Show Me 5 Saturday: God Never Blinks by Regina Brett

A meme  by That’s A Novel Idea

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1 Title:  God Never Blinks50 Lessons for Life’s Little Detours by Regina Brett

2 Words that describe the book:  Life Lessons

3 Settings or characters:

* Regina Brett – Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist.

* Bruce, Brett’s husband

* Brett’s life

4 Things I liked/disliked about the book:

* Brett’s heartfelt sharing of her life experiences is something I could appreciate especially since we share some similarities in upbringing.

* I really liked the audiobook.  Her voice is so easy to listen to and her sincerity is apparent.

* I think any reader could relate to Brett’s columns about life’s ups and downs.

* I’m glad I listened to the audiobook.  It made a cross-state car trip go by in a snap.  That said, I think it may be even more meaningful if listened to one lesson at a time.  Each column lends itself to reflection and/or discussion.

5 Stars or less for the rating:  4/5 stars

Thanks to Bonnie at Redlady’s Reading Room for passing her copy to me.

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God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours

Back of audiobook case:

“It took me 40 years to find and hold on to happiness.  I always felt that at the moment I was born, God must have blinked.  He missed the occasion and never knew I had arrived. . . I ended up confused by the nuns at age 6, a lost soul who drank too much at 16, an unwed mother at 21, a college graduate at 30, a single mother for 18 years, and finally, a wife at 40, married to a man who treated me like a queen.  Then I got cancer at 41.  It took a year to fight it, then a year to recover from the fight.

When I turned 45, I lay in bed reflecting on all life had taught me.  My soul sprang a leak and ideas flowed out.  My pen simply caught them and set the words on paper.  I typed them up and turned them into a newspaper column of the 45 lessons life taught me.” – Regina Brett, from the Introduction.

She added 5 more lessons when she turned 50.

The I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken

The I Hate to Cook Book: 50th Anniversary Edition

“There are two kinds of people in this world: the ones who don’t cook out of and have NEVER cooked out of THE I HATE TO COOK BOOK, and the other kind…The I HATE TO COOK people consist mainly of those who find other things more interesting and less fattening, and so they do it as seldom as possible. Today there is an Annual Culinary Olympics, with hundreds of cooks from many countries ardently competing. But we who hate to cook have had our own Olympics for years, seeing who can get out of the kitchen the fastest and stay out the longest.” – Peg Bracken

Philosopher’s Chowder. Skinny Meatloaf. Fat Man’s Shrimp. Immediate Fudge Cake. These are just a few of the beloved recipes from Peg Bracken’s classic I HATE TO COOK BOOK. Written in a time when women were expected to have full, delicious meals on the table for their families every night, Peg Bracken offered women who didn’t revel in this obligation an alternative: quick, simple meals that took minimal effort but would still satisfy.

50 years later, times have certainly changed – but the appeal of THE I HATE TO COOK BOOK hasn’t.

This book is for everyone, men and women alike, who wants to get from cooking hour to cocktail hour in as little time as possible.

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I remember hearing buzz about The I Hate To Cook Book when I was a teen.  At the time I wondered why a cookbook would be titled as such but fast-forward a couple of decades and I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner for my family on a daily basis.  Looking back I wish I had Peg Bracken’s book in those days.

When I had a chance to review the 50th Anniversary edition of The I Hate To Cook Book I grabbed it.  Author Peg Bracken died in 2007 so her daughter Jo wrote the forward that tells about her mom and the book.  Following the forward is Peg’s introduction where she explained how and why the book came about. Bracken’s wit is apparent throughout the book making it an enjoyable read as well as a go-to reference.

Many of the recipes seemed familiar to me (maybe my mom had this book?).  They use ingredients found in most pantries such as cream of mushroom soup, canned vegetables, fruits, tuna, etc. The recipe directions are easy to follow.   Saturday Chicken (p.20-21) earned a thumbs up at my house.  (I added a small can of mushrooms to the recipe)

Saturday Chicken ingredients

Saturday Chicken

  • 1 cut-up fryer (or any 6 good-sized pieces of chicken)
  • salt and garlic salt
  • paprika
  • 1 can condensed cream of mushroom or cream of celery soup
  • 1 cup heavy cream (don’t cheat and use milk; the cream makes a lot of difference)
  • chopped parsley

Take your chicken and salt and garlic salt it a bit, then paprika it thoroughly.  Next, spread it out, in one layer, in a shallow baking pan.  Dilute the soup with the cream, pour it over the chicken, and sprinkle the chopped parsley prettily on top.  Bake it, uncovered, at 350 for one and a half hours.

Fresh out of the oven

Saturday Chicken (right) with baked potato and green beans

The chapters cover pretty much any type of dinner situation: Potluck Suppers; Company’s Coming; Luncheon for the Girls; Little Kids’ Parties.  Also included are helpful hints, equivalents, and substitutions.  I think The I Hate to Cook Book would be a great addition to any cookbook collection.

