Friday, April 27, 2018

Dear Abby - Favorite Dog Movies: Lady and the Tramp

Dear Friends,

I'm excited to share my Momma's favorite animated dog movie with you today.  Of course, it is also a dog movie!

Lady and the Tramp is a 1955 Disney movie.  It tells the story of a beautiful, refined Cocker Spaniel named Lady and a scruffy but lovable Schnauzer named Tramp.  They become friends and find love in this movie.  (Sigh!)  Of course, the path to love is not smooth.  Lady has a hard time after her people have a human baby and the aunt who is babysitting (and petsitting) takes a dislike to Lady.  At one point both Lady and the Tramp end up in the dog pound.  But, of course, this is a Disney movie, so they find their happy ever after with Lady's family -- with new puppies of their own.

Some trivia about Lady and the Tramp:

Disney writer Joe Grant started working on a story inspired by his English Springer Spaniel Lady in 1937.  Walt Disney thought the story was too sweet.  In the early 1940's, Disney purchased the rights to a short story "Happy Dan, the Whistling Dog," from Cosmopolitan magazine, and that character inspired Tramp.

The beginning of the movie, when Darling finds Lady wrapped in a hat box, was inspired by Walt Disney's own life.  He gave his wife a Chow puppy that way at Christmas time.

Singer Peggy Lee provided several voices for this movie, including Darling Dear, the Siamese cats, and Peg the Pekingese.

Thurl Ravenscroft ("Tony the Tiger" from Kellogg's Frosted Flakes commercials) also provided a voice in this movie - Al the Alligator. 

Darling and Jim Dear's faces are rarely seen;  this is to help set the movie from a dog's perspective.

The setting for the movie was inspired in part by Walt Disney's boyhood hometown of Marceline, Missouri.

Tramp was not always called Tramp.  In earlier versions of the script he was called Homer, Rags, and Bozo!

Lady and the Tramp is the first Disney movie filmed in Cinemascope wide screen.

Here is the original 1955 trailer for this movie.

This is my favorite scene in the movie.  Lady and the Tramp find love - and spaghetti!  I also like the song "Bella Notte."  (The video includes a short scene at the end from a Disney restaurant inspired by this scene.)

Have you seen Lady and the Tramp?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments, below.


Abby xoxoxo

Book Review - Hurricane Season by Lauren K. Denton

Book Synopsis
Betsy and Ty Franklin, owners of Franklin Dairy Farm in southern Alabama, have long since buried their desire for children of their own. While Ty manages their herd of dairy cows, Betsy busies herself with the farm’s day-to-day operations and tries to forget her dream of motherhood. But when her free-spirited sister, Jenna, drops off her two young daughters for “just two weeks,” Betsy’s carefully constructed wall of self-protection begins to crumble.

As the two weeks stretch deeper into the Alabama summer, Betsy and Ty learn to navigate the new additions in their world—and revel in the laughter that now fills their home. Meanwhile, record temperatures promise to usher in the most active hurricane season in decades.

Attending an art retreat four hundred miles away, Jenna is fighting her own battles. She finally has time and energy to focus on her photography, a lifelong ambition. But she wonders how her rediscovered passion can fit in with the life she’s made back home as a single mom.

When Hurricane Ingrid aims a steady eye at the Alabama coast, Jenna must make a decision that will change her family’s future, even as Betsy and Ty try to protect their beloved farm and their hearts. Hurricane Season is the story of one family’s unconventional journey to healing—and the relationships that must be mended along the way.

Add to Goodreads badge


Purchase Links

Amazon | iBooks | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

My Review
Hurricane Season tells the story of two sisters.  Betsy, the older sister, is the "good girl" in the family who married a kind man, Ty, and lives with him on their family dairy farm in south Alabama.   Jenna, the younger sister, is a free spirit who is a single mom living with her two young daughters in Nashville.  When Jenna has an opportunity to go to an artists' retreat in a remote location in Florida, she drops her young daughters off with her older sister and heads off.  The planned two week visit stretches on, and lives are changed over the long summer.  

