Book Review: Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf

From Goodreads:

When a tragic accident leaves nurse Amelia Winn deaf, she spirals into a depression that ultimately causes her to lose everything that matters–her job, her husband, David, and her stepdaughter, Nora. Now, two years later and with the help of her hearing dog, Stitch, she is finally getting back on her feet. But when she discovers the body of a fellow nurse in the dense bush by the river, deep in the woods near her cabin, she is plunged into a disturbing mystery that could shatter the carefully reconstructed pieces of her life all over again.

As clues begin to surface, Amelia finds herself swept into an investigation that hits all too close to home. But how much is she willing to risk in order to uncover the truth and bring a killer to justice?

New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf has been described as “masterful” and “intelligent” and compared to Lisa Scottoline and Jodi Picoult. Introducing her most compelling heroine yet, she delivers a taut and emotional thriller that proves she’s at the top of her class.

Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf is a remarkable thriller that leaves you breathless at the end. As soon as I started reading the novel I knew I would not be able to put it down. Written in first person, Amelia Winn describes how the events unfold after she discovers a former friend and fellow nurse, Gwenn, dead in the river behind her house. Amelia Winn is deaf and a recovering alcoholic. She lives in a cabin with her service dog, Stitch. Once again, the dog character is my favorite. Stitch is a real hero. He is a silly dog that doesn’t always listen but when he knows there is a job to do, he is loyal companion.

Not a Sound is full of suspense and had me second guessing every single character’s motives. At one point, I even thought Amelia was an unreliable narrator and killed Gwen herself. I am pretty sure I stopped breathing for the last 20-30 pages, I could not read them fast enough. The entire novel took me up and down an emotional roller coaster over and over again, by the end I was all but nauseous. (In a good way, of course.)

Amelia Winn is a compelling character. I was rooting for her to get her life back together. She lost her hearing in a tragic accident. Along with the loss of her ability to hear, she also lost the best parts of her life, her job, her husband, her step-daughter, and her independence. Granted, the accident didn’t lead to losing all of these life pleasures we sometimes take for granted, alcohol aided in many of them. Amelia’s husband David, didn’t seem to be the most supportive husband when it came to accepting the aftermath of Amelia’s accident. Not that turning to alcohol was the right choice, but I don’t think her husband was very compassionate about the whole situation.

Jake, Amelia’s brother’s childhood best friend, who is also a detective, is another major character in the novel that you can’t help but root for. Amelia and Jake’s relationship isn’t black and white. Throughout the novel they end up dipping their toes into a grey area. Amelia has always had a crush on Jake but she thinks Jake only thinks of her as a sister. Their back and forth friendship is one of the many highlights this bone-chilling novel.

Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf will be available for purchase on May 30, 2017. You can pre-order it today!

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Book Review: The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares

From Goodreads:

Summer for Sasha and Ray means the sprawling old house on Long Island. Since they were children, they’ve shared almost everything—reading the same books, running down the same sandy footpaths to the beach, eating peaches from the same market, laughing around the same sun-soaked dining table. Even sleeping in the same bed, on the very same worn cotton sheets. But they’ve never met.

Sasha’s dad was once married to Ray’s mom, and together they had three daughters: Emma, the perfectionist; Mattie, the beauty; and Quinn, the favorite. But the marriage crumbled and the bitterness lingered. Now there are two new families—and neither one will give up the beach house that holds the memories, happy and sad, of summers past.

The choices we make come back to haunt us; the effect on our destinies ripples out of our control…or does it? This summer, the lives of Sasha, Ray, and their siblings intersect in ways none of them ever dreamed, in a novel about family relationships, keeping secrets, and most of all, love.

The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares is a confusing story that made me think “Why am I reading this?” over and over again. I loved The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares. Ever since then, Ann Brashares books, at least the ones that I have read, haven’t lived up to my expectations. There are too many characters in this novel. The first page outlines who is related to who and which kids belong to which sets of parents. I still found myself referring back to this page throughout the entire novel.

