Friday, January 27, 2017

Dear Abby - Remembering Special Pets: Sophie

Dear Friends,

I hope you are having a good week!  Thanks for stopping.  Today one of my dachshund friends, Don, has stopped by.  His beautiful rescue dachshund, Lulu Belle visited the blog last year.  Click here to read her story:  Meet Lulu Belle (A Rescue Spotlight).  Don has a very special dachshund to remember here today.
Abby:  Thanks for stopping by!  What pet would you like to remember at my blog today?   

  Today I would like to remember Sophie. She was born in 1966, died in 1977, and was our first dachshund after we were married. Sophie was a dachshund blueblood, being a von Marienlust dachshund, and a direct descendant of Baron von Marienlust, who won an award for his service with the US Army in World War II as a bomb-sniffing dog. It was estimated that he had saved hundreds of lives through the bombs he detected.

Abby:  What are some happy memories of Sophie?

Don: Sophie loved to play ball. She would invent new games to play, and always greeted me at home with her trademark red ball in her mouth. Any time I went down into our basement was a treat for her, as she would bounce her ball down the stairs to me, and wait for me to throw it up into main floor of the house for her to retrieve. Then she would bring it back and bounce it down to me again, and on and on. She never tired of her ball-playing games, and in fact we used to call her Sophie Ballgame.

Abby:  Do you have any funny anecdotes? 

Don:  Sophie loved to come fishing with me. I would put a cushion on the front strut of my 14' fishing boat, and she would sit there by the hour, watching the tip of the fishing rod to see if I caught a fish. When the rod bent down, she would get all excited and come closer for me to show her the fish. Then one day, we were on a family vacation on one of the New York Finger Lakes, which are very big lakes. Sophie and I were out fishing, I caught a fish, and I showed it to her. But this time, as I put the fish back in the water, she got too excited and dove in after it! And she was disoriented, and was swimming out into the middle of this very big, very deep, half-mile wide lake. I figured I did not have time to get the boat going and catch her that way, but fortunately I was a very strong swimmer. So I threw my wallet into the bottom of the boat and dove in after her! I caught up with her quickly, and turned her around, but then I could not get us both back into the boat without tipping it over. So we swam to shore together, which was only about 50 yards distant. After we got to shore, both dripping wet of course, I persuaded my brother-in-law to take the other fishing boat that was there and take me back out to get my boat and wallet. After that Sophie was only allowed to fish with me when I was on shore, and not in a boat. 

Abby:  I enjoyed visiting with you today.  Is there anything else about Sophie you would like to share?

Don:  She was really my first child, I loved her very much, and almost 40 years after she died I still miss her. Somewhere she is chasing her red rubber ball and I know I will see her again. 

Abby:  Thank you, Don!  I appreciate you stopping by.  I loved hearing about Sophie.   Her game of playing ball by bouncing it down the stairs sounds like fun to me!  And she was a brave dog with her fishing adventure.  I can tell how much she was loved from the way you speak of her.

Friends, you can leave comments for Don in the comment section below.  If you would like to visit and share your special memories, I would love to hear from you.  Please leave your email in the comments so I can be in touch.

Have a great weekend!


Abby xoxoxo

Book Review - Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Book Synopsis
Between 1854 and 1929, so-called orphan trains ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children whose fates would be determined by pure luck. Would they be adopted by a kind and loving family, or would they face a childhood and adolescence of hard labor and servitude?

As a young Irish immigrant, Vivian Daly was one such child, sent by rail from New York City to an uncertain future a world away. Returning east later in life, Vivian leads a quiet, peaceful existence on the coast of Maine, the memories of her upbringing rendered a hazy blur. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past.

Seventeen-year-old Molly Ayer knows that a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvenile hall. But as Molly helps Vivian sort through her keepsakes and possessions, she discovers that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they appear. A Penobscot Indian who has spent her youth in and out of foster homes, Molly is also an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past.

Moving between contemporary Maine and Depression-era Minnesota, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of second chances, and unexpected friendship.


