Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Daughter - Book Review


Fifteen year old Naomi was a smashing success in the school play. Her interpretation of Maria in West Side Story surprised her parents with the level of maturity and seduction. Both doctors, her parents are successful and busy and preoccupied but their lives are shattered when Naomi doesn't come home one night after the play. Involving the police immediately, Jenny becomes obsessed with the search for her daughter. As the clues are uncovered, it becomes painfully clear that Jenny doesn't really know her well-behaved, smart daughter at all. In fact, she might not know any of the members of her family.

I was instantly intrigued in The Daughter by Jane Shemilt and found the story thrilling and frightening, especially as a mother. Going back and forth between the period of time when Naomi went missing and a year later was a bit distracting but I adjusted quickly and it was an effective way of foreshadowing and dropping clues.

Jenny is a fascinating character because she is not a helicopter parent. She loves her children but has her career too and has allowed her children a great degree of independence. This perspective is interesting because Jenny ends up dealing with a lot of guilt and her children blame her absence for many of their problems.

The plot moves along at a fairly rapid pace though there are a few odd characters thrown in to Jenny's story a year after the disappearance that seem out of place and unnecessary. Without giving anything away, the ending becomes completely wonky. The entire novel crumbles around the ridiculous conclusion.

The Daughter by Jane Shemilt is published by William Morrow and released in March 2015.  It was the book club read for our local book club and is one of She Reads books of Spring.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Daughter from the publishers. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Where They Found Her


The reporters who usually handle the crime for the Ridgedale Reader are busy so Molly, a life-style reporter at the tiny paper, is assigned to report on the dead body found in the woods near campus. Out of her comfort zone, Molly is new to the quiet town and is still recovering from the death of her baby, yet she's determined to see this story though even after it is determined that the deceased is an infant.

Sandy is also new to town. She's a young woman who has lived a rough life with her mother. Now her mom is missing; she's been evicted from their crappy apartment and her closely guarded secrets are unraveling.

Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight combines the perspectives of Molly, Sandy and the police chief's wife Barbara to tell the mysterious story of the baby's death. As Molly digs for the truth she uncovers long buried secrets in the small and quaint community.

I thoroughly enjoyed McCreight's novel Reconstructing Amelia so I was looking forward to reading her newest novel. However, I had a really hard time getting into Where They Found Her. It felt disjointed. I was intrigued by the mystery of the baby's death but for some reason I just couldn't connect with the characters. Perhaps it was the newspaper articles and online chats interjected between the narrative that threw me off.

The pace picked up in the second half of the book and I fell into an easier rhythm reading it. The story lines started to come together and gain momentum. The plot definitely takes center stage and I hungrily turned pages wanting to know how the mystery would be solved. Unfortunately, the psychological aspects of the tale still seemed forced and the characters cliche. The ending felt abrupt and thrown together.

Overall, I was disappointed by Where They Found Her. It's not horrible. There are thrilling moments. It was just not up to par with McCreight's previous novel.


Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight is published by Harper and released April 14, 2015.

**I received a complimentary copy of Where They Found Her. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Fires of Autumn - Book Review


After reading Irene Nemirovsky's masterpiece Suite Francaise, I immediately became enchanted by her insightful and luscious fiction. A few years later, I read and reviewed her All Our Worldly Goods.  I was anxious for the opportunity to read The Fires of Autumn as it has recently been translated and republished.

Written while Nemirovsky was in hiding in France, The Fires of Autumn takes its French characters from the horror of the first World War and delivers them only two decades later into the horrors of the second World War. In between, the former soldiers and the women they left behind struggle to survive in a changed world. Values, morals and belief systems have been shattered. Money speaks and corruption is rampant.

Bernard Jacquelain is so young when he first enlists in the war. Surviving when so many others didn't, he's only sure that he no longer wants his old life when he returns from the war. He seeks the glamour and money that his new mistress's husband can provide and becomes ensnared in the corruption.

Initially, I felt disconnected from the  main characters. The reader is quickly introduced to many characters but as the story moves along their lives are weaved together in truly marvelous and thought provoking tale.  I was enraptured by their lives of dissatisfaction as they each tried to fill the unquenchable void left behind after the first war. I cannot even fathom the heartache and defeat the people must have felt after one war to find themselves headed straight into another war so soon. The selfishness and greed that took over their lives is met with horrifying consequences.

Nemirovsky was a great writer and I so appreciate her ability to write completely believable characters who are deeply flawed and yet deeply feel. Living through the wars, she was uniquely able to capture the emotions and actions of the people. While more depressing generally than All Our Worldly Goods, The Fires of Autumn is a valuable work of literature.

The Fires of Autumn by Irene Nemirovsky was republished by Vintage in March 2015.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Fires of Autumn. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Zorro at Utah Children's Theater - Review



"At the fiesta Don Carlos wants his daughter, the beautiful Valencia to marry Don Alejandro's son, the charming but seemingly weak Don Diego. But treasure and treachery is in the midst of Old California, lead by Captain Ramon, the bumbling Sargeant Gonzales and a mysterious figure. Who will stop them? Zorro! With a flurry of a cape, the flash of a sword and a crack of the whip our masked hero will bring the greedy tyrants to justice!"

The exciting and absolutely entertaining production of Zorro is playing at Utah Children's Theater now. It will run through April 25, 2015 and you can purchase tickets online at http://uctheatre.org/ or by phone at 801-532-6000.

www.uctheatre.org • 801-532-6000 • 3605 South State Street, South Salt Lake, UT 84115



We were thrilled to start our Spring Break by attending Zorro at Utah Children's Theater last Friday night. As soon as we entered, we were impressed by the new theater. There is still a bit of construction going on but the retro style and all the interior details immediately make you feel like you've entered a professional theater. The restrooms were stylish and CLEAN (which is totally awesome). Every seat in the theater is a good seat. It's small enough and surrounds the stage so that the children are fully immersed in the action.

While we were in our seats excitedly waiting for the show to begin, Aubrey recognized the picture of the theater that I posted on Instagram and realized that we were both in the same theater. Aubrey and I have been long time Twitter friends but since she lives in Seattle, we've never met in real life. It was so fun to finally meet and introduce our families. She and her children are as beautiful in real life as they are online.

