Showing posts with label Book Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Book Reviews. Show all posts

Thursday, April 18, 2019

On Call in the Arctic - Book Review

On Call in the Arctic
I have been on a medical memoir jag lately, and On Call in the Arctic: A Doctor's Pursuit of Life, Love, and Miracles in the Alaskan Frontier, has certainly whetted my appetite for more.  Part Northern Exposure, part MacGyver, this is the perfect read for anyone who enjoys the kind of adventures that can only take place off the beaten path.  Though the story takes place in the Alaskan frontier of the 1970's, its themes of cultural divides, and racism, along with an undercurrent of hostility, make this a very timely book.

As Dr. Thomas Sims is about to enter his pediatric surgical residency, his status suddenly changes overnight when he is informed that he is about to be sent overseas to serve within a M.A.S.H. unit in Vietnam.  With a wife nine-months pregnant, and a two-year-old daughter, Sims is relieved to be given an alternative.  He can choose to accept a plum military placement as a U.S. Public Health Service physician in Anchorage, Alaska.  Not only does that mean that Dr. Sims can keep his family together, and be stateside for the impending birth of his son, but Sims is also offered the position of his dreams—Chief of Pediatric Surgery in a well-equipped urban hospital.

Perfect, right?  Well, not so fast.  Upon arriving with his family in Anchorage, Sims is shocked to receive new orders to report to Nome, Alaska, where he will be the only doctor in a very isolated setting.  Not only will Dr. Sims serve the remote outpost of Nome, but he will also be responsible for the medical needs of thirteen outlying Eskimo villages. 

This is where things get mighty interesting.  Imagine the shock, if you have been trained in state-of-the-art medicine, to enter a medical world without adequate facilities, with very few supplies, and almost no support.  Not only that, but a major scandal which occurred during the previous physician's tour of service has created the kind of mistrust and prejudice that will make relationship-building almost impossible.

The most fascinating element of this memoir involves the stories of frightening, and yet exhilarating, medical emergencies.  How do you save the life of a patient whose appendix is about to explode when you don't have an operating room, the right supplies, or a surgical team?  How do you deliver a huge baby in distress when a C-section isn't an option?  This is where Dr. Sims has to use a combination of intuition and MacGyver-like ingenuity to save the day.

I can't help but believe his time in the Alaskan bush made Thomas Sims a better doctor.  Medical training in perfect conditions is one thing.  Learning to improvise in the heat of a life-or-death emergency is another.  To be able to master both the art and science of medical service requires a rare gift.  The beauty of this story is in watching that gift emerge.

From harrowing medical procedures, to death-defying bush plane and snowmachine travel in wicked weather conditions, this book has it all.  Though the harsh conditions and interpersonal divides take their toll, On Call in the Arctic is a book that dwells in the miracles that can happen in the midst of hardship, misunderstandings, and the messiness of living outside your comfort zone.

I recommend this memoir to anyone who enjoys living, or living vicariously, the kind of life that takes one to the wilder side of existence.  There is something essential to be gained when we leave the safe confines of a predictable way of life.  Somewhere out there are brave new worlds to be found and explored.

Reading this book is one way to step into a world where the past may inform the future, especially given the common threads between our current societal struggles and those with which Dr. Sims wrestled.  Here's to finding our way to a brave new tomorrow. 





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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Notre-Dame de Paris Reflections

Mourning The Loss Of History

notre-dame de paris
Notre-Dame de Paris image courtesy of pixabay.com
Today I will be reviewing some history of Notre-Dame de Paris with you. The world watched in horror and shock yesterday, 04/15/2019, as this beautiful historical landmark of Paris burned. Whether you are a member of the Catholic Church or not, the loss of this beautiful cathedral that had survived wars and rebellions for over 800 years was devastating to see. This icon of the city of Paris and the country of France will never be the same. 

Our Lady Of Paris, the English translation of Notre-Dame de Paris, was commissioned to be built in 1160 by Bishop Maurice de Sully. He would never see his dream fulfilled of the French Gothic structure because it took almost 200 years for the church to be completed. It does not appear that the Bishop randomly chose a site for the cathedral to be constructed. He must have felt that there was something sacred about the land, at least I feel that way. A religious structure of one kind or another had been on that piece of ground since the days of the Roman Empire. A Gallo-Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter was the first known structure. Four churches would eventually replace the temple before Notre-Dame began to be built. A 4th Century basilica dedicated to Saint Stephen was the first. In the 7th Century the basilica was replaced with a cathedral for Childebert I who I happen to be a descendant of. Two renovations of the Romanesque style churches followed. The Bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully, opted to demolish the existing building but did recycle many of the materials for what would become the most popular tourist attraction of France and the city of Paris.

As I watched the soaring red flames lighting the sky of Paris yesterday, one of the factoids by a reporter caught my attention. Something like 52 acres of wood had been used to construct the portion of Notre Dame that burned. It was often referred to as The Forest. No wonder it seemed to be consumed by fire so quickly! The timber had been drying for over 800 years. 

