The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck

The Wedding DressThe Wedding Dress. Finished audio 11-12-14, rating 4/5, Romance, pub. 2012

Unabridged audio read by Eleni Pappageorge.

Four brides. One Dress.

A tale of faith, redemption, and timeless love.

Charlotte owns a chic Birmingham bridal boutique. Dressing brides for their big day is her gift . . . and her passion. But with her own wedding day approaching, why can’t she find the perfect dress…or feel certain she should marry Tim?

Then Charlotte discovers a vintage dress in a battered trunk at an estate sale. It looks brand-new-shimmering with pearls and satin, hand-stitched and timeless in its design. But where did it come from? Who wore it? Who welded the lock shut and tucked the dog tags in that little sachet? Who left it in the basement for a ten-year-old girl? And what about the mysterious man in the purple vest who insists the dress had been “redeemed.”

Charlotte’s search for the gown’s history-and its new bride-begins as a distraction from her sputtering love life. But it takes on a life of its own as she comes to know the women who have worn the dress. Emily from 1912. Mary Grace from 1939. Hillary from 1968. Each with her own story of promise, pain, and destiny. And each with something unique to share. For woven within the threads of the beautiful hundred-year-old gown is the truth about Charlotte’s heritage, the power of courage and faith, and the timeless beauty of finding true love.

from Goodreads

In 2008 I read my first inspirational romance and it just happened to be by Rachel Hauck. I liked it and even interviewed her in 2009 (here).  I knew I wanted to read more by her but until til haven’t managed to do it.  I picked this one up at a book sale a few years ago because I thought the cover was so pretty and the book pretty much lived up to the beauty of the cover.

Charlotte has a gift. She can help a bride choose just the perfect wedding gown for their weddings and she has made a very successful business doing it.  With her own wedding day fast approaching, not only has she not even searched for her own wedding dress, but the wedding invitations still sit in a box on her floor collecting dust.  Charlotte finds herself in possession of an old trunk that contains the most gorgeous wedding dress she’s ever seen just as her own wedding plans go up in smoke.

The story follows Charlotte as she finds out more about the mysterious dress and the women who wore it before her.  The focus alternated between Charlotte, the two living women who had worn the dress and Emily from 1912.  I wish we’d had more of a discovery of each of the women on their wedding days, but I still liked the two main storylines.  I especially liked how Charlotte, a woman with no family, finds people who make her feel loved. Sometimes it’s the people we find along our journey that make it worthwhile.

This was a perfect book for this time of year or whenever you want a nice southern romance with a splash of history.  Emily’s story in 1912 touched on a lot of hot button issues like Jim Crow laws and women’s suffrage.

Author Rachel Hauck is an Ohio State grad so I know that like me, she’ll be cheering on our Buckeyes on Saturday night 🙂  Go Bucks!


Love Water Memory by Jennie Shortridge

Love Water MemoryLove Water Memory. Finished 1-22-14, rating 3.5/5, fiction, 326 pages, pub. 2013

If you could do it all over again, would you still choose him?

At age thirty-nine, Lucie Walker has no choice but to start her life over when she comes to, up to her knees in the chilly San Francisco Bay, with no idea how she got there or who she is. Her memory loss is caused by an emotional trauma she knows nothing about, and only when handsome, quiet Grady Goodall arrives at the hospital does she learn she has a home, a career, and a wedding just two months away. What went wrong? Grady seems to care for her, but Lucie is no more sure of him than she is of anything. As she collects the clues of her past self, she unlocks the mystery of what happened to her. The painful secrets she uncovers could hold the key to her future—if she trusts her heart enough to guide her.

from Goodreads

Suffering from dissociative fugue, Lucie is clueless. She has no idea where she belongs, who she really is, what the relationship is with her fiance, or who her friends are.  She is lost.  Grady takes her back to Seattle and their life together, but they are virtual strangers.  Lucie doesn’t remember anything and Grady isn’t familiar with the new Lucie, this new nicer woman who seems so curious.  The two try to navigate living together while she tries to piece together what happened to make her break like she did.

I can’t imagine suffering from amnesia, how hard it must be especially if you don’t have support.  Grady, as steady and nice as he was couldn’t have been adequate support for Lucie. Because she been all about her job before she didn’t have friends, or at least any that reached out to her.  How sad is that?  Grady didn’t seem to mind this and didn’t seem to want her to connect with the family she had, his sisters and her aunt. It was weird.  They both just went through the day, muddling along.  I was hoping for a little more oomph.  I liked the new and improved Lucie and am glad that even if she didn’t find memories she found some peace, but there was something off about the relationship with Grady, from both sides.