Review copy from Hachette Book Group

Dangerous Desires by Dee Davis

Dangerous Desires

After surviving a horrible childhood, a few years in a Columbian prison, and more time under the thumb of a crime lord, Madeline Reynard becomes the rescue subject of A-Tac (American Tactical Intelligence Command) – an off the books arm of the CIA.  She has information that can help the CIA, hurt the Columbian crime group, and may just get her killed unless A-Tac succeeds in their mission.  The A-Tac team is comprised of several highly-skilled professionals (covert operations, IT, ordnance, communications, etc.).  The author reveals enough about each A-Tac member to get a feel for their personality as well as their importance to the team.

The person most involved in Madeline’s rescue is Drake Flynn.  He’s the confident and capable guy anyone would want on their side. Even though he has questions about her connections to known criminals he keeps the mission his priority.  My favorite part of the novel was the escape of Drake and Madeline from the jungle to a safe house a day’s travel away on foot and small boat.  The action is fast-paced and had me turning pages long past my bedtime.

Davis’s action scenes are exciting.  Her descriptive writing placed me in the drama which I loved because sometimes when I’m reading suspense novels I get lost in the details. Davis had me following right through the heart-stopping conclusion.  If you like your romantic suspense heavy on the suspense  I recommend  Dangerous Desires.

Review copy from Hachette Book Group

Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership With a Search-and-Rescue Dog by Susannah Charleson

Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search and Rescue Dog

From the book flap: In the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, Susannah Charleson clipped a photo from the newspaper: an exhausted canine handler, face buried in the fur of his search-and-rescue dog.  A dog lover and pilot with search experience herself, Susannah was so moved by the image that she decided to volunteer with a local canine team and soon discovered first hand the long hours, nonexistent pay, and often heart-wrenching results they face.

Still, she felt the call, and once she qualified to train a dog of her own, she adopted Puzzle, a strong, bright Golden Retriever puppy who exhibited unique aptitude as a working dog but who was less interested in the role of compliant house pet.  Puzzle’s willfulness and high drive, both assets in the field, challenged even Susannah, who had raised dogs for years.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Scent of the Missing reads like a novel.  Susannah Charleson’s memoir is an informative look into the world of search-and-rescue dogs and handlers.There are anecdotes about the searches Puzzle and her handler have been involved in.   From looking for  lost people and runaways to recovery searches of  major tragedy sites such as that of the space shuttle Columbia, Ms. Charleson gives the reader an insider’s take.  She shares touching personal details of her life as well as lighter stories such as what it was like to introduce Puzzle to her household pets.

I’m so impressed by and thankful for the people and dogs who do search-and-rescue. I suspect few of us have it in us to do what they do.   There is a photo section included in the center of the book.

I recommend Scent of the Missing to fans of dogs, memoirs, and inspirational stories.

Click here for a Q&A with the Susannah Charleson

Review copy from FSB Associates

Every House Needs A Balcony by Rina Frank

Every House Needs a Balcony by Rina Frank: Book Cover

In the 1950s Rina, her sister and their Romanian immigrant parents lived in a crowded apartment with other relatives in Haifa, Israel.  It may have been a tight fit but at least they had a balcony. That was their way to see what was going on in their world and vice-versa.   Rina’s parents worked hard at jobs outside their training.  Their mother was an accountant in Romania but now cleaned houses. Their photographer father  now worked small jobs and looked after his daughters. Life wasn’t easy but the girls knew they were loved.

The novel takes us primarily through Rina’s life – her sister becomes a supporting character.  Rina falls in love, marries a young man from Spain and they move back to Israel to be near her family.  As in any life they experience heartbreak and we find out how they deal with it.

My thoughts: Although a lot of things happen in this book it felt more like a list of family events than a fluid novel.  The chapters move alternately between Rina as a stubborn young girl and Rina as a stubborn – some might say selfish – adult. The bones of a good story are there but I never felt emotionally drawn to the characters. Perhaps it lost something in the translation.   The cover of the review copy states that it is an “International Bestseller” so other readers may have a different reaction.

Did you read Every House Needs A Balcony? Feel free to leave a link to your review.

Uncorrected Proof from HarperCollins

First Comes Marriage by Mary Balogh

First Comes Marriage (Huxtable Quintet, #1)

The first book of Mary Balogh’s Huxtable Family series is First Comes Marriage.  It is the story of four siblings who find themselves moving up in the world.  Their parents have been dead for years so the older sister Margaret (Meg) has assumed the parental role.  Vanessa (Nessie) is a young widow, Katherine (Kate) helps at the country school, and seventeen year old Stephen works hard at his studies.   But this all changes the day they learn that Stephen is to become the new Earl of Merton.