The Whole Thing Together gave me an uneasy feeling. Every character had an issue with confrontation and avoided multiple problems in their lives until it was too late. Ray and Sasha are the two main characters. One belongs to one set of parents and the other belong to the other set of parents. They share one job and three sisters. They also share a beach house, and oddly enough, share a room, and have never met. Sounds crazy, right? It is. Somehow these two finally run into each other and sort of fall in love. When I say sort of, I mean, even though they are not related, they kind of are, considering the circumstances. It’s weird. Just really, really weird.

The main conflict is that a divorce split a family in half. The resolution…not really existent. There are a lot of strange subplots that don’t really fit in that just waste page space. By the time a few issues were being resolved, the book was over, just like that. It takes a tragedy to open their eyes and realize that life is too short to hold grudges. Not that this is actually said, it is only assumed on my part.

I liked the the email exchanges between Ray and Sasha. I liked how they shared a job and their boss kept referring to them as the same person. But that’s about all I liked. I finished it because I thought there would be an epic ending. And there was, it just wasn’t a good one. It was just depressing and left be unfulfilled and exhausted.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Random House LLC.

Book Review: The Beginner’s Bible Noah and the Noisy Ark by Zondervan

The Beginner’s Bible® has been a favorite with young children and their parents since its release in 1989 with over 25 million products sold.

It’s time for Noah’s big adventure! A rainstorm is coming, and Noah needs to build an ark and find two of each animal to keep warm and dry inside. This retelling of the story of Noah’s Ark will take little ones from building a big boat to seeing a rainbow in the sky after the storm. Featuring brand-new art from the beloved The Beginner’s Bible, a die-cut format, and a beautiful foiled cover, parents will love sharing this board book with their children.

It’s hard to introduce young children to God and the bible. This take-a-long board book, The Beginner’s Bible Noah and the Noisy Ark, is perfect addition to anyone’s little library. Noah and the Noisy Ark not only teaches children about Moses and the Ark, it also introduces children to different emotions and animals. It is a fun way to explain an important bible story to little ones.

As you can see, my son was very excited about his beginners bible book. He loved that he could carry it by the handle, just like a lunch box. Moses’ story is simple and leaves room for extended explanation if you think you child will enjoy hearing more about Moses and his Ark. The pictures are bright and fun. My son enjoyed counting each animal, two by two. Noah and the Noisy Ark is perfect for car rides and bedtime. What a great way to learn about religion!

and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. Genesis 9:10

Book Review: A Million Little Things by Susan Mallery

The women of Mischief Bay are back in another story of friendship, love, and life. Susan Mallery’s newest novel, A Million Little Things, is the third book in the Mischief Bay series and the second one I have read. I first fell in love with this Susan Mallery’s unique books after reading The Friends We Keep, which is the previous novel in this series. I enjoyed reading about the characters so much and I couldn’t wait for the third installment about the Michief Bay girls. Unfortunately, A Million Little Things follows the characters from the first book in the series, which I never read, The Girls of Mischief Bay. With that being said, it is a good book, just not about my favorite characters from the last book I read.

What I like about many of Susan Mallery’s books is that you can read the entire series or read each book as a stand alone novel. Even though I never read book one in this series, I was still able to follow each storyline of the characters Zoe, Pam, and Jen. Other characters that were briefly mentioned in A Million Little Things are Nicole and Shannon.

Zoe recently broke up with her boyfriend who didn’t tell her he was married. After he finally divorced his wife, he still refused to have committed relationship with her. She works from home transcribing instruction manuals (Can I have this job?) and usually only interacts with her cat, Mason. After getting stuck in her attic, Zoe realizes that she needs to get out of the house more, make additional friends, and find a real man to love.

Jen is the mom of an 18 month old boy, Jack. Jen is basically me when my son was her son’s age, except a little more over the top. She is worried that her son won’t speak even though he understands everything she says and has his own way of communicating back. She has him on a very regimented routine and is very strict about what he does and doesn’t eat. Seriously, Jen could be based on my life just a short year and a half ago. Jen is Pam’s daughter. Jen’s husband is a police officer. Not only does she worry about her son, but also her husband’s whereabouts day in and day out. Jen is Zoe’s best friend. But since she is so obsessed with her son, Zoe barely sees Jen.

