Saturday, November 24, 2018

Wired by Julie Garwood – Book Review



Wired by Julie Garwood
Author Julie Garwood is well known for her romantic suspense novels, particularly those featuring her continuing and recurring characters in the Buchanan family. Her latest in the series is Wired where a beautiful computer hacker (Allison Trent) has to collaborate reluctantly with a sexy hotshot FBI agent (Liam Scott).


Synosis 


Allison has a brilliant mind for computers.  She loves to write code and has secretly been known to 'hack' into computers.  Before you condemn her for this behavior, you have to realize that she has only done it occasionally to help others who have been cheated by unscrupulous scammers and to 'right the wrong'. 


Source: Pixabay
FBI agent Liam Scott has discovered a serious problem ~ a deep leak within his own department leaking information about ongoing investigations. He needs a top-notch hacker unknown in his field to secretly break into the FBI computers and find the traitor. 

Allison is friends with Jordan (Buchanan) Clayborne, a genius in the technology field, whose husband and brother are both FBI agents and friends with Liam. With Jordan's help, Liam arranges to meet Allison and asks her to take on the job.  There is only one problem – Allison wants nothing to do with his job and turns him down.

Liam doesn't know that Allison is hiding her hacking secrets that she doesn't want the FBI to uncover.  She knows what she has done would be considered illegal by the FBI, even though she never benefited from her hacking and only helped others. 

How Allison's refusal to help is resolved, how she discovers the traitor and how romance blooms between her and Liam make for a very delightful story. 


Author Julie Garwood



Author Julie Garwood
Julie Garwood was born in Kansas City and today lives in Leawood, Kansas. She married young and had three children. Julie was always interested in writing, but waited until her youngest child was in school before she began writing full time.  She has written many best-selling novels.  

One of her most popular novels, FOR THE ROSES, was adapted for a HALLMARK HALL OF FAME production. 

Ms. Garwood has written 27 novels of romance since 1985, either in the historical fiction field or that of suspense.  Her suspense novels usually involve one or more FBI agents.  In each of  her books you will find a recurring theme based on family, loyalty and honor. Her romantic scenes are done in good taste. Her humor and poignancy keep readers coming back for more. 

Julie states her goals as:


“I want my readers to laugh and cry and fall in love. Basically, I want them to escape into another world for a little while and afterwards to feel as though they’ve been on a great adventure.” 


More Romantic Suspense by Garwood



Pixabay

Wired is Julie Garwood's most recent book (published 2017) involving one or more of the Buchanan family.  The family consists of the mom & dad (who is a judge), six brothers and two sisters, all of whom are involved in either the technology field or law enforcement, most particularly the FBI. I've always enjoyed reading series with continuing characters and Garwood's books are among my favorites. 

So, if you read and enjoy Wired, be sure and seek out some of the other Julie Garwood stories involving the Buchanan family


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(c) Wednesday Elf, November 24, 2018








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Friday, November 23, 2018

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Movie Reviewed

Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald Movie Poster
Newt Scamander and his Fantastic Beasts return to discern and defend what is right in the magical realm of Harry Potter.  Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, just like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, takes us back in time to 1927, decades before Harry Potter is born.  It gives more details about the past than we were ever given in the Harry Potter books or movies. 

For Harry Potter fans, you will be very pleased to see the background relationship and understand the bond between Grindelwald and Dumbledore.  For Fantastic Beasts fans, you will be trilled to see some of your favorite beasts again, as well as meet a few new beasts.  

Our entire group was immediately enchanted by the baby Nifflers at the beginning of the movie.  

Speaking of enchantments, as you would expect, this fantasy movie is filled with magic, spells, and special powers.  We even get to see Newt ride some of the Fantastic Beasts, which was truly fantastic!

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Movie Released In Theaters on Nov. 16, 2018


The Plot of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald 


 FANTASTIC BEASTS: CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD (2018) Original Authentic Movie Poster 11x17 - Single - Sided - Eddie Redmayne - Johnny Depp - Ezra Miller - Kathrine WaterstonCheck PriceGellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), who has been imprisoned by the Magical Congress of the United States of America, is being released into the custody of representatives from the London office.  However, on their return to London, Grindelwald escapes with help from one of his followers.