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon

My Review

Orphan Train tells the story of Vivian, an elderly woman living in Maine.  As a young woman, she traveled to Minnesota on an orphan train.   By chance she meets Molly, a young girl in foster care who comes to the house to help her sort through the attic.  The attic is full of a lifetime of memories.  As they sort through the boxes there, Vivian and Molly bond over their common experiences, many years apart.

This is a unique novel.  It is a historical novel, since much of the narrative happens in the 1920's - 1930's.  However, there are also sections of the book that take place in the present day, sorting out the past.  I loved the structure of the book. 

I found both Vivian and Molly sympathetic characters, and I really became engrossed in their stories.  I especially was eager to read about Vivian's life.  Orphan trains were new to me before this book, and the historical details were fascinating.

The writing is beautiful and it makes Orphan Train a joy to read.  For instance: 

"Vivian has returned to the idea that the people who matter in our lives stay with us, haunting our most ordinary moments  They're with us in the grocery store, as we turn a corner, chat with a friend.  They rise up through the pavement;  we absorb them through our sole" (p. 117).  

Orphan Train, at heart, is a novel about love and connections between people, about how small incidents can change a life, how compassion can change people.  I cannot say enough about what a lovely read this is.  I started reading it on a Saturday night and stayed up into the wee hours reading because I could not put the book down.  I felt I was living the story;  it was that engrossing.

I am certain that Orphan Train will be one of my favorite reads this year.  I recommend it very highly for fans of historical fiction, book group discussions, and anyone who loves a beautifully crafted story.  Five stars! 

Author Bio
Christina Baker Kline is the author of five novels. She lives out-side of New York City and on the coast of Maine.

Find out more about Kline at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

I received this book from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - Time Out by by Suzanne Trauth

Book Synopsis
The amateur actors at the Etonville Little Theatre may be known for chewing the scenery, but restaurant manager Dodie O’Dell has something more appetizing for them to sink their teeth into. She’s been taking bows in her small New Jersey town for her theme menus, designed to complement the local productions. This fall, the community theatre is staging Arsenic and Old Lace, set in 1940s Brooklyn, so Dodie is serving up hot dogs, Italian ices, egg creams, and knishes at the weekend food festival.

All is going well until Antonio Digenza, the ex-Off-Off-Broadway director of the show, dies dramatically while noshing on a knish. As rumors of food poisoning quickly spread, Dodie scrambles to rescue the Windjammer restaurant’s reputation. But when clues point to foul play, she’s faced with a cast of suspects all auditioning for the part of DiGenza’s murderer. She’ll need to act fast to shine a spotlight on the killer—before it’s curtains for another victim . . .

Author Bio
Suzanne Trauth is a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, and a former university theatre professor. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Dramatists Guild. When she is not writing, Suzanne coaches actors and serves as a celebrant performing wedding ceremonies. She lives in Woodland Park, New Jersey. Readers can visit her website at

Purchase Links
Amazon – B&N


(2) E-Copy of TIME OUT by Suzanne Trauth.  Ends 1/31/17.

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Dear Abby - Remembering Special Pets: Mackie

Dear Friends,

Welcome to my very first Remembering Special Pets feature.  Today my Momma's dear cousin Mary has stopped by the blog to visit.  (Momma said that makes her my cousin, too!)

Mary has some wonderful photos and stories to share about her much loved German Shepherd, Mackie (2006 - 2012)

Abby:  What are some happy memories of Mackie? 

Mary:  Mackie loved going to bed at night.  If we watched TV too late at night, Mackie would leave us when he got tired and would go upstairs to bed without us.  The first time he did this, when we were ready to go to bed we began looking for him and calling his name.  We couldn’t find him anywhere, so we went upstairs to bed and he was already sound asleep in his own bed.  After that time, it was a regular occurrence. 

