A novel of five lifelong friends who, in their sixties, decide to live together on a cocoa farm in Fiji, where they not only start a chocolate business but strengthen their friendships and rediscover themselves.
"I've planted my feet on Fijian earth and I intend to stay here until the last sunset. Why don't you join me? Leave behind everything that didn't work out!"
When Sina, Maya, Ingrid, and Lisbeth each receive a letter in the mail posing the same question, the answer is obvious. Their old high school friend Kat—Kat the adventurer, Kat who spread her wings and took off as soon as they graduated—has extended the invitation of a lifetime: Come live with me on my cocoa farm in Fiji. Come spend the days eating chocolate and gabbing like teenagers once again, free from men, worries, and cold. Come grow old in paradise, together, as sisters. Who could say no?
Now in their sixties, the friends have all but resigned themselves to the cards they've been dealt. There's Sina, a single mom with financial woes; gentle Maya who feels the world slipping away from her; Ingrid, the perennial loner; Lisbeth, a woman with a seemingly picture-perfect life; and then Kat, who is recently widowed. As they adjust to their new lives together, the friends are watched over by Ateca, Kat's longtime housekeeper, who oftentimes knows the women better than they know themselves and recognizes them for what they are: like "a necklace made of shells: from the same beach but all of them different." Surrounded by an azure-blue ocean, cocoa trees, and a local culture that is fascinatingly, joyfully alien, the friends find a new purpose in starting a business making chocolate: bittersweet, succulent pieces of happiness.
A story of love, hope, and chocolate, PIECES OF HAPPINESS will reaffirm your faith in friendship, second chances, and the importance of indulging one's sweet tooth.
My Review of Pieces of Happiness
Pieces of Happiness by Anne Ostby reminds us friendships can endure, age is just a number and dreams are often sweeter when shared.
After traveling the world in primarily underdeveloped countries to assist with a variety of social justice causes, Katrina (Kat) and her husband Niklas decide to buy a cocoa plantation in Fiji and settle down for the remainder of their years. The native island delights them with its lush vegetation, colorful flowers, beautiful waters and its people and native customs. But Kat’s dreams are short lived at the sudden and unexpected death of Niklas. Unwilling to leave the island she has come to love, Kat reaches out to four of her high school friends and challenges them to visit and perhaps stay if the island calls them. A return ticket is promised if the island and all it has to offer does not prove to be what Kat has claimed it to be.
Now in their sixties all of the women are intrigued by Kat’s invitation. Ingrid a bookkeeper and Kat’s best friend is single with a pension from the County Bus Service. A disciplined but unassuming life has led Ingrid to be more than interested in traveling to Fiji. Lisbeth, the beauty of the group, is now stuck in a loveless marriage. Fear of aging and losing her looks Lisbeth is eager to step away from her life and her husband for a while. Distanced from her children Lisbeth feels it’s now or never. Sina, the cynical one of the group is anxious to leave her unstable and dreary life to start somewhere fresh. Her fifty year old son has drained her of her finances and her emotions with his get rich quick schemes. Knowing she has nothing left to give him, she is the first to board a plane headed for Fiji. Maya, the most complicated of the group is now a widow with early onset Alzheimer’s. Once a schoolteacher Maya’s days are now a mixture of confusion and reality. Determined to take on the challenge, Kat reassures her daughter Evy that her group of friends will handle whatever may come. With that in mind Maya also joins the group.
As the days become weeks and weeks months the love of the island, its people and the culture becomes ingrained in each of the women in different ways. Anxious for adventure and a new start in life the cocoa plantation becomes an invitation for a new business. Kat’s candy or as they describe it pieces of happiness begins to grow, develop and take on a life of its own. The friends all work together, each contributing manual labor or their own level of experience or expertise. But as the business grows the friends discover that Fijian life has altered and changed them in different ways. They are not the same women they were in high school or the same women that arrived on the island. Each carry their own sorrow and secrets that have yet to be revealed. As time goes by and things hidden are disclosed, the women’s friendships will be tested and either sealed or broken.
I liked Pieces of Happiness. It transported me to an island where I could envision beautiful flowers and feel a warm breeze coming off the ocean. It made me reminisce about old high school friends and secrets giggled at sleepovers. It also made me realize I was glad for the wonderful friends I have in my life as an adult. I especially appreciate Anne Ostby view from each of the women. Each chapter was told from a perspective of each of them as to the life they left behind, their sorrows and worries and how this new life was changing them. Every few chapters the author would cleverly give a perspective of the friends through the eyes of Kat’s housekeeper Ateca. It was always done through Ateca’s daily prayers for her son and each woman to Jesus. Beautiful and poignant Ateca was always able to see what the women needed even when they didn’t know themselves.