Pam has been a window for a few years now. She has a dog named Lulu who has her own wardrobe. Pam worries about her daughter, Jen, and her two sons, Brandon and Steve. When Zoe goes to a Pilates class that Pam routinely attends, she decides that it would be a great idea to set her son, Steve, up with Zoe. On top of that, Pam starts to fall for Zoe’s dad, Miguel. Sounds a bit confusing, right? It is actually kind of hilarious how everyone’s lives are intertwined in A Million Little Things.

I really enjoyed Zoe and Steve’s relationship in this book. When things got tough, he didn’t head for the hills, even though his mom really wants him to. What I also really like about A Million Little Things are the dog characters. Susan Mallery has a thing about giving animals human qualities in her books. This one is no different. Lulu, Pam’s dog, and Mariposa, Miguel’s dog, are main characters.

Susan Mallery not only likes to write about romance in her novels, she is also really good at writing about female friendships. The friendships she writes about are the kind of friendships all adults yearn for. Pam has three friends that she travels all over the world with. She met them on a cruise she took after her husband died and has been traveling with them ever since. What I think is so fun about their friendship is that they pick a special drink that they drink throughout their entire trip. Even though I am a beer kind of gal, I do like to try new cocktails here and there. On their weekend getaway to Arizona, Pam and her friends indulge in a French 75. I can’t wait to try one myself. Also after reading A Million Little Things, I REALLY want a margarita!

VIA

Overall, I enjoyed reading A Million Little Things. It is refreshing to read about a character like Jen who has had trouble adjusting to motherhood. I am not sure why she wasn’t officially diagnosed with postpartum anxiety/depression, though. It is also refreshing to read a contemporary romance novel that isn’t just rainbows and butterflies. I can only hope that I get to read about my friends from the last novel, The Friends We Keep, in Susan Mallery’s next Mischief Bay installment: I miss you, Gabby and Haley! (Because when you think fictional characters are your actual friends, you know you have a problem just like Zoe…)

Book Review: Road Food by Jane & Michael Stern

Road trips are our jam. One of my favorite parts about road tripping is finding really fun, quirky places to eat. This momma is not stopping at McDonald’s for food…ever. What am I looking for in a fun place to stop? Kid friendly, if our son is with us. Homemade dessert, especially pie. And good old hometown cooking. Road Food has all of that and more!

Road Food by Jane & Michael Stern is the perfect road trip companion. This fantastic book is split up into several chapters for different parts of the county. Each restaurant in the book has an address and phone number, as well as, a pricing guide ($ for under $15 for one meal, $$ $15-30 for a meal, etc.) No one wants to stop at a road side restaurant and go over their budget. There are also state maps that shows the road tripper where every restaurant is located. I found this to be really helpful. States are a lot smaller until we drive across them, then it seems like an eternity between lunch and dinner.

Since we are originally from the Philadelphia area, I have been to almost all of the cheese steak eateries in this book. In case you are wondering, Jim’s Steaks (page 115) is my favorite cheese steak location. (Maybe I am a bit bias with the name.) I have also had pizza from Lorenzo’s (page 117) and it is top notch. Quality cheese steaks and pizza are what we are missing over here in Maryland, that’s for sure.

I can’t wait to plan our next short road trip, which is in the early planning stages for North Carolina in September. We have been there before, but it will be our little one’s first time. He isn’t the best person to take out to eat, but practice makes perfect.

I was given a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review from Random House LLC.

Book Review: The Magic of Motherhood by Ashlee Gadd

I love the blog Coffee & Crumbs. It was established right after Jimmie was born and I have been reading it ever since then. It has helped me cope with the bad days, enjoy the good days, and accept my feelings about motherhood. I have cried, smiled, and laughed, while reading this wonderful blog.

