Monday, August 07, 2017

The Summer That Made Us: My Review

The Summer that Made Us

About the Book:

Mothers and daughters, sisters and cousins, they lived for summers at the lake house until a tragic accident changed everything. The Summer That Made Us is an unforgettable story about a family learning to accept the past, to forgive and to love each other again. 

That was then… 

For the Hempsteads, two sisters who married two brothers and had three daughters each, summers were idyllic. The women would escape the city the moment school was out to gather at the family house on Lake Waseka. The lake was a magical place, a haven where they were happy and carefree. All of their problems drifted away as the days passed in sun-dappled contentment. Until the summer that changed everything. 

This is now… 

After an accidental drowning turned the lake house into a site of tragedy and grief, it was closed up. For good. Torn apart, none of the Hempstead women speak of what happened that summer, and relationships between them are uneasy at best to hurtful at worst. But in the face of new challenges, one woman is determined to draw her family together again, and the only way that can happen is to return to the lake and face the truth. 

Robyn Carr has crafted a beautifully woven story about the complexities of family dynamics and the value of strong female relationships.

My Comments:

In a lot of ways, this is the proto-typical "beach read".  There is a beach house which has been in the family for generations; the family that used to gather there yearly; the summer romances;  the guy across the lake; and the tragedy that tore everyone apart.  Nevertheless, Robyn Carr does a good job with this trope.  Her characters include the likable, the pitiable and the one you just want to shake. The story has just enough twists to keep it interesting.  

As the summer draws to a close, all have had their lives changed, and improved by facing the demons of their past and realizing that things really weren't just thier fault.  

I'd like to thank Little Bird Publicity for inviting me to participate in this blog tour and providing a complimentary review copy.  Grade:  B.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Until You Loved Me: My Review

Until You Loved Me: A Novel (Silver Springs) by [Novak, Brenda]

About the Book:

After catching her fiancee cheating—with another man—usually straitlaced, workaholic scientist Ellie Fisher liberates her wild side just long enough to indulge in a passionate one-night stand with a tall, dark stranger she meets at a trendy Miami bar. Embarrassed by her recklessness, she ducks out the following morning without learning the guy's full name, something that shouldn't have been a problem…until a pregnancy test turns positive. 

Being a professional football player, Hudson King has always been cautious around women. But this one had been different—so disinterested in his celebrity, so convincingly into him. When Ellie tracks him down, claiming she's carrying his baby, he's stunned. And more than a little betrayed. 

But after growing up as an orphan, he'll do anything to stay involved in his child's life, so he urges Ellie to move to Silver Springs, where they can co-parent. Hudson has a lot of love to give, certainly enough for his child, and when their initial spark reignites, perhaps for Ellie, too…

My Comments:

I loved Ellie.  She wants what so many people want--to be loved and to have a family.  She was smart but a little socially lacking.  When her fiancee paid attention to her, she was thrilled, and thought the lack of bedroom action was based on morality rather than on sexual attraction.  They had talked about having children and she was looking forward to being a bride and a mom until she caught him in bed with a male friend.  Amazingly, he still wanted to go forward with the wedding and with having a child, which his boyfriend and he would help raise.

Not long thereafter, she becomes pregnant via a one-night stand.  She feels like she should tell the father--the only problem is that she has no clue who he is, until she sees him on television and realizes he is a famous athlete.  Once Hudson knows she is carrying his baby, he wants her where he can take care of her and the baby, so he moves her into his house, and of course it isn't long before she is in his bed.

Both Ellie and Hudson are afraid to get hurt; both have walls up, though Ellie's come down more easily.  It was fun watching them get to know each other in a non-Biblical sense and sure enough, they decided they liked each other.

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  B. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Review: The Innkeeper's Sister

About the Book:

Grayson Blake always has a purpose—and never a moment to lose. He's come home to Honey Ridge to convert a historic gristmill into a restaurant, but his plans crumble like Tennessee clay when the excavation of a skeleton unearths a Civil War mystery…and leads him back to a beautiful and familiar stranger. 

Once a ballet dancer, now co-owner of the Peach Orchard Inn, Valery Carter harbors pain as deep as the secrets buried beneath the mill. A bright facade can't erase her regrets any more than a glass of bourbon can restore what she's lost. But spending time with Grayson offers Valery a chance to let go of her past and imagine a happier future. And with the discovery of hidden messages in aged sheet music, both their hearts begin to open. Bound by attraction, and compelled to resolve an old crime that links the inn and the mill, Grayson and Valery encounter a song of hurt, truth…and hope.

My Comments:

One thing I like about romance novels is that they have happy endings.  Nevertheless, I like the endings to be realistic and sometimes, particularly with books that try to be more than just romance novels, I think the authors sometimes twist themselves (or the story) into knots to get the happy endings.  Things just don't add up, too many abnormal things happen and then voila, happy ending!

The Innkeeper's Sister is part of a series that introduced us to two missing boys--one from the Civil War era and one from the modern era. This story tells us what happened to one of them, and the author's note says that she didn't tell us about the other because it just didn't seem realistic.  I think that took courage on her part as it would be very easy, and very unrealistic, to write the story with both boys being found. 

In the other Honey Ridge books Valery is the drunken sister; the one who doesn't shoulder her share of the weight because she is always hung over.  In this book we learn about her demons and how she has not let them keep her from helping a sister she felt needed her.  We also watch her confront those demons and move past them into a promising future (its a romance novel after all).  

Like the other Honey Ridge books there is one story set in the modern day (Valery and Grayon's story of course) and one set in the Civil War era.  

I enjoyed the book and the series and based on the author's note, I suspect this will be the last Honey Ridge book, unfortunately.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  A.  

Monday, July 17, 2017

Finding Our Forever: My Review

Finding Our Forever (Silver Springs) by [Novak, Brenda]

About the Book:

New York Times bestselling author Brenda Novak welcomes readers to the town of Silver Springs, where surprises wait around every corner! 

The search for her birth mother brought Cora Kelly to the New Horizons Boys Ranch. Getting a job there was easy enough, but confiding in Aiyana, the ranch's owner, that she's really her daughter? Cora's not sure she can do that, not unless she's confident the news will be welcomed. And once she gets to know Elijah Turner—Aiyana's adopted son and ranch manager—that decision becomes even more difficult. 

