Friday, July 24, 2020

Dear Abby - Summer Break (And a Happy Otter Video)

Dear Friends,

I just wanted to touch base and let you know I'm planning to take a Summer break starting now until after Labor Day.  My plans involve lots of extra naps, walks (especially early in the day when it is cooler), and just staying cool and enjoying time with my Momma.  I also have an upcoming birthday!

I also want to share a happy otter video with you.  I love this short video with a little otter playing with water.  It looks like he is having lots of fun!

I hope you have a great Summer and I look forward to catching up with you in September.


Abby xoxoxo

Friday, July 17, 2020

Dear Abby - Videos That Abby Likes: Dachshund Pool Party

Dear Friends,

I hope you are having a good week and staying cool!  This is the hottest week of the summer here, so I am enjoying time inside with air conditioning.  I'm also looking at videos of swimming dachshunds.

I found a silly but fun video of Crusoe the famous dachshund and his friends having a pool party!  It makes me laugh to see all the happy doxies in their sunglasses (and one even wearing a bikini! I may need one of those.)

Without further ado, enjoy this short dachshund pool party:

I hope you had fun watching this and wish you a good weekend!  I'll check back in before I take my summer break.


Abby xoxoxo

Book Review - An Appalachian Summer by Ann H.Gabhart

My Review

An Appalachian Summer is a historical novel set in 1933.  Piper Danson has returned home from college to find her father has informally arranged her marriage to a prominent young businessman, Braxton Crandall. However, Piper's heart is still with her childhood sweetheart, Jamie Russell.  After she goes to a presentation on the Frontier Nursing Service, she volunteers to be a courier for the group in the Appalachian Mountains for the summer.  The summer working in Appalachia, away from her family, changes her life.  When both Jamie and Braxton follow her to the mountains, things really get interesting!

I wanted to read this novel because the setting and subject matter were intriguing.  I rarely encounter historical novels set during the Depression years, and the Appalachian Mountains setting was especially appealing.

This is a lovely read about another time and place!  The historical details are lovingly rendered;  the author does such a good job of capturing mountain life in the 1930's.  Piper works closely with nurse midwives and watches (and helps with) some childbirths.  She encounters sweet children from hardscrabble backgrounds.  She also experiences life on a farm for the first time - milking cows, taking care of horses, tending to chickens.  There are a few instances of the treatment of animals in this mountain community that were hard to read, although they seem realistic for the time and place. 

Piper is a brave, daring young woman who is willing to step out of her comfort zone to learn how other people live;  she truly is motivated by helping them and making a difference in their lives.  I loved her sweet lifelong love of Jamie, and also liked that her other suitor, Braxton, is a decent person and likable in his own right.

There is an enjoyable secondary storyline about Piper's aunt Truda, who is in her 40's and never married.  She lost touch with her first love, Jack, years ago, but he surprisingly crosses paths with the family in this novel.  I enjoyed reading their story as well.

An Appalachian Summer is an engrossing historical novel that gives a unique glimpse at another time and place.  I had not heard of the Frontier Nursing Service before, and learned it was a real organization, founded by Mary Breckenridge - just like in the novel.  Fans of historical fiction will enjoy this summer story.

Book Review and Giveaway - Fair as a Star by Mimi Matthews

My Review
Fair as a Star is a historical novel set in a sleepy English village in 1864.  Beryl Burnham has just returned home from a year in Paris, and she is about to enter into a marriage of convenience with the area's most eligible bachelor, Henry Rivenhall.  Unfortunately, she has strong feelings for his brother, Mark, who is village curate.  As Beryl struggles with her feelings, she also deals with a feeling of shame about the melancholia that has been part of her life since she was young.

I wanted to read this novel because I love Mimi Matthews' books.  I was also intrigued by the title for this new series - Victorian Romantics.  In school I loved Victorian literature, so this definitely caught my interest.

I have to say that Fair as a Star is my favorite Mimi Matthews book yet!  I love the characters, especially Beryl, who is so sweet, sincere, and sometimes tentative.  Mark is one of the best book boyfriends I've "met" in recent years.  He is the polar opposite of Henry (who is so cool and unemotional) and even knows that Beryl's life would be better with a little dog!

