4/29/16

Glass Shatters


Glass Shatters by Michelle Meyers. Berkeley: She Writes Press, 2016. 209 pages. *****

Charles Lang wakes up injured with a horrific headache in an unfamiliar house, not remembering how he got there and who he is. Through a conversation with a neighbor, he finds out that he is a famous scientist who has been gone for 6 months and has a wife and daughter who disappeared several years ago. Through a series of flashbacks and inconsistent dreamlike memories, Charles begins to piece together his present and his past. Filling in the gaps does nothing to ease his fears. 

A fast-paced and compelling read. Once started, I found it difficult to stop until I finished it. Every time, I thought I had a glimpse of what was happening, another twist appeared in this unusual plot. Meyers has captured the horror of losing those we love with the added dimension of the scientific experimentation world. This is her debut novel and what a suspenseful, thrilling ride it is. Meyers' sister is Stephanie Meyers author of the Twilight series, both highly creative and inventive writers. 

I received an Advance Reader Copy from BookSparks for a review.

Michelle Meyers is a fiction writer and playwright born and raised in Los Angeles. Her writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Juked. Grey Sparrow Journal, DOGZPLOT, and jmww, and her plays have been developed and/or produced all across the United States. She was a 2015 PEN Center Emerging Voices Fellow in Fiction and received her bachelor's degree in Literary Arts and Writing for Performance at Brown University. Meyers is currently an MFA candidate in Fiction at the University if Alabama's Creative Writing program. Michelle Meyer's website

@BookSparks @michemeyers #glassshatters

4/26/16

The Goodbye Year


The Goodbye Year: a novel by Kaira Rouda. Tempe: Spark Press, 2016.  279 pages ****

Five families are preparing to send their senior to college next year, this is their story. Starting in Sept and ending on December 24th, it is told from the point of view of the student and their parents. It is a universal story of acceptance, love, peer pressure, and conformity. The fallacy of a perfect life as seen through the eyes of their friends demonstrates the basic truth that no one has it all. Each couple has a crisis in their marriage and a vested interest in where their child goes to college. Looking ahead and anticipating an "empty nest" brings previously ignored or hidden issues in the marriage out in the open.

Rouda has captured the high school senior angst and the "empty nest" anxiety that plagues many parents. Telling the story from many points of view is engaging and allows for the various reactions to the impending changes. Parents will be able to identify with the conflicting feelings of pride and frustration. An excellent novel for discussion and will be a favorite for Book Clubs. 

I received an Advance Reader Copy from BookSparks for a review.

Kaira Rouda is a USA Today bestselling, multiple award-winning author of contemporary fiction and sexy modern romance novels that sparkle with humor and heart. Previous contemporary fiction novels include Here, Home, Hope, All the Difference, and In The Mirror. A magna cum laude graduate of Vanderbilt University, before turning to fiction she worked in journalism, pubic relations, advertising, and created a national real estate brand, the inspiration for her nonfiction title, Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs. She lives in Southern California with her husband and four almost-grown kids, and is at work on her next novel.

#itsrainingbooks @BookSparks

4/24/16

The Full Catastrophe



The Full Catastrophe: a memoir.  by Karen Elizabeth Lee. Berkeley: She Writes Press, 2016. 259 pages. ***

In this memoir about domestic abuse, it's 1998 and Karen Lee decides she wants out of her second marriage to bigger than life Duncan. When Duncan is diagnosed with cancer, Karen stays to help him through his operations and treatments. Duncan's death does not bring the freedom and self-actualization that Karen so desperately seeks.  Working as a consultant and successful business woman did not bring satisfaction to her life and she escapes into wine, denial, and disastrous relationships.

A courageous glimpse into the life of a strong woman who cannot resist the lure of "Prince Charming" saving her from the life she created for herself. It's not until she realizes what she doesn't want, is Lee able to discover what she does want and need in a man. Written in retrospect, Lee's plight may help other women in similar marriages find the strength to leave a toxic relationship.

I received an Advance Reader copy from BookSparks for a review.