Lauren K. Denton's first book, The Hideaway, was one of my favorite reads of 2017 (my review here), so I was very eager to read Hurricane Season.   

I really loved everything about this novel.  The heart of the story is the lives of the two sisters who are both seeking happiness and fulfillment in different ways.  I found Betsy much more likeable and sympathetic.  I loved her relationship with her husband Ty and the kind and mindful way that she lived her life on a daily basis on the farm.   The farm details were lovely.   Jenna, on the other hand, was much more selfish, and was very determined to follow her passion for photography no matter how much her impulsive actions inconvenienced her young daughters and her sister and brother-in-law.

I stayed up late reading to see what would happen with these women and with the precious little girls who were left in Betsy and Ty's care.  To say that this is an engrossing novel is an understatement!

I also loved the Southern setting, the food, the iced tea, the long hot summer days, the casual Southern speech patterns.  I am a native Southerner and have lived through many hurricane seasons;  I found this aspect of the book very relatable.

Lauren K. Denton has a way with creating characters who are distinct and well rounded.  The chapters alternate, mostly Betsy and Jenna, but some from Ty's perspective too.   This is very well done and added to my enjoyment of the book.

The storytelling and descriptions are so graceful.  This is a Christian novel but the faith message is subtle.  It is all about grace and love.  I really liked the following passage.  Betsy has been gardening and a friend talks to her about the garden and the incoming storms:

"As far as your garden, sometimes storms can be helpful. ... All that wind and rain shows you which plants are the strongest.  Those are the ones you keep, plant more of next season.  But the ones that break under the force of the storm -- well, you just toss those and pretend they never set foot in your garden in the first place.  Eventually you learn to choose strong ones from the get-go.  You know how it is around here.  Everything needs to be strong.  Plants and people" (p. 316).

I rate Hurricane Season an enthusiastic five stars, and recommend it highly to fans of Southern fiction, women's fiction, and Christian fiction.  It would be a perfect Summer read!

Author Bio

Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Lauren K. Denton now lives with her husband and two daughters in Homewood, just outside Birmingham. In addition to her fiction, she writes a monthly newspaper column about life, faith, and how funny (and hard) it is to be a parent. On any given day, she’d rather be at the beach with her family and a stack of books.

Connect with Lauren

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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

Monday, April 23, 2018

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - The Death of a Falcon: A Muirteach MacPhee Mystery by Susan McDuffie

Book Synopsis
Scotland, 1375: Muirteach MacPhee and his wife Mariota visit Edinburgh Castle, assisting the Lord of the Isles in his negotiations with King Robert II. A trading vessel arrives at the nearby port of Leith from the far away Norse settlement in Greenland. The ship brings unexpected diversion and carries coveted wares: gyrfalcons, unicorn’s horns, and fine furs. Both King Robert and the Lord of the Isles desire the rare birds, easily worth a king’s ransom.

Muirteach and Mariota, unaccustomed to the sophistication of castle life, initially find pleasure in the heady and flirtatious glamor of the royal court. Then sudden and unexpected cruelty, followed by the senseless death of a beautiful young girl, plunge the couple into a murky sea of alliances and intrigue that stretches from Scotland across the icy western ocean to the far northern lands of the Norse, leaving trails of treachery and murder in its wake.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Author Bio
A fan of historical fiction since childhood, Susan McDuffie spent such vast amounts of time reading stories set in the past that she wondered if she had mistakenly been born in the wrong century. As an adult her discovery that Clorox was not marketed prior to 1922 reconciled her to life in this era. Susan’s childhood interest in Scotland was fueled by family stories of the McDuffie clan’s ancestral lands on Colonsay and their traditional role as “Keeper of the Records” for the Lords of the Isles. On her first visit to Scotland she hitchhiked her way through the Hebrides, and her initial visit to Colonsay and the Oronsay Priory ruins planted the seeds for her medieval mysteries. Those seeds have grown into the Muirteach MacPhee mysteries, set in medieval Scotland during the Celtic Lordship of the Isles. The series includes A MASS FOR THE DEAD, THE FAERIE HILLS (2011 New Mexico Book Awards “Best Historical Novel”), THE STUDY OF MURDER (New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards Finalist 2014), and THE DEATH OF A FALCON. Susan frequently presents at workshops and conferences and regularly reviews historical fiction books for the Historical Novel Society’s “Historical Novels Review.

