Book Reviews–February 2018

I often post short reviews of books I’ve read in my personal social media pages, as I love to share my passion for books with others.  I’m listing the books I’ve read each month here on this blog, with my thoughts on each as well as whether I’d recommend them to others.  I do have an eclectic taste in books, and will choose books based on my mood, or what’s going on in my life that week.  (Most, if not all, of the books below include links to the Kindle store on Amazon, and the page numbers reflect the number of Kindle pages).  I hope you enjoy this series on my blog!

Book #1: 


comfort-and-joyComfort and Joy by Kristin Hannah (Length: 256 pages).  This is a romance novel with a twist, focusing on a plane crash survivor’s adventures at a decrepit summer resort in Washington state.  I’m not a big romance novel reader, and I found the first half of this novel to be a bit cheesy and annoying.  But then there was a major plot twist that kept me reading.  Ultimately I’m not thrilled with how the plot resolved as it’s a bit unbelievable, so I’d have to say this is not one of my favorite Kristin Hannah novels.  

From the publisher:  

Joy Candellaro once loved Christmas more than any other time of the year. Now, as the holiday approaches, she is at a crossroads in her life; recently divorced and alone, she can’t summon the old enthusiasm for celebrating. So without telling anyone, she buys a ticket and boards a plane bound for the beautiful Pacific Northwest. When an unexpected detour takes her deep into the woods of the Olympic rainforest, Joy makes a bold decision to leave her ordinary life behind—to just walk away—and thus begins an adventure unlike any she could have imagined.

In the small town of Rain Valley, six-year-old Bobby O’Shea is facing his first Christmas without a mother. Unable to handle the loss, Bobby has closed himself off from the world, talking only to his invisible best friend. His father Daniel is beside himself, desperate to help his son cope. Yet when the little boy meets Joy, these two unlikely souls form a deep and powerful bond. In helping Bobby and Daniel heal, Joy finds herself again.

But not everything is as it seems in quiet Rain Valley, and in an instant, Joy’s world is ripped apart, and her heart is broken. On a magical Christmas Eve, a night of impossible dreams and unexpected chances, Joy must find the courage to believe in a love—and a family—that can’t possibly exist, and go in search of what she wants . . . and the new life only she can find.

Book #2: 

the girl with seven namesThe Girl With Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee (Length: 320 pages).  This memoir of a teen’s escape from North Korea was a page turner.  Her writing is strong, and she narrates a fascinating account of her daily life in North Korea pre-escape, and then details several years of her life in China and then South Korea post-escape.  Her journey was truly harrowing, and I enjoyed reading her descriptions of the landscape as well as the cultural differences among all three countries.  (This is a $2.99 Kindle special–definitely pick this up!)

From the publisher:  

An extraordinary insight into life under one of the world’s most ruthless and secretive dictatorships – and the story of one woman’s terrifying struggle to avoid capture/repatriation and guide her family to freedom.

As a child growing up in North Korea, Hyeonseo Lee was one of millions trapped by a secretive and brutal communist regime. Her home on the border with China gave her some exposure to the world beyond the confines of the Hermit Kingdom and, as the famine of the 1990s struck, she began to wonder, question and to realise that she had been brainwashed her entire life. Given the repression, poverty and starvation she witnessed surely her country could not be, as she had been told “the best on the planet”?

Aged seventeen, she decided to escape North Korea. She could not have imagined that it would be twelve years before she was reunited with her family.

Book #3:

The great aloneThe Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (Length: 435 pages).  I LOVED this book!!!  I’ve read this is going to be THE book of 2018, and I have to say this may be a very accurate prediction.  Hannah details a family’s journey to the Alaska wilderness in the 1970s, specifically the relationship among an only child and her two parents, one of whom is a Vietnam vet suffering from PTSD.  Hannah does a fantastic job of describing the gorgeous scenery, and this vivid sense of place is enhanced with her signature strong character development.  The plot at the end develops into a nail biter, and I stayed up way too late to finish this beautiful book.    

From the publisher:  

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if means following him into the unknown.

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska—a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.

