Everyday Tidbits...

Be Kind. Do Good. Love is a Verb.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

People Reading...Reading in the fall


Monday, November 11, 2019

Secrets of the Chocolate House...#BookReview

About the book:
New York Times bestselling author Paula Brackston’s The Little Shop of Found Things was called “a page-turner that will no doubt leave readers eager for future series installments” (Publishers Weekly). Now, Brackston returns to the Found Things series with its sequel, Secrets of the Chocolate House.

After her adventures in the seventeenth century, Xanthe does her best to settle back into the rhythm of life in Marlborough. She tells herself she must forget about Samuel and leave him in the past where he belongs. With the help of her new friends, she does her best to move on, focusing instead on the success of her and Flora’s antique shop.

But there are still things waiting to be found, still injustices needing to be put right, still voices whispering to Xanthe from long ago about secrets wanting to be shared.

While looking for new stock for the shop, Xanthe hears the song of a copper chocolate pot. Soon after, she has an upsetting vision of Samuel in great danger, compelling her to make another journey to the past.

This time she'll meet her most dangerous adversary. This time her ability to travel to the past will be tested. This time she will discover her true destiny. Will that destiny allow her to return home? And will she be able to save Samuel when his own fate seems to be sealed?

This is a sequel to The Little Shop of Found Things and picks up a few weeks after the first book. This story builds on the first one and so I highly recommend reading them in order. I loved The Little Shop of Found Things.

After returning for the last time from the seventeenth century, Xanthe goes about trying to settle back into modern life. She longs for Samuel, but must deal with her obnoxious ex-boyfriend instead. When she is drawn to an old chocolate pot while searching for antiques for the store, she realizes it has a connection to Samuel and she knows she must return to the past.

This trip to the past doesn't follow the same pattern as Xanthe's first one did. She meets other people who can also travel as she has and she gains more control over her abilities and learns that she is a "Spinner" and comes to understand more of what that means. Her journey this time is fraught with more danger as she tries to help Samuel.

Xanthe returned to the future more this story and there was a lot of skulking and lying about where she was and what she was doing. We learned more about friends in the village and a better understanding of how the past intertwines with her present.

While this one didn't resonate with me as much as the first story, I enjoyed it. Magical realism, suspense and a bit of romance all compelled me to keep me reading. The story is resolved, but there is a cliffhanger at the end to lead into the next book in the series. I am so very curious to see what happens next.

Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Paula Brackston on her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Read 11/19

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Little Shop of Found Things...#BookReview

About the book:
New York Times bestselling author of The Witch's Daughter Paula Brackston returns to her trademark blend of magic and romance guaranteed to enchant in The Little Shop of Found Things, the first book in a new continuing series.

An antique shop haunted by a ghost.
A silver treasure with an injustice in its story.
An adventure to the past she’ll never forget.

Xanthe and her mother Flora leave London behind for a fresh start, taking over an antique shop in the historic town of Marlborough. Xanthe has always had an affinity with some of the antiques she finds. When she touches them, she can sense something of the past they come from and the stories they hold. When she has an intense connection to a beautiful silver chatelaine she has to know more.

It is while she’s examining the chatelaine that she’s transported back to the seventeenth century where it has its origins. She discovers there is an injustice in its history. The spirit that inhabits her new home confronts her and charges her with saving her daughter’s life, threatening to take Flora’s if she fails.

While Xanthe fights to save the girl amid the turbulent days of 1605, she meets architect Samuel Appleby. He may be the person who can help her succeed. He may also be the reason she can’t bring herself to leave.

I absolutely loved the premise of this story: that a person can have an emotional or physical connection to inanimate objects or places. Xanthe realizes this affinity as a child as she learns the history and provenance of antiques that her mother sells. After relocating to an English village, Xanthe feels a connection to a beautiful silver chatelaine she finds at an auction. As she learns more about it, and the village in which she lives, she discovers the chatelaine is connected to a spirit that inhabits her home and who wants Xanthe to save her daughter in the 17th century. Xanthe learns she can travel in time and finds herself in 1605, trying to save a young maid from death.

She meets architect Samuel Appleby who helps Xanthe in her quest. But, can Xanthe leave Samuel behind?

I adore quaint English villages with their quirky residents. I enjoy stories with elements of magical realism that mix in with the everyday. I love a story that compels me to continue reading and The Little Shop of Found Things did just that. It was a little haunting with some suspenseful moments and it was charming and romantic in others. I found the juxtaposition of Xanthe traveling to and from 2018 to 1605 fascinating.