Karen E. Lee grew up in rural Southern Ontario, Canada, and is a retired clinical psychologist and management consultant. She has lived in Canada, England, and Hawaii. She received an undergraduate degree in 1970 in anthropology, worked in exploration geology in Toronto and Calgary, and in 1991 became a chartered psychologist in Alberta. She moved to England in 1995, where she lived and worked as an independent management consultant for ten years. Her consulting work and general interest have taken her to many different countries. Today, she helps her husband, Bill, in his jewelry business, volunteers for political concerns, and is on the board of Peter Support Services for Abused Women (PSSAW). She and her husband live in Calgary, Alberta.

#itsrainingbooks @BookSparks

4/23/16

Parting Gifts


Parting Gifts by Katrina Anne Willis. Berkeley: She Writes Press, 2016. 263 pages. ****

Three sisters, Catherine, Anne and Jessica Mathers, united by their Midwestern childhood and distant parents, try to find meaning and love in their relationships and with each other. Catherine, the oldest, is an English professor and undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. She does the unthinkable and falls in love with one of her students. Anne, the middle child, is struggling to keep up in suburban America while caring for two children and shielding her husband from the truth. Jessica, the youngest and estranged by choice from her sisters and mother, finds acceptance and distance by becoming an exotic dancer. Eva, their mother is rapidly withdrawing into her Alzheimer's altered world and calls out daily for her youngest daughter and rarely recognizes the other two girls. A horrible accident causes all three sisters to re-evaluate what's really important in life and to look for answers in their childhood memories.

Willis has developed three strong female characters and their voices are heard clearly. While dealing with their own problems, the sisters feel isolated and alone, but lack the skills necessary to reach out and support one another. For an author's first novel, Willis has captured the emotions that can exist between sisters and the unbreakable bond that is formed from having the same parents. Well done!

I received an Advanced Reader Copy from BookSparks for a review.

Katrina Anne Willis was named the 2011 Midwest Writers Fellow, a 2013 Listen to Your Mother participant and a 2015 BlogHer Voice of the Year. She has been anthologized in My Other Ex: Women's True Story of Losing and Leaving Friends (2014) and Nothing but the Truth So Help Me God: 73 Women on Life's Transitions (2014). Her work has appeared on a variety of sites, including the Manifest-Station, Marmalode, Indy's Child, BlogHer, Hands Free Mama, and Momastery. A Hoosier at heart, Katrina currently lives in Northwest Ohio with her husband and four teenagers, and she writes semi-regularly at www.katrinaannewillis.com. This is her first novel.

#itsrainingbooks @Booksparks

4/18/16

Meternity


Meternity by Meghann Foye. Canada, MIRA books, 2016. 352 pages. Reader's Guide. ***

Thirty-one-year-old baby magazine editor, Liz Buckley, is surrounded by Moms, the newest and latest baby products, parenting, and pregnancy-related information. She's feeling resentful that as a single woman she is expected to pick up the slack for co-workers who have children and Mom related responsibilities. When a misunderstanding causes her boss to believe she is pregnant, Liz and her friends decide to continue the charade to allow Liz time during her maternity leave to find her dream job. Keeping up appearances by wearing a foam-rubber belly and mimicking the symptoms of pregnancy proves challenging when she meets a new guy who could turn out to be the man of her dreams. Her deceit takes a new turn when a picture of her pregnancy appears on social media and her Mother is thrilled that she is going to be a Grandmother. 

It is very easy to see how Liz gets caught up in her pregnancy drama when she is treated differently at work and is taken seriously now that she has joined the "Mommy Club." Some very funny scenes when Liz is doing a photo shoot and the foam-rubber belly fills with water and drags her down. Fun, poignant story which will be relatable to single women working in a baby product driven field or any work environment. When a woman is single, it seems as if all the other women are pregnant or mothers.

I received a copy of this book from BookSparks for a review.