This was an okay novel for me.  I liked that the story was told from three perspectives and I loved seeing the way that Lucie really turned her life around.   It was enjoyable and led to some questions about relationships and do we see people the way they are or do we see them through the lens of our own insecurities and fears.  But the mystery wasn’t shocking by the time it was revealed and there wasn’t anything that really made me want to skip ten minutes of sleep and read the next chapter (the hallmark of a great book, in my humble opinion).

The gentleness of the storytelling was enough to make me want to read more from this author.  Good thing I already have When She Flew on my shelf!

I received this book from She Reads.  Go on over and see what other bloggers think about this one.

Book vs. Movie- Ender’s Game

In 2008, my first year blogging, I listened to the book (review here) and fell in love with it.  I forced my husband to listen too and he liked it so much that he went on to read a few more books in the series.  As much as I love Ender, one book was enough for me.

Orson Scott Card carries controversy around with him in the form on his 1st amendment right to free speech.  Many people chose to boycott the movie for that reason.  I admit there are some people I do not support (ie use my money to support them by buying what they’re selling) because of their extreme insults or harmful views, but as long as they aren’t hurting anyone I tend to live and let live.  But, I’d love to hear your opinion on this, maybe you’ll change my mind.

The Story/Plot – This science fiction story is set a few hundreds years from now and the Earth is at war with the buggers, an alien race who wants to colonize the planet. The military is using children to train to fight these buggers.  The story is about their training.

The movie stayed true to the book, but there was so much skipped that the characters onscreen fell a little flat.  So much of the story takes place in Ender’s head and that didn’t really translate to the film.  Thumbs up -Book

The Visual – I ‘m glad that they waited so long to make the movie so that technology could actually catch up with our imaginations in some ways.  My husband was worried about Battle School looking cheesy, but we were both impressed with the quality.  Thumbs up- Movie

Characters vs. Actors – I fell in love with Ender when I listened to the book.  He was only 6 when first sent to Battle School  and there was much more detail about his life between the ages of 6-12 than there was in the movie.  The extra  detail gave me a chance to really care about this vulnerable and genius and character, where the movie didn’t. Asa Butterfield did a fine job of portraying Ender on the big screen, but there wasn’t the same connection for me. Harrison Ford was fine too, but my favorite actor in the movie was Ben Kingsley as Mazer Rackham and he had a very small part.    Thumbs up- Book

(NO SPOILERS) The Ending – It’s been a while since I listened to the book and while the end was the same I thought there were some parts of the movie leading up to the end that might have been finessed.  I was completely surprised by the end of the book, but the movie wasn’t as shocking because of a few things that happened.  Or maybe it was just because I already knew what would happen, who knows?  Thumbs up- Tie

And the winner is…The Book.

Now it’s your turn to vote

Other book vs. movie polls you can vote on: (We Have Always Lived in the Castle) (Good Morning, Midnight/ The Midnight Sky) (Before I Go To Sleep) (The Little Prince) (Charlie St. Cloud) (Far From the Madding Crowd(The Girl on the Train) (Tuck Everlasting)  (Northanger Abbey) (Me Before You) (And Then There Were None) (Still Alice) (The Blind Side) (The Fault in Our Stars) (The Hound of the Baskervilles) (Gone Girl) (Jack Reacher) (Ender’s Game) (Carrie, the original) (Under the Tuscan Sun) (The Secret Life of Bees) (The Shining, the original)

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty, loved it!

The Husband's SecretThe Husband’s Secret. Finished 9-16-13, rating 4.75/5, fiction, 395 pages, pub. 2011

I want to thank Kimberly Brock from She Reads for inviting me to be a part of this talented group of book bloggers.  This is the September choice and I loved it so much. If you are interested in winning a copy you can visit the She Reads review and leave a comment.

At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read
My darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died. . .

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . . Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

from the publisher

Perfect mom and wife, Cecilia, finds the letter in the beginning of the book but we don’t actually find out what’s in it until almost halfway through and that’s when this page-turner became difficult to put down. The beginning is us getting to know the three main women and their stories. As the uber-mom, I had a difficult time connecting with Cecilia (at least until the end when her emotions were the most heartfelt to me) because I don’t get that perfection. I find motherhood all kinds of messy! And she ASKED her husband if she could open it!  Either open it or not, but don’t ask. For the record, I may have held on to it for a few days but I believe that I ultimately would have opened the letter, but I can be a nosy so that’s to be expected.  The most interesting question isn’t whether you’d open it, but what you’d do after you read it.  It’s a toughie and one that begs to be discussed with others!