He also loved to ride in the car.  I have a small compact car, and he would sit in the passenger’s seat and look out the window.  He always got lots of smiles and waves, and occasionally another dog would bark at him as we passed.  Mackie seemed to love the attention he got as long as people kept their distance and respected his space. 

Mackie was such a well-behaved boy I was able to take him with me on bike rides through the neighborhood.  I would attach his leash to the bike handlebars and Mackie walked along beside me at a leisurely pace while I huffed and puffed on the bike.  On one of these outings, a large cat decided it didn’t like Mackie on his street and began chasing us.  Mackie was so scared he began running so fast that he pulled me along on the bike and we made it back home in half the time it normally took. 

Mackie and his special toy squirrel
Abby:  Do you have any funny anecdotes?

Mary:  During rainy weather Mackie would not go outside to potty unless I went with him and used the umbrella.  He always made sure he stayed dry, and if anyone got wet—it was me!   

Mackie with his doggie pacifier toy
Abby:  I enjoyed visiting with you today.  Is there anything else about Mackie you would like to share?

Mary:  My husband and I have wonderful memories of Mackie and we will always be thankful for the love and joy he gave us. 

Mary, thank you so much for visiting!  I loved seeing the photos of Mackie and hearing more about his life here.  Readers, you can leave comments for Mary in the comments section, below.

If you have a special pet or pets that you would like to share stories about, I would love to interview you!  Please leave your email in the comments if you are interested.  Thanks!

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!


Abby xoxoxo


Book Review - The Fire By Night by Teresa Messineo

Book Synopsis
A powerful and evocative debut novel about two American military nurses during World War II that illuminates the unsung heroism of women who risked their lives in the fight—a riveting saga of friendship, valor, sacrifice, and survival combining the grit and selflessness of Band of Brothers with the emotional resonance of The Nightingale. 

In war-torn France, Jo McMahon, an Italian-Irish girl from the tenements of Brooklyn, tends to six seriously wounded soldiers in a makeshift medical unit. Enemy bombs have destroyed her hospital convoy, and now Jo singlehandedly struggles to keep her patients and herself alive in a cramped and freezing tent close to German troops. There is a growing tenderness between her and one of her patients, a Scottish officer, but Jo’s heart is seared by the pain of all she has lost and seen. Nearing her breaking point, she fights to hold on to joyful memories of the past, to the times she shared with her best friend, Kay, whom she met in nursing school.

Half a world away in the Pacific, Kay is trapped in a squalid Japanese POW camp in Manila, one of thousands of Allied men, women, and children whose fates rest in the hands of a sadistic enemy. Far from the familiar safety of the small Pennsylvania coal town of her childhood, Kay clings to memories of her happy days posted in Hawaii, and the handsome flyer who swept her off her feet in the weeks before Pearl Harbor. Surrounded by cruelty and death, Kay battles to maintain her sanity and save lives as best she can . . . and live to see her beloved friend Jo once more.

When the conflict at last comes to an end, Jo and Kay discover that to achieve their own peace, they must find their place—and the hope of love—in a world that’s forever changed. With rich, superbly researched detail, Teresa Messineo’s thrilling novel brings to life the pain and uncertainty of war and the sustaining power of love and friendship, and illuminates the lives of the women who risked everything to save others during a horrifying time.


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


My Review

The Fire By Night is a historical novel that tells the story of two military nurses near the end of World War II.


Jo and Kay are best friends who met in nursing school.  They both signed up as military nurses during the war.  Jo is taking care of six seriously injured soldiers in a military tent in France, near the German border.  Kay is in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Manila.


The Fire By Night details the horrors of war, as seen through these two nurses' lives.  It is often dark, but also manages to be uplifting as we see the strength of human endurance.


Historical fiction is my favorite reading genre, and I read a lot of books set in the 1940's.  I found The Fire By Night very unique because of the perspective of women involved in the war effort.  I have never read anything like it, and found the book both moving and thought provoking.  It would make a great book discussion group read!