Meghann Foye is the senior web editor at redbookmag.com, where she covers topics such as parenting, relationships and infertility. She has previously been the deputy editor of Seventeen magazine and senior editor at Woman's Day, For Me and elle.com, where she got her first taste of good, strong coffee while covering fashion shows as an assistant in the Paris office. Meghann took her own#Meternity from 2010 to 2012 when she quit her job to travel to China, Japan, India, Southeast Asia and Australia to pen freelance travel articles and begin this book. Originally from Marblehead, Massachusetts, she currently lives in Jersey City. This is her first novel.

#itsrainingbooks @BookSparks #mustreadsApril2016

Most Wanted


Most Wanted by Lisa Scottoline. New York: St. Marin's Press, 2016. 438 pages. Reading Group Guide. Excerpt from Damaged. *****

Christine and Marcus Nilsson have a wonderful life, great careers, stable marriage, everything except a baby. Unable to conceive, they make the difficult and private decision to use a sperm donor. Searching the candidates, they carefully choose Donor 3319. Christine is thrilled to be pregnant and is looking forward to her first sonogram when she sees a man bearing a likeness to their donor's picture being arrested on tv as a serial killer. If the accused killer is the father of her baby, will the baby have a predisposition to violence? Nature vs nurture? Christine is determined to have the baby and prove Donor 3319 is innocent. 

Scottoline is a master manipulator and storyteller! Who else would have the reader sympathetic to an accused serial killer with a mountain of evidence against him? Carefully researched, packed with conflicting emotions and an inside view into the world of infertility, innocent parents are drawn into a world of scandal and murder. This is a book once you start it, you won't be able to put it down or stop thinking about Christine and Marcus. Just when you think you have it figured out, you realize you don't! Not only are there legal issues to consider about the confidentiality of sperm donors but the bigger issue of raising a child with an infamous violent biological father. I had the pleasure of hearing Lisa Scottoline speak at my local Barnes and Noble about her research for this book and how intrigued she is by the Donor process. It seems that the recipient has more stringent guidelines than those for donors. Scottoline is an entertaining speaker and has a gift for sucking me right into the story and keeping me in her grip until the very last page. A must read and an excellent Book Club choice. Update: since reviewing this book, there is an article in The New York Times on this very subject. Fiction meets fact..."Sperm Donor's Profile Hid Mental Illness"

Lisa Scottoline is a New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-winning author of twenty-four novels. She has 30 million copies of her books in print in the United States, and she has been published in thirty-five countries. She has served as the president of Mystery Writers of America, and her thrillers have been optioned for television and film. She also writes a weekly humor column with her daughter, Francesca Serritella, for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and those critically acclaimed stories have been adapted into a series of memoirs, the first of which is entitled Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog. She lives in the Philadelphia area with an array of disobedient pets. Visit www.scottoline.com of follow Lisa on Twitter @LisaScottoline.



4/14/16

#TheSplendidSampler

 










Block #11 Crocheted Thoughts

This is my version of this block. I did not include the crocheting hook. I didn't have any metallic floss and it looked okay without it.



Block #12 Checkerboard Designed by Pat Sloan and the finished Block #11.



Just for You and the Block Station Bonus Blocks designed by Pat Sloan.



Block #14 Flying High by Janet Clare, Block #16 Pieces of Friendship designed by Lindsay Maryland and Block#17 Family Stars designed by Kimberly Jolly. My Flying High block has the birds diving for the ocean waves. It helps to have the pattern right side up when positioning the birds and looking at the original pattern. Oops! It still seems to work.

#TheSplendidSampler @patsloan

4/13/16

Lisa Scottoline

Lisa Scottoline has been a favorite of mine for years. She is a "local" author so when she writes about the setting and locale of the story, it usually is very familiar to me. There's something thrilling about the Mall (Exton Square) where I shop, the street names, landmarks and closest city referenced throughout her books. I ran to the closest Barnes and Noble this morning at 9:00 am to get a wristband to attend a presentation and book signing this evening at 7:00 pm. I arrived this afternoon at 3:00 pm to get a good seat. For the first half hour, I played musical chairs trying to decide the best view and most comfortable seat.

 




The room quickly filled with fans clutching a copy of her new book, Most Wanted.


I had 4 hours to wait, so I settled in and began reading. Scottoline drew me right in...I tried to read while I waited, but the crowd grew in size and volume.

