A woman with amnesia finds herself alone in an unfamiliar place. She's frightened and desperate. Why is she there? Was she with someone? Where did sheA woman with amnesia finds herself alone in an unfamiliar place. She's frightened and desperate. Why is she there? Was she with someone? Where did she come from? And what is her name? At the lowest point of her despair she begins to cry and her tears attract the attention of well-dressed gentleman who comes to her aid and offers her a place to stay until she can sort things out. She joins him in his chauffeur-driven car and they speed off into the night to his palatial estate.
What promises to be a suspense-filled story with numerous possibilities sadly falls far short of the mark. As the story progresses at a snail's pace the writing does nothing to stir the imagination. The description of a mansion that is a shrine to the man's dead wife leaves the reader feeling cold. The interaction between the characters is stilted. The only spot of life in the book is the housekeeper, Dottie, who is presumably telling the story. But her scenes are few and far between.
While this is the author's ninth book, there is little to commend it. The entire book is in desperate need of an editor. The grammar is horrible. And the number of misplaced commas is too numerous to count. The plot line is weak and unless you are looking for a travelogue of Europe I would suggest you pass by this one. ...more
PTSD is a debilitating disease. I have known quite a few who suffer(ed) from it. So when I found this novel set in my home state, and written by a forPTSD is a debilitating disease. I have known quite a few who suffer(ed) from it. So when I found this novel set in my home state, and written by a former high school classmate, I thought I'd give it a try. The story opens with the return home of Lawrence Ellsworth who along with his Sarge, a rough man named Burton, arrive at the farm in Connecticut where Lawrence grew up. They pair have traveled far from the battlefields of the War of Southern Secession (Civil War). Waiting to greet them is Abigail, the love of Lawrence's life, whom he shortly marries. The two have a very colorful past. As anyone would expect, there is a period of adjustment upon the return from any combat but everyday things seem to trigger episodes for Lawrence that hearken back to the battlefield. The questions he asks himself, "What's wrong with me?" "Why am I like this?" "What demons are living within me?" all lead to violent outbursts and soon cause his wife to live in fear. Will Lawrence conquer those demons and how will he accomplish that? And is the wall simply a metaphor for the ailments of the soldier? Or is it something more sinister?
This story is full of unrealized potential. It barely skims the surface of the problem. As we now know, PTSD is a life-long affliction that can be controlled to some degree with medication. But the flareups arrive without warning leaving the sufferer as well as those around him/her at a loss. In the era of Wilson's Wall, it was believed that love would conquer all. Each of the incidents that occurs within the story could have been elaborated on a bit more. The characters are one-dimensional at best. It was like watching cardboard cutouts of people move through the scenes with little to no emotion, spouting every cliche imaginable. The scenes were mostly flat. What could have been a 5-star novel rates only 2.5 stars (no option for that so I went with 2 stars). Would like to see this book be edited better and expanded. ...more
Leave it to Alexander McCall-Smith to take random vintage photos and weave stories around them. This slim volume is deceiving because within its compaLeave it to Alexander McCall-Smith to take random vintage photos and weave stories around them. This slim volume is deceiving because within its compact-sized body lies a world of wonder and a world of love. Told in his own enchanting style, these five short stories will leave the reader feeling good about life. My favorite of the five is Sister Flora’s First Day of Freedom where a woman leaves the convent and reenters the secular world. Having spent a good deal of her adult life in seclusion, she sets out to speedily make up for lost time. In Dear Ventriloquist we are treated to a look at carnival life and revel in the private lives and loves of those whose life centers around the big top and midway.
Sister Flora’s First Day of Freedom: a nun in Scotland, the recipient of a legacy, leaves the convent, her home of ten years, with a specific goal in mind. Angels in Italy: an artist who regrets his behaviour as a young man learns something surprising when reunited with a friend from his youth.
Dear Ventriloquist: a young circus performer’s fortune-telling proves to be unexpectedly accurate. The Woman with the Beautiful Car: a young man acts in an uncharacteristic way to gain the attention of a lady. He Wanted to Believe in Tenderness: an old man counts his blessings despite a less-than-ideal life.
