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 jennifersnowauthor.com.

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: 

Purposeful

Motivations

Promises

Gifts

Applications

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

Website: http://www.marilynlevinson.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marilyn.levinson.10?ref=ts&fref=ts
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/161602.Marilyn_Levinson
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MarilynLevinson
Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/marilyn-levinson

Purchase links:

Amazon      Penguin Random House    B&N    Kobo    Google Play

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway   


 

Friday, July 1, 2022

Book Review - A Dress of Violet Taffeta by Tessa Arlen


My Review

A Dress of Violet Taffeta is a historical novel based on the life or Lucy Duff Gordon.  Lucy divorced her cruel  husband in the late 1800's and needed to find a way to support herself and her young daughter Esme. She had a gift for design and slowly built a business as a fashion designer. Over the years her business expanded to a design house with a ballroom and models. She met a wonderful man, Cosmo Duff Gordon, and found personal happiness again ... before a fateful trip on the Titanic.

Lucy Duff Gordon

 
Dress designed by Lady Duff Gordon, 1918

I wanted to read this novel because I love historical fiction and enjoyed the Poppy Redfern mysteries by Tessa Arlen. I also am interested in the Titanic (and long ago ship travel in general), so that added to my interest.

This was a fascinating novel!  I loved the glimpse of fashion design in the late 1800's and early 1900's. The descriptions of embroidery, beading, and especially colors, was so evocative -- I could picture the fashions described so vividly.  It was also interesting how Lucy worked toward a more natural (and comfortable!) silhouette for women, away from the rigid corsets of the 1800's.

Lucy was a wonderful protagonist. She was strong and caring and looked out always for her daughter and mother.  I enjoyed her relationship with her often outrageous sister, Elinor Glyn (who created the idea of the "It Girl"). I also liked the way Lucy treated her employees, including a close friendship with her shop assistant, and assuring good work conditions and a positive shop experience for all the other employees.

I also enjoyed the story of Lucy's slow moving romance with Cosmo.  He was a unique man for the time in his loving support of his wife's career goals.

The Titanic story was vividly evoked, and the story of the lifeboat escape was harrowing -- especially as the survivors witnessed the devastation of the ship at such close range.

I found A Dress of Violet Taffeta fascinating, and recommend it for other fans of historical fiction.  Readers with an interest in fashion history or the Titanic will especially enjoy it.

Book Synopsis

A sumptuous novel based on the fascinating true story of La Belle Époque icon Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, who shattered the boundaries of fashion with her magnificently sensual and enchantingly unique designs.

Lucy Duff Gordon knows she is talented. She sees color, light, and texture in ways few people can begin to imagine. But is the male dominated world of haute couture, who would use her art for their own gain, ready for her?

When she is deserted by her wealthy husband, Lucy is left penniless with an aging mother and her five-year-old daughter to support. Desperate to survive, Lucy turns to her one true talent to make a living. As a little girl, the dresses she made for her dolls were the envy of her group of playmates. Now, she uses her creative designs and her remarkable eye for color to take her place in the fashion world—failure is not an option. 

Then, on a frigid night in 1912, Lucy’s life changes once more, when she becomes one of 706 people to survive the sinking of the Titanic.  She could never have imagined the effects the disaster would have on her fashion label Lucile, her marriage to her second husband, and her legacy. But no matter what life throws at her, Lucy will live on as a trailblazing and innovative fashion icon, never letting go of what she worked so hard to earn.


Author Bio

Tessa Arlen writes historical fiction when she is not toiling away in her garden. She is the author of the Edwardian mystery series: Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson; the Woman of World War II mystery series. Poppy Redfern. And two standalone historical novels: In Royal Service to the Queen, and A Dress of Violet Taffeta.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | PINTEREST | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS

 


Friday, June 24, 2022

Book Review - Remember Whose Little Girl You Are by Ellen Nichols


My Review

Remember Whose Little Girl You Are is the memoir of Ellen Nichols, who grew up in the Baby Boomer vintage south, the daughter of a Methodist minister. This book chronicles her life from early childhood through college.