Once the siblings move to the family estate it is decided that the girls must be introduced to society during the upcoming Season.  To do this, one of the girls must marry a gentleman of the ton so to sponsor her sisters.  It’s presumed that Margaret will marry.  She still carries a torch for a certain soldier but will marry another for the sake of her sisters.  Nessie decides that Meg deserves some happiness and she won’t find it with a man she doesn’t love.  So Nessie proposes to the handsome Viscount Lyngate.  It’s not a love match but they will try to have a happy marriage.  And the story takes off from there.

I liked this novel but there were a few annoying habits of a couple of the characters that stopped me from loving it.    I really enjoy Mary Balogh’s books so I’ll give the second book a try.


Review copy from Dell via Goodreads First Reads

Welcome to Harmony by Jodi Thomas

Welcome to Harmony

After reading two novels by Jodi Thomas I’m convinced few authors write about small towns better. Welcome to Harmony, the first book in her new series, is set in Harmony, Texas – a town of 14,000. Rain hasn’t made an appearance in a long time and there’s an arsonist on the loose.

The main characters in this book are Reagan, a teenage runaway from Oklahoma; Jeremiah Truman, the man who takes Reagan in; Alexandra McAllen, the town sheriff who is haunted by a personal tragedy; Noah, the sheriff’s 16 year old brother; Hank Matheson, the fire chief; Tyler Wright, the local undertaker. There are many other memorable characters who play a part in the search for the arsonist. Thomas creates minor characters who are unique enough that I hope to read more about them in future books.

Welcome to Harmony is more than a novel about arson.  Reagan is looking for a place to call home, a place where she belongs, a place where she feels welcome.  There’s a strong attraction between Alexandra and Hank; good friendship with the promise of more between Reagan and Noah; and a sweet online  correspondence  between Tyler and a mysterious  woman – a couple who thought that love may have passed them by.  I’m hoping we’ll read more of Tyler’s story as the series progresses.

Thomas is a first-rate storyteller and she pulled me into the lives of her characters and the drama of the fire scenes.  If you like novels about small towns with good, believable characters I recommend you read Welcome to Harmony.   I look forward to the next book in the series.

Review copy from Penguin Group

Penguin Group also sent a book for one of my US readers.

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Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart

Husband and Wife

Goodreads synopsis:

In her youth, Sarah Price had dreams of becoming a poet. But the meticulously responsible 35-year-old traded her MFA for a steady job that allows her husband, Nathan, to devote himself to his fiction. And there are two small children who need their mother’s attention as well. But Sarah is happy and she believes Nathan is too, until she discovers that his new novel, Infidelity, is based in fact. Suddenly Sarah’s world is turned upside down. How well does she really know Nathan? And more importantly, how well does she know herself?

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My thoughts:
This is one of those books that makes me wish I belonged to a book club. Early on I wasn’t certain that I’d like it – I found it a bit depressing. But the writing kept me going. It was like listening to my best friend tell the awful thing that happened recently in her marriage. I couldn’t put the book down. I felt badly for her. I wanted to smack her selfish, idiot husband.

The story moves forward and backward as Sarah tries to figure out how she/they got to where they are now. When did she cease being Sarah the poet? How had marriage, children, a job changed her? That seems like a no-brainer but Leah Stewart takes us on Sarah’s journey of discovery and we find that it’s not that simple. I think any woman, especially one who is also a wife and mother, will identify in some way with Sarah. And, quite possibly, any man will identify with Nathan. I’d love to read Nathan’s version of the story. Husband and Wife is a good novel. I recommend it.

Review copy from Goodreads First Reads and HarperCollins

Clean, Green and Lean by Dr. Walter Crinnion. Guest post. Review. Giveaway.

Clean, Green, and Lean

An Apple a Day Won’t Keep the Doctor Away — Unless It’s Organic
By Dr. Walter Crinnion,
Author of Clean, Green, and Lean: Get Rid of the Toxins That Make You Fat

The EWG recently studied extensive USDA and FDA testing that measured pesticide residues in produce and then ranked the most commonly eaten fruits and vegetables in this country on a scale from most toxic to most consistently clean. I strongly encourage you to take the list of the “dirty dozen” to the grocery store with you. If your produce manager isn’t stocking organic versions of all of the following, you may want to enlighten him or her.

The Dirty Dozen (highest in pesticides)

Bell peppers
Grapes (imported)

What a conundrum. We know we’re supposed to eat our fruit and vegetables because they have crucial nutrients that other foods don’t, but here on the dirty dozen list, some of our favorites are covered with the most toxic agricultural chemicals out there. So do yourself and your family a favor and buy these twelve only if they’re organically grown. And eat a good variety, because they all contain different antioxidants.

If you can’t find organic and you’re determined to eat the forbidden fruit (or vegetable), the nonorganic varieties can sometimes be made less toxic by peeling them (great for apples and potatoes, not so great for lettuce and strawberries). Their toxic content can be further reduced by soaking and scrubbing them in a tub of 10 percent vinegar (also not so great for lettuce and strawberries). And regardless of whether it’s organic or nonorganic, wash it. Whatever it is that’s keeping the bugs at bay at the supermarket is also surely settling on the surface of the produce.