Serendipity!
The night had to be amazing!





The show starts right off with a dramatic and astonishing scene. It immediately captured the attention of all my children and kept us spellbound throughout. The cast was funny and engaging. The sword fighting scenes were expertly choreographed to be thrilling yet just over-the-top enough to amuse the young audience.

The story was simple enough for young children to follow but also kept the adults in the audience fully entertained and satisfied. There was plenty of action, romance, mystery and humor to keep everyone happy. My kids loved it and the audience was completely wrapped up in the action on the stage.





Following the fabulous show, the actors were in the lobby to meet their young audience. My girls were especially thrilled to meet the beautiful actress who played Valencia. (My boys attended the show and totally loved it but are not very willing to pose for pictures lately.)


After thoroughly enjoying Zorro, my family is definitely fans of Utah Children's Theaters and the kids are already begging to get tickets to Winnie the Pooh that will premier in May.

Thanks to Utah Children's Theater we had a fabulous family night out at the theater.

**Thanks to Utah Children's Theater, my family and I got complimentary tickets in exchange for an honest review. No compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**







Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Day We Met - Book Review


Claire Armstrong has a lovely life. She's has two daughters--Caitlin, nearly grown and off to college and Esther, not yet ready for preschool. Her handsome husband Greg loves her desperately. And her mother Ruth would drop anything to help her daughter. Claire's life is wonderful except that she's forgetting it all.

Claire has been diagnosed with early onset-Alzheimer's--the same disease that took her father when she was young. Some days she feels entirely lucid and the next moment she's confused. She can't remember the name of her daughter. She has forgotten the all-consuming love she once shared with Greg.

Ruth and Caitlin have changed their own plans to come and help care for Claire, but in her clearer moments, Claire senses that all  is not right with Caitlin and tries in her last cognizant moments to help her daughter put her life back on track before she is lost to her forever.

The Day We Met by Rowan Coleman is an emotional roller coaster with characters that begged to be loved and understood by the reader. Since we have a member of our own family suffering from Alzheimer's Disease (thankfully not early-onset), I was especially moved by the portrayal of a character struggling with the incurable disease. It was very interesting to have Claire narrate her own story and see the neurological disconnects as she goes from understanding to confusion.

The novel is a beautiful story that I found myself completely wrapped up in. I cared intensely for the characters and ached with their own heart ache. Just this morning some friends and I were discussing why we read sad books and why sometimes it feels good to cry while reading a novel. We feel the emotion felt from the characters and see their perspective and gain a greater understanding for our own lives. The Day We Met will definitely inspire you to reach for the tissues. But as you wipe away the tears, you will feel.

The Day We Met by Rowan Coleman is published by Ballatine Books in March 2015.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Day We Met. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**




Friday, March 27, 2015

A Day in the Life - Blogger Event


Trish at Love, Laughter, Insanity put together A Day in the Life Blogger Event and I decided to participate rather at the last minute. Actually, as I lay in bed last night unable to fall asleep I was looking forward to reading about my fellow blogger friends' days and I decided I'd put together my own. I did this once before years ago when my children were small and still at home but I can't find that post. It's somewhere. Things have definitely changed for me since then. Edited to add: I found the A Day in the Life post that I wrote in March 2010--I still had three little kids at home. My day was much different.

Wednesdays tend to be my craziest busy days so I figured I'd focus first on one of those.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

6:30 am - My alarm goes off. I get up. Go to the bathroom. Take my thyroid medicine. Grab a towel and go wake up Neal. He gets in the shower and I go back to bed.

7:00 am - My second alarm goes off. I get up. I wake up Thomas and pick out his clothes.  I knock on the bathroom door to remind Neal to get out of the shower. Yes, he's still in there. I wake up the girls. I pick out Lilly's clothes. I go back to my room and check email on my phone.

7:10 am - I help Lilly do her hair. I yell at Amberly to get out of bed. I iron Neal's shirt (the downside of his new wardrobe choice of button-up shirts--though I still like it better than the gym shorts and t-shirts he wore for three years). I help Neal get his hair just so. I help Thomas comb his hair.

7:25 am - I yell at Amberly to get out of bed. The rest of us go downstairs for breakfast. I make Neal his favorite omelet. Neal, Lilly and Molly request cinnamon toast.

7:35 am - Amberly wanders downstairs and gets herself a bowl of cereal.

7:45 am - We have family prayers. Neal leaves to catch his bus to the junior high. Amberly, Thomas and Lilly walk to school.

8:00 am - I've been craving Indian food for days and I discovered a slow cooker recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala. We put together the Garam Masala using this recipe. Rand and I went to the store the night before to get all the ingredients and the spices. We prep the chicken. Sautee the onions, garlic, ginger. Get it in the crock pot. This is a big deal for us. We're excited.

8:45 am - I get Molly dressed and comb her hair.

9:00 am - I walk Molly to kindergarten. Yes, I'm still wearing  my pajamas. The school is just two blocks away. Less than a thousand steps there and back. I love that I get to say hello to all the neighborhood kids walking to school.

9:15 am - I finish processing the pictures of the Primary children and send them to Costco to print.

10:10 am - I fold the laundry that has been sitting in baskets since Monday while watching an episode of Gilmore Girls on the iPad. I've never watched Gilmore Girls before and I'm only on Season 3. My friends and I text each other.

11:00 am - I take a shower. Get dressed. Get ready.

11:40 am - UPS delivers some book mail.

11:45 am - My alarm goes off to remind me to pick up Molly from Kindergarten. I walk back to the school.  We've had a lovely winter with warmish weather and I've been able to walk every day. Several of my friends also walk to school and we visit while we wait for the kids to get out of class. There are over a dozen kids from our neighborhood/ward in morning kindergarten this year (more in all-day and afternoon). Molly and her friends run home. My friends and I walk home slowly enjoying the time we get to talk with each other.

