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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Saturday, October 26, 2019

And now for something different

Do you need a break from Dewey's?  Check out the first chapter of this new book coming in November!

Title: Nevermore
Author: Jason R. Papacek
Publisher: Nightcaller Publishing

About the book - straight from the author:  The story is about Irish immigrants in the 19th century. Two of the main characters leave Ireland in the late 1840s, during the potato famine, in hopes for a new start for their family. The Trans-Atlantic was what nightmares are made of and the start in America was difficult, but there were incredible people that came into their lives to help. Once in the U.S., the story takes place first in Boston and then in Hartford, Connecticut. 

There is much drama, romance with a splash of comedy. There are real historical figures intertwined throughout the pages that I hope will bring a realism and excitement to the tale. The most important lesson to be taken from this story if that: never underestimate the strength of a woman and that love will conquer all.

And now for the first chapter!  

A Good Morning
December 1860
Hartford, Connecticut

All the city’s neighborhoods had the appearance of a carefully-painted wintry holiday scene. The freshly fallen snow from the previous night had blanketed just about everything. Most of the streets were still undisturbed as no hooves, carriages, or footsteps had disturbed the settled snow. Trees lining the avenues were a balance of alabaster, crystal, and a hint of autumn’s clinging hues. The sparse decorative street lamps, littered throughout the various neighborhoods, had a thick coat of frost that completed the picturesque landscape.
For many a Christmas morning, Annabelle had awoken to an all too familiar scene outside of her bedroom windows. She stirred from a long night’s slumber with her usual hesitancy. Not one to leap from her bed, particularly in the mornings when the `frost had painted designs along the edges of her windows. It was only the warmth and whisper of “good morning, my love,” by her mother, that ever truly began Annabelle’s days.
Wintry mornings were periods when she would often linger, within the warm confines of her four-post bed, knowing that someone soon may come to interrupt her blissful slumber. With the crisp air crossing through her room and periodically touching her skin, an important decision needed to be made. Shall she remain cozy beneath her covers, waiting, or should she venture out into the morning air?
“Be bold, Annabelle. Be brave,” she thought to herself. “Slide a few toes out from under the covers and see if ‘tis worth leaving this bliss.” On some mornings, she would find herself not so brave and would decide that she would wait for her mother to come to get her. Knowing that no matter how incredible breakfast smelled in the air that it was not worth greeting her toes with the cold bedroom floor.
Annabelle, though, was quite aware that she had to get up and face the day, for this was not just any morning. “Foot out, foot out,” she kept telling herself. Slowly, she slid part of her foot out `from under the warm covers. “Brrr...,” she thought to herself, but she continued until she had ventured both of her feet out from their refuge under her blankets.
“Aye, Annabelle, go!” she said, firmly, with a sense of purpose. “Go!”
And with the bravery of a man diving into an icy river to save a drowning puppy, she tossed the covers off. Instantly, the air hit her skin with unrelenting ferocity. Embracing her bravery, she ignored the goosebumps rising on her skin, rubbed the sleep from her eyes, and began to take in the scene outside her bedroom windows.
“Aye, I be seeing some snow angels in my near future down
here. Def’ly before the sun be midday high,” said Annabelle with her face being unable to hide her anticipation. Instantly realizing what day it was, she let out an enthusiastic squeal, then flew from her bed without hesitation.
However, before her little feet touched the cold bedroom floor, she yanked her morning robe from its usual perch on her bedpost. She then scurried towards the door but only on her tiptoes.
Annabelle felt some of the warmth return to her body once her robe was around her shoulders. With the stairs just a few steps from her door, she found that she needed to make a few skipping leaps before she reached the top landing. The short hallway planks creaked with every other step she took, but for once, she did not pay them any mind. Without stopping at the top of the stairs, Annabelle continued down the flight of stairs with visions of immeasurable holiday jubilee awaiting her once she arrived in the grand living room.
