Friday, July 31, 2015

MY GRANDMOTHER ASKED ME TO TELL YOU SHE'S SORRY by Fredrik Backman


From the dust jacket:

Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy - as in standing-on-the-balcony-firing paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus crazy. She is also Elsa's best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother's stories, in the Land-of-Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal. 

When Elsa's grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa's greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother's letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and old crones, but also to the truth about fairy tales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.

Elsa is not your typical seven year old. Wise beyond her years, precocious and widely read, she is bullied by her peers and misunderstood by almost everyone in her world. Her parents are divorced. She lives with her mother and stepfather and isn't at all sure about the new baby who soon will be joining their family; her father is remarried and too busy with his new family to spend much time with his daughter. Her world revolves around her eccentric grandmother, who loves her more than anything and regales her with stories designed to help her make sense of the world and forget about its cares.

So when her grandmother dies, she loses her best friend and only protector. Anticipating this, her grandmother sends Elsa on a mission to deliver letters of apology to all the people Granny needs to apologize to, all of whom turn out to be characters she recognizes from their imaginary worlds. This helps her to cope with her grandmother's death and reconcile with her life's harsher realities.

This is a story like no other - comically accurate and heart wrenching, with a delightful cast of unique characters, great dialogue, and a powerful lesson: people are often so much more than they first appear to be. Five deeply satisfied stars!

NOTE: I received a copy of this book for FREE in exchange for a written review. There was no expectation that this review be either positive or negative, and I was not given any financial compensation to read the book or write the review. This information is disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

THE LAKE SEASON by Hannah McKinnon


From the back cover:

Iris Standish has always been the responsible older sibling: the one with the steady marriage, loving family, and sensible job. But all of a sudden, her carefully constructed life spins out of control, and a cryptic postcard from her beautiful, estranged sister Leah arrives at the perfect time: Please Come. Iris seizes her chance to escape to her childhood lakeside home where Leah is planning her summer wedding to a man their New Hampshire clan has never met.

Against a backdrop of dress fittings, floral arrangements, and rehearsal dinners, Leah hides secrets of her own. And while her sister faces a past that has finally caught up to her, Iris prepares to say goodbye to a future that is suddenly far from certain. As new love beckons and Hampstead Lake shimmers in the background, Iris must decide when to wade in cautiously and when to dive - and, ultimately, how to ferry herself to safe harbors in this enticing novel of second chances and the ties that bind.

Making use of a gorgeous lake setting and serious themes, this book is not your typical light beach read. Comfortable if not exactly happy with her middle class suburban life, Iris, mother of three, is caught completely off guard when her husband announces he wants a divorce - providing her with the perfect opportunity to flee to the beach house in which she grew up. Her parents distant and her sister flighty and self-centered, the going isn't always easy. At least her best friend Trish has a good head on her shoulders. As Iris struggles to come to terms with a future that is no longer certain, complications arise when Cooper Woods, Iris's high school crush, comes on the scene. As Leah's wedding date draws nearer and Iris's children join her at the lake house, hard choices must be made. Does Iris continue to put her needs last, as she always has? Or can she find a way to do what is best for herself as well as her family?

All in all, this book is a delight, exploring family dynamics, forgiveness, love, friendship, and the challenges of moving on with life following setbacks. Five stars! Highly recommended!

NOTE: I received a copy of this book for FREE in exchange for a written review. There was no expectation that this review be either positive or negative, and I was not given any financial compensation to read the book or write the review. This information is disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

EENY MEENY by M. J. Arlidge


From the publisher:
EENY MEENY opens with a compelling and terrifying premise. A young couple wakes up trapped in an abandoned diving pool without food or water. There's no escape. Instead there is a loaded gun with a single bullet, and a phone with enough battery life to receive one message: to walk free, one of them must kill the other. When other pairs are given the same orders in increasingly twisted ways, the brilliant but damaged Detective Inspector Helen Grace finds herself racing against time and confronting dark chapters of her own past.

I must begin by saying this isn't my usual reading fare. When I want a good story, I tend to gravitate towards women's fiction or romance. But I am grateful I took advantage of the opportunity to read and review this psychological thriller/murder mystery, the first in the new series featuring Detective Inspector Helen Grace

Kawasaki-riding Helen Grace is a hardcore heroine, complex and flawed. Cool as a cucumber and one hundred percent dedicated to her job, she is fascinating if not exactly lovable. Over the course of the story, it becomes apparent to her that the serial killer's victims are all linked to her in some way. And once she realizes this, she is willing to sacrifice everything to bring the murderer to justice. 

Filled with graphic descriptions and heartbreaking outcomes, this book is not for the squeamish. At times I had to set my Kindle down just to give my mind a rest from the horror of it all. But I couldn't stay away long and sat up late the night I started the book because I couldn't wait to find out the ending, which caught me completely by surprise - and left me hungry for the next installment of the series.

Five stars. Recommended especially to fans of the genre!

NOTE: I received a copy of this book for FREE in exchange for a written review. There was no expectation that this review be either positive or negative, and I was not given any financial compensation to read the book or write the review. This information is disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

IT'S YOU by Jane Porter


In IT’S YOU, Dr. Alison McAdams has lost her way after a terrible tragedy. So when she’s summoned to Napa to care for her ailing father, she’s not sure she has anything to offer him—or anyone else.

What Ali finds in Northern California wine country is a gift—an opportunity to rest, and distance from her painful memories. Most unexpectedly, she finds people who aren’t afraid of her grief or desperate for her to hurry up and move on.

