Saturday, September 19, 2020

The Girl in the Saffron Espadrilles
G. C. Allen

G. C. Allen's spectacular talent shines bright in Book 5 of the Lorriaine Innis series, The Girl in the Saffron Espadrilles. I have become such a huge fan of this series and of G. C. Allen! There is no doubt in my mind that when I open the pages of the next book in the series, I'm going to have another unexpected, wild and crazy, twisted and turning, highs and lows, emotional rollercoaster of an adventure with Lorriane Innis and the unique characters G. C. Allen has crafted with such great care. Each one's individualities are like none other. Just like in the novels and how Lorraine Innis has become a phenom in the series, she has become one for me, too. From cover to cover, this story is a jam-packed, non-stop series of events that are unpredictable and surprising. It's a "hold on and don't let go" as G. C. Allen takes us on the continuing back story of Chesney and Valerie and just how they become involved with each other. It's a deeper understanding as to the people they have become because of the events that have shaped their lives.

G.C. Allen begins to pull Chesney and Valerie's parallel stories together and we finally meet Martina Fergus...the nicest person ever. She's full of tenderness and compassion. The reason we have a Lorraine Innis. Lorraine's mission is to find justice for Martina and this book tells us why. The three character's stories become entwined with each other in insanely humorous, entertaining, witty, and sometimes gut wrenchingly raw emotional scenes. I went through so many emotions from laughing out loud, a LOT, to crying my eyes out. G.C. Allen writes intricate passages that blew my mind many times. She's a storyteller extraordinaire!

The entire cast of characters bring the whole wild story together. I love the characters in these books. They are some of the most outrageous and unforgettable of any I've ever encountered! Characters with names that had me ROFLing, ones who make me cringe and ones I love like family. Their escapades, capers, stunts and situations are astounding at times. Just imagine scenes that involve a book club, a class reunion, a giant squid, a traffic stop, a Donny Osmond event and many, many more that keep this story action packed and never a dull moment!

The background stage has been set, Lorraine is still on her "mission" and Valerie still doesn't know what Peter Liverot told Lorraine....I can't wait to find out where the story goes next in The Girl in the Blood Red Stilettos!

I have said this before and I really feel strongly about saying it again. I enjoy G.C. Allen's writing style and how it makes me feel. It's a feel good kind of read that goes in so many unexpected ways. Books 4 and 5 are a bit different from the first three in that I had some very deep emotions from the characters. For me it's a great author who can draw that kind of emotion out of me. G.C. Allen has this gift.

There is so much in these books that I can't begin to express how much I really hope other readers open up the series and are pulled into the world of Lorraine Innis. I am so totally glad that I did. I highly recommend this series. I'm definitely the kind of a girl who loves Lorraine Innis and G. C. Allen. This book is another unputdownable, can't turn the pages fast enough, read!

I want to gratefully express my thanks to G.C. Allen for the honor and privilege of reading this fantastic novel. Words are inadequate for what it means to be a part of this adventure. This is a five star and beyond read for me. All thoughts and opinions in this review are my heartfelt own.


Monday, September 7, 2020

Forever Home
Tammy L. Grace

As this Hometown Harbor series seems to be coming to an end, Tammy L. Grace brings us Izzy's story.   This is a story of a woman who is trying to find her place in life after semi-retiring to Friday Harbor.  A new beginning.  A place where she feels connected, where she could slow down and enjoy life at her pace.  It all seems like a perfect plan but life can still be challenging when it comes to family and the past.  People who tend to make life difficult.  Izzy has family and friends to support her in the small island community and it's these who help her throughout the story and traversing the family perils.

Ms. Grace has created a cast of characters who could be anyone I would meet or know in my own life.  Characters that are intimately and deeply created.  I felt the connection with Izzy and her emotions as her story unfolds.  I especially felt the kindrid spirit between Izzy and the sweet golden retriever, Sunny, as the pup chose Izzy to be her people. "Dogs have a way of knowing exactly what we need, don't they?"  "No matter your struggle, when you have a dog, you're never alone."  I love that Ms. Grace writes her love of dogs, in particular, golden retrievers, into the stories.  They become a vital piece to the whole and add the feel that "a house is not a home without the love of a dog".  

Izzy's story is one filled with issues that many families face. Her daughter, Mia, is disrespectful and was always a "daddy's girl" blaming her mom for the divorce of her parents. "Mothers and daughters, huh? It's always more complicated than it looks."   Shannon is the "black sheep of the family".  The sister whose irresponsible acts make things hard and uncomfortable for the family.  These two characters were so well written, that I found myself depising them many times. They were difficult to care about because of their self-centeredness and selfishness.  Just the way a good "bad" character should be.  