Grindelwald has a cult-like following that desires to maintain the pure blood line of wizardry, as well as declare their supremacy to muggles (non-wizards).  According to Dumbledore, Grindelwald  has "a vision that he would rise to dominance over the Wizarding world".  

Because of a childhood pact, the beloved Hogwart professor, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), cannot move against Grindelwald, so he meets with Newt Scamander to ask him if he will take on the task.  But, Newt prefers to remain neutral.  He does not want to pick a side, even though his own brother, Theseus, works for the Ministry of Magic. 

Regardless of his wish to remain neutral, Newt is once again pulled into the feud between the Ministry of Magic and Grindelwald.  There are some interesting plot twists and family ties that keep you spellbound right up to the end.



My Recommendations and Personal Opinion


Before you see the movie, be prepared and committed to paying close attention.  Distractions could cause you to miss some very important insights, comments or even characters.  For instance, Harry Potter fans will be especially interested in the character, Nagini.  

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and highly recommend it to Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts fans.  Most likely, you will come away from the theater with a greater appreciation for Newt Scamander.
 




Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie ReviewIf you haven't already seen Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, you can read that review and rent the DVD by clicking here.
Unlike the Harry Potter movies, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" is not based on a published book. It is a screenplay based on a text book that was written by a fictional character in the Harry Potter books.







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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Movie Reviewed Written by:

House of Sylvestermouse




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Thursday, November 22, 2018

Photographing Plymouth Harbor









Happy Thanksgiving from the staff of Review This.  Today's post is a bit of history and photography from the site of the first Thanksgiving.

Plymouth Massachusetts is a delightful harbor town on the shores of Cape Cod Bay. It is located 40 miles south of Boston.  I'd like to share some of my photos of the harbor with you but first let's review a bit of the history of this historic town.  

History of Plymouth

The colony of Plymouth (first called Plimouth) was established in late 1620 when the Mayflower landed in this area on the shores of Cape Cod Bay.  These early settlers from England were called Pilgrims and had embarked on the new country to escape the religious beliefs of the Church of England.  

They landed in Cape Cod in December and were not prepared to handle the harsh New England winters.  Their first year was very rough and they survived with the help of friendly Indians.  After surviving the first year they had a celebration to thank God for protecting them during the first year.  This celebration is considered the First Thanksgiving Feast.

Photograph of Plymouth Harbor Today

As I walked along this historic harbor I was struck by all the little everyday features of this small town.  Yes, there are the tourist attractions like Plymouth Rock (really only a rock engraved with 1620) and other sites of interest throughout the town, but I wanted to concentrate my photography on the features of the harbor and the docks.

Here are a few of the photos the depict the harbor on the June afternoon when I visited.  It includes a replica paddleboat for tourists along with items that represent the lobster trade that is popular today.






Zazzle Products from  my Photos





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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter

Who is Matt Ritter?


Matt Ritter is a biology professor at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, very near my home in Paso Robles, California. I'm very interested in the plants that grow in my area, the ones I see in the streets, in the parks, and in the yards of my neighbors. I like identifying them and photographing them. That's one reason I decided to take a guided tour of the trees in City Park at the art festival there a few years ago. Matt Ritter led that walk. I saw how knowledgeable he was.  Afterward I visited the native plant booth where his book, A Californian's Guide to the Trees Among Us, was for sale. I purchased it. I've never been sorry. I've owned the book since 2011 and I use it several times each month.

Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter


Why I Like Dr. Ritter's Trees Among Us


I have many field guides for trees. So why did I buy yet another one? Dr. Ritter's book has gorgeous overview color photos of most of the trees. You see the tree's shape and usually a closeup of the bark, the leaves, and even the fruits or seed pods. Most tree pages have an inset that gives information about other trees that may be confused with the tree pictured. If a tree has many different species living in California, there may be an inset that helps you see the differences and identify the individual species.

