Monday, June 27, 2011

Double Take by Melody Carlson


From the Publisher

It's spring break of her senior year and Madison Van Buren is fed up. Stressed over Ivy League pressure, her parents' marital problems, and her boyfriend's neglect, Madison gets in her car and drives west. 

Meanwhile, eighteen-year-old Anna Bronner wants to escape the so-called simple life--which for her consists of caring for younger siblings, sewing, cooking, and gardening--and she's well aware that her future will simply be more of the same with a man she doesn't love. 

Suddenly, worlds collide when Madison and Anna meet in a small town, realize they look uncannily similar, and decide the grass is definitely greener on the other side.

My Take

I was really excited to receive this book for review---I love Amish stories and I the thought of an Amish & “Englisher” girl trading places sounding fascinating. So I had high expectations when I sat down to read Double Take.

It’s understandable that an “Englisher” girl would want to leave the hustle & bustle of her high-profile, fancy life in New York City provided by her wealthy parents. But going Amish? Hmmm…..interesting choice!  It’s also plausible that a young, Amish girl would want to get out & see the world past her community. But making a snap decision to trade lives with someone you don’t know or trust? Even more of an interesting choice.

It’s amazing to me that a young lady from NYC has absolutely nThato ability in the homemaking arena—it’s totally different than the life I know but maybe it’s true. Who doesn’t know how to make eggs? Yes, the stove is different but…..  As for an Amish girl to go into the big city, I can see how intimidating that can be!! However it was fun reading about each of their experiences—it’s something we would never think of.

The biggest part of the book, in my opinion, was seeing how the girls changed. For Madison, she went from a spoiled, self-centered material girl to a praying, more compassionate and honest young lady. Amish Anna realized there is more to true love than a romantic vision and that life doesn’t always come out the way you want it to. They both came through the switch more kind-hearted and considerate toward others along with getting more self-esteem for themselves.

There wasn’t a lot of background on the Amish lifestyle so if this is your first Amish book, it could be confusing. Beside the fact that Amish are fairly timid, it’s hard to believe that an Amish girl would do what Anna did. But then, this is fiction! The story is a quick and easy read with a few chuckles and some hard-to-believe situations but all in all, I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars just because I could lay by the pool & have some mindless reading fun.

Available June 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

I received this book free from Revell as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

About the Author

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books, several of them Christmas novellas from Revell, including her much-loved and bestselling books, Christmas at Harrington’s and The Christmas Bus. She also writes many teen books, including Just Another Girl, Anything but Normal, the Diary of a Teenage Girl series, the TrueColors series, and the Carter House Girls series. Melody was nominated for a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her books, including the Diary of a Teenage Girl series and several books which  are being considered for TV movies. She and her husband serve on the Young Life adult committee in central Oregon.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Chasing Sunsets by Eva Marie Everson


From the Publisher

Kimberly Tucker’s life hasn’t turned out the way she wanted. While her ex is living it up, she struggles to understand what went wrong with their marriage. When her two sons end up spending five weeks of summer vacation with their father, Kim plans a respite at the family vacation home on Cedar Key. As she revisits the long-forgotten past, she discovers that life’s treasures are often buried, and the only way to find them is to dig deeply—within yourself.

Get ready to be swept away to an island retreat of warm tropical breezes—and a glorious journey of self-discovery.

My Take

CHASING SUNSETS by Eva Marie Everson is the first book I’ve read by this author and I think I’ve found a new favorite author to follow! 

This is a book of hope, forgiveness, introspection and love.  I love the fact that the main character decided to take a trip to Cedar Key by herself to do a little relaxing. For the first time since college, she’s alone for 5 weeks in the summer.  She seemed to be at loose ends until she meets her neighbor and “wise woman”, Patsy. This time alone gives Kimberly the opportunity to examine her life, her ended marriage, and what she wants to do in the future. As in real life, it’s a difficult road to take.

I love that the characters in the book are developed – it’s like you actually know them.  When an author can pull that off, I’d say the book will be a success.  You want to take sides in the character plots but Ms. Everson brings out both the good & the not-so-good qualities of everyone. No single character is black or white---just like in real life---but they have awesome traits and everyday flaws. Personally I like that in my reading.

