Review: The Mapmaker’s Children

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This book was a perfect addition to my Memorial Day weekend, McCoy had me entranced and glued to the book from the prologue all the way until the very end.

Reasons I loved this book:

* McCoy has a knack for taking inanimate objects and making them key players and characters in the story she tells, such as the house that you meet in the prologue, full of secrets and mystery.

* This is a Civil War era book; I’ve always enjoyed stories about American history, particularly the Civil War, those fighting for justice and the campaign to end slavery. There is something about that time in American history that I’m drawn to, always have been.

* McCoy tells the story from the point of view of two characters (Sarah and Eden), going back and forth between them each chapter. I love the pace switching characters creates in the book, the varying points of view, and how the alternating characters/chapters kept me turning the pages of this book.

* The story is enthralling, McCoy has a unique look at the Civil War in The Mapmaker’s Children and a way with words that made me wish this story didn’t end.

The Mapmaker's ChildrenAbout The Mapmaker’s Children

When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.

Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance.

Ingeniously plotted to a riveting end, Sarah and Eden’s woven lives connect the past to the present, forcing each of them to define courage, family, love, and legacy in a new way.

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Sarah McCoyAbout Sarah McCoy

SARAH McCOY is the New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of The Baker’s Daughter, a 2012 Goodreads Choice Award Best Historical Fiction nominee; the novella “The Branch of Hazel” in Grand Central; The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico; and The Mapmaker’s Children (Crown, May 5, 2015).

Her work has been featured in Real Simple, The Millions, Your Health Monthly, Huffington Post and other publications. She has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. She calls Virginia home but presently lives with her husband, an Army physician, and their dog, Gilly, in El Paso, Texas. Sarah enjoys connecting with her readers on Twitter at @SarahMMcCoy, on her Facebook Fan Page or via her website, www.sarahmccoy.com.

tlc tour hostDisclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of my review. All opinions are my own.

Around Here

Borrowing today’s post idea from the lovely Kathleen at Kapachino.

Around here, I’m feeling overwhelmed. It’s our busy season at work which means the days fly by (a good thing) but also that there is never enough time in the day to get things done. I worked from home one day last week and knocked out oh-so-much on my To Do list, but after a few days back in the office there’s just as much on the list now. I’m going to be working from home several days a week starting in June and I know I’m going to love it.

Around here, work isn’t the only thing that is a lot. May in general is a packed month. Lots of birthdays to celebrate, a wedding to attend in which I’m a reader and in charge of the guest book/canvas, the book fair in honor of my momma (which I both love and loathe at the same time), not to mention keeping up with my workout routine, finishing books I’m reviewing and so much more. Pretty sure I overextended myself this month as evidenced by the lovely bags under my eyes.

Around here, Knight bought a heavy bag off of Craigslist a few weeks ago and you guys, I’m in love. I’ve got a killer 30 minute heavy bag routine that I’m doing 2 times a week now, and adding another Pinterest workout to the back end of it and while it’s tough and I’m a sweaty disgusting mess when I’m done it feels so good. Bonus that two people in the last week said I’m looking good/fit. I’ll take it.

Around here, my house is neglected and is in dire need of a good scrubbing/cleaning from top to bottom, I have random piles of clothes in my room that need to be put away/sorted, and I need to get my jewelry situation under control (it’s currently all over my dresser and that just doesn’t work for me).

Around here, I have moments of grief that is so real and so raw. I cried in the middle of punching the heavy bag out of sadness and anger that my mom wasn’t here on dad’s birthday. I am angry that her of all people had to leave this world so early, that she took good care of herself, that we have world class medicine at our fingertips and there was nothing to be done. I’m sad, too, because I want more than anything to text her about this past weekend with friends (she would love the pictures) or to see her holding dad’s hand at his birthday party.

Around here, I’m looking forward to a few weeks in June that will be quieter, far less going on, just enough time for me catch  my breath before my bonus daughters come for the summer.

Around here, I’m addicted to: Royal Pains on Netflix; buffalo chicken quesadillas made at home; anything with bleu cheese; large gumdrop stud type earrings; Papermate Ink Joy pens and sleep when I get it.

 

Review: Moonlight on Butternut Lake

I love the third installment of the Butternut Lake books just as much as, if not more so, than the first two. I’ll admit, I’m always apprehensive when there’s a third book in a series because it often falls short for me: characters doing things that I believe is out of character; writing isn’t the same and yet somehow the book is longer than the first two combined. But this novel by McNear? It doesn’t give in to the third-book doom. Instead, I’d venture to say, it’s my favorite in the series. I love reading about the characters from the first and second book, additional glimpses into their lives, knowing how things are going for them. I love when a new set of characters can be introduced so seamlessly into an already existing locale which is no easy feat as a writer. McNear has you caring about Mila and Reid from the very first page of her story and that continues until the very end.