12:15 pm - I need to go to Costco to pick up the pictures. Rand is on his lunch break so he decides to come with me. The closest Costco is 14 miles away and it takes us at least a half an hour to drive there. We haven't been there since December so we spend some time eating samples and loading up our favorite Costco staples (frozen meatballs, bacon crumbles, Rhodes rolls, etc.) The strawberries look amazing and I get some muffins and danishes for the brunch I'm hosting with some friends later in the week.

2:20 pm - We pull in the driveway just as Amberly, Thomas and Lilly walk home from school. Perfect timing. The kids help unload and put away the groceries.

2:40 pm - The kids get busy on their homework and chores.

3:30 pm - Neal gets home from school. His favorite girl is moving soon so he lingers at the bus stop talking to her before walking home.

4:00 pm - I walk back to the school for the School Community Council meeting. Some local boy scouts have joined us to fulfill part of their Communication merit badge requirements. We discuss amending some of our goals for the 2015-2016 school year; the budget and the upcoming school events. We will support the PTA on the Family Art Night, the Battle of the Books and we need to attend the Collaboration Presentations coming up.

5:10 pm - I run home. Rand has finished prepping the Chicken Tikka Masala and made the rice. I shovel the amazing food into my mouth. It's missing a little kick but it turned out pretty good.

5:30 pm - My friend picks me up and we go the church to set up for Pack Meeting. I get an additional 3000 steps as I set up chairs.

6:00 pm - Pack meeting starts. Rand has dropped of Thomas just in time. I help with a station where the kids put socks over their hands and try to button shirts. We are discussing disability awareness. The evening goes pretty well and the craziness is 60% less than usual.

7:00 pm - Neal goes to his Scout activity. Rand, Thomas and I go home. We get the little girls ready for bed. We read scriptures together and have family prayer.

8:00 pm - I go to Primary Presidency Meeting. As usual, we discuss our staffing needs. Trying to get enough teachers for the 150 kids is an endless struggle. We plan dessert for the Priesthood Preview coming up and plan to go to the church the next morning to complete the bulletin board now that the pictures have been printed.

9:30 pm - I get home. Change immediately into my pajamas. Send Neal and Amberly to bed. Climb into bed. Rand and I watch an episode of Parenthood together on his computer.

10:20 pm - I read Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker until I can't keep my eyes open for another minute.

12:00 am - Turn out the lights and fall immediately asleep.

That was a particularly busy day. Yesterday was the very opposite.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

6:30 am - 7:45 am - See above. It's the same routine every day. Except that Neal put all his jeans in the washer the night before and forgot to move them to the dryer. Neal waits for dry pants and Rand gives him a ride to school.

7:45 am - I feel lousy. Horrible headache. Cancel my scheduled walk with a friend. Cancel my meeting with the other Primary counselor to finish the bulletin board.

8:00 am - Give Molly a bath and get her ready for school.

9:00 am - Walk Molly to school.

9:15 am - Load the dishwasher. Put a load of towels in the washer.

9:45 am - Write a book review and schedule the post for the day of the release.

10:30 am - Watch an episode of Gilmore Girls while I fold laundry.

11:10 am - Take a shower and get dressed.

11:45 am - Walk to the school with some friends to pick up the kindergarteners.

12:15 pm - Make Molly lunch. She has nachos. I have a strawberry, banana, and spinach smoothie.

12:45 pm - Lay down and read The Tiger Wife by Tea Obreht. It's our book club book this month.

2:25 pm - Kids get home from school. Finish homework. Chores. My friends text each other about dinner ideas. I realize I haven't even thought about it. I put some chicken quarters in the microwave to thaw and find some red potatoes in the pantry.

3:30 pm - Neal gets home from school. Amberly cuts up the potatoes.

4:00 pm - The chicken and potatoes go into the oven. A sudden and surprising burst of energy. I play Just Dance 2 with Lilly on the Wii. I am dripping with sweat.

5:30 pm - We eat dinner.

6:00 pm - The kids play outside. Rand and I watch another episode of Parenthood. I discover that Lauren Graham and Peter Krause (actors who play siblings on the show) are a real life couple and text my friends. We're a bit freaked out by that. We're in season 5 now.

7:00 pm - The kids stink after playing outside. Amberly, Thomas and Lilly take showers.

7:45 pm - We read scriptures and have family prayer.

8:00 pm - The little girls go to bed. Thomas goes to bed to read Harry Potter. He's obsessed. It's so cute. Rand studies for the SPHR that he's scheduled to take in May. After listening to the online lectures, I think I could pass the exam. I read The Tiger Wife.

9:30 pm - Neal and Amberly go to bed. My eyes will not stay open for one more minute. I fall asleep with my book on my chest.

10:20 pm - Rand finished studying. I get up to take out my contacts and wash my face. Now I'm awake so we watch another episode of Parenthood.

11:30 pm - We're excited to actually turn out the lights before midnight. Rand uses his new CPAP machine. I can't sleep. My neck hurts and my pillows are horrible. And it's way too hot in the room.

2:30 am - Rand wakes up and takes off his CPAP mask. I'm still awake so we talk for a minute.

Sometime around 3:00 am - I fall asleep.


Most of my days fall somewhere in between those two examples. Good times.

Be sure to check out all the other blogger posts on the "Day in the Life" link-up at Love, Laughter, Insanity. It's kind of a fun project. You might even want to do your own.








Monday, March 23, 2015

Mercy Snow - Book Review


There is a tragic accident on the dangerous and windy Devil's Slide Road. The bus driver is in a coma and one teenage girl is dead. June McAllister is grateful that her son is still alive but haunted by the death of her son's friend and the possibility that her husband, the owner of the mill, had something to do with the crash.

Zeke, Mercy and their little sister Hannah, ragged and trouble, have recently moved to their deceased father's property near Devil's Slide Road. The town is already uneasy with their reputation and when Zeke's truck is found crashed into a tree near the site of the bus accident, it is easy to place the blame squarely on his shoulders. But when the authorities go to apprehend him, he disappears into the woods.

Mercy is left alone to care for Hannah; scrounge for money and food and try to clear Zeke's name. June McAllister, trying to make sure that her husband's indiscretions and careless behavior stays hidden, becomes Mercy's greatest foe in the small town still reeling from the accident.

Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker takes place in the tiny mill town of Titan Falls, New Hampshire. In the 1990s the mills along the Androscoggin were experiencing losses now that production was moving to cheaper sources and the government was more carefully regulating pollution levels in the river. Titan Falls was wrapped up in concern for their livelihoods when the devastating accident shook the people in the small community.

It's easiest to be wary and suspecting of the newest members in town and everyone is nervous of Mercy. Mercy is a fascinating main character. Strong and capable, she's also tender and vulnerable. Her now-deceased mother had led her children on a nomadic life in the northern woods where she taught Mercy the healing arts. Using these skills, Mercy is attempts to heal the wounds of Titan Falls while protecting her siblings. Mercy is a character that it's easy to sympathize with and to champion.

I enjoyed the beautiful and haunting story. I love New Hampshire and I appreciated the details of the town and the surrounding woods, as well as the struggling river. The novel is well plotted--rather than flowing rapidly like a rushing river, it sort of meanders at a steady gentle pace allowing the reader to get to know the eccentric and unique people in town.

Mercy Snow is one of the She Reads Books of Winter. Since most of the book occurs during the freezing months of ice and snow, it was an appropriate winter choice. It's the story of a dying town; a woman who has lost herself and a young girl strong enough to show everyone the truth.

Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker is published by Grand Central Publishing and released in January 2015.

**I received a copy from the publisher, through the She Reads Book Club. All opinions are my own.**

Friday, March 20, 2015

Finding Jake - Book Review


When Simon and his wife first found out they were expecting a child, they decided that Simon would stay at home to raise the children and write while his wife pursued her career as an attorney. Though Simon often felt awkward around the other moms at play dates and school events, being a stay-at-home dad was a job he began to love and obsess over as he spent his time with first his son Jake and then his daughter Laney.

The sudden text instructing all parents that there had been a shooting at the school sent Simon into immediate panic and as it becomes clear that Jake is implicated in the shooting, Simon becomes more and more concerned. He is determined to find his missing son and clear his name.

As he searches for Jake and deals with the police, media and emotional parents, Simon stresses about all the moments leading up to this event--what he may have done wrong and what he could have done differently as a parent. In clearer moments, he recalls those sweet, tender memories of his son and knows in his heart that Jake must be innocent.

My book club recently read Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon. Since we are all parents, we were immediately able to relate to Simon's fear and panic regarding the school shooting. Just a month ago, I glanced out my window and saw a swarm of emergency vehicles with their lights circling and their sirens blaring near the junior high my son attends. My heart momentarily seized with concern before I remembered they were in a parade honoring a fallen officer. With so many school shootings, this fear lives strong in the hearts of all parents. Simon's concerns, fears and pain were completely believable.

My book club is made up of mothers, but it was interesting to look at this subject from the perspective of a stay-at-home dad. When it appears that Jake is implicated, Simon is filled with guilt. His wife seemed to place the responsibility on him and it made me wonder if the primary care giver/nurturing parent is really more responsible for the children's behavior than the other parent. Or is a team effort? Finding Jake definitely inspired conversation and thought regarding parent responsibility and roles.

Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon was a compelling read. Through Simon's memories and the current events, the reader is able to understand Jake and the mystery of whether or not Jake could and would violently shoot his friends and fellow students starts to unfold. The heartbreak, worry and fear felt by Jake's parents was very well portrayed and I ached for them and the other parents that had lost their children.

Finding Jake is a timely novel that inspires much discussion and was great to read with our book club.

Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon is published by William Morrow and released in February 2015. Copies of the book were provided by The Book Club Girls.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Pocket Wife - Book Review



From the cover :

A stylish psychological thriller with the compelling intrigue of The Silent Wife and Turn of Mind and the white-knuckle pacing of Before I Go to Sleep—in which a woman suffering from bipolar disorder cannot remember if she murdered her friend.
Dana Catrell is shocked when her neighbor Celia is brutally murdered. To Dana’s horror, she was the last person to see Celia alive. Suffering from mania, the result of her bipolar disorder, she has troubling holes in her memory, including what happened on the afternoon of Celia’s death.
Her husband’s odd behavior and the probing of Detective Jack Moss create further complications as she searches for answers. The closer she comes to piecing together the shards of her broken memory, the more Dana falls apart. Is there a murderer lurking inside her . . . or is there one out there in the shadows of reality, waiting to strike again?
A story of marriage, murder, and madness, The Pocket Wife explores the world through the foggy lens of a woman on the edge.

My thoughts :

Reading The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford, I was immediately intrigued by Dana's struggle to remember the events of the murder and her own fear that she had actually killed her neighbor. Dana was a unique and fascinating main character. Reading the novel with the understanding that seeing the events through the eyes of Dana may not be painting the most accurate picture of reality gave the novel the added appeal; the reader is always aware of being manipulated. While suspect, Dana is also terribly fragile and it's quite easy to sympathize with her.

The plot moves along at a nice pace with interesting side characters and the shadow of guilt thrown on a number of players. There are coincidences and a few unlikely details but they do not overly distract from the mystery. I was constantly compelled to continue reading and quite taken with Dana's plight. I wasn't positive but had some suspicion that the novel would end as it did. The ending is satisfactory and plausible but doesn't come with a whole lot of bang or fanfare. I think I'm actually okay with it.

I enjoy a good psychological thriller and The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford delivered. Most novels in this genre are also quite sordid and vulgar. The Pocket Wife is really quite a refreshingly clean read. There are no sexual scenes, no torture and a rather small smattering of bad language. It's a very impressive debut and I'll be looking forward to more from Crawford.


The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford is published by William Morrow and releases on March 17, 2015.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Pocket Wife. No compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Messenger of Truth : Maisie Dobbs - Book Review

From the cover :

London, 1931. The night before an exhibition of his artwork opens at a famed Mayfair gallery, the controversial artist Nick Bassington-Hope falls to his death. The police rule it an accident, but Nick's twin sister, Georgina, a wartime journalist and a infamous figure in her own right, isn't convinced.


When the authorities refuse to consider her theory that Nick was murdered, Georgina seeks out a fellow graduate from Girton College, Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator, for help. Nick was a veteran of World War I, and before long the case leads Maisie to the desolate beaches of Dungeness in Kent, and into the sinister underbelly of the city's art world.