I wanted to read this book because I found the time period and setting appealing.  I also grew up in a socially progressive Christian family in the Deep South, but about 20 years after the period chronicled in this book.  I found it interesting how much had changed and how much was still the same as well.

This is a charming book. I have been thinking about it since I closed the cover.  The author is a born storyteller.  It is a very short book (116 pages) with short chapters as well.  Ellen Nichols packs a lot into those chapters, though.  Her storytelling is natural and breezy, as if she was sitting beside you and leaning over to say "oh - and then this happened!"

There are some hilarious stories about her early childhood growing up in Methodist parsonages across the south.  She was the proverbial "wild child" preacher's kid (PK), ready to throw off her clothes or run around with boys who were eager to do her bidding as a very young girl.  I laughed out loud several times at stories, like the incident when she and a little boy took the church collection money and distributed it to friends -- until her mother found out and she went back around to collect it again.

She chronicles racial issues as well, as they touched her young life and the lives of her forward thinking parents.  She writes of going to the back of the bus to sit as a statement.  

She also chronicles the changes of the 1960's - a friend changed forever by Vietnam, freewheeling musicians, her early romances.  She had a young beau named Michael Edwards, who later dated Priscilla Presley, and Steve Young, who wrote the Eagles' "Seven Bridges Road" about her.

The author has a gift at evoking another time and place in passages like:

"One steamy summer night, he took me to a party in the backyard of a friend of his who had hung Japanese lanterns from the tree branches.  Because of the intense humidity, each lantern had a misty aura wisping around it.  Hundreds of swirling fireflies added to the feeling of being in an exotic, tropical location.  We drank beer, ate potato chips and sandwiches, and danced to the latest music of Bo Diddley, Otis Redding, and Soloman Burke, getting closer to our dance partners with the downing of each beer.  But the true mating dance began when the host turned off the record player, picked up a trumpet, and played 'Tenderly' as if he were born in a New Orleans brothel" (pp. 54 - 55).

Ellen Nichols mentions a second volume in the works, and I hope it is published soon.  I want to read more!  I loved this little book and recommend it highly to anyone who enjoys southern storytelling and a glimpse of Mid-Century life in the Deep South.  

Book Synopsis

Remember Whose Little Girl You Are captures the flavor of the Deep South like no author since Eudora Welty or Flannery O’Connor. Ellen Nichols captures the tenor of small-town Southern life in the fifties and sixties, with its vicissitudes and hilarity. One is captured with her openness and drawn deeply into the dialogue-so much as to, according to one reader, sometimes feel guilty of spying.

Read it and see if you want those times back-or are just relieved they’re gone.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Author Bio 

Ellen grew up in the American Deep South, but with a spirit of adventure, she went up to Toronto, Canada, to go to graduate school, and stayed 50 years.

No, she wasn’t a slow student, she just ended up getting married, raising a family, and building a successful career in charitable fundraising. She has been writing for a living for years, but was always writing for someone else. Her grant proposals, direct marketing letters, and especially her thank you letters, are legend. Her persuasive writing skills raised millions of dollars.

Those Canadians loved her tales about her southern life so much, she decided to write them down and they became Remember Whose Little Girl You Are.

Recently, she moved back down south where she lives on Santa Rosa Sound near Pensacola. And yes, she is now writing about all her Canadian adventures.

You can learn more about Ellen on her website.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Book Review and Giveaway - Bayou Book Thief (A Vintage Cookbook Mystery) by Ellen Byron


My Review

Ricki James is a young widow who has moved to New Orleans for a new start in life. She lands her dream job, managing a museum gift shop that specializes in vintage cookbooks and cookware. When a pesky docent shows up dead - and books he owned (many stolen) are sent to her - she becomes involved in solving the murder mystery.

