Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Two Roads Home by Deborah Raney and a Five book giveaway

TWO ROADS HOME is the second Chicory Inn novel by Deb Raney.  I confess that I have not read the first, but this easily succeeds as a stand-alone book.  I grew interested enough in the multi-generational Whitman family, their three married daughters, and the struggling Chicory Inn that I may read the first and succeeding books.  This story focuses on daughter Corinne and her husband Jesse and the difficult decisions they need to make when Jesse is unfairly accused of sexual harassment at work.  Author Raney has used the turmoil of this accusation to shed a light on that too common worldly battle between having having too much --- too much stuff, too many obligations, too many worries and having too little --- too little time with one's family, too little peace, too little satisfaction from one's job.

I totally understand the heartache Corinne feels when she believes she will need to give up the dream home and the stay-at-home lifestyle she's enjoyed.  Their decisions and her acceptance reminds me of some of the young mom lifestyle blogs I occasionally read.  I love those real women's enthusiasm and their determination to make their lives joyful and beautiful without overloading on possessions and debt.  I am sure those young moms would find plenty to connect with in this story.

As I said, I did enjoy Corinne's story, I found myself extremely interested in the parts of the book that focused on Audrey and Grant, Corinne's parents.  Being a grandparent with adult children and grandkiddos nearby, I totally related to Audrey's love for the grandchildren at the same time she was anxious about the messes they might leave, especially when the inn was busy with guests.  One of the most humorous scenes of the book revolves around Audrey's reaction to a middle-of-the night fiasco when Corinne's family is staying at the inn.

Being part of a series, TWO ROADS HOME does leave readers with a clear idea of where the next story will pick up, but even with that, I felt the major conflict of this novel ended a bit abruptly and not totally resolved.  But then real life is like that!  I received a copy of this novel from Litfuse for my honest opinion.

Need a new book to read on vacation this summer? Enter to win 1 of 5 copies of @AuthorDebRaney's new release! 

Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat? by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella

Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat?: True Stories and ConfessionsI've read a few of Lisa Scottoline's fiction books, both the crime novels and the realistic fiction, and I've always enjoyed her writing style.  When I saw that she and her daughter were publishing another
collection of short nonfiction essays, I requested an advance reader's copy.  Truthfully, it was the title DOES THIS BEACH MAKE ME LOOK FAT? that caught my attention.  Witty and unusual I thought, and that certainly describes the entire book.

From Francesca's escapade with a rogue mouse in her apartment and her more fearful escapade into dating after ending a long term relationship to Lisa's musing over the benefits of being a strong minded, independent 59, rather than an approval seeking younger woman, the book offered both plenty of knowing smiles and sighs.  Both women write about Lisa's mother's last days and how that affected them.  Clearly, Lisa and her daughter can trace their independent streaks right back to Mother Mary (what Lisa calls her mom).

When you think about it, I don't really have much in common with either of these two authors.  I don't make my living sitting at the computer spinning fictional tales or examining even the most minuscule moments of my real life for other's amusement.  I don't live in New York City or anywhere on the East Coast.  In fact I can go for whole years without going to anywhere considered metropolitan. Yet on some level, I connected with Scottoline and Serritella, and I look forward to reading what the two collaborate on in the future.

I received an ecopy of DOES THIS BEACH MAKE ME LOOK FAT from Netgalley for my honest review.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer wins the 2015 Christy Award

Last night Sigmund Brouwer's historical fiction book THIEF OF GLORY was named the 2015 Christy Award book of the year.  It also won in the Historical Romance category.  So much more than a historical romance, Brouwer's book was among my favorite reads of 2014.  I can't wait for him
to publish more titles.  Here is a link to my original review of this title. You can read there why I think this book is so exceptional.  I know that our library has a copy of the book.  Hoping that many other libraries do, also.

Image result for thief of glory sigmund brouwer

Monday, June 29, 2015

Summer's List by Anita Higman

Summer’s ListSummer Snow's (think about that name for a second) young life has been shaped by selflessness.
First she gave up dreams of college to care for her parents who had been injured in an accident, then when her grandmother retired Summer willingly took over the small children's bookstore that had been her grandmother's dream.  Despite being a delightful place, the bookstore barely eeks out a living, and it certainly isn't the social spot for twenty and thirty somethings.  But Summer has never complained about her circumstances. Summer's grandmother, who has just found out her heart condition has worsened, realizes that Summer has become too complacent in her tiny life and she intends to push Summer "out of the nest" before it is too late.  Granny creates an odd list of things she wants Summer to do before the elder woman's death, and naturally, Summer cannot refuse.

