A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Friday, June 28, 2019

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Little House LIving: The Make Your Own Guide to a Frugal, Simple, and Self-Sufficient life by Merissa Alink- A Book Review


From the immensely popular blogger behind Little House Living comes a motivational homemaking book, inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder;s Little House on the Prairie, featuring creative, fun ways to live your life simply and frugally.

Shortly after getting married, Merissa Alink and her husband found themselves with nothing in their pantry but a package of spaghetti and some breadcrumbs. Their life had hit rock bottom, and it was only after a touching act of charity that they were able to get on their feet again.

Inspired by this gesture of kindness as well as the beloved Little House on the Prairie books, Merissa found that a life of self-sufficiency and simplicity could be charming and blissful. She set out to live an entirely made-from-scratch life, the Little House way, and as a result, she slashed her household budget by nearly half saving thousands of dollars a year. She started to write about homesteading, homemaking, and cooking from scratch, and over the next few years developed the recipes and DIY projects that would one day become part of her now beloved website, LittleHouseLiving.com.

As whole foods became staples of the family diet, Merissa realized the dangers of putting overly processed ingredients not only into our bodies, but on or near them as well. In addition to countless delicious, home-cooked meals, she developed natural, easy-to-make recipes for everything from sunscreen to taco seasoning mix, lemon poppy hand scrub to furniture polish. With their simple ingredients, these recipes are allergen friendly and many are gluten-free.

With over 130 practical, simple DIY recipes, gorgeous full-color photographs, and Merissa's trademark charm in personal stories and tips, Little House Living is the epitome of heartland warmth and prairie inspiration



Little House Living: The Make-Your-Own Guide to a Frugal, Simple, and Self-Sufficient LifeLittle House Living: The Make-Your-Own Guide to a Frugal, Simple, and Self-Sufficient Life by Merissa Alink

Little House Living: The Make Your Own Guide to a Frugal, Simple, Self-Sufficient Life by Merissa Alink is a 2015 Gallery Books publication.

I admit I grew up in the era of quick and convenient. I bought pre- mixed cake mixes and scoffed at the idea of making anything from scratch. Instead of home remedies, I bought over the counter pain relievers and cold medicines, and never would have considered making my own soap, dish detergent, or other household products.

But, my daughter would tell me about making her own facial scrubs and using peppermint essential oils for various maladies, but I still never imagined myself doing any of these things myself.

First of all, you have to buy all the ingredients, and when I did the math, and figured in the amount of time it would take, I figured I was just as well off buying it from the store… until I got this book.

First of all, it should be noted that this is not just a recipe book for cooking or food. This book has a little bit of everything in it.

Body and Beauty 'do it yourself' recipes such as:

Bath Salts
Lip Balm
Hand Soap
Chest Rub

Household items such as:

Dish Soap
Floor Cleaner
Dusting Spray and furniture polish
Window Cleaner

Ideas for Children and Pets

Diaper Rash Cream
Play Doh
Pet treat mix
Pet Flea Wash

And of course food-

Make ahead mixes:
cake mix
Hamburger help mix
Onion soup
Hot chocolate
These are just a few examples of the items listed that you can make yourself at home.

Are you on a busy schedule and don't think you would have time to make your own products?

This book is packed with very easy recipes for those on a busy schedule, such as deodorizer disc made out of everyday baking soda and water with a drop or two of essential oils, placed in a muffin tin and left to dry for a day or two. The disc can be placed discretely in odor prone areas of your home. It took me all of five minutes to do this, and the essential oil is not necessary. Baking soda is a natural odor absorber.

The cost?

Well, for some of the projects, there would have to be some investment on your part, especially if you want to put the mixtures into cute containers and such. I made the chest rub, but I didn't have a glass jar to put it in, but I did have a very small Tupperware container that worked perfectly.
Most of the ingredients can be purchased at Amazon for less than buying them at a health food store, and I had no trouble finding the ingredients. A few items were a little pricey, but once I had everything I needed, I saw that I could make double, even triple, the amount of goods, which meant I saved money and time by making the items at home.

The Items I Made:

I made the chocolate cake mix and the cake turned out great, but it wasn't as moist I am accustomed to. But, the flavor was fantastic and there were some variants on the recipe that I may try in the future.


Bath Salts:

I made bath salts for colds:

This is super easy-

One half cup Epsom Salts

One half cup Sea Salt ( I bought bulk, because it was cheaper)

5 drops peppermint essential oil
5 drops eucalyptus essential oil
5 drops lavender essential oil

Just mix together! That's it!

