Book review and giveaway: Dog Days of Summer

Book: Dog Days of Summer

Author: Kathleen Y’Barbo

Genre: Christian/Mystery/Romance Fiction

Release date: October 2022

Trina Potter, Nashville country music star, buys a ranch near her hometown in Brenham, Texas, to help her niece open a rescue facility for dogs. Her presence in town stirs up some old high school rivalries—and romance. Finding property to buy is a challenge, convincing her mother to move there with her is daunting, and navigating a string of strange accidents is perplexing. Sometimes Trina feels like she’s purchased her own three ring circus instead of a beautiful piece of land. But her first priority will be figuring out who wants Second Chance Ranch shut down before they even have the grand opening.

Click here to get your copy!






MY REVIEW

If you are looking for a cozy mystery with entertaining characters, then Dog Days of Summer is a good choice.

The book starts off pulling you into the story with characters who are downhome, even though one is a famous country singer.

This is the second book in the series, but you don’t have to read the first one to know what is happening in this one.

Y’Barbo writes characters who are very relatable.

A few sections dragged a little bit for me, but that’s merely my opinion. Other readers may not mind a little meandering. I felt that there could have been a bit more information about the main character’s singing career but that’s because I was interested, not because there was anything wrong with how it was written. I wasn’t a huge fan of how the love story was tossed in there as a plot point. It didn’t feel flushed out to me. The love story and the ending felt rushed to me but other readers may feel the pacing was just fine. Overall, this was a clean, cozy story that left me with a happy feeling at the end.

About the Author

Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee and bestselling author of more than one hundred books with over two million copies of her books in print in the US and abroad. A tenth-generation Texan and certified paralegal, she is a member of the Texas Bar Association Paralegal Division, Texas A&M Association of Former Students and the Texas A&M Women Former Students (Aggie Women), Texas Historical Society, Novelists Inc., and American Christian Fiction Writers. She would also be a member of the Daughters of the American Republic, Daughters of the Republic of Texas and a few others if she would just remember to fill out the paperwork that Great Aunt Mary Beth has sent her more than once.

When she’s not spinning modern day tales about her wacky Southern relatives, Kathleen inserts an ancestor or two into her historical and mystery novels as well. Recent book releases include bestselling The Pirate Bride set in 1700s New Orleans and Galveston, its sequel The Alamo Bride set in 1836 Texas, which feature a few well-placed folks from history and a family tale of adventure on the high seas and on the coast of Texas. She also writes (mostly) relative-free cozy mystery novels for Guideposts Books.

Kathleen and her hero in combat boots husband have their own surprise love story that unfolded on social media a few years back. They make their home just north of Houston, Texas and are the parents and in-laws of a blended family of Texans, Okies, and one very adorable Londoner.

More from Kathleen

Do you love dogs…or cats…or both…? I’m firmly in the “both” category. Since childhood I’ve always lived in homes that had at least one or the other, usually several of each. With every dog or cat comes at least one good story. One of my favorites is the tale of Bandit, the inspiration for the cover of my cozy mystery DOG DAYS OF SUMMER.

Once upon a time there was a black and white dog named Bandit. He was an English Springer Spaniel by birth but was completely convinced he was human. Bandit loved his people—three growing boys and a baby girl—even more than he loved popcorn and playing keep away (his version of catch). After many years, Bandit’s people grew up and he grew old. Toward the end of his very long and pampered life, he was plagued by the unwanted and yet much appreciated friendship of an ornery orange-striped cat named Baby and a snooty pedigreed feline named Fifi.

Everyone loved Bandit…except the territorial squirrel who lived in a tree in our backyard in Southeast Texas. From the moment Bandit joined the family, the furry fellow was determined to rid himself and his backyard of the trespassing canine. The squirrel’s favorite tactic was to tease Bandit until the dog chased him up a tree. Once treed, the crafty critter would run around the trunk just out of Bandit’s reach. Once the squirrel tired of this, it would retreat to a limb. There, the battle of the backyard beasts would commence again but with the squirrel lobbing pinecones and the dog trying to catch them.

While every good story has a beginning, middle and end, unfortunately at the end of this one there was no winner in the dog vs. squirrel wars. A job transfer led us to Houston where squirrels were in abundance in our new neighborhood but none of them were nearly as much fun as the one Bandit left behind. The last time I spoke with the owners of our old house, they told the funniest story: they loved their new home, but there was this squirrel in the backyard that kept throwing pinecones at everyone.

In DOG DAYS OF SUMMER, I tell the story of another Texas backyard. This one is located in Brenham, Texas, and it is about to become a very special place for some very special dogs named Patsy and Cline. Have I mentioned these dogs belong to a country singer named Trina who has a mother named Mama Peach who happens to own a cat named Hector that dislikes almost everyone and can open doors? Then there’s the problem of the next door neighbor and his penchant to forget to close the lid on his grill when he’s cooking? Did I mention that Patsy and Cline enjoy nothing more than whatever they happen to find on an unguarded grill? While the two furry scoundrels are rounding up trouble next door, there is even more trouble happening at the building site for Second Chance Ranch Dog Rescue on the other side of the property. Apparently not everyone is happy about the new neighbors. The mystery is who that person might be. While you’ve got to read DOG DAYS OF SUMMER to find out, I can give you one hint: it’s not the squirrel!