Although she had difficulties falling asleep the night before, this morning, Annabelle found herself having no recollection of the old grandfather clock ever striking nine times. So, she was quite sure that she had had a good night’s rest when she woke, minutes before daybreak. The night had been as perfect a night as she could have recalled, these past few years, although she had not had that many years. The dinner was perfect, the church service was grand, and the anticipation for the next day was incredible. Annabelle was beside herself with anticipation and joy.
“‘Tis Christmas morn,’ ‘tis, fa-la-la, the most wonderful day of the year!” sang Annabelle, in an almost carol-like tone, with her arms swaying through the air as she leaped towards the first step, like a snowshoe hare. So many visions of Christmas past came flooding through her mind as she made her way down the stairs. There were so many beautiful moments that Annabelle was unable to focus her thoughts on just one. “What was this year going to be like?” she thought to herself.
The aroma of breakfast consumed her as she neared the last step. “Fa-la-la, the most wonderful...,” Annabelle continued to sing, in her soft, Americanized-Irish accented voice.
Now, Annabelle had six more steps to go until utter euphoria would consume her. She had another vision of the tree, filled with presents that all had her name on them. “Could there be books, a new dress or even that doll from O’Flanagan’s?” she dreamed. Annabelle had her eye on that doll ever since she spotted it in the storefront window on the family stroll following Thanksgiving dinner.
“Dolly, dolly, please be my dolly,” said Annabelle, just under her breath, so not to jinx herself. “Please, please, please, Ole Sainte Nicholas, please.”
Foregoing the last few steps with her arms out wide, she was flying. With reckless abandon, she leaped and landed, none so gracefully, in the small wooded foyer area with a thud and a slight skid towards the etched glass encased in the front door. She winced to herself as she skidded towards the front door. She remembered that she had been told many times, to be careful, by her parents.
“I best be listenin’ to them next time,” she thought. Then, with a devilish smirk rising on her face, she whispered to herself, “but, where’d be the fun in that?”
After Annabelle regained her bearings, she swung her body left to continue the quest to discover what Ole Sainte Nicholas had left for her under the Christmas tree. After all, it had been twelve long months of only “small” acts of defiance that she may, or may not, have been guilty of. Therefore, why would she not be rewarded with the best Christmas, ever?
“Well, why wouldn’t I? Why would I not have the best...,” Annabelle started rethinking the events of the past year, under her breath, as she entered the living room but stopped abruptly, as the entire room came into view.
`As she reached the middle of the living room, she made a room scanning pirouette, so that there was not an inch of the room that was missed. “I must be still asleep,” Annabelle gasped, as she stopped and turned to look down at her bare feet on the hardwood floors. “But, if I’d still be sleepin’, my feet would not be cold on the floor.” Annabelle began to look around the room again as if she was looking for a sign that would prove that she was awake and not lost in a dream.
The grandfather clock’s ticking from the hall had not ceased, and the scent of the morning bread in the kitchen had not dissipated. With her gaze having left her feet to peruse the clock and the kitchen door, she then returned her gaze down to her cold feet on the wood floors. Annabelle slowly wiggled her toes for a moment, and then she realized the truth.
“What the...,” Annabelle began saying but had lost her wording. It only took a moment for her to move beyond the respect of certain traditions, and for the anger and frustration to reach its boiling point, and then it happened.
“Blast him to bloody hell!” yelled Annabelle, without hesitation. Ole Sainte Nicholas had not left her any new books, nor a beautiful new dress, nor the bisque-doll that she saw in the local store window ...nothing was to be found beneath their Christmas tree. She was standing in front of the family tree on Christmas morning, and there were no presents, none!
“Are you bloody well kidding me? What the he--?” hollered Annabelle with stomping feet, as if her first exclamation was not intense enough and had not been heard by all. Yet, it had been.
“Annabelle Charlotte Theresa Hennessey! It is my prayers that our blessed Lord have mercy upon your soul,” exclaimed Aunt Mildred, as she hurried from the kitchen into the living room with a wooden spoon raised above her head and a crazed, panicked look in her eyes.
