Book Review: Blue Ridge Sunrise by Denise Hunter

Zoe and her daughter, Gracie, return to Georgia after being away for almost five years. After abruptly leaving everyone she loved when she found out she was pregnant, Zoe has no other choice but to return once again to her small hometown to say goodbye to a woman she loved, her grandmother. She is not only returning to Georgia with her daughter, whom no one has met, she is also returning with her boyfriend, who everyone thinks is Gracie’s father. When Zoe learns that her grandmother has left her peach orchard to her, she is left with a difficult life-alering choice: Does she stay and try to keep the orchard alive? Or leave and return to Nashville to pursue her singing career?  In the midst of choosing which path to take, Zoe is also forced to revisit her feelings for her first love, Cruz. Blue Ridge Sunrise is not only full juicy peaches, it is also full of a juicy love triangle.

At first, I thought Blue Ridge Sunrise by Denise Hunter was going to be just like several other stories that I have read that are set in the South. Girl falls in love with boy, boy breaks girl’s heart, girl returns to boy, boy wins girl back, cue happy ending music. I was wrong. There is a lot more depth to this novel than I was first led to believe. Shortly after the novel begins, you realize that Zoe is in a relationship not because she wants to be, but because she has to be. As her story unfolds, Zoe is faced with a lot of difficult decisions that a young mother should not have to make. Her mother is unfortunately not around anymore and her father has made it clear that she is a disappointment to the family. Blue Ridge Sunrise is not all rainbows and feel-good dialogue.

Blue Ridge Sunrise did drag on more than I would have liked. There were a few too many plot twists and conflicts that kept making the book seem never-ending. With that aside, I enjoyed the character development of Cruz. Zoe is a little too hard-headed for my liking. She is too indecisive for the majority of the novel. I did have to keep reminding myself that she had done a lot more living in her life than I had when I was 24. Gracie is a very sweet four-year old that anyone reading the book will fall in love with. You can’t help but root for a happy ending for all the character’s in this novel, except Zoe’s boyfriend who isn’t much of a Southern Gentleman.

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

 

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Book Review: Beyond the Castle by Jody Jean Dreyer

When the credits roll and you’ve left the park, when your Disney day is over, how do you take the magic with you into your everyday work and life?

Jody Jean Dreyer worked for the Walt Disney Company for 30 years and in Beyond the Castle she shares one-of-a-kind stories and insights into what sets the Disney experience apart, as well as secrets to help readers discover their own “happily ever after.”

Beginning with her first position as a summer intern at Walt Disney World, through her role leading synergy and special projects for Disney (reporting to former CEO Michael Eisner), to her work with top leadership at Walt Disney Motion Pictures sharing the magic of Disney films around the world, Jody unpacks secrets that can change the way we understand ourselves, our work and relationships, and how we can find our own path to happiness. You will read her stories about working with Walt’s nephew, Roy E. Disney, her front-line role in the opening of theme parks around the world and her own journey to discovering how to bring some Disney magic into every day.

The wish for happy endings is written in our hearts. Every park guest or movie watcher is looking for their own “happily ever after,” as they ask the questions: What’s my story? Does it matter? Will the story end well for me? Jody’s personal experiences and her underpinning faith help her to offer practical and sometimes unexpected principles to better appreciate and navigate our own stories .

Jody’s entertaining storytelling will satisfy a reader’s desire to open the doors and peek inside the castle – and more, to unlock and illuminate life’s true treasure.

I wish I had a better review to write on this book, Beyond the Castle by Jody Jean Dreyer. If you know me well, or even just a little bit, you know that I am one of those crazy Disney-loving adults. I love Disney so much that I have gone to Disney since my child has been born, with my husband, without our child. We plan on going again, in February, without him. I just love Disney so much that even adult only vacations are fun for us. We are going to take him, for the first time, in 2021 for the 50th Anniversary of Disney World. He will be 7 1/2 by then. We like to plan ahead.

With that being said, as soon as I heard about Beyond the Castle: A Guide to Discovering Your Happily Ever After, I had to read it. Did I mention that we had a very subtle Cinderella themed wedding? It was a mash between Cinderella and baseball…because you know, they obviously pair well together. But back to the point at hand,  I was a bit disappointed in this book. If you are looking for some sort of soul searching self-help book, look no further. If you are looking for a ton of inside scoop on Disney World, look somewhere else. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of little known facts, but just not enough for my liking. I wasn’t expecting for the whole self-help aspect of the book to be so overwhelming.