I’ve told you mine; now tell me your favorite dog or cat story. I can’t wait to read them.

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Kathleen is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon e-gift card and a print copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/2244a/dog-days-of-summer-celebration-tour-giveaway

Book review/recommendation: The Do Over by Sharon M. Peterson

Book: The Do Over

Author: Sharon M. Peterson

Genre: Romantic Comedy/romance

DESCRIPTION:

“Look, you’re a nice girl but I don’t think we should see each other anymore.” The voicemail ends and I freeze in the dentist’s chair as I realize… I’ve just been dumped on live radio.

It took the most humiliating break-up for me to see that my life is in serious need of a do-over. Cue my anti New Year’s resolutions that even I can’t fail at:

  1. Stop dating. (Men are the worst.)
  2. Stop trying to lose weight. (I’m never giving up chocolate.)
  3. Stop working so hard. (Selling mortgages is not my dream career.)
  4. Stop trying to live up to unrealistic expectations. (Start living my best life.)
  5. Stop trying to please my mother. (It’s not possible.)


But it turns out number five is harder than I thought, as she begins her campaign to get me back with my ex. So, what’s the perfect solution to keep her out of my love life? An imaginary boyfriend—at least he was supposed to be imaginary until I blurted out my neighbor’s name…

Nate, the bad boy next door with gorgeous hazel eyes, a razor-sharp jawline and a mysterious scar, might be hot, but he’s definitely not my boyfriend. Now all I need to do is stick to my resolutions while also keeping my interfering family away from my non-existent lover who has no idea that we’re fake dating. What could possibly go wrong?

MY REVIEW:

The Do Over by Sharon Peterson is the second romantic-comedy book I’ve read this year with this title but this particular version was a lot more fun, with a much more likable main character and love interest. Not only that but the icing on the cake was a sassy, Southern grandma who kept the humor level all the way to the top.

This book was a fun read, and I needed a fun read with all the stress in the world these days. It kept me hooked from the beginning and even though a couple of parts were a little predictable, they were predictable in an entertaining way. The main character’s full name was definitely not predictable but I’ll let you read the book to find out the story behind that.

Peterson promised a fun ride from page one and delivered on that promise all the way through. If a writer can make a dentist appointment a hook to pull this reader right into their book, then they have some talent. I hate dentist appointments, but I carried on through that first chapter because I just had to know what happened.

Every character Peterson introduced was likable or interesting in their own way, from the main to the minor supporting characters.

I’m not always a fan of the “fake boyfriend” trope in romance novels but Peterson handled it in a realistic way that didn’t leave me rolling my eyes.

She also managed to weave in social issues without making them preachy or letting them weigh the book down with unnecessary heaviness for a romantic comedy.

If you are looking for a fun, fast read that will leave you with a smile and make you forget your problems for a little bit, then this is a book I encourage you to pick up and immerse yourself in.

Book Recommendation: Mama, Sing My Song

Book Title: Mama, Sing My Song

Author: Amanda Seibert

Genre: Children’s

Release Date: September 2022

Description:

Mama, Sing My Song is a children’s book about God’s big love, giving families affirming words to shower on their kids, revealing the bright joy, deep care, and unending love they have in their hearts. Amanda Seibert, founder of Mama Sing My Song, the popular company that creates personalized songs for parents to gift to their children, knows that the words we speak over our little ones can shape them for years to come. 

When we look at our children, we see those one-in-a-million grins, their crinkled noses, and sweet eyes looking back at us, which soften our hearts. God designed those babies uniquely, and Mama, Sing My Song is a celebration of all that is lovely and true about your child. Let your little ones know they are safe, loved, and cherished in your family.

This affirming book for 4- to 8-year-olds.

My review

This beautiful children’s book captured my heart and my and 7-year-old daughter’s attention with the beautiful words and beautiful illustrations. The message was heartwarming and instills such an important message in our children — that they are God’s work of art. No matter what others say about them, they are made in God’s image and God loves them, protects them, and watches over them.

I absolutely love how the front and back of the book provide spaces to personalize the book to your child with headings such as “wonderful qualities I see in you”, “my hopes and dreams for your life,” “the special meaning of your name,” etc.

This isn’t just a children’s book. It is a child’s keepsake, something I feel like children will hold on to remember that their parents love them, and God does as well.

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

Little Miss’s Reading Corner: Silly, spooky, and grasshopper books

Little Miss and I took a trip to the library a couple of weeks ago and she picked out some books for us to read together. I thought I’d share a few from our stack today for her Reading Corner. I took photos of the fronts of the books, but our library puts the barcode right over the titles, which I find terribly annoying as someone who likes to photograph what I’m reading. Silly, I know. I suppose I’ll get over it. Sigh.

Little Miss wanted something “spooky” even though she doesn’t usually like spooky stuff. She said she would read it during the day. So we grabbed a book called simply The Spooky Book by Steve Patschke and illustrated by Matthew McElligott.