You might have assumed as I had that this historical cathedral belongs to the Vatican and the Catholic Church. The statement of President Macron that Notre-Dame de Paris would be re-built baffled me at first. Why would he be so committed to re-building when the French Government feels so strongly about the separation of church and state? Wouldn't it be up to the Pope to decide on what to do? Well, a little searching on my part revealed the answer. A law in 1905 made the famous cathedral the property of the French state. The Catholic Church is the designated beneficiary with the exclusive right to use the building for religious purposes. The paying of employees, the maintenance of the building, the utilities, security and other expenses are the responsibility of the Archdiocese. The Catholic Church does not receive any subsidies from the French Government. I found that fascinating to say the least.

If you would like to find out more about the history and architecture of the cathedral, there is a wonderful book that you can purchase. 

 They may be able to build a new structure but it can never be what stood before. There are not artisans today like the ones who built the original. The amazing craftsmanship of the past would be very difficult to replicate. 



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Sunday, April 14, 2019

Review of the Death On Demand Series by Carolyn Hart

The “Death on Demand” series acquired it's name from the Mystery Book Store [Death on Demand] owned and operated by the series' central character, Anne (Lawrence) Darling. The stories take place on a fictional South Carolina island (Broward's Rock) located off the coast of the mainland and reached only by ferry boat. 

I only recently discovered this mystery series and am currently reading my way through the entire series of 27 (to date) books.  I had seen Carolyn Hart's name in the library mystery section several times, but had never read any of her books until about 2 months ago. After reading the first book, I became 'hooked'. The characters are charming, the plots interesting, the reading 'light' with humor and good taste and downright fun throughout. 

Although there is usually a murder (or two), it is secondary to the stories of the characters who solve the mystery of the crime. By that I mean there are no heavy details (like blood & gore) to wade through about the actual murder. The descriptions center more on the characters, their backgrounds and the uniqueness of life lived on an island. 


South Carolina Low Country


South Carolina Low Country (Source: Pixabay)

The main reason I love the setting is the author frequently mentions island residents going into Beaufort or Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA, all quite easily reached after taking the ferry from Broward's Rock to the mainland. After having spent years camping at Hunting Island State Park just past Beaufort, having visited Charleston several times and having lived in the Savannah, GA area for nearly 20 years, the author's descriptions of these places is so familiar and such fun to re-visit through the pages of the books. If you have never been to any of these places in the 'Low Country' (a geographic and cultural region along South Carolina's coast, including the Sea Islands) you will find the descriptions of the area delightful).  


Death on Demand



Book One in the "Death on Demand" Series
In Book 1, simply titled “Death on Demand”, Anne Lawrence has returned to the South Carolina island of Broward's Rock where she spent many summer vacations as a child to take over her uncle's mystery book store she inherits after his death. The plot begins with a weekly meeting of island mystery writers at her book store during which one of the writers (the most irritating one) is murdered. Anne becomes the primary police suspect, but she and her boyfriend, Max Darling, investigate and solve what appeared to be a classic 'locked-room' mystery. 

As the Death on Demand series continues, Anne Lawrence marries Max Darling and together they seem to become involved in one mystery after another, often solving them with the help of several friends who are regulars at both the bookstore and in their lives. One of them is Max's mother Laurel. Laurel is often joined by two other older ladies, Henny, a former WWII pilot and former teacher and Emma, a mystery book writer who also  lives on Broward's Rock Island. Max and Anne also become good friends with the island's Chief of Police, Billy Cameron, who is a regular character in the series, along with his wife, Mavis and other members of this small island police force. As I read my way through the series, the characters become as familiar as my own family. 


(Source: Pixabay)
By using a mystery bookstore for her background, Hart has given her characters the opportunity to talk freely about other mystery authors and books. If you are a mystery story fan (as I am) you will recognize many of the book titles and authors mentioned throughout the series. 

Cats play a regular role in the stories too, with a black cat named Agatha (after Agatha Christi, Anne's favorite mystery writer) who lives at the Death on Demand bookstore and a white cat named Dorothy L (primarily Max's cat) who lives at Max & Anne's home.



Carolyn Hart



Author Carolyn Hart
Carolyn Hart, a former newspaper reporter born in Oklahoma in 1936, has been writing books since she left journalism upon the birth of her first child. Early on, women writers were not much recognized for writing mysteries, but with the advent of authors such as Sue Grafton and Sara Parentsky, publishers began to recognize American female authors in the field of mystery.

Carolyn Hart also has written two other regular series, the Henrie O mysteries which features a 70-something retired newswoman, Henrie O'Dwyer Collins, as she travels the country and the world, solving crimes that seem to follow her as she travels, and the very humorous Bailey Ruth Raeburn Ghost series about the ghost of a woman killed at sea who returns to earth via the "Rescue Express" to help her fictional hometown of Adelaide, Oklahoma while trying not to violate the Precepts for Earthly Visitation and adjusting to her powers on earth. 

In 2015, Hart decided that keeping up with all her series and characters was becoming too much, and decided to end the Anne & Max Darling series to give her more time for her Bailey Ruth series.  Instead, as Hart wrote "Anne and Max looked me in the eye and said, “Don’t even think about it!”, so (thankfully) Anne and Max returned. 

Today Carolyn Hart, author of more than 60 novels and one non-fiction book about Oklahoma,  today resides in Oklahoma. She is a delightful author who specializes in traditional mysteries, also known as cozy* mysteries.


