Saturday, March 24, 2018

Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano

 The Saturday Night Supper Club     -     By: Carla Laureano

SATURDAY NIGHT SUPPER CLUB is a fresh contemporary novel which will appeal to young adult readers and foodies.  To an older reader from Wisconsin like myself, the title was a bit misleading.  For decades here, the term "supper club" conjures up the image of eating establishments where the locals gather on Friday evenings for fish fries and on Saturdays for steak or prime rib.  Relish trays (you might only understand that if you are from Wisconsin), a cocktail or two (for many, it is a brandy old-fashioned, but I'm not one of that group), and good friends make the night complete.  Supper club decor was eclectic -- possibly candle lit romance, but most likely log cabin rustic.  One of the most famous supper clubs, named the Gobbler, was completely in the round.  But I digress.  In this Denver-based novel "supper club" really refers to a pop-up exclusive dinner club located at writer Alex Kanin's penthouse apartment.  Alex has committed to serving as host as a way to make amends to chef Rachel Bishop when a column he wrote cost Rachel her job.  Will the exclusive dinners be enough to salvage Rachel's career?

Younger readers will tune right into the text-laden interchanges between Rachel and her BFFs Ana and Melody.  Foodies will get caught up in Rachel's new focus on transforming local foods into her own special cuisine.  And of course, everyone will notice the budding relationship between Alex and Rachel.  Alex's younger sister adds a side story which I expect will develop into another book.  SATURDAY NIGHT SUPPER CLUB was a fun, easy read.  I received a copy of this title from Tyndale House Publishers.  I was not required to write a review and all opinions are mine. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

A Daring Escape by Tricia Goyer

A Daring Escape (The London Chronicles, #2)

American Amity Mitchell is employed as a private tutor in England when her half brother Andrew, a British citizen working for the British Home Office requests her presence in Czechoslovakia.  Amity believes this will be be a short trip to help her brother register Jewish families seeking safe transport to England for their children  and leaves for Europe over the Christmas holiday.  After arriving in Prague, the young American sees for herself the destructive results of the November 9th, 1938 Kristallnacht and works tirelessly to secure transports for as many children as she can.  Woven within Amity's story is the story of Palva Simonova, a Jewish mother, who is seeking a safe exit for herself and her two children. Her husband and in-laws had been rounded up on the night of the "broken glass" and were never seen alive again.  Every day brings all closer to a full German occupation and what will be the end of any safe escape for Jewish refugees.

This title is classified under the "romance" genre and while there is a genuine romance building between Amity and her employer Clark Cartwright, the romance takes backstage to the growing tensions in Czechoslovakia.  This novel draws one in and reads quickly, which in my case led me to think I had missed something as a plot against Palva unfolds. Turns out, there is a surprise twist; I did not misread anything but cannot share more.  It seems like I've read many WWII novels recently, most of them written by Christian authors.  Tricia Goyer's book presents yet another fresh and compelling look at the dangers of that time period.  Her depiction of the Nazi hatred of the Jews and resulting twisted thought and behavior was bone chilling.  I obtained a copy of A DARING ESCAPE from my library system.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


 The Innkeeper's Daughter

Alex Moore, a British lawman (then known as runners) in the early 1800's, is sent on a secret mission to ferret out a traitor.  From the start he wonders why he is assigned to stay at the dilapidated Bue Ridge Inn when his undercover persona is a well-to-do wine merchant who would clearly prefer better accommodations.   His displeasure over the inn soon changes when he begins to notice Johanna who runs the struggling inn with her mother and younger brother.  Forced to keep his affections for Johanna secret, he moves ahead with his assignment to ingratiate himself with the Viscount and his daughter.  Burdened with worry and guilt over the inn's ever growing debt, Johanna will not let herself acknowledge that she has growing feelings for the handsome, secretive boarder Alex.

