Carolina Breeze by Denise Hunter

Carolina Breeze

Carolina Breeze. Finished 11-10-20, 3.5/5 stars, romance, 320 pages, pub. 2020

Rising Hollywood star Mia Emerson is looking for a safe place to land in the wake of a public breakup and scandal, and she finds it in the lake town of Bluebell, North Carolina—the location of her canceled honeymoon. She wants nothing more than to hide and wait for the tabloids to die down.

Soon after her arrival at the Bluebell Inn, Mia meets Levi Bennett, who runs the inn along with his two younger sisters. Drawn to one another from the start, Mia trusts Levi to keep her location from the press, and Levi confides in Mia about the financial state of the inn—a secret he’s been keeping from his sisters.

When Mia and Levi discover an old journal that hints at a rare diamond necklace hidden in the inn, they set off on a treasure hunt to find the long-lost heirloom. What they don’t expect to surface are feelings they thought were safely locked away. Mia and Levi must decide if falling in love again is too big a risk—or if it will uncover a treasure of its own instead. from Goodreads

This is a Hallmark movie time of year and this book will fit right in with those plans. It’s all the things you find in the Christmas movies without the Christmas. Mia escapes from the big, bad city (Los Angeles) to hid away in a sweet small town, Carolina inn. The inn is owned and run by three siblings (each having their own book in this trilogy) and Mia falls for the brother. Since she’s beautiful, famous, rich, and sweet, he can’t help but fall for her too.

I liked this one and it was exactly what I needed around stressful election time. There’s a bit of a mystery and some real relationship and personal growth issues to deal with, but in the end you knew everything was going to be okay. Which is what we all need to feel this year especially.

I didn’t read the first or last of the trilogy, but didn’t feel like I was missing much. This works as a standalone. It also serves as a cautionary tale if you are even considering taking over an inn.

Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child

Title: Gone Tomorrow (Jack Reacher Series #13), Author: Lee Child Gone Tomorrow. Finished 8-7-20, 3.5/5 stars, thriller, pub. 2009

#13 of the Jack Reacher series (1-Killing Floor2- Die Trying, 3 – Tripwire, 4 – Running Blind5 – Echo Burning6 – Without Fail, 7 – Persuador, 8 – The Enemy, 9 – One Shot, 10 – Hard Way, 11-Bad Luck and Trouble.  12-Nothing to Lose )

Suicide bombers are easy to spot. They give out all kinds of tell-tale signs. Mostly because they’re nervous. By definition they’re all first-timers.

There are twelve things to look for: No one who has worked in law enforcement will ever forget them.

New York City. The subway, two o’clock in the morning. Jack Reacher studies his fellow passengers. Four are OK. The fifth isn’t.

The train brakes for Grand Central Station. Will Reacher intervene, and save lives? Or is he wrong? Will his intervention cost lives – including his own?   from Goodreads

I’m a Reacher fan and I loved the hook.  He identified a suicide bomber but tragedy still struck.  What came after was a war-time backstory and a senator ready to run for President.  I listened to this one and there were some very disturbing images that will be stuck in my mind forever and I’m not happy about it.  This was not even close to being a favorite even with the subway scene and NYC and Washington DC setting.


Salvation Station by Kathryn Schleich

Salvation Station Salvation Station. Finished 7-18-20, 3.5/5, thriller, 311 pages, pub. 2020

Despite her years of experience investigating homicides for the force, Captain Linda Turner is haunted by the murders of the Hansen family. The two small children, clothed in tattered Disney pajamas, were buried with their father, a pastor, in the flower garden behind a church parsonage in Lincoln, Nebraska. But Mrs. Hansen is nowhere to be found—and neither is the killer.

In St. Louis, the televangelist Ray Williams is about to lose his show—until one of his regular attendees approaches him with an idea that will help him save it. Despite his initial misgivings, Ray agrees to give it a try. He can’t deny his attraction to this woman, and besides, she’d assured him the plan is just—God gave her the instructions in a dream.