Each story is captivating in its own way. Every reader will find something to like within these short stories. McCall-Smith’s charming way with words will mesmerize you. If you haven’t yet read any of McCall-Smith’s series or if you aren’t sure you’ll enjoy his writing style, then this is the perfect book for you. The physical book is nicely sized to tuck into a purse or briefcase (yes, gentlemen, you too will enjoy these stories). I certainly hope the author plans on doing more of these photo stories....more
I’ve found my new favorite romance author. Lenora Bell, that’s you!
If I Only Had A Duke begins with a peek at some correspondence between the Lady DorI’ve found my new favorite romance author. Lenora Bell, that’s you!
If I Only Had A Duke begins with a peek at some correspondence between the Lady Dorothea (or Disastrous Dorothea as she’s known among the ton) and Dalton, Duke of Osborne. Dorothea is anxious to catalog an attic full of artwork that is hidden away in Dalton’s ancestral home in Ireland but the duke, for deep and dark reasons, is adamant that things remain as they are. So Dorothea sets out to waylay the roguish duke at a ball in London and plead her case. She certainly isn’t there to snare a husband, having failed for three previous seasons to do so; she simply wants to be ignored by society, return to Ireland where she hopes to live with her aunt, and catalog the duke’s artwork, of course. He wants nothing to do with the lady and so he decides that by honoring her with the first dance of the season she will be so beset by suitors that she’ll forget about his artwork. His ploy works but Dorothea is so angry that he has thwarted her hoped-for social failure that she seeks revenge upon the man. What follows is humorous, poignant, soul-wrenching (on the part of the duke), and love-inspiring.
A terrific journey through the British countryside and a boat ride later, you’ll be totally involved with these characters. I enjoyed the duke’s male companion, Connell, who provides much of the humor, especially when their carriage is beset upon by a girl dressed in boy’s clothing trying to pass herself off as a highwayman.
Looking forward to the next book by this talented author....more
Some days you simply need a feel good story. A story that will restore your faith in the universe. And that is the key to The First Phone Call From HeSome days you simply need a feel good story. A story that will restore your faith in the universe. And that is the key to The First Phone Call From Heaven – Faith. An unexpected phone call is received by Tess Rafferty who happens to live in the small town of Coldwater, Michigan. It is from her deceased mother; and the call’s message brings much comfort to Tess. Shortly thereafter, a select few other residents of the town receive calls of their own from a deceased relative, friend, or business associate. Are these calls real? Can they be real? Is there truly a hot-line to heaven? As news of the calls spreads, the local police as well as all denominations of the local clergy find themselves thrust into the center of world-wide attention. On the other side of this miracle is Sullivan Harding. His story is one of despair and he tries to shield his young son from believing that his deceased mother will call him on a toy phone. Sullivan sets out to prove that this entire scenario is a hoax. But with the town becoming overrun with believers, news reporters, and protesters he has a tough time.
This story is enchanting, humorous, serious, and believable. The characters are finely drawn and soon become old friends. Overall an easy read and an uplifting one. The story itself will have you second guessing the verity of the phone calls but the ending will have you believing that those on the ‘other side’ are listening, if not communicating. Mitch Albom fans are sure to love this story as will readers of Nicholas Sparks. I finished it in two days....more
When young Derek and his family bring a baby dragon named Zantor back to their village and into their home, he and his family become the victims of feWhen young Derek and his family bring a baby dragon named Zantor back to their village and into their home, he and his family become the victims of fear and bullying. People just don’t trust dragons. Surely it is a stupid move to bring one into their midst. The village elders that the dragonling may stay but certain provisions must be met. And at the first sign of trouble the dragonling will be put to death. Derek’s father grudgingly vouches for Zantor and it is decreed that if the dragonling causes even the slightest bit of trouble then Derek’s father will also die.
But some people can’t leave well enough alone and they set up a situation designed to cause problems with the dragonling. As a consequence Derek’s dad is tied to the stake and the flames are lit. Can Derek uncover the real culprits who have framed both the dragonling and his dad? Will he be too late?
Once again, the characters are easy to identify with and of course Zantor, the dragonling, is endearing and quirky. Detailed illustrations make the story come alive. A wonderful second book in the Dragonling Series. Young readers will be captivated by the adventure as they learn life lessons in an enchanting manner. Perfect chapter book for 7-10 year olds and other early readers. Great for parents or grandparents to read to younger children. I look forward to reading the remaining books in this series.
