Saturday, December 28, 2013

First Lines 2013

As 2013 draws to a close, I'm pleased to participate in an end-of-the-year meme, First Lines, for the fifth consecutive year.  Created by Melwyk from The Indextrious Reader, the idea of this meme is "to take the first line of each month's first post over the past year and see what it tells you about your blogging year."  First Lines provides a unique summary of a year in reading, and writing.  It's interesting to look back at posts from each month, and to review your blog in this manner.  I keep this meme in the back of my mind all year, as a reminder to write more compelling opening sentences, especially at the beginning of each month.  I created the graphics in this post on CoolText, a terrific graphics generator that's fun, free, and easy to use (don't worry, you can choose from a wide range of colors!).  Here are my first lines from the past year.


2013


January
Lines from a well-known nursery rhyme were stuck in my head. 

February
My mother was an avid reader of mysteries, and I'd often wish I could emulate her in this regard.

March
Well, at least we get a month, right?

April
Really, really random.

May
It ain't brain surgery.

June
Was Virginia Woolf a foodie?

July
Just one book, that's all it took, yeah 
Just one book. . .
(My apologies to The Hollies)

August
My stacks runneth over.

September
At times, reading a novel leads me to some sort of a project.

October
Are you afraid of clowns?

November
Geez!

December
It feels like Christmas!

So there you have it--my year of first lines!  If any of these opening sentences lure you in, simply click on the month above the first line to access the post. Thanks for reading, and have a safe and happy New Year!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Almost Always: Review and Giveaway

In spite of the holiday madness, I managed to carve out enough quiet time to read Almost Always by Bobbi Reed.  This is my last book review for 2013.

Published in 2012, Almost Always tells the story of fifty-four year old Eva Palmer, who's been married to John for thirty-four years.  The story begins when Eva overhears two teenagers talking in a booth at Bob Evans, a restaurant in Ohio.  Eva then initiates a conversation with a pregnant and distraught eighteen-year-old, Cecelia Rudgely.  Determined to find a baby for her daughter, Shelly, and a grandchild for herself, Eva's entranced by the idea that she could give the teenager's baby to Shelly, her daughter.  Shelly and her husband, Brad, have been trying unsuccessfully to start a family for several years, and are discouraged and disheartened,  Optimistic that things will work out, Eva embarks on a new mission, and befriends Cecelia, with the hope of giving her daughter a very precious gift--a baby.

I know we're all busy with the holidays, so I'll "cut to the chase".  Simply put, I loved this book.  I'm glad I chose to read it, because I enjoyed it greatly.  Almost Always is a well-written and believable story.  Although my words may sound clichéd, the story touched my heart, and made me laugh and cry.  (I actually cried quite a bit while reading this book.)

Eva may be meddlesome, but this protagonist was my favorite character, a homemaker and caregiver who genuinely cares about others.  I adored her character.  Eva stays true to character, as a caregiver who puts others first, and wishes to make them happy.  She also helps an elderly neighbor, Mrs. Darlene Hemley, an ailing, childless widow.  Throughout the book, which is written in the present tense, we're privy to Eva's private thoughts and feelings as a wife and mother, to her joys and doubts.  Naturally, she worries that Cecelia may ultimately decide to keep the baby.  Readers are kept in suspense, not knowing what Cecelia and her boyfriend, Jeremy, will decide to do after the baby's born.  I relished the side plots in the book, in particular Eva's husband's puzzling new hobby, making gingerbread houses from scratch, which seems feminine and out of character for him (he's a retired State Highway Patrol trooper).  Gradually, details about Eva's long marriage to John unfold throughout the pages, revealing the history of their marriage and family, which includes two adult children, Shelly and Scott. 

Almost Always is a love story of a different kind.  It's not about heady romance or glittering new love.  It's about seasoned love that has developed over the course of many years, through good times and bad. This book is about love at the very core of marriage and family, and how that love provides the courage to face each day.  I think Bobbi Reed's novel is fabulous, and highly recommend it, especially to readers who enjoy books that center around marriage and family.   