The descriptions were quite detailed and I found myself skimming some passages, but the story flowed well and kept me engaged. This is first in a series and I'm looking forward to more.

Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Paula Brackston on her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Read 10/19

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Friday, November 1, 2019

Пятница Ponderings: If I Only Had a Heart...

Ponder: to consider something deeply and thoroughly; meditate 
Пятница (PYAHT-nee-tsuh): Friday in Russian


I don't like emotional pain or feelings that can hurt and make me cry. So, I am prickly. I keep people at arms length. I have many acquaintances, but a few select close friends and even fewer who I confide in.

I cultivated this crusty, prickly exterior, almost unconsciously, because it protects my soft heart. And for a long time, I have been able to control it.

But, this past year my shell has cracked and my heart has softened and I find myself feeling so many things that I once pushed away. I cry much more easily now. I find myself having more compassion and less judgment. And I attribute it to two things.

First, we brought a beautiful puppy into our family last November. And while I love my family with everything I am, I did not anticipate how much this little creature could affect me. Cocoa herself is a bit prickly. But, she loves with her whole being. Truly.

I will fully admit that I never understood people who treated their pets as family. I do now, because I can't remember what life was like without Cocoa in it.

She greets us with wiggles and jumps and kisses. She exudes love. She makes me pause and sit and pet or snuggle. And she returns that love with no expectations, no requirements and no demands. She is pure love. She just wants food, someone to play with and someone to snuggle. Who doesn't want that?

So my prickly, crusty exterior has been softening and my heart has been bleeding through those cracks. It's inconvenient and painful sometimes, but it has also been a blessing, because letting my heart grow, has allowed me to feel more love and less judgment.

The other thing that has softened my heart and made me look at people differently is that our family is moving away from organized religion.

There are those who would say that religion is love and Jesus is love. But for me, my spiritual journey has been one of discovering love outside of religion. And for me, it is not part of a controlling, all inclusive church. I first stepped away from church earlier this year for my mental and emotional health. I was tired of never feeling like I was enough. I wasn't good enough. I didn't serve enough. I didn't give enough. When, in reality? I served and gave and did the best I could with what I had and who I was. But, it was never enough. I was always a disappointment to someone for something, including God.

I had come to find little comfort in sermons and talks from people who told me in words how I should live, but in doctrine and religious teachings told me that not everyone was deserving of that same love. I began to realize that I couldn't believe in a God who was restrictive and exclusive in how He bestowed blessings or answered prayers and that only a select few, who believed a select way, were going be happy.

So, I stopped attending and I felt no remorse and found some peace. And, I haven't stopped trying to figure out how I feel and what I think and believe. I have found myself thinking in more spiritual terms and less in religious terms. I have found myself finding joy in nature and in the people around me rather than trying to find it in a religious text or church meeting. And, as I have let go of the guilt of not doing enough, I realized I have more time for reflection and introspection. And I believe that all of us are beautiful, glorious beings with many gifts and qualities and I absolutely love seeing people in that way.

Although, I haven't yet been able to extend that love or soft heart towards insurance companies. Patients, yes. Insurance companies, no. And, I find that my heart isn't very soft when I drive, so I'm working on that. Baby steps...

But, I have also realized that love hurts, now that I can't turn away from it. It hurts to watch people or animals suffer. It hurts to watch people experience joy and heartache. But, it's also beautiful to feel. To feel love without judgment. To look at people for who they are, not how they act or what faith they profess.

Seriously, love hurts. Because of Cocoa, I now follow the animal shelter Facebook page and cry because so many puppies need homes and we can't take them, so I donate and buy supplies for them. I give my extra dollars to people on the street.

There is a man who has frequently been by the freeway offramp these last few months. Even now that it's cold and the temperatures are frigid, he's often there. There was a time when I would have driven past with no thought other than, "if you have time to stand here, you have time to look for a job". I can't do that as much any more. If I have cash, I give it to him. If I don't, I give him a smile. I don't know his story,  but he is a man with some troubles and I wish I could do more.

It's freezing outside now and I came out of our office the other day to see a grasshopper that was hurt and suffering. It couldn't fly or hop and I knew it wouldn't survive, so it was best to mercifully help it die. And I had to hold back tears while I did it. FOR AN INSECT. Really?

It was easier not to let myself feel. But, I have learned that I would rather have these experiences and discover my soft heart than keep my hardened, prickly heart and miss out on finding joy in loving others.

Thank you, Cocoa.