The Garden of Happy Endings by Barbara O’Neal

Title:  The Garden of Happy Endings

Author:  Barbara O’Neal

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction

Published:  April 2012 – Bantam

Paperback – 416 pages

My take:  Reverend Elsa Montgomery is going through a crisis of faith after the brutal murder of a young parishioner. She’s so angry that God would allow such an unspeakable act that she’s not sure she can continue as a minister. She takes a sabbatical from her Seattle church and goes home to Pueblo, Colorado to work through things. When she gets there she finds her sister Tamsin going through a life-changing upheaval of her own. Her missing husband has been charged with running a Ponzi scheme that stole millions. She finds herself homeless, penniless and not sure where to turn.

Elsa and Tamsin wind up living in the small house where they grew up. Elsa reconnects with the parish priest who also happens to be her former boyfriend. He broke off their engagement twenty years earlier when he had a calling to the priesthood. They managed to stay friends and kept in touch over the years. Ultimately he becomes the catalyst to Elsa finding her way back to her faith. Through him she meets many people (wonderful primary and secondary characters) who help her along the way.

Tamsin has lived a life of privilege but is now happy to accept a job in the fabric department at Walmart. She also helps out with a new community garden program at the parish. She learns that she may not have been as happy or content in her old life as she thought. In fact, she realizes how lonely her life had become.

Watching the story unfold as Elsa and Tamsin found their way on such personal journeys made for an emotional reading experience. Barbara O’Neal is a wonderful storyteller. Her characters and story truly resonated with me. I can’t ask for more than that. Recommended.

Disclosure:  I received this book from the publisher. I was not compensated for my review.

Mailbox Monday

November host: Kathy at BermudaOnion

I bought a couple of audiobooks last week:

Publisher’s Summary: Churchill: The Prophetic Statesman reveals the astonishingly accurate predictions of Britain’s most famous prime minister and how his critics’ perceptions of them shaped his political career. Who could have foreseen the start of World War I twenty-five years before the assassination of a Serbian archduke plunged Europe into war? Who could have predicted the rise of al-Qaeda nearly eight decades before anyone had heard of Osama bin Laden? Winston Churchill did. Now for the first time, bestselling author James C. Humes reveals these and other shocking predictions made by this legendary figure. Churchill didn’t need a crystal ball to tell the future. Using his skills as a historian, he studied patterns of the past to make his eerily accurate forecasts, including the rise of European fascism, the fall of the Iron Curtain, and the exact day of his own death as he entered his final years. In fascinating detail, Humes’ astonishing biography documents the spot-on prophecies Churchill foretold and the political consequences he endured for sharing them.

James C. Humes, a former White House speechwriter for five presidents, is a Pulitzer Prize–nominated author of more than thirty books. He is currently a historian at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Goodreads Synopsis: Deirdre Griffin has a great life; it’s just not her own. She’s the around-the-clock personal assistant to her charismatic, high-maintenance, New Age guru brother, Tag. As the family wallflower, her only worth seems to be as gatekeeper to Tag at his New England seaside compound. Then Deirdre’s sometime boyfriend informs her that he is marrying another woman, who just happens to be having the baby he told Deirdre he never wanted. While drowning her sorrows in Tag’s expensive vodka, Deirdre decides to use his massive online following to get herself voted on as a last-minute Dancing with the Stars replacement. It’ll get her back in shape, mentally and physically. It might even get her a life of her own. Deirdre’s fifteen minutes of fame have begun.

What was in your mailbox?

Sunday Post

I thought it was time to check in with a Sunday Post since it’s been a few weeks. Very little reading took place in the past several days.

I posted my take of the fun Christmas novel Merry Ex-Mas by Sheila Roberts. It reminded me how much I enjoy Christmas books so I plan to read many more through the end of the year.

With a whirlwind week behind us I’m waiting a few days to decorate for Christmas inside the house. We had twenty (sitting at three tables) here for Thanksgiving. Not surprisingly, the kids’ table looked like the most fun :). It was a nice day with family and friends but, as usual, I wish I’d had more time to sit and talk with everyone.

