Book Talk Tuesday: WHEN WE FOUND HOME

Susan Mallery’s segue from romance only author to romance and women’s fiction has been rather seamless and painless for this fan. I’ve loved her romance, especially her Fool’s Gold and Happily, Inc. series. But her women’s fiction is also engaging. It has Mallery’s trademark humor and some eccentric secondary characters, but the issues are real and handled with heart.

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In When We Found Home, there are three point of view characters: Delaney, Callie, and Malcolm. Callie and Malcolm have discovered they’re half-siblings with another half-sister, Keira, who’s twelve years old. Their grandfather has brought them together to be a family. Each was raised differently and they struggle to put their disparate lives together into a new kind of family.

Delaney has also gone through tremendous upheaval in the last few months. She’s dating Malcolm, but not sure she deserves him and a happy ever after.

 

I loved this one!

Family dynamics can be challenging even for traditional families. I’m not unfamiliar with the issues that arise when you add half- and step-members and create a blended family. Mallery did a great job showing that love and grace and acceptance go a long way, which is a good lesson for all of us.

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I received a free advance copy of When We Found Home from the author, in exchange for a honest review. Which I’ve done.

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Book Talk Tuesday: TALKING AS FAST AS I CAN

Talking As Fast As I Can popped up as a Kindle deal recently so I bought it. I read and enjoyed Lauren Graham’s novel, Someday, Someday, Maybe. Talking As Fast As I Can is non-fiction, but I figured I’d like it and it would be a pretty quick read. I was right on both counts.

GrahamGraham is better known as an actress than a writer. She’s appeared in several of my favorite shows (Gilmore Girls, Parenthood), and some good movies, too.

Talking As Fast As I Can is part memoir, part behind-the-scenes glimpses of life on the set of both iterations of Gilmore Girls. Graham’s “voice” is conversational and fun, and reading her book is like sitting with a girlfriend and chatting over coffee or a glass of Chardonnay.

I enjoy Graham’s shows and her characters and I know it’s highly likely an actor or actress is nothing like the characters they play. But Graham’s love for her Lorelai Gilmore and Sarah Braverman characters, as well as her cast and crew mates, shines through the pages.

I liked the tone and pace and funny asides Graham inserts. I recommend it for anyone who loves Gilmore Girls, Parenthood, or is a Lauren Graham fan.

What I’m reading this week:

I’m lucky enough to be on Susan Mallery’s release team, so I’m deep into her next book coming out in July, When We Found Home. It’s sooo good.

On my Kindle, I’m reading Sarah Andre’s Tall, Dark, and Damaged. Also really good! I’m at the part where I think something really scary and bad and thrilling is about to happen, so I forced myself to put it down at 11:00 last night, because otherwise I knew I’d be up all night to finish it and I have to much to do today!

For non-fiction, I’m reading The Gift of Years by Joan Chittister. It was a gift from a friend and I just got to it this week, and I’m loving it! It’s about growing older and the gifts we receive from aging and the gifts we can still give others.

Watch for reviews of these in the coming weeks!

Question for you: Is there an actress or actor you think should write a book? Who? What do you want to hear about?

Book Talk Tuesday: NAKED IN DEATH

I finished J.D. Robb’s NAKED IN DEATH a couple of weeks ago. It’s the first of her In Death series and one I hadn’t read yet.

An AutoChef by Any Other Name 

download (4)It’s a good introduction to the series. I loved seeing Lieutenant Eve Dallas and Roarke’s first meeting and their attraction. Some of the beloved elements in the series were also introduced. We met Mavis, Charles, Nadine, the Auto-Chef (although not called that quite yet), Feeney, and Commander Whitney. Eve hasn’t yet started hiding candy around the office, but she definitely has a predilection for the sweet stuff. And real coffee. And a cat who figures in one of her cases.

The story is about a professional prostitute (in the 2050s, prostitution is legal and regulated and they’re called licensed companions), who is murdered. She’s the granddaughter of a prominent senator. The murder weapon is a gun, something outlawed and no longer manufactured, so the weapon is an “antique,” although it was manufactured in the early twenty-first century, i.e. now. There’s a taunting note left with the body. A week later, another prostitute is killed.

Some of the clues lead Eve to Roarke, already rich and successful and gorgeous. They explore their attraction, with Eve fighting it the whole way. Of course, Eve comes into grave danger. Of course, Roarke rushes to save her. Of course, she saves herself just before he arrives. Some things never change.

Our Protagonist: Before and After

I was interested to see how Eve has changed in some ways during the series, while in other ways she didn’t. She began irritable and broken, and still shows those characteristics. There were a few details that, in my opinion, no longer apply to Eve. She noticed flowers and trees and could name them. The Eve in the later books doesn’t care enough about flowers to name them, much less notice them. The early Eve has a taste for leather and bold colors. Later, she does love a great armored leather coat, but the Eve of 2064 prefers browns and grays and only consents to color when Roarke insists. Those are extremely minor quibbles though.

