Thursday, December 29, 2016

Petty Cash (Kimberly Vargas) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

55. Petty Cash by Kimberly Vargas
      Topic/Theme: book with a blue cover

Synopsis:
This is the romantic office comedy that human resources warned you about. Florida resident Rebecca Blake works as an assistant to a group of psychologists. She is strikingly beautiful and athletic. People see her as a nice, likable girl who is fine in her role but who could never really aspire to more at the company. Rebecca is told in her performance review that in order to get promoted, she is going to have to work on her credibility. As part of her career development plan, she is sent to a behavioral training course (nicknamed 'Club Detention') at company headquarters in Virginia. In error, she is partnered with Foster Diamond, who has the highest intelligence scores in the company. Even though he is a genius, Foster has own issues around interpersonal skills, attitude and his perception overall. Rebecca and Foster have nothing in common, but between his weakness for her beauty and her admiration of his intellect, they forge an unlikely bond. During the course they find that by pooling their respective strengths, they may be able to improve their careers. Sooner rather than later, their startling natural chemistry begins to take their partnership in another direction, and they must face their glaring differences or part ways.

My Review:
I selected this book for two reasons: one would be the requirement of having a blue cover and second, I thought the plot was unique. I don't believe that there are many office romance books out there. Rebecca gets sent off to a behavioral training course (who knew that even existed) to work on her credibility, making sure that she has the drive to get promoted within the company. For the time there, Rebecca gets paired with Foster, the genius of the company. However, Foster always ends up at Club Detention for attitude and personality issues. As they don't have anything in common, they get off to a rough start. They end up forming a sort of partnership, using the other's strengths to make changes in themselves. Foster doesn't adapt easily to Rebecca's suggestions at first, but eventually she becomes a positive influence to him. Due to their time spent together, they start a romance and discover slight things in common. It's a relationship that has its ups and downs, but comes to a head when an ex of his gets in the way. Foster has to prove once and for all that he's the one for Rebecca. 

Here's my take. While I do believe that opposites attract, Rebecca and Foster literally had nothing in common. Foster was domineering and did things according to his own agenda. To me, a relationship means an equal partnership and each person's opinion matters. I couldn't really see them together or making it as a married couple. This was just alright; the story didn't have the magic spark that I like to have in a book. There were numerous mistakes throughout as well.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

❤Meg❤

41: A Portrait of My Father (George W. Bush) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

53. 41: A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush
      Topic/Theme: political memoir

Synopsis:
Forty-three men have served as President of the United States. Countless books have been written about them. But never before has a President told the story of his father, another President, through his own eyes and in his own words. A unique and intimate biography, the book covers the entire scope of the elder President Bush’s life and career, including his service in the Pacific during World War II, his pioneering work in the Texas oil business, and his political rise as a Congressman, U.S. Representative to China and the United Nations, CIA Director, Vice President, and President.  The book shines new light on both the accomplished statesman and the warm, decent man known best by his family. In addition, George W. Bush discusses his father’s influence on him throughout his own life, from his childhood in West Texas to his early campaign trips with his father, and from his decision to go into politics to his own two-term Presidency.

My Review:
First, I just need to clarify that I kind of cheated by choosing this book for the above topic. Technically, it's not a memoir since George W. Bush wrote this about his father, but it's his viewpoints and a little bit is about how his father's decisions in office influenced his own decisions as President. 

Second, my review is not going to be based on what my political party is or my own political beliefs. I'm not someone who would read a political based book in general. Regardless of my registered party, I don't classify myself as a Democrat or Republican as there are issues that I agree with and don't agree with on both sides. 

Since I was really young during George H. W. Bush's presidency, I don't remember his four years in office. From that perspective, I enjoyed learning about his political years. I did like how George Bush wrote about his father's life as a whole. So much of the choices and decisions that we make as an adult are influenced by our upbringing or how we were raised. And that extends to any of the Presidents, past, present, and future, except that they have an entire country who are affected by those choices. It was interesting to get to know more about both of the Bushs' lives, whether that be politically, family life, and everything else in between (well at least when it pertains to #41).

While I can say that I enjoyed reading this book, I can't necessarily say that I liked every decision George H. W. Bush made. No matter the President or a person in general, there's always going to be things I like about what they do and things I don't like. No one is perfect and mistakes do happen. And there are times when the decisions we make don't work out the way that we wanted them to or how we thought they would turn out. 

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

❤Meg❤

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge
46. Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
      Topic/Theme: New York Times bestseller


Synopsis:
“When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”

So begins the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Frank’s mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Frank’s father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages. Yet Malachy — exasperating, irresponsible, and beguiling — does nurture in Frank an appetite for the one thing he can provide: a story. Frank lives for his father’s tales of Cuchulain, who saved Ireland, and of the Angel on the Seventh Step, who brings his mother babies.
Perhaps it is story that accounts for Frank’s survival. Wearing rags for diapers, begging a pig’s head for Christmas dinner and gathering coal from the roadside to light a fire, Frank endures poverty, near-starvation and the casual cruelty of relatives and neighbors—yet lives to tell his tale with eloquence, exuberance, and remarkable forgiveness.

My Review:
Frank's writing style was a little different from what I'm used to. It did take a little while to grasp that, but once I did, I came to appreciate it. It's a great narration of what it was like to grow up in a time of poverty and the additional challenges of dealing with the alcoholism of his father. Alcoholism is a disease. For Frank's father, it was his way of coping with deaths in the family, especially that of his daughter, among other troubles. It was interesting to read about what life was like in the 1930s and 40s in Ireland. Poverty can affect each and every country and everyone of all backgrounds. Just like the US has experienced the Great Depression and other economic crises, Ireland has also had its fair share of problems. It was such a good attribute of Frank's to be able to write so descriptively of those hard times. To be able to overcome those challenges was incredible. Anything is possible if you're willing to work hard and keep fighting through by not giving up.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

♥Meg♥







Monday, December 19, 2016

The Tour (Jean Grainger) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge
45. The Tour by Jean Grainger
      Topic/Theme: book that takes place in Europe


Synopsis:
Every week, Conor O'Shea collects a new group of American visitors from Shannon Airport, from where they embark on a high end tour of the Real Ireland. But this particular tour, with its cast of unintentionally hilarious characters, presents even seasoned tour guide Conor with dilemmas that render him speechless for the first time in his life. Among this eclectic group are Corlene, a gold digging multiple divorcee on the prowl; Patrick, a love starved Boston cop; Dylan, a goth uilleann piper; Dorothy a poisonous college professor who wouldn't spend Christmas; Elliot, a wall street shark who finally shows his true colours. Then there's Ellen, back on Irish soil after so many years after so many years, to discover a truth no-one could ever have guessed at, least of all herself. And that's just a few of the colourful cast. The locals they meet on their journey, - West Brits, passionate musicians, Ukrainian waitresses and Garda high flyers all help to make this a tour no-one will ever forget. And of course, there's Conor O'Shea in the thick of it all, solving problems and mending hearts, but what about his own? 

My Review:
Conor is at the center of this story, but an eclectic group of people make it even better. Getting to learn about Ireland through Conor's elaborate, but not overly detailed, explanations offered a nice change of pace. Each character brought something different to the table and with that came their own personalities. An assortment of personalities led to some clashes among the group, as they dealt with their own problems and reasons for being there. Conor, the seasoned tour guide, always goes the extra mile to help each of them with their questions and anything else they may need. Not to mention that Conor tends to help them solve their problems (by giving advice for example), showing that he genuinely cares about each member. In the process, he has to deal with his own troubles, but doesn't let it get in the way of everything else. He manages to keep everything under control, even the unforeseeable obstacles that arise. Jean Grainger did a great job at keeping all the main characters at the forefront of the story without getting confused or lost. As you get to know each member's backstory, you can't help but feel for them when they come to terms with some events in their lives.