Avoiding the nonorganic versions altogether is the best strategy, though. A study in Seattle showed that when the most toxic fruits and vegetables were removed from preschoolers’ diets (along with almonds) and replaced with organic varieties, the kids’ pesticide levels went way down. Their levels of key pesticides dropped to essentially zero and stayed undetectable until they started eating conventional foods again.

So now that you know what not to eat, what should you eat? You can start with the flip side of the dirty dozen: the clean dozen. Not all nonorganic versions of fruits and vegetables pack a toxic punch, and these twelve have virtually no pesticide levels. These are the nonorganic varieties you can buy without lying awake at night regretting that you’ve made your toxic burden worse.

The Clean Dozen (lowest in pesticides)
Sweet corn
Sweet peas

While it would obviously be best to buy organic varieties of all of our foods, when it comes to these twelve fruits and vegetables, you can feel safe buying the commercial varieties. So unless you have a big grocery budget that allows you to buy nothing but organic foods, use your organic allowance to buy organic apples instead of organic broccoli or bananas.

Detoxing Nonorganic Produce

If you can’t find organic varieties, use these methods to reduce your toxic exposure:

  • Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin from commercial varieties of apples, pears, nectarines, and potatoes. You’ll probably need a paring knife to peel peaches.
  • For bell peppers, apples, and celery, use an acid wash:
    1. Fill a large bowl or a plastic food storage container with water.
    2. Add a cup of distilled vinegar.
    3. Let the produce rest in the tub for ten to twenty-five minutes, and then use a vegetable scrub brush to scrub each piece for about sixty seconds.
    4. For grapes and cherries, just let them soak for about sixty minutes.

The above is an excerpt from the book Clean, Green, and Lean: Get Rid of the Toxins That Make You Fat by Dr. Walter Crinnion. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Reprinted by permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., from Clean, Green & Lean, by Walter Crinnion. Copyright © 2010 by Walter Crinnion.

Author Bio
Dr. Walter Crinnion is one of America’s foremost authorities on environmental medicine. A naturopathic physician, he is the director of the Environmental Medicine Center of Excellence at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Arizona and chair of the Environmental Medicine Department. He is a close colleague of Dr. Peter D’Adamo, author of the monumental bestseller Eat Right 4 Your Type.

For more information, please visit and

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My thoughts:

Clean, Green and Lean by Dr. Walter Crinnion is a book that aims to show readers how to:

* Stop new toxins from coming into the body.
* Get accumulated toxins out of the body.

The ways to accomplish these goals are simple, too:
* Clean up your diet.
* Clean up your home environment.
* Use toxin-fighting supplements.
* Improve elimination.
(page 6)

Dr. Crinnion, a naturopathic physician, explains how to clean up (and out) your body and your home. This book is packed with information that is easy to understand. There are charts listing the most toxic fruits, vegetables, fish, and meats. There are lists of hidden sugar sources and high sugar foods. Having a sibling with celiac disease, I appreciate the amount of information on foods with gluten. There is a chapter of Clean, Green and Lean recipes that is followed by a Fourteen-Day Menu Plan.

This is just a glimpse of Clean, Green and Lean. There is so much more information. I think anyone who’s serious about cleaning up their body and home will find this book to be a valuable resource.

Review copy from FSB Associates

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Small Change by Sheila Roberts

Small Change

Small Change is about three women – Rachel, Tiffany and Jess – who are friends and neighbors. For different reasons they find themselves on the same financial boat and it is beginning to sink. Rachel, a divorced working mother of two, is coming to the end of a long-term substitute teaching job and can’t find another job. Tiffany works at a salon and has a shopping addiction that she tries to hide from her husband. Jess, housewife and former stay-at-home mom, has a jobless grown son living at home and a husband who is about to lose his executive job. These women need money. Yesterday.

Sheila Roberts’ latest novel holds a mirror to an issue faced by many people these days: financial difficulties due to job loss and related fall-out. Trying to compete with her ex, Rachel spends money on her children for things they really don’t need because she feels guilty saying “No” to them. She realizes that the unnecessary spending has to stop when she sees the end of her paychecks looming. Tiffany loves finding a bargain and she finds herself in trouble when she can’t pay her credit card bills – the cards she promised her husband she wouldn’t use anymore. She’s at the point of hiding purchases from her husband. Jess has a boomerang kid who sleeps until noon, surfs the web for a few hours looking for a job, and then heads out for the night to party with friends. That drives her husband crazy and results in shouting matches between father and son. On top of that, her husband’s bank has been bought out and he’s about to lose his job. Talk about stress!