*Wikipedia defines 'cozy' also known as "cozies", as a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community.  

I would definitely classify Broward's Rock Island, South Carolina as such a small intimate community and Death on Demand as a very delightful series. 



Source: Pixabay



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Book Review written by (c) Wednesday Elf (2019)




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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Dog Medicine - How My Dog Saved Me From Myself - Book Review

Dog Medicine - How My Dog Saved Me From Myself - Book Review
Dog Medicine by Julie Barton
Most of us have so much going on in our own lives that we seriously question reading a book that will immerse us in someone else's unrelenting anguish.  Why would we want to do that?  We already know from reading the reviews that Dog Medicine is going to make us cry.  When reviews use words like raw and brutal honesty, we know we are in for a read that will demand something from us.

Perhaps that is the point.  Could it be that the demanding, heart-wrenching accounts most grow our humanity, our compassion, and our capacity to connect with others in the ways that are most authentic and useful?  In a genre overflowing with I-was-saved-by-my-dog books, what does it take to transcend it — the genre and what cynics would say is the same old, same old story?

Well, here's the thing: this story matters because Julie Barton and Bunker matter.  Without Bunker, the author's Golden retriever puppy, Julie would surely not have lived to write this book.  And this book needed to be written just as much as we all need to read it.

When initial therapies failed to lift Barton out of the deep, dark depression unleashed by long-term childhood trauma, it took the powerful medicine of Bunker—his unfailing solace—to bring Julie back from the brink.

It is in how the author captures the first glimmers of healing that this book soars.
Perhaps what began to save me was that I started creating this sacred, safe space where he and I met.  In this space, there was no ridicule.  There was no doubt or loneliness.  There was no sorrow or anger.  It was just pure, beautiful being.  It was looking at the world with wide-eyed, forever hopeful puppy wonder.
Could it be that we share in vicarious healing in reading about the transformation brought about by the kind of love that can only be known in relationship with a dog that has chosen his human?  Ultimately, I chose this book because I cherish my animal relationships and the healing they bring me.  I deeply related to the purpose Barton found in caring for a dog with special medical needs.  When Julie's broken psyche bound up Bunker's broken body, the result was a unified whole that the two of them could not have found by any other means.  We are all broken in ways that call for us to find our healing in offering up the gift of compassion... in being the sacred space needed by another.

Given my recent launch as a therapy dog team member, I found inspiration in knowing that, like Julie, the good medicine in my life, in the form of my dog Finn, will make itself manifest in the lives of those who enter the sacred space he and I share.  For what is the sacred, if it is not that which exists to bless others?

It is my hope that Julie and Bunker's story will bless you in whatever way you most need at this point in time.  I will close here with a reviewer's blurb that I found compelling when deciding whether or not to read Dog Medicine:
Read it for the voice, read it to savor the power of love, read it to enjoy an inspiring, hopeful story, read it to learn about healing, read it if you're depressed and want to get better, read it if you're happy and want to stay there.  Whatever else you do, read it.  ~Peter Gibb
Yes.  Read it and savor the power of love.




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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Robert Galbraith's Lethal White Book Review

It is a bit awkward to start with the fourth book in a series but, since that is the one I have just read, that is where I am starting.

It is telling that I waited anxiously for Robert Galbraith’s fourth novel, Lethal White. It finally arrived in in September of 2018 and unsurprisingly, it was a giant book worthy of the wait.

Lethal White follows three excellent detective novels crafted by J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame and published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.  Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm and Career of Evil were all page turners and Lethal White is more of the same. A lengthy read, complex and interesting.

Set during the 2012 London Olympics, Lethal Weapon covers much ground including political corruption, blackmail, murder, deception, betrayal and suicide.

The series continues with the latest mysteries to be solved by the now two-person detective team at Cormoran Strike’s detective agency. It follows the one-legged detective Strike and his new partner Robin as they solve crimes. Both characters continue to live on the edge financially, personally and professionally and wind up in precarious situations in all three areas of their lives.

Strike continues to live in near poverty in a room behind his office. He’s a disabled war veteran who barely looks after himself in general and, as we are given to understand in the book, his leg in particular. He is an amputee, which makes the physical requirements of his job sometimes difficult and perhaps even more so because he fails to look after his leg properly. If I had one complaint about this novel, it would be Strike’s continued difficulties with his leg. Come on Strike, look after your leg! Yeesh. I don’t look after myself perfectly all of the time but if I had a chronic problem, I hope I would do so better than Strike does his leg.

Robin struggles with her personal life as well as with her new career as a private detective. Her family believes she should not be doing the job she is doing because of the danger element but Robin knows that she has landed where she needs to be. This is the work she has always dreamed of doing but never made an effort to pursue.


Rowling says that she wrote this book while writing a play and two screenplays for Harry Potter’s world. At 650 pages long, Lethal Weapon goes on as Rowling’s books tend to. Some readers wish they could cut out a bit but if you enjoy a well crafted story, you will appreciate the plot, characters and insights given in this novel. As The New York Times says in their review, sometimes more is better than less.