Despite each character's unique personalities, I can't imagine this story without any of them.

Where would you like to visit someday? And what was your favorite vacation spot?

I would like to visit Australia, France, Ireland,  and England. My favorite vacation spots include Niagara Falls, Yellowstone National Park, and North Conway, New Hampshire.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

♥Meg♥

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Tara Road (Maeve Binchy) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

44. Tara Road by Maeve Binchy
      Theme/Topic: book from Oprah's Book Club


Synopsis:
New York Times bestselling author Maeve Binchy has captured the hearts of millions with her unforgettable novels. Binchy's graceful storytelling and wise compassion have earned her the devotion of fans worldwide--and made her one of the most beloved authors of our time. Now she dazzles us once again with a new novel filled with her signature warmth, humor, and tender insight. A provocative tale of family heartbreak, friendship, and revelation,Tara Road explores every woman's fantasy: escape, into another place, another life. "What if..." Binchy asks, and answers in her most astonishing novel to date.

My Review:
This was the first book I read by Maeve Binchy and she has an eloquent writing style. Most of this book took place on Tara Road (hence the title) and the people who live there or nearby. In particular, Danny and Ria's house was featured the most because they had people over all the time, some even without invites. Whether it was for talking gossip, business or just spending quality time with friends, there was always something going on. When Danny admits he has been having an affair and they get divorced, Ria still maintains that social life except the ones over for business. Of course, then it becomes all girl talk with the support of family and friends. As the story goes on, you learn that Ria's so called friends aren't always what they seem, well a couple of them at least. Everyone you read about are an eclectic and diverse group of people. I had a love-hate relationship with all of them. I can't imagine the boom without even one of them, though.

Ria can't accept that Danny's leaving her for someone else and has had that affair for quite awhile. We, the readers, can figure that out before he brings it up and all along, Ria thought she was living a perfect marriage, despite all the signs being there. Marilyn, in New York, has been having a tough time coming to terms s with her son's death and separation from her husband. By chance, she just happens to have Danny's number and wants to exchange houses for two months. Ria agrees to the deal and before you know it, everything set up. Danny and Marilyn's husband are reluctant for them to do it, but realize that they're going to do it regardless. They each want the opportunity to get away from it all and their respective places. Both of them are very similar, except that Ria is social able and Marilyn is more drawn to herself. They have no idea that they're going somewhere opposite from what they're used to. For two months, they go on a journey of acceptance, growth, friendship, and so much more. Isn't it funny how escaping to another place makes it easier to come to terms with any situation you may be going through? Sometimes all we need is a break from reality to heal in what may be a sad or stressful (or anything really) time in our lives.

This was an enjoyable read. I do have to admit that it took me a little while to get into it. It's a powerful book about overcoming hard times and the power of friendship.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

♥Meg♥

Friday, November 4, 2016

Homicide by Hamlet (Lois Lavrisa) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

43. Homicide by Hamlet by Lois Lavrisa


Synopsis:
Annie Mae has one last job to do before she retires from a thirty-year career in academia: one week of summer theater camp. A camp she has worked at for so many years she could do it with her eyes closed. Easy peasy. Until a team leader is murdered and all hell breaks loose as everyone is a suspect and everyone has a secret. Will she find out the truth before she becomes the killer’s next victim? Or will death be her swan song?

My Review:
I chose this book for two reasons. First, I like mysteries and second, I like theater. Put them together and I'm sold. It seemed like a fun and light read. And I was right.

Annie Mae is working her last year as a team leader at a summer theater camp. It will also mark the end of her teaching for several decades at the college where the camp takes place. Each summer, a Shakespeare play (in this cae, it's Hamlet) is chosen for the students. The students recreate and act out scenes from it for a one act play competition. The purpose is to put a fresh and modern take to it and the students do all the work as in set and costumes, etc. For instance, Annie Mae's group chose rap, while another group chose ballet and so on. The team leaders are only there to assist if needed. For this particular year, whoever wins first place gets scholarships. 

It takes a turn for the worst when one of the team leaders is murdered. The person who got murdered happens to be someone who wasn't well liked and has sabotaged the other teams. As a whole, the judges and team leaders decide to keep the competition on for the students' sake. Her team chooses to still compete without a leader. While the police start looking into it, Annie Mae and her friends start an investigation of their own. It doesn't help that evidence points to one of her friends and one of the judges and Annie Mae wants to prove that they're innocent. Several days pass and it's competition day. Every team does a good job. It's bittersweet when the group without a leader wins and Annie Mae's group gets second. Later that day and after the awards part, we find out who the murderer is, as Annie Mae figures it out and confronts the person. It doesn't end well for him obviously. And finally, Annie Mae is ready to retire and do her own thing.

While this was a cozy mystery, there was one thing I didn't like. I was able to figure out who the murderer was early on and it came as no surprise for me when he was revealed. I like suspense and I would have liked to keep on guessing for a longer time. I did enjoy the story for the most part, though.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

♥Meg♥

To Dance Once More (Sherri Wilson Johnson) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

42. To Dance Once More by Sherri Wilson Johnson


Synopsis:
Debutante Lydia Barrington lives a carefree, protected existence on Live Oaks Plantation in Florida. While her sisters happily prepare for their traditional roles as women and talk of courting, Lydia dreams of adventure and independence. She counts the days until she can leave home to explore the world, to dance with cultured gentlemen, to explore politics and art, to leave behind the confining expectations of her family and community—and her God. Even her friendship with handsome Hamilton Scarbrough isn’t enough to hold her back…until they dance, and her heart considers love.
Confused by her heart's betrayal, Lydia struggles to gain her independence. Then she overhears a private conversation about a business deal that has everything to do with her future. Now she’s faced with the biggest decision of her life—to concede or to fight. Either choice will require great sacrifice…and, perhaps, countless rewards. In an attempt to escape her imminent destiny, Lydia scrambles to find a solution—at all costs. Amidst the trials that follow, as Lydia runs out of time, she learns the meaning of sacrifice, forgiveness, hope and faith.

My Review:
Before I get started, I just wanted to say that I usually don't like to read historical fiction. There was something about the synopsis that made me want to read it. It was a little slow and hard to get into in the beginning, but I got hooked after several chapters. What I appreciated was how Sherri captured and conveyed the late 1800s in impeccable fashion.

Back in the 1800s, the men worked, while the women took care of the household and children. And the children were raised and prepared for those traditional roles. It was also a time when the father chose and approved of who would marry their daughter(s). As I'm writing this, it reminds me of The Fiddler on the Roof - except that in that, they're Jewish and in this story, the family is Christian.

This is a great coming of age story. Lydia's sisters have always accepted their expectations and are ready and prepared when they come of age. Lydia, on the other hand, has been more restless and a dreamer. She would rather travel and experience other parts of the world than getting married off into what society wants her to do when she gets old enough. She has wanted freedom from the protected and sheltered life she has grown up in. 

Since this is also historical romance, Lydia has dreamed of marrying her childhood friend (also her twin brother's best friend). When she overhears that her father has made a deal to marry her to someone else, she's crushed and becomes more rebellious. At each of her sister's coming of age and community parties, there's dancing involved, hence the title. Dancing with Hamilton makes her fall in love even more with him, but knows it's not possible. Her mission is to become more determined to have one more dance with him and be with him for the rest of her life. When Lydia goes to visit family with one of her sisters, she discovers that they're not perfect either. Lydia also happens to fall in love with another guy, despite the warnings from her family. It leaves her feeling more conflicted than ever. Unfortunately, it ends in tragedy, leaving Lydia to sink into a depression like state back home and her family puts up with her demeanor for a little bit. At Lydia's coming of age party, she dances with all of the men who are interested in calling or courting her. After she gets over being selfish over the one she lost, Lydia realizes that she has no choice but to marry Frank. It's a deal that their respective fathers made as a bargain like thing. Frank and Lydia get married and put on an act to make it seem that they're in love and happy with each other. After Frank's father dies, they finally get the chance to end the marriage and get married to their original lovers. 