THE INNKEEPER'S DAUGHTER reminds me of spy movies that are so packed with twists and turns that you are never quite sure what is happening and who are the bad guys and what the crime will be.  For the first half of the book, I found myself so in the dark that I struggled to stay with the book.  But I did and it paid off.  The last half of the book pulled details together, the pace picked up, and all ended well.  Part of my perseverance was due to the Dickens-like quality to the story.  There were colorful characters like Mr. Nutbrown, who only spoke through his jester puppet; the unrelenting landlord, eager to send Johanna's family to debtor's prison; and also the uneducated street thugs who manipulate Mr. Nutbrown's innocence.  And the part when Alex is unfairly sent off to gaol is dark and dangerous enough to keep any mystery lover reading more.  I received a copy of THE INNKEEPER'S DAUGHTER from Barbour Publishing and was not required to write a review.  All opinions are mine.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

I WILL LOVE OUR FOREVER: A True Story about finding Life, Hope and Healing while Caring for Hospice Babies by Cori Salchert

 I Will Love You Forever: A True Story about Finding Life, Hope & Healing While Caring for Hospice Babies; Paperback; Author - Cori Salchert

I first saw Cori Salchert and her family featured on television.  That they would open their home to  to infants destined to die was amazing.  When I found out that they lived in a community less than two hours from Wisconsin home, I knew I wanted to learn the full story.  Naturally, my ears picked  that a book was in the works.  When I found that Barbour Publishing/Shiloh and  Netgalley were offering an opportunity to review the title, I was all in.

Cori Salchert's story is a complicated one.  Saddled with her own illusive health problems for years (autoimmune issues), Cori worked as a nurse, spending time in the NICU and then became a grief counselor for parents who experienced miscarriages, stillbirths, and death of an infant.  Meanwhile she and her husband were raising a large family in the Lake Michigan community of Sheboygan. A lengthy episode of health problems led to the elimination of her job, mental health problems, and huge medical expenses. Buried beneath all this was another unhealed wound - the relationship that Cori never had with her disabled younger sister who died a tragic death.  Cori, with God's help, finds a way to use this hurt as a way to love the youngsters that will otherwise know no love.  Emmalyn is the first; born with only a partially developed brain stem and no other brain, the tiny infant had been left in the NICU to await her death. Sure her needs were met, but no extraordinary effort would be made to keep her alive, and an overworked hospital staff did not spend time holding her or singing to her or any such bonding behavior.  Having had all responsibility of her care turned over to the state, Emmalyn was simply a body waiting to expire.  Cori and her family are given foster parent status and can take the tiny blind girl  home, complete with oxygen, feeding tubes, and necessary medical gear.  Why and how the family chooses to love Emmalyn will affirm that angels exist.  That they become so attached that they feel that their hearts are broken when Emmalyn breathes her last, yet takes the challenge again, and then again shows how much a heart can grow.  God has called us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  He does not say that we should only love those who are already loved.  He does not call us to love the ones who can love back.  He does not say that they need to be able to see, to hear, to walk.  He does not say that they even need to be able to breathe on their own or to understand what love is.  God simply tells us to love.  Cori, her husband and her children understand that message.  Cori Salchert has written this book with Marianne Hering.  Like many autobiographical books written by people who never expected to tell their stories, I found the writing a bit uneven and spotty (for example, the family has 8 biological children but we never meet all of them, and the cover says she is the mother of 15.  Is that counting all the foster children as their own? I know they adopted one boy, but have they adopted others?  When I read autobiographic books, I like the information to be clear and complete.  As I mentioned before I received a copy of this title from Barbour and Netgalley.  I was not required to write a review.  All opinions are mine.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin

 Cover Art


Nothing but love could heal the wounds of war
In 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a "Wren" in the Women's Royal Naval Service, who pieces together reconnaissance photographs with holiday snapshots of France--including those of her family's summer home--in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt turns into naval bombardment plans for D-day.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn into something more. But both of them have too much to lose to give in to love . . .