Whereas my Peterson Field Guide to Western Trees has maps, color photos of trees and fruits, and detailed plant descriptions, it doesn't have the same kind of photos of entire trees. Trees Among Us shows photos of some of the large trees next to buildings so one can better see their actual size. The descriptions of the trees also are more interesting to those of us who are not botanists. In some cases we learn about the tree's history in California -- how it got here, how it's been used, or something else special about it. The introduction provides classification and other scientific information. If you live in California and love trees, you really need to get this book.

Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter
A Catalpa Tree I Identified with Help from The Trees Among Us


California Plants: A Guide to Our Iconic Flora


Our Country Registrar has an office above the Atascadero Library, and my husband decided to fill out his early ballot in the library and then take it to the clerk. I had already turned my ballot in, so I checked the new books on the shelf. That's how I found Matt Ritter's California Plants: A Guide to Our Iconic Flora. I was quite excited and checked it out immediately to look it over. I fully intend to buy it when I have to return it.

This book describes the native flowers, trees, and shrubs one will be most likely to see when exploring California's forests, trails, and scenic routes. Habitats range from shrublands to beaches, desert, forest and everything in between. Plant entries are arranged by their habitat.  There are over 1000 color photos and photo collages (showing various parts of plants), along with maps showing the range of most pictured plants. You may see a field of wildflowers along with a close up shot of a single plant. As in Trees Among Us, there are stories and background information on the plants and their origins (if non-native) and their uses by native peoples. I did not find a lot of duplication between the trees in this book and the trees in California Plants. Trees Among Us concentrates more on urban and suburban trees than those that are uncultivated.

Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter
California Plants has a lot to say about this wild mustard.


 At the back of the book there's a section featuring non-native plants. It includes many of the weeds I've found in my garden. You will also find a glossary, bibliography, list of online resources and botanical gardens, a tree identification flowchart, a wildflower identification color chart, and an index.

Although I have other wildflower books, The Audubon guides cover too much territory, have smaller photos, and separate photos from their descriptions. The Peterson Field Guide to Pacific States Wildflowers is arranged by color, form and detail. Most of its drawings are not in color but black and white. There aren't any photos. And there aren't any trees or shrubs. Dr. Ritter's book has everything -- not just flowers.

Plants of San Luis Obispo: Their Lives and Stories


This is similar to California Plants but limits itself to 206 plants found in and near San Luis Obispo. Like Ritter's other books, it has full-color photos, but no range maps. I have compared the entries for some of the plants that appear in both books, and they are not identical. Others I have compared are identical but an identical photo may be of better quality in one book or the other. In some cases the photos are different. If you have to choose, I'd go with California Plants, since it's more complete.




My Recommendation 


These books are all wonderful additions to any California nature lover or gardener's library. I'm a nature and gardening blogger and find them the most useful books I have for identifying what I see when I go on photo walks. These books are beside me when I start trying to figure out the names of the plants I've seen and photographed. These books would be welcomed as gifts by California hikers, campers, nature photographers, and gardeners who like understanding what they see.

You may also be interested in my review of Nature's Everyday Mysteries. See all Book reviews on this site here.

Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter
I identified this redwood by using The Trees Among Us




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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Being Thankful Reviewed

Celebrating Thanksgiving

thankful
Give Thanks every day (image courtesy of pixabay.com)
Instead of spending this morning reviewing a product, I choose instead to review being thankful instead. This emotion is not something that can be purchased but instead is a choice that we make every single day, not just on Thanksgiving Day. Well, at least that is what I think. It is a choice whether we realize it or not. 

For me, every morning when my eyes open I humbly say a prayer of thanksgiving for being on this side of the dirt for at least one more day. I do look at each day as a precious gift and promise each morning to try to make the best of that day as is humanly possible for me to do. 

