Spring Reading Preview

I’m so happy that it’s finally Spring!  This winter has been especially cold and snowy- I don’t live in New England, so I can’t complain that much, but I can’t handle any more snow!  With warmer weather, short sleeves, and afternoons spent outside, there are new books to be read.  Right now I’m in the middle of Shotgun Lovesongs, which I am loving.  These are just some of the books we’re looking forward to this Spring.

9780812988253_p0_v2_s260x420I absolutely loved Water for Elephants – both the book, and the movie.  Sara Gruen is finally back with The Water’s Edge, with a story that goes back to WWII.  She takes readers back to the 1940s, from Philadelphia, to a small town in the Scottish Highlands.  She has a knack for taking readers on a journey, for historical fiction, and I can’t wait to go back with her again!

Delta Jewels: In Search of my Grandmother’s Wisdom is written by Alysia Burton Steele, and is a collective story about her grandmother.  Her grandmother possessed wisdom, courage, and strength, as did many of the women she grew up with in the Jim Crow era south.  This is the story her granddaughter wants to tell.  From the deepest part of the south – the Mississippi Delta, with some incredible pictures this story is told beautifully.

I’m excited to read Very Good Lives, which is the latest J.K. Rowling book.  Honestly, I’d be more excited for another Cormoran Strike book (from her Robert Galbraith series), but this one sounds good too!  This book is part inspiration, part writing 9781101896044_p0_v2_s260x420guidance, and her own experiences – encouraging readers on how to come back from failure.  Sales from the book are said to be benefiting the charity she created, Lumos, dedicated to underprivileged children.

Kelly and I are both fan’s of Anne Rice, and we both loved her erotic series Sleeping Beauty.  The series was a trilogy, until this Spring, when Beauty’s Kingdom is set for release.  We’re excited to read this fourth book in the series.  We’ve always bonded through books – and  though we don’t like reading the same books, or even the same genres, this is one series we both loved.  When we were teenagers we shared Endless Love, which was our introduction into erotica.  Here in the fourth book Beauty is a queen, and she and her king return to their homes with a new peaceful mission.  I can’t wait!

9781501100079_p0_v2_s114x166Toni Morrison also has a new book coming out this spring.  Toni Morrison’s books have been kind of hit or miss for me, some I’ve loved, some I haven’t.  God Help the Child is her latest work, with race, culture, and identity at the heart of the book.  This is familiar territory for Morrison, which makes me think that this is one that I’ll love.

Just a couple of weeks ago I finished reading Mr Mercedes, one of Stephen King’s latest books, released over the summer.  Finder’s Keepers is supposed to be the sequel.  It was so hard to put down – and at the end I wasn’t sure how there could possibly be a sequel, so I’m interested to see where this new book picks up.

What are you looking forward to this Spring?  New books, warmer weather, Spring break?  Summer is just around the corner!  We can’t wait for that in our house – my husband will finally be home in June, and his 10 month deployment will finally be over!  These books will keep me busy in the mean time!!

Thunder Point

9780778314479_p0_v2_s260x420Thunder Point is the newest series by Robyn Carr, in the last book of her Virgin River series we met Hank Cooper, better known as Coop, former Army buddy of Luke.  Coop and Luke’s Army buddy Ben has died and left Coop his bait shop/bar in little Thunder Point, Oregon.  Not exactly sure what he’s going to do with the place Cooper takes some time to get to know the town including Coast Guard helicopter pilot Sarah Dupre and her younger brother high school football star Landon.  I have to admit when I first found out this that The Wanderer was a new series and not a return to Virgin River I was really disappointed but reading the book quickly changed my mind.  I’d love for the inhabitants of VR to meet the residents of Thunder Point.  This small town is not nearly as small as VR but small enough that the residents all still seem to know one another.  Cooper’s in for some serious changes in his life between this book and book two The Newcomer. 

Newcomer also tells the story of local Deputy “Mac” McCain, his aunt, and three kids as well as his good friend Gina James whose daughter just happens to be his oldest daughter’s best friend, not such a surprise in a small town.  Also welcome to town new doctor Scott Grant.

9780778314523_p0_v2_s260x420Book three The Hero introduces us to Devon McAllister as she’s escaping a local cult.  Picked up by old Rawley on the side of the road we once again see what a sweet old guy this Vietnam Vet who hides and plays it cool is.  Devon moves into Thunder Point to hide.  Spencer Lawson has moved his son Austin to TP to start life fresh after losing their rock, wife and mother.  Spencer has come from the HUGE Texas high school football tradition to take on the head coaching job at Thunder Point high school.