The storytelling and romanticism are lovely.  For instance:

His strong fingers brushed the bare nape of her neck. Soft. Tender. It was almost a caress. Enough to send a delicate shiver down Beryl’s spine. Mark must have felt it, too, for he quickly removed his hand. It seemed as though he might have said something more, but in that same instant, a gentle gust of wind caught his tall hat from the pile at his side. It tumbled down over the grassy slope of the riverbank, coming to a halt on a cluster of flowering weeds. He made no effort to chase it. She looked up at him in question. His expression turned wry. 

'There are few moments in a man’s existence when he experiences so much ludicrous distress as when he is in pursuit of his own hat.' 

A slow smile spread over her face. 'The Pickwick Club,' she said, temporarily diverted. 'I’m amazed you can recite it so readily.'" (Kindle position 662)

Sigh -- romance and Dickens quotes!

I only wish this relatively short book had lasted longer ... it was such a lovely read.  The love story was slow building and swooping at once.  There was some humor (i.e. the naughty but lovable little dog Ernest).  The author also deals sensitively with the social theme of depression during the Victorian era.

I cannot recommend Fair as a Star highly enough for fans of Victorian England, historical fiction, and beautifully written old fashioned love stories!

Book Synopsis
A Secret Burden…

After a mysterious sojourn in Paris, Beryl Burnham has returned home to the village of Shepton Worthy ready to resume the life she left behind. Betrothed to the wealthy Sir Henry Rivenhall, she has no reason to be unhappy—or so people keep reminding her. But Beryl’s life isn’t as perfect as everyone believes.

A Longstanding Love…

As village curate, Mark Rivenhall is known for his compassionate understanding. When his older brother’s intended needs a shoulder to lean on, Mark’s more than willing to provide one. There’s no danger of losing his heart. He already lost that to Beryl a long time ago.

During an idyllic Victorian summer, friends and family gather in anticipation of Beryl and Sir Henry’s wedding. But in her darkest moment, it’s Mark who comes to Beryl’s aid. Can he help her without revealing his feelings—or betraying his brother?

Available on Amazon

Author Bio
USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a retired Andalusian dressage horse, a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats.

For more information, please visit Mimi Matthews’ website and blog. You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitterBookBubPinterestGoogle+, and Goodreads.

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away a copy of Fair as a Star by Mimi Matthews! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.  

Giveaway Rules 
 – Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on July 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter. 
– Paperback giveaway is open to the US only. 
– Only one entry per household. 
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. 
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.  
Fair as a Star 

Friday, July 10, 2020

Dear Abby - Videos Abby Likes: Otter Love

Dear Friends,

Sorry to have been absent for a little bit. I just needed a short break. I missed talking to you though, and wanted to come back and catch up. I am intending to take a late summer break (from later July until Labor Day), like I have the past few years, so I will be taking another break in a week or two.  I'll be sure to touch base, though, and let you know.

I have a cute video for you today -- another from a friend (thanks, Uncle Dave!). I am calling it Otter Love because it is about an otter that I want to adopt. He looks so friendly and happy. I love his little paws!  Otters always remind me a little bit of dachshunds. Do you see that too?

Without further ado, here is the little otter. (This is another video that may work better on a computer rather than mobile.)

Thanks for stopping by!  I hope you have a good weekend.


Abby xoxoxo

Book Review - The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop by Fannie Flagg

My Review
The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop is a sequel to Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.  The Wonder Boy is Bud (Buddy) Threadgoode. He is the son of Ruth Jamison, and is later adopted by Idgie Threadgoode and her family. After losing his arm in an accident as a young boy, he grew up in Whistle Stop, Alabama with Ruth, Idgie, and their extended family and friends. The novel goes back and forth in time, and much of the plot centers on Bud's daughter, Ruthie, a widow who is living in Atlanta and looking for her next chapter in life.  Bud impulsively travels to Whistle Stop, an abandoned town at this point, and that trip leads Ruthie to join him in Alabama, where they meet and befriend Evelyn Couch.

I wanted to read The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop because I love Fannie Flagg's books! She is one of my favorite authors and I absolutely love Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.  

