Bookish Meanderings and a video…

The past two weeks have been quite intense. I’ve gone out-of-state for a great-aunt’s funeral (sad occasion as she died just 4 days shy of her 100th birthday…but she definitely had a long, and hopefully, enjoyable life), had minor surgery, drove 1200 miles over the weekend (traveled to Atlanta for the 10th Annual Honda Battle of the Bands), and stressed, obsessed then waited while my 78 year-old father had surgery earlier today so that he can start dialysis treatments. Needless to say I’ve been just a little preoccupied with family obligations, but I’ve continued to read and reviews will be posting within the next 24 hours. (BTW, if you haven’t added The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern to your TBR list, add it now…this book is wonderful!) 

Until then, I hope that you’ll take a few minutes to enjoy the video for “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.” This is an Oscar-nominated animated short that is definitely worth seeing.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.

Book 12: NEXT OF KIN Review

Next of Kin (Rebel Ridge #1) by Sharon Sala
ISBN: 9780778313120
Publication date: January 24, 2012
Publisher: Mira

Beth Venable has seen too much. Witness to a major mob hit, she’s placed in protective custody until the trial. But after her third safe house is riddled with bullets, she goes off-grid to save herself. What the FBI can’t do, her kinfolk will.

The beautiful but forbidding Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky welcome Beth back, dirt roads and rustic shacks a world apart from L.A. But her homecoming—even her blissful reunion with strong, silent Ryal Walker—is made bittersweet by the fight she’s brought to the clan’s doorstep. Hidden in a remote cabin with the man she’s always wanted, Beth begins to dream of a new life: her old one. But after so long, with such dangers stalking her…impossible.

But love can distill life down to its essence: an elixir of pure hope, nerve—and the will to survive. 

Beth and Ryal were childhood sweethearts (okay they were young adults but it just doesn’t have the same ring to it) ripped apart before they had a chance to build on their young love. Circumstances led them both to believe that the other had turned away and eventually they moved on with their lives. Beth was taken away by her parents to California and Ryal continued to live in Kentucky.

Fast forward a few years and Beth is a witness to a murder…a mob-related murder. Now her life is in danger and she doesn’t know where to turn since it becomes apparent the FBI can’t do the job. Beth does the only thing she can think of and turns to her uncle for assistance and he, in turn, enlists the aid of her family and Ryal is front and center in protecting his lost love.

Next of Kin is a nice romantic suspense read about forgiveness and second chances. Beth and Ryal are forced to address their hurts and fears and gain a chance to rebuild their relationship. Beth is also reunited with her estranged family, especially with her grandmother. Ms. Sala provides a fast-paced read that illustrates the importance of family above all else. Although the end is expected, Next of Kin made for a delightful afternoon read. The characters are realistic and the situations are all-too believable in this digital age. If you enjoy romantic suspense with a hopeful-ever-after ending, then this may be just the book for you.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy
ISBN: 978-0-307-46020-2
Publication date: January 24, 2012
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group

In 1945, Elsie Schmidt was a naïve teenager, as eager for her first sip of champagne as she was for her first kiss. But in the waning days of the Nazi empire, with food scarce and fears of sedition mounting, even the private yearnings of teenage girls were subject to suspicion and suppression. Elsie’s courtship by Josef Hub, a rising star in the Army of the Third Reich, has insulated her and her family from the terror and desperation overtaking her country. So when an escaped Jewish boy arrives on Elsie’s doorstep in the dead of night on Christmas Eve, Elsie understands that opening the door puts all she loves in danger. 

Sixty years later, in El Paso, Texas, Reba Adams is trying to file a feel-good Christmas piece for the local magazine. Reba is a rolling stone, perpetually on the run from memories of a turbulent childhood, but she’s been in El Paso long enough to get a full-time job and a full-time fiancé, Riki Chavez. Riki, an agent with the U.S. Border Patrol, finds comfort in strict rules and regulations, whereas Reba knows that in every good story, lines will be blurred. 

Reba’s latest assignment has brought her to the shop of an elderly baker across town. The interview should take a few hours at most, but the owner of Elsie’s German Bakery is no easy subject. Elsie keeps turning the tables on Reba, and Reba finds herself returning to the bakery again and again, anxious to find the heart of the story. For Elsie, Reba’s questions have been a stinging reminder of darker times: her life in Germany during that last bleak year of WWII. And as Elsie, Reba, and Riki’s lives become more intertwined, all are forced to confront the uncomfortable truths of the past and seek out the courage to forgive. 