Tess and Rachel were the other alternating storylines that intersect more and more as the story picks up steam.  Tess just found out that her husband and best friend from birth were in love with each other. As she hightailed it back to Sydney with her son, Rachel, the school secretary whose own daughter was murdered as a teen, was there to enroll him in school.  I liked Tess’s story best probably because I understood her social awkwardness, as many of us can.

This story addressed so many aspects of a woman’s life: marriage, secrets, infidelity, friendship and motherhood.  Tess and Cecilia had different marriage problems, but both came down to secrets and how much we really keep from and know our spouse.  By the end it was Cecilia’s marriage that was the most fascinating and that’s all I can say about that without giving anything away. The epilogue was like nothing I’ve read before and it elevated the already great story.

I am lucky.  This is my first Moriarty book so I still have more to read from this talented author.  Do yourself a favor and pick this one up.

This book was sent to me by the publisher.

Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson

Backseat SaintsBackseat Saints. Finished 6-9-13, 4/5 stars, fiction, 324 pages, pub. 2010

This one made my small list of books to read this year thanks to Staci (Life in the Thumb) since it made her favorite reads list for last year.  I’ve heard nothing but great things about Joshilyn Jackson so I was very excited to finally read one of her books.  She didn’t disappoint and I am looking forward to the ‘prequel’ Gods in Alabama.

Rose Mae Lolley’s mother disappeared when she was eight, leaving Rose with a heap of old novels and a taste for dangerous men. Now, as demure Mrs. Ro Grandee, she’s living the very life her mother abandoned. She’s all but forgotten the girl she used to be-teenaged spitfire, Alabama heartbreaker, and a crack shot with a pistol-until an airport gypsy warns Rose it’s time to find her way back to that brave, tough girl . . . or else. Armed with only her wit, her pawpy’s ancient .45, and her dog Fat Gretel, Rose Mae hightails it out of Texas, running from a man who will never let her go, on a mission to find the mother who did. (Goodreads)

Rose Mae grew up knowing how to make men take notice.  Unfortunately, once they noticed she undoubtedly chose the one that would hurt her the most, just like her daddy.  Years after Rose Mae escaped Alabama and settled in Texas with Thom, the man whose hands forced more than one trip to the emergency room, she came face to face with a gypsy, telling her the future was kill or be killed.  Ro had always suspected that was her truth and realized the time had come to do something about it.

I don’t know a Rose Mae, or if I do I don’t know it.  Her life choices were foreign to me but I was rooting for her to find a different path, to make a change that would give her a future.  I like that Rose and Thom’s marriage was shown with the good stuff as much as the bad. But the joy of this book was that this was only the first journey of her story.  When Rose decided to face her past so that she could make a future the story became so much more than an abused wife tragedy.

It took me a little while to get into this book.  I liked it but it wasn’t compulsive reading until the end and then I devoted a whole Gage nap to finish it.  The end (as improbable as it was) was memorable and satisfying.  I recommend it and look forward to seeing Rose Mae in Gods in Alabama.

This was from my personal library.

D is for Darin Strauss, Half A Life

Blogging from A-Z

Half a LifeFinished 3-30-13, rating 3/5, memoir, 207 pages, pub. 2010

Half my life ago, I killed a girl.

(first line)

When Darin was 18 years old he was driving his friends around and he hit a girl who was riding a bike.  The girl went to his high school.  How does Darin go on and live his life?  What about the family of the victim?  What is the price to be paid for taking a life, intended or not?  I can’t even imagine the horror and the aftermath.  How do you pick up the pieces and move on?  That’s why I wanted to read this memoir.

I’m of two minds on this one.  I wanted to like it more than I did.  I wanted feel more for Darin than I did. But, to quote Darin, “I’m not sure I can get across just how much I want to be extra generous to Celine here.  Extra-generous and, you’ve probably noticed, extra-writerly.  It’s a coward’s tactic.  I’m trying to write all the difficulty away.” (p. 58)  For me, there was too much writing and not enough depth.  The accident was not his fault, but this memoir needs to convince the reader of this fact.   It felt more like catharsis for Darin.  He mentioned more than once in the book that he was putting on a show for people, doing what he thought they expected to see and that’s how I felt about the book.  It felt less like a serious evaluation of what happened and what it did to his life than a book to absolve him of guilt.

On the other hand, there were insightful passages like this one, “Through all this, there was the courthouse threat of financial devastation-a thief taking up onious position outside every job, every apartment, rubbing his hands together.  Everything could at any moment be taken away because of the Zilkes, snatched from under me, desks pulled from my fingers.  Her parents had found a very real way, I realized, to keep Celine with me forever. (p.103) Extra-writerly or not I would have welcomed more passages like this.