Although Elijah can't deny his deep attraction to Cora, he's always struggled with trust. Anyone with his past would, and there's something about the ranch's newest employee that isn't exactly as it seems. But if the feelings she awakes in his guarded heart are any indication, she might be just what he's long been waiting for.

My Comments:

Somehow I missed this one when it came out, though I've read other books in the series.  Luckily I've recently become a fan of my library's Overdrive account where I can check out Kindle ebooks and audiobooks.  

The main story in this book is the romance between Cora, a young woman who was given up for adoption as an infant, and Elijah, a man abused as a small child and later adopted by the woman who turns out to be Cora's birth mother.  Cora feels like a part of herself is missing and wonders if that is why she cannot seem to give herself completely to someone else.  Eli is so afraid of being hurt that he knows he closes himself off to others.

Besides the story of Cora and Elijah, this is the story of Cora and Aiyana.  When the story begins, Cora knows Aiyana is her birth mom--the detective had recently given her that information.  Cora decides to get to know her birth mom without letting her birth mom know who she is--that way, if having her reveal herself would cause problems, she could just leave without doing so.  She'd have her questions answered and wouldn't disrupt Aiyana's life.  I really liked that attitude--all too often books about adoptees who find their adoptive parents show people who burst into other people's lives with the attitude of "its my right and its what I want to do" without considering that their might be a reason their birth mother chose a closed adoption, or chose not to search for them after doing so became legally easier.  

The book has several steamy scenes, but if they aren't your thing, they are easy to skim and don't really add anything to the story.  

I enjoyed this book and I'm glad my library had a copy.  Grade:  B.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Blog Tour: Primrose Lane

About the Book:

Olivia Davenport has finally gotten her life back together. She's left her painful past behind, started over in a new town, and become Harmony Harbor's most sought-after event planner. But her past catches up to her when Olivia learns that she's now guardian of her ex's young daughter. With her world spinning, Olivia must reconcile her old life with her new one. And she doesn't have time for her new next door neighbor, no matter how handsome he is.

Olivia may act like she's got everything under control, but Dr. Finn Gallagher knows a person in over her head when he sees one. He'd really like to be the shoulder she leans on, but Olivia makes it clear she doesn't want his help. Since he's returned to town, his waiting room has been full of single women feigning illness. Yet the one woman he's interested in is avoiding him. But with a little help from some matchmaking widows and a precocious little girl, Finn might just win Olivia over.

My Comments:

Debbie Mason has another winner here.  I love visiting Harmony Harbor and all the folks at the Inn.  The supernatural grandmother is back and still trying to right the wrongs of her earlier days.  Finn is a real sweetheart and of course he and Olivia get their HEA.  This book makes a great pool or beach read--light, predictable and heartwarming.  

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy and allowing me to participate in this blog tour.  Grade:  B. 

Meet the Author:

Debbie Mason is the USA Today bestselling author of the Christmas, Colorado series and Harmony Harbor series. Her books have been praised for their "likable characters, clever dialogue, and juicy plots" (RT Book Reviews). She also writes historical paranormals as Debbie Mazzuca. Her MacLeod series has received several nominations for best paranormal as well as a Holt Medallion Award of Merit. When she isn't writing or reading, Debbie enjoys spending time with her very own real-life hero, three wonderful children and son-in-law, two adorable grandbabies, and a yappy Yorkie named Bella.

Visit for Debbie’s Scottish Romances.

Author Q &A:

Q: Is Harmony Harbor based on any real towns?

A:  Parts of Gloucester, Massachusetts provided inspiration for Harmony Harbor.

Q:  Children seem to play a prominent role in this series. Is that incidental or something you set out to do?

A:   My books are family-centric, and while I adore children and think including them in a story can add both conflict and comedic moments, I don’t intentionally set out to do so.

Q:  What do you like best about being a writer?

A:  I pretty much love everything about being a writer, and I feel very lucky to be able to do it for a living.

Q: What is the hardest part about being a writer?

A:  Like the majority of writers, I’m an introvert. So I find it difficult to put myself out there.

Q:  Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

A:  Read, read, read, and read some more. And then write what you love to read.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review: Serenity Harbor

About the Book:

Computer-tech millionaire Bowie Callahan is about the last person that schoolteacher Katrina Bailey wants to work for. As far as she can see, he's arrogant, entitled and not up to the task of caring for his young half brother, Milo. But Kat is, especially if it brings her closer to her goal of adopting an orphaned little girl. And as her kindness and patience work wonders with Milo, she realizes there's more to sexy, wary Bo than she'd ever realized. 


Bo never imagined he'd be tasked with caring for a sibling he didn't know existed. Then again, he never pictured himself impulsively kissing vibrant, compassionate Katrina in the moonlight. Now he's ready to make her dream of family come true…and hoping there's room in it for him, too…

My Comments:

I enjoyed another visit to the charming town of Haven Point.  Like other stories in the series, it stood well on its own; however characters from other stories make quick appearances and those not familiar with the series may wonder why they walk across the stage.

Bowie didn't know he had a younger brother until his mother died.  Suddenly this workaholic from a dysfunctional family was tasked with raising a disabled child.  He'd been through several nannies and had another one hired--but she couldn't start for a few weeks, and he needed someone asap.

Katrina has always wanted to be a mom and is looking for money to pay adoption expenses so she can adopt a South American orphan.  She meets Bowie and Milo when Milo is having a meltdown in a store.  Bowie offers her a job as a temporary nanny at far more money than a job like that usually pays, and since she needs the money, she takes the job.  Of course neither Bowie nor Katrina expects things to go further than employer/employee....

Like Thayne's other books, this one doesn't go beyond passionate kissing. 

As the mother of an autistic son I enjoyed watching Katrina work with Milo, though Thayne made it a bit too easy in my opinion.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  This was a quick enjoyable read so I'll give it a B.  

Monday, June 19, 2017

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?


I've spent a lot of the week reading, but the reviews won't be published for some time. I enjoyed most of them and they are on NetGalley, so if you want them...

Two girls in the same class come down the measles.  The one who gets sick first has not been vaccintated because her parents don't believe the vaccines are safe.  She recovers without incident.  The second appears to have gotten it from the first.  She wasn't vaccinated because she was allergic to the vaccine.  She gets much sicker and has long-lasting sequelae.  

