6/29/16

Home of the Sparrow

Home of the Sparrow (more info here) ... is looking for donations this summer...


BACK TO SCHOOL 2016 WITH A TWIST!
We are doing things a little differently this year!

Pools are open, vacations have started, fireworks fill the night sky; we are officially in full summer mode!
As the fun continues and the days get longer how soon we forget that school will be back in session before we know it.
As August nears, parents scramble to pick up backpack essentials and the newest trends in school fashion.
But for some parents, this is a time of stress and anxiety. With strict budgets and debt, notebooks and pencils seem like an impossible feat. 

In an effort to alleviate some stress with our clients you can help us by providing a book bag and a back to school uniform or a book bag and shoes for a specific child or children. If you are interested in helping with this program we will assign you to a child or children and send you their specific list of sizing information for an outfit or uniform and favorite color or interest for back pack theme suggestion. We would kindly request that you bring everything to the office by Monday August 1st.  Gift receipts would be encouraged for clothing! We will be collecting school supplies at the office and various locations throughout our community partners. Please let me know if your group, church, club, organization, etc. would like to do your own supply collection including; notebooks, folders, paper, pencils, highlighters, etc. 

On Thursday, August 4th at 10:00am we will have 8 volunteers stuff all of the backpacks! Please let me know if you would like to help sort and stuff. 

If you are interested, please fill out the HOS Donor Form and return it as soon as you can. We will email (preferable), mail, or fax the school supply requests to you as soon as we receive them. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact Ashley Stirling at (610) 647-4940, or AStirling@HomeoftheSparrow.org“A child without an education is like a bird without wings”;.  As always we wholeheartedly appreciate your donations, especially when helping to give these children wings to a brighter future!

6/28/16

First Comes Love


First Comes Love: A novel by Emily Giffin. New York: Ballantine Books, 2016. 384 pages. ****


Josie and Meredith Garland each reacted differently to the tragic death of their brother. Fifteen years later, they are struggling to find themselves and navigate their relationship. Meredith married her brother's best friend and is questioning whether she is in love with him. Josie, still single and an elementary school teacher really wants to have a baby. Josie and Meredith have never discussed what happened the night their brother died and with the anniversary of his death looming, they must come to terms with the secrets they have kept since that fateful night. 

Told in the alternating strong voices of Meredith and Josie, Giffin has written a story that anyone who has a sister can relate to and understand the dynamics between them. This is going to be one of those books that if you see someone reading it, you will start to discuss it with her. A great story to recommend and pass around to your friends this summer. 

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

Emily Giffin is a graduate of Wake Forest University and the University of Virginia School of Law. After practicing litigation at a Manhattan firm for several years, she moved to London to write full-time. The author of seven New York Times bestselling novels, she currently lives in Atlanta with her husband and three children. 

#SRC2016 #BestSummerEver @BookSparks



6/24/16

Everybody Rise



Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2015. 371 pages. Reading Group Guide. Recommended Reading. ***

Evelyn Beegan is twenty-six-years-old and trying to escape her privileged background and to reinvent herself in New York City. Her mother is a social climber and has pushed and pulled Evelyn into the world of prep school and the "right" social circles. Evelyn always felt like an outsider and didn't quite fit into her mother's world or that of her peers. Evelyn's perspective changes when she lands a job at a social-network start-up aimed at the elite. Evelyn decides to capitalize on her social connections to infiltrate the world of old money and to pass herself off as being wealthy and independent. Her mother is thrilled and willing to supplement her new lifestyle and to guide her in her latest endeavor. Evelyn tells so many lies that she begins to believe them herself and ignores her huge credit card bill and rent obligation. Alone and desperate, Evelyn is forced to evaluate her choices and what's important in life.

Initially, Evelyn comes across as an independent, ambitious woman, but soon gets caught up in a materialistic, shallow lifestyle. It is really hard to feel sympathetic to her when she thinks that she is above it all (work, rent, paying her bills) and seems annoyed by the mundane task of earning money. Looking for someone to bail her out gets old and the book seems to drag and belabor her situation. It could be my perspective, but I didn't find the plot compelling or entertaining. Clifford holds promise as a writer and it's an easy, beach read.

I received a copy from BookSparks for a review.

Stephanie Clifford covered courts, business, and media as a New York Times Reporter. A Harvard graduate who grew up in Seattle, she now lives in Brooklyn. Everybody Rise is her first book. Visit her website at www.stephanieclifford.net.