Susan lives in New Mexico and shares her life with a Native American artist and four cosseted cats. She enjoys taking flamenco dance classes in her spare time. Susan loves to hear from readers and can be contacted via Facebook or through her website.


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 5 paperback copies & 5 eBooks of The Death of a Falcon!   To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.  

Giveaway Rules 
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on May 11th. You must be 18 or older to enter. 
– Giveaway is open to US residents only. 
– Only one entry per household. 
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. 
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. 

Death of a Falcon 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Dear Abby - Favorite Dog Movies: One Hundred and One Dalmatians

Dear Friends,

I am happy to be back to talk about another favorite dog movie this week.  One Hundred and One Dalmatians is a movie my Momma has loved since childhood, and we have the DVD here, so it is one of my favorites too!

One Hundred and One Dalmatians is the story of Pongo and Perdita, a Dalmatian couple who have 15 puppies!   They are living happily with their people, Roger and Anita, until a frightening villain named Cruella de Vil decides to steal the puppies for fur coats!   After a long chase, the puppies do find their way back home and they have a happy reunion with their family.  They bring along 84 other puppies that were also being held by Cruella.  Roger and Anita decide to buy a farm so they can keep all 99 puppies -- which makes 101 Dalmatians along with Pongo and Perdita.

One Hundred and One Dalmatians was a 1961 Disney movie.  It was based on the children's  book The One Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith.  (Momma recommends the book as well!)  Dodie Smith enjoyed the movie adaptation and said that she thought it improved upon her original story!  The movie was both a box office and critical success.  When it was released, this was the top grossing animated movie to date.

Some trivia about this movie:

Author Dodie Smith actually had a Dalmatian dog who had 15 puppies!  That was her inspiration for the original book.  She also owned a Dalmatian named Pongo.

The dogs in the movie have deeper voices than their owners so they are seen as having more power.

Some of the dog sounds in the movie are provided by Clarence Nash, who was the voice of Donald Duck.

A new type of animation involving Xerox was used in this movie, and it helped give the movie its distinctive look.

Several characters from Lady and the Tramp make cameo appearances in this movie. Jock is seen barking through a drainpipe to a dog in an upstairs apartment.  Peg and her bulldog friend are seen in a pet store.  Lady and the Tramp are seen during the Twilight Barking scene.

The boy puppies wear red collars and the girls wear blue.  This is also true of Pongo and Perdita.

Cruella de Vil was inspired by actress Tallulah Bankhead.  Old time character actress Mary Wickes provided a live reference for Cruella de Vil.

Author Dodie Smith said her favorite scene in the movie was the one near the beginning where Pongo is stretching out by a window.

This is one of the only Disney movies to feature cigarette, cigar, and pipe smoking.

This was the first animated Disney movie in a contemporary setting.

Here is the movie trailer:

The Twilight Barking is my favorite scene in the movie.  This is how the dogs communicate at twilight, by barking to one another to spread the news.  I often try to do this with friends in my neighborhood.  My dear Momma says she likes the Twilight Bark more in the movie than in real life.  When you watch this scene, be sure to look for the characters from Lady and the Tramp!

Have you seen One Hundred and One Dalmatians?   I would love to hear from you in the comments.

Have a wonderful weekend!


Abby xoxoxo

Book Review and Giveaway - The House on Harbor Hill by Shelly Stratton

Book Synopsis
Set in the past and present, The House on Harbor Hill is a murder mystery that tackles the issues of racial prejudice and spousal abuse in the lives of two very different women…

She’s generous, kind, and compassionate–yet Delilah Grey will forever be an outcast in the small seaside town of Camden Beach, Maryland. She takes in women shattered by abuse, poverty, illness, or events beyond their control. But no matter how far she’s come or how many she’s helped find their way back, there is no safe place for Delilah. Acquitted of her rich husband’s mysterious death decades ago, she lives in her beautiful mansion consumed by secrets–and mistakes she feels she can never atone for. . . . Until she takes in desperate mother Tracey Walters and her two young children.

