A Life With Books

A Life With Books

Mom, wife, book lover,
crafter, movie lover, TV -aholic, blogger, friend.

2.5 Stars
Book Review: The Christmas Pearl by Dorothea Benton Frank
The Christmas Pearl - Dorothea Benton Frank

The Christmas Pearl
by Dorothea Benton Frank
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is about ninety-three year old Theodora inviting her dysfunctioanl family to her home in South Carolina for Christmas. The matriach is melancholy about Christmases past and wishes her family could show a little more respect for one another and realize how important the precious time spent with family is.

A cook is hired for the family's Christmas meal and a substitute is called in to fill in for the original cook when there is an emergency in her family. The replacement is none other than Theodora's family's cook of her childhood, Pearl. Pearl has come to earn her wings and whip Theodora's family into shape.

There are many wonderful lessons within this book, but somehow the book felt 'flat' to me. There are a lot of characters to keep straight with a lot of intricacies within their relationships. I spread this book out over a long period of time, so maybe that is why I felt a bit 'disconnected' from the characters.

I appreciate the book's idea of a loved one coming back to help set a family straight and be appreciative of one another, but it just felt very forced to me.

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3 Stars
Bok Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows

I read this book because it is the selection for the book club at my church. It is not the usual genre I would read, but I did truly enjoy this story.


The book is very different in that the entire story is told through the correspondence of letters or telegram.


The setting is England, 1946 and Juliet Ashton is a British journalist who has lost everything (including her book collection) and is looking to start anew. She receives a letter from a resident from the island of Guernsey that has a second-hand book that has her name and address written in it. The correspondence with the many islanders of Guernsey begins with members of the literary society writing about the books they enjoy and why. However, Juliet begins to want to meet the people she's corresponding with and has an idea that she could write a book about these people. She decides to go to the island to interview them and becomes involved in her new friends lives.


It was a bit confusing at first getting to know all the characters in the book and keeping who was who straight through the correspondence of the letters. Also, sometimes the way the letters were written the tone fell flat for me and a lot of the characters started to blend together. Maybe this shows that it is difficult to develop a character's personality just through letters? It was definitely a different kind of book and one that book lovers may enjoy. Below are a few of my favorite quotes from the book.


"I would like to write a book, but I am having trouble thinking of a subject I could live happily with for several years." ---Juliet Ashton before she knows what she's going to write about


"Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books." -quote from Isola Pribby


"I did not want to spend my time reading about people who never were, doing things they never did." -quote from Clovis Fossey, one of the book club members and why he didn't initially want to be a part of the society.  This quote reminds me of my husband and how he justifies not reading books!


" 'Women like poetry. A soft word in their ears and they melt a grease spot on the grass.' That's no way to talk about a lady, and I knew right then he didn't want the Widow Hubert for her own self, the way I did. He wanted only her grazing land for his cows. So I thought, if it's rhymes the Widow Hubert wants, I will find me some." -quote from Clovis Fossey on how he started reading poetry, started going to the society meetings and discovered the works of Wadsworth.

3 Stars
Book Review: Sea Glass Island by Sherryl Woods
Sea Glass Island (Ocean Breeze) - Sherryl Woods

This is the third book in Sheryl Woods Ocean Breeze series.

I definitely enjoyed this book more than the first two. As usual, Cora Jane is meddling in one of her grand daughter's love lives, but this time the other two sisters are involved as well. The target this time is Samantha and they're trying to hook her up with her high school crush, Ethan Cole. Ethan is a local doctor who is not interested in getting involved in a relationship. He is a veteran with a prosthetic leg and focused on protecting his heart due to a bad break-up with his fiance.

Samantha is open to getting involved with Ethan, but not the way her grandmother and sisters keep 'conveniently' throwing them together in different situations.

I didn't like Emily's bridezilla-esque personality in this book at all. What I think I did enjoy the most is that Samantha is a very strong, independent person and tried not to let anything get her down. Ethan could've been a little more open to getting involved with Samantha and less skittish about women in general.