It was a very cute book about a boy reading a spooky book that is about a girl reading a spooky book at the same time. When something happens in the book, it happens to the boy too.

It’s a fun book that insists a book can’t scare you while it scares the people reading it. We thought it was very cute.

Next Little Miss picked a book about dragons because she loves dragon stories.

Dragons Are Real by Holly Hatam is a board book probably meant for younger readers and those less discerning about dragons because Little Miss kept correcting the lore within its pages saying “that’s not true,” or “dragons don’t do that” when she disagreed with the declarations made inside it.

Overall we enjoyed the book, however, because the illustrations were very colorful.

 

I picked out Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang and illustrated by Max Long (brother and sister) and we both ended up really liking it, partly because the illustrations featured extra creatures in the images, hanging out on trees and in leaves, etc.

The story is about a monkey who is grumpy but doesn’t know why and tries his best to be happy for everyone who keeps telling him he needs to be happy.

The message is that sometimes we are grumpy and it’s okay and we don’t have to figure out why we are grumpy. As long as we aren’t mean to others while we are grumpy. That’s not okay.

I placed The Ant and The Grasshopper by Luli Gray and illustrated by Giuliano Ferri on hold as part of our grasshopper unit.

This was a very cute book about an ant who prepared for the winter and a grasshopper who didn’t and how the ant helped the grasshopper and they became friends.

Little Miss has been fascinated with grasshoppers lately, including catching them in the backyard and running to me to show me what she’s caught.

We also signed out a book about dinosaurs and another one about grasshoppers, but haven’t had a chance to read them yet.

Hopefully we will get to them this week before they are due.

So that’s what Little Miss has been reading. How about you?

Book Recommendation with Celebrate Lit Tours: Far From Home by Mabel Ninan

About the Book

Book: Far From Home

Author: Mabel Ninan

Genre: Christian / Non-Fiction / Spiritual Growth

Release date: July 12, 2022

What is my purpose? Why do I exist? A sense of self and belonging are two questions many of us struggle to answer.

And what if you are a foreigner in another land?

How does one adjust to a new culture? Discover their place in a new society?

For Mabel Ninan, born and raised in India and an immigrant in America shortly after marriage, the search for those answers sent her on a journey that led to an unexpected and exciting discovery.

God revealed she was not only an earthly immigrant but also a spiritual one, created with a unique calling to impact His kingdom. Mabel’s renewed perspective imbued her with joy and hope, urging her to share the message with others.

Drawing from her personal experiences and by examining the lives of biblical heroes, Mabel sheds light on what it means to live as a citizen of Heaven on earth. Far from Home will inspire you to:

  • Embrace your identity as a foreigner on earth.
  • Make your home with God.
  • Find community and common purpose with fellow sojourners.

Explore the intersection between culture, identity, and faith in this new release from an earthly immigrant who gained a spiritual perspective.

Click here to get your copy!

My Thoughts

Far From Home by Mabel Ninan is a meaningful, inspirational, and powerful devotional written from the perspective of a woman who was a physical immigrant to the United States, but who also recognizes that humans are spiritual immigrants in a world we do not belong in.

Mabel Ninan moved to the United States from India in 2008 with her husband and was thrown into an unfamiliar world. There were days that her only comfort was Jesus who she’d known her whole life after being brought up in the church in a minority Christian community in India. Over the years, Mabel has lived in different countries and on different continents and no matter where she goes, she has found that Jesus is her one constant.

 During her time of adjustment in the States in 2008, during her first move with her husband and family, she came to know Jesus in an even more intimate way, leaning on him during a time when she was lost, confused, and lonely.

The lessons she learned during that time are captured in this wonderful devotional that reminds all Christians about their need to call out and reach for Jesus instead of material things which will not sustain them during the hardest times in their lives.

The words of encouragement in this devotional came at the perfect time for me. I was given a free copy of the book in exchange for a review but was not required to give a positive review. I have no problem giving a positive review, however, because this devotional helped me remember that even when I feel like I don’t fit in with others, I do fit in with God.  

This devotional’s main focus is to remind us that our identity is in Christ and not in what we, or others, believe our identity to be.

 I thought I’d take a moment to share a personal reason for choosing to review this book. I had a good friend named Rev. Charles Reynolds who was a Christian missionary to India for over 50 years. He brought Indian tea home with him and had it stored in his and his wife Maud’s shed in a small town near where I grew up for years. One day I stopped by and I was suffering from a cold. He offered me a cup of tea and said tea solves a myriad of problems, including illness. I didn’t believe him but after a few moments of sipping the tea, I did actually feel better.

He often told me stories about his time in India, once raised money for victims of an earthquake there, kept in contact with the women’s medical school he helped build up when a missionary there, and wrote a book about he and his wife’s time there. Over the years his stories and mission somehow made me feel like I had a connection to the Indian people. I enjoyed reading about Mabel’s journey partially because of this, but also because of my own struggles to find my identity in an often chaotic and uncertain world.