I also made the chest rub which was simply coconut oil and peppermint and eucalyptus essential oils. Just stir together, and store in a container. It took less than five minutes to make this and it smells like chest rub you buy at the store. I rubbed some on the soles of my feet one day when my allergies were bothering me, and it worked wonders.

As I noted earlier, I made the deodorizer disc, too. But, the disc dried out quickly and broke easily. I ended up putting some of the mix into small Dixie Cups instead.

I also made the dusting spray which consisted of white vinegar and oil ( I used EVOO) and a few drops of lemon essential oil.

Overall, this is a fun book and I loved how easy it was to make the products and the ingredients weren't some kind exotic stuff I could never find anywhere. I'm planning on making more of the food recipes and want to make up some of the body butter for Christmas gifts.

The only disclaimer I noticed was in regards to the use of essential oils, so be sure to read the directions carefully and do not allow children to use the oils unattended, or at all if they are very young.

This is a hardcover book with color pictures and illustrations on glossy paper. The sections are well organized and planned out, with step by step instructions and money saving tips.

Overall, I am a happy customer and will be referring to this book often for many household items and beauty aids.





Little House Living: The Make-Your-Own Guide to a Frugal, Simple, and Self-Sufficient Life

For more information on Merissa check out her 'About Me' page at :

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Forgive Me Not by Samantha Tonge- Feature and Review

Forgiveness can be hard to come by… An unputdownable new novel from bestseller Samantha Tonge
How far would you go to make amends?

When Emma fled her home at Foxglove Farm, she’d let down and hurt those who cared for her most. But now, two years later, she’s ready to face up to her past; she’s ready to go back.
But Emma’s unannounced return causes more problems than she could have foreseen. The people she knew and loved aren’t ready to forget, let alone forgive. And the one person she wants to reconnect with the most, her mother, can’t remember who she is.
Just as Emma starts to rebuild trust, an uncovered family secret and a shocking past crime threaten her newly forged future...
Sometimes simply saying sorry isn’t enough.

Perfect for readers of Ruth Hogan or Amanda Prowse, this is an extraordinary and unforgettable novel about running away from yourself – and finding a way back.



Forgive Me NotForgive Me Not by Samantha Tonge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Forgive Me Not by Samantha Tonge is a 2018 Canelo publication.

Emma has returned to Foxglove Farm hoping to make amends to her family and atone for her many indiscretions. While she hopes everyone will be happy to see her and she will be accepted back into the fold like a prodigal daughter, the reception she receives is hardly welcoming.

The story flashes back to the months leading up to her decision to return home and the present day, where Emma struggles to gain her sister’s trust and forgiveness and take care of her mother who has Alzheimer’s. No matter how hard she tries, no matter what good she does, her sister simply can not find it in her heart to forgive Emma.

Yet, Emma is determined to forge a new life for herself, to care for mother, and do her part to help her family. However, there is a dark pall hanging over her head. A secret she hasn’t found the courage to own up to, one that is eating away at her more and more with each passing day. Will Emma find the strength to face her worst fears and do the right thing?

This novel took me by surprise. The first book I read by Samantha Tonge was a super, light-hearted romantic comedy, and her other books seem to fall into that same category for the most part.

Although the synopsis makes it clear this book has a more serious tone, that delightful cover led me to believe any uncomfortable subject matter would be handled with a light touch.

While the author does keep the atmosphere carefully balanced, she doesn’t pull punches or water anything down. As a result, I was stunned by the weight of this story. This is really an incredible story of a woman who is determined to get her life back together and hopefully make amends to those she hurt.

It is a realistic portrayal, which offers hope and redemption, but also remains pragmatic, emphasizing that recovery is an ongoing thing, that no matter what, there will be moments of weakness and denial and forgiveness can't always be an automatic assumption. Some cuts are simply too deep.

Although Emma originally set out to right the wrongs of the past, in the end her personal growth is what stands out. This is a cautionary tale, but it is also a powerful story of forgiveness, not only of others, from others, but of yourself, as well.

This is also a story of gaining independence, of standing up on one’s own two feet, facing one’s demons, and finding an inner strength you didn’t know you had. It's about growing up emotionally, accountability, and acceptance.

I must say I am deeply impressed with this novel. Samantha Tonge has proven her mettle, writing on such a deeply poignant topic and tackling big emotional issues, which up to this point has not been her usual style. If this book is any indication, Samantha is hitting her stride. She’s shown depth and range with this novel. I’m looking forward to seeing what path her career takes from here.





