26 March 2016

The Thing Is


Synopsis from Goodreads: Meredith Mancuso is depressed. Ever since the death of her fiancĂ©, she has shrunk from the world. Even with her successful writing career, she's not motivated to work. When her sister, Monica, begs for a favor, Meredith wants nothing more than to say no. But she’s ultimately roped into pet-sitting an orphaned Yorkshire terrier named Prozac.

Blessed with spiritual wisdom and a high IQ, Prozac is an active pet therapy dog. To heal broken-hearted Meredith, he rallies his fan club at Evergreen Gardens, an independent living facility, where he visits each week.

Prozac and the community of resilient older folks challenged by losses of their own propel Meredith, often against her will, back into the land of the living. Meredith learns that most people carry some sort of burden, but it's still possible to find meaning, purpose, and joy—and sometimes, even love—along the way.

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, Red Adept Publishing, 2016.

How acquired: Offered to me by the author.

First line: The minute the breeder opened the crate, my littermates went nuts.

My thoughts: I'm a sucker for dog stories, so the first line of this book immediately grabbed me, as it was first person point of view being narrated by a dog. Prozac started his new life as a little Yorkshire terrier, going from the laundry room of a breeder to a home with an elderly Helen. It's not his first life. Prozac is a Spirit Guide Dog, sent to earth to complete mission after mission, each time being born into the body of a different dog. Unlike your average dog, he understands everything going on around him, and can read. His dream is to star on the stage as Sandy in the musical “Annie”. However, right now his life is with Helen, who has had him certified as a therapy dog, and takes him to nursing homes, hospitals, children's story time at libraries, etc. He's not sure what his actual mission is, but he has a pretty comfortable cushy life in the meantime. Then Helen has to be hospitalized, and puts Prozac in the car of her accountant, who then dumps him on her sister, Meredith.

I frankly had trouble connecting with Meredith at first, through no fault of the author. She's never had a dog, never really been around dogs, and is not the least bit interested in taking care of a stranger's dog. She's furious with her sister for saddling her with this responsibility. I, on the other hand, have always had dogs, I love dogs, and I would love more than anything to be a doggie foster parent. So it was hard to relate to Meredith's feelings as she ranted and raved about the situation her sister put her in. I don't understand how anyone could not love dogs! Unless, of course, like Meredith's sister, they are highly allergic to dog hair.

The narration actually alternates, with some chapters being told from Prozac's point of view, and others narrated by Meredith. Her fiance was senselessly murdered several years ago, and she is still grieving his death. Despite her aversion to dogs and not welcoming Prozac into her home with cuddles and kisses planted on top of his head, she's a very sympathetic character. Her grief is practically palpable,and my heart went out to her again and again.


That doesn't mean the story is heavy or depressing, although towards the end there were some feels, and I did get very teary-eyed. But overall it's actually fairly light, with a lot of humor. There's an interesting cast of supporting characters. I did get some of the residents of the senior independent living center confused, but most of the supporting characters are quite distinctive, with their own quirks. In fact, I think the only thing that prevented some of those characters from taking over the story at times was the narration not being in third person POV. And while I wouldn't really classify the book as being a romance, there was a little of that eventually thrown in. I lean toward romance more than any other genre, but I still would've enjoyed the story just as much without that element, so that's definitely a point in the author's favor. 

22 March 2016

Book Mail

This month's book from Just the Right Book

"Evocative of Outlander...". Hmm. 

Not sure what I think of the cover, it looks like they slapped a big sticker over a woman's face. 

19 March 2016

Celia Garth


Synopsis from Goodreads: This is a story about a girl who wanted things to happen to her.

Celia Garth lived in Charleston, South Carolina, during the American Revolution. She had blond hair and brown eyes and a sassy face, and she worked in a fashionable dressmaking shop.

Things did happen to Celia, but not as she had planned. The king's army captured Charleston. The ravisher Tarleton swept through the Carolina countryside in a wave of blood and fire and debauchery. Caught up in the ruin were Celia and her friends -- the merry-minded Darren; Jimmy, whose love for Celia brought her into his tragedy; the fascinating Vivian, five times married; Godfrey, rich and powerful, who met disaster because he could control anything in town but the weather; the daredevil Luke.

Most people thought the Revolution was lost. Many Americans, like Celia's handsome cousin Roy, joined the king's side. Then out of the swamps appeared Francis Marion.

Marion was a little man. Marion was also crippled. But as Luke said of him, "When that man's leading a charge, he looks nine feet tall."

In the dressmaking shop, Celia became a spy for Marion. She sewed, she smiled sweetly, and in secret she risked her life sending information to this man that the king's whole army could not catch, the mighty little man to whom Tarleton angrily gave the name 'Swamp Fox'.