The book is beautifully written, with well developed characters.  I liked the way the novel moved back and forth from Jo's perspective, and then Kay's.   These are characters I cared about and I really wanted to see them survive and find happiness after the war.


I recommend The Fire By Night for other fans of historical fiction, and especially for anyone interested in the 1940's and World War II.

Author Bio

Teresa Messineo spent seven years researching the history behind The Fire by Night, her first novel. She is a graduate of DeSales University, and her varied interests include homeschooling her four children, volunteering with the underprivileged, medicine, swing dancing, and competitive athletics. She lives in Reading, Pennsylvania.
Connect with Teresa on Facebook.

I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - Scheduled to Death by Mary Feliz

Book Synopsis
Professional organizer Maggie McDonald has a knack for cleaning up other people’s messes. So when the fiancée of her latest client turns up dead, it’s up to her to sort through the untidy list of suspects and identify the real killer.

Maggie McDonald is hoping to raise the profile of her new Orchard View organizing business via her first high-profile client. Professor Lincoln Sinclair may be up for a Nobel Prize, but he’s hopeless when it comes to organizing anything other than his thoughts. For an academic, he’s also amassed more than his share of enemies. When Sinclair’s fiancée is found dead on the floor of his home laboratory—electrocuted in a puddle of water—Maggie takes on the added task of finding the woman’s murderer. To do so, she’ll have to outmaneuver the suspicious, obnoxious police investigator she’s nicknamed “Detective Awful” before a shadowy figure can check off the first item on their personal to-do list—Kill Maggie McDonald.

Author Bio
Mary Feliz has lived in five states and two countries but calls Silicon Valley home. Traveling to other areas of the United States, she’s frequently reminded that what seems normal in the high-tech heartland can seem decidedly odd to the rest of the country. A big fan of irony, serendipity, diversity, and quirky intelligence tempered with gentle humor, Mary strives to bring these elements into her writing, although her characters tend to take these elements to a whole new level. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and National Association of Professional Organizers. Mary is a Smith College graduate with a degree in Sociology. She lives in Northern California with her husband, near the homes of their two adult offspring. Visit Mary online at, or follow her on Twitter @MaryFelizAuthor.

Purchase Links Amazon     B&N

On February 10, the author will be giving away five ebook editions of both books to randomly selected names on her newsletter list. Here is the link where you can sign up for the newsletter -

Friday, January 13, 2017

Dear Abby - Join In to Remember Special Pets

Dear Friends,

I hope you are having a good week.  My big news here?  It tried to snow.  Thankfully, the snow was not very successful, and just ended up in patches here and there.  I was able to walk around it, and Momma stayed home with me, and then it disappeared as quickly as it arrived ... so all is good.

I would like to introduce a new series at my blog.  I hope you will join me in remembering special pets.  Cats, dogs, horses, birds, guinea pigs, bunny rabbits ... all are welcome.  Every family has special pets that they remember - from childhood, from years ago, or from perhaps 5 or 10 years ago.

We can keep the memories upbeat with happy stories and funny anecdotes - and of course lots of photos of pets you remember and want to share.

If you would like to join in, please leave your email in the comments below.  I'll send a note back with just a few short questions, and then feature the special pets that you remember in future Dear Abby posts here.

I hope you'll join in!

Wishing you a good weekend, with no snow (!), and lots of time to cuddle with your favorite people.

Abby xoxoxo

Book Review and Giveaway - Sisters One, Two, Three by Nancy Star

Book Synopsis
After a tragic accident on Martha’s Vineyard, keeping secrets becomes a way of life for the Tangle family. With memories locked away, the sisters take divergent paths. Callie disappears, Mimi keeps so busy she has no time to think, and Ginger develops a lifelong aversion to risk that threatens the relationships she holds most dear.

When a whispered comment overheard by her rebellious teenage daughter forces Ginger to reveal a long-held family secret, the Tangles’ carefully constructed web of lies begins to unravel. Upon the death of Glory, the family’s colorful matriarch, and the return of long-estranged Callie, Ginger resolves to return to Martha’s Vineyard and piece together what really happened on that calamitous day when a shadow fell over four sun-kissed siblings playing at the shore. Along with Ginger’s newfound understanding come the keys to reconciliation: with her mother, with her sisters, and with her daughter.