Now you can cry, smile, and laugh while reading the blog’s new book, a collection of essays, The Magic of Motherhood by Ashlee Gadd. Some of the essays I previously read on the blog, but most of them were new to me. I enjoyed reading one essay at a time, thinking about it, and then reading another. The pictures and quotes on several of the pages are beautiful and inspiring. This is a must read for new moms, soon-to-be moms, and moms who have been in the midst of motherhood for a long time. It’s full of all the stuff we want to say to each other but feel like we can’t because then we will be judged. This is a judgement free zone kind of book.

One quote that really hit home is:

‘I guess I just feel like motherhood is a lot of wishing away hard seasons and then realizing they’re gone forever. It’s tying to claw back through time because you didn’t realize what you were actually wishing away.’ Pg. 19

And  I also love this one:

You are more than your worst day.

You are more than your biggest mistake.

I promise, this will not define you. Pg. 109

The Magic of Motherhood opens up with my favorite post from the Coffee & Crumbs blog: A Letter to My Pre-mom Self. The first time I read this essay I ugly cried for a good while. I remember reading it because my son was just past three months old.  Those first three months were HARD. Looking back, I can’t even remember a lot because I was in a fog that I never thought would go away. But it did. Eventually the fog did clear. Motherhood is so hard. Motherhood is so beautiful.

The Magic of Motherhood is filled with love and struggle: Love for adoption, the struggle of infertility, love and struggles of marriage, the struggle of the hard days, and the love for the ‘easy’ days. Sure you can buy all the baby books at the store (been there), but you won’t find this kind of clarity in those books. The Magic of Motherhood reaffirms the fact that it really does take a village and we are all in this together.

Head on over to the official book page for more information and buying options.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Falling Free by Shannan Martin

 

Shannan Martin had the perfect life: a cute farmhouse on six rambling acres, a loving husband, three adorable kids, money, friends, a close-knit church—a safe, happy existence.

But when the bottom dropped out through a series of shocking changes and ordinary inconveniences, the Martins followed God’s call to something radically different: a small house on the other side of the urban tracks, a shoestring income, a challenged public school, and the harshness of a county jail (where her husband is now chaplain). And yet the family’s plunge from “safety” was the best thing that could have happened to them.

Falling Free charts their pilgrimage from the self-focused wisdom of the world to the topsy-turvy life of God’s more being found in less. Martin’s practical, sweetly subversive book invites us to rethink assumptions about faith and the good life, push past insecurity and fear, and look beyond comfortable, middle-class Christianity toward a deeper, richer, and ultimately more fulfilling life.

I was really excited to read Falling Free by Shannan Martin. I started reading it during a time when I was struggling. A time where I felt broken. It sounded like an inspirational story about how a woman found peace after losing her perfect life. I tried really hard to enjoy the book, the message and the story, but I couldn’t get past page 70. There was just too much repetition for me.

Every other sentence in the book seemed to be “God this, God that…” etc. I knew that this was going to be a religious book, which is one of the reasons I wanted to read it, but there just wasn’t enough content to keep me engaged. I wish I could have sucked it up and kept reading because like I said, I was really interested in the story and looking for the inspiration. It just wasn’t enough for me. Can’t win them all.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review.

Book Review: Spectacle by Rachel Vincent

Book two, Spectacle, in The Menagerie Series by Rachel Vincent does not disappoint. Picking up a short time after the first book, Menagerie, ended, Delilah and her fellow cryptid friends are discovered by Williem Vandekamp, owner of Savage Spectacle. At the Savage Spectacle, freedom is no longer an option. Back in a cage and stripped of all her rights once again, Delilah Marlow is forced to do things that she never would could have dreamed of doing. Williem Vanderamp is in the midst of perfecting a collar that allows his handlers to control everything a cryptid can or can not do. The situation is far worse than it ever was in Metzer’s Menagerie, if you can believe that were even possible. Even though the cryptids are eating better and living in bigger cages, Williem can control other aspects of their lives that only a real monster would consider acceptable.