Throughout her journey of coming of age, Lydia gradually becomes a woman of grace and maturity. I also liked the fact that this was a female empowerment story in a way. Lydia has so many dreams that she wants to accomplish before starting a family and she gets the encouragement of her teacher. I wanted to remind you that we, as women or girls, can do anything we put our mind to. Never stop going after your dreams.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

♥Meg♥

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Forever Fredless (Suzy Turner) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

41. Forever Fredless by Suzy Turner


Synopsis:
Kate Robinson has spent the past two decades yearning to find her soul mate, the boy she found and then lost during a family holiday. Shortly after her twenty-eighth birthday, however, she inherits a fortune from an old family friend and becomes something of an overnight celebrity. Can her new-found fame lead her to him after all this time?

My Review:
Kate is only twelve when she meets her soul mate while on vacation. They meet very briefly before they are whisked away from each other. Not even getting enough time to get to know his name, Kate decides to call him Fred. Nearly twenty years later, she's still searching for him and no other man will do. Kate inherits a fortune from Uncle Sam, a longtime family friend, causing her to gain fame overnight. She uses it to her advantage to see if she can find Fred at last. Kate finds it what it's like to have people follow you around all the time, but with girlfriends who stand by her and some other twists along the way, she gets through it. After awhile, she gets away from it all and her fame gets forgotten. Kate finally decides what to do and finds peace at not being able to find Fred. This story ends with a great twist and it makes everything Kate went through worth it. It has a bittersweet ending. Forever Fredless is a refreshing read and a good example of what a chick lit is supposed to be.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

♥Meg♥

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Crossroads (Cathy Bryant) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

40. Crossroads by Cathy Bryant

Synopsis:
After a devastating divorce, a bitter single mom and atheist starts her own real estate company in the nostalgic and picturesque town of Miller’s Creek, Texas. Then her young daughter’s disturbing symptoms lead doctors to discover that her leukemia has relapsed. With her new life now turned upside down, Mara Hedwig struggles to keep her business afloat. And her daughter’s worsening condition forces her to rethink her beliefs about Carter Callahan and his God. Will Mara make the return to Christian faith in the face of life’s greatest challenge?

An ex-military operative struggles with the return to civilian life while coping with his rebellious teen-aged daughter. During a house-search, Carter meets Mara, a headstrong Realtor who wants nothing to do with his God. But when Mara’s little girl is diagnosed with leukemia, the clock begins ticking for him to convince Mara to return to a life of faith. Just as he seems to be making headway, circumstances beyond his control throw his efforts into a tailspin. Can Carter learn to rest in the sovereignty of God?

My Review:
Mara is trying to get her real estate business off to a good start after getting over a bitter divorce. Relatively new to town, she's determined to make things better for her five year old daughter, Ashton. Just as she's starting to get her life back on track, Ashton's leukemia relapses. From everything Mara's been through, she has lost faith in God and doesn't know what to believe anymore. Meanwhile, Carter is also raising his teenage daughter, Chloe, on his own. He's a police officer trying to get his life together after dealing with post traumatic stress disorder after fighting in the war. Chloe's in a bit of a rebellious phase after getting abandoned by her mother and starts getting into the wrong crowd. 

Mara and Carter meet by chance when he becomes one of her clients. Their personalities clash just a bit at first, but they become friends. Not knowing what else to do, Carter asks Mara to take Chloe under her wings. Unfortunately for Chloe, Mara recognizes that she's bulimic (Mara used to be as well and can see the signs in Chloe). Once Chloe promises to stop and get better, Mara let's her be an assistant. Bad habits are hard to break, however, and after a little while, her secret comes out to Carter and they finally work together to overcome that.

Mara and Carter soon start a budding relationship. Obviously, they have their problems and you can't help but wonder if it was doomed from the start. For starters, they have their hands full with their respective daughter: trying to open up the communication lines with Chloe and get her back on track and dealing with treatment and side effects for Ashton's cancer and a not so good looking prognosis. Mara gets overwhelmed when she meets Carter's family. And of course, they deal with what could be a deal breaker for Carter: that Mara doesn't believe in God and is headstrong about it when it's brought up. Carter feels like Mara was put in his life for a reason, making him determined to bring her back to her faith no matter how long it may take. It takes some time, but Mara faces her fears and becomes vulnerable. When we go through hard times, we tend to break away from faith and hope (and it's perfectly understandable). It's always possible to go back to it, but it doesn't happen overnight. Everything works out and Carter and Mara realize that they're meant to be together. Don't worry, things work out for Chloe and Ashton as well.

For me, I felt that Ashton and Chloe were the glue that kept the story together. I believe that if it wasn't for them, Mara and Carter would not have survived their relationship. Chloe and Ashton were close to each other from the start. When Ashton became sick again, it helped bring about change in Chloe. Chloe felt abandoned by her mother and dealt with body image issues (hence the bulimia), but once she had someone like Mara in her corner to tell her like it is and not give up with her, Chloe was able to open up more and make those changes she needed to heal. Ashton was my favorite character. As much as she had been through and was going through, Ashton never gave up and remained as upbeat as she could. She seemed wiser than her years and showed good character and personality.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

♥Meg♥

Monday, October 31, 2016

NaNoWriMo: No or Go?

NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month) starts tomorrow. For the month of November, the goal is to write everyday and create a 50,000 word novel. That comes to writing 1667 words a day. Am I going to do it or not? Well, you're about to find out.
The answer is both. How is that possible?

First, the No. I am not doing it officially with the online stuff. For starters, not all the keys on my keyboard actually work. Plus, I don't have Word yet, making it nearly impossible to know how many words I'm writing each day. Unless, of course, I count by hand which would take awhile.

Second, the Go. I am going to be doing NaNoWriMo unofficially or off the record. I will be using the opportunity to work on a writing project that I have been putting off. One of my dreams as a writer has been to write a memoir about my heart condition and my journey through a very rough time in my life. Hence, the putting off part. I did start writing it a few months ago with the intention of posting parts of it on my other blog, Writing With Meg and starting it off that way since it's a newer blog than this one. As I was writing about that time, it brought back a lot of emotions for me. I'm used to sharing that with those who have been there, who get it. Being vulnerable is not easy for me, and I'm sure it's the same for others. I usually don't show that side of myself to others. The whole purpose of the memoir is to spread awareness about Long Qt syndrome and dealing with it all. I will be tackling it this month and will be posting a portion of it on there. Saying all of this, I'm not aiming for a word count, as I said previously that I can't do that. My goal for November is to finish the first draft of said memoir. I will link to those posts on here when I publish them on my other blog. I'm going to start being more active on that one.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

♥Meg♥

Friday, October 28, 2016

Confessions of a Transformed Heart (Nancy D Sheppard) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

39. Confessions of a Transformed Heart by Nancy D Sheppard

Synopsis:
     When Mark and Nancy Sheppard began missionary service in Liberia, Nancy had no idea what God would ask of her. Their idyllic first term was followed by the Liberian Civil War and a nightmarish year working among Liberian refugees in the Ivory Coast. Conditions were difficult, expectations overwhelming and the tensions of the war at their doorstep. Fear, self-pity, resentment and depression haunted her. God used Nancy's difficult decision to follow her husband's leadership and remain in refugee work to begin an amazing spiritual journey—one that led to a clearer understanding of biblical womanhood as well as a deeper relationship with the Lord and with her husband.
    The book chronicles Nancy's journey to true peace in the midst of very difficult circumstances. As God teaches her about genuine service, submission, sincere prayer, reverence and humility, she is totally and completely transformed. The scenarios are unique to Nancy, but every seeking Christian can fully identify with the spiritual lessons.