At turns heartbreaking, humorous, and hopeful, Sisters One, Two, Three explores not only the consequences of secrets—even secrets kept out of love—but also the courage it takes to speak the truth, to forgive, and to let go. 

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble


My Review

Sisters One, Two, Three begins with the Tangle family.  There are four children:  Ginger, Mimi, Charlie, and Callie.  The parents are want-to-be-actress Glory, and Solly, who owns a toy business.  During a pivotal summer long ago (early 1970's from details like Space Food Sticks and psychadelic signs), Glory and the four children travel to Martha's Vineyard.  Tragedy occurs and changes the family.


The story flashes back to the past and forward to the present, with cautious Ginger, busy Mimi, and always adventurous Callie.  I found these characters well drawn and interesting;  I had a hard time putting the book down at night, and will admit that I stayed up several nights reading past my bedtime.


This is a beautifully written book, with dialogue that rings true and a plot that moves in threads that connect as the story moves on.  It is a moving story of family secrets and love.


I really enjoyed reading Sisters One, Two, Three, and will look for more books by Nancy Star.  Readers who enjoy women's fiction, family drama, and compelling storytelling will enjoy this book.  


Author Bio
Nancy Star is the author of four previous novels: Carpool Diem, Up Next, Now This, and Buried Lives. Her nonfiction writing has appeared in the New York TimesFamily Circle, Diversion magazine, and on the web. Before embarking on her writing career, Nancy worked for more than a decade as a movie executive in the film business, dividing her time between New York and London. She has two grown daughters and a son-in-law and now lives in New Jersey with her husband. 

Connect with Nancy

Website | Facebook | Twitter



One lucky reader will win a copy of Sisters, One, Two, Three.  Giveaway is open to readers in the U.S. and Canada, and ends 1/20.  The winner will be notified by email, and needs to respond within 48 hours.  The author or her publicist will send the book directly to the winner.

I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - River City Dead by Nancy G. West

Book Synopsis
Aggie Mundeen, who advises readers in her column, “Stay Young with Aggie,” is pushing forty and determined to postpone a precipitous descent into middle-age. She plans to rendezvous with SAPD Detective Sam Vanderhoven at a hotel on the San Antonio River Walk…a vacation from crime and reset for their tumultuous relationship. In the midst of River City during Fiesta Week, what could go wrong?

Aggie’s new friends, the Fabulous Femmes, are holding their convention at the hotel. When hotel guests are murdered, Aggie discovers her friends have disturbing backgrounds. Evil surfaces at Fiesta events, and Aggie’s dancing debut at a Fiesta performance at Arneson River Theater is fraught with danger. Even in idyllic River City, crime complicates relationships.

Books in the Aggie Mundeen Humorous Mystery Series:

Author Bio
I’ve been writing since age seven: poems back and forth with my mom. I had a real poem published in the Library Journal, Pegasus, at age fifteen. At eighteen, I wanted to study journalism and English literature, but friends who chose that college route were making minimum wage or selling lingerie. Being practical, I earned a business degree. After marriage and two children, I decided I HAD to study literature and write. I wrote non-fiction articles, a biography, and a suspense novel in 2004. That’s when whimsical Aggie Mundeen cut through the suspense, popped into my head and demanded her own series. The Aggie Mundeen mystery capers were born. Aggie must have been right: FIT TO BE DEAD is a LEFTY FINALIST 2013 for best humorous mystery, nominated by Left Coast Crime.

Chat with Aggie and Nancy on their blog:
Author’s Webpage:
Author Page at Henery Press:

Purchase Links
Amazon  B&N

(1) Print Copy River City Dead by Nancy G. West - U.S. ONLY.  Ends 1/20/17.
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