Sunday, July 31, 2011

My mom's birthday

Celebrating my mother's 90th birthday today! We're all meeting for a surprise party this afternoon. We are so thrilled that she is in such good health and still with us!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Fill-Ins

It's been a while since I've participated in the Friday Fill-Ins meme. It's hosted each week by Janet at the Friday Fill-Ins website. we go!

1. Summer is my favorite time of year.

2. The calendar page is unchanged until Monday.

3. Aargh! The month is almost over already.

4. I hate getting up in the morning.

5. Seven: Days in the week or one of my favorite drinks (7-Up).

6. The warm weather is lovely, don't you think?

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to finishing the book I'm reading and starting another one, tomorrow my plans include finishing up all my weekly projects and Sunday, I want to enjoy celebrating my mother's 90th birthday!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Orchard

By Jeffrey Stepakoff

From the back of the book:

Grace Lyndon is a rising ingĂ©nue in the world of perfumes and flavors; a stiletto-wearing, work-a-holic in Atlanta, she develops aromas and tastes to enthrall the senses. Dylan Jackson is a widowed single father whose heart and hands have been calloused in the fields of his North Georgia apple farm. When Grace happens to taste an apple picked from Dylan’s trees, it changes both their lives forever.

Just my opinion:

This is a story about two people who have no interest in relationships. Grace is heavily embedded in her work and after a failed engagement, she wants nothing more than to advance in her career. Dylan is a fairly recent widower and his priority is to raise his young daughter while he maintains his farm. As fate would have it, they meet for business purposes and find themselves attracted to each other. Dylan’s daughter also takes an instant liking to Grace, compounding the situation as they are determined not to become involved on a personal level.

It’s rare that a romantic novel written by a man comes off as realistic from the woman’s side of the story. Jeffrey Stepakoff does a wonderful job of portraying each of the characters in this story, including Grace. She’s somewhat detached from others, which is of her own choosing. However, the author shows the reader a side of her the other characters have to work harder to see.

Dylan, on the other hand, is more open toward others and really is every woman’s dream man. But he still holds such intense feelings for his deceased wife and can only imagine himself with someone just like her. He’s simply not ready to give her up. That often makes it difficult for his daughter as she wants nothing more than to have a mother and in her eyes, Grace fits that bill.

A book that is very pleasant to read and moves along at a relaxing pace, this is a great summer read and one that could potentially be a good choice for book groups.
Some favorite passages from the book:

Everything in a person’s life came down to a few red-letter days.

The old Victorian house sat right in the middle of the mountain orchard. As the night breezes blew up from the valley below, the sea of moonlit trees, weighted with their ripe apples, cast spidery shadows across the wide wraparound front porch.

He missed her so badly on nights like this that he felt the hurt in his gut like it was filled with hot lead. It was a pain he’d come to know quite well, and it could bring forth the deepest cries of human anguish, contractions of great sorrow that could double over the strongest of men.

Human beings are composites of their wants and desires, but only unsatisfied needs truly influence behavior.

This was not a man who would build bridges or construct skyscrapers or have monuments like the one she saw in the Ellijay city square named for him, but he had put his heart and his soul and his sweat into this place, tending to this orchard, and that would be his legacy.

“People tell me I’m obsessive about my work.” “Are you?” “I don’t know. I’m too busy working to think about it.”

Smell is our strongest and really most unappreciated sense. It’s hardwired to everything we experience throughout our lives, and it stays in our brains, like a record locator. A good fragrance is really a powerful cocktail of memories and emotion.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Slow Dancing on Price’s Pier

By Lisa Dale

From the back of the book:

Fifteen years ago, Garret Sorensen’s family, trust, and heart were destroyed when Thea Celik married his brother. Now that her marriage is ending in divorce, Garret finally feels free to mend his relationship with his brother and put the past behind him. But the quaint streets and bustling piers of Newport, Rhode Island, trigger a lot of memories – all leading back to Thea.

Just my opinion:

What a great summer read! Here are three people – Garret, Jonathan and Thea – who grew up, lived together and shared everything together. As teens, Thea fell deeply in love with Garret, but due to circumstances, married Jonathan. Garret hurt her and broke her heart and Jonathan offered to pick up the pieces. However, the marriage threw Garret into a rage and he disowned his brother and refused to attend family events if Jonathan and Thea were in attendance.

Now, Jonathan and Thea are divorcing and Garret sees it as an opportunity to mend fences with Jonathan. It’s also a chance to get to know his niece, their daughter. Garret finds every chance to blame Thea for the divorce – after all, she’s wicked and thoughtless and obviously, she must have done something to cause Jonathan to leave.