This is the most delightful book.  It moves back and forth in time, like memory, from the 1930's to the 1960's, the 1980's, and into the present day.  The chapters are short, punctuated with humor, occasional poignancy, and Dot Weems' little newsletter about the town of Whistle Stop.

It felt like visiting with old friends again seeing what happened next to the characters I loved in Fried Green Tomatoes.  I really enjoyed the continuation of Ruth and Idgie's story in the lives of  Bud and Ruthie.

The storytelling is fun and lively, with passages like this (about Bud):

"One afternoon, when Ninny was over at the cafe visiting with Ruth, she said, 'That boy of yours is a real wonder boy.' 

Ruth smiled. 'Why do you say that?' 

Ninny laughed . “Because he’s always a wonderin’ about somethin’ or another. Why do kittens purr, or why do rabbits have long ears? This morning, when he was over at my house, he says to me, “Aunt Ninny, I wonder why chickens have feathers and wings , but they don’t fly off anywhere?” So I said, “That’s a good question, honey. If I was a chicken and I saw Sipsey headed toward me with her five-pound skillet, I’d sure fly away if I could.” (Kindle location 235).

I enjoyed getting to know Bud and Ruthie in this book. Bud is an especially likable character, with his lifelong love of animals (he is a retired veterinarian in present day) and his abiding love for all things Whistle Stop. Ruthie is also an interesting character, with many parallels to Evelyn's storyline from Fried Green Tomatoes.  The scenes with Ruthie and Evelyn together are pure gold.

I cannot recommend The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop highly enough for anyone who enjoys historical fiction, southern fiction, and especially the novels of Fannie Flagg.  Settle in with a glass of iced tea and a long afternoon of good reading.  You will not be disappointed!

Book Review - The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis

My Review

The Lions of Fifth Avenue is a historical novel set at the New York Public Library.  It tells the story of two women whose lives are changed by their time at the library.  In 1913, Laura Lyons lives in a mezzanine apartment at the library with her family.  Her husband works as the library's superintendent and she is pursuing a career in journalism, unusual for a woman in her time. When a rare copy of Edgar Allen Poe's Tamerlane goes missing, their lives are changed.  In 1992 Laura's granddaughter, Sadie Donovan, is working as curator at the library. Once again, several rare books go missing, and the search is on for the thief.

I wanted to read The Lions of Fifth Avenue because I enjoy Fiona Davis's writing and I absolutely adore books with a library setting.  I sell vintage books, so the antiquarian book storyline was especially appealing to me.

I absolutely loved this book and have been telling friends about it since I first started reading. The history of the New York Public Library is fascinating, from the early apartment cloistered in the building, to the methods of handling and cataloging books (and other historic, book related artifacts), to the curators' daily work. The details of antiquarian books at the library and their special markings and attributes was especially fascinating to me.

There are intriguing passages about the library like this:

"Sadie led the trio through the halls, pointing out all her favorite spots: the painted ceiling of a cloudy sky above the back stairwell, the Edward Laning murals depicting the history of the written word in the rotunda, and the view of the foyer from the second-floor balcony. Then down to the stacks where the library’s millions of volumes were housed. 

'If the shelves were laid end to end, they would measure over eighty miles,' she said.

Mrs. Smith let out a small 'Oh, my.'

'This particular branch of the New York Public Library is a research library, not a circulating one,' said Sadie. 'That means we don’t lend the books out, they must be consulted on-site. Furthermore, the stacks are not for browsing, they are closed off to the general public. Instead, a patron consults the card catalog and puts in a request, and then the book or books are sent to the Reading Room. The retrieval process hasn’t changed much in all the time the library has been open to the public, since 1911.' The stacks consisted of seven tiers that rose from the basement level to just below the Reading Room. They reminded Sadie of an ant colony, with library pages dashing up stairs and down the narrow aisles, locating one book among millions within minutes along the steel shelves. She pointed out the conveyer system that carried books up to the patrons waiting in the Reading Room, as well as the dumbwaiter used for oversized works." (Kindle location 337).