This story is about family, love in all of its glory, trial and tribulations. It’s about overcoming, believing in yourself, the power of friendship and a support network. It’s about facing demons from your past and walking away towards your new and bright future. I hope against hope that somehow there will be a fourth in this series or at least another story by McNear for me to fall for.

In case you can’t tell, I loved this book, every single page of it.
Moonlight on Butternut WakeAbout Moonlight on Butternut Lake

• Paperback: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (May 12, 2015)

From the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling Up at Butternut Lake comes the third novel in the Butternut Lake series—a dazzling story of two wounded souls seizing a second chance at life and love.

On the run from her abusive husband, Mila Jones flees Minneapolis for the safety and serenity of Butternut Lake. Ready to forge a new life, Mila’s position as home health aide to Reid Ford is more than a job. It’s a chance at a fresh start. Though her sullen patient seems determined to make her quit, she refuses to give up on him.

Haunted by the car accident that nearly killed him, Reid retreats to his brother’s cabin on Butternut Lake and lashes out at anyone who tries to help. Reid wishes Mila would just go away. . .until he notices the strength, and the secrets, behind her sad, brown eyes.

Against all odds, Mila slowly draws Reid out. Soon they form a tentative, yet increasingly deeper, bond as Mila lowers her guard and begins to trust again, and Reid learns how to let this woman who has managed to crack through his protective shell into his life. While the seemingly endless days of summer unfold, Reid and Mila take the first steps to healing as they discover love can be more than just a dream.

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About Mary McNear40704

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Mary McNear is a writer living in San Francisco with her husband, two teenage children, and a high-strung, minuscule white dog named Macaroon. She writes her novels in a local donut shop where she sips Diet Pepsi, observes the hubbub of neighborhood life, and tries to resist the constant temptation of freshly made donuts. She bases her novels on a lifetime of summers spent in a small town on a lake in the northern Midwest.

Connect with Mary on Facebook.

What is your favorite book series? Anything you’d like to recommend? 

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for the purposes of my review; all opinions are my own and I was not otherwise compensated. There are no referral links included in this post. 

Review: Beyond Believing

Beyond BelievingBeyond Believing by D.D. Marx is a part coming of age + part love story + part story of loss. It’s a quick read, with lots of twists and turns. You’ll shed some tears, you’ll laugh a little, you’ll root for Olivia as the book goes along. You’ll consider the idea of guardian angels and who yours are, wondering if certain things that happen in this life are merely coincidence or fate or events manipulated by those above us who left too soon.
It’s obvious that Marx put her heart and soul into writing this story, drawing on real life experiences, and honoring one of her dearly departed friends. Rumor has it that this is just the first story in a series of three novels, so if you like this one, stay tuned for from Marx in the future.
This is a good summer/beach/road trip read, for those who love a good story about love & friendship, and those who believe in guardian angels.
About Beyond Believing: 

When Olivia gets news of her best friend Dan’s fatal car accident, her life is shattered. Consumed with grief and struggling to find any meaning or purpose to life, she trudges along with a gaping void in her heart. Finally, when her frustration reaches its peak, Olivia decides to put her trust in the depth of friendship the two of them shared. That trust finally allows him to breakthrough to her, and Dan begins to guide Olivia through the twists and turns of her life, leading to something new and entirely unexpected.

When Olivia exposes a gigantic internal scandal at work, her career implodes. With no job and nowhere to turn, she escapes to Palm Springs for the sympathy and care of her beloved cousin, Garrett. However, with only weeks left before the opening of his newest store, “Gin and Tonic,” Garrett isn’t quite the comfort Olivia had expected. She yet again tries to find her way, and in the process meets someone who begins to fill that void in her heart. She’s never before experienced a love like this; it heals her soul and rekindles her spirit – and just may have been the design of her dearly departed friend all along.

Beyond Believing is a sweet, funny, and romantic story that touches the heart, serves up delicious twists and turns, and shows the reader that there’s no such thing as “coincidence.” Author D.D. Marx regards this book as her “love letter to friendship,” written in memory of her best friend, Dan.

Author’s Bio:
 

D.D. Marx is a contemporary romantic fiction writer and blogger, as well as a lover of all things social. She is a graduate of the University of Dayton, as well as the Second City program in Chicago, where she currently resides. A proud aunt and self-described hopeless romantic, Marx has always has a knack for humorous and engaging storytelling. Her pen name is a dedication to her beloved friend Dan, who continues to guide and inspire her in her daily life.

