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Monday, July 6

Summer Breeze (Seals & Crofts)


Missed our early summer reading recommendations?  Check them out here!!

FICTION

Made With Love
Lovina Miller should be thrilled. Pinecraft, Florida, has everything a young Amish woman could ask for: sun, sand, volleyball games, and evening singings in the park. But Pinecraft lacks the one thing Lovina desperately wants—a pie shop of her own. She longs for a place to gather with the community and serve the treat she loves.
A young carpenter named Noah Yoder strolls into her life and offers a way to make her dream come true. But before Noah and Lovina can build a shop—and a life—together, they must each face heartaches from the past. Is their new love stronger than their regrets?
Thoughts :
This book was so yummy....I mean good...that I didn't want to stop reading to go to bed! True, the end result it predictable by chapter two, but it's the journey that makes it a worthwhile read. I've yet to be disappointed by a Tricia Goyer book, and this was no exception. The recipes at the end of each chapter were just the icing on the....pie. ;)
The Creole Princess
On the colonial Gulf Coast, the beautiful young Lyse Lanier is torn between loyalty to her family and a handsome Spanish stranger with a secret mission.

Thoughts :
I had no idea what to expect from the Creole Princess, but was pleasantly surprised! In this book by Beth White, I learned some history. Lyse Lanier lives on the Gulf coast of West Florida, in what is now known as Mobile, Alabama. At the time, it was under Spain's rule and Spain was getting ready to enter into the Revolutionary War. The British weren't always the heroes portrayed, Spain ruled quite a bit of North America, and love comes unexpectedly.

The facts are interwoven into the novel, illustrating a part of the Revolutionary War that is often overlooked. The characters are well developed and likeable, and the author provides such detail that it leaves you wanting to know more about this era in the gulf. However, the writing was a bit sluggish and difficult to read, as the author uses figurative language and description above and beyond what it necessary. At times, you are so slogged down in description that it’s hard to follow the plot. In fact, the majority of the book IS description. So I give it four stars…good story line, but could have been half the length and just as wonderful.

Rome in Love
When Amelia Tate is cast to play the Audrey Hepburn role in a remake of Roman Holiday, she feels as if all her dreams have come true. She has a handsome boyfriend, is portraying her idol in a major motion picture, and gets to live in beautiful, Italian city of Rome for the next two months.
Once there, she befriends a young woman named Sophie with whom she begins to explore the city. Together, they discover all the amazing riches that Rome has to offer. But when Amelia's boyfriend breaks up with her over her acting career, her perfect world begins to crumble.
While moping in her hotel suite, Amelia discovers a stack of letters written by Audrey Hepburn that start to put her own life into perspective. Then, she meets Philip, a handsome journalist who is under the impression that she is a hotel maid, and it appears as if things are finally looking up. The problem is she can never find the right time to tell Philip her true identity. Not to mention that Philip has a few secrets of his own. Can Amelia finally have both the career and love that she's always wanted, or will she be forced to choose again?
Thoughts :
I have to be honest and say that I just hated the first third of this book.  I almost cut my losses, but am glad to have ridden it out.  I LOVE the movie Roman Holiday, and this book was nothing more than a print version of the movie...down to the dialogue.  But about a third of the way through, the story line diverges (somewhat), and at that point it got much better.  It ended up being a fantastic story, and I'm glad that I finished it!  Only four stars, instead of five, because of the too-close resemblance to the movie.

War Baby
The war has had a devastating effect on the Sweet Family, with young Charlie Sweet, lost at sea, presumed dead, and bombs falling on nearby Bristol. Still there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon in the form of Mary Sweet's upcoming wedding to her Canadian beau. But even that has failed to rouse their father from his grief. But in London a baby has been found in a bombed out house, sheltered in the arms of his dead mother. A child to make life worth living again. . .


Thoughts :
While the Sweet sisters are a little too polarized, the book itself holds together nicely with a fantastic cast of supporting characters. I won't reveal much...no spoilers...but you can easily envision the scenes unfolding before your eyes, and feel sympathy for everyone involved in the drama. They also have some fabulous wartime recipes included!! My biggest complaint is that you are quite deep into the book before the prologue actually ties into the story...leaving you feeling as though you were reading the wrong book, and the prologue went with something else entirely.

Midnight on the Mississippi



New Orleans--Hunter Galen, a stock and securities broker, suspects his business partner, James Nowak, may be involved in embezzling their clients' money, but he's reluctant to jeopardize their friendship based on suspicion alone. After James turns up dead, Hunter realizes his unwillingness to confront a problem may have cost James his life.
Nicki Price, a newly minted PI, intends to solve the stockbroker's murder, recover the missing millions from the client accounts, and establish herself in the career she adores. As she ferrets out fraud and deception at Galen Investments, Hunter's fiancee, Ashley Menard, rubs Nicki the wrong way. Nicki doesn't trust the ostentatious woman with an agenda longer than the Mississippi River. Ashley seems to be hiding something, but is Nicki's growing attraction to Hunter--a suspected murderer--her true reason for disliking Ashley?
As they encounter sophisticated shell games, blackmail, and murder, Nicki and Hunter's only option is to turn to God as they search for answers, elude lethal danger, and perhaps discover love along the way.