With her thick Irish accent, Aunt Mildred continued reprimanding Annabelle, while marching towards the still befuddled child frozen in the center of the room. Annabelle, having only slightly recovered from her shock at the sight of the barren Christmas tree, turned her head to face her great-aunt. She had not quite noticed that Aunt Mildred had taken ahold of her by the arm. But, once Annabelle realized that she was about to have her only slightly-padded buttocks accosted by said spoon, for her outburst, she became fully conscious of the situation and reacted.
“Stop!” Annabelle shouted as she thrust her open free hand up to block the spoon like a policeman directing horse-drawn carriage traffic. Annabelle knew that she did not want to get into a tussle with her great-aunt, and she especially did not wish to be struck on Christmas morning for any reason. She was on a new mission and nothing could detract her from finding out what was going on by finding her mother.
She looked Aunt Mildred square in the eyes and with a scowl on her face, yelled, “Aye, please, I have no time for it, on thismorn’!” She pulled herself out of the grasp of her aunt’s thick hands and continued into the kitchen, searching for her mother.
“Oh, bless my heart. How could such a sinner live under our very roof?” said Aunt Mildred, as she stumbled towards the closest armchair to regain her composure. She pulled out her rosary beads from her bosom and began to recite. “Credo in Deum Patrem omnipotentem, Creatorem caeli et terrae, et in Iesum Christum, Filium Eius unicum, Dominum nostrum, qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto...”
Annabelle still determined to make her feelings known, ignored her aunt and then proceeded towards the kitchen. With a deep inhale in preparation for a window-rattling bellow for her mother, Annabelle entered the kitchen, stomping her feet like a festivities parade’s marching band.
“Mu-,” began Annabelle, before her words got caught in her throat.She frozemid-step as her anger quickly turned to concern. For across the room, leaning against the glass on the sill of their favorite window seat, sat her mother staring out the window, having not responded to the ruckus that had just transpired.
She began walking towards her mother, Gabriella, with a slight hesitation, wondering if she should even approach her. Regaining her composure, Annabelle continued but, again, stopped a few feet short of her mother. She had noticed, at arm’s length from her mother, an all too familiar clearing of some dust on the window sill.
Still dressed in her nightgown, with a winter shawl draped around her shoulders, Gabriella finished dabbing her eyes with her handkerchief and turned to look at her daughter and stretched out a hand. Annabelle quickly scurried across the room, softly grasping her mother’s hand and joining her on the window seat.
Annabelle rested her head on her mother’s chest and rose her eyes to meet her mother’s and then asked, “it be Christmas morn, Mum...why do you weep, so?” Continuing to gaze down upon her daughter, Gabriella did not answer but attempted to smile to ease her daughter’s growing concern.
“Please tell me, Mum. Has something happened to my daddy?” asked Annabelle, as she began to search the room.
Annabelle looked around the kitchen to see if her father was there but had gone unnoticed.
“I feel so selfish,” said Annabelle as she tried to return her gaze to her mother. “I am worried about having no presents, underneath the tree on Christmas morn, while you sit here crying.”
Taking her daughter’s face, in her hands, and gently turning it back towards her, Gabriella begins to speak, “Oh, my dear Anna...,” but then lost her words.
She ran her fingers through her daughter’s soft blonde hair as she regained her composure. Determined to ease her daughter’s concern, Gabriella mustered all the strength she had and started, again, “I have something to talk to you about, Annabelle, and it is neither pleasant nor guaranteed to have a happy ending.” With a calming inhale followed by a long exhale, she continued, “It seems as though our beloved Union may be heading towards a state ofseparation.”
Though confused by her mother’s comment, Annabelle quietly awaited her mother’s explanation. She kept focused, intent on hearing every word her mother had to say, realizing the severity of the conversation by her mother’s expression, touch, and choice of words.
“A strong rift between the states of the north and the states of the south has come to an impasse. We are quite confident that word of South Carolina’s secession from our blessed Union is coming, any day now.”
Gabriella’s Irish-accent thickened when she was emotional, which became apparent as she continued, “I be fearin’ that other southern states be takin’ the same path, due to their common culture and economies.” Gabriella then paused for a moment and then added, “I believe that we must pray for the best but prepare...”