My Review:
I felt that this book was just okay. Nancy and her husband, Mark, have been involved in missionary service for years. This book chronicles their time spent in Liberia, told from her perspective. It goes without saying that they saw things that you can't even imagine. While Mark was able to adapt quickly to their new surroundings (not saying that it was easy for him, but in that he felt called to be doing missionary work), it took Nancy longer to come around. I get that being around war (civil war for their area that they were in), violence in general, working with refugees, and other horrible things, and all the while trying to constitute change for the better, isn't easy. Change can be difficult to accept for some people (as in Liberia's case of turning against what was normal for them), and Nancy was one of them. It drove her down a path of self-pity, resentment, and depression. At times, though, it can!e across as being selfish - only thinking about what she was going through and not what anybody else was going through, including her husband. While Nancy was doing her work at home, Mark was in the middle of all of it and I imagine that it was harder for him. For a few chapters, it seemed like the same thing over and over again.

Missionary work is done in terms or installments. It means that a year of time is spent in whatever country they are needed in (for Nancy and Mark, it was Liberia and the Ivory Coast) followed by a year back home. During one of these visits home, Nancy finally confronted her demons, so to say. Faced with a tough decision to either continue being a missionary or giving it up, Nancy left it in God's hands. Mark gave her the choice and realizing that he wouldn't be happy doing anything else, she decided to stick with it. Nancy then started her spiritual journey and transformation of learning the true meaning of doing God's work and living according to His word. It was a slow process, but things can't change overnight. When she started going through that process, she was able to become closer to not only God, but her husband as well. Did I mention that Nancy went through all of this while raising a family? It was during this time that her story became more interesting. 

I definitely learned a lot more about missionary work and what it entails. I kind of wish to hear from Mark's perspective as well. I read this as an eBook and it was an interactive version. I didn't care too much for that. It was bothersome for me. My only other small complaint would be that the chapters didn't always flow freely into one another. All in all, there were some good parts and not so good parts reading this, which is why I said it was okay.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

♥Meg♥

To Protect and Serve (Staci Stallings) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

38. To Protect and Serve by Staci Stallings

Synopsis:
     To save others' lives, they will risk their own.
     Houston firefighter, Jeff Taylor is a fireman's fireman. He's not afraid of anything, and no situation is too dangerous to keep him on the sideline if lives are at stake.
     Lisa Matheson runs a semi-successful ad agency that's on the brink of falling apart. Her employees are incompetent and her schedule has become exhausting. When she takes on a client with a brilliant idea for a big conference, she thinks that maybe, finally this is her lucky break. However, the fire station wasn't what she had in mind for finding conference speakers. When she falls for a handsome but shy firefighter, it's possible that life might just be going her way for a change. The only problem is she can't control Jeff and the death wish he seems to have.

My Review:
     Jeff is a firefighter, whose mission is to save and protect as many lives as he can. I really liked getting to know more about the life of firemen. We always hear in the news the stories of them putting out fires, saving lives when they can, and serving the public. And just like police officers, we sometimes hear about losing them in the line of duty. But we don't get to see the other side of things - what firefighters go through when they lose one of their own or can't save someone despite taking every measure possible, or even how they separate their work life from everything else. It was interesting and insightful to see that perspective. When it comes to police, firefighters and even paramedics, they can be bothered by what they see and do when they get called to serve the public. It can be hard separating that from their personal lives. As the story progresses, you can see why Jeff wanted to become a firefighter and why he wants to protect and serve the community. He has a bit of a sad background and it was heartbreaking to see that side of him come out.

     Lisa owns an ad agency, but has trouble letting go of control and taking no for an answer (the latter of which you'll understand when you read the book). When her work unexpectedly takes her to a firehouse, the last thing she expects is to start falling for a guy she just happened to meet a couple days earlier and finds out that he works at the aforementioned firehouse. They both have reservations about falling in love due to past history. We get to see how Jeff and Lisa try to combine both of their lives together and overcome their own concerns together. With Jeff, that would be wanting to keep his work life separate and opening up about certain things, and for Lisa, it would be learning to give up some control and let others in. We also get a glimpse of what it's like to be a significant other of a firefighter, especially when it comes to losing a comrade.

     While reading To Protect and Serve, I realized how dangerous it can be for a firefighter. Granted, I've always known that, but I found out more in depth. Just like police officers, they don't know if they're going to make it home alive to their family after their shift. And vice versa for their families. This issue was tackled somewhat in this story. I liked that although Lisa worried about Jeff's well-being and safety on the job, she realized that she couldn't tell him to give up his dream. Coming to that realization wasn't easy, but it was interesting to see her go through that process.

This is a light read. Here are two quotes from the book that I liked:

"You have this moment and only this moment. What you do with it is your choice."

"Life's not easy - for anybody. The wind and the waves are right there all the time waiting to knock you over, but the point is you have to step out of the boat anyway. You have to trust God enough, to believe that He sees the bigger picture and would never let the wind and the waves get the better of you."

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

♥Meg♥

The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

37. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
      Topic/Theme: book recommended by a family member

Synopsis:
     The Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. When sober, Jeannette's brilliant and charismatic father captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn't want the responsibility of raising a family.
     The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered.


My Review:
Jeannette wrote about her experiences growing up in a dysfunctional and poverty-stricken family as prose. I'm typically not a fan of prose because to me, it lacks that special pizazz as in fiction to keep the story flowing a bit better. I did appreciate Jeannette's ability to recall her childhood memories with vivid detail, as well as not being resentful to her parents. This memoir is a perfect example that not everyone grows up as fortunate as others. Growing up with an alcoholic father and a mother with a probable mental disorder and not wanting to raise a family, Jeannette and her siblings learned how to fend for themselves. I liked how she talked about good memories when her father was sober as well as the bad times when he wasn't sober and was destructive. Alcoholism is a disease and we, as society, need to realize that. I think it's hard for people who haven't been through it or known someone who has to relate and understand it.  In Jeannette and her siblings' case, they were able to overcome their peculiar childhood and be successful when they got older. I don't necessarily agree with how they were raised, or lack thereof, by their parents. Even as their children became successful, their parents still preferred to be poor and homeless despite offers from their grown children. If they want to keep being that and doing nothing to change that, then so be it, whatever - as long as they're happy I guess.

What I enjoyed more about this book was the symbolism behind the glass castle. Jeannette's father always told her that he would build the family a glass castle after finding gold, or means to do that, as a way of living life without authority and live in better prosperity. After reading this, I could clearly tell that that was never going to happen and obviously, it didn't happen. To me, the glass castle symbolized something to look forward to, like the good after the bad. It could also mean all the times that Jeannette's father let her down. I feel like you can interpret in any which way you want to after reading the book.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

♥Meg♥

Monday, October 24, 2016

Sinful Cinderella (Anita Valle) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

36. Sinful Cinderella by Anita Valle
      Topic/Theme: book based on a fairy tale

Synopsis:
And you thought the stepsisters were wicked.
I'm not who they think I am. A docile girl who meekly obeys her stepmother and stepsisters. Some kind of sick angel who cheerfully bears their mistreatment. That's what I WANT them to think. Because then they won't suspect what I'm really up to.
The ball, the prince - it's all part of my plan to come out on top. Stepmother and her demented daughters will pay for every floor I have scoured, every sneer I have borne. They don't know about the white magic, how I use it to enhance myself. They can't see that my heart is black as midnight, rotten as a poisoned apple.
They're about to find out.