6/19/16

All The Missing Girls


All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016. 273 pages. *****+

Nic Farrell receives a phone call from her brother summoning her home to coordinate her father's care and to sell the family home. Returning home after a 10-year absence is particularly difficult when your high school boyfriend has been hired to work on the house and he shows up with his current girlfriend. Nic shouldn't care because she is engaged to a high power attorney and she has been over Tyler for years, hasn't she? Nic soon realizes that she can't escape her past when her father is questioned about the 10-year disappearance of Nic's friend Corinne. When Tyler's girlfriend also disappears, Nic and her family come under scrutiny and gossip about events from their past. What happened to Corinne and why did Nic sever all ties with her high school friends?


Told in reverse chronological order, this story could have been confusing, but it wasn't. Miranda has created strong believable characters that had me guessing as to which one is the murderer. This is an easy book to lose yourself in, once started you will block everything else out in your day/night to finish it. I love stories that sneak up on me and surprise me, I kept saying to myself..."don't go into the woods..." Surprisingly, no one listened to me. Fast paced, twists and turns, it's a great story when I can't stop thinking about Nic and wondering how and what she is doing now. I am definitely looking forward to future books by Megan Miranda.

I received an Advanced Readers Copy for a review.

Megan Miranda is the author of several books for young adults, including Fracture, Hysteria, Vengeance, and Soulprint. She grew up in New Jersey, attended MIT, and lives in North Carolina with her husband and two children. All the Missing Girls is her first novel for adults. Follow @MeganLMiranda on Twitter, or visit MeganMiranda.com.

#summermustread #psychologicalthriller #mystery #murder

6/17/16

Saving Abby


Saving Abby: a novel by Steena Holmes. Seattle: Lake Union, 2016. 264 pages. ****

Claire and her husband Josh have been trying for six years to have a child. They are a highly successful husband and wife team writing and illustrating children's books, but they can't achieve what they want most in life. As they finally let go of their dream, Claire becomes pregnant. They are ecstatic until Claire begins to experience debilitating headaches and fatigue. After receiving a devastating diagnosis, Claire is determined to do whatever it takes to carry her baby to full-term. Her doctor, also her best friend, and Claire's family rally behind her to support her during this troubling pregnancy.

Life is about making choices and Claire's plight is one that has haunted many parents. She gave up one child for adoption as a teen and now is desperate to keep this baby even if it means compromising her health. Holmes weaves a tale of heartbreak, loss and hope against all odds. Realistically told in alternating voices and flashbacks, I was drawn into Claire's experience and I hoped for a different ending. Though slow at some points and inscrutable at others, why didn't Josh or Abby insist that Claire follow up sooner with additional tests when she slept all of the time and was so weak? Definitely an interesting read with a moral dilemma.


I received a copy from BookSparks for a review.


Steena Holmes wrote her first novel while working as a receptionist. She won the National Indie Excellence Book Award in 2012 for her bestselling novel Finding Emma. Now both a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Steena continues to write stories that touch every parent's heart in one way or another. To find out more about her books and her love for traveling, you can visit her website at www.steenaholmes.com or follow her journey over on Instagram @steenaholmes.

#SRC2016 @BookSparks #bestsummerever

Behind Closed Doors



Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2016. 351 pages. *****+

"Grace Angel, wife of the brilliant lawyer Jack Angel, is a perfect example of a woman who has it all---the perfect house, the perfect husband, the perfect life." On the surface artist Grace's life is perfect, but she is desperate and terrified at the same time for someone to notice that it isn't. Grace is the guardian of her sister, Millie, who has Down's syndrome and will soon move into their home. Jack has embraced this responsibility as well and is helping to ready a room in their house for Millie's arrival. Grace's parents have moved to New Zealand, so she cannot expect any help from them in protecting Millie and discovering how controlling and abusive Jack has become towards her.

This dark, psychological and heart-stopping thriller sucked me right in, I stayed up half the night reading it. First published in the UK, it's not hard to believe that it was #1. Paris looks into the deepest part of the human soul and takes us there with her. Fans of Mary Kubica and Karin Slaughter will want to add B. A. Paris to their favorite author list.

This book has a great marketing campaign...I received an advanced copy, a postcard, ransom letter, and other print materials to promote the book.

I received an Early Reader's Edition from the publisher for a review. BookSparks has added it to their Fall Reading Challenge 2016.


B.A. Paris grew up in England but has spent most of her adult life in France. She has worked both in finance and as a teacher and has five daughters. Behind Closed Doors is her first novel.