I have been waiting over a year an a half to read the second book in Rachel Vincent’s Menagerie series. It was worth the wait. I never read Harry Potter, (I am one of those “watch the movies” people) but I can imagine this is how readers felt after binge reading one of J.K. Rowling’s books. I can only hope that there will be more than one more book in this series. Yes, people, I just compared The Menagerie Series to Harry Potter. You all need to jump on the Rachel Vincent train as soon as possible. Spectacle ended in such an incredible way making me want the next book even more than I wanted this one.

Rachel Vincent’s imagination is unbelievable. Her creativity kept my mind turning throughout the entire book. The world that Delilah and the other cryptids live in is so unreal, yet she is able to make me believe that this could happen right under my nose at a factory down the street. I remember when I read Menagerie and how I wanted to make everyone I knew read the book. I now want to give both of these books to everyone I know. I must admit, Spectacle is a little more colorful than Menagerie. There are a few sexual scenes that are disturbing and graphic, but they are also necessary to move the story along. I guess the disturbing part is how real she paints the picture with these creatures that are so unreal. I can’t imagine what a movie series would be like, but I would definitely be a midnight showing.

I like how the relationship between Delilah and Gallagher continues in Spectacle. Their friendship is so pure and honest, he will do anything to protect her because it is his sole duty in life. There are a lot of other returning characters in Spectacle, Rommily, Claudio, Genevieve, Eyrx, just to name a few. There are also new cryptids to discover. I wish I had reread Menagerie before starting Spectacle but it didn’t take long to remember who everyone was. I would not recommend reading Spectacle without reading Menagerie first.

Spectacle will be available for purchase on May 30, 2017. You can preorder is now. If you haven’t read the first book in this series, you still have time; Menagerie is, by far, one of my favorite books.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: 365 Devotions for Finding Rest by Christina Vinson

rest

Rest. Isn’t it a magical word? As a mom, it is something I think about all day, every day. We all need rest but resting is something easier said than done.  365 Devotions for Finding Rest by Christina Vinson is the perfect morning (or before bed) daily devotions book. Each day of the year is filled with ways to remind yourself that not only do you need rest, but you deserve it. Each page takes less than five minutes to read but the impact lasts all day.

The past two weeks have been absolutely exhausting. I have been sick, my son has been sick, and now my husband is sick. What we all needed to get better was rest. As parents, we were barely able to find rest, yet we made our mission to get our son to sleep better at night and nap better during the day. If only I had given myself the same type of medicine, rest, I probably would have bounced back quicker.

By reading  365 Devotions for Finding Rest by Christina Vinson every night before bed, I was able to calm myself down and remind myself that I needed to sleep well, just as much as my son did. As I continue reading this devotions book every day, I find myself thinking about God’s scripture when I am completely out of energy. I remind myself that God wants me to stop, breath, and recharge. This book has helped me get better. This book has helped me remember that God is with us, even when we are struggling to find time for ourselves.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

—Matthew 11:28

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Interview with Laura Sassi: Author of Goodnight, Ark and Goodnight, Manger

Originally posted on my previous blog on December 13, 2016.

I am so excited for today’s post! I had the honor to interview Laura Sassi, author of two of Jimmie’s favorite books, Goodnight, Ark and Goodnight, Manger. Not only does Jimmie enjoy listening to these books before bed, we really love reading them to him. The words and pictures are entertaining and full of fun. What a wonderful way to introduce bible stories to children of all ages.

laura-sassi

Thank you so much for having me on your blog today, Rosie. It’s a real treat to connect with my reading family – the moms and dads and little ones who are enjoying Goodnight, Ark and Goodnight, Manger.

Growing up, did you always want to be a children’s author?

Actually, when I was little what I really wanted to be was Wonder Woman. I had her twirl perfected and everything. I loved imaginary play and spent hours with friends, or sometimes alone, creating fantastic make-believe scenarios – which, come to think of it, is sort of what I do now as an author. When I learned to read, I also fell in love with books and spent hours each week reading. One thing led to another and soon I was writing my own stories and poems. A few years ago my parents sent me a box full of journals and papers from my elementary school years. Included in the rather musty collection are limericks, riddles, and silly rhyming snippets – all proof that I not only liked to write, but that I also loved to rhyme, even as a child. So I even though never dreamed I’d grow up to be an author (I grew up to be a teacher first, instead), my love of imagination and playing with words has deep roots.