My thoughts:

I've read several of the Maisie Dobbs books now and while I'm not a bona fide fan, I do enjoy the mysteries and the time period. The atmosphere and history of the period between the two world wars is fascinating to read about as the people pick up the pieces from one war only to be hit by depression and the political unrest leading up to the next war. In this time period, Maisie becomes an unlikely yet worthy hero as she searches and uses her keen intellect and skills of observation and knowledge of psychology to solve the mysteries.

Maisie's back story is told in its entirety in the first Maisie Dobbs book by Jacqueline Winspear (You can read my review of that novel **here**.) and while that first story helps set the stage for the subsequent novels, each book can stand on its own fairly well. Maisie is a unique character: brilliant and wise yet understated and rarely seeking the limelight. With her vast life experiences and her career decisions, Maisie is a model of early feminism in a time when single, working women were a new phenomenon following the war. 

I found the mystery in Messenger of Truth quite fascinating. The friends and family surrounding the deceased artist were intriguing and as Maisie tries to untangle the webs to get to the truth of Nick's death, she discovers that many of his associates have secrets to hide. Even years after the war, it is clear that there was much damage to the psyche of the people who lived through the atrocities.

The novel moves at a much slower pace than most mysteries. Honestly, I was bored with Maisie's personal story and that of her employee Billy. While that story-line does much to bolster the atmosphere of the time period, it did little to further the mystery and I wished the pace would move along. 

Overall though, I did enjoy the mystery and the conclusion was exciting and fully satisfying. 


There are nine novels in the Maisie Dobbs series. Messenger of Truth is the fourth. It was published by Picador in 2006. You can find out more about the author Jacqueline Winspear on her website or Facebook page.

I received a copy of Messenger of Truth as part of the TLC Book Tours. You can check out more stops on the Maisie Dobbs tour.




Sisters of Shiloh - Book Review


Libby Beale is devastated after the death of her beloved husband at the gruesome Civil War battle of Antietam. Seeking to avenge his death, Libby schemes to join the Rebel army dressed as a man and kill Yankees. Libby's older and protective sister Josephine comes along in an attempt to keep Libby safe.

In borrowed britches and with their hair chopped, Libby and Josephine pass for young boys. The Rebel army is desperate for recruits and signs them up. Libby seems to be channeling her deceased husband; she begins to walk and talk like him. She learns to shoot to kill and thrives in the grisly battles. Josephine, however, has more difficulty adopting the habits of a man. Determined not to kill anyone, she doesn't fire her weapon and can't resist another young soldier who sees her only as a good friend.

Sisters of Shiloh is appropriately written by sisters, Kathy and Becky Hepinstall. The prose is rich and captures the imagination. The brutal truths of battle and war are laid bare on the page. They don't shy away from the violence. Perhaps because they are "the fairer sex not made for war" they are actually more aware of the horrific details..

The novel moves at a rapid pace and was engaging. There is some awkward romance between Josephine and the soldier Wesley--picture some Shakespeare Twelfth Night. Theirs is a sweet friendship and I enjoyed this plot line much more than Libby's revenge.

While Sisters of Shiloh is a Civil War novel and it describes the battles, it does not get into the politics of the war much at all. Focusing on the women and their reactions to the war, Sisters of Shiloh paints a picture of how the war effected the regular foot soldier and the people who loved them.

Sisters of Shiloh by Kathy and Becky Hepinstall is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in March 2015.

**I received a complimentary copy of Sisters of Shiloh. No additional compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Winner of THE GOOD GIRL Give-Away


The winner of a hardcover copy of THE GOOD GIRL by Mary Kubica is...

Kelliann Barton

Congratulations!
Please contact me within the week with your information so that you can receive this fun thriller.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

To My Friends - Book Review


Whenever Elder Jeffrey R. Holland speaks I sit up straighter and listen more carefully. He might just be my favorite speaker during LDS General Conference. I love that he brings the scriptures to life for me and reminds me of the love of our Savior Jesus Christ. I like that he pulls no punches. He means what he says and he says what he means. His words speak to my heart.

To My Friends : Messages of Counsel and Comfort is a collection of talks given by Jeffrey R. Holland over the last several years. Rand and I read them together and enjoyed being reminded of his words and his spirit as he lifts and encourages us to follow Jesus Christ.

Many of the talks we have heard before but some of them are new to us--either given at BYU and BYU-I Devotionals as well as a talk given to a national meeting of Christian evangelical leaders. It is true that these talks are available to listen to or read for free online but it is nice to have all of his important messages included in one beautiful book. Holland's testimony and spirit is strong in this collection.

To My Friends : Messages of Counsel and Comfort by Jeffrey R. Holland is published by Deseret Book in December 2014.

**I received a complimentary copy of To My Friends. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Good Girl - Review and Give-away


Eve was completely surprised by the phone call. The caller, her daughter's friend, had exhausted all other possibilities looking for Mia and in desperation hoped that Mia might just be with her mother. Mia has disappeared. Immediately a search is organized for the daughter of a well-known Chicago judge and his socialite wife.

Told from the perspectives of Eve, Mia's mother; Gabe, the detective assigned to the case and Colin, the man who kidnapped Mia, The Good Girl by Mary Kubica is a page-turning mystery with plenty of twists and turns.

I've been in a bit of a reading slump--my nightstand overflowing with half finished books. I knew the She Reads Twitter chat with Mary was coming up and so I pulled The Good Girl from my shelves hoping that it would keep my easily distracted mind interested to the conclusion. It was exactly what I needed to break the bad pattern.

I especially enjoyed seeing the mystery unfold from the perspective of the perpetrator. This is a rare treat and being in his confused and dangerous mind was fascinating. The structure of the novel being told by three narrators with some sections before and after enhanced the mystery and the character development. The style was different but even as a debut author, Kubica makes it work.

The mystery kept me guessing but provided enough clues so the shocking ending was still plausible. With interesting characters; a fast-paced plot and an intriguing mystery, Kubica delivers a satisfying thriller without the gore.