#behindcloseddoors #staysingle #FRC2016 @BookSparks #BookSparks

6/15/16

Quilty Box






I am fascinated by the thought of a subscription box filled with quilting products being delivered to my door each month. I often wondered if they are worth it and would I use the products I receive each month. I look at the pictures of the boxes online and then wish I had subscribed. While trying to come up with some unique programs for a monthly Guild meeting and being co-chair, I thought of "New Products and Trends in Quilting." We have over 100 members to entertain and enlighten each month, so if I am interested in a topic, usually someone else is too. I reached out to some of the companies supplying the boxes and "Quilty Box" graciously sent me one to review and to share it at a Quilt Guild meeting.

So what is Quilty Box and how does it work?

There are many levels of subscription...

You may subscribe monthly for 48.00 per month (free shipping) all the way up to 12 months prepay for 44.00 per box with 5% of profits supporting Quilts for Kids. (Information on the Quilts for Kids organization here)

All boxes are shipped on the 11th of the month and will arrive on your or my doorstep in 2-4 days. Free shipping Included in the USA. Shipping to Canada is $10/box. Other countries are just $20/box.

According to the website, each Quilty Box has a retail value of over $50 and includes:
Monthly theme based on a featured artist's style
4-5 Exciting Quilting Products
Precut bundle of Fabric - Past items have included 10" Squares, 5" Squares, 2.5" Strips, Fat Quarter Bundles, and Half Yard Bundles
Patterns, Notions, or Thread
5% of profits for multi-month subscriptions donated to Quilts for Kids
Free Shipping in USA




What's included in the May box? The items in this box were selected by Annemarie Chany, Author, Patten Designer from Gen X Quilters.
  • 6 1/2" Triangle Square Up Ruler  12.95
  • Frixion Pen 2.68
  • Bella Maiden Quilt Pattern 9.50
  • Lacuna Sampler  Quilt Pattern 12.00
  • RJR Fabrics Fat Quarter Bundle (10 in the bundle) 28.00
Retail Value: 65.13

Note: I used the Quilty Box  suggested retail prices, but they were very close to online stores and in some instances less expensive.



Quilty Box also has a Shop where you may purchase the items included in current and past boxes. 

What are the Pros the Quilty Box?
  • Quality products pre-selected and delivered to my door
  • 5% of the subscription price goes to Quilts for Kids
  • Both patterns are fat quarter friendly
  • The fat quarters included are gorgeous and are quality fabric
  • Free shipping
  • The items in the box are packed carefully.
The Cons
I can't think of any, except that I don't get to keep this box.  I would use all of the products included this month. I definitely recommend subscribing to this service...Subscription options.

Patrick generously included coupons for the Quilt Guild members to use towards their first box. I will post pictures of the lucky member who wins this box at our meeting!

To learn more about the Quilt Guild, visit the website...Brandywine Valley Quilters.

#quiltybox #brandywinevalleyquilters

The House of Bradbury


The House of Bradbury: a novel by Nicole Meier. Tempe: BookSparks, 2016. 258 pages. ****

Thirty-eight-year-old Mia Gladwell's life is in shambles. Her first novel has tanked, she has moved out of her cheating fiance's place and is living in her sister's carriage house. When Ray Bradbury's house comes on the market, it seems like destiny that Mia should live there. The only thing holding her back is the $1.5 million purchase price.  Borrowing the money from her successful movie producer ex-fiance, he owes her after all, Mia moves in with the hope of being influenced by the great writer. The home is what she has hoped for and more, what she didn't expect to find is a detailed pencil sketch in a plain envelope taped above the bell next to her front door. Nor did she expect her ex-fiance to call in a favor so soon after loaning her the money for the house. Cole wants her to take in the Zoe Winter, a successful twenty-three-year-old actress, who has recently completed rehab for alcohol and pill issues. All Mia wants to do is write a best-selling novel and learn the identity of who is leaving sketches by her front door. The inspiration for her novel comes unexpectedly and Mia finds that she has come home after all.

Meier has written an entertaining tale of friendship, intrigue, and love. I am a Bradbury fan and  I really enjoyed the many references to his writing and his house. This is one of those books that when I started it, I didn't expect to like it as much as I did. It's an easy, sitting on the porch or beach kind of read.

I received a copy from BookSparks for a review.

Nicole Meier is a native Southern Californian who pulled up roots and moved to the Pacific Northwest. She works as a freelance travel and lifestyle writer. She lives in Oregon with her husband and three children. The House of Bradbury is her first novel.