Pieces of Happiness will stay with you long after you read the last page. Kat, Ingrid, Sina, Maya and Lisbeth lives and loves, successes and sorrows will be planted in your memory as you close the book. Pieces of Happiness will make you yearn for warm climates, soft breezes and silky pieces of chocolate. It may encourage you to call a friend to catch up and perhaps even share a secret or two.
I want to thank Doubleday via Netgalley for an advanced reader copy of Pieces of Happiness by Anne Ostby for a fair and honest review.
Riveting Legal Suspense from Lawyer Todd M. Johnson
Ian Wells is a young criminal defense attorney struggling to build a Minneapolis law practice he inherited from his father while caring for a mother with Alzheimer's. Nearly at the breaking point, everything changes for Ian when a new client offers a simple case: determine whether three men qualify for over nine million dollars of trust funds. To qualify, none can have been involved in criminal activity for the past twenty years. Ian's fee for a week's work: the unbelievable sum of two hundred thousand dollars.
Ian warily accepts the job--but is quickly dragged deep into a mystery linking the trust with a decades-old criminal enterprise and the greatest unsolved art theft in Minnesota history. As stolen money from the art theft surfaces, Ian finds himself the target of a criminal investigation by Brook Daniels, a prosecutor who is also his closest law school friend. He realizes too late that this simple investigation has spun out of control and now threatens his career, his future, and his life.
My Review of Fatal Trust by Todd M. Johnson
Like a roller coaster, Fatal Trust by Todd M. Johnson, gives us a thrill ride that keeps us guessing and the pages turning till the very end.
Ian Wells is feeling pressure these days. As a new defense attorney his law practice has been anything but easy. Trying to close cases for his late father’s practice, Ian relies on another attorney to send clients his way that unfortunately are not paying well if at all. On top of his career troubles his mother has fallen victim to Alzheimer’s disease and is needing more attention than he is able to provide. As Ian struggles with little clients of his own, money woes and his mother’s failing health an unexpected client presents himself that seems too good to be true. A trust worth millions of dollars prepared many years ago by his father Connor Wells has finally come due. The monies according to the trust are to be divided three ways provided each beneficiary had not been involved in any illegal activity since the trust’s draft in 1998. Connor Well’s was to receive two hundred thousand dollars once the investigation was completed and the monies distributed. That money will now fall to Ian if he decides to take the case and investigate the three beneficiaries. Ian is dumbfounded at the staggering sum his father was to receive. Although some attorneys have been known to charge large retainer fees, even this amount is a little suspicious. With mounting pressure to pay bills and provide more care for his mother he decides to take the case against his better judgement. As time goes by and Ian investigates the three beneficiaries he finds he has more questions than answers. The more he investigates the three beneficiaries the more he discovers a dark criminal past that goes back decades including an art heist involving a murdered security guard. Convinced his father may have been involved Ian digs deeper to get at the real facts and becomes a target by the very people who hired him. As Ian gets closer to the truth he enlists the help of a close friend, Brook Daniels from the District Attorney’s office. Together they will work to uncover the truth, but not before Ian and his mother become the next potential victims.
I really liked this book. I will say it again, I really liked this book. I have not read a mystery (thriller) in a long time so I jumped at the chance with Fatal Trust and I was not disappointed. Todd M. Johnson had me hooked from the first page till the very last. The twists and turns of the plot kept me guessing and I was very surprised at the end. The characters the author portrayed elicited many feeling as a reader. My favorite was Ian. Kind, intelligent and fearless to find the truth he was a perfect hero. Brook was on my favorite list too as was Ian’s legal assistant Katie. Katie’s loyalty and Brook’s affection for Ian was evident as both women put their careers and friendships on the line to get at the truth. Ian’s mother Martha was extremely complex and I appreciated all the surprises her character brought to the book.
As for the bad guys and every good mystery has them, Sean Callahan’s character made my skin crawl. Cruel and determined he would do anything to get what he felt he deserved. Rory Doyle on the other hand was a sad character. Never escaping his past, he lived with all the trauma and dysfunction of his father’s crimes. All the characters created melded together to make one exciting storyline. Like any good book I was anxious to have the mystery solved, but was sad when it was over. A great read for a warm summer night or any time, Fatal Trust will not disappoint.
Fatal Trust by Todd M. Johnson is an exciting read with all the twists and turns every good mystery reader loves. A great story with suspense and a little romance to enjoy with a glass of wine or a cold lemonade on a warm summer night.
I want to thank Bethany House via NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of Fatal Trust by Todd M. Johnson for a fair and honest review.
In this moving, witty novel, author Maureen Leurck explores the intricacies and joys of renovation and rediscovery—as one woman’s improvement project promises to transform much more than a home . . .