 But then there were the heartfelt, tender and compassionate characters.  They pulled at my heart and brought so much peace and calm to Izzy's life.  Colin is a heartthrob with his Scottish accent,  brilliant blue eyes and gentle caring ways to Izzy.  Ms. Grace built their relationship with a perfection of timing through the pages of the book.  Sigh!   The supporting characters bring a completeness to the story.  They unite together and enhance Izzy's story to perfection.  Add the cast of canine pooches  and it's a sweet, heartwarming story I loved reading.   

No less a part of the story is the setting.  It's a vivid visit to the Pacific Northwest San Juan Islands.  The beauty of the harbor and scenic shores.  The ferry rides across the water and the surrounding areas.  The quaint little shops and restaurants with friendly proprietors make the story even more special.  It was a virtual escape through the descriptive words Ms. Grace is so talented to put to paper.   

This book had such a heartwarming feel to it as I was reading it.  I love Tammy L. Grace's stories and this one was a wonderful and pleasurable read.  I want to thank Ms. Grace for the honor and privilege of spending time in the pages of this book.  It was an escape that made my heart happy.  It's a marvelous five star read for me.   All opinions and thoughts in this review are my heartfelt own.


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Moonlight Child
Karen McQuestion

I have just finished a novel that tugged at my heart with such an emotional pull. Just like a Karen McQuestion story does.  I love her books!    This is a story of a little girl no one knows exists except for the family she's living with.  A little girl named Mia.  She's known no other life except the one she's in. She knows something is different about her place in the family but she is so innocent and trusts what she's told.   She's such a sweetheart and all she wants to do is please her "family".  

This is also the story of Niki.  A young 18 year old girl just out of the foster care system with no family to live with.  An attorney, Amy,  has taken an interest in Niki and suggests she get her feet on the ground by staying with Amy's mother Sharon.  This is a perfect scenario that puts Niki and Sharon together and the story plot that unfolds when they become suspicious by what they see in the house across the backyard.  A little girl doing dishes late at night (The Moonlight Child) and suspicion arises as to why this would be.  

This book was so emotionally charged.  I went through the gamut of all the emotions possible with the characters, Ms. McQuestion has created in this story.  "Niki had learned that people had layers, and sometimes what lurked underneath the prettiness could be ugly and cruel."  The characters in this book are so well developed.  The way Ms. McQuestion brings them to life with their emotions and traits is so realistic.  They became people I could very well have met and gotten to know.   Whether they are likable or ones I dislike with a passion, each one is minutely detailed and individualistic.  I could feel their characteristics and what kind of people they were.  

 I fell in love with little Mia.  My heart was wrapped around her little finger. Such a sweetie.  No matter what was going on, all she wanted to do was please.  She has a connection and attachment to Griswold, "her faithful canine companion"....that really touched my heart.  Griswold is so loyal to her.  
  Niki and Sharon built a relationship that was so beautiful. One that was meant to be and so natural for them.  Niki just needed someone to love her and Sharon was there. Niki is just who Sharon needs in her life, too.  

  My heart broke for Wendy and Edwin.  Their daughter has been missing for years and there's been no word from her.  Their hope is she will come home.  How heartbreaking and devastating. 

 Then there were the characters I really despised.  My mom instincts kicked in and couldn't believe how narcissistic Suzette was.  She is a crazy mess and so self-centered.  Her husband, Matthew and son, Jacob, were victims of her self-absorption and ego.  

This book is so very good. The premise of the story is fascinating.   It's complex but written as to build the story up so that I had to keep turning the pages.  There was suspense, drama, secrets, mystery, and tragedy.  There is also loyalty, love, friendships, determination and truth seeking.   It's a novel that I had a very hard time putting down.  From the poignant beginning chapter Ms. McQuestion captured me into the pages and took me on an intensely riveting ride to the climactic end.  Very well done!  

I want to thank the author, Karen McQuestion, for the honor of reading this fantastic book. All opinions and thoughts are my heartfelt own. It is definitely a five star read for me.


Friday, August 14, 2020

The First To Lie
Hank Phillippi Ryan

"Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides."  Andre Malraux 

Hank Phillippi Ryan captured my attention right away as I read the prologue of this book.  There are some very interesting questions to ask yourself in these few short paragraphs.   Fascinating things to think about and "what ifs" that might happen if you could "start over" and become a different person.   It sounds like an easy or good thing to do but is it really?  You might be able to change your outer appearance but the inner you is always there. But "When the stakes are life and death, did a few lives matter?"   With this intriguing scenario and "All you have to do is lie." as the motivation, Ms. Ryan weaves a thrilling story that took me on a wild ride.  

