Where I share my love of books with reviews, features, giveaways and memes. Family and needlepoint are thrown in from time to time.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Book Review: Final Demand by Deborah Moggach

Title: Final Demand
Author: Deborah Moggach
Publisher: The Overlook Press
Publication Date: June 6, 2017 (originally published Jan 1, 2005)

About the book:  Praised as "extraordinarily skillful" by award-winning novelist Anita Brookner, Deborah Moggach delivers in Final Demand an extremely powerful novel about the consequences of greed and deceit.  Natalie is a girl who should be going somewhere.  Although beautiful, bright, and ambitious, she's stuck in a dead-end job in the accounts department of a telecommunications company, living her life through wild weekends and yearning for something more.  While processing the final notice payments on customer's accounts, Natalie devises a simple little scam that could change her life in a major way.  And since it's only a minor crime -- nobody's going to get hurt -- she doesn't hesitate to follow through her scheme.

But when Natalie's selfish actions have tragic consequences, she learns there's no such thing as a victimless crime.  Emotionally taut and beautifully written, Final Demand is a cautionary tale about misguided aspirations, the battle between love and envy, and our own frailty in the face of temptation.


My thoughts: When I was offered this book to read for review from the publisher, I didn't hesitate.  I had just finished Tulip Fever, which I had devoured.  Tulip Fever was not really my style of book, but I had read it because of the upcoming movie.  I fell in love with the author's style of writing, so knew that I wanted to read Final Demand.

I was reading some other reviews on this book and saw it called Chick Lit and "a light read".  I disagree.  This book is not a light read.  To me, it was more of a psychological drama.  There is not a lot of physical action in the book.  It is told from a few different points of view, with Natalie, the protaganist, being the main one.  She has heard of a scheme to pilfer customer's checks and thinks she has the perfect cover.  She will just divert some of the money from the larger companies bills to cover the individual customer's bills - so that the customer's bills appear to be paid, and she then deposits their checks into her own account.  The extent that she goes to get the scheme going is outrageous though, and you will have to read the book to find out what she does.

On one afternoon though, the computers go down before she has a chance to transfer money to cover the customer's bills.  She doesn't think anything of it and figures she will do it the next day - except that she forgets.   This is the small ripple that will affect not only her life, but the customer's lives as well.

I love the way that the author gets inside the heads of the characters.  In this way, you see all of their flaws - even the ones that they don't think or know that they have.  I also read my own meaning into the title - Final Demand.  I always like to try to figure out why the author used that title.  In this case, the obvious one is that Natalie was stealing the payments and this caused some customers to receive their final notice - or final demand for payment.  I also thought it could reference what some of the characters went through, and what the final demand in their lives were because of their actions, or inactions.  

Even though I generally like a book with a lot of action, I found this to be a very good read.  The characters were well developed, and I thought they were believable.  Someone in a review noted that this wasn't a believable crime - and I have to disagree.  This is very much a believable scenario, but one you just don't hear as much about because of the violent crimes that over shadow the white collar ones.

If you haven't read anything by Deborah Moggach - this is a good place to start!


~I received a complimentary copy of this book from Lauren at The Overlook Press in exchange for my unbiased review.~





Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Book Review: Lazy Crafternoon by Stella Fields

Title: Lazy Crafternoon
Author: Stella Fields

About the book: Spend a lazy crafternoon with your friends. From pretty school supplies to colorful tech accessoriest to perfect party decor, Lazy Crafternoon guides tween crafters through simple steps to create amazing projects.

My Thoughts:  This would be a great book for teens and young adults for crafting.  The chapters inside are Accessories, Decorate, School Supplies, Celebrate, Food and Drink.  You use a variety of materials, but most projects should only cost around $10 or under. Supplies range from washi tape, beads, glue, embroidery floss, paper clips, etc.   I would recommend this book to fill a rainy afternoon with lots of fun projects.  

It teaches you how to make necklaces, wrapped headphones, infinity scarf, decorative flowerpots, fancy pencils, ribbon organizer, hanging flower balls, DIY cards and envelopes, cake banner and rainbow fruit in glitter cups.  So you see, it is quite a varied set of crafts suitable for everyone. 