It is perhaps human nature to believe that everyone that “supported” the Nazis were bad people. The truth is that many people were simply trapped in an environment where speaking out meant imprisonment, torture or death. Elsie’s family operated a bakery in Germany during the war and they were simply trying to survive along with others in their community. Elsie’s older sister had been taken into a “breeding” program and her sole purpose was to produce kids for the great Aryan nation. Elsie is left at home and as a teenager, she only wants to enjoy her teen years. Unfortunately she grows up fast when faced with unthinkable decisions, such as hide a young Jewish boy or report him in which case he’ll surely die. To say that Elsie’s life hasn’t been easy is somewhat of an understatement, but she perseveres and ultimately winds up married to an American GI. She relocates to the US and eventually has a daughter and builds a business baking all of the foods she fondly recalls from Germany.

Reba is only looking for a story on multi-cultural holiday celebrations when she enters Elsie’s bakery. Reba is happy with her relationship with Riki, a US Border Patrol agent, but she isn’t sure if she wants to marry him. Reba thinks she wants more from life than to stay in Texas and get married. It isn’t until she gets everything she wants that she realizes she prefers simplicity and misses the love of her life, Riki.

The Baker’s Daughter is about much more than survival. It’s about doing what feels right even if rules say it is wrong. Elsie faced this decision when she helped a young Jewish boy, feeding him, clothing him and ultimately helping him to escape. Riki faces a similar situation when dealing with families that are desperate to escape their lives in Mexico at any cost. Ms. McCoy has provided a stirring and heartfelt story with The Baker’s Daughter. This isn’t a fast read primarily because of the subject matter presented (World War II, anti-Semitism, illegal aliens, etc.), but it provides a thought-provoking albeit fictionalized glimpse into life that provided this reader with a slightly different perspective. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 7: MWF SEEKING BFF Review

MWF SEEKING BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend by Rachel Bertsche
ISBN: 978-0-345-52494-2
Publication date: January 10, 2012
Publisher: Ballantine Books

When Rachel Bertsche first moves to Chicago, she’s thrilled to finally share a zip code, let alone an apartment, with her boyfriend. But shortly after getting married, Bertsche realizes that her new life is missing one thing: friends. Sure, she has plenty of BFFs–in New York and San Francisco and Boston and Washington, D.C.–but nobody in her adopted hometown. Taking matters into her own hands, Bertsche develops a plan: She’ll go on fifty-two friend-dates, one per week for a year, in hopes of meeting her new Best Friend Forever. The result is this thought-provoking, uproarious memoir.  

For many people, male or female, it is difficult to acclimate in a new city or state especially when you don’t know anyone other than your spouse, their co-workers and your co-workers. Some people are able to establish friendships with co-workers that exist outside of the workplace, and others simply can’t because there are no common interests. Some people find new friends with common interests at book clubs, exercise classes, cooking classes or even at places of worship. Rachel tries many of these tactics and more in her search for a new BFF. 

Rachel isn’t a needy, clingy woman that relies on her husband as her sole contact outside of work. She has a full life with friends, family and often traveled out-of-state to weddings, etc. keeping in contact. But we all crave someone to hang out with on the weekends, call when we’re having difficulties at home or work, shop with, etc. Rachel’s friend-dates are her attempts to find this person in her new hometown. She “dates” women that she may have overlooked because they were older, different ethnicities, or simply different. She is highly descriptive in describing these dates and her expectations. 

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I began reading MWF Seeking BFF simply because I’m not a memoir reader. However I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book, although it did seem to drag a little in the middle sections. I don’t know if I could have the chutzpah to put myself out there as Rachel did when she moved, but I can understand her goal and rationale. This book provides a glimpse into why friends are necessary in order to be a well-rounded person, in addition to providing a glimpse into Rachel’s quest for a new BFF. (Couples with close friends apparently do better than couples without close friends according to one quoted sociology study.)  If you enjoy memoirs with a humorous bent then MWF Seeking BFF may be just the book for you.

Disclaimer: I received an copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book 295: SHADOWS ON THE SAND Review

Shadows on the Sand: A Seaside Mystery by Gayle Roper
ISBN: 9781601420848
Publication date: July 19, 2011 
Publisher: The Doubleday Religious Publishing Groups

She serves him breakfast at her café every morning … but he never seems to notice her.


Carrie Carter’s small café in Seaside, New Jersey, is populated with a motley crew of locals … although Carrie only has eyes for Greg Barnes. He’s recovering from a vicious crime that three years ago took the lives of his wife and children—and from the year he tried to drink his reality away. While her heart does a happy Snoopy dance at the sight of him, he never seems to notice her, to Carrie’s chagrin. 


When Carrie’s dishwasher is killed and her young waitress disappears, Greg finds himself drawn into helping Carrie solve the mysteries … and into her life. But when Carrie’s own painful past becomes all to present, her carefully constructed world begins to sink.


Will the fragile relationship she’s built with Greg implode from the weight of the baggage they both carry? 