Having never gone through anything remotely close to this I feel bad for my complaints.  Ignore everything I just said.

This was from my own library.

Work Song by Ivan Doig

Work SongFinished audio 12-22-11, rating 4/5, fiction, pub. 2010

Unabridged audio 9 hours.  Narrated by Jonathan Hogan.

This is the sequel to The Whistling Season, but is a perfectly fine stand alone novel.

Morrie Morgan shows up in Butte, Montana in the early 1900’s, without friends, a job, or even a change of clothes.  He finds work as funeral crier and a place to live with a widow and two boarders and begins to carve out a life for himself while running from his past. 

Butte is a mining city and Anaconda Copper company owns the city, much to the miners dismay.  Morrie starts working at the library and is mistaken for an instigator by Anaconda goons and is forced to take sides.  He sides with his new friends and goes a step further by helping the union workers find ammunition to use against the company.

There is a nice story and it moves along at a good pace.  I appreciated the lyrcal and humorous writing.  The slyness kept the story fresh.  The story of the big company versus the minions is very topical and added an extra layer of recognition to the story.

I loved the narration.  Hogan had a Steve Martin quality to his voice that I loved.  He really made me think that I could hang out with Morrie for a while.  At least before he took off to parts unknown again.

I enjoyed this visit to Montana.

I checked this audio out of the library.


The Empty Chair, by Jeffery Deaver

Cover ImageFinished 11-12-08, rating 4/5, fiction, pub. 2000

“You have movement of one lumbrical- the ring finger of your left hand- and good shoulder and neck muscle control.  You could lose some or all of that.  And lose your ability to breathe spontaneously.”  -Chapter 2

Lincoln Rhymes and Amelia Sachs are back in book three of this popular series.

Lincoln is in North Carolina for a risky spinal cord surgery and he’s brought Amelia and his aide, Thom, with him.  Lincoln is hoping for any small improvement and Amelia is discouraging him from taking the risk.  The local sheriff, a cousin of a NY friend, asks Lincoln to help with a kidnapping case in the few days he has before he goes under the knife.  Garrett, Insect Boy to locals, has kidnapped two girls and Lincoln and Amelia work with local authorities to track him down.  Once in jail, Amelia is drawn to Garrett’s vulnerability and becomes convinced of his innocence.  She makes a decision that will change her life forever and pit her against Lincoln.

I cannot say enough good things about this series and this one was a nice change of pace.  It focused more on the relationship between Lincoln and Amelia and the southern locale offered a colorful backdrop to the story.  That said, this was my least favorite of the three so far.  There were too many people involved in excessive twists and turns.  I still recommend, but start with the first one, The Bone Collector.

Finding Grace: The Face of America’s Homeless, photographer Lynn Blodgett

The Face of America's HomelessFinished 9-26-08, rating 3/5, photography, pub. 2007

This is a coffee table book with a social conscience attached.  Blodgett went around the country to a dozen different cities and visited homeless shelters so he could photograph the people who used them to survive.  The photographs are all in black and white and he lets the photos alone tell the story.  I felt that he could have included more details about the people.  The photographs compelled me to want to know more, which may be the point, but it was a little unsatisfying.

The forward had some interesting statistics about the homeless (I wish I could include them, but I’ve lost the paper I wrote them down on) and it was heartbreaking to read how many are children, families, and women escaping abusive relationships.

I think this book is perfectly timed.  With the current forclosure rates and the state of our ecnomy as a whole, I think only more of our fellow citizens will be joining the plight of the homeless. 

This is not a book to lift your spirits or rattle of numbers and stories about the homeless.  This is a book to look into the faces of the forgotten, to appreciate what you have, and then to question how you might be able to help those people who need it.

This would probably be a great gift for photographers.

The Blue Hour, by T. Jefferson Parker

Cover ImageFinished 7-1-08, rating 3/5, thriller, pub. 2000

“Use the years to live well.”    Chapter 35

Retired detective, Tim Hess, is asked to come back to work as a consultant.  Hess is taking chemo and radiation treatments and will be forced to take orders from a young, brash detective that has just sued her last partner for sexual harassment.   He takes the job and is hoping to pass on his years of wisdom to his partner, Merci.  Merci, for her part, is an ambitious woman who has not yet figured out how to play well with others.  They are tracking a serial killer and using the time to learn what each other has to offer.

I liked Hess, but not Merci.  I thought the mystery was good and moved fast.  I did not really like the last chapter, it didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the book.  I didn’t love it, but it was good.  This is the first in a series just about Merci and I’m curious to see if she softens enough for me to really like her as the series progresses.  We’ll see.