Connect with D.D.:  Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Pinterest

Where to buy the bookAuthor’s Website | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Giveaway:​Enter to win one of three swag bags! 

Win one of 3 Swag Bags. Each bag contains: a print copy of Beyond Believing, a necklace (like on book cover), a pen and a compact mirror (Open to USA & Canada) Ends May 23rd, 2015. 

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Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of my review. All opinions are my own. 

Review: Lowcountry Boneyard

I love a good mystery, especially when it includes a little bit of love, family dynamics, some supernatural aspects and a fast-paced plot. Susan M. Boyer does not disappoint with her third Liz Talbot mystery, Lowcountry Boneyard. It’s one of those books I didn’t want to end, but since I know there is a fourth mystery in the works it made it a little bit easier.

I recommend this book if…

* You enjoyed the Sookie Stackhouse series

* You are looking for a book to suck you in (especially useful for those of us who have been in a reading slump, like I was before I picked up this book)

* You like mysteries, ghosts, or a good “whodunit.”

There’s not much I can say about the story itself without giving too much away other than read it! You can definitely read this book without having read the first two books if you prefer; Boyer gives enough background that you won’t be confused about Talbot, her friend Colleen and her business partner-turned-lover.

About Lowcountry Boneyard

Where is Kent Heyward? The twenty-three-year-old heiress from one of Charleston’s oldest families vanished a month ago. When her father hires private investigator Liz Talbot, Liz suspects the most difficult Lowcountry Boneyardpart of her job will be convincing the patriarch his daughter tired of his overbearing nature and left town. That’s what the Charleston Police Department believes.

But behind the garden walls South of Broad, family secrets pop up like weeds in the azaleas. The neighbors recollect violent arguments between Kent and her parents. Eccentric twin uncles and a gaggle of cousins covet the family fortune. And the lingering spirit of a Civil-War-era debutante may know something if Colleen, Liz’s dead best friend, can get her to talk.

Liz juggles her case, the partner she’s in love with, and the family she adores. But the closer she gets to what has become of Kent, the closer Liz dances to her own grave.

Praise

“Has everything you could want in a traditional mystery: a credible and savvy protagonist, a meaty mystery, and setting that will make you want to spend time in South Carolina. I enjoyed every minute of it.” – Charlaine Harris, New York Times Bestselling Author of Day Shift

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About Susan M. Boyer

Susan BoyerSusan M. Boyer is the author of the USA TODAY bestselling Liz Talbot mystery series. Her debut novel, Lowcountry Boilwon the 2012 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, and garnered several other award nominations. Susan loves beaches, Southern food, and small towns where everyone knows everyone, and everyone has crazy relatives.  You’ll find all of the above in her novels.

Susan lives in Greenville, SC, with her husband and an inordinate number of houseplants.

Find out more about Susan at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

What’s your favorite mystery book and/or series?

 

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Disclosure: I received this book from TLC Book Tours for the purposes of my review. All opions are my own and I was not otherwise compensated. 

Good Things Friday (v.7)

1. This weekend is a no-plan weekend. After several weekends & weeks of go-go-go-go with more coming up I’m really hoping to sleep until 9am, take a nap on Sunday and get a few small things done around the house. Knight and I have been going in opposite directions of each other more than usual, so this weekend? It’s all about us. Whatever we want to do as a couple, we are doing. I can’t wait for some recharge time with my favorite man. That’s the good thing part of this paragraph, in case you couldn’t tell since I took the long way home: time with my hubs + no plans this weekend!

2. Running into a friend and her adorable toddler daughter on my walk with Jack yesterday afternoon. Truth be told I was having a shit day/week and seeing them at that precise moment made it better. Something about a toddler saying your name and a friend with a smile that can make things turn around.

3. Becky had her baby. This continues to make me happy and smile and I wish I could triple like every single baby pic she posts on Instagram.

And, my friends, that’s all I have for you on the Good Things Friday. I’m not myself lately, battling a lot feelings, a too-packed schedule, crazy work stuff, crying more than usual (thank you, Mother’s Day commercials) and when I get like this, I do what is absolutely necessary, no more, no less (well, maybe more. I’m still working out like a fiend) and other things like this poor little neglected blog take a backseat. Nothing is horribly wrong, I promise, I’m just in a bit of a grief slump and because life is life, I have about five other things going on at the same time.