~I received a complimentary Ecopy of this book through Edelweiss for review.~

Monday, May 15, 2017

Book Review: The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

Title: The Garden of Small Beginnings
Author: Abbi Waxman
Publisher: Berkley

About the book: Lilian Girvan has been a single mother for three years—ever since her husband died in a car accident. One mental breakdown and some random suicidal thoughts later, she’s just starting to get the hang of this widow thing. She can now get her two girls to school, show up to work, and watch TV like a pro. The only problem is she’s becoming overwhelmed with being underwhelmed.

At least her textbook illustrating job has some perks—like actually being called upon to draw whale genitalia. Oh, and there’s that vegetable-gardening class her boss signed her up for. Apparently being the chosen illustrator for a series of boutique vegetable guides means getting your hands dirty, literally. Wallowing around in compost on a Saturday morning can’t be much worse than wallowing around in pajamas and self-pity.

After recruiting her kids and insanely supportive sister to join her, Lilian shows up at the Los Angeles Botanical Garden feeling out of her element. But what she’ll soon discover—with the help of a patient instructor and a quirky group of gardeners—is that into every life a little sun must shine, whether you want it to or not…
 

My Thoughts:  I enjoyed reading this book and getting to know Lili.  Even though it starts out letting us know she is a widow, this book isn't so much a book about a widow as it is a book about a woman ready to let go of the past, but afraid to do so.  It also uses gardening to throw in some witty repartee in between each of the main chapters. 

You have to like Lili. She is now a single mom, just working on getting through a day with her and her kids, Annabel and Clare intact.  Her sister is a bastian of support for her, whether it is talking about the mistreatment they received as kids from their mom, taking care of the girls, or talking about the men in their lives.   And for Lili there is a new man - but he is the instructor of their Saturday morning gardening class, and he is Danish, and Lili can't stop thinking about the unexpected kiss they shared.  

There are a lot of lively characters in the book besides Lili and her sister.  The gardening class is filled with people from all walks of life and they come together and blend naturally.  As I mentioned earlier, in between each main chapter is a small one page chapter about a different vegetable.  It gives you many tips on how to grow them successfully, with some sarcasm thrown in.

I found this to be a quick, easy read - and perfect inspiration to go dig around in some dirt!

~I received a complimentary ecopy of this book from Penguin Random House in exchange for my unbiased review.~

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon

Good morning Readers!  I am a little late getting going this morning.  I went to an event last night at our local library - Bingo in the Books - and had a little too much wine to drink. . . That and allergies have brought about a little headache this morning.  We did have a good time last night though and raised money to refurbish the computer lab at our library.

I picked up a stack of books yesterday from the library in addition to a stack of TBR's that I have here at home.  I wanted a good variety as I never know what I am going to be in the mood to read.  Here are the books that I can choose from today:

The lure of song and magic / Patricia Rice.                        5/19/2017
The book of summers / Emylia Hall.                                 5/19/2017
I hunt killers / by Barry Lyga.                                    5/19/2017
The young world / by Chris Weitz.                                  5/19/2017
The dressmaker : a novel / Kate Alcott.                            5/19/2017
Shine shine shine / Lydia Netzer.                                  5/19/2017
The after wife : a novel / Gigi Levangie Grazer.                   5/19/2017
The lost ones / Ace Atkins.                                        5/19/2017
Home sweet home / April Smith.                                     5/19/2017
Lady Midnight[sound recording (CD)] / Cassandra Clare.      
A Curious Beginning/Veronica Speedwell
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?/Jodi Taylor
Vanishing Girls/Lauren Oliver
In the After/Demitria Lunetta
In the End/Demitria Lunetta
      5/19/2017
So you can see, I have a huge variety to choose from - Some SF, Mystery, YA, Romance, Paranormal -  Now if I can just get my head to ease a little more. . . 

So for the opening survey questions - 
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Illinois

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
Probably What Could Possibly Go Wrong? - this is book 6 in the St. Mary's Chronicles and I have really enjoyed the first 5.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
Pretzels and chip dip!

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
I have 3 kids with a grandson due this summer!  I have a 12 year old still at home, who is going to enjoy playing xbox today because mom will be busy reading and not minding that he is keeping busy!  I work at an elementary school library as an aide and also sub at our public library in the children's services department.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
I have participated in a few of the read-a-thons, but can't remember the last one I was able to due.  I am just going to take breaks as I need them today - one of which will be a soccer game in about an hour!