Samantha Tonge lives in Manchester UK with her husband and children. She studied German and French at university and has worked abroad, including a stint at Disneyland Paris. She has travelled widely.
When not writing she passes her days cycling, baking and drinking coffee. Samantha has sold many dozens of short stories to women's magazines. 
She is represented by the Darley Anderson literary agency. In 2013, she landed a publishing deal for romantic comedy fiction with HQDigital at HarperCollins and in 2014, her bestselling debut, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award. In 2015 her summer novel, Game of Scones, hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart and won the Love Stories Awards Best Romantic Ebook category. In 2018 Forgive Me Not, heralded a new direction into darker women's fiction with publisher Canelo. In 2019 she was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists' Association romantic comedy award. 


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

A Feast of Serendib- by Mary Anne Mohanraj- Feature and Review

Dark roasted curry powder, a fine attention to the balance of salty-sour-sweet, wholesome red rice and toasted curry leaves, plenty of coconut milk and chili heat. These are the flavors of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka was a cross roads in the sea routes of the East. Three waves of colonization—Portuguese, Dutch and British—and the Chinese laborers who came with them, left their culinary imprint on Sri Lankan food. Sri Lankan cooking with its many vegetarian dishes gives testimony to the presence of a multi-ethnic and multi -religious population.

Everyday classics like beef smoore and Jaffna crab curry are joined by luxurious feast dishes, such as nargisi kofta and green mango curry, once served to King Kasyapa in his 5th century sky palace of Sigiriya.
Vegetable dishes include cashew curry, jackfruit curry, asparagus poriyal, tempered lentils, broccoli varai and lime-masala mushrooms. There are appetizers of chili-mango cashews, prawn lentil patties, fried mutton rolls, and ribbon tea sandwiches. Deviled chili eggs bring the heat, yet ginger-garlic chicken is mild enough for a small child. Desserts include Sir Lankan favorites:  love cake, mango fluff, milk toffee and vattalappam, a richly-spiced coconut custard.

In A Feast of Serendib, Mary Anne Mohanraj introduces her mother’s cooking and her own Americanizations, providing a wonderful introduction to Sri Lankan American cooking, straightforward enough for a beginner, and nuanced enough to capture the flavor of Sri Lankan cooking.

Chili-Mango Cashews


A feast of Serendib by Mary Anne Mohanraj
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Feast of Serendib by Mary Anne Mohanraj is a 2019 Serendib Press publication.

This is a wonderful and colorful cookbook featuring recipes featuring several geographical blends, but is mainly based in Sri Lanka. The recipes are eclectic, exotic, yet simple.

Naturally the author began with a brief lesson on the spices one will want to have on hand. Once more I was struck by how many of these spices are also frequently used here in Texas and are quite easy to find at my local supermarket- no special trips out of town or ordering online. The author included a recipe for making homemade curry, something I found interesting, since many store -bought curries look good, but are lacking in flavor.

There are menu suggestions, perfect for those who entertain or are hosting a dinner party.
From there the cookbook is organized in much the same way as most cookbooks-

Appetizers and snacks
Main dishes
Side dishes and salads
Cocktails and Drinks

This cookbook is heavy on curry dishes, which is fine with me, since I love, love, love curry- almost to the point of addiction. Some of the vegetable curried recipes are very basic, but super delicious. Other recipes are little more complicated and require a bit of prep time.

I must say I’ve never encountered any recipes quite like the ones in this cookbook. It’s an interesting marriage of flavors. Once more I found a few recipes that will spice up my summer garden vegetables, which is something I am always on the look out for. This is especially true for eggplant and okra, two vegetables I run out of fresh recipes for.

Overall, this is a very interesting cookbook. I found the appetizer and snack section and the vegetable, accompaniments, spices and sauces information the most helpful for my needs.

3.5 stars

View all my reviews Purchase Links:


Mary Anne Mohanraj is the author of Bodies in Motion (HarperCollins), The Stars Change (Circlet Press) and thirteen other titles. Bodies in Motion was a finalist for the Asian American Book Awards, a USA Today Notable Book, and has been translated into six languages.  The Stars Change was a finalist for the Lambda, Rainbow, and Bisexual Book Awards.
Mohanraj founded the Hugo-nominated and World Fantasy Award-winning speculative literature magazine, Strange Horizons, and also founded Jaggery, a S. Asian & S. Asian diaspora literary journal (jaggerylit.com). She received a Breaking Barriers Award from the Chicago Foundation for Women for her work in Asian American arts organizing, won an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Prose, and was Guest of Honor at WisCon. She serves as Director of two literary organizations, DesiLit (www.desilit.org) and The Speculative Literature Foundation (www.speclit.org).  She serves on the futurist boards of the XPrize and Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.