The Chance begins the second trilogy.  Laine Carrington was the undercover FBI agent that helped Devon and Mercy escape the cult.  Now on medical leave after the whole incident she returns to Thunder Point for her recovery.  Also returning to town is Eric Gentry, former troublemaker, juvenile delinquent has straightened up his life and come back a successful businessman.  While attracted to each other they both worry their differences are too much for a relationship to work.

9780778314592_p0_v3_s260x420Finally town doc Scott Grant takes center stage in The Promise.  Physician Assistant Peyton Lacoumette has left her boss/boyfriend and is searching for what to do next when she spots the add for help at the Thunder Point clinic.  She agrees to take the job for just a few months but begins to fall in love with the town and just maybe the town doctor.  Her old life isn’t totally out of the picture yet however and that just might make the doc a little nervous and lose some of his confidence.

Mac has been given a promotion so now Thunder Point needs a new deputy, this leads to the return of high school football hero Seth Sileski.  Seth sees this as a chance to maybe make peace with not only his father who has been angry at him for years for blowing an NFL career but also with former lifelong best friend Iris McKinley now Thunder Point high school guidance counselor.

This is a great new series.  I love that there are major issues addressed throughout the books  including cyberbullying, depression, cults, and domestic abuse.  I’ve just recently finished the newest book in the set and am eagerly looking forward to the next two.  Look for my review of One Wish soon.

Kelly

New Fiction Friday: The Boston Girl

unnamedI love Anita Diamant, and I loved The Red Tent.  I was so excited to finally get my hands on The Boston Girl, her latest book, which was just released in December.  It begins in 1985, with a series of letters that a grandmother writes to her granddaughter.  I loved the story – both this idea of sharing memories, and the young woman the grandmother had once been.

What an incredible gift, to be given this so beautifully detailed story of her grandmother. If only I were so lucky! When my Dad passed away a few years ago I was given all of his pictures, letters, mementos, and this is something that I’ve wanted to do for him. To recreate his memories, and his story with these things of his.  One day…  Addie Baum has written her own life story, and has given her granddaughter a legend to look up to.

9781439199350_p0_v3_s260x420“What do you mean, you didn’t know I had a sister named Celia? That’s impossible! Betty was the oldest, then Celia, and then me. Maybe you forgot.

Nobody told you? You’re sure?

Well, maybe it’s not such a surprise. People don’t talk so much about sad memories. And it was a long time ago.

But you should know this. So go ahead. Turn on the tape recorder.”

Diamant has a knack for creating strong female characters. I absolutely loved The Red Tent.  In that book Dinah is incredibly strong, standing up to her father and her brothers, and their traditions.   Boston Girl is just as strong. She was one of three girls, they were the daughters of Russian immigrants. She was the youngest, and the only one born in the U.S. Born just after the turn of the century, her parents are incredibly old-fashioned. She yearns to be educated, to be independent, and this is not something her mother supports. Even when this more advenorous path leads to meeting her husband, a prominent Jewish lawyer, her mother still skeptical.  Addie is too modern, too unconventional for her parents. She’s a true woman of the 20s, not quite a flapper, but ready to leave the past and its traditions behind her.

She and her family life through WWI, and the Spanish Flu a few years later. The Spanish Flu was devastating, and the family loses two little boys.  Her two older sisters married the same man. Her oldest sister first, and after she passes her other sister marries him.  They all lived through such tragedy, and their survival of their escape from Russia was incredible.

I admire her bravery, standing up to her mother to become her own woman was tough enough. Her mother didn’t believe she needed a career, an education, anything beyond a good husband. She faces discrimination as a Jewish woman, in her neighborhood, and throughout the city. Her parents do too, as Jewish immigrants, they struggle to learn English – and her mother refuses to speak anything but Yiddish in the home. She also faces sexual harassment in the workplace. This was really common until fairly recently, and as many strides as women have made, it’s easy for us to forget that.  She’s someone that her granddaughter can look up to – someone all modern women can look up to!

Extra Yarn

9780061953385_p0_v3_s260x420

My daughter and I love reading Extra Yarn, which is about a little girl with a magic box of yarn that never runs out.  She covers her town in knit – friends, classmates, neighbors, all are happy to wear the special sweaters she knits for them.  Then she moves on to animals, trees, houses, even a truck.  Someone actually offers her millions of dollars for the box, and she refuses to sell – the magic only works for her.

So inspired by this, and a post I found on Pinterest, here is my own little act of kindness.  I can’t blanket my city with a sweater, but I can make scarves.  I’ve made quite a few this winter.  This cold as hell, never ending winter had me craving warmth and comfort.  I feel like I spent half the winter curled up under a blanket – I’m ready for warmer weather, but it’s not quite here yet!  Here in Virginia Beach, there is a sizable homeless population, many of whom spend their time down at the ocean front.  We ventured down there yesterday, the weather was beautiful and pretty warm for March.  Of course, later this week, it’ll be back down into the 40s, and I’m hoping then someone will make good use of this.  I attached this note:  (which inspired by this Pinterest post).

unnamed-1“I am not lost!
Presents are optional;
you may not, or may,
It is the love in our stitches
To help make your day. 