I found the lives of Laura, in 1913, and Sadie, in 1992, very compelling. They both struggle with pursuing work that they are passionate about. Laura wants to be a journalist and essayist at the point that few women pursue this career.  When she runs into an old college friend and attends the Heterodoxy Club in Greenwich Village (a group for women to express opinions on the vote, birth control, etc.), her conviction about her future changes.

Sadie longs to be curator of the library, but she has to fight for the position and really struggles in her early days on the interim job.

Both women also try to sort out their personal lives. Laura is married with two young children, but she wants more than the conventional life of wife to a powerful man.  Sadie is divorced and intends to stay single, until she meets the investigator working on the case of missing books at the library. I found Nick, the investigator, very intriguing -- he was much more complex and sophisticated than expected.  I loved the slow building romance between Sadie and Nick.

The two parallel cases of missing antiquarian books were utterly fascinating, and the mystery from 1913 wound into the 1992 timeline as well.  I found the search for the books, through old bookstores and covert dealers and collectors, so interesting to read about.

The Lions of Fifth Avenue is one of my favorite reads from recent years, and will certainly be high on my book list for this year. I cannot recommend it highly enough for fans of historical fiction, libraries, antiquarian books, literary history, New York history, or just fans of a beautifully told, compelling story.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Book Review - The Summer House by Lauren K. Denton

My Review

The Summer House is the story of Lily Bishop, who wakes up one morning to find her husband Worth has left her a goodbye letter and divorce papers - right after they relocated to Alabama's Gulf Coast for his job. Stuck in a new place with no family, Lily scrambles to find a job. She finds work as a hairdresser at a senior apartment community, where she can live above her shop. At Safe Harbor, she becomes friends with Rose, a divorced woman in her 60's who owns the community. She also slowly becomes friends - with some romantic interest - with Rose's nephew, Rawlins, who is a single father. Over the summer Lily finds a way to reinvent her life, with a little help from her friends.

I wanted to read this book because I have read all of Lauren K. Denton's books and loved every single one of them. The Summer House sounded like a perfect beach read!

This is my favorite Lauren K. Denton book yet!  I absolutely loved everything about it.  Lily is such a sweet, likable protagonist.  She is a kind, gentle soul who longs for a happy life like her childhood in North Georgia.  Her husband, Worth, was a poor match for her -- he is very driven, from an Atlanta society family, and he doesn't share Lily's love of the simple things in life.

I loved the slow building friendship/romance between Lily and Rawlins.  Rawlins is so sweet with his young daughter Hazel.  He is devoted to his Aunt Rose (who is also Lily's boss) and works hard as a shrimper.

Rose is also an interesting character.  She is cool and reserved, but she has been hurt in the past too, and is just cautious with her heart.  As she spends takes care of Hazel for Rawlins, befriends Lily, and has an unlikely romantic interest of her own, she blossoms. At one point Hazel remarks:  "'Aunt Rosie is named after a flower too,' Hazel said. “Rose and Lily.” (Kindle position 1638).

The descriptions of small town southern life on the Alabama Gulf Coast are just lovely.  They made me want to pack my bags and spend some time there!  For instance:

The weathered cedar house was up on stilts, with a screened porch up a set of stairs. Twinkle lights were strung all along the ceiling of the porch. Down below the house, two hammocks and a wooden swing hung from the rafters. On the other side of the patio, grass stretched all the way to the water and a short dock. As she watched, a brown pelican glided to a stop and perched on top of one of the posts. She laughed. 'It doesn’t get more picturesque than this.'" (Kindle position 2939).

Safe Harbor is also a charming place, full of quirky active seniors.  The chapters are punctuated by little daily newsletters about life at Safe Harbor.  They are fun to read and sometimes have some humor too!

I highly recommend The Summer House as a perfect summer read.  It is such a lovely, relaxing book getaway!

Book Synopsis
Sometimes it takes losing everything to find yourself again.

Lily Bishop wakes up one morning to find a good-bye note and divorce papers from her husband on the kitchen counter. Having moved to Alabama for his job only weeks before, Lily is devastated, but a flyer at the grocery store for a hair stylist position in a local retirement community provides a refuge while she contemplates her next steps.