Mohanraj is Clinical Associate Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and lives in a creaky old Victorian in Oak Park, just outside Chicago, with her husband, their two small children, and a sweet dog.  Recent publications include stories for George R.R. Martin's Wild Cards series, stories at Clarkesworld, Asimov's, and Lightspeed, and an essay in Roxane Gay’s Unruly Bodies2017-2018 titles include Survivor (a SF/F anthology), Perennial, Invisible 3 (co-edited with Jim C. Hines), and Vegan Serendib.

Social Media Links
Serendib Kitchen website: http://serendibkitchen.com


Game of Desire by Sharon Ibbotson- Feature and Review

The Queen of Diamonds never loses

Felicity Fox is a rarity for a woman living in the early 1800s. Not only does she frequent the ‘gambling hells’ where most ladies would not dare to tread, she can also beat any man at his own game. It’s no wonder she’s gained notoriety as the ‘Queen of Diamonds’. 

Edward, Earl of Addington, despises gambling and is not exactly enamoured of Felicity Fox either, especially after she tried to swindle his family. Except now the Earl requires assistance from the Queen of Diamonds – and there’s everything to play for. But with Edward will Felicity find she’s involved in a more dangerous game than she’s ever played before?


MY REVIEW:  A Game of DesireA Game of Desire by Sharon Ibbotson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Game of Desire by Sharon Ibbotson is a 2019 Choc Lit publication.

A splendid historical romance!!

Felicity Fox, aka, 'The Queen of Diamonds', treads where no other lady would dare- in ‘Gambling Hells’.

Not only that, she usually comes out the winner, beating any man who dares to challenge her.

However, Edward, Earl of Addington, is not impressed with Miss Fox. Not only does he despise gambling, he caught her red handed, trying to con his father out of a diamond heirloom.

Yet, the necklace in question has been lost and he needs Felicity’s help in recovering it. Felicity makes a pact with Edward, agreeing to help him with his quest, but by gambling with her heart, she's entered into the most dangerous high stakes game she’s ever played…

I haven’t read a historical romance in a long while and was in the right mood for one. I enjoyed Sharon Ibbotson’s debut novel so much, I decided to give her second book a try. I must say, there are no sophomore jitters here!! The only small hitch was a slight loss of momentum just over the halfway point, however, the pacing rebounded nicely.

Other than that, this is a well-balanced romance, with a little action, adventure, and suspense added in for good measure. It’s been a while since I’ve read a historical romance with a good vixen, and sharp dialogue between two female characters. I love a good cat fight! The characters are well-drawn, with plenty of room for development. Felicity is torn between two the only two options for women- either to be owned or to be bought. She fights to retain her hard -won independence, requiring Edward to rethink the options he’s given her. The mild feminist tone is subtle, and is still in keeping with the time frame of the story, while remaining true to Felicity’s character and unique circumstances.

Once more, I appreciated the darker tones in this one, a much welcome reprieve from marriage marts, and silly, whiny, and pampered dukes and earls. In other words, the story has depth and emotion, on top of being a fun and entertaining read.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story, and now, more than ever, I think Sharon Ibbotson is an author to keep an eye on!






Sharon is Australian but has lived in the UK for nearly twenty years. She started writing romance when she ran out of Sweet Valley High movies to read. She lives in London with her husband and two kids. Her professional background is in marketing and she has a degree in anthropology and gender studies from the University of Edinburgh. She loves reading and writing regency romance novels, especially those with a more gothic and darker tone.

Monday, June 24, 2019

MANGA MONDAY- Her Little White Lie- by Yutta Narukami and Maisey Yates- Feature and Review

I only intended to borrow a name—who would’ve thought this would end up in the papers! In order to adopt her deceased friend’s baby, Paige lies at the government office that she’s engaged to Dante, the young hotshot manager of the major department store where she works. But somehow, the news reaches the press! While she prepares herself for termination, she desperately tries to explain herself to Dante when he confronts her with the headlines. However, Dante’s handsome face expresses contempt at her despair and he mercilessly fires her. But then, with a speculative look, he turns to a distraught Paige and offers her a proposal. “I will make you my wife.”