Multiple story lines entwine throughout this compelling mystery, delving into the topics of murder, religious faith, and the inherent dangers in blindly accepting faith as truth. While Reverend Williams is swept up in his newfound success and plans for his wedding, Captain Turner can only hope that she and her team will catch the Hansens’ cunning killer—before more bodies surface.  from Goodreads

This covers a few touchy subjects.  What kind of woman might murder her own children?  Shouldn’t the fake men and women of faith that appear on infomercials be held accountable for milking money out of trusting souls?  Why do seemingly good men fall for the women who will most likely ruin their lives?  How far would a friend go to look out for your interests?

I liked Linda, the captain who couldn’t get murdered children out of her mind while the killer still ran free.  I hated the woman she was after, just like I was supposed to do.  Most of the book was about a good man falling prey to a devious woman and becoming a man who lost his moral code.  It was hard to read in that respect.  I liked getting to know a few of the people directly affected by his ministry and thought that was well done.

It’s hard to say I liked it, because there was so much evil compromising people of faith.  But it was a read that was hard to put down after about halfway through and the killer was one that will be hard to forget.  A well done first novel.



The Princess Plan by Julia London

Title: The Princess Plan, Author: Julia London The Princess Plan.   Finished 7-1-20, 3.5/5, historical romance, pub. 2019
Book 1 of A Royal Wedding series

Nothing gets the tongues of London’s high society wagging like a good scandal. And when the personal secretary of the visiting Prince Sebastian of Alucia is found murdered, it’s all anyone can talk about, including Eliza Tricklebank. Her unapologetic gossip gazette has benefited from an anonymous tip about the crime, prompting Sebastian to take an interest in playing detective—and an even greater interest in Eliza.

With a trade deal on the line and mounting pressure to secure a noble bride, there’s nothing more salacious than a prince dallying with a commoner. Sebastian finds Eliza’s contrary manner as frustrating as it is seductive, but they’ll have to work together if they’re going to catch the culprit. And when things heat up behind closed doors, it’s the prince who’ll have to decide what comes first—his country or his heart.    from Goodreads

Eliza had been rebuffed by society because when she was young she dared to believe a gentleman and his honorable intentions toward her.  She now helped her blind father, a judge, and liked to fix clocks.  I liked her independent spirit.  Prince Sebastian was on his way through town to finalize a trade deal and find a wife.  He was entitled and Eliza let him know it.  His best friend is murdered and no one seems all that interested in finding out who did it except for him and then Eliza.

As I said, I liked Eliza and am happy that she got her happy ending.  I thought mystery moved the story along and Sebastian was a fine enough hero.  It was missing something for me, but it was an enjoyable listen during these stressful times.



Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Title: Such a Fun Age, Author: Kiley Reid Such a Fun Age.  Finished 5-23-20, 3.5/5 stars, fiction, pub. 2019

Unabridged audio

In the midst of a family crisis one late evening, white blogger Alix Chamberlain calls her African American babysitter, Emira, asking her to take toddler Briar to the local market for distraction. There, the security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar, and Alix’s efforts to right the situation turn out to be good intentions selfishly mismanaged.  fromGoodreads

This story had a great start.  Emira, at a club celebrating a friend’s birthday, is called to help the family who she babysits for several times a week.  She takes Briar to the local grocery store to kill time while the police are at the Chamberlain home.  Emira and her friend are dressed for the club and not the posh grocery store and things turn ugly when another customer and the security guard accuse Emira of stealing the child.  A cute guy tapes the whole thing on his phone and the police and Mr. Chamberlain are called.  This scenario is full of possibilities.  

What happens next is a lot of coincidence.  I mean more than makes any sense.  Kelly, the guy who tapes the scene, finds Emira again on the subway and they start dating.  Alix feels so much guilt over getting Emira into that situation that she becomes fixated on her, determined to show how un-racist she really is.  I don’t really want to say more so as not to spoil any big reveals.

We read this for my book club and it led to a great Zoom discussion.  What was the consensus?  Alix was a terrible mother and person.  Emira seemed a little lost.  Most of the ladies didn’t understand the issues with Kelly, but I got it.  Most felt the like ending was incomplete, but for me it seemed perfectly fitting for Emira.  What I took away from this novel is that the issues that Alix and Kelly made about race were often not seen the same way by Emira, there was a lot of projecting of their take on the other person, but Emira didn’t have an issue with either of them (at least for most of the book).   It’s a great discussion book, but I didn’t love it.