My Review:
I was searching for books based on a fairy tale and came across this one. 

In this retelling of Cinderella, Cinderella is the one who is mean and evil. Not entirely evil as her stepsisters, though. It was definitely weird to see a different version of Cinderella herself. This is a novella and after reading it, I can't imagine it as a regular novel. The story was crafted cleverly, but not high quality for me. This version made it seem less believable. I did enjoy the twist at the end and suddenly everything within the story made sense. Anita cleverly combined two fairy tales into one, but I feel that giving the other fairy tale away would ruin the surprise if you decide to read this. 

I'm not a huge fan of story re-tellings, especially classic fairy tales (I like them if they're done properly). Honestly, Sinful Cinderella missed the mark. While it was nice having Cinderella be the opposite, it was just too strange for me. 

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

♥Meg♥



Friday, October 21, 2016

Losing Faith (Jeremy Asher) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

35. Losing Faith by Jeremy Asher

Synopsis: Seth Storm, a once famous musician from Nashville, is now nothing more than a fallen star. After climbing the music charts and making his dreams come true, his life took a turn that he’d never expected, causing him to lose it all. But Seth is determined to do whatever it takes to get it all back, even if that includes doing the one thing he swore he’d never do.After turning his back on his career, music, and the life he had worked so hard to build, Seth embarks on a journey to make things right and get his life back.Along the way, Seth encounters a storm that threatens his chances at getting back the one thing that could fix his broken life: his daughter, Faith. Forced to travel with strangers, Seth discovers that his success and failure are not just at the hands of fate, but that they also rest within his traveling companions.
This is a story about how far a man will go when he has nothing to lose and only one chance at getting it all back to honor a promise he made to his little girl. The road to picking up the pieces of his broken life places him face-to-face with his demons, leading him to realize that nothing is worse than Losing Faith.

My Review:
This was a light and easy read. I could definitely see it as a movie on Lifetime or Hallmark. It did have some clich├ęs, but I still enjoyed it as a whole.

Doesn't it seem that when we have to get somewhere or something done in a quick manner, there's always obstacles that get in the way? This is centered around Seth. He's on a mission to do whatever he has to do to get back home to Indiana to regain custody of his daughter. He puts everything on the line to make up for lost time since he threw it all away to become a musician and now that it's all over, he wants to regain his life back. Seth first encounters a problem when he gets stuck at the airport in a snow storm. 

Frank and Trista are also looking to get to Indiana for different reasons and get stranded too at the airport. Doing whatever they can to get there, Frank rents a car and offers to give Seth a ride. Not far down the road, they meet up with Trista again, who's own car breaks down in the storm and she gets stranded for the second time with her daughter. Thus, Frank, Seth, Trista, and Samantha embark on a journey through blizzard like conditions just to escape from their troubles and start a new chapter in their life, especially Seth and Trista. Mishaps along the way threaten to get in the way of that. They deal with difficulty driving, car troubles, and dealing with Trista's abusive fiance. Being forced to spend time together, they learn of each other's pasts and how they got to where they are currently. I want to point out that Seth and Trista are the ones looking to escape their past lives and move forward to a new start. Frank is the one who stays calm, cool, and collected and offers a new perspective to each of the problems. It's Frank who really propels the story forward. When all is said and done, they make it to Indiana. It may have taken longer than expected, but Seth managed to get back in time for his daughter Faith's custody hearing. It's a small world when Frank turns out to be the judge for the case and gives a solution that works for everyone involved (Seth, Faith, and Faith's grandparents who want custody after her mom dies).

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

♥Meg♥

Callie (Sharon Srock) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

34. Callie by Sharon Srock

Synopsis: A baby is dead and Callie Stillman blames herself. Haunted by memories of a tiny coffin, Callie can’t understand how God could expect her to put her heart on the line a second time. But the evasive little girl attending her Sunday School class is so obviously in trouble that Callie finds her resolve cracking. Iris and Samantha Evans are living on borrowed time. Deserted, orphaned, betrayed, and deceived, they need rescuing in the worst way. Steve Evans had his life changed by God. A reformed drug addict, he’s searching for the family he abandoned ten years ago and praying for a miracle. The road to healing is rocky. But as Callie confronts her worst fears by bringing father and daughters together in a risky bid for reconciliation, she realizes that the Evans family aren’t the only ones God wants to rescue from a tortured past.

My Review:
Callie was a good read, though it took me awhile to get into it. Callie is the kind of person who wants to do whatever she can to help others. When something goes wrong with a situation that Callie thought she was helping with, she can't help but blame herself. It wasn't even her fault, but she's been haunted by it ever since and can't get past it. Despite this, Callie feels called to help when she realizes how much Iris and her sister needs it. Taking Samantha and Iris under her wing, Callie sets out to prove that she can make a difference in not only their lives, but hers as well. She doesn't get much support from her husband at first because he doesn't want her to end up getting hurt again. I can see his point, but she's able to warm him up that she's doing the right thing. Samantha is resistant to change and help as she's been let down so much in the past and doesn't trust people easily. Callie realizes that she might be getting in over her head, but she's determined to not give up. Little by little, piece by piece, Callie, Samantha, Iris, and Steve start to heal from their troubled past.

What I liked about Callie was the theme revolving around second chances, new beginnings, and forgiving yourself/letting go of your past. Steve and Samantha learn the importance of second chances; people can change if they really want to. Callie goes through a transformation of forgiving herself and just letting go of what happened. Every main character comes to realize that new beginnings are possible if you let down your guard a little and be more vulnerable. I'm not saying that these things are easy, but things can change if you do it a little at a time. I can't end this without mentioning that Callie's friends were a great support system which was an added bonus.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

♥Meg♥

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Sun Also Rises (Ernest Hemingway) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

33. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
      Topic/Theme: a book from the 20th century

Synopsis: 
A poignant look at the disillusionment and angst of the post-World War I generation, the novel introduces two of Hemingway's most unforgettable characters: Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley. The story follows the flamboyant Brett and the hapless Jake as they journey from the wild nightlife of 1920s Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates. It is an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love, and vanishing illusions.

My Review:
I chose this book for the theme because I had enjoyed Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea when I had to read it in high school. Although both are completely different, I do like Hemingway's writing style for the most part. This book was just okay. I'm not a fan of bullfighting, which is what a good portion of this story is about. 

Generally speaking, The Sun Also Rises is about a group of friends who drink their troubles away. They don't always agree with each other and sometimes cause trouble (thanks to drunkenness), but remain loyal and still get together. I didn't really care that much for the beginning when they were in France as it lacked in detail. Talking, complaining, and arguing about the same things all the time got to be annoying. When they took their journey to Spain, I was able to get I to it a little bit more. I found myself feeling sorry for Robert, who seemed to get the most rigging from the others. I had a love-hate relationships with the characters in general, liking them at times and other times, I would just be frustrated at them for the way they acted and accepted things for what they were.

As I've already mentioned, I'm not interested in bullfighting or the running of the bulls so I don't have anything really that stuck out to me throughout the story. What I did like was getting to know more about France in the 1920s, as well as Spain and the whole traditions there about bullfighting and such. The Sun Also Rises is based on actual events that took place (then and now, like the Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona) and people back then. I found that pretty interesting that Hemingway was able to create good fiction off from his own experiences.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

♥Meg♥

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Behind Her Smile (Rosemary Hines) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

32. Behind Her Smile by Rosemary Hines

Synopsis:
Not good enough…the words echo in Madison Baron’s mind as the darkness presses her to be thinner, more beautiful—somehow more attractive to her peers. A junior in high school, she is facing life without her childhood love, Luke Johnson, who is off to college in the Midwest. Alone with her insecurities, Madison yearns for acceptance—until Miles that is. Will a relationship with this new student on campus be the answer she seeks? And how will his resistance to her Christian faith affect her future?
As the two of them grow closer and closer, something happens inside of Madison, and she finds herself more insecure than ever. Gazing into the mirror at her thinning face and trendy makeup, she hopes no one sees the fear behind her smile.