On the other hand, as he comes more and more into contact with Thea, he begins to question his rash decisions, both now and when they were young. Does he still harbor feelings for her? Does she for him?

This is a wonderfully written book full of emotion and twists and turns within relationships. The characters are well-developed and you’ll find yourself loving some and hating others.

It’s a great summer read, so toss it into your beach bag, find a quiet spot and open the cover. Warning: Be prepared to spend the day with this book … it’s a page-turner!

Some favorite passages from the book:

When we walk through fire – and we all do at some point – we come out the other side to find ourselves altered. If we’re lucky, we become richer, more complex, more alluring people because of our trials. But sometimes, we just get burned.

No matter how distant we get from our beginnings, we’re never very far away at all.

Where logic and emotions competed, emotion usually won.

If she made a self-discovery, it was not that she’d discovered who she was – but rather, who she wasn’t.

To assure another person It’s okay was also to acknowledge that something was wrong.

When a good friend offers you a gift, you don’t say no.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ghellow Road

By T.H. Waters

From the back of the book:

Ghellow Road is a literary diary of a young girl’s journey through the tangled labyrinth that is her life. Theresa’s story begins in a large Midwestern city where she is born to loving parents in 1965. For a brief moment in time, her life is full, as is her heart, and the world is hers to receive without consequence. As time passes and Theresa grows, supernatural forces begin to shape her existence, no matter how carefully her father colors the empty spaces of her world.

Just my opinion:

To read the description on the back of this book doesn’t even begin to help the reader understand the sadness and desperation that is this girl’s life. Born to a mother who is in and out of mental hospitals due to her severe schizophrenia and a father who desperately wants his children to have somewhat of a normal life, Theresa and her brother learn to take care of themselves at a very early age. When their father finally commits suicide, they go to live with their grandparents and a string of aunts and uncles whenever their mother is hospitalized.

Brutally honest and forthcoming, this is an extremely well-written memoir. Rather than following a journal style, the words become a story that takes the reader right into Theresa’s heart. You will cry for her, feel sorry for her, want to do something for her, cheer her on and come to be so very proud of the way she becomes committed to doing something positive with her life.

I loved this book and I’m so thankful to the author for asking me to review Ghellow Road. If you get the chance, give it a try because I know you will also appreciate the opportunity to read this story.

Some favorite passages from the book:

It is disturbing how the emotion from a single event, frozen in time, can conquer you so completely. It gnaws at your innards like a starved coyote, always wanting more than you have to give.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pump Up Your Book tour: You Never Know by Lilian Duval

From the back of the book:

Tobias Hillyer had a promising future until a car accident claimed the lives of his parents. Abandoning his dreams, he dropped out of college to take care of his orphaned, brain-damaged younger brother. Now in his late thirties, Tobias must struggle to provide for his family, working dead-end jobs that fall short of the academic career he had imagined. Then he wins the lottery.

About the author:

Lilian Duval was born in New York City to French-speaking parents and went to public school with a French accent so thick that she was assigned to the slowest of four first-grade classes. She got rid of her accent, but she says she also gained “a lifetime habit of imitating people’s pronunciation.” Eventually, things did get better for her, especially after winning first prize for an essay she wrote. She received the book A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson and read it over and over, even though she was disappointed not to have received a trophy.

Today, Lilian lives with her husband George in a small house in New Jersey overlooking a large county park. They have two sons and a daughter and several cats. She’s an amateur classical guitarist and enjoys attending concerts and plays in New York City.

But writing has always been her calling. In her own words, “The most enjoyable activity I can imagine is to invent some characters, make them a little larger than life, set them bickering and thrashing against each other and their fates and enact a fictional resolution that makes more sense than the chaos and unpredictability of our complicated lives.”

You Never Know will soon be followed by the book Random Acts of Kindness, which Lilian is currently working on.

Just my opinion:

This book has been garnering great reviews, so I was anxious to see if others were right … and they are! I loved this story and I’m so glad I chose to take part in this blog tour.

The story revolves around a young man who is planning a future that involves studying the world. He is an anthropology major and is preparing for a class trip that will take him to parts unknown. His professor is so proud of his accomplishments so far and is anxious for Tobias to help on this study.

Just before they are about to depart, Tobias decides to spend Christmas break with his family. They decide to spend an evening out and their car is hit by a van that slides on ice through an intersection. His parents are killed and his brother receives a brain injury that leaves him permanently damaged. Tobias was driving and is spared. However, because he is the only one left to pick up the pieces, he is now looking at a future of caring for his brother. The only way he can do that is to drop out of college and take menial jobs that barely pay the bills.

