Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Review: Debbie Macomber's Sweet Tomorrow

Sweet Tomorrows by Debbie Macomber

About the Book:

The much-anticipated conclusion to Debbie Macomber's beloved Rose Harbor series, set in the picturesque town of Cedar Cove, Sweet Tomorrows is a vibrant and poignant novel of letting go of fear, following your heart, and embracing the future—come what may.
Nine months ago, Mark Taylor abruptly left Cedar Cove on a perilous mission to right a wrong from his past. Though Mark finally confessed his love for her, innkeeper Jo Marie Rose is unsure if he's ever coming back. The Rose Harbor Inn barely seems the same without Mark, but Jo Marie can't bear to lose herself in grief once more. Determined to move forward, she begins dating again, and finds companionship when she takes on a boarder who is starting a new chapter herself.
Recovering from a twice-broken heart, Emily Gaffney, a young teacher, is staying at the inn while she looks for a home of her own. Having given up on marriage, Emily dreams of adopting children someday. She has her eye on one house in particular—with room for kids. Although Emily's inquiries about the house are rudely rebuffed, her rocky start with the owner eventually blossoms into a friendship. But when the relationship verges on something more, Emily will have to rethink what she truly wants and the chances she's willing to take.
The inn seems to be working its magic again—Emily opening herself up to love, Jo Marie moving on—until Jo Marie receives shocking news.
With Debbie Macomber's trademark charm and wisdom, Sweet Tomorrows brings to a close the journeys of cherished characters who feel like old friends. Macomber has created an enchanting place in the Rose Harbor Inn that readers will never forget.

My Comments:

Reading a Debbie Macomber book is like curling up on the sofa with your favorite blanket, and a cup of something warm--it is cozy, pleasant and warm.  It is also pretty predictable.  While I enjoyed watching Jo Marie and Emily bond with each other and move beyond where they were stuck in life, I also knew the moment I read the blurb above how the story would end--but on the other hand, who reads romances for the surprise endings?  

I'd like to thank the pubisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  B.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Review: Maggie's Fork in the Road

About the Book:

Maggie Abernathy learns that pesky neighbors John and Chloe McIntyre are moving to Montana. The only problem is…she can’t fathom living without them now that they’ve stolen her heart. While trying to digest the news and accept John’s decision to leave Michigan, Maggie ventures to Chicago with Chloe to see Chloe’s Hollywood mother in a photo shoot, where the three kindle a quirky bond making it even harder for Maggie to say goodbye. With the support of Maggie’s meddling mother, her best friend Judy, and a surprise visit from Montana rancher Winston Ludlow McIntyre, Maggie begins to wonder which fork in the road leads home.

My Comments:

I'm about Maggie's age and I can't imagine what it would be like to find myself childless (her only child has moved across the country) and husbandless (her husband decided he was gay and left her) with a job I was enjoying less by the day (she's  a teacher and all the paperwork and testing is getting to her).  However, she has been invited to make a big change in her life--the guy next door, who has become more than a friend, has invited her to visit him in Montana, which is where he is from and where he wants to return.  It is obvious he hopes the visit will turn permanent.  Maggie has been through so much lately and just wants life to calm down.  She wishes John and Chloe would stay where they are--she doesn't want to lose them, or her life and it seems she will lose one or the other.  

We see the development of the relationship between Maggie and John.  While we don't know how old he is, John is described as a pediatrician so he is at least in his early 30's.  He has a tattoo, which, especially among professional men is far more common for those in their thirties than for those in their 50's.  Since much is made of Maggie's hot flashes (and for no reason I can discern other than to firmly place her as in her fifties) I have to figure that this is an "older woman, younger man" romance.  

Yes, this is a romance novel but it is the story of a slowly building relationship. Neither Maggie or John wants to rush into anything. There is attraction but they choose to live their lives, not spend them in bed.  There is one bedroom scene but it isn't graphic and refreshingly, neither Maggie or John is in a hurry to repeat it.  

The book is the second in a series and the ending is kind of open-ended, but the fact that the series is titled "Montana Bound" gives a pretty clear indication of where things will end. Still, the book seems unfinished; it definitely leaves you wanting to read the next book to finish the story.

I'd like to thank the publisher for providing a complimentary review copy via NetGalley.  Grade: B. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Bread or Death

Cover Bread or Death

About the Book:

The war brought about scarcities of just about everything...except misery.
“Alle raise,” (everybody out), the German soldiers screamed as they pounded on our door with the butts of their rifles. And thus began a 4,500-mile journey from Poland through Russia and Siberia and eventually to Uzbekistan in Central Asia, as the author’s family used bribery and darkness of night to flee as the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939.

