Everyday Tidbits...

Be Kind. Do Good. Love is a Verb.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Girl from the Train...Review

About the book:
Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt is on a train bound for Auschwitz. Jakób Kowalski is planting a bomb on the tracks.

As World War II draws to a close, Jakób fights with the Polish resistance against the crushing forces of Germany and Russia. They mean to destroy a German troop transport, but Gretl’s unscheduled train reaches the bomb first.

Gretl is the only survivor. Though spared from the concentration camp, the orphaned German Jew finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people. When Jakób discovers her, guilt and fatherly compassion prompt him to take her home. For three years, the young man and little girl form a bond over the secrets they must hide from his Catholic family.

But she can’t stay with him forever. Jakób sends Gretl to South Africa, where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families—so long as Gretl’s Jewish roots, Catholic education, and connections to communist Poland are never discovered.

Separated by continents, politics, religion, language, and years, Jakób and Gretl will likely never see each other again. But the events they have both survived and their belief that the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war have formed a bond of love that no circumstances can overcome.

When a Polish man saves a young German girl from a train explosion that he caused, neither could ever anticipate the life experiences that await them. But, Jakób brings Gretl home and offers her protection and safety for as long as he can. When the day comes where he realizes he can no longer safely look after her, Jakób sends Gretl to South Africa and a family anxious to adopt a little girl.

Historically, World War 2 is one of my favorite literary subjects. The experiences both in Europe and the Pacific during that time fascinate me. The perspective here was different and amazing. I had never heard of German war orphans being sent to South Africa for adoption. So Gretl's perspective as a Jewish girl in a Protestant country offered a contrast. Jakób's view from the Polish aspect offered a new perspective as well.

While I didn't completely love the writing style, I did love the story. It was at once compelling and heartbreaking and yet touched me in a way that stayed with me for days afterwards.

Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 7/15

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Promises to Keep...Review

 About the books:
The painful memories from her life back in Toronto will never be distant enough, but Katherine Price finds peace under the autumn sky in the South of France…and a deepening, dizzying love with Philippe. Together, they savor the delicacies and splendor of life, toasting to a future filled with happiness and hope—a life far away from the heartache they both knew so well.

But during a trip to the charming village of Entrevaux, a strange note turns into a dangerous car chase. Philippe reveals he has a troubling secret—and the couple’s new life together threatens to crumble before it can begin. Now that Katherine has everything she’s ever wanted, is she about to lose it all?

Promises to Keep is the heartfelt second addition to award-winning author Patricia Sands’s Love in Provence trilogy—and a stirring reminder that it’s never too late to be joyfully surprised by love, life, or even yourself.

I loved Kat's story in A Promise of Provence and was anxious to learn more about her story after she stays in France with Philippe. And like the first novel, this one is rich with vivid description of scents and sights and food. I haven't visited southern France, but I sure want to. And unlike A Promise of Provence, this one has more adventure and intrigue as Kat tries to learn what Philippe's secrets are.

My disappointment in this story is the abrupt ending. The first one ended in an appropriate place, logical, but leaving you wanting more.  This one just ended, abruptly and unresolved. Now, I understand why the author might have done this, but one of my biggest pet peeves is when I have to get the sequel simply to finish the story. There were two plots here and at least one of them could have been resolved without leaving the reader completely hanging. I will look for the third installment in this trilogy, but I don't like having to buy an additional book just to finish the story. I wish that authors would instead create a story that resonates with me and leaves me wanting more.

Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Patricia Sands here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/15

* * *
3/5 Stars

Monday, September 21, 2015

Five Days in Skye...Review

About the book:
Hospitality consultant Andrea Sullivan has one last chance to snag a high-profile client or she'll have to kiss her dreams of promotion good-bye. When she's sent to meet Scottish celebrity chef James MacDonald on the Isle of Skye, she just wants to finish her work as efficiently as possible. Yet her client is not the opportunistic womanizer he portrays himself to be, and her attraction to him soon dredges up memories she'd rather leave buried. 

For James, renovating the family hotel is a fulfillment of his late father's dreams. When his hired consultant turns out to be beautiful, intelligent, and completely unimpressed by his public persona, he makes it his mission to win her over. He just never expects to fall under her spell.

Soon, both Andrea and James must face the reality that God may have a far different purpose for their lives—and that five days in Skye will forever change their outlook on life and love.

Andrea Sullivan needs to sign a high-profile client in order to gain her dream promotion. So she travels to the Isle of Skye to see a new hotel and to try and sign Scottish celebrity chef James MacDonald to a contract. Believing him to be a womanizer, he spends the next 5 days convincing her he's not.