I was interested in this book because one reason some parents don't vaccinate (and it is the reason in this book) is fear of autism, and I have an autistic son.  I also have a daughter who I had to decide to vaccinate, or not, after I knew about his autism and after I knew about the vaccine theory.  

The prototypical "beach read" except that the setting is a lake house rather than a beach house.  Get the family together at the family vacation home, secrets are exposed and healing happens.  

Falling in love with a one-night stand, but taking almost a year to do so.  

Next Up:

I've read other Nicole Baart books, most of which were published by Christian imprints.  This is published by Atria, a general market publisher, and is published as "women's fiction".  I'm looking forward to it and I think Baart writes beautiful prose. 

See what other people are reading this week at It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Preview and Giveaway: Primrose Lane by Debbie Mason

About the Book:

Olivia Davenport has finally gotten her life back together. She's left her painful past behind, started over in a new town, and become Harmony Harbor's most sought-after event planner. But her past catches up to her when Olivia learns that she's now guardian of her ex's young daughter. With her world spinning, Olivia must reconcile her old life with her new one. And she doesn't have time for her new next door neighbor, no matter how handsome he is.

Olivia may act like she's got everything under control, but Dr. Finn Gallagher knows a person in over her head when he sees one. He'd really like to be the shoulder she leans on, but Olivia makes it clear she doesn't want his help. Since he's returned to town, his waiting room has been full of single women feigning illness. Yet the one woman he's interested in is avoiding him. But with a little help from some matchmaking widows and a precocious little girl, Finn might just win Olivia over.






Debbie Mason is the USA Today bestselling author of the Christmas, Colorado series. Her books have been praised for their "likable characters, clever dialogue, and juicy plots" (RT Book Reviews).  When she isn't writing or reading, Debbie enjoys spending time with her very own real-life hero, their four wonderful children, two adorable grandbabies, and a yappy Yorkie named Bella.


An Excerpt:

Dr. Finn Gallagher found himself at the clinic on Primrose Lane, wondering what the hell he’d gotten himself into. In the seven and half hours he’d been there, he’d seen forty-five patients. Only five of whom actually had something physically wrong with them. All five were female and under the age of sixteen. As far as he could tell, not one of them was interested in marrying him.

The other forty had nothing wrong with them. And, as far as he could tell, were very interested in marrying him. If they weren’t, their grandmothers and mothers were. Interested in him marrying their daughters and granddaughters, that is.

At the beginning of the day, it was kind of amusing, even a little flattering. But by 10:45 it had gotten old and annoying. It didn’t help that he kept thinking of the patients he saw while working with Doctors Without Borders. Those people needed him, desperately. They weren’t fake coughing or complaining about phantom chest pains. They were sick and hungry, wounded and scared. They weren’t spoiled and whiny and ungrateful.

He winced at his unflattering characterizations and intolerance. While there was some truth to his observations, the throbbing ache in his leg injury was making him grumpy. Knowing his father had been right and Finn wasn’t ready to go back to the Congo wasn’t doing much to improve his mood.

Sherry, Doc Bishop’s nurse and a woman Finn had dated in high school, opened the door to the closet-sized office. “Pain hasn’t let up, has it?” she asked with a compassionate smile.

“I’m good. Just had to return a couple of phone calls.” He set down the cold cup of coffee he hadn’t had a chance to drink, removed the ice pack from his knee, and surreptitiously hid it behind the welcome-to-the-clinic plant from the staff, which Finn now mentally referred to as the matchmaking clinic from hell. He pushed to his feet with a closed-mouth smile that hopefully hid his clenched his teeth from Sherry’s observant gaze.

“Really? I rescheduled Molly, Sally, and Karen’s physicals to tomorrow, but if you’re okay to see—”

“No, tomorrow’s good. On second thought, why don’t you schedule them with Doc Bishop? They’ve been going to him for twenty years. I’m sure they’d be more comfortable—”

“They would be or you would?” she said with a laugh, and then proceeded to share way too much information about all three women before adding, “Dr. Bishop won’t be in tomorrow. Mrs. Fitzgerald invited him to make up a foursome, remember?”

Finn rubbed his jaw. “I’m not sure that’s something you should share—”

She made a ha-snort sound and then cuffed him on the shoulder. “Not that kind of foursome, silly. They’re playing golf.” She ha-snorted again. “It’s no wonder that’s where your mind went after the offers you’ve had today. Kerry will get a good laugh over that one.”

If Sherry had her master’s in gossip, Kerry, the receptionist, had her PhD. Finn figured he’d provided them with enough to talk about for a month at least. He lifted his chin in the direction of the examination rooms. There were five. “Who’s next?”

“I cleared out the waiting room of all but legit complaints, so you only have four. Patient number one won’t take long. She just needs her script renewed.” She handed him a file.

He looked at the name and handed it back. “Might be better if Doc Bishop sees Ms. Templeton.”

“He left early. Mrs. DiRossi invited him for dinner, and I think he wanted to get spiffed up.”

Sherry frowned and looked from Finn to examination room number one. “Is there a reason you don’t want to see Dana?”

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

An Open Letter to My Insurance Company and Doctor

I'm basically a free-market Republican.  My basic philosophy is that the less the government is involved in business the better.  I also believe that it is for more efficient to save insurance for the big bills and not to use it for every routine expense.  That being said, right now, I'm angry.  I feel like I've been scre*** and it is your fault--yes, both of you, and I'll blame the government too.

What happened?  Well, on March 1 I started suffering from what I thought was a rather routine illness.  I called my doctor's office and they sent me to a partner clinic across town.  No problem, I understand that I can't get instant appointments with whomever I wish whenever I wish.

My appointment was with a nurse-practitioner.  Again, no problem.  As far as I knew, this was a routine problem and I just needed someone who could write a prescription.  When I got there, they checked my insurance and collected my co-payment, as expected.  The nurse-practitioner did as expected, ordered the lab tests I expected and wrote me the prescriptions that I expected.  No problem.

Unfortunately, the test results did not come back as expected, which led to questions about what was causing my symptoms (which had resolved promptly when I took the medication).  Sensibly, the NP referred me to a specialist, as the symptoms could have been indicative of something serious.

I saw the specialist who ordered more tests, tests that I thought were very reasonable considering the possible causes of my symptoms.

I returned a few weeks later for the tests.  They were negative.  Most likely, the doctor said, the symptoms were caused by some germ that didn't show up on the first test, and that nothing was wrong.  However to be sure, we should do some more tests.  She'd get her office to get insurance company approval.