Book #4:  

News of the WorldNews of the World by Paulette Jiles (Length: 229 pages).  Another favorite book of mine.  I’d have to put this in my top 10 books of all time.  This National Book Award finalist captured my attention from page one, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it.  This is a historical Western novel set in 1870 in north Texas about a young girl who was kidnapped by the Kiowa tribe and released after five years.  An older man in his early 70s accepts the job of transporting her back to her extended family, and learns to communicate with her as she doesn’t remember much English (or German).   I absolutely ADORED the dialogue in this charming book (ie, she calls the man “Kep-Dun” as she’s relearning English phonetically.)  Jiles creates amazingly vivid action scenes and her character development is top-notch.  I’ll always remember the relationship between Kep-Dun and Joanna.  

From the publisher:  

In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.

In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.

Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forming a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.

Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember—strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become—in the eyes of the law—a kidnapper himself.

Book #5:

Little Fires EverywhereLittle Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Length: 348 pages).  I was interested to read this popular book since it’s set in Shaker Heights, OH, and I was born in neighboring Lyndhurst, OH.  I really loved reading this book!  While the first 100 pages dragged a bit with overly detailed character development of a few minor characters in the novel, I thoroughly enjoyed the writing style of this author throughout the entire book.  Definitely worth checking out.  

From the publisher:  

From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.  Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.




Home Maintenance Tips

Whether you are in the market for a home, are enjoying your current home, or are interested in getting your home ready to sell, home maintenance is of utmost importance.  Buyers are always better off if the home they’ve fallen in love with has been treated and maintained with care and attention.  Living in your home means your safety and enjoyment of your home is of top priority.  Sellers are better off if they’ve been proactive when caring for their home while living in it as deferred home maintenance can result in the need for annoying and often expensive repairs when it comes to the home inspection.   To that end, here are some tips to consider when it comes to home maintenance. . .

              Maintaining your HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) system is of utmost importance, especially here in Arizona where a malfunctioning ventilation or AC system can be an (expensive) health hazard, especially during the summer months.  Therefore, be sure to be proactive when maintaining this system by changing the HVAC filters regularly (typically it’s recommended that this be done on a quarterly basis, but check your system’s user’s guide for specific recommendations).  Having your HVAC serviced on an annual basis (and saving this paperwork) will also help you when it comes to your home inspection.

              Maintaining your water heater is another important task when it comes to home maintenance.  Draining your water heater once a year is a good way to make sure it functions up to capacity, by flushing out minerals and other toxins that may clog the unit.  If the water in your area is harder than typical, a flush out may be necessary more often than annually.  Directions on how to do this are in the manual (and also online), or you may want to call a plumber to walk you through it the first time you do it on your own.  Water heaters are a major line item on home inspection checklists so being proactive will serve you well later on.

              Another big item on home inspection lists is your roof.  Therefore, be sure to have a professional roofer conduct an inspection (annually is ideal), to check for issues with insulation, structure and drainage.   The flashings and gutters will need to be inspected as well, especially prior to monsoon season here in Arizona.  Being proactive with the roof will also save you money in the long run. 

              Taking the time to tackle these major home maintenance items will help maintain your home’s safety as well as your enjoyment of it, as well as getting it ready for a future sale. 


Book Reviews–January 2018

I often post short reviews of books I’ve read in my personal social media pages, as I love to share my passion for books with others.  I’m listing the books I’ve read each month here on this blog, with my thoughts on each as well as whether I’d recommend them to others.  I do have an eclectic taste in books, and will choose books based on my mood, or what’s going on in my life that week.  (Most, if not all, of the books below include links to the Kindle store on Amazon, and the page numbers reflect the number of Kindle pages).  I hope you enjoy this series on my blog!

Book #1: 

Castle of Water

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge (Length: 287 pages).  This is a wonderful little novel about a couple (who were strangers to one another) stranded on a deserted island.  A fast read, but not fluffy due to strong character development and interesting locations (NYC, the Marquesas and Paris).  I read this literally in one sitting and I am still thinking about this charming book.

From the publisher:  

Two very different people, one very small island.

For Sophie Ducel, her honeymoon in French Polynesia was intended as a celebration of life. The proud owner of a thriving Parisian architecture firm, co-founded with her brilliant new husband, Sophie had much to look forward to—including a visit to the island home of her favorite singer, Jacques Brel.

