Book Talk Tuesday: LONGING TO BELONG

LtBShawna Marie Bryant has written a book “for such a time as this.”

When we’re inundated with messages of what we should look like, how we should decorate our homes, feed our families, and which causes to support, she helps us to see that it’s not the world and social media that give us value and meaning, it’s God.

Based on Psalm 139, Shawna shares a Manifesto of acceptance and solid Bible-based teaching that will help any reader who has struggled to feel like they’re enough, that they’re accepted, and that they belong.

God created us, He knows us, He is always with us. These are just a few of the points Shawna expands on in this excellent book. She balances her teaching with real-life examples and encouragement.

I highly recommend this book and plan to buy more copies for my daughters and friends.


I received a free advance e-copy of this book via NetGalley, but that did not induce me to review it, either positively or negatively.

Book Talk on a Thursday: Christmas in Bayberry

Wes has been chasing career success. So has Kate. They just have very different definitions of what that looks like. For Wes, it’s a title, a corner office with a view of Manhattan, and not having to move every year. For Kate, it’s having her family’s Vermont candle company survive another year.

CiBWhen Wes comes to Bayberry, Vermont to analyze the Bayberry Candle Company’s financials and issue a recommendation on its future, he’s flooded with memories of the year his family lived there when he was fifteen. And the girl he wanted to invite to the annual Candlelight Dance on Christmas Eve. But his dad got a new job and they moved before he got the chance.

Kate moved to Bayberry when she was fifteen and her parents were killed in an accident and she was taken in by her aunt. Her aunt is preparing to retire and Kate wants nothing except to keep the family candle business running exactly as it has been for the last three generations.

As Wes and Kate work together, sometimes on divergent paths, they fight their growing attraction. After all, his life is in New York City and hers is in Bayberry. Right?

I enjoyed this new release from Hallmark Publishing. Besides being a taste of Christmas in July (and I live in Central California where 100+ degree days are common, so descriptions of snowball fights and hot chocolate are very welcome!), I enjoyed this sweet romance and its glimpse of two people on two different trajectories and how they were brought together by a failing business, an improbable Santa, and Spirit of Christmas.
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I received a free e-copy of this book from Hallmark Publishing but it did not induce me to leave a review, favorable or not.

Book Talk Tuesday: A LONG TIME COMIN’

I love celebrating debut novels. When they’re good, I’m soooo happy. When they’re great, I’m ecstatic.

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A LONG TIME COMIN’ by Robin W. Pearson made me beyond giddy. It’s lovely, with a strong voice, memorable characters, and an engrossing story with repercussions that reach through the generations.

Evelyn Lester has a problem. Several of them. She visits her mother to sort them out and ends up spending a lot of time with her elderly grandmother. Granny B. has her own problems and secrets.

The two women must come to an understanding as they help each other navigate through uncharted territory of family and relationships.

I highly recommend it!

I got to meet Robin last year when we were both in Charleston, South Carolina. Our agents are at the same agency. She’s as lovely in person as her book is beautiful. I’m so excited to celebrate her debut novel with her and I can’t wait for y’all to read it!

I did not receive a free advance copy of A LONG TIME COMIN’. I bought it because I knew it would be great and I’m so happy I did. You will be too!

Media Monday: Sweet Magnolias

A new-to-me Netflix series, Sweet Magnolias, was my weekend escape. I’m halfway through Season 1, and I understand it ends on a cliffhanger, so I’m trusting there will be a Season 2.

SMSweet Magnolias is set in Serenity, South Carolina and is about three women, friends since high school. Maddie, newly divorced, mom of three. Helen, single, attorney, accomplished. Dana Sue, longer divorced, mom of one, restaurateur. They go into business together, renovating a historic home and turning it into a spa. The series follows their lives, their romances, their families.

I haven’t read the books the series is based on, by Sherryl Woods. I’ve heard good things about them, but honestly, my To-Be-Read (TBR) mountain is teetering so high, I don’t dare add any more to it. At least until I get the current stack to a more manageable height. If you love small town Southern romances with strong female characters and deep friendships, I feel safe in saying you’d love the books.

The series is good, even if I can’t personally compare it to the books.

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I like the characters. I loved Brooke Elliott, who plays Dana Sue, as Jane Bingum in Drop Dead Diva back in 2009-2014. She was ditzy blonde model who was killed in an accident and sent back to life on Earth in a smart, brunette attorney’s curvy body. Ms Elliott was brilliant in that.