Her Little White LieHer Little White Lie by Yutta Narukami
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Her Little White Lie by by Yutta Narukami (Illustrator), Maisey Yates is a 2017 Harlequin/ SB Creative publication.

After the death of her friend, Paige is desperate to adopt her daughter. To better her chances, she tells a little white lie. She claims she is engaged to be married to Dante, her boss at the department store where she works. But when the press gets wind of his engagement, Dante sees an opportunity to repair his bad reputation. Marrying an employee and helping to adopt an orphaned child would make him look like a hero. So, he moves Paige and Ana into his home.

Believing that closing himself off and avoiding tender feelings of any kind the best course of action for him, Dante soon finds himself conflicted as Paige and Ana worm their way into his heart. Yet, he continues to harden his heart against them. Can Paige and Ana heal his damaged soul?

This is one of the best Manga versions of a previously released Harlequin romance that I have read so far. This is a very sweet story, and of course, I’m a sucker for the dark, brooding and damaged hero type. The tender moments between Dante and Ana are heart melting and his transformation is touching.

The artist did an amazing job with the illustrations and the note about the happily ever at the end capped it all off.

I love seeing old books get a facelift and reach new audiences, but I’m not going to lie- choosing a book published seven years ago, as opposed to one published thirty or more years ago, is probably why this one worked better than the other ones I’ve tried.

I love reading older books and have a healthy collection of old vintage Harlequins that I like reading one from time to time, for kicks and giggles. However, they are just too hard to update and make palatable to the modern audience, even if you know what to expect. I admire the concept, but I hope I can find more like this one.





New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Maisey Yates lives in rural Oregon with her three children and her husband, whose chiseled jaw and arresting features continue to make her swoon. She feels the epic trek she takes several times a day from her office to her coffee maker is a true example of her pioneer spirit. In 2009, at the age of twenty-three Maisey sold her first book. 

Since then it’s been a whirlwind of sexy alpha males and happily ever afters, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Maisey divides her writing time between dark, passionate category romances set just about everywhere on earth and light sexy contemporary romances set practically in her back yard. 

She believes that she clearly has the best job in the world.

Friday, June 21, 2019

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason- Feature and Review

"There is very little peace for a man with a body buried in his backyard.”

But it could always be worse. . . .

More than a year ago, mild-mannered Jason Getty killed a man he wished he’d never met. Then he planted the problem a little too close to home. But just as he’s learning to live with the undeniable reality of what he’s done, police unearth two bodies on his property—neither of which is the one Jason buried.

Jason races to stay ahead of the consequences of his crime and while chaos reigns on his lawn, his sanity unravels, snagged on the agendas of a colorful cast of strangers. A jilted woman searches for her lost fiancĂ©, a fringe-dweller runs from a past that’s quickly gaining on him, and a couple of earnest local detectives piece it together with the help of a volunteer police dog — all of them in the wake and shadow of a dead man who had it coming. As the action unfolds, each discovers that knowing more than one side of the story doesn't necessarily rule out a deadly margin of error.

Jamie Mason's irrepressible debut is a macabre, darkly humorous tale with the thoughtful beauty of a literary novel, the tense pacing of a thriller, and a clever twist of suspense.



Three Graves FullThree Graves Full by Jamie Mason
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love dark humor when it is done right, which I'm sure is hard to do. But, Jamie Mason has nailed it in "Three Graves Full".
Dark, twisty, mysterious and suspenseful. I couldn't put it down.

Jason Getty is a plain vanilla, ordinary guy most people probably wouldn't pay much attention to. But, driven to the extreme of what he could bear, Jason commits murder. He buries the body on his property and then sweats out the consequences. After a while, Jason relaxes just a little and decides to have his garden and cleaned and landscaped. But, his worst fears are realized when a body is found by the workers. Only, this was not the guy Jason killed. Then another body is found..... still not Jason's handiwork.
When the cops are called, the investigation opens up a can of worms that no one could have imagined.
Leah and Boyd both have a connection to the dead bodies found on Jason's property. Leah just wanted to visit the grave and finally feel some closure. But, Boyd may have a secret to two himself.

This was a really unique mystery suspense novel, with great characters and even better- a great dog as part of the cast.

The pacing is perfect. Slow enough to build suspense, fast enough to keep you turning pages. Very cleverly plotted with realistic dialogue, and sharp wit. Make no mistake, this is a dark mystery, but you won't be able to stop laughing at these flawed characters and the domino effect of their actions.
I highly recommend this novel.






