Friday, September 30, 2022

Book Review and Giveaway - The Other Side of Certain by Amy Willoughby-Burle

My Review

The Other Side of Certain is a historical novel set during the Depression. It is the story of Mattie Mobley, a young woman from a privileged background who dreamed of being a teacher - so she traveled from Asheville to a very rural part of Kentucky to start a one room school and become a Pack Horse Librarian. There is a mystery in Certain, Kentucky involving an abandoned church (now a library) and a widower who is exiled outside of town with his children. She is determined to learn the story ... especially after she meets the widower.

I wanted to read this novel because I was intrigued by the Depression era setting. I also loved the idea of Pack Horse Librarians!

This is just a lovely read.  I found myself immediately transported to another time and place by the author's storytelling, and felt like I was discovering the town of Certain just as Mattie was. I was very intrigued by the church-turned-school and the mystery of the broken church window there.

Daniel, the exiled widower, is a fascinating character and I loved his slowly unfolding connection with Mattie.

The author is a wonderful descriptive storyteller. I loved details like:

Back in the church, I discovered that the pews did serve as bookshelves. Volumes of literature of all types were categorized along the rows, spine out or flat down for magazines and other things. “That’s clever,” I said, pointing to a bookend made from a license plate folded at a ninety-degree angle. I could see them all through the rows. “We make do,” Ava said, coming to stand beside me. “People send all sorts of things as donations. Nothing goes to waste.  When you don’t have much, much care is given to everything" (eBook location 195).

I highly recommend The Other Side of Certain to fans of historical fiction, and especially to anyone who is interested in 1930's America. This is the first in a new series, Love for Certain, and I look forward to reading more of this series in the future.

Book Synopsis

For the love of love…and books

Mattie Mobley planned to be a teacher, but when times grew tough during America’s Great Depression, and there were no teaching positions in her hometown of Asheville, NC, Mattie found work starting a school and helping the Pack Horse Librarians just over the mountains in the rural town of Certain, Kentucky. She’s not certain at all that this is a good situation, but she’s determined, and honestly, a little desperate. Of all the things that Mattie does have—money, comforts, a good name, she doesn’t have what matters most—friends, love, and a purpose of her own.

Daniel, “The Grizzly Bear,” Barrett had a lovely life for a little while. Overcoming his family’s bad name and worse reputation, he made a life for himself in Certain. He was married with children and a figure of respect in his church, but desperate times called for desperate measures and a terrible tragedy was the result. Now exiled with his children along the wily run of the Hell for Certain Creek, Daniel has gotten used to being the town pariah again. It’s in his blood after all. Right? Maybe not, but he’ll need the powerful influence of love not only to change his own mind about himself but to convince his estranged extended family and the whole town as well.

Can one librarian with a saddlebag full of books make people see the difference between fact and fiction? Mattie loves a good story, and this may be her best one yet. Fiction tells the best truths and the best truth of all is love.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Author Bio

Amy Willoughby-Burle grew up in the small coastal town of Kure Beach, NC, and now lives in Asheville, NC with her husband and four children. She teaches creative writing and works as a freelance editor when not working on her own fiction. She is also the director of Wildacres Writers Workshop. She is the author of the novels The Lemonade Year and The Year of Thorns and Honey. Her award-winning short fiction has been published in numerous journals and in her collection, Out Across the Nowhere. Her fiction focuses on the importance of family and friends and centers on the themes of forgiveness, second chances, and finding beauty in the world around us. She likes to write about the wonder and mystery of everyday life.

Visit her online at You can also Amy on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.


Enter to win this fun prize package including:

Tote Bag
Journal & Pens
$25 Amazon Gift Card
Paperback copy of The Other Side of Certain

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on October 14th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

The Other Side of Certain


Friday, September 23, 2022

Book Review - A Lot Like Forever by Jennifer Snow

My Review

Whitney Carlisle is a workaholic living in the small town of Blue Moon Bay, California.  She is a real type A personality and very driven -- so much so that she can't focus also on her wedding plans to Trent Connolly.  (As in, can't even get started making plans!)  Whitney is also hiding a health secret -- while Trent has a secret of his own.

I wanted to read this book because the small town romance sounded appealing.

This is the third book in the Blue Moon Bay series, but it also read well as a standalone.  

I liked the structure of the storytelling, with some parts "Now" and others "Then."  We are able to see how Whitney and Trent got together, what appealed to them both about each other and their relationship, and their individual backgrounds.

Whitney has a lot going on.  Her mother is struggling with Alzheimer's and Whitney also has a serious health issue that she is not addressing.  I sometimes felt a bit frustrated with her extreme drive to work and to tamp down her feelings (with Trent and with not spending as much time with her mother, who needs her).  The conflict Whitney and Trent have could have been resolved by better communication -- and not keeping secrets.