Young Mendel, from age four to fourteen, tells in vivid detail the wretched journey in cramped cattle cars through frigid Russia, the indignities of being forced labor, the shame of begging for bread just to survive, and death of those closest to him. The family’s plight includes abandonment, hunger, and separation (and later remarkable twists of fate and reunion) quite unlike other Holocaust stories.

This coming-of-age Holocaust memoir is the author’s personal account of how—through great sacrifices by his mother—he managed to survive the worst atrocities in human history and his uncertain days in a Polish Children’s Home, scrabbling for fallen fruit, and surviving kidnapping and murder on the Black Road, and return to German Displaced Persons camps at war’s end. But to what fate?

Originally written as a memoir just for his grandchildren, Milton Kleinberg gives a moving account of his family’s hardships and eventual immigration with a lump-in-the-throat passage to America past the Statue of Liberty and into a land of opportunity tinged with bigotry yet with a promise to future generations.

This book for young adults has been reviewed by the Institute for Holocaust Education and includes a glossary, a book club discussion guide, a timeline, and a Teacher’s Guide.

My Comments

I see that this book has a lot of five star reviews on Amazon and it is a terrific story.  It is the story of the survival of a Jewish family during WWII and it is a story that lets us know that this was not the perfect family grabbed from an idyllic life and slaughtered by the Nazis.  

Mendal's family was lower class and his father was an alcoholic with a wandering eye.  Still, when it came time to be deported when the Germans took over Poland, they got lucky and got shipped to Russia.  Yes, times were rough; no, they didn't have freedom, but the Russians weren't trying to kill them just because they were Jews.  Yes, some family members died, but it wasn't in gas chambers.  

The blurb above says that the story was originally written as a memoir for the author's grandchildren.  It tends to ramble and to include a lot of repetitive information or stories that aren't central to the overall story; in other words, this is an old man's memories, not the polished work of a professional ghostwriter.  Still, I think it is a worthwhile addition to the body of work about how ordinary people lived, and died during that era.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy availble via NetGalley.  Grade: B+

Friday, August 05, 2016

Review: Maggie's Way

About the Book:

Middle-aged, Maggie Abernathy just wants to recuperate from cancer during the solitude of summer vacation after a tiresome year of teaching second grade. Maggie's plans are foiled when precocious seven-year-old Chloe McIntyre moves in next door with her dad, John. Maggie's life changes in a way she could never imagine when the pesky new neighbors steal her heart. With Maggie's grown son away, her ex-husband in the shadows, her meddling mother's unannounced visits, and Chloe McIntyre on her heels, somehow Maggie's empty house becomes home again.

My Comments:

The word that comes to mind when I read this book is "busy".  I've also read that one way to tell and introvert from an extrovert is to consider the answer to this question:  You've had one of "those" days at work; if it could go wrong, it did go wrong.  You feel like you were beaten up one side and down the other.  What do you wan to do now?
  • Go home, take a bubble bath and crawl into bed with a good book or good movie; or
  • Head for happy hour with a couple of friends, or the whole gang
Introverts recharge and recover by themselves; extroverts seek the crowd.  Maybe Maggie is an extrovert because her life that summer woud have driven me to tears.  

First of all there is Chloe, the seven year old from next door who decides that Maggie is the one who will pay attention to her that summer  I love kids but every time you turn around, Chloe is there.  As noted above Maggie is being treated for breast cancer and seems to want some privacy and space but besides Chloe, Maggie's mother is always around and guesses her secret.  Her ex-husband, who has decided to come out as gay, keeps popping up.  I kept wanting to go into that house and shoo everyone away.  On the other hand, Maggie is a teacher and probably more of an extrovert than I am; maybe deep down she prefered the crowd. 

Basically, this is the story of Maggie coming to terms with her divorce and seeing that things weren't so perfect when examined in the rear-viw mirror.  She starts carving out a new life for herself--she spent years as a wife and mother and now she is divorced with a son who livs across the country.  Her new start is symbolized by redecorating her house and by starting new relationships, not only with Chloe and her father but also her friendship with a fellow breast cancer survior.

I spend far too much time reading romance novels and most of them are about women far younger than me.  The book never says how old Maggie is, but it mentions that he had fertility issues so that we assume she wasn't terribly young when her son was born, and he is now an adult and out of the house.  Maggie is going through hot flashes; I know the medications for breast cancer can put you into menopause, but the book never mentions that.  In short, I suspect Maggie is in her early fifties and as someone who is in that demographic, I appreciate having books about women like me available.  

For those who care, there are no sex scenes and no implication that they occurred off camera.

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade: B

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