Scotland is one of my favorite literary settings and this did not disappoint. The story covers five days and getting to know Andrea and James was fun. Loved their families, loved the story. This was a great beach read. The Christian aspects are light.

First in the McDonald Family Trilogy. I look forward to more.

Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Carla Laureano here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 8/15

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Weekend Reflections 9/19

Looking outside....it's feeling like fall. We've had some rain and the air is definitely cooler.

Listening...to blissful silence. I like slow Saturday mornings.

Loving...a warm home, a fireplace and people to share it with.

Thinking...that I can't believe we're halfway through September already.

In my kitchen...a cup of hot chocolate. Always. For dinner? I'm not sure. We may grill some steak. We've grilled chicken and pork chops this week already.

Wearing...red penguin pajamas and a black t-shirt.

Needing...to finish my dictation tape. 

Reading...I have had a slow reading year. Seriously, I think I'm only up to 30 books. I've had some health issues and have really stepped back from reading, blogging and reviewing. I should feel more remorse about that, but I don't.

Today...Doctor Who is back!!

Hoping...to get some work done on the car and some shingles on the roof fixed. The Doctor and The Boy, not me. :) I still have a kitchen to clean. I sort of left it all last night...

Planning...the next week. Some professional changes are coming and I'm a bit apprehensive, but excited at the same time.

Gratitude...for a warm and comfortable home and a family I adore.

From my world... 

I love the wide open Idaho sky. It's never ending and gorgeous.

What about you? What are you reflecting on this week? How has your week gone?

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Promise of Provence...Review

About the book:
On the evening of her twenty-second wedding anniversary, Katherine Price can’t wait to celebrate. But instead of receiving an anniversary card from her husband, she finds a note asking for a divorce.

Fifty-five and suddenly alone, Katherine begins the daunting task of starting over. She has her friends, her aging mother, and her career to occupy her, but the future seems to hold little promise—until, after a winter of heartbreak, Katherine is persuaded to try a home exchange holiday in the South of France.

In Provence, bright fields of flowers bloom below medieval hilltop villages with winding cobblestone streets. Charmed by the picturesque countryside, the breathtaking Côte d’Azur, and the enchantment-filled boulevards of Paris, Katherine feels life opening up once again. Lavender perfumes the air, and chance encounters hint at romance and passion. But memories of heartbreak and betrayal linger—and her former life waits for her back home. Can she find the courage to begin again?

When Katherine's husband asks for a divorce on their twenty-second anniversary, she is shell-shocked. At 55, she is being forced to start over. Not sure which direction to go, her cousin persuades her to try a home exchange. When an exchange takes her to Provence, Katherine discovers herself.

I adore books about mature heroines. Perhaps it's becoming aware of my own age and stage in life. I also adore France. The narrative here is wonderful. The story is descriptive, rich and meanders just like the lovely paths through the French countryside. I could imagine the tastes and smells of Provence. The people are fantastic, the friendships important and strong.

Kat's journey to self awareness is beautiful as she discovers her strengths and finds love, not only for the country, but a new romance.  I look forward to more of Katherine's story.

Moderate, unnecessary profanity.

Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Patricia Sands here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/15

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Race for Paris...Review

About the book:
The New York Times bestselling author of The Wednesday Sisters returns with a moving and powerfully dynamic World War II novel about two American journalists and an Englishman, who together race the Allies to Occupied Paris for the scoop of their lives,

Normandy, 1944. To cover the fighting in France, Jane, a reporter for the Nashville Banner, and Liv, an Associated Press photographer, have already had to endure enormous danger and frustrating obstacles—including strict military regulations limiting what women correspondents can do. Even so, Liv wants more.

Encouraged by her husband, the editor of a New York newspaper, she’s determined to be the first photographer to reach Paris with the Allies, and capture its freedom from the Nazis.

However, her Commanding Officer has other ideas about the role of women in the press corps. To fulfill her ambitions, Liv must go AWOL. She persuades Jane to join her, and the two women find a guardian angel in Fletcher, a British military photographer who reluctantly agrees to escort them. As they race for Paris across the perilous French countryside, Liv, Jane, and Fletcher forge an indelible emotional bond that will transform them and reverberate long after the war is over.

Based on daring, real-life female reporters on the front lines of history like Margaret Bourke-White, Lee Miller, and Martha Gellhorn—and with cameos by other famous faces of the time—The Race for Paris is an absorbing, atmospheric saga full of drama, adventure, and passion. Combining riveting storytelling with expert literary craftsmanship and thorough research, Meg Waite Clayton crafts a compelling, resonant read.