Happy Reading everyone!



Update - Hour 16
Okay - so didn't actually start reading until about hour 5.  Attended a bone chilling cold soccer game this morning (we won!) - but was so cold that couldn't really feel my legs on the walk back to the car.  

Came home and went into my 3 season room in front of my heater and curled up and started to read.  Promptly fell asleep - attributing it to the effect of the cold wearing me out!  lol.  My husband took a very unflattering picture of me sleeping so he could tease me about my "reading" afternoon.  

At this point I have finished my first book - Lure of Song and Magic by Patricia Rice.  My husband is now asleep in  his chair and my son is playing xBox.  He is not going to like it when I tell him it is time for him to go to bed.  

On to book 2 -   I think it will be I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Book Review: The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White





Title: The Night the Lights Went Out
Author: Karen White
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: April 11, 2017

About the book:  Set in the gilded realm of Sweet Apple, Georgia, THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT achieves a magnetic sense of place, and with good reason—it is the first novel White, the “Queen of southern fiction” (Huffington Post), has set in her own community, the affluent suburbs of Atlanta. She puts you in the carpool line made up of giant SUVs and has you rolling your eyes at the Head Mom in Charge’s passive aggressive tactics, bless her heart.


In THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT, recently divorced Merilee Talbot Dunlap moves with her two children to Sweet Apple, Georgia. It’s not her first time starting over, but her new beginning isn’t helped by an anonymous local blog that reveals for the whole town the scandalous affair that caused her marriage to fail. And Merilee’s new landlord, the proud, irascible, Atlanta born-and-bred 93-year-old Sugar Prescott, certainly isn’t helping.

But off Sugar’s property, Merilee finds herself swallowed into the town’s most elite ranks—its inner circle of wealthy school moms—thanks to her blossoming friendship with the belle of Sweet Apple, Heather Blackford. But behind the tennis whites, shiny SUVs, and immaculate women, lurk generations of secrets and resentments. And Merilee quickly learns that, in a town where appearance is everything, sins and secrets can be found in equal measure in the dark woods on Sugar’s property, and within the gated mansions of her newfound friends…

~I received a complimentary e-copy of this book from Berkley via Net Galley in exchange for my honest review.~

My thoughts: I really enjoy books set in the South, they always have a different sort of feel to them.  Merilee was likable, if somewhat naive, but given her circumstances I will cut her some slack.  I loved Sugar - crusty on the outside, but very caring and loyal underneath - just don't get on her bad side!  Of course there are a couple of men in the story - Dan Blackford, "Ken to Heather's Barbie", and a successful doctor to boot! And Wade, grandson of Sugar's best friend and potential love interest for Merilee.

Full of "southernisms"  (Bless her heart. . . ) the anonymous blog/blogger lent some humor and wisdom to the goings on in Sweet Apple.  There are lots of secrets that get spilled, lots of family - much of it dysfunctional, and lots of love and loyalty.  And if you are familiar with the song that I am sure the book takes its name from, there is also murder.

It was a very quick read and I liked the way that it would jump back in time and share Sugar's history.  The intermittent blog posts were also fun to read.  Perfect for this time of year, it would be a great beach read!

Excerpt from : The Night the Lights Went Out

A cluster of moms stood in the parking lot surrounded by high-end SUVs following first day drop-off at Windwood Academy. The women appeared to be listening with rapt attention to the tall blond woman in the center of their semi-circle, her hair arranged perfectly beneath her white tennis visor, her long and lean limbs brown and glowy. Merilee noticed this last part only because her ex-mother-in-law had given her a bottle of glowy lotion for her last birthday and Lily had told her it made her look sparkly like Katy Perry in one of her videos. Merilee had thrown out the remainder of the bottle, realizing she wasn’t the type anymore to look glowy much less sparkly.

But the blonde definitely was. Her whole body glowed. Her face glowed. Even the hair visible beneath the visor appeared to be lit from within. The woman looked vaguely familiar, and Merilee realized she’d probably been one of the mothers she’d met at the open house the previous week. She’d only been to the one let’s-get-acquainted event, her work schedule precluding any of the various parties that were held almost exclusively on weekdays when she worked.