My Review:
This was my favorite book in the Sandy Cove series. It covers an issue that's relatable to the female population, particularly those girls in their pre-teen and teenage years: not being good enough. And if you're older and reading this, like myself, I think we can understand the issues that Madison goes through in this story because we've been there.

Madison is at the forefront of this particular book. I was so happy to see that because she's grown up throughout the series. It was nice to hear her voice come out finally. Madison is 16 and like most teenagers, she doesn't think she looks thin enough, not attractive enough. For the first time in her life, she's on her own, as Madison's childhood friend and love of her life is away at college. She's looking for acceptance and respect from her peers. When Miles enters the picture, she thinks she found what she's looking for. Her beliefs and morals are put to the test as she embraces a relationship with Miles. He dares her to go outside of her limits and comfort zone.

Complicating things is that Madison's parents can't seem to connect with her. And that Madison is going through teenage rebellion, so to say. This leads to a lot of arguing/disagreements with them, especially her mom. When Madison does something she never thought she would by having sex with Miles, she beats herself up about it. Not knowing what to do and not able to talk to her mom, Madison runs away to her grandmother's house. Over the course of a few days, she finally feels she can open up about it with her grandmother's help. It takes some time before Madison can approach her mom (as she feels her mom's going to be hurt and disappointed in her). She doesn't expect her mo to react the way she thinks. Everything gets sorted out and then Luke comes back for the summer. It's clear that Madison and Luke should be a couple, but Madison doesn't believe she's worthy enough for him. What happens between them is left up in the air as the book ends with them having a much needed conbersation, but we don't find out if they get together.

This is a story about forgiveness and redemption. Madison has to learn how to forgive herself for her mistakes and realize that mistakes do happen and Moody's perfect. Things don't always go according to plan and sometimes certain things just happen and that's okay. When it comes to God, He doesn't expect us to be perfect either. But He does want us to ask for forgiveness - that's the point of confession/penance/reconciliation and absolution. 

This is book 6 of the Sandy Cove series. I'm also going to point out that I think they should be read in order. As of this writing, this is the last book in the series, as I'm not sure if Rosemary Hines is planning to continue on with it or not. To read my other reviews for this series, click the links below:

Out of a Dream
Through the Tears
Into Magnolia
Around the Bend
From the Heart

Happy Reading and Keep On Writing!

♥Meg♥



Thursday, October 13, 2016

My Point...And I Do Have One (Ellen DeGeneres) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

31. My Point...And I Do Have One by Ellen DeGeneres
      Topic/Theme: book by a comedian

Synopsis: With the unpredictable wit and engaging warmth that has won her a loyal following, and the undeniable star quality that has made her television series an instant hit, Ellen DeGeneres brings her unique comic perspective to the page in a book of simple yet brilliant observations, outrageous dreams, and hilarious life stories.

My Review:
This review is going to be a little different.

Ellen DeGeneres is one of my favorite comedians (um...comedienne). So when I saw that I had to read a book by a comedian, it was a no-brainer that I chose Ellen. I had originally wanted to read her more recent book, Seriously...I'm Kidding. However, I happened to come across this one first. I decided to roll with the punches and read it instead.

My Point...And I Do Have One is Ellen's first book she wrote. I am more familiar with her from her talk show, which started in 2003, and her comedy style from that point. Saying that, I was only a kid when this book came out in 1995. This leads to an interesting perspective. I didn't know Ellen's comedic style back then. It was actually nice to get to know that side of her more. However, I wasn't impressed as much as I thought I would be - just because I didn't get or understand some of the jokes she was making throughout the book. Now, were there some good and funny parts? Absolutely. I found myself laughing out loud at some parts.

I have wrote about it before that writers' first books are not as good as their later ones. I think the same can be applied here. I have heard that her later books, The Funny Thing Is... and Seriously...I'm Kidding, are better. I am looking forward to reading them at some point.

I'm going to end this with what Ellen says at the end of every show (it's also one of my favorite quotes):
Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

♥Meg♥








Tuesday, October 11, 2016

From the Heart (Rosemary Hines) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

30. From the Heart by Rosemary Hines
      Theme/Topic: book you can read in a day

Synopsis:
After the loss of her beloved husband Phil, Joan Walker struggles to stay afloat in a sea of grief. Then she happens upon a discovery that will impact her entire family and challenge her future.
Will Phil’s legacy be able to restore joy to her broken heart?

My Review:
This is the most heartbreaking, emotional, and moving book in the series. Joan is at the forefront of this novella as she tries to come to terms with Phil's passing, adjusting to life without him. As the family start going through his things, they discover his secret project that he put so much time into during Around the Bend. It's a bunch of Christmas gifts he left for each family member. But the meaning behind them is what makes them special. The gifts include two video tapes: one for all of them and one just for Joan. While I won't go into what they contained, as I feel that doing so would take away the purpose of reading it, have your tissues ready. What I also liked was that you find out how they met and fell in love.

When we lose someone we love, some days are better than others. Grief can strike at any time. Even the simplest thing can evoke that feeling. I don't think we ever truly get over losing someone, but we simply get used to a new normal without them in our life. I'm going to end this with a quote from Joan herself, which perfectly sums up grief:

"Grief is a funny thing. It hits like huge waves in the sea, one after the other, at first. Then the waves are a little less frequent until eventually a whole day may pass without one hitting. But when it does, each wave is nearly as intense as the first. And they can come at the most unexpected times." - Joan Walker

This is book five in a series. Click below for the other book reviews I did for this series:
Out of a Dream
Through the Tears
Into Magnolia
Around the Bend

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

♥Meg♥


Around the Bend (Rosemary Hines) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

29. Around the Bend by Rosemary Hines

Synopsis:
The carefree days of summer bring an unexpected turn in Michelle Baron’s life when her former student (and the birth mother of their adopted son) returns to Sandy Cove. What is Amber Gamble seeking? How will it affect Michelle and her family? And will patriarch Grandpa Phil, facing a heart wrenching challenge himself, be able to help them lean on God for answers as they await what lies Around the Bend?

My Review:
The end of another school year is near and the summer is about to begin for Michelle and her family. A couple of mysterious phone calls and a car that keeps circling around their neighborhood/street starts to concern her family. Six years ago, Amber gave Caleb up for adoption, to Michelle and Steve. Now she's back in town with a mission to see Caleb to get closure. When Amber unexpectedly shows up at their doorstep on the day of Caleb's birthday party, it all begins to make sense. Michelle and Steve agree to see Amber first to make sure her intentions are clear. The last thing they want is to have Caleb taken away from them. Still unsure, they let Amber see him under supervision with at least one of them present. As the visits continue, Amber starts thinking that she'll do anything to get him back, but to not let on that that's what she wants. Amber is put to the test once again when her boyfriend dies in a car accident, but Phil helps her through it. When it comes to Caleb, everyone comes to the conclusion that it's best for Amber to keep in contact with him.

Meanwhile, Phil, the family patriarch, has been working hard on a special project in his woodshop. And also dealing with the health challenges of getting older. I believe he has a feeling that his time on earth is nearing the end, but it doesn't stop him from being there for everyone else. As a pastor, he's always been good at giving advice and listening to others without passing judgement. It's heartbreaking when he ultimately dies and we begin to see how the family tries to cope as they plan his memorial service. We get to see how much of an impact he had on the community, family and even Amber during his funeral and subsequent memorial service. Phil and his wife Joan were like the glue that kept the family together. This book takes you on a journey of forgiveness, loss, hope, and love.