The story revolves around three main characters.  Ellie, Nora and Meg.  Each one with an agenda that involves the Big Pharma company Pharminex, the Vanderwald empire,  and the miracle drug Monifan.  Just who are each of these characters and what are they after?  How are they connected to each other and why?  Ms. Ryan then adds characters and twists that had my head spinning.  She weaves and unravels and weaves some more and kept me guessing as each page was turned.   The schemeing, the lies, the deceitfully revenge driven characters had me all twisted up in a thrilling chesslike plot.  What I really liked was not knowing how this would all play out and kept me reading to the surprising end.  

I liked this passage from Alice in Wonderland Ms. Ryan used in the story.  For me it sums up the characters and the mystery surrounding them:
"I know who I was when I got up this morning, Alice had told the Caterpillar in her most favorite book, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.  I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, because I'm not myself, you see."  

This was a great read for me.  I love Ms. Ryan's writing style and her ability to put me into the "minds" of her characters.  I could feel her "investigative inquisitiveness" througout the book and kept thinking about how some of the scenario might have come from the Front Pages of real life events. Taking those situations and creating a thrilling, psychological mystery in "The First To Lie". 

I want to thank Netgalley and especially Ms. Ryan for the honor and privilege of reading her page turning novel.  All opinions and thoughts in this review are my sincere own.  This is a great read! 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

No Place Too Far
Kay Bratt

"The gift of "ohana"-the Hawaiian word symbolizing family...." 

  Family is everything to the people of Hawaii.  Love, devotion, trust, and dependability.  All these things make a family that is bonded together no matter what.  The definition of family can be different for everyone.  In "No Place too Far",   Kay Bratt continutes the story from the first book in the series, "True to Me" of how Quinn has found her family in Maui after more than 30 years of being separated. But the past threatens the future. Part of the past is Quinn's best friend, Maggie, who's come to Maui with her young son, Charlie.  As soon as I opened this book up, I felt like I was right back with old friends and family.   Ms. Bratt has a story telling gift to create stories that pull at your heart.  Ones that have a message and meaning to them.   I know with a Kay Bratt novel,  I'm going on an emotional adventure with the characters to places that are as vividly detailed as if I were there myself.  She has such a gift of bringing the reader on an emotional journey and adventure with her characters. 

Quinn's past is one she's trying to keep secret in order to protect someone in her family.  Keeping secrets is all good until they aren't secret anymore.  Now she's in a dilemma of losing what took her so long to find again.  Will ohana be enough to overcome the challenges that threaten to ruin her place with them?  Will her "honu" be there to protect her through as it was before?  

Maggie has a past, too.  One that has haunted her and caused her to try to run from it and disappear.  One that she will do anything to keep her son, Charlie, safe from as well as herself.  But the past is in danger of catching up to them and shattering any sense of peace and security she's worked so hard to find.  "She wanted to be strong.  Competent. Self-sufficient."  Who will be there for her as she faces the worst?  

This is a story about family...related and unrelated...but bonded and connected by love.  This is a story about hardships, struggles, fears, guilt, secrets, and uncertainty.  But it's also about trust, determination, friendships that are more like family, traditions, and loyalty.  Ms. Bratt weaves in drama, suspense, and heart wrenching side characters with stories that bring it all together in an unputdownable read.  She throws in some mystery to add to the mix and kept me turning the pages.  

Not only do I become invested in the characters but the setting in this series is like a character itself by how brilliantly Ms. Bratt creates the scenes in word pictures I could visualize in my mind.  I was again taken on a philosophical and cultural tour of a place I have never been but totally feel like I learned so much about it through the characters and their experiences in Maui and the surrounding areas. It's a virtual visit that had me walking in the rainforest, hearing the waterfalls, smelling the flora, and seeing the lushness as if I were there. 

Then there's Woodrow...He stole my heart.   The true definition of the love of a dog for his owner.  Maggie's quiet shaggy service dog.  Kay Bratt's ability to tap into the devotion of a dog and put into words that faithfulness is truly from her love of dogs.  I knew that feeling in my heart with each passage Woodrow was written in.  "Woodrow looked up.  His soulful brown eyes locked on Maggie's, instantly calming her.  He had that way about him."  The subject of why Maggie needed a service dog touched close to home when I read the "From the Author" passages at the end of the book.  I am very grateful for her thoughts and candor.   Her heart to help others.  

Kay Bratt writes stories from her heart. I become a part of them as I'm reading them.  No Place Too Far is no exception.  I am very grateful for the opportunity of reading this novel. Kay Bratt brings it every time with her heart and emotions that pour out on the pages.  I will wait with anticipation for the next book in the series to see which character's stories Ms. Bratt brings to us By The Sea...there's a hint at the end in those notes!  I want to thank Netgalley and especially Kay Bratt for the honor and privilege of reading this continuation of a great series.  I loved it!   All opinions and thoughts in this review are my heartfelt own.  Maika'i nui loa.... (very, very good) five tropical stars!