Fortunately, Tobias has a very deep love for his brother and takes right to the task. This book is the story of his struggle to care for his brother, maintain the family home and make a life for himself. It’s very well-written and the author did a great job of researching the path to recovery for someone who endures such a huge impairment as the one Tobias’ brother suffered with.

The synopsis may sound like a heart-breaking story, but really, it’s not. It’s full of hope and love and the meaning of family. It demonstrates the compassion one person can have for another and how even in the worst of times, we can see that light at the end of the tunnel as we work toward the future.

Tobias held thing together, even though times were often extremely difficult. Then, things change when he wins the state lottery and millions of dollars are now his. Suddenly, he is faced with an entirely different set of problems and issues he must deal with.

A great read and another book that would be a good choice for book groups. Lots of issues to discuss and unique characters.

Be sure to check out You Never Know and be ready for one of the best new reads of the summer!

Some favorite passages from the book:

Coincidence: a sequence of scattered events occurring together at random, yet seemingly predestined.

Family stories are seldom comforting. And never simple.

The tides ebb and flow, go in and out, whether you believe or not.

About the blog tour:

For more information about this tour, visit the Pump Up YourBook website. There you will find out what other blogs are taking part and more about You Never Know and LilianDuval.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Spring for Susannah

By Catherine Richmond

From the back of the book:

When her parents die suddenly, and no suitors call, Susannah resigns herself to the only option available: becoming a mail order bride. Agreeing to marry her pastor’s brother, Jesse, Susannah leaves the only home she’s ever known for the untamed frontier of the Dakota Territory. Her new husband is more loving and patient with her than she believes she deserves. Still, there is also a wildness to him that mirrors the wilderness surrounding them. And Susannah finds herself constantly on edge. But Jessie’s confidence in her – and his faith in God’s perfect plan – slowly begin to chip away at the wall she hides behind.

Just my opinion:

What a great story! Here are two people … different than night and day … who come together to start a life in unchartered territory. Jesse has already been homesteading in the Dakota Territory for a while and is ready for a bride to help him. His brother and sister-in-law convince Susannah to take the train into the wilderness to become a frontier wife. She’s been raised to be a “lady” and finds Jesse’s wild side a bit overwhelming at times. She’s bashful and reserved and doesn’t know quite what to make of Jesse’s ruggedness – or the openness of the few other people who live within the proximity of their farm. Many times, she wonders what she is doing there and Jesse, who immediately loves her dearly, offers her the option of returning east. But she’s determined to make it work because that’s what a good wife does.

I was very impressed with this story and the history behind it. I love reading about our country’s immigrants as they chartered unseen areas to expand the U.S. to the west. Some of my favorite tales are of the Oregon Trail and I’ve done some studying on that part of the history of the states. This story takes place more to the east, of course, but it’s nonetheless very well researched and the author does an excellent job of making this a story worth reading, not only for history buffs but for readers of historical romance, as well.

To top it off, the reader also gets to truly know all the characters in the story. Because the area is so sparsely populated, the author is able to delve into the personalities in a very unique way and I felt I understood their quirks, dreams, hopes and fears intimately.

This is a wonderful book and one I know you will enjoy. In fact, I read this book in one day because it was that good. And I got so involved in the story, I forgot to mark my favorite passages! I guess that means you’ll have to read it for yourself to see what a great writer this author is!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough

By Ruth Pennebaker

From the back of the book:

Joanie’s ex-husband is having a baby with his new girlfriend. Joanie won’t be having any more babies, since she’s decided never to have sex again. But Joanie still has her teenage daughter to care for. And, thanks to the recession, her elderly mother, too. Joanie’s back in the workforce – at an Austin ad agency – trying to support them all. … Joanie, Caroline, and Ivy are stuck under the same roof, and it isn’t easy. But sometimes they surprise each other – and themselves. And sometimes it’s possible to undo the mistakes of the past, like deciding never to have sex again …

Just my opinion:

Wow! Another great summer read! I’m really amazed with the books that have hit the shelves this year. Lots of new authors with fresh ideas for stories and this book is no exception.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough is a humorous look at three women who are at different stages in their lives – a mother, her daughter and her mother – who are living together. They each have different takes on life in general and those opinions tend to clash … and often! Funny, poignant and brutally honest. This is a must-read and would make an excellent choice for book groups.

Some favorite passages from the book:
  • The person who controls the silence controls the conversation.
  • Inappropriate! She loved that word. Every time you were brutally honest, you could excuse it by saying you’d been inappropriate.