People keep a house alive, not the other way around. Alex Proctor has seen the truth of this in every empty, rundown property she’s bought and renovated since her divorce almost three years ago. She’s also experienced the thrill of making each one into a home. Her newest project is a dilapidated,
century-old house just a few blocks from Geneva Lake, Wisconsin. Time and neglect, along with rats and raccoons, have ravaged it inside and out. Only Alex can see the beauty of what it once was and might become again. In just a few weeks—by the time the cicadas make their scheduled reappearance after seventeen years underground—the house should be ready to sell. In the meantime, there are construction disasters, and surprises, to contend with.
Amid overgrown grounds and rooms brimming with debris, Alex finds treasures—pocket doors, hardwood floors hidden beneath layers of linoleum and grime—and carved initials that reveal a long-ago love story involving Alex’s elderly neighbor, Elsie, and another cicada summer. At the same time, Alex finds herself searching for a way to reconcile her new life with lingering feelings for her ex-husband. For so long she felt sure that moving on was the only option, but maybe this house, and everything she’s learning in it, could give Alex room for a second chance . . .
My Review of Cicada Summer
Beautiful and emotionally rewarding, Cicada Summer by Maureen Leurck’s is a story of renewal and the power of perseverance in life and all matters of the heart.
Since Abby Proctor’s divorce renovating old houses has become her passion. Her latest project near Lake Geneva, a century old home, is proving to be more of a challenge than she bargained for. Regaled by stories of the old house and its former occupants by Elsie, an elderly neighbor, Abby is determined to restore it to its former glory for a new family to enjoy. With limited funds and setbacks too numerous to count Abby tackles this newest renovation with a grit and resolve she has never shown on previous projects. But Abby’s challenges involve more than her latest restoration. As the walls of the house and the woodwork come alive under her gentle touch, old feelings begin to surface for Matt, her ex-husband. As time goes by Abby finds that care and time not only restores the beauty of an aged home, but also heals the wounds of a broken heart.
Cicada Summer was a delightful read. Maureen Leurck’s creates characters that are real and easy to enjoy. Abby was warm, loving and tenacious in her personal and professional life. Her love for her family and friends was moving and uplifting especially when it came to her daughter, her cousin’s son and sweet Elsie an elderly neighbor. Her tough dealings with Jack a competitor showed she could hold her own in a fight and then there was Matt. The air between Abby and her ex-husband was palpable as there was so much emotion and unfinished business between the both of them. And if the characters are not enough, Maureen Leurck masterfully weaves into this emotional book the story of the returning cicadas to Lake Geneva. Just as the cicadas return from a seventeen year hiatus, Abby begins to feel like she has returned to life too. As the old house becomes new, Abby finds the strength and courage to restore her life and to live and love again.
Cicada Summer by Maureen Leurck is a charming and heartwarming story that needs to make your summer reading list. Packed with great characters and an emotional storyline Cicada Summer is sure to please long after the last page is turned.
I want to thank Kensington Books via NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of Cicada Summer by Maureen Leurck for a fair and honest review.
One of the activities I look forward to every year is our vacation to the beach. For many years North Carolina has been our family’s favorite destination. Most of my family love the water, the sun, the lazy days and great food that everyone prepares. I in particular love the carefree timelessness I get to spend with my spouse and loved ones especially my grandchildren. But one of my favorite things back then and still is today is taking a book I’ve been longing to read and spending the day immersing myself in it. Getting lost in the pages of one of my favorite authors is sheer delight. For years it was a long standing tradition that my girls and I would save a Mary Higgins Clark classic and read it there. Then as time went by we would try to select one of the latest best sellers and start it before we traveled so we could save the best parts for the beach. (We take our reading serious in our family).
So needless to say one of my second favorite things to do is to walk the beach nosily and peek at what other people are reading. The vast majority of people who are not monitoring little children’s safety usually have a book in their hands. I often wonder are people regular readers or are they taking the time to read that one book a year. In any case I love to see what people are reading. In years past the trends were the vampire books, then the many shades of grey books, the Harry Potter books sprinkled with the usual spy and mystery novels. When I see someone reading something I read and loved I usually try to start up a conversation about the book. (I know, I’m one of those annoying people that interrupt reading to discuss a book), but I love to talk about a favorite author or book. It keeps a good story alive a little while longer and it’s similar to networking. Usually someone who is open to discussing a book will tell you about other novels they have read and enjoyed and vice versa. That’s the beauty of summer or vacation reading and why I enjoy it so much.
So where am I going with this. I wanted to give a few suggestion for summer reading in case you have not read these authors or the following books. Oh, and just for the record, you don’t need a beach, a community pool or a yearly vacation to get away from it all. A porch, a yard, a balcony or a community park is all you need to enjoy a good book. With a great read, a nice glass of wine or beverage of your choice a mini vacation is just moments away. That being said, I hope you enjoy some of these suggestions and take the time to get away from it all, even if it’s just for a moment. All the following suggestion are a mix of old and new and can be found on Amazon, B&N and your local library.