#SRC2016 @Booksparks #bestsummerever

6/11/16

The A$$i$tant$


The Assistants by Camille Perri. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2016. 282 pages. ****

Thirty-year-old Tina Fontana is an executive assistant to Robert Barlow, the CEO of Titan Corporation. Underpaid and overworked, don't all corporations expect you to be happy that you have a job? Tina can barely afford to pay her rent and $20,000 in student loans. When a technical glitch forces Robert to fly commercial, he requests a seat in first class and that all of the seats around him are kept empty. And of course, he demands that the airline comps the price...a whopping $19,147.00! The airline refuses and Tina is forced to charge it to her personal credit cards. After Tina submits the amount to be reimbursed, the airline reverses the charges and Tina receives a check for the full amount. The check will cancel Tina's college loans and she has been an underpaid, faithful employee for six years, what's an assistant to do? Becoming a modern day Robin Hood isn't exactly what Tina had in mind in her moment of weakness, but she is blackmailed and bullied into a scheme to pay off the student loans of other women employees.


A funny, easy read, that will make you laugh and groan at the same time. When she gives into her impulse, I know Tina is going to get caught, I didn't expect her to be so easily manipulated by others who want in on the action. The assistants aren't greedy, they only pay off student loans and want pay equity.  A sad commentary on the high cost of education and low wages of those who are at the bottom of the corporate ladder told in an amusing, entertaining story.

I received a copy from BookSparks for a review.

Camille Perri has worked as a books editor for Cosmopolitan and Esquire magazines. She has also been a ghostwriter of young adult novels and a reference librarian. She holds a bachelor of arts degree from New York University and a master of library science degree from Queens College. Perri wrote her first draft of The Assistants while working as the assistant to the editor in chief of Esquire.

#SRC2016 #bestsummerever @BookSparks

6/9/16

One True Loves






One True Loves: a novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid. New York: Washington Square Press, 2016. 331 pages. *****

"I am finishing up dinner with my family and my fiance when my husband calls." Emma's husband Jesse, her high school sweetheart, disappears in a helicopter crash over the Pacific and has been declared dead. Fast forward to years later when Emma has moved on with her life and is now engaged to be married when Jesse calls. While married to Jesse, Emma was a world traveler and adventure seeker. Now she has moved back to her hometown in an effort to continue her life without Jesse and is running her parent's bookstore. Emma has a fiance and a husband and has to choose which one she will be married to for the rest of her life. Is it possible to have two true loves? Will Emma get to decide or will Jesse or Sam decide for her?

Reid has a way of drawing me in and holding me captive. Her comfortable writing style belies the complexity of the main conflict in her stories prompting the reader to question, what would I do? The solution seems impossible and gut wrenching for Emma and the families involved, but a decision has to be made. While the plot is certainly not a new one, Reid gives it a fresh perspective and just the right amount of suspense to keep me guessing which one Emma will choose. If you start this novel on the beach, lather up with sunscreen because you won't want to leave until you reach the end and discover her choice. If you haven't read Taylor Jenkins Reid before, you will want to read all of her books. I reviewed Maybe In Another Life  last summer and highly recommend it.

I received an Advanced Uncorrected Proof from BookSparks for a review.


Taylor Jenkins Reid is an author, essayist, and TV writer from Acton, Massachusetts. Her debut novel, Forever, Interrupted, has been optioned with Dakota Johnson attached to star. She is adapting her second book, After I Do, for Freeform, formerly known as ABC Family. Her most recent novel, Maybe In Another Life, has been featured in People, US Weekly, Cosmo, and more. One True Loves is available now. In addition to her novels, Taylor's essays have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post, xoJane, and a number of other blogs.

She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Alex, and their dog, Rabbit.

#bestsummerever #SRC2016 @BookSparks

6/8/16

The Tolling of Mercedes Bell


The Tolling of Mercedes Bell: a novel by Jennifer Dwight. Berkeley: She Writes Press, 2016. 
394 pages. *****

Mercedes Bell, recently widowed, thinks she has finally found a job that will give her security and provide a better life for her and her daughter. Working as a paralegal in the prestigious firm of Crenshaw, Slayne & McDonough, she meets and falls in love with Jack Soutane, a handsome, smooth-talking lawyer. It's the 1980s and AIDS, crack and violence are in the news. Even though Jack seems too good to be true and colleagues and friends hint that he may not be what he seems to be, Mercedes is swept off her feet and marries him. The reality is different from the fantasy which Mercedes discovers soon after their honeymoon when Jack's behavior becomes erratic. Mercedes could not have predicted the horror that awaits her.