If you are cold,
or feeling blue,
wrap me around,
and feel my love to you.”

It’s one small way to pay it forward, and to do something nice for someone else.  I hope that it brings joy, warmth, and comfort.

Virgin River Part 2

9780778317425_p0_v2_s260x420So lets go back to Virgin River for another visit.  Our first stop is another novella, not Christmas this time but New Year’s Eve.  We meet the Marcie and Erin’s younger brother Dr. Drew Foley and veterinarian Nathaniel Jensen’s niece Annie.  Both coming out of broken engagements this just might become a New Year’s Eve to remember.

Then we’re into another trilogy beginning with Promise Canyon.  Nathaniel Jensen has a new veterinary assistant in his practice, Clay Tahoma.  Just as Clay gets to Virgin River and settles in local Lily Yahzi finds a horse in a field left it seems to die.  The spark of attraction is quick but Lily fights it well.

Colin Riordan has come to Virgin River to recover from crashing his helicopter and also from being discharged from the Army when he’s not ready to be done flying.  While taking some time to try and figure out just what he wants to do next he finds himself painting in the back lot of the home Jillian Matlock is renting.  Jillian has taken a leave of absence from her job after being gobsmacked by sneakiness.  She’s trying to get back to her roots, reminded of her grandmother she’s digging in literally and gardening, or really farming.  Watching them dance around each other is quite a show.

9780778312710_p0_v1_s260x420Jill’s big sister Kelly passes out on the job.  Sous chef in a well known restaurant, cornered by the wife of the man she has developed a serious crush and friendship with yet done nothing untoward, she’s had enough.  She flees to Virgin River to decide just what she wants to do.  Lief Holbrook,  screenwriter, can do his job anywhere so he’s brought his daughter in all her Goth glory to Virgin River in hopes of once again finding his little girl under all that black.  Lief meeting Kelly may not help the situation though.  Can things work out under a Harvest Moon?

Time for another Christmas story.  Denny Cutler’s made some bad decisions in his life, things he truly regrets one is breaking up with girlfriend Becca Timms before deploying to the Middle East for a second time.  Becca is engaged but before she moves on completely she wants closure with Denny.  The perfect chance comes when her brother is off to Virgin River for a hunting trip with Marine buddy Denny.  She comes along for the ride in Bring Me Home For Christmas.

We’re coming up on the end of the Virgin River series here with one more trilogy, starting with Hidden Summit.  Paul Haggerty has a new/old assistant in his construction business.  Leslie Petruso has been left her by husband and has transferred her job to the Virgin River branch of Haggerty Construction just as new work Conner Danson arrives on the job.  Conner is hiding out waiting to appear in court and testify against a murderer.  Not a good time to find yourself in a new relationship but neither one can seem to resist.

9780778313175_p0_v1_s260x420Conner’s sister Katie and her twin sons are moving to Virgin River, on her way into town she finds herself on the side of the road with a flat tire.  Along comes a friendly group out on their motorcyles for a ride.  While helping her with the tire Katie realizes one of those men is former child star Dylan Childress.  Dylan’s trip becomes longer and longer as he finds ways to stay and spend more time with Katie and her boys.  I have to say this is one of my favorite books in the VR series, how many girls dream of meeting and having a relationship with their celebrity crush.  Katie gets to live it and through her we all get to do it vicariously.

The last full novel in the VR series is Sunrise Point.  We’ve met Nora Crane and her girls in previous books as side characters well now they take center stage as Nora is determined to improve their quality of life.  She applies to work at the local apple orchard for Tom Cavanaugh.  Tom is immediately attracted to Nora but wants nothing to do with her and sends her away until his grandmother steps in.  Tom thinks he knows what he wants in a woman and it’s not Nora.  Nora just wants to make life for her girls better but she can’t deny an attraction.  Also appearing in this book is Cooper a friend and former Army buddy of Luke’s that somehow managed to have a rather nasty past experience with Jack.  Ms. Carr seems to excel in “it’s a small world moments” you’ll see it again in her next series Thunder Point that just happens to start with Cooper.

We get one last Christmas visit to Virgin River to meet the youngest Riordan brother Patrick “Paddy” and Jack’s niece Angie.  Both thought they just wanted to be left alone this Christmas until they cross paths in Virgin River.  Maybe being alone isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

The best part of this series is the ongoing visits with everyone in town, always catching up with the couples, families, just all of the residents.  If you haven’t done it yet do yourself a favor and pick up a Virgin River book.