First on the list is a request to find Martin, who as a young boy had been Summer's constant companion.  When his mother had died, Martin had been adopted and then left the neighborhood.  Granny is sure that the smart, but quirky boy has become a man who would see Summer's merits, and she hopes Martin will aide Summer in completing her list.

Everything I've described so far sounds like the preparation for a light hearted romance, perhaps laced with a little self discovery.  That there is a small chihuahua who takes a prominent role makes the likelihood of a fluffy story even more likely.  But Anita Higman's newest novel can't be easily pegged.  Yes, there is a summer romance; yes, Summer does experience some awakening; and yes, the dog adds a fun element.  Martin's story isn't as easily explained.  He's a little odd and brings with him a complicated family story and two brothers who seem to be as cruel and empty of love as ever witnessed.  While I expected a realistic contemporary romance, what I got had almost the element of a magical fairy tale - one in which we see why the "wicked step brothers" are wicked, and where love changes all.

I received a copy of Summer's List from LitFuse for my honest review.

Here is a link to more information about Anita Higman and her newest novel, including more reviews by readers.


Anita Higman is a CBA bestselling and award-winning author with 40 books published, several of which she co-authored. She is a two-time finalist for a Selah Award and has won a Cascade Award and an Inspirational Readers Choice Award for 2011 and 2013. She’s also been honored in the past as a Barnes & Noble “Author of the Month” for Houston. 
Higman has a BA degree in the combined fields of speech communication, psychology and art from Southern Nazarene University. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and The Writer’s View.
Higman has also won two awards for her contribution to literacy and has raised thousands of dollars for that cause while serving on the board of directors of Literacy Advance of Houston. She has been married to her husband for 35 years.

Best-selling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has over thirty books published (several coauthored) for adults and children. She’s been a Barnes & Noble “Author of the Month” for Houston and has a BA degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita loves good movies, exotic teas, and brunch with her friends.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

 Image result for girl on the trainTHE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, a British psychological thriller by Paula Hawkins, is told by Rachel, a young business woman who rides the same commuter train every day.  While other commuters bury their thoughts in the daily paper or close their eyes for privacy and solitude, Rachel looks out at the houses near the tracks, noticing one house in particular and purposely avoiding another house only a few feet away.  A young couple lives in the first house, people Rachel has never met but for whom she has created a fantasy life, complete with names.  Rachel is sure that they are totally smitten with each other, evidenced by the embraces she has witnessed, and the warm glow of the house's lights.  Readers will quickly learn that Rachel avoids looking at the nearby house because just a few years earlier it had been her home, one she shared with a husband who now loves another.  Readers will also be alerted to Rachel's drinking, her unstable behaviors, and wild mood swings, so when she reveals that she has witnessed Jess (the name she has given the lady in the house near the tracks) in the yard being embraced by a tall dark man, someone other than her husband, you understand why Rachel is totally unsettled by the sight.  When she learns on the tellie a short time later that Jess (real name Megan) has disappeared, Rachel feels compelled to tell someone what she saw.

If you chose to read this book, set aside a day because you will not want to put it down.  It has elements similar to the widely popular GONE GIRL.  Naturally when Megan disappears, the husband is  a prime suspect and there are plenty of clues that he MAY be controlling and abusive.
When Megan herself begins to narrate some of the chapters, readers find she is complicated, reckless and with a past she tries to keep hidden.  Could she have chosen to disappear?  What is she keeping from her husband and others?  Similar to my reaction to both the husband and wife in GONE GIRL, I kept switching from suspecting one spouse to the other, and the more background info I learned, the more suspicious I was of everyone.  At times I even suspected Rachel, even though she kept professing never having met the couple.  In the end, I did guess most of the ending, but I would have been just as convinced if the book had ended in another way.