Note: Jackie French Koller (the author) is a high school classmate of mine. She has not provided me with these books nor has she requested that I review them. These are my honest reviews of books that I purchased. If you’re interested in other books by this author please check out her author page on Amazon: Jackie French Koller She has written a large number of books for children of all ages....more
I love dragons! Big, small, short, or tall. But baby dragons, or dragonlings, are the ultimate in cuteness for me. So when I found this series I was hI love dragons! Big, small, short, or tall. But baby dragons, or dragonlings, are the ultimate in cuteness for me. So when I found this series I was hooked. And the fact that it is written by a high school classmate of mine makes it extra special. Although written over a decade ago the story brings to life lessons that are timeless.
The Dragonling is an enchanting story of how a young boy, dreaming of going on his own dragonquest, finds a dragonling whose mother has been killed. Although the boy, Derek, has been taught to hate and fear dragons this dragonling tugs at his heartstrings. He decides to return the baby to the Valley of the Dragons, to his own kind. Along the way the two become friends and Derek names the dragonling Zantor. When at last the pair arrive at the Valley of the Dragons, Derek is amazed to learn that the dragons aren’t to be feared as he’d been taught. And the prospect of staying with the dragons is not what Zantor wants. Will the village folk, and Derek’s family, accept the dragonling into their midst?
A perfect story to help children learn that while we aren’t all alike externally, the same love beats in all hearts. Well told, easy to read, and full of likable characters, this story will charm readers of all ages. The dragons are endearing in their humanlike manner. Great read for ages 7-10 but also works as a read-to book for ages 4-6. Short chapters, detailed artwork....more
Let me begin by saying I'm not an expert on the Bible or its teachings. But I do believe in God and I believe there is a Heaven where God will welcomeLet me begin by saying I'm not an expert on the Bible or its teachings. But I do believe in God and I believe there is a Heaven where God will welcome us. What Heaven is like I don't know. However, I read this book eagerly to see if I could learn anything new.
When a misdiagnosed ruptured appendix sends three and a half year old Colton into emergency surgery, his parents are consumed with despair at the thought they might lose their son. Colton's dad, a pastor of a mid-western church, has himself suffered setbacks during the past year and rages against God for giving him yet another cross to bear. Colton's mom, who has spent two weeks without sleep trying to care for her son who, she was told by doctors, had a recurring case of the flu, has reached the end of her rope. Unknown to either parent is the fact that their son, while on the operating table, is called to Heaven by God. His visit is short - three minutes in earth time. Short enough so that no call of death was made while on the operating table - his heart continued to beat. But the view of Heaven that he's been offered, and that he reveals in short recountings, makes his dad stop and question what happened to his son. Pastor Burpo knows what his son has been taught about God and Heaven and finds there is no correlation to what his son relates about his Heavenly visit. Nor is there any explanation for the boy's meeting and knowledge of relatives who passed long before the boy was born. And he certainly hadn't been told about the child his mother miscarried long before even his older sister was born. What follows is a story that will have the reader question their own faith and perhaps re-evaluate their lives.
There has been much discussion by other reviewers of the theological aspects of the Heavenly visit, but I'm not qualified to speak to that aspect. I can only state that this story moved me in many ways. For those who are looking for a validation of Heaven, then I find that this book fills the bill. I'm sure there are things in the book that will cause a few raised eyebrows, but isn't that true of any book? I can only give my opinion. If you're looking for an easy read, a life-affirming story, then you won't be disappointed by this book. ...more
What does a bulldozer have to do with food? The answer lies here, in My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall-Smith.
When your significant other of fouWhat does a bulldozer have to do with food? The answer lies here, in My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall-Smith.
When your significant other of four years runs off with her personal trainer what do you do? If you're Paul Stuart, a foodie and a writer, then you mope about for quite some type, alienate most of your friends, and come alarmingly close to missing the deadline for your next book. That is what happens to the character of Paul Stuart. After paying a visit to his confidant and editor, Gloria, Paul takes her advice and sets out to finish his book - in the Tuscan region of Italy. What begins as a calming sojourn quickly takes an interesting turn shortly after his arrival in Pisa when Paul tries to find his rental car in the lot. It is missing. When he complains of not being able to find it, he is arrested for car theft since he'd already signed the forms saying that he'd accepted possession of the car. He eventually gets sprung out of jail only to find there are no longer any cars available for rent. But he is offered a bulldozer that is available. He agrees to the rental and sets off from his lofty position in the dozer's cab for his ultimate destination of Montalcino. Thus begins an adventure that can only be told by the indomitable Alexander McCall Smith.