Sometimes our lives seem to be filled with obstacles that could make us choose to be bitter, sad, angry and lost. Holidays, often times, bring our negative emotions closer to the surface. We find ourselves being depressed due to the loss of someone close to us that won't share the holiday with us. Perhaps we are far away from home and family and are heart broken with the thought of being alone during the holiday. I know those feelings well, more than I like to remember. I can empathize and sympathize with all who feel that way as Thanksgiving approaches with Christmas not far on the horizon. 

There was a time in my life when I wasn't sure that Thanksgiving, in particular, would ever be a happy time for me again. At the time my life was forever altered just two days before the holiday. I feared that this time of the year would forever be darkened by that horrible event. I realized the following year that it would only be darkened if I let it. I could sit around and feel depressed or I could make the choice to look for the people and things in my life to be thankful for. It wasn't hard to see hundreds of reasons to feel grateful and thankful. I made up my mind that year to always look for the good and wonderful things in my life.

So, this year as every year, I am most thankful for my beautiful family. My children, my grandchildren and my loving husband fill my life with joy every day. I am thankful for a roof over my head and food on my table. I am thankful for good health and an abundance of friends. I am thankful for each day that my eyes open. There are people who are not on this earth to share the day with me this year but I am thankful for the time that I did get to share with them and I know that they are here in spirit and will always be in my heart. I won't be saddened by the things that are lost but will be happy with what is here and look forward to what is to be found. I am thankful for it all.

For those of you who are reading this, my wish is that your Thanksgiving will be filled with joy and happiness. Actually, my wish is that you find something to be thankful for every day. Just remember to look, it shouldn't be too difficult to find if you open your heart.







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Monday, November 19, 2018

Easy Beef Stroganoff Crock-Pot Recipe Review

Easy Beef Stroganoff from Crock-Pot.
Easy and filling meals are a must at my place. Cooking this Easy Beef Stroganoff recipe in the Crock-Pot while I'm at work, or while I'm busy with chores on the weekend, has been a meal that I look forward to. It also makes enough to provide delicious leftovers. 


Easy Beef Stroganoff in the Crock-Pot


Crock-Pot Favorite Slow Cooker Recipes is a little cookbook with super easy recipes. One of my favorites from this little cook book is the Easy Beef Stroganoff.  With only 5 ingredients (if you include the water) and served over either noodles or rice it is a meal that could not be much easier. I have served this over rice. But I prefer to use "Amish Noodles" with this recipe.



I do adjust this recipe just a bit. I like more meat and less "gravy". So I use more than 2 lbs of meat and only 2 cans of the mushroom soup. Sometimes, I use beef roast instead of stew meat. I buy the cut of meat that is on sale. Stew meat results in bite-sized chunks of meat and the roast results in a shredded meat and both versions are delicious.

Whether you use the same Crock-Pot cookbook I have, or search for Crock-Pot recipes online and other slow cooker cookbooks, I'm sure you can find your own favorite recipes. Clearly, I'm a fan of the ease of slow cooker cooking and highly recommend giving a slow cooker a try.


Crock-Pots


Between work, a slow commute, and my lack of skills in the kitchen, it isn't always easy to find meals that meet my needs and are tasty. I depend on my Crock-Pot. In fact, I like using slow cookers so much that I own 2 of them (a large 7 qt size and a small 2 qt size). Cooking in a Crock-Pot seems to leave less room for error. It also provides significant cost-savings (taking easy, tasty comfort food leftovers to work for lunch is much less costly than purchasing a lunch each day). 

My favorite Crock-Pot meals include pulled pork, shredded chicken, roasted beets (I've shifted from making them in the oven to the small crock pot), stews, chili (including white chili made with the shredded chicken), and squash "lasagna".

Related Links:

Louanne shares instructions for making her healthy Vegetable stock in a Crock-Pot

My next Crock-Pot will be the portable version; with the latches to hold the lid tight. And the travel bag. I have co-workers who use these for the potlucks at work and the locking lid and bag are GREAT ideas!