Winter Garden or The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Defiance – A.L. Sowards
A Cry in the Night or Remember Me by Mary Higgins Clark
Before We Were Yours or A Month of Summer by Lisa Wingate
The Beach House or The Book Club by Mary Alice Monroe
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
The One Man by Andrew Gross
The Witnesses by Robert Whitlow
These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Where The Heart Is by Billie Letts
These words express, so to speak, the wonder of heaven and earth; they could be said to give a glimpse of God’s own wonderment as he contemplates his ‘masterpiece’—the Incarnation of the Son in the womb of the Virgin Mary.” —Saint John Paul II
Do you have two and a half minutes in your day that you can give to God? This is the beauty of the rosary. You don’t have to pray the rosary all at once and you can pray it anywhere!
Do you struggle with praying the rosary: finding time, fighting distractions, worrying about your mind wandering? In Praying the Rosary Like Never Before, Edward Sri offers practical suggestions that come from the rosary’s tradition and, most especially, St. John Paul II. These helpful tips will make the rosary a constant companions through the different seasons, moments, and challenges we all face. These tips serve as easy on-ramps for those who don’t pray the rosary regularly motivate avid devotees of the rosary to go deeper with the Lord.
“Offering God a decade or two in the midst of my daily life gives him something beautiful, even if I give it without my full, relaxed, undivided attention,” says Sri. “I’m giving God some space in my day and filling it with words of praise for him.”
You will find answers to common questions such as the significance of the Hail Mary, whether the attention given to Mary distracts us from God, the meaning of all the repetition, where the rosary came from, what to think about for each of the mysteries, and whether one should focus on the prayers or the mysteries.
You will also find biblical reflections on the twenty mysteries of the rosary that provide practical insights to help you not only understand the twenty mysteries but also live them.
Review of Praying The Rosary Like Never Before
Praying The Rosary Like Never Before by Edward Sri is a beautifully written book on the importance and relevance of the rosary. It is designed to encourage and enlighten those who find it arduous or quaint and to energize and bring new meaning to those who are faithful to this timeless devotion. Edward Sri encourages Christians and Catholics alike to encounter Our Lord through these biblical mysteries with the person who knows him best, His Mother. No matter where you are in your faith journey, Christ can be met in the holy mysteries of the rosary.
The beauty of this book is its simplicity. It addresses all the concerns for those want to use this devotion, but feel they don’t have the time or are easily distracted. He explains how to pray it during your busy day by breaking it up into decades. With one decade taking only two to three minutes each, a decade can easily be accomplished while doing housework, cooking or riding in a car. Even on those hectic days when you can’t unwind and give it your full attention a rosary can always be said as the words that are being raised in prayer are biblical and holy.
Edward Sri explains the importance of the rosary in history, especially in the life of St. John Paul II and the spiritual influence and joy it brought to his life and papacy. He explains how Mary helps us encounter Christ more profoundly than on our own. It also helps us honor Mary’s place in salvation history. The rhythm and cadence of the rosary is calming and allows your mind to contemplate Christ’s life and reach a deeper level of prayer and commitment of faith. In addition, this book takes the time to give a profound and beautiful account of each mystery (Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious) taking the rosary into a deeper level of contemplation for those who pray this devotion daily and want to go delve deeper into the life of Christ. Whether you are a novice or a loyal patron of the rosary, Praying The Rosary Like Never Before is a book that will benefit everyone in their faith journey.
I really loved and appreciated this little gem of a book. Its beauty and simplicity helped me realize on my worst of days I can still lift my heart and mind to prayer and on those days I have the luxury of time I can take this devotion deeper and open my heart and soul to the wonders of Christ’s life and his amazing Mother who journeyed with him along the way. I can honestly say this book has something for everyone and is different from other books I have read on the rosary. Each chapter addressed a concern or gave relevant information to help me take this devotion to a higher level. I really enjoyed the study questions at the end of each chapter too. I could take as long or as little time contemplating them and they helped review and address any thoughts I had on this prayer. It delved deeply, but uniquely into each of the mysteries and at the end of the book Edward Sri provides a Scriptural Rosary for deeper meditation that can be said at home, in church or at Adoration perhaps. All in all it was a wealth of beautiful information that did nor overwhelm, but enhanced my knowledge and desire to continue this practice.
Praying The Rosary Like Never Before is worth the time and effort for every person who has an occasional devotion or a daily devotion in order to enhance and encourage knowledge of this beautiful prayer. It is meant to bring those who say the rosary to a higher and more consistent level of prayer and contemplation. It gives advice on how to fit a daily rosary into a hectic schedule and how to maximize the beauty of this prayer for those who are seasoned veterans. It is a book that will be cherished and savored and referred to again and again. It would make a great gift for a friend or family member who wants to learn more about the rosary or increase their knowledge and love for this beautiful devotion to Mary and her Son. You can’t help but be better for it.