3 Stars
Book Review: Wind Chime Point by Sherryl Woods
Wind Chime Point - Sherryl Woods

This is the second book in the Ocean Breeze seeries. For some reason I enjoyed this book more than the first.

The focus is on Gabriela, where as the first book focused on Emily.
Gabi finds herself unemployed, broken up with her boyfriend and pregnant. She returns to Sand Castle Bay to figure out her next steps and finds herself becoming friends with the local cabinetmaker, Wade Johnson. Their friendship grows and she resists the fact that she may be falling for him. Of course her grandmother, Cora Jane, is right there trying to nudge their relationship along.

The story also continues with the planning of Gabi and Samantha's sister Emily's wedding. Samantha is still feeling down in the dumps because she's not landing any acting jobs and Gabi steps up to try to help her with public realtions. The last book in this series will be Samantha's story and I'm hoping that book is even better than this one.

This series is a very relaxed and mellow. It's not heavy on the romance, but more so focused on the mentality of falling in love and making life choices

3 Stars
Book Review: Ocean Breeze Point by Sherryl Woods
Sand Castle Bay - Sherryl Woods

This is the first book in the Ocean Breeze series by Sherryl Woods. The Castle family consists of Emily, Gabi, Samantha and their meddling grandmother, Cora Jane. The women have returned to the small North Carolina town due to a hurricane that has torn apart their grandmother's restaurant and they're all there to help her.

The story focuses on Emily who hasn't returned to Sand Castle Bay since breaking up with her high school sweetheart, Boone Dorsett. Emily decided to leave behind her boyfriend and the place she grew up in order to pursue a career elsewhere as an interior designer. Boone does not wait for Emily and marries, has a son and then becomes a widow after his wife passes away from an illness. So when Emily returns ten years later both Emily and Boone are a little worried about old feelings being stirred up.

For some reason this book took me longer to read than normal. It seemed slow, a bit predictable and the wishy-washiness of Boone and Emily was a bit annoying. That said I will read the next two books in this series to see what's in store for Gabi and Samantha.

Book Review: A Week In Summer: A Short Story by Maeve Binchy
A Week in Summer - Maeve Binchy

This was a very short story and the first book I've ever read by Maeve Binchy.

The story was about marriage, dedication to work and family, late-in-life parenting, and the lack of vacationing in this family's life.

Kathleen decides that since her husband has been let go of his teaching job, they have a week in summer that they can schedule a vacation; something they've never done before. Kathleen's husband Brian is depressed and really isn't interested in going anywhere, but they make an agreement that if he goes on this vacation she will give him some time to figure himself out.

Kathleen heads to a senior citizens travel agency (this part was quite funny being this is what my Associates degree is in) and can't seem to choose a destination that her husband would be happy with. Finally the agent asks to consider what she'd like to do, not her husband. She points out that she would like to trace her ancestry, which brings her to the decision of Ireland as the destination for their vacation.

Nice storyline, but a bit depressing at parts.