Stats for my copy: Hardcover, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1959.

How acquired: Library sale.

First line: Celia Garth had blond hair and brown eyes.

My thoughts: As I started CELIA GARTH, I felt that the writing was a bit simplistic. The first paragraph is a description of Celia's looks, and I was almost reminded of a child's chapter book. But it didn't take long for me to be drawn into Celia's life, and either the writing got better or I stopped noticing it.

When we meet Celia, she is a twenty-year-old apprentice at a sewing shop in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1779. The country is at war with the British, but Celia is busy living her life and not really involved in politics or completely aware of what's going on around her. She often made me think of Scarlett O'Hara, except where Scarlett was selfish and spoiled and only grudgingly did the right thing, Celia is sweet and good-natured and happy to help others, a “poor relation” who is hoping with all her might that when her apprenticeship is over she'll be given a permanent job and won't have to rely on her rich cousin to support her.

But when the town you live in and love with all your heart is invaded by the enemy, you can't stay unaware. Still, for the first 100 pages or so the story was focused more on Celia's day to day life, as her friend Jimmy arranges for her to meet Vivian, who is looking for a dressmaker, and as Celia becomes embroiled in Vivian's life. There are lots of secondary characters, and at times I had a little trouble keeping all of them straight, including Vivian's sons, with the exception of Luke, the son of her favorite of her five or six husbands.
But I'm not just anybody!” protested the unblushing cavalier. “I'm me. Me. Luke Ansell.”
Luke-?” Celia repeated. She was taken aback, and she had forgotten the surname of Vivian's hot-headed son. He took quick advantage of her hesitation.
Ansell,” he repeated firmly. He began to spell, counting off the letters on his fingers. “Not just anybody, Ansell. A for anybody, N for nobody, S for somebody, E for everybody, two L's for-” This time he was the one who hesitated.
Celia was laughing. “Yes?” she teased him. “Two L's for what?”
Two L's for-” he pointed his finger at her and ended triumphantly – “for like-a-body, twice! I've seen you twice, I've liked you both times. So now won't you like me and let me walk with you to Mrs. Thorley's?”

When the British attack Charleston, many townspeople escape the city to the relative safety of the countryside, including Vivian and her household. Celia, now engaged to Jimmy, refuses to leave, feeling that she needs to be near her fiance. And at this point the story became very tense and gripping, as the two women find themselves alone in the house, at times hiding in the cellar from the guns and cannons firing across the town, at times rushing outside to stamp out a fire started by a shell hitting one of the outbuildings or the porch railing.

I've read a lot of books set during the Holocaust and the Civil War, but I realized that I haven't really read anything set during the Revolutionary War. I can't say that I know a lot about it, but I feel that Ms. Bristow did some meticulous research while writing this book. She brings the plight of the rebels, the day to day life of surviving in the middle of a war, the horrors that families faced, to vivid life.


A very compelling story, and a new author whose other books I'm now going to have to track down. 

18 March 2016

Fresh Fiction Special Mystery Box!

This quarterly box is packed even more full than the monthly boxes! 

Seized, by Elizabeth Heiter
Covert Cargo, by Elisabeth Rees
Summit Lake, by Charlie Donlea
Robert B. Parker's The Devil Wins, by Reed Farrel Coleman
Embellished to Death, by Christina Freeburn
No One Knows, by J.T. Ellison

And a Mystery eBook Bundle that includes:

Spying in High Heels, by Gemma Halliday
Calamity Jayne, by Kathleen Bacus
Motion for Murder, by Kelly Rey
Southern Peach Pie and a Dead Guy, by A. Gardner

Not to mention that awesome mug! 

Check out the Box Not to Miss here. This quarterly box was $51.95, but the monthly boxes are only $24.95. 

12 March 2016

Acquisitions

Did a little thrift store shopping with my mom and daughter today. Our purpose was to look at furniture - my daughter is looking for a small table for her living room. But of course Mom and I had to peruse the books also. A little high priced at $1.49 for soft covers, but then they were also 25% off. I still didn't grab as many books as I normally would, but I did find some good ones.

Afterburn/Aftershock, by Sylvia Day
Satisfaction Guaranteed, by Lucy Monroe
Chains, by Shiloh Walker
A Hard Man to Love, by Kathleen Lawless
Cherished, by Maya Banks and Lauren Dane
Decadent, by Shayla Black
Lake in the Clouds, by Sara Donati
The Benevolent Despot, by Elizabeth Ashton
Cowboy Crazy, by Joanne Kennedy
Shoot to Thrill, and If Looks Could Chill, by Nina Bruhns
First Time With a Highlander, by Gwen Cready
Evergreen, Random Winds, and Eden Burning, by Belva Plain
Wicked Pleasure, by Lora Leigh
The Fires of Heaven, by Robert Jordan
Hidden Honor, by Anne Stuart

06 March 2016

Acquisitions

Bought a basket of books at the thrift store yesterday! Usually I buy more books than this, but my daughter and I were looking for stuff for her living room which she is redecorating, and I didn't want her to stand around waiting on me. So I just browsed the books for a minute while she was in the ladies room.