Smith's books are a commentary on life in general and remind the reader of those basic precepts of life that we tend to forget or ignore from time to time (as is evidenced by his beloved other series). Here, we are eased into the relaxing lifestyle of the Tuscani people. The story is a narrative ode to the sights, sounds, smells, and loves of Italy in this small cross-section of the country. The characters are well-developed and quirky just the way folks are in real life. And when Paul finally realizes that the love of his life has been in front of him the whole time, well, it makes the story most satisfying indeed.
An easy read that will wrap itself around you in a comforting embrace, it is a great story. Another star in the McCall-Smith firmament. ...more
Only the second of the Bookshots books I've read but this one has put me off the whole series. A thirty-something professional woman, who has become aOnly the second of the Bookshots books I've read but this one has put me off the whole series. A thirty-something professional woman, who has become addicted to Netflix and Oreos since her divorce, decides its time for a change. She buys a little black dress that bolsters her confidence and opens herself up to having sex with men she picks up, uses, and drops. The back cover copy entices the reader with a lure of a fantasy taken too far. However, what we are treated to is mostly mundane sex, nothing too erotic, and certainly nothing that goes too far.
Our main character, Jane Avery, has conflicting thoughts and emotions and even her shrink doesn't seem able to help. The story really has no plot and could easily have been an episode of Seinfeld. In my humble opinion, not worth the money. Might work better as a longer story where the reader could delve into the psyche of the main character.
I hate to give negative reviews but this time there's no way around it. ...more
What an interesting concept, little books to tuck into a purse or backpack - that's what I thought when I first saw these little Bookshots. I decidedWhat an interesting concept, little books to tuck into a purse or backpack - that's what I thought when I first saw these little Bookshots. I decided to try a couple and chose The McCullagh Inn in Maine for my first Bookshots read. A second chance at love/romance is what is promised on the back cover copy. We first meet the main character, Chelsea O'Kane as she drives home to Maine. She is on the run from Miami and what we can surmise is a crime that she's committed. Chelsea has decided to hide out in the hometown she ran away from some years earlier and where her brother still lives. We can also easily deduce that her brother, like their father before them, lives on the edge of the law. Shortly after her arrival Chelsea runs into the man she once loved as a teenager. He wants to rekindle their passion but Chelsea wants none of it. What promises to be a hopeful reunion takes a wrong turn as bullets begin to fly.
I found the story line too predictable. Anyone who watches police drama on television could have written this story. The romance - or sex scenes - were not romantic in the least. Women readers like romantic language and want to be seduced through words and thoughts as well as physicality. Like most men, the romantic scenes were trite, fast, and over with before any woman would even realize what happened. The characters were shallow as well and I could almost mouth their lines before they did.
While I realize that these Bookshots are meant for fast and light reading, a bit more description would have gone a long way to keep this reader happy.
I have always been fascinated by the British Monarchy and this book drew me simply by its title. Written from the perspective of Charlotte Bill, alsoI have always been fascinated by the British Monarchy and this book drew me simply by its title. Written from the perspective of Charlotte Bill, also known as Mrs. Lala, it is the behind the scenes look at the British Royal Family from the years 1897 through 1959. Charlotte has been hired as under-nanny for the royal children - David, Bertie, and soon to be born Mary. Within a short time she witnesses an atrocity playing out with David at the receiving end of love/punishment from the head nanny Mrs. Peters. Sadly Mrs. Peters has 'an illness' and is sent to an asylum and Mrs. Lala is promoted. Over the years we witness the ever-expanding royal family and learn of the eccentricities of those in power as concerns their offspring. Sometimes laughable, sometimes sad, these eccentricities are what make the royal family who they are. Not until the last child of the Waleses is born does Mrs. Lala find the love of her life: John Charles Francis who would eventually be called the Lost Prince. Unlike any of his other siblings, Johnnie is prone to epileptic fits that worsen over time. And it is Mrs. Lala who stays by the boy, tends to him, nurses him through his fits, and becomes his lifelong companion. All this at the expense of a life of her own away from her royal duties. After witnessing one of the boy's fits that totally unnerves his siblings, Johnnie and Mrs. Lala are moved from the family homes to a small cottage at the far reaches of Sandringham where they stay until his demise at the age of fourteen.