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3 Stars
Book Review: Return To Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs
Return to Willow Lake - Susan Wiggs
This is the ninth book in the Susan Wiggs' Lakeshore Chronicle Series.
The story focuses on Sonnet Romano, her mother Nina and her longtime childhood friend Zach Alger.
The book starts out with Sonnet visiting the town she grew up in because she is home for her best friend and step-sister, Daisy Bellamy's wedding.  This is the continuation from the eighth book in the series, 'Marrying Daisy Bellamy.' 
 The one sentence that sort of threw me off was this one:
"Since high school, he and Sonnet had gone in different directions, and she hadn't seen him in ages.  Now she couldn't take her eyes off him."
That sentence is in reference to Sonnet's childhood friend Zach Alger.  
Having just read the ninth book, Sonnet and Zach had spent some time together in that book helping Daisy un-pack and I believe they also watched movies together with Daisy and Logan.  The above sentence makes it seem like this was Sonnet's first sighting of Zach 'in ages', when in the previous book they had spent time together.
I usually don't write reviews with spoilers, but this one I feel the need to.
*********************SPOILER ALERT**************************
Sonnet gets drunk at Daisy's wedding reception, has sex in a boat down by
the lake with Zach and she regrets it later.  What she really regrets is ruining their many years of friendship with the complications of the feelings she now has for Zach because of their night together.
She returns to NYC and her boyfriend Orlando whom her father has set her up with.  Sonnet's father, Laurence Jeffries is running for the state senate and Orlando is her father's campaign manager.  She feels they are a good match, however she just doesn't feel that 'love connection' and spends half of the book trying to justify why she shouldstay with Orlando.
The second storyline to this book is a pretty huge one.
Sonnet's Mom, Nina Romano, has breast cancer and she is pregnant. 
Sonnet decides to leave NYC and a fellowship she has been offered overseas, in order to help out with her mother during this difficult time in her life.
Of course there are many interactions with Zach when she returns to Avalon.
They even end up working for a production of a reality series taking place at Camp Kioga.  Most of the book is waiting for Sonnet to come to her senses and see that her and Orlando are not a match and to await the outcome of Nina's health situation.  Most of the book Sonnet is trying to get the friendship that her and Zach had, back to what it used to be.  But in the prior book it seemed like both of them were interested in one another.
  The discontinuity between these two characters was upsetting to me.
I gave the book 3 stars because I've always liked these chracters, I just wish it would've been a more believable between Sonnet and Zach; at least on Sonnet's part anyway.