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Sunday, November 18, 2018

DIY or New Reusable Advent Calendars For a Treasured Family Keepsake

A Wooden, Cardboard, Cloth or DIY Advent Calendar

We've had a cloth advent calendar for Christmas for the past 20 years. Since the kids were little, the same advent calendar sees our family room annually. 

The nice thing about a cloth calendar with pockets is you can put treats inside for each of the 24 days.

Our family Advent Calendar is featured below.

Bring out your own Advent Calendar each year and make it standard part of family traditions.

However, if you're not into a store bought reusable Advent Calendar, you can make your own. Get the kids involved.

Five DIY Ideas on How to Make Your Own Advent Calendar:
Our Family Advent Calendar
by Funkthishouse.com
  1. Use 24 kiddie Christmas socks. Glue each sock to a painted cardboard or wooden backboard. Put treats in each sock for each day.
  2. Use 24 small boxes (ring size) glued to cardboard or backboard. Keep the lids on the boxes, and inside each box put treats. Decorate the boxes individually.
  3. Attach 24 small gift bags to a backboard or cardboard. Put treats in the gift bags.
  4. Use mini tree stockings. Put them all together on a piece of string with numbers on the front for each day. Put treats in each one.
  5. Use 24 empty toilet paper rolls. I know, that's weird right, but it works. Glue the rolls together in the shape of a Christmas Tree - 1 on the top for the star then, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, then 2 and 2 for the base of the tree. Glue them together then decorate each one. Place goodies inside each roll. 
Making your own Advent Calendar is a beautiful reminder during the kids growing years. When they're older, and no longer decorating with you, you'll pull out that calendar along with your past Christmas memories.

Time holds our treasures, and our treasures stop time. Think about the decorations your kids have made over the years, and what they mean to you. There isn't anything quite as precious.

Whether you use a pre-made Christmas Calendar or  DIY one makes no difference. Create memories during the little years to carry you through the big years.

When the time is right, take all the decorations your kids have made, wrap them up and pass them on. They can include them into their Christmas traditions along with your family stories.




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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Reviewing How to Clean Jewelry Like a Pro!

Connoisseur's Jewelry Wipes
I have recently discovered Connoisseur's jewelry wipes and I have to say they are fantastic!

My daughter has just graduated high school and I thought I would give her some moonstone ear rings that have some family history to them.   My daughter loves moonstones and these originally belonged to her great grandmother.

I got them out of a jewelry box that they've been in for about 17 years and they looked tarnished and old.   I popped them in some vodka overnight and then gave them a wipe with a soft cloth and they certainly looked better, but not great.

My husband went down to a manufacturing jeweler to see about getting them cleaned, she gave one of them a quick clean with a Connoisseur jewelry wipe to demonstrate and then gave him the price to purchase a pack and the price for a professional clean.

When I got home from work he showed me the two ear rings and in my mind it was a no brainer - we went and brought the wipes the very next day!

Using Connoisseur's Jewelry Wipes


When I opened up the container that the wipes came in I was a little surprised.  I expected the wipes to be damp, like cleansing wipes I guess, but they were dry.   I wiped the jewelry and the wipes looked black in places where they were doing their job.

All you have to do is gently wipe the metal part of the jewelry - you can wipe the stones, but the wipes make no difference to stones.  These wipes work on either gold or silver.

The end result was that the ear rings looked like they had just come out of a jewelers box brand new!

It was so easy to simply wipe the jewelry that I'm looking forward to 'refreshing' a few pieces of old jewelry I have.  One thing I will say, I do not think I'll be getting my jewelry cleaned by a jeweler again since discovering their 'secret weapon'.

I thoroughly recommend these jewelry wipes and if anyone is wondering, my daughter loved her ear rings and not just because they were moonstones, but because of the family history that was attached to them.

Have you ever heard of or used Connoisseur's jewelry wipes?


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Friday, November 16, 2018

Duraflame Firelogs Reviewed - Wood Alternatives for Fireplace

Duraflame Firelogs Reviewed - Wood Alternatives for Fireplace
If you love a great fire, but don't love the idea of chopping wood or cutting down trees, than you are going to love Duraflame firelogs!