Jamie Mason was born in Oklahoma City, but grew up in Washington, D.C.
She's most often reading and writing, but in the life left over, she enjoys films. Formula 1 racing, football. traveling, and, conversely, staying at home. Jamie lives with her husband and two daughters in the mountains of western North Carolina. 


Thursday, June 20, 2019

TRUE CRIME THURSDAY: The Library Book by Susan Orlean- Feature and Review


On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, “Once that first stack got going, it was ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’” The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?

Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.

In The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity; brings each department of the library to vivid life through on-the-ground reporting; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; reflects on her own experiences in libraries; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.

Along the way, Orlean introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters from libraries past and present—from Mary Foy, who in 1880 at eighteen years old was named the head of the Los Angeles Public Library at a time when men still dominated the role, to Dr. C.J.K. Jones, a pastor, citrus farmer, and polymath known as “The Human Encyclopedia” who roamed the library dispensing information; from Charles Lummis, a wildly eccentric journalist and adventurer who was determined to make the L.A. library one of the best in the world, to the current staff, who do heroic work every day to ensure that their institution remains a vital part of the city it serves.

Brimming with her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, The Library Book is Susan Orlean’s thrilling journey through the stacks that reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books—and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country. It is also a master journalist’s reminder that, perhaps especially in the digital era, they are more necessary than ever.



The Library BookThe Library Book by Susan Orlean
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Library Book by Susan Orlean is a 2018 Simon & Schuster publication.

I couldn’t have been happier when this book finally reached the top of my TBR pile. I’ve been looking forward to reading it for a long time. Naturally, I was drawn to the ‘books about books’ aspect, but was also mortified by the true crime elements. Who on earth would deliberately set fire to a public library?

Susan Orlean attempts to answer that very question, while detailing the rich history of the Los Angeles public library. What a fascinating journey it was –

The author, who is not originally from LA, had not heard about the fire that ravaged the central library back in 1986, until an offhand remark piqued her curiosity. Her research unearthed the library’s storied past, which is a compelling drama all on its own.

But she also attempts to shed light on the fire and the primary suspect, Harry Peak. Was Peak guilty, or just a consummate liar?

The book begins on a horrifying note. In 1986, the library housed a very impressive number of books and records, which included a large ‘stacks’ area. The building was not up to code either, so it only took a short time for the old dry paper to ignite and spread rapidly. Any type of fire which destroys a home or business is difficult to hear about. But, of course as a book lover, I was nearly in physical pain reading about the hundreds of books damaged by fire, smoke or water.

It was also disconcerting that the fire barely made a blip in the press. Granted, there were other major news stories going on at the time. But, now for the first time, thanks to the amazing work this author did, we can see how the fire effected the city, the patrons, and the librarians. We also get a close -up and personal look at how a library functions and the important work librarians do. What an amazing job. Working with the public has its drawbacks, of course, but I was truly impressed with how the librarians handle all the phone calls, answer questions on a myriad of topics, and cope with situations such as how to handle the homeless who often use the library to as place of shelter during operating hours.

The wealth of information and history surrounding the Los Angeles public library is vast and completely absorbing, especially if you are passionate about books and libraries. The mystery surrounding the fire, however, is perplexing and frustrating. Orlean presents the facts, and I must agree with her opinion of the prime suspect. The book is categorized as ‘True Crime’, but more than anything I think it falls into the history category. It is also a book that makes one truly appreciate the importance of libraries.

I have always supported libraries, and I try to remind people that although Netgalley, Edelweiss, KU, and Scribd, provide thousands of books right there at your fingertips,( and I am as addicted to these services as anyone else), the library will never reject you ‘based on the information you provided in your profile’, and it doesn’t cost you a dime for a library card. So, don’t forget to take advantage of everything the library has to offer-

Books- both print and digital, audiobooks, music, movies, documents, newspapers, magazines, research material, job information, book clubs, children’s story hour, free access to computers and the internet, literacy programs, programs to help learn new skills, community clubs, and a host of other services- most of them free.

There are many ways to support your local library: volunteer or donate any books or magazines you don’t plan to re-read or keep, and if you are in a position to do so, offer a little financial help from time to time. You can even deduct it on your taxes!! Funding for libraries is not always stable or dependable.

Obviously, book lovers need to read this one, as well as history buffs. While it starts off on a somber note, by the end of the book you will feel as though this eye- opening journey was a rewarding adventure. I am in awe of the LA public library, and its rich history, and have an even greater appreciation for the importance of libraries in general.