4 Stars
Book Review: Marrying Daisy Bellamy by Susan Wiggs
Marrying Daisy Bellamy - Susan Wiggs
This is the 8th book in the Lakeshore Chronicles series by Susan Wiggs.
Daisy has been featured in prior books with a focus on her troubles and
relationship with Julian Gastineaux.  Fans of this series waited for Daisy's story to be told and I think they will be pleasantly surprised by this book.  If you haven't read previous books in this series, there are enough backstory's re-told to give you a feel for events that have happened in the past.
This is a difficult review to write because I don't want tospoil the book for those who would like to read it.
That said, the love triangle between Daisy, Logan and Julian continues.
Julian is in the air force, Logan still carries a torch for Daisy and
continues to be an active parent to their son Charlie.
Daisy is no longer a teenager, but a twenty-something woman with a
career as a wedding photographer and aspirations to one day have her
photographs displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
She is a loving, single Mom who has a troubled love life due to the fact
that she's always felt a deep connection with Julian, but he is away in the air force and Logan is there daily participating in his sons life.
There are many twists and turns in this story.  So much so that I was up
late at night reading because I couldn't wait to see what would happen
next!  I finished this book in 4 days, which is awesome for me since it usually takes me about a week to get through a book due to Mom duties and
lack of time to just sit and read in a peaceful environment.
The Summer Hideaway - Susan Wiggs
The Summer Hideaway by Susan Wiggs
is the 7th book in the Lakeshore Chronicles series.
Before I read this book I glanced at some reviews on GoodReads.  I wasn't thrilled that the main character in this book is dying of a brain tumor, as I had just read a few books with characters dying from cancer, car accidents or childbirth.  When I read in the summer I like the storylines to be fun beach reads, not serious, sad and dour.
That said, I was pleasantly surprised  how much I enjoyed this book!
The story focuses on George Bellamy, who has an inoperable brain tumor. George decides he wants to spend his last days at Camp Kioga on Willow Lake, where he attended camp as a child.  He places an ad on Craigslist for a private care nurse to stay with him while at the camp.  He also has an underlying desire to fix up his grandson, Ross Bellamy, who is returning from Afghanistan as a military med-evac.
 George also wants to reconcile with his brother, Charles Bellamy, after being estranged from him for over 50+ years. There are a few side stories going on within the book itself.   The first of course is focused on George's limited time and reconciling with his brother.  In order to learn more about the 'why' they've been estranged for so long, Ms. Wiggs takes us back to when the brothers were young and attended Camp Kioga.  I enjoyed these flashback chapters more than I expected to.
The second storyline is about Claire Turner, George's nurse.   She has a secret past she's been hiding for many years and hasn't let  herself get close to anyone.  She's finding herself caring too much for the Bellamy family and letting her emotions get in the way of protecting her past life.
Thirdly is the story of Ross Bellamy dealing with returning from war after being away for two years, facing the fact that his grandfather is dying and the unexxpected attraction he begins to feel for Claire.  
My favorite part of this book was the storytelling of George's past and second to that was the secret that Claire is keeping from her past.  I didn't feel any real connection between Ross and Claire, so that storyline seemed a bit forced to me.
Book Review: The Girls Of August By Anne Rivers Siddons
The Girls of August - Anne Rivers Siddons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received this book in exchange 
for an honest review from NetGalley.
This is the first book I have read by Ann Rivers Siddons and I was pleasantly
 surprised at how quick of a read this book was for me.
I was a bit surprised how depressing a lot of the storylines were being this 
is supposed to be a 'beach read' kind of book.
The Girls Of August is about a group of women who vacation at a  different beach houses every August. 
The Girls Of August were Madison, Rachel, Barbara and Cornelia.
The women's husbands were all in medical school when the August beach
vacationing began.  The first beach house the women stayed at was Teddy's wife Cornelia's aristocratic family's beach home in Alabama.  Shortly after Teddy went into private practice, Cornelia left Teddy for a college boyfriend.   
 Teddy's second wife , Melinda, clicked with Madison, Rachel and Barbara and became a beloved friend to all the girls ; they considered themselves the 'original' Girls Of August.   Then after 15 summers of vacationing together, Melinda is killed in a car crash.
The Girls Of August hadn't seen one another in three years after Melinda's death, 
but decide it is time to renew their annual beach ritual.
  Madison and her husband Mac have met Teddy's young, new wife, Baby Gaillard, but the other girls have not.  Baby has offered her family's beach house on the remote Tiger Island for the Girls Of August beach retreat.   Madison, Rachel and Barbara plan a get-together in June so they can meet and think over the choice of this particular beach house.  
It is quite an adjustment for the middle-aged women to adjust to the 22 year old Baby on their vacation.  They all have very little tolerance for some of Baby's behaviors, which sometimes is comical.  But looming inside these women's minds are the troubles they are currently facing in their lives.  This is where the storyline doesn't feel like a light and fluffy beach read any longer.  It becomes a bit depressing and very much reality.
This book kept my attention, but it felt rushed at a lot of points in the story.
I felt like I wanted to know more details, especially toward the end of the book.
I almost hope there is a sequel to this book so that Madison, Barbara, Rachel and Baby's stories can be further explored.  Not sure if the author has enough content in mind for a sequel, but there are definitely loose-ends that I would like to be see tied up.
Book review: The Tumble Inn By William Loizeaux