From a historical perspective, this was fascinating. The descriptions are rich and I love strong women, but from a narrative aspect it frustrated me. The narrative alternates between Jane's first person and Fletcher's third person and I don't always love alternating tenses. While I learned a great deal and story has its compelling moments of brilliance, it just never completely resonated with me.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Meg Waite Clayton here.  You can see other tour stops and reviews here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/15

* * *
3/5 Stars

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Annie's Stories...Review

About the book:
The year is 1901, the literary sensation The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is taking New York City by storm, and everyone wonders where the next great book will come from. But to Annie Gallagher, stories are more than entertainment―they’re a sweet reminder of her storyteller father. After his death, Annie fled Ireland for the land of dreams, finding work at Hawkins House.

But when a fellow boarder with something to hide is accused of misconduct and authorities threaten to shut down the boardinghouse, Annie fears she may lose her new friends, her housekeeping job . . . and her means of funding her dream: a memorial library to honor her father. Furthermore, the friendly postman shows a little too much interest in Annie―and in her father’s unpublished stories. In fact, he suspects these tales may hold a grand secret.

Though the postman’s intentions seem pure, Annie wants to share her father’s stories on her own terms. Determined to prove herself, Annie must forge her own path to aid her friend and create the future she’s always envisioned . . . where dreams really do come true.

I love reading and stories and writing and I usually really enjoy books about reading. Annie's father is a story teller and after his death, Annie leaves Ireland for America. She has her father's stories, and wants to honor him with a library. She meets Stephen, a young postman who lives above a publisher. He reads one of her father's stories and gives it to the publisher without Annie's knowledge.

The life of these early immigrants was difficult and often horrifying. There were many plot points and characterizations and the novel gives a terrific glimpse of life in early 20th century New York. I liked Annie, I found myself frustrated with Stephen. But the story is compelling and the literary aspect is delightful.

Second in the Ellis Island series, I haven't read the others and the story stood alone just fine.

Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Cindy Thompson here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 6/15

* * *
3/5 Stars

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Secrets of Midwives...Review

About the book:
A novel about three generations of midwives (a woman, her mother, and her grandmother) and the secrets they keep that push them apart and ultimately bind them together.

The Secrets of Midwives tells the story of three generations of women devoted to delivering new life into the world—and the secrets they keep that threaten to change their own lives forever. Neva Bradley, a third-generation midwife, is determined to keep the details surrounding her own pregnancy—including the identity of the baby’s father— hidden from her family and co-workers for as long as possible. Her mother, Grace, finds it impossible to let this secret rest. For Floss, Neva’s grandmother and a retired midwife, Neva’s situation thrusts her back 60 years in time to a secret that eerily mirrors her granddaughter’s—a secret which, if revealed, will have life-changing consequences for them all. Will these women reveal their secrets and deal with the inevitable consequences? Or are some secrets best kept hidden?

A story told from the different viewpoints of three generations of midwives. All are midwives. Floss doesn't deliver babies any more. Grace finds herself in a difficult situation after a troublesome delivery. Neva has hidden her own pregnancy for nearly 30 weeks before telling her mother and grandmother.

A story of secrets and family and birth. I liked these characters, I liked the maternal interactions and relationships. I loved Patrick. The alternating viewpoints work here.

Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Sally Hepworth here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 6/15

* * *
3/5 Stars

Friday, September 4, 2015

In Firefly Valley...Review

About the book:
She's lost her dream job--but has she found the man of her dreams?

Devastated by a downsizing, Marisa St. George has no choice but to return to the small Texas town where she grew up. Though it means a giant step backward, she accepts a position as business manager at the struggling Rainbow's End resort. The only silver lining: Blake Kendall, a new guest who might make her believe in love at first sight. But will Marisa's dreams of happily-ever-after be turned upside down when she discovers Blake's real identity?

This warm and witty story of dreams deferred and mistaken identity will have you believing in second chances.

After losing her job, Marisa returns to her hometown. The good things about it? Being close to her mother and best friend. She accepts a job as business manager for Rainbow's End resort, owned by Greg Vange who is engaged to her best friend Kate. Marisa harbors a great deal of anger and resentment towards the father who abandoned her. She meets Greg's best friend, Blake Kendall and finally lets herself fall for someone.

This is a story of forgiveness, but before Marisa can get there, she has some ups and downs. While I loved the story, I found myself frustrated with Marisa and some of her decisions. I really had a hard time with the fact that because Blake wrote best sellers about a detective who smoked and drank, he was immoral and she judged him harshly on that. At times I wanted to shake some sense into her, but the story is a delightful read. I enjoyed revisiting Rainbow's End.

Second in the Texas Crossroads series, the story could stand alone but, like most series', it's all the richer for being read in order.

Thanks to Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Amanda Cabot here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 6/15

* * * *
4/5 Stars