"With a pitch-perfect balance between history and the fine-tuned elements of story, The Sea Before Us stands out as superior in WWII fiction. Faith anchors the narrative with realism and sensitivity, while Sundin's meticulous attention to historical research around the massive D-day invasion shines to the level of a master storyteller. It's at once engaging, emotional, and a strong series debut. I couldn't put it down."--Kristy Cambron, bestselling author of The Lost Castle and the Hidden Masterpiece series

"History comes to life through Sundin's characters, who cope with the trials and dangers not only on the fields of combat but also in their personal lives. This great combination of dramatic history and likeable characters will keep you turning pages to find out what happens next."--Ann H. Gabhart, author of These Healing Hills

Sarah Sundin is the author of the Waves of Freedom, Wings of the Nightingale, and Wings of Glory series. Her novels have received starred reviews from Booklist and Library Journal, and her popular Through Waters Deep was a Carol Award finalist and named to Booklist's "101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years." A graduate of UC San Francisco School of Pharmacy, she works on-call as a hospital pharmacist. Sarah lives in California. Visit for more information.

MY OPINION:  I've read many of Sarah Sundin's historical fiction books, each portraying a new and fascinating element of World War II. Within each title she creates characters who are not only making a sacrifice to serve or assist with the war effort, but also are trying to continue lives that were forming before the war.  That means questions of love, loyalty, family, loss, and forgiveness.  In each book, faith plays a central roll -- not a "thrown-in church attendance" or a "battlefield prayer" so the book can fit the inspirational/Christian category, but real questions of belief.  THE SEA BEFORE US begins a trilogy, each one featuring a different Paxton brother.  The event which causes their alienation from each other opens this book and provides the catalyst for Wyatt's rash actions.  As D-Day approaches, the guilt that he has felt ever since that fateful day in Texas looms larger and larger.  The pieces to seeking forgiveness and making amends are laid in this book, but this is not a quick Prodigal son's story, and it will be interesting to see how the complete story of Wyatt, Adler, and Clay unfolds in the next two books.  Dorothy Fairfax' family story is just as interesting as Wyatt's, adding some surprise elements to the book. THE SEA BEFORE US joins a handful of books and movies I enjoyed this year that highlight how resilient and strong the British citizens were during the war.   I received a copy of this book from Revell Reads.  I was not required to write a review and all opinions are mine.

Sunday, February 25, 2018


Walking with Peety: The Dog Who Saved My Life

In his memoir WALKING WITH PEETY:THE DOG WHO SAVED MY LIFE, Eric O'Grey shares what it felt to be an obese, lonely and self-conscious salesman in his 50's.  Told by one doctor to buy a cemetery plot because he would certainly be dead within 5 years, Eric instead continues to indulge in a fast food only diet, often consuming two large delivery pizzas at one sitting.  But one too many humiliating airplane rides too many sent him to a holistic doctor who prescribed a whole food/plant based diet AND A DOG.  The dog would require at least two half hour walks a day, forcing Eric out of his sedentary rut. A savvy worker at a San Francisco shelter (think animal whisperer) paired Eric with a perfect dog, an 8 year old Australian sheepdog mix whom O'Grey named Peety.

O'Grey tells a fascinating story of rapid weight loss, health improvement, and complete lifestyle change.  From the first visit to his doctor to now, Eric has made a smooth, permanent transition to a totally vegan lifestyle.  He even eliminated gluten due to a sensitivity and later found that he could not tolerate corn. Yet he found a passion for preparing nutritious, tasty meals and soon found himself sharing that passion with others.  He credits those walks with Peety to not only burning calories, but also providing a way to connect with others.  While he had lived in his condo for years, he knew no one, spoke to no one, and spent every weekend holed up with himself and fast food.  Now he walked to new neighborhoods and parks, with Peety being the conversation starter that he needed.  Relationships ensued, walking turned into a passion for running, and a fitter, leaner, happier Eric replaced the man with achy knees and shortness of breath.