About the Author

Born and raised in the minority Christian community in India, Mabel moved to the US in 2008 shortly after getting married. In nearly thirteen years of her marriage, her family has called ten different places across two continents and seven cities home. The challenges Mabel faced as an immigrant on the move led to a spiritual crisis that drew her nearer to God’s side where she learned valuable lessons about how to live as a citizen of heaven. Her mission is to inspire believers to embrace their pilgrim journey on earth and boldly pursue their heavenly calling.

A contributor to Guideposts’ All God’s Creatures: Daily Devotions for Animal Lovers 2022, Mabel’s writings have appeared in The Upper Room, CBN.com, Leading Hearts Magazine, and (in)courage.me. She hosts a YouTube podcast called Immigrant Faith Stories where she shares testimonies of immigrants, refugees, missionaries, and cross-cultural ministry leaders. She has been serving in various roles in women’s ministry for almost a decade.

Mabel enjoys reading, traveling, and dancing, but nothing gives her more joy than having conversations about the Bible.

Mabel is pursuing M.A. in Theological Studies from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. She lives with her husband, son, and Maltese pup in Northern California.

More from Mabel

When the idea of this book was birthed in 2018, I wanted to publish a collection of letters to my son. I wanted to keep a record of God’s faithfulness to me in a foreign country. How He became my all in all when I had nobody to call my own. How He gave me His all when I was empty. I hoped my stories and learnings would strengthen not only my son’s faith but also other immigrants like me. But God had a different plan for this book.

By 2019, the book underwent a complete change in its content and organization. It also targeted a different group of readers. I wrote for those who were coping with changes, those who wanted a deeper walk with God, those who found it difficult to belong or cling to hope in the midst of suffering, and those who were tired of going through the motions. My agent and I replaced the title of the book from This is not Home to Far from Home.

After facing rejecting from almost eight publishers, Far from Home found its home in Harambee Press, an imprint of Iron Stream Media that publishes ethnic writers. I was thrilled!

Far from Home is a nonfiction book but it is also part memoir. I’ve described what life was like growing up in India and I also recount a few experiences as an immigrant in the U.S. What makes Far from Home unique is also that the book introduces the reader to another culture, the Indian/South Asian culture. Some parts of the book read like a devotional while others are rich in biblical character studies and teaching.

Overall, I feel the book reflects who I am—an Indian, an America, an Indian-American, a storyteller, an immigrant, and a Bible teacher—though that was not my aim. I find it fascinating that I could be myself and tell my stories and use all aspects of my identity to declare the goodness and greatness of God.

There is a need for more diversity in our stories. I’m not saying this because diversity is the new buzz world these days. We need diverse voices and ways of worship because they reveal God’s power, beauty, and creativity. Testimonies from other cultures can open our eyes to a new way of experiencing God and His Word. They engage our brains and touch our hearts in a unique way. Reading books by diverse authors can enlarge our capacity for empathy, push back our defenses, and even turn our fear of the unknown into appreciation.

I hope my writing helps you see God from a different lens, a different angle. I hope it makes you want to read books by authors from varied cultures, races, and ethnicities.

And my desire, more than anything else, is that Far from Home convinces you that you’re never really far from home. In the triune God, you always have a home here on earth while you await a better one in heaven. A home that will be shared with people from all nations, tongues, and tribes.

Blog Stops

Texas Book-aholic, September 1

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, September 2

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, September 3

A Reader’s Brain, September 4

Beauty in the Binding, September 5 (Author Interview)

Boondock Ramblings, September 5

Inklings and notions, September 6

deb’s Book Review, September 7

Locks, Hooks and Books, September 8

Simple Harvest Reads, September 9 (Author Interview)

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, September 10

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, September 11

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, September 12

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, September 13

Jodie Wolfe – Stories Where Hope and Quirky Meet, September 14 (Author Interview)

Mary Hake, September 14

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Mabel is giving away the grand prize package of a Paperback copy of book, customized notepad and bookmark (these eco-friendly products made by rural artisans in India help sustain endangered art forms and secure livelihoods), access to digital resources (recipe booklet, teaching videos, and audio prayers), and a $30 Amazon gift card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/21362/far-from-home-celebration-tour-giveaway

Book Tour with Celebrate Lit: The Heart of the Mountains by Pepper Basham

About the Book

Book: The Heart of the Mountains

Author: Pepper Basham

Genre: Christian Fiction / Romance

Release date: July 1, 2022

Can their hearts overcome the darkness of the mountains?

To escape a forced marriage, Cora Taylor travels from England to the Blue Ridge Mountains in search of her brother, who is working as a teacher in a mission school. She hopes to find a place where her nursing skills and independent ideas will be accepted and appreciated, but nothing prepares her for the wild mixture of isolation, community, brokenness, and hope within these mountains…or in the person of Jeb McAdams.

Returning from the devastation of World War 1 emotionally damaged, Jeb McAdams struggles against the rampant mountain alcoholism to soothe his nightmares. It’s easy to hide within the mountains, or it was, before Cora Taylor arrived. Now, she seems to show up at every turn, bringing her modern ideas, curiosity, and beautiful eyes with her.

