Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Review of Rachel Allord's Mother of My Son

Mother of My Son by [Allord, Rachel]

About the Book

College student Amber Swansen gives birth alone. In desperation, she abandons the newborn, buries her secret, and attempts to get on with her life. No matter how far she runs, she can't escape the guilt. Years later and still haunted by her past, Amber meets Beth Dilinger. Friendship blossoms between the two women, but Beth's son is a constant, painful reminder to Amber of the child she abandoned. When heartache hits, causing Amber to grapple with the answers to life's deeper questions, Beth stands by her side. Yet just when peace seems to be within Amber's grasp, the truth of her past and the parentage of Beth's son comes to light and threatens to shatter not only their worlds, but the life of the teenager they both love.

My Comments

Over the years I've read a lot of Christian fiction.  Some of the books are stories about people who happen to go to church on Sunday.  Some are stories that really delve into at least one character's spiritual life, and are basically about that character's relationship with God.  Others are sermons dressed up as stories.

Mother of My Son is the story of how guilt can ruin your life.  Amber has been self-destructive since that day when she abandoned her son and it is only after she finds Jesus that she finds peace.  The good people in the book are all faith-filled and the bad ones aren't.  Once Amber accepted Christ, all the pieces fell into place and everyone lived happily ever after.  

If you like explicit religion in books, this one will not disappoint.  Beth hosts a Bible study on the Gospel of John and as readers, we are invited.  Amber's conversion scene involves a heart-to-heart with her grandmother's friend, and we get the lyrics to a favorite hymn.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade B- (I'm not crazy about sermons dressed as stories). 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Dia & Co Unboxing October 2016

I hate to admit it, though anyone who sees me regularly knows it, but since menopause, I've put on more than a couple of pounds, and shape of my body has changed.  I hate shopping for clothes and I'm still trying to dress the body I used to have rather than the one I do have.  I stumble onto things I like, but I'm finding that I'm buying the same thing over and over again and I really want something different.  

About Dia & Co.

A few months ago I happened onto a blog post about Dia & Co., a subscription box/styling service for women who wear sizes 14-30.  I decided to give it a try.  You pay a $20/box "styling fee" that is applied to a purchase if you make one.  They pick out five pieces for you, based, allegedly, on a profile you completed and what they have learned about you from your feedback about other boxes.  You try the pieces in the privacy of your own home and with other things you own.  If you decide to buy something, the $20 is credited toward your purchase; if not it is "gone with the wind", but they do supply a return mailer.  

My Profile

The first part of the process is to complete a profile so the sylist (or more likely a computer) can get to know you.  It asks for sizes and for your prefered style, such as "classic" or "trendy".  It asks for colors to avoid and areas of your body you are willing to show off.  It asks how much you typically spend per piece (I said $50, the lowest offered choice) and what types of various garments you like.  It also gives you a freeform place to say what you want to say.  

I did not say no to any color, but my freeform response said 
I work in a law office and want work-appropriate clothes, but the office isn't real formal either.  I have recently gained weight and just don't know how to handle this new body.  My wardrobe has turned into a lot of black, white and red so I'm looking for color and something to give me a little variety.  

 What I Got This Month

A Black Dress

I got a black dress that cost $109.00 even though I said I wanted to spend $50 and said I wanted to get away from all the red, white and black in my wardrobe. I said I wanted clothes appropriate for work (because if I'm going to pay more money than I have to for clothes, they will be clothes I get wear out of and that means work clothes).  It is October, and yes, this is Louisiana, but still, a sleeveless dress?  You can see from the picture below that the front actually looked better than the top picture makes it seem but the dress itself was too big, the armholes drooped.  I'm sure part of the reason for the high price was the lace at the bottom, but the rest of the dress was very plain.  

Do you think I shold have kept it?  I didn't.  

A Black Wrap Top and a Red Skirt

I loved the color of the skirt.  My daughter says that I go shopping for clothes and come home with yet another red sweater, so why should I not love a red skirt (other than the fact that I specifically said that I wanted to branch out from all that black and red).  I also think that all that fabric over my hips just makes them look broader.  The skirt was $89.90  The top was like a tube with two strips of cloth hanging down in the back.  I guess I put it on correctly but you could still see my bra strap if I moved wrong, putting it in the "not for work" category.  The top was $59.90.  