Merilee was terrible with names, had been ever since she started dating Michael. He was so good at it, always reminding her who everyone was when they were at a party, that she’d simply stopped trying. She hoped she was only out of practice instead of permanently disabled. Her children’s futures probably depended on it since Michael wouldn’t be there to make sure Merilee remembered the names of Lily’s friends who were or were not speaking to each other. And which of Colin’s teachers appreciated his dreamy attitude and those who didn’t. It had always been a game with them—her recalling every detail about a friend or teacher, details always overlooked by Michael—and then he’d fill in the missing part—the name. But now she had to do it all on her own.

She smiled vaguely in the direction of the blond woman and her entourage and had almost made it to her van when she heard her name being called.

“Merilee? Merilee Dunlap?”

Great. The woman not only remembered her first name, but her last as well. Forcing a warm smile on her face, Merilee turned. “Oh, hello. It’s good to see you again.”

The other women parted like the Red Sea as the tall blond walked toward Merilee and she remembered that the woman had been wearing a Lily Pulitzer sundress and two-carat diamond stud earrings when they’d met before. But she didn’t remember her name. “I thought that was you. I looked for you in Mrs. Marshall’s homeroom. I’m the room mother and wanted to welcome Lily myself.”

Merilee remembered the voice. It was very Southern, heavily laced with dropped consonants and elongated vowels. The most memorable part about it was that it sounded exactly like Merilee’s mother.

“We were running a bit late this morning.” Feeling suddenly short and frumpy in her dark skirt and blazer, Merilee had the strong urge to explain. “My son couldn’t find his new uniform shoes. They somehow managed to find their way back into the box they came in and then got shoved so far under his bed that it took nearly twenty minutes to locate them. And then Lily spilled her bowl of cereal and milk down the front of her skirt, and I had to quickly iron one of her other ones so she could wear it.”

The woman gave her a warm smile from behind dark Chanel sunglasses as if she knew exactly what it was like to be a frazzled single mother. “Bless your heart. And on the first day at a new school. You’ll get used to the routine, I promise. It took me a whole month to realize that I should have a skirt and blouse for every school day plus one, and have Patricia have them cleaned and ironed as soon as my girls dropped them on the floor.”

Not exactly sure how to reslake, Merilee picked out the first confusing part of the sentence. “Patricia?”

“My house manager. I couldn’t live without her. You know how crazy busy it is with all of the kids’ schedules.” She reached into her large handbag that was more briefcase than purse, with a designer’s logo sprouting over its surface like kudzu. “I was going to stick this in the mail to you, but since you’re here I’ll give it to you now. It’s a sign-up sheet for parties and field trips—it lists everything for the year. Just let me know your availabilities and ask Lily to bring it in to school and give to Bailey as soon as you can. Bailey is very responsible and will make sure it gets to me.” The woman smiled, her teeth perfect. “Only sign up for four—every mother wants to be at every single event, but then it just gets crowded—plus there won’t be room on the bus for the kids.”

“Only four…” Merilee took the list and looked at it, almost letting out an audible sigh when she saw the woman’s name at the top of the page, Heather Blackford, Class Mother, followed by three different phone numbers. Now she remembered. Heather had a daughter in Colin’s class, too, both girls’ names starting with ‘B’.

“Yes. And if you could turn it back in tomorrow that would be terrific. I’ll have Claire put it all in a spreadsheet and I’ll email it to all the mothers. Please write neatly—Claire has a way of butchering your name if she can’t read it.”

“Claire?”

“My personal assistant. She’s only part time but I would simply die of exhaustion without her.”
The ladies behind her all nodded in understanding.

“Yes, well, I’ll take a look at it and get it back to you tomorrow.” Merilee was already wondering how she was going to approach her boss to ask him for more time off. The divorce and move had already eaten up all of her vacation time, and although Max was kind and understanding, everyone had their limits.

“And don’t forget the ‘I survived my first week of fourth grade’ party at my lake house this Saturday. I’ll be handing out disposable cameras to all the moms and dads to take pictures throughout the year at our various events—I like to do little photo albums for all the kids and the teachers at the end of the year.” She beamed, like it was just a small thing. “Oh, and I took the liberty of signing you up for a dessert because we’re overrun with vegetables and dip and pimiento cheese. I figured you’d know how to make something sweet.”