Thoughts :
I loved it! The descriptions make you feel like you're bogging through the swamp, enjoying etoufee, and dancing to jazz right alongside the characters. The plot had enough twists to keep it interesting without being too difficult to logically follow. Look forward to seeing more from this author.


Love Arrives in Pieces

Former pageant queen Stella Varland doesn’t trust beauty anymore after her divorce. Her appearance betrayed her and led to brokenness, so instead of being beautiful, now she tries to make beautiful things, but she always falls short. So she keeps her passion for art to herself and focuses on her interior design work. But if she doesn’t get another job soon, she’ll be stuck living with her parents.
Contractor Chase Taylor is determined to live a life of no regrets after losing his fiancĂ©e. Now he lives life at full speed, striving to see how much he can accomplish. He knows if he slows down, he’ll fall apart. So he returns home to Bayou Bend to renovate the town’s old theater and is shocked to discover that the designer for the project is his old flame, Stella.
Forced to work together, Chase and Stella battle their chemistry and past as they struggle to compromise and work together on a vision for the theater. Their wills clash as they attempt to hide their brokenness—and their unresolved feelings for each other—until Chase discovers the hidden parts of Stella, while losing her trust in the process.
A near catastrophe, a fire, and a small-town gossip mill finally force Stella and Chase to realize that they have a choice—to hold on to the shards of their pasts, or surrender their fragmented pieces to the One who makes a beautiful masterpiece from their brokenness.

Thoughts :
This was such a great read!  It was light-hearted and funny in all the right places, while covering a serious topic.  As Stella struggles to find her new identity, and overcome past relationships to move forward, you feel like you're standing beside her.  One step forward, two steps back, she dances her way through the rough patches.  The visual images as she and Chase reconstruct the theater are also appealing!  The only thing I didn't like was not having the backstory.  It wasn't until the end of the book that I realized this was the second in a series.  Which is not to say that it isn't easily followed, but having the backstory would have brought a whole new depth to the read.

The Little Paris Bookshop
Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can't seem to heal through literature is himself; he's still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.  After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself. 

Thoughts : 
What an unusual idea for a book!  A literary apothecary!  I loved how Perdu was able to pinpoint what each person needed, and cure it with just the right book.  If the book had been a little more about this, and a little less about the love affair, I would have enjoyed it much more.  The floating apothecary was so quaint and charming, and the characters that came in and out of it so unique, that it's a shame the book didn't focus more here.   Instead, we followed Perdu, a character that's difficult to get into at best.  At worst, he's an irritating, self-serving little man who has a strange love affair.  Also, as the book progresses, the descriptions become flowery, to the point of dull.  It made it difficult to finish.  However, I liked that Perdu referenced so many other books that I was able to add to my list of "books to read in the future."   Hands down best part of the book?  The guide at the end of books to read, and how each of those books cures a specific malady.  It even lists side effects!  Too cute.

NON-FICTION

Jars of Hope
Amid the horrors of World War II, Irena Sendler was an unlikely and unsung hero. While many people lived in fear of the Nazis, Irena defied them, even though it could have meant her life. She kept records of the children she helped smuggle away from the Nazis’ grasp, and when she feared her work might be discovered, she buried her lists in jars, hoping to someday recover them and reunite children with their parents. This gripping true story of a woman who took it upon herself to help save 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust is not only inspirational; it's unforgettable.  (For ages 9-12)

Thoughts :
This was a fantastic story!!! I will definitely be reading this to my elementary kids. It is simplistic enough for children to understand, yet conveys a very serious topic. And the pictures are just wonderful!

Mama Needs a Do-Over
Dirty dishes overflow the sink. Your two youngest kids just began their third round of hand-to-hand combat today. And now the washing machine won't start. Visions of putting a home-cooked meal in the oven while the family plays happily in the living room evaporate amid screaming, complaining, and slammed doors—and that's not even counting what the children are doing.  Lisa Pennington knows what those days are like. And she knows that even in the hard times you can find immense joy. In Mama Needs a Do-Over, Lisa offers hopeful, practical ideas for resetting your family's mood in the toughest moments. She also dives deep into your mother's heart to show you the power you have to turn those challenges into gifts. A little fun, a new perspective, and a go-to list for those do-over days, and you might just find joy in all those dirty dishes after all!


Thoughts :
It took a little while for me to get into this, but once I did, there were a few points where it felt like the author was inside my head!!  This isn't a book that you sit down and read cover to cover, as I first attempted to do.  It is a book that you turn to when you need a time out...when you need a moment of understanding and inspiration.  Being in a rural area with few people around, it often feels like I'm doing this 'mom thing' alone, but the author reminded me that many have stood in my shoes, and the rough days will pass.  She has some great ideas for getting through them, and reminds us of what really matters.
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