In the past Rachel, Tiffany and Jess would meet weekly to make a craft, talk, share a bottle of wine, etc. In light of their financial situation they turn the weekly gabfest into brainstorming sessions for ways to bring in more money and improve things at home. There are moments of tears and lots of moral support as they start to figure out why they spend and begin to work their way out of their money troubles. It’s not an easy journey but the three women cheer each other on as they face the challenges along the way.

I think everyone can identify with at least one of the characters or knows someone just like one of the women. Because of that, Small Change would be a great selection for a book club. In typical Sheila Roberts style it is entertaining while addressing a serious topic. Roberts offers her characters (and readers) suggestions for cutting expenses and how to live well on a budget. I’m looking forward to trying a couple of her ideas myself!

Visit Sheila’s Website:

Review copy provided by the author

Marriage and Other Acts of Charity by Kate Braestrup

Marriage and Other Acts of Charity

I listened to the audiobook read by the author. Kate Braestrup’s gentle, reassuring voice tells the story of her first marriage and what happened after.
Near the end of the book Braestrup repeats something her father once told her:

If an experience is good, it’s good. If an experience is bad, it’ll make a terrific story.

That’s what this memoir is. We hear the good but also the bad and how Braestrup came through the experiences. She is now a chaplain for the Maine Warden Service where she is called upon to help people at the time of injury or death of a loved one, a job she’s well-suited for since she was on the receiving end when her first husband, a Maine state trooper, was killed in a car crash while on duty.

I appreciated Braestrup’s discussions of caritas and where God is when tragedy strikes. A lot to think about, a lot to strive for. This would be a wonderful selection for a book club.

Audiobook was a giveaway win from all about {n}

Review: 21 Simple Things You Can Do To Help Someone With Diabetes by Cherie Burbach

21 Simple Things You Can Do To Help Someone With Diabetes

One of my children was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when she was six. She’s now in her early twenties. When I saw the chance to review Cherie Burbach’s book 21 Simple Things You Can Do To Help Someone With Diabetes I signed up. Ms. Burbach has lived with diabetes for many years which gives valuable first hand perspective. In the introduction she states:

This book is:
* a source of encouragement
* a prompt for education
* a starting guide to diabetic etiquette
This book is not:
* a medical reference book
* a substitute for a nurse, doctor, or other medical professional

Three of the 21 topics addressed are:
* Learn about the disease
* Don’t view insulin as a cure
* Retire from the diabetic police force

The author points out if you take the time to learn basic facts about diabetes you’ll find that much of what you thought you understood to be true is simply not true. For instance, one gets Type 1 diabetes from eating too much sugar. Wrong! The fact is the pancreas ceases to function properly. When my daughter was diagnosed the medical professionals at our wonderful clinic (at a top tier children’s hospital) made the point of saying insulin is not a cure, it is life support. That drove home the point. It keeps one alive but it doesn’t cure the pancreas. The Diabetic Policing issue is ongoing for someone with diabetes. Ms. Burbach is right about that. In our extended family there was always someone who would look at my daughter’s plate and say “can you eat that?”. Probably asked with good intentions, but really quite rude and unsupportive.

In straight-forward terms Ms. Burbach explains how to be there for a friend, co-worker, or relative who has this chronic disease. My daughter also read the book and said it made some great points but also thinks it might be asking too much of some friends and co-workers. This reminds me that everyone has her own perspective. I wish 21 Simple Things had been around when she was newly diagnosed. I would have given it to relatives, teachers, coaches, etc. I think it would be an excellent resource for people who have someone in their life who is living with diabetes. I also think diabetes clinics should have it on hand for the newly-diagnosed and their families.

You can read Cherie Burbach’s guest post here.

You can buy the book here.

For more information, please visit Cherie’s website:

Review copy from the author

The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier

The Season of Second Chances: A Novel
Joy Harkness receives an offer of a dream job. She’s ready to leave the snobby academia of her current job to be part of a new program at Amherst. After the decision to accept the new job is made she makes the surprising decision to buy a fixer-upper. And even more surprising is Teddy Hennessy, the remodeling contractor who becomes much more.

Teddy and Joy seem as opposite as two people can be but it turns out they have a few things in common. They both experienced the loss of a loved one when they were quite young and were left unable or unwilling to have long-lasting relationships. After a brief marriage, Joy left St. Louis for New York and never looked back. She built her career and thought she was happy. As a young man Teddy started fixing things around his mother’s house and then those of her friends. He built quite a reputation for quality work and an eye for color and detail. When Joy bought her dilapidated house everyone pointed her toward Teddy.

After a few disaster dates with some of the University’s resident coyotes and a spectacular error in judgement (on Joy’s part), she and Teddy fall into a comfortable relationship. Together they become part of a larger group of friends who help each other when tragedy strikes. Joy learns the truth of “there’s the family your born with and then there is the family you choose”.