I want to thank Franciscan Media via NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of Praying The Rosary Like Never Before by Edward Sri for a fair and honest review.
Eight years after immigrating to the United States, German-born Lukas Ley embodies the American dream: successful athlete, gorgeous girlfriend, loving family. But beneath the surface, eighteen-year-old Lukas is driven by ambition, resolved to avenge the murder of his father at the hands of the Nazi regime. Unfortunately, a failed physical throws his plans for flight school off course. Unlike his war-hero older brother, Lukas’s purpose is unclear. He can’t fly, and in the eyes of the military, he’s good for only one thing—the front lines.
From the foxholes of war-ravaged Luxembourg to the devastation of an enormous German offensive, Lukas’s journey is fraught with peril. But when he’s taken as a prisoner of war, he realizes life is about to get much worse. In the enemy camp, Lukas is viewed as a German fighting for the wrong side. Ripped from the innocence of an idealistic youth, he becomes a man beaten by the horrors of war. Now his only hope of survival is to hold tightly to his faith in God and his love of family and home. But even if he manages to make it out alive, can he ever be whole again
My Review of DEFIANCE
Gripping and powerful, A.L. Sowards latest novel Defiance packs a one two punch among those who love stories surrounding WWII. Defiance takes the reader along the journey of a young soldier Lukas Ley and the battles he has to fight both on and off the field.
Lukas Ley has been anxious to join the fight against Germany ever since his father was taken prisoner and died at the hands of the Nazi’s. Now in America and a high school graduate Lukas is ready, willing and able to do his part. Hoping to join the air corps Lukas’ hopes are dashed when it’s discovered he does not have perfect vision. When Lukas finally receives his draft notice and reports to duty he finds he will be joining countless others in the US Army’s Infantry. Disappointed but ready to serve in any capacity Lukas readies to depart. Saying goodbye to those he loves is bittersweet as he leaves behind his mother, an injured elder brother back from the war and his sweetheart Belle, the girl next door.
When Lukas arrives in Europe he is immediately assigned to a company in Luxembourg. Unfortunately, there is no getting his feet warm as he is thrown into action immediately. Lukas’ ideas of war before he left home is nothing compared to what he encounters. His convictions and his courage is tested again and again. As the fighting grows more intense, Lukas finds he has to rely on his new found brothers and a valor he doesn’t know he has. His faith and desire to survive will be challenged like never before. As time wears on and he is eventually taken prisoner Lukas finds he is becoming a different person, one that he does not recognize. As his innocence fades in the wake of the many atrocities he witnesses he begins to lose sight of the young man he once was. With the help of his band of brothers and the love of his family, Lukas must dig deep to find his way back to his faith in God and in himself.
I loved this book. I have always been a fan of WWII novels and have read many, but this is the first from a perspective of a soldier. Lukas Ley’s character was brilliant. He was a mature eighteen year old with life and all possibilities ahead of him. He was anxious more than most his age to serve his country especially in light of what had happened to his father. He was a former native of Germany, but he did not feel conflicted. He wanted to fight for the US to stop the Nazi’s and avenge his father. The author captured his personality cleverly as he was innocent, but not naïve. The gradual changes in his character as the story progressed were visual and believable and I felt everything as a reader as if I was there. His moments of fear and apprehension as a soldier, his sorrow and anger as his brothers were taken from him and his hunger and desperation as a prisoner all realistically and beautifully written. I also loved his band of brothers that fought alongside of him. The supporting characters were unique and added credence to the story. My favorites were Higham, Samson, Martinez and Winterton. I especially shed a few tears over Winterton. The comradery these young men shared was courageous and beautiful to behold. I held my breath as I turned each page hopeful that these young men would be rescued, find peace and finally be home safe.
Defiance by A.L. Sowards is a beautifully written novel about one soldier’s journey on the battlefront in WWII. It’s a story of faith and hope when all seems lost. It’s a story of survival, forgiveness and the power of love. Do yourself a favor and buy this book. It will sweep you away to the battlefront in Europe with a young man named Lukas Ley who will linger in your thoughts long after the last page is turned.
I want to thank Covenant Communications via NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of Defiance by A.L. Sowards for a fair and honest review.
As he did in UNSAID, Neil Abramson explores the interconnectedness of humans and the animals we share our homes and lives with, in a timely novel that will resonate long after you've turned the last page.
An unidentified virus is spreading through the New York City neighborhood of Riverside, near Central Park. Despite the desperate need for answers, the medical community can only determine the cause is zoonotic, suggesting birds one day and dogs the next as the possible source. Despite the lack of information, the politically ambitious governor orders the National Guard to enforce a quarantine of all dogs. At the heart of this conflict, veterinarian Samantha Lewis is struggling to keep her no-kill shelter open. She finds support in a motley crew of friends that range from a local priest, to a troubled nineteen-year-old emancipated foster child, to a former psychologist whose life was destroyed by addiction. But the one person that Sam needs is the last one she'd ever want to call on--and contacting him will mean confronting every painful memory of her past.