That said, I got really engrossed in this book and kept reading (late at night!) because I wanted to see how it would all resolve.  I kept pulling for Whitney and Trent to open up to each other.  The supporting characters in this book (especially Trent's family) were very appealing as well.

I recommend A Lot Like Forever for fans of small town romance.   Based on the author's storytelling and sensitivity telling this story, I think the entire series would be a good read.

Book Synopsis

Whitney Carlisle has everything under control–or at least that’s what she needs everyone in Blue Moon Bay to think. She has always faced the hard times in her life head-on and come out stronger for it. But this time, she isn’t so sure. Whitney knows she needs help, but how can she put that burden on Trent, her fiancé? How can she crush his dreams by telling him the plans they made for a future together have to change?

All Trent Connolly wants is to get married, have kids, and spend the rest of his life loving Whitney. Their relationship has had its share of ups and downs–like any other couple–and they’ve always managed to get through it unscathed. So when Whitney is clearly struggling with something, Trent is ready to help. His fiancée’s strong will is part of what draws him to her–but this time, it feels like it’s pushing him away.

Whatever Whitney is hiding from everyone has to be big. Possibly life-changing. She must believe that revealing her secret would do Trent more harm than good, even if it crushes her under the weight of it. The only thing he can do now is be there for her in whatever way she needs…until a secret of his own comes to light that threatens to steal their chance at forever.

Each book in the Blue Moon Bay series is STANDALONE:
* A Lot Like Love
* A Lot Like Christmas
* A Lot Like Forever

Author Bio

Jennifer Snow is an award-winning, contemporary romance author writing for Harlequin, Grand Central, and Berkley/NAL. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta with her husband and son. Find out more at

Friday, September 16, 2022

Book Review - The Weekly Gratitude Project by Zondervan

My Review

The subtitle for The Weekly Gratitude Project is "A Challenge to Journal, Reflect, and Grow a Grateful Heart." That is exactly what this book is about - mindful journaling to become more grateful.  

I found this book appealing because I love to journal, like devotional books, and found the idea of a weekly gratitude project appealing!  Years ago I wrote a gratitude list at the end of every day and it really changed my outlook. I realized that even on the worst days there were still blessings to be grateful for.

This is a beautifully designed book - a hardcover with sewn-in ribbon bookmark. The book is divided into themes and then weeks under each theme. The book's themes are: 






I love the format of each week.  It begins with a Bible verse, then a short paragraph about the week's theme, and then several journaling questions with room to write. The writing sections are lined, and the pages are illustrated with beautiful leaves and plants.

I am putting this book aside for the new year and look forward to going through and journaling in it. The Weekly Gratitude Project is a lovely book and it would be a great gift - or a purchase to prepare for a year of mindful journaling and gratitude!

Book Synopsis

Publisher: Zondervan; Illustrated edition (November 10, 2020)

Hardcover: 144 pages

It’s time to start a project that will grow a grateful heart. The Weekly Gratitude Project is a 52-week guided gratitude journal that offers a life-changing journey through reflection prompts and inviting questions to guide you into a deeper relationship with God. This yearly gratitude journal features beautifully illustrated journaling pages that will help you discover more intimacy and joy in your spiritual life.

The Weekly Gratitude Project is:

  • Perfect for a beginner in faith and practicing gratitude, but strong and thought provoking enough for someone who already has a solid foundation
  • An easy-to-use journaling format designed to help you focus on adding more gratefulness into your day
  • A helpful companion for individual worship, Bible studies, and small groups

Each week includes:

  • A biblical theme to focus on
  • A short but impactful Bible verse to help you reflect and meditate
  • Inspirational insight to guide your thoughts and jumpstart your gratitude project
  • Journaling prompts and lines to help you reflect and grow a grateful heart

This 12-month journal:

  • Showcases beautiful photography and calming colors
  • Has a pretty ribbon marker, so you never lose your place
  • Provides a ton of journaling space, but easily fits on your nightstand, tote bag, or a gift basket
  • Is perfect for a self-purchase, Mother’s Day, National Best Friend Day, a welcoming gift for Bible study groups, birthdays, and holidays

Check out the rest of the series, The Weekly Prayer Project and The Weekly Faith Project.

Friday, September 9, 2022

Introducing Daisy

Hi all,

I haven't posted a personal update in a long while here, so wanted to catch up.  Longtime blog readers will remember my sweet, very dear Abby, who posted a weekly blog column here.  Abby passed away in December, and the house felt so empty without her.  Sooner than anticipated, I began looking for a rescue dog to love.

I met Daisy, a just under one year old Corgi mix, at our local county shelter.  She was sweet and absolutely terrified.  (The shelter is wonderful but full of big dogs and lots of comings and goings - a lot for a little dog who was rescued as a stray off the street.)  When I reached down to pet her she leaned against me, and I knew she should be mine.