The Guardian’s review says that this book contains much "highly inventive storytelling” and there is no surprise there. J.K. Rowling is a master at doing exactly that.  The Guardian goes on to say that “there is much here for mystery fans to enjoy” and I agree completely on both counts. Lethal White is HIGHLY RECOMMEND by me for you if you love a good, long detective story. You will, of course, have to read the first three books first. You can find all of Robert Galbraith’s books on Amazon by clicking right here.

See you
At the book store!
Brenda

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Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Best Ever Backyard Birding Tips Reviewed

Want more birds in your backyard?

backyard jay
Backyard Blue-jay image courtesy of pixabay.com
When I first retired one of my first goals was to attract more birds to my backyard. I purchased the book Best-Ever Backyard Birding Tips to help me in that process. I would like to review it for you today.

The book is written by Deborah L. Martin who specializes in gardening and nature topics. I particularly like her easy to understand writing style. She filled 339 pages with tips and illustrations of tips to attract more birds. An additional 17 pages are dedicated to resource pages, an index and a hardiness map. 

One of the tips that I found interesting pertained to water for birds. Now, I knew that birds like a birdbath to drink from and wash their little bodies in but I didn't know about mud puddles. Have you ever noticed after a significant rainfall that leaves puddles and mud in the yard that there are more birds? I always thought they were foraging for worms in the softer ground. Well, that might be but they are also eating the mud. Birds need certain minerals in their diet which they find in the mud. 

Have you ever been tempted to try to knock a wasp nest out of a tree? I am not that brave because I don't want to get stung! I found in the book that it is better to leave it alone and not just because of the stinging factor. If you look closely around that wasp nest, you might just see a bird's nest too. Those stinging insects are actually help to defend against predators that might try to get into a nest with baby birds in it. Now, isn't that cool? 

Did you know that you can place pieces of fruit in your backyard to attract birds? Many varieties of our winged friends love fruit. Try it with a piece of melon or a ripe peach and sit back and observe which birds swoop in for a treat. Butterflies will flutter in, too.

There are 11 chapters covering all sorts of tips on backyard birding. The last chapter even covers some of those lesser appreciated guests that will come to your feeders and yards. Some bird species are more pests than they are welcomed guests and this chapter gives tips about how to deal with them. It also talks about squirrels that although some may think are cute will rob more than their fair share of the food you want the birds to enjoy. Raccoons and other wildlife might also visit, the author gives suggestions on how to let them know that they aren't really on your guest list.

I have learned a lot from the book and still refer to it once in a while. If you love birding in your backyard, I think that you will find it helpful, too.



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Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Writing Roni Rainer Mysteries

Reflections From The Author

writing mysteries
It starts with a blank page (image courtesy of pixabay.com)
I thought that a review of my journey writing the Roni Rainer Mysteries might be a little interesting to those of you thinking about writing your own novel. Those of you who do not have that desire but enjoy reading the works of other authors might like some insight into what it takes to provide those books for you.

Before we start with a blank page like the one on the left, there has to be an idea in our mind. From the time I was a little girl, I have wanted to write novels. Several times over the years, I started different stories but it took me decades before I finally reached the point where everything began to fit. I would get so far with the early ones and then give up. I just couldn't make it all flow. It wasn't until Veronica (Roni to her friends) popped into my head one day as clear as if she were standing in front of me that I was able to write that first book. I introduced her in Death Takes A Spin. Oddly, many of those early book ideas have worked their way into each of the three completed novels and also in book four of the series that I am writing now.

Okay, so I had my protagonist but there were other things to consider before the first book could be written. What genre would her story belong in? Where does she live? Who are her friends? Since mysteries have always been my favorite, the genre was a no brainer for me. Thinking that I might struggle with detailed murder scenes, I opted for the lighter Cozy Mystery sub-genre of Mysteries. Roni could be a sleuth but she wouldn't have to be professional to solve the mystery. I decided early on that I wanted her to be very amateur in her methods. An accidental sleuth, if you will. It isn't so much that she is driven to solve the crime or that she thinks that she can do a better job than the police. Her desire comes more from her empathy and compassion for those affected by the crime. She doesn't want to be a Miss Marple, Nancy Drew or Jessica Fletcher. Roni sort of stumbles upon information that she can then share with the real investigators. 

The next question in my mind was where does she live. I have always heard that a writer should write what they know. Having grown up in a small town and lived in other small towns, I know that life the best. I also, knew that if I put her in a town that really exists I would have to make sure to be accurate with every location in the story. Using a fictional town allowed more leeway. I can create the locations, businesses and people in any way that I want. So, Roni lives in the fictional town of Beaver Falls in the fictional county of Butler in the very real state of Indiana. 

Who populates the town of Beaver Falls with Roni? A very diverse group of people because that is what we find no matter whether we live in a small town or a large city. I've tried really hard to create a cast of characters that come from all walks of life. In book one, readers meet a few of her friends, family and neighbors. Most of them continue in book two, Illegal Harvest with a few new additions. Some play a larger role than others while some just sort of pop in and out from time to time. I've grown to love these characters as I hope my readers have. One person said to me after reading book one, "Please don't kill off any of them!" I promise that I don't intend to at least not any of the favorites. 