I’m enjoying this as a new find.

Anyone have something new to recommend?

My Netflix and Amazon Prime lists are not quite as bulging as my TBR stack.

Book Talk Tuesday: A COTTAGE WEDDING

A Cottage Wedding is the perfect summer romance read. Two likable characters who are perfect for each other, though they have real issues to deal with that are keeping them apart. But you’re confident they’ll figure a way to make it work.

ACWTara Stewart is a lowly editorial assistant at a wedding magazine, yearning to prove herself a serious journalist. She gets her chance when her boss gives her an assignment: do an expose’ on Hearts Landing, the idyllic town that’s been the nation’s leading wedding destination for the last several years.

Unfortunately, Hearts Landing is just as perfect as it seems. More so, since Jason Heart is overseeing everything. Jason is the great-great-great-grandson of the town’s founder and the basis of many legends contributing to Hearts Landing’s reputation as a romantic destination.

As Tara and Jason grow closer, Tara has to make a choice: get that promotion and ruin Jason’s heritage and livelihood, or surrender her journalistic ethics and get fired.

Even though I saw the dilemma coming from the beginning, I thought the author handled it well and resolved it sensibly.

This is an excellent book with lots of fun wedding details and other characters worked into the story. Hearts Landing is as much a character as Tara and Jason.

Definitely recommended.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but it did not induce me to review it, either favorably or not.

Media Monday: The Office TV Show and The Office Ladies Podcast

I didn’t watch The Office when it was on television. I wasn’t a fan of the mockumentary style. But it’s grown on me.

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And people I respect love The Office so a couple of years ago, I made it my lunchtime Netflix show. And I really enjoyed it. Yes, it lost some of its charm when Steve Carrell left, but I watched it to the end.

There are very few shows I watch over and over again. Gilmore Girls … and … and that’s about it. If I’m channel surfing and Friends is on, I might stop there.

Then I found The Office Ladies podcast. Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, who played Pam and Angela on The Office, have a podcast where they dissect an episode a week. OLPThey started with the pilot and are going straight through. I’m only about mid-way through Season Two, and they’re near the beginning of Season Three.

The two women are best friends in real life and that shows. They’re having a blast remembering things that happened during filming. You can tell that the entire cast and crew had enormous respect for each other.

So now I’m rewatching The Office. I listen to an episode of the podcast, then rewatch the television episode they talked about. It’s fun to revisit favorite moments, to hear about who couldn’t get through the scene without breaking. Sometimes a costar or crew member or writer or production team member will call in or stop by to add their memories.

After I’ve finished this second go round with The Office, I’m going to watch the British version that was the original. The US version has 188 episodes. The British version: 14. It won’t be quite the time commitment. We can’t seem to know when is enough. But that’s a subject for another day.

Anyway, if you listen to podcasts and you liked The Office, check out The Office Ladies.

One caveat: there are lots of ads. I fast forward through them pretty easily, but their parent company offers a paid, ad-free subscription with extras. Just FYI.

Is there a television series you return to? A comfort watch, if you will?

I’m always looking for recommendations!

Happy viewing!

Book Talk Tuesday on a Thursday: A Highlander Comes to Town

I’m sad to see this series come to an end. I’ve loved visiting Highland, Georgia and getting to know some Scots in the South.
HICTTA Highlander is Coming to Town is (finally) Holt Pierson’s story. We met Holt in Trentham’s previous two Highlander stories. Holt has made his peace with staying in Highland to run the family farm. Claire Smythe is on the run from something and takes refuge in Highland after the summer games. She’s taken a job as a caregiver for Holt’s neighbor and is spending the time trying to figure out what to do after her upcoming birthday. Because she has a big secret she can’t share with anyone. Although she’s clear upfront that she’ll soon be returning to Scotland right after Christmas.
Inevitably, the sparks between Holt and Claire combust. And as all secrets must, Claire’s come to light. And Claire and Holt’s simple fling is anything but.
I enjoy these books for their simplicity, their taste of Scotland, their humor. Sometimes I need an escape and these books supply that exactly.
A Highlander is Coming to Town is a Christmas story, complete with a winter storm, hot chocolate, and a heartwarming ending. The perfect holiday read. It will be released in late September, so mark your calendars for September 29, 2020.
I highly recommend it!
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I received an advance e-copy of this book via NetGalley, but it did not induce me to leave a review, complimentary or not.