Click below to see my other reviews for this series:
Out of a Dream
Through the Tears
Into Magnolia

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

♥Meg♥


Monday, October 10, 2016

Into Magnolia (Rosemary Hines) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

28. Into Magnolia by Rosemary Hines

Synopsis:
Amber Gamble sat on the floor beside her bed. I hate them. All of them, she thought to herself.
As Michelle Baron ascends the steps of Magnolia Middle School, her life is about to change forever. The dream of becoming a teacher leads her on an unexpected journey that will challenge her professionally and personally. Although 180 students file through her classroom daily, one demands her attention more than the others. Living in her third foster home in a year, Amber’s bitterness and rebellion spark a challenge within Michelle to somehow make a difference in this troubled girl’s life.
Meanwhile, Michelle’s daughter develops a series of unexplainable bruises. A stunning visit to the pediatrician reveals frightening possibilities. While Michelle tries to hold her fears at bay, Amber approaches her with a daunting crisis of her own.

My Review:
As Michelle starts her new career as a middle school teacher, she doesn't realize how much it will challenge her professionally and personally. Balancing both areas of her life is hard to maintain at first, but she does get a system down before long. One student doesn't make it any easier, though. Amber is a bit if a trouble maker, but she comes from a rough background. Her dad is not in the picture and since her mom has been in and out of drug rehabs and psychiatric hospitals, Amber has been in and out of foster care and is now in her third foster home in a year, separated from her brother. All she needs is someone to trust, someone to care, other than her social worked. Michelle decides to take her on as somewhat as a mentor to let her know that there are people in her side, that there are people who care. What starts out as simple, small things at first turns into more than Michelle can ever imagine. Everyone else thinks Michelle's taking on more than she can handle, but she believes she can make a difference in Amber's life.

In the midst of all that, Michelle's daughter, Madison, starts developing mysterious bruises. When Michelle and Steve learn that their five year old daughter may have leukemia, it's all they can do but think the worst. They soon figure out that the waiting game is the hardest and it seems like forever before the results come back. I think that is something we all can relate to, in some way or another. I liked how they approached and handled the situation with Madison throughout those few weeks. Before long, everyone's relieved when they find out she only has a genetic blood disorder rather than cancer.

Everything changes when Amber reveals to both her social worked and Michelle that she's pregnant with her high school boyfriend. Her boyfriend wants her to abort it, but Amber doesn't think that's the way to go. With the help of both women, she finally comes to a decision. Being only 14, Amber knows she doesn't have the resources to take care of a baby, prompting her to ask Michelle for a huge favor: to adopt the baby. It's a decision not to be taken lightly. Michelle and Steve have talked previously about adopting a child, but they don't want to get their hopes as anything can happen, plus they have Madison to consider. They come to figure out that it would be the right choice for them, so they agree. Complications arise with the birth and it's touch and go for a little while. After about a month or so, Michelle and Steve are finally able to bring home their unexpected bundle of joy, Caleb. 

This is the third book in the Sandy Cove series. Click below to see my other reviews: 


Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

♥Meg♥

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Silver Linings (Debbie Macomber) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

27. Silver Linings by Debbie Macomber

Synopsis:
Since opening the Rose Harbor Inn, Jo Marie Rose has met fascinating people from all walks of life, but none have piqued her interest quite like handyman Mark Taylor. Jo Marie and Mark are good friends - and are becoming something more - yet he still won’t reveal anything about his past. When Mark tells her that he’s moving out of town, Jo Marie is baffled. Just when she is starting to open herself up again to love, she feels once more that she is losing the man she cares about. As she grapples with Mark’s decision and tries to convince him to stay, she welcomes two visitors also seeking their own answers.
Best friends Kellie Crenshaw and Katie Gilroy have returned to Cedar Cove for their ten-year high school reunion, looking to face down old hurts and find a sense of closure. Kellie, known as Coco, wants to finally confront the boy who callously broke her heart. Katie, however, wishes to reconnect with her old boyfriend, James - the man she still loves and the one who got away. As Katie hopes for a second chance, Coco discovers that people can change - and both look to the exciting possibilities ahead.


My Review:
High school reunions are a time for reuniting with former classmates, some of which you may not have seen in awhile. It's a time for rekindling old relationships with your friends. A time to reminisce about your high school days and to just enjoy yourself. For Kellie and Katie, they have a slightly different agenda.

Kellie's, aka Coco, mission is to confront the guy who broke her heart and embarrassed her in front of her friends in high school. It's her way of getting closure of being hurt since then. She's in for a surprise when she realizes that he's changed since then. Let's face it, most guys can be jerks and immature in high school and most females can hold grudges for a long time. It seemed that that was the case. Coco basically just wanted answers for his actions and she gets more than that.

Katie wants to get back together with the one who got away. She needs to explain why she left and hopes he'll understand and forgive her. His parents, especially his mother, never approved of the relationship and scared Katie away. In kind of a crude way, she gave Katie an ultimatum essentially and Katie didn't have the heart to tell James. What Katie didn't expect was that James has moved on. It seemed that Katie has good intentions, but was too late in doing so. I will say that Katie and James's story was heartfelt and genuine.

Jo Marie is finally ready to commit to Mark and it becomes clear that they both love each other. When Mark suddenly gets ready to leave town and subsequently does, Jo Marie is left lost and confused. When she finds out why he left, Jo Marie is left heartbroken, feeling like she's lost another love of her life. What happens next is left up in the air and this story ends in a cliffhanger that you would never expect.

This is book four of out of a five book series. Click below to read my book reviews on the first three:

The Inn at Rose Harbor
Rose Harbor in Bloom
Love Letters

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

♥Meg♥

Friday, October 7, 2016

Love Letters (Debbie Macomber) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

26. Love Letters by Debbie Macomber

Synopsis:
Summer is a busy season at the inn, so proprietor Jo Marie Rose and handyman Mark Taylor have spent a lot of time together keeping the property running. Despite some folks’ good-natured claims to the contrary, Jo Marie insists that Mark is only a friend. However, she seems to be thinking about this particular friend a great deal lately. Jo Marie knows surprisingly little about Mark’s life, due in no small part to his refusal to discuss it. She’s determined to learn more about his past, but first she must face her own - and welcome three visitors who, like her, are setting out on new paths.
Twenty-three-year-old Ellie Reynolds is taking a leap of faith. She’s come to Cedar Cove to meet Tom, a man she’s been corresponding with for months, and with whom she might even be falling in love. Ellie’s overprotective mother disapproves of her trip, but Ellie is determined to spread her wings.
Maggie and Roy Porter are next to arrive at the inn. They are taking their first vacation alone since their children were born. In the wake of past mistakes, they hope to rekindle the spark in their marriage—and to win back each other’s trust. But Maggie must make one last confession that could forever tear them apart.

My Review:
Time keeps rolling by in this third installment of the Rose Harbor series. Jo Marie is going strong with the inn. As much time as Jo Marie and Mark spend together, Jo Marie still isn't ready to admit that she's falling in love with him. Her own back story unfolds even more in this book. She receives a love letter kind of thing from her late husband, but doesn't have the heart to read it because she knows what that will mean: that Paul's really gone. Paul died with three other comrades in the Middle East as they were serving our country not long before Jo Marie buys the inn. Since only three bodies have been found up until this point, she has held hope that maybe he's still alive. When news comes in that all have been found, it gives her a sense of closure and she can finally grieve properly. As Jo Marie gets the courage to read the letter, it's heartbreaking, but also gives her the confidence to let go, that it's okay to love again.