For the second year in a row my sister and her family joined my family for a Thanksgiving morning 5K walk/run through the park near our homes. I snapped a pic of the Little Free Library that is located near the pavilion. What a great idea. I did some checking on line and found a map of LFLs around the world. Click here for the website.

That’s it for this edition of the Sunday Post. 

What’s new in your world?

Merry Ex-Mas by Sheila Roberts

Title:  Merry Ex-Mas (Icicle Falls #2)

Author:  Sheila Roberts

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction (Light Romance); Christmas

Published:  October 2012 – Harlequin MIRA

Synopsis: (publisher) Christmas in Icicle Falls…

Cass Wilkes, owner of the Gingerbread Haus bakery, was looking forward to her daughter Danielle’s wedding…until Dani announced that she wants her father, Cass’s ex, to walk her down the aisle. Seriously? And, since every B and B is full, it looks as if he, his trophy wife and their yappy little dog will be staying with Cass.

Her friend Charlene Albach arrives at their weekly chick-flick night in shock. She’s just seen the ghost of Christmas past: her ex-husband, Richard, who left her a year ago. He ran off with the hostess from her restaurant, Zelda’s, to start a new life (and restaurant) in Seattle. Now the hostess is history and he wants to kiss and make up. Hide the mistletoe!

And bring out the hot buttered rum, because the holidays aren’t so easy for Ella O’Brien, either. Ella, who’s newly divorced, is still sharing the house with her ex while they wait for the place to sell, and they’re still fighting over all the things they fought over when they were married. The love is gone. Isn’t it?

But Christmas has a way of working its magic. One of these women is about to rediscover love, another is going to remember what’s important in life and the third will find new dreams in the new year. Merry Ex-mas, ladies!

My take:  Sheila Roberts takes us back to Icicle Falls, the picturesque Washington mountain town (and the setting of Better Than Chocolate), home to what I found to be completely relatable characters in relatable circumstances. 

In this book, we find secondary characters from Better Than Chocolate in the lead roles:

Cass, owner of the local bakery, is surprised by her daughter’s post-Thanksgiving engagement announcement and even more surprised that the wedding will take place before Christmas! She’s flabbergasted that her home is the only place with a vacancy for her ex-husband and his much younger second wife. Oh my goodness.

Charley is now the sole owner of a popular local restaurant after her ex ran off with their hostess. She’s surprised to see him back in town. Without the hostess. What is that all about?

Ella runs an upscale boutique (which is owned by her mother) and is newly divorced. How she ever fell for that no-good country singer wannabe is beyond her mother. Ella and Jake are still living under the same roof because, until they sell their house, they can’t afford to live elsewhere. Jake’s mother-in-law did everything in her power to break them up and she won. Or did she? Be careful, mama, or your ex son-in-law may dedicate a song to you! (see video below ;))

This is a Contemporary Christmas novel so if you imagine the ending will be predictable, you’re right! What isn’t predictable is how the ending is reached. Merry Ex-Mas is filled with typical Sheila Roberts humor and entertaining characters. I found it to be a perfectly fun seasonal read.

Recommended to fans of Sheila Roberts, Contemporary Light Romance, and Christmas novels.

Disclosure:  Review copy from the publisher. I was not compensated for my review.

  ♦  ♦  ♦

About the author:

Sheila Roberts is married and has three children. She lives on a lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her novels have
appeared in Reader’s Digest Condensed Books and have been published in several languages. Her book Angel Lane was an Amazon Top Ten Romance pick for 2009 and her holiday perennial On Strike for Christmas was made into a movie for the Lifetime Movie Network. When she’s not hanging out with her girlfriends or hitting the dance floor with her husband, she can be found writing about those things dear to women’s hearts: family, friends and chocolate.


Mailbox Monday

November host: Kathy at BermudaOnion

After seeing numerous tweets and blog reviews about The Art Forger I bought the audiobook.