For Barry Bleecker, the same trip was meant to mark a new beginning. Turning away from his dreary existence in Manhattan finance, Barry had set his sights on fine art, seeking creative inspiration on the other side of the world—just like his idol, Paul Gauguin.

But when their small plane is downed in the middle of the South Pacific, the sole survivors of the wreck are left with one common goal: to survive. Stranded hundreds of miles from civilization, on an island the size of a large city block, the two castaways must reconcile their differences and learn to draw on one another’s strengths if they are to have any hope of making it home.

Book #2: Love Does


Love Does by Bob Goff (Length: 241 pages).  While I enjoyed this memoir’s “voice” and his multiple stories, I found quite a few too many Biblical and Jesus references  throughout, which unfortunately detracted from his point.  Overall, however, this isn’t too preachy and his intrinsic message is a valid one.  (However, the copy editor must have phoned this one in, as there are several glaring errors, such as “track” home for “tract” home, etc.)  

From the publisher:  

As a college student he spent 16 days in the Pacific Ocean with five guys and a crate of canned meat. As a father he took his kids on a world tour to eat ice cream with heads of state. He made friends in Uganda, and they liked him so much he became the Ugandan consul. He pursued his wife for three years before she agreed to date him. His grades weren’t good enough to get into law school, so he sat on a bench outside the Dean’s office for seven days until they finally let him enroll. 

Bob Goff has become something of a legend, and his friends consider him the world’s best-kept secret. Those same friends have long insisted he write a book. What follows are paradigm shifts, musings, and stories from one of the world’s most delightfully engaging and winsome people. What fuels his impact? Love. But it’s not the kind of love that stops at thoughts and feelings. Bob’s love takes action. Bob believes Love Does.

When Love Does, life gets interesting. Each day turns into a hilarious, whimsical, meaningful chance that makes faith simple and real. Each chapter is a story that forms a book, a life. And this is one life you don’t want to miss.


The Last Mrs. ParrishBook #3: 


The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine (Length: 405 pages).  Another fun, quick read with a VERY surprising twist halfway through the book.  This is absolutely worth checking out.  If you enjoyed Gone Girl, you’ll love this read!  

From the publisher:  

Amber Patterson is fed up. She’s tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who blends into the background. She deserves more—a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted.

To everyone in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, Daphne—a socialite and philanthropist—and her real-estate mogul husband, Jackson, are a couple straight out of a fairy tale.

Amber’s envy could eat her alive . . . if she didn’t have a plan. Amber uses Daphne’s compassion and caring to insinuate herself into the family’s life—the first step in a meticulous scheme to undermine her. Before long, Amber is Daphne’s closest confidante, traveling to Europe with the Parrishes and their lovely young daughters, and growing closer to Jackson. But a skeleton from her past may undermine everything that Amber has worked towards, and if it is discovered, her well-laid plan may fall to pieces. 

With shocking turns and dark secrets that will keep you guessing until the very end, The Last Mrs. Parrish is a fresh, juicy, and utterly addictive thriller from a diabolically imaginative talent.


Book #4: The Almost Sisters


The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson (Length: 357 pages).  This has been a Kindle deal for a while (only $2!) and it’s absolutely worth snapping up.  While I wasn’t a big fan of this author’s Gods in Alabama (see my September 2017 review), I decided to give her another chance with this novel and I’m very glad I did.  This is another Southern chick lit/romance which features a strong female narrator who is a very successful comic book writer (love!), but this particular novel goes deeper into the racial issues and attitudes still prevalent in today’s South.  I thought her treatment of these cultural issues is considerately sensitive and worth reading.  

From the publisher:  

Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.

It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby boy—an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old’s life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she’s been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.

Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she’s pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.


Book #5: An Astronauts guide


An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Col. Chris Hadfield(Length: 302 pages).  I ADORED this book!   This is an excellent read and very well-written.  While I thought it got off to a bit of a slow start, this memoir really gets interesting about 20% of the way in when the author delves into the nitty-gritty details of astronaut training, shuttle launches and the ISS (International Space Station).  I appreciated how humble, motivating and impressive the narrator is.   Be sure to also check out Col. Hadfield’s YouTube videos he produced in conjunction with CSA and ISS while in space (either during or after your reading of his book).  