Kelly

New Fiction Friday: Revival

unnamedWhen Kelly and I first started this blog, we ambitiously started a regular weekly post, New Fiction Friday.  We haven’t done it in a while, and we’re happy to finally bring it back – and plan to keep this up weekly (fingers crossed!).  For our first NFF post in a while, we’re sharing our review on Stephen King’s latest. We’re both huge fans!!  He never fails to amaze me with his creativity.  Revival, his latest novel, focuses on a fallen, lost preacher who has managed to harness the power of electricity, and is using it like no one else ever has. At the center of the story is Jamie, who met Pastor Charlie as a young boy. Throughout the course of the story Pastor Charlie goes by many names, and goes through a series of transformations, each change taking him farther away from the pastor he once was.

9781476770383_p0_v4_s260x420Jamie’s childhood is shaped by this experience, the preacher and his family are young, energetic, and welcoming, making them popular not only with the kids of the community – but with the whole congregation. When the pastor’s wife and child are brutally killed in a car accident, he leaves religion for good. He doesn’t exactly shed his “pastor” title though. Jamie’s life takes him down a dark path, and is secuded by music from the moment he picked up his brother’s guitar.  He meets Charlie again later in life, now a heroin addict having just been kicked out of his band and left broke.

Charlie cures of him of his heroin addiction, somehow by using electricity. As an untrained scientist, Jamie witnessed Charlie’s first experiment on his older brother when they were both kids.  Charlie continued to experiment – exploring some of the darker sides of science after losing his wife and son.  He begins to draw many followers on a revival-style circuit (hence the name).  He has cured a variety of people with a variety of illnesses and what’s scary about this is how easy it is to believe that it could be real.  As one of his patients, who has experienced a cure, Jamie knows that there is a dark side of the treatment – and goes out in search of Charlie’s other patients, in order to put a stop to it. There is a growing list of individuals who are suffereing from these negative side effects. A list which Jamie and a friend have compiled, and the side effects are shocking and scary – Jamie himself had a recurring dream, that when it was described I had to set down the book for a bit!!

“Using lighting as a road to the secret electricity, and the secret electricity as a thoroughfare to potestas magnum universum, I intent to bring Mary Fay back to some form of life. I intend to learn the truth of what’s on the other side of the door that leads into the Kingdom of Death.”

It’s not a scary story – and that’s kind of what King is known for. It was very creepy though, and had me wondering if anything in the book were actually possible.  That’s probably more scary than anything!  Mr. King has done it again, and I’m looking for his next book, Finders Keepers, which is set for release in June.

One Bowl Baking

9780762448951_p0_v1_s260x420This long and way-too-cold winter is finally coming to an end.  We’ve had one too many snow days for my liking.  (Actually, to be honest, one snow day is too much!).  I hate being cooped up in the house – it is hard to keep kids entertained when you’re stuck inside – especially one who has no interest in playing in the snow day.  One thing we like to do on snow days is to bake.  Not too long ago, I discovered One Bowl Baking, and decided to try one of the recipes on a recent snow day.

I love the simplicity of the recipes.  I do love baking – but not overly complicated recipes.  Things with too many ingredients, multiple complicated steps.  I’ll leave those recipes for the experts!  Plus, I’m usually baking with a 4 year old in the kitchen, who at this point is a young master of the unnamed-1kitchen!  It was first published just last year, and I love the recipes.  There are muffins, cookies, cupcakes, quick breads, and tarts – all of which a re easy to make.

One helpful tip: read through the recipe first.  Of course, as I type that, the one recipe we made together recently I skipped one step!  I didn’t take that advice, but luckily the applesauce bread we were baking turned out ok anyways.  This was one of the first recipes we tackled, but I’m also looking forward to the double chocolate espresso cashew cookies, and the kitchen sink cookies.  I’m sharing the recipe for the applesauce bread we tried, that is easy, quick, and super yummy!

Super Moist Applesauce Quick Bread

Makes 1 8 x 5 inch loaf

unnamed-28 T butter, softened

1/2 C sugar

1/4 C sugar

1/2 t salt

2 large eggs

1 1/3 cups applesauce

1 1/2 C all-purpose flour

1 1/4 t baking soda

3/4 t ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Butter an 8 x 5 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, stir the butter, sugar, brown sugar, and salt until combined.

Whisk in the eggs, one at atime, until each is incorporated, and then the applesauce.

Add the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon to the bowl, then whisk until combined.

Spoon into the loaf pan and smooth the top.  Bake until just firm and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 to 53 minutes.

Set the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes to cool then remove the cake from the pan to finish cooling.

Enjoy!!