As Ali becomes part of her father’s community, makes new friends of her own, and hears the stories of a generation who survived the Second World War, she begins to find hope again. In a quest to discover the truth about another woman’s lost love, she sets off on a journey across oceans and deep into history. And in making sense of that long-ago tragedy, Ali is able to put together the broken pieces of her heart and make new choices that are right for her.

I loaded this book onto my Kindle just prior to boarding a plane headed from Atlanta to LaGuardia with a connecting flight onto Bangor, Maine. I find it difficult to read while I'm sitting in a moving vehicle, whether auto or an airplane, but with a couple of hours in between flights, I looked forward to getting started on the latest from Jane Porter.

Then weather happened, and what was supposed to be a two-hour layover turned into a twelve-hour ordeal. I am convinced that this page-turner kept me from losing my mind, or worse. This seamlessly woven tale spans several decades, from World War II until the present. Told from the points of view of Ali and her father's crusty friend, Edie, the book explores themes of friendship, love and loss. As in real life, terrible tragedies occurred, leaving the victims reeling and questioning their reasons to go on. But time, family and friends have healing powers, and in the end they - and we - are left with hope.

I couldn't have had a better traveling companion during that long day in New York City. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Five extremely satisfied stars.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book for FREE in exchange for a written review. There was no expectation that this review be either positive or negative, and I was not given any financial compensation to read the book or write the review. This information is disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

THE SOUND OF GLASS by Karen White


From the dust jacket:

It has been two years since the death of Merritt Heyward's husband, Cal, when she receives unexpected news - Cal's family home in Beaufort, South Carolina, bequeathed by Cal's reclusive grandmother, now belongs to Merritt.

Charting the course of an uncertain life - and feeling guilt from her husband's tragic death - Merritt travels from her home in Maine to Beaufort, where the secrets of Cal's unspoken-of past reside among the pluff mud and jasmine of the ancestral Heyward home on the Bluff. This unknown legacy, now Merritt's, will change and define her as she navigates her new life - a new life complicated by the arrival of her too young stepmother and ten-year old half brother.

Soon, in this house of strangers, Merritt is forced into unraveling the Heyward family past as she faces her own fears and finds the healing she needs in the salt air of the Lowcountry.

Author Karen White has done it again. Intrigued by the true story of Jack Gilbert Graham, perpetrator in the 1955 bombing of United Airlines Flight 629 which killed all 30 passengers and 5 crew members on board, Karen did extensive aviation research and wove this knowledge into her compelling tale of a broken woman who learns to face her fears and find healing in unexpected ways. I loved everything about this beautifully written, emotionally charged story - from its quirky cast of characters to its themes of love, family, and forgiveness, all woven with just enough mystery to keep me turning the pages all the way until the very end. Five stars! Highly recommended!

NOTE: I received a copy of this book for FREE in exchange for a written review. There was no expectation that this review be either positive or negative, and I was not given any financial compensation to read the book or write the review. This information is disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.




Tuesday, May 5, 2015

I REGRET NOTHING by Jen Lancaster


From the dust jacket:
Mistakes are one thing; regrets are another. After a girls' weekend in Savannah makes her realize that she is - yikes! - middle-aged, Jen decides to make a bucket list and seize the day, even if that means having her tattoo removed at one hundred times the cost of putting it in.

Middle-aged myself, with a bucket list that has gone through several incarnations, I found the premise irresistible. And this book did not disappoint. Jen's list ran the gamut: personal health ("run a 5K"), self-improvement ("learn to speak a new language"), work ("start a new line of business"), even pie-in-the-sky ("have a conversation with an icon"). With infectious enthusiasm and a sense of humor that kept me laughing out loud as a I read, Jen worked her way through her list, describing her experiences in a way that managed to be both poignant and hilarious, even adding items as she went along just so she could experience the pleasure of checking them off. Along with charming her husband, her supportive friends, and her menagerie of pets, we journey with Jen as she learns to ride a bike, refinish furniture, brush up on her high school Italian, even travel to Italy. What a trip!

Inspired by Jen's success, I think it's time for me to brush off my own bucket list - and to dig into Jen Lancaster's backlist. Highly recommended!

NOTE: I received a copy of this book for FREE in exchange for a written review. There was no expectation that this review be either positive or negative, and I was not given any financial compensation to read the book or write the review. This information is disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

How does my garden grow?

But each spring...a gardening instinct, sure as the sap rising in the trees, stirs within us. We look about and decide to tame another little bit of ground.
~Lewis Gantt

I'm not really much of a gardener. My backyard is small and slopes dramatically into a creek where vegetable-loving deer abide in large numbers. Besides, my indoor pursuits consistently fill the daytime hours; I am not beckoned by the great outdoors the way some people are. But I do enjoy ripe-from-the-vine tomatoes, fresh herbs, and the pop of color that summer flowers offer. So every year about this time I find myself at Home Depot filling a cart with flower pots, potting soil, and plants of all kinds. 

Last Saturday, I started with some house plants to fill the colorful pots I purchased at IKEA several months ago. 



I also bought some tiny pots and saucers that just fit on the little white stepladder my children used when they were small and filled them with chives, lemon thyme and parsley. 


Then I ventured outdoors. I set a bright pink geranium on the porch next to the front door


and filled the two large planters on my deck with more flowers in my favorite colors, pink and purple.



Here is my black cherry tomato plant with a pot of marigolds next to it for pest control.


The jalapeno pepper plant is sharing its pot with cilantro, just as I hope they will combine flavors in a bowl of homemade salsa one day. Last but not least are the rosemary and basil, culinary essentials.


I look forward to nurturing my little deck garden through the spring and summer, feeding and watering the plants regularly, speaking kindly to them and encouraging them in their growth.

What kind of gardener are you?