This is truly Joy’s story. One of the many lessons she learns is that it’s a good thing to really care about people – that they may actually care about her, with no ulterior motives. She learns this at the tender age of 48. Diane Meier’s debut novel is filled with interesting, sensitive, and humorous characters. I think a book group would find a lot to discuss about The Season of Second Chances.

Author website:

Review copy from Henry Holt & Co.

The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris

The Unnamed

From the back of the audiobook: Tim Farnsworth is a handsome, healthy man, aging with the grace of a matinee idol.

His wife, Jane, still loves him, and for all its quiet trials, their marriage is still stronger than most. Despite long hours at the office, he remains passionate about his work, and his partnership at a prestigious Manhattan law firm means that the work he does is important. And even as his daughter, Becka, retreats behind her guitar, her dreadlocks, and her puppy fat, he offers her every one of a father’s honest lies about her being the most beautiful girl in the world.

He loves his wife, his family, his work, his home.

And then one day he stands up and walks out. And keeps walking.

* * * * * * *

My thoughts: The Unnamed is a book that I couldn’t stop reading, or rather, listening to. I was lucky enough to get an audiobook. According to the interview at the end this is the first time Joshua Ferris has narrated one of his books – I think he should always narrate his books. His voice is perfect and I felt I was experiencing The Unnamed the way he intended.

The Unnamed is a story about a man with an illness. The illness hasn’t been diagnosed specifically because it can’t be confirmed as either a disease of the mind or the body. You get an idea, early on, what the disease could be. This is also the story of a marriage and what happens when those easily repeated wedding vows come into play. The whole “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” is put to the test. Tim and Jane give it their all and we get to see how it plays out.

Another aspect of The Unnamed is the subject of mental illness. At what point does one lose his tether to a stable life? At what point does one begin to drift? A lot to think about and maybe rethink.

This is not an easy novel. I’m so glad I listened to it. One thing I want to mention about the audiobook is the music composed by Brendan Feeney. It is hypnotic and beautiful and perfect for the book.

Audiobook from Hachette Audio

The Girl Who Chased The Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

About The Girl Who Chased the Moon

In her latest enchanting novel, New York Times bestselling author Sarah Addison Allen invites you to a quirky little Southern town with more magic than a full Carolina moon. Here two very different women discover how to find their place in the world…no matter how out of place they feel.

Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. For instance, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? Why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew—a reclusive, real-life gentle giant—she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life.

Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes.

Everyone in Mullaby adores Julia Winterson’s cakes. She offers them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth and in the hope of bringing back the love she fears she’s lost forever. In Julia, Emily may have found a link to her mother’s past. But why is everyone trying to discourage Emily’s growing relationship with the handsome and mysterious son of Mullaby’s most prominent family? Emily came to Mullaby to get answers, but all she’s found so far are more questions.

Is there really a ghost dancing in her backyard? Can a cake really bring back a lost love?

In this town of lovable misfits, maybe the right answer is the one that just feels…different.

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My review: Sarah Addison Allen has worked her magic again. There’s an enchanting vibe to each of her novels yet I find them quite believable (ok, the apple tree in Garden Spells and the wallpaper in The Girl Who Chased The Moon are exceptions). You could call them modern fairy tales.

The Girl Who Chased The Moon has interesting characters. There’s Emily who, after her mother’s death, goes to live with Vance – her very tall grandfather – in Mullaby, North Carolina. He’s a bit odd but very nice. Emily finds that many of the people in Mullaby are a little on the quirky side and dealing with their own issues. One of those people is Win, a member of the most prominent family in town. Win’s uncle died because of Emily’s mother – at least that is the story he’s heard all his life. What is Win’s quirk? You’ll have to read the book.

Although it may seem like this is Emily’s story I think it is equally Julia’s. She is a neighbor to Emily and bakes cakes in hopes of attracting a certain person. She leaves the window in her kitchen open so the aroma will bring that person to her. There’s so much more to her story but I’ll just say I really enjoyed it.

Many other characters add to this sweet tale of hope and second chances. My only complaint is that it was too short. I wanted to keep reading about Emily, Vance, Win, Julia and all the people of Mullaby. This is one of those novels I just know I’ll read again.

About Sarah Addison Allen

Sarah Addison Allen is the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells andThe Sugar Queen. She was born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina, where she is currently at work on her next novel. You can visit Sarah Addison Allen’s website at:

Review copy from Random House and Pump Up Your Book

It’s All Greek To Me by Charlotte Higgins

It's All Greek to Me By Charlotte Higgins

From the back of the book: The legendary civilization of ancient Greece shaped nearly every aspect of our lives, from how we organize our societies to how we define the very essence of life. Consider the way we think: about morality, about the nature of beauty and truth, about our place in the universe, about our mortality. All this we have learned from the ancient Greeks. They molded the basic disciplines and genres in which we still organize thought: from poetry to drama, from politics to philosophy, from history to medicine to even ethnography.