Wonderful news!  Author Bobbi Reed is generously offering an international giveaway for a copy of Almost Always (print copy, U.S.; ebook, elsewhere).

  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower.
  • For an additional chance, post about this contest on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.

Enter by 5 PM PST on Monday, January 6.  One winner will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, January 7.

Thanks to Bobbi Reed for sending me a complimentary copy of her book, and for offering a giveaway to my readers.  Your comments are welcomed, as always.  Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mailbox Monday

Aren't books and boxes beautiful?  I've combined the two in this iPhone photo because we've been getting fruit and other treats in stunning boxes this season in the mail.  Many of these boxes will be reused to hold ornaments and cards and other stuff.  Book wise, I received Wolfsangel by Liza Perrat from the author, and We by Michael Landweber for an upcoming TLC tour.


Something else arrived in the mail for the holidays, an adorable red sweater for Daisy, custom crocheted by Naida, the bookworm.

The color is bright, the fit is just right, and it keeps Daisy toasty warm.

The sweater works well with her harness, so it's perfect for walks! 

Created by Marcia from To Be Continued, Mailbox Monday is a fun, social meme that's been "on tour" for the past few years.  Gilion from Rose City Reader is the host for December.  What new books have you added to your collection recently?

Monday, December 9, 2013

The First Phone Call from Heaven

I'm crying as I type up this review.  For the past few years, I've kept a phone message from my mother from May of 2011. She passed away less than a month later, of cancer.  In the message, she's telling me that her most recent cancer treatment was okay.  She's reassuring me, as she often did. (After her first chemo treatment, about ten months earlier, she called me on my cell, to let me know that it was tolerable.)  Her message is definitely a "keeper", a connection to her that I want to save, forever.  When I need to hear my mother's voice, I listen to her last message.  The power of hearing someone's voice is very great, very real.

Something extraordinary happens in  The First Phone Call from Heaven, the new book by Mitch Albom, published in 2013.  The people of Coldwater, Michigan, begin to get phone calls from deceased loved ones.  Coldwater is just another ordinary small town, until the phone calls begin.  Phone calls from heaven.  

  • Tess Rafferty's deceased mother, Ruth, calls and leaves a message on the answering machine for her daughter.
  • Police chief Jack Sellers gets a call from his deceased son, Robbie, who tells him not to worry.
  • Katherine Yellin excitedly tells Pastor Warren that she's received a call from Diane, her deceased sister. 

This is just the beginning of the calls from heaven.  Initially the calls are met with shock and disbelief, but this changes into joy and anticipation and excitement as time goes on, for most of the recipients. They relish hearing the voices of their loved ones, and they relish their words. The deceased tell loved ones not to worry, that they are at peace, that heaven is magnificent. The dead are miraculously able to communicate, by phone, with their loved ones.

Katherine decides to share the amazing news and tells the congregation at the Harvest of Hope congregation about her phone calls from her sister, which began three weeks earlier.  She tells them that Diane's soul is alive in heaven, and that she's been calling regularly.  The town is suddenly cast into the spotlight, and the whole character of Coldwater quickly changes as a result of people's reactions and invasive media attention which focuses on the phone calls from heaven.

But some people, including Sully Harding, who's suffering because his wife, Giselle, died tragically, thinks the calls are a hoax, while Sully's young son, Jules, wishes that his mom would call from heaven.  Many suspend their skepticism and want to believe that the calls are real, because the calls reassure them and indicate that a beautiful heaven awaits.  The book brought to mind The Miracle on 34th Street, a movie I've loved since I was a child.  To believe or not to believe, that is the question.  As a reader, I wanted to believe.    