From the publisher:   Colonel Chris Hadfield has spent decades training as an astronaut and has logged nearly 4000 hours in space. During this time he has broken into a Space Station with a Swiss army knife, disposed of a live snake while piloting a plane, and been temporarily blinded while clinging to the exterior of an orbiting spacecraft. The secret to Col. Hadfield’s success-and survival-is an unconventional philosophy he learned at NASA: prepare for the worst-and enjoy every moment of it.

In An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, Col. Hadfield takes readers deep into his years of training and space exploration to show how to make the impossible possible. Through eye-opening, entertaining stories filled with the adrenaline of launch, the mesmerizing wonder of spacewalks, and the measured, calm responses mandated by crises, he explains how conventional wisdom can get in the way of achievement-and happiness. His own extraordinary education in space has taught him some counterintuitive lessons: don’t visualize success, do care what others think, and always sweat the small stuff.

You might never be able to build a robot, pilot a spacecraft, make a music video or perform basic surgery in zero gravity like Col. Hadfield. But his vivid and refreshing insights will teach you how to think like an astronaut, and will change, completely, the way you view life on Earth-especially your own.


Book #6: Lie to me


Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison (Length: 416 pages).  This novel is being touted as the new Gone Girl (a la husband is the main suspect when wife disappears).  I agree, but it’s MUCH better, thanks to stronger character development and writing.  I thought the plot twist was very clever, but I did suspect it about 25% of the way through, which is a bit of a bummer.  Definitely worth checking out this novel if you are in the market for a quick, enjoyable read in the suspense genre!  

From the publisher:  Sutton and Ethan Montclair’s idyllic life is not as it appears. They seem made for each other, but the truth is ugly. Consumed by professional and personal betrayals and financial woes, the two both love and hate each other. As tensions mount, Sutton disappears, leaving behind a note saying not to look for her.

Ethan finds himself the target of vicious gossip as friends, family and the media speculate on what really happened to Sutton Montclair. As the police investigate, the lies the couple have been spinning for years quickly unravel. Is Ethan a killer? Is he being set up? Did Sutton hate him enough to kill the child she never wanted and then herself? The path to the answers is full of twists that will leave the reader breathless.

The Mortgage Quiet Period

Once you’ve decided to purchase a home, you need to make sure all of your financial ducks are in a row in order to obtain a mortgage.  The time between the original check of your credit which led to your loan being approved to the loan actually closing is called the mortgage quiet period.  This time is even more critical nowadays in this tighter economic climate, with loan writers being even more vigilant about financial activities that may affect your original credit score.   From the loan writers’ point of view, financial activity during the quiet period in the mortgage origination process can sometimes be a warning sign of fraud, particularly when an unscrupulous borrower attempts to take out more than one loan on a property in a scam known as “shot gunning.”

Unfortunately, then, even if you’re not an unscrupulous borrower, any financial activities you undertake during this quiet period will be subject to scrutiny.  Borrowers who take on any type of installment debt may adversely affect their credit score at closing, as these debts will affect borrowers’ debt-to-income (DTI) ratio.  Therefore, signing up for a store credit card as part of a promotional offer, or financing new furniture or a vacation on a credit card may jeopardize your pending loan. 

Other actions include withdrawing cash from any accounts that were used to verify funds for the loans, or changing jobs may be considered signs of financial instability, and are strongly discouraged during the mortgage quiet period.  Even making large deposits into these same accounts could cause issues as lenders are required to source all funds in a transaction.  This means they need to prove the sale of items and verify financial gifts, which can delay the loan process significantly. 

If any of these changes must be made, be sure to notify your loan officer so they can be properly documented, and the loan officer can be assured of your good faith. 

Book Reviews–December 2017

I often post short reviews of books I’ve read in my personal social media pages, as I love to share my passion for books with others.  I’m listing the books I’ve read each month here on this blog, with my thoughts on each as well as whether I’d recommend them to others.  I do have an eclectic taste in books, and will choose books based on my mood, or what’s going on in my life that week.  (Most, if not all, of the books below include links to the Kindle store on Amazon, and the page numbers reflect the number of Kindle pages).  I hope you enjoy this series on my blog!