`“For the worst,” interjected Annabelle softly, as she finished her mother’s sentence for her.
Annabelle’s parents were educated people and felt that it was important for their daughter to be well-read from an early age. She was schooled in their home by her mother, and the subject matters were quite diverse. Her extensive knowledge of vocabulary, phrasing, and a general understanding of the English language was beyond most nine-year-old children.
“Aye, Annabelle, now listen, Love...” continued Gabriella with a slight hesitation, as a tear ran down her cheek, “your father and I want you to be havin’ the most fabulous life.
Gabriella chuckled and smiled at her daughter before returning to her conversation. “We’d be makin’ sure that you’d be educated so that you have an understandin’ of ‘mportant matters in the world. You must also be rememberin’ that ‘tis our job as your parents to protect you ‘til you are old enough to make decisions, on your own.”
Though Annabelle would be capable of comprehending most topics, her parents felt that since Annabelle was still quite young, it was necessary to only convey to her a simple version of recent events. Yet, Gabriella also thought it was important that her daughter not only know why these events would be affecting their family and lives, but how.
Annabelle had been trying to follow what her mother was telling her. She wanted to understand what was happening and knew that she wanted to ask the question, but she was not sure where to start. Feeling anxious, she just blurted out the first question that came to mind, to her mother.
“So, we may have to go to war for the Negro man?” asked Annabelle to her mother with a curious, yet soft expression on her face. But, as her mother inhaled in preparation for her response, Annabelle returned her gaze towards her mother and continued.
“Correct me, Mum, ‘cause I want to understand,” then came a pause with a long inhale, before she began, again. “From what we have read ‘tis that the southern states believe that they need to keep the Negro man enslaved. That they’d be needin’ to do this so that they can be continuin’ to grow their cotton in the Deep South and their tobacco crops in states, such as North Carolina and Virginia.”
Gabriella smiled because the words that Annabelle had stated came from a lesson they had covered, a few months earlier. Though proud of her daughter’s recall of the information, she thought it best not to interrupt Annabelle with praise and allowed her to continue with her thoughts.
“Instead of giving the Negro man his freedom, he wants to enslave him. This being so that the farm owners do not have to pay their workers, ever,” concluded Annabelle.
“I could not be more proud of my girl,” thought Gabriella. “Lord, please keep my miracle child safe so that she can grow to become the best woman that she can be.”
Annabelle had looked away towards the snow-covered yard and had become quiet, and still as if carefully planning her next statement on the matter at hand. But, as she turned back towards her mother, the child in her had reared itself from within, as the tears fell. She had found it impossible to hide her true feelings any longer and spoke plainly to her mother.
“Daddy is going away, isn’t he, Mum?” asked Annabelle with fear in her voice. “He is going away to fight against the men in the South, isn’t he?” continued Annabelle not hesitating to wait for a response. “He is...” she was unable to complete her sentence for her mother had taken her into her arms to comfort her, now panicking, young daughter.
Annabelle made no further attempts to speak but began to cry uncontrollably in her mother’s arms. Between long quivering sobs, Annabelle would call out, “Daddy....oh, Daddy!” Over and over, again, as if the more she called for him, the better chance there would be that he would not be leaving, and all would remain the same.
Gabriella did not attempt to subside her daughter’s tears, nor did she try to have her cease from repeating her cries for her father. Instead, she found herself crying with her daughter, as she held her close. No more needed to be said thought Gabriella to herself. So, they both sat without saying another word.
Gazing upon the snow-covered ground, Gabriella allowed herself to enjoy the beautiful scene outside their kitchen window, and to appreciate the precious gift that she had wrapped in her arms. She realized that she must continue to view life, as she had always done, by trusting that they will find a way to endure.
“Patrick,” whispered Gabriella, under her breath, with a sigh, “...oh, James Patrick Hennessey!” She then rested her head softly upon her daughter’s and said no more.