What inspired you to write Goodnight, Ark and Goodnight, Manger?

My kids and the weather were the spark that led me to write Goodnight, Ark. We get big storms in New Jersey and when they were little, my kids and the dog would get scared and come piling into our bed. However, I thought that a story about ordinary kids piling into an ordinary bed might be boring, so I kept flipping the idea until—Zip! Zing!—it hit me—I could set the tale afloat on Noah’s ark!

Goodnight, Manger was inspired by my daughter. As a preschooler, she loved playing with the little Baby Jesus that was part of our nativity set. She’d carry him around the house saying things like, “Baby Jesus crying. It’s okay, Baby.” Then she’d gently feed him or rock him and sing a lullaby. Before listening to her tender play, I’d never thought of Baby Jesus as ever crying. But, he was human (and God) and so he must have cried. With this sweet spark of inspiration, I was ready to write the story that was on my heart – which was to write a fun Christmas bedtime book that kids would want to read again and again and which would point them in the direction of Jesus – the real gift of Christmas.

Do you have any more “Goodnight” books in mind?

I have some ideas, but they still need to be developed. There are,however, a couple of other new books already in the pipeline for publication, so stay tuned for those official announcements. =)

What led you to write Christian children’s books?

For a long time I have had it on my heart to use my writing as a way to point kids towards good and towards God. To write stories that will appeal not just to believers, but to the broader culture as well. So when Zonderkidz said they wanted to publish first “Goodnight, Ark” and then“Goodnight, Manger” and said that the reason they especially appealed was because they were great “cross-over” books I was thrilled. In other words, they are books that anyone might like to pick up and read because the stories are fun. But because they are inspired by Bible stories they can also point little children and their parents towards God.

Have you ever thought about writing a novel?

I do have a middle-grade novel draft collecting dust in my files. But I don’t think that’s my gifting. At least for now, I’ve found my voice in telling stories for the very young. And I LOVE it!

Did you have a favorite teacher growing up that helped you develop you love for writing?

I do. Her name was Mrs. Rebholz and she was my ninth grade English teacher. Her favorite expression was “Keep percolating.” She used the phrase to prod us when discussing literature or to urge us to take our weekly writing assignments in new and unexpected directions. Her point was not to settle for the first idea that pops in your head. Instead, keep thinking. Keep pushing yourself to think beyond the ordinary. That refrain has been foundational to my writing. Indeed, I can see that my best written pieces are the ones I let percolate. Instead of settling for that first idea, I brainstorm, I revise, I revise again, often flipping the idea by trying a new setting, or new point of view, or new metaphor until I create something that really sparkles.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?

Oh, Rosie, this is such a hard question! I love so many books and for so many different reasons, but the one that comes to mind today is Virginia Kahl’s classic The Duchess Bakes a Cake. As a child what I loved most about it was that it was funny and it rhymed. It was a bedtime standard and, in my head, I can still hear my mother reading it to me as I now (or used to when they were younger) read with my children. As an adult, I now also appreciate that it features a mother who, like me, loves to write. In the case of the Duchess, leads to a gigantic baking mishap. Thankfully, so far, I’m a little better than the Duchess at doing both without wreaking too much havoc in the kitchen. =)

Laura Sassi has a passion for writing picture books in rhyme and prose. She is the author of two picture books GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014), GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015) and is excited to announce that there are more on the way! Laura grew up overseas and in the US, but has spent most of her adult life in New Jersey where she lives with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie. For her reflections on reading, writing and life,visit her blog at http://www.laurasassitales.wordpress.com or on Twitter: @LauraSassiTales. She can also be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LauraSassiTales.

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Click here to see the Goodnight, Manger Book Trailer
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Click here to see the Goodnight, Ark Book Trailer