UntangledBook #1: 

Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood by Lisa Damour, PhD (Length: 352 pages).  This is a MUST READ for all parents of girls, starting at age 9 or 10.  I’ve recommended this to several girlfriends and they’ve ALL found it to be incredibly helpful in navigating the tween and teen years with their own daughters.  I always attributed teen angst and melodrama to hormones but that can’t be further from the truth–it’s all about how girls’ brains are developing.  This book tackles each developmental stage (using excellent real-life examples from the author’s own dr/patient practice), and demystifies what’s happening with your daughter at each age, resulting in a less emotional relationship.  This is a total game changer!  

From the publisher:  In this sane, highly engaging, and informed guide for parents of daughters, Dr. Damour draws on decades of experience and the latest research to reveal the seven distinct—and absolutely normal—developmental transitions that turn girls into grown-ups, including Parting with Childhood, Contending with Adult Authority, Entering the Romantic World, and Caring for Herself. Providing realistic scenarios and welcome advice on how to engage daughters in smart, constructive ways, Untangled gives parents a broad framework for understanding their daughters while addressing their most common questions, including

• My thirteen-year-old rolls her eyes when I try to talk to her, and only does it more when I get angry with her about it. How should I respond?
• Do I tell my teen daughter that I’m checking her phone?
• My daughter suffers from test anxiety. What can I do to help her?
• Where’s the line between healthy eating and having an eating disorder?
• My teenage daughter wants to know why I’m against pot when it’s legal in some states. What should I say?
• My daughter’s friend is cutting herself. Do I call the girl’s mother to let her know?

Perhaps most important, Untangled helps mothers and fathers understand, connect, and grow with their daughters. When parents know what makes their daughter tick, they can embrace and enjoy the challenge of raising a healthy, happy young woman.

If you lived hereBook #2: 

If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska by Heather Lende  (Length: 294 pages).   I really enjoyed this little book!  The author lives in a very small town, Haines, Alaska, which was also home and near to the residence of the family featured on Alaskan Bush People on the Discovery Channel.  The author writes obituaries for her town newspaper, so most of the chapters center around some of the past obituaries she’s written.  However, this isn’t a depressing book at all, but rather it’s funny, a fast read, and very illuminating  regarding small town life in Alaska.  Worth checking out from the library for sure!

From the publisher:   Tiny Haines, Alaska, is ninety miles north of Juneau, accessible mainly by water or air—and only when the weather is good. There’s no traffic light and no mail delivery; people can vanish without a trace and funerals are a community affair. Heather Lende posts both the obituaries and the social column for her local newspaper. If anyone knows the going-on in this close-knit town—from births to weddings to funerals—she does.

Like Bailey White’s tales of Southern life or Garrison Keillor’s reports from the Midwest, NPR commentator Heather Lende’s take on her offbeat Alaskan hometown celebrates life in a dangerous and breathtakingly beautiful place.

The last anniversaryBook #3: 

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty (Length: 402 pages).  This was an enjoyable read, overall.  This novel features several mini-mysteries, tied up into one over-arching mystery, all of which take place on a tiny island named Scribbly Gum in Australia.  This is Moriarty’s second book (I’m a fan of Big Little Lies) so the writing isn’t as strong as her later books, but this is absolutely a fun read!  The characters are multi-dimensional and vividly drawn, and while I’m no Nancy Drew, I enjoyed not being able to figure out the larger mystery before the author revealed the answers.  

From the publisher:  

From Liane Moriarty, author of #1 New York Times bestsellers The Husband’s Secret and Big Little Lies, comes an unforgettable novel defined by her signature sharp wit, page-turning storyline, and lovable and eccentric characters.

Sophie Honeywell always wondered if Thomas Gordon was the one who got away. He was the perfect boyfriend, but on the day he was going to propose, she broke his heart. A year later he married his travel agent, while Sophie has been mortifyingly single ever since. Now Thomas is back in her life because Sophie has unexpectedly inherited his aunt Connie’s house on Scribbly Gum Island—home of the famously unsolved Munro Baby mystery.