Bound by their shared war history, the pair develop an unlikely friendship, which unexpectedly hints to something more. But when Cora’s desire to help the women of the mountains crosses an unspoken line, will Jeb be able to protect this feisty flatlander from the wrath of the mountain men or will he end up losing much more than his heart?

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

If you are a fiction of historical fiction and historical romance, then Pepper Basham is the author for you, and her latest, The Heart of the Mountains, will have you hooked from the beginning.

I connected with the two main characters early on and felt like I needed their lives to turn out okay after all they had been through before the book even started and then went through during the book.

There was non-stop action and a variety of interesting characters which transformed what could have been a simple run-of-the-mill, cookie-cutter inspirational romance book into a novel with depth, complexity, and heartfelt tenderness.

There were quite a few side characters in this two-person point of view book. Crisis after crisis popped up involving each of the side characters, which could have been a bit confusing at times but wasn’t because it kept the booking moving along at a speed just fast enough to hold my interest but not too fast to make my head spin in confusion. Basham kept the characters straight for the readers like a true professional, balancing subplots like a well-trained literary juggler.

About the Author

Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes romance peppered with grace and humor with southern Appalachian flair. Both her historical and contemporary novels have garnered recognition in the Grace Awards, Inspys, and ACFW Carol Awards. Her historical romance, The Thorn Healer, was a finalist in the 2018 RT Awards. Her historical romance novels, My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge and The Red Ribbon, and her contemporary novels, the Mitchell’s Crossroads and Pleasant Gap series, showcase her Appalachian heritage, as well as her love for humor and family. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC where she is the mom of five great kids, a speech-language pathologist to about fifty more, and a lover of chocolate, jazz, hats, and Jesus.

You can learn more about Pepper at her website http://www.pepperdbasham.com or connect with her on FB, IG, or Twitter.

More from Pepper

It’s so interesting how one idea can influence an entire series, or…how one person’s story can.

The idea for The Heart of the Mountains started in Laurel’s Dream with a hint of a family history story about a girl named Kizzie. (Someday, I hope to bring Kizzie’s story to the pages of a book). From there, the idea began to grow out of a love for my Appalachian culture into a series of books which highlighted (and fictionalized) stories from my family history.

The main story in The Heart of the Mountains is about Jeb and Cora, two different people with similar servant hearts, but the secondary story that touched me so much was the one based on my great grandfather’s life. I write about it in the Author’s Note at the end of the novel, so I won’t go into detail about it. However, what I loved getting to do is bring the truth of God’s redemption in my great grandfather’s life…to life again.

I never knew “Papa Rat”. I only knew the stories handed down to me by my granny and my mama, but in writing this story, I feel as though I had a tiny opportunity to “meet” him in these pages. He was a gruff mountain man with a broken past which led him to make a whole lot of broken choices, but his story is incredibly encouraging, because it points to the God of broken people. My great grandpa wasn’t left in his brokenness, but, after years of running away from God, he would later recount that God pursued him. The beauty of Sam McAdams’ journey in The Heart of the Mountains is only a little glimpse into what I imagine my great grandpa’s redemption story looked like.

Because my great grandpa was forever changed when Jesus saved him (as any of us should be).

I think that’s what my granny and her siblings (and even “Papa Rat” himself) would want most -that his story would point to Jesus. I hope that’s what you see when you read about Sam McAdams in The Heart of the Mountains.

Have you ever read a book based on family history? One of my favorites is Catherine Marshall’s Christy.

Blog Stops

Bizwings Blog, July 28

Rachael’s Inkwell, July 28

Bigreadersite, July 28

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, July 29

Texas Book-aholic, July 29

Inklings and notions, July 30

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, July 30

Boondock Ramblings, July 30

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, July 31

Reading With Emily, July 31

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, July 31 (Author Interview)

lakesidelivingsite, August 1

Where Crisis & Christ Collide, August 1

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, August 1

Daysong Reflections, August 2

deb’s Book Review, August 2

Live. Love. Read., August 2

Betti Mace, August 3

Book Looks by Lisa, August 3

Locks, Hooks and Books, August 3

Remembrancy, August 4

For Him and My Family, August 4

Blossoms and Blessings, August 4

Mypreciousbitsandmusings, August 5

By the Book, August 5

Wishful Endings, August 5

For the Love of Literature, August 6

Books, Books and More Books, August 6

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, August 6

Connie’s History Classroom, August 7

SodbusterLiving, August 7

Splashes of Joy, August 7

Where Faith and Books Meet, August 8

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, August 8

Back Porch Reads, August 9

Through the Fire Blogs, August 9

Pause for Tales, August 9

Labor Not in Vain, August 10

Miriam Jacob, August 10

To Everything There Is A Season, August 10

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Pepper is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon e- gift card and a paperback copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/20389/the-heart-of-the-mountains-celebration-tour-giveaway

Book recommendation: Walking In Tall Weeds by Robin W. Pearson

Book title: Walking in Tall Weeds

Author: Robin W. Pearson

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: July 19, 2022

Description:

From award-winning author Robin W. Pearson comes a new Southern family drama about one family who discovers their history is only skin-deep and that God’s love is the only family tie that binds.