Goodreads synopsis: On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art today worth over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It remains the largest unsolved art heist in history, and Claire Roth, a struggling young artist, is about to discover that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye. Making a living reproducing famous artworks for a popular online retailer and desperate to improve her situation, Claire is lured into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge a painting–a Degas masterpiece stolen from the Gardner Museum–in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But when that very same long-missing Degas painting is delivered to Claire’s studio, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery. Her desperate search for the truth leads Claire into a labyrinth of deceit where secrets hidden since the late nineteenth century may be the only evidence that can now save her life.

Goodreads synopsis: Fans of Jennifer Weiner and Emily Giffin are sure to fall in love with Katherine Center’s most heartwarming and engaging novel yet-about how even losing the most important thing in your life can help you find yourself again.

After the sudden loss of her husband in a car crash, Libby Moran falls on hard times-so hard, in fact, that she’s forced to move in with her hyper-critical mother. There, sleeping on the pull-out sofa so her two children can share the guest room, she can’t stop longing for the life she had. So when a letter arrives from Libby’s estranged aunt offering her a job and a place to live on her goat farm, Libby jumps at the opportunity. But starting over is never easy. With an aunt who is nothing like she imagined, a shaggy farm manager with a tragic past, a psychic at the feed store who claims to be able to contact the dead, and a bully at her daughter’s school, country life isn’t at all what Libby expected. But it also offers her what no other place can: A chance to define the good life for herself. A chance to piece together the mysteries of her own past. A chance, even, at love. And, finally, a chance to bring herself, and her family, back to life.

Goodreads synopsis: At Madeline’s Tea Salon, the cozy hub of the Avalon community, local residents scrapbook their memories and make new ones. But across town, other Avalonians are struggling to free themselves of the past: Isabel Kidd is fixing up her ramshackle house while sorting through the complications of her late husband’s affair. Ava Catalina is mourning the love of her life and helping her young son grow up without his father. Local plumber Yvonne Tate is smart, beautiful, and new to Avalon, but finds that despite a decade of living life on her own terms, the past has a way of catching up—no matter where she goes. And Frances Latham, mother to a boisterous brood of boys, eagerly anticipates the arrival of a little girl from China—unprepared for the emotional roller coaster of foreign adoption.

Enter Bettie Shelton, the irascible founder of the Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society. Under Bettie’s guidance, even the most reluctant of Avalon’s residents come to terms with their past and make bold decisions about their future. But when the group receives unexpected news about their steadfast leader, they must pull together to create something truly memorable.

What was in your mailbox?

My Kind of Christmas by Robyn Carr

Title:  My Kind of Christmas (Virgin River #20)

Author:  Robyn Carr

Genre:  Contemporary Romance series

Published:  October 2012 – Harlequin/MIRA

My take:  Angie LaCroix cannot spend another minute under her parents’ roof. She’s grateful that her mother took care of her after a terrible car crash several months earlier but she can’t take the micromanaging where her future is concerned. She decides to get out of town for a few weeks and heads to Virgin River where her uncle Jack and other relatives live.

Patrick Riordan landed in Virgin River to take some time and figure out if he wants to remain in the Navy or take his life in a new direction. He’s staying at the cabin of one of his brothers – he has four and most live in the area. Patrick is dealing with PTSD after his best friend (and wingman) was shot down in the middle East. He feels responsible and has pledged to look after his friend’s wife and child – maybe even marry her.

What Angie and Patrick don’t count on is meeting each other. It’s an instant attraction that can’t be ignored – even if they tell each other it can’t be permanent.

Well, this is a romance. A Robyn Carr Virgin River romance. You can guess where this story will go and Robyn Carr doesn’t disappoint. It was hard not to smile while watching the love story unfold. It was fun to see appearances of characters from earlier books in the series – most of them relatives of Angie and Patrick who provided a lot of comic relief. There’s also a heart-warming subplot within the love story. It allowed Angie to shine and find a bit of herself she thought was gone.

If you’re a fan of the series I think you’ll enjoy My Kind of Christmas as much as I did. If you like Contemporary Romance but haven’t read a Virgin River book I recommend starting with book one and enjoy getting to know the people of the small California mountain town. It’s my favorite CR series.

Disclosure:  I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not compensated for my review.