Sophie moves onto the island and begins a new life as part of an unconventional family, where it seems everyone has a secret. Grace, a beautiful young mother, is feverishly planning a shocking escape from her perfect life. Margie, a frumpy housewife, has made a pact with a stranger, while dreamy Aunt Rose wonders if maybe it’s about time she started making her own decisions.

As Sophie’s life becomes increasingly complicated, she discovers that sometimes you have to stop waiting around—and come up with your own fairy-tale ending.

Of Mess and MoxieBook #4: 

Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life by Jen Hatmaker (Length: 286 pages).   While I’m not a fan of organized religion, I do enjoy exploring different viewpoints of spirituality.  This author is a Christian motivational speaker (and wife of a pastor) but she’s not preachy, and embraces alternative lifestyles such as gay marriage without judgment, which I appreciate (as such non-Jesus like judgment is why I’m not a fan of organized religion).  Anyway, this was a Kindle Daily Deal impulse purchase since I typically enjoy the author’s Instagram posts.  Many of the chapters I found to be relatable to my own life, and some are just downright funny (ie, chapters on parenting and exercise), but there were a few chapters that were overly religious in my opinion.  A fast, fun read overall.

From the publisher:  

New York Times bestselling author, Big Sister Emeritus, and Chief BFF Jen Hatmaker returns with another round of hilarious tales, shameless honesty, and hope for the woman who has forgotten her moxie.

In this highly anticipated new book, beloved author Jen Hatmaker parlays her own triumphs and tragedies into a sigh of relief for all normal, fierce women everywhere. Whether it’s the time she drove to the wrong city for a fourth-grade field trip (“Why are we in San Antonio?”) or the way she learned to forgive (God was super clear: Pray for this person every day, which was the meanest thing He ever said to me. I was furious.), she offers a reminder to those of us who sometimes hide in the car eating crackers that we do have the moxie to get back up and get back out. We can choose to live undaunted “in the moment” no matter what the moments hold, and lead vibrant, courageous, grace-filled lives.

A Share in DeathBook #5: 

A Share in Death by Deborah Crombie (Length: 212 pages).  This is the first book in a HUGE series featuring Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James, both law enforcement officers in Great Britain.  I found this new-to-me series when a blogger recommended this series for Louise Penny fans.  Since Penny only releases new books once a year, I was excited to check out a similar series.  And I’m officially hooked!  This book was very well-written (especially for a first novel) and very well-constructed in terms of plot.  The main characters weren’t too developed but I know that will come in future books in this series.  The central mystery is very believable as well as solvable, but I missed the clever clues sprinkled throughout . . . it reminds me of Agatha Christie in this regard.  

From the publisher:  A week’s holiday in a luxurious Yorkshire time-share is just what Scotland Yard’s Superintendent Duncan Kincaid needs. But the discovery of a body floating in the whirlpool bath ends Kincaid’s vacation before it’s begun. One of his new acquaintances at Followdale House is dead; another is a killer. Despite a distinct lack of cooperation from the local constabulary, Kincaid’s keen sense of duty won’t allow him to ignore the heinous crime, impelling him to send for his enthusiastic young assistant, Sergeant Gemma James. But the stakes are raised dramatically when a second murder occurs, and Kincaid and James find themselves in a determined hunt for a fiendish felon who enjoys homicide a bit too much.

How to Murder your lifeBook #6: 

How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell (Length: 385 pages).   Wow.  I’m not sure what to say about this one.  This Kindle Daily Deal was another impulse buy (but aren’t they all?!) after I read a few book bloggers recommend this memoir.  There are some very descriptive chapters regarding the author’s serious drug abuse which became a little off-putting, especially given her inability to halt such abject self-destruction even while living a life of such privilege.  This is more than a garden-variety addiction tale.  I kept reading further in the hope that she would get sober.   I’m glad I finished it but I’m not sure I’d recommend it.  

From the publisher: From the New York Times bestselling author and former beauty editor Cat Marnell, a “vivid, maddening, heartbreaking, very funny, chaotic” (The New York Times) memoir of prescription drug addiction and self-sabotage, set in the glamorous world of fashion magazines and downtown nightclubs.

