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.

office

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.

 

Media Monday: Midsomer Murders

I had no idea when we started watching this British murder mystery series that it would take us over a year to watch them all. But we persisted and last week we finished all twenty-one seasons! Yes, you read that right. Twenty-one seasons! Now British seasons are shorter than US. Most seasons had only six episodes. Some had only four. But the episodes are all 90 minutes, so essentially movie length. Definitely a time commitment.

MMThey take place in the fictional British county of Midsomer and follow DCI Barnaby and his younger assistant. The younger assistant changed every few seasons. And even DCI Barnaby changed in Season 14. The original Barnaby retired and his younger cousin moved to Causton CID and became Detective Chief Inspector.

The coroner changed about the same time. First was a very professional man, then a young woman to provide some romantic interest for the young assistant, then a few subs, then a saucy, middle-aged woman who stood up to John Barnaby.

The mysteries ranged from quite dark to much lighter in tone. Some of them were very easy to pick out the guilty party and some were very difficult.

The series began in 1998, so the twenty year old episodes appear a bit dated. The more current shows represent England’s culture better.

Altogether, we enjoyed them very much. We watched them on Acorn TV, through my Amazon Prime subscription.

Just be warned, if you start watching, you’re making a commitment. A big commitment!

Book Talk Tuesday: THE LAGER QUEEN OF MINNESOTA

I’d been hearing great things about this book, so I picked up the electronic version. It has an intriguing title and lots of rave reviews.

TLQoMThere are several timelines in the book, but I didn’t have a problem following the unfolding story. By the end, some characters’ assumptions are proven wrong and others are proven right.

I love stories about reconciliation and I wasn’t sure this was going to provide that. If that’s you too, just hang in there.

Edith and Helen are sisters who go forty years without speaking because Helen was given the family farm (literally) and didn’t share with Edith. Helen put all the proceeds into her fledgling beer brewery. Edith and her family struggle to make ends meet and any part of the sale money would have helped.

Edith’s granddaughter is given an opportunity to learn brewing and the beer business. Eventually the whole family is involved in brewing and marketing beer, especially IPAs.

If you’ve ever wondered about the process for turning hops and yeast and grain into beer, this will give you a primer. But the information wasn’t overwhelming, and added to the enjoyment of the book. The only thing missing as I read was a hot day and a hoppy IPA on the back patio.

I highly recommend THE LAGER QUEEN OF MINNESOTA!

Book Talk Tuesday: IN OTHER WORDS, LOVE

I’m not reading as much as I expected, seeing as I spend pretty much all day, every day inside. We are starting to go out for walks and that helps. But I just can’t seem to keep focused on a book for very long. I’m playing a lot of games on my tablet and catching up on the DVR.

But I did read a few books and this one was especially enjoyable.

IN OTHER WORDS, LOVE by Shirley Jump is another romance from Hallmark Publishing.

IOW.LKate is a ghostwriter, barely making ends meet. She’s offered a new job, for an amount with a lot of zeroes, to ghostwrite a memoir for a busy CEO. Only the exec turns out to be the college boyfriend who broke her heart.

Trent is a driven man, focused on his business and its upcoming IPO. He’s procrastinated writing that blasted memoir and now the deadline is looming and he doesn’t have enough hours in the day. His staff convinces him to hire a ghostwriter who will sign a non-disclosure agreement, so no one has to know he didn’t write the book himself. It feels dishonest, but he doesn’t have much choice.

Of course, as soon as Kate and Trent meet again there are all kinds of complications, not the least of which is the return of their easy friendship. And all the developing feelings, from each of them.

Kate continues to peel back Trent’s layers as she fleshes out his outline and yellow sticky notes. Trent is amazed as this older Kate turns out to be far more adventurous than he thought fifteen years ago.

There are complications along the way to their Happily-Ever-After, of course, but I wouldn’t dream of spoiling the journey for you.

IN OTHER WORDS, LOVE is a sweet romance that I enjoyed and recommend!


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

 

Book Talk Tuesday: BURDEN OF PROMISE

Today the disclaimer goes upfront: I know the author, Ralaine Fagone, personally. I didn’t know her when the events she describes in her book took place. I met her some years after when she began to write about the murder, arrests and trials. She joined a local writers’ group I was part of and she had a column in a magazine. The group critiqued Ralaine’s columns, then later, when she decided to write a book, she joined another group who helped her. I also did some editing for her, as well as proofreading and copyediting. Also, Ralaine furnished me with a free digital copy of the finished book for this review. So, since I strive to be “fair and balanced,” I want to put all those caveats out here.


Fresno, California has a few claims to fame/infamy. It’s on the way to Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks. The Underground Gardens. Raisins. Home of some pretty good sports teams (National Championship Women’s Softball, National Championship Men’s Baseball, as well as NFL players Trent Dilfer, David Carr, Derek Carr, Lorenzo Neal, Ryan Matthews, …). Searing summer temperatures. A satirical 1980s mini-series starring Carol Burnett, modeled after Falcon Crest and Dynasty. And the Acid Lady Murder.

In 2003, Ralaine’s son, James, was arrested for the kidnapping and murder of his former employer’s estranged husband. Larissa and Tim Schuster were separated and fighting over custody of their son, Tyler, as well as property. Although no longer working at Larissa’s lab, James still helped Larissa by house-sitting and hanging out with twelve-year-old Tyler.

When Tim disappeared, Larissa was questioned and released. James was also questioned, but not released because he confessed to … well, here is where things get murky. Did he confess to the murder? The police and prosecutors say yes. James says he didn’t know Larissa planned to murder Tim and he thought they were going to retrieve some of Larissa’s property. He says he confessed to helping her rob Tim, then he got pulled into being an accomplice when the robbery escalated to murder. Tim’s body was put into a barrel and acid from Larissa’s lab was poured in to destroy the remains.

Ralaine walks the reader through her feelings during that time. Her devastation at the arrest. Her horror at the details of the murder. Also, the months leading up to the arrest, when James’ life took a radical departure from the path he’d been on. As a Christian, Ralaine raised her children to follow God and His precepts, trusting that if she did that, God would keep His end of their “bargain,” and her children would be “good,” and stay out of trouble, and have happy lives. With James’ arrest, all her beliefs about God, faith, and her church came under scrutiny. And not all survived intact.

The reader will experience Ralaine’s emotions. She is honest and vulnerable. The book is more than the story of the Fagone and Schuster families and the murder and trials. The book is part memoir, part true-crime story, part Christian Living, but totally compelling.


Ralaine is offering a free print copy of BURDEN OF PROMISE to a blog reader who comments below. Tell me about a time you were shocked and saddened by a story in the news.