I didn't keep these either.  Good choice or mistake?

Leggings or Pants?

I don't wear leggings and I put on them on the "don't send" list on my profile.  I've always been bottom heavy and it hasn't gotten better. The last thing I want is a skin-tight garment clinging to every bump and bulge from the waist on down.  The next picture is of the leg of a pair of "pants".  Are they pants or leggings?  Why in the worls would someone who doesn't want leggings want these?  Why would someone who said she wanted to spend $50 per piece pay $79 for these?

Navy and Black Shirt

You know how sometimes you just cop an attitude?  That may be the problem with this shirt.  It is a little big and it was "only" $49.00 and it is navy, not black (though it is a dark navy and looked black at first).  Still, it was a lighweight shirt, and I'm looking for warmer stuff now, and at $49.00 it should fit.  

What I Got Last Time

This was my second box from Dia & Co.  I wrote about my first box on my financial planning blog.  I bought a dress from that box, and it was a dress I would never have tried on at the mall, much less purchased.  It fits me well, looks good on me, and it is appropriate for work, so even though it cost more than I'd usually pay for a dress, I was happy with it.  

My Verdict

I'm going to try one more box; unless it is a lot better than this one, I'm done.  I still want the push to try something new, within the confines of clothes appropriate for work.  Hopefully the next box will be better.  

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Review of Barbara Claypole White's Echoes of Family

Echoes of Family by [White, Barbara Claypole]

About the Book:

Marianne Stokes fled England at seventeen, spiraling into the manic depression that would become her shadow. She left behind secrets, memories, and tragedy: one teen dead, and her first love, Gabriel, badly injured. Three decades later she’s finally found peace in the North Carolina recording studio she runs with her husband, Darius, and her almost-daughter, Jade…until another fatality propels her back across the ocean to confront the long-buried past.

In her picturesque childhood village, the first person she meets is the last person she wants to see again: Gabriel. Now the village vicar, he takes her in without question, and ripples of what if reverberate through both their hearts. As Marianne’s mind unravels, Jade and Darius track her down. Tempers clash when everyone tries to help, but only by finding the courage to face her illness can Marianne heal herself and her offbeat family.

My Comments

Barbara Claypole White's Echoes of Family explores the intersection of mental illness, guilt and secrets.  Marianne suffers from manic depression, which means that in an unmedicated state she swings between extreme energy and high emotion on the one hand and suicidal, do-nothing depression on the other.  On medication she functions well, most of the time.

Her husband loves her dearly, even if he is an (ex) alcoholic, music producer with tattoos.  He'll do anything for her.  She has a "daughter", a young woman who was "thrown away" by her family and taken in my Marianne.  The three of them run a small but successful recording studio which also provides opportunities for other "thrown away" girls.  Everything is fine until one day Marianne is in an accident and it reminds her of one she was in as a teen--the accident that brought forth her mental illness in all its glory (though there had been signs of it earlier). 

Marianne decides she needs to return to her childhood home in England, alone, to deal with the past.  When she gets there, she meets her first love, who is now the parish vicar.  He takes her in and though the two of them were once very close, they are each keeping secrets from the other.  Neither has been able to completely let go of what happened that tragic night.

Before long Marianne's husband and her "daughter" follow her to England and try to help her.  Watching her husband and her first love interact was interesting to say the least.  

I don't pretend to know much about mental illness but I loved the way Barbara Claypole White gave Marianne a real personality and life beyond being insane.  Marianne was a person with a mental illness, not a mentally ill person (the person was primary, the mental illness secondary). 

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  If you are a regular reader, you know not many books get A's from me, but this one does.  

Review: Mistletoe Cottage

About the Book:

Sophie DiRossi loved growing up in Harmony Harbor. But after fleeing in disgrace many years ago, it is the last place she wants to be. Left homeless by a fire, she's forced to go back to the small coastal town that harbors a million secrets, including her own. Sophie sees this secret reflected every day in her daughter's blue eyes-and she must keep it hidden from the only man she has ever loved.