Tracey won’t say where she’s from or what sent her into hiding. But her determination and refusal to give up reminds Delilah of the spirited, hopeful girl she once was–and the dreams she still cherishes. As Tracey takes tentative steps to rebuild her life, her unexpected attraction to Delilah’s handsome, troubled caretaker inadvertently brings Delilah face to face with the past. And when Tracey’s worst fears come brutally calling, both women must find even more strength to confront truths they can no longer ignore–and at last learn how to truly be free . . .

Resonant, moving, and unforgettable, The House on Harbor Hill paints an unforgettable portrait of two women struggling to forgive themselves, take a chance on change, and challenge each other to finally live.

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

My Review
The House on Harbor Hill tells two stories.  Delilah Gray lives in a beautiful and mysterious beach house in Camden Beach, Maryland.  Her personal background leads her to help young women who are escaping abusive marriages.  That is how she meets Tracey Walters.  Tracey is a young mother with a little boy and a baby girl.  She comes to Harbor Hill to stay with Delilah.  While she is there, rebuilding her life, she also meets Harbor Hill's handsome caretaker, who is wrestling with memories of his own past.

This is such a unique book!   It is a dual storyline, told in the present and also in 1968, so there is an element of historical fiction.  It is women's fiction, but it also is a mystery, as the pasts of Delilah and revealed bit by bit.  There is a mystery in Delilah's past that she has struggled with her whole adult life, and she is able to solve that mystery at last.

The 1968 period details were particularly well done and the story of racial prejudice was powerful and moving.  Shelly Stratton does a wonderful job at evoking a time and place.  I could visualize Harbor Hill and Camden Beach from her descriptions in this book.

The characters, though, are the real stars.  Delilah is one of my favorite characters that I have met through reading this year.  She is warm and vulnerable, but also so strong and compassionate.  What she does for Tracey, and what she has done for many other women in trouble, is a real gift.

I loved the storytelling and the way the narrative revealed itself in bits here and there as the reader learns about the past, and especially Delilah's story and the mystery of what happened the fateful night that changed her life.

I recommend The House on Harbor Hill for fans of women's fiction, mysteries, and historical fiction.  It is a beautifully told and engrossing read.

Author Bio
Shelly Stratton is an award-winning journalist who earned her degree at the University of Maryland, College Park. Another Woman’s Man, her novel written under the pseudonym Shelly Ellis, was nominated for a 2014 NAACP Image Award. A film buff and amateur painter, she lives with her husband not far from Washington, D.C. Visit her online at

Connect with Shelly

Website | Facebook | Twitter

One lucky reader will win a copy of The House On Harbor Hill.  Giveaway is for the U.S. only and ends at midnight on April 27.  Winner will be contacted by email and will need to respond within 48 hours or another name will be drawn.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Monday, April 16, 2018

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - The Silver Gun (An Art Deco Mystery) by L.A. Chandlar

Book Synopsis
New York City, 1936. In the midst of the Great Depression, the Big Apple is defiantly striving toward an era infused with art, architecture, and economic progress under the dynamic Mayor La Guardia. But those in City Hall know that tumultuous times can inspire both optimism and deadly danger . . .

It’s been six months since Lane Sanders was appointed Mayor Fiorello “Fio” La Guardia’s new personal aide, and the twenty-three-year-old is sprinting in her Mary Janes to match her boss’s pace. Despite dealing with vitriol from the Tammany Hall political machine and managing endless revitalization efforts, Fio hasn’t slowed down a bit during his years in office. And luckily for Lane, his unpredictable antics are a welcome distraction from the childhood memories that haunt her dreams—and the silver gun she’ll never forget.

When Lane gets attacked and threatened by an assailant tied to one of most notorious gangsters in the city, even the mayor can’t promise her safety. The corrupt city officials seem to be using Lane as a pawn against Fio for disgracing their party in the prior election. But why was the assailant wielding the exact same gun from her nightmares?