I wanted to read Bayou Book Thief because I have enjoyed Ellen Byron's Cajun Country Mystery series so much. I love New Orleans. And most important - I collect and sell vintage cookbooks.

This is my favorite start to a new cozy mystery series in ages. Ricki is a smart and likable protagonist. She really knows her vintage cookbooks, and her knowledge about cookbooks - and cooking history - is interspersed through the novel in fascinating tidbits.

I loved the delightfully captured New Orleans atmosphere, and the beauty and quirkiness of the museum as well. I liked Ricki's friends on the staff, and her potential romantic interest as well.

The mystery was well plotted and kept me guessing. It was well paced and so engrossing that I didn't want to take "life breaks" from reading.

I highly recommend Bayou Book Thief for fans of cozy mysteries, especially anyone who loves vintage cookbooks or New Orleans settings. 

Book Synopsis

A fantastic new cozy mystery series with a vintage flair from USA Today bestselling and Agatha Award–winning author Ellen Byron.  

Twenty-eight-year-old widow Ricki James leaves Los Angeles to start a new life in New Orleans after her showboating actor husband perishes doing a stupid internet stunt. The Big Easy is where she was born and adopted by the NICU nurse who cared for her after Ricki’s teen mother disappeared from the hospital. 

Ricki’s dream comes true when she joins the quirky staff of Bon Vee Culinary House Museum, the spectacular former Garden District home of late bon vivant Genevieve “Vee” Charbonnet, the city’s legendary restauranteur. Ricki is excited about turning her avocation – collecting vintage cookbooks – into a vocation by launching the museum’s gift shop, Miss Vee’s Vintage Cookbooks and Kitchenware. Then she discovers that a box of donated vintage cookbooks contains the body of a cantankerous Bon Vee employee who was fired after being exposed as a book thief.  

The skills Ricki has developed ferreting out hidden vintage treasures come in handy for investigations. But both her business and Bon Vee could wind up as deadstock when Ricki’s past as curator of a billionaire’s first edition collection comes back to haunt her. 

Will Miss Vee’s Vintage Cookbooks and Kitchenware be a success … or a recipe for disaster?


Author Bio

Ellen’s Cajun Country Mysteries have won the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel and multiple Lefty Awards for Best Humorous Mystery. Bayou Book Thief will be the first book in her new Vintage Cookbook Mysteries. She also writes the Catering Hall Mystery series under the name Maria DiRico.

Ellen is an award-winning playwright, and non-award-winning TV writer of comedies like Wings, Just Shoot Me, and Fairly Odd Parents. She has written over two hundred articles for national magazines but considers her most impressive credit working as a cater-waiter for Martha Stewart. An alum of New Orleans’ Tulane University, she blogs with Chicks on the Case, is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America and will be the 2023 Left Coast Crime Toastmaster. Please visit her at https://www.ellenbyron.com/

Author Links

Newsletter: https://www.ellenbyron.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/ellenbyronauthor/

https://www.facebook.com/CateringHallMysteries/

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/ellenbyronmariadirico/

Bookbub:

https://www.bookbub.com/profile/ellen-byron

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/maria-dirico

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/23234.Ellen_Byron

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19130966.Maria_DiRico

Purchase Links

AmazonB&NKoboGoogle BooksAlibrisIndieBoundPenguinRandomHouse

Giveaway 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


 

Friday, May 27, 2022

Book Review - Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner



My Review

Bloomsbury Girls is a historical novel set in post-war London. Bloomsbury Books is a wonderful, old fashioned bookstore that needs just a bit of change. That change may come in the form of three female employees: Vivien Lowry, an ambitious and forward thinking young woman whose fiance was killed in World War II;  Grace Perkins, a young mother who is working to support her family; and Evie Stone, a bright, very young woman who didn't find her place in academia. 

I wanted to read this book because I love historical fiction, especially books centering on this time period. I worked in bookstores for years, sell vintage books, and found the bookstore setting immensely appealing.