Each book in the series continues to reveal more of each character, not just Roni. Book three, The Puzzle of Talking Rock brings back the favorites with a little more about them along with a couple of new people that have joined the growing cast of characters. These new people are just too much fun to include and keep weaving their way into the books. As I write book four, I have some people who may or may not come back. Perhaps they will have intermittent interactions with Roni but not be an integral part of future plots. 

What I am trying to convey is that authors don't just sit down and write a book without giving a lot of thought about who will be in it and where it all happens. We have to get to know our characters and we have to be able to see where they are in our minds before we can come up with the words to tell you the story. A lot happens in the author's mind before that first sentence in the first chapter ever gets put onto the first page of the book. We love it or we wouldn't do it. 

One last thought, when you read a book, any book by any author, consider taking a few minutes to leave some feedback for that author if you can. We need your honest viewpoint. It lets us know if we have written something worthwhile, enjoyable, or enlightening for you. We also need to know if a reader did not enjoy the book and why. It isn't much fun to get a bad review but I think they are extremely helpful. I want to grow as an author; I want each book to be better than the last one. I think that every author hopes for that growth in themselves but they won't know unless their readers tell them.



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Monday, March 25, 2019

Book Review: Down Bohicket Road: An Artist's Journey

Artist Mary Whyte
Down Bohicket Road: An Artist's Journey is a collection of exquisite watercolor paintings by Mary Whyte and excerpts from her book Alfreda's World. The combination of stories and portraits of the Gullah women and girls of John's Island moved me to tears at one point. 

My opinion is that women are generally cruel to other women. We are judgemental based on looks, culture, race, religion, and other differences. We tend to exclude women who don't fit in our group. This book is a gentle and beautiful display of women who accept, love, and nurture other women - transcending all of the wrong lessons we are taught as girls. 


Artist Mary Whyte 


Mary Whyte is a talented watercolor artist who was raised in a typical segregated, rural, white home of the 50s and 60s. Her exposure to people of color included the attendants in the private club her family belonged to and the man who cleaned their 12 acre property two times a year. 


Down Bohicket Road: An Artist's Journey
As an extremely brief summary, Mary grew up to be a painter, wife, and cancer survivor. She and her husband owned an art gallery in Philadelphia during her battle with cancer. They decide to relocate to Charleston, South Carolina. Even though Mary had planned on painting beach scenes and children on those beaches her focus quickly became painting the amazing Gullah women of Hebron St. Francis Senior Center.


"While the words here may reveal some of their character, I hope that my paintings and sketches more closely capture the lilt of their voices, the heat of the kitchen, and their fierce love of God."  - Mary Whyte



The Gullah Women and Girls of Johns Island


Years ago I saw a random, short video clip of a Gullah parade, funeral, or celebration. I wasn't sure what it was but I was immediately interested in learning a bit more about that culture. Which is how I learned about Mary Whyte's amazing watercolor portrayals of Gullah women.

I will probably never be able to afford a Mary Whyte painting (original or reproduction) so I recently bought this hardcover book for the collection of paintings. Little did I know that the story behind the paintings was just as beautiful.

When Mary Whyte, a privileged white woman, arrived in their community the Gullah women of Hebron St. Francis Senior Center immediately took her in. They fed her, loved her, and added her to their family. Nevermind that these women had no material wealth, some had been impacted by hurricane Hugo, and most (if not all; I'm still learning) descended from lowcountry slaves.

These women welcomed her into their weekly Wednesday gatherings; quilting, eating, and worship. They posed for her paintings. And she portrayed them with the light in their eyes shining through.

When asked what Ms. Alfreda thought of Mary the first time they met, her answer moved me to tears:
"Here was this skinny, kind of pitiful white girl comin' in, not knowin' where she was goin' or what she was looking for, and definitely in need of some love..." 

I'll leave the rest of it for you to read in context of the story. I think it will be better that way. 

I will say that I don't know if Mary and her husband knew what they were looking for when they moved to South Carolina following that year of cancer treatment. But I don't imagine they had any idea they'd find someone like Ms. Alfreda and the other women of Johns Island.





This book is a gentle weaving of memories and paintings, descriptions of ordinary lives, and examples of extraordinary love and acceptance. This is not a hit-you-over-the-head social commentary even though it is a powerful example of how women should love and care for each other during the "little biddy amount of time" we have on this earth.


"All royalties from the sale of this book benefit the Hebron St. Francis Senior Center on Johns Island, South Carolina."  - from the backflap of Down Bohicket Road



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Saturday, March 23, 2019

Girls Night Out - A Novel

Girls Night Out - A Novel of friendship, lies and resentment
Girls Night Out - A Novel
Today's review is about a book by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke, Girls Night Out takes place in Mexico where 3 estranged friends (Ashley, Natalie & Lauren) are having a girls getaway to heal old wounds.

Of course the wounds can't be healed quickly or there would be no book to read! We find out gradually the reason behind the rifts between all three friends as the book progresses.

The chapters show the events from the different girl's perspectives and are titled - The Day After, Natalie or Three Days Before, Ashley.

The book begins with Natalie waking up in wet clothes on the beach and feeling very hazy about the night before which had been their girls night before they were due to head home. Going back to the room she'd been sharing with Ashley there's no sign of her. Lauren also hasn't seen or heard from Ashley since the night before, Natalie can't remember what happened that night except for fragmented pieces and so the mystery is set up.