Chasing Sunsets is a fabulous summer read---by the pool, in a chaise lounge, or even on the patio. Bring out a fruity drink & you have the makings of a relaxing time just for you.  I’m giving this a 5 star rating and look forward to the next book in the series!

Available June 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

I received this book free from Revell as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

About the Author

Eva Marie Everson is a successful speaker, a popular radio personality, and the award-winning author of Things Left Unspoken and This Fine Life. She is coauthor of the Potluck Club series and the Potluck Catering Club series. She lives in Florida.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Daughter's Walk by Jane Kirkpatrick

Strong, Resilient Characters—Historically Fascinating

From the Publisher

A mother's tragedy, a daughter's desire and the 7000 mile journey that changed their lives. 

In 1896 Norwegian American Helga Estby accepted a wager from the fashion industry to walk from Spokane, Washington to New York City within seven months in an effort to earn $10,000. Bringing along her nineteen year-old daughter Clara, the two made their way on the 3500-mile trek by following the railroad tracks and motivated by the money they needed to save the family farm.  After returning home to the Estby farm more than a year later, Clara chose to walk on alone by leaving the family and changing her name. Her decisions initiated a more than 20-year separation from the only life she had known. 

Historical fiction writer Jane Kirkpatrick picks up where the fact of the Estbys’ walk leaves off to explore Clara's continued journey. What motivated Clara to take such a risk in an era when many women struggled with the issues of rights and independence? And what personal revelations brought Clara to the end of her lonely road? The Daughter's Walk weaves personal history and fiction together to invite readers to consider their own journeys and family separations, to help determine what exile and forgiveness are truly about.

My Take

When I selected this book, I didn’t realize that portions of it were historically accurate—that the walk actually took place. For that era, it was unheard of for a wife to disobey her husband, leave her children, and independently take charge of herself.  I’m in awe of what Helga Estby and her daughter, Clara, accomplished.

Clara initially refuses to accompany her mother on the trip, however she acquiesces realizing her mother will go alone if necessary.  Once the journey begins, mother and daughter begin a new book in their relationship. Clara learns much about her mother that didn’t know before and begins to respect this new woman in her life.  It always touches my heart when a parent and child begin to really “know” each other even though they have lived together day in and day out.   This relational shift is a gift to both and to future descendants—think of the stories that can be passed down!

Unfortunately for Helga, her life was irreparably altered after the walk. From the way her family treats her to the way others perceive her.  For Clara, her life is also transformed but in a different way (I don’t want to give it away!!). Would they have done the walk knowing their future outcome? Would they have done anything differently? 

This is the first book I’ve read by Jane Kirkpatrick and I have to say I am very impressed with her writing style, the way she develops the characters and how they actually become family to the reader. Her descriptions of surroundings and circumstances is also well done.  Ms. Kirkpatrick has surely done her research of the walk and it shows. I know I will be looking for other books written by her. The Daughter’s Walk has earned a 5-star rating from this reader—thank you Ms. Kirkpatrick  and Waterbrook Press!

This Book was provided by Waterbrook Press through the "Blogging for Books" program in exchange for an unbiased review. The opinions expressed were my own.

About the Author

Jane Kirkpatrick is the award-winning author of 17 novels and 3 non-fiction titles, including the 2010 WILLA Literary Award winner, A Flickering Light, and her latest, The Daughter's Walk.  A Mental Health professional, she brings her interest in healing and inspiring the human spirit into researching and writing about the lives of actual historical men and women. For twenty-six years, she and her husband Jerry ranched in a remote and rugged section of Eastern Oregon, where she discovered her own homesteading story. She has spoken internationally about the power of story in our lives and is a frequent retreat, conference, and keynote speaker. She and her husband now live with two dogs and a cat on their small acreage near Bend, Oregon.   

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Finally Out--Letting Go of Living Straight by Loren A. Olson, M.D.