Book Talk Thursday: A MOSAIC OF WINGS

A Mosaic of Wings is the best kind of book! Engaging characters. A unique plot. Lovely writing.

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The story begins in Ithaca, New York, in 1885. Nora Shipley is about to graduate from Cornell university with a degree in entomology. She desperately wants to continue her education but is out of funds and her step-father is out of patience. They come to an agreement of sorts: if Nora wins a scholarship, she may continue at Cornell for a master’s degree. If she doesn’t win the scholarship, she will move to Long Island to become her aunt’s companion, and possibly marry or be courted by her step-father’s business associate.

Because Nora’s mother’s health is precarious, she declines a place on a team in India that would help her scholarship chances. But when Nora and her step-father clash yet again, she finds herself in India, along with Owen Epps, the young man who was her competitor for grades and accolades at Cornell.

There are all kinds of twists and turns on Nora’s journey, in Ithaca, India, and personally. Nora learned lessons about following one’s conscience, doing the right thing, and how God views all His creatures.

Nora and Owen’s relationship grows naturally and, of course, the scholarship is an issue between them, as well as some events in India.

I loved this story of an unusual young woman with brains and a strong spirit.

I had the pleasure of meeting Kimberly Duffy a little over a year ago at a writers’ event. She had recently signed a contract for her first book and I’m so pleased to be able to offer a review of it.

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I received a copy of this book via NetGalley. This did not induce me to write a favorable review. The well-written book did that.

Wednesday Wanderings: The Last of the Excellent Adventure Before the Pandemic

The last time I posted about the Excellent Adventure, I had no idea what was coming. I procrastinated posting because we were busy, then we went to Scotland (more about that soon!), then we came home to shelter in place, and the next thing I knew it was May!

So, I left off on Monday, February 17, 2020 in Portland. We had a great day at the Association of Nurseries, then met a friend for dinner.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

We drove to Tacoma, to our usual Holiday Inn. It’s right on I-5 and we love it for the huge parking lot, but hate it for the road noise. We’ve asked for various locations around the grounds and haven’t found the sweet spot yet. We’ll keep trying.

We had several days with no events, so we kept busy with work (me), working out (both of us), and trailer and truck maintenance (Dave).

We also took a day to be tourists. Tacoma is home to America’s Car Museum. We visited and enjoyed a great day there. It’s very well laid out with different exhibits showcasing things such as NASCAR, Route 66, racer and designer Steve Saleen, British cars, and so on, as well as collections and restored cars on loan from collectors. At the beginning of our wandering, an employee approached us, said it was a slow day and he’d be happy to give us a guided tour if we wanted. We accepted and got a VIP experience.

We tried a few local restaurants. Tacoma has a Bass Pro Shop, so we ate dinner one night at Uncle Buck’s Fish Bowl and Grill. There’s also a bowling alley right there, so the ambiance is a little odd, but the food was good. Right across the street from our hotel was a Korean taco place that was excellent, Takos Koreanos. Also, a teriyaki place we ate at a couple of times, Ichiban Teriyaki. We also visited a couple of chains, BJs, and Red Lobster, when we were in a hurry and/or starving and couldn’t find a more unique local place. Or wanted something that we knew what to expect.

Friday, February 21, 2020

We had a scheduled event at Pacific Lutheran University. They were hosting an opioid awareness summit for the county and we were going to exhibit. The only problem was there wasn’t enough room anywhere near the summit for the trailer. So we brought some props and set up at a table in the back of the room. It was fascinating to listen to the various presentations from professionals in the recovery … industry? business?profession? (that seems redundant), and recovering addicts.

It was a good day, and great to be inside instead of out in the chill and damp.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

We did the tourist thing again and drove into Seattle. We started at the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum. We were familiar with Dale Chihuly’s work, but had only seen a few pieces. To be surrounded by so much beauty, all in one place was overwhelming. I was choked up and verging on tears more than once.

What he accomplished with sand and heat and centrifugal force is amazing.

After a couple of hours in the museum and grounds, we moved next door to the Space Needle. We were able to go right up to the viewing level where we enjoyed a snack. I guess there used to be a restaurant up there, but now there’s just a cafe with light snacks and drinks. There’s the stationary viewing level with the cafe, then the rotating level. We spent a few minutes there, too.

From the Space Needle, we walked the mile to Pike Place Market. We’d found a good place to park the truck, just a block from the museum and Space Needle, so it was easier to walk and leave the truck where it was.