At twenty-six, Cat Marnell was an associate beauty editor at Lucky, one of the top fashion magazines in America—and that’s all most people knew about her. But she hid a secret life. She was a prescription drug addict. She was also a “doctor shopper” who manipulated Upper East Side psychiatrists for pills, pills, and more pills; a lonely bulimic who spent hundreds of dollars a week on binge foods; a promiscuous party girl who danced barefoot on banquets; a weepy and hallucination-prone insomniac who would take anything—anything—to sleep.

This is a tale of self-loathing, self-sabotage, and yes, self-tanner. It begins at a posh New England prep school—and with a prescription for the Attention Deficit Disorder medication Ritalin. It continues to New York, where we follow Marnell’s amphetamine-fueled rise from intern to editor through the beauty departments of NYLON, Teen Vogue, Glamour, and Lucky. We see her fight between ambition and addiction and how, inevitably, her disease threatens everything she worked so hard to achieve. From the Condé Nast building to seedy nightclubs, from doctors’ offices and mental hospitals, Marnell “treads a knife edge between glamorizing her own despair and rendering it with savage honesty.…with the skill of a pulp novelist” (The New York Times Book Review) what it is like to live in the wild, chaotic, often sinister world of a young female addict who can’t say no.

How to Deter Home Burglaries

We’ve all read the statistics about property crimes, and regardless of how the economy is doing, home burglaries are always going to occur.  There are some simple things you can do, however, to minimize the risk that your home will be a target. 

1)      Increase visibility of your home from the curb.  In other words, make sure to keep any large bushes or trees that obscure entry places into your home, trimmed back.  All windows and doors should be clearly visible to people on the street, thereby deterring burglars who need discreet ways to enter your home.

2)      Make it difficult for would-be burglars to access your backyard by always keeping side gates latched and locked.  Remove any easy ways to jump these gates, by removing any ladders, outdoor benches or large rocks that are nearby.

3)      Install and use a home security system.  At minimum, install an alarm, but also consider installing security cameras on the exterior of your home.  Nowadays these cameras are relatively inexpensive, and thanks to technological advances, some will send you an alert to your cellphone if anyone comes up your driveway or to your front door.  Whether or not you have an alarm system, just placing a placard from a security alarm company in your front yard is often a sufficient deterrent to potential burglars.

4)      If a burglar were choosing between a house with a dog, and a house without, the house without the dog would be broken into, every single time.  To that end, placing a Beware of Dog sign in your front window is an incredibly inexpensive and effective deterrent to home burglars.

5)      Finally, keep your front door and driveway clear of any pamphlets, newspapers and packages. These signal that you may not be home, and make your home an easy target for those wishing to enter without your lawful consent.

I’m happy to give you more tips specific to your own home.  Burglaries are crimes that can and should be prevented

Book Reviews–November 2017

I often post short reviews of books I’ve read in my personal social media pages, as I love to share my passion for books with others.  I’m listing the books I’ve read each month here on this blog, with my thoughts on each as well as whether I’d recommend them to others.  I do have an eclectic taste in books, and will choose books based on my mood, or what’s going on in my life that week.  (Most, if not all, of the books below include links to the Kindle store on Amazon, and the page numbers reflect the number of Kindle pages).  I hope you enjoy this series on my blog!

Book #1:  The Things We Wish Were True

The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen (Length: 290 pages).  I really enjoyed this book!  This novel explores the neighborhood goings-on surrounding a community pool one summer.  There are a few darker themes (ie, child abduction) but they truly make for better (and stronger) character development.  This novel is a truly fast read, and the two mystery elements in the plot really make this hard to put down.  Definitely recommend!

From the publisher:  

In an idyllic small-town neighborhood, a near tragedy triggers a series of dark revelations.

From the outside, Sycamore Glen, North Carolina, might look like the perfect all-American neighborhood. But behind the white picket fences lies a web of secrets that reach from house to house.

Up and down the streets, neighbors quietly bear the weight of their own pasts—until an accident at the community pool upsets the delicate equilibrium. And when tragic circumstances compel a woman to return to Sycamore Glen after years of self-imposed banishment, the tangle of the neighbors’ intertwined lives begins to unravel.