This is such a lovely, engrossing book!  I can't believe I haven't read The Jane Austen Society, which evidently is linked to this story, but now I clearly have to. 

The author does a wonderful job at setting the time and place. She has three distinctly different protagonists, but they are all fully realized characters, appealing and interesting in their own way. I found Vivien's story particularly compelling and especially enjoyed her storyline - which included meeting literary figures like Daphne Du Maurier.

I like the framework of the novel, with chapters that begin with a rule from the bookstore, i.e. "Rule No. 27  Fraternizing with customers outside the shop is strictly prohibited" (eBook location 1311). Of course, the following chapter relates to each rule.

I have already started telling friends about Bloomsbury Girls, which I enthusiastically recommend for fans of historical fiction, especially for anyone who loves bookstores and a bookish setting.

Book Synopsis

Natalie Jenner, the internationally bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society, returns with a compelling and heartwarming story of post-war London, a century-old bookstore, and three women determined to find their way in a fast-changing world in Bloomsbury Girls.

Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare book store that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager's unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:

Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiance was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances--most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.

Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she's been working to support the family following her husband's breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.

Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she's working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.

As they interact with various literary figures of the time--Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others--these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.


Author Bio

Natalie Jenner is the author of two books, the instant international bestseller THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY (2020) and the forthcoming BLOOMSBURY GIRLS (2022). A Goodreads Choice Award runner-up for best historical fiction and finalist for best debut novel, THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY was a USA Today and #1 national bestseller, and has been sold for translation in twenty-one countries. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie has been a corporate lawyer, career coach and, most recently, an independent bookstore owner in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram


Book Review - 100 Days of Adventure: Nature Activities, Creative Projects, and Field Trips for Every Season by Greta Eskridge


My Review

100 Days of Adventure is a big, colorful book for children, parents, and teachers.  It has experiments, crafts, and recipes that are fun and accessible to do at home, when traveling, or in the backyard.  Many of the activities are free or low cost. The book is geared toward children ages 6 to 10.

I wanted to read this book because I enjoyed working for years in preschool, afterschool, and summer camp settings. I often review books for children here.

First: this is a great looking book! It is illustrated by Emily Paik. The cover is bright and appealing, and similar artwork appears throughout the book. 

This is a unique book. It could be read as a family or by children who have an adventurous spirit and good reading skills.  The book is divided by seasons with fun activities for every time of year.  A few of the appealing activities include:  

Make a Summer Nature Collection

Meteor Slumber Party

Chalk Art Masterpiece

Poet Practice: Fall

Rainy-Day Ramble

Snow Castle

Feed the Birds

Take a Night Hike

Backyard Pumpkin Patch

The activities include descriptions, tips, and specific information to make the activity work smoothly - and fun!

I would recommend this book for homeschooling families, for children who love crafts and backyard activities, for teachers, Scout leaders, and anyone who works with kids.  It is a great resource presented in a lively and appealing manner.

Book Synopsis

Second-generation homeschooling mom Greta Eskridge shares 100 hands-on, learning activities for kids that will connect and enrich your family through adventures, small and big. Turn off the screen and turn on the creativity, curiosity, and love of nature as you have a meteor slumber party, attend a symphony concert, take a hike in the rain, preserve colorful fall leaves, make nettle pesto, and venture into the great, wide, real world.

In 100 Days of Adventure, children ages 6 to 10 will

  • unplug from electronics and explore the world, from backyard bugs to farmer’s market veggies and plants along the trail
  • learn about nature, art, music, and themselves through STEAM projects and new experiences
  • bond with parents and siblings, learn new skills with individual investigations, or explore with friends in an educational or homeschool group

This full-color activity book for kids includes

  • 100 indoor and outdoor activities, projects, experiments, crafts, recipes, and field trips, divided by season
  • many activities that are free or low cost, with options for different kinds of families and locations
  • step-by-step directions, nature journal prompts, tips, and checklists
  • beautiful photos and helpful illustrations
  • a note to parents with encouraging start-here guidance on growing a family culture of curiosity and adventure

Whether your family is looking for fun activities for school breaks at home, road trip vacations, or everyday ways to learn together, this collection of interactive educational activities will help your kids get creative, get into nature, and get closer to each other.