**There is a character who swears.**


The Good Girl is published by MIRA and released in July 2014. The paperback printing of The Good Girl by Mary Kubica is out now and to celebrate I have a hardcover copy of The Good Girl to give away to one lucky reader.

To enter leave a comment on this post. The give-away will be open to entries until Friday, February 27th at 11:59 pm MST. The winner will be chosen randomly from the comments and be announced on Saturday, February 28th. US only.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Good Girl through She Reads. The give away copy was provided by the publishers. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My Sunshine Away - Book Review



The peace and security, of the people living in the beautiful Pine Creek neighborhood of Baton Rouge, are shattered when golden track-star Lindy Simpson, just fifteen years old, is raped not far from her own home. Before this moment, the neighbors have been a close group of friends. The kids have grown up playing together in the woods behind their homes. The adults have held barbecues and helped each other with their yard work. Following the violent act, everything has changed. Several neighbors are suspect. People are distrustful and guarded. But the biggest change is in Lindy, who withdraws, changes and loses that early sparkle of innocence and naivete.

The narrator of My Sunshine Away is a fourteen year old boy who has long had a secret crush on Lindy. And he's a suspect of the crime.

Using magical language, My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh transports the reader back to the nostalgic days of the narrator's youth. Since the narrator (I honestly can't find a mention of his name) and I are the same age, as he tells of his experiences as a fifth grader watching the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster I was mesmerized by our shared history. Full of the recent historical events that shaped the narrator and most Americans, he includes these events and the reactions and feelings to thoroughly bring his characters to life.

My Sunshine Away is a coming of age novel. Just as the tragic and horrifying events of Lindy's rape shape her youth and the lives of her family, the narrator is also deeply affected by the crime and the shattering of an ideal. His own childhood is changed by this moment. It's powerful and moving and a good reminder that and individual's choices and actions affect so many others for good or bad.

The novel is also a mystery, as doubt and suspicion is cast on several neighbors. The reader can not fully be sure that the narrator is not guilty of the crime though he frequently professes his innocence. Well plotted with just enough evidence to keep the reader guessing, My Sunshine Away is a compelling read.

At times heart wrenching and painful, the novel is also filled with heroics and hope. I hope to encourage other friends to read My Sunshine Away because I'm anxious to discuss the elements and themes of the novel that impressed me. It would be a fabulous book club read.

There is some bad language in the novel.

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh is published by Putnam and released on February 10, 2015. 

**I received a complimentary copy of My Sunshine Away. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Winner of The Secret of Midwives Give-away

Happy Valentines Day!

The winner of an ARC copy of The Secret of Midwives 
by Sally Hepworth is...


Ashley Walker

Congratulations! Please contact me with your information within a week to claim your prize.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Crazy Love You - Book Review


Ian, a graphic novelist, has fallen in love with Megan and wants to marry her. She's beautiful, sweet and fulfills his dreams of a settling down and having a family. But Ian's past and especially his childhood friendship with Priss is getting in the way of his relationship with Megan.

Priss has been his closest friend since tragedy shook his childhood. Bullied in school, Ian was regularly defended by Priss whose violent vengeance unnerved him but inspired the popular graphic novels Ian would later write. Priss has always been his defender. His protector. And he's been grateful, but now that he's becoming closer with Megan, they seem to become the target of Priss's violence and sinister retribution.

Crazy Love You by Lisa Unger kept me on the edge for the entire book. Priss was a frightening character--dangerous and unpredictable. At the same time, Ian is a completely unreliable narrator and I couldn't quite shake the feeling that he was lying throughout the book. Combined, these elements created a rushing, thrilling read that I couldn't put down and was nervous to read at night.

With dark twists and surprises, the plot was riveting and bewildering; suspenseful and chilling. I love a great psychological thriller and Crazy Love You definitely delivered.

Crazy Love You by Lisa Unger is published by Touchstone and released on February 10, 2015.

**I received a complimentary copy of Crazy Love You. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Marriage Game : A Novel of Queen Elizabeth I - Book Review


While reading The Marriage Game : A Novel of Queen Elizabeth I by Alison Weir, I joked that it was so suspenseful--I just couldn't wait to know who Queen Elizabeth I would marry. Of course, everyone knows that Queen Elizabeth was the famous Virgin Queen who died unmarried and without a child heir. However, I thought that she had publicly and adamantly declared that she would never marry very early in her reign. The Marriage Game by Weir details the history of the intrigue Elizabeth played with amorous and political suitors from around Europe. She kept them guessing and courting for years.

Focusing primarily on the relationship between Elizabeth and her childhood friend Robert Dudley, Weir tells the romantic and turbulent story of their courtship, friendship and working alliance. Elizabeth kept Dudley close to her for years--promoting, trusting and teasing him. Rumors of their affair were rampant within the court and Weir uses her experience as a historian and her knowledge of the Tudors to paint a very plausible account of their story.

Previously, I have only read some of Weir's history--The Six Wives of Henry the VIII--which I really enjoyed. I was definitely curious to read her fiction. Truthfully, her style still felt a bit aloof for fiction and it still felt more like a history with dialogue. Once I got used to her style, I really enjoyed learning more about Queen Elizabeth. I've been fascinated with this period of history for many years so I know the basics and political accomplishments of the queen. It was enjoyable and enlightening to read more of Elizabeth's personal relationships and the way she used her marriageability to manipulate world leaders and hold off conflicts with the European countries.


The Marriage Game : A Novel of Queen Elizabeth I by Alison Weir is published by Ballantine Books on February 10, 2015.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Marriage Game. No compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Secrets of Midwives - Book Review & Give-away


The midwives who delivered my five babies captured my heart. Their kindness and wisdom blessed my life and the lives of my babies as the midwives shared the precious moments of birth with us. Well educated and in tune with a woman's body, one midwife I now consider a friend, also diagnosed my thyroid issue. I've written more about my experiences with childbirth, certified nurse midwives and hypnobirthing *here*.

So given my history, it was not a surprise that I really enjoyed The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth. Three women. Grandmother, mother and daughter have all become midwives. While their personal beliefs and philosophies about hospitals, doctors, birthing centers and home deliveries differ, they all share they goal of delivering healthy babies from healthy mothers.

