult books as well as fiction for adults. Her children’s books have won several awards, and her novel The Magic of Ordinary Days was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie for CBS. Creel currently lives and writes in Chicago. For more information about Ann’s work, visit her website,

One lucky reader will win a print copy of The Whiskey Sea.  Giveaway ends 9/22, and is open to readers in the U.S. and Canada.  The winner will be notified by email, and needs to respond within 48 hours.  The author or her publicist will mail the book directly to the winner.
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I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - The Shattered Tree: A Bess Crawford Mystery by Charles Todd

Book Synopsis
World War I battlefield nurse Bess Crawford goes to dangerous lengths to investigate a wounded soldier’s background—and uncover his true loyalties—in this thrilling and atmospheric entry in the bestselling “vivid period mystery series” (New York Times Book Review).

At the foot of a tree shattered by shelling and gunfire, stretcher-bearers find an exhausted officer, shivering with cold and a loss of blood from several wounds. The soldier is brought to battlefield nurse Bess Crawford’s aid station, where she stabilizes him and treats his injuries before he is sent to a rear hospital. The odd thing is, the officer isn’t British—he’s French. But in a moment of anger and stress, he shouts at Bess in German.

When Bess reports the incident to Matron, her superior offers a ready explanation. The soldier is from Alsace-Lorraine, a province in the west where the tenuous border between France and Germany has continually shifted through history, most recently in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, won by the Germans. But is the wounded man Alsatian? And if he is, on which side of the war do his sympathies really lie?

Of course, Matron could be right, but Bess remains uneasy—and unconvinced. If he was a French soldier, what was he doing so far from his own lines . . . and so close to where the Germans are putting up a fierce, last-ditch fight?

When the French officer disappears in Paris, it’s up to Bess—a soldier’s daughter as well as a nurse—to find out why, even at the risk of her own life.

Author Bio
Charles and Caroline Todd are a mother-and-son writing team who live on the east coast of the United States. Caroline has a BA in English Literature and History, and a Masters in International Relations. Charles has a BA in Communication Studies with an emphasis on Business Management, and a culinary arts degree that means he can boil more than water. Caroline has been married (to the same man) for umpteen years, and Charles is divorced.

Charles and Caroline have a rich storytelling heritage. Both spent many evenings on the porch listening to their fathers and grandfathers reminisce. And a maternal grandmother told marvelous ghost stories. This tradition allows them to write with passion about events before their own time. And an uncle/great-uncle who served as a flyer in WWI aroused an early interest in the Great War.

Charles learned the rich history of Britain, including the legends of King Arthur, William Wallace, and other heroes, as a child. Books on Nelson and by Winston Churchill were always at hand. Their many trips to England gave them the opportunity to spend time in villages and the countryside, where there’a different viewpoint from that of the large cities. Their travels are at the heart of the series they began ten years ago.

Charles’s love of history led him to a study of some of the wars that shape it: the American Civil War, WWI and WWII. He enjoys all things nautical, has an international collection of seashells, and has sailed most of his life. Golf is still a hobby that can be both friend and foe. And sports in general are enthusiasms. Charles had a career as a business consultant. This experience gave him an understanding of going to troubled places where no one was glad to see him arrive. This was excellent training for Rutledge’s reception as he tries to find a killer in spite of local resistance.

Caroline has always been a great reader and enjoyed reading aloud, especially poetry that told a story. The Highwayman was one of her early favorites. Her wars are WWI, the Boer War, and the English Civil War, with a sneaking appreciation of the Wars of the Roses as well. When she’s not writing, she’s traveling the world, gardening, or painting in oils. Her background in international affairs backs up her interest in world events, and she’s also a sports fan, an enthusiastic follower of her favorite teams in baseball and pro football. She loves the sea, but is a poor sailor. (Charles inherited his iron stomach from his father.) Still, she has never met a beach she didn’t like.

Both Caroline and Charles share a love of animals, and family pets have always been rescues. There was once a lizard named Schnickelfritz. Don’t ask.

Writing together is a challenge, and both enjoy giving the other a hard time. The famous quote is that in revenge, Charles crashes Caroline’s computer, and Caroline crashes his parties. Will they survive to write more novels together? Stay tuned! Their father/husband is holding the bets.

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