Orlean did a terrific job with her exhaustive research and it is obvious she put in many hours with those involved with the library and with those associated with Harry Peak. The book is well- organized, and unlike some non-fiction history books, I never zoned out or lost interest. If you love books or libraries, history, or True Crime this book is one you won’t want to miss out on!






I'm the product of a happy and uneventful childhood in the suburbs of Cleveland, followed by a happy and pretty eventful four years as a student at University of Michigan. From there, I wandered to the West Coast, landing in Portland, Oregon, where I managed (somehow) to get a job as a writer. This had been my dream, of course, but I had no experience and no credentials. What I did have, in spades, was an abiding passion for storytelling and sentence-making. I fell in love with the experience of writing, and I've never stopped. From Portland, I moved to Boston, where I wrote for the Phoenix and the Globe, and then to New York, where I began writing for magazines, and, in 1987, published my first piece in The New Yorker. I've been a staff writer there since 1992. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Man of the Year by Caroline Louise Walker- Feature and Review


Beware the Man of the Year. You may praise him, resent him, even want to be him: but beneath the elegant trappings that define him, danger looms. Caroline Louise Walker’s stunning debut novel, for fans of Herman Koch’s The Dinner and Shari Lapena’s The Couple Next Door, delves into the increasingly paranoid mind of a man whose life as the most upstanding of citizens hides a relentlessly dark heart.

Dr. Robert Hart, Sag Harbor’s just-named Man of the Year, is the envy of his friends and neighbors. His medical practice is thriving. He has a beautiful old house and a beautiful new wife and a beautiful boat docked in the village marina. Even his wayward son, Jonah, is back on track, doing well at school, finally worthy of his father’s attentions. So when Jonah’s troubled college roommate, Nick, needs a place to stay for the summer, Hart and his wife generously offer him their guest house. A win-win: Jonah will have someone to hang with, and his father can bask in the warm glow of his own generosity.

But when he begins to notice his new houseguest getting a little too close to his wife, the good doctor’s veneer begins to crack. All the little lies Robert tells—harmless falsehoods meant to protect everything he holds dear—begin to mount. Before long, he’s embroiled in a desperate downward spiral, destroying the lives that stand in his way. It’s only the women in his life—his devoted office manager, his friends, his wife—who can clearly see the truth.
Biting and timely, Man of the Year races along at an electric pace, with a wicked twist that you won’t see coming. 



Man of the YearMan of the Year by Caroline Louise Walker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Man of the Year by Caroline Louise Walker is a 2019 Gallery Books publication.

A twisty examination of the long lasting repercussions of infidelity

By all accounts, Dr. Robert Hart is a confident and productive member of society. He has just received a prestigious award, has a successful career, friends, a big house, a boat, and his beautiful wife, Elizabeth.

But every family has its hidden instabilities. For Robert and Elizabeth, it is the stigma of building a marriage upon a foundation of infidelity. They were both married to other people when their relationship began, but after divorcing their respective spouses, they married. Now, after a decade, their marriage appears to be a stable one. However, Robert’s son from his first marriage, Jonah, was the collateral damage in Robert’s decision to leave his family for Elizabeth.

For years, Jonah has been resentful and aimless, and naturally feels uncomfortable around his stepmother. But things are finally looking up. Jonah is staying with Robert and Elizabeth for the summer and he has even brought a friend along with him.

Nick’s parents are both dead, and with no other big plans on the horizon, he readily accepts Elizabeth’s invitation to stay for the entire summer with Jonah. However, Robert is not so keen on that idea. He’s jealous of Nick, believing he has designs on his wife. Not only that, Elizabeth seems to bask in the glow of his attentions. And why not? After all, she did cheat on her first husband with Robert, didn’t she? Robert’s paranoia, once it has taken root, knows no bounds, as he plots to nudge Nick out his home under the pretext of saving his family.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave…

What a twisted little story this is!! Infidelity and the mistrust all that implies is at the heart of this story. Robert’s actions are based on deeply buried suspicions about Elizabeth, his guilty conscience about his son’s struggles, and his supreme arrogance and insecurities. Once the lies and machinations begin, there is a tragic snowball effect, raising the stakes even higher, as Robert could lose everything, including his career.

I thought this story was clever, although most readers will figure out a few of the twists in advance. That’s not really an issue for me in this case, as the dark humor in the story was rich and quite delicious. This book is packed with morally bankrupt characters, some hoping to cash in on an unexpected opportunity, while others are laying well concealed traps. The fun is in trying to decipher which one is worse than the other and watching it all play out in the most bizarre way imaginable. How will you judge these characters? Will you believe the worst about them or give them the benefit of the doubt, or condemn them all?