Don’t miss Greta’s essential guide for parents on building a connected and loving family through exploration, Adventuring Together: How to Create Connections and Make Lasting Memories with Your Kids.

Author Bio

Greta Eskridge is a home schooling mom of 4. She loves to fill her family’s days with reading, making art, and being outside as much as possible. Her favorite places to be are on a hiking trail or at the tide pools–preferably with an iced coffee in hand. Greta loves laughing, having adventures and taking cat naps in the afternoon. She and her artist husband, Aaron, make their home in sunny southern California.

Greta is also an author and speaker. She travels the country speaking and sharing her message of joyful, connected parenting.

Greta would love to connect with you. You can hang out with her on her Instagram feed. You’ll find her @maandpamodern. You can also find her on her blog at www.gretaeskridge.com.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Book Review and Giveaway - Murder, She Wrote: Killer on the Court by Jessica Fletcher & Terrie Farley Moran


My Review

Jessica Fletcher takes a vacation break in Rockaway Beach, New York with her nephew Grady, his wife Donna, and his young son Frank (named for her late husband). When one of Donna's colleagues is found dead on a tennis court, pummeled by tennis balls from a mechanical server, Jessica steps in to investigate.

I wanted to read Murder She Wrote: Killer on the Court because I love the old Murder She Wrote TV series. I have not read any of the other books this series, but now I really want to. I also like tennis, so that added to my interest in this mystery.

This book is so well written. Jessica's voice is especially well done, and so true to her beloved character. The writing is engaging -- with warm scenes of Jessica and her great-nephew Frank, tidbits about New York, and of course mystery solving!

The descriptions are wonderful too, like:

"
I awoke to the sound of chirping and saw a goldfinch perched on the outside ledge of my bedroom window, his yellow body brightening the gloomy overcast sky that served as his background. I slipped out of bed as carefully as I could, trying not to frighten him away. But it was no use. Birds are sensitive to motion, and he flew off. As soon as I opened the window wider, I could hear his friends and cousins singing in the trees. I began to take deep breaths of the warm, moist air coming in off the ocean. I was sure it would bring rain along with it well before the day’s end. During the summer months, I have an almost childlike expectation that every day will be sunny and cheerful. But if today wasn’t going to cooperate, it didn’t matter to me. I didn’t need sunshine to feel exuberant." (eBook location 91)

The mystery aspect of this novel was fun - just the right amount of suspects, and the storytelling kept me guessing right up to the solution!

I thoroughly enjoyed Murder She Wrote: Killer on the Court, and recommend it for cozy mystery fans -- and especially for anyone who loves Murder She Wrote.

Book Synopsis

Jessica Fletcher’s sunny beach vacation with her nephew’s family takes a dark turn in this new installment in the USA Today bestselling series.

Jessica is delighted when her nephew Grady invites her to spend a few days with his family in an oceanside New York bungalow. She packs her bags and heads down to the city, ready to spend some quality time with Grady, his wife, Donna, and their young son, Frank. 

But the morning after Jessica’s arrival, Donna finds her boss dead on a tennis court, and Jessica’s dreams of a relaxing visit are quashed. Everyone in the small beachside community is a suspect, and the local authorities—headed by an old colleague of Cabot Cove sheriff Mort Metzger—have asked that no one leave town. Will Jessica be able find a killer and salvage the rest of her trip?