Floss and Grace are surprised to discover that Neva is 30 weeks pregnant and that she has hidden this pregnancy from them for so long. Tuned in to the signs of pregnancy, they are shocked that they have completely missed the clues from their granddaughter and daughter. Not only has Neva kept the pregnancy from them, she is remaining mum about who the father is--insisting only that the baby has no father.

Grace is obsessed with finding out who the father of her grandchild is and Floss realizes that keeping her own secret may be hurting those she loves.

The Secrets of Midwives was a captivating read. I read the majority in one evening once I became intrigued by their characters' lives and experiences delivering babies. The women in the story are each different though they've chosen a common profession. They are at times unlikable and abrasive; occasionally soft and vulnerable. They do fall into their specific type-cast roles: the country midwife on her bicycle, the hippy midwife with her oils and massage and the certified nurse midwife delivering in hospitals near emergency medical care. Yet, each woman has an individual personality and becomes a well developed character as the plot moves forward.

There's hardly a time when a gathering of my friends doesn't end up in sharing of birth stories. These emotional moments shape us as women. They're part of our larger story. The delivery scenes in The Secrets of Midwives are dramatic, powerful and beautiful. The novel is heavy on birthing philosophy but ultimately the story wins out and the relationships between Floss, Grace and Neva become more important than the propaganda.

I thoroughly relished the novel. It's well written and perfectly plotted to be a quick, delightful read that pulled at my heartstrings.

The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth is published by St. Martin's Press on February 10, 2015.

I have an extra ARC copy of The Secrets of Midwives to give away to one lucky reader.

To enter leave a copy of this post. The contest will be open to entries until Friday, February 13th at 11:59pm MST. One winner will be chosen randomly from the comments and announced on Saturday, February 14th. Open to US only.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Secrets of Midwives. No additional compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Tutor - Book Review



From the cover :

A bold and captivating novel about love, passion, and ambition that imagines the muse of William Shakespeare and the tumultuous year they spend together.  

The year is 1590, and Queen Elizabeth’s Spanish Armada victory has done nothing to quell her brutal persecution of the English Catholics. Katharine de L’Isle is living at Lufanwal Hall, the manor of her uncle, Sir Edward. Taught by her cherished uncle to read when a child, Katharine is now a thirty-one-year-old widow. She has resigned herself to a life of reading and keeping company with her cousins and their children. But all that changes when the family’s priest, who had been performing Catholic services in secret, is found murdered. Faced with threats of imprisonment and death, Sir Edward is forced to flee the country, leaving Katharine adrift in a household rife with turmoil.

At this time of unrest, a new schoolmaster arrives from Stratford, a man named William Shakespeare. Coarse, quick-witted, and brazenly flirtatious, Shakespeare swiftly disrupts what fragile peace there is left at Lufanwal. Katharine is at first appalled by the boldness of this new tutor, but when she learns he is a poet, and one of talent, things between them begin to shift, and soon Katharine finds herself drawn into Shakespeare’s verse, and his life, in ways that will change her forever.

Inventive and absorbing, The Tutor is a masterful work of historical fiction, casting Shakespeare in a light we’ve never seen. 


My thoughts :

Just as Katherine is beguiled by the dashing poet, I was charmed and enthralled by Andrea Chapin's novel The Tutor. Katherine is a delightful character. She's smart but not flawless. She's human and susceptible to seduction and the emotions of the heart. It is delightful to see her opposite Shakespeare and imagine that a passionate and equally brilliant woman must have influenced his early poetry.

Filled with dangerous and riveting subplots--a family struggles to stay safe in an atmosphere of political and religious unrest while it appears to implode with intrigues from within--the novel moves at a thrilling pace. The supporting cast is developed enough that even with a large number of characters, they are relatively easy to keep straight.

While the novel is passionate and filled with poetry to stir the soul, I appreciate that it is free from erotic sex scenes. Chapin allows the romantic and sexual tension to build with the shared poetry between Katherine and Will. The portrayal of Will Shakespeare is remarkable. The cunning, brilliant and flamboyant man comes to life within Chapin's pages. He keeps Katherine and the reader on their toes and constantly guessing at his true intentions. 

The Tutor by Andrea Chapin is a mesmerizing and luscious novel filled with romance and mystery. I could barely put it down at night to sleep. 

The Tutor by Andrea Chapin is published by Riverhead Books and releases on February 5, 2015.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Tutor. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Friday, January 30, 2015

Foxy's Premium Frozen Yogurt


I get a lot of packages delivered to my house but it is pretty rare to get one that warns me to use gloves because dry ice burns and to put the contents immediately into the freezer. 

I was so excited that I completely ignored the advice and while I didn't touch the dry ice, I did get burned from the cold containers of frozen yogurt inside. I hardly cared. I couldn't wait to dig right into those beautiful containers of frozen deliciousness.



I have a thing for frozen treats--ice cream, sorbet, and frozen yogurt are my downfall. I can't resist. So it's pretty exciting that Foxy's Premium Frozen Yogurt is as guilt-free as it is delicious. With six delectable flavors packaged in individual containers (or enough for two) that are just so cute and witty, it wasn't hard to find a flavor that I especially loved.

After a little taste-testing party friends and my kids, each had their own favorite flavors. Amberly loves the Sassy Pash (so appropriate), a blend of vanilla bean and strawberry hunks. I fell for head over heels in love with the combination of tingly and rich flavors in Fancy Pash, dark chocolate and tangerine zest. Though the Naughty Pash, honeycomb and caramel chunks was a close second place.



Once I let the kids loose, the frozen yogurt was devoured in seconds. Made with fresh ingredients and with significantly less calories and fat content than most frozen yogurt and ice cream treats, I didn't have to feel so worried that my kids practically licked the containers clean.

In Utah, Foxy's Premium Frozen Yogurt in all the amazing flavors can now be purchased at Harmon's Groceries. 

**I received complimentary frozen yogurt in exchange for my review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League - Book Review


I fell in love with The Healing by Jonathan Odell a few years ago. You can read my review *here*. I enjoyed it so much that I almost immediately ordered a copy of Odell's first book The View From Delphi and then I didn't get around to reading it. Fortunately, I was able to read the new rendering of his previous novel, Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League.