There was a delay bringing Daisy home because she had to be spayed and vetted before her release.  She got home and I realized she had no training.  We were starting from scratch with leash training, potty training, chewing and puppy destructiveness, and separation anxiety.  My beloved Mom entered hospice just after this time ... it was a lot at once, and I was pretty overwhelmed.

Daisy and I took things in small steps.  She took to leash training easily.  I learned ways to redirect her from chewing, the power of frequent walks for potty training and puppy energy, and literally leaving 5 minutes at a time to tackle separation anxiety.  (We have made great progress with this!)

It took Daisy a while to settle in.  But she did!  Slowly but surely.

She loves having her own little bed - as well as sleeping in "the big bed" (my bed) at night.

She is always ready for a snuggle!

Although our long, frequent walks were a real adjustment for me at first, they turned into a blessing.  Daisy loves EVERYONE: adults, children, dogs (big and small), and cats.  I have joked that it is like the Beatles coming to town when I take her outside where kids are playing - they naturally flock around her.  Daisy made friends;  I made new friends too.  It is not unusual for us to walk with neighbors and their dogs, or even with a neighbor's friendly indoor-outdoor cat who likes to tag along.

And she is a champion lap sitter, with my friends as well as me!

Daisy ready for a rest - maybe.

In a year that has been long and difficult, I know that there are still long walks and naps -- and there is Daisy.


And that is a very good thing.


Book Review and Giveaway - Dewey Decimated (A Haunted Library Mystery) by Allison Brook

My Review

Carrie Singleton is excited about the expansion of her beloved library -- until a body is found at the site. As police (and Carrie!) work to solve that mystery, Carrie becomes involved in a second mystery.  She is a member of the town council, and after a controversial vote, one of the council members also turns up dead.  Carrie works to solve this mystery as well, often with the help of her ghostly librarian friend, Evelyn.

I wanted to read Dewey Decimated because I have read all the previous books in this series and have enjoyed them all.  The little Connecticut town is charming, and I love the library, the staff, Carrie's aunt and uncle, and especially her ghost friend Evelyn, her fiance Dylan, and her library cat, Smokey Joe. 

This cozy mystery was such a treat -- it had not one but two mysteries to solve, and all the regular, favorite cast members were part of the story.  Carrie did a great job of detecting - with the help of Evelyn, and with the help/not-help (!) of an ambitious local reporter, Julie, who wants to team up with her.

I was a bit surprised by the answers to the two mysteries, but I enjoyed seeing how Carrie solved both. The book is well written and the mystery moves along at a brisk pace.

I highly recommend Dewey Decimated and the Haunted Library series to fans of cozy mysteries, and especially for anyone who enjoys small town settings, a gentle paranormal element, and cats.

Book Synopsis

Librarian Carrie Singleton is back on the case, alongside library ghost Evelyn, in the sixth installment of Agatha Award nominee Allison Brook’s Haunted Library mysteries.

Carrie Singleton is just off a hot string of murder cases centered around the spooky local library in Clover Ridge, Connecticut. She could really use a break—but no such luck, as she; Smoky Joe, the resident cat; and Evelyn, the library’s ghost, are drawn into another tantalizing whodunit.

First, a dead body is found in the basement of the building attached to the library, and it turns out to be Carrie’s fiancé’s Uncle Alec, who Dylan hasn’t seen in years. But Alec has no intention of truly checking out, and his ghost makes itself at home in the library, greatly upsetting the patrons. Carrie and Evelyn work hard to keep Alec out of sight, but what was he doing in Clover Ridge to begin with? And why was he killed?

Meanwhile, the town council, of which Carrie is also a member, is embroiled in a hot-headed debate over the fate of the Seabrook Preserve, a lovely and valuable piece of property that runs along Long Island Sound. Turn it into an upscale park? Sell it to a condo developer? Or keep it as protected land?

As the dispute rages, there’s another murder, this time involving a council member. Could the two murders be connected? And could Carrie be next on the hit list?


Author Bio

A former Spanish teacher, Marilyn Levinson writes mysteries, romantic suspense, and novels for kids. Her books have received many accolades. As Allison Brook, she writes the Haunted Library series. DEATH OVERDUE, the first in the series, was an Agatha nominee for Best Contemporary Novel in 2018. Other mysteries include the Golden Age of Mystery Book Club series and the Twin Lakes series.

Her juvenile novel, Rufus and Magic Run Amok, was an International Reading Association-Children’s Book Council Children’s Choice. And Don’t Bring Jeremy was a nominee for six state awards.

Marilyn lives on Long Island, where many of her books take place. She loves traveling, reading, doing crossword puzzles and Sudoku, and chatting on FaceTime with her grandkids.

Author Links


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