From the Publisher

Dr. Loren A. Olson has frequently been asked two questions: How could you not know that you were gay until the age of forty? Wasn't your marriage just a sham to protect yourself at your wife's expense? In Finally Out, Dr. Olson vigorously answers both questions by telling the inspiring story of his evolving sexuality, into which he intelligently weaves psychological concepts and gay history. This book is a powerful exploration of human sexuality, particularly the sexuality of mature men who, like Dr. Olson, lived a large part of their lives as straight men - sometimes long after becoming aware of their same-sex attractions.

My Take

When I saw Finally Out—Letting Go of Living Straight on the LibraryThing list, the subject matter intrigued me. I have an uncle as well as friends who are gay so I thought I could learn something from the book.  

Dr. Olson is very informative and provided a ton of data and statistics on a multitude of topics. Much of the information is taken from past studies, medical literature, interviews and the like. The book is basically a compilation of all this information and presented in one consolidated location.  Almost like a textbook or reference book.  Finally Out is a great “self help” type book for those people questioning their sexual orientation later in life—both the individual with those questions and the spouse of that individual. Beware, however, if you are more on the conservative side. There is explicit language and activities mentioned in there.

All that said, I was prepared for a totally different of book. I was looking forward to a more personalized story.  There were some blurbs about Dr. Olson’s personal journey but I was expecting much more of his story.  All the data provided could be found on the internet if someone were inclined to do some research. I wanted to hear more about his thoughts, emotions and feelings—what he went through during that time in his life.

I guess if I were in the situation of needing a book to let me know I’m not alone, this is the book I’d want. On the flip side, if I was looking for more of a touchy-feely book (no pun intended), I don’t think this is the book I’m looking for.  Based on those thoughts, I’m giving this book 3 out of 5 stars. It’s well written and full of information, just not the book I was expecting.

About the Author

Loren A. Olson, M.D. is a gay psychiatrist who came out at forty. A father and grandfather, he is also a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a recipient of the "Exemplary Psychiatrist Award" from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. He has presented findings from his research on mature gay men at the World Congress of Psychiatry in Prague. In 2009, Dr. Olson legally married Doug Mortimer, his partner of twenty-four years. They live on a farm in Iowa where they produce grass-fed beef from their herd of Belted Galloway cattle.

I received this book free from the publisher through the LibraryThing book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, June 11, 2011



From the publisher

Bunting Valley, North Dakota—a scenic and picturesque town where nothing dreadful ever happens—is a place where people feel safe leaving their front doors unlocked and their cars running in the driveways. So when beautiful, blue-eyed, three-year-old Maggie Taylor mysteriously vanishes, the Bunting Valley Police Department begins a kidnapping investigation that uncovers unthinkable crimes spanning many years—not only in Bunting Valley, but also in surrounding states and jurisdictions.

Bea Miller is a penniless widow, living a meager existence among the town’s residents with her four young, rambunctious boys. Her entire life she wished and dreamed of having a little girl of her own. When everything she did to have one of her own failed, Bea takes matters into her own hands and lives by the chilling words of her estranged father, “If you want something, take it.”  She and the boys visit a local beach and find the little girl of her dreams. She snatches the girl and they disappear in seconds, only to leave the parents bewildered and devastated.

Through the handwritten journals of Bea Miller, she takes you on a journey into the deranged mind of an individual who believes you can make your own wishes come true—at any expense; and sadly, also at the expense of others.

My take

What kind of person plans to take a child? Involving her other children in abduction so she can have the daughter she always wanted? Once she has the girl, why is Bea so callous as to let the girl suffocate just so she doesn’t get caught? 

Bea Miller is an intriguing piece of work. The first portion of the book tells the reader WHAT she has done while the last portion tells us WHY. It’s so hard to imagine the life Bea had growing up. Coming from a very loving family, I can’t fathom living the hell that she lived through.  As hard as it is to understand, the author keeps us captivated throughout the entire book. It’s one of those books you can’t put down even though the subject matter is challenging. 

Once the journals are found and we read about Bea’s past, it’s hard to decide if they should “lock her up & throw away the key” and “get her some help”.  Should she pay for her crime or just get assistance for her mental condition?  