I'm a big fan of Mitch Albom's work, so I was thrilled to be among the first to read this book (an uncopyedited manuscript I'm not to quote from).  I've read Tuesdays with Morrie, The Five People You Meet in Heaven,  For One More Day, and Have a Little Faith.  Books written by Mitch Albom always manage to engage my emotions.  His books get to me, because he writes about belief and faith and life and death, in an eloquent, intelligent, and loving manner.  This time, I felt as if I were rediscovering the author and his tremendous talents as a storyteller.  While reading the book, I imagined how'd I feel if my mother called me from heaven.  She'd sound as cheerful as she always did, and although she wouldn't stay on the phone for too long (she never did), she'd convey her care and concern for me.

The First Phone Call from Heaven is an incredibly inspiring story about what happens to people when they hear from their deceased loved ones.  Will this astonishing communication with the deceased incite the residents of this small town, and people elsewhere, to live more joyfully and lovingly?  I think you know the answer to this question.

Special thanks to Trish from TLC for sending me the first edition of this novel.  For more reviews of the book, please visit the other stops on TLC's blog tour for The First Phone Call from Heaven.

Thanks for reading!  Your comments are welcomed.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Shadows In My Room & What’s That Noise?

At bedtime, many young children become anxious and have difficulty falling asleep.  A fear of the dark is a common fear among children, who imagine various dangers concealed by darkness.  Children who dread being left alone in their bedrooms at night may request story after story at bedtime, because they don't want to be left alone in the dark.  Shadows In My Room & What's That Noise?: Bedtime Stories by Linda Weaver Clarke is a book that will be released the third week of December (although it's available now on Amazon).  It's comprised of two stories that address specific fears that many young children have at night.

In the first story, Shadows In My Room, a young girl named Kayla wants to be as brave as her brother, Adam, but she becomes nervous at night.  She's scared of the shadows she sees outside of her window, and inside of her room.  Mama comes in to reassure Kayla.  She's loving and doesn't belittle her daughter.  Mama also talks about the power of imagination.

In the second story, What's That Noise?, a young girl named Amber hears a "spooky sound" outside.  She considers going into her brother Cameron's room for safety, but then she hears it again, and cries out for her mother.  Mama comes into Amber's bedroom and they talk about the sounds they hear.  She spends time with her daughter, and offers her imaginative explanations and reassurance. 

Both of these sweet bedtime stories will appeal to children, especially to those who become fearful when darkness falls. The stories are not too long or too short--they seem just about right for reading before bedtime or naptime.  Shadows In My Room & What's That Noise? is only 29 pages long.  A parent or other caregiver could read one story and save the second one for the next time, or read both of them at once if time permits.  I read these on my iPad mini, which makes a nifty eReader.  The author's husband, George Ames Clarke, helped design the book, which features illustrations by Matthew Cole.  The cheerful, bright colors and cartoons will appeal to children and their parents.  These gentle stories offer comfort at bedtime, and should help children to fall asleep and have sweet dreams.

Thanks to author Linda Weaver Clarke for sharing her wonderful new book with me.  Kid Konnection is hosted each Saturday by Booking Mama.  If you'd like to participate, simply post about a children's book (picture, middle grade, or young adult), and stop by Booking Mama to add your post to the Mister Linky.


Your comments are welcomed.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Mailbox Monday: It Feels Like Christmas


It feels like Christmas!  When packages of books arrive in the mail, they bring Christmas to mind, year-round.  Recently I've won and received more than my fair share of books and other goodies, pictured above.  I won Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle on Kristin's blog, Always With a Book, Songs of Three Islands by Millicent Monk on Leslie's blog, Under My Apple Tree, and Paprika by Yasutaka Tsutsui on Bellezza's blog, Dolce Bellezza.  Additionally, I won a Buried Leads swag prize package from LynDee Walker on Yvonne's blog, Socrates' Book Reviews, which includes bookmarks, a wine glass charm, and Ghiradelli Peppermint Bark candy.

Created by Marcia from To Be Continued, Mailbox Monday is a wonderful, weekly meme that's been "on tour" for the past few years. December’s host is Gilion from Rose City Reader.  What new books have you recently added to your shelves?

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