Mount Vernon Love Story: A Novel of George and Martha Washington by Mary Higgins Clark

Title: Mount Vernon Love Story, Author: Mary Higgins Clark Mount Vernon Love Story. Finished 4-25-20, 3.5/5 stars, historical fiction, 223 pages, pub. 1968

Always a lover of history, Mary Higgins Clark wrote this extensively researched biographical novel and titled it Aspire to the Heavens, after the motto of George Washington’s mother. Published in 1969, the book was more recently discovered by a Washington family descendant and reissued as Mount Vernon Love Story. Dispelling the widespread belief that although George Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis, he reserved his true love for Sally Carey Fairfax, his best friend’s wife, Mary Higgins Clark describes the Washington marriage as one full of tenderness and passion, as a bond between two people who shared their lives — even the bitter hardship of a winter in Valley Forge — in every way. In this author’s skilled hands, the history, the love, and the man come fully and dramatically alive.   from Goodreads

Mary Higgins Clark’s love for George Washington shines through in this, her first, book.  I enjoyed learned more about young Washington’s life through the eyes of a romantic.  While she covered the necessary benchmarks of his rise to greatness she also infused these episodes with feeling.  How did he feel about the pock marks on his face after small pox?  How did he feel after his step daughter died and his Patsy was grieving?  Did he really love his wife or was she just a stand in?

I think the fact that this was her first book was evident in the way the story didn’t really have a lot of tension or excitement to keep me turning the pages. This can be excused because Washington is always going to be of interest so the interest was there to continue, but just looking at the storytelling it was a bit lacking.

There was lots of great background and some new insight for me.  I might look at this as a gateway or a teaser for those who don’t know a lot about Washington or how he was in love with his best friend’s girl.  It will have you wanting to know more.  And you will forever think of Martha as Patsy.



The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Title: The Water Dancer (Oprah's Book Club), Author: Ta-Nehisi Coates The Water Dancer. Finished 2-27-20, fiction, 3.5/5 stars, 403 pages, pub. 2019

Unabridged audio

Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her—but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known.

So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the deep South to dangerously utopic movements in the North. Even as he’s enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram’s resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures.     from Goodreads

Hiram was born into slavery.  He was known for his remarkable memory and that plus the fact that his master was also his father moved him from the fields to the big house and eventual right hand man to his half brother.  After an accident when a special gift saves Hiram’s life his journey with the Underground begins.

There are many things I liked about this slave narrative, but I’m in the minority of readers who was underwhelmed.  I thought his time with the Underground was fascinating as there were so many people at cross purposes that it showed some of the dysfunction.  I liked his journey from South to North to home again, the full circle of the story.  The slave families being split apart as plantations lost their luster was heartbreaking.  But, for some reason, Hiram’s special gift didn’t gel with the rest of the story for me.

I missed book club last month so I may have been swayed by the people who loved it, but since I wasn’t  I’ll just have to chalk it up to not quite living up to the hype for me.


Home Truths by Susan Lewis

Title: Home Truths: A Novel, Author: Susan Lewis Home Truths. Finished 2-6-19, 3.5/5 stars, fiction, 480 pages, pub. 2020

Angie Watts once had what seemed like an idyllic life: a house in a small town in the English countryside with her beloved husband Steve and their three adored children. She never could have predicted how her life would one day turn out.

When her oldest son, Liam, grows from a sweet-natured boy to a troubled teen, Angie’s world begins to crumble. Expelled from school and disappearing from home for days on end, Liam falls in with a notorious local gang. After arriving home one day to find their 5-year-old son with a syringe Liam has left lying around, Steve makes a rash decision that will have lasting repercussions on their family.

Two years later, Steve is gone, Liam is missing, and with money running out, Angie and her other two children are on the brink of eviction. Then Angie is called into the police station and informed that there’s been a murder—and Liam is a suspect. As Angie’s desperation to save her family leads her to take drastic measures, her daughter secretly devises her own plan to save the family…which could put everyone in danger.   from Goodreads

I have never read a book with such dramatic lows and dizzying highs.  For over half of the book Angie is faced with a multitude of of woes straight from the evening news.  Brutal murder, human trafficking, extreme poverty, homelessness, child disappearance, drugs, and gangs.  Through it all she has the love and unwavering support from her sister and even manages to keep her job.  Her pride stops her from seeking out the help she needs and she spirals down until all that is left is her walking down the main drag begging shops for a job while she sleeps in her van at night.