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My take: I really liked this “layman’s guide” to many (if not most) things Greek. Charlotte Higgins walks the reader through the Iliad and the Odyssey; the ins and outs of Sparta; Greek architecture (which brought back memories of Mr. Tippery’s History class sophomore year – I had those column styles down pat!); mythology; and the philosophers. And that’s just some of the information that is packed into this gem of a book. There’s also a timeline, a map, and a Who’s Who of Greeks – actual and mythological.

It’s All Greek To Me will remain on my keeper shelf because it is such a handy source of information. Really, if you’d like a Greek reference book that’s easy to read and understand – and also quite interesting, this may be the book for you.

Review book from HarperCollins

How To Knit A Love Song by Rachael Herron

How to Knit a Love Song by Rachael Herron: Book Cover

Back of the review copy:
When Abigail inherits a cottage from her beloved mentor, knitting guru Eliza Carpenter, it’s the perfect chance for a new start, a safe haven. She’s ready to leave the city for the country, ready to trade in her worn-out designer heels for brand-new cowboy boots. But Abigail doesn’t bargain on the wrath of a gorgeous rancher: Eliza’s nephew.
Cade inherited the rest of the ranch Abigail’s new cottage is on. He isn’t happy with the loss of what he thought would be his, and is even less pleased that she’s going to turn it into a knitting shop. While Cade struggles to accept this change in plan, and as Abigail fights a terror she thought she left behind, they both find themselves battling an undeniable attraction for the other. But as the knitter and the rancher fall in love, they’ll need more than infatuation: From seeds of doubt and suspicion, can trust ever bloom?

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I’m fairly new to knitting so I don’t possess the expertise needed to knit much more than a scarf but I love to read about knitting. How To Knit A Love Song is a romance about Abigail Durant, an accomplished knitter, and Cade MacArthur who owns a sheep ranch. She inherits a cottage (from her mentor Eliza) that happens to be in the middle of the sheep ranch run by the handsome Cade (nephew of Eliza). It’s the set-up of all set-ups and you can almost hear Eliza laughing as Cade and Abigail begin to realize what she did.

The two are very confident and headstrong characters which makes for a lot of tension throughout the novel. Will Cade ever come to terms with a knitting store on his ranch? Will Abigail be able to leave her past behind and feel safe in her new surroundings? There is a lot more to the novel but you’ll want to read it to find out.

Rachael Herron’s novel has drama, romance, humor and a great setting. It’s about new starts, learning to trust, and taking a chance on love. I enjoyed it and look forward to the next book in the Cypress Hollow series.

Rachael Herron will be the featured author on Book Club Girl’s show (on Blog Talk Radio) – Wednesday, March 17 – 7pm Eastern. You can click here to listen.

Review copy from Avon A

Show Me 5 Saturday – McCarthy’s Bar by Pete McCarthy

now hosted by Jenners at Find Your Next Book Here

1. Book title:
* McCarthy’s Bar: A Journey Of Discovery In The West Of Ireland by Pete McCarthy

2. Words that describe the book:
* Humorous Nonfiction

3. Settings or characters:
* Ireland
* McCarthy’s Bars (there are many)
* Pete McCarthy

4. Things I liked/disliked about the book:
* It’s funny – I laughed the entire flight home while reading this book
* I’ve travelled the path taken by Pete McCarthy a couple of times (Cork to Donegal along the coast) so I enjoyed reading his experience
* Underneath the hilarity is a deep affection for the Irish
* I liked it so much that it’s on my keeper shelf. I don’t loan it out but I’ve purchased copies for several friends and relatives

5. Stars or less: 4 stars – I thought it was entertaining and very funny. I looked at ratings on Goodreads (click the cover and then click the next cover) and found some reviews agreed with mine and some didn’t.
McCarthy's Bar: A Journey of Discovery In Ireland
Click on cover to enlarge

Despite the many exotic places Pete McCarthy has visited, he finds that nowhere else can match the particular magic of Ireland, his mother’s homeland. In McCarthy’s Bar, his journey begins in Cork and continues along the west coast to Donegal in the north. Traveling through spectacular landscapes, but at all times obeying the rule, “never pass a bar that has your name on it,” he encounters McCarthy’s bars up and down the land, meeting fascinating people before pleading to be let out at four o’clock in the morning.

Written by someone who is at once an insider and an outside, McCarthy’s Bar is a wonderfully funny and affectionate portrait of a rapidly changing country.

I purchased my copy and read it several years ago

Alice In Wonderland and Philosophy: Curiouser and Curiouser

Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy by William Irwin: Book Cover

Back of the book:
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has fascinated children and adults alike for generations. Why does Lewis Carroll introduce us to such oddities as blue caterpillars who smoke hookahs, cats whose grins remain after their heads have faded away, and a White Queen who lives backwards and remembers forwards? Is it all just nonsense? Was Carroll under the influence? This book probes the deeper underlying meaning in the Alice books, and reveals a world rich with philosophical life lessons. Tapping into some of the greatest philosophical minds that ever lived – Aristotle, Hume, Hobbes, and Nietzsche – Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy explores lifes ultimate questions through the eyes of perhaps the most endearing heroine in all of literature.