 

The next hour was highly entertaining and touching at the same time. Today is the Anniversary of Mother Mary's passing and the loss was acknowledged and tears were shed. Lisa's "hand over fist" sense of humor kept us laughing while talking about a very serious and sobering topic---infertility.

B&N staff were very organized and before I knew it, time for the book signing. I was called in the first group and patiently waited in line.


As always, Lisa graciously posed for a picture and signed her book. This copy will be in an Auction Basket at the Brandywine Valley Quilter's Guild Quilt Show. 


I will review it once finished, stay tuned!

#mostwanted @LisaScottoline #BrandywineValleyQuiltersGuild

4/11/16

Yard Critters




I live in a development and have a backyard that sometimes provides an entertaining sight while drinking my morning coffee. This immobile squirrel was draped over the bird house for the longest time, I began to worry that it was dead!


One of my neighbors soaking up the sun (and wet grass) at 7:00 AM, I was so glad when he started moving, I was ready to call 911!

 

I don't know why I even bother with trying to grow tomatoes! The Groundhogs eat them before they ripen.

4/9/16

A Girl Like You


A Girl Like You: A Henrietta and Inspector Howard Novel by Michelle Cox. Berkeley: She Writes Press, 2016. 290 pages. *****

It's January 1935 and Henrietta Von Harmon is the house twenty-six girl and her job is to not only keep score but to encourage the patrons to keep drinking and playing as the night wears on. Mr. Hennessey, the Poor Pete's owner has become a surrogate father to her since her father committed suicide and left her mother with eight mouths to feed. The bar is going through a dry spell and tips aren't what they once were when Polly, her friend, persuades Henrietta to work as a taxi dancer at the Promenade. In an effort to deceive her mother, Henrietta tells her that she has a job working the night shift at the electrics. Henrietta quickly discovers that the dancing isn't as difficult as she thought and she actually enjoys dancing with men for money. All that changes abruptly when a murder is committed and the mysterious stranger she danced with turns out to be a police Inspector. Henrietta is quickly drawn into the Chicago crime world of drugs, prostitution, and murder.

I was pulled into this story from the very first page of this historical fiction novel. The poverty and hopelessness of the 1930s in Chicago are portrayed in vivid detail through the lives of Henrietta and her family. Despite the horrors of the underworld and the reality of the choices made to survive, Henrietta embodies hope for the future. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to Cox's next novel. 

I received an Advanced Reader Copy from NetGalley and BookSparks for a review.

Michelle Cox has a B.A. in English Literature from Mundelein College, Chicago. She is a writer of historical women's fiction but has also known to dash off a mystery or two. While her heart might lie in the eighteenth century with Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy or in the crooked streets of Little Dorrit's London, she tends to write of a slightly more recent age, a time closer to the World Wars, when all was not yet lost and the last roses of summer were first coming in bloom. Ms. Cox lives with her husband and three children in the Chicago suburbs. This is her first novel.

#itsrainingbooks @BookSparks @michellecox33 #agirllikeyou

4/5/16

The Hole in the Middle


The Hole in the Middle by Kate Hilton. New York: New American Library, 2016. 288 p. Conversation Guide. paperback. ****

Starting with the written to envoke envy Christmas letter, Sophie Whelan, Communications Dept. Head, wife, mother, daughter, friend and woman extraordinaire, has and does it all. Approaching her fortieth birthday and taking a realistic look at her life forces Sophie to evaluate what is and is not working. Having your first love come back into your life is not the best time to wonder if your  husband is having an affair with his amazing business partner or to make major decisions about your career. Sophie begins to question her recollection of past events and can't shake the feeling that she has settled in love and her career.

Hilton has an easy style of writing that makes her book enjoyable. Sophie is a likable character who laughs at herself and lets the reader in on the humor. This novel is sure to be a popular summer read.

I received a copy of this book from BookSparks for a review.