The book certainly gives us something to think about.  I am a full blown, mid-westerner - someone who grew up on a small dairy farm.  We always grew our own vegetables and fruits, always cooked our own meals.  I believe our animals were treated humanely; we were never a factory farm.  Today, I still grow many of the vegetables we eat, and we often buy locally.  I admit that I need to loose some weight and perhaps we eat out too often, but we do not rely on fast food as a staple.  So I see why Eric lost so much weight so quickly -- he cut out a lot of calories and fat quickly; he added in exercise where there had been none.  I know that plant-based diets are being promoted, and we are cutting down on meat, but I doubt that I will ever embrace the life style Eric ends up promoting.

In the end, I enjoyed reading about the profound change Peety made in Eric's life; I loved finding out about the relationship that developed between the two. But I became a bit disenchanted as the book started to focus more on girlfriends, running, and dinner parties.  I was interested in the diet information, but felt it became the focus of the book, something that was not "sold" in the title.  People who are considering a vegan change will enjoy the book more than I did.  I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.  I was not required to write a review.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

WOLF IN THE SNOW by Matthew Cordell named 2018 Caldecott winner

Wolf in the SnowAs January turns into February, this retired children's librarian begins to wonder who will win
the Caldecott Award for illustrator of an outstanding children's book and who will win the Newbery for authorship of an outstanding children's book.  When I was a school librarian, elementary students often read previous winners during January and February, and we discussed what "outstanding" meant.  Students shared what books they liked that had been published in the previous year.  We also talked about the other literature awards bestowed by the American Library Association such as those given for early readers, Latin experience, and black authors.  Now that I am retired, sadly I don't keep up enough with current authors and publications.  This year when that annual curiosity nibbled at my mind, I searched out what some online sites said were possible contenders.  Then I made some interlibrary requests, including PRINCESS CORA AND THE CROCODILE (mentioned for the Newbery even though it is a shorter, chapter book, but more about that one on another day), LITTLE FOX IN THE FOREST, HOW FIND AN ELEPHANT, and WOLF IN THE SNOW.  I thoroughly intended to read each of these books with my two youngest grandchildren, both 7, when they visited in early February.  Despite thinking that books are the world's best entertainment, I just could not interrupt their imaginative play, free of strife and incredibly free of any need for adult intervention.  So even at the end of the weekend, we had only made time for PRINCESS CORA, the chapter book,
But like I said, I will write about that book on another day.

So this 69 year old grandmother entertained her solitary self by reading the other books before she returned them.  A few days later WOLF IN THE SNOW was awarded the Caldecott Medal.  Matthew Cordell used bright watercolors and almost abstract shapes (think triangles for bodies) to tell the story of a young girl lost in a snow storm on her way home from school and a wolf who also becomes lost.  It appears the girl follows the wolf's howls, perhaps thinking it is her dog?? There are few words to this story, but they aren't necessary.  The little girl's simple red shape, the wolf's raggedy fur, and the towering green trees of the woods all evoke a fairy tale element.

 How to Find an ElephantLittle Fox in the Forest

While LITTLE FOX IN THE FOREST  and HOW TO FIND AN ELEPHANT were not winners, I can see why some lovers of children's literature thought they should be considered.  HOW TO FIND AN ELEPHANT by Kate Banks and Boris Kolikov tells a quiet story of looking for an elephant. Careful observers will see glimpses of such creatures on almost every page, but only careful observers will see the telltale signs - perhaps a trunk or a tail.  My favorite of all the books was LITTLE FOX IN THE FOREST by Stephanie Graegin.  A little girl takes her favorite stuffed fox to the playground where it is stolen by a real fox.  On a hunt to find her beloved toy, the little girl  and a friend enter the woods and encounters a magical world of woodland creatures and their fanciful villages and homes.  Think fairy gardenland at its ultimate cuteness! Will the little girl find her stuffed fox and what will she do when she does?  This fantasy story offers so much visual eye-candy that it will be read over and over.