Paulette and Fred Baldwin find themselves wading through a new season of life in Hickory Grove, North Carolina. Their only son, McKinley, now works hundreds of miles away, and the distance between the husband and wife feels even farther. When their son returns home, his visit dredges up even more conflict between Fred and Paulette.

McKinley makes it no secret that he doesn’t intend to follow in his father’s footsteps at George & Company Fine Furnishings or otherwise. Fred can’t quite bring himself to accept all his son’s choices, yet Paulette is determined McKinley will want for nothing, least of all a mother’s love and attention—which her own skin color cost her as a child. But all her striving leaves Fred on the outside looking in.

Paulette suspects McKinley and Fred are hiding something that could change the whole family. Soon, she’s facing a whirlwind she never saw coming, and the three of them must dig deep to confront the truth. Maybe then they’ll discover that their history is only skin-deep while their faith can take them right to the heart of things.

My Thoughts:

With Walking in Tall Weeds, Robin W. Pearson once again takes readers on a journey with characters who are easy to love despite their flaws.

Walking in Tall Weeds is the third book I have written by Robin W. Pearson, which is fitting since it is the third book she has written.

Each time I read one of her books I am pulled into a world that I am both familiar and unfamiliar with. Her characters feel like people I know, partially because they are from the South and my mom’s family is from the South, but also because Robin is so amazing at writing characters who are multi-dimensional and well-rounded.

Robin details each part of her characters’ personalities in deeply personal and creative ways which creates a warm and nurturing environment for their stories to be told.

Each time I read one of Robin’s books, I am drawn to the main characters. In A Long Time Comin’ I related to Evelyn and felt like maybe Robin had been reading my private journals before she flushed out her character. In ‘Til I Want Not More I didn’t understand Maxine at first, but as I continued to read and think about her, I realized I was a lot like her as well. In Walking in Tall Weeds, though, I share so much of Paulette’s personality it was almost like looking in a soul mirror. When she did, said, or thought certain things I thought, “Oh my. That’s me.” This was both a good and a bad realization depending on the moment Paulette was in the midst of.

This book definitely touches on the evil of racism, but it is not overly dark or the only theme of this emotionally rich novel.

Robin has a way of dealing with the tough issues with a little bit of humor and a whole lot of love.

Walking In Tall Weeds is a book that intertwines a number of challenges — both family and social — but at the ultimate center of it all is how humans relate to each other.

Some readers might call this a book that focuses on a societal issue and yes, that is one aspect of this book, but the main, undercurrent focus of this book is relationships. To steal a quote from the author, this is a book that asks,  “How do we love others well, through all the different stages of life? Husbands, wives, extended family, children, friends, enemies, co-workers, ourselves?”

Robin’s writing makes you think deeply about what her characters are going through but also how to tackle those same issues in your own life. 

Giveaway:

If you’d like to win an autographed copy of Walking in Tall Weeds please enter the giveaway on my Instagram today through Friday.

Book recommendation: Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. A story of loving food, working in restaurants, and traveling the world.

Reading Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain was bittersweet because no matter what the ending of the book was, I already knew the ultimate ending of Bourdain’s story was not happy. The ending of his life, unlike the ending of this book, was not a look into what the future might hold for him. Instead, Bourdain’s future, sadly, stopped being something for him to look forward to when he committed suicide in 2018.

Maybe this is why I felt such sadness when I hit the end of the book. Not only were the fun stories now over, but I had to remember that Bourdain’s life is too. While reading the book, I could easily forget that he was no longer here to create more adventures for us to read about or watch on one of his many travel shows. He was alive in those pages, in his early days of cooking, in those first restaurants he worked in and learned his craft and fell in love with food in.  

This was Bourdain’s first non-fiction book and broke his career wide open. I read it in sections with a lot of breaks in between, not because it was boring, but because it was full of technical restaurant and foodie jargon that was sometimes a bit overwhelming but also very interesting. I was also distracted by a couple of other books during that time because sometimes I have book ADD and because there were times while I was reading it that I was in the mood for fiction rather than non-fiction.

If you are looking for a clean, polished view of the restaurant industry then this is not the book for you. This is a book that details sordid behind-the-scenes looks at what happens in the kitchens of some of the best, and worst, restaurants in the United States. It is not clean by any means, with plenty of swear words (but not so many your head spins, with the exception of one chapter, which I skipped because it was simply a liturgy of all the horrible things chefs and their staff say to, and call, each other, complete with all the four-letter words they use), several stories of eye widening debauchery, and plenty of references to drug use by Bourdain and many others. Thankfully, Bourdain had his drug abuse under control, other than alcohol, before this book was published and maybe before it was even written.