As the book weaves through the trip we find that none of the girls have been completely honest with each other and the secrets and resentments come through as we hear their stories.

What happened to Ashley? You'll have to read the whole book to find out, but I do have to say when we finally get there, it was totally not what I thought it was going to be.

If you like a bit of a mystery and sifting through women's relationships then you may enjoy this book. I have to be honest and say that I didn't find any of the characters to be very likable, this may have been deliberate, but it did really highlight how some friendships can become toxic over time. 

Even though I didn't particularly like the three ladies, I still couldn't stop reading the book until I had finished it as I needed to know what had happened!

I read this book as a free book through my Amazon Prime membership and if you enjoy reading and watching movies/television shows (such as Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan and The Widow) then you should really consider getting Prime. I also notice that it is one of the free books available on audible which is something I have been considering getting.


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Friday, March 22, 2019

The Interlude by Lin Stepp Reviewed

The Interlude by Lin Stepp Reviewed
Definition of Interlude: an intervening episode, period, space, etc.  

Everyone has times in our lives when we need a break from work and responsibility, especially when we are grieving.  Therefore, most of us can identify with Mallory Wingate as she seeks a refuge of peace in The Interlude.

The story takes place in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, which is the perfect place for respite and recovery.  I know from my own experience that the Smoky Mountains are a little piece of heaven here on earth. 


Synopsis of The Interlude


 The InterludeCheck PriceMallory has spent the last few years working full-time and also caring for her terminally ill mother.  When her mother dies, Mallory has an emotional breakdown at work.  Her concerned boss insists that she take time off, so Mallory returns to the one place where she has always found love and care, her grandparents home.

On the plane, a handsome man is seated next to her, but Mallory prefers to be left alone.  However, Lucas James is intent on engaging Mallory in conversation.  He even invites her to join him for dinner during the layover between flights.  What seems like a casual meeting and flirtation when traveling, actually takes on a totally different significance when the two passengers find their destination is exactly the same place, her grandparents home and resort.  

Mallory is slightly embarrassed to find out that Lucas is the pro-golf instructor at the resort.  Lucas is shocked to discover that Mallory is actually his employers granddaughter.  Both would prefer to keep their "interlude" a secret between just the two of them.  Both have their own issues and baggage that keeps them from desiring a romantic relationship.  

One of the things I found most interesting about this book was how the author showed us just how easy it is to say something hurtful to someone else without realizing, or even intending, to cause pain.  Most likely, we have all experienced that to some degree in our own lives, but seeing it written so vividly in the context of a conversation in a book, really can be eye-opening.  A promising friendship, or relationship, can be irreparably fractured by careless words and assumptions.


My Copy of the Book, The Interlude


I would like to thank the author, Lin Stepp, for gifting me with an advance copy of "The Interlude".  That gave me the opportunity to read and review it before the actual release date.  You will definitely want to grab your copy of this wonderful book today and start reading as soon as possible.

  


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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Every Note Played Book Review

Every Note Played Book Review
Every Note Played: A Novel by Lisa Genova

Welcome to the world of the classical pianist or rather, to the world of a famous classical pianist who has ALS.

Stay with him as the disease progresses through his body and takes away not just his ability to play the piano. Watch as it quickly robs him of all of his body functions starting with the use of his arms and legs and going on to eventually claim his ability to talk, to eat and even to breathe.

I am sure that introduction will NOT make you want you to read Every Note Played by Lisa Genova but please do not let it put you off. As the cover says, this books contains “searing writing and it is a must read.”

Genova is a neuroscientist who writes books about people living with neurological diseases. She wrote Still Alice, which was about the life of a women with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

As a matter of fact, Every Note Played relates directly to Still Alice. The man who directed the movie Still Alice was diagnosed with ALS shortly before he read the story and he directed the movie while suffering the symptoms. He did so without a voice and using one finger on an iPad.

We have all heard of ALS, of the Ice Bucket Challenge and know that Stephen Hawking had it. However, many of us do not know much about the disease nor do we really understand what it is like to live with it. Every Note Played will change that fact.

Genova reads the medical books, interviews the experts and gets to know the patients so that we do not have to. Using that thorough research into all aspects of the disease, she brings us information about the disease in the form of a fictional story.

In Every Note Played, there are some truly exceptional and caring people but there is also one totally selfish individual. He just happens to be one of two main characters and the one who has ALS. Imagine being a caregiver for someone who never thought of anyone except himself before he became sick. Doesn't sound great, does it? It certainly makes an interesting story and, of course, not only nice people get ALS. Even unpleasant people need the support of family, friends and the health care system when they are stricken with any disease.

I do recommend this book though, of course, the subject matter is not pretty. It is honest and it is truly a look into living with ALS. It is a medical drama that you will want to end sooner than it does but it manages to be a page turner despite the subject matter. It is a horrible disease but this book, while educational in terms of the disease, is also a well-crafted story about family relations, love and forgiveness. My heart goes out to those stricken with ALS and my wonder, amazement and gratitude goes out to the people who act as caregivers. If you want to learn more, read Every Note Played, which you can find on Amazon right here.

See you
At the book store!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy your copy of Every Note Played on Amazon.