A week or so later her office called to schedule the appointment for the tests, and I agreed.  The day before the tests the patient accounts office called and told me the cost for the tests would be over $800.  When I asked for an explanation I was told that this test came under my deductible, not my co-pay.  Our local paper had just published a piece on medical prices, so I asked for the codes for the test I needed and I checked online.  The Medicare price for this procedure was $425.  I called several facilities around town and asked for the cash price for this procedure and most of them wanted about $800; one only wanted $750.  I told my doctor's office to send the orders over there, but when I called to schedule the procedure, they wanted over $800 because the orders listed my insurance.

Then the bills started coming.  It seems that my insurance had changed--and I knew that, sort of.  I knew the deductible and co-pays had increased (along with the premiums) but until this year, my co-pay covered everything that happened at the doctor's office that day, in other words, it covered the shots and the labwork.  Well, not anymore.  You'd think a change like that would have been pointed out to us.

I read medical bills for a living but I still couldn't make enough sense out of the bills I got to determine what they were charging me for and why.  All I know is that I paid the doctor's office over $200 last month and today I got a bill for another $300.  I got an EOB that said something was non-covered and I may owe the provider.

I don't live paycheck to paycheck.  Our income allows us to handle bills like this.  Even if I end up paying all of this out of pocket, we will still have dinner tomorrow, and no one is going to turn our lights off.  Still, I have a very nasty taste in my mouth.  It is nasty tastes like this that make people think that "someone" ought to "fix" the problem.  If you (doctor and insurance company) want to know why so many people are agitating for change in the way we pay for medical treatment, an experience like this is a big reason why.

First of all, I had no clue these bills were coming (except for the $800 bill).  Secondly, when I got the bill, it just gave a date of service and an amount.  There was no clue what it was for.  The EOB had more information, but even it wasn't complete.  The EOB showed a huge charge, a "discount", the amount the insurance company paid and the amount owed.  It did not explain why I owed that much, to get that information I had to call.  Medical math has to be the most complicated PhD level math course there is, and since I'm not a math person, I don't get it.

Finally, the bills do seem outrageous compared to the amount of time I was there, the complexity of the problem etc.  Maybe I'm wrong about that, maybe they really do need for me to pay that much in order for them to maintain the business and pay the employees decently--but back to that $800 charge for a test that would have cost Medicare $425--why should I pay more than Medicare?  The nice lady at the doctor's office said they could send me a financial aid packet if I needed one, and if I have to pay a little more so the poor can get treatment, I'm ok with that, but I don't see why I should pay more than the biggest payer.

With everything else I buy I am told the price before I incur the charges.  Even the mechanic gives me an estimate before he fixes the car.  Just trying to get prices over the phone requires more sophistication about medical billing that what most people have.  A friend of mine just posted on facebook that she went to an in-network ER for what was truly an emergency and was sent into surgery.  However, it seems that the assistant surgeon (who she never saw) was out-of-network and the insurance company wouldn't pay, so she was supposed to.

Folks, business as you are now running it is only going to make people madder as the current trend promoted by both Obamacare and Turmp is for more individual responsibility for medical bills (up to a point) in the form of deductibles and co-pays and taxes on plans that pay "too much".  All this in-network, out-of-network foolishness with those huge "discounts" was fine when we knew that at the end of the day we could easily find doctors who were "on the list" and that we were going to pay $50 for the doctor's visit.  However, if you are going to make me pay huge insurance premiums and then get stuck with big medical bills too, I'm going to feel taken advantage of and people who feel taken advantage of aren't going to be happy with the status quo--and I'll give you a heads up, I'm not looking for more ways to put money in your pocket.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Book Review: The Swallow's Nest

About the Book:

When Lilia Swallow's husband, Graham, goes into remission after a challenging year of treatment for lymphoma, the home and lifestyle blogger throws a party. Their best friends and colleagues attend to celebrate his recovery, but just as the party is in full swing, a new guest arrives. She presents Lilia with a beautiful baby boy, and vanishes. 

Toby is Graham's darkest secret—his son, conceived in a moment of despair. Lilia is utterly unprepared for the betrayal the baby represents, and perhaps more so for the love she begins to feel once her shock subsides. Now this unasked-for precious gift becomes a life changer for three women: Lilia, who takes him into her home and heart; Marina, who bore and abandoned him until circumstance and grief changed her mind; and Ellen, who sees in him a chance to correct the mistakes she made with her own son, Toby's father. 

A custody battle begins, and each would-be mother must examine her heart, confront her choices and weigh her dreams against the fate of one vulnerable little boy. Each woman will redefine family, belonging and love—and the results will alter the course of not only their lives, but also the lives of everyone they care for.

My Comments:

Emilie Richards is one of my favorite authors and The Swallow's Nest is yet another example of why I like her books.  

Most of Emilie Richard's characters are very human, with good and bad sides.  Lilia loves her husband but is understandably upset when she learns he has cheated on her, especially considering that she has basically put her life on hold for the last year to care for him as he underwent cancer treatment.  I do like her attitude that what happened wasn't the baby's fault and that the baby shouldn't be the one who pays for it.

I wanted to dislike Marina, Toby's birth mother--I mean what kind of woman sleeps with a married man and then abandons her baby?  On the other hand, she could have had an abortion, and she didn't. She could have surrendered Toby for adoption, or hurt him, and she didn't do those things either. Marina has had a tough life and by the end of the book I really felt sorry for her.

At first I felt sorry for Ellen, then I disliked her and, at the end, was cheering for her, just a little.  

As a blogger I enjoyed reading Lilia's take on events in the story via her blog. 

This book explores the love of a mother for her child and the different forms it can take.  It looks at what happens when children don't feel loved and the different ways love can be expressed.  I loved this book and highly recommend it.  Grade: A.

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Book Review: A Bridge Across the Ocean

A Bride Across the Ocean

About the Book:

February, 1946. World War Two is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Deveraux, the wronged daughter of a French Résistance spy.
Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMS Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly-held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. When the voyage ends at New York Harbor, only one of them will disembark...
Present day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides—and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings.

My Comments:

Susan Meissner's niche is stories about women in two different time periods, one historical and the other modern.  This book follow suit.  The connection between the women in this book is the ship, The Queen Mary.  