Carrie ran away from home as a teenager. Carrie was a child but took on the responsibility of bringing her younger sister and raising her. Their mother was an alcoholic and her “boyfriends” were just a little too interested in Carrie. Fortunately, Carrie arrived at Seaside and was taken under the wing of some caring and loving people. She was given a job as a waitress in a local café and provided an apartment. Now Carrie owns the café and operates it with the help of her sister. 

Greg used to be a police officer but quit after his family was killed. Now he manages a local Seaside apartment complex and is simply taking life day by day. He has become a regular at Carrie’s café but he isn’t involved in life until one of Carrie’s employees is murdered. Carrie is persuasive and entreats him to help figure out what is going on in their little town, especially after her waitress disappears shortly after the murder. 

If the drama of a murdered employee and a waitress that has vanished isn’t enough to deal with, Carrie also has to deal with facing her mother for the first time in years. Greg is battling his own problems — namely guilt over his family’s deaths, but finds himself wanting to get closer to Carrie as they become more involved in the seemingly mysterious disappearance and murder. 

Shadows on the Sand is a light suspense story with a hint of romance and an overabundance of the inspirational aspect found in Carrie’s thoughts, prayers, and scripture inclusions. The romance isn’t front-and-center in the story but seems to hover in the background. The action is believable for the most part, but I had difficulty swallowing the inclusion of a cult and twisted cult leader. The characters are reasonably well-developed and the dialogue is realistic. Sorry but this story just didn’t do anything for me as there was very little mystery or suspense to be found and the action, although believable, was a bit clichéd.

Disclaimer: I received an copy of this book free for review purposes from the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book 290: CINDER Review

Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer
ISBN: 9780312641894
Publication date: January 3, 2012 
Publisher: Fiewel and Friends (an imprint of MacMillan)

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl…

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.  

Linh Cinder works as a mechanic in the local open market. A chance encounter brings her in contact with the prince. Prince Kaito, the crown prince of the Eastern Commonwealth, wants Cinder to fix his tutor android that is malfunctioning. Cinder needs upgraded cyborg parts but knows that her stepmother Adri will never allow her to use funds for such frivolities. Prince Kai is dealing with his own set of issues. His commonwealth is one of the most respected on earth and his father is dying of the dreaded plague. Kai must deal with an upcoming festival where he’ll be named the ruler and he must also choose a bride. To make matters worse, the lunar “queen” is pushing for him to marry her and offers a cure for the plague contingent upon that marriage.

Kai is attracted to Cinder and wants to get to know her better. Cinder is attracted to Kai but knows the friendship can’t really go anywhere or can it? As a cyborg, Cinder realizes that she is different from other humans essentially simply because of her cyborg parts. But Cinder doesn’t know where she came from or who her parents were and now that is a mystery that she wants to solve. Dealing with a budding yet secretive friendship with the crown prince is hard, but Cinder must also deal with the fact that her youngest stepsister has contracted the plague and taken to a plague center where she’ll eventually die.

Cinder is dealing with her own set of issues as a result of being a cyborg and adopted, especially once she learns that her stepmother has “donated” her as a test subject for research purposes. Cinder knows that no “cyborg” survives the research that is done and she doesn’t want to be imprisoned, tested or die. It is during this period that Cinder learns the extent of her cyborg nature and also begins to realize that she is more different than she initially believed. 

Kai must deal with a possibly hostile takeover by the lunar colony leadership especially since the Queen appears to have the ability to control the thoughts of others. Can Kai overcome the control of the Queen to do what is right for his nation? Will Kai turn his back on a cure even if it means the death of his beloved father? Can Kai and Cinder uncover the true reason behind his android’s sudden breakdown? Will Cinder be allowed to escape the commonwealth and where exactly will she go?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Cinder. As with many YA books, this is one that can truly be enjoyed by readers of all ages. Although this is set in a dystopian future, it is believable. The characters are fully developed and the action and dialogue realistic. There are plenty of twists and turns in the storyline to keep the reader engaged from the beginning to the end, and I personally can’t wait for volume two to see what will happen next. Thankfully, there’s a prequel being published on January 18, 2012, so if you want to learn more about Cinder and her background check out this preview of the prequel Glitches:

Disclaimer: I received an advance reader’s edition of this book free for review purposes from the publisher through ShelfAwareness. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


A Promise of Safekeeping by Lisa Dale
ISBN: 9780425245149
Publication date: January 3, 2012
Publisher: Berkeley

Nine years ago, Lauren Matthews prosecuted the case of a lifetime. But her error in judgment sent an innocent man to prison for a long time. Now Arlen Fieldstone has finally been released, and Lauren has only one thing on her mind: asking forgiveness. How can she make up for nine years of his life?