Amazingly, she walked by a man who had known her husband and justlikethat he became a knight in shining armor the likes of which I rarely read about outside of romance novels.  Now every low was countered by a high that gave me whiplash.  I know this may seem like I didn’t like the book, but that’s not true.  I liked this book and the large cast of characters and their plights.  Angie’s story showcases how fast one’s life can spin out of control. My biggest issue was that the last fourth of the book was every aspect of her life, unbelievably, turned around tenfold thanks to a man.  Angie was rescued.  I was happy for her and her family, I even shed a tear near the end, but the triumph was a turnaround of her situation, not because of her fortitude.

So, for all the issues that I had with the rescuing, I did like Angie and her family and friends.  The reality of Angie not eating all day just so her kids can have food and the hopelessness of a parent when their child falls prey to the perils of social media were gripping and emotional.  Thankfully, there were happier endings almost all the way around.  I never tired of the story and at 480 pages that’s quite a feat.  This is my first book by Susan Lewis and she drew me in with sympathetic characters and a compelling story.

I want to thank TLC Book Toursand Harper Collins for the book and the hours of enjoyment they sent my way 🙂


Keep This Toss That by Jamie Novak

Title: Keep This Toss That: Unclutter Your Life to Save TIme, Money, Space, and Sanity, Author: Jamie Novak Keep This Toss That. Finished 1-19-20, 3.5/5 stars, home, 304 pages. pub. 2015

Quick answers to the one key question everyone needs to answer in order to get organized and save their time, money, space, and sanity: “Should I keep or toss this?”

Keep This, Toss That answers all of these questions and much more. Featuring dozens of illustrated Keep/Toss Checklists, the book shows you exactly what you need—and what you can safely toss, regret-free (even if you’re a sentimentalist or saver)—in every room of your house, for each hobby or activity, and even online. It also includes:
• quick tips on clever storage solutions
• tools and utensils that can do double duty
• advice on how to customize the lists to suit your house, your family, and your lifestyle Answering the one key question you need to get organized and live happily with just the stuff you love, Keep This, Toss That is the one organizing book you must have.   from Goodreads

I have a clutter problem.  If there is a flat surface in a well used area of our home I am fighting a constant battle.  I can pare down, but it must be something I do fairly regularly.  Some of the problem is just not having a home to put everything, more of an organizational issue I guess.  So, I picked this up as I was browsing the library shelves in this area and found it useful and easy to read.

There are lists of what to keep and what to toss or give away for every room in your home, including outdoor spaces.  The lists themselves became somewhat redundant, but the extras that were included were where I found most of the value.  Recipes for natural cleaners to eliminate all those cleaner bottles, lists for emergency bags or boxes for different purposes, lists of different ways to wear a simple white shirt and the shoes every woman should have, and different places to donate your extras.  Have too many reusable bags (who doesn’t have too many of those freebies you get?) send them here and let them find new life.

I found it’s value in the easy and fast way it read and how it encouraged me to rethink some of the organizational choices I’ve made.  The paperwork section was helpful because I am forever trying to find something  that works for me.  If you’re a clutterbug like me this is worth taking a look at.  There is a newer revised edition so that may be the way to go.

Merry Christmas!

It’s been a merry Christmas here with a day we all stayed in our jammies.  We introduced Gage to Home Alone for the first time 🙂  I hope you all had a great day, and that you all received at least one gift that you loved as much as Sammi loved her new green mouse.  For Gage it was the microscope Santa brought him.  He spent hours making slides.

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I read a book that I had given my mother at Thanksgiving and she gave back to me yesterday saying that she loved it.  Today was a perfect time for the short read The Purpose of Christmas The Purpose of Christmas by Rick Warren.  At only 127 pages it was a quick read about the reason we celebrate Christmas and all of the ways that Jesus Christ has changed the world and how we can accept him and do the same.  He wrote it for believers and non-believers alike.