The Tumble Inn - William Loizeaux
 I received this book in exchange 
for an honest review from NetGalley.
The Tumble Inn follows the life of Mark and Fran Finley,  two high school teachers from New Jersey.   Mark and Fran feel they've become stuck in their teaching jobs but don't quite know what to do about how they're feeling.   They'd been trying to conceive a child for five years with no success. Their lives are not what they envisioned.  
Fran replies to an ad in the newspaper  for an innkeepers position in the Adirondack Mountains.   She embellishes quite a bit about her and Mark's qualifications. Mark isn't as fascinated as Fran is about the possibility of this new vocation,  especially because he knows they don't have the experience the innkeepers job entails.   
When Fran receives a call that the Board of Directors of The Tumble Inn  want to meet with them, they head up North and so begins the journey of a new adventure for the Finleys.   Although they don't have the experience, they learn  through trial  and error about the operations of running the inn.  
They become proficient innkeepers and continue  operating the inn for the next twenty years. There are many ups and downs, new experiences, life-changing and tragic happenings throughout the book.
This heartwarming story is an encouragment to those  looking to make a lifestyle change and to gain the courage to try something outside their comfort zone.
Book Review: The Beach Quilt by Holly Chamberlin
The Beach Quilt - Holly Chamberlin
 I received this book in exchange 
for an honest review from NetGalley.
This was the first book I've read by author Holly Chamberlin.
I read the description of the book before requesting it from NetGalley 
and thought it would be an interesting read.  
The book takes place in a small coastal town in Maine
 and follows two families: the Bauers and the Kanes. 
The focus of the story is on smart, quiet, nature-loving
 sixteen year old, Sarah Bauer and how her pregnancy affects
her family and her best friend Cordelia's family.
Sarah's boyfriend, Justin Morrow, is not supportive of Sarah's
decision to have the baby and neither is his family. 
Sarah finds herself feeling guilty that not only will her life change,
but so will her parents and her sister Stevie's life once she has the baby.
The beginning of the book gives a lot of descriptive details
 (sometimes way too much in my opinion) on the cast of characters.
Each chapter is in either Sarah, Cordelia, Cindy (Sarah's Mom)
 or Adelaide's (Cordelia's Mom) voice.  The story focuses on how each
woman feels about the pregnancy and how it relates to each of them.
I  found myself wishing there were more dialogue
 and less descriptive writing in this book.
One part of the book I found odd was when Sarah's Mom
was making an appointment for her at an OBGYN.
"We have an appointment tomorrow  morning with an ob-gyn in Wells,"
Cindy said.  "I found her online.  She seems to be well regarded. 
 I just hope she doesn't judge Sarah."
Why wouldn't her Mom just take Sarah to her own ob-gyn?
Possibly because she wanted to keep the news confidential 
so she decided to make an appointment in a different town?
Another notable part of the book I liked was this passage:
"  Cordelia sighed, "My mother always says, 'don't be in a rush to grow up.
You'll be an adult soon enough and adulthood lasts a long time."
"She's right," Sarah said.  "You're an adult a lot longer than you're a child.
If you're lucky."  "
This is something I always  try to relay to my own children, ages 11 and 7.
Kids always seem to be in such a hurry to grow up and this part
 really spoke to me because I feel it is important to cherish childhood.
The author was showing here how Sarah was
 thinking about how her childhood would be coming to an end
 because she would be a mother soon.
I liked the storyline, I disliked that it felt slow-moving and that some descriptive
parts felt unecessary.  I was also a bit shocked and disappointed by the ending.  
I don't usually read books about teen pregnancy, but this book
portrayed how this young woman's choice would affect not only her, but
her family, best friend and unpleasant memories for her best friend's mother.
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Book Review: The Summer Wind by Mary Alice Monroe
The Summer Wind - Mary Alice Monroe
                                                         I received this book in exchange
                                                   for an honest review from NetGalley.
This is book 2 in the Lowcountry Summer trilogy.  You should really read the first book, The Summer Girls,  before diving into this one so you can truly understand the characters and their back stories.  
This book picks up where the last book left off.  It is now July and the half sisters, Dora, Carson and Harper have agreed to stay at their Mamaw Marietta's beach house, the Sea Breeze on Sullivan's Island, SC for the remainder of the summer before she sells it.
Carson is in Florida for most of this book, but Monroe again does a wonderful job of incorporating each of the half sisters into the storyline, while also spotlighting one of the half sisters.  This book's spotlight is on Dora. 
Dora is facing a divorce from her husband Cal, dealing with health issues, her autistic son and interest from her first love who still lives on Sullivan Island.  She has many changes ahead in her life and this book focuses on how she's going to handle everything that is coing her way.
Harper is also discovering more about herself and making an effort to become closer to Dora.  She throws herself into gardening and helps Dora with implementing exercise into her daily routine.
There are a few surprises in this book, one involving a life choice and another involving an illness.
Monroe also sneaks in a visit from Cara from the book The Beach House with a scene about sea turtles hatching.  This was a pleasant surprise which took me right back to that book's storyline.  If you haven't read that series don;t be concerned because she doesn't reveal too much from that book in this story.  
Looking forward to the third book in this series, which will most likely focus on Harper and the sale of the Sea Breeze.  I don;t want to wait until summer 2015 to read it though!!!!
3 Stars
Book Review: The Summer Girls
The Summer Girls - Mary Alice Monroe