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Dignity and Grace
Alison Ragsdale

Dignity and Grace.....what a perfect title for this amazing book!  There are so many feelings going through my heart as I gather my thoughts about this poignant story of a young 11 year old girl who loses her mother to a devastating disease.  A mother she's connected to through love,  the power of music and the cello.   I loved the character of Iona from the very beginning of the book.  She grabbed my heart and didn't let go.  The turmoil and struggles she experiences after the loss of her mom, tore my heart open.  The excruciating pain of losing her mother and also losing her desire of playing the cello.  ""It makes me sad, but when I start to play, the music brings so much with it." She said."The weight of the cello, the smell of the rosin, the feel of the strings."  She tapped her fingertips together. "It's just Mum.  All of it.""  Passages like this brought tears to my eyes.  So many tears. 

The way Ms. Ragsdale wove the story together was so unique.  When Iona turns 21 she receives a letter from her father whom she's avoided since her mother's death.  A letter her mother, Grace, wrote specifically for her.  This puts Iona on a path to search for answers surrounding her mother's last days with her and why she made the choices she did.  It's a painful and difficult journey.  One in which I felt I was traveling with Iona as she walked through each new twist and shocking surprise.  ".....her overriding hope was that with each stop she might learn something about that priceless week she'd missed out on with her mother."  

The supporting characters in the book are no less endearing.  They complimented the journey Iona was taking in a perfect way.  They supported her and were there for her with love, advice and compassion.    Each one guiding and encouraging her to the next step in her journey.  They, too, are written in depth and I felt I knew them well.  

Alison Ragsdale's stories are so deeply emotional and written with such intricate attention to details. The story is never rushed but every word is built upon the ones before to create a passionately moving story between the covers of the book.   I have read other books by Ms. Ragsdale and each one has touched me in ways I never knew a book would.  Dignity and Grace is no exception.  I have just finished this one and my emotions are raw and exposed in a most Alison Ragsdale way.   She has the ability to trancend words on a page and craft a story that I become completely immersed in.  From the beginning prologue my heart was captured.   

I not only emotionally read this book as Iona searched for answers, I also experienced a visit to the vistas of Scotland through the vivid descriptions Ms. Ragsdale interspersed throughout the pages. Again, the attention to details is exceptional.  In my mind I could vividly see the settings of each scene with a clarity as if I were actually there.  I "lived" this book with Iona.  A story of "Dignity and Grace" and the journey to discover the meaning of it.  

I want to sincerely thank  Ms. Ragsdale for the honor and privilege of reading this emotional journey I took in  this fantastic book.  It truly touched my heart.  All opinions and thoughts in this review are my heartfelt own.

Friday, July 17, 2020

A Teacher's Prayer
Tammy Mentzer Brown

John 15:16 "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit-fruit that will last-and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you."

This is more than a book about a young girl who's life is changed when her father is tragically killed. It's an outpouring of gratitude to a loving God and the people He placed in her life as she grew up. This is the story of the author.

When Tammy's father is killed, her life takes a turn from the loving, secure and caring home he had provided to a tumultuous and often abusive childhood that her alcoholic mother seemed unable to change. This is the story of a young girl who is exposed to so much a child shouldn't have to endure. Early in her life she's invited to VBS, an escape from the house for a few hours, and where God reveals Himself to her. Life is still difficult but through it all, God places the people in her life to bring her through. Ms. Brown graciously and heart wrenchingly shares her story through words of grace and love. Her gratitude for those people God used in her life makes my heart warm. People might not realize the difference they make in another person's life, but God uses them to guide and provide. She shares so many situations that these people carried her through. This story is from an author's grateful heart. "......sometimes friends come and go in our lives, but we should always give thanks to God for them. How each person we encounter has a special purpose for entering our lives at that time, whether it is a lesson for them to learn or one for us. Someone, maybe even both, will benefit from the relationship."

There are passages that broke my heart. There are passages that made my heart soar with hers. The story is such an inspiration and what a testimony to the loving God she serves. There is power in prayer and a God who is there no matter what the situation and circumstances. I especially liked the scripture verses Ms. Brown quoted at the end of each chapter. They are the foundation of what the chapter was about. The promises that God kept as she shares her testimony.

I am so honored to have the privilege to read this inspirational story of hope, grace and love. The grace of God is awesome and this story is truly one that touched my heart. Thank you, Tammy Mentzer Brown!

The Girl in the Saffron Espadrilles By G. C. Allen G. C. Allen's spectacular talent shines bright in Book 5 of the Lorriaine Innis serie...