Balancing a clandestine love affair and a mounting list of suspects, Lane must figure out how the secrets of her past are connected to the city’s underground crime network—before someone pulls the trigger on the most explosive revenge plot in New York history . . .

Author Bio
L.A. Chandler is the author of the Art Deco Mystery Series with Kensington Publishing featuring Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and a fresh take on the innovation and liveliness of 1930s New York City. Her debut novel, The Silver Gun released August 29, 2017, and the sequel, The Gold Pawn, will release September 25th, 2018. Laurie has been living and writing in New York City for 16 years and has been speaking for a wide variety of audiences for over 20 years including a women’s group with the United Nations. Her talks range from NYC history, the psychology of creativity, and the history of holiday traditions. Laurie has also worked in PR for General Motors, writes and fund-raises for a global nonprofit is the mother of two boys, and has toured the nation managing a rock band.

Author Links
Social Media Quick Link to all my social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram,  YouTube, and Newsletter):
YouTube for Behind the Scenes Tours:

Purchase Links
Amazon     B&N     Kobo      Google Play    BookBub

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, April 13, 2018

Dear Abby - Famous Movie Dogs: Toto from The Wizard of Oz

Dear Friends,

I'm back to continue our chat about movie dogs.   This week my post is all about Toto, the cute little terrier dog from The Wizard of Oz.  This is one of my Momma's favorite lifelong movies, so I have seen it many times with her.

Toto was a female Cairn terrier.  She was born during the Great Depression in 1933.  Her original owners were a young couple who did not train her properly.  She had potty accidents and they looked for another home for her.  (Momma said that sadly this happens a lot in rescue.)  They found Carl Spitz, a famous dog trainer.  He worked training  Terry and found she was very smart.  That is how her movie career began!  Her movies included Bright Eyes (with Shirley Temple), The Women, and Tortilla Flat

Of course, Terry's most famous movie was The Wizard of Oz.  She was seriously injured during the filming of this movie when one of the palace guards stepped on her and broke her foot.  She went to stay at Judy Garland's home to recuperate, and they developed such a strong bond that Judy wanted to adopt her.  (Terry's person, Carl Spitz, said no.)

A little more trivia about Terry in The Wizard of Oz:

She was afraid of the wind machines used in the movie.

Terry made $125 a week - more than the Munchkins!

She attended the movie premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre.  

After this movie, Terry changed her name to Toto officially.

She passed away in 1945 and was buried at Carl Spitz's ranch.  Her grave was destroyed when the Ventura Freeway was built, but she now has a memorial at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

There is a book about Terry called I, Toto:  The Autobiography of Terry, the Dog Who Was Toto by Willard Carroll.  My Momma has a copy of this book here, but she has not read it (yet!).

Here is a little short video about Terry as Toto.  It is narrated by Angela Lansbury.  I enjoyed it and think you might like it too.

I would love to hear your Wizard of Oz memories!  Did you grow up watching this movie?


Abby xoxoxo

Monday, April 9, 2018

Book Spotlight - Farewell, My Cuckoo: A Birds of a Feather Mystery by Marty Wingate

Book Synopsis
Julia Lanchester must defend her love nest from an invasive species: her boyfriend’s sister. And then there’s the little matter of murder . . .

“The cuckoo comes in April and sings its song in May. In June it changes tune and July it flies away.”

Wedding bells are ringing in the small British village of Smeaton-under-Lyme. Julia Lanchester’s second-in-command at the local tourist center is finally getting married, and the lovebirds are giving Julia and her live-in boyfriend, Michael Sedgwick, ideas about their own future. But before anyone can say “Will you,” Michael’s flighty older sister, Pammy, crashes the party, fresh off a breakup and lugging all her worldly possessions around with her in a tangle of plastic bags.

Before long, Julia’s cozy cottage starts feeling more like Pammy’s bachelorette pad. To keep herself from going cuckoo, Julia throws herself into her pet projects at work—until death disrupts her plans. First a body is found on the estate. Then the police discover that Pammy was the last one to see the man alive. And soon Julia gets the feeling that if she ever wants her home—or her boyfriend—back, she’ll have to get to the bottom of this mystery, even if it means breaking a few eggs.