Rose Carrigan built the small retirement village of Safe Harbor years ago—just before her husband ran off with his assistant. Now she runs a tight ship, making sure the residents follow her strict rules. Rose keeps everyone at arm’s length, including her own family. But when Lily shows up asking for a job and a place to live, Rose’s cold exterior begins to thaw.

Lily and Rose form an unlikely friendship, and Lily’s salon soon becomes the place where residents share town gossip, as well as a few secrets. Lily soon finds herself drawn to Rose’s nephew, Rawlins—a single dad and shrimper who’s had some practice at starting over—and one of the residents may be carrying a torch for Rose as well.

Neither Lily nor Rose is where she expected to be, but the summer makes them both wonder if there’s more to life and love than what they’ve experienced so far. The Summer House weaves Lauren K. Denton’s inviting Southern charm around a woman’s journey to find herself.


Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Author Bio
Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Lauren 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. Her debut novel, THE HIDEAWAY, was a Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Amazon Charts bestseller. Her second novel, HURRICANE SEASON, released in spring of 2018, is a USA Today bestseller. GLORY ROAD will release in March, 2019.

Connect with Lauren

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Book Review and Giveaway - A Spark of Romance by Jamie K. Schmidt

My Review
A Spark of Romance is a small town romance. Kayleigh Baker grew up in Mulberry and now serves as the town Fire Chief. She has a lifelong crush on the boy next door, police chief Liam MacAvoy.  They are friends who banter back and forth - although there clearly is a romantic spark.  This summer, though, there is an obstacle between them.  Kayleigh wants to host the town's annual 4th of July fireworks show in honor of her late mother.  Liam worries about the safety and cost.  As they work through this conflict, they also both want to get closer.

I wanted to read A Spark of Romance because I like small town stories and this looked like a fun, light summer read.

A Spark of Romance is a sweet, old fashioned love story.  The small town setting is very appealing.  There are some charming descriptions of the county fair, which is a big deal for this town -- pie judging, a chili cook-off, treats on the midway, and rides like the ferris wheel. 

There was also an overarching sense of neighbors helping neighbors and everyone knowing everyone else.  I found this comforting and very nice for a read this summer.

Kayleigh and Liam are so obviously perfect for each other -- and they have decades of friendship and chemistry.  They both make little missteps here and there that push the other person away.  I enjoyed the slow give and take of their courtship.

There is also some cute humor involving Kayleigh's neighbor and her very naughty husky dog.  At one point Kayleigh is cooking her first romantic dinner for Liam and the neighbor's husky, Quinn, actually climbs up on his roof!  Kayleigh has to engineer the rescue with some disastrous results (although the dog is completely safe and happy).

I recommend A Spark of Romance for fans of small town, clean romances.  It is a sweet, old fashioned story -- would make a great Hallmark movie!  It makes a fun weekend read.

Book Synopsis
Is she out of reach?

Fire Chief and former Army sergeant Kayleigh Baker is determined to save Mulberry’s annual Fourth of July fireworks display. She doesn’t want to disappoint the kids and the fireworks are a bittersweet memory of her mom’s last summer. As the town prepares for the summer parade and picnic, Kayleigh works to convince her former high school crush — now the straight-laced police chief — to help her cause.

Does he stack up?

Police Chief Liam MacAvoy doesn’t like the chaos the fireworks cause for his department and can’t hide his relief when they’re cancelled. But now he’s got the woman he’s been in love with for as long as he can remember asking for his help. How can he say no? What he’d really like is to show her that fireworks and town traditions are not the only things worth fighting for.

Can the boy next door and the town hero find the courage to finally seize their chance at love?



Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Author Bio
USA Today bestselling author, Jamie K. Schmidt, writes contemporary love stories and paranormal romances. Her steamy, romantic comedy Life’s a Beach reached #65 on USA Today, #2 on Barnes & Noble and #9 on Amazon. Her Club Inferno series from Random House’s Loveswept line has hit both the Amazon and Barnes & Noble top one hundred lists and the first book in the series, Heat put her on the USA Today bestseller list. Her dragon paranormal romance series from Entangled Publishing, has been called “fun and quirky” and “endearing.” 


Connect with Jamie

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Win a cute 4th of July bracelet!