Every Note Played by Lisa Genova









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Thursday, March 7, 2019

Moose! The Reading Dog - Book Review

Moose! The Reading Dog
As Finn and I embarked on our journey to become a registered therapy dog team, we sought to learn as much as possible from local dog celebrity, Moose, and his Pet Partners handler, Dr. Laura Bruneau.  One of the first things I did was to read their recently published book entitled Moose! The Reading Dog.  The review that follows is written primarily through my teacher lens, though it is also shaped by my passions for reading and animal rescue.

I first came across Moose's book at the Alamosa Public Library where I was looking for reading material to use in future animal-assisted interactions with elementary-aged children.  As a teacher who loves to read with primary students, I was delighted to discover that Moose's story fit right in the sweet spot of that target group.

Photo of Moose Used With Permission
One of the things that sets this book apart is that Moose tells his own story.  That first-dog perspective is appealing to young readers.  Over the course of six chapterettes, Moose reveals what makes him the extraordinary dog that he is.  We learn how his life started out on a ranch (Chapter 1 - About Me), how he ended up in an animal shelter (Chapter 2 - The Shelter), what it was like to be adopted by a new family (Chapter 3 - My New Home), how he began to change his behavior (Chapter 4 - Learning the Rules), the process of finding a job for his unique gifts (Chapter 5 - Getting Ready to Work), and, finally, helping children enjoy reading (Chapter 6 - I am a Reading Dog).

It is so easy to fall in love with Moose.  My favorite illustrations in the book, as designed by Mic Ru, were those of this gentle giant (a 115-pound Saint Bernard mix).  There was a sweet, friendly, and very huggable quality that flowed through the depictions of Moose.  You could feel his great goodness.

As one who has always been very selective about the books I place in the hands of impressionable young children, Moose! The Reading Dog has earned my seal of approval for:
  • being a book with the kind of positive messages that empower young people;
  • presenting the kind of transformations that change lives for the good;
  • offering up encouragement to children, and all of us really, about being true to whatever it is that frees us up to be our best, and to make it possible for others to become the best version of themselves.
I plan to purchase multiple copies of this book to share with other teachers and to gift to the children in my life.  Finn and I give this book a rating of five paws up for inspiring us to move forward with our dream.  We believe Moose will also inspire you to be true to what makes you authentically you.  And the world needs that—you being beautifully you.

Reviewer's Note:  This review is the second in a series focused on therapy dog teams.  You can read my first installment by clicking the following link (Becoming a Pet Partners Therapy Dog Team).








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Friday, March 1, 2019

Somewhere in France Book Review

Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson, A Book Review

Somewhere in France: A Novel of the Great War by Jennifer Robson


I believe that I read more books set in the years surrounding the Second World War then I do set in the First World War so the time frame of Somewhere in France felt a little different to me when I first picked up the book and the claim that it would be “especially satisfying for fans of Downton Abbey” was somehow a little off-putting to me. Can anything compare to our beloved Downton Abbey?

However, somewhere in France delivered a solid story. As a matter of fact I just finished it moments ago after putting aside all of the other things that I should have been doing this morning and leaving my husband to cope with the mess in the kitchen on his own. Don’t worry, he was up to the task.

Somewhere in France is the story of Lady Ashford (Lilly), her brother the Viscount Ashford (Edward) and his best friend Robert Fraser (Robbie).

Lilly breaks with her wealthy family in order to do the work she wants to do in support of the Great War. She is not content to stay home, find a husband and raise a family so she learns how to drive and joins the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps and becomes an ambulance driver.

Edward, who previously was not much more than a spoiled aristocrat, joins the war effort in the trenches where he finds success leading a group of men.

Robbie, who originally hailed from slums in Scotland but who managed via a scholarship to become a talented surgeon, is assigned to a field hospital where he serves as Captain Fraser.

They all keep up a stream of good, old-fashioned correspondence, which helps them maintain close ties. They continue to do so even after Miss Ashford, as Lilly calls herself after her break with her family, is assigned as an ambulance driver to the same field hospital that Robbie works at.

Somewhere in France is most definitely a love story though it takes a while for that love to be discovered and then years for it to be exposed.

WHAT TO BE AWARE OF IN THIS BOOK


Somewhere in France Book Review
If you decide to read this book, you might like to know that there is a lengthy sex scene and that, of course, there is violence.

Since all three are working near the front lines in the Great War, it is inevitable that this story includes scenes from the injuries received by those fighting the war and those injuries and the resulting treatments were not nice for the patient or the professional who had to treat him.

You might not expect the fairly lengthy sex scene. However, I think that it was handled beautifully. It demonstrates how some women, particularly those in the upper class, were so protected from realities of life that they knew literally nothing about sexuality and reproduction.

There is some discussion on the website GoodReads about this very issue Some writers call the scene short, which I would not. Others comment about how it important the scene was for the relationship of two adult individuals who would have been married years before if not for the war and because of the historical facts it demonstrated about the lack of knowledge about procreation on the part of the main character and presumably other women of the era.  Lilly's partner was actually forced into the position of educating her on the topic. As one writer said, the scene is not anything like Fifty Shades of Grey. It is beautifully handled though perhaps longer than it needed to be. If this subject matter is of concern to you, you might like to read the discussion for yourself by visiting GoodReads.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Don’t let these things turn you off this book. Somewhere in France is definitely a page turner, a love story with drama and suspense and a look into the life of people who lived and worked directly on the battlefields during the Great War, the war to end all wars. It is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me. I have to say now that I agree with the comment on the cover that if you love Downton Abbey, you will enjoy this book. You can find your copy in whatever format you prefer on Amazon by clicking right here.