Author Bio

Marty Wingate is a Seattle-based writer and speaker who shares her love of Britain in her two mystery series. The Potting Shed books feature Pru Parke, a middle-aged American gardener transplanted from Texas to England, and Birds of a Feather follows Julia Lanchester, bird lover, who runs a tourist office in a Suffolk village. Marty writes garden articles for magazines including Country Gardens and the American Gardener. She is a member of the Royal Horticultural Society, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Crime Writers Association. She leads garden tours to England, Scotland, and Ireland, spending free moments deep in research for her books. Or in pubs.

Marty Wingate’s captivating mysteries can be enjoyed together or separately, in any order:




Author Links

Amazon author page:

Purchase Links
Amazon   B&N  Kobo  Google Play

Friday, April 6, 2018

Dear Abby - A Dachshund Museum in Germany

Dear Friends,

I am interrupting my dog movies series for an important news bulletin -- there is a dachshund museum opening in Passau, Germany!   It has been all over the news this week, and I am grateful to my friends Shari and Dave for sending me links and info.

This Dackel Museum is owned by a couple, Seppi Kueblbeck and Oliver Storz, who are dachshund people.  They have displays of new and vintage dachshunds of all types -- over 2000 dachshunds on display!  The photos and videos are impressive.   

They have items like signed sketches by Picasso of his dog Lump, and Waldi, the dachshund mascot from the 1972 Olympics.

Pablo Picasso and his dachshund Lump

Waldi, the official mascot of the 1972 Olympic games

This is a nice slideshow of photos from the museum.   The forward arrow is quite small on the right side of the photo.  The museum is impressive -- I love the displays!   Click here to visit the museum via photos:   dachshund museum slideshow.

Here is a link to the museum's official site.  It is in German, but even if you do not speak the language, you will enjoy the photos:  Dackel Museum.

Here is a short video about the museum, the owners, and (of course, most importantly!) their dachshunds - it looks amazing!

I would love to hear from you in the comments.  Wishing you a great weekend!


Abby xoxoxo

Book Review - High Cotton by Debby Mayne

Book Synopsis
Some families are filled with so much love they can’t help but drive each other crazy.

Shay Henke has mixed feelings about going to her family’s next reunion. On the one hand, she’ll get to see everyone in her mama's family—folks she loves unconditionally. On the other hand, she knows there’ll be more drama than you can shake a stick at. 

The days leading up to the event bring one surprise after another. First Shay must deal with her sister-in-law’s deep, dark secret. Then she has to contend with the childish ways of her business-mogul twin cousins. And when her high school crush wants to be her date to the reunion . . . well, it may have been a dream come true for Shay’s teen self, but the woman she’s become doesn’t know what to make of this. 

Shay’s contentment is challenged, and she’s determined to shake things up a bit. But will she find the excitement she’s looking for, or will Shay realize she prefers her quiet and predictable life? One thing is certain: Life in the Bucklin family is never boring. 

My Review
High Cotton is a southern novel set in the small town of Pinewood, Mississippi.  Shay Henke is at the heart of the novel.  She receives an invitation to a family reunion at the same time that she reconnects with her high school crush.  And then there is a lot of family drama, especially from a secret her sister-in-law asks her to help keep and her younger twin cousins, who seek her advice.  This is the first book in the Bucklin Family Reunion Series.

This was a really enjoyable read!   The author, who has clearly spent a lot of time in the south, captured small town southern life perfectly.  I am a native southerner and loved that aspect of this book -- the southernisms of the language, the pacing, the food, the family dynamics.

The book is told in alternating chapters by different members of the family.  At first I was a little wary of this, because it really seems to be Shay's story at heart, but as the novel went on I really got to know the other characters (Missy, Punkin, and Sally) as well and cared about them.  I enjoyed their storylines and seeing the way all the stories fit together.

The dialogue was particularly strong in this novel.  I could just visualize scenes, like a movie, because it was so engaging and well written.

I recommend High Cotton for fans of Southern fiction, women's fiction, and Christian novels.  I am already looking forward to reading the next book in the series!

I received a copy of this book from Gilead Reviewers.