When reading fiction of any type, a certain suspension of disbelief is necessary.  No matter what the story, we know when we start reading it that the story is imaginary, even if the setting and/or characters are not.  The trick as an author is to create your world and characters and then to make their actions realistic within that world.  

I found the World War II era story to be believeable for the most part, but the modern story didn't ring true at all.  Brette can see ghosts--people who are caught between this world and the next.  It is a "gift" shared by some of the women in her family and something that got her labeled as the weird kid in high school.  A man she went to high school with (and liked until he chose the cool crowd over her) contacts her out of the blue because his daughter saw a ghost on the Queen Mary.  He asks her to visit the Queen Mary, find out there is no ghost there, and then tell his daugther that there is no ghost. This begins Brette's search for the ghost and for the stories of Annalise and Simone.
Brette's  whole plot line just gets stranger and stranger.  Even if you accept that ghosts exist and that Brette can see them, Brette's interactions with other people in the modern day just don't ring true--I mean why should the little girl believe this stranger when she won't believe her dad?  

While I loved the stories of Annaliese and Simone, Brette's story was a definite weak point in the book.

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  B

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Starting Over on Blackberry Lane: My Quick Review

About the Book:

Stefanie Stahl has a husband with renovation ADD. He can't seem to finish anything he starts and her house is littered with his "projects." If he doesn't smarten up, she swears she's going to murder him and bury him under the pile of scrounged lumber in the backyard.  

Her friend Griffin James is suddenly single and thinking maybe she needs to sell her fixer-upper and follow her career bliss up the ladder of success, even if that scary ladder is clear across the country. Getting her place ready to sell proves harder than she originally thought. She needs help.  

She's not the only one. Cass Wilkes, their neighbor, has an empty nest—with a leaking roof. When her ceiling crashes in, she knows it's time to do something. When Grant Masters offers his handyman services at a fund-raiser auction, the three women go in together to outbid the competition and win their man. (Cass's friends think she should win Grant in a different way, too!) Now it's time to make some improvements…in their houses and their lives.

My Comments:

If the blurb above sounds a little like a soap opera, that's because this book is a little like a soap opera with characters from other books making appearances so we can keep up with them (if we can remember them) and with the main characters going though all sorts contortions before true love can happen.  

If what you want is a light afternoon read with no deeper meaning, this fits the bill. 

Thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy via NetGalley. Grade:  B-

Monday, May 15, 2017

Review: Before the Rain Falls

About the Book:

After serving seventy years in prison for the murder of her sister, Eula, Della Lee has finally returned home to the Texas town of Puerto Pesar. She’s free from confinement—and ready to tell her secrets before it’s too late.

She finds a willing audience in journalist Mick Anders, who is reeling after his suspension from a Boston newspaper and in town, reluctantly, to investigate a mysterious portrait of Eula that reportedly sheds tears. He crosses paths with Dr. Paloma Vega, who’s visiting Puerto Pesar with her own mission: to take care of her ailing grandmother and to rescue her rebellious younger sister before something terrible happens. Paloma and Mick have their reasons to be in the hot, parched border town whose name translates as “Port of Regret.” But they don’t anticipate how their lives will be changed forever.

Moving and engrossing, this dual story alternates between Della’s dark ordeals of the 1940s and Paloma and Mick’s present-day search for answers―about roots, family, love, and what is truly important in life.

My Comments:

I loved it, until the very end.  I still enjoyed it, but somehow the motivation for the event that set others into motion just didn't ring true. I'd discuss it further but that would be a spoiler. 

Camille Di Maio is a Catholic writer but while there are references to Catholicism in the book, and an element of Catholicism was a prime mover in this book, I don't really see this book as religious or Christian fiction.  There are no conversion scenes and religious faith does not seem to be a motivating factor for any character's behavior in the story.

The story follows two different timelines, and the chapters are labelled as to the dates of the action.  The parallels between the modern day story of sisters Paloma and Mercedes and of the 1940's sisters, Della and Eula are revealed bit by bit through the story and leave the reader realizing that while eras change, people really haven't.  

I like Di Maio's writing and use of language. Her prose is vivid and emotional.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley. Grade:  B+

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Review: Any Day Now

About the Book:

For Sierra Jones, Sullivan's Crossing is meant to be a brief stopover. She's put her troubled past behind her but the path forward isn't yet clear. A visit with her big brother Cal and his new bride, Maggie, seems to be the best option to help her get back on her feet. 

Not wanting to burden or depend on anyone, Sierra is surprised to find the Crossing offers so much more than a place to rest her head. Cal and Maggie welcome her into their busy lives and she quickly finds herself bonding with Sully, the quirky campground owner who is the father figure she's always wanted. But when her past catches up with her, it's a special man and an adorable puppy who give her the strength to face the truth and fight for a brighter future. In Sullivan's Crossing Sierra learns to cherish the family you are given and the family you choose.

My Comments:

Robyn Carr has another winner here.  I loved Sierra and cheered for her as she got her life together.  Connie, her male love interest was a real sweetheart with just the right amount of masculinity--and who wouldn't love a cute puppy?  

I liked watching Sierra reclaim her life after an abusive relationship but found the resolution of that plot line to be somewhat unrealistic.  

Most of the time romance novels are about young adults just getting started in life, which I guess is because hopefully by the time people are middle-aged, they've met someone and settled into life together.  Still, as someone who is on the far side of 40, I like seeing "older" couples and this book features one. 

For those who like small town romances where everyone knows everyone, Any Day Now by Robyn Carr fits the bill if you don't mind a little steam.

 I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley. Grade:  B+

Friday, March 31, 2017

Review: A Fragile Hope

About the Book:

Josiah Chamberlain's life's work revolves around repairing other people's marriages. When his own is threatened by his wife's unexplained distance, and then threatened further when she's unexpectedly plunged into an unending fog, Josiah finds his expertise, quick wit and clever quips are no match for a relationship that is clearly broken. 

Feeling betrayed, confused, and ill-equipped for a crisis this crippling, he reexamines everything he knows about the fragility of hope and the strength of his faith and love. Love seems to have failed him. Will what’s left of his faith fail him, too? Or will it be the one thing that holds him together and sears through the impenetrable wall that separates them?