Overall, I enjoyed NAKED IN DEATH. And when more of the early books join my TBR stack, I’ll gladly read them.

Do you have to start a series at the beginning or do you dive in and just start anywhere?

 

Book Talk Tuesday: Revisiting Favorites

I used to reread books all the time. I’ve read all the Agatha Christie books multiple times. Same with Dick Francis. Nancy Drew. Trixie Belden. Donna Parker. I grew up returning to my favorites like they were meatloaf and mashed potatoes. They were my comfort reads.

download (5)As I got older and found other authors I enjoyed, I reread fewer and less often. Now, I rarely reread books. I don’t have the time any more. I read books for reviews. I read books to judge for contests. Sometimes I go months without reading for purely my own enjoyment.

But before and after our Ireland and UK trip last year, I did revisit some books set in the places we’d be seeing, or had seen,  in person.

I reread a few Dick Francis books, and even read one or two of his newer titles, written with his son. They were great and reminded me why I’d been a fan for nearly forty years.

I revisited Alexander McCall Smith’s Sunday Philosophy Club series, that is set in Edinburgh and with slices of other Scottish towns.

I’ve now pulled out Liz Curtis Higgs’ MY HEART IS IN THE LOWLANDS. I read this several download (6)years ago and didn’t reread it before our trip, because I knew we were headed more to the Highlands. But I opened it up this morning because I was longing for a glimpse of the Scottish countryside.

I’m now actively trying to figure out when we can return to Scotland and visit the Lowlands this time, following in Liz’s steps.

Do you ever reread favorites? Which ones? Recent favorites or older ones? Am I the only one who thinks of them as comfort reads?

Book Talk Tuesday: Catching Up

I’ve decided 2018 is going to be about catching up with my favorite series. The last few months have been filled with some great books, but also some lackluster entries. I realized that I have many favorite authors and their characters that I’ve set aside for other reading.

I’m going to fix that. I’ve made a list of what’s next.

downloadAlexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books are always wonderful, but I hadn’t read one in three years. So I found THE SATURDAY BIG TENT WEDDING PARTY in my TBR stack and read it! It was lovely, of course, although I had a few quibbles with dangling plot points at the end. Next will be LIMPOPO ACADEMY OF PRIVATE DETECTIVES.

From Susan Wiggs’ Willow Lake series, I just requested from the library, RETURN TO WILLOW LAKE. A few months ago, I did read MARRYING DAISY BELLAMY, so that’s one mystery solved.

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A friend gave me a copy of Alan Bradley’s AS CHIMNEY SWEEPERS COME TO DUST, but that’s three or four stories ahead of where I left off in his Flavia de Luce series. Fortunately, I have a cousin who’s also a fan and she’s loaning me SPEAKING FROM AMONG THE BONES this weekend.

I’ve already read three of Jan Karon’s Mitford books so far this year, and that’s what spurred my impetus to catch up on all my favorite series.  I just finished IN THE COMPANY OF OTHERS, which is set in Ireland. Father Tim and Cynthia visit the ‘auld country and of course find a parish away from home to minister to. Next download (3)will be COME RAIN OR COME SHINE. I read these slightly out of order. Earlier this year I read SOMEWHERE SAFE WITH SOMEBODY GOOD, which is directly after IN THE COMPANY OF OTHERS. I’m trusting that picking up COME RAIN OR COME SHINE next won’t be a problem.

Since Sue Grafton’s death in late December, I’ve also been reviewing her books to make sure I didn’t miss any along the way. I don’t think I did, but I’m definitely behind. So S IS FOR SILENCE is next on my list.

download (2)I have one last Deborah Knott title by Margaret Maron that I’ve been saving, but it seems appropriate to add it to my list. Maron announced LONG UPON THE LAND would be the last Deborah Knott novel. Maron is still writing, but I don’t love her Sigrid Harald books as much as I do Deborah and Dwight and the family.

Finally, my last series to catch up on isn’t a series. I do love Earlene Fowler’s Benni Harper books and I’ve read them all. I haven’t kept up with her stand alones. I added two of those to my list. LOVE MERCY will be up first.

And then Nora Roberts. I haven’t read all of the IN DEATH series and Roberts is far too download (4)prolific for me to attempt to keep up. I’ve decided to go back and read the first in the series, NAKED IN DEATH, and then read whatever is in my TBR stack and whatever crosses my path. The books don’t require being read in order. The characters change slowly enough that it’s easy to pick up anytime. These books are all about the case, although Lt. Eve Dallas and Roark are fascinating and compelling protagonists.