My Review of Just Life
Just Life by Neil Abramson is not just a story about humans and their relationships with their four legged friends but also their relationships with each other.
Dr. Sam Lewis works tirelessly with a small motley crew at Finally Home Animal Shelter, a no kill shelter in N.Y. where animals are given love, care and a safe haven from the streets. Alongside Sam her crew of workers and volunteers try to find forever homes for these animals where puppy mills and pet shops often take first place when choosing pets. But Sam’s days are filled with more concerns than finding homes and giving care. A mysterious virus has hit the community of Riverside and children have become seriously ill. The CDC and local governments are convinced it’s zoonotic and they are looking for answers in the local animal population. Added to Sam’s ever growing concern for the children and her dogs is the threat to vacate. Sam has been given 30 days to relocate and find homes for all her animals. She is sitting on prime real estate and the city is anxious to develop. With the city and a political candidate for governor looking for answers for the mysterious virus a quarantine has been put in place for the community of Riverside. With growing unrest within the community Sam has been asked to locate her father, a renowned veterinarian and expert in zoonotic research. Sam at first refuses as she and her father have not spoken in years. But as fingers begin to point at dogs as the possible virus carriers Sam readily agrees to locate him to save the children and give more time to her dogs. The clock is ticking and pressure mounts on all sides. Everyone must work together to save the ailing children and the large population of dogs in Riverside.
This book will bring all kinds of emotions to the reader. I found myself frustrated for the parents of the sick children and the panic they must have felt. I also sympathized with Sam and her fear that the city in its attempt to find answers quickly would destroy the local dog population. I also felt sympathy for the pets. The author’s description of stray and abandoned dogs broke my heart. I could picture them all in shelters wanting a forever home. It certainly brought home the importance of paying a visit to your local shelter first before paying for a high priced puppy mill dog. Another fascinating feature of the book was the characters Neil Abramson created. All the characters were strong and beautifully written. Sam was driven and denied herself human affection finding trust only in her animal relationships. Greg and Luke were great coworkers and friends both loyal to Sam and the care of the dogs. Beth was funny and cynical, but when the chips were down could be counted on to help in any way. Daniel Lewis I am thankful was contrite and finally on the right side of justice. Andy, a friend and tortured teen broke my heart. His loyalty to the dogs was heartbreaking. Kendall was a tough N.Y. cop, but with a heart of gold. However, my favorite character overall was Father Gabriel. Tough and determined with a loving and compassionate heart for everyone and everything, Father Gabriel stood out for me. This character haunted me even after I turned the last page.
For those who are worried about raw descriptions of animal abuse in this story please don’t. The writer tells this story with prudence and discretion. There is some language, but otherwise no uncomfortable scenes to worry about.
Just Life by Neil Abramson is a moving account of what people and animals can do when they work together even in the worst of circumstances. It’s about loyalty and love among the most unlikely of human characters and the bond between animals and their humans.
I want to thank FaithWorks/Center Street for an advanced copy of Just Life by Neil Abramson via NetGalley for a fair and honest review.
From the author of Daughter of Australia comes a sweeping, heartfelt historical novel that follows a family of German immigrants who trade city living for the harsh realities of Pennsylvania farm life.
In 1914, Andrew Houghton’s family is one of hundreds eking out an existence in the coal mines of southwestern Pennsylvania. Though he longs to be a veterinarian, he’s fated for a life underground, picking rock alongside his father.
That destiny changes when his aunt, Eveline Kiser, arranges for her husband to secure Andrew an apprenticeship on the railroad. Wilhelm Kiser, a German immigrant, has found his American dream in Pittsburgh, with a well-paying job as a brakeman, and a secure pension. But on Andrew’s first week, an incident goes tragically wrong, leaving him severely injured, his dreams shattered. Wracked with guilt, Wilhelm finally agrees to his wife’s pleas to leave Pittsburgh’s smog behind. With Andrew in tow, they swap their three-story row house for a rough-and-tumble farm.
Life in rural Pennsylvania is not as idyllic as Eveline imagined. The soil is slow to yield and their farmhouse is in disrepair. But there is one piece of beauty in this rugged land. Lily Morton is quick-witted and tough on the outside, but bears her own secret scars inside. Andrew’s bond with her will help steer them through all the challenges to come, even as anti-German sentiment spreads across America with the outbreak of World War I.
Beneath the Apple Leaves is a vivid, deeply moving portrait of family—its hardships, triumphs, and passions—and a powerfully authentic evocation of life on the land and the hearts that sustain it.