I think the most fascinating part of the book was when I learned that the author, Jody Jean Dreyer was a Disney Ambassador, a program and title that I didn’t know existed. Where do I sign up? I know there is Disney mom type  program. Will someone please let me know when they are hiring? I would like to get paid in Disney Dollars, please and thank you.  Jim and I have talked about retiring in Orlando and working part-time in Disney after we retire. And when I say we both have talked about this collectively, I mean mostly he said it once and I went a little crazy and started doing some research…give me an inch, I usually take a mile.

Another interesting fact I learned is that popcorn is seasoned differently at every park around the world. I don’t like popcorn but when we were on our babymoon, yes we went to Disney on our babymoon but not our honeymoon, I craved that popcorn the entire time I was there. I refused to buy it, though, because I knew I would be disappointed. Mainly because, I do not like popcorn, as I said, but it is a smell that makes Disney what it is. The smell of Main Street triggers many memories of childhood.

Although I don’t have rave reviews for this book, it is somewhat interesting and worth the read if you are a big Disney fan. I just wouldn’t buy it with high expectations. It isn’t a page turner and it isn’t worth buying for you plane ride to Disney to build excitement.

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

Book Review: Slow Down by Nichole Nordeman

The days are long, but the years are short.

No matter if it’s your child’s first step, first day of school, or first night tucked away in a new dorm room away from home, there comes a moment when you realize just how quickly the years are flying by. Christian music artist Nichole Nordeman’s profound lyrics in her viral hit “Slow Down” struck a chord with moms everywhere, and now this beautiful four-color book will inspire you to celebrate the everyday moments of motherhood.

Filled with thought-provoking writings from Nichole, as well as guest writings from friends including Shauna Niequist and Jen Hatmaker, practical tips, and journaling space for reflection, Slow Down will be a poignant gift for any mom, as well as a treasured keepsake.

Take a few moments to reflect and celebrate the privilege of being a parent and getting to watch your little ones grow—and Slow Down.

Slow Down by Nichole Nordeman is a book based around her hit song Slow Down. If you want a good, ugly cry and you have small children, have grown-up children, want children, or you are pregnant, listen to this (just watched the linked video with Jimmie and cried my eyes out) song and then go buy this book. Slow Down, Embracing the Everyday Moments of Motherhood is a collection of stories about babies, toddlers, pre-teens, etc. It is about embracing the good and the bad because, trust me, it is not all good, but it isn’t all bad either.

I am all about books, songs, poems, movies, and articles that remind me to take a deep breath, live in the moment, and enjoy my child’s childhood, because in a blink of an eye, it will be over.

The other day a guy I work with told me that once your kids grow up, Christmas starts to loose it’s magic again. As a child, you believe in Santa. Then you grow up and realize he is make believe. But once you have children, the magic comes alive again. Remember, though, as quick as it returns, it will once again fade away.

Just this morning, I had to remind myself to slow down. Jimmie asked me to sit with him while he watched his morning TV show and drank his milk, something he has done since he started drinking out of a straw cup just as he turned one. I told him I had to go do a few things but I would sit with him in a bit. Finally I said to myself, sitting with him is way more important than doing my “stuff.” So we snuggled and I tried to remember his baby smell, it is all gone now, and told myself one day he would be too big to snuggle. One day, he will be too old to want to sit with me. Until then, my stuff can wait, I will continue to tell myself to slow down.

Not only is this book a collection of lovely life stories about having children, it also has space for you to write in and reflect on your journey through motherhood.

Thank you Nichole Nordman for a wonderful song and a wonderful book.

Slow down 
Won’t you stay here a minute more 
I know you want to walk through the door 
But it’s all too fast 
Let’s make it last a little while 
I pointed to the sky and now you wanna fly 
I am your biggest fan 
I hope you know I am 
But do you think you can somehow 
Slow down – Nichole Nordeman

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

Book Review: Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica

From Goodreads:

“The bad man, Daddy. The bad man is after us.” 

Clara Solberg’s world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident…until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon.

Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick’s death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out—and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit.

Told in the alternating perspectives of Clara’s investigation and Nick’s last months leading up to the crash, master of suspense Mary Kubica weaves her most chilling thriller to date—one that explores the dark recesses of a mind plagued by grief and shows that some secrets might be better left buried.