My Comments:

Josiah is a famous writer of books about relationships, but his primary relationship, his marriage, is very broken, and he doesn't even realize it.  One night his wife has had enough, and she is found in a coma in a car with her best friend's husband, who is dead.  Josiah has reason to believe she has been unfaithful and is, of course, hurt by this.  It takes him a long time to realize that he is the one who has been unfaithful--no he has never been with another woman but he hasn't given himself to his wife in a long time.

Josiah's wife is in a coma for a long time and there are serious doubts that she will ever recover.  In the end, she does and so does their marriage.  In realizing what he has to lose, Josiah learns how hard it is to forgive, and how necessary it is. 

The book is Christian fiction, but Josiah isn't the most religious guy on the planet.  He and his wife belong to a church and the church members help them through the  ordeal but there are no sermons in the book and faith doesn't solve all the problems in the world.

I like Cynthia Ruchti's writing and I really enjoyed the book  Maybe the happily ever after was a tad unrealistic, but I'd much rather be left smiling at the end of a book than crying.  Grade: B+

Thanks to the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley. 

No One But You: My Review

About the Book

Struggling to make ends meet after a messy divorce, Sadie Harris is at the end of her tether. Her waitressing gig isn't enough to pay the bills let alone secure primary custody of her son, Jayden, a battle she refuses to lose. Desperate, she accepts a position assisting Dawson Reed—the same Dawson Reed who recently stood trial for the murder of his adoptive parents. Joining him at his isolated farm seems risky, but Sadie is out of options. 

Dawson has given small town Silver Springs plenty of reasons to be wary, but he's innocent of the charges against him. He wants to leave his painful past behind and fix up the family farm so he can finally bring his dependent sister home where she belongs. 

As Sadie and Dawson's professional relationship grows into something undeniably personal, Sadie realizes there's more to Dawson than the bad boy everyone else sees—he has a good heart, one that might even be worth fighting for.

My Comments

Brenda Novak has written several series of books set in small towns.  No One But You is the second book in the Silver Springs series, something I didn't realize until after I finished it.  Needless to say, it stood on its own and unlike many other series romances, I didn't see any obvious next couple for the next book.

Sadie has left her controlling police-officer husband.  They live in a small town and everyone likes her ex--or at least they don't want to get on the bad side of one of the town's lawmen.  Every time she applies for a job, he sees to it that she isn't hired, so her only income is from a waitress job she had before they split.  She finally finds someone to hire her--the town outcast.  He's the adopted son of a couple who was brutally murdered.  While he was found "not guilty", as my boss, a criminal defense attorney, will tell you, "not guilty" and "innocent" are not synonyms, and most people in town believe Dawson got away with murder.

The strength of Brenda Novak's writing is her characters.  I loved watching Dawson and Sadie get to know each other and heal the hurts each had suffered.  The weakness of her writing is the climax scenes and this one is very unrealistic.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review  copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  B-. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Review: If Not for You

About the Book:

If not for her loving but controlling parents, Beth Prudhomme might never have taken charge of her life and moved from her native Chicago to Portland, Oregon, where she’s reconnected with her spirited Aunt Sunshine and found a job as a high school music teacher. If not for her friend Nichole, Beth would never have met Sam Carney, although first impressions have left Beth with serious doubts. Sam is everything Beth is not—and her parents’ worst nightmare: a tattooed auto mechanic who’s rough around the edges. Reserved and smart as a whip, Beth isn’t exactly Sam’s usual beer-drinking, pool-playing type of woman, either.
But if not for an awkward setup one evening, Beth might never have left early and been involved in a car crash. And if not for Sam—who witnessed the terrifying ordeal, rushed to her aid, and stayed with her until help arrived—Beth might have been all alone, or worse. Yet as events play out, Sam feels compelled to check on Beth almost daily at the hospital—even bringing his guitar to play songs to lift her spirits. Soon their unlikely friendship evolves into an intense attraction that surprises them both.
Before long, Beth’s strong-willed mother, Ellie, blows into town spouting harsh opinions, especially about Sam, and reopening old wounds with Sunshine. When shocking secrets from Sam’s past are revealed, Beth struggles to reconcile her feelings. But when Beth goes a step too far, she risks losing the man and the life she’s come to love.

My Comments:

Maybe I'm outgrowing Debbie Macomber.  Either that or she's getting lazy in her success.

I found the writing in If Not for You sacchrine and the story both trite and unbelieveable.  In some ways it is a typical white collar girl falls for blue collar guy story, which, while not original (but what about romance novels is?) was believeable, but then Macomber takes this girl who had to move across the country to get out from under her mother's thumb and puts her to meddling deeply in the most personal aspects of some other people's lives.  Not only did I find her level of interference in the lives of others out-of-character, I found it intrusive and insulting.  While Macomber gives everyone a happily ever after, in real life, I doubt things would have turned out that way.

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  C+ (a story I didn't care for but which you might). 

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Perfect Replacement for the ACA

One big promise of Donald Trump and the Republican Party was to repeal the ACA a/k/a Obamacare.  Recently the Republicans introduced their "ACA" or American Care Act.

The Perfect Healthcare Plan

Just in case anyone was wondering, I have the perfect plan in mind.  Just take these ideas, turn them into legalese and send it to Congress.  Then we will have perfect healthcare:
  1. Don't charge me more than I can comfortably afford--I guess no more than cable TV or Netflix costs me each month.
  2. Cover me at 100% for any condition that remotely resembles sickness or lack of health or relating to the body or mind in any way.
  3. Cover me whether or not I choose to buy insurance before this ailment struck.
  4. Make sure I can see any doctor at any time and get any tests or treatments (proven or unproven) that I or my provider of choice (M.D., Chiropractor, Naturalpath, Homopath, Witchdoctor, Esthetician or Mother-in-law) think I need.
That's really all we need, right?  Unfortunately, when worded the way I worded it, anyone with a brain in their head will know that my proposal is impossible.  However, when reworded to
  1. Make premiums affordable and co-pays reasonable
  2. Cover all illnesses
  3. Don't discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions
  4. Allow patients to pick their doctors and cover the treatments ordered
it sounds so reasonable, so right, so much like what we as a county ought to be able to do for our people.

How Much Does Healthcare Cost?