Should the Cheshire Cat’s grin make us reconsider the nature of reality?
Can Humpty Dumpty make words mean whatever he says they mean?
Can drugs take us down the rabbit-hole?
Is Alice a feminist icon?

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My thoughts: I haven’t studied philosophy since my college days so I hardly feel qualified to analyze or debate any of the viewpoints expressed by the various authors. I can say each section of Alice In Wonderland And Philosophy: Curiouser and Curiouser is interesting, sometimes humorous, and definitely thought-provoking.

I found Scott F. Parker’s “How Deep Does The Rabbit-Hole Go?: Drugs and Dreams, Perception and Reality” interesting. Parker wrote about the possible drug references in the book as well as the hallucinogen experiences of some notable people before and during Lewis Carroll’s time, and also his own experience.

The book is divided into four sections that address various aspects of Alice in Wonderland. Each writer includes notes which are helpful. There is a contributors section that lists a brief bio of each writer. An index is also included. This book would be enjoyed by students of philosophy and popular culture, and of course, Lewis Carroll fans.

Now I have a confession: I’ve never read the original Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland in its entirety nor have I seen the movie(s). I was more of a Nancy Drew reader as a young girl and Alice just seemed kind of silly. It simply didn’t appeal to me. But, fan of Alice in Wonderland or not, I think “Curiouser and Curiouser” is an interesting book.

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Information about The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series which includes Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy: Curiouser and Curiouser:

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, and a healthy helping of popular culture clears the cobwebs from Kant. Philosophy has had a public relations problem for a few centuries now. This series aims to change that, showing that philosophy is relevant to your life- and not just for answering the big questions like “To be or not to be?” but for answering the little questions: “To watch or not to watch House?” Thinking deeply about TV, movies, and music doesn’t make you a “complete idiot.” In fact it might make you a philosopher, someone who believes the unexamined life is not worth living and the unexamined cartoon is not worth watching.

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About the Editors:
Richard Brian Davis is an associate professor of philosophy at Tyndale University College and the coeditor of 24 and Philosophy.
William Irwin is a professor of philosophy at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, PA. He originated the philosophy and popular culture genre of books as coeditor of the bestselling The Simpsons and Philosophy and has overseen recent titles, including Batman and Philosophy, and Watchmen and Philosophy.

For more about The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture

Review copy from FSB Associates

Magnolia Wednesdays by Wendy Wax

Magnolia Wednesdays
Back of the book:
At forty-one, Vivian Armstrong Gray spent most of her life fighting to make it in investigative journalism, only to have it crumble after a bullet lodges in her backside during an expose. As if the humiliation of being the butt of everyone’s jokes isn’t enough, Vivi learns that she’s pregnant, jobless, and very hormonal. Maybe that explains why she actually says “yes” to a dreadful job covering suburban living back home in Georgia, a column she can only bear to write incognito.

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Magnolia Wednesdays is an entertaining novel that at times had me feeling exasperated by Vivi and other times wanting to give her a consoling hug. Vivian is clearly hormonal. Her sister Melanie invites her to live in her home after Vivi loses her job and finds out she’s pregnant. Melanie and her two children are still mourning the death of her husband (two years earlier). Vivi welcomes the chance to help her sister with the kids and also at Melanie’s dance studio. Melanie is only too happy to accept the help. Some of the things Vivi finds herself doing are carpool, volunteering at their school, and teaching her nephew to drive. These activities conveniently give her material for her new column Postcards From Suburbia.

At the Magnolia Ballroom and Dance Studio Vivi meets Ruth who spends most days helping Melanie around the studio. Ruth refuses to cut Vivi any slack. She knows Vivi was not around for Melanie when her husband died. Ruth is also very unhappy that her husband refuses to retire and spend more time with her. They’re in their seventies and she’d like to enjoy the golden years together.

In addition to their behind the scene duties, Ruth and Vivi agree to help Melanie by taking a belly dance class on Wednesday nights. Angela, a young woman who managed to lose a great deal of weight a few years earlier, is also in the Wednesday night class. Angela is engaged to a wonderful man who met her after she lost weight. She’s very insecure and feels he will think differently about her if he finds out about how she used to look. She doesn’t seem to be enjoying what should be an exciting time in her life.

So there are three main story lines. I found the first two (Vivi and Ruth) more interesting than Angela’s but I think Wendy Wax did a great job pulling everything together. There are a couple of twists along the way and an ending that made me smile.

Review copy from Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting

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Magnolia Wednesdays – on sale March 2, 2010
Berkley Books