For more information, please visit the author's Facebook page.



15 Hours and Counting

It has been about 15 hours and I believe I have read about half of them.  Had a busy day and a fuller house than I had expected with, in addition to my husband and son, had my daughter, son-in-law, mom, sister, and two grandkids all over for most of the evening!

So far though I have finished three previously started books --



And am working on my fourth - this one I started today - 

Time for some pjs though and some stretches!  Happy reading.

Time to start reading for Dewey's Readathon!

It is 7AM and it is time to start the readathon!  I am going to be finishing up a few books to start with the first one being Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips. 



And now for the opening survey. . . 

 1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?  Chicago area

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?  I have no idea - not sure where my reading is going to take me today.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?  Popcorn and pretzels!

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!  Reader since I was very young - currently have a great job working in a high school library with a great group of women readers!

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?s
Not my first rodeo - but am just going to try enjoying myself today and not get hung up when my family needs me. . . lol.  It is trick or treat day here this afternoon and my grandson is going trick or treating for the first time!

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Book Review: The Summer of Sunshine & Margot by Susan Mallery

Title: The Summer of Sunshine & Margot
Author: Susan Mallery

My review: This book was such a fun read! Two sisters, twins, very different in looks but not so different in their big hearts, how they care for others, and bad luck in the romance department. Margot is successful at what she does - though I don't know what to call it. She teaches people how to behave in situations where they may not have any experience - usually business-wise. Her new client is an older famous actress who has been known to be a little outrageous and is engaged to a diplomat from another country. Very much in love, she does not want to embarrass him at social engagements or worse yet, get him fired. She has a son, Alec, who has grown up successful himself, but unlike his mother, likes his world controlled and well-maintained.

The other sister, Sunshine, is a nanny that is always successful in connecting with the children she cares for, but tends to disappear from their lives when the new flavor of the month comes along - so she is not very reliable, and not successful in romance.  Her current client is a single dad Declan, with a young son Connor.  They hit it off very well as Sunshine is trying to change her ways.  

Two pretty sisters, two eligible single men, and of course love will be on the horizon.  There are some upsets and roadblocks and some humorous situations (gotta love Bianca - Alec's mom) and it is overall a very entertaining read.  Would be great for taking to the beach or on vacation.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

How to Make Friends with the Dark by Kathleen Glasglow


Title: How to Make Friends with the Dark
Author: Kathleen Glasglow

From Goodreads: Here is what happens when your mother dies.

It’s the brightest day of summer and it’s dark outside. It’s dark in your house, dark in your room, and dark in your heart. You feel like the darkness is going to split you apart.

That’s how it feels for Tiger. It’s always been Tiger and her mother against the world. Then, on a day like any other, Tiger’s mother dies. And now it’s Tiger, alone.

Here is how you learn to make friends with the dark.
 

My thoughts:  This book dealt with a tough subject.  A young girl's mom dies, and as far as she knew, this was her only living relative.   She has to deal with the new reality of foster care and learning to care for herself and make her own decisions.  Her mom had been very protective so she hadn't really even been able to pick out her own clothes before.  It takes you into her world and how she now views her relationships with classmates, school, and the rest of her life. 

For me, I lost my dad when I was 17 (but still had a mom and siblings).  I am much older now, but it made me really look back on that time in my life and realize that I probably should have talked to a counselor or a therapist.  I made some not so great decisions in the five years following his death that have affected my entire life.  When you are going through the loss of a parent, it is hard to see how it is really affecting your mental state - it isn't until after that you realize how things changed.   I could have really benefitted from this book just to help me realize that the feelings I had were normal and learn how to navigate those waters that overtake you when you lose a parent. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Book Review: Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

Title: Things You Save in a Fire
Author: Katherine Center
On sale date: 8/13/19

About the book: From the New York Times bestselling author of How to Walk Away comes a stunning new novel about courage, hope, and learning to love against all odds.


Cassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she's seen her fair share of them, and she's a total pro at other people's tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to give up her whole life and move to Boston, Cassie suddenly has an emergency of her own.
The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie's old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren't exactly thrilled to have a "lady" on the crew—even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the infatuation-inspiring rookie, who doesn't seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can't think about that. Because love is girly, and it’s not her thing. And don’t forget the advice her old captain gave her: Never date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping...and it means risking it all—the only job she’s ever loved, and the hero she’s worked like hell to become.
Katherine Center's Things You Save in a Fire is a heartfelt and healing tour-de-force about the strength of vulnerability, the nourishing magic of forgiveness, and the life-changing power of defining courage, at last, for yourself. (From publisher's website)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was a quick read with a really strong message of family and forgiveness. It also has some underlying messages of the lengths we go to for self-preservation. I liked that Cassie was a firefighter - don't know that I have read a book with a female firefighter, so that was a nice change. I tend to like programs like Station 19 and 9-1-1 which both have female firefighters.

I would have liked to have learned more about the mother/daughter relationship here - as that is where it seemed to be headed, but then it veered off into a romantic relationship. Despite that, I still enjoyed it - it was a good first "summer" read.




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