During the course of a sweltering summer, long-buried secrets are revealed, and the neighbors learn that it’s impossible to really know those closest to us. But is it impossible to love and forgive them?

Book #2:  The Bookshop on the Corner 

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan (Length: 368 pages)> I adored this book!  The protagonist opens a little mobile bookshop in Scotland (she’s English) so it combines both travel and books . . . what’s not to love?!  There are so many cute, funny and snarky lines of dialogue (ie, the dog having a bar code) that made me LOL at times.  This is categorized as a romance (my least favorite genre) but it’s not too cutesy or sappy.  This is a fun, quick read and definitely worth checking out! 

From the Publisher:

Nina Redmond is a librarian with a gift for finding the perfect book for her readers. But can she write her own happy-ever-after? In this valentine to readers, librarians, and book-lovers the world over, the New York Times-bestselling author of Little Beach Street Bakery returns with a funny, moving new novel for fans of Nina George’s The Little Paris Bookshop.

Nina is a literary matchmaker. Pairing a reader with that perfect book is her passion… and also her job. Or at least it was. Until yesterday, she was a librarian in the hectic city. But now the job she loved is no more. Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile — a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling.

From helping her grumpy landlord deliver a lamb, to sharing picnics with a charming train conductor who serenades her with poetry, Nina discovers there’s plenty of adventure, magic, and soul in a place that’s beginning to feel like home… a place where she just might be able to write her own happy ending.

Book #3:   Between the tides

Between the Tides by Patti Callahan Henry (Length: 358 pages).  The premise of this novel involves the protagonist returning to her childhood home, and the scene of the death of a family friend/neighbor’s child.  This is technically a mystery in the sense of long-held secrets are revealed through the course of the novel.   I really enjoyed this!  It’s well-written, with a strong, beautifully-illustrated sense of place.  There is a bit of romance, but it’s not sickly sweet.  

From the Publisher: New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan Henry portrays a woman burdened by the past—and the choices she must face to break free of it—in this emotional, engaging novel.  Nine months after her father’s death, Catherine Leary still hasn’t fulfilled his last wish: that she scatter his ashes in the Seaboro River in South Carolina.  The scene of a childhood tragedy that forced her family to move, Seaboro is the last place Catherine wants to see again.  But on the evening of her thirtieth birthday, her father’s young colleague—whom she once dated—pays a visit…

Hoping to stop Forrest Anderson from exposing her family’s secrets, she travels to her once-beloved Lowcountry town and embarks on a poignant trip into the past…a journey that might lead her into a new life of love, forgiveness, and self-discovery.


Book #4:  Glass Houses

Glass Houses by Louise Penny (Length: 376 pages).   I am OBSESSED with Louise Penny and her Three Pines series.  (I may do a separate post on my all-time favorite books and series–this will definitely be on the list.)  This particular novel is Louise Penny’s 13th Three Pines/Armand Gamache novel, and it’s definitely in my top three favorite of this series.  There are two separate plot lines that converge in an explosive finale.  I adore Penny’s character development and rich dialogue.   This installment really highlights some strong female characters, which I appreciate!  Definitely start with Penny’s first novel in the series (Still Life), but don’t get thrown off by the slow start . . . that book picks up about halfway through.

From the Publisher:  When a mysterious figure appears in Three Pines one cold November day, Armand Gamache and the rest of the villagers are at first curious. Then wary. Through rain and sleet, the figure stands unmoving, staring ahead.

From the moment its shadow falls over the village, Gamache, now Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec, suspects the creature has deep roots and a dark purpose. Yet he does nothing. What can he do? Only watch and wait. And hope his mounting fears are not realized.

But when the figure vanishes overnight and a body is discovered, it falls to Gamache to discover if a debt has been paid or levied.

Months later, on a steamy July day as the trial for the accused begins in Montréal, Chief Superintendent Gamache continues to struggle with actions he set in motion that bitter November, from which there is no going back. More than the accused is on trial. Gamache’s own conscience is standing in judgment.

In Glass Houses, her latest utterly gripping book, number-one New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny shatters the conventions of the crime novel to explore what Gandhi called the court of conscience. A court that supersedes all others.