Marietta Muir is celebrating her 80th birthday and wants her three grandaughters to celebrate with her at Sea Breeze, the beloved family beach house located on Sullivan's Island in South Carolina. The three women haven't been back to the beach house together for a very long time and their Mamaw Marietta would like to see the girls become close again as they were when they were young. 

Dora, Carson and Harper are the daughters of Marietta's late son, Parker. Each of the girls have a different mother, making them half-sisters. 

This is the first book in Mary Alice Monroe's LowCountry Summer trilogy. This book focuses on Carson, however, Monroe does a great job keeping the other two sisters heavily invovled in the storyline. The back story of Carson's upbringing with her irresponsible and immature father was not my favorite part of this book. I also found myself being disgusted at the grandparents for allowing their son Parker, to be so self indulgent and for their part in supporting him all his life. At some points in the book I greatly disliked Marietta because of things she could've prevented from happening had she not been such and enabler to her son. This is mainly the reason I gave this book three stars. 

Just as in Monroe's Beach House and Swimming Lesson books, we learn a bit about marine life. In those two books sea turtles were the main focus, while in this book, bottle nosed dolphins are the environmental lesson for readers. I love the fact that you always seem to learn something new in her books! It is also a given that you will be transported to the beaches of South Carolina and feel like you are on vacation there.

I'm looking forward to reading the second book in this series, The Summer Wind, which will focus on Dora. Although I did not like her character much in this book, I'm looking forward to learning more about these half-sisters and where the continuation of this series leads.



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3 Stars
Book Review: The Beekeeper's Ball by Susan Wiggs
The Beekeeper's Ball - Susan Wiggs
I received this book in exchange
 for an honest review from NetGalley.
The Beekeeper's Ball is the second book in Susan Wiggs' Bella Vista series.  If you haven't read the first book in the series, The Apple Orchard, click the link below to purchase from Amazon.
The Beekeeper's Ball is Isabel's story.  She is planning on turning Bella Vista into a cooking school and also adding beekeeping to the property's assets.  She takes in a pregnant beekeeper named Jamie, whom I think may be featured in a future book of this series.  
Bella Vista is preparing the apple Orchard for Tess and Dominic's wedding, renovations are taking place for the future opening of Isabel's cooking school and a well-known journalist named Mac has arrived to write about Magnus, the grandfather, which allows for more secrets of the past to be revealed and additional insight into what Magnus, Eva and Annelise endured during WWII.
There wasn't a lot of Tess or Dominic in this book, but their story was covered in the first book.  There's more information revealed about Francesca, Isabel's mother and Erik, Tess and Isabel's father.  Some of the information about Magnus and the war felt a bit repetitive after just reading The Apple Orchard, but if you're reading this book a year later l can see why the author reiterated some of the history to refresh the reader's memory.  
I didn't feel like I got to know Isabel as much as I got to know Tess in the first book.  Isabel is a very guarded character and maybe that is why I felt this way.  Much of the telling of Isabel's past felt like there were a lot of details missing.  At times I even felt like the book focused more on Magnus' than on Isabel.  I guess I wanted more of the present day than the past in this book since there was a lot of history presented in the first book. 
I enjoy the setting of this series tremendously having never been to the West coast myself.  It is fun to be taken away to a beautiful place like Bella Vista.  Although I enjoy the taste of history within this series, I hope the next book is more focused on present day events than the past.
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