I loved this story, mostly because it is based on true events and populated with historical characters who actually lived. It has given me a new perspective on how the upper class comports themselves and what their actual expectations may be. I also was eager to learn more about Prince John as I had never heard of him before. The story quickly grabs the reader and exposes them to the wonders of royal life via the descriptions of their residences - mostly Sandringham and environs. The on-again, off-again romance of Mrs. Lala and Chad Reaver is one of unrequited love that eventually gets straightened out although it takes a number of years to get to its completion. Attention to detail is excellent and I felt like an onlooker over Mrs. Lala's shoulder throughout the story.
With a wedding gown on the cover and the back cover tease talking about a an 'old-fashioned tailor', one would expect The Dressmaker to be a romance nWith a wedding gown on the cover and the back cover tease talking about a an 'old-fashioned tailor', one would expect The Dressmaker to be a romance novel. And it is, sort of.
What begins as an ordinary day in the life of Claude Reynard, tailor and dressmaker, in the small town of Senlis, France changes the moment he sets eyes on Valentine de Verlay. She has come to him to have a wedding gown designed. She, however, is unprepared for what follows. Claude designs her gown and it becomes the talk of the fashion world. He designs everything with Valentine in mind. However, she soon becomes an obsession for him. Although he's been estranged from his wife for eight years he now wants a divorce. He is convinced that Valentine will see the error of her ways and ditch her fiance in favor of him. Claude can't help himself or his yearning to simply see the object of his dreams and soon begins showing up at places where he knows she'll be. Things take strange turns as life most often does and what begins as a great love with Valentine being the muse for the rising couturier, soon takes on the aspects of a stalker - especially when Claude follows Valentine and her husband to America. As a secondary story we have Henri, Claude's fourteen year old nephew, and his first love Pascale. Like his uncle, Henri has shown a flair for designing women's clothes.
The writing here is very descriptive and I could easily imagine the swish of taffeta or the glide of silk as Claude pinned and sketched fascinating clothes. The sight of the decades old apple tree in his back yard made me feel the warmth and hope of spring. Yet there was an uneasiness about the story. A question of Claude walking the tightrope between inspiration and madness. The conclusion was not expected and rather sad.
For some reason I like my romances to end happily, this being fiction. I felt a bit deflated at the end of this one so if that is what the author intended, then she's done her job well. The rating is based on my reaction to the ending. ...more
Stars Over Sunset Boulevard takes the reader on a journey from its opening in 2012 back to the year of 1939 where the story actual starts. Violet is aStars Over Sunset Boulevard takes the reader on a journey from its opening in 2012 back to the year of 1939 where the story actual starts. Violet is a somewhat shy Southern girl who has decided to reconstruct her life in California after a life-altering medical problem. She accepts a secretarial position at Selznick Studios and meets Audrey who is looking for a roommate. Audrey is an almost-star who works in the secretary pool and knows everyone and everything. A good person to have as a friend. Add into the mix a shy man named Bert, Audrey's best friend. Bert has a crush on Audrey but her feelings are very different from his. Audrey still has hopes of being a star; Bert harbors a secret desire to be an ornithologist; Violet's dream of a husband, children, and a white picket fenced house seems just beyond her reach. Together the three form an odd sort of friendship. Add to this the fact that Gone With The Wind has just started filming and the three are kept busy at all hours of the day and night, and you have the sort of book that grabs your attention and won't let go. The story starts with the discovery by a young woman named Christine who owns a vintage-clothing store and receives by mistake the green and gold hat that Scarlett creates from the drapes at Tara. How did this hat come to Christine? And why does she remember seeing this exact hat as a child and trying it on? The story will have you turning the pages and burning the midnight oil.
I'm a huge fan of Gone With The Wind as well of 1930s and 1940s Hollywood. I love the glamour of it all. This story is rich in detail and it is obvious that Ms. Meissner has done her research on this one. I was captivated by the life of the two secretaries who lived on the fringe of the movie sets for months; and following their lives after Selznick Studios was just as captivating. By the third chapter I felt like these two were old friends of mine. The contrasts between Scarlett and Melanie from GWTW and Audrey and Violet were well drawn and it was easy to see how the bonds of friendship can form in the most unlikely ways.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and give it an easy five stars. Looking forward to reading more by this author.