Rachel's viewpoint as a voyeur reminded me of the classic Hitchcock movie REAR WINDOW in which a wheelchair bound lawyer believes he has witnessed a murder, but no one will believe him.  Like that invalid, Rachel is not believed; and as she continues to act erratically, she is viewed as less and less reliable, even by readers.  I loved the author's use of the train -- for so many people, it is an unavoidable pattern to their day, something that uses time but adds nothing of value to their lives.  To Rachel, it was the last cord to a life lost.  If she gave up being THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, she would finally lose herself.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sew Pretty T-Shirt Dresses:More than 25 Easy, Pattern Free Designs for Little Girls - A Sweet Seams book

  I purchased this book last December on a trip to Branson, MO.  While I never duplicate an idea exactly as depicted in a book like this, I love the inspiration that I receive.  And books like this are such wonderful eye candy, letting you dream about party dresses and such.

My original idea was that I would recycle a t-shirt that I found at a thrift store or garage sale into a dress for my youngest granddaughter, aged 4.  Then her mom gave me a bordered remnant she had found at a thrift store.  "Hmm," I thought, "Wouldn't that make a wonderful skirt for a t-shirt dress?"  So once I had my focus skirt fabric, I wanted to find a t-shirt but wasn't scoring any time for rummage sales.  I hit a big sale at Boston Store a couple of weeks ago for some needed summer shoes and checked the "yellow dot" racks and found two sweet t-shirts, very, very reasonable.

Yesterday morning was stormy and rainy-- great day for the sewing room.  A couple hours later, we have two finished summer dresses.  It was such fun putting these together.  I basically followed the
SUNNY DAY directions on page 23 for the peach dress, adding ruffles made of remnant fabrics I had; and the blue and purple one comes from the basic idea of a t-shirt dress.  I think the blue one will be a maxi on my granddaughter, but I like that look and hopefully she will be able to wear it more than one summer.  I know she likes to twirl in her dresses so I think the peach one will be a hit.  I've always liked that tiered look for girl's summer dresses.  The top doesn't show up too well on the photos but it has lacey sleeves, making the outfit extra special.  I enjoyed those rainy hours in the sewing room. Even used my serger which doesn't get enough use.  By the time I was done, the sun was out and it was a glorious afternoon.
Sunny Dress directions 

Border fabric scored for 99 cents

Peachy dress - it is more peach than pink.

Happy border printed dress.  Notice the sequins.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A New Dresden plate wall hanging using an EZ quilting FAT CAT template

I bought an EZ quilting template called a FAT CAT a couple years ago to make a mini Christmas tree skirt.  The pattern was in Darlene Zimmerman's book Fresh From the Clothesline.  I don't like having a tool that I will only use once or twice, so I always planned to make something more.  The wedges are sewed together the same way Dresden plate wedges are, except these wedges are fatter, making a final circle that is a little less delicate than a traditional Dresden plate.

Our great room which is open to the kitchen is painted in blue and green -- more blue in the kitchen area and then green walls on the dining room side and down the hallways.  I purchased a combination of batiks from Nancy's Notions and one floral print from JoAnn's, then combined them with some basics I had from Connecting Threads and started making the large Dresden circles.  I actually made three of them in different color arrangements, thinking I would combine them into one quilt to hang on the dining room wall.  Once the plates were done, they sat for several months -- UFOs.  I don't usually have unfinished objects, but I just didn't know what to do with what I started.

Since I wanted something done before our out-of-state company arrived in early July, I uncovered the pieces last week and starting planning.  One slight mis-cut of the background fabric changed my original plans, and I ended up using just one Dresden plate in a square wall hanging.  I will be finishing another, almost identical square to use as a table topper.  I like the decision to go with separate pieces.

I have decorative stitches down each petal and then around the points.  Beyond that there is straight line quilting that echoes the corner triangles and the Dresden plate itself.  When hubby came in from his workshop for lunch, I got his help with switching out the oil painting that had been on the dining room wall with this finished wall hanging.  I like it and it complements another quilted square which above the nearby pantry door.  I've added some photos for you, but must say that they are not true color.  Colors are much brighter, including the walls themselves!.

Closeup view of the hanging.  Photo is not centered, sorry.

Closer view of the quilting

Dining room view