Author Bio
Along with Jessica Fletcher, Terrie Farley Moran co-writes the Murder She Wrote mystery series including  Murder, She Wrote: Killer on the Court. She is the author of the Read ‘Em and Eat cozy mystery series and also co-writes the Scrapbooking Mysteries with Laura Childs. Recipient of both the Agatha and the Derringer Awards, Moran has published numerous mystery short stories. The only thing Terrie enjoys more than wrangling mystery plots into submission is hanging out with any or all of her seven grandchildren.

Author Links – Webpage   Facebook 

Purchase Links – AmazonB&NKoboIndieBoundBookshop.orgPenguinRandomHouse

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway


 


Friday, May 13, 2022

Book Review and Giveaway - The Sweetheart Locket by Jen Gilroy


My Review

In San Francisco in 2019, Willow and her mother Millie take a DNA test that has baffling news. Willow travels to England to learn more about her grandmother's past, and the story of Maggie Wyndham starts to unfold. During World War II, Maggie fell in love with one man, and then another ... and did secret war work that put her life in danger. As Willow unfolds the story of Maggie's life, she finds her own life changing too ... with new purpose, new work, and even a new romance.

I wanted to read The Sweetheart Locket because of the World War II setting. I love novels from this time period.

This is a historical novel with a dual storyline. There is the story of Willow and her mother Millie in 2019, in both San Francisco (their home) and England (where Millie was born). There is also the story of Maggie, Millie's mother, beginning in 1939 in England. It is a complex story with lots of movement back and forth in time. Readers meet the three generations of women in the family and also Maggie's friends, and the men who are central to their lives.

I loved this book from the start -- both Maggie and Willow, the central characters, are so likable and have such interesting lives.  Maggie's life is actually extraordinary, with Resistance work and a tangled personal life.

The Sweetheart Locket is an engrossing book - I barely put it down during the time I was reading it, and I planned my time around more reading! I really felt like I got to know the characters because they were so well drawn. The historical details were also beautifully told. I loved the way little haunting details from World War II would show up unexpectedly in present day life as well. Maggie's story - and the secrets of her life - was unveiled slowly through the course of the book.

I cannot recommend this novel highly enough. It is one of my favorite reads this year, and I plan to look for more books by this author.  

Book Synopsis

What if the key to your present lies in the past?

London, 1939

On the eve of the Second World War, Canadian Maggie Wyndham defies her family and stays in England to do her bit for the war effort. Torn between two countries, two men and living a life of lies working for the Special Operations Executive (SOE), Maggie’s RAF sweetheart locket is part of who she is…and who she isn’t.

San Francisco, 2019

Over twenty years after Maggie’s death, her daughter Millie and granddaughter Willow take a DNA test that’s supposed to be a bit of fun but instead yields unexpected results. Willow has always treasured her grandmother’s sweetheart locket, both family heirloom and a symbol of her grandparents’ love story. But now she doesn’t know what to believe. She embarks on a search for the truth, one she doesn’t know will reveal far more about herself…

A gripping and heart-breaking dual timeline novel about love, loss and buried secrets, The Sweetheart Locket is perfect for fans of Lorna Cook, Rachel Hore and Suzanne Kelman.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Author Bio

Jen Gilroy writes sweet contemporary romance and dual timeline historical women’s fiction—warm, feel-good stories to bring readers’ hearts home.

A Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® finalist and shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon award, Amazon named her third book, ‘Back Home at Firefly Lake,’ a ‘Best Book of the Month: Romance’ in December 2017.

A dual British-Canadian citizen, Jen lived in England for many years and earned a doctorate (with a focus on British cultural studies and social history) from University College London. Returning to where her Irish family roots run deep, she now lives with her husband, teenage daughter and floppy-eared rescue hound in small-town Eastern Ontario, Canada.

When not writing, she enjoys reading, ice cream, ballet and paddling her purple kayak.

Visit Jen online at www.jengilroy.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, BookBub, and Goodreads.

Giveaway

Enter to win a $15 Amazon Gift Card! 

The giveaway is open to the US, UK, and Canada, and ends on May 20th. Embed Code: 

The Sweetheart Locket