Mary Kubica never disappoints. Her latest thriller, Every Last Lie, is nothing less than amazing. I don’t understand how she keeps writing one fantastic book after another.

Written from the two main characters perspectives, Nick and Clara, Every Last Lie goes back and forth between before the accident and after the accident. Each chapter paves the the way up to when and how the accident happened. I felt every emotion Clara felt while reading this novel. I wanted to jump into the book and hug her little girl, Maisie. I wanted to help her figure out what happened to her husband and why. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why does Maise have to grow up without a dad. Why does Felix have to grow up without a dad? Every Last Lie reminds us that life isn’t fair.

On top of Clara losing her husband, and her mind, she is also dealing with her mother’s dementia. There are so many layers to this story and not every answer is cut and dry. Every Last Lie has me taking the many turns we have in our area a little slower. It is a good reminder that life is precious and sometimes too short. You never know when you life might end. You never know when your last wake-up will be. I appreciate every day just a little bit more after reading Mary Kubica’s eye-opening novel, Every Last Lie.

Nick is one crazy character. You can’t help but feel bad for him but you also can’t help but blame him. I kept rooting for him, hoping he was the good guy Clara believed him to be. I was rooting for him because no wife wants to find out her husband screwed up and was lying to her for so long. You only want fond memories of someone after they die, not a bitter taste left in your mouth.

Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica can be purchased on June 27, 2017.

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

Book Review: Big Look Bible Book by Make Believe Ideas

All aboard! Come join Joseph, Adam, Eve, Mary, Jesus, Noah, Daniel, and David on this boat to learning about the Bible. Each page is bright, beautiful, and creatively shaped so that little hands can turn the pages. The Big Look Bible Book is engaging and fun. It makes these important bible stories relateable and easy to understand. It is perfect for bedtime stories for a baby or for a toddler.

My favorite pages in the book are for the Noah’s Ark story. The animals are colorful and absolutely adorable. I want to take the pictures right out of this book and hang them on the wall. Each story is only a couple sentences long which makes it a good conversation starter with a toddler who doesn’t have the attention span to read longer versions of each Bible story. I can’t say enough wonderful things about The Big Look Bible Book. It is a must buy for anyone who wants to to include religion in their child’s life in an easy to understand way.

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

Book Review: The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton

The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton is a very sweet and refreshing story about family. I loved all of the quirky characters especially Sara. The story flips between past and present day and alternating narratives between Sara (present) and her grandmother, Mags (past).

When Sara receives a phone call from her grandmother’s lawyer, she knows he isn’t calling with good news. She returns to the home she grew up in, after her parents tragically died, to discover that the grandmother she knew had more than one secret that she kept hidden within the Bed and Breakfast she owned. Now that the B&B belongs to Sara, it is up to her to redo it and then decide if she wants to keep it or not. She hires a local contractor to help her visions come to life. As the process begins, Sara starts to feel at home in Sweet Bay, Alabama, once again.

The Hideaway isn’t a functioning Bed & Breakfast anymore. It is the home of four people who Sara’s grandmother calls family. These people love Sara just like they would their own daughter. Not only is The Hideaway filled with people who permanently live there, it is also filled with memories and undiscovered treasures, including a mysterious ring. Sara isn’t immune to treasures of her own. She runs and own her antique own store back in New Orleans, where she has been since she graduated high school. Throughout the story she struggles between the past she always knew at The Hideaway and the busy life she has learned to love in New Orleans. As she slows down in Sweet Bay, she also discovers that she might be falling in love.

Sara has a lot of choices to make in The Hideaway. She also has a lot of guilt she has to deal with. She was always embarrassed by her oddball grandmother while she was growing up and now that she is gone, she wishes she made the effort to come back and visit more once she moved away to New Orleans.

I loved every page of this book. I really enjoyed discovering Mags’ past right along with Sara. It is amazing what some families have had to endure in the past just because money was involved. How parents chose husband’s for their daughters because of their families reputation. Mags deserved happiness and I wish her life turned out differently. Even though she didn’t always have romantic love in her life, she always had friends and family in her life. I really liked the Bed & Breakfast concept in this novel. I really enjoy visiting B & B’s and reading about them. Every house has a story. Every wall holds a secret that is waiting to be discovered.

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

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…)