We spend a lot of time complaining about the cost of health insurance, when the real problem isn't the cost of health insurance, it is the cost of healthcare.  The average per-capita cost of healthcare in the US today is over $9,000.  Under the ACA, plans have to pay out 85% of what they collect in premiums or they have to refund the premiums.  While eliminating insurance companies may reduce that 15% figure somewhat, someone is still going to have to push the paper and the paperpushers, whether employed by an insurance company or by the government, will have to be paid.

We don't all spend $9,000--in fact most of us don't have healthcare spending anywhere near that amount.  In fact, according to this study, over half of our lifetime medical expenditures will come after age 65, when we are covered by Medicare, not private insurance.  The study also says that about 8% of our lifetime medical costs are between birth and 19; about 12 percent between 20 and 39 and about 33 percent between 40 and 65.  Put another way, if the average per capita is $9,000 in today's dollars and you live to 85, the average lifetime healthcare expenses, at today's levels, would be $765,000, distributed like this:

  • $61,200 of that would cover you between birth and 19 ($3060.00 per year)
  • $91,800 would cover you between 20 and 39 ($4,590 per year); 
  • $252,450 to cover you from 40 to 65 ($10,098.00 per year); and
  • $359,550 to cover you from 66 to 85, when you would die ($17,977.50 per year)

How Much Does Health Insurance Cost?

According to the webiste above, the average cost of a family insurance plan through an employer in 2016 was $18,142.00.  I daresay few employees pay close to that; employers pay a major portion.  If you assume 15% of that was insurance company overhead, you are still looking at costs of over $15,000 per year, and you know that people are still going to have co-pays and deductibles.

 While the ACA subsidizes insurance for people whose income is below a certain point, the fact that plans  have to cover so much, accept anyone and not charge sick people more, or old people too much more, makes them very expensive for those who do not have subsidies.  My family makes too much for a subsidy.  We have 2 people between 40 and 65, one between 20 and 39 and one under eighteen.  Using the figures above, our average medical costs per year should be $23,256.00.

A search of showed that average Bronze plan offered there would cost $25,000 and the lowest priced one, $18,000--and we'd still have to pay most of our medical bills.  While there are a lot of people out there who make less than we do, neither my husband nor I are high earners.  Those policies would make a severe impact in our standard of living.  Right now, because of employer subsidies, we are paying about half that for better coverage.  

Why Don't Other Countries Pay as Much?

What is the answer?  I wish I knew.  Other countries don't spend as much.  Why? Some reasons:

They Limit Supply

Well, some, like Canada, limit the supply.  I can give you the names of four places within a fifteen minute drive of my suburban home where you can get a $1500 lumbar MRI, and my guess is that most of them can see you this week, if not tomorrow.  In Ontario Canada, the average wait is close to a month.  That can save money in two ways:

  1. The machine has less down time, meaning the per use cost is less and
  2. There are people whose back pain would resolve within that wait time and would no longer need the MRI.  Of course, if you are in pain and trying to pursue treatment, that wait is thirty more days you will be in pain. 

I read somewhere that if you compared American couples who were referred to fertility specialists, with Canadians who were referred to fertility specialists,   after six months twice as many Americans were pregnant.  That sounds like American treatment is much better; however it doesn't mean that at all--the Canadian couples were still on the waiting list, so on average, half those American women who underwent (and paid a small fortune for) fertility treatment really just needed more time.  On the plus side for the Canadians, once they cleared the waiting list, their treatment didn't cost them much, whereas most Americans sustained substantial costs for infertility treatment until coverage was mandated.

They Control Prices or Don't Allow Certain High-Priced Treatments

Many countries set the rates of reimbursement (payment) to doctors and hospitals and for medications.  They consider price when deciding whether particular treatments will be available. That's one reason you will find a wider variety of drugs and treatments available in the US than in many countries--here a drug can be offered for sale if it is proven safe and effective--and for some drugs, "effective" can mean they add months to life of the average cancer patient.  The negotiating power of one government is stronger than the power multiple insurance companies, which is why it is less expensive to buy drugs in Canada than in the US.  

England's National Health Service requires referral by a primary care physician in order to access specialist care and the NHS has waiting lists and a reputation for being an impersonal bureaucracy.  England's system is two-tiered; everyone is entitled to use the NHS system and those who can afford to do so have access to a private system as well.   

What Should Health Insurance Do? 

One big problem I see with any healthcare solution is that different people have different needs.  I'm a middle-income person who is  not living paycheck to paycheck and teetering on the edge.  Reality is that much as I may dislike it, I can afford a $150 doctor's visit. 

Reality also is that there are a lot of people out there who can't--that $150 will throw a major crimp into their lives, make them late on other bills and so forth. 

I need my health insurance to protect me from the major problems, not the day to day normal expenses of life.  Someone living on the edge may choose to forgo necessary treatment because of lack of financial resources; they need a healthcare plan that allows them to see a doctor when needed without worrying about it throwing them into financial ruin.

On the other hand, I've worked a lot of Medicaid fraud cases that couldn't have happened (or would have been a lot less likely) if the "patients" had to pay something out-of-pocket for care.  All of us are more careful about spending our money than spending the insurance company's money or the governement's money.  How do we balance meeting people's needs without encouraging waste?  

My Problem with Both "ACA" Plans

My problem with both the Affordable Care Act and the American Care Act is that they don't address the real problem in any real way.  The real problem isn't the cost of insurance, it is the cost of healthcare.  The Affordable Care Act was clearly an act of cost shifting.  The employer mandate shifted costs from the employee to the employer, if the employer wasn't already providing insurance.  If shifted costs from the individual to the taxpayer if the individual's income was below a certain point.  It shifted costs from the sick to the healthy and from the old to the young.  

Controlling Costs

The sad economic reality is that there are two ways to control costs.  The first is to reduce demand, the second is by government containment.  

The law of supply and demand says that if the supply of something outstrips the demand, the price goes down.  If the price of something is too high, the demand for it goes down--even if people want it.

The cost of houses in my neighborhood fell a few years ago.  Why?  It wasn't because fewer people wanted houses this size.  It wasn't because it cost less to build.  It wasn't because the neighborhood went down.  The price of houses in my neighborhood fell because the cost of insuring them increased substantially.  People's housing budget is limited and the increased cost of insurance meant that fewer people qualified for a mortgage in the amount needed to purchase at what was the going price.  Some people who had stretched to buy when the market was at its highest found themselves strapped to pay both the mortgage and the insurance and had to sell or face foreclosure.