Be Careful What You Wish For is not a book where the reader can just lose themselves in a fictional world.  No, the reader gets totally immersed in the actual words spinning around them. Bea almost becomes real—you go through so many emotions and you want to take sides on the outcome.

I have no problem giving this book 5 stars.  Ms Avery tells the story as if it were her own—lifelike descriptions and sensations.  Great job, Ms Avery!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sue Ellen's Girl Ain't Fat, She Just Weighs Heavy

Rip-roaring belly laughs!

From the Publisher
Guided by principles from the ancient Belle Doctrine, the host of radio and television's All Things Southern offers down-home advice on everything from health and fitness-managing thy caloric calculations without going Straight Running Crazy and surviving the Raging Inferno Syndrome (aka hot flashes)-to the Southern art of handling your man (Bubba Whispering). Whether giving business tips or debunking the Big Boned Theory, making political observations or celebrating the inevitable resurgence of big hair, Shellie is an adviser women can relate to and laugh with regardless of their age or which side of the Mason-Dixon they call home.

My Take
When I requested this book, I wasn’t expecting a “self help” AND cookbook that was going to be so stinkin’ funny!!! Beginning with the first chapter, I was laughing out loud and realizing she was talking about ME! Okay, not me but all women at this mid-life stage living the same “syndromes”. I especially loved the Raging Inferno Syndrome….hot flashes….that I experienced while I was reading about it! It’s an entertaining book that definitely “helps” the “self” with humor and truthful view of women. This is a great chic-lit book to give as a gift to a girlfriend who could use a rip-roaring belly laugh.

Each chapter ends with some fabulous tips & dee-lish-us recipes. The tips from “Thus Saith the Belle Doctrine…..” (rules governing a Southern Belle’s life) are hilarious while incorporating each chapter in the tip. Add in the “Guide to Speaking All Things Southern” in each chapter and you get even more chuckles.  About halfway through the book, though, I’d kind of had enough but I trudged on to the end. It’s one of those books to keep in the car for waiting in a doctor’s office, or (& I hate to say it!) in the bathroom to pass the time, or by the chaise lounge while taking a break from everyday.

On the other hand, there are some great looking recipes in the book that I can’t wait to try!  Jessica Ann’s Chicken and Dumplings, Chocolately Chip Pound Cake, and Shellie’s Stacked Tortillas to name a few (I’m all about easy cooking!).  Quick, simple recipes for the busy woman on the go.

Overall, it’s a fun read but more appropriate for short spurts of reading—not a cover to cover, all in one sitting read.  I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars, but it’s still a great gift for a for a menopausal friend!


To celebrate the Sue Ellen’s release, Shellie is having a Facebook Party!  
Join Shellie and the gang on June 2nd at 5:00 PM PST (6 MST, 7 CST, 8 EST) for a Southern style shin-dig! She'll be dishing on Bubba Whispering, debunking the Big Boned Theory, and how to manage going Straight Running Crazy. If you don't know what any of that is, then be sure to pick up a copy of the book (Not necessary to join the fun! Who knows - you might win a copy!) and join us at 5:00 pm on June 2nd at Shellie's Facebook page. And tell your friends - she's giving away copies of her books and some great gift certificates.


About the author:

Shellie Rushing Tomlinson
and her husband Phil live and farm in the Louisiana Delta. Shellie is the author of Lessons Learned on Bull Run Road, Twas the Night Before the Very First Christmas, Southern Comfort with Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, and the Penguin Group USA release, Suck Your Stomach In and Put Some Color On, voted Nonfiction Finalist of 2009 by SIBA Independent Booksellers Alliance.

Tomlinson is owner and publisher of All Things Southern and the host of the weekly radio show All Things Southern as well as a weekly video segment by the same name. Listeners also hear Shellie in her All Things Southern radio segments aired across the South. Shellie writes a weekly inspirational feature in Newsstar and a monthly print and online column for Lousiana Road Trips.

When Shellie isn't writing, speaking, taping her show, answering email or writing content for the next deadline, you can find her playing tennis with Dixie Belle, (the chocolate lab who thinks she is in charge of running Shellie's life). 

I received this book free from Lifuse as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."