Of course, as my favorite authors release new stories, I’ll add those in. They’re not included on this list because I’m already caught up with everything they’ve written. This includes Susan Mallery, Kristan Higgins, Susan May Warren, Kathryn Cushman, Tamara Alexander. I could keep going, but I’ll stop for now.

Last year I read 100 books. This year, I’m at 37 so far. Looks like I may hit the century mark again.

Expect reviews in the next weeks. And please, ask me how the list is coming along. I estimate I have 27 books to read to consider myself “caught up.” And I’ve pre-ordered several books from my favorites that will be released in the next few months and will have to be factored in.

Gotta go. I’ve got a book waiting!

 

Wednesday Wanderings: Coming Home

Saturday, September 23, 2017

We woke early and packed. I had been leaving books and some clothing items behind in our travels and left a few more in our Edinburgh hotel room, to make room for the souvenirs and keepsakes we were bringing home. Nothing was very heavy or bulky, but we’d been close to the limit coming over and knew we’d be over if we didn’t make some adjustments.

2017-09-22_03-15-17_981We bought wool scarves in Edinburgh, a few pieces of jewelry, tea towels, pencils. Nothing extravagant, but still special to us.

Since the lift was still out of order, we included time to call for help with our bags, then waited outside for our driver to take us to the airport.

Sure enough, we had to shift contents from one bag to another, from a checked bag, to a carry on. Although after weighing and pronouncing us in compliance, the ticketing clerk let us put some of the things back in the checked bag.

We still had plenty of time to kill so we got coffee, read, walked the airport. Our flight to London was uneventful. We had a layover in London, which included a bus ride from one part of the airport to another, two more security checks, and a long wait in a sequestered waiting room. If you had to leave the room to get food or find a restroom, you had to surrender your passport as you left. Londoners take security very seriously.

The flight to LAX was long and uneventful, just the way we like it.

The good thing about flying home from Europe is that you get here not much after you left, in spite of the ten hour flight. We landed in LA, went through customs, shuttled back to the hotel where we’d left our car, and were on the road by four o’clock or so.

The cherry on this wonderful trip was that I was a finalist in a big writing contest for unpublished writers and the winners were being announced that same evening in Dallas. I was able to find the live stream of the ceremony, so we were in traffic on the 110IMG_0289 freeway in downtown Los Angeles when I heard my name called in Dallas as the winner of the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Contest, Contemporary Category!

We yelled, laughed, high-fived and continued to Pasadena where we were staying overnight with friends before continuing home the next day. We celebrated appropriately that evening with two couples, returned my borrowed travel purse and backpack, and shared stories, good food, and laughter before collapsing into bed.

We both loved the trip and want to go again. If we’re able to go back, I want to try it in reverse order. Scotland, London, Ireland. We both fell so completely in love with Scotland, that I almost don’t trust it, if that makes sense. As I said last week, we know we’re Anglo-Saxon, and I felt the Highlands speak to the DNA in my bones. We didn’t feel the same about Ireland, and we expected to. So I want to see if I imagined the call from Scotland. Or if it was simply a matter of being a bit stressed (our first time traveling overseas) while learning to drive on the “wrong” side of the road. So if we begin next time in Scotland, hopefully we’ll be more relaxed and adjusted when we get to Ireland, and more able to compare apples to apples. Or Highlands to inis and loughs.

Book Talk Tuesday: A Cold and Lonely Place

I’ve had this one on my TBR stack for quite a while, but I was in the mood for something chilly to offset the hot days to come, so I pulled this one out.

It’s wonderful.

Very atmospheric. The Adirondacks, Lake Placid and Lake Saranac are described in not overly detailed terms, but well enough that if I ever go there, it will feel familiar. I’ve said the same thing about Julia Spencer-Fleming’s books set in upstate New York. When we visited there in 2011, it really did seem like I’d been there before. But only in the pages of a book.

1473581_origA Cold and Lonely Place is described as a “literary mystery,” and I don’t disagree with that description. While it may not be your typical “fair play,” mystery, there is a mystery at the heart of the story. Actually two mysteries.

What happened to Tobin Winslow? And what happened to his brother six years ago? Both drowned, although in vastly different circumstances.

Our “detective,” is Troy Chance, a freelance writer in the Lake Placid and Lake Saranac area. She’s taking pictures of the construction of the annual Ice Palace when a body is found. She recognizes the frozen face, as the boyfriend of one of her roommates, and begins piecing together the last days, months, then years of the victim’s life.

When I started the book, I couldn’t put it down. The chapters were short and engaging and begged me to turn the page and keep going. As the story progressed, it wasn’t quite as compelling, especially as I suspected we weren’t going to receive a villain neatly captured and handed over to the authorities.

But that didn’t lessen my enjoyment. A Cold and Lonely Place is an excellent, engaging, and enthralling story. I’ll read more by this author.