See you
At the bookstore!
Brenda

More Downton Abbey Reading:

Buy your copy of Somewhere in France on Amazon.
Watch the Downton Abbey Christmas video parodies.
Find the beautiful Downton Abbey teacups.
Discover the period drama Lark Rise to Candleford.







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Thursday, February 21, 2019

His Stubborn Sweet Bride: A Christian Historical Romance Novel Reviewed

An excellent Christian historical romance that transfixes readers with Molly's story of loss, betrayal, survival & desperate decisions. Highly Recommended!
I admit, His Stubborn Sweet Bride (Colorado Reborn Book 1) written by Chloe Carley was a big surprise for me. I loved this book! 

This is the first book by the author, Chloe Carley, that I have ever read, but it won't be the last.  I am beyond thrilled to find a new Christian author who writes unique and original content.  That is what I liked best about this book.  I didn't feel like I had ever read one that was similar in plot or characters.  Plus, I loved the unexpected surprise elements in it.  

The story takes place in 1878 in several early settlement cities in America, including Cheyenne, Wyoming, Denver &  Indian Rock, Colorado, which is beautiful, but rough country.  The depiction of the towns, the battle between the original settlers and the new comers, as well as the harrowing life events of the main character, are all reasons why I was transfixed by this story. 



The Plot of His Stubborn Sweet Bride (Colorado Reborn Book 1)


When a wealthy aristocrat from England, Nate Trowbridge, and his sister, Leonie, inherent their uncles ranch in Colorado, they decide to move to America.  Leonie is young, adventurous, and quite naive, while her older brother, Nate, is steadfast and somewhat boring.  Nate wishes to protect his sister for as long as possible.  He also desires to maintain their good name, respectability and social standing even in the new country.  

Upon arrival, they find the ranch is not exactly in the condition they expected.  Immediate repairs and restoration are necessary.  Because there is little else in Indian Rock other than his Circle T Ranch, Nate has to travel to Denver to hire craftsman, and purchase furnishings and decor.  That also gives him the opportunity to visit with old family friends.


Nate Trowbridge's Story


 His Stubborn Sweet Bride:
A Christian Historical Romance Novel
(Colorado Reborn Book 1)
Check Price
Nate believes it will be time for him to get married as soon as the ranch is renovated.  He believes his obvious choice is one of the daughters of old family friends.  Actually, over several generations, the two families have married one another to preserve their wealth and status in society.  The Chiswicks live in Denver, therefore they have already made the necessary transition to America from England.  After visiting with them, he has every reason to believe Emmaline Chiswick is like-minded and would welcome his proposal. 

Once the house repairs are finished, Nate sends a letter of marriage proposal by way of his ranch foreman, Jem, to Denver when he finds out that Jem has to go to the dentist there.  It is necessary for the doctor to give Jem a dose of laudanum so he can preform the dental work needed.  Jem is still under the influence of the laudanum when he searches for the address on the envelope to deliver the letter.  He immediately notes that the woman doesn't appear to be the type of woman he would expect his boss to court and certainly not to marry, but when Molly opens the letter, she accepts Nate's proposal.  Everything gets pretty hazy for Jem and later he awakens to find himself, along with Molly, on a train destined for Indian Rock, Colorado.  


Molly Clanahan's Story


Molly's story is one I had never considered a possibility, but I could easily see how it would happen in 1878.   It made me think of current day human trafficking and how we all want to believe it can't be true and would never happen.

When her father and brothers all died from influenza, Molly was left completely alone.  The bank foreclosed on her family farm and  she had no way to survive.  It seemed becoming a mail order bride would be her best option.  

Molly started corresponding with Jack in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  After she sent him a picture of herself, as requested, the man she believed to be a lonely widower sent her train fare to Wyoming.  When she arrived, she was met by Jack and immediately taken to his business, the local brothel.  She was expected to go to work immediately.  The promise of marriage was just a ploy to get her there.  Jack was abusive, threatening, and downright evil.  Molly felt trapped until she decided to risk her life and get away.  

Even after Molly has escaped the brothel, Jack swore to find her and make her pay for humiliating him.  She knew she was living under the shadow of fear and possible discovery.  She felt fortunate to get a job as a seamstress in Denver, but when Jack found her, she was once again desperate for escape.  That was when the man with the letter containing a marriage proposal showed up at her door. 


My Recommendation of "His Stubborn Sweet Bride"


I have now given you the basic background of the characters and book plot, but you must read this book yourself.  You might even find that you think twice before you jump to conclusions about people and judge their actions.  

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.  While it dips into the dark world of murder, lies, criminals, and pure evil, nothing is too graphic, yet it clearly depicts depravity.  

In addition to the expected romantic love story, the book also aptly depicts the concern and protective nature of an older brother toward his sister.  I enjoyed the way the author developed both types of love throughout the book.

 


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