Ellie comes to town to meet the guy she's fallen in love with online. She's not sure exactly what she's getting herself into, but believes that he could be the one. Following behind Ellie is her mother unexpectedly. Her mother is overprotective and doesn't want her to get hurt (like Ellie's dad did to them). Even though Ellie's old enough to make her own decisions and choices, her mom just can't let her go quite yet. As their story comes out through the course of this book, it's good to see and understand where both Ellie and her mom's views come from. As in all cases, they come to a general understanding. The transformation of both ladies is inspiring.

Maggie and Roy come to Cedar Cove for a couple's vacation, getaway type of thing. They haven't had time alone together since they had children. The whole idea of the trip is to fix and work on their marriage. They've lacked in communication in recent years and it's become tense between them. Maggie hasn't forgiven Roy for a past mistake, but she's the one hiding a secret now: a mistake she made to get back at Roy. Throughout the story, they attempt to come full frontal with their past by owning up to their mistakes and figure out ways to move on from that: to trust each other again. They learn that forgiveness isn't always easy, but in order to move on, it can be so powerful. And that compromising is important as well. Time will only tell if their marriage will work out. 

The takeaway here (from Maggie and Roy's story) is that it's important for couples to spend time alone with each other, like going on dates still, even when married, to grow in the relationship. It may be even more important to do this after having children.

Check out my book reviews on the first two books of the rose Harbor series:
The Inn at Rose Harbor
Rose Harbor in Bloom

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

♥Meg♥

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Through the Tears (Rosemary Hines) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

25. Through the Tears by Rosemary Hines


Synopsis:
Michelle Baron sat on the edge of the couch, her heart racing as she looked at the envelope in her hand. I guess this is it, she thought. The return address seemed harmless enough. Fairfield Lab, Portland, Oregon. But this envelope contained information that could change her life forever.
Michelle and her family rejoice when her father begins to regain consciousness after an unsuccessful suicide attempt. But a long journey awaits, as they seek to clear his name of the embezzlement charges that drove him to this desperate act. The days of their vigil at the hospital drag into weeks, and Michelle finds herself repeatedly drawn to the newborn nursery. Observing couples leave with tiny babies in their arms, her heart is stirred, and she begins to yearn for a child of her own. However, an unexpected twist will threaten her new dream.


My Review:
As John starts to recover from his suicide attempt, his family has to take care of his embezzlement charges and clear his name. In the meantime, Michelle has to figure out how to deal with Trevor. Who's Trevor? Trevor was her spiritual guide (or something like that) in Out of a Dream. It has also been his mission to somehow get involved intimately with Michelle and are destined to be together. And yes, he knows she's married. There have been some instances where Michelle has felt more comfortable being around him rather than her husband. Now, Michelle is looking to break back into her Christian faith, but is still battling some feelings for Trevor. In this book, you'll get to hear from Trevor's perspective as well and see where he's coming from. Michelle knows she has to break things off with him in order to fix things with her husband (once Steve finds out). She's more confused than ever between wanting to become Christian again and sorting things out with Trevor. Once she breaks it off, Trevor seems fine, but still wants to figure out how to be a part of her forever.

Since John is facing a long road to recovery, Michelle, along with her family, spends a lot of time at the hospital. Michelle keeps finding herself drawn to the nursery. Seeing couples leave with their newborns makes Michelle want to have a child of her own and experience the same joy of starting a family. After John moves to a rehab center closer to home, Michelle has time once again to focus on doing just that. Months go by without anything happening and finally they find out that Steve is infertile. As they figure out the options, Steve pushes for adoption, while Michelle really wants to give birth herself. They agree to artificial insemination (Steve only does because he knows how much it means to her). Once hearing about this, Trevor has a trick up his sleeve to always have a connection to her by being the other donor without them knowing about it. The process goes well and Michelle becomes pregnant pretty quick. Once Michelle gives birth, Steve could be less than thrilled. And they do find out about Trevor. It seems to be a matter of pride that he doesn't want to be involved with the baby. The not knowing who technically is the father leads him to request a DNA test to find out for sure. Once the results come back, all is well as Steve is the father and he's able to become the father he should be.

Click here for my Out of a Dream book review. It helps to read this series in order. 

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

♥Meg♥


Monday, October 3, 2016

Rose Harbor in Bloom (Debbie Macomber) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

24. Rose Harbor in Bloom by Debbie Macomber

Synopsis:
Since moving to Cedar Cove, Jo Marie Rose has truly started to feel at home, and her neighbors have become her closest friends. Now it’s springtime, and Jo Marie is eager to finish the most recent addition to her inn. In memory of her late husband, Paul, she has designed a beautiful rose garden for the property and enlisted handyman Mark Taylor to help realize it. She and Mark don’t always see eye-to-eye - and at times he seems far removed - yet deep down, Jo Marie finds great comfort in his company. And while she still seeks a sense of closure, she welcomes her latest guests, who are on their own healing journeys.
Annie Newton arrives in town to orchestrate her grandparents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration. While Annie is excited for the festivities, she’s struggling to move on from her broken engagement, and her grandparents themselves seem to be having trouble getting along. Worse, Annie is forced to see Oliver Sutton, with whom she grew up and who has always mercilessly teased her. But the best parties end with a surprise, and Annie is in for the biggest one of all.
High-powered businesswoman Mary Smith, another Rose Harbor Inn guest, has achieved incredible success in her field, yet serious illness has led her to face her sole, lingering regret. Almost nineteen years ago, she ended her relationship with her true love, George Hudson, and now she’s returned to Cedar Cove to make amends.

My Review:
In this second book, Jo Marie has settled into the inn and more healing awaits. At the recommendation of a fellow innkeeper, Jo Marie employs the local handyman Mark to make improvements (particularly to construct a rose garden). A man who keeps to himself, Jo Marie is determined to get to know more about him. Mark comes across as being a bit callous and rough around the edges. But he's built a wall so big that no one can get in. They don't always see eye to eye, but Jo Marie likes having him around.

A new season brings new guests. Annie comes to town to get everything ready for her grandparents' anniversary celebration. Annie's being pushed past her limits as she's still reeling from a recent breakup, dealing with her grandparents' bickering, and wanting everything perfect for the big event. In the process, Annie is forced to be around someone who tormented her relentlessly as a child and hasn't gotten over all the hurt. As time goes on, she realizes that people can change as they grow up and that he didn't realize how much it bothered her. And Annie finally understands that her grandparents didn't want to make a big deal about their anniversary. They didn't know how to tell Annie that since she was so excited and chose to act like they didn't get along to see if that would put off the celebration. True love conquers all. How Annie's story turns out is incredible.

Mary comes back to town to find her true live who she left years before. She's battling cancer and has been told that there's nothing more that can be done. She wants to reconcile with George and explain why she really left. As they attempt to mend the fences, they each have their concerns. George is ready to start a new relationship until Mary tells him that she had been pregnant with his child all those years ago, but gave her up for adoption. Mary is hesitant about having a relationship with him since she wants to spare him from watching her slip away from the cancer. They reconcile and attempt to start fresh. Their story is remarkable as once again, true love always wins. Sometimes going through so much pain and heartbreak is worth it in the end.

Since this is the second book in the Rose Harbor series, I recommend to read them in order. There are five books in this series and as of this writing, I have read four. The next two book reviews for this series will be posted this week. I will be linking to the previous one/ones in each post.

Rose Harbor Series:
1. The Inn at Rose Harbor

I just wanted to remind you that I do reply to all (except for an occasional one) comments in the comment section as a reply to your comment.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

♥Meg♥