The Hole in the Middle is Kate Hilton's first novel. Before turning to fiction, Kate worked in law, higher education, public relations and major gift fund-raising. She has an English degree from McGill University and a law degree from the University of Toronto. She is a working mother, a community volunteer, a voracious reader and a pretty decent cook. On good days, she thinks she might have it all. On bad days, she wants a nap. Kate lives with her family in Toronto.

#mywinterisbooked

The Ramblers


The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelley Rowley. New York: William Morrow, 2016. 381 pages. ****

Three main characters trying to make some sense of their lives find themselves in New York City and over the course of seven days their lives intersect and set them on a new path. Clio Marsh dreads the Thanksgiving holidays and reminisces about life with her erratic mother and distant father. When her boyfriend suggests that they move in together, Cloe has a panic attack and tries to find the courage to tell Henry about her mother's death. Smith Anderson, Cloe's best friend, is preparing for her sister's wedding while recovering from a broken heart. Being the daughter of a prominent New York family doesn't prevent her from waking up on her bathroom floor wearing a vomit stained maid of honor dress and her mother entering her apartment. Tate Pennington returned to New York City to follow his passion as a photographer after selling his App and making millions. Tate can't believe his good fortune in running into a former classmate from college, the beautiful and highly photogenic Smith Anderson.


Told from the point of view of the three main characters enriches and lends a believability to the story. All of the main characters are likable and I found myself very sympathetic to their individual situations. What could have been a predictable and cliched story instead is a heart-warming one of friendship, love, secrets and imperfect families. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays; no presents, no pressure. Rowley highlights the family interactions and the anxiety experienced without the distractions of presents, etc. The tension of meeting someone's family for the first time is incredibly stressful and wonderfully portrayed in this realistic plot. 

I received a copy for a review. 

Born and raised in New York City, Aidan Donnelley Rowley graduated from Yale University and received her law degree from Columbia University. She is the author of a previous novel, Life After Yes, and the creator of the Happier Hours Literary Salons. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and three daughters.

#mywinterisbooked

4/3/16

Quilt Retreat


Quilt Guild Retreat



Packed and ready to go!

My sister and I tried to pack lighter than last year and decided to share some tools and fabric. Yet, somehow we end up with all of this with us!

Our room was very nice, however, my sister missed having a TV in our room. (the Retreat venue is a religious affiliated facility; no drinking, music, etc.) I was glad to disconnect for a few days from the Election saga and news. I did find myself checking FB and the local news channels to see what was happening outside of our sewing world.


Getting everything set up in the large sewing room was easy; connecting all of the sewing machines, irons, etc. caused power problems in the room. 




We did some group projects for our upcoming Brandywine Valley Guild Quilt Show on Oct. 15th and 16th. We made pumpkins and bookmarks. We made these beautiful pumpkins from an Inbox Jaunt Tutorial

 
They are so cute and easy to make!

Four of us are working on the Gypsy Wife quilt designed by Jen Kingwell. It is so much fun to see it interpreted in our own way and fabric of our own choosing. We swapped some Kaffe Fassett fabrics because they are so bright and seem to fit this pattern. 


No Quilt Retreat is complete without a visit to a local Quilt Store (or two, or three). We went to The Quilt Ledger in Christiana, PA on Friday and it is a fabulous store and they gave us a discount. Win-win! The Good's Store and Burkholder Fabrics made our fabric shopping trip complete.

 

I also purchased coordinating prints for the Tula Pink fabrics I am using in the Splendid Sampler quilt blocks.

The amazing part about the Retreat experience is the camaraderie of fellow quilters. I was working on a quilt block and decided I needed orange fabric and asked if anyone had any orange fabric. Immediately, without any hesitation, several women offered what orange fabric they had. I was working on one of my Splendid Sampler blocks and realized I didn't have any green thread to sew the flower stem, no problem, I soon had my choice of green thread. Quilters are the most amazing, generous people in the world. 



All too soon, the weekend ended and we cleaned up and headed home. I was so fortunate to share this experience with my sister, Mary. We have been fellow quilters for many years and are both members of the same Quilt Guild. 

It was a wonderful weekend and I look forward to next year!




#quiltretreat #BrandywineValleyQuilters #TheSplendidSampler