Dwight tells a compelling tale that probably was true for many during the 1980s. With grit and determination Mercedes is a strong woman who is protective of her daughter and does what she needs to in order to keep both of them safe. Jack, the villain in the story, is a man trying to make sense of the times and circumstances in which he lives. While not sympathetic to the choices he made, having lived during the 80s, I understand. Hopefully, we have learned and grown as a society, sometimes, I'm not sure. Thank you, Dwight, for bringing an issue into the light in all its horror and consequences. Jack's solution to his problem is cold-hearted and abhorrent and Dwight expertly portrays his deceit.  I had a difficult time writing this review because I loved it and was unsettled by the plot at the same time. This is a book that will be talked about and is one that will haunt you. Read it and recommend it to your friends, you will have a lot to discuss when done.

I received a copy of this book for a review.

Jennifer Dwight was born into a U.S. Air Force family who was stationed throughout the U.S. and Asia during her youth, before settling in Colorado. In Asia, she was first exposed to ancient cultures and eastern religions, which sparked her lifelong interest in how peoples' beliefs shape their lives.

This is her first novel. She lives with her husband, Robert W. Duffy , and their little black dog, Jackie Beane, in Northern California. To learn more about Jennifer Dwight.

#SRC2016 @BookSparks #bestsummerever


6/6/16

The Sweetheart Deal


The Sweetheart Deal: A Novel by Polly Dugan. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2016. 309 pages. ****

Firefighter Leo McGreary gets drunk and maudlin on New Year's Eve and asks his best friend, Garrett, to sign a piece of paper agreeing to marry his wife in the event of his death. Twelve years later Leo tragically dies in a skiing accident and Garrett gives up his job, apartment and latest girlfriend to help Leo's widow. Garrett works daily to complete a house addition that Leo started but didn't finish before his death. Life becomes complicated when Garrett finds himself falling for Audrey and her three sons and Audrey finds out about the promise made on that New Year's Eve.

Told in the alternating voices of Leo, Garrett, Audrey and her three sons, I was drawn into this story of loss, friendship, love, and grief. Each of the characters responds to the challenges of life in a way that at times is heartbreaking and yet, hopeful. Alternating narrators has been the style of a few of the books that I have read lately, I'm not sure if it is a trend, but in this book, it was a little distracting. It's a good plot and an easy read, I just would have enjoyed it more from a single voice; Audrey or Garrett's point of view. I couldn't decide if Garrett has always been in love with Audrey and that's why his relationships never lasted or if they were rebounding from the loss of Leo. I would recommend this book as a Chick Lit or beach read.

I received a copy from BookSparks for a review.

Polly Dugan lives in Portland, Oregon, and is a reader at Tin House magazine. A former employee of Powell's Books and Guide Dogs for the Blind, she is an alumna of the Tin House Writer's Workshop. She is the author of the story collection So Much a Part of You.

#Bestsummerever   #SRC2016   @BookSparks

6/1/16

The Gridley Girls


Gridley Girls by Meredith First. Tempe: SparkPress, 2016. 400 pages. **** A Gridley Girls Guide to Seventies Pop Culture, A mini yearbook of pictures, A Reader's Club Guide, and An excerpt from the upcoming Gridley Girls Reunited. 

In this semi-autobiographical first book in the series, Meg Monahan and her friends are known as The Group in her hometown of Gridley, California. Meg is the youngest of four daughters in a close-knit family and born to be the keeper of secrets in her family and for her friends. She also keeps diaries of her life during the 70s and names them the Virgin Diaries, because "while most enter high school as a virgin, few leave as one." Flash forward 2008 and Meg is planning the wedding of her best friend Anne and contemplating a move with her family to Minneapolis. Anne wants to read the diaries and seems to be searching for something. Flashing back and forth between 1978-1979 and 2008, Meg revisits her high school years while working through her current dilemma. 

First portrays a realistic look from a 1970s viewpoint of current social issues: gay marriage, abortion, religion, betrayal, and death. A heartwarming story of friendship, love, and acceptance. At times, the transitions between chapters were a bit confusing, but it did not take away from the story. Meg's story will make you laugh and cry and wish you had kept a journal of your teenage years. I know mine would not have been as interesting as hers. I recommend this title for a Book Club Choice, many discussion topics, and cultural 70s references. 

I received an ebook copy of this book for a review.


Meredith First left an insanely great recruiting career with Apple, Inc., to write the books that were literally haunting her dreams---books for anyone who survived high school with a little help from her friends. After studying abroad at the University of London, she received a communications/broadcasting degree from Oregon State University. Through the donation of 10% of her income from Gridley Girls, she hopes to help people who struggle with similar issues that she experienced. She lives in Minneapolis and Sacramento and is hard at work on book two in the series.

#SRC2016 @BookSparks # thebestsummerever