Miss Hazel and her husband Floyd arrive in Delphi, Mississippi newly married and determined to make their fortune. At least Floyd is determined. Until Floyd brings home a new Lincoln for his wife, Hazel feels like she's just along for the ride. Finding a bit freedom and peace, Hazel dresses up; packs her two young boys in the back seat and becomes famous for driving through town and all over the delta.

Hazel has trouble fitting in with the well bred ladies in town who see her as tacky nouveau riche and suffers from depression. After the death of her son, she drowns her sorrows in alcohol and soon finds herself nearly a prisoner in her own home when Floyd hires Vida to be her maid and make sure she takes her medicine. Vida, a young black woman, has also lost a son and harbors a deep vendetta against the crooked sheriff. The two women form an unlikely alliance as they stir things up in the already the troubled racial climate of Delphi.

Odell's characters come to life within the pages of his novel. Hazel and Vida are troubled, complex women who experience dynamic growth and react in believable ways to the sorrows and devastation in their lives. Every person feels real and not simply type cast supporting characters. They are richly developed and all their lives blend together to create the drama, tension and history familiar to those from a small town.

The pages of Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League are filled with beautiful images and hauntingly lyrical words. Odell is a master of writing and of  understanding human temperament and desires. He excels at telling inspiring stories that captivate the reader with a myriad of powerful emotions.

Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League is a beautiful and important novel. If it's possible, I may have loved it even more than I loved The Healing.

Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan Odell is published by Maiden Lane Press and released in January 2015.

**I received a complimentary copy of Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

One Step Too Far - Book Review


From the cover :

The #1 international bestseller reminiscent of After I’m Gone, Sister, Before I Go to Sleep, and The Silent Wife—an intricately plotted, thoroughly addictive thriller that introduces a major new voice in suspense fiction—a mesmerizing and powerful novel that will keep you guessing to the very end.
No one has ever guessed Emily’s secret.
Will you?
A happy marriage. A beautiful family. A lovely home. So what makes Emily Coleman get up one morning and walk right out of her life—to start again as someone new?
Now, Emily has become Cat, working at a hip advertising agency in London and living on the edge with her inseparable new friend, Angel. Cat’s buried any trace of her old self so well, no one knows how to find her. But she can't bury the past—or her own memories.
And soon, she’ll have to face the truth of what she's done—a shocking revelation that may push her one step too far. . . .


My thoughts : 

I was immediately intrigued by Emily's story in One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis. What could she have done to make her walk away from the husband and child that she clearly loved? Even though the beginning felt bogged down in pointless dribble--the reader really doesn't need pages of text describing shopping at IKEA--I pressed on, determined to understand Emily's motivations. Eventually I was quite taken with Emily's transformation into the edgy Cat and finally got back into a reading groove that I've been missing lately. 

The writing style is pretty simple but Tina Seskis builds emotion and suspense with alternating chapters between the past and Emily's new present as Cat. The suspense multiplies and just as all Emily's secrets are about to be revealed, I put the book down to savor the tension. However, the next morning I was completely deflated by the ending. In light of the conclusion, so many of the alternating chapters regarding supporting characters were entertaining yet unnecessary and didn't support the plot at all. 

While I found the revelations anti-climatic and the writing sophomoric, I was constantly compelled to discover Emily's secrets and I enjoyed reading the novel.

One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis is published by William Morrow and released on January 27, 2015.

**I received a complimentary copy of One Step Too Far. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The winner of THE MAGICIAN'S LIE

Good morning. My house seemed colder than usual this morning when we woke up. When I checked the thermostat the temperature was 51 degrees and someone had switched off the furnace. No one here is owning up to turning it off and our only guess is that Neal flipped the switch before leaving for his scout camp. Perhaps he figured that we should all be as cold as he would be. Thankfully, the furnace is working and the house is heating up nicely.

Until it gets warmer though, I'm staying wrapped up in my robe and under the covers with a great book.



One lucky winner has just won a copy of a fabulous and exciting book to cuddle up with this winter. And the winner of an ARC copy of The Magician's Lie by Greer Macallister is...

Blogger budandlissa said...
Sounds like a fantastic read! I hope I get the chance!

Congratulations! You have one week to contact me with your information so that you can receive your prize. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Dress Shop of Dreams - Book Review


If I saw this book on the shelf at the store, I would pass it right by. Based on the whimsical cover, I would have decided that this book definitely wasn't for me and moved along. Just not my cup of cocoa. However, since The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna Van Praag is a She Reads selection this winter and I almost always like their choices, I decided to give it a chance. I had just finished The Magician's Lie and was in the mood for a little more magic.

Scientist Cora Sparks has carefully guarded and controlled her emotions since the traumatic death of her parents in a house fire. Her grandmother Etta is concerned that Cora is missing out on the love of her life by refusing to look beyond her research and see Walt, the handsome bookseller who has loved her since his childhood. Fortunately, Etta is armed with magic and with a few careful stitches in the beautiful dresses she creates and sells, she can help her customers and granddaughter see their potential.

It took me three days to read the first 70 pages. I was having a lot of trouble getting into the story and was distracted by every little thing. This is pretty unusual for me and I was just about to toss it aside when something (magically?) clicked. I devoured the last two thirds of the book in an evening.

The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna Van Praag has a lot of characters with a lot of angst and love-sickness and drama going on in their lives. While Cora starts to feel again and open her heart to Walt, she also begins investigating her parents' deaths. Walt, believing that Cora will never return his love, tries desperately to fall in love with Milly, a young widow who is enraptured by Walt's voice and his love letters. Etta, too, is haunted by the love she gave up years ago.

A love letter to romantic classics, The Dress Shop of Dreams is filled with magic and enchantment and love.

It's a fairy tale of sorts, where all the characters' stories are woven together and wrap up with happy endings. It's fanciful, airy, and frankly, reminds me more of a perfect summer evening than a book for winter. But really The Dress Shop of Dreams would be enjoyable any time of year.

The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna Van Praag is published by Ballantine and released in December 2014. It is one of the winter selections from She Reads.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Dress Shop of Dreams from She Reads. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**