At the market, we browsed a bit. We tried some dried strawberries that were sweet as candy and David bought some. We watched the fishmongers throw some fish. We asked for restaurant recommendations. David wanted crab. We tried a couple of places, but they didn’t have whole crab on the menu. We walked past the original Starbucks, but the line was too long to stop in.

We ended up at Cutters Crabhouse, where David finally got his whole crab. Our meal was amazing. We had a table with a water view, an attentive waiter (from California!), and delicious food.

We walked to the truck and drove back to Tacoma. I was so glad we went on Saturday, because we had discussed going on Sunday and it rained all day Sunday. Saturday was amazing and couldn’t have been a better day.

Monday, February 24, 2020

We were due to come home February 27. Last summer we had booked a trip to Scotland for February 29 – March 9th. We didn’t know that we’d be working with the trailer again. And if it did happen, we didn’t think we’d be on the road again so early in the year. So we had lined up another couple to take over the trailer for us while we went to Scotland.

They arrived at SeaTac Monday evening and we picked them up and took them back to the hotel. We visited while Ron and Sylvie ate a late dinner. Dave and Ron are both retired from the CHP, and we all used to go to the same church, so we have many friends in common and much to catch up on.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Ron and Sylvie had been studying transcripts and videos of the trailer tours, so we did a couple run throughs of both my and David’s tours. We practiced set up and tear down. We had lunch. Dave and Ron took the rig for a drive. Then we went and picked up a rental car. We had talked about going to the Waterfront area of Tacoma for dinner, but we’d had a late lunch with lots of leftovers (at the Ichiban Teriyaki across the street from the hotel), and we were all tired, so we didn’t have a fun last evening out in Tacoma. It was more of a reheated, walk on the treadmill, movie, early to bed evening.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

We had an event in Tukwila, outside of Seattle. Ron and Sylvie drove the truck and trailer and we took the rental car. It was at an Ironworkers Union. We gave tours to all the apprentices on their lunch hour.

What a great time we had! Everyone was interested and engaged. The apprentices, their journeymen instructors, and other staff. Ron and Sylvie gave most of the tours. David and I were there for moral support and to jump in if needed. I gave a couple of tours. One when we had a big group come through and we needed to divvy them up. And one later in the afternoon, for the mayor and city manager. I was still being the “official spokesperson.”

As soon as the event was over, we hugged Ron and Sylvie good-bye, jumped in the rental car and headed south on I-5. Our goal was Medford, about a seven hour drive. We arrived about 9 PM, tired and ready for bed.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Another long day on the road, but we got home in time to pick up my car at the house, then return the rental to the Fresno airport.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Errands, haircuts, lunch with my folks, laundry, packing.

Saturday, February, 29, 2020

We left for Scotland! Stay tuned for posts about Scotland. Thanks for reading!!

The latest on the trailer: We arrived home from Scotland March 9. We planned to fly to Boise, Idaho March 11, to take over the trailer again from Ron and Sylvie for an event in Boise on March 12. We got notice March 10 that the event on the 12th was canceled. We canceled our flight and decided to fly to Boise a few days later. Before that happened, all events were canceled and the trailer program placed on hiatus. The trailer is being stored near Boise while we shelter in place at home in Madera. When the program starts again, we’ll decide if we’ll fly to Boise and start from there, or bring the trailer home.

 

Book Talk Tuesday: The Life Intended

Somewhere in my web browsing, I came across a book recommendation. Several people raved about the book and the author, someone new to me.

So I bought a used copy.

Well.

This book hooked me from the beginning.

THE LIFE INTENDED.

the-life-intended-9781476754154The description begins: Sliding Doors meets P.S. I Love You in this richly told novel …

We meet the heroine, Kate, twelve years after her husband was killed the morning after he said he had something important to tell her. He died before he had the chance.

It’s been long enough, and everyone is telling Kate she has to move on. And she kind of has. She’s living with a man. He’s proposed and she accepted. But then she starts having some very vivid dreams. About Patrick and the life they would have had if he hadn’t died.

The dreams lead her to make some choices and do some things … I don’t want to give too much away.

This is a lovely, tender, exquisite book about what might have been, but what is, and learning to accept that both are right and okay.

In absolutely unrelated news, I’ve been buying books faster than I can read them. So while I fell in love with this one, I have so far resisted the urge to buy any more from Kristin Harmel. Although I’m remembering her name and will definitely be getting more from her when I whittle down the obscene stack on my desk.