This is a dark character driven mystery, and even a little addicting. A good book to pack with you for a day at the beach.





Caroline Louise Walker grew up in Rock Island, Illinois. For her fiction and nonfiction, she has received fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, The Kerouac Project, and Jentel Arts. She holds an MA from NYU. Man of the Year is her first novel.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Lemon Sisters by Jill Shalvis- Feature and Review


The New York Times bestselling author of Rainy Day Friends and Lost and Found Sisters returns to Wildstone, California...

Brooke Lemon has always led the life she wanted, wild adventures—and mistakes—included, something her perfect sister, Mindy, never understood. So when Mindy shows up on Brooke’s doorstep in the throes of a break-down with her three little kids in tow, Brooke’s shocked.

Wanting to make amends, Brooke agrees to trade places, taking the kids back to Wildstone for a few days so Mindy can pick up the pieces and put herself back together. What Brooke doesn’t admit is she’s just as broken . . . Also how does one go home after seven years away? It doesn’t take long for Brooke to come face-to-face with her past, in the form of one tall, dark, sexy mistake. But Garrett’s no longer interested. Only his words don’t match his actions, leaving Brooke feeling things she’d shoved deep.

Soon the sisters begin to wonder: Are they lemons in life? In love? All they know is that neither seems to be able to run far enough to outpace her demons. And when secrets surface, they’ll have to learn that sometimes the one person who can help you the most is the one you never thought to ask.



The Lemon Sisters (Wildstone, #3)The Lemon Sisters by Jill Shalvis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Lemon Sisters by Jill Shalvis is a 2019 William Morrow Paperbacks publication.

“I’m great. I mean, I did just spend a full minute looking for my phone while using it as a flashlight, but everyone does that, right?

Brooke and Mindy- The Lemon Sisters of Wildstone- couldn’t be more different. Brooke is a free spirit who once had a challenging and exciting career, until a helicopter crash left her with PTSD.

She’s made a mess of things with her family and with Garrett, the guy she left behind, locking everyone out of her life as she copes with her sadness all alone.

Mindy, on the other hand, has it all together. She’s a baker, married to the perfect guy, with three adorable children. She’s organized in the extreme, and her life never got close to messy, not like Brooke.

But it’s Mindy, who shows up on Brooke’s doorstep is the process of an epic meltdown. Being a perfectionist evidently comes at a cost, and Mindy is paying her dues.

Although Brooke really doesn’t want to go back to Wildstone, and she really, really, really doesn’t want to face Garrett, the guy whose heart, she once broke, she knows it is time to suck it up, for her sister's sake. So, she agrees to switch places with Mindy, giving her sister a break from her kids, while her she tries to get her life back together.

I LOVED this story! Mindy’s situation will resonate with most parents, especially moms struggling with body image after having children. However, her situation is compounded by her husband’s long work hours, which means she’s been running the show solo. Her need to be in complete control has driven her a little bonkers and she’s mad at that perfect husband of hers, and now resentment has begun to settle in for the long haul.

Brooke’s story is very emotional, but her part of the story is also sprinkled with hilarity and of course some super steamy sexy time. But, don’t let your guard down, you will definitely need a box tissues before all is said and done.

But, while the sisters keep readers on their toes with their individual dramas, the story also examines the relationship they have with one another. They have a complex relationship, each one harboring regrets, wishing they knew how to repair the damage. The dynamics between sisters always fascinate me, so I especially enjoyed this thread of the story.

Shalvis, as always, injects a healthy dose of her trademark humor into the story, to offset the heaviness. I literally guffawed on a few occasions. This book has just the right balance between women’s fiction, contemporary romance, and family drama, with a jaw dropping conclusion that had me laughing and crying at the same time.

I don’t know how JS does it, but she is one of the most consistent authors out there, in my opinion. I’m always super excited to read her books and wait with eager anticipation for every new one that comes out. This one is exceptional, however, and while I don’t usually add the ‘recommended’ tag-line, in this case, I think the book will appeal to a broader audience. It's not just a romance, it’s a touching story about life, marriage, and family, as well. So, yes! I highly recommend it!!





New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras with her family and far too many assorted quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. 

Look for Jill's latest, LOST AND FOUND SISTERS on shelves and e-readers now, and get all her bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold. 

Visit Jill's website for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

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