To get to Arlen, Lauren must first get through Arlen’s best friend, Will Farris. Will hasn’t forgotten Lauren from those days, and he hasn’t forgiven her for destroying his best friend’s life. He is Arlen’s keeper, protecting him from suspicious neighbors as well as from Lauren.

In the steaming summer streets of Richmond, Virginia, three people’s lives collide. Lauren needs forgiveness. Arlen needs hope. And Will? He needs something too, something that no one can know-especially not Lauren…

Lauren Matthews is a successful attorney. Her career is definitely on the right track as she’s being considered for partner at her firm. Everything else is slightly off-kilter including her physical health. Arlen Fieldstone was and is an innocent man. Wrongfully convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, he spent nine long years in prison…nearly one-third of his life. He has been exonerated and released but all that he’s known is gone. Will Farris is an antiques dealer and good friend to Arlen, but he knows that there is something missing from his life. Lauren, Arlen and Will are the key characters in A Promise of Safekeeping by Lisa Dale.

The Arlen Fieldstone conviction made Lauren Matthews career. She was sure that he had committed the crime and has felt no guilt or worry about the case until he was vindicated, proved innocent and released. The pressing weight of the role she played in his conviction sends Lauren to Virginia to apologize. She knows that an apology won’t really help but she knows she doesn’t really have a choice in this matter. The big question confronting her at this point is if the apology is for her sake or truly for Arlen?

Upon her arrival in Virginia she encounters Will Farris. Will has given Arlen a place to stay and is the only childhood friend of Arlen’s that is still in the picture and it helps that Will has always believed in Arlen’s innocence. Lauren and Will begin to build a friendship that quickly turns to a budding romance, but they both have secrets they’re keeping from one another. Can they trust one another with their deepest and darkest fears and create a lasting relationship?

Arlen has spent nine years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. During that time, his mother died, he lost his childhood home, his wife divorced him and he’s also lost his marital home. The only thing he has left is his friendship with Will. Arlen no longer feels comfortable with all of his new found freedom and is having an extremely difficult time adjusting to being out of prison. Will tries to help him by giving him a place to live and offering him money for hours he spends working in Will’s shop but he needs more. Arlen needs to find the quiet confidence he had as a young man and try to rebuild his life, but more than anything he wants his life and wife back.

A Promise of Safekeeping is classified as a story of redemption and that it is, but it’s also a story of second chances. While Arlen, Lauren and Will face their second chances in life, they must also decide what exactly they want from themselves and others. Their characters were well-developed so that it was easy to understand their fears and hopes. The story doesn’t go too in-depth into many of the issues touched upon but they are discussed in an clear and open manner: such as Lauren’s brother’s mental illness or Will and his problems (I cannot disclose what his problem without spoiling the storyline but it is integral to the story line and quite timely). I enjoyed reading the story and even though it deals with some weight issues, I felt it did so in a manner that was respectful and responsible without being dark and gloomy. 

Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

New Year and Bookish Update

I owe all of my followers an explanation on what has been happening over the past few weeks. I have been reading and dealing with several personal health issues (ongoing problems with migraine headaches as well as a bout of pneumonia and bronchitis) and family health emergencies (both of my ex-sister-in-laws have been hospitalized recently; one has had several emergency surgical procedures since 12/22/2011 and is still in the hospital and the other is suffering with acute psychological issues [she’s bipolar with schizo-effective disorder] and is also hospitalized for stabilization purposes). As a result of these hospitalizations I’ve had to step in and help out with my younger nieces. Needless to say these hospitalizations made for a tense and chaotic holiday celebration. Fortunately, everyone seems to be on the road to recovery (well I still have migraine headaches on a daily basis but the pneumonia is gone and the bronchitis is under control).

The good news is that I’ve had plenty of time to spend reading while in bed recuperating from the pneumonia and bronchitis. I’ve read (and hope to have reviews* posted soon) all of the following:

  • *A Promise of Safekeeping by Lisa Dale
  • *Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  • The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis
  • *The Taste of Salt by Martha Southgate
  • *Shadows on the Sand by Gayle G. Roper
  • The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
  • The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard
  • The Nightmare Thief by Meg Gardiner
  • *The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
  • The Man Who Loved Jane Austen by Sally Smith O’Rourke
  • Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattilo
  • A Weekend with Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly
  • A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg
  • Slices of Night by J.T. Ellison, Alex Kava and Erica Spindler
  • A World Without Islam by Graham E. Fuller
  • Water Bound by Christine Feehan
  • Spirit Bound by Christine Feehan

I also hope to read and post reviews soon for the following:

  • *MWF seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche
  • *The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy
  • *Next of Kin by Sharon Sala
  • *Edge of Midnight by Leslie Tentler

So please bear with me and be patient just a little while longer. In addition to reviews for the starred titles shown above, I hope to have new reviews posting soon. 

Happy reading and a belated Happy New Year!