With that, I leave you with my new favorite Sean Hayes video (clip, hard to find the full one right now unless it’s on Facebook) in honor of all of my new momma friends, my current momma friends, all of my cohorts in Bonus Mom Life, and of course (and always) in memory of my awesome momma. Happy Mother’s Day!

Review: Read Bottom Up

Read Bottom Up is a charming, thoroughly enjoying story about like, love and dating in the new dating world we have crafted for ourselves. I know it’s been a while since I’ve been out of the dating game but this story took me back to the days of first dates, the awkward “Should I call him?” thoughts, navigating the water of the post-date text messages, asking my friends for advice on both the important and unimportant aspects of the relationship and how hard it could all be. I laughed out loud on more than on occasion, related to Madeline as her relationship evolves with Elliot and I admit, was pleasantly surprised by the end of this story.

Some of my favorite quotes from this book:

“… I read his e-mail and think: he’s like a puppy you locked in the bathroom for peeing on the floor and he clearly has NO IDEA what he did or didn’t do.” (p.39)

(on talking about neuroses girls have when a guy doesn’t immediately respond to a text/email we’ve sent to them) “Forgive me but why do I have a hunch that when I don’t text/email you for a bit and then tell you it’s because I’ve been busy, you believe me, but when Elliot (aka YOUR BOYFRIEND) doesn’t respond in a timely fashion, you take it so personally? You like him. And like most sane people, you don’t like that many other people. But watch that your anxiety doesn’t drive you to crazy town.” (p.90)

There’s a hilarious text exchange wherein Madeline’s phone autocorrects a certain word to “ducking,” more than once and it had me in stitches because there are countless times when I try to text Knight and autocorrect makes the text completely incomprehensible. (see p. 139 for the texts!)

Madeline’s friend on talking her off a ledge when she’s ready to freak the heck out about her relationship with Elliot: “I know you’re afraid you’re going to lose him but you’re not some random psycho girl who keeps calling him after two dates. You’re his girlfriend. Man up and act like it. Just call him and be like “hey, I need to take our temperature real quick.” ” (p. 163)

I have about ten other passages dog-eared because they just spoke to me, situations I’ve been in, situations my friends have been in. Do yourself a favor and pick this book up. It’s a fun, laugh out loud, enjoyable, true-to-life, new twist on an old classic story.

Read Bottom UpAbout Read Bottom Up

A charming novel about falling in love (or like) in the digital age—the never-before-seen full story.

Madeline and Elliot meet at a New York City restaurant opening. Flirtation—online—ensues. A romance, potentially eternal, possibly doomed, begins.

And, like most things in life today, their early exchanges are available to be scrutinized and interpreted by well-intentioned friends who are a mere click away.

Madeline and Elliot’s relationship unfolds through a series of thrilling, confounding, and funny exchanges with each other, and, of course, with their best friends and dubious confidants (Emily and David). The result is a brand-new kind of modern romantic comedy, in format, in content, and even in creation—the authors exchanged e-mails in real time, blind to each other’s side conversations. You will nod in appreciation and roll your eyes in recognition; you’ll learn a thing or two about how the other half approaches a new relationship . . . and you will cheer for an unexpected ending that just might restore your faith in falling in love, twenty-first-century style.

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neelAbout Neel Shah and Skye Chatham

Neel Shah is a screenwriter in Los Angeles. He used to be a reporter at the New York Post and his work has appeared in Glamour, GQ, and New York magazine.

skyeSkye Chatham is a writer living in New York. Her work has appeared in various publications, including GQ and Maxim.

 

 

What’s your favorite story that you’ve read about dating in the modern day, complicated with technology? 

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I received a copy of this book for the purposes of my review; all opinions are my own and I was not otherwise compensated.

Currently

Reading: Lost Lake by Sarah Allen Addison (just started it) and have a stack of books to read behind it.

Loving: How green everything is now that spring is here. Conversely, I love a good rainy day to quiet all of the pollen which means a break from insane allergies.

Thinking: About what else we can declutter from our house. Between donating books to the book fair for my momma, bags of clothes to Goodwill and selling other things we just plain don’t use/need, I’m on a declutter kick. It feels so good!

Frustrated: With my inability to make decisions on some big things in my life right now. I keep reminding myself of my mom’s sage advice “when in doubt do nothing,” so I’m not making any huge decisions right now but I’m going to have to soon so it’s causing me a bit of angst.

Feeling: All of the emotions. I’m a ball of emotions lately: happy for a lot of my friends, angsty about the decisions mentioned above, immeasurably sad about Mother’s Day and the daily missing-my-mom stuff (just when I think I’m doing better, BAM! It hits me all over again).