My Review of Beneath The Apple Leaves
Harmony Verna weaves a raw and emotional tale of love and loss in her latest novel Beneath The Apple Leaves.
After losing his father in the mines, Andrew Houghton leaves his dreams behind and resigns himself to a life underground to provide for his mother and his self. Andrew’s mother, dismayed and disillusioned from her loss, is determined to save her son from a life of misery and back breaking work. Without Andrew’s knowledge she secures a position for her son as a railroad trainee under the supervision of her sister’s husband Wilhelm Kiser. Out of time and options Andrew accepts and is determined to make the best of his new job and a family he has never met. Leaving the coal patches behind Andrew heads to a new job and a new life in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Beginning this new existence is hard at first. The city is different from the coal community he left behind and Wilhelm is nothing like his father. Determined to learn fast and work hard Andrew is just starting to get comfortable when a catastrophic train accident severely injures his left arm leaving him an amputee. Guilt, distraction and anti-German sentiment due to the WW I leave Wilhelm unable to perform his job competently. When Wilhelm is fired he buys a farm and packs up Andrew and family and heads to the country in hopes of a new life.
Unfortunately difficulties abound on the farm in rustic Pa. The house has seen its better days as well as the land they hope to farm. Supplies are low and Wilhelm is forced to spend most of his reserves to buy animals, equipment and supplies. Andrew is frustrated with his body once strong and must learn to change and adapt in order to pull his weight and accomplish tasks. However, despite the fears and predicted failures not all is pain and drudgery. As the Kiser’s settle in Andrew meets and is immediately smitten with his neighbor Lily Morton. As time goes by Lily proves to be an asset to the Kiser family and a balm to Andrew’s heart. But Lily harbors secrets of her own. Secrets she fears could destroy any chance she and Andrew have of finding love.
Harmony Verna has created a novel full of raw emotion in Beneath The Apple Leaves with memorable characters the reader won’t soon forget. Andrew, whose heart was easily given was by far my favorite character. Sensitive, strong and caring Andrew gave all that he had to everyone holding nothing back. His love and devotion to Lily was pure and strong. It was a joy to watch their relationship grow and develop. Lily was my second favorite character with a heart as big as Andrew’s. The secrets she carried may have bent her, but they never broke her. Her love for Andrew and her sister Claire was sweet and delicate leaving me privileged to see it develop and unfold. And through the good times and bad, the Kiser family grew and developed into the people they needed to be in order to survive all the challenges rural life threw at them. Last, but not least is Frank Morton, my least favorite character. If ever a despicable character was created, it lived in the likes of Frank Morton. From the moment he appeared in the book I knew there was going to be heartbreak and trouble. Aside from memorable characters and a strong storyline the book did contain some cursing and some sexual content. Something to note for the reader.
Beneath The Apple Leaves by Harmony Verna is a powerful and impassioned story of love and loss with memorable characters that will stay with you long after you turn the last page
I would like to thank Kensington Books via NetGalley for an advanced copy of Beneath The Apple Leaves for a fair and honest review.
In bestselling author Holly Chamberlin’s poignant new novel, a mother and daughter escape to a beautiful coastal town in Maine to find healing in the wake of heartbreaking loss.
The journey to Yorktide, Maine, was always a happy one for Frieda and Aaron Braithwaite and their two daughters. Frieda loves her mother’s old farmhouse, and the girls have grown closer there, sharing a bedroom and spinning stories into the night. But that was before—when tragedy was something that happened to other families.
Since the car crash that claimed the lives of her husband, and their younger daughter, Frieda has struggled emotionally and financially. Bella, now seventeen, is withdrawn and wary, and Frieda fears losing her too.
At her mother’s urging, Frieda decides to return to Yorktide with Bella for the summer. Bella gets a job in a local shop, and little by little edges her way back into the world. But it’s the unexpected connections they make—with a former schoolmate, a troubled teenage girl, and Frieda’s estranged father—that will spur them to find healing amid bittersweet memories, and discover if their bond is strong enough to guide them back to hope once more.
My Review of Home for the Summer
Home for the Summer by Holly Chamberlin is a moving story of love and loss and the importance of friends and family. An idyllic vacation in Jamaica to celebrate Aaron and Freida Braithwaite’s eldest daughter Bella’s birthday turns to unexpected tragedy when an automobile accident takes the lives of Aaron and their youngest daughter Ariel. Returning home to Massachusetts Freida and Bella are left to deal with the devastating loss of their loved ones with very limited success. After making small strides with a grief counselor, Bella at the anniversary of the accident becomes sullen and withdrawn. Desperate for a change in scenery and a way to help her daughter, Freida accepts her mother’s invitation to spend the summer in Yorktide, Maine.