“Oh…” Merilee simply blinked her eyes for a moment, wondering if Heather had meant to be insulting.

“Because you’re from South Georgia. You mentioned that when we met. You said I had the same accent as your mother.”

Feeing oddly relieved, Merilee said, “Yes, of course. Where did you say you were from?”
“Here and there—but mostly Georgia. I can always tell a native Georgian. Hard to hide it, isn’t it? It’s almost like no matter how far you go in life, all you have to do is open your mouth and somebody knows exactly where you’re from.”

There was something in the way Heather said it that made Merilee pause. “Yes, well, I’ll call my mother today and ask her what she might recommend.”

“Wonderful.” Heather beamed. She pointed a key fob toward a black Porsche SUV with vanity plates that read YERSERV, and the rear door slowly raised. As the other mothers oohed and ahhed appropriately, Merilee stared into the trunk where fourteen metallic gift bags with blue or pink tissue paper expertly pleated at the tops were arranged in neat rows.

Heather moved toward the car. “A little lagniappe—that’s Cajun for ‘a little extra’ to all of my Yankee friends—for the first day of school. My treat. I thought we could each give our children a bag at pickup today and then head over to Scoops for ice cream afterwards. I’ve already reserved the party room at the back of the store. Claire is picking up the helium balloons this morning and will have it all decorated in Windwood colors.”

“You are just too much,” one of the mothers said as the other women eagerly stepped toward the car and took a bag.


Since Karen White burst onto the publishing scene, she has written eleven New York Times bestsellers, created the beloved Tradd Street series, and left readers on the edge of their seats awaiting each year’s new standalone novel. I have reviewed one of her earlier books, The Lost Hours, and have many more on my TBR list - including Flight Patterns!

FLIGHT PATTERNS tells the story of Georgia Chambers, a fine china expert who left her family years before and is forced to return home and repair the relationships she’s carefully avoided. To embrace her own life—mistakes and all—she will have to find the courage to confront the ghosts of her past and the secrets she was forced to keep.


Karen White is the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty novels, including the Tradd Street series, The Night the Lights Went OutFlight PatternsThe Sound of GlassA Long Time Gone, and The Time Between. She is the coauthor of The Forgotton Room with New York Times bestselling authors Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig. She grew up in London but now lives with her husband and two children near Atlanta, Georgia.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Book Review: Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine

Title: Finding Violet Park
Author: Jenny Valentine

About the book (from Goodreads):  Narrated by the most compelling voice since Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, this is a quirky and original voyage of self-discovery triggered by a lost urn of ashes. The mini cab office was up a cobbled mews with little flat houses either side. That's where I first met Violet Park, what was left of her. There was a healing centre next door, a pretty smart name for a place with a battered brown door and no proper door handle and stuck-on wooden numbers in the shape of clowns. The 3 of number 13 was a w stuck on sideways and I thought it was kind of sad and I liked it at the same time. Sixteen-year-old Lucas Swain becomes intrigued by the urn of ashes left in a cab office. Convinced that its occupant -- Violet Park -- is communicating with him, he contrives to gain possession of the urn, little realising that his quest will take him on a voyage of self-discovery and identity, forcing him to finally confront what happened to his absent (and possibly dead) father!

My Thoughts: I requested this book through our library's ILL program.  Usually I request a book because I owe a review on Net Galley and no longer have access to the ecopy, or it is on some Best of the Best list, etc - but for the life of me, I do not know why I requested this book!  Despite that, it was a quick read. 

 Lucas discovers this urn with ashes in it at a cab office and feels drawn to it.  Thinking about the urn later, he feels that Violet (the woman in it) is trying to communicate with him.  He concocts a story with his grandma to get possession of the urn.  Once they have it, he starts to run into people and places that Violet has been more often than can be coincidental.  

I should tell you that Lucas' father, Pete, disappeared 5 years earlier when he was 11.  He has pretty much put his father on a pedestal and thinks he could come back at any day.  He often wears some of his father's old clothing as well.  Through all of the information that he finds out about Violet Park, he also discovers that his father knew her and had actually interviewed her.

Lucas may have been right when he thought that Violet was trying to communicate with him.  Through her, he learns some truths about himself and his parents, and that people are not perfect, even if you want them to be. 

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