Anticipating: The month of May! We have some great friends coming in town to visit, a wedding to attend and the charity book fair for my mom. It’s going to be a whirlwind and busy but I’m looking forward to it.

Watching: Royal Pains on Netflix. The Lip Sync Battle on Spike TV. Outside our house, the birds coming and going from our bird feeder on a regular basis, kids riding their bikes.

Sad: Uh-huh.

Working: out! Still going strong. I’ve switched up my routines a little bit again and maybe it’s the combo of what I’m doing but I feel like I’m seeing even more results OR it’s just the cumulative results from doing this for four months in a row.

Grateful: Every day for the love and support in my life. For a flexible work schedule and the promise of adding work from home days very soon.

Listening: There’s no music that’s really grabbing me lately so just whatever is on the radio. Today it’s the Oldies. Other times it’s country, classic rock or “throwback” to the early 2000s which instantly takes me back to high school and college.

Wishing: That weekends were longer (shallow, I know). For my dream job. That STL had a beach!

What music would you suggest to me today? What’s the next book you are planning to read? 

Good Things Friday (v.6)

1. Videos from Sean Hayes (forever Just Jack to me!) that crack me up. I love everything about these: his attitude, his smile, his near laughter.

2. It’s Friday. A silly thing to be happy about, but this week was long and weird and exhausting and I’m just glad it’s done.

3. Baseball is back! This means I get to see more of my favorite pitcher, Wainwright, both on the mound and being silly in the dugout: earlier this week he did a little ballet move. It was pretty awesome and adorable!

4. Reading a book that I love (The Girl Who Chased the Moon). In fact, I love everything by Sarah Addison-Allen; if I could live in one of her novels I most definitely would.

5. Car dancing on my way home from work because lately the music has been on point (or should I say fleek?) with lots of throwbacks to my college days.

6. Taking lunch to a new momma friend, lots of good girl talk and holding a baby. A win all around.

7. Texts that make me laugh out loud from a faraway friend.

What’s on your Good Things Friday list today? 

Review: Little Beach Street Bakery

You know how sometimes the perfect book shows up right when you need it? That’s how I felt about the timing of me reading Little Beach Street Bakery: I needed this story, every single word on every single page. It was at once a light and lovely and whimsical story and also a story of overcoming the odds, perseverance, believing in yourself and dealing with loss. I couldn’t put this story down, reading it in just three nights.

I loved Polly and her knack for baking (warning: this story may have you grabbing fresh baked bread or a cupcake or two as you read it), her attachment to a puffin named Neal, the town of Cornwall, the closeness of the community and everyone she encounters along the way.

I loved the reminder that we don’t always know the full story- why the lady who works at the corner store is grumpy, or why the fisherman commit themselves to a life at sea instead of at home with their wife and children, or the reason a dude from Savannah, GA comes all the way to Cornwall to make honey. It’s a reminder that everyone has a story, a cross to bear, things they are sorting through. It’s a reminder to be a little kinder, listen a little harder, love a little bit more.

I can’t wait to get my hands on the second book in this series to see what’s next for Polly.

Little Beach Street BakeryAbout Little Beach Street Bakery

• Paperback: 448 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (March 31, 2015)

In the bestselling tradition of Jojo Moyes and Jennifer Weiner, Jenny Colgan’s moving, funny, and unforgettable novel tells the story of a heartbroken young woman who turns a new page in her life . . . by becoming a baker in the town of Cornwall

A quiet seaside resort. An abandoned shop. A small flat. This is what awaits Polly Waterford when she arrives at the Cornish coast, fleeing a ruined relationship.

To keep her mind off her troubles, Polly throws herself into her favorite hobby: making bread. But her relaxing weekend diversion quickly develops into a passion. As she pours her emotions into kneading and pounding the dough, each loaf becomes better than the last. Soon, Polly is working her magic with nuts and seeds, chocolate and sugar, and the local honey—courtesy of a handsome beekeeper. Packed with laughter and emotion, Little Beach Street Bakery is the story of how one woman discovered bright new life where she least expected—a heartwarming, mouthwatering modern-day Chocolat that has already become a massive international bestseller.

Includes 7 Recipes!

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About Jenny Colgan

Jenny Colgan is Scottish born and bred, born in Ayrshire in 1972, but currently lives and works in London. After graduating from Edinburgh University, Jenny worked for six years in the health service whist moonlighting as a cartoonist and doing stand-up in the outer fringes of London’s comedy circuit.

Find out more about Jenny at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Have you read any of Jenny Colgan’s other stories? What’s the fastest you’ve ever read a book (hours, nights, etc.)? 

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for the purposes of my review; all opinions are my own.