In Kitchen Confidential Bourdain writes about the many characters he worked with in the industry over the years, including those who eventually would serve as his sous chef (assistants), as well as the ins and outs of running a fine-dining, high-end restaurant. The book isn’t all memoir, however. He also has a section for those who want to know how to cook better at home and what tools they need to do so. Equally interesting is an entire section on why he loves food and what eating it and cooking it means to him. To him food itself, not only the act of creating with it, was (is) art.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book include:  

“Only one in four has a chance at making it…. And right there, I knew that if one of us was getting off dope, and staying off dope, it was going to be me. I was going to live. I was the guy.”

“Eric Ripert won’t be calling me for ideas on tomorrow’s fish special. But I’m simply not going to deceive anybody about the life as I’ve seen it.” (I like this quote because in the end Eric and he became very close friends. So close, it was Eric who found him in his hotel room after he hung himself.)

“We are, after all, citizens of the world – a world filled with bacteria, some friendly, some not so friendly. Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonald’s? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, Senor Tamale Stand Owner, Sushi-chef-san, Monsieur Bucket-head. What’s that feathered game bird, hanging on the porch, getting riper by the day, the body nearly ready to drop off? I want some.”

From his list of restaurant tips for consumers: “I won’t eat in a restaurant with filthy bathrooms. This isn’t a hard call. They let you see the bathrooms. If the restaurant can’t be bothered to replace the puck in the urinals or keep the toilets and floors clean, then just imagine what their refrigeration and work spaces look like. Bathrooms are relatively easy to clean. Kitchens are not.”

And: “If the restaurant is clean, the cooks and the waiters well groomed, the dining room busy, everyone seems to actually care about what they’re doing — not just trying to pick up a few extra bucks between headshots and auditions for Days of Our Lives, chances are you are in for a decent meal. The owner, chef, and a bored-looking waiter sitting at the front table chatting about soccer scores? Plumber walking through the dining room with a toilet snake? Bad signs.”

I loved this part about vegans: Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter-faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living.  Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food. The body, these waterheads imagine, is a temple that should not be polluted by animal protein. It’s healthier, they insist, though every vegetarian waiter I’ve worked with is brought down by any rumor of a cold. Oh, I’ll accommodate them, I’ll rummage around for something to feed them, for a ‘vegetarian plate’, if called on to do so. Fourteen dollars for a few slices of grilled eggplant and zucchini suits my food cost fine.”

“Lying in bed and smoking my sixth or seventh cigarette of the morning, I’m wondering what the hell I’m going to do today. Oh yeah, I gotta write this thing. But that’s not work, really, is it? It feels somehow shifty and . . . dishonest, making a buck writing.”

The book ends with final words that choked me up, because life came at Bourdain fast after this book thanks to his wit, great writing, and talent at inspiring people to want to know more about food and culture.

“I’ll be right here. Until they drag me off the line. I’m not going anywhere. I hope. It’s been an adventure. We took some casualties over the years. Things got broken. Things got lost. But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

Where Bourdain thought he’d be when all was said and done wasn’t where he ended up when it really was all said and done. When he wrote the end of that book, he thought he’d be still on the line at the restaurant, still happy being there and maybe he would have been happy if he’d never left. Maybe he wouldn’t have been consumed by loneliness, depression, and a sense of detachment from those he loved. If he’d been home more, grounded either in his work or his family, maybe  . . . But who knows really.

Maybe his end still would have come the way it did, not with a bang like the kicking off of a career where he wrote about the culinary arts like in Kitchen Confidential but with a sad, heartbroken whimper not worthy of the full life he’d lived.

Anne Shirley quotes and loving it when my daughter “gets” a character I “get”

I love it when someone besides me understands a literary character who I love and it’s even better when that someone is my seven-and-a-half-year-old daughter.

I’ve mentioned before on my blog that Little Miss has been making me read the Little House on the Prairie books again and I’m not really enjoying reading them again because, well, they are a bit tedious at times and Ma drives me bonkers (she’s so rude and well, racist, at times. I still don’t think the whole series is racist, however, and I definitely think children should read them or have them read to them to learn more about life in the 1800s). I’ll write about Ma and her idiosyncrasies in a future post.

Recently I had convinced Little Miss to let me read Anne of Green Gables before bed instead, but sadly she seemed unable to fall asleep while I was reading that book, mainly because, as she said, “It wakes my brain up too much.”

I read the dialogue in the voices of the characters when I read to her, and I’ve watched the Anne of Green Gables movie (Canadian version only) so many times that I was really getting into it. I made Anne a little bit too hyper, but that’s how she is. Little Miss told me that she was too into the story to fall asleep and asked me to go back to Little House because it was “boring enough for me to fall asleep to.”

Earlier this week I had simply had had enough of Ma and told Little Miss I could read Anne but dull it down a little.

“I can make it boring,” I told her. “Make Anne sound boring. Less bouncy.”

She gasped. “No! You can’t do that!  You have to read it with Anne’s bouncy voice because Anne’s bouncy voice is what makes Anne, Anne!”

Oh gosh! She gets it! Anne’s personality is what makes Anne Anne and that’s really the point of the books, but especially the first one. The theme is that Anne is dramatic and silly and swoony and, well, wonderful, and Little Miss gets it!