Sophie's return is a shock for everyone . . . especially Liam Gallagher. The firefighter had some serious feelings for Sophie-and seeing her again sparks a desire so fierce it takes his breath away. Now Liam will do whatever it takes to show Sophie that they deserve a second chance at love, even if everything they've concealed threatens to keep them apart. In this special town at this special time of the year, Sophie and Liam can only hope for a little holiday magic . . .

My Comments:

What can we say?  It's a Christmas romance so the end was pretty apparent from the start.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed this heartwarming story of two people who weren't really sure they were loveable.  

Everyone has secrets and as they are revealed, love is allowed to grow.  Sophie fled town years ago when she learned she was pregnant.  She understood she wasn't good enough for the father, and he clearly didn't want her.  One day she asked her mother (she had moved near her somewhat estranged mother) to watch her child and on her mother's watch, the house was set afire.  As she is driving through her home town, her car dies and she is forced to stay.  Fortunately, a local hotel is looking for a manager and she is hired.  The only problem is that the owner of the hotel is her baby's great grandmother--and doesn't know it, or does she?

Great Grandmother dies shortly thereafter and, as a ghost, continues to meddle in the lives of her loved ones.  

The book is the beginning of another series and I look forward to reading about other characters introduced in this story,  Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley. Grade: B

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Restoring Christmas: My Review

About the Book:

Alexis Blake has one chance to land her own show on the Home Project Network and nothing, not an uncooperative client, a job site without indoor plumbing, or a challenging videographer, is going to stand in her way. Elsie, at seventy-plus, is far from the ideal client, but she knows exactly what she wants her fieldstone house to look like, and no designer can tell her otherwise. Gabe Langley, the man with the camera, is caught in the middle and it is his wisdom and warmth that just may be the bridge that will bring these two women together. Can they restore more than just a house and bring about special, almost lost forever Christmas memories?

My Comments:

As noted above, nothing goes as planned when Alexis wins a spot on a decorating show.  She's an interior designer who is trying to make a name (and business) for herself.  Unlike some reality shows that have producers adding drama and cameras from the show watching the participants at all times, Alexis has to provide her own video.  The show provided the client and the budget; she has to provide everything else.  I like that because frankly I think most reality show drama is silly, and home renovation projects have enough problems without adding more.

The first problem is that the professional videographer she hired has to bail on her because of an injury--luckily his handsome young son is available.  I loved watching Alexis and Gabe get to know each other and I loved the way Cynthia Ruchti compared the redemption and Light brought by Christmas to the redemption of the house, of the lives of her characters and light brought into their worlds by each other.  

As a novella, Restoring Christmas is a short easy read, however Ruchti has a way with words that gives the story additional beauty and depth and makes it a bit more than the typical heartwarming Christmas romance.  

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

Monday, October 03, 2016

School Vouchers: A View From (Sort of) the Other Side

Years ago I wrote this post about the state offering vouchers for the poor to attend private schools.  One thing that is different about me since I wrote that post is that I now have a child in Catholic school, and my public school students have graduated.  I thought I'd take another look at the issue.  I'll admit my feelings about vouchers are more mixed now than they were eleven years ago but I think that is as much because I've seen the vouchers in action as it is because I am on the private school side of the fence.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Review: Saving Jake

About the Book:

There is always hope.
After eight years in the Marines, Jacob Lorde returns to Blessings, Georgia, with no plans other than to hole up in his empty house and heal what's left of his soul. But with a charming next door neighbor and a town full of friendly people, keeping to himself is easier said than done.

Review: Twelve Days of Christmas

Twelve Days of Christmas Cover

About the Book:

Friendly and bubbly, Julia Padden likes nearly everyone, but her standoffish neighbor, Cain Maddox, presents a particular challenge. No matter how hard she’s tried to be nice, Cain rudely rebuffs her at every turn, preferring to keep to himself. But when Julia catches Cain stealing her newspaper from the lobby of their apartment building, that’s the last straw. She’s going to break through Cain’s Scrooge-like exterior the only way she knows how: by killing him with kindness.

View My Stats