Contrast that with healthcare.  The largest purchaser of healthcare in America today is one that will never run out of money--the government, via Medicare, Medicaid, the VA and Tricare.  While people may choose to forgo small routine medical expenses due to cost, health insurance paid for by someone else pays so many of our expenses that for most middle-income Americans, "I can't afford it" isn't part of the discussion with the doctor.  Lack of purchasers is not going to push the price of healthcare down unless we radically change the manner in which we pay for healthcare AND are willing to see our friends, neighbors, family members and even ourselves do without needed or wanted medical care due to price.

Other countries use the authority of the government to rein in prices.  The government either directly negotiates rates with providers or it sets a global budget and when the money for the quarter or year is gone, it is gone.  This government interference in the market can limit supply, but it keeps the price of the supply lower.  Generally speaking governments that control the price of healthcare also assure that all citizens have access to it, something our government does not do.  

In my opinon one reason we have runaway costs is that we are unwilling to use either system to control costs.  We have such safety net and so much money spent on the middle and upper class that the demand for healthcare is not moderated by price.  I suspect that if you passed a law tomorrow outlawing health insurance that had less than a $20,000/year deductible, the price of healthcare would drop because people would start looking for less expensive doctors, choosing less expensive medications etc.  We aren't willing to do that because many people would be hurt and forced to choose between medication and food.  

We are also unwilling to give the government the power to control prices charged by private businesses.  Because of the high prices we are willing to pay, we have higher survival rates when serious illness strikes.  

So What IS the Perfect Replacement for Obamacare?

Sorry, I'm not smart enough to know the answer to that question, and frankly neither is Donald Trump.  Obamacare has its problems and as a conservative, I have problems with the cost shifting and the way it has hastened our country's move to one with well-paying middle class jobs that provide health insurance and low paying unskilled jobs that not only do not provide health insurance but also do not provide fulltime hours, specifically to avoid having to pay almost  as much in health insurance premiums as in wages.  As a Catholic I don't like the way Obamacare has mandated that employers purchase contraceptive coverage even if they believe it is immoral.  

One idea I have is to eliminate employer-sponsored health insurance.  Why should the managing partners of my firm get to pick my health insurance?  I'm smart enough to do that on my own.  Give me the money and let me do it--and make the premiums non-taxable, just as they are when purchasing through the employer.  

I like the idea of a payroll tax on both employers and employees, for both fulltime and part time employees, coupled with tax credits for the purchase of health insurance or paying healthcare bills.  

What we have isn't working for more people every year.  Obamacare helped more people get insurance, but it hasn't been around long enough to say whether it allowed more people to access healthcare and it certainly hasn't done anything to bring costs down.  

Friday, March 03, 2017

Review: Starlight Bridge by Debbie Mason

About the Book:

Hidden in Graystone Manor is a book containing all the dark secrets of Harmony Harbor, and Ava DiRossi is determined to find it. No one-especially not her ex-husband, Griffin Gallagher-can ever discover what really tore her life apart all those years ago. With Griffin back in town, it's more important than ever that she find the book before someone else does. Because her ex is still angry with her for leaving him. And he still has no idea Ava never stopped loving him...

Ava is no longer the vibrant, happy woman Griffin had once loved and married, and he would do anything to bring back the sparkle to her brilliant green eyes. But what's never changed are the sexy sparks of attraction between Ava and Griffin, and he won't give her up again without a fight. He knows there's the real possibility of a future together... if the truth doesn't burn the bridge between them forever.

My Comments:

I enjoyed this romance that had a little ghost story thrown in for good measure.  Readers soon learn that Ava is among the people harboring secrets, and in her case, the main person the secret is hurting is herself.  Her secret is why she left her beloved husband and her secret is why one of the other charcacters called her "mouse".  Once that secret comes to light--and not via that book--healing begins. 

The only real problem I had with the book was the ending--it was just too happy, just too pat, and frankly, not quite realistic.  Still romance novels are supposed to end with happily ever after so...Part of the ending revolved around the difference between romantic love and friendly love between a man and a woman and whether friendly love can exist if one or the other is romantically involved with someone else. 

The book is part of a series but stands well on its own, though there are a couple of times when characters seem to come out of nowhere.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  B. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Review: Abby's Journey

About the Book:

Twenty-year-old Abigail Turner has only known her mother, Claire—who died shortly after she was born—through letters, videos, postcards, and journals. Abby’s father, Josh, has raised his precious daughter himself, but his overprotectiveness has become stifling. Abby longs to forge out on her own and see the world after a childhood trapped indoors: she suffers from bronchopulmonary dysplasia, which means a case of the sniffles can rapidly escalate into life-threatening pneumonia.

But when Abby’s doctor declares her healthy—for now—her grandmother Millie whisks her away to Europe to visit the Christmas markets that her mother cherished and chronicled in her travel journals. Despite her father’s objections, Abby and Millie embark on a journey of discovery in which Abby will learn secrets that force her to reevaluate her image of her mother and come to a more mature understanding of a parent-child bond that transcends death.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Steena Holmes offers a tender and heartfelt exploration of parental love and a daughter’s longing for connection in the poignant next chapter following Saving Abby.

My Comments:

I can't imagine what it must be like to lose a spouse in the prime of life.  I also can't image what it must be like to have a child who is sick "all the time" and whose health really is fragile.  I also can't image what it must be like to be that child who hasn't been able to do anything because of poor health.  That child is Abby.  

She's been homeschooled to keep her away from the germ factories that regular schools are.  She isn't allowed outside in the winter (and she lives in Canada where winter is a real season, not in south Louisiana where it is a periodic event). Blogging is her connection to the outside world.

In Abby's Journey Abby and her grandmother travel through the Christmas markets of Germany and Austria--markets Abby's deceased mother loved and during that trip Abby comes of age--no this isn't a book about sexual exploration but one of claiming adulthood, of making decisions about how to lead life and accepting the consequences.  It is a book about accepting the humanity of your parents--and I don't mean teenaged eyerolls that express the obvious stupidity of the older generation--but rather the realization that your parents really were young once, that they've made mistakes and that they've even had sex.  Since Abby knows her mother only through videos, letters, journals and the memories of others, secrets were easy to keep.  In this journey, some are revealed.

I really enjoyed Abby's Journey, both the journey around Europe and the journey to adulthood and give this book an A.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley.  I was not obligated to write any review, much less a positive one. 

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