We started using the Duraflame firelogs years ago. Once it gets cold outside, my husband starts every day by his outdoor fireplace, drinking his coffee and simply enjoying the great outdoors.  As fireplace enthusiasts, we are very familiar with woodpiles and the creatures that made their homes in them.  Therefore, neither of us are keen on having a woodpile stacked close to our home.  Frankly, if it was left to me to go to a woodpile and bring in wood, I would probably start burning the furniture inside first.  As much as I love mice, I really, really hate snakes!

The Duraflame firelogs are a most excellent alternative!



Duraflame Firelogs


 Duraflame 2.5 lb 1.5-hr Firelog, 6 pkA Duraflame firelog will last for at least 1½ hours, which is the perfect amount of time for hanging around an outdoor fireplace in the cold.  If you need more time, simply use a second firelog after the first one has gone out.  Not only do they create that inviting fireplace ambience, but they are actually warm.  Because the Duraflame firelogs are made with sawdust, they smell like firewood. 

We use them outside only, but they are actually made to burn inside in a well-vented, open hearth fireplace in place of burning real wood.  

For the environmentalist who enjoys a great fire, the Duraflame firelog is the perfect replacement.  Since they are made of sawdust, agricultural fibers, and wax, they don't require cutting down trees to have a fire.  It is a green, environmentally friendly way to have a fire.  And, for those of us who hate discovering creatures in the woodpile, well needless to say, we are also thrilled.

Each log comes individually packaged inside the box.  Don't unwrap the log!  You light the firelog by lighting the paper wrapper, which serves as the perfect fire starter.  



Information About our Outdoor Fireplace shown in the introduction photo:  We bought our outdoor fireplace 7 years ago and have been very pleased with it. Unfortunately, the Char-Broil Trentino Deluxe Outdoor Fireplace has been discontinued.

If you need an outdoor fireplace, we did purchase ours from Amazon and you can see their current "in stock" models by clicking here.




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Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Perfect Mother (2018) Book Review

"Some people are so good at making perfect look easy…"

The Perfect Mother is a psychological domestic thriller as well as a reflection on motherhood. It is set in Brooklyn, New York, where a group of new mothers whose babies are all born in the same month become friends through a mom’s group and go on to support each other through the ups and downs of new motherhood.

These women and one 'token' man are very different individuals and come from a variety of backgrounds. However, they are united through the common experience of motherhood.

When the mothers finally allow themselves to go out for an evening and leave their babies at home, their worst nightmare comes true. A baby is kidnapped.

A few members of the group become obsessed with helping recover the baby and their informal investigation unearths secrets from the past that will test marriages and friendships.

Author Aimee Molloy told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that she came up with the idea of the book when her own children were less than five years old. She was still very aware of “the pressures women face and the choices they have to make, particularly when they’re raising a child in a city with no family around to help.”

Here is the short book trailer, which does not really tell much about the book but definitely gives you a feel for the mood in this story:

The Perfect Mother is Molloy’s first novel. However, she also wrote the very successful New York Times Bestselling biography However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph and she is the co-author of several non-fiction books.

Is The Perfect Mother RECOMMENDED by me? It is. It is a very enjoyable, easy-to-read book with a suspenseful ending that will keep you guessing. Amazon says that it was one of the most anticipated books of the summer of 2018 though I do not know how they measure that statistic. It did go on to become a New York Times bestseller and will soon be a movie. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle said it is "gripping and suspenseful and impossible to put down, a true who done it." Pick it up and you will take a suspenseful trip into motherhood.

Of special note is the fact that the grandmothers in my book club who have young grandchildren enjoyed the daily emails woven throughout that detailed what babies might or might not be doing at each stage.

Order your copy of The Perfect Mother on Amazon by clicking right here. If you have read it, do tell what the rest of us what you thought of the book and, if you enjoyed it, do stay tuned for the upcoming movie version of this novel that is being compared to the previous book and movie releases, Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Order your copy of The Perfect Mother from Amazon.
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