I’ve really enjoyed reading the Anne series these last couple of months. It’s been comfort reading for me. While reading, I have written down or snapped photos on my phone of several quotes I have enjoyed the most. I thought I’d share some of my favorites here for you today.

Marilla felt more embarrassed than ever. She had intended to teach Anne the childish classic, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” But she had, as I have told you, the glimmerings of a sense of humor–which is simply another name for a sense of the fitness of things; and it suddenly occurred to her that simple little prayer, sacred to the white-robed childhood lisping at motherly knees, was entirely unsuited to this freckled witch of a girl who knew and cared nothing about God’s love, since she had never had it translated to her through the medium of human love.”―  Anne of Green Gables

“Having adventures comes natural to some people”, said Anne serenely. “You just have a gift for them or you haven’t.” Anne of Avonlea

“Oh, here we are at the bridge. I’m going to shut my eyes tight. I’m always afraid going over bridges. I can’t help imagining that perhaps, just as we get to the middle, they’ll crumple up like a jackknife and nip us. So I shut my eyes. But I always have to open them for all when I think we’re getting near the middle. Because, you see, if the bridge did crumple up I’d want to see it crumple. What a jolly rumble it makes! I always like the rumble part of it. Isn’t it splendid there are so many things to like in this world? There, we’re over. Now I’ll look back. Good night, dear Lake of Shining Waters. I always say good night to the things I love, just as I would to people. I think they like it. That water looks as if it was smiling at me.”
―  Anne of Green Gables

“Well, I don’t want to be anyone but myself, even if I go uncomforted by diamonds all my life,” declared Anne. “I’m quite content to be Anne of Green Gables, with my string of pearl beads.” — Anne of Green Gables

“Oh, Marilla, looking forward to things is half the pleasure of them,” exclaimed Anne. “You mayn’t get the things themselves; but nothing can prevent you from having the fun of looking forward to them. Mrs. Lynde says, ‘Blessed are they who expect nothing for they shall not be disappointed.’ But I think it would be worse to expect nothing than to be disappointed.” – Anne of Green Gables

“Well, we all make mistakes, dear, so just put it behind you. We should regret our mistakes and learn from them, but never carry them forward into the future with us.” – Anne of Avonlea

“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once, “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.” – Anne of Avonlea

“Yes, it’s beautiful,’ said Gilbert, looking steadily down into Anne’s uplifted face, ‘but wouldn’t it have been more beautiful still, Anne, if there had been no separation or misunderstanding . . . if they had come hand in hand all the way through life, with no memories behind them but those which belonged to each other?” – Anne of Avonlea

“When I think something nice is going to happen I seem to fly right up on the wings of anticipation; and then the first thing I realize I drop down to earth with a thud. But really, Marilla, the flying part is glorious as long as it lasts…it’s like soaring through a sunset. I think it almost pays for the thud.” – Anne of Avonlea

“Whenever you looked forward to anything pleasant you were sure to be more or less disappointed…that nothing ever came up to your expectations. Well, perhaps that is true. But there is a good side to it too. The bad things don’t always come up to your expectations either…they nearly always turn out ever so much better than you think.” -Anne of Avonlea

“It takes all sorts of people to make a world, as I’ve often heard, but I think there are some who could be spared,” — Anne of Avonlea

“There is so much in the world for us all if we only have the eyes to see it, and the heart to love it, and the hand to gather it to ourselves–so much in men and women, so much in art and literature, so much everywhere in which to delight, and for which to be thankful.” — Anne of the Island

“I am afraid to speak or move for the fear all this wonderful beauty will vanish just like a broken silence.” — Anne of the Island

That’s one of the things we learn as we grow older — how to forgive. It comes easier at forty than it did at twenty.” — Anne of the Island

People told her she hadn’t changed much, in a tone which hinted they were surprised and a little disappointed she hadn’t.” — Anne of the Island

“There is a book of Revelation in everyone’s life, as there is in the Bible.” — Anne of the Island

“Never write a line you’d be ashamed to read at your own funeral.” — Anne of the Island

“I’m going home to an old country farmhouse, once green, rather faded now, set among leafless apple orchards. There is a brook below and a December fir wood beyond, where I’ve heard harps swept by the fingers of rain and wind. There is a pond nearby that will be gray and brooding now. There will be two oldish ladies in the house, one tall and thin, one short and fat; and there will be two twins, one a perfect model, the other what Mrs. Lynde calls a ‘holy terror.’ There will be a little room upstairs over the porch, where old dreams hang thick, and a big, fat, glorious feather bed which will almost seem the height of luxury after a boardinghouse mattress. How do you like my picture, Phil?”

“It seems a very dull one,” said Phil, with a grimace.

“Oh, but I’ve left out the transforming thing,” said Anne softly. “There’ll be love there, Phil—faithful, tender love, such as I’ll never find anywhere else in the world—love that’s waiting for me. That makes my picture a masterpiece, doesn’t it, even if the colors are not very brilliant?”

Phil silently got up, tossed her box of chocolates away, went up to Anne, and put her arms about her. “Anne, I wish I was like you,” she said soberly.”
— Anne of the Island