As the summer progresses events take shape that begin to change everyone’s lives. Freida is once again reunited with her father and Jack, an old school friend that opens her eyes and heart to the possibility of finding love. Ruby, Freida’s compassionate and gregarious mother determined to assist her small family to heal, finds a way to let go of the broken marriage of her past to trust again. And Bella, through the pain of a new friendship with a girl named Clara and her grandmother’s best friend Phil, discovers how much she is blessed despite the tragedy she endured. With a new found love for her family and a determination to live fully, Bella once again sees the value of her life and all that it has to offer.
Holly Chamberlin always writes about the beauty of family and relationships and Home for the Summer doesn’t fail. I really liked the compassion shown to each other in this novel even in the worst and the most painful of circumstances. Freida and Ruby both learn they need to let go and trust. The male characters are all different, but caring and patient which I found particularly found endearing. Bella, was the most complex of the characters and showed the most change throughout the novel. It took the patience of her loved ones and the dysfunctional friendship with Clara to show her what she had in her life was worth living and fighting for. The changes in Bella were gradual and believable and I love a happy, realistic ending.
Home for the Summer by Holly Chamberlin is a heartfelt and moving story of family and love and finding your way home. Pack it up with your sunscreen and beach towels and settle in for a tender and ardent read.
I want to thank Kensington Books for an advanced copy of Home for the Summer by Holly Chamberlin for a fair and honest review.
When Noah and Josephine Mitchell discover their divorce was never actually finalized, their lives are turned upside down.
Following his divorce, Noah gave up his dream job, settling at a remote horse ranch in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia, putting much-needed distance between himself and the former love of his life. But then Noah gets a letter from the IRS claiming he and Josephine are still married. When he confronts Josephine for the first time in months, they discover that she missed the final step in filing the paperwork and they are, in fact, still married.
Josephine is no happier about the news than Noah. Maybe the failed marriage—and okay, the botched divorce—was her fault, but her heart was shattered right alongside his, more than he would ever believe. The sooner they put this marriage behind them, the better for both of their sakes.
But when Josephine delivers the final paperwork to his ranch, the two become stranded in his cottage during the worst spring snowstorm in a decade. Being trapped with Josephine is a test of Noah’s endurance. He wrestles with resentment and an unmistakable pull to his wife—still beautiful, still brave, and still more intriguing than any woman he’s ever known.
As they find themselves confronted with each other and their shared past, old wounds surface and tempers flare. But when they are forced out into the storm, they must rely on each other in a way they never have before. Josephine finally opens up about her tragic past, and Noah realizes she’s never been loved unconditionally by anyone—including him. Will Noah accept the challenge to pursue Josephine’s heart? And can she finally find the courage to trust Noah?
My Review of Sweetbriar Cottage
Sweetbriar Cottage is a delightful Christian romance by Denise Hunter sure to lighten your heart and leave you with a smile. Noah Hunter, a handsome local contractor in need of a haircut enters a new barber shop in Copper Creek, Georgia where he meets owner and operator, Josephine DuPree, and his life is never the same. Completely smitten and wanting to spend more time with her, Noah offers to help Josie expand her new shop in order to add stylists and encourage more clientele. As time goes on, their work relationship takes a personal turn as each begin to fall in love with the other. Noah wears his heart on his sleeve and is completely head over hills despite his family and friends’ reservations. Against their advice Noah asks Josie to marry and plans to live happily ever after. But Josie is harboring a dark secret of her own and in time it ruins her marriage.
No longer wed, Noah begins to settle into a life without Josie. His failed marriage and his unresolved feelings still haunt him and Josie who is unable to deal emotionally with her past. And if things weren’t complicated enough an unexpected letter arrives from the IRS where the couple discovers the divorce was never finalized. Seeking to resolve the matter and make amends Josie files new paperwork and takes it to Sweetbriar Cottage to rectify the error and free Noah. But Providence seems to have another plan as Josie’s car will not start and a snowstorm bears down on the area leaving them alone and stranded. With only each other to rely on, Josie and Noah are forced to battle the elements together, but battling their feelings proves much more difficult.
I really liked this book. It was lighthearted, but sincere enough to tackle serious issues. I liked the way Denise Hunter wrote her characters, major and supporting. My favorite character was Noah. He was sweet and sensitive, but conflicted. I especially liked his ability to change and adapt to any given situation. Because of Noah, I wasn’t sure I was going to like Josie. Noah appeared genuine and forthright while Josie remained hidden, a little too saccharin. However, as time went on, I love the way the author began to expose her vulnerabilities. It allowed me to understand her false bravado and the loneliness Josie harbored all through her life. It made me cheer to heal their broken relationship and hope for a brighter future.
Sweetbriar Cottage is an easy and lighthearted read perfect for a warm summer day. If you are headed for the beach or pool, pack this along with your sunscreen. The characters are engaging, the storyline compelling and the ending sure to please.
I want to thank Thomas Nelson-Fiction via NetGalley for an advanced copy of Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter for a fair and honest review.
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