Here's what I found:
  • A Dog's Purpose, by W. Bruce Cameron
  • Disorder in the Court: Great Fractured Moments in Courtroom History, by Charles M. Sevilla - I've been looking for this book for years, ever since I worked as a legal secretary in the late 90's!
  • The Money Class: How to Stand in Your Truth and Create the Future You Deserve, by Suze Orman - I used to watch her show, and while I don't agree with everything she says I do like some of her advice
  • The Dark Romance of Dian Fossey, by Harold T.P. Hayes
  • The Snark Handbook, Parenting Edition: Morning Sickness, Potty Training, Rebellious Teens, and Other Joys, by Lawrence Dorfman - we flipped through this when we got home, it's mostly quotes, such as: "Kids are wonderful...I like mine barbecued." - Bob Hope
  • My Movie Business, by John Irving
  • Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes
  • Shopaholic & Baby, by Sophie Kinsella
  • Bared to You, by Sylvia Day
  • Pug Hill, by Alison Pace
  • City of Ashes, by Cassandra Clare

05 March 2016

Love in a Cloud

LUCY WALKER

Synopsis from Goodreads: Guardian...or sweetheart?

A mysterious, shadowy figure had paid for Sonia's schooling, and his kindness and mystery had kindled her romantic imagination. Now she thought she knew who her hidden benefactor was -- John Grant, whom she loved at her first sight of him. But her heart betrayed her into a torment of indecision...of clouded love.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Beagle Books, 1971.

How acquired: From my mother.

First line: Sonia Merton was packing her new clothes with care.

My thoughts: Sonia is an orphan who has been attending a finishing school for young ladies, thanks to a wealthy benefactor. Orphaned at the age of four, she was adopted by George Grant (or so she believes), the owner of neighboring Dandonga Station, in Bulong district, which I Googled. In case you're interested, today, according to Wikipedia, it is an abandoned town in Western Australia. Mr. Grant took her to Sydney, where she was then raised by Mr. and Mrs. Varley. Mr. Grant writes to Sonia, and over the years provided her tuition, books, clothing, dolls, and whatever else she needed. But other than that trip to Sydney with him at the age of four, Sonia has never met him in person. Now she's completed her education at the finishing school, and Mr. Grant has sent her an invitation to come to Dandonga Station for a three month visit.

At the train station, she meets George Grant, who apparently goes by the name John, along with Mrs. Beckett, who runs the domestic side of the homestead, and John's cousin Nick. John spends his days in his office, taking care of the books, while Nick runs literally everything else about the station, including, to Sonia's consternation, John and Mrs. Beckett. She feels intensely loyal to John for all he's done for her, and she resents that Nick seems to give the orders and everyone seems to bow to his mastery.

And so the story takes off from there. Things aren't always what they seem, and we, the reader, are given inside information about what is really between John and Nick and the running of the homestead.

I loved Sonia. She's a very typical Lucy Walker heroine. Young, sweet, wide-eyed, somewhat naive, beloved by almost everyone who meets her. She's new to the life of a cattle and sheep station, but she quickly adapts and pitches in to help wherever she can. Mrs. Beckett is a gem. She took Nick in when he himself was orphaned as a young boy, and while she's not a Grant, she's as much a part of the family as John and Nick. And Nick. Much of the narrative is from his viewpoint. He's exasperating at times, especially to Sonia. But knowing what we, the reader, know about him that Sonia has yet to learn, he's also very good and noble. Sonia's friend Hilda also comes to visit, and she isn't always a true friend to Sonia. I wanted to slap her at times, and gently chide Sonia for being too trusting and ingenuous.

I love Lucy Walker's writing. She's descriptive, bringing the Australian Outback to vivid life. While I'm not sure it's a place I'd want to visit, thanks to Ms. Walker I've come to love reading about it. Her characters don't differ much from book to book - the heroines are all similar, as are the heroes. As are the basic plot lines, as the running theme seems to be young girl is transplanted from her city life to the Outback. But even so each story is unique, and enjoyable.
"We'll walk back there." He punctuated each word with a stab of his cigarette. "Then we'll take the horses and go up the cattle pad on the other side of the gully. I don't think it would be right for me to kiss you here, Sonia, where you can't escape me. But when we get to the top of that gully over there...and we're out on the open track...I'm going to kiss you."
A sweet, quaint, chaste romance (nothing more than a few kisses).